Category Archives: New York

Old New York In Postcards #18 – Bridges

Some Unusual and Rare Postcard Views of New York City Bridges

An unusual circa 1900 postcard view of the Brooklyn Bridge promenade with elegantly attired ladies

We don’t think too much about New York City’s bridges except when driving across them. Then you want to know if they are free from traffic, tolls and potholes.

Besides being civic utilitarian objects, on occasion they be considered architectural masterpieces like the Brooklyn Bridge and George Washington Bridge.

But many of the old bridges crossing New York waterways had great thought put into their design. Unfortunately unless you are stuck in traffic or you bicycle or walk over them, you probably would not take the time to notice the turrets, iron flourishes and fine details that decorate and beautify most of New York City’s early bridges.

Let’s take a look at some 100+ year old bridge postcards and sprinkle in some interesting facts and stories.

Williamsburg Bridge at 6 pm 1906

The Williamsburg Bridge’s tower can be glimpsed in the background, but what makes this view interesting is its vantage point on Delancey Street. While not dated, the postcard has the printing year of 1906 and the time as 6:00 pm. Hundreds of Brooklynites make their way to the bridge to walk or take a trolley or elevated train back home.

If the Williamsburg Bridge seems crowded that’s because it is. In 1906 an estimated 1,191,000 pedestrians; 3,548,900 passengers and drivers of vehicles; 51 million surface car (trolley) passengers; 56 million elevated car passengers; and exactly 1,149,543 vehicles and 33,375 horses led by hand, crossed the bridge.

The Williamsburg Bridge was opened on December 19, 1903. The cost of the construction of the bridge with the land was $23,277,560.

Manhattan Bridge at night circa 1910

It is a snowy night and and the roads leading onto the Manhattan Bridge have a light coating of ice, snow and slush on them. The scene is brilliantly lit and there are vehicles or pedestrians in the scene. The Manhattan Bridge was opened for vehicular traffic December 31, 1909 and opened for pedestrian travel July 18, 1910. Including the land, the bridge cost $24,105,200.

Tolls were eliminated on the Williamsburg, Manhattan, Queensboro and Brooklyn Bridge on July 19, 1911 by order of Mayor Gaynor.

High Bridge is the oldest extant bridge in New York. Designed by John B. Jervis and completed in 1848 the bridge cost $963,428. The pedestrian bridge originally contained two three foot pipes which brought New York City fresh water from the Croton River, 41 miles away. The amount of water these pipes could carry was found to be inadequate within a dozen years. The side walls of the bridge were expanded and between 1860 -1864 a seven foot diameter water pipe was laid on top of the original two pipes.

The bridge was modeled after ancient Roman aqueducts, High Bridge’s 15 stone arches graced the river until the early 20th century. During World War I the bridge was declared a menace to navigation. Two proposals were put forward in 1918 to either remove two arches and replace that section with a steel span or entirely demolish the bridge at a cost of $150,000. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #84 – West End Avenue 60th Street 1927 & Now

How West End Avenue & 60th Street Has Changed Over The Last 90 Years

One word describes this transformation – drastic.

Judge for yourself.

Our first photograph looking north and west on West End Avenue from 60th Street was taken by Percy Sperr on May 20, 1927. Sperr photographed the city endlessly during the 1920s and 1930s and preserved many views of common scenes and places that other photographers would rarely chronicle.

The Belgian block paved street and rail tracks that line West End Avenue from 60th Street stretch as far as the eye can see. Continue reading

New York in the 1920’s & 30’s as Seen by Luigi Kasimir – Part 2

Six More Views of New York City From The 1920s & 30s by Artist Luigi Kasimir

New York City skyline as seen from Central Park. Etching by Luigi Kasimir

Seven years ago we featured the art work of Luigi Kasimir.

In the first half of the 20th century Kasimir was admired by peers and critics in the art world. His name has been forgotten in the 21st century by most people, except New York art aficionados.

Luigi Kasimir was born in 1881 in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and later came to New York where he repeatedly captured the architectural sights of the city. Kasimir is best known for his detailed etchings, many of which were done in color, which apparently was not the norm for early 20th century etchings.  The New York Times distinguished Kasimir from other etchers of the time at a contemporary exhibition in 1926 by referring to him as a “colorist.” These aquatints have a vibrancy that makes the New York of the 1920’s and 1930’s come alive.  Kasimir was prolific and produced hundreds of works until his death in 1962.

We thought it was worth taking another look at Kasimir’s delightful scenes of New York. So here are six additional etchings of Luigi Kasimir’s New York City.

(click on any etching to enlarge.)

Wall Street, April 1936 Continue reading

New Yorkers Welcome In The New Year 1907 – But No Horn Blowing Allowed!

New Year’s Celebration 1907 – New York Police Commissioner Bans Horn Blowing

A photographer from the Montauk Photo Concern decided to photograph the scene inside the Cafe Martin, at 26th Street and Fifth Avenue on New Year’s Eve December 31, 1906.

As midnight approached the revelers at Cafe Martin noisily whooped it up, raised their glasses and toasted the coming New Year of 1907. This photograph captures a singular moment: right before the stroke of midnight the lights were put out and at exactly twelve, were put on again. The guests then sang along as the band broke into the Star Spangled Banner. Afterwards guests blew horns and confetti was strewn everywhere. Young men filled with the idea of making a speech got up on chairs and spoke to the heart’s content without anyone to stop them.

The guests, all elegantly attired, look like they are having an extraordinary time.

Outside the restaurant it was supposed to be quieter. A city ordinance forbidding horn blowing in the streets had been on the books for years. Earlier in the day Police Commissioner Theodore Bingham informed the newspapers that the bells of Trinity and Grace Church would be heard when they tolled the midnight hour.

Bingham instructed the police to enforce the noise law. All horn blowing was prohibited on New Year’s Eve! Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #83 – Macy’s & Surroundings 1905

Around Macy’s Herald Square – The Greatest Store In The World 1905

This high definition photograph of Macy’s department store was taken by the Detroit Publishing Company in 1905. Macy’s led the march of modern department stores uptown, moving from their Sixth Avenue and 14th Street location where they had been since the 1858. The “Greatest Store in the World,” opened at the Herald Square location on Saturday, November 8, 1902.

We are looking west from the Sixth Avenue elevated station along Broadway with 34th Street on the left and 35th Street on the right.

Above is the color postcard that was created from this photograph.

Let’s take a close-up view of Macy’s and the surrounding area from our photograph. Click to enlarge any photo.

In the immediate foreground on the extreme right is a small portion of the New York Herald Building with a large owl, wings spread, perched at the corner.

James Gordon Bennett, and later James Jr., owners of the Herald, had a thing for owls. The Herald building was adorned with many of them. Mechanical owls attached to the clock had their eyes illuminated and would light up when the Herald clock struck the hour.

The Herald Building is long gone, but Herald Square retains its name and two of the original owls are still in Herald Square. They are part of a monument to  James Gordon Bennett and the newspaper he founded. And yes the owls eyes still light up.

Looking past the Herald Building down 35th Street is the loading bay of Macy’s. Delivery trucks of all type congregate here, including an ice wagon. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #82 – Central Park Mall c. 1870

The Mall In Central Park & The American Elms

Central Park was once young and so were its trees. We are looking south from 72nd Street in this rare circa 1870 stereoview photograph. You can see the American elm trees along both sides of the Mall that had been planted only a decade before. If you’ve been along this famous stretch of the park, you know that the trees are a constant – always the same year after year for over 100 years. To see the trees at this height is a startling sight. Continue reading

Yankee Stadium As You’ve Never Seen It – 1928

An Empty Yankee Stadium Was Used As A Filming Location For Buster Keaton’s “The Cameraman”

Here Are Some Views Of A “Different” Yankee Stadium In 1928

90 years ago, Buster Keaton made The Cameraman, a comedy in which he played a newsreel cameraman trying to get newsworthy footage. Many of the scenes were shot on location in New York City.

In one scene Keaton figures he’ll head up to the Bronx and film some baseball action sequences. He arrives at Yankee Stadium and hurries in with his camera ready to catch the Bronx Bombers, only to discover the Yankees are not playing that day.

That does not stop Keaton from indulging in fantasy, as the empty stadium looms as a backdrop to his antics.

In real life Keaton was a baseball fanatic. This was a time when many Hollywood studios had their own baseball teams and played against one another. In the written application to work with Keaton’s company, there were two questions on the form:  1. Are you a good actor? 2. Can you play baseball? If you answered yes to both you probably could get a job working with Keaton.

Yankee Stadium opened in 1923. Over the next ten years constant changes occurred to the dimensions, seating and field itself creating the classic Yankee Stadium that most fans are familiar with either first-hand or through old photographs.

Presented below are stills from Buster Keaton’s classic film, The Cameraman.

In the opening Yankee Stadium sequence Keaton enters through center field. Note the unfinished right field stands. As originally configured, straight away center field was over 490 feet away from home plate! The bleachers could hold over 10,000 fans. The flagpole was on the playing field and there were no plaques or monuments in Yankee Stadium yet, honoring the “greats.”

A locker room manager emerges from the dugout to tell Keaton, the Yankees are not at home. If you look at the “box seats” you can see that they  are really “boxed” off with movable chairs. Continue reading

Mendicants In New York City – 1910

Mendicants 1910

This photograph taken at Sixth Avenue and 14th Street by Lewis Hine in 1910 is simply labeled “Mendicants.”

It’s a word you don’t often hear today. Mendicant – a beggar; panhandler.

While you may think the main subject here is the blind man sitting by the pole of the el, that would not be the case The focus of the photograph is the little girl who is begging. She appears aged and streetwise beyond her years. But both of them are mendicants.

Hine’s photographs of children at work in major cities usually focuses on newspaper sellers, shoe shiners, telegraph boys, delivery boys and other street trades. In 1910 mendicant was considered a street trade.

Who are these two people? Father and daughter? Grandfather and granddaughter? Or just two people in need who have teamed up to ply their trade?

Where did they live?

Unfortunately Hine did not get the names, ages and addresses of this girl and blind man, as he did with many of his other subjects. Continue reading

The Appliance Every Household Needs

An Appliance Store Advertises A New Dishwasher Innovation -1951

You almost have to wonder if the sign in the window was a joke, or did some unfortunate writer really make this blunder?

Automatic Butterfingers

New York: The signpainter must have been thinking of the last time he helped dry the dishes at home, when he made this sign on the window of a Staten Island appliance store. Of course it’s a dishwasher on display, not a dishmasher. (11-26-1951) credit: Acme

My guess is, Continue reading

Shooting’s Fun For Everyone

Teaching Children To Shoot – 1957

Not that long ago shooting a rifle or a pistol was a right of passage for American children.

Here is a 16 page 1957 pamphlet put out by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute to encourage shooting for boys and girls. Its the sort of thing that today would probably be considered politically incorrect and start a huge protest if it were given out to schoolchildren. Some might call the pamphlet propaganda, but in the 1950s shooting and hunting as a recreational activity was one of the most popular leisure pastimes in the United States.

Shooting as a sport was considered to be a wholesome, fun activity that the family could do together. The popularity of sport fishing and wild game hunting in the United States soared to new heights in 1957 when a record total of 34,195,183 licenses were sold to devotees of those outdoor sports.

Today recreational shooting and especially hunting have been on a steady decline with 33 states issuing fewer hunting licenses in the past 20 years according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In an NBC interview Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, a Virginia-based natural resources research group said, “Fifty years ago, a lot of kids would hunt and fish and be outside, now it’s easier to sit in your playroom and play video games.”

Today the idea of giving a child a gun and teaching them how to use and respect a gun is an anathema to many people. When the word “shooting” is mentioned in the news it is usually preceded by the word “mass”.

What has changed? Continue reading