Friday, April 20, 2018

Hey, girl, is that guerrilla art? The Fearless Girl, the Charging Bull, and the Public Square

The "Charging Bull" and the "Fearless Girl," 8 Broadway, New York City
In March 2017, the statue "Fearless Girl" by Kristen Visbal, became famous after being left in the middle of the night to stand in an apparent face off with the statue "Charging Bull" in NYC's financial district. (© Charging Bull, Arturo Di Modica, 1989) The piece, and its relation to the bull, was interpreted as a kind of act of defiance, an anti-establishment piece of art of and for the people, etc.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz: Married at Last!

"I love you, Lucille."
"I am busy getting married to Lucille Ball." This is likely the only time this particular excuse has ever been made by an employee to an employer.

It was November 30, 1940, and Desi Arnaz telephoned his boss at Manhattan's Roxy Theater at 153 W. 50th Street to explain just why he would not be appearing in the first of two shows he was scheduled for that evening. He was still in Greenwich, Connecticut. But he'd be back in New York that evening and ready to perform for the second show, he promised. And this time, the 25 year old band leader was bringing his wife!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Behind the Scenes in a Restaurant

Public Space: the Exchange Buffet, NYC, 1920s
In 1916, the Consumers League of New York City issued a study of 1,017 Women Restaurant
Employees. Titled, Behind the Scenes in a Restaurant, the study offered insight into the working conditions and ostensibly sought to bring about changes in laws regarding women working in the industry.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Alone at the Wheel: Driving in Manhattan

"The roadster glided through traffic as easily, gracefully as a fish swimming downstream, the first lights of evening sliding backward over the long, gray hood."
~ Winifred Van Duzer, The Good Bad Girl (1926)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Faith Baldwin of Brooklyn

New York and the (Aspirations, Dreams) Lives of Women: Faith Baldwin
"Romance novel" is a useless phrase. Let's just stick with "novel," shall we? And thus we can take a look at one of the United States' most successful writers: Faith Baldwin (1893–1978). Over the course of her career, she published roughly 100 novels, wrote for various magazines and newspapers, and saw some of her novels turned into films (eg, Wife Versus Secretary 1936). Her first published piece (a poem) appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1907 (see below). Her first novel was published in 1921, and her final novel appeared in 1977. "She writes about people you know," reads the copy from one of her novels. "The girl next door, the young man who rides down on the elevator with you, the people in your office." Baldwin's novels focused on women's lives, their relationships, dreams, families, marriages, careers, and challenges of the modern world. The setting for the vast majority of her novels: Why, New York, of course! Brooklyn, to be exact.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Skyscraper Souls: Warren William and the Working Girl

Warren William: Villain, City Dweller.
Actor Warren William (1894 – 1948) has been called the "king of pre-code" Hollywood.  At the age of 26, he first appeared on Broadway, enjoying a successful run on the New York stage before going West under contract with Warner Bros.

In films, William was best known for playing a ruthless tycoon, a man who seeks money and power; a man who disposes of women easily and heartlessly, the kind of character who "made life his plaything,"  in the words of a trailer for his 1934 film, Bedside.

Many of his films portray New York City in the 1930s; a portrayal that offers a rather biased view of the metropolis: the city was a jungle, a trap, a den of immorality that dazzles and seems to promise everything, but ultimately only destroys.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Anonymous, New York: Ursula Parrott

You are Here, Manhattan, 1929. Back Cover of Ex-Wife, Dell paperback edition.

My husband left me four years ago. Why--I don't precisely understand, and never did. Nor, I suspect, does he. Now, in these waning days of 1929 when the world may be tumbling about our ears, that other catastrophe and its causes are matters equally inconsequential. ~ Ex-Wife, 1929

In 1929, a novel titled Ex-Wife was published by Jonathan Cape publishers. The book, published anonymously, "caught readers' fancy," and made the bestseller list. Many readers were shocked and astonished at the racy story of a woman who, divorced from her "heel" of a husband, takes up relationships with other men, along with a cocktail or two, and even takes up her own career!

She rooms with an artist friend in the Village, attends parties and "first nights" in the city, she shops, she pays attention to her clothes, perfume, and other details, and she loves to find love in the arms of a handsome male friend--RACY!

Who had written such a truly modern story of a young woman in 1920s Manhattan, navigating men, work, and the impact of the "Aspirin Age?"

Thursday, December 29, 2016

"Calling" in New York: A New Year's Day Tradition

Mrs. Pegu, and drawing-room, are all laid out in state to receive New Year's calls.  Thirty-two young gentlemen make a brief appearance at the door, and recite the following shibboleth:  "How d'ye do, Mrs. Pegu.  Happy New Year.  Can't stay a minute.  Made seventy-six calls this morning; got thirty more to make. Adoo! Adoo!" The young gentlemen vanish, to be succeeded by others. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Selling (Off) New York

Cardboard Cut-Outs?: The cast of Million Dollar Listing, New York
"I think the doorman is just as important as the guy who owns the building," real estate broker Luis D. Ruiz says in an episode of Bravo's Million Dollar Listing, New York (MDLNY). "Because you never know where a deal is going to come from." (Watch a trailer for the show here.) Ruiz is one of three New York real estate brokers - and reality TV personalities - who make up the cast of the popular and fascinating show that will next air its 6th season.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Hellward, New York? The Shimmy Dance and Other Indecencies

Dance, Daughters, Dance! 1928
By the time a young actress danced in front of a three-way mirror and on table tops, shaking her body as her bobbed hair bobbed and her scandalously short skirt swayed up and down, the dance known as the "Shimmy" was almost a decade old.

This was Joan Crawford in the Academy Award nominated film, Our Dancing Daughters (1928). Crawford epitomized the flapper-dancer-modern-woman of the Jazz era. She may have brought the popular Shimmy dance to the (somewhat respectable) silver screen, but she also tamed it in many ways. The Shimmy had actually emerged a decade earlier, in the months after the end of World War I.  And it caused an uproar.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Color of Postwar New York

Walking, 1956, Saul Leiter, Howard Greenberg Gallery (most of the Leiter images used here are from the same source)
Photographer Saul Leiter (1923-2013) spent a large portion of his life living in New York City. Working in the tradition of the street photographer, he captured images from Manhattan, applying an artistic eye to a city that was in constant motion. The city, represented through light, composition, movement, shadow, and most of all color, was transformed through his lens. His work is, in many ways, a visual companion to E.B. White's Here is New York. Leiter started shooting color in 1948, a moment when the American cultural landscape was shifting, its contours shaped by the world war and shaded by the new Atomic Age.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Windows, Shopping, and Christmas Past, NYC

Christmas Card Display: the observed and the observer

From any recent study of New York the visitor from another planet would conclude that our observance of Christmas consisted chiefly in unusual practice and encouragement of the art of shop-keeping. Broadway and the other shopping streets have been for many days a vast fair, crowded with customers till long past the dinner-hour, and late at night, no doubt, the shopmen went out and bought from each other, for there is no resisting the contagion. When one has bought what he desires, there is a fine pleasure in leisurely strolls through the shopping quarter.
J. E. Learned, "Christmas Streets," New Outlook,  December 1892

Ah, Christmas!

Late 19th century and early 20th century images depicting Christmas in New York from the Library of Congress collection can be divided (roughly) into two types: those showing activities related tocharities (Salvation Army, soup kitchens, orphanages, et al) and those showing shoppers on the street.

Monday, November 9, 2015

General Pershing's Welcome in New York City, 1919

General Pershing salutes New York
"The Heart of New York goes out to you," wrote mayor John F. Hylan in an "air letter" to General John J. Pershing (1860-1948) on September 7, 1919. The letter was dispatched from Manhattan by hydroplane and dropped aboard the SS Leviathan during its final days at sea. The ship was bringing the general home.

General Pershing had commanded the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War I. He left the United States in June 1917, just months after the U.S. declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917. He would not return for more than two years.

Friday, August 14, 2015

August 14, 1945: Times Square and a Couple of Kisses

You must remember this....
Life Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt took the iconic image of the nurse and sailor locked in an embrace (she is headlocked, actually) in NYC's Times Square on August 14, 1945, 70 years ago today.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

One Night at Sherry's: James Hazen Hyde Has a Ball (and Some Cake)

Party Over Here! Guests at Hyde's 1905 Ball at Sherry's Restaurant
At the age of 23, Manhattan socialite and supreme party-er of the Gilded Age, James Hazen Hyde (1876-1859) inherited a fortune. He was given majority control of the extremely profitable Equitable Assurance Society, a company founded by his father, Henry Baldwin Hyde, in 1859.

Hyde was the prototypical dandy of turn-of-the-20th-century New York. His clothes were made in Paris (a city that he loved and visited frequently). He was enormously fond of horses and coaches (and once raced, with Alfred Vanderbilt,--by coach!--from Philadelphia to New York City).

Friday, July 10, 2015

Signs of the Time: Federal Art in NYC

Music Contest Poster, Estelle Levine, Artist, Federal Art Project, Library of Congress

During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration* (WPA) sponsored a variety of public programs designed to put people to work and to better society at large. The arts were particularly favored. Painters, dancers, photographers, musicians, writers, sculptors, actors, illustrators, et al, found a haven away from the down-and-out economy through a variety of programs that included the Federal Theatre Project, the Federal Art Project, the Federal Music Project, and the Federal Writers Project.

Over the course of just a few golden years, from about 1935 to 1939, in New York City, the work of those artists was visible everywhere, from the theater marquees advertising a production to posters displayed on the streets. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Street Scenes: Cropping Into History

On Fifth Avenue: A cropped image, c. 1900. (See Full Size Image Here.)

I spend a lot of time looking through visual archives to find images to use in my research and my design work. One of my favorite archives to peruse is the Library of Congress (LOC). The LOC happens to hold one the best collections of American images: roughly 25,000 glass negatives and transparencies made by the Detroit Publishing Company (DPC).

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Washingtons in New York: The Nation, the Publick, and the Enslaved

George: "Mary, Please come with me to New York!"
(Illustration by Norman Rockwell, 1932)
On April 23, 1789, just one week before being sworn in as the first president of the United States, George Washington and his staff settled into the country's first executive mansion, located at 10  Cherry Street in New York City. For nearly two years, before being moved to Philadelphia, the seat of the U.S. government would be located in New York City; and Manhattan would be home to the President and First Lady. The new nation was just starting to recover from the long years of war, and nowhere was this better in evidence than in Manhattan.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Owners of America, NYC

"By their banks ye shall know them," Alfred Henry Lewis
In 1908 and 1909, Cosmopolitan Magazine published a series titled, "Owners of America," profiling some of the country's wealthiest men. (The magazine modestly touted the series as "one of the most interesting that has ever appeared in an American magazine.")

Accompanying the article were images of the Manhattan homes of the "owners."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Jackie, A New Yorker

Jack and Jackie Greet New York, 1960
After becoming First Lady, Jackie Kennedy seemed to do anything to avoid Washington, D.C. She did indeed officially live in the White House during John Kennedy's presidency, but she spent far more time away from the capitol than she spent in it. (Spoiler Alert: New York City was one of her favorite places to go.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Take a Walk: Time Traveling Through the City Streets

Time Traveling on the Upper West Side, 1971 (click text here to go to film)

Take a Walk

New York is made for walking. And it's a city that lends itself to image making, from still photography to home movies.  To see the city from a "common" or everyday point of view seems both literally and figuratively quite pedestrian. But with the passage of time, that point of view becomes magical, offering viewers the opportunity to time travel and walk through the streets of Manhattan in another era.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bright Lights, Big City: Early 1980s New York

The Write Crowd: McInerney, Janowitz, Ellis, 1980s, NYC
"Die Yuppie Scum" was common graffiti that writer Jay McInerney remembers spotting around his East Village neighborhood in the early 1980s. A graduate of Williams college, McInerney studied creative writing (with Raymond Carver) at Syracuse University, and in the early 1980s, he was back in New York City, living in the East Village and working as a reader at Random House. Meanwhile, he wrote the novel that would make him famous.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Coney Island on Their Mind

"Hot town, summer in the city/ back of my neck getting dirty and gritty." 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Beauty of the Miniature: Helena Rubinstein in New York City

Madame Helena Rubinstein
Helena Rubinstein (1870-1965) was a revolutionary force in the world of beauty. She was an entrepreneur, a businesswoman, and a marketing genius. During a long and successful career that spanned six decades and made her one of the richest women in the world, Rubinstein operated salons all over the world and launched scores of products that were sold globally. She was a magnificent purveyor of the idea that all women can find personal satisfaction through the pursuit of beauty. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Decisive Moment: Marilyn Monroe in New York

Marilyn Monroe: The City at Her Feet
New York City, 1955. Gazing down at Park Avenue, Marilyn Monroe stands on the balcony of the Ambassador Hotel, at Park between East 50th and 51st Streets. She was in New York in self-imposed exile from Hollywood. She had come back to the city she knew and loved in order to change her life.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Chrysler Building: A Symbol of the Times

1931: A Dazzling New York Skyline of Architects
Photo:  L-R: A. Stewart Walker (Fuller Building), Leonard Schultze (Waldorf-Astoria), Ely Jacques Kahn (Squibb Building), William Van Alen (Chrysler Building), Ralph Walker (1 Wall Street), D.E.Ward (Metropolitan Tower), Joseph H. Freelander (Museum of New York).

At the Beaux-Arts Ball held in New York City on January 23, 1931, the party was not to be topped...but some of the attendees were!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Day Menus & Traditions: New York City

Thanksgiving dinner at the Hotel New Yorker, at the height of the Great Depression, cost $2.25.
Guests could not only choose turkey as an entree, but also lamb, lobster, or beef. Sardines, baked grapefruit, and "whipped" potatoes also appeared on the hotel's holiday menu. The Art Deco hotel, located at 481 Eighth Avenue, had opened in 1930.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dustin Hoffman's New York

Dustin Hoffman, New York City, 1969: An Actor's Actor. Photo by John Dominis

In many ways, Dustin Hoffman can be seen as a quintessentially New York actor (despite having been born and raised in California). Many of the films Hoffman made through the late 1960s and 1970s not only captured the American zeitgeist, but also created a portrait of New York City. Hoffman, himself a resident of the city from roughly 1958 until 2002, lived through many changes New York underwent and his films capture those changes.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mid-Century Modern: Inside the Mad Men's Living Room

Places! Don & Meagan Draper's NYC apartment, c. 1968
According to a brief shot of an envelope in a recent episode of Mad Men, Don and Megan Draper live on Park Avenue. No surprise there for an up and coming power couple; where else would they live if not in one of the most stylish areas of the city?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer Retreats: New York Style

"By the way, old chap, what do you people do in New York when summer comes?"
"We get out," Miss De Peyster broke in . . . "New York is simply deserted in summer. There is not a soul in town." 
Rupert Hughes, The Real New York (1905).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mary Lincoln in New York

“It is imperative that I should do something for my relief, and I want you to meet me in New York, between the 30th of August and the 5th of September next, to assist me in disposing of a portion of my wardrobe." Mrs. Lincoln to Mrs. Keckley

On September 16, 1867, a small dark haired woman dressed in mourning clothes checked in as "Mrs. Clarke" at the St. Denis Hotel at Broadway and 11th St. She was waiting for a friend who would arrive any day. Mrs. Clarke had business to transact in the city.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How the Other Half Lived ...and Lives

"Bandit's Roost," Richard Hoe Lawrence, c. 1890, Museum of the City of New York
The New York City tenement of the nineteenth century once stood as perhaps the most potent symbol of poverty. The narrow, dark, and crowded houses populated New York City by the thousands in the latter half of the nineteenth century.