Tag Archives: Park Row

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

Old New York In Photos #80 – The Main New York Post Office Broadway c. 1887

Main Branch Of New York Post Office Broadway, between Beekman and Ann Streets c. 1887

We return to one of the most striking and photographed structures of 19th century New York. The main branch of the New York Post Office which loomed over the southern end of City Hall Park for nearly 65 years.

We are looking north from Ann Street up towards Broadway (left) and Park Row (right).

The scene is typical of an average day in 1880s New York. We can see several trolleys at rest either having completed their runs or about to start them. Several delivery carts are scattered about nearby. A police officer stands in the middle of Broadway keeping an eye on things. A horse drawn hansom coach and driver are prominent in the foreground. Businessmen make their way about the city, many walking on the Belgian block street rather than the sidewalks. Telegraph poles and wires criss-cross Park Row and Broadway.

The hub of all this activity is the main branch of the New York Post Office, designed by Alfred B. Mullett and opened to the public on Sunday, August 29, 1875. Between 8 a.m and 8 p.m. it was estimated that between 20 – 30,000 people wandered into the new building. They passed slowly through its corridors gawking at the shiny new post office lock boxes, looking into delivery windows and buttonholing anybody who looked like an employee to ask questions.

Architecturally inspired by the French Renaissance style, the building proved to be wildly unpopular from the get go. Among the chief complaints about the Post Office was that it was ugly.

More importantly it was located in the wrong place. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #62

Lower Manhattan As Seen From The Brooklyn Bridge Tower – c. 1905

View Manhattan From Brooklyn Bridge tower circa 1905 locThis unusual view was taken from the top of the New York tower of the Brooklyn Bridge around 1905. Lower Manhattan is in transition from low rise buildings to the ever increasing number of skyscrapers dotting the landscape.

We see smoke rising from many chimneys. Elevated trains make their way across the Brooklyn Bridge while many pedestrians use the bridge’s center walkway.

Near the waterfront atop a building, the Uneeda Biscuit Company billboard is conspicuously advertising one of the most popular turn-of-the-century brands right next to the heavily trafficked bridge.

Postcard Brooklyn Bridge transportation terminal hub on Park Row c. 1905

Postcard Brooklyn Bridge transportation terminal shed on Park Row c. 1905

At the end of the bridge on Park Row, the four and a half story shed structure is the transportation center also called 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

Old New York In Photos #28

New York City In Old Color Photographs At The Turn Of The Century

Mulberry Street Detroit Publishing Company

Mulberry Street in color New York City 1900

Life was colorful in turn of the century New York City. But because almost all the photographs we see from that era are in black and white, it is hard to imagine what the city looked like in its full color glory.

The Library of Congress holds the incredible collection of The Detroit Publishing Company who manufactured postcards and chronicled the world with their photographs from 1880-1920.

One of the processes used to achieve color was called the photochrom. Photochrom’s are color photo lithographs created from a black and white photographic negative. Color impressions are achieved through the application of multiple lithograph stones, one per color. In 1897, the Detroit Publishing Company brought the process over from Switzerland where it was first developed.

The images presented here were eventually used for postcards. Here is a look at New York circa 1900 in high resolution color photographs. Click on any image to vastly enlarge.

South Street Brooklyn Bridge 1900 Detroit Publishing

South Street and Brooklyn Bridge 1900

Looking north along South Street with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. This was still the age when shipping and boats crowded the harbor.

City Hall 1900 Detroit Publishing

City Hall New York City 1900

City Hall looking northwest with a sliver of City Hall Park on the bottom extreme left. Continue reading