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Amusements and Thrills Health and Living

The Bowery Boys New York City swimsuit edition, 1880-1920

 The notion of organized ‘ocean bathing’ — actually going into the water for health, relaxation and enjoyment — was really a 19th century invention, first popularized in the United States during the 1830s at the Marine Pavilion on the Rockaway Peninsula. For propriety’s sake, people would enter a bathing hut hitched to a horse and […]

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Health and Living Podcasts

The First Ambulance: The Humans (and Horses) That Saved the City

EPISODE 329 Did you know that the first modern urban ambulance — the ‘mobile hospital’ — was invented in New York City? On June 4, 1869, America’s first ambulance service went into operation from Bellevue Hospital with a driver, a surgeon, a horse and equipment including a stretcher, a stomach pump, bandages and sponges, handcuffs, […]

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Health and Living Podcasts Staten Island History

The Staten Island Quarantine War

EPISODE 325 In 1858, during two terrible nights of violence, the needs of the few outweighed the needs of the many when a community, endangered for decades and ignored by the state, finally reached its breaking point. In Staten Island, just south the spot of today’s St. George Ferry Terminal, where thousands board and disembark […]

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Health and Living Podcasts

Moving Day! Mayhem and Madness in Old New York

EPISODE 324 At last! The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast looks at one of the strangest traditions in this city’s long history — that curious custom known as Moving Day. Every May 1st, for well over two centuries, from the colonial era to World War II, rental leases would expire simultaneously, and thousands […]

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Health and Living Podcasts

Vaccinated: New York and the Polio Outbreak

EPISODE 317 In 1916 New York City became the epicenter of one of America’s very first polio epidemics. The scourge of infantile paralysis infected thousands of Americans that year, most under the age of five. But in New York City it was especially bad. The Department of Health took drastic measures, barring children from going […]

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Health and Living Podcasts

A History of Getting Well: Podcasts on Typhoid Mary, Bellevue Hospital and more

The COVID-19 outbreak has gotten many people to look back at the handling of past outbreaks in the United States — most notably the 1918 Spanish Flu. Epidemics have actually shaped New York City history as well. While we don’t have a podcast episode on the Spanish Flu crisis, we do have several shows that […]

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Health and Living

The Turtle Cure: In New York, a German doctor offers an unusual remedy for tuberculosis

“I am here to show what the serum will do,” said the visiting doctor from Berlin. “That is my only answer to those who have natural doubts before they have made observations.” Dr. Friedrich Franz Friedmann had come to New York in February 1913 to tackle one of the city’s most persistent scourges upon its […]

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Health and Living

Quarantine on the Lower East Side: A frightening tale from 1892

The neighborhood converging at the intersections of Essex Street, Rutgers Street, Canal Street and East Broadway on the Lower East Side — officially called Straus Square** — somehow seems exactly as it might have looked 125 years ago. Anchored by Seward Park and its beautiful Carnegie library, it retains some of its turn-of-the-century character, while […]

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Health and Living Podcasts

Talking Trash: A History of New York City Sanitation

PODCAST: A history of all things trash in New York City. Picture New York City under mountains of filth, heaving from clogged gutters and overflowing from trash cans. Imagine the unbearable smell rotting food and animal corpses left on the curb. And what about snow, piled up and untouched, leaving roads entirely impassable? This was […]

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Health and Living Podcasts Women's History

Saving the City: Ten New York women who changed the world during the Progressive Era

This is a podcast about kindness and care. About the bold Progressive Era pioneers who saved the lives of thousands of people in need — from the Lower East Side to Washington Heights, from Hell’s Kitchen to Fort Greene. Within just a few decades – between the 1880s and the 1920s – so much social change […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf Health and Living Uncategorized

The Guarded Gate: NYC’s grotesque involvement with the eugenics movement

Eugenics, as with any creation from a mad scientist, was developed to advance the human race, built from the studies of Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel. Shouldn’t we pass only mankind’s most laudable attributes to the next generation? Who wouldn‘t want to weed out disease and deformity? Instead, it became one of the most insidious tools of the 20th […]

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Health and Living

Earth Day in New York City 1970

Mayor John Lindsay pulled out all the stops for the first official Earth Day on April 22, 1970, with such a show that one could be mistaken in the belief that the holiday was created here. (It was officially sanctioned in San Francisco the year before.) In honor of the inaugural environmental holiday, Lindsay authorized Fifth Avenue closed […]

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Health and Living The Alienist

Scenes from New York’s public baths: How tenement dwellers got clean and cool (The Alienist)

HISTORY BEHIND THE SCENE What’s the real story behind that historical scene from your favorite TV show or feature film? A semi-regular feature on the Bowery Boys blog, we will be reviving this series as we follow along with TNT’s limited series The Alienist. Look for other articles here about other historically themed television shows (Mad Men, The […]

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Health and Living The First

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 […]

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Health and Living Podcasts

The Beauty Bosses of Fifth Avenue: Elizabeth Arden & Helena Rubinstein

PODCAST Fifth Avenue’s role in the ‘revolution’ of beauty, as led by Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein, New York’s boldest businesswomen of the Jazz Age. The Midtown Manhattan stretch of Fifth Avenue, once known for its ensemble of extravagant mansions owned by the Gilded Age’s wealthiest families, went through an astonishing makeover one hundred years […]