Tag Archives: New York History

In 1915, Bestiality, Sex With The Dead And Homosexuality Could Get You The Same Prison Sentence

In 1915 “Crimes Against Nature” In New York City Included Sex With The Dead, Bestiality & Homosexuality

If Convicted Of Crimes Against Nature, You Could Receive A 20 Year Prison Sentence

What has transpired in the last 100 years when it comes to sexual permissiveness in society?

Looking at New York City sex laws from 1915, the world today seems to have done a complete 180 at least in terms of same sex coupling.

While copulating with a corpse or any animal is still considered off limits, Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #19 – Chinese Restaurants, A Brief History

Postcard Views 1910 – 1949 & A Short History Of Chinese Restaurants In New York City

The Chinese Tuxedo Restaurant in New York’s Chinatown 1910

Along with Chinese immigration to the United States in the 1850s, came Chinese food. It wasn’t long before Americans took a liking to the transoceanic cuisine. The Chinese population in New York City was only 747 in 1880. By 1900 it had grown to 6,321.

Tai Sy Chinese restaurant

There “are eight thriving Chinese restaurants that can prepare a Chinese dinner in New York, almost with the same skill as at the famous Dan Quay Cha Yuen (Delmonico’s) of Shanghai or Canton,” according to Wong Chin Foo in the October 1888 Current Literature Magazine.  With only one day off, Chinese patrons, usually working as laundrymen, would crowd the Chinese restaurants on Sunday’s.

Port Arthur Restaurant

Port Arthur Restaurant 7 & 9 Mott Street, considered among the finest Chinese restaurants in New York City est. 1899

Continue reading

Kings Bridge (1693) and The Farmers Bridge (1759) – Two Of New York City’s Oldest Bridges Still Exist

The Story of Two Forgotten And Buried New York City Bridges

This is Kings Bridge connecting upper Manhattan to the Bronx and Westchester. The Kings Bridge was originally constructed in 1693 under a grant from the Crown and maintained by the Philipse family as a toll bridge until the revolution.

The toll was collected on every person, animal and vehicle crossing to the mainland excepting the King’s soldiers. At night the rates doubled. The bridge was reconstructed in 1713 and altered slightly a few times in the intervening 200 years. Continue reading

The Brooklyn Home Of Actor Edward Everett Horton (and His Interesting Life)

Famed Actor Edward Everett Horton Was Born & Bred In Brooklyn

Everett Edward Horton home BrooklynImagine living in a home that is old. Over 150-years-old.

If you’ve ever lived anywhere that has a long past, you’ve probably wondered who previously occupied the space before you. What were the people like who once lived there? What celebrations and heartbreaks happened there?

When passing by, no one would take a second look at the building at 316 Carlton Avenue in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. It’s just another tidy single family, four story brick home in a row of similar 19th century houses. Continue reading

How Thanksgiving In New York Used To Be Celebrated

Many Years Before Macy’s Held Their Annual Thanksgiving Parade New York City Children Used To Dress In Costume And Beg For Money

A Forgotten New York Thanksgiving Tradition – Ragamuffin Day

New York City children dressed in costume for Thanksgiving 1933 photo Percy Loomis Sperr

On Bleecker Street New York City children dressed in costume for Thanksgiving 1933 photo Percy Loomis Sperr

“Please mister, a penny or a nickel for Thanksgiving?”

This request was once heard all around New York City from children dressed in outlandish costumes celebrating Thanksgiving. It came to be known as Ragamuffin Day.

Thanksgiving subway kiosk 1933

Christopher Street near subway kiosk Thanksgiving 1933

When it started exactly is unclear. It was reported in 1870 costumed men were celebrating Evacuation Day a day early on Thanksgiving, November 24. Evacuation Day commemorated the November 25 anniversary of the British forces leaving New York after the Revolutionary War. Evacuation Day was a major holiday in New York until 1888.

The men in costume who paraded about were called “the Fantasticals.” But why would they be in costume? The answer is somewhat convoluted. The costumes were not really about Thanksgiving or Evacuation Day. This was related more to Guy Fawkes Day celebrated November 5 in England. In the United States, Guy Fawkes day was celebrated with anti-Catholic sentiment, burning an effigy of the Pope. Even though the holidays are weeks apart, the proximity of Guy Fawkes Day to Thanksgiving Day and Evacuation Day is thought to be responsible for the strange combination of these distinct holidays. However the American Fantasticals did not beg for money.   Continue reading

New York City Used To Kill Its Stray Dogs By Drowning Them

How A Merciless City Dealt With Its Unwanted Dogs

In 19th Century New York, You Had 24 Hours To Retrieve Your Lost Dog

Unclaimed Dogs Were Drowned In The East River

The dog catcher in New York City & the dogs fate- drowned in cages in the East River – illustration Harper’s Weekly

The Dog Dilemma

What happens today when animal shelters are filled to capacity? Sometimes cats and dogs are humanely euthanized, if there is such a thing as being humanely euthanized.

Canine population control in 19th century New York was much harsher. Beginning in 1855 a new and brutal method of putting down dogs was instituted – drowning.

Some editors and citizens actually attached the word “humane” to this new way of disposal.

Before that time, wandering dogs were considered pests and usually killed on the spot, in the street. The fear of rabies and mad dogs was used as a justification for the wanton killing.

The New York Times wrote, “One thing, however, is certain: dogs are useless animals in cities, and are a nuisance, independent of their habit of occasionally running mad; and the best dog law would be one that imposed so high a tax on the owners of curs that few people would care to keep them, and those who did would see to it that the animals did not run at large, muzzled or unmuzzled.” 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

Old New York In Photos #93 – Police Parade With The Old “Broadway Squad” 1930

New York City’s Finest On Parade With The Broadway Squad Of The Police Department Dressed In Their Old Uniforms

Though these officers bear a resemblance to Mack Sennett’s Keystone Cops, they are actually old-timers of the New York City Police Department’s Broadway Squad dressed in their uniforms of days past.

The slug for this photograph reads:

Little Bit of Old New York

New York City – One of the features of the annual New York Police Department Parade, which was held in New York today, was the appearance in the ranks of the surviving members of the old Broadway Squad, who twenty years or more ago, directed the traffic and the peace of New York’s “Great White Way.” –  4/26/1930 credit: Wide World Photos

Stationed all along Broadway from the Battery to 42nd Street were the Broadway Squad. They were specially selected officers who were all over six feet tall. While that might seem like nothing special, at the turn-of-the-century anyone over six feet in height was considered quite large.

In 1898 the Broadway Squad was described as “ninety of the tallest, best proportioned and finest looking men on the police force.” Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #92 – Mulberry Street c. 1905

Little Italy – Mulberry Street circa 1905

This photograph of Mulberry Street looking north from Bayard Street is via the Detroit Publishing Co. held at the Library of Congress.

It is a busy day in Little Italy and many people go about their marketing. Wagons and merchants pack the street. 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