Tag Archives: New York History

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

New York’s Problems And Why It Forced One Editor To Leave

What’s Wrong With New York City

This Essay By Stanley Walker, One Of The Finest Newspaper Editors In History, Will Strike Home For Anyone Who Has Ever Lived In New York

At the end of Walker’s essay we’ll reveal something remarkable about this story.

“I like to visit New York, but I wouldn’t live there if you gave it to me.” -OLD AMERICAN SAYING. Continue reading

19th Century New York Inventor and Business Titan Peter Cooper Once Inherited Almost The Entire Town of Kinderhook New York – But Gave It Away!

Peter Cooper, Inventor and Industrialist, Once Inherited A Large Part Of Kinderhook, NY.

It’s What He Did With His Inheritance That Would Be Inconceivable Today

What kind of a man would inherit most of a town and not be willing to take possession of it?

The answer is Peter Cooper (1791-1883), a businessman who conducted his life in a principled way.

Peter Cooper c. 1850 (Library of Congress)

The name Peter Cooper may not be as known today as it was in the 19th century, but his influence lives well into the 21st century. Three of Cooper’s grand-daughters founded the Cooper Hewitt Museum and Peter Cooper Village is a large apartment complex on the east side of Manhattan.

But who was Peter Cooper?

Cooper was a tinkerer who lacked a formal education, but became a great inventor and entrepreneur who owned many patents. Cooper designed and built the first steam locomotive train in the United States. He developed new revolutionary methods of producing glue and one of his companies, Cooper Hewitt manufactured the wire used in laying the Transatlantic Cable.

Cooper was a strong advocate of Native American rights, the abolition of slavery and used his vast fortune in philanthropic causes. Cooper was one of the founders of an orphanage, The New York Juvenile Asylum, which is one of the oldest non-profits in the United States. But Peter Cooper’s greatest legacy was as founder of Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a free college for both men and women that still exists today. (Cooper Union began charging tuition in 2014, but will soon return to being tuition free.)

Cooper’s grandson, scientist and naturalist Edward R. Hewitt, (1866-1957) wrote a book Those Were The Days (Duell, Sloan & Pearce) 1943, in which he tells highly entertaining stories about old New York City. Continue reading

New York’s Little Italy Described In 1898

“Not a word of English is heard — only a rough, gutteral Italian”

Busy Mulberry Street photo Detroit Publishing CoWhen we ran our story about Chinatown last week we knew it was inevitable we would cover the section on Little Italy as well. It has the same anti-immigrant undertones as the section on Chinatown.

It is probably best not to read the unpalatable descriptions and have modern judgments on 19th century attitudes. What would seem outright racist or prejudicial today was merely the predominant “native” view of anyone who was not a WASP or other accepted creed.

Once again, the guidebook we quote from is Rand, McNally Handy Guide to New York City, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and other suburbs included in the Greater New York edited by Ernest Ingersoll (1898). This section is from the same one as Chinatown and is called “A Ramble At Night”, where the visitor to New York is directed to tour the areas of New York that are off the beaten path after 9 p.m. The purpose of the night ramble is to “give some hints as how the dark, crowded, hard-working, and sometimes criminal portions of the city look at night.” Reproduced below is the section on the Little Italy. Continue reading

New York’s Chinatown Described In 1898

Joss Houses, Chinese Restaurants and Opium Smoking

Chinatown 1896 looking at 22 Mott Street

Bing Chung Importers (near left) in the heart of Chinatown at 22 Mott Street in 1896

The great thing about reading old guidebooks to New York City is that you can see the world through contemporary eyes. This usually means all foreigners were viewed as curiosities with their exotic customs and provincial ways.

In 1897 the Chinese population in New York City was only 7,000 – almost all living in Chinatown centered around Mott Street. In 2015, New York City’s Chinese population is now over 500,000 people spread throughout the five boroughs.

The guidebook we quote from is Rand, McNally Handy Guide to New York City, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and other suburbs included in the Greater New York edited by Ernest Ingersoll (1898). This portion is called “A Ramble At Night”, and the visitor to New York is directed to tour the areas of New York that are off the beaten path after 9 p.m. such as Little Italy and The Bowery. The purpose of the night ramble is to “give some hints as how the dark, crowded, hard-working, and sometimes criminal portions of the city look at night.” Reproduced below is the section on the Chinatown.  Continue reading

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