Tag Archives: Books About New York City

Harlem In the Teens & Twenties As Seen By Frederic A. Birmingham

Growing Up In Bucolic Harlem Before And After World War I

Frederic A. Birmingham’s 1960 memoir of New York, It Was Fun While It Lasted (J.B. Lippincott Company), describes a Harlem which few New Yorkers would recognize today.

The action takes place from approximately 1915 -1925, when Birmingham was between the ages of 4 and 14. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #160 – 38th Street Between 11th & 12th Avenues

An Area Surrounded By Change, 38th Street Off 11th Avenue – 1934

This photograph taken by Percy Loomis Sperr on August 31, 1934 shows a mostly desolate section of the west side of Manhattan. 38th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues has still not been absorbed by the Hudson Yards building boom.

There has been great change, but there are many vacant lots and Incredibly nearly 90 years later, Continue reading

Irish New York 1964 – From Earl Wilson’s New York

A Vanished Irish New York Described By Columnist Earl Wilson

The Bronx, Gaelic Park, Irish Bars and Dance Halls

Earl Wilson (1907 – 1987) was a New York Post based nationally syndicated columnist (It Happened Last Night). Wilson also wrote several books during his nearly fifty year journalism career.

Among Wilson’s best books is an atypical guide book to New York called Earl Wilson’s New York (Simon and Schuster, 1964).

While Wilson covers some of the usual touristy things to do, such as where to stay and eat, he also writes about “Where To Find A Psychiatrist For Your Dog” Continue reading

New York City Prostitution in 1870

New York Prostitution By The Numbers – 1870

Over 10,000 Prostitutes Of All Types In A City of 942,292

A Mix Of Farmers Daughters, Servants, Teetotalers, Drunkards, Native Born, Recent Immigrants, Widows, The Young, Single & Refined Ladies & Illiterates

Illustration From George Ellington's book The Women Of Of New YorkFrom an interesting and self-published 1870 book, Personals or Perils of the Period by Joseph Hertford comes this analysis of the prostitutes of New York. There were at least 10,000 prostitutes coming from various work backgrounds and social statuses. Excerpting from this chapter, Hertford writes: Continue reading

Book Review – American Rascal Jay Gould By Greg Steinmetz

Jay Gould: A Rascal Or Shrewd Businessman?

It would be impossible today for one person to cause the collapse of the stock market, corner the gold market or just print stock shares in a large-cap corporation as needed.

Not that Jay Gould single-handedly did any of these things.

He had help. 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 Continue reading

When New York City Schools Taught Kids How To Be Good Citizens

NYC Schools Used To Teach Kids The Responsibilities Of Citizenship

Something We Apparently Fail To Do Now

Teaching Civics, Respect & Unity, Not Divisiveness

Boys Club of PS 62 Hester and Norfolk St with policeman c 1907

Originally this piece was going to be about how dysfunctional the New York City school system is.

Then I realized that a critique of all the political correctness and hypocrisy that dominates decision making at the Department of Education and what kids are actually learning would require a book rather than an article.

Instead it would be better to examine what children used to learn in grammar school. The main focus was of course on reading, writing and arithmetic. A primary education as it should be.

The established standards applied to all children, regardless of religion, ethnicity, race or income level. But something else was taught that has been lost today: how to become useful and good citizens.

Simply put, Civics.

To understand this better let’s turn to a book that was in use in New York City schools during the early part of the twentieth century.

The book is called Good Citizenship by Julia Richman, Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #132 – Fulton Fish Market

Unloading The Cargo At The Fulton Fish Market 1923

Fulton Fish Market 1923 photo Percy Loomis SperrThe Fulton Fish Market turned 200 years old in 2021. According to Richard C. McKay author of South Street A Mariritme History of New York (Putnam) 1934, after a fire in January 1821 destroyed a large number of wooden buildings around South Street, a fish market building was erected in the area and was open for business in November of that year.

Our photograph was taken by Percy Loomis Sperr in 1923 and shows the loading of fish into barrels. Continue reading

A New York City Snowstorm In 2021 & 1857

Big Snowstorm. Big Deal. New York City – Then and Now 1857 & 2021

New Yorkers making their way along Centre Street during a huge snowstorm. The building is the Tombs prison.  February 1857 Ballou’s Pictorial Magazine 2-21-1857

“Congealed rain, frozen particles, precipitated from the clouds, and preserved by the coldness of the atmosphere in a frozen state until they reach the earth.” Continue reading