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Daniel Levinson Wilk, PhD


Office Location: Business and Liberal Arts B642
Phone: 212 217.4327
E-mail: danlw@fitnyc.edu


Daniel Levinson Wilk writes about the modern service sector in nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. history.  He argues that places like restaurants, hotels, barbershops, and apartment houses displaced slavery and servitude by offering consumers a better product outside the home.  His work examines the role of trust in the American economy, historical uses of the sociological term “emotional labor,” the intersection of design and labor in service workplaces, race- and gender-typing in service jobs, and the ethics of tipping. 

Dr. Levinson Wilk is currently working on a book titled Lives of the Service Sector, a history of service industries in the nineteenth century. 

He has also written extensively on the history of elevators, is an occasional contributor to the trade journal Elevator World, and has been quoted on the subject in The New York TimesThe Boston Globe, and The New Yorker.  Until its recently demise, he was Associate Director of the Elevator Historical Society, the only brick-and-mortar museum of elevators in the world.

Dr. Levinson Wilk speaks and publishes in scholarly, trade, and popular venues.  His 2015 peer-reviewed article “The Red Cap’s Gift,” on the history of tipping as a sociological and ethical practice, won that year’s Philip Scranton Prize for Best Article at the Business History Conference, the largest conference of business historians in the world.  His popular work has appeared online at Atlantic MonthlyBloomberg, and Al Jazeera America.  See below for some links.

A committed educator, Professor Levinson Wilk won the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Teaching in 2011.  His course offerings are listed below.  In 2018, he and Dr. Kyunghee Pyun won a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop new curriculum to teach art and design students the business and labor histories of the careers they plan to enter.  He has also created many initiatives for education outside the classroom: the FIT Constitution Day Postcard Competition, the Triangle Chalk Project, the FIT Big Q Competition, the Great Elevator Movie screening series, lectures and conferences on workers’ rights, and other programming on a wide variety of subjects.

Dr. Levinson Wilk is a member of the board of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, an organization that most recently ran a design competition to build a work of public art on the building where the 1911 industrial disaster took place and won a $1.5 million grant from New York State to build it.  He manages the Market Cultures Group, a regular seminar in which scholars present unpublished work to small seminars of scholars, business journalists, and business people.  He is the Political Action Coordinator for the United College Employees of FIT.  He is a member of The Immortals, an advisory board to Kaimera Productions theater and performance group, and he edits his brother’s weekly syndicated crossword.

Selected Publications:

A Brief Episode in the History of Dusting
Technology's Stories, August 20, 2018.

Kenneth Lonergan, the Apolitical Bard of Service Workers
Atlantic Monthly Online, February 22, 2017.

Donald Trump and the Invention of Charismatic Finance
Atlantic Monthly Online, May 10, 2016.

Why No Matchbox Elevators?
Elevator World, December 2015, 110-111.

Eliminating Tips Won't Make Things Fairer for Workers
Al Jazeera America, October 18, 2015.

A Tin Hat at the Elevator Historical Society
Elevator World, September 2015, 80-84.

Mad Men Elevators: The Top Five Scenes
Elevator World, June 2015, 62-64 (also excerpted for FIT’s Hue magazine).

The Red Cap’s Gift: How Tipping Tempers the Rational Power of Money
Enterprise & Society, 16 (January 2015), 1-46.  Winner, Philip Scranton Best Article Prize for 2015, Business History Conference.

Harry Potter Elevators Are Coming...But So What?
Al Jazeera America, March 8, 2015.

The War Between the Sexes in the Elevator Car
Al Jazeera America, September 11, 2014.

Tweeting Between Floors
Al Jazeera America, March 26, 2014.

The Historical Precedent for Fast-Food Strikes
Al Jazeera America, December 21, 2013.

Hollywood Comes to Terms With Slavery
Al Jazeera America, November 17, 2013.

Paula Deen's Racist Wedding Fantasy Was Once Reality
Bloomberg Echoes business history blog, June 25, 2013.

Carlyle Bust Joins Storied Line of Hotel Gambling Rings
Bloomberg Echoes business history blog, April 24, 2013.

Negro League Baseball Economics Depended on One Industry
Bloomberg Echoes business history blog, February 22, 2013

Rough Service at Sloppy Louie's
New-York Journal of American History, 67 (2010): 64-72.

Tales from the Elevator and Other Stories of Modern Service in New York City
Enterprise and Society, 7 (2006): 690-704.

Princes and Maids of the City Hotel
With A. K. Sandoval-Strausz. Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, 25 (June 2005): 160-185.

Felix Cuervo, Highrise Hero
International Labor and Working-Class History 62 (Fall 2002): 7688.

Quoted in

Nick Paumgarten, “At the Museum: Love of the Elevator ,” New Yorker Magazine, May 16, 2016.
Leon Neyfakh, How the Elevator Transformed America,  Boston Globe, March 2, 2014.
Michael M. Grynbaum, The Subway's Elevator Operators, A Reassuring Amenity of Another Era,  New York Times, April 28. 2011.


  • HI 201 – Classics in African American History*
  • HI 202 – U.S. History, Civil War to the Present
  • HI 205 – American Business from Slavery to the Present*
  • HI 207 – Hollywood: A History*
  • HI 393 – New York City and the Invention of America*
  • HI 395 – Big Ideas in History: Smith, Darwin, Marx, Freud*
    *Created course