Category Archives: Photography

Old New York In Photos #86 – The End Of The Classic Lower Manhattan Skyline c. 1956

Lower Manhattan’s Classic Skyline Seen Aerially From Battery Park c. 1956

And What Became of It

Classic lower Manhattan skyline before the late 1950s transformation. Battery Park is in the foreground. (c.1956)

Every time I’m in Brooklyn and gaze across the East River at the lower Manhattan skyline I feel I’m looking at a city I don’t recognize.

It’s not because I’m old, but it might be because the buildings that have been going up since the late 1950s are cut from the same mold, glass sheathed pinnacles with no flourishes, adornments or personality.

For the first half of the twentieth century, when you came upon New York whether by ship, train or car and got your first glimpse of the skyline you knew you were coming into New York City.

For a native New Yorker coming upon New York today, you may as well be entering the architectural equivalent of the Mall of America, any-city USA. Examples sprout up everywhere of New York’s architectural monstrosities, ugly and tall for the sake of being tall.

Classic lower Manhattan skyline form Brooklyn waterfront in the 1930s. photo: Acme

Commercial Cable Building

The skyline of lower Manhattan had remain pretty much static from 1931 through 1957 Continue reading

We’ve Seen This Before, Late March New York City Snowstorm Shuts Down The City – 1956

Huge Snowstorm In March 1956 Paralyzed New York City and Suburbs

New York – Pedestrians trample their way through snow-covered streets here 3/19 after the worst snowfall in eight years crippled New York’s transportation system and left thousands of motorists stranded on the highway systems leading into the city. More than 2,000 cars were abandoned on the roads. photo United Press Telephoto 3/19/1956

Just in time for spring, the weather forecasters are predicting a lot of snow for New York City starting Tuesday, March 20. Possibly eight inches will fall across the area and then melt within a couple of days.

Snow becomes the main news story here in New York. This will be a small storm compared to the snowstorm that hit New York City on March 18 – 20, 1956.  By the time it was over, New York City received 13 and a half inches of snow, making travel in the region next to impossible.

New York – Snow business is bad business for the owner of a corner grocery store in suburban Queens here 3/20. Folks weren’t exactly beating a path to his door so he closed for the day. 3/20/1956 photo United Press Telephoto

What made this storm worse than others what not just the amount of snow but the surprise nature of it. Continue reading

This Is The Only Color Film Footage Of Clara Bow The “It” Girl (And What Exactly Is “It”?)

Clara Bow The “It” Girl Made Only One Film In Color, and This One Minute Fragment Is All That That Survives

(And What Exactly is “It”)

Most movie fans never saw Clara Bow’s beautiful red hair except when illustrated on magazine covers. All but one of her films was made in black and white. Her red hair and Brooklyn childhood earned her, her original nickname “The Brooklyn Bonfire.”

So seeing the primitive color film clip below is a pleasant treat for classic movie fans.

With the exception of one film, Red Hair” which is now considered lost, this one minute fragment is all that survives of Clara Bow filmed in color.

If the last minute of Red Hair could be found we would see Clara Bow in as little clothing as the censors would allow.

So what exactly is “It”? Writer Elinor Glin wrote a magazine article called “It.” and a movie soon followed in 1927 starring Clara Bow. The sobriquet The “It Girl” was immediately and permanently attached to Clara Bow.

“Either you have “It” or you don’t have” It.”  “It” is sex appeal definitely, but much more than that.

In a 1927 interview, writer Glyn said you must have ALL of the following qualities: Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #85 – 42nd Street From The 3rd Avenue Elevated 1887

42nd Street Looking West From 3rd Avenue Towards Grand Central 1887

This albumen photograph was taken in 1887 by Willis Knowlton who had his studio at 335 Fourth Avenue.

Knowlton set up his camera from the 42nd Street station of the Third Avenue Elevated looking west towards Grand Central Station. If you’re thinking, “wait a minute, why are there elevated tracks running west towards Grand Central?” The answer is, this connecting spur was in place between 1878 and 1923, taking commuters to and from Grand Central directly to the Third Avenue El. As practical as the connection was for the 15,000 daily riders still using it in 1923, the city’s Board of Estimate ordered its removal in October of that year. The IRT complied and the spur was closed at midnight December 6, 1923 and the tracks and station were demolished soon afterwards.

A little about the buildings seen in this photograph. Running along the northern (right) portion of 42nd Street at 145-147 East 42nd Continue reading

Occupy Wall Street 1938 Style

Wall Street Protest February 19, 1938

The Occupy Wall Street protest movement garnered a lot of media attention when it occurred in 2011.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer is a theme that has played out time and again over the course of American history.

The Great Depression put millions of Americans out of work. It wasn’t just about the rich versus the poor. It was about survival and a serious shortage of jobs.

Eighty years ago today, this is how a jobs protest was described as it reached Wall Street: Continue reading

France Has Got Talent!

Paris Acrobats Show Unusual Talent – 1953

Paris Acrobats April 14, 1953 photo: Acme

It would be nice to add some context to this 1953 Acme news photograph besides the date and title caption, unfortunately I couldn’t find any information on it. Not even if the photo was taken in Paris, France, or that is where the circus or performers are from. If the circus is from Paris, it might be Cirque Medrano. Continue reading

Beat Your Son – By Order of The Court 1938

New York Judge Orders Mother To Beat Son – 1938

Are you one of the people who think that today’s juvenile delinquents are coddled and the justice system is too soft on petty crime? Maybe we should bring back “the good old days,” when corporal punishment and tough jail sentences were the norm for youthful offenders?

Then you might be surprised to learn that even during hard times 80 years ago, many people found the idea of beating children to be abhorrent, especially when ordered by a court of law.

If the goal of justice is to have the punishment equal the crime, then the sentence meted out by a New York magistrate did not go over very well with the public.

The Leather of the Law

New York, NY — In accordance with the orders of Magistrate Overton Harris, Mrs. Mary Bradley applies the strap to her son, Tommy who was one of eight Textile High School boys believed to have pulled the whistle cord on a New York subway train. Thomas and another boy were the only ones of the eight who didn’t run from the train. When young Bradley appeared with his mother in court, Magistrate Overton Harris ordered Mrs. Bradley to “prove to me on Thursday night that you gave your son a good thrashing or I’ll send him to jail.” Although Mrs. Bradley believed her son’s protestations of his innocence she is shown obeying to the letter of the law. credit line Acme – 5/25/1938

Judge Harris had also said to Mrs. Bradley, “Get a paddle, bore some holes in it, and make welts on the boy. Do you think you can do it?”

Despite this photographic evidence above, Mrs. Bradley, a widow living at 100 W. 96th Street, did not thrash her 16-year-old son. 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

Babe Ruth & Gary Cooper Welcome Visitors On The Set of The Pride Of The Yankees

Babe Ruth and Gary Cooper Get A Visit From Former Yankee Bob Meusel & His Daughter

When Babe Ruth played himself in the classic film The Pride of The Yankees (1942) he had not played for seven years. Since his retirement, Ruth’s weight had ballooned to 270 pounds. The Babe wanted to look good for the film, not that he would ever look as svelte as Gary Cooper, starring as Babe’s teammate Lou Gehrig, but at least he tried.

Before filming began Babe went on a diet and shed over 47 pounds to look more like he did in his playing days.

Some former Yankee teammates appeared for short cameos including Bill Dickey, Mark Koenig and Bob Meusel. 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