New Year’s Celebration 1907 – New York Police Commissioner Bans Horn Blowing
A photographer from the Montauk Photo Concern decided to photograph the scene inside the Cafe Martin, at 26th Street and Fifth Avenue on New Year’s Eve December 31, 1906.
As midnight approached the revelers at Cafe Martin noisily whooped it up, raised their glasses and toasted the coming New Year of 1907. This photograph captures a singular moment: right before the stroke of midnight the lights were put out and at exactly twelve, were put on again. The guests then sang along as the band broke into the Star Spangled Banner. Afterwards guests blew horns and confetti was strewn everywhere. Young men filled with the idea of making a speech got up on chairs and spoke to the heart’s content without anyone to stop them.
The guests, all elegantly attired, look like they are having an extraordinary time.
Outside the restaurant it was supposed to be quieter. A city ordinance forbidding horn blowing in the streets had been on the books for years. Earlier in the day Police Commissioner Theodore Bingham informed the newspapers that the bells of Trinity and Grace Church would be heard when they tolled the midnight hour.
Bingham instructed the police to enforce the noise law. All horn blowing was prohibited on New Year’s Eve!
In addition, Commissioner Bingham ordered that confetti was banned as well.
The sheer number of people celebrating New Year’s Eve made these orders unenforceable. The New York Evening World noted that, the only person likely to hear Trinity’s Bells at midnight was the bell ringer himself.
Some hotels and eateries across the city holding New Year’s Eve celebrations said they would have security at the door to prevent people smuggling in horns and other noise making apparatus.
Back at the Cafe Martin, the attitude was quite different. The owner, Jean Martin, said that trying to stop people from blowing horns on New Year’s Eve was like trying to stop the flow of Niagara Falls. The caliber of the guests, including the great opera tenor, Enrico Caruso, also precluded searching them for illegal instruments of merriment,
The reason our photographer might have come to the Cafe Martin on New Year’s Eve is the same reason paparazzi show up today; a good party with many A-list celebrity patrons.
Today many of their names and faces that were at Cafe Martin that night are forgotten. But if you are good with early 20th century famous famous people you may recognize among the throng; financier John Jacob Astor; stage star Anna Held; millionaire Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt; showman Florenz A. Ziegfeld; opera star Lina Cavalieri; sportsman Foxhall Keene; Broadway producer Charles Dillingham; stage stars John Drew; Lillian Russell; Blanche Ring; Louise Dresser; Franchon Thompson; and Joe Weber of Weber and Fields.
Some close up views of the guests:
Outside the Cafe Martin, festivities across the city were not muted by the law or steady cold drizzle that fell all day and evening.
Due to the weather there were slightly fewer people celebrating outside than in past years. At midnight around Trinity Church even with thousands of people creating a hoopla with their illegal horns and noisemakers, the bells of Trinity could be heard for the first time in years.