Category Archives: New York

A List Of 59 “Really Interesting” Books About New York City Compiled In 1936

These 59 Books About New York City Were Recommended To Anyone Who Was Considering Working For The City

In 1936 New York librarian Rebecca Rankin was asked to compile a list of books with good stories which have New York as a background by the Municipal Service Commission. Along with Miriam Mayer of the Municipal Library, the two came up with a list of hundreds of good books that they would recommend to anyone considering working for the city. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #21 – 1920s & 1930s New York City Aerial Images

New York City In The 1920s & 1930s As Seen By Airplane

A Vanished Skyline

Peenn Station Area from airplane 1920sWhen in lower Brooklyn, Queens or bicycling across the George Washington Bridge, I look at the New York City skyline. It has become something I do not recognize.

New York is a city that architecturally alters itself every year. It comes as no surprise that there are buildings that now obscure the sight of what were once tourist magnets.

The Woolworth, Bankers Trust, Equitable, Municipal, Citicorp and Chrysler Buildings are dwarfed by new neighbors. Fifty Seventh Street is now an ugly amalgamation of needle glass towers selling for $40 million to absentee owners.

I never experienced the grandeur of the classic Manhattan skyline. It had mostly vanished by the 1960s in a spate of modern construction in the financial district and midtown. However, even through the 1980s there was not an infestation of buildings that blocked New York’s most notable structures.

But in the past fifteen years the New York skyline has been overhauled. In the process obliterating the uniqueness of New York. New, mammoth unattractive buildings are now spreading like a fungus in the city. The skyline seen now could be Chicago, Los Angeles or Houston. It has been impossible to stop a bunch of undistinguished architectural monstrosities to destroy the vistas that made New York famous.

Let us return to the 1920s and 30s when New York City looked like NEW YORK CITY. Here are some aerial postcard views showing what was once a picturesque city.

Click on any image to enlarge as all of these postcards are real photo. I scanned many (not all) of them at 300 dpi so the detail is pretty clear when enlarged.

New York from the south aerial view 1930sLooking north we have a fantastic overview of the entire southern portion of the island.

aerial lower manhattan east river 1930s aerialAnother classic view when approaching Manhattan from the south showing the piers and many turn-of-the-century and art deco buildings that proliferate in lower Manhattan.

Aerial view of Lower Manhattan from the Hudson Looking east across the Hudson another at the southern tip of Manhattan. This view captures most of the important buildings in the financial district.  Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #107 – Drexel Building 23 Wall Street aka J.P. Morgan Building

The Demolition of the Drexel Building c. 1913 aka J.P. Morgan Building

Drexel Morgan Building photo Detroit Publishing Co.One of the most valuable pieces of real estate in New York City is 23 Wall Street at the corner of Broad and Wall Streets. From 1876 -1913 the site was occupied by this building, the Drexel Building seen in the photo above made by the Detroit Publishing Co.. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #106 – City Hall and A Description Of The Fabulous World Building

City Hall & The Pulitzer, aka World Building c 1897

Crca 1897 New York City World Building and City Hall City HallNew York’s quaint City Hall is seen here from a circa 1897 stereoview. According to the clock below its cupola it is 4:07 in the afternoon. An open plaza beckons the stroller to walk across Now, because of security concerns. without a pass, you can’t get within 100 feet of a building that supposedly belongs to the public.

Looming across the street at Park Row and Frankfort Street is the Pulitzer Building also known as the World Building, headquarters of newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer.

French’s Hotel stood on the site from 1849 until 1888. Pulitzer paid $630,000 for the 115 by 135 foot plot of land, Demolition of the hostelry started July 2, 1888 and preliminary work for the new building’s foundation began June 20, 1889.

Joseph Pulitzer Jr laying cornerstone Wolrd Building 1889

Young Joseph Pulitzer Jr. lays the cornerstone

Pulitzer’s four-year-old son, Joseph Jr. smacked the cornerstone with his silver trowel on October 10, 1889 to commence construction and said, “It is well done.”

In a bizarre speech at the cornerstone laying, one of the honored guests, New York Governor David Hill mocked the newspaper and its staff. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #105 – St. Paul’s Chapel, St. Paul Building & Park Row Building

St. Paul’s Chapel, St. Paul Building & Park Row Building circa 1900

St. Paul's Chapel and St. Paul Building and Park Row BuildingWe are looking east from Church Street towards Broadway and Park Row. It’s a lush green day sometime around the turn-of-the century, the exact date unknown. We do know the  time is 3:10 in the afternoon according to the clock on St. Paul’s Chapel in this magic lantern slide view. Continue reading

Walt Whitman & James Bond At The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair

The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair 2019Customers at Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair 2019

While rare books abound at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, you can spend as little as $10 for something very readable and collectable.

Or you can plunk down as much as $85,000 and walk away happy with your purchase. The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, going six years strong, is currently at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, 72 Noble Street.

Greenpoint – Franklin Avenue

Greenpoint, if you haven’t been there recently, is worth the trip alone. It is hip and revitalized with many unique shops and trendy restaurants filled with customers. The pubs in the area lure you with sweet aromas of barley and hops with their Brooklyn craft beers. Flea markets are nearby and you have great views from the waterfront.

Getting back to the fair, I didn’t spend $85,000 which was the asking price of a magnificent first edition copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #104 – Mystery Church & Street In New York City

A New York City Tree Lined Street With A Church – Where Is This?

Street in New York City and Vicinity circa 1870s possibly 34th Street looking west Broadway TabernacleAt first glance you might think this would be some rural village scene, not New York City.

But this old stereoview photograph has identification which says, American Scenery; N.Y. City & Vicinity and 1285.

I do not know where this is. The photograph appears to be from the late 1860s / early 1870s, based upon the sparse surrounding scenery and architecture. Below is the original stereoview: Continue reading

Loyalty, Oaths, Patriotism & The Forgotten 1919 New York City High School, Anti-Bolshevik (& Everything Else Un-American) Pledge Of Allegiance

Would Having Graduating High School Students Take An Oath Of Allegiance Be Held Unconstitutional Today?

New York City schools in September 1902, "Saluting The Flag" photo: Florence Maynard

New York City school children in a display of patriotism, September 1902, “Saluting The Flag” photo: Florence Maynard

After World War I and the Bolshevik uprising in Russia, declaring your loyalty to America was not taken lightly. In 1919, President of the New York City Board of Education, Anning S. Prall, set a requirement that all graduating New York City High School children recite a pledge of allegiance to the United States before receiving their diplomas. This is quite different than the pledge most Americans know by heart.

Prall’s pledge:

“I will reverence my country’s flag and defend it against enemies at home and abroad.”

“I will respect and obey the President of the United States and the law of the land.”

“I will support, in school and out, American ideals of justice and fair play, including the right of unhampered opportunity under the law for all.”

“I will hold the ideal of rational patriotism above loyalty to any individual, political party, social class or previous national connection.”

“I will actively oppose all revolutionary movements, such as Bolshevism, anarchism, I. W. W.-ism, or any movement antagonistic to the laws of the United States or tending to subvert the Constitution of the United States.”

How long Prall’s allegiance pledge was retained is undocumented. But in 2019, can a student refuse to say a pledge of allegiance in school? Continue reading

A 21st Century Woman In The 19th Century – Maverick In Mauve

Book Review: Maverick In Mauve The Diary Of a Romantic Age

Maverick In Mauve book coverLifelong New Yorker, Florence Adele Sloane kept a diary from 1893 – 1896. That in itself is not unusual. What is out of the ordinary is that the diary covers Florence’s life from the age of 19 through 23 and her observations on life and her surroundings are written with astute wisdom beyond her years. Continue reading

Idiot or Autistic? New York’s 19th Century “Idiot Asylum”

New York’s Idiot Asylum Was A School / Prison For Children Who Were Often Not “Idiots”

The New York Asylum for Idiots Report 1867 coverWithout discussing the question how far down in the scale of idiocy the work of education can practicably go, this much may be said: that some idiots are teachable to an extent which will fully compensate for the amount of labor involved in their instruction. These certainly should be cared for by the State.

It will be seen by the report of the Superintendent, that according to the last census, there were in the State, 303 idiots under 15 years of age. No one can examine these returns without being convinced that the actual number is at least double the number so returned. Were only a third of these fit subjects for management and training in a public institution, even then it is obvious that the present provision made by the State falls short of their needs.

– from the 1867 Sixteenth Annual report of the New York Asylum for Idiots: transmitted to the Legislature, January 17, 1867

Today it would be politically incorrect to label anyone with mental disabilities or deficiencies as an idiot. The word mentally retarded has also fallen out of common usage.

Idiot.

Imbecile.

Moron.

In the early 20th century these words took on new psychiatric meaning, which has since been expunged from the nomenclature of psychiatry. In the 19th century those words were pretty much interchangeable for anyone considered mentally deficient or inherently stupid.

What Do We Do With “Idiots”?

The study and understanding of psychology and medical conditions related to learning and developmental disorders was virtually nonexistent before the 20th century. In a large state like New York, a facility was developed at public expense to deal with so-called idiots. Hence came the “Idiot Asylum.”

The Idiot Asylum Syracuse NY circa 1860Often parents couldn’t understand why a child wasn’t speaking. paying attention, responding to social cues, or learning like other children. Continue reading