Tag Archives: New York World

A Hard Life – Photos Of Turn-of-the Century Newsboys In New York City

Photographer Lewis Hine Captured Child Labor In Action

10 Of His Newsboy Photographs In New York City 1908-1910

Newsboys with heavy loads. Park Row, New York City, July 1910 photo: Lewis Hine

In turn-of-the-century New York, child labor, with some kids working seven days a week, was not uncommon.

Working as an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), Lewis Hine (1874-1940) documented working and living conditions of children in the United States between 1908 and 1924. Over 5100 prints and 355 glass negatives were donated to the Library of Congress in 1954 by  Mrs. Gertrude Folks Zimand, acting for the NCLC in her capacity as chief executive.

Hine didn’t just focus on newsboys and New York City , but turned his camera to all trades in which children were engaged and traveled all over the United States photographing the grueling work done by boys and girls, sometimes as young as five-years-old.

Hine captured the children candidly or in simple poses, without staging. His portraits can evoke strong emotions.

In New York City you needed a news badge to sell newspapers. Laws were set up to prevent very young children from engaging in work. The laws were usually ignored by the children, their families and/or the authorities.

When looking at these photographs there are several things to notice. The first is the expression on the boys’ face. The next is the clothing. Their shoes always stand out, usually the condition varies from fair to horrendous. Considering how much walking a newsboy would do in what could end up being a 12 hour plus day, it is natural that shoes would break down.

Waiting for Fight Extras. Times Square. July 4, 1910 6 P.M. Location: New York, New York

The rest of the attire that newsboys wear is also interesting. The shirts, pants and jackets are stereotypically shabby, but rarely are the boys wearing rags. These kids were battling for sales and tried  to make themselves as saleable as the newspapers they sold. Finally pay attention when possible to the background, which is of course, New York City. The buildings, stores, streets, vehicles, sidewalks and people – always intriguing.

For the newsboys, one of the common tricks was to go into a bar with only a few papers and tell the customers these were the last papers you had for the day and after they were sold you would then be able to go home. The sympathetic bar patrons would usually buy the remaining copies and then the boy would go outside grab some more newspapers he had stashed and proceed to the next bar and repeat the scene.

Newspapers were generally two cents per copy. On a  good day a “newsie” might make between 25 and 50 cents. Continue reading

Panoramic 360 Degree View of New York In 1892

360° Panoramic View of New York City From The New York World Building in 1892

Stitching together 10 separate photographs from King’s Handbook of New York City (1892) as best I could, this image gives us a 360 degree view of New York City.

Taken from atop Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World Building, you can get a sense of what the entire city looked like before the turn-of-the-century, when the skyscraper emerged and would forever alter the skyline. A golden dome topped Pulitzer’s Building with an observation gallery that gave the visitor the following view.

(click to get the full size view)

Probably the three most prominent points in the panorama are from left to right, the Post Office, City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge.

City Hall & New York World Building c. 1908

At 309 feet, the World Building designed by George B. Post was the tallest office building in the world when completed in 1890.

Think about that for a minute. Just 26 floors. From the building’s foundation to the top of its flagstaff it measured 375½ feet. At the time that height was an outstanding architectural achievement.

The second floor of the beehive, as the interior of the dome of the World Building was known to its employees, also contained Joseph Pulitzer’s office.  Here is how the New York World described the top of its own building just after its completion: Continue reading

The Greatest Horse Of All-Time Did Not Win The Kentucky Derby

Man o’ War Winner of 20 of His 21 Races

Man o' War at age 22 in 1939 at Faraway Farm near Lexington, KY. photo: AP

Man o’ War at age 22 in 1939 at Faraway Farm near Lexington, KY. photo: Associated Press

Churchill Downs is packed awaiting the 75th running of the Kentucky Derby. Here the fans watch the running of the 2nd race, in a prelude to the big race. May 7, 1949 photo: Associated Press

Churchill Downs is packed awaiting the 75th running of the Kentucky Derby. Here the fans watch the running of the 2nd race, in a prelude to the big race. May 7, 1949 photo: Associated Press

The Kentucky Derby, which will be run this weekend is the first leg of the triple crown of American horse racing. When a horse wins the Kentucky Derby, the inevitable talk begins: can the winning horse go on to take the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes? To win all three races is considered the measure of a great horse.

But Man o’ War (1917 – 1947) possibly the greatest horse of all-time never won the 1920 Kentucky Derby because Continue reading

Five Old and Weird News Stories

It’s In The Newspaper So I Guess It’s True

NY Tribune BannerheadHere are five brief, old and weird news stories that appeared in the New York newspapers over a hundred years ago. In many cases I wish there was a follow-up on the story. In most cases there was not. Truth is almost always stranger than fiction.

Kiss May Cause Her Death

Pittsburg, June 27 – In her anxiety to kiss her husband farewell at the Charleroi station, Mrs. Marie Antonio, of California, neglected to take the car window into account to-day and thrust her head through the glass. She is not expected to survive her injuries. –  New York Tribune – June 28, 1909 page 3

David’s Whistle Never Dry
Boy Only Stops When He Sleeps, And Then He Sings, So Now He is In the Insane Pavilion.

David Dunn’s whistle has landed him in the Pavilion for the Insane at Bellevue at last. Now the neighbors at 550 West Forty-forth Street, where the boy lives, and 610 Ninth Avenue, two blocks to the eastward where his sister lives, sleep once more in peace.

David is fourteen years old and small for his age. According to William C. McGirr, the sister’s husband, his whistle has been going almost without a break, day and night for a week. Arguments and persuasion were met only with selections from popular airs, and while David whistled he looked viciously at McGirr;s four little children. On Wednesday night McGirr took him to the West Forty-seventh Street Police Station, where they locked him up , but only for a little while, for he still whistled. The police sent him then to the rooms of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, where he whistled all night. Yesterday morning they took him to the Children’s Court and he whistled as he stood in line with the rest of the juvenile prisoners. Justice Wyatt upset the order of the cases to send him away just as quickly as McGirr could tell his story.

At the hospital he answered the routine queries with short shrill blats between his puckered lips. He whistled through his bath and once broke form the attendants and ran around the room, still whistling. The folks there wonder how they are going to stand during the week that they will have to keep him for observation. Sometimes his puckered lips relax while he is sleeping, Mr. McGirr said, but during these intervals he generally sings. – New York Times – January 23, 1903 Continue reading

Why Few Of Us Are “Normal” Human Beings (And That’s A Good Thing!)

According To Writer Donald Henderson Clarke, Normal Human Beings Are A Rare Breed

Man of the world bookDonald Henderson Clarke (1887-1958) enjoyed telling a good story. Clarke was able to accomplish that as a successful reporter for many New York newspapers including The New York World, New York Times, and the New York American. After his newspaper stint from 1907 through the 1920s, Clarke began writing books and screenplays which made him a tidy sum.

Born to a wealthy New England family, Clarke lived the life of a bon vivant, but always held a fascination for the underbelly of life. Besides writing about the famous and newsworthy, Clarke spent quite a bit of time with bootleggers, gangsters and prostitutes. Out of nowhere in his autobiography, Man of the World: Recollections of an Irreverent Reporter, 1951, Vanguard Press, Clarke makes an astute observation about the human condition.

64 years after this was written, this timeless description of normalcy and humanity still strikes a strong chord. Clarke’s quirky style comprises the longest run-on sentence I’ve read by a journalist, but I’ll forgive him the run-on, because he is right on the mark.

Good, normal human beings are a rarity, and we all should be thankful for that. They are dull, monotonously successful, exasperatingly even-keeled, always in good health. Of course, they should not be called normal.

Most human beings suffer from anxieties, worries, fears, suppressed desires, regrets for past sins, secret yearnings for future sins, aches, pains, toothaches, flat feet, ingrowing toe nails, body odors, hair in the wrong places, too little hair in the right places; they are too short or too tall or too plump or too lean; they wish they were married, wish they were unmarried, wish they could have a successful careers, are bored silly with successful careers, wish they had children, wish their children would hurry up and get married, wish their children would never marry, are afraid of hell, are afraid of the dark, are afraid of poverty, wish their noses were different, wish they were in society, are bored with society, wish they could know actors and actresses, wish they could get away from actors and actresses, shoot and poison their husbands, shoot and cut the throats of their wives, make love to the cook, make love to the chauffeur, talk virtue and think of vice, howl because Rossellini and Bergman have a baby without benefit of clergy – and wish they could be Bergmans or Rossellinis.

The average human being is full of imperfections which make him-her interesting. When the imperfections lead to explosions small or large, it makes the kind of news I like – the sort of news that reveals the human being for what he is – mortal and finite but clinging desperately to the idea that he is immortal and infinite; possessing nothing, no matter if he has millions of dollars, but soothing his fears with the false idea that he has possessions.

He is suddenly gone. Nothing is more ridiculous than the carcass left behind, unless it be the strangely patterned bits of cloth and leather with which he or she concealed that carcass from view. The discarded garments of one suddenly dead look tiny and silly.

Where did the spirit flit? Even several Christians will not give you the same answer. It depends on the particular belief of the particular Christian. Mohammedans will tell you Paradise, where warriors will have a bevy of houris to amuse them. Other religions, whose followers outnumber Christians, will give you other answers.

No human being ever went wherever it is and came back to tell about it in plain, everyday language. That would be one big, important, serious newspaper story I would like to cover.

Continue reading

The First Execution By Electric Chair

125 Years Ago Today William Kemmler Became The First Prisoner To Be Put To Death By Electrocution

The original and first electric chair that was used to execute a prisoner on August 6, 1890 in Auburn, NY

The original and first electric chair that was used to execute a prisoner on August 6, 1890 in Auburn, NY

While the debate continues today over what exactly comprises cruel and unusual punishment or whether the death penalty should ever be invoked, 125 years ago today on August 6, 1890 William Kemmler became the first person put to death by the electric chair. The electric chair was proposed to be a more “humane” way to execute criminals.

On June 4, 1888 New York’s Governor David B. Hill signed a law passed by the legislature that the punishment for murder after January 1, 1889 should be “death by means of an electrical current that should be caused to pass through the body of the condemned.” Electrical experts then came up with the plan to apply the current and strap a man in a chair while he sat.

The New York Evening World wrote of the convict Kemmler on the day of his execution, “If vengeance were what the law seeks by capital punishment for murder it would get little satisfaction out of the event today, for the poor wretch whose life has been taken within the walls of Auburn Prison has for weeks awaited the coming of black-visored Death with a child-like expectancy, almost impatience.”

One of eleven children, William Kemmler was born into poverty in 1860 in Philadelphia, PA. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #12 – 20 Historic Buildings That Were Demolished

20 Historic, Beautiful New York Buildings That Were Demolished

City Hall Newspaper Row Buildings (l-r) World Building (aka Pulitzer Building), Sun Building, Tribune Building - all demolished. New York Times and Potter Buildings are still extant

City Hall Newspaper Row Buildings (l-r) World Building (aka Pulitzer Building), Sun Building, Tribune Building – all demolished. New York Times and Potter Buildings are still extant

New York City real estate developers will always knock down a building if a buck can be made. So it really should come as no surprise that these buildings were demolished because they outlived their usefulness or more often than not, the land they sat upon was deemed more valuable than the building itself.

Nathan Silver’s must-own book, Lost New York (1967) Houghton Mifflin, was the first book to explicitly point out what New York City had lost architecturally over the years. If you have never read it, you should.

For our short postcard essay, there are hundreds of examples we could have chosen from and we picked 20. We omitted places of worship, theatres and restaurants which are the most transitory of buildings.

We’ve covered hotels before, and we could do another story on all the historic hotels that have been torn down, but we’ve included a few in this retrospective.

Rather than comment extensively on the buildings, a brief summary will suffice and the images should convey what we have lost. These postcards have been scanned at 1200 dpi in high resolution, click on any postcard to enlarge.

Singer Building hresSinger Building – 149 Broadway (corner Liberty Street),  A gem by architect Ernest Flagg, built 1908. Once the tallest building in the world. The Singer Building was elegant and sleek. Demolished 1967-68 and replaced by a ugly box of a building built by the Unites States Steel Corporation.

Produce Exchange hresProduce Exchange – 2 Broadway between Beaver and Stone Streets. Architect George B. Post’s splendid work of grace was built in 1883, demolished 1957.

Gillender Building 2 hresGillender Building – northwest corner Wall Street and Nassau Street. Architects, Charles I. Berg and Edward H. Clark, built in 1897 at a cost of $500,000. The Gillender Building was the tallest office building in the world for a brief time. The 20-story tower lasted only 13 years. In 1910 it was the first modern fireproof building to be demolished and it was done at breakneck speed, in under 45 days. The Gillender Building was replaced by the Bankers Trust Tower. Continue reading

A Forgotten 1915 Brooklyn Tragedy: Four Boys Die In An Accident, Shattering Two Families Forever

Two Pairs of Brothers, Together In Life And Death

100th Anniversary Of The Forgotten Brooklyn Explosion That Killed Two Sets Of Young Brothers

While wandering the bucolic grounds of the Evergreens Cemetery on the Brooklyn – Queens border you come across many interesting monuments. There are Triangle shirtwaist fire victims, General Slocum memorials and many historic notables. And then there are the monuments like this one that are inexplicable on first inspection.

Zimmer inscription monument

Zimmer inscription monument

Higgins inscription monument

Higgins inscription monument

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two sets of brothers each between 7 and 11-years-old all dying on March 13, 1915 and are buried together. This unique memorial has an angel, with a few fingers and toes missing, head bowed in sorrow, standing between the two columns that are connected at the top by a triangular stone with the Gospel of Luke quotation inscribed across it, “Suffer Little Children To Come Unto Me”.

Oil Explosion kills boys March 13 1915 memorial at Evergreens cemeteryMy first thought was that the boys were probably cousins or related in some other way and died in a house fire.

But checking the news accounts from the following days reveals a senseless tragedy of two unrelated families children just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Zimmer boys, Henry age 11 and Herbert age 7, of 186 Warwick Street and the Higgins boys, Alex age 11 and Arthur age 8 of 174 Warwick Street were close friends and neighbors growing up a few doors from each other. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #44

Western Union Telegraph Building 1880

Broadway looking south Western Union Building 1880This view looking south on Broadway was taken from the Old Post Office in 1880 and shows a deserted stretch of the usually traffic clogged thoroughfare.

The building partially seen on the right side is the Astor House Hotel. Adjacent to the Astor with the columns is St. Paul’s Chapel. The tall structure further down Broadway is Trinity Church with its spire rising 281 feet. This was the highest point in New York until the World Building was built in 1890.

The main building dominating the photo at the corner of Broadway and Dey Street is the Western Union Telegraph Building designed by architect George B. Post. At 230 feet, it was one of the tallest commercial buildings in the city when it was built from 1872-1875. To put this tremendous height in perspective, this was four times the height of the average New York building. On top of the building’s flagstaff a time ball was perched which would drop precisely at noon, so everyone in the surrounding financial area could set their watch to the correct time.

The telegraph was still the predominant way to get a message to someone quickly. To send a telegram with the body message being ten words or less from New York to Baltimore or Boston cost 25¢; to Chicago 40¢ and to San Francisco $1.00.

Western Union Building Fire - New York Evening World

Western Union Building Fire – New York Evening World

A Fire Destroys The Building

As the night shift of telegraph operators and workers was letting out at 6:55 a.m. on Friday, July 18, 1890 the Western Union Building caught fire.

The fire broke out on the 6th floor and quickly spread to the upper floors. Firefighters arrived within six minutes of the first alarm being turned in.

The fire was far above the roof lines of the adjacent buildings and the water pressure from street level could not possibly come close to the fire. The firemen strung several hoses together and carried them up  into nearby buildings on to the roofs to fight the flames.

20,000 people watched from the surrounding streets as the firemen placed ladders from the adjacent building at 8 Dey Street to rescue people trapped in the Western Union Building and pour water on to the upper floors. Continue reading

The Ninth Avenue Elevated Train Crash Of 1905

 In 1905, The Worst Elevated Train Accident In New York’s History Occurred

9th ave elevated railway accident 9 11 1905 postcard photo R Weigel

For as long as you live September 11 will be remembered as the date of  the terrorist attacks on America that brought down the World Trade Center towers. But before 2001,  9/11 marked the anniversary of the worst elevated train disaster in New York’s history. It is a disaster no one wanted to remember and was quickly forgotten except by train and New York history buffs.

The four elevated lines in Manhattan which had a glorious history are long gone, demolished between 1938 and 1955. The elevated lines began service in 1878 and until the subway was built, they provided the quickest and safest routes around New York.

9th Ave 53rd Street junction photo via -  http://warofyesterday.blogspot.com

9th Ave 53rd Street elevated junction
photo via – http://warofyesterday.blogspot.com

But there were always fears among riders that one day an elevated train would jump the tracks.

Those fears came true on September 11, 1905.

Not surprisingly it happened at one of the more dangerous stretches of track along the elevated system.

The Sixth and Ninth Avenue Elevated lines shared their tracks above 53rd Street along Ninth Avenue. At 53rd Street the lines diverged, with the Sixth Avenue el traveling three avenues east along 53rd Street to continue its journey along Sixth Avenue.

At that Ninth Avenue junction, the towerman (also called switchman) was responsible for controlling whether trains traveling downtown would continue straight on the Ninth Avenue line or go along 53rd Street to the Sixth Avenue line.

The passengers aboard a five car “el” train that September 11 morning believed their train was going to continue straight down Ninth Avenue, as that was what the station guards at the previous station at 59th Street had told them.

If the train was proceeding down Sixth Avenue it was supposed to come to a full stop at 54th street and await a signal. The recommended maximum speed if a train was to continue down Ninth Avenue was nine miles per hour.

Diagram of Ninth Avenue El crash

Diagram of Ninth Avenue El crash (click to enlarge)

It was 7:05 in the morning as Paul Kelly, the motorman of the el train approached the intersection at 53rd street without stopping.

Witnesses said Kelly slowed down a bit but the train’s estimated speed was 25 miles per hour. Continue reading