Category Archives: History

Huge Crowd Of Last Minute Shoppers At Macy’s -1942

1942 – Crowds Come To Macy’s At The Last Minute, Not For Christmas Gifts, But Liquor

Macy’s department store in New York City – On October 31, 1942 people flock to the liquor department to stock up on spirits the day before a new liquor tax goes into effect

The government can raise food taxes, gasoline taxes and income taxes and people will get riled up. But when you increase taxes on alcohol, that’s when people go into a panic .

Immediately after the Unites States jumped into World War II on December 8, 1941, the Federal government added taxes on all sorts of things to raise money for the war effort. A tax on distilled liquor was passed: $4.00 per gallon effective November 1, 1942. In addition to that tax, retailers would have to pay a floor tax of $1.00 per gallon on any unsold liquor in their possession after that date.

Here is proof crazed buying scenes did occur in the past, though they were much more civilized. Today we associate buying frenzies with the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday or on Christmas Eve.

In our photo above on October 31,1942 crowds descended upon Macy’s liquor department to stock up on whiskey, gin, vodka and any liquor they could get, before the new liquor tax went into effect the next day.

The increased cost to consumers would be about 50 cents per bottle.

In New York City, Gimbels, Abraham & Strauss, Hearn’s, Bloomingdales, Macy’s and all the large department stores had liquor departments. Continue reading

Can You Identify This 19th Century New York City Building?

A 19th Century Mystery Building In New York City That Eludes Identification

Many times I’ll come across stereoviews of 19th century New York City that I have never seen before. Usually they are of buildings or scenes I am acquainted with either by name or written anecdote. But here is a a stereoview that leaves me stumped.

As you see, it is clearly labeled New York City & Vicinity. Beyond those words under the right panel of the view, there is no other information. I do not recognize the large building which is the stereoview’s centerpiece, the surrounding structures, or an approximate year it was taken.

Maybe the view was labeled incorrectly by the stereoview manufacturer (which I highly doubt) or it is a scene in the “vicinity” of New York. It is a mystery building and I have been unable to determine anything. Continue reading

Protesting The President

Is President-elect Donald Trump More Despised Than President Lyndon Johnson Was?

President Lyndon Johnson in Melbourne Australia October 21, 1966 after his limousine was attacked by paint. photo: Herald Sun

President Lyndon Johnson in Melbourne Australia October 21, 1966 after his limousine was attacked by paint. photo: Herald Sun

President-Elect Donald Trump has not been sworn in office yet and protests have sprung up in many places across the United States against his impending assumption of power. “Not My President,” is the slogan protesters have adopted.

I do not particularly care for Donald Trump. But he is now going to be our president.

As unpopular as Trump seems to be at this moment, he is probably no more despised than President Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969) was during the latter half of his presidency.

This photograph shows President Johnson in his Lincoln Continental limousine moments after the automobile was pelted with plastic bags filled with paint by two brothers, David and John Langley on October 21, 1966 in Melbourne, Australia.

The escalating Vietnam War and the draft was one of the main reasons President Johnson was deeply loathed by so many. While the majority of people initially supported the war at home and abroad, millions of people were firmly against it. According to a Gallup poll taken In August 1965, 24% of Americans thought the U.S. was making a mistake sending troops to fight in Vietnam. By October 1967 that number had risen to 47%.

With President Johnson stopping in Australia as a stopover on his trip to Manila, Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt declared Australia was “all the way with LBJ” in Vietnam.

That was not the way many in Australia felt about LBJ and their involvement in Vietnam. The popular protest chant in Australia and the United States against Johnson was, ‘Hey! Hey! LBJ! How many kids have you killed today?’” Continue reading

Sex Before Marriage? Early 20th Century Postcards That Are Risque

It’s Easy To Say, But Hard To Do – Turn-of-the-Century American Postcards That Hint At Having Sex

easy-to-say-1-3

french-postcard-semi-nude-handcolored

A French postcard

You may be familiar with the term French postcards, which were images showing nude or semi-nude women at the turn of the 20th century. Imported to America from Europe, these postcards excited an entire generation. However If you possessed or mailed such material you could be arrested for violating the Comstock Law, with its broad definitions for what was considered lewd, lascivious or obscene material. As mild as French postcards seem now, they were the pornography of the day.

In early 20th century America men could only hint at their intentions when it came to relations with women. To say Americans were puritanical and repressed when it came to sex would be an understatement.

Victorian manners and morals carried over from the 19th century persisted until after World War I.  Women were given the right to vote and soon the roaring 20’s ushered in a new spirit of sexual liberation.

It is hard to imagine that at the-turn-of-the-century most people could not talk about sex let alone consider having premarital relations. That being said, men have always been on the prowl, trying to hop in the sack with women.

In this series of postcards from around 1905, the woman is preserving her virtue and not giving in to having sex before marriage. But as we know men are persistent.

The series called “It’s Easy To Say, But Hard To Do,” is a double entendre reference to a man asking a woman to get married. It can also refer to asking for sex, but how and where can you do it? Looking at these postcards the viewer had to infer the meaning of who was saying what to whom in the captions, and what it all meant. I’m unsure how many variations of this card were produced in the series, but I have seen at least eight.

In the first postcard at the top of our story where the man has the woman sitting on his lap and he is practically groping her he is saying “How about it now kiddo?” The woman of course refuses.

easy-to-say-2-2“Ask, and you will get it,”  a not too subtle hint – ask me to marry you and then we can have sex. Continue reading

We’d Like To Hear From Houdini (And Teddy Roosevelt While We’re At It)

On The 90th Anniversary of Houdini’s Death, We’d Like Some Advice From Houdini and His Friend Theodore Roosevelt

From left to right: William Hamlin Childs, Harry Houdini, J.C. Platt, Theodore Roosevelt, unidentified, Philip Roosevelt, L. F. Abbott

Aboard The Imperator June 23, 1914 – From left to right: William Hamlin Childs, Harry Houdini, J.C. Platt, Theodore Roosevelt, unidentified, Philip Roosevelt, L. F. Abbott

If there is an afterlife maybe Houdini is hanging out with President Theodore Roosevelt like he was in 1914. If so, I’d like to know what they think about the current state of our country.

October 31, 1926 marks the 90th anniversary of the death of the world’s most famous magician, Harry Houdini. Before he died, Houdini told his wife Bess that if there really was life after death, he would contact her. After all, Houdini spent a lot of his time showing how all people who claimed to contact the dead were charlatans. If anyone could prove that there was life after death it would be Houdini.

He never made contact with Bess. There are still seances held each year that try and contact Houdini.

So every so often we’ve asked the question: has Houdini made contact from other side like he said he would?

Of course not. Houdini is still dead and there’s no word from him. Continue reading

These Are The World Champion 1908 Chicago Cubs

Players on the 1908 World Champion Chicago Cubs In High Definition Photographs

Joe Tinker Second Baseman of the 1908 Chicago Cubs

Joe Tinker, Shortstop 1908 Chicago Cubs

For the moment it seems all of America is talking about the Chicago Cubs. As everyone now knows it has been 108 years since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series four games to one against the Detroit Tigers.

But what do you know of the 1908 Cubs team?

Maybe you’ve heard of Tinker to Evers to Chance the famous Cubs double play combination immortalized in a newspaper poem by the once legendary Franklin P. Adams. It should be noted that off the field Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers refused to speak to one another. Besides the trio of Cubs Hall-of Famers, you probably know little of the 1908 Cubbies.

Johnny Kling, Catcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Johnny Kling, Catcher 1908 Chicago Cubs (check out that bat!)

The 1908 Cubs are comprised of forgotten names. Their achievements are just dusty remnants that reside only in the record books. There is no one alive today who actually saw the 1908 Chicago Cubs play.

They were a hardened lot, these players. They usually had to work at other jobs in the off-season. It was a time when baseball players scrambled for a job on one of 16 ball clubs. They had to be constantly looking over their shoulder because there was always some youngster trying to take their $2,000 a year baseball job.

At least we can see what they looked like. We’re bringing the Chicago Cubs of 1908 back to you in high definition photographs. All photographs are from the Library of Congress and can be clicked on for enlargement in great detail.

With their heavy flannel uniforms, small fingered gloves, heavy bats and grizzled looks, here are some of the 1908 Chicago Cubs:

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Mordecai “Three Fingered” Brown, Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Mordecai “Three Fingered” Brown, really only had three fingers, his index finger was a stump that was the result of catching his hand in a corn shredder when he was seven-years-old. That accident gave Brown an odd spin on his fastball which confounded hitters. He won 239 games while losing only 130 in his career. His ERA was 2.06, the third lowest in history for pitchers with over 2,000 innings.

In the 1908 World Series Brown was one of two star pitchers, winning two games against the Detroit Tigers. Brown was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949.

Orval Overall Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Orval Overall Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

You would think anyone named Orval Overall would be remembered just because of his name. A short career doomed Orval to obscurity despite a 108-71 lifetime record with a 2.23 ERA. There was no Tommy John surgery when Overall hurt his arm and his career was over in 1913 at age 32.  Overall won the other two games for the Cubs in the 1908 World Series.

Johnny Evers Shortstop 1908 Chicago Cubs

Johnny Evers Second Baseman 1908 Chicago Cubs

Johnny Evers was considered one of the scrappiest and smartest players to ever play the game. Evers batted .300 in 1908 and .350 in the World Series. If you enlarge the photograph you will see a man who had lived quite a bit. This photograph of Evers is from 1913 when he was only 32. Continue reading

What An Instant Messaging System Looked Like In 1984

This 1984 Advertisement For An Instant Messaging System Will Amaze You (Or Maybe It Won’t)

If you were born after 1986 you have always had the internet and email at your disposal since childhood. It may come as a surprise to you that in one form or another email has been around since the 1960s.

But when did IM (Instant Messaging) come into being?

The early 1980s saw the dawn of what would later be termed instant messaging.

From an advertisement in the November 12, 1984 issue of Newsweek magazine, this is what one of the first instant messaging systems looked like:

Easylink 1984 advertisement

Easylink 1984 advertisement

Introduced in 1982 Western Union’s EasyLink system was considered revolutionary. EasyLink’s messages were stored in the computer memory and not seen until the user checked to see if there were any messages. 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

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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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