Union Square Street Scene – 1901
This 1901 street scene is looking north from 14th Street towards Union Square. Continue reading
This 1901 street scene is looking north from 14th Street towards Union Square. Continue reading
For the first year and a half while President, George Washington was a New Yorker. Washington took the oath of office in New York City in 1789 and lived at 3 Cherry Street during his Presidency until 1790 when he moved to Philadelphia. Vice -President John Adams lived at 133 Broadway. Congress met in New York and the city was the center of the Federal government. Continue reading
Under English rule there was never a divorce in New York until 1787
When the Dutch founded New Amsterdam they allowed divorce but it was a rare occurrence. The English captured New Amsterdam in 1664 and after a brief retaking of the city by the Dutch in 1673, the English took permanent possession of the colony of New York until the Revolution. Over the next 100 years there was no divorce in New York.
Isaac Governeur became the first New Yorker granted a divorce in 1787. Up until then there had been no legal way of separating from your spouse. Alexander Hamilton created the law that allowed divorce in New York. The sole basis for being granted a divorce was adultery. Those who were desperate enough, went to another state that did allow divorce for other reasons. Incredibly, until 1966, adultery remained the only grounds for getting a divorce in New York.
The first successful manned flight in New York took place in 1819
A Frenchman, Charles Guillé who had made many successful balloon ascensions in France arrived in the United States in the summer of 1819. Continue reading
In turn-of-the-century New York, child labor, with some kids working seven days a week, was not uncommon.
Working as an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), Lewis Hine (1874-1940) documented working and living conditions of children in the United States between 1908 and 1924. Over 5100 prints and 355 glass negatives were donated to the Library of Congress in 1954 by Mrs. Gertrude Folks Zimand, acting for the NCLC in her capacity as chief executive.
Hine didn’t just focus on newsboys and New York City , but turned his camera to all trades in which children were engaged and traveled all over the United States photographing the grueling work done by boys and girls, sometimes as young as five-years-old.
Hine captured the children candidly or in simple poses, without staging. His portraits can evoke strong emotions.
In New York City you needed a news badge to sell newspapers. Laws were set up to prevent very young children from engaging in work. The laws were usually ignored by the children, their families and/or the authorities.
When looking at these photographs there are several things to notice. The first is the expression on the boys’ face. The next is the clothing. Their shoes always stand out, usually the condition varies from fair to horrendous. Considering how much walking a newsboy would do in what could end up being a 12 hour plus day, it is natural that shoes would break down.
The rest of the attire that newsboys wear is also interesting. The shirts, pants and jackets are stereotypically shabby, but rarely are the boys wearing rags. These kids were battling for sales and tried to make themselves as saleable as the newspapers they sold. Finally pay attention when possible to the background, which is of course, New York City. The buildings, stores, streets, vehicles, sidewalks and people – always intriguing.
For the newsboys, one of the common tricks was to go into a bar with only a few papers and tell the customers these were the last papers you had for the day and after they were sold you would then be able to go home. The sympathetic bar patrons would usually buy the remaining copies and then the boy would go outside grab some more newspapers he had stashed and proceed to the next bar and repeat the scene.
Newspapers were generally two cents per copy. On a good day a “newsie” might make between 25 and 50 cents. Continue reading
Today is May Day which for anyone who went to elementary school in New York City pre-1980 used to be a joyous holiday, celebrated by dancing around a Maypole.
May Day, a centuries old Pagan holiday whose origins and meaning are debated, is now a day of protest. In many parts of England, Wales, Germany and a few other European countries, the Maypole dance and tradition continues. In the United States the day has sunk into a free-for-all for any group to call attention to all their perceived slights and injustices.
In the late 19th century May Day began to be associated with organized marches and assemblies for worker’s rights, unions and socialism. By the 1930s, communists took the day as theirs to celebrate.
Today you will not see any New York City school children doing Maypole dances.
You will not see the veterans of foreign wars praising the freedoms of the United States and protesting communists.
You probably will not see Continue reading
Union Square Looking East Along 14th Street From University Place – February 1954
The Story Of Department Store Titans Of Union Square, S. Klein and Ohrbach’s
It is a brisk February morning in 1954 and on the left is Union Square Park. But dominating this view in the center of the photograph is what was a magnet for generations of bargain-hunting New Yorkers, the large department store of S. Klein On The Sqaure.
S. Klein’s emblem was a measuring square which can barely be seen under the “KLE” in the KLEIN sign in the photo. The “On The Square” tag line was a play on words in that S. Klein was not only located on Union Square, but implied that they were fair and honest in their dealings – “on the square.” Continue reading
While some people were complaining about the lack of snow removal in New York City this past week, it makes you realize how dependent we are on mechanized snowplows.
One hundred six years ago today, a major snowstorm similar to this past week’s storm, hit New York City on January 24, 1908 and dumped over ten inches of snow in New York and 35 mile per hour gusts of wind had some snowdrifts pile up from six to ten feet.
The snow began the night of January 23 and continued until the afternoon of the 24th. The temperature never dipped below 22 degrees, but it was still miserable for commuters trying to get around town.
According to the New York Tribune, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals sent men around to spread sand over the streets to prevent horses from falling. Unfortunately they only could get to a handful of spots and horses slipped and fell in heaps all over the city. The human toll from the storm was four deaths and thirteen injuries directly attributable to the severe weather.
All of the snow had to be removed by manual labor. And when the city put out notices that men were needed for temporary work to remove the snow with shovels, over 30,000 men applied.
At one recruiting station, the United Charities Building on East 3rd Street, 100 men were needed and 3,000 showed up. The police had to be called Continue reading
How Macy’s, Tiffany & Co. And Other New York Firms Advertised Their Businesses In 1874
The 1874 book New York Past and Present by Charles Edwin Prescott (Mercantile Publishing) contains interesting advertising which provides a look at how various companies sold their wares.
Some companies or the buildings they occupied in 1874 are still here today, other companies vanished long ago without a trace and are completely forgotten.
Click on any advertisement to enlarge.
R. H. Macy was down on 14th Street at the corner of Sixth Avenue. They had a collection of buildings joined together on 14th Street as the company kept growing throughout the late 1800’s. They moved to their Herald Square location in 1902. I remember up until the 1980’s looking up at some of the buildings on 14th Street and still being able to see the Macy’s red star emblazoned on the facades of a few buildings.
In 1874 Macy’s top line for advertising was that they were “importers and dealers of embroideries and lace goods.” The rest of the ad goes on to describe carrying goods:”various ladies’, gents’ and childrens’ furnishing goods,” “white goods,” “fancy goods” and “kid gloves”
The advertisement for the Colton Dental Association located at 19 Cooper Institute says they originated the use of “laughing gas for the painless extraction of teeth.” Who knew?
In the 19th century, people were really scared of the dentist because it was generally a painful experience. The interesting part of the ad: “77,228 patients without a failure or an accident.”
Seeing the word “refrigerator” in an 1874 ad may cause you to do a double take. But this is not a modern refrigeration system advertised by Alex M. Lesley, the manufacturer of the Zero Refrigerator with offices located at 224 -226 West 23rd Street. The Zero Refrigerator was merely an icebox with “water, wine and milk cooler.” Mr. Lesley simply says the Zero “is the best food and ice keeper in the world.” The world’s first refrigerator was built in 1834. Refrigerators for home use didn’t come into existence until 1913. Continue reading
20 Cool Facts About The New York City Subway When It Was Brand New
109 years ago on October 27, 1904, the New York City Subway was opened to an enthusiastic public with great fanfare and accolades.
New Yorker’s were proud of this engineering sensation and its features were highlighted in newspapers and magazines around the world.
On the occasion of the opening, the New York Evening World published a “Subway Souvenir Special” to commemorate the event. With articles describing many aspects of the subway, the special issue compiled a list of 100 facts about the subway. Here are some of the better ones:
1. In 1894 the people of New York voted to create a tunnel for a subway which was to be owned by the city. After six years of preliminary work by the Rapid Transit Commission, bids were accepted to build and operate the subway on November 15, 1899.
2. Only two companies bid for the job. John B. McDonald and the Onderdonk Construction Company. McDonald’s bid was accepted January 15, 1900.
3. McDonald proposed to construct the tunnels for $35 million with an additional $2,750,000 for station sites, terminals and other incidentals.
4. The money for the construction was loaned by the city. It was to be paid back with interest in fifty years.
5. McDonald organized a construction company with August Belmont as its president. Another company within this company, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) was organized to operate the subway.
6. The IRT had the privilege of operating the system for 50 years, with an option for a 25 year renewal. When the subway passed into the hands of the people, the equipment was to be purchased by the city at a valuation to be determined by arbitration.
7. McDonald sublet the construction to thirteen sub-contractors. Ground was broken March 25, 1900 in front of City Hall.
8. McDonald pledged to have the subway ready in four and a half years. The actual time spent on construction was only 1275 days.
9. The final amount spent was just $40 million.
10. There were 120 lives lost during the construction. Continue reading
Or What’s Wrong With This Photograph?
New York City used to have an annual May Day Parade where Socialists, Communists, unions and other pro-labor forces would march down a route and finally assemble around Union Square. Most of the time the assemblies have been peaceful. There were some exceptions during the Depression when work was in short supply and occasional violence would break out on May Day.
In recent years, May 1 in New York City has turned into the flavor of the moment, general protest or demonstration for a wide array of left-wing causes.
In 1935 there were two May Day Parades both held without incident. One was held by the Socialists whose route took them along Eighth Avenue from 15th Street to Columbus Circle and then up Central Park West to 72nd Street. The Communists held their own parade starting at Madison Square on Fifth Avenue up to 32nd Street, across to 7th Avenue and then down to 17th Street and back across to Union Square.
There is no description on this May 1, 1935 photograph which parade this was taken at, but the buildings in the background tell us this is Union Square looking east along 17th Street, so it is surely the Communist parade.
Everyone seems to be paying a lot of attention to the parade…except the one man in the white fedora reading a newspaper.
If this picture was taken in 2013 instead of 78 years ago, I’m sure conspiracy theorists would say there is something very suspicious underfoot here.