Tag Archives: 1920s

Old New York In Postcards #21 – 1920s & 1930s New York City Aerial Images

New York City In The 1920s & 1930s As Seen By Airplane

A Vanished Skyline

Peenn Station Area from airplane 1920sWhen in lower Brooklyn, Queens or bicycling across the George Washington Bridge, I look at the New York City skyline. It has become something I do not recognize.

New York is a city that architecturally alters itself every year. It comes as no surprise that there are buildings that now obscure the sight of what were once tourist magnets.

The Woolworth, Bankers Trust, Equitable, Municipal, Citicorp and Chrysler Buildings are dwarfed by new neighbors. Fifty Seventh Street is now an ugly amalgamation of needle glass towers selling for $40 million to absentee owners.

I never experienced the grandeur of the classic Manhattan skyline. It had mostly vanished by the 1960s in a spate of modern construction in the financial district and midtown. However, even through the 1980s there was not an infestation of buildings that blocked New York’s most notable structures.

But in the past fifteen years the New York skyline has been overhauled. In the process obliterating the uniqueness of New York. New, mammoth unattractive buildings are now spreading like a fungus in the city. The skyline seen now could be Chicago, Los Angeles or Houston. It has been impossible to stop a bunch of undistinguished architectural monstrosities to destroy the vistas that made New York famous.

Let us return to the 1920s and 30s when New York City looked like NEW YORK CITY. Here are some aerial postcard views showing what was once a picturesque city.

Click on any image to enlarge as all of these postcards are real photo. I scanned many (not all) of them at 300 dpi so the detail is pretty clear when enlarged.

New York from the south aerial view 1930sLooking north we have a fantastic overview of the entire southern portion of the island.

aerial lower manhattan east river 1930s aerialAnother classic view when approaching Manhattan from the south showing the piers and many turn-of-the-century and art deco buildings that proliferate in lower Manhattan.

Aerial view of Lower Manhattan from the Hudson Looking east across the Hudson another at the southern tip of Manhattan. This view captures most of the important buildings in the financial district.  Continue reading

Salary – $6,500 A Year

Ad Says, $6,500 Per Year.  That Was A Good Salary?

It Was.

When?

Bad Timing, Just a Few Months Before the The Crash Of 1929

1929 almanac ad $6500 per year jobThis ad appeared in the 1929 World Almanac

Here is the snappy, convincing text form the ad.

I used to know him when he was a kid—we went to grammar school together. Then his father died and he had to go to work, Got a job with Brooks & Co., but couldn’t seem to get ahead. Then something seemed to wake him up. We could all see that he was doing better work.

“Then Old Man Brooks became interested—wanted to know how Ned happened to know so much about the business, Ned told him he’d been studying through the International Correspondence Schools. ‘H’m,’ said Mr. Brooks, ‘I’ll remember that.’ .

“We did too. Put Ned out on the road as a salesman for a year or so and then brought him into the main office as sales manager.

“He’s getting $6500 a year now and everybody calls him ‘the new Ned Tyson.’ I’ve never seen such a change in a man in my life.”

An International Correspondence Schools course will help you just as it helped Ned Tyson. It will help you to have the happy home—the bigger salary—the comforts you’d like to have.
At least find out how before the priceless years go by and it is too late.

Mail the coupon for the free booklet.

$6,500.

In 1929 it was a grand salary.

This advertisement is similar to what online colleges do today. Just take courses through a correspondence school. The inference is that you too could be making $6,500 per year. That may not sound like a lot of money now. Adjusted for inflation by the consumer price index that’s the equivalent of $97,464 in 2019 dollars.

The problem with Ned’s job and millions like it, is the stock market crash would occur just months after this ad ran. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #84 – Party For Rudolph Valentino?

United Artists Holds A Party. Who Is The Guest Of Honor?

United Artists Party with Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Constance Talmadge, Norma Talmadge, Joseph Schenk, Rudolph Valentino, Hiram Abrams at Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles April 8 ,1925United Artists Pictures executives, stars and their families attended this dinner party at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on April 8, 1925.  This was an enormous display of Hollywood power brokers in one small room. What was the reason they were there?

Silent screen idol Rudolph Valentino had signed a contract a month earlier with United Artists.  When this photograph came up for auction several years ago, it was attributed in the auction that Valentino was the recipient for this gathering.

But that is not the case. Continue reading

Aerial View of West 42nd Street – 1927

West 42nd Street Looking East Towards Times Square

1927 42nd Street aerial view

This postcard view taken by Irving Underhill is undated, but a little detective work led to the date of 1927. Along 42nd Street is a billboard for the movie King of Kings. Further down the block a movie marquee advertises the film 7th Heaven, both released in 1927

In this photograph of West 42nd Street the tallest structure visible is the Paramount Building on the left also completed in 1927. The building once housed the Paramount Theatre.

Continue reading

College Tuition In The 1920s – The Low Cost Of Getting Higher Education

Harvard, Dartmouth, Bowdoin, Bates, & Colgate All Cost Under $250 Per Year in 1920

There is no need to go on a diatribe about the rising cost of college tuition. Instead, let’s go back to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper from nearly 100 years ago (August 25, 1921). The headline read. Demand For Higher Education Increases in Face of Higher Cost of Tuition and a Slackening Demand For Help.

What exactly were those higher costs?

College           1921 Tuition
University of Georgia  FREE
University of South Carolina $40
William and Mary College $50
Clark University $100
Bates College $125
Bowdoin College $150
Johns Hopkins University $150-250
Dickinson College $160
University of Vermont $175
Colgate University $180
Boston University $225
Dartmouth College $250
Harvard University $250
Tufts College $250

To give some scale to these tuition costs, the average annual salary of a civil service employee was $1,220 (male), $1,047 (female). Ranges for clothing workers were between $1,100 – $2,500 per year. Rectors and ministers were paid about $2,300 per year. A locomotive engineer made about $3,300 per year. A buyer for a major department store could make as little as $1,000 and as much as $15,000 per year, but the majority made between $5,000-$10,000.

Today college costs have grown to a point that they are completely out of whack with the rest of the economy. Top private colleges charge between $45,000 – $55,000 per year and that does not include room, board, books and other fees. Continue reading

A Progressive New York City Hotel In 1929 Hired Women Bellhops

In 1929 The Almanac Hotel In New York City Became The First Hotel In The Country To Hire Women Bellhops

Hotel Almanac girl bell-hops

New York Hotel Using Girl Bell-Hops

The newest wrinkle in hotel service these days is girl bell-hops. The Almanac Hotel, New York City, is probably the first hotel in the country to use girls for bell-hop service. Hotel customers say they give “real service” too. Here are three of them standing by while a patron registers. The girls are, left to right: Eleanor Julin, Mildred Wilson and Edith Gillin. – Associated Press Photo 11/13/1929

Only at the high class hotels do you still find bell-hops. Until the 1970s, almost all hotels had them.

The Almanac Hotel, (aka Hotel Almanac), was being “progressive” at the time, by hiring female bell-hops, in what was traditionally a male occupation. Or were they? Continue reading

What Were The Best New York City Restaurants In 1929?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Columnist Rian James Shares His Picks For The Best Restaurants in New York City in 1929

Rian James (1899-1953) may not be a well known name today, but back in the 1920s and 30s, he was a widely read journalist and  “man about town.”

In 1933 James took a stab at writing for the movies. He wrote the screenplay for 42nd Street, one of the most successful and popular films of the 1930s. James would go on to write over three dozen screenplays.

As a columnist for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1928-1935, James rambled all around New York City. Along the way James hobnobbed with everyone: the well-to-do, the hoi-polloi, actors,  and bohemians, in the process, hitting all the night spots. The stories James gathered made for a widely read column about the city he loved.

Four times a year the Eagle published a small guide Going Places With Rian James casting his top picks in New York City food and entertainment.

For the Summer 1929 Going Places, a good portion of  James’ 32 page booklet is devoted to dining. Unlike the modern Zagat restaurant guides or Yelp, consensus was not considered. The only thing that mattered was James’ opinion. James knew all the “in” places, the haunts of celebs, the exclusive, the ribald and the popular.

Proving he’s no snob, the best New York restaurant according to James is not at a high class hotel or Madison Avenue establishment. It’s Feltman’s, originator of the hotdog, in Coney Island that wins the prize.  James writes, “The best all-round food in all New York, excluding no place.”

This is a New York booklet written for New Yorkers.

James offers a unique slice of the New York dining scene just prior to the October 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression. The good times were to end soon after.

While there were a ton of contemporary guidebooks published about New York City, very few delved into the restaurant scene. James’ punchy one line descriptions tell you a lot more than many a detailed review.

The writing has some jazz age jargon such as “Beeway” for Broadway and “black and tan” for an establishment that has race mingling between Blacks and Caucasians. Sometimes there’s an “inside”, long forgotten, or even a risque reference such as this one:

BARNEY’S – 85 W. 3rd St.
The best bet for whoopee in the Village.

In other words, where you have the best chance of hooking up.

James later wrote several full length books about New York City: a full guidebook All About New York An Intimate Guide; John Day (1931) and another not surprisingly titled, Dining in New York; John Day (1934).

While you peruse this list, you may recognize some names long gone from New York’s glorious culinary past. Other eateries you never heard of just sound like they would have been a blast to visit.

What is stunning in the transient world of dining, is that there are a small number of restaurants that are still in business nearly 90 years later.

We have left Rian James’ spelling, grammar and punctuation as it is written in the booklet.

So with that, here is Rian James’ New York City’s restaurant recommendations for the summer of 1929, divided into his appropriate section headings in bold.

Restaurants of All Nations

Name      Address       Nation

L’AIGLON – 55th, E. of Fifth Ave. French
Complete French Cuisine.LUCHOWS – 110 E. 14th St. German
Complete German Cuisine. Try the German Rye Bread. Continue reading

The Startling Changes in New York From 1873 – 1923

Robert Underwood Johnson Tells Of New York In 1873 and How It Changed Over 50 Years

Everything today seems to be moving at the speed of light. Changes of all sorts have greatly altered our everyday living in ways that might have been unimaginable 20 or even 10 years ago.

Some might argue there was more change at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century than there is today. All the people who lived through and witnessed that change are long dead. Maybe if you heard it from someone first hand, it might make a greater impression upon you.

Fortunately we have people like Robert Underwood Johnson (1853-1937) who put down his memories in his book, Remembered Yesterdays (Little, Brown & Co., 1923) which serves as a living time capsule of that period.

Johnson was a long time editor at The Century Magazine, a leading monthly periodical which covered news art and literature. Johnson also wrote regularly for Scribner’s Magazine.  Along with John Muir, Johnson was one of the main forces behind the creation of Yosemite National Park.  Johnson personally knew every major personage imaginable during his lifetime and his memoir reflects that.

What I found particularly interesting was a brief chapter entitled “New York in the 70’s” (meaning the 1870s). In that chapter, Johnson compares the New York City he arrived in, in 1873 with the present (1923).

This is what had occurred over 50 years. Below is an excerpt from the book:

A STUDY IN CONTRASTS

LOOKING back it is difficult to identify the New York of that time, just beginning to feel its strength, with the brilliant metropolis of to-day. Think of the points of contrast! In 1873 there were no electric lights, no skyscrapers, no trolleys, no blazing, twirling or winking signs and thus, of course, no Great White Way, Broadway being preéminently the street of business and there being little or no shopping on the cross streets above Fourteenth. Continue reading

How Historic Events Would Be Covered By The Media If They Were Written About With 2018 Attitudes

If The Media Covered These Historic Events Now, It Might Read Something Like This

We view historic events with 21st century attitudes and ideas. It’s called presentism.

Reader warning: satire ahead.

 A Rampage of Sexual Harassment in Times Square (V.J. Day 1945)

As pedestrians watch, an American sailor celebrates by passionately kissing and sexually assaulting a white-uniformed nurse in Times Square to celebrate the long awaited-victory over Japan  photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt / Life Magzine

Crowd in Times Square celebrates V.J. Day photo: Ezra Stoller

As word spread that the Empire of Japan had unconditionally surrendered and that the war was finally over, pandemonium broke loose in New York City’s Times Square yesterday. Continue reading

This Is The Only Color Film Footage Of Clara Bow The “It” Girl (And What Exactly Is “It”?)

Clara Bow The “It” Girl Made Only One Film In Color, and This One Minute Fragment Is All That That Survives

(And What Exactly is “It”)

Most movie fans never saw Clara Bow’s beautiful red hair except when illustrated on magazine covers. All but one of her films was made in black and white. Her red hair and Brooklyn childhood earned her, her original nickname “The Brooklyn Bonfire.”

So seeing the primitive color film clip below is a pleasant treat for classic movie fans.

With the exception of one film, Red Hair” which is now considered lost, this one minute fragment is all that survives of Clara Bow filmed in color.

If the last minute of Red Hair could be found we would see Clara Bow in as little clothing as the censors would allow.

So what exactly is “It”? Writer Elinor Glin wrote a magazine article called “It.” and a movie soon followed in 1927 starring Clara Bow. The sobriquet The “It Girl” was immediately and permanently attached to Clara Bow.

“Either you have “It” or you don’t have” It.”  “It” is sex appeal definitely, but much more than that.

In a 1927 interview, writer Glyn said you must have ALL of the following qualities: Continue reading