Tag Archives: 1890s

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

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

Semi-Nude Women In Late 19th & Early 20th Century Advertising

Using Semi-Clad Women To Sell Products At The Turn-Of-The-Century

Ads That Wouldn’t Cut It Today

Clysmic table water- will….bring you to climax?

Pretty women sell products or so it seems. Since the dawn of advertising alluring images of women have been used to attract potential customers. Many times the image has absolutely nothing to do with the product being offered. That hasn’t changed in the 21st century, just look at any perfume ad.

Though they were not considered unusual at the time they originally appeared, here are some semi-nude advertisements featuring women that would probably cause outrage among the sensitive and hyper-politically correct today.

SuNude women Willow Creek Distillery adWhat this advertisement really says about Sunny Brook and Willow Creek Distillery is open to debate. But I guess we all know that any group of women after drinking rye whiskies will strip and go skinny dipping in a lake.

Brotherhood overalls adBrotherhood Overalls of course?  Did Levi Strauss take this company as a serious competitor? This look apparently never caught on in the 1910s. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #95 – East River, The Harbor & Brooklyn c. 1892

A Very Early View of Lower Manhattan Looking East Towards The East River & Brooklyn circa 1892

This magic lantern slide overlooking lower Manhattan along with the East River and Brooklyn is pre-twentieth century. Where exactly; when it was taken; and where from, was a mystery. But some things to take notice of:

1- there are no buildings exceeding five stories. Continue reading

New York City Used To Kill Its Stray Dogs By Drowning Them

How A Merciless City Dealt With Its Unwanted Dogs

In 19th Century New York, You Had 24 Hours To Retrieve Your Lost Dog

Unclaimed Dogs Were Drowned In The East River

The dog catcher in New York City & the dogs fate- drowned in cages in the East River – illustration Harper’s Weekly

The Dog Dilemma

What happens today when animal shelters are filled to capacity? Sometimes cats and dogs are humanely euthanized, if there is such a thing as being humanely euthanized.

Canine population control in 19th century New York was much harsher. Beginning in 1855 a new and brutal method of putting down dogs was instituted – drowning.

Some editors and citizens actually attached the word “humane” to this new way of disposal.

Before that time, wandering dogs were considered pests and usually killed on the spot, in the street. The fear of rabies and mad dogs was used as a justification for the wanton killing.

The New York Times wrote, “One thing, however, is certain: dogs are useless animals in cities, and are a nuisance, independent of their habit of occasionally running mad; and the best dog law would be one that imposed so high a tax on the owners of curs that few people would care to keep them, and those who did would see to it that the animals did not run at large, muzzled or unmuzzled.” Continue reading

Losing Your Head, 19th Century Elevators That Decapitated People – 16 True Stories

Fatal Elevators In The 19th Century

In the late 19th century quite a number of people lost their heads in elevator accidents. Most press accounts of the incidents were thankfully short. But a few of the stories were described in sensationalist and sometimes sickening detail. The most common headline, “Decapitated By An Elevator,” as you’ll see, was not very original, Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #90 – Broadway & 28th Street 1896

Street Level View of Broadway and 28th Street -1896

We are looking north on Broadway from 28th Street. This unusual ground level photograph is from a personal photo album and was taken in October of 1896. Though the photographer is an amateur and a bit of a tilt exists in the exposure, a lot of interesting details appear here.

The ornate street sign marking West 28th Street has something attached to it that was once very common and has now gone the way of the Dodo, a mailbox. Thousands of these sort of mailboxes were once attached to lampposts and street signs throughout the city.

Just past the street sign is a large sign denoting the site of the 5th Avenue Theatre. It’s a bit of a misnomer since the theatre was situated on the corner of 28th Street and Broadway, not on Fifth Avenue.

Across the street between 28th and 29th Streets near a parked horse cart we can see a good deal of the six-story Sturtveant House Hotel. The hotel was completed in 1871 and did a solid business through the turn-of-the-century. Sturtveant House was sold in February 1903 and demolished in autumn of that year. The twelve-story Hotel Breslin went up in its place, opening on November 12, 1904.

Further up the block on the right side of Broadway on the northeast corner of 29th Street is the Victorian masterpiece, Gilsey House which began construction in 1869. Continue reading

The New York Rules Of Etiquette 120 Years Ago

The Extremely Formal & Somewhat Strange Greetings and Salutation Rules Of New York City Etiquette In 1899

A gentleman opens a door for a strange lady, holds it open with one hand and lifts his hat
with the other, while she passes through in advance of him. He always offers her the precedence; but he does it silently, and without resting his gaze upon her, as if he would say,
” You are a lady and I am a gentleman. I am polite for both our sakes. You may be young
and charming, or you may be old and ugly; it is all the same to me. I have not looked at you
to discern, but I am certain that you are a lady.” –  Social Etiquette of New York – Abby Buchanan Longstreet (D. Appleton & Co. – 1899)

“Ladies and gentlemen.” We’ve heard those words countless times, but what is it to be a lady or a gentleman? A century ago it applied to people who followed proper etiquette.

A society dinner c.1899

In the 19th and early 20th century etiquette was taken pretty seriously by some Americans. It was a time when etiquette meant proper behavior, civility and deportment. Manners and politeness were taken to heart.  The rigid rules and lessons were adhered to not just by wealthy society, but those who aspired to be true “ladies” and “gentlemen.”

If you were unsure of certain situational  behavior, scores of books were written on etiquette. Some books specifically concentrated on New York City etiquette.

“Everything which refines the habits of a people ennobles it, and hence the importance of
furnishing to the public all possible aids to superior manners.”

The sentiments are those of the doyenne of proper behavior,  Abigail Buchanan Longstreet (1833-1899) who wrote a number of books on good manners during the 19th century.

Longstreet’s book, written anonymously, Social Etiquette of New York, went through many editions and revisions between 1879 -1899, the year of  Longstreet’s death.

Depending on how you look at it,  you will see these rules as antiquated nonsense or quaint and dignified guidelines that are delightful to contemplate.

Today almost all of these forms of etiquette have been completely discarded or heavily modified.

Here are just a few of the rules for greetings and salutations. From the rules of Social Etiquette in  New York:

A gentleman always lifts his hat when offering a service to a lady, whether he is acquainted with her or not. It may be the restoration of her dropped kerchief, or fan, the receiving of her money to pass it to the cash-box of a car, the opening of her umbrella as she descends from a carriage — all the same ; he lifts it before he offers his service, or during the courtesy, if possible. She bows, and, if she choose, she also smiles her acknowledgment ; but she does the latter faintly, and she does not speak. To say ” Thank you ! ” is not an excess of acknowledgment, but it has ceased to be etiquette. A bow may convey more gratitude than speech.

Two ladies may extend hands to each other, and so also may two gentlemen, although hand-shaking is not so common as formerly. 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

Panoramic 360 Degree View of New York In 1892

360° Panoramic View of New York City From The New York World Building in 1892

Stitching together 10 separate photographs from King’s Handbook of New York City (1892) as best I could, this image gives us a 360 degree view of New York City.

Taken from atop Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World Building, you can get a sense of what the entire city looked like before the turn-of-the-century, when the skyscraper emerged and would forever alter the skyline. A golden dome topped Pulitzer’s Building with an observation gallery that gave the visitor the following view.

(click to get the full size view)

Probably the three most prominent points in the panorama are from left to right, the Post Office, City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge.

City Hall & New York World Building c. 1908

At 309 feet, the World Building designed by George B. Post was the tallest office building in the world when completed in 1890.

Think about that for a minute. Just 26 floors. From the building’s foundation to the top of its flagstaff it measured 375½ feet. At the time that height was an outstanding architectural achievement.

The second floor of the beehive, as the interior of the dome of the World Building was known to its employees, also contained Joseph Pulitzer’s office.  Here is how the New York World described the top of its own building just after its completion: Continue reading