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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

The Lusitania’s final voyage, breathlessly told

They said the Lusitania couldn’t be sunk. The German telegrams to the contrary were merely cheap scare tactics. Besides, England will provide protection once in their heavily guarded waters. The boat is simply too big to sink. There are plenty of lifeboats, enough for the entire passenger list. Even those in steerage! And the best… Read More

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It's Showtime Podcasts

Billie Holiday’s New York: Here’s to Swing Street, Harlem’s 133rd Street and other landmarks of jazz

PODCAST Grab your fedora and take a trip with the Bowery Boys into the heart of New York City’s jazz scene — late nights, smoky bars, neon signs — through the eyes of one of the greatest American vocalists who ever lived here — Billie Holiday. Eleanora Fagan walked out of Pennsylvania Station in 1929… Read More

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Neighborhoods Podcasts

The sumptuous story of Ladies’ Mile: Cast-iron grandeur and Gilded Age architecture

The opening of Siegel-Cooper department store, 1896, created one of the great mob scenes of the Gilded Age.  Today, TJ Maxx and Bed Bath and Beyond occupy this once-great commercial palace.  PODCAST  Ladies’ Mile — the most famous New York shopping district in the 19th century and the “heart of the Gilded Age,” a district… Read More

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Current Events

MetroCard adventure: The 10 best free Open House NY events that don’t need a reservation

The Edgar Allen Poe Cottage — with horse and buggy! — photographed between 1910-1915. You can visit it as part of Open House New York and even go visit their new visitors center. (Courtesy LOC) Open House New York is the absolute best time of the year to wander the city and visit dozens of… Read More

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Those Were The Days

How well can you do on this New York history trivia quiz — from 1914? Prepare to be a little frustrated.

No amount of studying will prepare you for some of these odd questions.  (A girl at Seward Library, photographed by Lewis Hine.)Trivia quizzes are very popular today in bars and pubs throughout the city, but in the past, they’ve had more elitist purposes.  In November 1914, a group of possibly insecure ex-New Yorkers in Chicago… Read More

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Neighborhoods Preservation

The neon bible: A chat with ‘New York Neon’ author Thomas E. Rinaldi about the city’s most stylish signs

Bond Clothing Store sign was a mainstay of Times Square in the 1940s and 50s. For more on Bond’s unusual transition after that, read my article from 2007 on Bond International Casino. Picture courtesy Life Magazine, Lisa Larsen photographerNew York Neon is the Bowery Boys Book of the Month for July, a superb review of the… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

‘New York Neon’: A history of the city’s most mythical lights

A sizzling 52nd Street in July 1948 (courtesy LOC)BOWERY BOYS BOOK OF THE MONTH Each month I’ll pick a book — either brand new or old, fiction or non-fiction — that offers an intriguing take on New York City history, something that uses history in a way that’s uniquely unconventional or exposes a previously unseen… Read More

Open House New York: Ten fascinating FREE places to visit

This weekend is the tenth annual Open House New York, with dozens of landmarks and cultural attractions throwing open their doors to the public, in all five boroughs. It’s probably the best weekend of the year to experience places in New York you would have never thought accessible and a great opportunity to finally go… Read More

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Neighborhoods

The missing: Revisiting the Etan Patz disappearance in SoHo and holding on to memories of a transformed neighborhood

The scene at Wooster and Prince Street on April 19, 2012.  The world has changed since the disappearance of Etan Patz from the streets of New York on May 25, 1979. At least it seemed that way yesterday when the FBI and the New York Police Department reopened the cold case of the boy’s disappearance… Read More

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Planes Trains and Automobiles Podcasts

The Bowery Boys High Line audio walking tour, featuring tales of the Titanic, the Manhattan Project and 1,000 Stevies

Cookie heaven: Trains pull into a factory owned by the National Biscuit Company, between W. 15th and 16th streets, July 30, 1950. Could those cars be filled with crates of freshly made Oreo cookies? (See comments section below for the anser.) By 1958, the snack company had pulled all production from New York’s west side.… Read More

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Friday Night Fever

Rays of light: Madonna and the music video club, 1984

Girl gone wild: Madonna enjoys the video opulence of Private Eyes with former boyfriend and producer Jellybean Benitez, July 17, 1984 It’s 1984, and the hottest trend in American pop culture is the music video . MTV had debuted a channel of non-stop music videos in 1981, and just three years later, most new pop superstars were… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

‘The Irish Way’ to becoming American: a hard-fought history of the dockworkers, the vaudevillians and the chambermaids

The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multi-Ethnic Citypart of the Penguin History of American Life seriesBy James R. BarrettPenguin Group The Irish were the first to immigrate to this country en masse in the 1840s, only to find themselves near the bottom of almost every aspect of American life. In James R. Burnett‘s tidy and studied… Read More

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Revolutionary History

From prison to post office: The odd fate of a Dutch church

¬†One need only walk past the old Limelight in the neighborhood of Chelsea to understand the strange flexibility of church architecture. This former Richard Upjohn-designed Episcopal church at West 20th Street and Sixth Avenue was transformed into a rehab center in the 1970s, then a notorious nightclub in the ’80s, then an upscale mall. And… Read More

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Amusements and Thrills

The first board game: Before Monopoly, a whirlwind tour around America became the perfect Christmas gift

The 24 States: playing field for America’s first board game HOW NEW YORK SAVED CHRISTMAS My yearly roundup of little events in New York history that actually helped establish the standard Christmas traditions many Americans celebrate today. Not just New York-centric events like the Rockefeller Christmas Tree or the Rockettes, but actual components of the festivities… Read More

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Uncategorized

An evening of cocktails, with tales of quirky characters

Thanks to everybody who came out on Saturday for our reading at Swift Hibernian Lounge, as part of the 4th Annual Lit Crawl. Swift makes for a incredibly atmospheric place to spin tales of New York history. Or possibly preach the gospel. Or hold an occult ritual. (Above: That’s me behind the massive podium.) And it… Read More