Category Archives: Books

103 Years Ago A Muslim-American Writer Warned of “A Gigantic Day of Reckoning” That Islam Would Inflict On Europe and America

In 1914 Muslim-American Writer Achmed Abdullah Warned The World That Islam Would One Day Violently Take On Europe and America

Achmed Abdullah (1881-1945) was not a psychic, but over a hundred years ago he foresaw the future of Islam’s battle with the West.

Abdullah was born on the borderland between Afghanistan and India. Of mixed parentage, Abdullah was raised Muslim. He claimed to be educated on the continent and received a college degree in England, though the schools Abdullah supposedly went to have no record of him being there. Abdullah immigrated to America sometime around 1910. College degree or not he was well versed, educated and opinionated.

In the mid-teens he became a writer of some note, penning many articles for major magazines. Over the course of his writing career he wrote over two dozen books and by 1920 was also writing for the cinema. His two most famous screenplays are The Thief of Baghdad (1924) starring Douglas Fairbanks and The Lives of A Bengal Lancer (1935) starring Gary Cooper. Abdullah’s autobiography, The Cat had Nine Lives (1933) is extremely dubious as he professed to be related to Russian royalty among many of his unsubstantiated claims.

Early in his writing career Abdullah wrote a piece of non-fiction that you can tell is from the heart. In this story, he tells of the racial prejudice he encountered in his travels around the world. He recounts the historic injustices inflicted upon Asians and Muslims. Abdullah writes of his frustration with Christian and Western civilization’s assumption of superiority over any other culture. Abdullah saw the west’s attitude as racist and driven by subjugation and greed.  Ironic, considering Abdullah was on his way to making a very good living from Western civilization.

From the article:

“You Westerns feel so sure of your superiority over us Easterns that you refuse even to attempt a fair or correct interpretation of past and present historical events. You deliberately stuff the minds of your growing generations with a series of ostensible events and shallow generalities, because you wish to convince them for the rest of their lives how immeasurably superior you are to us, how there towers a range of differences between the two civilizations, how East is only East, and the West such a glorious, wonderful, unique West.”

Abdullah’s article  “Seen Through Mohammedan Spectacles,” was published in October 1914 by a very influential monthly scholarly magazine, The Forum.

The 13 page article which can be read here in its entirety, ran just months after the outbreak of World War I.

The article is forgotten today. Now is a good time to re-read it to better understand long held grievances from a non-western perspective. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #71 – Wall Street In 1880 & 1904

Two Views of Wall Street – 1880 & 1904 – With A Story From A 19th Century Stockbroker

Wall Street 1880

Wall Street 1904

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The changes in Wall Street from 1880 to 1904 are clear by comparing these two photographs taken from Broad Street. The center of each photograph is unchanged with historic Trinity Church at the foot of Wall Street and Broadway.

In the 1880 photo the church clock indicates it is 9:40 in the morning. Wall street looks almost provincial with gas lit lamps and small five story buildings, mainly housing insurance companies, brokers and banks. With the wild stock swings in this tumultuous era, many firms were here today, gone tomorrow.

On the far left side behind the gas lamp you can see the advertisement on the stairs leading to 17 Wall Street for stock brokers Taylor Brothers. Directly adjacent is a three story building with a sign above its entrance for Duff and Tienken, gold brokers. Immediately next to Duff and Tienken at 13 Wall Street is the first building owned by the New York Stock Exchange. Looking closely  at the sidewalk in front of most of the buildings, the small circular cylindrical objects are coal chute covers.

Fast forward 24 years later to 1904 and Wall Street is lined with tall buildings. Continue reading

19th Century New York Inventor and Business Titan Peter Cooper Once Inherited Almost The Entire Town of Kinderhook New York – But Gave It Away!

Peter Cooper, Inventor and Industrialist, Once Inherited A Large Part Of Kinderhook, NY.

It’s What He Did With His Inheritance That Would Be Inconceivable Today

What kind of a man would inherit most of a town and not be willing to take possession of it?

The answer is Peter Cooper (1791-1883), a businessman who conducted his life in a principled way.

Peter Cooper c. 1850 (Library of Congress)

The name Peter Cooper may not be as known today as it was in the 19th century, but his influence lives well into the 21st century. Three of Cooper’s grand-daughters founded the Cooper Hewitt Museum and Peter Cooper Village is a large apartment complex on the east side of Manhattan.

But who was Peter Cooper?

Cooper was a tinkerer who lacked a formal education, but became a great inventor and entrepreneur who owned many patents. Cooper designed and built the first steam locomotive train in the United States. He developed new revolutionary methods of producing glue and one of his companies, Cooper Hewitt manufactured the wire used in laying the Transatlantic Cable.

Cooper was a strong advocate of Native American rights, the abolition of slavery and used his vast fortune in philanthropic causes. Cooper was one of the founders of an orphanage, The New York Juvenile Asylum, which is one of the oldest non-profits in the United States. But Peter Cooper’s greatest legacy was as founder of Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a free college for both men and women that still exists today. (Cooper Union began charging tuition in 2014, but will soon return to being tuition free.)

Cooper’s grandson, scientist and naturalist Edward R. Hewitt, (1866-1957) wrote a book Those Were The Days (Duell, Sloan & Pearce) 1943, in which he tells highly entertaining stories about old New York City. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #54 – Katharine Hepburn 1940

Katharine Hepburn Looking Beautiful – Even Her Neck!

katharine-hepburn-1940-photo-van-damm-studioThere are a number of classic movie fans who like Katharine Hepburn as an actress but don’t care for her looks.

Looking at a photograph of Hepburn like this one taken in 1940 by Vandamm Studio, how could anyone say she doesn’t look absolutely beautiful?

The one feature Katharine Hepburn did not like about herself, especially as she aged, was her neck. She called it her “turkey neck.” By the end of the 1940s, wrinkles around her neck made her self conscious, and she would frequently cover up her neck both on screen and off. Continue reading

Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 3

The Bronx In 1897 and Its Beautiful Homes – They Gave Way For Progress

Concert in a Bronx Park 1897

Concert in a Bronx Park 1897

Concluding our series on the Bronx from 1897 we look at the final set of photographs excerpted from the 1897 book The Great North Side.

The editors stated purpose in publishing the book was “to attract population, capital, and business enterprise to the Borough of the Bronx.  It is not issued in any narrow sense with the desire of building up this borough at the expense of the other boroughs, for the reader will observe that the writers evidence an equal pride in advantages distinctively the possession of the Borough of Manhattan. We are first of all New Yorkers — citizens of no mean city — and proud of the fact. But our particular field of activity is the Borough of the Bronx, and we know that whatever tends to the upbuilding of this borough redounds to the credit, prestige, and glory of our common city.”

Fred Ringer residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

Fred Ringer residence Sedgwick Avenue Fordham Heights Bronx 1897

The editors of The Great North Side really never saw the realization of their goals. The population increased and the borough was developed, but not in the way they envisioned.

What was once a roomy  borough with splendid homes and wide open spaces became overdeveloped. The construction of the subway in the early part of the 20th century brought land development, a building boom and hundreds of thousands of people to the Bronx.

Samuel W. Fairchild residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

Samuel W. Fairchild residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

By the 1930s many of the fine old homes had been demolished and large parcels of land were subdivided and developed with apartment buildings.

John Bush residence Webster Avenue and Tremont Bronx 1897

John S. Bush residence Webster Avenue and Tremont Bronx 1897

In the 1950s Robert Moses cut the Bronx’s jugular. Moses’ Cross Bronx Expressway bulldozed a wide swath of the Bronx destroying thriving neighborhoods and essentially splitting the Bronx in two halves.

Hoskins residence Fordham Bronx 1897

Hoskins residence Fordham Bronx 1897

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Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 2

The Bronx In 1897 – Beautiful Streets and Homes Part 2

Lewis Morris homestead Morris Heights Bronx 1897

Lewis Morris homestead Morris Heights Bronx 1897

Poet Ogden Nash once quipped, “The Bronx? No thonx.”

By 1964, Nash had changed his mind and said “I can’t seem to escape the sins of my smart-alec youth. Here are my amends. I wrote those lines, ‘The Bronx? No thonx!’ I shudder to confess them. Now I’m an older, wiser man I cry, ‘The Bronx, God bless them!”

Many people deride the Bronx without actually setting foot in it. In the 19th century, no such derision existed. The Bronx’s reputation as a great place to live and work was justified.

Let’s continue our look at the Bronx in 1897 from the book The Great North Side.

The following words were written for the book by Albert E.  Davis, architect & and a North Side Board of Trade organizer:

“The conditions which caused over-crowding on Manhattan Island do not exist on the North Side. It contains about two-thirds of the combined area of both, is broader and less closely confiued by water, and has unlimited room to expand northward into Westchester County whenever the growth of the city demands it.”

Martin Walter residence 2082 Washington Avenue Bronx 1897

Martin Walter residence 2082 Washington Avenue Bronx 1897

“Hence, while the state of affairs below the Harlem was perhaps the natural outgrowth of the necessities of restricted area, it is absolutely unjustifiable and positively wrong to thus crowd the habitations of human beings where there is so much room to spread out, and the price of land is still low.”

Hugh Camp residence Fordham Bronx 1897

Hugh N. Camp residence Fordham Bronx 1897

“There are many attractive residence streets and avenues on the North Side, only a few of which can be here alluded to. Mott Avenue, a very pretty thoroughfare lined with fine old trees which arch over the roadway, starts in the business section of Mott Haven, just below the 138th street station, and extends northward along the westerly ridge known as Buena Ridge to 165th street. Mott Avenue will form the entrance to, and part of the Grand Concourse which is to be the finest boulevard in the country. Walton Avenue, on this ridge, is also a residence thoroughfare.”

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Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 1

The Bronx In 1897 – A Borough of Beautiful Homes

Hampden Street in Fordham Heights Bronx, NY 1898

Hampden Street in Fordham Heights Bronx, NY in 1898. This view is looking east from Sedgwick Avenue towards Loring Place along West 183rd Street, (formerly Hampden Street). Every house in this photo is now gone, replaced by apartment buildings. The sole remaining structure is the stone wall on the right.

Same view of West 183rd Street (formerly Hampden Street) in 2011

Same view of West 183rd Street (formerly Hampden Street) in 2011

For almost anyone who grew up in the Bronx before World War II, they will recount happy memories of neighborhoods brimming with life and full of possibilities. But no one alive today remembers the Bronx when it was mostly undeveloped in the late 19th and early 20th century. Open land and spacious elegant houses dominated the landscape.

The Bronx was a conglomeration of about 50 villages, most of them rural in nature. In the grainy photographs you are about to see, many of the settings look like they could be in Ridgefield, CT or Smalltown, USA – but not the Bronx.

Now, with all the modern apartment buildings, public housing projects and ugly highways that have sprouted up in the last 60 years, these views of the Bronx will come as a surprise to many.

The book where these photographs originally appeared is The Great North Side or Borough of the Bronx by editors of The Bronx Board of Trade. After looking at these photographs, one thing is for sure: the Bronx will never again look as it did in 1897.

Stately homes in the Bronx 1897

Stately homes in the Bronx 1897

Accompanying the photographs, also taken from The Great North Side are the words of Egbert Viele (1825-1902), the famous engineer, surveyor and mapmaker. Viele’s genuine adulation for the The Bronx is readily apparent.

William Niles residence Bedford Park Bronx, NY 1897

William Niles residence Bedford Park Bronx, NY 1897

“The North Side of New York, i.e., the territory above the Harlem River, bears a similar relation to the city at large that the Great West does to the country — a land of great promise of infinite possibilities, and the seat of future empire.”

Ernest Hall residence Boston Avenue Bronx 1897

Ernest Hall residence Boston Avenue Bronx 1897

“No city in the world has such a wealth of public parks and pleasure grounds as lie within its area; no city in the world has such natural and economical advantages for commerce, or on so grand a scale.”

Louis Eickwort residence Anthony-Avenue Mt. Hope Bronx 1897

Louis Eickwort residence Anthony-Avenue Mt. Hope Bronx 1897

“None has a more salubrious climate, or such a variety of surface, nor has any other city such abundant facilities of passenger transit and land traffic.”

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Who Controls The News In Newspapers?

In 1960 Reporter / Author Gene Fowler Saw The Impending Danger of Who Decided What’s News In Newspapers

Gene Fowler wrote the following in 1960:

…the besetting evils of a haywire economy, as well as the reprisals exacted by ferocious minorities against anyone who prints unpleasant truths, has taken much of the do-and-dare spirit out of the makers of newspaper policies. When appeasement supplants editorial enterprise, and silences the outspoken criticism of evil men, the newspaper forfeits its character, loses its influence—and eventually its life. Public servants become public masters. All freedoms are endangered when that of the press is assailed.

Gene FowlerWe continue looking inside Gene Fowler’s book Skyline a reporter’s reminiscences of the 20’s (Viking) published in 1961 a year after Fowler’s death. Fowler makes several prescient observations about the newspaper business. His commentary is astute and he recognized the shifting danger of publishers, rather than editors controlling what gets reported. Fowler witnessed the trend of electronic media (radio & TV at the time) making newspapers irrelevant as the news cycle became hourly. (Now it is instantaneous.)

As more newspapers are controlled by publishers who have an agenda, publishing what is really news has become a very blurred subject.

You’ll hear the term “the liberal media,” “conservative media” or “the mainstream media” thrown about in policy and political discussions. We all know one thing for sure, there are many forms of media bias. But who really sets editorial policy for newspapers? Continue reading

Did Newspaper Writers Really Used To Say “Stop The Press?”

Stop The Press and Other Movie Cliches

Skyline by Gene FowlerReading Gene Fowler’s highly entertaining memoir Skyline a reporter’s reminiscences of the 20’s  (Viking) 1961, I came across Fowler’s description on how newspaper writers talked shop or in this case didn’t.

Apparently those old films which featured newspapers as their settings did not capture the true vernacular of the field or their subjects according to Fowler.

In one passage, Fowler relates the following story when he was assigned to Oyster Bay, New York to cover President Theodore Roosevelt’s death in 1919. Fowler had just finished relaying his story via telegraph.

“Sign me off,” I said to the telegraph operator. So far as I know, none of us (reporters) ever used the supposedly classic term “thirty” at the end of our stories. That, and several other words and phrases which occur in motion picture scripts, was not part of our supposed lingo. For example, I never heard one Park Row man describe another as a “star reporter.” And if one of us even telephoned in with the legendary cry of “Stop the press!” he would have been turned over at once to Dr. Menas Gregory of Bellevue, or else fired.

Fowler’s memoir is a paean to 1920s New York with the central narrative focusing on the great newspaper writers and editors, now mostly forgotten. Continue reading

Marilyn Monroe’s 90th Birthday

June 1, 2016 Would Have Been Marilyn Monroe’s 90th Birthday

10 Rare Photographs From Her Life

A simply stunning unadorned Marilyn Monroe at agent Johnny Hyde's home 1950 photograph: Earl Leaf

A simply stunning, unadorned Marilyn Monroe at agent Johnny Hyde’s home 1950 photograph: Earl Leaf

June 1 marks Marilyn Monroe’s 90th birthday. We have pondered this before: what would an elderly Marilyn Monroe have been like? Reclusive and mentally ill like her mother was? Elder stateswoman of the movies and spokesperson for women’s rights? It’s all conjecture, there’s obviously no clear answer.

Marilyn Monroe at age 11 when she was just Norma Jeane Baker

Marilyn Monroe at age 11 when she was just Norma Jeane Baker

As much as Marilyn accomplished, her life was unfulfilled. No babies, no aging to segue into nuanced character roles in films, no Broadway or television career, no venturing into social activism on issues that would have concerned her.

When Marilyn died at the age of 36 in 1962, she became immortalized in ways that probably would have amused her. The movie goddess is still forever young, and has become an icon of many things: the 1950s; glamor; gay rights; womanhood and sex to name a few.

As time passes and the people who actually knew her pass away, Marilyn becomes more of a figurehead of a time rather than a once living flesh and blood person. Authors are drawn to Marilyn and have made her the subject of hundreds of books and millions of words analyzing her without knowing her.

Marilyn Monroe in a publicity photo for Hometown Story a rarely seen 1950 film which includes Alan Hale Jr. (yes, the Skipper from Gilligan's Island!)

Marilyn Monroe in a publicity photo for Hometown Story a rarely seen 1951 film which includes Donald Crisp, Jeffrey Lynn and Alan Hale Jr. (yes, the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island!)

This literary interest in every aspect of Marilyn’s life was not displayed when she was alive. Only six books were written about her during her lifetime. True, there were the articles in magazines that gave superficial glimpses into her life. But Marilyn and the publicity machine that surrounded her obfuscated much of who she really was.

Marilyn Monroe in a parka 1951 photograph: JR Eyerman

Marilyn Monroe in a parka 1951 photograph: JR Eyerman

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