Tag Archives: 1890s

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

10 Things About New York in 1892 That You Didn’t Know

From An 1892 Guidebook – 10 Things You Didn’t Know About New York

14th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in 1892 photo: KIng’s Handbook of New York

Some of these facts are pretty interesting:

The New York Post Office handled over 600,000,000 pieces of mail matter annually. That may not be so amazing. What is amazing is that they had an annual profit of $3 million dollars!

Trinity Church is part of Trinity Parish. The Parish was the richest in America. Income from its real estate and other holdings amounted to over $500,000 annually

It was free to walk over the 9-year-old Brooklyn Bridge. Vehicles had to pay a toll of 3 cents each way.

At Centre and Franklin Streets stood the City Prison, better known as The Tombs, because of the architectural resemblance to Egyptian tombs. Before the death by electrocution law went into effect in 1889, all condemned murderers sentenced to death by the New York courts were executed in the Tombs. Continue reading

Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 3

The Bronx In 1897 and Its Beautiful Homes – They Gave Way For Progress

Concert in a Bronx Park 1897

Concert in a Bronx Park 1897

Concluding our series on the Bronx from 1897 we look at the final set of photographs excerpted from the 1897 book The Great North Side.

The editors stated purpose in publishing the book was “to attract population, capital, and business enterprise to the Borough of the Bronx.  It is not issued in any narrow sense with the desire of building up this borough at the expense of the other boroughs, for the reader will observe that the writers evidence an equal pride in advantages distinctively the possession of the Borough of Manhattan. We are first of all New Yorkers — citizens of no mean city — and proud of the fact. But our particular field of activity is the Borough of the Bronx, and we know that whatever tends to the upbuilding of this borough redounds to the credit, prestige, and glory of our common city.”

Fred Ringer residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

Fred Ringer residence Sedgwick Avenue Fordham Heights Bronx 1897

The editors of The Great North Side really never saw the realization of their goals. The population increased and the borough was developed, but not in the way they envisioned.

What was once a roomy  borough with splendid homes and wide open spaces became overdeveloped. The construction of the subway in the early part of the 20th century brought land development, a building boom and hundreds of thousands of people to the Bronx.

Samuel W. Fairchild residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

Samuel W. Fairchild residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

By the 1930s many of the fine old homes had been demolished and large parcels of land were subdivided and developed with apartment buildings.

John Bush residence Webster Avenue and Tremont Bronx 1897

John S. Bush residence Webster Avenue and Tremont Bronx 1897

In the 1950s Robert Moses cut the Bronx’s jugular. Moses’ Cross Bronx Expressway bulldozed a wide swath of the Bronx destroying thriving neighborhoods and essentially splitting the Bronx in two halves.

Hoskins residence Fordham Bronx 1897

Hoskins residence Fordham Bronx 1897

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Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 2

The Bronx In 1897 – Beautiful Streets and Homes Part 2

Lewis Morris homestead Morris Heights Bronx 1897

Lewis Morris homestead Morris Heights Bronx 1897

Poet Ogden Nash once quipped, “The Bronx? No thonx.”

By 1964, Nash had changed his mind and said “I can’t seem to escape the sins of my smart-alec youth. Here are my amends. I wrote those lines, ‘The Bronx? No thonx!’ I shudder to confess them. Now I’m an older, wiser man I cry, ‘The Bronx, God bless them!”

Many people deride the Bronx without actually setting foot in it. In the 19th century, no such derision existed. The Bronx’s reputation as a great place to live and work was justified.

Let’s continue our look at the Bronx in 1897 from the book The Great North Side.

The following words were written for the book by Albert E.  Davis, architect & and a North Side Board of Trade organizer:

“The conditions which caused over-crowding on Manhattan Island do not exist on the North Side. It contains about two-thirds of the combined area of both, is broader and less closely confiued by water, and has unlimited room to expand northward into Westchester County whenever the growth of the city demands it.”

Martin Walter residence 2082 Washington Avenue Bronx 1897

Martin Walter residence 2082 Washington Avenue Bronx 1897

“Hence, while the state of affairs below the Harlem was perhaps the natural outgrowth of the necessities of restricted area, it is absolutely unjustifiable and positively wrong to thus crowd the habitations of human beings where there is so much room to spread out, and the price of land is still low.”

Hugh Camp residence Fordham Bronx 1897

Hugh N. Camp residence Fordham Bronx 1897

“There are many attractive residence streets and avenues on the North Side, only a few of which can be here alluded to. Mott Avenue, a very pretty thoroughfare lined with fine old trees which arch over the roadway, starts in the business section of Mott Haven, just below the 138th street station, and extends northward along the westerly ridge known as Buena Ridge to 165th street. Mott Avenue will form the entrance to, and part of the Grand Concourse which is to be the finest boulevard in the country. Walton Avenue, on this ridge, is also a residence thoroughfare.”

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