Tag Archives: New York History

1,001 Ways To Die In New York City In 1855

 A Detailed Look At New York City Mortality For One Week In 1855

the new york city morgue Frank Leslies Illustrated Newspaper 1866

The New York City morgue

Maybe there weren’t 1001 ways to die, but in a typical week in New York’s death log 160 years ago there were at least 73 ways to enter into eternity. New York City was only the borough of Manhattan and the population was around 629,000.

355 people died during the week of September 22 – 29, 1855.

First looking at how people died we see things that are not predominant causes of death in the United States today.

The most common causes of death that week were: Consumption (38 dead); Infantile Marasmus (35 dead); Infantile Convulsions (31); Stillborn (25); Cholera (25) and Dysentery (20).

Consumption was the 19th century name for tuberculosis. What exactly is marasmus? It is severe malnutrition. Only 5 people died of cancer. Old age was listed only once as the cause of death.

Some other causes of death that week that are now relatively uncommon or in some cases all too common (i.e. shooting, suicide): Bleeding Bowels (1); Colic (1); Diarrhea (21); Dropsy of Head (9); Gravel (passing broken Kidney Stones) (1);  Hydrophobia (Rabies) (9); Scurvy (1); Suicide by arsenic (1); Killed or Murder by shooting (1); Casualty being run over (1); Drowned (1) and Teething (2). Teething?

Death came to both Continue reading

1925 Police Chief Suggestion: Pay Bounties To NYPD For Killing Criminals

In 1925 A New York Police Chief Proposed Paying Cops Extra To Kill Criminals

Across the country complaints are rising against police officers using excessive force against alleged criminals. So it probably would not be politically correct today to make a suggestion that cops get paid extra to kill criminals. But that didn’t stop one top cop 90 years ago from making that proposal.

Second Deputy Police Commissioner George S. Dougherty c .1912

Second Deputy Police Commissioner George S. Dougherty c .1912

In January 1925 George S. Dougherty former NYPD Second Deputy Commissioner and Chief of Detectives wrote to the New York Times recommending that large bounties be paid to police officers who kill hold-up men.

Dougherty suggested that a police officer killing one hold-up man be paid $1,000, $2,500 for killing two and the astounding sum of $5,000 for killing three. This bounty would mean a regular patrolman could earn substantially more than the $2,500 annual base salary for killing a robber.

Though many citizens may have agreed and responded positively to the Chief’s populist proposal, it never gained any momentum. The New York Times commented that “of course no one goes into mourning when one of these land pirates meet the fate they deserve as enemies of the human race, and if a policeman in the exercise of his duty kills one of them it properly is regarded as a good job, well done. But Mr. Dougherty’s proposal is a very bad one.”

Several officials at the police department concurred with the Times opinion saying that if Dougherty’s suggestions were put into force, “they might incite indiscriminate shooting.”

Other positions advocated by Dougherty included: Continue reading

Worst Snowstorms In New York History – January 1925

January 2015, Not As Bad January 1925

Trolley stuck in snow during storm

Trolley stuck in snow during storm

It was bad for Suffolk County, NY and Boston, MA, but New York City’s 2015 “worst blizzard of all time” did not live up to its billing.

Official records for the city have been kept since 1869, and so far this January, New York City has received a relatively small amount of snow with 14.3 inches accumulating.

January 1925 arrived and departed like a polar bear and New York City was the unwelcome recipient of 27.4 inches of snow, the most ever recorded for any January up to that time. (This record was finally eclipsed in January 2011 when the city recorded 36 inches of snow.)

But it was not only New York City that got hit multiple times in January 1925 with lots of snowstorms, but upstate New York got slammed as well.

The tally for the city read like this: A relentless snowstorm that lasted two days occurred from January 2-3. On January 12 the city required 12,000 shovelmen to tackle another snowstorm that clogged the streets. January 20 New York City got hit with two blizzards in one day. January 27 more snow fell and then the coup de grace; the giant storm on January 30 that affected the metropolitan area.

Ninety years ago today on January 30, New York City was hit hard, but so was the entire region. How bad was it? Cattle in the streets? Ferry service ground to a halt? Here are a few excerpts of what Continue reading

Part 2 – An Interview With Avery Corman “My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir”

Avery Corman Talks About: Dating, Restaurants, High School in The Bronx, The Advertising World, Getting Published and Having His Books Adapted To Film

We continue our interview with Avery Corman, author of the new book My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir (Barricade Books) 2014, and his story of growing up in the Bronx during the 1940’s and 50’s.

Divided into 5 parts the first two parts of the interview can be seen here.

In part 3 Avery Corman discusses dating, blind dates, sex, going to the movies, the differences between eating out and restaurants, dessert havens like Krum’s, Addie Vallins and Jahn’s and the coming of television.

Part 4 Avery Corman recalls his high school years at DeWitt Clinton High School and his decision to go to New York University. Upon graduating Continue reading

An Interview With Avery Corman “My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir”

Avery Corman, Author of Kramer vs. Kramer, Talks About His Latest Book: My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir

My Old Neighborhood RememberedThe neighborhood is the Bronx. The time is World War II and the post war years. And the writer is Avery Corman. His newest book My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir (2014) Barricade Books, is his first non-fiction book and is filled with wonderful recollections of growing up.

After graduating college Corman was working on the fringes of advertising and with the encouragement of a friend, Herb Gardner (A Thousand Clowns; I’m Not Rappaport; etc), he took a stab at writing a book. That effort was published as Oh God! A Novel (1971). After that hurdle Corman never looked back and he became a full-time novelist. Oh God! was eventually made into a very popular movie in 1977 starring George Burns and John Denver.

Some of Corman’s other acclaimed novels include The Bust-Out King (1977), The Old Neighborhood (1980); 50 (1987); Prized Possessions (1991); The Boyfriend from Hell (2006) and his most famous work, Kramer vs. Kramer (1977) which was adapted into a movie in 1979 and was the winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Avery Corman’s success must partially stem from his middle-class upbringing in the Fordham section of the Bronx during the 1940’s and 50’s, where he admits he was not the best student when it came to math and science, but did well in the humanities and was surrounded by a loving, extended family.

My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir is more a series of vignettes rather than a straight autobiography and that style comes off well. Corman shares his memories of childhood during World War II up until he becomes a successful author in the late 1960’s. He paints beautiful word pictures, sometimes tinged with sadness, of growing up in a wondrous place that no longer exists. Most of the stories offer short bursts of family life, games, food, education, sports and all the things that contributed to making the Bronx a special place to grow up in.

Corman’s stories resonate with a tender glow of friendships, family and the feeling that neighborhoods were once really neighborhoods, where the familiarity of rituals, people and places were ingrained in the surroundings.

Here are parts one and two of an exclusive interview with Avery Corman.

Part I, Avery Corman talks about what made the Bronx a special place during the war. His unique living situation and school life.

In part II Corman Continue reading

Things You Should Know If Visiting New York City In 1873

Thousands of children are imported from Italy each year to turn them into organ-grinders and street beggars.

12 Helpful Hints And Notes From 1873

Standing on Broadway by New York City Hall circa 1870

A tourist standing on Broadway by New York City Hall circa 1870

From the wordily titled – Wood’s Illustrated Handbook To New York and Environs: A Guide For The Traveller or Resident With Minute Instructions For Seeing The Metropolis In One or More Days Together With Numerous Valuable Hints To Visitors On Nearly Every Topic That Arises Upon The Subject of Sight-Seeing, G.W. Carleton Publishers, 1873, we learn surprising things about New York City.

If you lost something of value in public there was an excellent chance that it would be returned to you.

Saturday was the fashionable day for ladies to attend public entertainments – alone!

Wood’s Handbook’s aim was to point out interesting things about New York City without preaching to the reader.

As the guidebook says;

We think the sight-seer may now be safely left with the “Handbook ” to the guidance of the Index and Map and to his own inclinations and judgment.

He will speedily discover that our object in the preparation of this volume has been not to confuse and weary him by stale remarks and hackneyed observations about this or that, but to put him in a position to see, and admire, and criticize from his own stand-point of taste and opinion. We think the sight-seer requires ready hints, not stupid essays; and if we conduct him to a remarkable locality or a well-known structure, he will not care to have us stand perpetually at his elbow telling him what to admire, and what he ought not to be pleased with.

Since the book contains no “hackneyed observations,” the section called “helpful hints” are what we thought were worth highlighting rather than the sights to be seen.

From among the many listed, we have culled, a dozen of the helpful hints for visiting New York:

1- A GLASS OF BRANDY, in an emergency, can be obtained at any apothecary. No wines, ales, or liquors are permitted to be sold in New York at any bar on Sunday. The guests of a hotel can be served with them, however, at table or in their rooms.

2- ORGAN-GRINDERS and STREET-BEGGARS — Thousands of children are annually exported from Italy to the United States for the purpose of making them organ-grinders and street-beggars, of whom a multiplicity are to be seen in New York. A bill has been brought before the Italian Parliament, designed to put a stop to this disgraceful traffic in children. It punishes with five years’ imprisonment all persons exporting children under twelve years of age to foreign countries, under any pretext. Continue reading

Ladies Day – Rowing On The Harlem River Circa 1905

Ladies Get Ready For Rowing At An Annual Regatta On The Harlem River

Ladies Day Rowing on the Harlem River circa 1905 photo UPI

At the turn of the century, the male dominated rowing clubs of New York City, Long Island and Hoboken would hold regattas and invite the fairer sex to participate in the rowing races.

Rowing Clubs with names like the Nassau Boat Club, the Harlem Rowing Club, the Nonpareil Boat Club, the Bohemian Boat Club and the Dauntless Rowing Club would hold a “Ladies Day” and open the festivities to women entrants. In some races the women would have assistance from the men as they stroked their four oared gigs or eight oared barges along the Harlem River from Sherman Creek to about 145th Street. This area of the Harlem River has excellent conditions for rowing and the Columbia Rowing teams still holds practices there.

Both sides of the river would be packed with large crowds to cheer the ladies on during these regattas which were usually held by the different rowing clubs in June and September in the the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

When The New York City Subway Opened On October 27, 1904

20 Cool Facts About The New York City Subway When It Was Brand New

"What The Subway Means To New York City" New York Evening World October 27, 1904 (click to enlarge)

“What The Subway Means To New York” New York Evening World October 27, 1904 (click to enlarge)

109 years ago on October 27, 1904, the New York City Subway was opened to an enthusiastic public with great fanfare and accolades.

New Yorker’s were proud of this engineering sensation and its features were highlighted in newspapers and magazines around the world.

On the occasion of the opening, the New York Evening World published a “Subway Souvenir Special” to commemorate the event. With articles describing many aspects of the subway, the special issue compiled a list of 100 facts about the subway. Here are some of the better ones:

1. In 1894 the people of New York voted to create a tunnel for a subway which was to be owned by the city. After six years of preliminary work by the Rapid Transit Commission, bids were accepted to build and operate the subway on November 15, 1899.

2. Only two companies bid for the job. John B. McDonald and the Onderdonk Construction Company. McDonald’s bid was accepted January 15, 1900.

3. McDonald proposed to construct the tunnels for $35 million with an additional $2,750,000 for station sites, terminals and other incidentals.

4. The money for the construction was loaned by the city. It was to be paid back with interest in fifty years.

5. McDonald organized a construction company with August Belmont as its president. Another company within this company, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) was organized to operate the subway.

6. The IRT had the privilege of operating the system for 50 years, with an option for a 25 year renewal. When the subway passed into the hands of the people, the equipment was to be purchased by the city at a valuation to be determined by arbitration.

7. McDonald sublet the construction to thirteen sub-contractors. Ground was broken March 25, 1900 in front of City Hall.

8. McDonald pledged to have the subway ready in four and a half years. The actual time spent on construction was only 1275 days.

9. The final amount spent was just $40 million.

Union Square June 8, 1901 Subway Construction

Union Square June 8, 1901 Subway Construction

10. There were 120 lives lost during the construction. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #31

The Garbage Strike of 1911

boys chase garbage carts Nov 13 1911

This photograph shows First Avenue and 50th street looking north. A policeman is running after boys who were harassing and chasing a garbage truck (to the left of the trolley) driven by a strike-breaker (now what would be termed a scab) in November 1911.

On November 8, 1911 New York City’s garbage collector’s went on strike demanding better working conditions. The ashcart men did not like working at night when seeing dangerous items deposited in the trash and obstacles on the street was difficult, so they wanted to work only during the daylight hours when it was warmer and safer. Another complaint the union lodged was having only one man to lift trash cans that sometimes weighed over 200 pounds.

City officials were irate and refused to give in. Earlier in July during a smaller garbage strike, Mayor William Jay Gaynor warned that every worker who did not report to work would be fired. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #30

Heat Waves In New York And Children Cooling Off

NYC Kids Playing at Hydrant

As New York City endures a heat wave this week, realize that for the majority of the 20th century there was virtually no air conditioning in most homes. The streets provided the easiest and most accessible way for children to cool off.

In New York, it is only recently that a heat wave has been defined as at least three straight days with temperatures reaching 90 degrees or more. Who decided this I do not know. Every region of the world has their own definition of what comprises a heat wave. Years ago, any sustained combination of high heat and humidity used to qualify as a heat wave.

This undated photograph above from the mid-1940’s shows city children on a Manhattan street playing and wallowing in the water. I like the fact that some of the people are looking directly at the photographer who is perched high above the street capturing the scene.

Cooling off Harlem 1933

This photo shows a Harlem street in 1933 with children gathering around a center stand sprinkler connected by a hose to the fire hydrant.

A four day heat wave in New York City that began June 7, ended on June 10, 1933 with a violent thunderstorm which dropped the temperature down to 86. The day before, the thermometer in the city reached the mid 90’s and reportedly hit 120 degrees in Hammonton, NJ, wilting strawberries right on the stem.

Joe Funranolla and Ray Bardini beat the heat by diving into the river July 22 1955

As unthinkable as it is now, for decades up until the 1970’s, to cool off many children would swim in the polluted East and Hudson Rivers. With the FDR Drive and the United Nations Secretariat Building in the background Joe Funranolla and Ray Bardini beat the heat by diving into the East River July 22, 1955. The temperature hit 96 that day.

It was the eighth day in July 1955 that the mercury went above 90 degrees. According to the New York Times, the record up to that time for 90 degree days in July was ten, which was accomplished in 1876 and 1952.

Boys Swimming East River 1937

This 1937 photograph shows teen boys making daring dives into the East River. The Williamsburg Bridge is in the background. I wonder how long it took to get back up to where they were diving from?

Hell Gate Bridge bathers Astoria Pool 1937

One thing has remained the same over the years: if they can get to one, kids still flock to the city pools. In this 1937 photograph the Astoria Pool entices a huge crowd, while the Hell Gate Bridge looms in the background.

The current heat wave will soon be over and when winter arrives, you can bet your bottom dollar many New Yorker’s will be saying they can’t wait for the warm weather.