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Holidays

Making Green: The history of New York’s Christmas tree market

For many, the Christmas holiday in New York City finally comes to life when the sidewalks sprout evergreens. The sight and smell of curbside Christmas tree sellers ushers in the season in the most pleasing way. (Pleasing for the passerby; on a rather cold day, I can’t imagine it too pleasing for the seller.) As […]

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Holidays

Wacky, windy and weird: 1964 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Linus the Lion-Hearted at the 1964 Macy’s Parade The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade of 1963 had been a downer of a parade. President John F. Kennedy had just been assassinated a few days before but, deciding that cancelling the event would be “a disappointment to millions of children,” the parade went on as planned. Leading […]

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Holidays

History in the Making 11/24: Big Thanksgiving Rodents Edition

Mickey Mouse at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1980 (courtesy the Museum of the City of New York)  The Christmas Trash Strike of 1981 My new story for A24 Films and A Most Violent Year is up — a look at the strike by the New York sanitation department which kept New Yorkers in feet of […]

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Holidays

On this Veteran’s Day, a salute to the Harlem Hellfighters!

The men of the 369th who were awarded France’s Criox de Guerre for distinguished acts of heroism:  Pvt. Ed Williams, Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins. Back Row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Strorms, Pvt. Joe Williams, Pvt. Alfred Hanley, and Cpl. T. W. Taylor New York’s 369th Infantry Regiment was America’s […]

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Holidays

Happy Rosh Hashanah! Images of Jewish New Years’ past

Look to the stars children! A vintage Rosh Hashanah card manufactured by the Williamsburg Art Company in the 1920s. Rosh Hashanah is here — the first of Tishrei, year 5775.  Presented here are a selection of photographs from the Library of Congress depicting Jewish New Yorkers celebrating the new year (or, at least, on their […]

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Holidays

Months after the Draft Riots, New York celebrates the first national Thanksgiving, in the shadow of war and lunar eclipse

Above: A Thomas Nast illustration from Harper’s Weekly, November 1863, clearly putting the event in the context of war and hardship.  In practice, Thanksgiving celebrates the supposed feast between the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors in Massachusetts. But meals of ‘thanksgiving’ have been part of the Western world customs for hundreds of years, and […]

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Holidays Newspapers and Newsies

Historic or disappointing? How New York newspapers covered the first Labor Day — September 5, 1882

Clothing cutters, horseshoers, shoemakers, upholsterers, printers, house painters, freight handlers, cabinet makers, varnishers, cigar makers, bricklayers and piano makers. The first American Labor Day began on September 5, 1882, with 10,000 workers from a wide variety of occupations circling Union Square, then parading up to the area of today’s Bryant Park. (A picnic ‘after party’ […]

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Holidays Uncategorized

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! A tribute to the 69th Regiment

The 69th Regiment — aka the Fighting Irish — have always led New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and have been the heart and soul of New York’s Irish community since the early 19th century.  During the Civil War, they were the first to be called, fighting at the battle of Bull Run. The image […]

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Holidays

Whip it! Early Valentine’s Day custom in old New York involved public displays of flirtatious flagellation

In old New York, there was a curious Valentine’s Day custom involving young women running around town whipping men with rope. Yes, you read that correctly.  This form of socially acceptable violence was popular in the colonial era and extended well into the early 1800s.  It derives from a tradition practiced as part of an […]

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Holidays

Good grief! Madison Avenue’s connection to ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’

The first time: A TV Guide advertisement from 1965 announcing the upcoming Charlie Brown special, “presented … by the people in your town who bottle Coca-Cola.” [source] A Charlie Brown Christmas, the holiday special to end all holiday specials, needed a little encouragement from the Madison Avenue advertising world in 1965 to spring into existence. […]

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Holidays

‘Christmas or Chanukah?’: New Yorkers ‘discover’ the Jewish holiday

Early news reporting on the celebration of Hanukkah (or Chanukah, as it was popularly referred then) in New York usually took a arms-length approach, as most of their readership knew little about the celebration 100 years ago. More than one old Tribune or World carried a variant of the headline ‘Jews Celebrate Chanukah’ , as though there […]

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Holidays

Happy Thanksgiving Masking: The pleasures of mischief, featureless masks and cross-dressing children!

No, these children have not gotten their calendars confused. One early American Thanksgiving tradition amongst rascals and rowdies involved goofy costumes and disguised faces. Sometimes called ‘Thanksgiving masking’, the strange practice stemmed from a satirical perversion of poverty and an ancient tradition of ‘mumming’, where men in costumes floated from door to door, asking for […]

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Holidays

The strange, surreal history of celebrity appearances at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Beautiful monsters: The stars of The Munsters are predictably not on their best behavior during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade of 1964 (Photo courtesy Frankensteinia) Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a fixture of the American holiday, as integral as the elements which comprise a standard turkey dinner. Don’t you get in the mood the moment […]

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Holidays

Jacob Riis’ Not-so-Rockin’ ‘Sane’ New Years Celebration

Social reformer Jacob Riis is one of the most important men to New York City history, exposing the ghastly living conditions of city tenements and using his connections to enact change that affected thousands of New York’s poorest residents. In spreading the word, he wrote a social history masterpiece ‘How The Other Half Lives’ and […]

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Holidays Podcasts

PODCAST: Macy’s – the Man, the Store, the Parade

What year is this picture taken? (Click on it to view details.) Note the elevated rail line, no automobiles, and the New York Herald building still standing. You can also tell that the building’s later additions have not yet extended it down towards 7th Avenue. A little research on the Hippodrome and when the shows […]