Tag Archives: Turn-of-the-Century

Old New York In Photos #77

Fourth Avenue & 23rd Street 1908 –  A Detailed Breakdown Of New Yorker’s Going About Their Business

A spectacular clear view of Fourth Avenue looking south towards 23rd Street from 1908 shows pedestrians going about their daily activities. Once again the source is the Detroit Publishing Co.

Above 14th Street up to 34th Street Fourth Avenue is now called Park Avenue South.

Before we examine our old picture, let’s take a modern look at approximately the same spot from Google maps.

Now forget our modern view and return to 1908.

When we zoom in on some of the details, there are some interesting things to take note of. You can click any photo to enlarge.

The People

Unless you were a construction worker, city worker or a young boy, almost every man wore a hat, jacket and usually a tie. Here almost all the men are wearing straw hats.

The man in the center holding a newspaper is smoking a cigarette. I’ve seen men smoking in old photos but usually not on the street. The subway kiosk on the northeast corner of 23rd street is an “exit only.”  There is a trash can right by the kiosk.

Looking at the southeast corner we can see another subway kiosk and lots of people crossing the street. The subway kiosks were removed many years ago and the subway entrances and exits relocated.

The shadows indicate that it is probably around noon. With the exception of a newspaper on the ground, there is hardly any litter on the streets or sidewalks. Civilized people disposed of their trash properly.

These two women with their ornate flowered hats are crossing the street, carefully. No matter how often the streets were cleaned there was horse manure and urine everywhere. By 1908 at least women’s skirts were no longer dragging on the ground. Over the years skirts had gradually risen to slightly above the ankles. The little boy in the background between the women looks like the poorest person in this prosperous district.

On the southeast corner a group of boys and young men have newspapers that they are getting ready to sell. The World; The Times; The Herald; The Evening Post; The Globe and Commercial Advertiser; The Tribune; The Morning Telegraph; The Sun; The Call; The Press; The American; The Evening Journal; in the highly competitive world of journalism there were over a dozen daily newspapers in English and many more in other languages. Continue reading

The New York Housewife Who Was Too Pretty To Walk In The Streets In 1902 – She Had To Use A Gun and A Knife To Protect Herself

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

New York City By Day… & Night – 1904

Four New York Locations Photographed At Night – 1904

You’ve probably noticed that most of the old photographs of turn-of-the-century New York City were taken during daylight hours.

At the time the difficulty with night photography was the long exposure times necessary for a camera to effectively capture an image.

There is an extremely rare book I own called The Lighting of New York City put out by General Electric in 1904. The purpose of this publication was to extol the virtues of General Electric lighting apparatus and to encourage homes and businesses in New York and elsewhere to use electric light.

Electric lighting had been around for a little over 20 years, but the book mentions a startling fact: “It is estimated that more than 35,000 arc lamps are in use on Manhattan Island.”

35,000, that’s means outdoors and indoors.

Gaslight was still the predominant means of lighting streets, factories, stores, homes and the waterfront.

The 74 page book contains a photograph on every page accompanied by a short description on the opposite page. Eight of the photographs are day and night views of the exact same location.

Words in Italics are from the book:

At the 59th Street entrance to Central Park, in what is known as Park Plaza, the Sherman Statue was recently unveiled. It is illuminated at night by eight low energy General Electric arc lamps installed on ornamental poles in such a manner that only the pear-shaped outer globe is visible. The installation has received very favorable comment.

Behind the statue on the right is Park and Tilford, grocers to New York’s smart set. To the left on the corner of 60th Street is the Metropolitan Club.

Night illumination of the Sherman Statue by eight three-ampere low energy General Electric lamps. The white building directly in the rear is the home of the Metropolitan Club, so well known to many New Yorkers as the “Millionaires'” Club. Continue reading

Covers of 100-Year-Old Souvenir New York View Books

New York City Souvenir View Book Covers From 1911 – 1919

New York of To-Day published by L.H. Nelson 1913

According to NYC & Company over 58 million people visited New York City in 2015. Many of them possibly bought a keepsake to bring back home; a t-shirt, mug or some other knick-knack.

Souvenirs have remained a constant in the world of tourism. Since about 1880, view books have been one of the souvenirs that appealed to visitors of New York City. With everyone now  having a camera to photograph where they were and sights they have seen, view books are pretty much on their way to becoming extinct.

During their heyday from the late 1800s until the 1940s view books were a popular and inexpensive souvenir choice. Most view books generally ranged in price from a quarter to a dollar. They generally contained anywhere from a dozen to 400 photographs of buildings, tourist sights and attractions. Many had plain covers, while others had covers to attract the eye.

Going through my collection, I selected a few view books that date between 1911-1919.

These examples are relatively common for collectors. When they were new I think would have caught the eye of a visitor, because they are still striking today.

Scenes of Modern New York published by L.H Nelson 1911.  A nice cover featuring The Williamsburg Bridge (completed 1902), The Fuller Building aka Flatiron (completed 1902) and The Subway (opened 1904).

New York Illustrated published by C. Souhami 1914. A colorful panorama of lower Manhattan taken from the Brooklyn tower. On the left is the tallest building in the world, The Woolworth Building (completed 1913). To the right is the 40 story Municipal Building (completed 1914). On the waterfront, South Street with its docks and shipping activity was still the hub of maritime New York. Continue reading

Sex Before Marriage? Early 20th Century Postcards That Are Risque

It’s Easy To Say, But Hard To Do – Turn-of-the-Century American Postcards That Hint At Having Sex

easy-to-say-1-3

french-postcard-semi-nude-handcolored

A French postcard

You may be familiar with the term French postcards, which were images showing nude or semi-nude women at the turn of the 20th century. Imported to America from Europe, these postcards excited an entire generation. However If you possessed or mailed such material you could be arrested for violating the Comstock Law, with its broad definitions for what was considered lewd, lascivious or obscene material. As mild as French postcards seem now, they were the pornography of the day.

In early 20th century America men could only hint at their intentions when it came to relations with women. To say Americans were puritanical and repressed when it came to sex would be an understatement.

Victorian manners and morals carried over from the 19th century persisted until after World War I.  Women were given the right to vote and soon the roaring 20’s ushered in a new spirit of sexual liberation.

It is hard to imagine that at the-turn-of-the-century most people could not talk about sex let alone consider having premarital relations. That being said, men have always been on the prowl, trying to hop in the sack with women.

In this series of postcards from around 1905, the woman is preserving her virtue and not giving in to having sex before marriage. But as we know men are persistent.

The series called “It’s Easy To Say, But Hard To Do,” is a double entendre reference to a man asking a woman to get married. It can also refer to asking for sex, but how and where can you do it? Looking at these postcards the viewer had to infer the meaning of who was saying what to whom in the captions, and what it all meant. I’m unsure how many variations of this card were produced in the series, but I have seen at least eight.

In the first postcard at the top of our story where the man has the woman sitting on his lap and he is practically groping her he is saying “How about it now kiddo?” The woman of course refuses.

easy-to-say-2-2“Ask, and you will get it,”  a not too subtle hint – ask me to marry you and then we can have sex. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #67 – Sightseeing In New York 1906

Sightseeing In New York – 1906

sightseeing-by-automobile-circa-1906If you’ve ever visited New York City you’ve probably seen the double deck buses that are all over Manhattan with a guide giving tourists facts over a loudspeaker.

This tradition of showing off the city from a motorized vehicle has been going on for over 110 years. Continue reading

Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 2

The Bronx In 1897 – Beautiful Streets and Homes Part 2

Lewis Morris homestead Morris Heights Bronx 1897

Lewis Morris homestead Morris Heights Bronx 1897

Poet Ogden Nash once quipped, “The Bronx? No thonx.”

By 1964, Nash had changed his mind and said “I can’t seem to escape the sins of my smart-alec youth. Here are my amends. I wrote those lines, ‘The Bronx? No thonx!’ I shudder to confess them. Now I’m an older, wiser man I cry, ‘The Bronx, God bless them!”

Many people deride the Bronx without actually setting foot in it. In the 19th century, no such derision existed. The Bronx’s reputation as a great place to live and work was justified.

Let’s continue our look at the Bronx in 1897 from the book The Great North Side.

The following words were written for the book by Albert E.  Davis, architect & and a North Side Board of Trade organizer:

“The conditions which caused over-crowding on Manhattan Island do not exist on the North Side. It contains about two-thirds of the combined area of both, is broader and less closely confiued by water, and has unlimited room to expand northward into Westchester County whenever the growth of the city demands it.”

Martin Walter residence 2082 Washington Avenue Bronx 1897

Martin Walter residence 2082 Washington Avenue Bronx 1897

“Hence, while the state of affairs below the Harlem was perhaps the natural outgrowth of the necessities of restricted area, it is absolutely unjustifiable and positively wrong to thus crowd the habitations of human beings where there is so much room to spread out, and the price of land is still low.”

Hugh Camp residence Fordham Bronx 1897

Hugh N. Camp residence Fordham Bronx 1897

“There are many attractive residence streets and avenues on the North Side, only a few of which can be here alluded to. Mott Avenue, a very pretty thoroughfare lined with fine old trees which arch over the roadway, starts in the business section of Mott Haven, just below the 138th street station, and extends northward along the westerly ridge known as Buena Ridge to 165th street. Mott Avenue will form the entrance to, and part of the Grand Concourse which is to be the finest boulevard in the country. Walton Avenue, on this ridge, is also a residence thoroughfare.”

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Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 1

The Bronx In 1897 – A Borough of Beautiful Homes

Hampden Street in Fordham Heights Bronx, NY 1898

Hampden Street in Fordham Heights Bronx, NY in 1898. This view is looking east from Sedgwick Avenue towards Loring Place along West 183rd Street, (formerly Hampden Street). Every house in this photo is now gone, replaced by apartment buildings. The sole remaining structure is the stone wall on the right.

Same view of West 183rd Street (formerly Hampden Street) in 2011

Same view of West 183rd Street (formerly Hampden Street) in 2011

For almost anyone who grew up in the Bronx before World War II, they will recount happy memories of neighborhoods brimming with life and full of possibilities. But no one alive today remembers the Bronx when it was mostly undeveloped in the late 19th and early 20th century. Open land and spacious elegant houses dominated the landscape.

The Bronx was a conglomeration of about 50 villages, most of them rural in nature. In the grainy photographs you are about to see, many of the settings look like they could be in Ridgefield, CT or Smalltown, USA – but not the Bronx.

Now, with all the modern apartment buildings, public housing projects and ugly highways that have sprouted up in the last 60 years, these views of the Bronx will come as a surprise to many.

The book where these photographs originally appeared is The Great North Side or Borough of the Bronx by editors of The Bronx Board of Trade. After looking at these photographs, one thing is for sure: the Bronx will never again look as it did in 1897.

Stately homes in the Bronx 1897

Stately homes in the Bronx 1897

Accompanying the photographs, also taken from The Great North Side are the words of Egbert Viele (1825-1902), the famous engineer, surveyor and mapmaker. Viele’s genuine adulation for the The Bronx is readily apparent.

William Niles residence Bedford Park Bronx, NY 1897

William Niles residence Bedford Park Bronx, NY 1897

“The North Side of New York, i.e., the territory above the Harlem River, bears a similar relation to the city at large that the Great West does to the country — a land of great promise of infinite possibilities, and the seat of future empire.”

Ernest Hall residence Boston Avenue Bronx 1897

Ernest Hall residence Boston Avenue Bronx 1897

“No city in the world has such a wealth of public parks and pleasure grounds as lie within its area; no city in the world has such natural and economical advantages for commerce, or on so grand a scale.”

Louis Eickwort residence Anthony-Avenue Mt. Hope Bronx 1897

Louis Eickwort residence Anthony-Avenue Mt. Hope Bronx 1897

“None has a more salubrious climate, or such a variety of surface, nor has any other city such abundant facilities of passenger transit and land traffic.”

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Nine Turn-of-the-Century Advertisements

Nine Advertisements From Collier’s Weekly -1901

And you thought Ralston-Purina just made pet food? Apparently not.

And you thought Ralston-Purina just made pet food? Apparently not.

It is always fascinating to look back on how products and services were advertised long ago.

These ads all appeared in various issues of Collier’s Weekly Magazine during the autumn and winter of 1901.

Colliers Ad Snoring Stopped InstantlySnor-O-Dont promises snoring will be stopped instantly and that failure is impossible and no medicine is involved. So what is the secret of Snor-O-Don’t? I don’t know. By the looks of the illustration the man is so sleep deprived that he may be reaching behind him to cover her face with a pillow. Suffocation, that’s a permanent snoring solution.

Colliers Ad Iver Johnson Revolver Features Child Iver Johnson, manufacturers of bicycles. guns and revolvers says that “accidental discharge is impossible” with their safety hammerless automatic revolver. What better way to demonstrate the safety of a handgun than to show a cherubic child poised to fire it?

Colliers Ad You Are A ChumpNothing like being direct…chump. Continue reading

Old Photos Of New York City & Snow

A Big Snowstorm In New York? Not a Big Deal In The Past

Some vintage photos of snow in New York City and thoughts about how we cope with it

1905 Fifth Avenue & 27th Street after a big storm

1905 Fifth Avenue & 27th Street after a big storm photo Detroit Publishing

New York City is getting some snow on January 23, 2016. Possibly a lot of it. You know what I say to that? It’s snow, it’s not a big deal.

On January 3, 2014 just days after taking office as mayor of New York, Bill De Blasio blundered in panicking and declaring a disaster before any snow had fallen. The big predicted blizzard that shut down the city including the schools: it ended up being five inches of snow.

1935 snowstorm effects on midtown Manhattan. Life goes on.

1935 snowstorm effects on midtown Manhattan. Life goes on.

The media in its 24 hour news cycle has to generate ratings and viewers. It broadcasts “news” that conveys sheer panic every time New York is slated to receive almost any amount of snow above three inches. Then the mayor or governor gets on TV surrounded by a bunch of sycophants who just stand there and in somber tones take turns assuring viewers that everything will be all right.

1908 horse drawn trolley trudges through New York's snow covered streets

1908 horse drawn trolley trudges through New York’s snow covered streets

This phenomenon of turning every single snowstorm into some crisis is ridiculous and what’s more: it never used to happen. Approaching snowstorms now start a vicious circle by both media and politicians of fear, seriousness and over-protection in the name of safety. We have become a society that seems to be having a hard time dealing with snow, let alone nature.

1908 Snow at night on Riverside Drive Viaduct photo NY Edison Co.

1908 Snow at night on Riverside Drive Viaduct photo NY Edison Co.

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