Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Education of a Young New York City Gentleman

I decided to check back in on Fairfax, and see what else he’s been up to since we first introduced him. If you aren’t familiar with young Master Harrison, check out our earlier post, “Who was Reginald Fairfax Harrison?”

Diary of Reginald Fairfax Harrison, 1883-1884, in the Manuscript Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 71.123.

Fairfax’s diary entry for May 17, 1883, begins: “I went to school, and Mr. Cutler told us that Mr. Treton was going to look over our compositions and that Mr. Roosevelt and the Rector of Mt. Zion Church and another gentleman were going to judge who should get the prizes. Mr. Roosevelt is our oldest graduate and it will be very nice to come back after being away so long and … be an honored Judge.”

There are two names in this diary entry that gives us clues to the caliber of education Fairfax was receiving – “Cutler” and “Roosevelt.” According to an obituary in the New York Times, Dr. Arthur H. Cutler served as headmaster to the school he founded, the Cutler School, for nearly 40 years.

Wurtz Brothers. 49 East 61st Street. General exterior, ca.1910. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1110

The obituary states that the school was a private, collegiate preparatory institution, attended by the sons of many of New York’s prominent families. “The first graduate of the Cutler School was Theodore Roosevelt, who went to Harvard in 1876, and the roster of pupils through the succeeding years includes the names of J.P. Morgan, Waldorf Astor, and many others” (“Dr. Arthur H. Cutler, School Founder, Dies,” New York Times,June 22, 1918).  According to real estate listings in the New York Times, the school held four different locations during its existence; it was originally founded at 20 W. 43rd Street around 1873, then moved to 20 East Fiftieth Street in 1893, and moved again to 49 – 51 E. 61st Street in 1913. The school moved to 755 Madison Avenue following the death of Dr. Cutler, in 1918.

Theodore Roosevelt for Governor, 1898, in the Ephemera Collection.Museum of the City of New York. 41.310.57. William McKinely and Theodore Roosevelt, 1900, in the Ephemera Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 41.310.50.

When Theodore Roosevelt, future President of the United States, visited the Cutler School in 1883, he was finishing out his term as New York State’s youngest State Assemblyman, having been elected right out of Harvard.   Fairfax’s diary entry is very respectful when he speaks of “Mr. Roosevelt,” and the reader can tell that his participation in the Cutler School composition competition was very exciting for Fairfax and his schoolmates, and that they enjoyed knowing that an alumnus of their school had already achieved such a great reputation.  Little did Fairfax know that this noted alumnus of his school would go on to serve as Governor of the State of New York in 1898, Vice President of the United States in 1901, then quickly move into the office of President following the Assassination of William McKinley in September of that same year.

A Trip Up Broadway

From 1916 to 1921, Arthur Hosking photographed Broadway, from its southernmost leg at Bowling Green all the way north to Yonkers. Here are some highlights, all taken in 1920 unless otherwise noted.

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. Bowling Green looking north from Custom House steps. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.4

At the far right of this photo is the Produce Exchange, which was demolished in 1957. This photo was taken in 1921, when both street trolleys and horse-drawn carriages competed as viable means of transportation.

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. Broadway looking north from Rector Street. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.18

A photo taken a few blocks north at Broadway and Rector Street shows pedestrians, automobiles, and street trolleys competing with each other for space. Trinity Church is on the left.

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. Looking north from 2nd floor window at corner of Fulton Street. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.30

Broadway is bustling at the intersection of Fulton Street. St. Paul’s Chapel, seen on the left, was built from 1764 to 1766 and is Manhattan’s oldest continuously-used public building. In 1966, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The City Hall Post Office on the right did not fare so well. Built in 1878, it was immediately despised by city officials and the public alike. It was razed in 1938 in anticipation of the 1939 World Fair. (See http://www.nyc-architecture.com/GON/GON022.htmfor more details.)

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. View of east side of Bway, looking north from Lispenard and Canal Street, where the two streets converge. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.58

Taken in TriBeCa, this photo shows an advertisement for Nehemiah Gitelson & Sons. Nehemiah Gitelson immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1880. In addition to running the family company, he supported Jewish scholarship. In honor of his patronage, the Jewish Theological Seminary named his donation of over 1,100 volumes the Nehemiah Gitelson Talmudic Library.

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. View looking south from 18th Street taken from 3rd floor fire escape. 17th Street foreground, and Union Square in center. 1920. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.85

In 1815, the intersection of Broadway and the Bowery (now 4thAvenue) was designated a public meeting space and named Union Place for the convergence of the city’s main thoroughfares. The city gradually began to acquire surrounding land, and in 1832 Union Place was renamed Union Square.

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. View looking north from “El” station at 33rd Street and 6th Ave, showing Herald Square. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.108

This photo shows Saks & Co. on the left, then Macy’s. To the right is the New York Herald building. Only the Macy’s building survives today. Saks & Co. merged with Gimbels  to form Saks 5th Avenue in 1932. However, the original Saks building in this photo operated under the name Saks 34thStreet until its closure in 1965. The New York Herald building was designed by Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White in 1894 and demolished in 1921.

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. View looking north from 44th Street (Times Square), where Broadway crosses 7th Avenue. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.117

This photo shows the heart of Times Square. To the left is Hotel Astor, built in 1904. Before 1904, the area was known as Longacre Square, but Adolph Ochs, owner and publisher of the New York Times, convinced the city to officially rename the space Times Square. Hotel Astor remained until its demolition in 1967.

Arthur Hosking. View of the southeast corner of Broadway and 155th Street. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.158

Here is the Church of the Intercession in Hamilton Heights. It was only 8 years old when this photo was taken.

The photo below shows Broadway at a much slower pace in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The Broadway Inn is to the left.

Arthur Hosking. Broadway Series. View looking north from Mosholu Ave with Broadway Inn at left. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.18.190

The “Dimming” of Times Square

Close your eyes. Think of Times Square. Imagine all the chaos, the sounds, the overwhelming rush of humanity illuminated by the never-ending glow of neon and electric lights. Would Times Square, not to mention the whole city, be the same without the  neon and glittering lights? During World War II, that question was a reality as the city enacted a nightly dim-out that was meant to protect New York from both air and naval attacks by disguising the recognizable skyline.

Dim - Out Traffic. Times Square during dim out. R.W. Shipman. Museum of the City of New York. Photo Archives.

The first mention of the dim-out was in January 1942. Over the next six months the various rules and regulations of the dim-out crystallized into a thorough document that covered everything from which direction light can escape from windows to the wattage of marquis signs.  The full text of a New York Times article on the subject is  here.  For the next eighteen months, the streets of the five boroughs were dark, there were no lights above street level, outdoor baseball games were banned, and Times Square was a “gloomy cavern.”

These pictures show Times Square in the height of both the dim-out and the war. The lack of light allows the moon and stars to be seen from the middle of Times Square – a phenomenon that the New York Timesclaimed hadn’t happened since 1917.

Constellation. Photograph by Frank Paine Baldwin. ca. 1945. Museum of the City of New York. Photo Archives.

Billboards are in shadows, marquis are dark, but Times Square was still the place to be.

Gone but Not Forgotten. Photograph by J.G. Suter. ca. 1945. Museum of the City of New York. Photo Archives.

Locker Room Grooming, 1904

In 1904, there was much rejoicing uptown over the opening of a women-only gym situated between Barnard College and Teachers College.  The New York Times noted that the men at Columbia’s gymnasium, who had been allowing the co-eds use of their facilities, would no longer have to put up with “hairpins, combs…and the dyestuffs” from women’s bathing suits clogging up their pool.

This state-of-the-art building featured bowling alleys, rowing machines, shower
baths, and “corrective exercise rooms” as illustrated in this completely candid image of students performing calisthenic and gymnastic feats:

Byron Company. Education, Gymnasium at Teachers' College, 1904. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.17347

But one of the more advanced features was discovered by our team of catalogers, when they came across the following image and tried to hypothesize about what activity the woman might be engaging in.  Was she communicating with a forbidden lover in the basement via air duct?

Byron Company. Teachers College, 1904. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.3332

A perusal of Gotham Comes of Age found a mention of a “much popular hair-drying room” installed at the gym, and the 1904 article in the New York Times proclaimed that “the feature in the new gymnasium upon which the girls are most profuse in their encomiums is the novel hair-drying room, located in the basement.”

According to the Times the steam and hot air pipes would raise the temperature in the room to 150 degrees, presumably producing an effect akin to trying to dry one’s hair in a sauna and a steam room at the same time.  The only other reference I could find to this sort of contraption was a 1915 installation at the women’s gymnasium at the University of Iowa, which used hot air circulated from the boiler room by electric fan.

We’d love to hear from any hairdo historians out there who have insight into these contraptions.

The Sultry Showgirl

When Stanley Kubrick was a young man, he had the good luck to be assigned a job for LOOK Magazine that allowed him to create an intimate  photographic portrait of Rosemary Williams.

Stanley Kubrick(1928-1999). Showgirl, 1949. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11448.62B

This story, shot in the spring of 1949, captures the young Rosemary as she transforms herself from an everyday gal into a showgirl.

Although a majority of the negatives and prints from this story show the budding Rosemary in her home, preparing coffee, lounging on a chair with a book, or praying at church, they caught my eye because of the continuous thread of theatricality.

Stanley Kubrick(1928-1999). Showgirl, 1949. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11448.42

Kubrick was able to capture the careful construction of a personal image. Within all of these photographs, Rosemary is never out of character.  The combination of the general staged aspect of LOOK and the calculated influence from entertainment studios has created a story that is campy in nature but also emphasizes how celebrities (major and minor) painstakingly construct their own image.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Showgirl, 1949. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11448.104D

However, what becomes apparent through the constructed moments and interactions within the photos is Kubrick’s cinematic eye. Although many of the photos contain that trace, I was knocked over by the photo above, which reminds me of a still from a film.  The posed figures, purposeful illumination of the interaction between the two characters, and stark background allude to actions happening outside of the frame.

One can imagine that Rosemary was perhaps a commuting showgirl, driving back and forth every night from the depths of New Jersey.  Thank goodness Kubrick happened to be present the night her car got a flat!

Follow this link to get a dose of a fast talkin’ 50s news story about Rosemary Williams and the dastardly Sidney M. Levy.

Although the Museum has documentation that Rosemary appeared on Broadway in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1953 musical comedy, Me and Juliet, as a chorus girl alongside Shirley MacLaine, Rosemary seems to have disappeared into the fog of time. We’d love to find her or discover something about her post-showgirl life. Email us at collections@mcny.org if you have any information. You could win a free reproduction print from our collection as a thank-you!

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Showgirl, 1949. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11448.99F

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Showgirl, 1949. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11448.121F