Thursday, August 21, 2014

Postcard Thursday: The Third Avenue El


James is finishing up a piece right now on the history of St. Mark's Place in the East Village (we'll let you know when it's published), and as part of that research he's been reading about how the Second Avenue and Third Avenue Elevated trains were an integral part of the neighborhood for years.

This postcard, showing the Third Avenue El running along the Bowery, is ubiquitous in postcard shops (often the sort of card that can be picked up for under a dollar), which means they must have printed thousands of them at the turn of the twentieth century as a typical New York City view.

The Third Avenue El first opened in 1878, running from South Ferry to Grand Central. Two years later, a Second Avenue El began operating from a split at Chatham Square. The Third Avenue line eventually ran all the way into the Bronx (parts of its infrastructure are still used today by the 2 and the 5 trains), and was the last of the lines to come down in Manhattan, ceasing operation in 1955.

Do you have recollections of riding the Third Avenue El? If so, please let us know in the comments.

A crowd on St. Mark's Place watches the demolition of the Third Avenue El.
Photo by Calvin S. Hathaway, Dec. 16, 1955 (courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Updated Blog Layout

You may have noticed that we changed the layout of the blog a few weeks ago.... and today we've changed it again. Most people who reach the blog do so through a Google search for a specific person or event, and we want to make the site as useful to them as possible.

(If you've read Footprints in New York, you may remember that "Anne Hutchinson" was the search term that brought more people to our blog than anything else. That's no longer true. Recently, she's been edged out by "Robert Fulton," but we'll see how long he hangs onto the top spot.)

Let us know if you have any feedback about how you think the Inside the Apple blog could be more useful to you.

Thanks,
James & Michelle Nevius

PS: James now has a separate website and blog of his own. Visit him at www.jamesnevius.com for more info.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Postcard Thursday: Thomas Edison's Phonograph

Postcard of Thomas Edison with an early phonograph, ca. 1888.
Where would we be without Thomas Edison? As James noted over on his personal blog the other day (which you can read at http://jamesnevius.blogspot.com), Edison is responsible for so many inventions that define modern life: the light bulb, movie projector, and phonograph among them.

Today marks the anniversary of Edison's introduction of the wax cylinder phonograph in London in 1888. At a press conference there, Edison played a recording of Sir Arthur Sullivan's "The Lost Chord," presumably on a machine very much like the one Edison is seen with in the postcard above (if not, in fact, that very machine).

A few months later, Sullivan -- infatuated with the possibilities of the new device -- made an "audio postcard" to send back to Edison in the United States. Luckily, both the original recording of Sullivan's piece (perhaps the oldest extant musical audio recording) and his message to Edison survive:

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lv7i-gkSWn0]

And if you want to hear a version of "The Lost Chord" in higher fidelity, here it is:

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRx8-rgQyRs]

Lastly, notice that in the postcard version of Edison and the phonograph, the background has disappeared. This is the original image:


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Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.

And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Postcard Thursday: Calvert Vaux

Bike path on Ocean Parkway courtesy of the Museum of the CIty of New York
Today's postcard, dated 7/19/1908, shows the "cycle path" on Ocean Parkway -- the very first bike path in New York City.

This illustration is just one of many in James's article published earlier today on Curbed about the architecture of Calvert Vaux, one of the unsung heroes of mid-19th century New York City design. People who know his name associate it with his parks, including Central Park and Prospect Park, but he built a number of fantastic Victorian Gothic edifices all around the city.

Read the full article at:
http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2014/08/07/mapping_central_park_architect_calvert_vauxs_other_nyc_work.php



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Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.

And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Postcard Thursday: Henry Clay Frick


If you haven't already seen it, James had a piece earlier this week on Curbed about the building of Henry Clay Frick's mansion, which today houses the Frick Collection. (The article is here: http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2014/07/29/the_controversial_origins_of_new_york_citys_frick_collection.php)

Due to space considerations, some illustrations did not make the final article, including this great postcard (above) which shows the ongoing rivalry between Frick and his sometime partner, Andrew Carnegie. Around the time Frick was moving to New York, he had his company's headquarters built in downtown Pittsburgh next to--and taller than--Carnegie's, so that Frick's building would also bathe Carnegie's in shadow.

There are a few other illustrations that didn't make the cut--including an 1884 Life magazine cartoon about the Lenox Library--that can be found on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.296697000509609.1073741833.209874915858485&type=1. If you haven't had a chance, why not follow us on Facebook? Not only do we post these blog entries there, but also links to all sorts of other New York City history.

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Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.

And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.




Thursday, July 24, 2014

Postcard Thursday: Grant's Tomb (again)


Fans of the Postcard Thursday feature will realize that this is the second time we've featured Grant's Tomb. But as pointed out in our first article, Grant's Tomb was one of the most popular tourist attractions in late 19th-century New York, so it's not surprising that it featured in a number of different postcard views.

We're highlighting the memorial again because yesterday was the 129th anniversary of President Grant's death on July 23, 1885. The tomb you see in this postcard is not, actually, the original. After some wrangling about whether New York was going to be the the general's final resting place, he was buried in a small, temporary enclosure, which was constructed ten days after his death.

The temporary tomb; courtesy of the General Grant National Memorial
After a design contest was held, John Duncan's grand edifice (modeled on the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus) was selected as the permanent tomb and the temporary one demolished.

The other building you see in this postcard atop the bluff is the Claremont Inn, a country home that dated back to 1788. It had been acquired by the city after the Civil War and was run as a restaurant until its demolition in 1950.

Also, notice the ferry landings on the Hudson River below the tomb; in its earliest years, reaching the memorial via the river from downtown was the easiest way to go.

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Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.

And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Postcard Thursday: "Wrong Way" Corrigan

On July 17, 1938, Douglas Corrigan took off from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. He'd filed a flight plan intending to fly west to Long Beach, California (from which he'd arrived a week earlier). Instead, Corrigan flew east and, supposedly due to a faulty compass and thick fog, found himself 26 hours into the flight approaching Ireland instead of Long Beach. The stunt earned him the nickname "Wrong Way" Corrigan and a place in history.

To this day, it is unknown if Corrigan made the transatlantic flight by mistake or if he had been planning to pull the stunt for some time. In 1935, he'd been denied an application to fly to Ireland because his Curtiss Robin OX-5 plane was deemed unsound. A skilled mechanic, he had made numerous modifications to the aircraft (the $900 he spent in upgrades is what is referenced in today's postcard), but still his application to file a transatlantic flight plan was turned down. Eventually, Corrigan made so many custom changes to the Robin that it was deemed unsafe for flight.

Finally, on July 9, 1938, Corrigan flew from Long Beach to Brooklyn, his flight hampered only by a small fuel leak. Upon arriving at Floyd Bennett Field, Corrigan decided against repairing the leak, but instead filed a flight plan to return to California. He took off the morning of July 17 and flew 28 hours, 13 minutes, to the Baldonnel Aerodrome in Ireland, becoming an instant celebrity. Upon his return to New York (via steamship) he was feted with a ticker-tape parade. His autobiography was an instant best-seller and he was soon shilling for all sorts of "Wrong Way" products. His story became the film The Flying Irishman in 1939.

Despite mounting evidence that Corrigan had purposefully flown to Ireland, he maintained until the end of his life that it was a simple navigational error.

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Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.

And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Footprints in New York on WFUV Cityscape

Tomorrow, Saturday, July 12, we’ll be on WFUV radio’s Cityscape with George Bodarky talking about Footprints in New York. We are the guests for the full half-hour program, and our topics range from the Dutch colonial era to Alexander Hamilton (who died 210 years ago tomorrow) to the films of Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen. You can hear a preview of the show at https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=UUlkaUu3xZhS-1nGEPxGCk3Q&v=H13_DVi-1dk.

If you are in NYC and environs, you can tune in tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. at 90.7 on your FM radio dial or stream it at http://play.wfuv.org/player/index.php.

However, the show is actually already up as a podcast on the Cityscape website, so you don’t even have to wait -- you can tune in right now at http://www.wfuv.org/news/cityscape/140709/cityscape-footprints-new-york.

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Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes & Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.



And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Postcard Thursday: Millard Fillmore

1856 Campaign Poster for Millard Fillmore
Today marks the 164th anniversary of the inauguration of former New York State comptroller and Alec Baldwin lookalike, Millard Fillmore, often considered one of America’s worst presidents.

Fillmore, a Whig congressman, was vice president under war hero Zachary Taylor. Fillmore had been picked to balance not just the north-south axis (Taylor was from Louisiana) but to add someone with political experience to the ticket. Fillmore was a good middle-of-the-road candidate: he was opposed to slavery, but not a firebrand like New York senator William H. Seward.

When Taylor died on July 9, 1850 (after allegedly eating a bad mix of cherries and iced milk), Fillmore took over the presidency. He was only the second vice president to do so -- the first had been John Tyler, just a decade earlier. Despite his opposition to slavery, Fillmore signed the Fugitive Slave Act and supported the Compromise of 1850. In 1852, the Whigs failed to nominate him as president and after that year’s election, the party split up. Instead of becoming a Republican, Fillmore joined the conservative American Party -- better known to history as the “Know Nothings” -- and ran for president on that party line in 1856, losing badly.

There aren’t any memorials to Fillmore in New York City, but if you happen to be in Central Park, stop by the arsenal and look at the names carved over the front door. The arsenal -- one of only two buildings in the park that pre-date the park’s creation -- was built in 1848, while Fillmore was still the state comptroller, and his name is at the top right of the plaque.


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Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes & Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.



And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Joe Franklin on "Bloomberg on the Weekend"

Happy day after Independence Day! (Or, as we noted on our blog yesterday, Happy Independence Week!)

A few weeks ago, we taped an interview with TV and radio legend Joe Franklin that is airing today (Saturday, July 5, 2014) on Bloomberg Radio. We'll be talking about some of the people we profile in Footprints in New York.

The segment appears on "Bloomberg on the Weekend," which airs three times today:

  • 1pm EDT (Noon, CDT, 11am MDT, 10am PDT, 7am, HST)
  • 7pm EDT (6pm, CDT, 5pm MDT, 4pm PDT, 1pm HST)
  • 1am Sunday EDT (Midnight CDT, 11pm MDT, 10pm PDT, 7pm HST).
Our segment is very close to the beginning of the show.

If you are in New York, you can tune in to Bloomberg Radio at 1130AM on your dial. In Boston, it is broadcast on 1200AM or 94.5FM. The rest of the country can either tune in on SiriusXM Channel 119 or stream it online from Bloomberg's website. If you use the iHeartRadio or TuneIn apps for your phone, both of those also receive Bloomberg live streams.

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If you don't already follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, what better time than the present? We update each of those feeds with tidbits of NYC history throughout the week, including links to interesting historic photos and articles about the city's past.

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If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes & Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.





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