Tag Archives: Turn-of-the-Century

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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What Presidents Cleveland, McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft & Wilson Sounded Like

Rare Audio Recordings of the Presidents

Would you vote for any of these men based upon their photographs (or voices)?


Let’s not generalize and say modern Americans are shallow, but research confirms that public image and to a lesser extent how someone talks, does influence the electorate.

One classic, yet apocryphal example, is the first televised presidential debate in 1960, in which supposed surveys showed people listening on the radio thought Richard Nixon was the clear winner of the debate, whereas people watching on television thought John F. Kennedy was the victor.

Today we are bombarded by media 24/7. It has becomes a challenge to capture anyone’s attention. The current presidential debates have devolved into images and soundbytes that convey little when it comes to substantive ideas and solutions for making our country functional. The public and media analyze Donald Trump’s hair;  if Hillary Clinton has “had work done” or why Ted Cruz “talks weird.”

So now, imagine life 100 – 125  years ago. Most Americans never ventured more than a few miles from where they were born. There was no internet, television or radio. Images were viewed in newspapers and magazines. If you heard a politician speak, it was, in person addressing an attentive crowd.

The technological revolutions around the turn of the century were stunning to the masses. The development of motion pictures, x-rays, electric appliances (beginning with the toaster), airplanes and audio recordings astonished people.

Maybe you’ve seen grainy silent films of the men who served as presidents of the United States at the turn-of-the-century. They are silent, stoic and graven in image. What did they sound like? How did they talk?

Most people do not realize that these early president’s voices were recorded and preserved for posterity, usually by the Edison Company on wax cylinder disks. The following recordings are part of the Vincent Voice Library at Michigan State University. It is very interesting to hear what these men sounded like.

Based upon their photographs and voices, could any of these men be elected today?

Grover Cleveland photo locFirst we have President Grover Cleveland (the 22nd and 24th president 1885-1889 & 1893-1897) the only man ever to be elected twice in non-consecutive terms.

Cleveland was mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York before becoming president. In 1884 a book was published called Off-hand Portraits of Prominent New Yorkers by Stephen Fiske.  The coda to the profile on Cleveland accurately predicted “If he shall make the same sort of a Governor as he has a Mayor, the road to the White House is open to him, and this sketch may yet be entitled the portrait of President Cleveland.”

Grover Cleveland’s voice, recorded during a campaign speech in 1892 is a bit hard to hear with all the static, but is comprehensible.

The way most politicians in the 19th century wrote, is the way Cleveland speaks. Cleveland puts out his speech with melodrama and clear diction.

William Mckinley photo locNext, the 25th President William McKinley (1897-1901) who never left his front porch at his home in Ohio to campaign. McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist in 1901, which put Theodore Roosevelt into the executive office.

McKinley on this recording from 1896, talks about the Republican platform. Similar to Grover Cleveland, McKinley speaks the way you’d imagine a 19th century politician would talk. McKinley’s speech pattern  epitomizes the 20th century movie portrayal of 19th century diction, emphasizing certain words, and like Cleveland, drawing out his syllables.

Theodore Roosevelt photo locTheodore Roosevelt Continue reading

Old New York in Photos #11

Broadway Street Scene Looking North From Fulton or Ann Street,  1898

A scene of New York life, just before the turn of the century. Two things to note:

1) Everyone wears a hat.

2) This being the main business district of New York, there is only one woman clearly visible among all these people.

Something we take for granted today, but in 1898, almost all the secretarial help and the business office assistants were male.

The building in the middle of the background is the main branch of the New York Post Office. It was completed in 1875 and had been built on what was once part of City Hall Park. The Post Office was demolished in 1938.

Late 19th / Early 20th century Photograph of a UFO in California

What is in the sky in this photograph?

Is this one of the earliest UFO photographs?

Catalina Island Circa 1900

I saw this magic lantern slide photograph for sale on eBay about 5 years ago and thought it was interesting enough to copy on to my computer, but not to bid on.  It was identified as Santa Catalina Island at the turn-of-the-century and that was pretty much all there was to the description. The person selling it did mention there is a strange object in the photograph.

There certainly is.

First I do believe there are UFO’s. But let’s be clear – Unidentified Flying Objects. Not necessarily spacemen from other galaxies or strange visitors from other planets in flying saucers. I won’t eliminate the possibility, but I need better evidence.

There definitely is something in the right hand corner of the photo. For some strange reason I do not believe this photo is a hoax.  It appears to be in the air. But, is it flying? Is it a blemish to the photo itself? Is it a reflection? Somebody threw their hat in the air? A cloud? Sunspot? Optical illusion? Or is it some sort of saucer-like spacecraft? Click on the photo and then click again to get an enlarged closer view.

Larger Image of Catalina Island UFO

I checked the newspaper archives from the Los Angeles Times from 1890-1915 and can find no mention of this event on Catalina Island where the photograph was supposedly taken.  But maybe I am just not searching with the correct  keywords.  I have looked at various UFO web sites and I have never seen the photograph reproduced on any another web site. There are some photographs from the 1800’s that are mystery shots of flying objects, but I believe this may be the earliest clear photograph of an unidentified flying object.

Is this definitely Catalina Island? Are the people in the street looking at the object? Ignoring it? Aware of it? Why would the photographer be taking this picture of seemingly nothing extraordinary happening in the middle of a street?

It is intriguing. Lots of questions. No answers. I wish I had bought that slide. If anyone has more information please let us know.