All posts by Bowery Boys

Revisiting the Stonewall Riots: The Evolving Legacy of a Violent Night

PODCAST The legacy of the Stonewall Riots and their aftermath, in a podcast history told over nine years apart (May 2008, June 2017).

In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, undercover police officers attempting to raid the Stonewall Inn, a mob-controlled gay bar with darkened windows on Christopher Street, were met with something unexpected — resistance.

That ‘altercation’ was a messy affair indeed — chaotic, violent, dangerous for all. Homeless youth fought against riot police along the twisting, crooked streets of the West Village. And yet, by the end, thousands from all walks of life met on those very same streets in the days and weeks to come in a new sense of empowerment.

In May of 2008, we recorded a podcast on the Stonewall Riots, an event that galvanized the LGBTQ community, giving birth to political organizations and a sense of unity and pride.

So much has changed within the LGBTQ community — and so much was left out of our original show — that’s we’ve decided to do something unique. In the first half, we present to you our original 2008 history on the Stonewall Riots, warts and all. In the second half, we present newly recorded material, exploring the effects of Stonewall on the crises that faced the gay community in the 1980s and 90s.

Now an official U.S. National Monument maintained by the National Park Service, the Stonewall National Monument preserves New York City’s role in the birth of the international LGBT movement.

And please forgive us in advance for being extra personal in this show near the end.

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Google MusicStitcher streaming radio and TuneIn streaming radio from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:


The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!


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An early advertisement put out by the Mattachine Society, urging people to look at homosexuals different.


An example of the types of flyers circulating in the West Village following the Stonewall incident.




The Stonewall Inn was closed shortly after the battle with police, not to be reopened again until 1990.

Photographer Diana Davies, courtesy NYPL
Photographer Diana Davies, courtesy NYPL
Photographer Diana Davies, courtesy NYPL

From the first parade (in 1970) to Central Park, the first of what would later be called the Pride Parade.

Diana Davies/NYPL

The parade ended with a gigantic rally in Sheep Meadow in Central Park.

Diana Davies/NYPL

From the parade the following year:



From a 1971 demonstration in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.


….and another near Radio City Music Hall.


Gay rights demonstrations from 1971 at the state capitol in Albany, NY, from an incredible collection of pictures by Diane Davies, courtesy the New York Public Library.


The entrance to Christopher Park in 1975, photo by Edmund Vincent Gillon


Gay Liberation, how the statues looked when they were first installed in 1992.

Edmund Gillon/MCNY

An early AIDS march from 1983 which began near Stonewall in Sheridan Square.

During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 90s, many turned to the example of Stonewall as a way to unite the community and fight back against homophobia.

Photographer Gran Fury, Courtesy NYPL

An ACT UP sign for the Stonewall 25 parade and rally “How many of us will be alive for Stonewall 35?” On the opposite side: “AIDS. Where is your rage? ACT UP.”


A sobering ACT UP ‘welcome wagon’ message. “But remember, when you are back at home, the brave legacy of the rebellious queens and dykes who sometimes embarrass you when you see our marches on television.”



In front of Stonewall in 2013 after the announcement of the Supreme Court verdict in United States v. Windsor, overturning the Defense of Marriage Act.

Photo by Greg Young

Stonewall Inn and Christopher Park, 2015

Photo by Greg Young

Outside the Stonewall in 2016, following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.

Photo by Greg Young


Stonewall 2016, now with police protection! Taken in August 2016, following the announcement of Stonewall as a National Monument.

Returning to Times Square in the 1970s with HBO and two James Francos

Will The Deuce succeed where Vinyl failed? I was disappointed that HBO’s luxury period series about the 1970s music industry quickly faded after only one season, but it appears the network is going back into New York City history with a hotter, sleazier concept. (And Vinyl was very, very sleazy.)

The Deuce takes aim at Times Square, strolling past the legitimate theaters and restaurants and heading into the porn houses. According to their official description, the show “follows the story of the legalization and subsequent rise of the porn industry in New York’s Times Square from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s, exploring the rough-and-tumble world at the pioneering moments of what would become the billion-dollar American sex industry.”

I’m intrigued, even though the concept of two James Francos, as twin porn kingpins Vincent and Frankie Martino, sounds exhausting. (But with his voluminous output of work recently, perhaps there have always been two James Francos.)

However there are a few reasons why I think this might actually take off:

1) The show has been developed by George Pelecanos and David Simon, the makers of The Wire, possibly the most intense and literate show ever about urban life.  Simon’s last project Show Me A Hero was a precise and well-observed drama about Yonkers in the 1980s.

Below: Gary Carr and Tarik Trotter

2) New York City in the 1970s provides a treasure trove of dramatic possibilities if done straight. I quite liked Netflix’s The Get-Down but it was hardly literal. Times Square should provide suitable visual properties provided it’s not too over-the-top. (Fans of Simon’s Treme will know that he handles flashy settings very well.)


3) Maggie Gyllenhaal is in this. We’re in good hands. But let’s hope that wig translates better on film.

The Deuce debuts on HBO on September 12.

Here’s the trailer. What do you think?


The Secret History of Soft Drinks: A Tale in Four Flavors

THE FIRST PODCAST There is something very, very bizarre about a can of soda. 

How did this sugary, bubbly beverage – dark brown, or neon orange, or grape, or whatever color Mountain Dew is – how did THIS become such an influential force in American culture?

This is the strange and inconceivable story of how the modern soft drink was created. It’s a story in four parts —

1) At the start of the 19th century, two dueling soda fountains in lower Manhattan would set the stage for a century of mass consumption.

2) Soft drinks weren’t just tasty. For over a century, many believed they could provide a litany of cures to some of man’s most vexing ills. It’s from this snake-oil salesmanship that we get many of today’s top soft-drink brands.

3) Coca-Cola may pride itself on its ‘secret formula’, but in fact that formula has frequently changed since the 1880s, when a Confederate war veteran first invented this magical brew mixing three exotic ingredients — cocaine, wine and kola nut.

4) Soft drinks have professed to relieve many physical ills. By the 1950s they even attempted to promote weight loss. But the rise of diet drinks sparked a marketing war with manufacturers of one of their most reliable (and delicious) ingredients.

To get this episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services.

Subscribe to The First here so that you don’t miss future episodes!

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio from your mobile device.

Or listen to it straight from here:

Joseph Priestley’s mechanism for artificially carbonating water.

For many decades Moxie advertisements featured a medical professional as the defining image of their product.

Dr. Pepper once proudly advertised that it was free from caffeine. This ad is from the 1910s in the wake of Coca-Cola’s battles with the federal government over caffeine.

Dr Pepper Museum

Picture at top is a detail from this great shot from Shorpy, circa 1920, of the People’s Drug Store, 14th & U Streets, in Washington D.C.

The inspiration for Coca-Cola — coca wine from coca leaves.

Internet Archive Book Images

In the 1890s there were reportedly more soda fountains than there were taverns in New York City. Below — a later fountain stocked with sodas in Staten Island

This unsuccessful campaign tried to convince people that hot soft drinks were also a taste treat.

Advertisements used on this week’s show:

A Coca-Cola advertisement from Australia!




Every Bowery Boys podcast in chronological order by subject (updated for 2017)

Ten years ago (officially on June 19, 2007) we recorded the very first Bowery Boys podcast, appropriately about Canal Street, the street just outside our windows.  We cannot have possibly imagined on that hot June night, wielding only a bad microphone, a new laptop and some reasonably interesting information about a terribly polluted water source, that would still be doing this, stronger than ever.

Thank you listeners and readers for helping us celebrate almost four hundred years of history in the past ten. We have so many exciting things on the way for 2017.

Here’s a new way to experience our old podcasts. Below is our entire list of shows, placed in a particular chronological order, based on a critical date in that subject’s history.

Viewing our back catalog of podcasts in this fashion, we hope that you can really start seeing the entire history of New York City emerging. Naturally there are some blatant holes in our coverage that we hope to close up in future shows.

So enjoy! And thank you all again.

You can find our podcasts anyplace. Read here more information. You can directly to our Bowery Boys Archives feed for the first 75 or so. There’s a few in between that we haven’t had time to migrate to the Archive feed, but you can listen to those by clicking on the link below.

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York



#206 The Lenape: The Real Native New Yorkers (Pre 1609 inhabitants)

#83 Henry Hudson and the European Discovery of Mannahatta (1609 – Hudson in the harbor)

#212 Bronx Trilogy: The Bronx Is Born (1639 Jonas Bronck sets up a farm on what would be called the Bronx River)

#14 Peter Stuyvesant (1647 Stuyvesant arrives)

#22 Staten Island (1680 Conference House built)

#228 The Pirate of Pearl Street: The New York Adventures of Captain Kidd (1690 Kidd moves to New York)

#97 Trinity Church (1698 – First Trinity Church opens)


#90 Columbia University (1754 — King’s College established)


#115 African Burial Ground (Mid-18th century – Burials begin in area south of Collect Pond)


Museum of the City of New York
Museum of the City of New York
#121 Fraunces Tavern (1762 – Samuel Fraunces opens tavern)


#35 The British Invasion 1776

#201 GOWANUS! Brooklyn’s Troubled Waters (1776 – Battle of Brooklyn)

#191 The Great Fire of 1776 (1776 Fire at the Fighting Cocks Tavern)

#36 Life In British New York 1776-1783 

#157 Early Ghost Stories of Old New York (1778 – Mohican Indians fighting for George Washington slaughtered)


Painting by Anthony Imbert
Painting by Anthony Imbert


#220 George Washington’s New York Inauguration (1789)

#221 New York: Capital City of the United States (1789-1790)

#63 New York Stock Exchange (1792 Buttonwood Agreement)

#112 Archibald Gracie and His Mansion (1799 — Mansion constructed)

#138: St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowery (1799 — Chapel opens)

#65 Spooky Stories of New York (1800 Levi Weeks accused of murder)

#41 New York Post (1801 Alexander Hamilton establishes the paper)

#19 Washington Irving (1802 Irving begins writing)

#168 DUEL! Aaron Burr vs. Alexander Hamilton (1804 – The infamous duel)

#6 Governors Island (1807 Castle Williams constructed)

#185 Adventures in Governors Island (1807 Castle Williams constructed)

#31 Battery Park and Castle Clinton (1808 Castle Clinton constructed)

#9 St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral (1809 Cathedral begins construction)

#50 Canal Street and Collect Pond (1811 Collect Pond is filled)

#163 South Street Seaport (1811 – Schermerhorn Row counting houses constructed)

#93 City Hall and City Hall Park (1811 City Hall constructed)

#40 Union Square (1815 Union Place opened)

#145 Bicycle Mania! From Velocipede to Ten-Speed (1819 – First bicycle on the streets of New York)



#152 Bellevue Hospital (1821 – Hospital opens)

#52 DeWitt Clinton and the Erie Canal (1825 Canal opens)

#230 Before Harlem: New York’s Forgotten Black Communities (1825 Seneca Village founded)

#7 Washington Square Park (1826 City buys potter’s field to create a military parade ground)

#70 The Bowery Files (1826 – Bowery Theatre opens)

#58 Delmonico’s Restaurant (1827 First restaurant opens)

#142 New York University (NYU) (1831 – College founded in Washington Square)

#193 St. Mark’s Place: Party In The East Village (1831 – Hamilton-Holly house constructed)

#91 Haunted Tales of New York (1832 — Merchant’s House built)

#171 The Keys to Gramercy Park (1833 — Gramercy Park enclosed with a private fence)

#94 Corlear’s Hook and the Pirates of the East River (1833 — First tenement built in the Hook)

#140 Rockaway Beach (1833 – Marine Pavilion opens)

#224 The Arrival of the Irish: An Immigrant Story (1830s)

#208 Great Hoaxes of New York (1835 – the Moon Hoax runs in the New York Sun)

#78 The Great Fire of 1835

#211 The Notorious Madame Restell: The Abortionist of Fifth Avenue (1836 Ann Lohman begins work)

#222 Who Killed Helen Jewett? A Mystery By Gaslight (1836)

#59 Five Points: Wicked Slum (1837 Old Brewery becomes a slum)

#38 Tiffany & Co. (1837 Tiffany’s first opens)

#64 Green-Wood Cemetery (1838 Cemetery opens in Brooklyn)

#82 Roosevelt Island (1839 – Lunatic asylum opens)

#130 Haunted Histories of New York (1841 – Most Holy Trinity in Bushwick constructed)

#46 Barnum’s American Museum (1841 Museum opens)

#66 Who Killed Mary Rogers? (1841 Rogers is murdered)

#143 Water for New York: Croton Aqueduct (1842 – Croton Aqueduct opens)




#133 Red Hook: Brooklyn on the Waterfront (1847 – Atlantic Basin constructed)

#37 Henry Ward Beecher and Plymouth Church (1847 Beecher moves to Brooklyn)

#164 The Astor Place Riot (1849 — Riot erupts)

#160 Tompkins Square Park (1850 – Park opens)

#181 Park Slope and the Story of Brownstone Brooklyn (1850s – Edwin Litchfield purchases parcels of land in South Brooklyn)

#75 Williamsburg(h), Brooklyn (1852 City of Williamsburgh)

#178: The Crystal Palace: America’s First World’s Fair (1853 – Crystal Palace opens)

#92 Steinway: the Piano Man (1853 – Henry Steinway opens first shop in Manhattan)

#117 Mark Twain’s New York (1853 – Young Mark Twain first visits New York)

#60 Five Points Part Two: The Fate of Five Points (1953 New Mission replaces the Old Brewery)

#51 McSorley’s Old Ale House (1854 Tavern opens)

#25 The Original Bowery Boys (1855 Death of Bowery Boys leader Bill the Butcher)

#103: Case Files of the NYPD (1857 — Infamous Police Riot between Municipals and Metropolitans)

#54 The Creation of Central Park (1857 Park opens)

#134 St. Patrick’s Cathedral (1858 – Cornerstone laid)

#30 Peter Cooper and Cooper Union (1858 Cooper Union begins construction)

#23 Macy’s : the Man, the Store, the Parade (1858 Rowland Macy opens first store)

#129 Chinatown (1858 – First Chinese resident of New York documented)

#126 Fernando Wood: The Scoundrel Mayor (1860 – Becomes mayor of New York)

#139 Brooklyn Academy of Music (1861 – Academy opens)

#183 Orchard Street: Life On The Lower East Side (1863 – Construction of 97 Orchard Street)

#127 The Civil War Draft Riots (1863 — Summer of Draft Riots

#10 Central Park Zoo (1864 Menagerie opens)

#128 Hoaxes and Conspiracies of 1864 (1864 – Fires in November)


Painting George Loring Brown, courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Painting George Loring Brown, courtesy Museum of the City of New York


#113 Niblo’s Garden (1866 – The Black Crook debuts)

#84 Prospect Park (1867 — Park opens to the public)

#141 New York Beer History (1867 – George Ehret opens brewery)

#102 Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach (1868 – First resort in Brighton Beach

#114 Supernatural Stories of New York (1869 – Hart Island first used as a potter’s field)

#131 The First Apartment Building (1869 Stuyvesant Apartments constructed)

#207 The First Subway: Beach’s Pneumatic Marvel (1869 Alfred Ely Beach builds under Broadway)

#161 Fire Department of New York (FDNY) (1870 – City-funded fire team founded)

#177 The Big History of Little Italy (1870s – Italian immigrants began arriving in large numbers)

#86 Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall (1871 – Boss Tweed arrested)

#45 Grand Central (1871 Grand Central Depot opens)

#198 Greenpoint, Brooklyn: An Industrial Strength History (1874 Opening Faber Pencil Factory)

#116 American Museum of Natural History (1877 – First portion of museum opens)

#215 Ghosts of the Gilded Age (1877 – Mysterious body found in an abandoned Queens farmhouse)

#107 New York’s Elevated Railroads (1878 – First regular elevated railroad in service)

#172 Ghost Stories of Brooklyn (1878 – Reports of a ghostly doorbell in Clinton Hill)

Art by Charles Hart. Courtesy Museum City of New York
Art by Charles Hart. Courtesy Museum City of New York



#99 Madison Square Garden (1879 – First Madison Square Garden opens

#8 Dakota Apartments and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (1880 Dakota begins construction)

#167 Cleopatra’s Needle and the Freemasons Secret (1881 – Obelisk erected in Central Park

#186 Hell’s Kitchen: New York’s Wild West (1881 Incident at Hell’s Kitchen tenement)

#225 P. T. Barnum and the Greatest Show on Earth (1881 Barnum and Bailey Circus formed)

#132 Electric New York: Edison and the City Lights (1882 Pearl Street Station opened)

#108 Cable Cars, Trolleys and Monorails (1883 – New York’s first cable car system)

#29 Brooklyn Bridge (1883 Bridge completed)

#89 Chelsea Hotel (1883-5 Hotel is constructed as a cooperative)

#79 The Whyos: Gang of New York (1884 – Whyos list of ‘killing prices’ published)

#179 The Fight for Bryant Park (1884 – Park renamed for William Cullen Bryant)

#95 Tin Pan Alley (1885 – First music publishers move to West 28th Street)

#81 The Puck Building: “What Fools These Mortals Be!” (1885 — Puck Building constructed)

#34 Katz Delicatessen (1886 Deli opens as the Iceland Brothers)

#73 Webster Hall “The Devil’s Playhouse” (1886 Webster Hall completed)

#16 Statue of Liberty (1886 Statue dedicated)

#194 Nellie Bly – Undercover In the Madhouse (1887 Nellie goes to the asylum)

#148 The Great Blizzard of 1888 (1888 The blizzard hits)

#203 Nikola Tesla In New York (1888 – Westinghouse licenses Tesla patents)

#216 Edwin Booth and the Players Club (1888 — Booth forms the Players Club in Gramercy Park)

#169 The Tallest Building In New York: A Short History (1890 – Construction of the New York World Building)

#213 Bronx Trilogy: The Bronx Is Building (1890 Construction begins on the Grand Concourse)

#57 Carnegie Hall (1891 Hall opens)

#120 NYC and the Birth of the Movies (1892 — First Kinetoscope parlor)

#88 Ellis Island (1892 — Immigration station opens)

Courtesy Library of Congress
Courtesy Library of Congress


#21 The Astors and the Waldorf-Astoria (1893 Hotel Opens)

#146 Herald Square (1894 New offices for the New York Herald)

#165 Ladies’ Mile (1896 – Siegel-Cooper opens)

#87 The Kings of New York Pizza (1897 – Lombardi’s Pizza opens)

#47 Grants Tomb (1897 Tomb completed)

#189 TAXI: History of the New York City taxicab (1897 first electric taxis)

#150 Consolidation! Five Boroughs, One Big City (1898 Five boroughs created)

#71 Saks Fifth Avenue (1898 Store founded)

#101 The Bronx Zoo (1899 — Zoo opens)

#105 The Newsboys Strike of 1899 and #219 Newsies on Strike!(1899 Strike freezes newspaper delivery)

#159 The Broadway Musical: Setting the Stage (1901 Florodora opens)

#26 Flatiron Building (1902 Flatiron constructed)

#184 The Flatiron Building: A Story from Three Sides (1902 Flatiron constructed)

#166 General Slocum Disaster 1904 

#12 Coney Island: The Golden Age (1904 Dreamland opens)

#109 New York City Subway, Part 1: Birth of the IRT (1904 — First subway opens)

#28 One Times Square (1904 New York Times opens new headquarters)

#118 Times Square (1904 – New York Times opens new headquarters)

#106 Staten Island Ferry (1905 – New York takes over private ferry service)

#188 The Murder of Stanford White (1906 White is killed at MSG)

#190 The Curious Case of Typhoid Mary (1906 Mary gets a job in Oyster Bay)



#69 The Plaza Hotel (1907 Hotel opens)

#74 The Ziegfeld Follies (1907 The first Follies)

#195 Midnight in Times Square: New Year’s Eve In New York City (1907 – first ball drop)

#98 Manhattan Bridge (1909 Bridge opens)

#180 The Chelsea Piers and the Age of the Ocean Liner (1910 – Chelsea Piers constructed)

#205 The Disappearance of Dorothy Arnold (1910 – Dorothy Disappears)

#80 Pennsylvania Station (1910 – Penn Station opens)

#42: The Triangle Factory Fire (1911 Disaster occurs in March)

#17 New York Public Library (1911 Main branch opens)

#147 Art Insanity: The Armory Show of 1913 (1913 — Exhibition debuts)

#110 New York City Subway, Part 2: By the Numbers (and Letters) (1913 — The Dual Contracts agreement inspired subway growth)

#158 Hotel Theresa: The Waldorf of Harlem (1913 — Hotel constructed)

#156 The Boy Mayor of New York (1913 – Mitchel elected mayor)

#76 Woolworth Building (1913 — Woolworth Building completed)

#39 New York Yankees (1913 Highlanders renamed the Yankees)

#202 The Lower East Side: A Culinary History (1914 – Russ & Daughters opens)

#226 The Beauty Bosses of Fifth Avenue (1915 – Rubinstein opens her first shop)

#199 Battle For The Skyline: How High Can It Go (1916 – Zoning Law)

#197 Danger In The Harbor: The Black Tom Explosion (1916 – Explosion Occurs)

Samuel H. Gottscho, courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Samuel H. Gottscho, courtesy Museum of the City of New York


#223 The Algonquin Round Table (1919)

#144 Mysteries and Magicians of New York (1920 – Joseph Rinn debunks spiritualists at Carnegie Hall)

#137 NYC and the World of Radio (1920 – First radio station)

#18 Ghost Stories of New York City (1920 Showgirl Olive Thomas commits suicide)

#125 Sardi’s Restaurant (1921 – Sardi’s opens for business)

#196 Ready to Wear: A History of the Garment District (1920s – Moves from LES to Midtown)

#100 Robert Moses (1922 Robert Moses begins work on New York City parks)

#192 Haunted Landmarks of New York (1923 – John Campbell leases his Apartment in Grand Central)

#153 NYC and the Birth of Television (1925 – First television broadcast from Roosevelt Hotel)

#174 American Kicks: A History of the Rockettes (1925 – Dance troupe founded in St. Louis)

#170 The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino (1926 – Rudolph Valentino dies)

#182 Mae West, “Sex” on Broadway (1926 – The play ‘Sex’ opens)

#204 The Cotton Club: Aristocrat of Harlem (1927 – Duke Ellington debuts)

#32 Museum of Modern Art (1929 Museum established)

#11 The Chrysler Building (1930 Building completed)

#162 George Washington Bridge (1931 – GWB opened)

#209 The Waldorf-Astoria’s Complicated History (1931 Hotel opens)

#44 Rikers Island (1932 Jail opens)

#27 Radio City Music Hall (1932 Opening night)

#55 The Evolution of Central Park (1934 New York Parks Department created)

#15 The Apollo Theater (1934 Vaudeville house becomes the Apollo)




#53 Meatpacking District (1934 Elevated railway opens)

#135 The High Line (1934 Elevated railway opens)

#136 High Line Walking Tour (1934 Elevated railway opens)

#56 Randall’s Island (1936 Jesse Owens wins the Olympic trials)

#227 The Hindenburg Over New York (1937 The zeppelin crashes in New Jersey)

#187 Super City: New York and the History of Comic Books (1938 – Action Comics debuts)

#96 The Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park (1938 – Cloisters Museum opens)

# 49 LaGuardia Airport and Early New York Flight (1939 New York Municipal Airport opens)

#72 Rockefeller Center (1939 Opens to the public)

#176 Billie Holiday’s New York (1939 – Billie Holiday sings “Strange Fruit”)

#24 The Copacabana (1940 Club opens)

#13 Coney Island: 20th Century Sideshow (1944 Luna Park damaged in fire)

#154 New York in the Golden Age of Television (1947 – Howdy Doody first broadcast

#124 Idlewild/JFK Airport (1948 — New York International Airport opens)

#20 United Nations Headquarters (1952 Building Completed)

#85 Shakespeare in the Park (1954 — Festival founded by Joe Papp)

#67 Guggenheim Museum (1959 — Upper East Side museum opens its doors)

#218 Lincoln Center and West Side Story (1959 — Groundbreaking and construction begins)

#77 Freedomland U.S.A. (1960 – Park opens in the Bronx)

#61 Pan Am Building (1960 Construction begins)

Waterside Plaza, 1974.
Waterside Plaza, 1974.


#200 Jane Jacobs: Saving the Village (1961 – The Death and Life of Great American Cities)

#119 The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (1964 – Bridge opens)

#33 The World’s Fair of 1964-65 (1964 World’s Fair opens)

#173 Ruins of the World’s Fair: New York State Pavilion (1964 – World’s Fair opens)

#62 Shea Stadium (1964 – Stadium opens)

#217 Truman Capote’s Black And White Ball (1967 Ball is held at the Plaza Hotel)

#155 Sesame Street to Seinfeld: NYC TV 1969-2013 (1969 – Sesame Street on the air)

#48 The Stonewall Riots (1969 Riots erupt)

#68 New York City Marathon (1970 The first marathon)

#104 CBGB & OMFUG (1973 Hilly Kristal opens club)

#43 Studio 54 (1977 Disco opens)

#5 Blackout (1977 Blackout occurs)

#214 Bronx Trilogy: The Bronx Was Burning (1977 Game 2 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium)

#123 TRUMP (1978 — Trump develops Grand Hyatt Hotel)

#210 Digital City: New York and the World of Video Games (1978 Space Invaders takes New York by storm)

#111 Subway Graffiti 1970-1989 (1980s – Koch cracks down on subway graffiti)

#151 The Limelight: Church, Nightclub and Mall (1983 Limelight Club opens)

Hurricane Sandy Update (2012)

#175 Bowery Boys 2014 Year In Review (2014)

#229 LIVE IN BROOKLYN! The Bowery Boys: Ten Years of Podcasting


Pictured at top:   That’s Midtown Manhattan! The American Horse Exchange at 1634 Broadway and 50th Street. Somebody did a great annotation of this photograph here

Remembering the General Slocum disaster (June 15, 1904)

The General Slocum Memorial Fountain, one of the sole reminders of one of New York City’s darkest days,  is not a very awe-inspiring memorial.

This is no dig at the custodians of Tompkins Square Park, where the memorial has been on display since 1906, nor at Bruno Louis Zimm, the fountain’s sculptor whose creation presents two children in idyllic profile, next to an engraving: “They were Earth’s purest children, young and fair.”

Its left side unveils its more tragic context: “In memory of those who lost their lives in the disaster to the steamer General Slocum, June XV MCMIV.”

The fountain, while charming and tranquil, is inadequate in expressing the grief and horror that filled New Yorkers on June 15, 1904, when, during a church-sponsored day trip headed for the Long Island Sound, the General Slocum steamboat caught fire and sank in the East River, killing more than a thousand passengers, mostly women and children.

This tragedy was the single deadliest event in New York City history until September 11, 2001.

This disaster virtually wiped out the German presence on the Lower East Side—entire families perished, many of whom had just gotten a foothold in New York a generation before. In a single morning the lights of Kleindeutschland, New York’s Little Germany, permanently faded.

The boat had been chartered by St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church* for their yearly day trip excursion to the Long Island Sound. It was a chance for the congregation to briefly break out of the crowded Lower East Side to enjoy a day in the sun. Among the passengers was the Liebenow family, the parents and their three daughters, Anna, Helen, and Adella, along with several aunts and cousins.

A postcard featuring the General Slocum from the Museum of the City of New York collection.

Courtesy MCNY

The Slocum left the pier shortly before 9 a.m. and began its slow crawl up the East River. Captain William Van Schaick had been
principally concerned that morning with one turbulent spot up the East River, a dangerous confluence of waters known as the Hell Gate. It had already sunk hundreds of vessels as far back as the seventeenth century. By 1904 it was still a dangerous pass, but on this day, the Hell Gate would not be the problem.

About 30 minutes into the voyage, a child noticed that a small fire had started in the lamp room below the main deck.

A crewman tried to stamp it out, throwing charcoal on it in an effort to contain it. But the flames only grew larger.

Crew members grabbed a firehose—only to find it rotten to the point that it burst wide open. These were not men trained for emergency situations; once they realized the hoses were useless, they simply gave up.

from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Civilized behavior soon gave way to panic as the flames quickly spread through the lower levels of the steamer, fire jumping from passengers’ clothing to hair.

Families moved away from the flames only to find themselves pressed up against the boat’s railings as panicked crowds pushed forward in search of fresh air. Children lost hold of their parents, never to see them again.

Crowds surged toward the Slocum’s six lifeboats and attempted to hoist them down. But they wouldn’t budge—somebody had wired them to the wall.

The life preservers, never properly inspected, were filled with rotten cork, and several exploded into dust. They were not only useless—they were actually dangerous. Panicked parents strapped preservers to their children and tossed them overboard, only to watch in horror as they sank from sight.

Below deck, passengers were burned to death—huddled in groups and trapped in corners. Smoke choked many, causing unconsciousness; many were trampled underfoot.

Some jumped into the violent waves. “There was little hope that any of the children who jumped overboard could be saved,” reported the New York Evening World. “The current all along the course taken is on a section of the river where not even a strong swimmer can breast the currents. Scores of little ones were sucked in by the whirlpools in Hell Gate.”

Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation

Crowds formed along the shores, their attention drawn by the billowing smoke, fire, and horrifying spectacle before them. The captain managed to steer the boat toward North Brother Island, where nurses, doctors, and even patients from the smallpox hospital ran to the water to rescue and attempt to revive those who had washed ashore.

Bodies on the shore of North Brother Island

The Slocum eventually floated out into the Long Island Sound, puffing clouds of cork dust into the air, while leaving a trail of tragedy in its wake.

Just after noon, the burning vessel sank, a single paddle box and a smokestack jutting out of the water.

By the final count, 1,021 people perished in the General Slocum disaster that day, making it the deadliest single event in the city’s history up to that date. In the weeks following the disaster, the streets of Kleindeutschland—today’s East Village—were filled with mourners, as the community attended funerals in the homes of those who had perished and held solemn processions through the streets.

A mass funeral through the streets of the Lower East Side — “burial of the unidentified”

New York Public Library

The Liebenow family was hit particularly hard. The entire Liebenow family died in the disaster—all except baby Adella (pictured below), just six months old at the time of the tragedy.

Two years later, now only two-and-a-half years old, Adella was hoisted to a podium here in Tompkins Square Park. She stood before a community that hadn’t yet fully recovered—would they ever?—as she tugged at a cloth to unveil the General Slocum Memorial Fountain.


No, the fountain is not perfect. How could it be?

But why hasn’t this tragedy been better memorialized? It’s such an important event in the city’s history, and yet so many don’t know its whole story. There are a few theories about this, many having to do with the anti-German sentiment that cropped up a decade later at the beginning of World War I.

Or was it the social class of the victims that caused it to recede from memory? Adella, who died in 2004, 100 years after the disaster, believed that this might be the case. To a crowd at a 1999 commemoration of the tragedy, she said, “The Titanic had a great many famous people on it. This was just a family picnic.”

*St. Mark’s is located on East 6th Street, between First and Second Avenues, in the heart of New York’s first and largest German neighborhood. A plaque honoring the victims hangs in front.

There’s also a monument to the victims at a cemetery in Middle Village, Queens


The above is an excerpt from our book The Bowery Boys Adventures In Old New York, now available at bookstores everywhere.

“A Night of Victorian Tragedies” at Green-Wood Cemetery, hosted by the Bowery Boys — this Saturday (June 17)!

Another cool live event coming your way — and a mysterious one at that. Green-Wood Cemetery is bringing you a haunting outdoor event on the evening of Saturday, June 17, entitled A Night of Victorian Tragedies and Greg will be emceeing the event — and bringing you one of the spooky stories himself!

Here’s the description from Green-Wood Cemetery:

The Victorians knew a thing or two about tragedy. They seemed to almost revel in tales of disaster and heartbreak. And a Victorian-era cemetery, like Green-Wood, has no dearth of these sad, sad stories.

Greg Young, co-host of the award-winning NYC history podcast, The Bowery Boys, emcees a night of storytelling, where you and your fellow audience members will vote on the most tragic of Victorian tales.

He will be joined by a team of seasoned storytellers who will try to convince you that their own heartbreaking tale of a Green-Wood permanent resident is worthy of the title.

Will it be the victims of a shipwreck just 300 yards from port or the beautiful Charlotte Canda thrown from her horse-drawn carriage on the night of her 17th birthday? A bit Victorian-era trivia is also on deck, along with some great Green-Wood prizes for the most knowledgeable (or lucky). Be sure to bring tissues. Fainting couches not provided.

The story tellers:

Eric Grundhauser – Staff Writer at Atlas Obscura
LJ Lindhurst – Expert Tour Guide at Green-Wood
Matt Dellinger – Writer, Archivist, and Civil War Reenactor


A Night of Victorian Tragedies

Saturday, June 17, 8:00 pm9:30 pm

$20 for members of Green-Wood and BHS / $25 for nonmembers

There are limited seats available so get your tickets now!

Before Harlem: The Stories of New York’s Forgotten Black Communities

PODCAST The history of African-American settlements and neighborhoods which once existed in New York City

Today we sometimes define New York City’s African-American culture by place – Harlem, of course, and also Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, neighborhoods that developed for groups of black residents in the 20th century.

But by no means were these the first in New York City. Other centers of black and African-American life existed long before then. In many cases, they were obliterated by the growth of the city, sometimes built over without a single marker, without recognition.

This is the story of a few of those places.  From the ‘land of the blacks‘ — the home to New Amsterdam and British New York’s early black population — to Seneca Village, a haven for black lives that was wiped away by a park. From Little Africa — the Greenwich Village sector for the black working class in the late 19th century — to Sandy Ground, a rural escape in Staten Island with deep roots in the neighborhood today.

And then there’s Weeksville, Brooklyn, the visionary village built to bond a community and to develop a political foothold.

Greg welcomes Kamau Ware (of the Black Gotham Experience) and Tia Powell Harris of the Weeksville Heritage Center to the show.

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Google MusicStitcher streaming radio and TuneIn streaming radio from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #230: BEFORE HARLEM: New York’s Forgotten Black Communities


The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

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Three boys from Sandy Ground, Staten Island, circa 1912.

Staten Island Historical Society

More information about the Black Gotham Experience here, including a list of walking tours.  Check out the websites for Weeksville Heritage Center and the Sandy Ground Historical Society for more information about visiting hours and tours.

Have plans tomorrow (Saturday, June 10)? Both the Black Gotham Experience and Weeksville Heritage Center have daytime events. Stop by and see both of them!



This map of Seneca Village was made by Andy Proehl illustrating what the settlement looked like in the years before its destruction.

Courtesy Andy Proehl/Flickr

The approximate area via Google Maps. The Great Lawn now sits on the spot where the reservoir is.

The approximate area of Little Africa. The map is from 1889.

NYPL via Greenwich Village Society of Historical Perseveration

Richard Hoe Lawrence and Jacob Riis’s images of a “Black and Tan” dive bar on Broome Street near Wooster Street, 1890.

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York


Minetta Lane, circa 1900.


The approximate location of Weeksville, Brooklyn



Brooklyn Public Library

The three surviving houses today



The picture at top features an African-American family posed in front of the John Brown Homestead in Torrington, Connecticut, circa 1890s-1900. I particularly love this picture (despite it not being in New York City) because the house is reminiscent of the Weeksville houses and those that were in Sandy Ground.


Connecticut Historical Society


Regrettably there are not a huge trove of photographs of any of the places mentioned in the podcast. If you know of any photography websites or resources, please leave the information in the comments so others may check them out. Thanks!

‘Incendiary’: The Mad Bomber Terrorizes 1950s New York

George Metesky was just your average working joe with a unique and understandable beef against his former employer Con Edison. He was injured on the job, eventually fired and denied workers compensation for what appear to be purely bureaucratic reasons.

But any sympathies one might find for Metesky, however, are quickly abandoned.

In retaliation, he began a meticulously sustained crime spree in New York City within its most famous and most bustling landmarks.

For sixteen years (from 1940 until his arrest in January 1957), this disturbed man placed explosive devices throughout the city, a chilling swath of discord meant to send a message while endangering the lives of thousands of New Yorkers. Grand Central, Penn Station, the New York Public Library and a variety of theaters (including Radio City Music Hall) were all targeted by the man who the press would eventually label ‘the Mad Bomber’.

The Psychiatrist, The Mad  Bomber and the Invention of Criminal Profiling
By Michael Cannell
Minotaur Books/Macmillan Publishers

In Incendiary, the brisk new page-turner by Michael Cannell, these disturbing events and the race to capture Metesky are given a bold, true-crime retelling, an immersive non-fiction thriller with cinematic pacing.

Metesky operated a bit like a comic-book villain, sending letters to the New York Journal-American, taunting the police, all the while setting devices in places where they would receive the most attention. But, strangely enough, the ‘Mad Bomber’ never meant to seriously take lives; indeed, of the dozens of explosive devices set off over the city, nobody was actually killed. (But there were a number of serious injuries.)

Given the nature of Metesky’s crime spree, investigators were able to use ground-breaking criminal profiling methods. A disturbed individual like Metesky almost demanded such an investigation, his psyche on full display in his newspaper letters.

Key to his eventual capture was psychiatrist James Brussel who worked closely with the police in constructing a profile of Metesky that was extraordinarily detailed — and mostly accurate.

Even down to outfit he wore when he eventually confronted the police on a cold evening in January of 1957.

“I know why you fellows are here. You think I’m the Mad Bomber.”

Metesky conducted his frightening crimes with an alarming theatricality — indeed, Brussel’s criminal profiling methods would inspire millions of hours of evening television — which is why Cannell’s gripping procedural feels immediate and particularly terrifying.  This is the stuff of modern nightmares.


At top: A portion of one of Metesky’s letter. Below: the Mad Bomber in jail

Judd Mehlman/New York Daily News via Getty Images

The Brooklyn Historical Society’s stunning new museum in DUMBO

It just got a bit easier to access the glorious history of the Brooklyn waterfront.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the development of Brooklyn Bridge Park and its clever incorporation of industrial infrastructure into public spaces — the piers, the warehouses, the cobblestone streets. (I don’t love this so much but whatever.) But things feel so inexorably new and modern that one might have trouble understanding the area’s historical context.

The Brooklyn Historical Society has come to save the day. This spring they’ve opened up a new gallery in the revamped late 19th century Empire Stores, the formerly solemn brick warehouse facing into the harbor.

In another neighborhood, this warehouse might have been destroyed long ago or else hastily revamped into luxury condos, sharing the fate of other structures within the neighborhood of DUMBO.

In many ways the Empire Stores warehouse is the very essence of the downtown Brooklyn industrial district. The building once held coffee beans, sugar, nuts and other products from all over the world. Its curved door and window openings and iron shutters are a reminder of Brooklyn importance within 19th and 20th century global commerce.

Courtesy Brooklyn Historical Society

Today Empire Stores has been refitted for modern Brooklyn industry — those seeking sleek, state-of-the-art office environments — with plenty of spaces for the general public to enjoy. But the new second floor gallery of the Brooklyn Historical Society is (perhaps clearly) my favorite component, a permanent space where the history of the Brooklyn waterfront can be celebrated.

Currently on view is an photo exhibition Shifting Perspectives: Photographs of Brooklyn’s Waterfront, serving as almost a forward to a great project on the history of Brooklyn, displaying images of the waterfront, both past and present.

Waterfront properties in modern New York have completely different values than they did in the past. One need look only to the images in this exhibition, then visit the Empire Stores rooftop to gaze across the water at the rising glass condos of the Manhattan waterfront, to recognize that.

In images by Berenice Abbott and Rudy Burckhardt one sees a rugged, often unforgiving face to the industrial waterfront, the value of its views and its appeals to a family market virtually unknown.  A New Yorker’s enjoyment of waterfront vistas was relegated to pleasure centers like Coney Island.

In captivating modern images like Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao‘s look at the Gowanus Canal, we see the aftermath of decades of industrial use. And in others, like Mitch Epstein’s dreamlike Clouds #94, the harbor’s industrial life endures, albeit losing its foothold to the unstoppable natural world.

Shifting Perspectives: Photographs of Brooklyn’s Waterfront is on display until September 10, 2017

The Brooklyn Historical Society DUMBO is located at 55 Water St.

Starting on June 30, the gallery will be open until 9pm on Fridays. Visit their website for more information.

The Devil and the First Broadway Musical (“The Black Crook”)

THE FIRST PODCAST The Black Crook is considered the first-ever Broadway musical, a dizzying, epic-length extravaganza of ballerinas, mechanical sets, lavish costumes and a storyline about the Devil straight out of a twisted hallucination.

The show took New York by storm when it debuted on September 12, 1866. This is the story of how this completely weird, virtually unstageable production came to pass. Modern musicals like Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, and Hamilton wouldn’t quite be what they are today without this curious little relic.

WARNING: You may leave this show humming a little tune called “You Naughty, Naughty Men.”

Featuring music by Adam Roberts and Libby Dees, courtesy the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

And the voice of Ben Rimalower reading the original reviews of the Black Crook

To get this episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services.

Subscribe to The First here so that you don’t miss future episodes!

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio from your mobile device.

Or listen to it straight from here:

With grateful thanks to Doug Reside whose online resources have been most invaluable with my research.

For more information, there’s an entire Bowery Boys podcast on the history of Niblo’s Garden:

The actress and dancer Pauline Markham, performing as Stalacta, Queen of the Golden Realm


“Celebrated dancer and composer, David Costa, wearing tights, trunks, shirt and long cape with a satin sheen, and a crown on his head featuring horns. He has one foot on the seat of a round-seat chair with heavy fringe, his thigh resting on the back of the chair as he rests his elbow on his knee and his chin on his hand.”

La Biche au Bois from which sprung the Black Crook

From an 1867 book of songs from the Black Crook (although many of the songs were likely never in the show!)



Versions of the show popped up across the country in almost every major city. There was no real consistency aside from Barras’ story.


Thomas Baker wrote many of the songs in The Black Crook. He was also a song writer for Laura Keene whose show The Seven Sisters is sometimes noted as an early proto-musical.


Each number was so elaborate that it would take several minutes to move scenery and get the cast into new costumes. This was one of the key reasons the show had so many unrelated songs which were sung as scenes were shifted.

Operetta Research Center


Illustrations from Charles Barras novel The Black Crook: A Most Wonderful History, published in 1866



The audio of Leonard Bernstein was taken from this episode of Omnibus:

“You Naughty, Naughty Men” performed by Adam Roberts and Libby Dees

“Les Grelots d’amour” performed by Adam Roberts

Some intrepid theater folk brought back a version of The Black Crook and performed it last year at Abrons Arts Center. Hopefully they will remount the show in the future!