Category Archives: Books

Brooklyn or is it Booklyn? Rare & Collectible Books At The Brooklyn Expo Hall

The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair In Greenpoint

There’s new life in the used and rare book world. That’s the way it seemed to the many dealers who were exhibiting Saturday, September 9 at the Brooklyn Expo Center 79 Franklin Street, Greenpoint. The variety of material for sale here has made this show a go-to destination for bibliophiles seeking a great find.

It has sometimes been a challenge to interest new collectors considering an entire generation has been brought up in the digital age and do all of their reading on a screen.

Yet they they were. Younger people attending a book show and displaying interest in rare and collectible books.

Looking around the crowd it was noticed that there were quite a few people who were of Generation X , Y and even Z in attendance.

Exposing the passion of book collecting to the kids at the Brooklyn Expo Center.

This is a good sign for collectible book dealers that have been trying to reach younger people and share their knowledge and passion for collecting books printed on good old fashioned paper.

Dealer Peter Austern of Brooklyn said he tried to “exhibit things that were unusual and might appeal to the collectors who are very specific in their wants.” He added that the show being in this part of Brooklyn “tends to attract a different, younger sort of crowd.”

Regarding the venue itself, the natural light and high ceilings at the Brooklyn Expo Center are a nice change to the sometimes crowded and poorly lighted places that shows are often held in. Continue reading

What The Dickens! 7 Popular Sayings & How They Originated

You May Think The Saying “What The Dickens” Is Related To Novelist Charles Dickens (It’s Not.)

7 Famous Phrases And How They Came About.

Charles (Not “what the”) Dickens

Almost everyone uses slang or colloquial speech without ever thinking how did the words in the phrase come together?

Monumental arguments have ensued over simple sayings and many times there is no correct answer, merely an educated supposition.

The Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins Volume II by William and Mary Morris (1967) Harper & Row, contains what the authors believe to be the origins of hundreds of sayings. Here are seven of them. The words in italics are from the Morris’s book.

the real McCoy

The real McCoy” is heard a lot in those gangster films of the 30s and 40s. A saying that is still used today, the real McCoy has controversial origins.

The Real McCoy? Charles “Kid” McCoy

Continue reading

Panoramic 360 Degree View of New York In 1892

360° Panoramic View of New York City From The New York World Building in 1892

Stitching together 10 separate photographs from King’s Handbook of New York City (1892) as best I could, this image gives us a 360 degree view of New York City.

Taken from atop Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World Building, you can get a sense of what the entire city looked like before the turn-of-the-century, when the skyscraper emerged and would forever alter the skyline. A golden dome topped Pulitzer’s Building with an observation gallery that gave the visitor the following view.

(click to get the full size view)

Probably the three most prominent points in the panorama are from left to right, the Post Office, City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge.

City Hall & New York World Building c. 1908

At 309 feet, the World Building designed by George B. Post was the tallest office building in the world when completed in 1890.

Think about that for a minute. Just 26 floors. From the building’s foundation to the top of its flagstaff it measured 375½ feet. At the time that height was an outstanding architectural achievement.

The second floor of the beehive, as the interior of the dome of the World Building was known to its employees, also contained Joseph Pulitzer’s office.  Here is how the New York World described the top of its own building just after its completion: Continue reading

10 Things About New York in 1892 That You Didn’t Know

From An 1892 Guidebook – 10 Things You Didn’t Know About New York

14th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in 1892 photo: KIng’s Handbook of New York

Some of these facts are pretty interesting:

The New York Post Office handled over 600,000,000 pieces of mail matter annually. That may not be so amazing. What is amazing is that they had an annual profit of $3 million dollars!

Trinity Church is part of Trinity Parish. The Parish was the richest in America. Income from its real estate and other holdings amounted to over $500,000 annually

It was free to walk over the 9-year-old Brooklyn Bridge. Vehicles had to pay a toll of 3 cents each way.

At Centre and Franklin Streets stood the City Prison, better known as The Tombs, because of the architectural resemblance to Egyptian tombs. Before the death by electrocution law went into effect in 1889, all condemned murderers sentenced to death by the New York courts were executed in the Tombs. Continue reading

Covers of 100-Year-Old Souvenir New York View Books

New York City Souvenir View Book Covers From 1911 – 1919

New York of To-Day published by L.H. Nelson 1913

According to NYC & Company over 58 million people visited New York City in 2015. Many of them possibly bought a keepsake to bring back home; a t-shirt, mug or some other knick-knack.

Souvenirs have remained a constant in the world of tourism. Since about 1880, view books have been one of the souvenirs that appealed to visitors of New York City. With everyone now  having a camera to photograph where they were and sights they have seen, view books are pretty much on their way to becoming extinct.

During their heyday from the late 1800s until the 1940s view books were a popular and inexpensive souvenir choice. Most view books generally ranged in price from a quarter to a dollar. They generally contained anywhere from a dozen to 400 photographs of buildings, tourist sights and attractions. Many had plain covers, while others had covers to attract the eye.

Going through my collection, I selected a few view books that date between 1911-1919.

These examples are relatively common for collectors. When they were new I think would have caught the eye of a visitor, because they are still striking today.

Scenes of Modern New York published by L.H Nelson 1911.  A nice cover featuring The Williamsburg Bridge (completed 1902), The Fuller Building aka Flatiron (completed 1902) and The Subway (opened 1904).

New York Illustrated published by C. Souhami 1914. A colorful panorama of lower Manhattan taken from the Brooklyn tower. On the left is the tallest building in the world, The Woolworth Building (completed 1913). To the right is the 40 story Municipal Building (completed 1914). On the waterfront, South Street with its docks and shipping activity was still the hub of maritime New York. Continue reading

From A 200-Year-Old Book On Dreams And Their Meanings: “Finding Treasure Is A Bad Omen” and Other Dream Interpretations That Are Peculiar

A Sample Of 20 Dreams And What They Mean From A 200-Year-Old Book

“If You Dream Of Cain, The First Born Son of Man, I Would Advise The Dreamer To Travel Into Another Part of The Country, And Form New Connections” – The Complete Dream Book 1817

For thousands of years, humans have tried to understand and derive meaning from dreams.

Oneirology, the interpretation of dreams is still popular today.

Early in the 19th century a do-it-yourself book was published to enlighten the general public on what their dreams meant. The 1817 version of The New and Complete Fortune Teller Being A Treatise on the Art of Foretelling Future Events by Dreams, Moles, Cards, &c. &c. &c. Carefully done from the Arabic Manuscripts of Ibraham Ali Mohamed Hafez published by Richard Scott in New York contains about 100 pages of dream interpretations, many of them bizarre.

What is the worst dream you can have according to the book? This one stood out:

“Altar – To dream you are at the altar and receiving the holy sacrament, is a very unfavourable omen and denotes many heavy and severe afflictions, and that you will be very unsuccessful in your pursuits, and have much trouble in overcoming your difficulties. If you are in love, your sweetheart will die before you marry, or else be removed very far from you forever — if you are in business, heavy losses will attend you, and you will with great difficulty keep from going to prison — you will lose many friends by death— sickness will come upon you and your family, and your children will be undutiful and turn out bad.”

That sounds pretty bad!

Many of the interpretations are strange. What would seem to be good dreams or about innocuous items will lead to bad outcomes for you or your family and friends. Yet nightmarish dreams involving things like beheading and the hangman’s gallows are good omens. Go figure.

While you might laugh at some of these outlandish dream interpretations, are they really any sillier than modern beliefs in fortunetelling, tarot card reading, astrology or any pseudoscience that can predict the future?

How many of the following things have you dreamed about?

Let’s have a look at some of these dream interpretations from 1817: (editor’s note – we have retained the original spelling and punctuation as it is in the book.)

“Squirrels – To dream of a squirrel, shews that  enemies are endeavoring to slander your reputation ; to the lover it shews your sweetheart is of a bad temper and much given to drinking ; if you have a lawsuit, it will surely be decided against you; if you are in trade, sharpers will endeavour to defraud you, and you will quarrel with your principal creditor.”

“Death – To dream you see this grim looking bundle of bones denotes happiness and long life- — that you will either be speedily married yourself, or else assist at a wedding. To dream that you are dead also denotes a speedy marriage and that you will be successful in all your undertakings– -to those who are married it foretels young children, and that they will be dutiful, and give you great comfort. To dream you see another person dead, denotes ill usage from friends- -if you are in love, your sweetheart will prove false- -if you are in a trade, sharpers will take you in— if you are a farmer, you will lose money by horses, and be waylaid as you return from market.”

“Cats. – To dream of these domestic animals, is indicative of much trouble and vexation; it denotes to the lover, that your sweetheart is trecherous; if you keep servants, they are unfaithful and will rob you. To dream you kill a cat, denotes that you will discover a thief, and prosecute him to conviction ; expect also to lose your own liberty through the insincerity of some pretended friend.”

“Nakedness – To dream you see a naked woman is very lucky, it foretells that some unexpected
honors await you ; that you will become very rich, and be successful in most of your undertakings:  To dream you see a naked man is indicative of trouble and attack by thieves, loss of goods and reputation. For a maid to dream she sees a naked man, shews that she will quickly fall in love and be married, and that. she will have many male children, who will be great cowards.”

“Coal Pit -To dream you are in a coal pit, foretels that you will shortly lead a widow to the hymeneal altar; to a maid it denotes a speedy marriage with her sweetheart, who will become rich and rise to honors in the state; to the trader, it indicates that he will shortly be tricked out of a quantity of goods.”

Treasure – To dream you find a treasure in the earth is very ominous; it shews that you will be
betrayed by some one whom you make your become friend ; that your sweetheart is unfaithful. and grossly deceives you ; if you should not be able to carry it away, then it denotes that you will have some very heavy loss; that if you have a lawsuit it will go against you by the treachery of your attorney ; and that you will be waylaid by robbers who will ill treat you.”

“Cain – To dream of the first born son of man, who was Adam’s eldest son, is a very unfavorable
omen; it denotes much grief through the misconduct of children, and that you will be in danger
of losing; your liberty , if you are in love it foretells that your sweetheart is deceiving you; that if
you marry the present one you will never be happy; and that sour children will be undutiful, and lead you to many troubles and difficulties. After such a dream, i would advise the dreamer to travel into another part of the country, and form new connections.”

“Lice – To dream that you are lousy, and that you are killing a great many of them, is a very
good omen ; it denotes great riches to the dreamer after many severe misfortunes and much sickness ; they also portend deliverance from enemies, and that you will overcome much slander and malice; that in love you will succeed and be very happy, after a long and tedious courtship.” Continue reading

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