The New York City Newsstand – 1903
Underneath the elevated train station stairs we see the prolific New York City newsstand.This photograph comes from one of our standby sources, the Detroit Publishing Co. archives held by the Library of Congress.
Besides the caption “A Characteristic Sidewalk Newstand, New York City,” there is scant information about the scene. At least the photograph is dated 1903.
For some reason (obsessiveness?) it is important to me to narrow down approximately when the picture was taken. The pedestrians are dressed in heavy coats, so it is a winter scene. But dating this one is relatively easy.
There are dozens of periodicals spread across the newsstand. Looking at the magazine covers there are two identifiers to the date. The photo magnified by 400% show a monthly, Success Magazine which reads January 1903 across its cover.
The magazine that gives a more approximate date of the photograph is Harper’s Weekly. Looking at its Statue of Liberty cover, I searched and found the issue to be the Saturday, January 10, 1903 edition. Interestingly the lead story is “New York’s Transportation Problem.” That problem would be somewhat alleviated by the opening of the subway in 1904.
Newsstands were all over the city but especially near train stations where they flourished. Commuters wanted to read during their journey to and from work.
While this newsstand does carry some of New York’s many newspapers, it specializes in magazines. The reason is that most newspapers sold their daily editions through newsboys who roamed the city trumpeting the headline of their newspaper. Newsboys would station themselves nearby any busy spot, including newsstands.
The exact location of this photograph, its El station and newsstand appeared to be a complete mystery. I searched all around for a while, looking for any signage that would indicate where this moment was captured. The first clue to the location is that this scene was photgraphed looking south from the northeast corner of a block. The Uptown sign on the station stairs tells us that.
Looking at the background of our photo, the building in the background looks like so many other buildings in the city. But it is not. To me it resembled one of the stores along Ladies Mile. The Ladies Mile was the main shopping district along Sixth Avenue from 14th to 23rd Streets in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Finally, looking very carefully, you can see to the left of the exit of the elevated kiosk at the bottom of its roofline emblazoned on the building, “64 James McCreery & Co. 66.” Bingo!
James McCreery & Co.
McCreery’s store stood on the southeast corner of Sixth Avenue at 64-66 West 23rd St.. Previously McCreery & Co. had their main store on Broadway and 11th Street.
Before McCreery built their 23rd Street store in 1895, the site was home to the Edwin Booth Theatre from 1869 -1894. Noticabley mounted in the facade of the McCreery store was a large 300 pound bust of Shakespeare that adorned the Edwin Booth which McCreery inherited. On October 9, 1906 McCreery’s opened their new store at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, following the uptown march of other department stores.
In 1913 McCreery & Co. vacated their 23rd St. department store. The building then housed various garment and textile companies for the next 50 years
McCreery & Co. company closed its doors permanently after 116 years in business, on December 19, 1953. The building that housed McCreery’s on 23rd Street was demolished in 1975. The bust of Shakespeare was saved and donated by building owner Milton Schwartz to New York University through the efforts of Professor and author Gerard Wolfe.
The Sixth Avenue Elevated was closed in 1938 and taken down in 1939.