If he had to choose just one, it would be the “Schaghenbrief,” the “birth certificate of Manhattan.” In which, Pieter Schaghen casually lists the island of Manhattan as one of the goods obtained by the ship Arms of the Amsterdam. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to: Sam Roberts has 100 other items to showcase in his A History of New York in 101 Objects. He has an eclectic selection, ranging from things like a “Mastadon Tusk” to “The Stoop” to a “Jello Box.”
In person, he spoke of the “care” one needs to take in making these decisions, referencing the Smithsonian’s online poll where a majority of participants voted the panda cub that had been born that year as most significant. (Personally, I had forgotten that the panda cub had been born until he mentioned it).
Ideal date: A bakery crawl through New York. At the signing, he had some very specific recommendations for where to get your Black and White Cookie that just inspired confidence.