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Those Were The Days Women's History

The New York Monkey Fad of 1907

In an absolutely inhumane and totally unwise moment in New York City history, wild and exotic animals were once considered pets, roaming around the city streets with their owners. The wealthiest classes collected all sorts of unusual beasts for their amusement during the 19th century.  So many in fact that the Central Park Zoo — or […]

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Food History Podcasts Those Were The Days

The Ice Craze: Triumphs and Scandals of the 19th Century Ice Trade

New York City on ice — a tribute to the forgotten industry which kept the city cool in the age before refrigeration and air conditioning. Believe it or not, ice used to be big business. In 1806 a Boston entrepreneur named Frederic Tudor cut blocks of ice from a pond on his family farm and […]

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Holidays Those Were The Days

Bowlers and Bonnets: A History of the New York Easter Parade

For almost 150 years, budding fashionistas have been prancing up and down Fifth Avenue on Easter Sunday, displaying elaborate bonnets, hairdos and colorful outfits. Given that modern holiday celebrations are often relatively new (for instance, trick-or-treating has only been a common activity on Halloween since the 1950s), this decorative practice located at this particular spot […]

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Podcasts Those Were The Days

On the Radio: An early history of the airwaves, from the first broadcasts to ‘War of the Worlds’

Our latest podcast explores the early history of radio in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first commercial radio station (KDKA in Pennsylvania) and its first broadcast — the announcement of presidential election results. (Harding wins!) Amateur radio operators at the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side, 1940. Courtesy the Milstein Archives […]

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Those Were The Days

Pabst Blue Ribbon architecture from Old New York

Pabst Brewing Company, the Milwaukee beer dynasty founded in 1844 by Jacob Best (and his son-in-law Frederick Pabst), became one of America’s best known beer beverage distributors in the 20th century. Part of their strategy for popularizing their brand was by cracking into a market well saturated with beer at the start of the century […]

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Those Were The Days

New York City in the Jazz Age! Presenting Our Podcast Summer Series

The Bowery Boys are heading to the speakeasy and kicking back with some bathtub gin this August — with a brand new summer series focusing on New York City in the Jazz Age. The 1920s were a transformational decade for New York, evolving from a Gilded Age capital to the ideal of the modern international […]

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Those Were The Days

Millionaire aviator crashes into Central Park one hundred years ago!

An airplane crashing into Central Park? Believe it or not, in the early days of flight, these sorts of stories were somewhat frequent, although in this case, the pilot and passenger got out okay. Quote from newspaper coverage. From the New York Evening World, March 6, 1916: “Alexander H. Thaw, the millionaire aviator, and John […]

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Those Were The Days

Let’s look at some old-timey Valentine’s Day cards!

“In observing St. Valentine’s Day we conform to a heathen custom which obtained long before the martyr, St. Valentine, was born,” wrote the New  York Daily Tribune in February of 1908. Like Christmas, the celebration of Valentine’s Day became explicitly commercial in the late 19th century with the mass manufacture of cards and candy.  Massachusetts […]

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Those Were The Days

Columbus Discovers Columbus Circle

There are a great many statues in New York City of the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, a rather controversial figure today who many consider to be a sadist and a bumbling idiot who destroyed indigenous cultures in the name of European glory.  He was obviously more celebrated at the end of the 19th century when colonization and violent conquest were still […]

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Those Were The Days

THIS is New York Fashion Week — as it might have been in 1915

 New York Fashion Week, the city’s twice-yearly celebration of couture and runway, traces its roots to a 1943 press week event at the Plaza Hotel, organized by publicist Eleanor Lambert.  But there had been a variety of one-off ‘fashion weeks’ or American fashion events in the  years between the wars.  In 1934, the Mayfair Mannequin Academy, a local […]

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Those Were The Days

THIS is New York Fashion Week — as it might have been in 1915

 New York Fashion Week, the city’s twice-yearly celebration of couture and runway, traces its roots to a 1943 press week event at the Plaza Hotel, organized by publicist Eleanor Lambert.  But there had been a variety of one-off ‘fashion weeks’ or American fashion events in the  years between the wars.  In 1934, the Mayfair Mannequin Academy, a […]

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Those Were The Days

Lovely photos of the horrible New York garbage strike of 1911

New York street cleaners and garbage workers (sometimes referred to as ‘ashcart men’) went on strike on November 8, 1911, over 2,000 men walking off their jobs in protest over staffing and work conditions. More importantly, that April, the city relegated garbage pickup to nighttime shifts only, and cleaners often worked solo. This may have […]

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Those Were The Days

History in the Making 10/29: Gilded Age Gothic Edition

— Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, the morbidly elegant new show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, looks at 19th century customs of grief through public fashion.  These garments, from 1815-1915, exhibit an undeniable grace and serenity, but they also signal more concrete associations to the recently passed. Some gowns were specifically […]

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Those Were The Days

Housewives demand open markets! One century ago, New York radically changed how people bought groceries

Setting up a market under the Manhattan Bridge. (Courtesy MCNY. Note: This photo may be of an earlier market here, but this gives you an idea of where the 1914-15 markets would have been located.) Groceries are becoming more expensive as retailers mark up prices due to food shortages (or simple price gouging at perceived […]

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Those Were The Days

Ladies, eliminate your “New Yorkese”: Prim and proper advice from a 1940s elocution teacher

Seventy-five years ago today (September 23 1939), this advertisement ran in the New Yorker:   Well, that simply won’t do!  So I decided to look into Miss Margaret McCoy and found an illuminating article from a 1942 column in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle — “Beauty and You” by Patricia Lindsay.  In this piece, McCoy provides […]