Category Archives: New York

Old New York In Photos #81 – The Best View in New York City c. 1870

A View Of New York From The Steeple of Trinity Church

In mid-19th century New York City if you wanted to be above it all and get a sweeping view of the city there was one place to go: the steeple of Trinity Church on Wall Street.

The steeple of Trinity rose 281 feet into the air and gave New Yorkers and visitors alike an unobstructed view of the city as far as the eye could see.

Trinity Church was originally constructed in 1696 and was burned down by the British in 1776 during the Revolutionary War.

If you’ve ever seen the Nicholas Cage movie National Treasure, you can be assured that there is no treasure buried under Trinity Church as the British troops sacked the original building before burning it. Continue reading

Photographs Of New York City School Life & Children In 1902

Unseen For 115 Years – Photographs of New York City School Life & Kids

Children arriving late “A Minute After Nine” New York City schools September 1902 photo: Florence Maynard

Our previous story on Why People Disbelieve the Newspapers led to browsing other issues of World’s Work magazine.

Inside the covers are a treasure trove of interesting articles and photographs that generally have remained hidden since their original publication.

From the October 1902 World’s Work was “A Day’s Work in A New York Public School” by William McAndrew . There are some great photographs by Florence Maynard taken to accompany the article.

So what was a day’s work in a New York City public school like?

3,000 children were crowded into one typical school. 40 or more students in a class. Supplies were in short order. Free space to play was non-existent. Children of different intellect, culture and background were taught civics, patriotism and the 3 R’s. There was one language you were expected to learn- English.

But if you think the article has a negative take-away, you would be mistaken. McAndrew extols the schools, students, teachers, administrators, and the education system despite the shortcomings.

Look into the faces of these New York City schoolchildren of a century ago. What do you see?

Here are the photos with short excerpts from the article.

“Saluting The Flag” New York City schools September 1902 photo: Florence Maynard

Three thousand throats do service to the cause of patriotism. Shrill little trebles, very new and fresh, basses not yet sure of the dignity of a changed register, besides all the voices between, unite to shout out the national anthem, or some other song required by law. The school rises to its feet. Every hand comes to the position of salute and then extends upward and outward towards the banner while the voices declare in unison: ” I pledge allegiance to my Flag.”

“Well-doers waiting for the principal’s commendation.” New York City schools September 1902 photo: Florence Maynard

A pretty morning ceremony is the procession of candidates to the office of the principal for daily commendation one or two children from each room, bearing their trophies of penmanship or ciphering with them. Each has his card of introduction, properly endorsed, accrediting him to the court of the Great Potentate. It reads:

To The Principal.  Sept. 30, 1902.

This will introduce to you Johnny Johnson From Room 32 whom I recommend for compliment for great improvement in behaving himself.

Mary Potter
Teacher.

“A treaty of peace.” photo: Florence Maynard

“Staying after school.” photo: Florence Maynard

 

“The Geography Club cutting up illustrated magazines” New York City schools September 1902, photo: Florence Maynard

There is no limit to the benefits the public schools derives from private benefactions. Taxation can never supply enough income to permit the school authorities to equip the buildings as any generous lover of children would wish. To erect a safe, well-lighted structure, architecturally artistic, is the limit of the city’s ability. The inner walls must be bare. Casts and pictures, if they come at all, must be the gift of some intelligent citizens who recognize the subtle and silent teaching done by good art in the places where our children spend a good part of the most susceptible period of their lives. Continue reading

A Hard Life – Photos Of Turn-of-the Century Newsboys In New York City

Photographer Lewis Hine Captured Child Labor In Action

10 Of His Newsboy Photographs In New York City 1908-1910

Newsboys with heavy loads. Park Row, New York City, July 1910 photo: Lewis Hine

In turn-of-the-century New York, child labor, with some kids working seven days a week, was not uncommon.

Working as an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), Lewis Hine (1874-1940) documented working and living conditions of children in the United States between 1908 and 1924. Over 5100 prints and 355 glass negatives were donated to the Library of Congress in 1954 by  Mrs. Gertrude Folks Zimand, acting for the NCLC in her capacity as chief executive.

Hine didn’t just focus on newsboys and New York City , but turned his camera to all trades in which children were engaged and traveled all over the United States photographing the grueling work done by boys and girls, sometimes as young as five-years-old.

Hine captured the children candidly or in simple poses, without staging. His portraits can evoke strong emotions.

In New York City you needed a news badge to sell newspapers. Laws were set up to prevent very young children from engaging in work. The laws were usually ignored by the children, their families and/or the authorities.

When looking at these photographs there are several things to notice. The first is the expression on the boys’ face. The next is the clothing. Their shoes always stand out, usually the condition varies from fair to horrendous. Considering how much walking a newsboy would do in what could end up being a 12 hour plus day, it is natural that shoes would break down.

Waiting for Fight Extras. Times Square. July 4, 1910 6 P.M. Location: New York, New York

The rest of the attire that newsboys wear is also interesting. The shirts, pants and jackets are stereotypically shabby, but rarely are the boys wearing rags. These kids were battling for sales and tried  to make themselves as saleable as the newspapers they sold. Finally pay attention when possible to the background, which is of course, New York City. The buildings, stores, streets, vehicles, sidewalks and people – always intriguing.

For the newsboys, one of the common tricks was to go into a bar with only a few papers and tell the customers these were the last papers you had for the day and after they were sold you would then be able to go home. The sympathetic bar patrons would usually buy the remaining copies and then the boy would go outside grab some more newspapers he had stashed and proceed to the next bar and repeat the scene.

Newspapers were generally two cents per copy. On a  good day a “newsie” might make between 25 and 50 cents. Continue reading

How Baseball Fans “Watched” The 1911 World Series

Before Radio Or Television If You Didn’t Have A Ticket To The World Series – You Could Still Watch It On The Play-O-Graph

Advertisement for the “wonderful Automatic Play-O-Graph” – Philadelphia Inquirer Oct. 13, 1911

In August, 1911 with $10,000 capital, John W. Baker, Henry H. Abbott and Sumner Ford incorporated the Baseball Play-O-Graph Company in Stamford, Connecticut. The men devised a way of transmitting the actions of sporting events “live” through telephone and telegraph.

The depiction of baseball games through mechanical means had been accomplished previously, but not showing the track of the ball, which was what made the Play-O-Graph unique. The Play-O-Graph would show the action without the aid of electric lights.

Baseball fans congregate outside the New York Herald Building during the 1911 World Series

In October of 1911 the American League champion Philadelphia Athletics lead by manager Connie Mack would play John McGraw’s New York Giants for the World Championship.

Giants manager John McGraw (l) and catcher Chief Myers (r) at Polo Grounds before 1911 World Series.

Giants manager John McGraw (l) and catcher Chief Myers (r) at Polo Grounds before 1911 World Series.

There were a couple of oddities in the 1911 World Series. Each game alternated cities with games one, three and five being played in New York and games two, four and six played in Philadelphia. The other strange occurrence was that there was a one week delay between games three and four as a deluge of rain hit Philadelphia for six straight days.

After inspecting the field for playability causing the fifth straight postponement of game four, umpire Bill Klem joked, “There was a pool around second base big enough for a diving exhibition by (swimming champ) Annette Kellerman. I was unable to locate the home plate for the lack of a diving apparatus. The outer gardens would make excellent pasturage for a herd of hippopotami.”

Both teams were considered evenly matched and felt confident they could win the series. Since 1904 each team had won three pennants.

Line outside the Polo Grounds at 7:00 am to buy tickets for game 3 of the 1911 World Series. photo: Bain

When tickets for the opening game of the World Series went on sale on Friday, October 13 at the Giants home field, the Polo Grounds all the tickets were gone within two hours. After the sell-out, the regular ticket price of three dollars shot up to five, six, seven and eventually eight dollars from speculators (scalpers) who had scooped up as many tickets as possible.

With over 38,000 fans cramming the ballpark it would be difficult to see the game without a ticket.

That would be where the Play-O-Graph would come into use. Setting up their machines at four locations in the United States, fans could see the game as it transpired.

“When the pitcher pitches the ball and when the batter hits it and when he is thrown out, is all shown upon the Play-O-Graph. Every move of the game is made clear to the spectator who watches the ball as it moves from place to place upon the board,” the company proclaimed.

The company installed two boards in New York, one in Chicago, one in Detroit and one in Philadelphia. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #80 – The Main New York Post Office Broadway c. 1887

Main Branch Of New York Post Office Broadway, between Beekman and Ann Streets c. 1887

We return to one of the most striking and photographed structures of 19th century New York. The main branch of the New York Post Office which loomed over the southern end of City Hall Park for nearly 65 years.

We are looking north from Ann Street up towards Broadway (left) and Park Row (right).

The scene is typical of an average day in 1880s New York. We can see several trolleys at rest either having completed their runs or about to start them. Several delivery carts are scattered about nearby. A police officer stands in the middle of Broadway keeping an eye on things. A horse drawn hansom coach and driver are prominent in the foreground. Businessmen make their way about the city, many walking on the Belgian block street rather than the sidewalks. Telegraph poles and wires criss-cross Park Row and Broadway.

The hub of all this activity is the main branch of the New York Post Office, designed by Alfred B. Mullett and opened to the public on Sunday, August 29, 1875. Between 8 a.m and 8 p.m. it was estimated that between 20 – 30,000 people wandered into the new building. They passed slowly through its corridors gawking at the shiny new post office lock boxes, looking into delivery windows and buttonholing anybody who looked like an employee to ask questions.

Architecturally inspired by the French Renaissance style, the building proved to be wildly unpopular from the get go. Among the chief complaints about the Post Office was that it was ugly.

More importantly it was located in the wrong place. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #17 – Riverside Drive

Postcard Views of Riverside Drive 1900-1920

Riverside Drive may not be the most famous street in Manhattan, but it is among the prettiest.

The natural beauty of the surrounding area made this parcel of Manhattan real estate an ideal setting for a park and residential development.

Up until the late 19th century there was not a whole lot of home building along this western portion of the city with the exception of a few mansions perched high along the river.

As transportation options continued to improve, Riverside Avenue began attracting wealthy New Yorkers and real estate developers to the west side. The opening of the Ninth Avenue Elevated in 1879 and the subway in 1904 made it possible to commute from the upper west side to New York’s business center downtown. In 1908 Riverside Avenue’s name was officially changed to Riverside Drive.

If Riverside Drive had been built as originally proposed by Park Commissioner William Martin in 1865, it would have been a 100 foot wide straight boulevard.

Fortunately that turned out to be impractical due to the natural topography of the area.

Riverside Drive looking north towards Grant’s Tomb 1912

In 1873 Frederick Law Olmsted the designer of Central and Prospect Park received the job of laying out Riverside Park and Drive. Olmsted realized that incorporating the existing landscape surrounding Riverside Avenue into a park was a better plan than grading and straightening the hills along the drive.

By the time work started on the park in 1875 Olmsted had left New York City. Over the next 25 years  a succession of designers, engineers and architects executed Olmsted’s proposal but not exactly sticking to his plan. Calvert Vaux, Samuel Parsons and Julius Munckwitz all had their turn in building up Riverside Drive and its park.

By the turn of the 20th century Riverside Drive was lined with expensive single family townhouses and row houses overlooking the Hudson River. Land speculation led to a spate of luxury apartment buildings in the upper parts of the boulevard.

A touring bus along Riverside Drive

The first portion of  Riverside Drive from 72nd to 85th Street was opened in 1879. Riverside Park terminated at 129th Street. The Riverside Viaduct completed in 1900, bridged the schism between 125th and 135th Streets. Riverside Drive then continued north to 181st Street.

Here are some of the views from 100 years ago.

postcard view Riverside Drive north from 72nd Street 1918

Riverside Drive north from 72nd Street 1918

This World War I era view shows Riverside Drive at 72nd Street looking north. The entire block between 73rd and 74th Streets and Riverside Drive and West End Avenue belonged to one man and his extravagant home. The french style chateau with the large front lawn is the 75-room Charles M. Schwab mansion.  Designed by Maurice Ebert and completed at a cost of $6 million in 1905, the home contained a gym, a bowling alley, a pool, and three elevators. Schwab had made his millions working with Andrew Carnegie. Schwab went on to head United States Steel. Continue reading

The Night The Audio System Failed At Yankee Stadium

30  Minutes Of Baseball Bliss As The Audio System At Yankee Stadium Fails – September 14, 2017

9 14 17 Yankee Stadium audio difficulties signThey say if you go to a baseball game there’s always a chance you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.

But it’s not only what I had never seen before, but what I didn’t hear. What happened Thursday, September 14, 2017 during a Yankees – Orioles game was unusual.

For the first time in my life, I attended a major league baseball game and the national anthem was not played before the start of the game. No, it wasn’t the second game of a real doubleheader (remember those?)

Not only was the national anthem not played, no sound was heard in the ballpark except the cheers of the crowd, calls of the vendors and crack of the bat. Continue reading

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

Gene Michael Architect Of Late 90s Yankees Dynasty Dies at 79

Gene “Stick” Michael Was More Responsible For The Yankee Championship Teams In The Late 90s Than Anyone Else

Gene Michael awaits the throw to second base as Chicago White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio makes his slide (1970).

Former Yankees shortstop, manager and general manager Gene Michael died today September 7, 2017 at the age of 79 of a heart attack at his home in Oldsmar, FL.

Michael was a slick fielding light hitting shortstop who played on Yankees teams from 1968 – 1974, that were a shadow of the former Yankee teams.  From 1921 -1964 the Yankees had appeared in 29 World Series, winning 20 of them.

If The New York Yankees futility of the late 1960s and early 1970s was epitomized by their second baseman Horace Clarke, then Gene Michael would unfairly be attached to that failure with his double play partner.  Horace Clarke, was a career .256 hitter and average fielder who hit a total of 27 home runs with the Yankees from 1965 – 1974. Because Clarke’s career coincided with that of Michael’s the two were paired together unfairly as the face of Yankee ineptitude.

But there was never any question that Gene Michael was a decent ballplayer and a great competitor.

The “Stick,” as the six foot two skinny shortstop was nicknamed, had baseball smarts and could execute the plays a lot better than an average player. That is what kept Michael on the team. A .229 lifetime average usually won’t ensure your spot on a major league roster unless you can hit thirty or more home runs a year. Yet Michael was valued by teammates and some fans as a hard-nosed, crafty ballplayer.

One thing that Michael did that you rarely see anymore was pull the “hidden ball trick.”Michael said he would only pull it if his pitcher was in trouble.

Michael would have the ball in his glove as the pitcher would be getting ready to pitch and Michael would sneak up on an unsuspecting runner as he began to take a lead off second base and apply the tag. It’s called a bush league play today. Completely unprofessional. I disagree. It showed smarts and initiative to pull it off and I question why it is not tried more often today. I once witnessed Michael do this in person and didn’t realize what had happened.

Michael was smart in other ways. In a May 25, 1973 game against the Texas Rangers Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #79 – Broadway & 79th Street c. 1890

This Pastoral Scene Is Broadway and 79th Street

While the quality of this photograph is far from perfect, we thought it was unusual enough to share.

With laundry hanging off a clothesline, a horse grazing near the front door of a tree filled yard, this bucolic area is Bloomingdale, near the corner of the Boulevard and 79th Street. At least that is what is written on the back of the circa 1890 photo.

As you may know, The Boulevard was the continuation of Broadway above 59th Street.

Robinson’s Atlas of New York City 1885

Checking Robinson’s Atlas of New York City from 1885, I’ve tried to figure out where this house stood and what direction the photograph was taken from.

The atlas key is as follows: structures shaded in yellow are made of wood, pink are brick and brown are stone. We can see our three story house is made of wood. In the background on the right there is another building. But which of these buildings fits the description?

The authoritative book on the Bloomingdale area (the Dutch name for Valley of the Flowers) is The New York of Yesterday (1908) by Hopper Striker Mott. According to Mott, the house that was nearest that site was the van den Heuvel homestead a two story stone and wood home built approximately in 1759.

The end is near for the former van den Heuvel / Burnham mansion c. 1905 photo: Robert Bracklow NYHS

Sometime in the early 19th century the van den Heuvel home had an additional story added after a fire destroyed the original slanted roof. Continue reading