Category Archives: Photography

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

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

Classic Hollywood #66 – Rudolph Valentino Goes To Court In Costume

Rudolph Valentino Is Not Acting, He’s Actually In Court – 1925

Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguella – aka Rudoplh Valentino, one of the world’s biggest film stars in 1925.

As big as a film star Valentino was it would not prevent him from being compelled to show up in court against his wishes to answer a speeding violation. His crime: going 38 in a 20 mile per hour zone in Santa Monica.

The news caption reads:

Valentino in Court in Screen Costume – Fined $50

Rudolph Valentino, failing in an attempt to have a representative answer speeding charges in court asked to have court held at his studio pleading business pressure. Justice Marchetti became angered demanded Valentino’s appearance and fined him $50. Photo of “The Sheik” in the costume of his latest screen vehicle – 9-11-25 (photo Wide World)

Valentino was not being a prima donna asking the court to come to the studio. Shutting down production for one day of the film he was starring in, “The Eagle” would cost $10,000. More importantly the people who could least afford it, all the extras involved in the filming, would have lost a days wages

On September 8 Justice Marchetti said, “I am sorry that anyone should lose money or be inconvenienced, but the court can show no partiality. Before the law a famous actor is in the same situation as anyone else. The dignity of the law would be compromised, the courts would be made a laughing stock, were I to set up legal machinery in a studio.” 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