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.
Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street c. 1903 – Crowded Street On A Cold Sunny Day
This bustling scene was captured by a Detroit Publishing Company photographer around 1903. The view is from the southeast corner of 42nd Street looking north up Fifth Avenue.
It is obviously a cold and sunny day with most people wearing warm coats. Enlarging our photograph the first thing you may notice is that everyone is uniformly dressed. All the women have the same dress length, just past the ankle. Every man wears a suit or overcoat. Take a look around. There is not a single person hatless.
Let’s zoom in on some of the details.
On the northeast corner of 42nd Street an elderly man stops to take a look at the work going on inside an open manhole.
As usual, at all very busy intersections, a policeman is on duty to help direct the flow of traffic both vehicular and pedestrian.
This gentleman on the left with the gold watch fob and chain looks to be a prosperous fellow, possibly on his way back to his office after lunch.
Of course other people look spiffy without being wealthy. This sharp looking mustachioed hansom cab driver holding a whip is dressed immaculately. Continue reading →
Immigrants Inspected – Keeping America “Safe” 1921
Immigrants Examined By New York City Health Officials For Typhus Symptoms
To ward off a possible spread of the dread typhus in New York, Dr. Royal S. Copeland, Health Commissioner, has assigned a squad of inspectors to examine all immigrants released from Ellis Island on their arrival in New York City. The immigrants must pass two inspections before being permitted to land. The Federal health authorities examine them at Ellis Isalnd and Dr. Copeland’s squad assisted by New York police round them up at the Battery and take them to a nearby ferry house where another examination is made. Several carriers of the typhus lice according to reports have been discovered by the Copeland squad after the Ellis Island officials had permitted them to pass through.
The photo shows Dr. Copeland’s squad examining newly landed immigrants. photo: International News 2-14-21
Today there is much more than typhus to worry about when deciding who shall be admitted to the United States. “Extreme vetting” to thwart terrorists is one of the big debates. And of course there is that contentious issue of the estimated 11 million people that are in the United States illegally.
In all the arguments that have been brought up about amnesty for illegals, I have not seen anyone saying they are against legal immigrants and immigration. Continue reading →
75 Cattle Get Off A Boat In Manhattan, 3 Decide To Take A Tour Of The City Instead of Going To The Slaughterhouse
After A Chase Through Midtown Manhattan – Cops Catch An Elusive Steer In Times Square
It’s not a rodeo, but a policeman uses a lasso to catch a runaway steer in Times Square. photo: Acme 9/3/1935
It was little before 6 a.m. on Tuesday, September 3, 1935. Labor Day weekend had just ended. The city was stirring back to life to begin a normal work week. At an East River dock on 45th Street, a boat was unloading its cargo, 75 head of cattle, all headed to the nearby slaughterhouse.
72 cattle headed a half-block away to Wilson & Company. Three adventurous cattle decided to take a tour of the city rather than be turned into steaks and cutlets. Continue reading →
Ellen Emerson, So Beautiful, Lecherous Men Kept Accosting Her On The Streets Of New York In 1902
To Fight Them Off She Once Used A Gun, Another Time A Knife
But There’s A Twist At The End Of The Story
She could stop traffic, that is all male pedestrian traffic. Imagine being so attractive that every time you left your home you were the recipient of unwanted stares, comments and in the worst case, groping.
In 1902 at 60 West 98th Street lived Ellen Emerson, who when she went out in public, men would constantly ogle her.
The undesired attention from men was so bad that she brandished a gun at one of her pursuers and a knife another time to protect herself from being accosted.
Within a space of four weeks Joseph Pulitzer’s Evening World did two stories about Mrs. Ellen Emerson. The first story which ran on November 8, 1902 told about Mrs. Emerson’s dilemma; “attractive and blonde and long the victim of ‘mashers.'”
Ellen told an unnamed reporter, “My life has been made a perfect burden for me by these obnoxious men. I don’t know what there is about me. I am not a loud dresser, but I scarcely ever go on the street without being pursued.” Continue reading →
Around The Flatiron Building 1906 – Looking At The Details
We’ve profiled the fabulous photographs of the Detroit Publishing Company held by the Library of Congress before, but with over 40,000 photographs in the collection there are always interesting views to examine.
This scene looking south from 27th Street and Fifth Avenue shows moderate traffic at a typically busy time. (Click any photo to enlarge)
If we look at the clock on the extreme right, near the Fifth Avenue Hotel (not visible), we can see the time is 8:53 in the morning on a sunny day.
Two smartly dressed women with great hats are walking west along the edge of Madison Square Park. A policeman walks with his white-gloved hands clasped behind his back and his distinctive helmet perched upon his head. The NYPD liked their officers to be tall and actively recruited men who were six feet or taller.
The man in the white helmet is a sanitation worker, dressed in a suit! As you can see, even in 1906 people knew bicycles were an effective way to navigate Manhattan. With the city powered by over 100,000 horses, you didn’t have to concern yourself too much with a car hitting your bicycle, as horses outnumbered cars about 10 to 1.
In 1906 there were only 130,000 motorized vehicles in the entire United States, and about 10,000 in New York City.
It only took another twelve years before cars outnumbered horses in New York City. Continue reading →
This 1908 news photo by Bain News Service shows a Cincinnati suffragette dressed as a policeman. The accompanying captions is “How woman policeman would look making an arrest.” Another photo of the same woman is captioned “the woman cop ‘A Dream.'”
Women becoming police officers in the early 20th century was considered a joke. Well maybe that was the case 100 years ago, but not today. There are now over 6,000 uniformed women police officers in the NYPD and they comprise almost 20% of the police force.
In the early history of the NYPD, women had worked as jail matrons and secretary’s. It was in 1918 that Ellen O’Grady was named a Deputy Police Commissioner and Mary E. Hamilton was appointed a policewoman along with 5 other women.
Some of the original policewomen were assigned to battle the white slave trade (forced prostitution) while other recruits were to work on juvenile delinquency cases.
The policewomen were issued badges, summons books, revolvers and handcuffs. They had the same authority as their male counterparts and surprisingly, received the same $1,200 salary as policemen.
As more women joined the force in the following two years, most of the policewomen were assigned to the city beaches to protect women. Others were given assignments in the Vice Squad, the Missing Persons Bureau and some were to investigate fortune-tellers and midwives. Continue reading →
The Crimes That Got You Arrested in New York City In 1905
New York City police bringing suspects into the station. (circa 1900)
The police make more arrests now In New York City than they did In 1905. Of course the population has doubled from what it was in 1905. But it’s the type of arrests that were made 111 years ago that are quite different from today.
Among the 4,014,304 people living in New York City in 1905 with almost 2 million foreign born and many of them poor, you would think there would be a lot of crime. And there was, but most of it was not violent. In 1905, there were 198,356 arrests for the year, with about 90 percent of them being misdemeanors.
So what crimes were New Yorkers charged with? The following information was taken from the Report of the Police Department of the City of New York for the Year Ending December 31, 1905. Below are 1905’s top 13 offenses with the number of people arrested by the NYPD and the offense they committed:
52,316 Intoxication / Intoxication and Disorderly conduct
39,972 Disorderly conduct
17,584 Violation of Corporation Ordinances
11,731 Assault and Battery
8,592 Disorderly Person
7,991 Suspicious Person
6,880 Petit Larceny
5,031 Grand Larceny
3,939 Violation of Liquor Tax Law
3,795 Violation of Health Law
2,810 Felonious Assault
In the breakdown of the hundreds of offenses that people were arrested for, here are some facts that might surprise you.
New York City police turned a blind eye to the oldest profession as only 13 people were arrested for prostitution. 10 for possessing or selling obscene pictures. 49 for arson. 16 for murder and 711 for homicide- (I never realized there was a technical difference between murder and homicide)!
Six were arrested for cruelty to children, yet 535 were arrested for cruelty to animals. Continue reading →
New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s 1942 solution for homelessness: Get to work or we’ll arrest you!
Rounding ’em up
New York City – “The Bowery Bum must go!” decreed New York’s Mayor La Guardia in his latest drive for municipal purity, and police squads promptly invaded the habitats of New York’s human derelicts and piled their collection into patrol wagons. Photo shows a group of the hapless men climbing into the “pie wagon”. The mayor predicted that 30 days in the workhouse would cure them of their gutter-sleeping habits. (photo credit Acme) 11/18/1942
In 1942 some of New York City’s homeless population were comprised of families, but it also had a great deal of what were termed derelicts, vagrants and bums. These were the denizens of New York’s infamous street of despair, the Bowery.
That November, under the orders of Chief Magistrate Henry H. Curran and with the blessing of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the order to clear the Bowery bums off the streets or be arrested was given. It may sound harsh, but then it was how the city felt they could best deal with the undesired population inhabiting the streets of the Bowery. Mayor La Guardia claimed he had received complaints from several mission societies and churches along the Bowery about the actions of the homeless on the street. Continue reading →
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
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.”