Tag Archives: 1900s

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

Who Was Appearing At The Madison Square Garden Theatre 116 Years Ago Today

December 17, 1900 The Great Sarah Bernhardt Was Appearing At The Madison Square Garden Theatre

madison-square-garden-theatre-program-dec-17-1900-coverMadison Square Garden was the center of entertainment for wealthy New Yorkers in the late 19th and early 20th century. Occupying the entire block between Park and Madison Avenues from 26th to 27th Streets, the Garden Theatre was the work of architects McKim, Mead and White.

Program for week of December 17, 1900 at Madiison Square Garden

Program for week of December 17, 1900 at Madiison Square Garden

The Garden Theatre featured the most famous stars of the day and 100 years ago today, you could have seen the fabulous French star Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) during her “farewell” week. Bernahardt made over nine “farewell” tours of America between 1906 – 1918. In 1900 Bernhardt was just doing farewell weeks.

Bernhardt was appearing in a prose adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The crazy part was Ms. Bernhardt was playing….Hamlet! This was considered very controversial in 1900.

The other ads on the page show what major acts were appearing at theatres around the city.

The famous Maude Adams (1872-1953), was concluding her run at the Knickerbocker Theatre in L’Ainglon. There were only 12 more performances scheduled.

The Garden Theatre was managed by Charles Frohman, the most influential and important theatre impresario of the day. Frohman also managed the Criterion, Empire and Garrick Theatre. In addition to managing theatres, Frohman was the personal manager of Maude Adams.

If you have ever seen the movie Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, you may know that writer Richard Matheson based a good deal of Seymour’s character (Elise McKenna) on Ms. Adams. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #70 – 59th Street Central Park – 1903

59th Street, Fifth Avenue & Central Park On a Snowy Day – 1903

central-park-december-1903-from-burr-mcintoshThis panoramic view looking west from 5th Avenue of 59th Street, also known as Central Park South, was published in December 1903 by a theatrical magazine, Burr McIntosh monthly. Unless you’ve seen that issue of the magazine (unlikely) this view has remained unseen for the last 113 years.

A snowy day means light pedestrian and vehicular traffic. A few horse drawn vehicles are braving the elements, while a handful of pedestrians go about their business.

The building In the upper left corner on the south side of 59th Street is John D. Phyfe and James Campbell’s New Plaza Hotel (the original Plaza Hotel) built 1885-1890.

Phyfe and Campbell ended up losing the hotel in foreclosure before it was completed and it was purchased on September 18, 1888 by the New-York Life Insurance Co. for the bargain price of $925,000. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #69 – Where New York’s Poor Shopped 1905

Under The Williamsburg Bridge 1905 – Where New York’s Poor Shopped

market-under-williamsburg-bridgeLooking at this 1905 stereoview photograph of the market located under the Williamsburg Bridge, the one thing that jumps out at you is the number of children present among the throng of humanity.

In the foreground of the photograph the children are looking directly at the photographer who must have set up his camera at least 10 feet above the crowd to get this extraordinary view.

The Williamsburg Bridge terminus in Manhattan is at Delancey Street, in the heart of the lower east side. As New York’s ever growing immigrant population flooded into the lower east side at the turn of the century, the area was steeped in poverty.

Many vendors sold their wares in the open streets, crammed onto pushcarts overfilled with fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, pots, candles and rags. Everything you could imagine was sold from these pushcarts.

To the residents of the neighborhood the pushcarts offered necessities for a reasonable sum. For the vendors, the pushcarts offered a meager living. For the city the pushcarts represented a nuisance, selling goods of questionable quality and safety, clogging traffic and dirtying the streets.

Before the bridge was officially opened on December 19, 1903, a market was set up under the bridge to move some of the vendors off the crowded streets.

The first group of vendors to set up in the market were the fish dealers who opened for business on March 30, 1903. Continue reading

Sex Before Marriage? Early 20th Century Postcards That Are Risque

It’s Easy To Say, But Hard To Do – Turn-of-the-Century American Postcards That Hint At Having Sex

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A French postcard

You may be familiar with the term French postcards, which were images showing nude or semi-nude women at the turn of the 20th century. Imported to America from Europe, these postcards excited an entire generation. However If you possessed or mailed such material you could be arrested for violating the Comstock Law, with its broad definitions for what was considered lewd, lascivious or obscene material. As mild as French postcards seem now, they were the pornography of the day.

In early 20th century America men could only hint at their intentions when it came to relations with women. To say Americans were puritanical and repressed when it came to sex would be an understatement.

Victorian manners and morals carried over from the 19th century persisted until after World War I.  Women were given the right to vote and soon the roaring 20’s ushered in a new spirit of sexual liberation.

It is hard to imagine that at the-turn-of-the-century most people could not talk about sex let alone consider having premarital relations. That being said, men have always been on the prowl, trying to hop in the sack with women.

In this series of postcards from around 1905, the woman is preserving her virtue and not giving in to having sex before marriage. But as we know men are persistent.

The series called “It’s Easy To Say, But Hard To Do,” is a double entendre reference to a man asking a woman to get married. It can also refer to asking for sex, but how and where can you do it? Looking at these postcards the viewer had to infer the meaning of who was saying what to whom in the captions, and what it all meant. I’m unsure how many variations of this card were produced in the series, but I have seen at least eight.

In the first postcard at the top of our story where the man has the woman sitting on his lap and he is practically groping her he is saying “How about it now kiddo?” The woman of course refuses.

easy-to-say-2-2“Ask, and you will get it,”  a not too subtle hint – ask me to marry you and then we can have sex. Continue reading