Tag Archives: 1900s

Old New York In Photos #78 – Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street 1903

Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street c. 1903 – Crowded Street On A Cold Sunny Day

This bustling scene was captured by a Detroit Publishing Company photographer around 1903. The view is from the southeast corner of 42nd Street looking north up Fifth Avenue.

It is obviously a cold and sunny day with most people wearing warm coats. Enlarging our photograph the first thing you may notice is that everyone is uniformly dressed. All the women have the same dress length, just past the ankle. Every man wears a suit or overcoat.  Take a look around. There is not a single person hatless.

Let’s zoom in on some of the details.

On the northeast corner of 42nd Street an elderly man stops to take a look at the work going on inside an open manhole.

As usual, at all very busy intersections, a policeman is on duty to help direct the flow of traffic both vehicular and pedestrian.

This gentleman on the left with the gold watch fob and chain looks to be a prosperous fellow, possibly on his way back to his office after lunch.

Of course other people look spiffy without being wealthy. This sharp looking mustachioed hansom cab driver holding a whip is dressed immaculately.

Crossing the street is an adventure. The teen on the left dashes past the horse drawn wagon that is making it’s way up Fifth Avenue. The man on the right waits cautiously looking for a break in the traffic before making his attempt .

How these three women are going to get across the street seems to be a daunting challenge to say the least.

When they finally do try and make it across the street they have to be looking up and down, because there is the ever-present horse manure everywhere.

Let’s take a look at the immediate surroundings. The main building on the northwest corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue had previously been the Hotel Bristol. In business since the 1870s, the hotel was converted into offices and stores in 1903 and renamed the Bristol Building. The entire structure and many other adjacent buildings were taken down in 1927 to build the art deco skyscraper, 500 Fifth Avenue.

If you looked up at the second story window of the Bristol Building you’d see a clock. It’s 2:10 and the clock belongs to a branch office of Howard Lapsley Bankers and Brokers. Their main business location was on Exchange Place. Immediately below on the ground floor is a sign for the corner store, Acker Merrall and Condit Company. Amazingly their wine business, which now specializes in rare wine auctions is still active in 2017.

On the ground floor of the Bristol Building were some other businesses including Thomas Young Jr., florist. Besides the name on the awning and on the glass window of the store, Thomas Young Jr. put his name up in lights just above the store. It must have looked great lit up at night.

If you owned a business and had a vehicle, it would probably be a good idea to put the name of your business on a delivery truck. While we know this vehicle is related to the sale of desks, tables and chairs we don’t know which company it is. Maybe the name was on the other side of awning.

To conclude, take a look at this light fixture on the near southeast corner of 42nd Street. The time of making utilitarian objects beautiful seems to have disappeared as the 20th century progressed.

Even though it has a simple cast iron base atop a concrete pedestal did the light itself have to be so ornate? Probably not, but isn’t this fixture more pleasant to look at, even with a small amount of advertising for the American Biscuit Company on the glass?

Old New York In Photos #77

Fourth Avenue & 23rd Street 1908 –  A Detailed Breakdown Of New Yorker’s Going About Their Business

A spectacular clear view of Fourth Avenue looking south towards 23rd Street from 1908 shows pedestrians going about their daily activities. Once again the source is the Detroit Publishing Co.

Above 14th Street up to 34th Street Fourth Avenue is now called Park Avenue South.

Before we examine our old picture, let’s take a modern look at approximately the same spot from Google maps.

Now forget our modern view and return to 1908.

When we zoom in on some of the details, there are some interesting things to take note of. You can click any photo to enlarge.

The People

Unless you were a construction worker, city worker or a young boy, almost every man wore a hat, jacket and usually a tie. Here almost all the men are wearing straw hats.

The man in the center holding a newspaper is smoking a cigarette. I’ve seen men smoking in old photos but usually not on the street. The subway kiosk on the northeast corner of 23rd street is an “exit only.”  There is a trash can right by the kiosk.

Looking at the southeast corner we can see another subway kiosk and lots of people crossing the street. The subway kiosks were removed many years ago and the subway entrances and exits relocated.

The shadows indicate that it is probably around noon. With the exception of a newspaper on the ground, there is hardly any litter on the streets or sidewalks. Civilized people disposed of their trash properly.

These two women with their ornate flowered hats are crossing the street, carefully. No matter how often the streets were cleaned there was horse manure and urine everywhere. By 1908 at least women’s skirts were no longer dragging on the ground. Over the years skirts had gradually risen to slightly above the ankles. The little boy in the background between the women looks like the poorest person in this prosperous district.

On the southeast corner a group of boys and young men have newspapers that they are getting ready to sell. The World; The Times; The Herald; The Evening Post; The Globe and Commercial Advertiser; The Tribune; The Morning Telegraph; The Sun; The Call; The Press; The American; The Evening Journal; in the highly competitive world of journalism there were over a dozen daily newspapers in English and many more in other languages. Continue reading

The New York Housewife Who Was Too Pretty To Walk In The Streets In 1902 – She Had To Use A Gun and A Knife To Protect Herself

Ellen Emerson, So Beautiful, Lecherous Men Kept Accosting Her On The Streets Of New York In 1902

To Fight Them Off She Once Used A Gun, Another Time A Knife

But There’s A Twist At The End Of The Story

She could stop traffic, that is all male pedestrian traffic. Imagine being so attractive that every time you left your home you were the recipient of unwanted stares, comments and in the  worst case, groping.

In 1902 at 60 West 98th Street lived Ellen Emerson, who when she went out in public, men would constantly ogle her.

The undesired attention from men was so bad that she brandished a gun at one of her pursuers and a knife another time to protect herself from being accosted.

Within a space of four weeks Joseph Pulitzer’s Evening World did two stories about Mrs. Ellen Emerson. The first story which ran on November 8, 1902 told about Mrs. Emerson’s dilemma; “attractive and blonde and long the victim of ‘mashers.'”

Ellen told an unnamed reporter, “My life has been made a perfect burden for me  by these obnoxious men. I don’t know what there is about me. I am not a loud dresser, but I scarcely ever go on the street without being pursued.” Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #76

Around The Flatiron Building 1906 – Looking At The Details

We’ve profiled the fabulous photographs of the Detroit Publishing Company held by the Library of Congress before, but with over 40,000 photographs in the collection there are always interesting views to examine.

This scene  looking south from 27th Street and Fifth Avenue shows moderate traffic at a typically busy time. (Click any photo to enlarge)

If we look at the clock on the extreme right, near the Fifth Avenue Hotel (not visible), we can see the time is 8:53 in the morning on a sunny day.

Two smartly dressed women with great hats are walking west along the edge of Madison Square Park. A policeman walks with his white-gloved hands clasped behind his back and his distinctive helmet perched upon his head. The NYPD liked their officers to be tall and actively recruited men who were six feet or taller.

The man in the white helmet is a sanitation worker, dressed in a suit! As you can see, even in 1906 people knew bicycles were an effective way to navigate Manhattan. With the city powered by over 100,000 horses, you didn’t have to concern yourself too much with a car hitting your bicycle, as horses outnumbered cars about 10 to 1.

In 1906 there were only 130,000 motorized vehicles in the entire United States, and about 10,000 in New York City.

It only took another twelve years before cars outnumbered horses in New York City. Continue reading

New York City By Day… & Night – 1904

Four New York Locations Photographed At Night – 1904

You’ve probably noticed that most of the old photographs of turn-of-the-century New York City were taken during daylight hours.

At the time the difficulty with night photography was the long exposure times necessary for a camera to effectively capture an image.

There is an extremely rare book I own called The Lighting of New York City put out by General Electric in 1904. The purpose of this publication was to extol the virtues of General Electric lighting apparatus and to encourage homes and businesses in New York and elsewhere to use electric light.

Electric lighting had been around for a little over 20 years, but the book mentions a startling fact: “It is estimated that more than 35,000 arc lamps are in use on Manhattan Island.”

35,000, that’s means outdoors and indoors.

Gaslight was still the predominant means of lighting streets, factories, stores, homes and the waterfront.

The 74 page book contains a photograph on every page accompanied by a short description on the opposite page. Eight of the photographs are day and night views of the exact same location.

Words in Italics are from the book:

At the 59th Street entrance to Central Park, in what is known as Park Plaza, the Sherman Statue was recently unveiled. It is illuminated at night by eight low energy General Electric arc lamps installed on ornamental poles in such a manner that only the pear-shaped outer globe is visible. The installation has received very favorable comment.

Behind the statue on the right is Park and Tilford, grocers to New York’s smart set. To the left on the corner of 60th Street is the Metropolitan Club.

Night illumination of the Sherman Statue by eight three-ampere low energy General Electric lamps. The white building directly in the rear is the home of the Metropolitan Club, so well known to many New Yorkers as the “Millionaires'” Club. Continue reading

Sheep In Brooklyn – 1901

Central Park Was Not The Only New York City Park To Have Sheep Manicuring Its Lawn

The History of Prospect Park’s Flock Of Sheep

Sheep grazing in a meadow is something you expect to see in the countryside, not New York City. As some New Yorker’s know Sheep Meadow in Central Park once had sheep roaming in it.

But did you know that Brooklyn’s Prospect Park also had its own flock of livestock on its grounds? When this photograph was taken in 1901, Prospect Park had about 30 sheep, with three full-time shepherds to watch over the flock.

While still under design the Prospect Park Commissioners in 1866 proposed “to enclose with a sufficient iron paling and make use of as a pasture ground for deer, antelopes, gazelles, and such other grazing animals as can he satisfactorily herded together in summer upon it.”

Deer, antelopes and gazelles were not confined to the park. After the opening of Prospect Park in 1867 sheep were introduced to graze on its grounds.

Over the years the number of sheep fluctuated to as many as 110 as some sheep were sold off and others acquired.

Paddy Welch was the main shepherd of the Southdown’s and New Hampshire’s, until political influence forced him from his job in the early 1890s. In 1922 Prospect Park increased the value of its herd by introducing pure-bred Southdown’s.

By 1934 city planning titan and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, had enough of Central Park’s sheep. The 49 pure-bred Dorset sheep in Central Park were moved to Prospect Park to join the hornless Southdown’s on February 19, 1934. The Central Park building where the sheep had been housed was remodeled and became the site of the restaurant Tavern on the Green. Continue reading

Car Advertisements From 1903

How Cars Were Advertised in 1903

While researching last week’s story about the 1904 record 6 1/2 hour automobile drive from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, there were numerous advertisements that caught my eye in Motor World Magazine.

America’s passion for cars dates back over 120 years. How they were advertised in 1903 is fascinating to see.

What manufacturers choose to highlight in their offerings are sometimes very practical features, other ads feature the bizarre.

You will recognize only a few brands that survived the auto industry’s infant years. Most of these automobile names were eliminated from the market so quickly that many people living at the turn-of-the-century would not have known them.

Take a close look at this Northern Mfg. Co. car. There is no steering wheel. The car was steered by a tiller.

And you thought electric cars were new? Many companies had electric cars back in 1903 including Studebaker. The company touts that “no expert chauffeur is needed,” and is, “a successful hill climber” with its “perfect spring suspension” and “reliable brake control.”

Studebaker started as a wagonmaker in the 19th century and produced its last automobile in 1966.

Haynes – Apperson had a 12 horsepower Phaeton that apparently won some car races. Would that influence a potential buyer?

Packard produced this car marketed for “Physicians and Others.” With room for five people, this Packard would set you back $2,500. To give you some perspective $2,500 was about half the price of a new, modest three bedroom home. The Packard Motor Car Co. produced its last automobile in 1962.

The Autocar is a “Harmonious Whole.” Autocar is still in business and is run by the GVW Group LLC.

Conrad Motor Carriage Co. had a car for every price range, from $750 – $1,250. The $1,250 model got you three speeds sliding gear transmission with 12 horsepower.

I love the name of this car – The Chainless Cudell. One of the few cars advertised that had a roof! Continue reading

In 1904 The Drive Time From Los Angeles to Santa Barbara Was 6½ Hours

6 ½ Hours From L.A. to Santa Barbara (And That’s With No Traffic!)

What has four cylinders, 24 horsepower, weighs 2300 pounds and gets you from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara in just under 6 ½ hours?

A 1904 Peerless automobile. Future millionaire Norman W. Church took out this ad for Peerless in the Sunday, June 5, 1904 Los Angeles Times.

For a trip that today can take three hours with moderate traffic, 6 ½ hours in 1904 is a miracle. The “roads” in 1904 were in a primitive state to say the least. Rural roads were frequently  dirt paths filled with rocks and sand. Many times you’d have to drive through a field to get from place to place. Paved roads in California were a rarity, usually found in cities.

The interesting thing about the ad is that the Peerless will make the trip “without a single mechanical adjustment.”  That indeed was a rarity as automobiles were constantly being tinkered with. You had to be your own mechanic or bring one with you, as breakdowns were frequent.

You may be wondering if the Los Angeles to Santa Barbara trip took six and a half hours, how quickly in the early 1900s could you  drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco? Continue reading

New York City – Madison Square in 1903 and 1958

Two Views of New York’s Historic Madison Square Taken From the Flatiron Building 1903 & 1958

The New York Daily News used to do a feature, where they showed an old photograph of New York and had a modern photograph of the same scene.

From the newly completed Flatiron Building, here is Madison Square from about 1903.

Madison Square Garden and its tower are in the center of the photo. Brownstones and mostly low-rise buildings surround the Madison Square neighborhood. There are so few tall buildings that you can see the East River off in the distance. The building with the columns at the bottom of the photo is the Appellate Division courthouse. A small corner of Madison Square Park can be seen in the lower left,

Fast forward about 55 years and the changes are dramatic.

Daily News photographer David McLane had access from a similar vantage point in the Flatiron Building to take this photograph circa 1958. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #71 – Wall Street In 1880 & 1904

Two Views of Wall Street – 1880 & 1904 – With A Story From A 19th Century Stockbroker

Wall Street 1880

Wall Street 1904

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The changes in Wall Street from 1880 to 1904 are clear by comparing these two photographs taken from Broad Street. The center of each photograph is unchanged with historic Trinity Church at the foot of Wall Street and Broadway.

In the 1880 photo the church clock indicates it is 9:40 in the morning. Wall street looks almost provincial with gas lit lamps and small five story buildings, mainly housing insurance companies, brokers and banks. With the wild stock swings in this tumultuous era, many firms were here today, gone tomorrow.

On the far left side behind the gas lamp you can see the advertisement on the stairs leading to 17 Wall Street for stock brokers Taylor Brothers. Directly adjacent is a three story building with a sign above its entrance for Duff and Tienken, gold brokers. Immediately next to Duff and Tienken at 13 Wall Street is the first building owned by the New York Stock Exchange. Looking closely  at the sidewalk in front of most of the buildings, the small circular cylindrical objects are coal chute covers.

Fast forward 24 years later to 1904 and Wall Street is lined with tall buildings. Continue reading