Monthly Archives: October 2011

Journal: New York to Muscat

Passport of Henry P. Marshall, 1838, in the Official Documents Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 31.193.43.

Henry P. Marshall was officially appointed U.S. Consul to Muscat, Arabia (present day Oman), on February 15, 1838, at twenty-four years old, after working in the importing houses of John R. Felix & Co, and Schoville & Briton.   In 1931, Mr. Marshall’s daughter, Miss Cornelia E. Marshall made a gift of several objects to the Museum, including many artifacts from her father’s days as Consul to Arabia.

Henry P. Marshall begins recording his journey to Muscat in his journal, just a few weeks following his appointment, on March 10.  The journal discusses his route from New York to Muscat, which takes him through Liverpool, Bristol, Falmouth, Gibraltar, Malta, Alexandria, Suez, and eventually Bombay.  This portion of his journey takes nearly three months, and in total, costs 149 pounds.   Marshall spends over four months in Bombay,  and his journal provides glimpses into the culture and festivals of the city, and he seems particularly intrigued by the Hindu religion. Finally, in late September, he makes the final leg of his journey to Muscat.  The drawing of Muscat below is an excerpt from Marshall’s journal.

Henry P. Marshall's Journal, Volume 1, 1938, from the Manuscripts Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 31.193.25A.

According to his journals, Marshall spends just a year in Muscat, before resuming the voyage back to New York in the fall of 1839. All in all, he spends approximately seven months traveling from New York to Muscat, ten months in Muscat, then three months returning from Muscat to New York.  Among some of the other objects in the collection related to Mr. Marshall’s tenure as consul include the consular seal, pictured below,

Consular Seal, 1838, from the Epemera Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 31.193.18.

and his “sand glasses,” special eye-wear worn to protect the wearer from blowing sand in the desert.Sand Glasses, 1938, in the Costumes Collection.  Museum of the City of New York. 31.193.20.

In the process of trying to learn a bit more about Mr. Marshall, I discovered some discrepancy between his obituary in the New York Times, regarding the dates he served as consul.  The obituary states that Mr. Marshall did not begin his service as consul until sometime in the early 1840’s and returned to New York in 1844.  Of course, it’s possible that perhaps the journals we have were from a first trip to Muscat, and a second trip was made in the 1840’s.  However, we do know, from Marshall’s own hand, that he was first dispatched on his consular duties in 1838.  This is  just one of many examples in which primary sources help create a complete picture of history.  Following his return to New York, Mr. Marshall began working with the Seaman’s Bank for Savings, where he was employed until the day he died at his bank cashier’s desk, in 1888, at 74 years of age.

The Digital Team Gets New Digs!

The Museum of the City of New York’s digital team is proud to announce that we have moved into our new digital lab!  For almost two years we have been working out of temporary space in the Museum’s research room.

Our previous digital studio

The new lab was  designed by Michael Ulsaker of Ulsaker Studio, Inc., and is fitted with state-of-the-art camera equipment.  Mr. Ulsaker specializes in “designing high-end digital imaging solutions for commercial studios and museums.” In addition to us, he’s worked with the Widener Library and Sackler Museum at Harvard, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, and many other museum and commercial clients.

Our new equipment includes a larger copystand custom built by Mr. Ulsaker to fit our needs.  It is equipped with a foot-pedal controlled vacuum frame that can accommodate 2-dimensional works up to 46″ by 46″ and which allows us to gently flatten artwork and photographs while photographing them.  The new table is motorized and is adjustable from 9.5″ above the ground to 46″ high.  It also has wheels so it can be moved out of the way completely to photograph large 3-dimensional objects or to slide back and forth so large objects can be shot in parts and then stitched together in Photoshop.

Michael Ulsaker installing the new camera arm

Our camera is the Hasselblad H4D-50ms which is now mounted directly to the wall on a motorized arm that can easily be moved up and down with a hand held joystick.  It can also move in and out from the wall which  saves space and time when framing up a shot.

Michael Ulsaker and Harlan Erskine installing the Lightbars

The lab also comes with new high-end Broncolor Lightbar 120 strobe lights which are mounted to the ceiling on scissor arms attached to a Manfrotto track system.  Each pack has its own Broncolor Scoro power pack which is also mounted onto the rigging system.  The lights slide easily along the track and can be moved up and down smoothly to light objects of nearly any size or shape.  Having the lights mounted to the ceiling rather than on floor stands provides  a more stable and safer environment for sometimes  fragile collections objects.

Mr. Ulsaker’s ingenuity has aided us through every step of this process.  Below is an apparatus he designed and built just for us so we can quickly photograph negatives with the Hassleblad camera instead of scanning them.  This really helps us speed up production on large collections of negatives and allows us to easily position the negatives below the camera and also raise them off the hot lightbox which could damage the negatives and cause them to warp.

We are extremely excited about our new space and are even more excited about all the new types of objects we are now able to digitize and make available to the public. Visit our Collections Portal to view more than 60,000 photographs of historic New York City. Look for 35,000 new images later this fall from the Museum’s prints, drawings, and maps collections.

Our new studio in action

Temple Emanu-El

Temple Emanu-El was established in 1845 as New York City’s first Reform congregation. 33 members met in a loft at the intersection of Clinton and Grand Streets on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. As the congregation grew, Emanu-El moved further and further uptown. In 1854, it moved to its third location at 110 East 12th Street, which later housed St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church, seen in this 1914 photograph.

George F. Arata. St. Ann's Church on East 12th Street. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.5283

By 1868, the congregation had built a permanent structure on Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street, designed by Leopold Eidlitz and Henry Fernbach. At that time, Temple Emanu-El was the largest synagogue building in the United States. This photograph was taken around 1900.

Temple Emanu-El. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archives. X2010.11.4629

Much fanfare surrounded its consecration on September 11, 1868. The following day, The New York Times reported that a limited number of tickets available for the ceremony sold out several days in advance. “The anxiety to secure them was very great. When the doors were opened there was a crushing and crowding in which ladies’ crinoline and gentlemen’s hats suffered severely.” This photograph of the interior of the temple was taken around 1900.

Inside of Temple Emanu-El. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archives. X2010.11.4622

The tranquil neighborhood was an ideal location for the temple, showcased in this 1904 lithograph and in the photograph taken around 1900.

Lithograph issued by Robert A. Welcke. From an old photograph by John Bachmann. Fifth Avenue from 42nd Street, Looking North. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.5.107

5th Avenue north from 42nd Street. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archives. X2010.11.4628

Over time, however, the neighborhood became increasingly commercial and Temple Emanu-El was unable to expand to accommodate its growing membership, as seen in this 1923 photograph and the etching below from 1926.

Byron Company. East Side of Fifth Ave. from 44 to 43 Sts. Museum of the City of New York.

Anton Joseph Friedrich Schutz. Temple Emanu-El. Museum of the City of New York. 49.369.1

In 1925, Temple Emanu-El sold the building and purchased property at Fifth Avenue and 65th Street, the site of the John Jacob Astor mansion. This photograph shows the property in 1926, shortly before it was torn down.

Wurts Bros. 65th Street at the N.E. corner of 5th Avenue. John Jacob Astor residence, general exterior. X2010.7.1.6053

In 1927, the building at Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street was demolished, and the neighborhood became a commercial district. Here is a photo of the location in 1936.

Byron Company. Buildings, 521 Fifth Avenue. Museum of the City of New York.

Construction of the new temple at the site of the Astor mansion began in 1927 and would last two years. Architects Robert D. Kohn, Charles Butler, and Clarence Stein designed the building. This photograph shows the progress in 1928.

Temple Emanu-El under construction. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archives. X2010.11.5652

In the meantime, services were held 11 blocks uptown at Temple Beth-El, another Reform synagogue. Temple Beth-El was founded in 1874 and had occupied the space on Fifth Avenue and 76th Street since 1891. Temple Beth-El and Temple Emanu-El merged in 1927, although services continued to be held at Temple Beth-El until 1946. That building was demolished in 1947.

Byron Company. Street Scene - 1901, 5th Ave. - South from 76th St. Museum of the City of New York.

On January 10, 1930, 2,500 people attended Temple Emanu-El’s formal dedication at 1 East 65th Street, where it remains to this day. For more information about Emanu-El, please visit

Wurts Bros. 5th Avenue and 65th Street. Temple Emanu-el, general view. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.6838

Coney Island Rides

For more than 130 years, Coney Island has been host to a number of imaginative amusements. Here we take a look at the amusement rides – some long gone, some still standing.

Horse racing had been a popular pastime at Coney Island since its emergence as a resort area in the 1840s . When George C. Tilyou opened Steeplechase Park in 1895, he presented his customers with the steeplechase ride. People rode side-by-side on mechanical horses down a track of over 1,000 feet, simulating a horse race.

Byron Company. Steeplechase. Horseback riding ride at Coney Island, with people on mechanical horses being pulled along a track. Museum of the City of New York.

Around 1907 Luna Park introduced The Tickler, in which people in rotating cars were jostled down a curved path.

The Tickler at Luna Park, Coney Island. Museum of the City of New York postcard collection. X2011.34.2041

Construction of the Wonder Wheel began in 1918 on-site and was completed in 1920. Unlike other Ferris wheels of the time, not all of the cars on the Wonder Wheel were stationary.  16 of the 24 cars rolled back and forth on curved tracks between the inner and outer wheels. The Wonder Wheel remains in operation and is still a popular attraction to this day. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated it a landmark in 1989.

John Harry Lufbery. Wonder Wheel, Coney Island. Museum of the City of New York. 04.18.1

The caterpillar ride debuted at Steeplechase Park in 1925. The ride featured a canopy that enclosed cars once it reached maximum speed, making it popular with couples. It also contained a large fan that blew air from the seats.

Tilgins. Couple on Caterpillar ride at Coney Island amusement park. Museum of the City of New York.

The Cyclone opened in 1927 and still runs today. In 1988, the Landmarks Preservation Commission declared The Cyclone a landmark. It was also placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

Cyclone at Coney Island. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archives. X2010.11.7601

This spinning disk at Steeplechase Park’s Pavilion of Fun rotated faster and faster until everybody in the center had been flung to the side.

Tilgins. People riding large spinning disk at Coney Island amusement park. Museum of the City of New York.

The Pavilion of Fun also housed The Human Pool Table, which featured a series of spinning discs for the rider to navigate. The objective was to move from one side to the other without being seriously diverted.

Tilgins. Human Pool Table ride at Coney Island amusement park. Museum of the City of New York.

The Parachute Jump was built for the 1939 World Fair by a retired Navy officer, Lieutenant Commander James Hale Strong. After the fair, the Tilyou family purchased the tower and moved it to Steeplechase Park in 1941. The Parachute Jump ceased operation on September 19, 1964 after the closure of Steeplechase Park (see for more details.) It is the only remaining structure of the amusement park, which was demolished in 1966. In 1980 the Parachute Jump was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nine years later, New York City identified it as a landmark.

Parachute Jump, Coney Island. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archives. X2010.11.7594

Every effort has been made by the author to identify Tilgins, the only name associated with some of the content used in this blog entry. If you can help us identify Tilgins, please contact the museum at

The photographs by Tilgins are part of the Reginald Marsh collection at the museum. Digitization of this collection was made possible by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.