A chemical company in Union Square sells a kingly elixir

One hundred years ago today (June 23), the big news was the coronation of England’s King George at Westminster Abbey. Judging from the New York papers, American fascination with this event makes the recent royal nuptials of William and Kate seem like a forgettable folly. The June 23, 1911, issue of the New York Tribune is… Read More

New York’s flag day: The Civil War rally at Union Square

Throngs gather in Union Square in support of the Union cause, April 20, 1861. Just in case you’re slightly confused by the placement, the crowd is standing on Fourth Avenue (Park Avenue South) facing into the east side of the park; the Washington equestrian statue once stood at the southeast corner. Look here for comparison.… Read More

The San Francisco Earthquake, as recreated in New York

San Francisco burns — in New York The first American newsreel debuted just over one hundred years ago, representing the first real attempt to contextualize the moving images of actual events into a stream of information that could emulate a newspaper. The French film company Pathe and the New York-based Vitagraph both debuted edited silent… Read More

Mysterious Stories

I Sit On Your Grave: New York’s Hidden Burial Plots

Here’s a chilling thought for the Halloween season: if you’re visiting one of New York’s many amazing parks and squares, most likely you’re standing on land that was formerly used as a cemetery or potter’s field. And in some cases they even left the bodies behind! If you’re fluent in your New York history, you… Read More

Gold-diggers in Union Square, in the hit play of 1878

‘The Banker’s Daughter’ was the hot new play of 1878 by Bronson Howard, “then the best playwright in America.” It played the Union Square Theater for over 140 performances and to rapturous praise. The plot? “How a woman grows to love the older man she married for his money.” In 1899 Howard wrote a play… Read More

Union Square and the demise of ‘Dead Man’s Curve’

The photo above shows the southwest corner of Union Square in the year 1906. For many years prior, this corner was the scene of several brutal accidents between cable cars and pedestrians. When the Metropolitan Traction Company (now doing business as the powerful New York City Railway Company) ripped out the cable lines and replaced… Read More


Cable cars, trolleys and monorails: Moving around on New York’s forgotten transit options

ABOVE: The Boynton Bicycle Railway, combining the best of the locomotive and the spinning wheel. This narrow little hot wheel took riders on a short ride through Coney Island. For the third part of our Bowery Boys On The Go summer series, looking back at the history of New York City public transportation, it’s a… Read More

History in the Making: Earth Day Edition

Earth Day 1970: Girls in Union Square take a sweep at pollution. Photo courtesy AP and National Geographic (who has many more pictures of the environmental holiday’s first year John Lindsay’s “secular revival meeting,” the first Earth Day, has turned into booming business. [New York Times] Coney Island’s Luna Park will return next month! Or… Read More


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… Read More

Labor Day vs May Day: or why New Yorkers love a parade

A banner celebration: loading up with signs for the 1908 Labor Day Parade in New York Labor Day is one of the few national holidays that New York City can lay claim to as their own. The roots of the U.S. holiday began here, with Union Square as its centerpiece, in 1882. But in fact,… Read More

Independence Day 1876! (Where are you, Mr. Tweed?)

(Click for greater detail) The city of New York unfurled its patriotism in a lavish celebration of America’s 100th birthday. The illustration above pictures a great rally at Union Square. Later revelers would gather at City Hall for an elaborate fireworks display with “volumes of sulphurous vaper wreath[ing] the City Hall until it seemed some… Read More


Snow shocked: The Blizzard of 1888

Longacre Square — the future Times Square — after the Blizzard A March blizzard like the one today is discouraging as we’re so close to ridding ourselves of winter forever. But putting it all in perspective, it’ll never top the absolute worst March snowstorm of all time, a snowy catastrophe that completely shut down the… Read More

George W. Bush … on horseback!

Okay nobody may ever honor our current president with a lavish equestrian statue, unless it’s a joke and he’s wearing a cowboy hat. But military tradition and the neo-classical and Beaux-Arts predilictions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries slapped many commanders in chiefs onto a saddle for decoration. New York city has five… Read More

Fashion forward, rare bird lovin’ Gandhi

One final note on Union Square — and namely, its newest addition, the statue of Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi (‘Mahatma’ or great soul). Although his statuary companions in the park George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette and Abraham Lincoln all have symbolic ties to freedom and revolution, Gandhi is the only inclusion that links directly… Read More


PODCAST: Union Square

This former English-garden style park became the heart of protest and the labor movement. Join the Bowery Boys as we dig into the history of Union Square, from Book Row to Klein’s. Listen to it for free on iTunes or other podcasting services. Or you can download or listen to it HERE An old view… Read More