Category Archives: New York

A Good Cemetery Epitaph Versus A Great Epitaph

Epitaph One Upmanship – The Final Words Of A Married Couple

Since 1822 five generations of William Simpson’s ran one of New York’s oldest and most respected pawn shops. The final namesake to run Simpsons Pawnbrokers at 91 Park Row, William Rooe Simpson sold out to his partners in 1937, ending the continuous line of William Simpson’s to own and operate the hockshop. William Rooe Simpson died in 1957 and his son William David Simpson never went into the family pawn business. He became a doctor settling in Shelby, North Carolina.

When William David Simpson died at the age of 64 in 1988 he had this witty epitaph placed on his marker at Sunset cemetery in Shelby.

His wife Barbara “Bobbi” Taylor Simpson however Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #141 – Children’s Recreation On Rooftops

Children On New York’s Rooftops 1909-1910

Children playing on a roof in New York City April 28, 1910 from the series Living On (A) Skyscraper photo George G. Bain Collection Library of Congress (LOC)

In the early twentieth century the roofs of New York would offer a respite from hot days in New York. While roofs could be dangerous, the streets were full of peril with horses, trolleys and filth.

The news organization headed by George G. Bain sent its photographers up to the roofs to see life from this perspective. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #140 – July 4, 1860

Independence Day In New York Watching The Regatta 1860

July 4, 1860 regatta at The Battery. photo: Anthony

Patriotism, Parades and Pyrotechnics

In 1860 a year before the nation was split into two warring factions, New Yorkers celebrated the 84th anniversary of Independence Day in glorious fashion.

The day proliferated with excursions, theatricals, balloon ascensions, salutes, military parades, fireworks and – a regatta.

Regatta derives from Venetian, meaning a contention for mastery or contest. The New York regatta held on July 4 was a series of rowed and sailed boat races held near Castle Clinton at The Battery in New York bay.

All of the photographs seen here were taken by the firm of E. & H.T. Anthony as stereoviews. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #26 – Broadway 1895-1915

Views Along Broadway From Bowling Green To Washington Heights

Broadway and 62nd Street – The Colonial Vaudeville Theater is on the left, 1913

Broadway means New York City. Sure there are other Broadway’s in the United States, but none have the same clout that New York’s Broadway does. It is the longest street in Manhattan and one of the oldest. What the Dutch called De Heere Straat and later De Heere Wegh, became Great George Street under English rule. The street was paved in 1707, but only from Bowling Green to Trinity Church at Wall Street. After the Revolution, New York’s citizens began renaming streets and Great George Street became Broadway.

Here are some postcard views of Broadway dating from 1895 – 1915 Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #139 – Zeppelin And The Woolworth Building

The Dirigible Los Angeles Flying Near The Woolworth Building – 1929

Graf Zeppelin’s Sister – Los Angeles Joins In Great Reception For Dr. Eckener
New York – Photo shows : The dirigible Los Angeles, older sister of the Graf Zeppelin, flying above the Woolworth Building during the reception for Dr. Hugo Eckener commander of the Graf. Photo: Underwood & Underwood August 30, 1929.

Continue reading

The Circus Fat Family Leaves Brooklyn For The Country

The “Fat Family” Moves To The Country – 1914

The following article is from Chicago’s The Saturday Blade newspaper July 18, 1914:

New York, July 16 – Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Tanner and their four giant children, known to circus folk as the “Fat Family” have been sent to the country by kindly disposed women who became interested in their case. Tanner is going to rest for a week or so and then he will try to get a job.

“I guess by the time we’re all rested up some show will come along that’s a real one,” said Mrs. Tanner the thin mother of the fat children.

The last show the Tanners were in was not a real one. It went broke and Mr. and Mrs. Tanner were compelled to appeal to give their babies shelter and food lest they starve to death.

“Buster” Tanner, 5 years old is the heaviest, his weight being 187 pounds. Little Doris, alias “Snookums,” is six months old and weighs 63 pounds. The others, Barnard and Alvin, 2 and 3 years old, would take prizes for weight at any baby show, though they look thin beside the youngest and oldest of the four. The home of the Tanners is Nicholson, GA.

Today the media and public would either exploit this family or call to prosecute them for child abuse. Remember the Honey Boo Boo craze? In 1914 there was nothing wrong with the word fat or being fat. Today calling someone fat is considered “body shaming” by this generation’s snowflake word censors.

We Need Food

Figuring Coney Island would be a good place to get employment the Fat Family came looking for a sideshow.

The Fat Family’s father Marshall explained to a Brooklyn police lieutenant that they had come from Chicopee, MA where the circus had gone bust owing them $100. “We had just enough money to get to New York and we came. Here we are now. We have no engagement, no money, no food and no place to sleep. Not having food is a serious matter.” And in what may be the biggest understatement, Mr. Tanner added, ” The children are fond of eating.”

The news story had no substantial follow up, and the Fat Family Continue reading

Only 357,598 Americans Paid Income Tax In 1914

Income Taxes And Who Pays Them Past and Present

A relatively minuscule number of Americans paid taxes after the federal income tax on individuals began in 1913. The entire income tax burden in 1914 was paid by 0.27% of the population. Basically the very wealthy and upper middle class carried the income tax load for America.

With a population of 98.7 million people in 1914, only 357,598 citizens paid an income tax. If you earned less than $2,500 per year, you paid no income tax. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #138 – Times Square From The Roof Of The Times Tower Building

Birdseye View Of Times Square From The Times Tower Building c. 1910

Times Tower Building Roof view of Times Square c 1910 photo - Keystone-Mast Collection, UCR/California Museum of Photography, University of California at Riverside

Our view comes from the Keystone Mast Collection and shows the rapidly developing Times Square.

But as you can see, north of 42nd Street there are no skyscraper buildings. While many eight to ten story buildings dot the landscape, the tallest structure in this vicinity is the building where the photo was taken from. Continue reading

Christopher Morley Describes West End Avenue 1932 – Part 2

Christopher Morley’s Description Of West End Avenue – Part 2

12 room apartments, doormen and an air of upper middle class gentility. All part of West End Avenue’s allure.

In 1932 Christopher Morley took an apartment at 54 Riverside Drive on the corner of 78th Street, a block away from his subject.

Here is the conclusion of Christopher Morley’s essay on West End Avenue.

West End is incomparably the most agreeable and convenient of large residential streets, second only to Riverside Drive—whose decline in prestige is mysterious. For that famous old glue-pot stench that used to come drifting across from Jersey has vanished altogether. West End is well churched and doctored. The abandoned hospital at the 72nd Street corner is something of a shock, but the Avenue hurries on uptown, consoling itself with Mr. Schwab’s chateau, its proudest architectural surprise. I wander past Mr. Schwab’s railings at night, noting the caretaker’s light in the attic and regretting that Charley seems to get so little use of his braw mansion. I like to see the homes of our great barons gay with lights and wassail: I have a thoroughly feudal view of society and believe that we small gentry acquiesce gladly in our restricted orbit provided the nabobs are kicking up a dust at the top of the scale. Sometimes I fear that our rich men have been intimidated by modern doctrines and do not like to be seen at frolic. Nonsense! They owe it to us. When a man builds a French chateau he should live in it like a French seigneur. For the gayety of West End Avenue I desire to see more lights in that castle, and hear the organ shaking the tall panes. Continue reading

Christopher Morley Describes West End Avenue 1932 – Part 1

Author Christopher Morley’s Description Of West End Avenue

“Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.”

This was Christopher Morley’s final message to his friends before he died at the age of 66 in 1957.

Morley’s biggest commercial success was the 1939 novel Kitty Foyle, which was turned into an Academy Award winning movie starring Ginger Rogers.

Though Morley would write more than 50 books of all sorts and edit Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, his name has been forgotten by modern readers. Below is a piece that paints a splendid picture of one of the least written about New York city streets.

This piece on West End Avenue appeared in Internal Revenue (1933) Doubleday, Doran.

You hear little about West End Avenue. It is too genteel to have much taste for publicity. But like all very decorous personalities it has its secret ligatures with grim fact. It begins at 106th Street, spliced into the western bend of Broadway, with a memory of the Titanic disaster (the Straus Memorial Fountain). It ends at 59th Street in Dead Storage and Loans on Cars, and in the gigantic Interborough Power House. Below that, though its uniformed hallboys do not like to admit it, it becomes Eleventh Avenue. 59th Street was the latitude where all those baseborn avenues of the old Tenderloin decided to 20 respectable by changing their names. Eighth became Central Park West, Ninth became Columbus, Tenth became Amsterdam, and Eleventh (or Death Avenue) became West End. But reform is as difficult for Streets as for persons. Broadway, careering diagonally across (trollops follow the Trade), drew ever upward its witch-fires and its sulphurous glow. Good old strongholds of middle-class manners were swamped. Apartments once gravid with refinement were given over to the dentist and the private detective (who cries Confidentially Yours in the window). When the MacFadden Publications burst into that part of town, reticences tottered. Even as far up as the 70’s the West Side struggles to disengage from sombre origins or too gaudy companionship. Then a Childs restaurant—unquestionable banner of fair repute – stems the tide on Broadway. Childs is too shrewd to step in on Doubtful Street. The church also comes to the rescue: a place of worship is combined with an apartment house. The Cross on top of this building, says a notice, “Guarantees Safety, Security, and Enjoyment.”

Of all this shifting struggle—so characteristic of New York and repeated in scores of regions all over town—West End Avenue is perfect symbol. The Interborough Power House, I dare say, gives it vitality to struggle successfully with the New York Central freight yards. It is humble enough here: it eats in Gibbs Diner and smokes its cob pipe in the switchman’s little house. It sees lines of milk cans on the sidings and is aware of the solid realities of provender and communication on which citizens depend. (Much of West End Avenue’s milk comes from Grand Gorge,  N. Y., which is an encouraging name to find printed on the cardboard bottle-top when you rummage the  ice-box late at night.) Then the Dodge and other automobile warehouses put ambition into it. It rises to a belt of garages and groceries. At 70th Street it makes as sudden a transformation as any street ever did—except perhaps that social abyss where Tudor City looks over the parapet onto First Avenue. “Here in A. D. 1877,” says the tablet in difficult Tudor script, as hen-track as Shakespeare’s, “was Paddy Corcoran’s Roost.” Who was Paddy? They have him in stone with an inverted Irish pipe. One day I walked through Tudor City with W. S. H., a heraldic expert, pursuivant of the various shields, emblems, armorial bearings and stained glaziery of that architect’s heyday. Cockle-shells, pelicans, griffons, lymphiads, bars and bends most sinister, nearly made an imbecile of my poor friend. Rouge Dragon himself could never unscramble that débris of the College of Arms. “The intended a boar, but it turned to a talbot,” cried W. S. H., examining one fierce escutcheon.

But West End Avenue, when it goes residential at 70th Street, does so in solid fashion, without freak or fantasy. For thirty-five blocks it has probably the most uniform skyline of any avenue in New York. It indulges little in terraces or penthouses; just even bulks of masonry. What other street can show me a run of thirty-five blocks without a shop-window? Few of its apartments have individual names. The Esplanade and the Windermere are two rare exceptions, as also the grand old Apthorp, the Gibraltar of our uptown conservatism: Inside its awful court-yard I have never dared to tread. We leave to the crosstown streets the need to hyperbolize their apartments with pretentious names.