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Happy Independence Day — insane or otherwise!

A Wrigley’s Spearmint chewing gum ad from a 1911 New York Tribune advises you to choose gum, not explosives. From the New-York tribune. (New York [N.Y.]), 25 June 1911. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

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Podcasts Uncategorized

Episode #150, out this Friday! Five visual clues:

All pictures courtesy New York Public Library, except number three, courtesy the Museum of the City of New York

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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… Read More

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The New York monkey fad of 1907: From Fifth Avenue to the fire department, primates were fashionable companions

The wacky IKEA monkey story of the past few days got me to wondering about wild animals as pets here in New York. After all, 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 Menagerie, as it was… Read More

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Get into the holiday spirit with these New York stories

LOL Dogz: a photographic postcard from the Rotograph Co., from between 1904-1911. Rotograph was located at 684 Broadway, mass producing snappy photos, often heavily manipulated and painted. Their office building is still around; there’s an Au Bon Pain on the ground floor. [source] Here’s a collection of articles about the New York holiday season that I’ve… Read More

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Williamsburg in flames: Explosion on the East River 1912, and a test for the five-borough fire department

The Williamsburg waterfront was a wall of industry over one hundred years ago and of a most combustible kind. Manhattan had waterfront industry as well, but it was leveraged with rising skyscrapers.  For instance, from the Williamsburg Bridge — not a decade old in 1912 — one could see the nearly-completed Woolworth Building emerging from… Read More

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And now — Eartha Kitt on a bicycle

I was going to run this picture alongside my post on bicycle history last week, but decided this needed a post all its own.  This picture and the one below were taken by Gordon Parks for Life Magazine in June 1952.

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Fernando Wood: More on Lincoln’s wily scoundrel

While the Confederacy may be the enemy in Stephen Spielberg‘s new film ‘Lincoln‘, it is a defeated and toothless one, tattered and on the cusp of surrender. But as this is a legislative melodrama, not a war film, the real foes are the South-sympathizing, anti-war Democrats, opposed to passing Abraham Lincoln’s signature Thirteenth Amendment, which… Read More

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History in the making: Post-Sandy Coney Island edition

The old Coney Island El Dorado bumper car ride, 2007 (courtesy Flickr/chris trudeau) Whistleblower: A heartfelt tribute to David Durk, the NYPD officer who exposed corruption in the force with the help of Frank Serpico (subject of the 1973 Al Pacino film ‘Serpico’). “Durk then went on to take a mad genius approach to enforcing… Read More

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Ten strange supernatural events that have supposedly occurred in New York, according to the Weekly World News

When I was a teenager, one of many life missions was to one day write for the Weekly World News, the black-and-white supermarket tabloid which specialized in uncovering mutant, fantastical, and mostly unbelievable events being ignored by the mainstream media. It began in 1979 with far less embellished intentions, focusing on celebrity gossip and sensational… Read More

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Marvin Hamlisch: His first major performance, at age 6 1/2

Singular sensation: Marvin Hamlisch and director Michael Bennett on the set of A Chorus Line, 1975, photo by Martha Swope (courtesy Noh Way) “Like the Yankees, Mr. Hamlisch is a New York institution.” – Pranay Gupte, the New York Sun, 2006 The composer Marvin Hamlisch, who died last night in Los Angeles at age 68,… Read More

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“History is nothing but gossip about the past, with the hope that it might be true.” Gore Vidal 1925-2012

From 1960.  Photographed by my favorite Life photographer Leonard McCombe. [source] The journalist and fiction writer was almost as well known for his feuds as for his writing. Here are my five favorite nasty insults that Gore Vidal lobbed at other artist and writers: 1) “Andy Warhol is the only genius I’ve ever known with an… Read More

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The Royal Tourist: Queen Elizabeth visits New York City

New Yorkers greet the Queen with a tickertape parade in 1957. Courtesy jeffs4653/Flickr  What do you buy a queen on her Diamond Jubilee, celebrating 60 years on the British throne? Well, most royal figures are quite difficult to buy for, but luckily, Queen Elizabeth has already revealed her preference in local department stores. For back… Read More

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The Avengers Disassemble the MetLife Building

Fare thee well, you who we once called the Pan Am. We hardly knew thee. Image from Comic Book Movie Warning: This story contains light spoilers. Recent fantasy films and TV shows have found ways to alter New York City through the creation of alternate universes.  On Fox’s Fringe, a parallel world features a New… Read More

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Bridges Uncategorized

A strange bridge over Canal Street

One of the more ornate features of the West Side Elevated Highway was the bridge constructed over Canal Street and opened to the public in February 1939. In November 1982, the bridge was ripped down and sold for scrap. I’m not sure of the exact date of the photography above (courtesy the Library of Congress)… Read More