Tag Archives: 1900s

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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french-postcard-semi-nude-handcolored

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

These Are The World Champion 1908 Chicago Cubs

Players on the 1908 World Champion Chicago Cubs In High Definition Photographs

Joe Tinker Second Baseman of the 1908 Chicago Cubs

Joe Tinker, Shortstop 1908 Chicago Cubs

For the moment it seems all of America is talking about the Chicago Cubs. As everyone now knows it has been 108 years since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series four games to one against the Detroit Tigers.

But what do you know of the 1908 Cubs team?

Maybe you’ve heard of Tinker to Evers to Chance the famous Cubs double play combination immortalized in a newspaper poem by the once legendary Franklin P. Adams. It should be noted that off the field Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers refused to speak to one another. Besides the trio of Cubs Hall-of Famers, you probably know little of the 1908 Cubbies.

Johnny Kling, Catcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Johnny Kling, Catcher 1908 Chicago Cubs (check out that bat!)

The 1908 Cubs are comprised of forgotten names. Their achievements are just dusty remnants that reside only in the record books. There is no one alive today who actually saw the 1908 Chicago Cubs play.

They were a hardened lot, these players. They usually had to work at other jobs in the off-season. It was a time when baseball players scrambled for a job on one of 16 ball clubs. They had to be constantly looking over their shoulder because there was always some youngster trying to take their $2,000 a year baseball job.

At least we can see what they looked like. We’re bringing the Chicago Cubs of 1908 back to you in high definition photographs. All photographs are from the Library of Congress and can be clicked on for enlargement in great detail.

With their heavy flannel uniforms, small fingered gloves, heavy bats and grizzled looks, here are some of the 1908 Chicago Cubs:

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Mordecai “Three Fingered” Brown, Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Mordecai “Three Fingered” Brown, really only had three fingers, his index finger was a stump that was the result of catching his hand in a corn shredder when he was seven-years-old. That accident gave Brown an odd spin on his fastball which confounded hitters. He won 239 games while losing only 130 in his career. His ERA was 2.06, the third lowest in history for pitchers with over 2,000 innings.

In the 1908 World Series Brown was one of two star pitchers, winning two games against the Detroit Tigers. Brown was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949.

Orval Overall Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Orval Overall Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

You would think anyone named Orval Overall would be remembered just because of his name. A short career doomed Orval to obscurity despite a 108-71 lifetime record with a 2.23 ERA. There was no Tommy John surgery when Overall hurt his arm and his career was over in 1913 at age 32.  Overall won the other two games for the Cubs in the 1908 World Series.

Johnny Evers Shortstop 1908 Chicago Cubs

Johnny Evers Second Baseman 1908 Chicago Cubs

Johnny Evers was considered one of the scrappiest and smartest players to ever play the game. Evers batted .300 in 1908 and .350 in the World Series. If you enlarge the photograph you will see a man who had lived quite a bit. This photograph of Evers is from 1913 when he was only 32. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #67 – Sightseeing In New York 1906

Sightseeing In New York – 1906

sightseeing-by-automobile-circa-1906If you’ve ever visited New York City you’ve probably seen the double deck buses that are all over Manhattan with a guide giving tourists facts over a loudspeaker.

This tradition of showing off the city from a motorized vehicle has been going on for over 110 years. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #65

The New York Times Tower Building Under Construction – 1904

New York Times Building under constructionRecently I had the misfortune of passing through Times Square, now a symbol of the mall-ification of New York.

Dead center, standing at 42nd Street where Broadway and Seventh Avenue diverge is the mutilated former New York Times Tower Building. The iconic building that gave Times Square its name, is now basically an electronic billboard. Before The New York Times moved from Park Row to their new headquarters, this area was known as Longacre Square. We covered the history of the building in a previous story.

What was once a classic building has become emblematic of the entire area. Times Square now means: chain stores, thick crowds moving s-l-o-w-l-y and solicitors every five feet hawking something. Then there’s a bunch of beggars in costumes who somehow get paid by having chump tourists hand over money to take a picture with them.

Our photograph from above shows the New York Times Building in the midst of construction in 1904.  The George A. Fuller Construction Company advertises that they are erecting the new skyscraper. The Fuller Company put up a similar building on a triangular plot two years previous to this at 23rd Street, the much beloved Fuller Building, better known as the Flatiron Building. Continue reading

An Incredible View Of Madison Square 1909

Looking Straight Down On Madison Square During The Construction Of The Metropolitan Life Tower -1909

 

Aerial view of Madison Square as seen by workmen atop Met Life Tower 1908 ph Keystone LOC

The Metropolitan Life Building added a tower to its existing building in 1908-1909 enhancing the skyline of New York. An enterprising photographer from the Keystone View Company made his way to the top of the building to take this incredible stereoview photograph of Madison Square Park and the surrounding area.

Click to enlarge the photograph to bring out some great details.

Dividing the photo into four quadrants starting with the lower right, you can see two workers adjusting rope, one sitting, the other standing on steel beams 700 feet above the street.

In the upper right corner just past the beams we can see horse drawn vehicles along Madison Avenue and across 26th Street. The nearest building in the foreground is the roof of the Beaux-Arts style Appellate Division Courthouse on Madison Avenue and 25th Street. The courthouse is a New York City landmark.

On the northeast corner of Madison Avenue and 26th Street stands Madison Square Garden with its theater sign clearly visible. Directly across 26th Street on the northwest corner is a four story limestone building, home to The Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Next to the SPCA building along 26th Street facing the park, are eight brownstones, with all their stoops intact. Continue reading

You’re Under Arrest! Why The NYPD Would Arrest You In 1905

The Crimes That Got You Arrested in New York City In 1905

New York City police bringing suspects into the station. (circa 1900)

New York City police bringing suspects into the station. (circa 1900)

The police make more arrests now In New York City than they did In 1905. Of course the population has doubled from what it was in 1905. But it’s the type of arrests that were made 111 years ago that are quite different from today.

Among the 4,014,304 people living in New York City in 1905 with almost 2 million foreign born and many of them poor, you would think there would be a lot of crime. And there was, but most of it was not violent. In 1905, there were 198,356 arrests for the year, with about 90 percent of them being misdemeanors.

So what crimes were New Yorkers charged with? The following information was taken from the Report of the Police Department of the City of New York for the Year Ending December 31, 1905. Below are 1905’s top 13 offenses with the number of people arrested by the NYPD and the offense they committed:

52,316 Intoxication / Intoxication and Disorderly conduct
39,972 Disorderly conduct
17,584 Violation of Corporation Ordinances
11,731 Assault and Battery
8,592 Disorderly Person
8,333 Vagrancy
7,991 Suspicious Person
6,880 Petit Larceny
5,031 Grand Larceny
3,939 Violation of Liquor Tax Law
3,795 Violation of Health Law
2,810 Felonious Assault
2,279 Burglary

In the breakdown of the hundreds of offenses that people were arrested for, here are some facts that might surprise you.

New York City police turned a blind eye to the oldest profession as only 13 people were arrested for prostitution. 10 for possessing or selling obscene pictures. 49 for arson. 16 for murder and 711 for homicide- (I never realized  there was a technical difference between murder and homicide)!

Six were arrested for cruelty to children, yet 535 were arrested for cruelty to animals. Continue reading

A Schlitz Beer Ad You Won’t Believe

When There Was Absolutely No Truth In Advertising

Why Drink Water, When You Can Drink Schlitz?

Schlitz Beer Puck Magazine 1904“Doctors Say Drink More Schlitz”

Which doctors? Doctor Al K. Holic?

Today would the Federal Trade Commission have a problem with this Schlitz beer ad? Probably, but this ad is from a 1904 Puck Magazine. And the creation of the FTC to oversee truth in advertising was another 10 years off.

That’s what I love about 1904. You could say almost any ridiculous thing in print and get away with it.  Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #15

Postcard Views of 125th Street – The Heart of Harlem 1905-1910

A dreamy view of 125th Street looking east from the elevated station circa 1910

A dreamy colored sky hangs over 125th Street looking east from 8th Avenue circa 1910

What was 125th Street like at the turn of the 20th century? It was the commercial center of a genteel neighborhood, the heart of Harlem. Restaurants, hotels, businesses and entertainment venues lined the prosperous street. 1900 census data shows the area was white with almost no blacks living around the surrounding streets. Residents around the area were primarily Jewish, Italian, German or WASP.

View of 125th Street looking west from 7th Avenue. The Hotel Winthrop is on the left the Harlem Opera House with finials atop its roof is on the right circa 1907.

View of 125th Street looking west from 7th Avenue. The Hotel Winthrop is on the left the Harlem Opera House with finials atop its roof is on the right circa 1907.

By 1910, things were changing and blacks now made up around 10 percent of Harlem’s population.  That gradual change occurred after real estate speculators built apartments when  the subway was being constructed between 1900 and 1904. The anticipated housing boom was a bust and these buildings were slow to fill with white tenants. A shrewd black real estate manager and developer Philip Payton Jr. was instrumental in changing the demographics of Harlem starting at 133rd Street and Lenox Avenue around 1905. Payton seized the opportunity in filling new and vacant buildings with black families. Soon other surrounding blocks were attracting black families.

Another view of 125th Street west of 7th Avenue (now Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.). Keith & Proctor's sign sits atop the vaudeville theater which was formerly The Harlem Opera House circa 1910.

Another view of 125th Street west of 7th Avenue (now Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.). Keith & Proctor’s sign sits atop the vaudeville theater which was formerly The Harlem Opera House circa 1910.

Continue reading