New York City Celebrates New Year’s Eve – 1908

New Year’s Eve In New York City 1908

New York City New Years Eve Times Square 1907 Leslies Magazine Dec 26 drawn by Sigurd SchauThis December 26, 1907 cover of Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly magazine shows what the scene would be like on New Year’s Eve 1908.

How “the merry crowds in New York welcome the new year” has not changed all that much in 114 years.

Behind the horn blowing revelers stands the Metropolitan Opera House at Broadway and 39th Street. Three blocks further north is the New York Times Tower Building, its spotlights beaming down on the throng below.

Ringing In 1908

So what was it like? December 31 was a clear day and the temperature hovered in the mid-thirties throughout the day. James Martin proprietor of the famous Cafe Martin, Fifth Avenue and 26th Street, announced a huge stride for women’s rights in New York City: women would be allowed to smoke cigarettes in the dining room.

Martin said, “All ladies who come to the Cafe Martin may smoke if they so desire. After this one night I may or may not withdraw this privilege. Smoking by ladies is never objectionable. The smartest women in New York smoke, so why should puritanical proprietors rule against this mode of procedure any more than against the drinking of cocktails or highballs?”

At Cafe Martin on New Year’s Eve in NYC – Famous celebrities then, mostly forgotten now, (top l-r) Heinrich Conried, Oscar Hammerstein, Lina Cavalieri, Antonio Scotti, Peter Cooper Hewitt, George Kessler, Frank Farrell, (bottom (l-r) Richard Barthelemy, Anna Held, Weber & Fields and Topsy Siegrist – New York Evening World

Tables at all the fine restaurants commanded “exorbitant prices” according to the New York Tribune. In Times Square, both Shanley’s and Rector’s restaurants were busy serving 1,200 diners apiece. Across the street, 2,500 partied at The Hotel Astor. Popular late night places likeĀ  Jack’s, Churchill’s and College Inn went wild well after ushering in the New Year.

Welcome 1908 Maurice Ketten NY Evening World

Police Commissioner Theodore Bingham’s main concern with crowd control was pickpockets. 300 detectives were dispatched to protect the public. The police did not want anyone throwing confetti but were powerless to stop it. Broadway was bursting with people from 23rd to 42nd Street. The biggest crowds assembled in the Tenderloin district (the west 20’s and 30s); lower Broadway near Trinity Church and along Harlem’s 125th Street and especially at St. Andrew’s Church Fifth Avenue and 127th Street.

Noisemakers, horns, rattlers and whistles created a din, but it was a fun night for all.

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