Category Archives: New York

A 21st Century Woman In The 19th Century – Maverick In Mauve

Book Review: Maverick In Mauve The Diary Of a Romantic Age

Maverick In Mauve book coverLifelong New Yorker, Florence Adele Sloane kept a diary from 1893 – 1896. That in itself is not unusual. What is out of the ordinary is that the diary covers Florence’s life from the age of 19 through 23 and her observations on life and her surroundings are written with astute wisdom beyond her years. Continue reading

Idiot or Autistic? New York’s 19th Century “Idiot Asylum”

New York’s Idiot Asylum Was A School / Prison For Children Who Were Often Not “Idiots”

The New York Asylum for Idiots Report 1867 coverWithout discussing the question how far down in the scale of idiocy the work of education can practicably go, this much may be said: that some idiots are teachable to an extent which will fully compensate for the amount of labor involved in their instruction. These certainly should be cared for by the State.

It will be seen by the report of the Superintendent, that according to the last census, there were in the State, 303 idiots under 15 years of age. No one can examine these returns without being convinced that the actual number is at least double the number so returned. Were only a third of these fit subjects for management and training in a public institution, even then it is obvious that the present provision made by the State falls short of their needs.

– from the 1867 Sixteenth Annual report of the New York Asylum for Idiots: transmitted to the Legislature, January 17, 1867

Today it would be politically incorrect to label anyone with mental disabilities or deficiencies as an idiot. The word mentally retarded has also fallen out of common usage.

Idiot.

Imbecile.

Moron.

In the early 20th century these words took on new psychiatric meaning, which has since been expunged from the nomenclature of psychiatry. In the 19th century those words were pretty much interchangeable for anyone considered mentally deficient or inherently stupid.

What Do We Do With “Idiots”?

The study and understanding of psychology and medical conditions related to learning and developmental disorders was virtually nonexistent before the 20th century. In a large state like New York, a facility was developed at public expense to deal with so-called idiots. Hence came the “Idiot Asylum.”

The Idiot Asylum Syracuse NY circa 1860Often parents couldn’t understand why a child wasn’t speaking. paying attention, responding to social cues, or learning like other children. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #20 – Hotels Of The Past On The Upper West Side

Old New York Hotels Of The Upper West Side from 70th – 86th Streets

Hotel MAjestic 72nd St Central Park WestFor the past 150 years New York has had a thriving hotel industry. With real estate prices continually rising in Manhattan, more new hotels are opening now in Queens and Brooklyn.

The Plaza, The Waldorf Astoria and the St. Regis have over a century of  history. Those hostelry’s are the exception to longevity. Many of New York’s hotels are constantly in flux with ownership and name changes. Often smaller hotels have gone out of business because the real estate they sat upon was too valuable. Developers acquire the hotel and surrounding parcels and the hotel passes into history. Other times the buildings are spiffied up after years of neglect and converted from hotels to apartments.

Here are some views of the upper west side’s hotels of the past.

Hotel Emerson 75th Street off BroadwayThe Hotel Emerson at 166 West 75th Street off Broadway was a 300 room 16 story hotel opened in 1922, designed by Robert Lyons. In 1959 it became the Hotel Lincoln Square. The building has been remodeled and turned into rental apartments and is now named the Amstrdm. (That’s right, they cut out some vowels.) Continue reading

Gloria Vanderbilt Dead At 95 – Rare News Photos Of When She Was Young

Young Gloria Vanderbilt –  Rare Press Photos

Bruce Cabot and Gloria Vanderbilt attend a theater in Hollywood November 29, 1941 photo Acme

Actor Bruce Cabot with 17-year-old Gloria Vanderbilt at the Music Box Theater in Hollywood for the premiere of “They Can’t Get You Down” October 27, 1941 photo: Acme

Being a rich child with a large trust fund did not define Gloria Vanderbilt. Neither did a sensational tug of war child custody battle between her mother Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt and her aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.  When Gloria Vanderbilt died of stomach cancer in New York on June 17, 2019 at the age of 95, she had achieved prominence in many facets of life. Continue reading

The General Slocum Disaster – 115 Years Ago Today

The General Slocum Steamship Disaster Wiped Out Entire Families – June 15, 1904

The New York Evening World General Slocum Cover June 15 1904 headline Over 1.000 Dead115 years ago today, a penny brought you news of a  massive calamity. It was a disaster unlike any other that had ever occurred in New York City.

Earlier that day, June 15, 1904, the General Slocum excursion boat caught fire. Women and children who comprised the majority of the passengers, were burned alive or drowned.

As news filtered in to the newspapers, the death toll continued to mount. The number of victims would rise from hundreds to over 1,000. Continue reading

Mafia Kingpin Frank Costello About To Appear On Television – 1951

Frank Costello On His Way To Testify Before Senate, To Be Broadcast On National Television

Mafia lord Frank Costello on his way to Senate Investigation on Organized crime 1951

If there was one thing mob boss Frank Costello (1891-1973) didn’t like it was publicity. So appearing before nationally televised Senate hearings on organized crime was especially disturbing to Costello. On the other hand, Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver who organized the hearings reveled in the publicity,

The caption for this photo reads:

Doesn’t Care For TV

New York: Frank Costello reputed overlord of the U.S. underworld, arrives at Federal Court, March 13, to testify before the Senate Crime Investigation Committee. After Costello was sworn in, his attorney, George Wolf, objected to the televising of Costello’s appearance. 3/13/1951 credit photo: Acme

An estimated 30 million viewers watching Costello’s testimony live and were riveted to their TV sets. This was the man who controlled organized crime? Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #103 – An Unfinished St. Patrick’s Cathedral c. 1880

The Incomplete St. Patrick’s Cathedral, & A Glimpse of the Hotel Buckingham & 626 Fifth Avenue

St Patrick's Cathedral Fifth Avenue 50th Street unfinished 1880 Buckingham Hotel and 626 Fifth AvenueThis photograph looking east along 50th Street from Fifth Avenue was taken around 1880 by William T. Purviance.

626 Fifth Ave from Fifth Avenue Start to Finish 1911

626 5th Ave

The new St. Patrick’s Cathedral was formally opened on March 25, 1879. It would not be until 1888 that the spires were completed.To the left of the Cathedral in the background on 51st Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues is the boys section of the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum. The girls section was across Madison Avenue to Fourth Avenue (Park Ave.).

A very small portion of the stately mansion and stone fence at 626 Fifth Avenue is visible on the northwest corner of 50th Street. This desirable corner residence belonged to Walter S. Gurnee, a millionaire and former Mayor of Chicago. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #102 – Mott Street

A Scene On Mott Street c. 1905

The Detroit Publishing Co. photographer was probably intrigued by the spectators lining the sidewalk. This undated scene is from around 1905 based on the clothing and vehicles seen. We are looking north on Mott Street from Worth Street and something worth watching is going on.

A horse drawn coach is carrying a large model of a building upon it. It may have something to do with the building with the steeple in the background, which is the Church of the Transfiguration.

The model building has crosses on it and appears to be ecclesial. The fact that the horses are draped in white fabric signals this is a religious ceremony, rather than a funeral. The other horse drawn vehicles following the procession which are dark, does make the scene look funereal however.

In the foreground, a peanut cart is selling three measures of fresh roasted nuts for a dime. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #101 – Lunch Carts In The Financial District

Lunch Carts Serve Customers At The Corner Of Broad & Beaver Street 1906

Lunch carts 1906 Broad StreetA Detroit Publishing Co. photographer preserved this scene in 1906 at the corner of Broad and Beaver Street.

Then as now, food carts set up and do a brisk lunch business. This slice of life in old New York has many elements that can be seen by looking closer, so let’s examine them.

Frankfurters are advertised at 3¢ each or two for a nickel! The same sign informs (warns?) purchasers of an interesting caveat: “No frankfurters sold during the summer.” Hmmm. Possibility of food poisoning? I could not find any explanation in contemporary literature to why a sign would say this.

How profitable was it to be a hot dog vendor? Continue reading

Lawmakers Hope To Charge Everyone To Enter NYC – The Astonishing Total Congestion Pricing Plan

With Vehicle Congestion Pricing Imminent, On Horizon Is Total Congestion Pricing

Pricing Wall NYC

Proposed Total Congestion Fee Map – A plan to tax all New Yorkers to enter Manhattan

By Lipra Loof, Special STAFF REPORTER to SNCA | April 1, 2019

New York City Mayor Bill de Blassio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, have come together to support a congestion fee for all vehicles entering Manhattan from the Battery to 60th Street. As controversial as that idea is, the next proposal may be considered drastic and have some citizens scratching their heads.

Total Congestion Pricing – a plan to charge anyone entering any part of Manhattan has arrived. The proposal is being hailed by some as a courageous and innovative way to further reduce Manhattan’s congestion.

This plan would see the city charge a fixed fee to enter Manhattan via bus, train, bicycle and even walking.

Last night at a news conference alongside city and state officials, Mr. de Blassio and Mr. Cuomo unveiled the plan.

The city and state chiefs who rarely see eye to eye, said in unison, “We were not originally on board for the vehicle congestion pricing. But car-hating special interest groups and the MTA with their constant need for money have forced our hand and we had to cave in. After the vehicle congestion pricing plan gets finalized and hopefully passed by the state legislature, we will try and institute this bigger and bolder plan to rid our streets of all congestion.”

The governor and mayor continued, “We can completely eliminate congestion by removing the main cause of congestion-  the people.”

“If people don’t want to pay a fee to be here, then we’ll have no people in the city and we will have solved the congestion issue once and for all,” Mr. de Blassio enthused.

Fifth Avenue – The way the whole city may look after Total Congestion Pricing is instituted.

Deputy Mayor Paul Frehley said “Putting an eight dollar fee on drivers, is okay for starters. Continue reading