GET UPDATES IN YOUR INBOX! Subscribe to our SPAM-free updates here:

GET UPDATES IN YOUR INBOX! Subscribe to our SPAM-free email here:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Postcard Thursday: Good Will Engine Company, No. 4 Pic-Nic

James was (virtually) thumbing through old copies of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle recently researching a story and realized he was reading papers that were issued in July 1867, a century-and-a-half ago. Too often, history is reduced to big events and the exploits of exceptional individuals, so it can be very refreshing just to peruse a daily paper to see what was newsworthy on an average day.

The above correction from the Eagle from July 27, 1867 -- 150 years ago today -- is typical. Having reported on the Good Will Engine Company picnic (or "pic-nic") the day before, the editors felt the need to rectify the fact that Mr. R. Cowen's lager, soda water, and sarsaparilla had been left out of the original reportage. Egads! Notice, however, that while Cowen is singled out along with Messrs Pearce, Carroll, Goodrich, and Burns, the ice cream department's ladies don't get names.

Ah, well, at least they get a "God bless them."

You can read copies of the Eagle and other Brooklyn papers at

Read more about NYC history in


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Postcard Thursday: Apollo XI

On July 20, 1969, the Apollo XI capsule landed on the moon and humans walked on a celestial body for the first time.

A few days later, the Apollo astronauts--back on terra firma--were feted in New York with a major ticker tape parade.  At the time, many claimed it was the largest ticker tape parade New York had ever seen, but as we were researching Inside the Apple, we found that same claim was made for many parades and it’s almost impossible to verify. (Four million people were said to have attended the Apollo parade—an impressive number, even if it’s not the largest.)

Certainly, it was the longest parade. The city’s traditional parade route runs from Bowling Green Park at the foot of Broadway to City Hall. The Apollo astronauts, however, after receiving the key to the city, continued up Broadway to Herald Square and then on to Times Square. As the New York Times noted, the confetti in Midtown was “made up more of paper towels and pages from telephone directories than tickertape” and that it grew “so dense that the astronauts could hardly see.”

As we write in Inside the Apple:
It was also one of the fastest ticker tape parades. The astronauts started at Bowling Green at 10:17 a.m. (about half an hour ahead of schedule) and arrived on the steps of City Hall just fourteen minutes later! Many people who showed up for the parade were disappointed to discover that the astronauts had already passed them by…. By 1:15 p.m. the astronauts were back at Kennedy airport to go to Chicago. They ended the day with festivities in Los Angeles. Having just been to the moon and back, a quick one-day jaunt across North America must not have seemed like such a big deal.

The astronauts had to go through customs upon their return--follow this link to see the astronauts declaration form ("Departure from: MOON. Arrival at: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA").

Read more about NYC history in


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Postcard Thursday: The New York City Draft Riots

Children play in front of the Colored Orphans Asylum, which was burned down during the riots

On July 13, 1863, the deadly New York City draft riots began with an attack on the Ninth District Office.

As we write in Footprints in New York:
July 1863 was hot—so hot that the New York Times warned of the “close and uncomfortable weather.” Still, the rising temperatures did not stop a crowd of at least 150 people assembling inside the Ninth District draft office on Third Avenue and 46th Street on the morning of Saturday, July 11, 1863. Some were merely spectators, there to watch the show. Others had a personal stake in what was about to happen: the first large-scale military draft in America’s history. 
On stage, a two-foot-high wooden drum stood front and center. To ensure impartiality, the clerk charged with selecting the names was blind- folded. After the names were mixed, the clerk put in his hand and extracted the first cylinder of paper. He handed it to Provost Marshal Charles Jenkins, who read out: “William Jones, Forty-Sixth Street corner of Tenth Avenue.” 
The crowd broke out into nervous chattering and bad jokes. “Poor Jones!” someone cried. 
“Good for Jones!” said someone else. 
As the day wore on, the process turned monotonous, though observers tried to remain “jocular” (in the words of the New York Herald). By four o’clock in the afternoon, about twelve hundred names had been pulled— nearly half of the district’s quota. The office would be closed on Sunday, but the draft was set to resume on Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. 
I wonder when word finally reached William Jones that he had the dubious honor of being the first name picked. Was he with the crowd that showed up that Monday morning—their jocularity long since replaced with fury? 
As soon as the draft resumed Monday, it was chaos. First, the crowd shattered the windows; then they torched the Ninth District draft office. The insurrection that began that morning, known now as the New York City Draft Riots, lasted four days—still, a century-and-a-half later, the deadliest civil disturbance in American history. Hundreds were killed and perhaps as many as ten thousand injured. The fact that this is nothing compared to the carnage of the war itself—almost eight thousand people had been slaughtered over two days at Gettysburg just ten days earlier—does not diminish the size of these riots. If anything, it shows how bloody and awful the Civil War had become. It was a conflict, from the beginning, in which New York didn’t even want to take part.

A few years ago, we chronicled the Draft Riots day-by-day. You can read the whole series here.

New York's Seventh Regiment, recalled from the Battle of Gettysburg, helped quell the riots

Read more about NYC history in


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Postcard Thursday: Happy (Belated) Independence Day

As long-time readers of the blog know, we are only a portion of the way through "Independence Week," so, technically, this post isn't late!

Hope you had a great holiday. Today's post features some actual turn-of-the-20th-century postcards, which were a popular way to share your Independence Day sentiments with friends and family. A number of these postcards are cautionary tales:

Many pay tribute to the Union Army (or GAR: Grand Army of the Republic), a reminder that every July 4th after 1865 became not just a celebration of the Declaration of Independence, but of the hard-fought war to keep the country intact.

Read more about NYC history in


Search This Blog

Blog Archive