Author Archives: Lauren Robinson

Clowns!

Clowns inspire laughter and happiness in some people, and fear or aversion in many others. They have been around for more than 4,000 years and in nearly as many places and cultures, entertaining or frightening Egyptian pharaohs, Chinese imperial courts, ancient Greek and Roman audiences, and Aztec rulers, to name just a few. In this blog post, we take a look at clowns of the circus and stage as represented in the City Museum’s collections.

James T. Powers began performing in 1880 at the age of 18. His stage career lasted over 55 years, owing to his versatility as an actor, comedian and light-opera singer. He played the character Biggs in the musical comedy The Circus Girl, and donned a variety of roles for the part: barber, wrestler and clown. The New York Times complained that the production was unoriginal in a review published on April 27, 1897: “Even its lively circus scene, that is so happily treated that one really feels he is at the circus while it is in progress, has been done over and over again, in one way or another.”

Sarony. James T. Powers. 1898. Museum of the City of New York. 46.246.238

Sarony. James T. Powers. 1898. Museum of the City of New York. 46.246.238

Powers returned to the role of Biggs in the revival staged the following year, which received more favorable reviews from the press.

Rotograph Co. (New York, N.Y.). Jas. T. Powers "Clown". 1904-1911. Museum of the City of New York. 57.46.24

Rotograph Co. (New York, N.Y.). Jas. T. Powers “Clown”. 1904-1911. Museum of the City of New York. 57.46.24

While Powers performed regularly as Biggs the clown on the New York stage, other clowns traveled on railroads across the United States with circus companies like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, in an effort to bring the show to as many Americans as possible.

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Magazine and Daily Review. 1926. Museum of the City of New York Theater archives.

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Magazine and Daily Review. 1926. Museum of the City of New York Theater archives.

Circuses proved to be lucrative, and businessmen seeking a higher return on investment began to expand the shows. Circus venues grew in size, rendering individual dialog inaudible. Clowns adapted by modifying their roles in the ring. The 1926 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Magazine and Daily Review noted: “The one, the only, the inimitable clown that used to be, a character of such importance that his name was heralded in lithographic splendor, is gone, but a horde of just as clever and more vigilant cut-ups has replaced him… The reason is quite obvious. The arena is so large that no one clown can be the cynosure of all eyes…”

Talking clown has gone - replaced by comic horde. Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Magazine and Daily Review. 1926. Museum of the City of New York Theater archives.

Talking clown has gone – replaced by comical horde. Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Magazine and Daily Review. 1926. Museum of the City of New York Theater archives.

In spite of the magazine’s claim that the circus “has forced personal appeal to yield to organization and ensemble,” it chose a single, standout clown each year for a feature story. On of these, Paul Jerome, shown below in the 1936 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus magazine and program, performed with the circus company for more than 25 years.

Paul Jerome returns to Clown Alley. 1936. Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus Magazine. Museum of the City of New York Theater archives.

Paul Jerome. 1936. Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus Magazine. Museum of the City of New York Theater archives.

Felix Adler took up clowning as a teenager and worked for Ringling Bros. He served in World War I and often entertained fellow military personnel. After the war he returned to Ringling Bros. and never missed a performance, from 1919 to 1946.

Felix Adler. 1937. Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus Magazine. Museum of the City of New York Theater archives.

Felix Adler. 1937. Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus Magazine. Museum of the City of New York Theater archives.

The actor Dennis King played the role of Funny in the 1946 revival of Leonid Andreyev’s play, He Who Gets Slapped. (The character’s name was He in the original 1922 production.) Funny begins as a nameless man, betrayed by his wife and his best friend, who runs away to join a circus and become a clown. His role in the circus is to have his face slapped for the amusement of the audience, hence the title of the play.

United Press International. Dennis King as Funny in "He Who Gets Slapped". 1946. Museum of the City of New York. 81.54.2396

United Press International. [Dennis King as Funny in "He Who Gets Slapped".] 1946. Museum of the City of New York. 81.54.2396

The entertainer Bobby Barry performed with King in He Who Gets Slapped. The same year he also played the part of Bozo in Burlesque, and was described by The Billboard as the “diminutive comic husband” of “beefy gal” Gail Garber.

Photo Ideas Inc. Bobby Barry as Bozo and Gail Garber as Gussie in "Burlesque". 1946-1948. Museum of the City of New York. 49.98.10

Photo Ideas Inc. [Bobby Barry as Bozo and Gail Garber as Gussie in "Burlesque".] 1946-1948. Museum of the City of New York. 49.98.10

Lou Jacobs was born Johann Ludwig Jacob in 1903 in Germany. He immigrated to the United States in 1923 and initially found work as a contortionist. He joined Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey in 1925 and worked as a clown until declining health forced him to retire in 1985. During the 60 years he performed, Jacobs was arguably the most famous, instantly recognizable clown in the world and even appeared on a United States Postal Service stamp in 1966. He died in 1992 at the age of 89 but is still remembered today for his contributions to clowning.

Stanley Kubrick for Look magazine. Circus Story: Clown. 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11376.1

Stanley Kubrick for Look magazine. Circus Story: Clown. 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11376.1

Emmett Kelly, Jr. was the son of famous clown Emmett Kelly, who created the endearing character “Weary Willie.” When Emmett Kelly, Jr. adopted his father’s character and debuted at the Kodak Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, he was dogged by comments like “He’ll never be as good as his father.” But he took those criticisms in stride and continued to perform until his death in 2006.

Draw me. Emmett Kelly Jr. Star Spangled Circus program. 1974. Museum of the City of New York Theater archives.

Draw me. Emmett Kelly Jr. Star Spangled Circus program. 1974. Museum of the City of New York Theater archives.

Avner Eisenberg opened his one-man show Avner the Eccentric at the Lamb’s Theatre in 1984. The show received a glowing review from the New York Times: “He never says a word – he makes some sounds, mostly on a kazoo – but we read his face as if it were a cartoon balloon. Balancing a chair on his chin, he hears the applause and says, ‘If you think this is hard, let me do something bigger,’ and replaces the chair with a teetering 10- foot ladder.”

Photographer unknown. Avner the Eccentric. 1984. Museum of the City of New York. 95.139.157

Photographer unknown. Avner the Eccentric. 1984. Museum of the City of New York. 95.139.157

Avner the Eccentric still writes, directs, and performs his own material, in addition to teaching master classes in clowning and developing workshops for students and professionals in healthcare, education, and counseling.

Simo Neri. Avner the Eccentric. 1984. Museum of the City of New York. 95.139.158

Simo Neri. [Avner the Eccentric.] 1984. Museum of the City of New York. 95.139.158

So many people are frightened of clowns, there is a word to describe it: coulrophobia. Even though the term is thought to have been coined in the 1980s, fear of clowns has probably existed as long as clowns themselves. But clowns also captivate and fascinate people, a fact not lost on showman Irvin Feld, who created the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown College in 1968 to foster new talent. To date nearly 1,300 people have graduated to become clowns.

Such a Foolish Wish by Dudley T. Fisher, Jr. 1937. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Magazine. Museum of the City of New York Theater archives.

Such a Foolish Wish by Dudley T. Fisher, Jr. 1937. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Magazine. Museum of the City of New York Theater archives.

 

Elaine Stritch, Grande Dame of the Stage

Last Saturday night the crowd gathered around the piano at Marie’s Crisis to sing “The Ladies Who Lunch” from Broadway’s 1970 hit musical, Company, in honor of the dearly departed woman who sang it, Elaine Stritch. Glasses were raised again and again to the line repeated throughout the number, “I’ll drink to that.” In real life Stritch made no bones about being a heavy drinker, or anything else for that matter. She dazzled audiences with her acerbic wit and frank speech on stage and off for over 60 years. She died last week at the age of 89 in her home in Birmingham, Michigan. A long-time resident of the Carlyle Hotel on East 76th Street, Stritch moved back to her home state of Michigan because of declining health and to be closer to family.

Stritch made her debut on the New York stage in the 1944 children’s play Bobino. Two years later she played Pamela Brewster in Loco, and also replaced Jane Middleton as Miss Crowder in Made in Heaven. Critics favorably took note of her in 1947 when she appeared alongside Paul and Grace Hartman in the revue Angel in the Wings.

Vandamm. "Angel in the Wings" theater still, with Grace Hartman, Paul Hartman, and Elaine Stritch in the sketch "Trailer Trouble". 1947. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.11959

Vandamm. ["Angel in the Wings" theater still, with Grace Hartman, Paul Hartman, and Elaine Stritch in the sketch "Trailer Trouble".] 1947. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.11959

Vandamm. Hank Ladd and Elaine Stritch in "Angel in the Wings". 1947. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.4222

Vandamm. [Hank Ladd and Elaine Stritch in "Angel in the Wings".] 1947. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.4222

Stritch served as Ethel Merman’s standby for the role of Mrs. Sally Adams in Call Me Madam, but did not appear on the Broadway stage – the famously never-absent Merman did not miss even one performance.

Photographer unknown. Elaine Stritch as Mrs. Sally Adams in "Call Me Madam". ca. 1952. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.4786

Photographer unknown. [Elaine Stritch as Mrs. Sally Adams in "Call Me Madam".] ca. 1952. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.4786

 Stritch got a break, however, when it was announced that she would star in the national tour of Call Me Madam.

Photographer unknown. Elaine Stritch as Mrs. Sally Adams in "Call Me Madam". ca. 1952. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.4789

Photographer unknown. [Elaine Stritch as Mrs. Sally Adams in "Call Me Madam".] ca. 1952. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.4789

In 1955 she played a lonely, world-weary owner of a rural Kansas diner in Bus Stop. In retrospect, the character Grace Hoylard, with her acrid banter and jaded musings, seems to have been created especially for the notably wry Stritch.

Zinn Arthur. Elaine Stritch as Grace Hoylard in "Bus Stop". 1955-1956. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.4605

Zinn Arthur. [Elaine Stritch as Grace Hoylard in "Bus Stop".] 1955-1956. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.4605

Brooks Atkinson called her out in a New York Times review of the play: “Elaine Stritch’s loose-jointed, tough-talking restaurant keeper is vastly amusing.”

Zinn Arthur. Patrick McVey as Carl and Elaine Stritch as Grace Hoylard in "Bus Stop". 1955-1956. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.4607

Zinn Arthur. [Patrick McVey as Carl and Elaine Stritch as Grace Hoylard in "Bus Stop".] 1955-1956. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.4607

In 1970 she played another role that suited her perfectly, the hard-drinking, cynical Joanne in Company.

Friedman-Abeles. Charles Braswell as Larry and Elaine Stritch as Joanne in "Company". 1970. Museum of the City of New York. X2013.42.318

Friedman-Abeles. [Charles Braswell as Larry and Elaine Stritch as Joanne in "Company".] 1970. Museum of the City of New York. X2013.42.318

 Walter Kerr praised her performance in a New York Times review:

“And, while we are thoroughly aware of Elaine Stritch from the beginning (Miss Stritch has what funny lines George Furth has chosen to write, and she stands alone in the group in making no pretty pretenses about the pleasures of matrimony), we are still not prepared for what happens to us and to the theater when she reaches a left-field snarl, complete with a snappy, snide foot-tap, called “The Ladies Who Lunch.” Miss Stritch spends a good bit of the evening exhaling cigarette smoke; what smoke she exhales during the song I don’t know, but it is hers alone and it is scathing. A great number, perfectly done.”

Friedman-Abeles. Elaine Stritch as Joanne in "Company". 1970. Museum of the City of New York. X2013.42.277

Friedman-Abeles. [Elaine Stritch as Joanne in "Company".] 1970. Museum of the City of New York. X2013.42.277

If you missed Stritch on the stage, you can still see recordings of her performances – be sure to check out this link.

Martha Swope. Elaine Stritch as Joanne in "Company". 1970. Museum of the City of New York. X2013.42.275

Martha Swope. [Elaine Stritch as Joanne in "Company".] 1970. Museum of the City of New York. X2013.42.275

For even more Elaine Stritch, visit our Collections Portal. We are constantly adding more material as it is digitized and cataloged, thanks to a generous grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services that supports our project to make accessible more than 30,000 photographs of Broadway productions.

 

 

Untimely Deaths of Stage Performers

The Museum is digitizing 30,000 photographs of Broadway and off-Broadway productions dating from the 1860s up to the 2000s with a Museums for America grant funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Some of the material is already available on our online Collections Portal. While cataloging the photographs, I couldn’t help but notice how many performers died at a young age, or from tragic or unusual circumstances. I started keeping a list of entertainers whose lives were abruptly cut short. Please join us now for a tour of the sad demises of Broadway stars:

Nelson Decker enjoyed a promising career as an actor in the mid-nineteenth century. He was a member of the Actor’s Fund of America and joined the prestigious company of Booth’s Theatre when it opened in 1869. In 1881 Decker married English actress Ward Almayne but the marriage was unhappy and soon Decker’s career and health began to decline. In 1891 he was admitted to the Edwin Forrest Home for aging and infirm actors. Not two months after arriving at the home, Decker slit his wrists and throat. A servant found him still alive but lying in a pool of blood. Doctors attempted to save his life but there was nothing they could do and he passed away a week later on December 2, 1891.

Sarony. Nelson Decker. 1878-1891. Museum of the City of New York. 74.22.182

Sarony. Nelson Decker. 1878-1891. Museum of the City of New York. 74.22.182

Brothers William and Gordon Dooley performed stunts and acrobatics together as the Funny Dooleys in a number of vaudeville shows, but their deaths were decidedly unfunny. William Dooley was known as a martyr to stage work and this devotion ultimately ended his life at the age of 39. On the night of his last performance, he presciently remarked to his brother: “Let’s make it good – we haven’t many more shows to give together.” William Dooley reported for work the following day, September 29, 1921, but his body collapsed from the years of constant strain.

Alfred S. Campbell Art Co. William Dooley of the Funny Dooleys in "The Century Midnight Revue". 1920. Museum of the City of New York. 48.210.793

Alfred S. Campbell Art Co. [William Dooley of the Funny Dooleys in "The Century Midnight Revue."] 1920. Museum of the City of New York. 48.210.793

Gordon Dooley continued to perform in vaudeville and musical comedy but outlived his brother by only nine years. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1929 and died of pneumonia at the age of 31 on January 24, 1930.

Alfred S. Campbell Art Co. Gordon Dooley of the Funny Dooleys in "The Century Midnight Revue". 1920. Museum of the City of New York. 48.210.792

Alfred S. Campbell Art Co. [Gordon Dooley of the Funny Dooleys in "The Century Midnight Revue."] 1920. Museum of the City of New York. 48.210.792

Beloved Broadway actor Gregory Kelly starred in the 1925 play “The Butter and Egg Man,” written by George S. Kaufman. He played Peter Jones, an out-of-towner who decides to invest $20,000 in a Broadway show. The play was a resounding success – it toured the following year and was even optioned for a movie. Film columnist Louella Parsons wrote on June 2, 1926: “If First National doesn’t get Gregory Kelly to play the lead in “The Butter and Egg Man,” I will never speak to any member of the organization again. To bring this play to the screen without Gregory Kelly, would be like serving apple pie without cheese, just an unpardonable omission.” Unfortunately for Parsons and everybody else who loved Kelly’s performance, he suffered a heart attack while on tour with “The Butter and Egg Man.” He never fully recovered and passed away on July 9, 1927 at the age of 36.

White Studio. Gregory Kelly as Peter Jones in "The Butter and Egg Man". 1925. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.113

White Studio. [Gregory Kelly as Peter Jones in "The Butter and Egg Man."] 1925. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.113

British actress Elsie Mackay (the woman leaning against the piano in the photograph below) had a successful career on Broadway but her true passion was flying. In March 1928 she attempted to become the first woman to across the Atlantic Ocean, teaming up with an experienced aviator, Captain Walter G. Hinchcliffe. Not long into the westward flight, Mackay and Hinchcliffe disappeared off the coast of Ireland and were never seen again.

White Studio (New York, N.Y.). "Clarence" theater still. 1919. Museum of the City of New York. 48.210.1117

White Studio (New York, N.Y.). ["Clarence" theater still.] 1919. Museum of the City of New York. 48.210.1117

Peg Entwistle had already performed in over 10 Broadway shows when she played the role of Amy Grey in the 1932 production “Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire.” That same year she left for Hollywood, hoping to find as much success on the screen as she had on the stage. This proved elusive and on September 19, 1932, Entwistle jumped to her death from the 50-foot “H” of the Hollywoodland sign (the sign was shortened to Hollywood in 1949). She left a suicide note which read: “I’m afraid I’m a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this long ago, it would have saved a lot of pain.” She was only 24.

White Studio (New York, N.Y.). Laurette Taylor as Mrs. Grey, Peg Entwistle as Amy Grey, and Charles Dalton as Colonel Grey in "Alice Sit-by-the-Fire". 1932. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.41.94

White Studio (New York, N.Y.). [Laurette Taylor as Mrs. Grey, Peg Entwistle as Amy Grey, and Charles Dalton as Colonel Grey in "Alice Sit-by-the-Fire."] 1932. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.41.94

Hal Skelly joined a traveling circus at the age of 15 and moved to the company of Barnum & Bailey a few years later. He also appeared on Broadway in productions such as “The Night Boat” in 1920 and “Betty Lee” in 1924. In 1927 he played what was possibly the greatest role of his career, the part of Skid in “Burlesque.” He had just finished the production “Come What May” when a truck he was driving was struck by a train on June 17, 1934. He died instantly at the age of 42. Skelly had been looking for a friend’s dog when his vehicle rolled onto the train tracks. Police surmised that he might have mistaken the forward gear for the reverse.

Vandamm. Hal Skelly as Skid in "Burlesque". 1927. Museum of the City of New York. 37.414.4

Vandamm. [Hal Skelly as Skid in "Burlesque."] 1927. Museum of the City of New York. 37.414.4

Bill Callahan performed in many long-running Broadway musicals of the 1940s and 1950s such as “Call Me Mister,” “As the Girls Go,” and “Top Banana.” In 1951 he married Eleanor Rao and joined her father’s business, Arc Electrical Construction Company. In 1980 he resigned from the company and ran off with a 29-year-old chorus girl named Wendy McDade. His father-in-law Charles Rao accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from the firm. Callahan and McDade were last seen alive leaving Chicago’s Continental Plaza Hotel the night of March 17, 1981. Their bodies were found the following day in the Chiwaukee Prairie nature preserve in Wisconsin – both victims had been shot three times in the head. To this day the murders remain unsolved.

Lucas-Monroe. Bill Callahan as Kenny Wellington in "As the Girls Go". 1948-1950. Museum of the City of New York. 80.103.177

Lucas-Monroe. [Bill Callahan as Kenny Wellington in "As the Girls Go."] 1948-1950. Museum of the City of New York. 80.103.177

James Hayden grew up in Brooklyn and lived on the streets as a teenager. He worked hard to overcome his past and was accepted to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts despite having no acting experience. After playing the part of Rodolpho in “A View From the Bridge,” he garnered critical acclaim for his portrayal of the heroin addict Bobby in “American Buffalo.” But in a grim case of life imitating art and just six hours after receiving a standing ovation for this performance, Hayden died of a heroin overdose at the age of 29 on November 8, 1983.

Stephanie Saia. James Hayden as Bobby, Al Pacino as Walter Cole, and J. J. Johnston as Donny Dubrow in "American Buffalo". 1983. Museum of the City of New York. 95.139.106

Stephanie Saia. [James Hayden as Bobby, Al Pacino as Walter Cole, and J. J. Johnston as Donny Dubrow in "American Buffalo."] 1983. Museum of the City of New York. 95.139.106

Beautiful Marjorie Battles debuted on Broadway in the 1965 play “Cactus Flower.” She remained in the cast for 650 performances and then left the stage for a teaching career, although she continued to play bit parts on television shows. After her sister died of cancer in 1979, Battles became despondent and spent the remainder of her life as a recluse in her family’s rowhouse in South Philadelphia. She ended her life on October 18, 1987 by jumping in front of a Philadelphia subway train.

Photographer unknown. Marjorie Battles as Botticelli's Springtime in "Cactus Flower". 1965-1968. Museum of the City of New York. 81.54.1291

Photographer unknown. [Marjorie Battles as Botticelli's Springtime in "Cactus Flower."] 1965-1968. Museum of the City of New York. 81.54.1291

Norman Kean and Gwyda DonHowe led an apparently happy life together. They met in 1957 while working in summer stock and married the following year. He became a theatrical manager and producer and she regularly appeared on the Broadway stage. But despite his best efforts, Kean never accomplished more than mediocre success: his most lucrative production, “Oh! Calcutta!” was seen as a gimmicky tourist attraction rather than a respectable show. Most of the shows Kean produced were flops, like the 1978 production “A Broadway Musical.” It ran for 26 performances at the Theatre of the Riverside Church before moving to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, where it opened and closed the same night.

"A Broadway Musical" sticker. Theater archives, Museum of the City of New York.

“A Broadway Musical” sticker. Theater archives, Museum of the City of New York.

Kean (the man in the center of the photograph below) never produced another show after “A Broadway Musical.”

"A Broadway Musical" program. Theater archives, Museum of the City of New York.

“A Broadway Musical” program. Theater archives, Museum of the City of New York.

In 1987, Kean learned that DonHowe (shown in the photograph below, to the right) was having an affair. He attempted to save his marriage by staying home more often, but a private investigator told Kean that DonHowe continued to see her lover. On January 11, 1988, Kean stabbed DonHowe to death as she lay sleeping and then jumped to his death from the roof of their apartment.

Photographer unknown. "A Broadway Musical" theater still. 1978. Museum of the City of New York. 95.139.360

Photographer unknown. ["A Broadway Musical" theater still.] 1978. Museum of the City of New York. 95.139.360

Does life imitate art, as Oscar Wilde famously opined, or is it the other way around? In any case, the dramas enacted by these performers onstage had counterparts in the actors’ lives, and their sorrowful deaths illustrate the parallel between stage life and real life.

 

William Auerbach-Levy, Artist and Neighborhood Preservationist

William Auerbach-Levy was born in 1889 in Brest-Litovsk, then part of the Russian Empire. He immigrated with his parents to the United States around 1894 and grew up on the Lower East Side. He began drawing at a young age and eventually became renowned for caricature. He executed serious illustrations with equal skill, however, as shown below on the cover of the 1916 annual report of the Educational Alliance.

Cover of the 1916 annual report of the Educational Alliance by William Auerbach-Levy.

Cover of the 1916 annual report of the Educational Alliance. Illustration by William Auerbach-Levy.

Auerbach-Levy’s artistic abilities enabled him to effectively parody public figures, and his caricatures appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, the New York Post, Collier’s, and Esquire, to name a few. He also authored several newspaper articles and a book entitled Is That Me? to satisfy public interest in his profession. In the article, “A Caricaturist Snitches on His Victims – How Celebrities Act When Impaled on an Artist’s Pencil,” published in the October 18, 1925 issue of New York World, he wrote of the character actress Helen Westley: “When I told Helen Westley that I had come to do a caricature she said, ‘Of course it would be a caricature – aren’t you afraid you’ll forget how to make a straight drawing? Well, go ahead and be as wicked as you like. I’m used to it.'”

William Auerbach-Levy. Helen Westley. 1925. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.974

William Auerbach-Levy (1889-1964). [Helen Westley.] 1925. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.974

In the same article, Auerbach-Levy recounted his experience sketching Lionel Barrymore as he applied makeup backstage for “The Piker”. Barrymore saw the sketch right before the curtain went up. “‘Pretty good if you fix-” The curtain was going up. Of course I didn’t ‘fix’ it, whatever it was – I’ve learned that the subject’s criticism of his own caricature may safely be ignored.”

William Auerbach-Levy. Lionel Barrymore. ca. 1925. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.1670

William Auerbach-Levy. [Lionel Barrymore.] ca. 1925. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.1670

Auerbach-Levy’s article “Something About Caricature” appeared in the September 1933 issue of journal New Hope. He recalled in 1927 sketching producer Jed Harris as he worked with director George Abbott on the production “Coquette”.

Something About Caricature

“Something About Caricature” by William Auerbach-Levy. Published in New Hope Vol. I No. II, September 1933.

“I never saw a man so distressed as Harris when he finally looked over my sketches. Then with deadly earnestness he said, ‘You can’t print that in your paper!'” But as Auerbach-Levy later revealed to journalist Ernest Watson in “The Caricatures of William Auerbach-Levy,” printed in the April 1938 issue of Art Instruction: “Shortly after, I saw Jed again. He said, ‘Bill, that was a marvelous drawing of me! Everybody was crazy about it – you must have been inspired – don’t forget I’m buying the original.’ And, thereafter, it hung framed on his wall.”

William Auerbach-Levy. Jed Harris. ca. 1925. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.715

William Auerbach-Levy. [Jed Harris.] ca. 1927. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.715

Harris was not the only person so enamored of his caricature that he requested to buy it outright from Auerbach-Levy. The journalist H. L. Mencken took to his caricature and wrote in a letter to Auerbach-Levy: “I like the caricature very much. It is grotesque and yet it does justice to my underlying beauty. Needless to say, I’ll be delighted to have the original, if it still exists.”

William Auerbach-Levy. H. L. Mencken. ca. 1929. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.836

William Auerbach-Levy. [H. L. Mencken.] 1929. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.836

Letter from H. L. Mencken to William-Auerbach Levy, June 16, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. William Auerbach-Levy archives.

Letter from H. L. Mencken to William-Auerbach Levy, June 16, 1929.

Auerbach-Levy’s talents became so well-known, he was even commended in a New York Times article that had nothing to do with him. Critic Alexander Woollcott praised the performance of entertainer Cecilia Loftus in the April 10, 1938 article “Cissie Loftus – As Ever”: “You see most of what are palmed off on us as imitations are doubly that. They are really imitations of imitations. The true gift of caricature is rare. But once some one born with it – a Max Beerbohm, let us say, or a Frueh or an Auerbach-Levy….”

Jimmy Durante was also impressed with the artist when he went to Auerbach-Levy’s studio in Washington Square, as told in the August 6, 1942 article “This Artist Enjoys a Triple Career” that appeared in The Villager.

William Auerbach-Levy. Jimmy Durante. 1925-1950. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.145

William Auerbach-Levy. [Jimmy Durante.] 1925-1950. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.145

“As Jimmie walked through the door, Mr. Levy saw just the amusing angle he had hoped to catch and jotted it down before the unsuspecting subject knew what was happening.

‘What do you want me to do?’ queried Jimmie, ready to pose.

‘Nothing,’ replied Mr. Levy. ‘It’s done.’

‘I knew I was easy to caricature,’ exclaimed the gentleman with the nose, ‘but not so easy as all that.'”

William Auerbach-Levy. Jimmy Durante. 1945-1964. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.659

William Auerbach-Levy. [Jimmy Durante.] 1945-1964. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.659

Lucas-Pritchard and Lucas-Monroe. Judy Sinclair and Jimmy Durante at a party for "Top Banana". 1951. Museum of the City of New York. 80.104.1.2506

Lucas-Pritchard and Lucas-Monroe. [Judy Sinclair and Jimmy Durante at a party for "Top Banana".] 1951. Museum of the City of New York. 80.104.1.2506

Auerbach-Levy even caricatured himself.

William Auerbach-Levy (1889-1964). William-Auerbach Levy. 1920-1950. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.1083

William Auerbach-Levy (1889-1964). [William-Auerbach Levy.] 1920-1950. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.1083

Auerbach-Levy accomplished much of his work at the aforementioned studio at 46 Washington Square South. He loved the studio and the surrounding Greenwich Village neighborhood so much, he created a scrapbook, now at the Museum. A cutout quote from the artist himself adorns the first page of the scrapbook: “The reason I like the Village better than any other part of New York is that here you can step out of your door and see the world. Life is here in all its manifestations. You can see more variety in the Village in five minutes than you can on a tour of the rest of the city. For an artist, that is very important.”

The second page of the scrapbook includes a reproduction of an oil painting produced around 1934 by Auerbach-Levy depicting his impression of Greenwich Village in winter.

Winter in Greenwich Village. Reproduction

Reproduction of oil painting by William Auerbach-Levy depicting Greenwich Village in the winter.

The artist Edward C. Caswell drew Auerbach-Levy’s studio and garden, and the drawings were printed in the Greenwich Village publication The Villager. Auerbach-Levy cut out the drawings from the newspaper and added them to his scrapbook.

Reproduction of Edward C. Caswell's drawing of William Auerbach-Levy's studio. Printed in The Villager, .

Reproduction of Edward C. Caswell’s drawing of William Auerbach-Levy’s studio. Printed in The Villager, February 26, 1941.

 

Reproduction of Edward C. Caswell's drawing of William Auerbach-Levy's garden. Printed in The Villager, September 16, 1943.

Reproduction of Edward C. Caswell’s drawing of William Auerbach-Levy’s garden. Printed in The Villager, September 28, 1939.

When Auerbach-Levy leased the studio in 1929, the entire 40 Washington Square block was owned by Albert Strunsky. In the early 1940s, Columbia University bought the block. In 1947, Columbia notified tenants on the block that their leases would not be renewed. Columbia, in turn, sold the block to NYU, which planned to demolish the buildings occupying the space between Sullivan and Macdougal Streets and Washington Square South and West Third Street to make room for a new law school. In addition to Auerbach-Levy, filmmaker Joris Ivens, artists Jacques Lipschitz and Kyohei Inukai, and pianist Celia Saloman would be among the 300-plus tenants to be displaced under the plan. The struggle between the competing interests of Greenwich Village artists and the university was faithfully captured by Auerbach-Levy in his scrapbook.

Caption

Houses scheduled to make way for a school. Printed in The Villager, February 17, 1949.

Not only did Auerbach-Levy document NYU’s expansion into Greenwich Village and the neighborhood’s attempts to stop it, he joined in the fight. As recounted in the June 16, 1949 issue of The Villager, “Skits Poke Fun At Tenants, Officials”: “Representatives of press and radio were honored guests Monday night, June 6, at a rollicking party in the studios of Beatrice Worthington and Ines Carillo, Washington Sq. S… The highlight of the evening was ‘a one shot, first and last showing’ of three skits entitled ‘The Follies of Washington Sq.'” The skits were written by Harold M. Fleming and produced by other soon-to-be-displaced tenants. Auerbach-Levy provided on-the-spot caricatures of people in the audience.

Caption

Spoofing NYU Is Serious Business for Washington Square Residents — and Others. By Haile Hendrix. Printed in Caricature, July 1949.

Despite the efforts of Auerbach-Levy and his neighbors, NYU won out. But Russell D. Niles, Dean of the law school, offered to help the artists locate other places to live and work. With help from NYU, Auerbach-Levy moved to 28 East Ninth Street in late 1949 or early 1950. Auerbach-Levy was also asked by NYU to do a caricature of Niles, which he provided. In addition, the university purchased a caricature of the United States Supreme Court and hung it in the Law Center’s student lounge. Auerbach-Levy even attended the dedication of Arthur T. Vanderbilt Hall, New York University Law Center in September 1951 and remarked to the New York Times that NYU had done “a magnificent job“.

Upon Auerbach-Levy’s death in 1964, the artist’s estate bequeathed 3,326 drawings to the Museum. We’ve recently digitized the work and have cataloged and uploaded about half of these so far to the Museum’s Collections Portal. Click here to view the finding aid for the collection, and here to see more Auerbach-Levy artwork online.

Highlights from the City Museum’s Graffiti Collection

When painter Martin Wong moved to New York City from San Francisco in 1978, he marveled at what many others considered a blight – graffiti scrawled on the surfaces of the entire city. Wong was not a graffiti writer but nonetheless recognized graffiti’s artistic value and befriended many writers. He perceived the transience of graffiti and encouraged writers to sell him their sketchbooks and paintings. In 1994 he donated his entire collection of graffiti to the City Museum. Now for the first time visitors to the Museum can see works from the Martin Wong Collection in the City as Canvas exhibition, open through August 24.

The Martin Wong Collection comprises more than 300 paintings and mixed media works, along with over 45 sketchbooks, also called black books. Writers used black books to collect tags from other writers in addition to sketching pieces destined for trains or canvas. Because of their ephemeral nature, few black books survive today. Below are some highlights, a few of which are not part of the City as Canvas exhibition.

Cliff 159 started writing in the Bronx in 1970. He specialized in whole-car pieces and also was one of the first writers to incorporate comic characters like Beetle Bailey into his work.

Clifford (Cliff 159) Brown. Cliff... Page in Chi Chi 133's black book. ca. 1975. Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.266.30

Cliff 159. Cliff… [Page in Chi Chi 133's black book.] ca. 1975. Martin Wong Collection, Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.266.30

Jack Stewart (1926-2005). Beetle Bailey by Cliff. 1974. Museum of the City of New York. 95.98.5

Jack Stewart (1926-2005). Beetle Bailey by Cliff. 1974. Museum of the City of New York. 95.98.5. © Estate of Jack Stewart.

Riff 170 began writing in the Bronx in the early 1970s. Other writers placed a premium on getting their names up and becoming well-known, but Riff favored artistic innovation and wrote under many names such as Worm, Cash, Dove 2, and Conan. Riff’s novel approach inspired creativity in successive generations of writers, many of whom are featured in this blog.

RIFF 170. Cash Page in Wicked Gary's piece book. 1972-1973. Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.277.12

RIFF 170. Cash [Page in Wicked Gary's piece book.] 1972-1973. Martin Wong Collection, Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.277.12

Jack Stewart (1926-2005). Cash, by RIFF I. 1974. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.7.1. © Estate of Jack Stewart.

Jack Stewart (1926-2005). Cash, by RIFF I. 1974. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.7.1. © Estate of Jack Stewart.

Like Riff, Billy 167’s career began in the Bronx in the early 1970s. He focused strictly on lettering, for which he would became renowned. The image below comes from a piece book that is believed to have belonged to Peso 131 – also note Jester’s tag.

Billy 167. Billy Page in piece book. ca. 1980. Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.278.3

Billy 167. Billy [Page in piece book.] ca. 1980. Martin Wong Collection, Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.278.3

Ironically, Billy 167 would later work for the MTA as an electrician. He passed away in the 1980s but his imaginative lettering influenced countless other artists like Seen UA.

Photograph by Tracy 168. Billy 167. Used with permission by Tracy 168.

Photograph by Michael (Tracy 168) Tracy. Billy 167. 1982. Used with permission by Michael Tracy.

Daze began writing in the late 1970s. He successfully managed the transition from trains to galleries in the 1980s, and continues to have a prolific career as an artist.

Christopher (DAZE) Ellis (1962-). DAZE with tags. 1982. Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.90

Christopher (DAZE) Ellis (1962-). [DAZE with tags.] 1982. Martin Wong Collection, Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.90

From Daze’s black book is a list of subway lines and the writers assigned to them. In addition to Daze’s tag, you can see his aliases below – Bode, Chill, and Wind 2.

List of subway lines and the graffiti writers assigned to them in Daze's black book. 1983. Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.263.58

[List of subway lines and the graffiti writers assigned to them in DAZE's black book.] 1983. Martin Wong Collection, Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.263.58

Years before @149st compiled a list of writing crews this would have been a good reference for any outsider:

List of the full names of graffiti crews and their corresponding acronyms in DAZE's black book. ca. 1981. Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.263.92

[List of the full names of graffiti crews and their corresponding acronyms in DAZE's black book.] ca. 1981. Martin Wong Collection, Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.263.92

And finally, the end result of Daze’s hard work, under the Wind 2 alias:

Christopher (DAZE) Ellis (1962-). Inside back cover of DAZE's black book. ca. 1981. Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.263.220

Christopher (DAZE) Ellis (1962-). [Inside back cover of DAZE's black book.] ca. 1981. Martin Wong Collection, Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.263.220

Kool 131, Chain 3, and Mr. Jinx 174 formed the writing crew TDS (The Death Squad) in the late 1970s. TDS favored style over fame, although they became famous anyway. When member Bear 167 passed away in 1984, TDS created a beautiful memorial book:

Maurice (Kool Aid 131) Antonio. Kool Aid 131 Death Squad TDS Pres. Page of TDS's black book in memory of Bear 167. ca. 1985. Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.271.4

Maurice (Kool 131) Antonio. Kool Aid 131 Death Squad TDS Pres. [Page of TDS's black book in memory of Bear 167.] ca. 1985. Martin Wong Collection, Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.271.4

While the book mourns Bear 167’s passing, it also celebrates his life as an artist with vibrant colors.

TDS Vice Pres. Part Page of TDS's black book in memory of Bear 167. ca. 1985. Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.271.6

Part One. TDS Vice Pres. Part [Page of TDS's black book in memory of Bear 167.] ca. 1985. Martin Wong Collection, Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.271.6

Melvin (NOC 167) Samuels. Bear 167 In Memory of Him Page of TDS's black book in memory of Bear 167. ca. 1985. Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.271.56

Melvin (NOC 167) Samuels. Bear 167 In Memory of Him [Page of TDS's black book in memory of Bear 167.] ca. 1985. Martin Wong Collection, Museum of the City of New York. 94.114.271.56

Even if you are unable to visit the Museum, you can still explore the Martin Wong Collection here.

The Croton and Catskill Systems: Meeting the Demand for Water in New York City

Our earlier blog post illustrated the attempts city and private officials made to supply Manhattan with water, culminating in the successful flow of water from Westchester County to the city via the Croton Aqueduct in 1842 (hereafter called the Old Croton Aqueduct). This remarkable feat of civil engineering was unable to keep pace with New York’s rapid population growth, however, and was strained to capacity only 30 years after its completion.

Today New York City gets its water from the Croton, Catskill, and Delaware Systems, the first two of which are featured in this blog.  The images are part of a photograph album made from 1913-1917 when the donor, William Williams (1862-1947), was Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Water Supply, Gas, and Electricity under Mayor John Purroy Mitchel.

Croton System

What seemed to New Yorkers an abundant flow of water from the Old Croton Aqueduct in 1842 was deemed inadequate just a few years later. The city experienced an unanticipated population boom in the second half of the 19th century, due largely to a rise in immigration: in 1840, the population was 312,710; thirty years later in 1870 the population had more than tripled to 942,292. To satisfy demand, the flow of water was increased in the aqueduct. But another issue had emerged: the quality and quantity of water available was variable and vulnerable to droughts and landslides. The solution to this problem required improvements to the entire system and the project came to be known as the Croton Waterworks Extension.

Increasing storage capacity was one of the most important tasks for the Croton Waterworks Extension. The photograph below shows the first major component, constructed from 1858-1862 in what was later to become Central Park.

Photographer unknown. New Central Park Reservoir and North Gate Houses Croton System. ca. 1880-1900. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.113

Photographer unknown. New Central Park Reservoir and North Gate Houses Croton System. ca. 1880-1895. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.113

A few projects were delayed several years because of the Civil War. Manhattan’s ever-increasing population was moving further north, beyond the areas serviced by the Old Croton Aqueduct. To deliver water to this growing community, known as Carmansville, the High Bridge Reservoir and Tower were built from 1866-1873.

Photographer unknown. High Bridge Reservoir and Tower Croton System. ca. 1880-1895. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.106

Photographer unknown. High Bridge Reservoir and Tower [Croton System.] ca. 1880-1895. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.106

Although the Croton Waterworks Extension had successfully augmented water storage, the Old Croton Aqueduct was nearing its maximum capacity. Construction of the New Croton Aqueduct began in 1885, as shown in the pictures below.

Photographer unknown. New Croton Aqueduct - Typical Horseshoe Section in Open Cut Croton System. 1885-1893. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.101

Photographer unknown. New Croton Aqueduct – Typical Horseshoe Section in Open Cut [Croton System.] 1885-1893. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.101

Photographer unknown. New Croton Aqueduct - Cast-Iron Section Lining Croton System. 1885-1893. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.102

Photographer unknown. New Croton Aqueduct – Cast-Iron Section Lining [Croton System.] 1885-1893. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.102

Enough work had been accomplished by July 15, 1890 to allow water to flow to the Central Park reservoir via the New Croton Aqueduct. But the Croton System was far from complete; additional water storage was needed. Below is the Titicus Reservoir in Westchester County, completed in 1895.

Photographer unknown. Titicus Reservoir - Spillway and Waste Channel Croton System. ca. 1900. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.86

Photographer unknown. Titicus Reservoir – Spillway and Waste Channel [Croton System.] ca. 1900. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.86

The New Croton Dam near the village of Croton-on-Hudson in Westchester County was built from 1892-1906, and was the tallest dam at the time of its construction.

Photographer unknown. New Croton Reservoir - Waste Channel and Bridge Croton System. ca. 1905. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.95

Photographer unknown. New Croton Reservoir – Waste Channel and Bridge [Croton System.] ca. 1905. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.95

The Croton System was completed in 1911. Today it supplies about 10 percent of the city’s water.

Catskill System

In 1898 the consolidation of Kings, Queens, Richmond, and parts of Westchester counties into New York City increased the population to 3.5 million, up from 1.5 million in 1890. The disparate waterworks of these regions now fell under the city’s domain, and it was obvious more water was needed to sustain New York. A 1900 report focused on the southern Catskill region for obtaining new sources of water. In 1907 construction of the Catskill Aqueduct commenced, documented in the photographs below.

Photographer unknown. Bucket Used to Lower Men and Materials During Sinking of Tunnel Shafts Catskill System. ca. 1912. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.32

Photographer unknown. Bucket Used to Lower Men and Materials During Sinking of Tunnel Shafts [Catskill System.] ca. 1912. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.32

Photographer unknown. Typical Pressure Tunnel Construction Shaft Catskill System. ca. 1912. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.54

Photographer unknown. Typical Pressure Tunnel Construction Shaft [Catskill System.] ca. 1912. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.54

Photographer unknown. Tunnel Drills Working on Bench After Drilling Heading Catskill System. ca. 1912. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.33

Photographer unknown. Tunnel Drills Working on Bench After Drilling Heading [Catskill System.] ca. 1912. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.33

Photographer unknown. Drilling and Mucking Bench of Lower Half of Tunnel Catskill System. ca. 1912. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.34

Photographer unknown. Drilling and Mucking Bench [of] Lower Half of Tunnel [Catskill System.] ca. 1912. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.34

Photographer unknown. Rondout Pressure Tunnel Showing Partial and Total Concrete Lining Catskill System. ca. 1912. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.35

Photographer unknown. Rondout Pressure Tunnel Showing Partial and Total Concrete Lining Catskill System. ca. 1912. Museum of the City of New York. 42.172.35

The Catskill Aqueduct was completed in 1915, and the remainder of the Catskill System was finished in 1928. The Catskill System supplies over 40 percent of New York City’s Water.

Click here to see the entire photograph album.

John Stephenson Company Streetcars

New York would not be the city it is today without the comprehensive public transportation infrastructure developed during the 19th and 20th centuries. One of the major players of this development was the John Stephenson Company, a streetcar manufacturer that not only outfitted the byways of New York, but supplied cities all over the world with public transportation vehicles.

Background

John Stephenson was born in Ireland on July 4, 1809 and immigrated with his parents to the United States two years later. As a teenager he was an apprentice to the coachbuilder Andrew Wade of 347 Broome Street. During his apprenticeship Stephenson built carriages for Abraham Bower, who had introduced the horse-drawn vehicle known as the omnibus to the streets of New York in 1827. Omnibuses were essentially public stagecoaches running along a specified route with a fixed fee for passengers. Upon completion of the apprenticeship in 1831, Stephenson opened his own carriage shop at 667 Broadway. The shop burned to the ground a year later, but Stephenson was not deterred – he reopened for business at 264 Elizabeth Street. By 1836 his business was successful enough to warrant a move to a bigger place –  Fourth Avenue (now Park Avenue) between 132nd and 134th Streets. The print below shows the Harlem factory and features one of Stephenson’s standout designs, known as an x-frame or diamond car for the shapes cut by the latticework on the side of the vehicle. The design served more than just an aesthetic purpose: the truss supported the body of the car between two wheeled chassis.

Photolithograph by J. H. Bufford & Co. John Stephenson, Manufacturer of Rail Road Cars, Omnibusses, Post Coaches and Carriages of Every Description. ca. 1837. Museum of the City of New York. 45.293.1

Photolithograph by J. H. Bufford & Co. John Stephenson, Manufacturer of Rail Road Cars, Omnibusses, Post Coaches and Carriages of Every Description. ca. 1837. Museum of the City of New York. 45.293.1

John Stephenson’s business suffered a setback with the onset of the Panic of 1837 and was forced to close in 1842. But the tenacious Stephenson worked hard to pay off his debts and reopened again in 1843, at 47 East 27th Street, where the company would remain until 1898.

The photographs below were taken for the John Stephenson Company and donated to the Museum in 1944 by Mrs. Harry A. Thompson, great niece of John Stephenson and daughter of John A. Tackaberry, Vice President of the John Stephenson Company. The photographs are divided into the following unbound  photograph albums: Omnibuses, Fare-box Cars, Aisle Cars, Summer Cars, Closed Cars, Double-decker Cars, Special Cars, Electric Cars, Cable Cars, and Factory. Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were taken at the John Stephenson Company factory at 47 East 27th Street.

Factory

Stephenson built his factory on 27th Street between Madison and Fourth Avenues, opposite the New York & Harlem Railroad depot at Fourth Avenue and 26th Street. By the time these pictures were taken, the depot had been demolished for the construction of Stanford White’s Madison Square Garden.

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown  photographer. Factory John Stephenson Company factory at 47 East 27th Street. ca. 1889. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.453

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Factory [John Stephenson Company factory at 47 East 27th Street.] ca. 1889. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.453

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Factory John Stephenson Company Factory at 47 East 27th Street. 1889. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.454

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Factory [John Stephenson Company Factory at 47 East 27th Street.] 1889. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.454

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Factory Interior of the John Stephenson Company factory at 47 East 27th Street, cabinet shop. ca. 1889. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.485

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Factory [Interior of the John Stephenson Company factory at 47 East 27th Street, cabinet shop.] ca. 1889. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.485

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Factory Interior of the John Stephenson Company factory at 47 East 27th Street, making a streetcar roof. ca. 1889. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.480

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Factory [Interior of the John Stephenson Company factory at 47 East 27th Street, making a streetcar roof.] ca. 1889. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.480

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Factory Interior of the John Stephenson Company factory at 47 East 27th Street, streetcar near completion. ca. 1889. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.481

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Factory [Interior of the John Stephenson Company factory at 47 East 27th Street, streetcar near completion.] ca. 1889. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.481

Omnibuses

Omnibuses eliminated the need to hire transportation and became so popular that by 1852, over 120,000 passengers utilized them daily in New York.[1]

In 1856, Stephenson manufactured 300 omnibuses for use in New York and other cities around the world [2]. Below is an omnibus destined for Dunedin in the South Island of New Zealand.

Photograph taken by Waller for the John Stephenson Company. Omnibuses Dunedin City & Suburbs streetcar. ca. 1865. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.2

Photograph taken by Waller for the John Stephenson Company. Omnibuses [Dunedin City & Suburbs streetcar.] ca. 1865. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.2

The Pride of the Nation must have been one of the largest omnibuses ever constructed. Stephenson built the vehicle in 1875 and presented it at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia.

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Omnibuses The Pride of the Nation streetcar. ca. 1875. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.13

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Omnibuses [The Pride of the Nation streetcar.] ca. 1875. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.13

Look at how many horses were needed to pull the Pride of the Nation, shown below in Madison Square. The fate of the vehicle is unknown; the omnibus was last seen in 1918 when it departed for a cross-country tour, pulled behind a gasoline tractor.

Photograph taken by J. H. Beal for the John Stephenson Company. Omnibuses The Pride of the Nation streetcar in Madison Square. ca. 1875. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.14

Photograph taken by J. H. Beal for the John Stephenson Company. Omnibuses [The Pride of the Nation streetcar in Madison Square.] ca. 1875. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.14

In 1832, John Mason improved on the omnibus by laying special tracks in the cobblestone streets of New York, providing a smoother, safer, and more efficient ride. Thus the market for horsecars, also called streetcars, was born. Stephenson supplied this market with different variations of the streetcar seen below.

Fare-box Cars

Photograph taken by Waller for the John Stephenson Company. Fare-box Cars Melbourne Tramway & Omnibus Co. Limited No. 30 Hotham & Melbourne streetcar. 1884-1898. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.28

Photograph taken by Waller for the John Stephenson Company. Fare-box Cars [Melbourne Tramway & Omnibus Co. Limited No. 30 Hotham & Melbourne streetcar.] 1884-1898. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.28

Aisle Cars

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Aisle Cars Irondequoit Park Railroad streetcar, Glen Haven & Irondequoit Bay. 1893-1894. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.94

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Aisle Cars [Irondequoit Park Railroad streetcar, Glen Haven & Irondequoit Bay.] 1893-1894. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.94

Summer Cars

Photograph taken by Waller for the John Stephenson Company. Summer Cars Bowery Bay Beach streetcar, Steinway via Ravenswood & Astoria. ca. 1883. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.133

Photograph taken by Waller for the John Stephenson Company. Summer Cars [Bowery Bay Beach streetcar, Steinway via Ravenswood & Astoria.] ca. 1883. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.133

Closed Cars

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Closed Cars Streetcar No. 147, Central Park, North & East Rivers to the Battery. 1860-1875. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.234

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Closed Cars [Streetcar No. 147, Central Park, North & East Rivers to the Battery.] 1860-1875. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.234

Double-decker Cars

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Double-decker Cars Empresa de Tramways de Lima No. 4 streetcar with knifeboard seating on upper deck. ca. 1875. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.272

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Double-decker Cars [Empresa de Tramways de Lima No. 4 streetcar with knifeboard seating on upper deck.] ca. 1875. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.272

Special Cars

Photograph taken by Waller for the John Stephenson Company. Special Cars Streetcar for use in China. ca. 1885. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.293

Photograph taken by Waller for the John Stephenson Company. Special Cars [Streetcar for use in China.] ca. 1885. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.293

Photograph taken by Waller for the John Stephenson Company. Special Cars Matamoros - Puebla streetcar for first-class passengers with side entrance. ca. 1880. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.300

Photograph taken by Waller for the John Stephenson Company. Special Cars [Matamoros - Puebla streetcar for first-class passengers with side entrance.] ca. 1880. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.300

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Special Cars Matamoros - Puebla streetcar for second-class passengers. ca. 1880. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.301

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Special Cars [Matamoros - Puebla streetcar for second-class passengers.] ca. 1880. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.301

Horsecars created their own problems, however: the need to feed, groom, and provide shelter for teams of animals; the enormous amounts of animal waste deposited on the streets; and the working limits of the animals themselves.

Cable Cars

Cable cars flourished from roughly 1880 to about 1890. They were an improvement over horsecars, but were rendered obsolete when Frank J. Sprague successfully electrified a street railway system in Virginia in 1888.

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Cable Cars Kansas City Railway Co. Nos. 18 and 17 streetcars, Woodland Avenue via 8th & 9th to Union Depot. ca. 1885. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.451

Photograph taken for the John Stephenson Company by unknown photographer. Cable Cars [Kansas City Railway Co. Nos. 18 and 17 streetcars, Woodland Avenue via 8th & 9th to Union Depot.] ca. 1885. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.451

Electric Cars

The photograph below shows a streetcar fitted with a Thomson-Houston motor, passing by Union Square.

Photograph taken by the Pach Brothers for the John Stephenson Company. Electric Cars Madison & 4th Avenue to Post Office, Central Park No. 12 streetcar with Thomson-Houston motor. ca. 1890. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.379

Photograph taken by the Pach Brothers for the John Stephenson Company. Electric Cars [Madison & 4th Avenue to Post Office, Central Park No. 12 streetcar with Thomson-Houston motor.] ca. 1890. Museum of the City of New York. 44.295.379

The End of an Era

John Stephenson died in 1893. The same year, another financial panic threatened to put the John Stephenson Company out of business. In 1898, the company moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey and shortly thereafter declared bankruptcy. The John Stephenson Company was taken over by another railroad car manufacturer and continued on until 1919, when the plant was sold and the assets were liquidated.

Around the same time, the last horsecar in New York ran its course on July 17, 1917. The New York Times lamented:

Passing through many changes, the line kept its honored place in the municipal railroad world until yesterday morning, when the last of the dirty old cars, with their faithful horses and husky drivers, were withdrawn, never again to reappear. What glory, therefore, that came to this giant and progressive city for maintaining the last horse-drawn car disappeared forever. We are now no more notable in transportation than Chicago or Philadelphia.

Photographer unknown. Last horse-car trip, Bleecker Street. 1917. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archives. X2010.11.9926

Photographer unknown. [Last horse-car trip, Bleecker Street.] 1917. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archives. X2010.11.9926

1. Randall Bartlett, The Crisis of America’s Cities (Armonk, N.Y. : M.E. Sharpe, 1998), 71.
2. John H. White, Horsecars, Cable Cars, and Omnibuses (New York: Dover Publications, 1974), 15.

Notable City Residences

8,336,697 people lived in New York City as of July 2012 according to the United States Census Bureau, and a lucky few of them live in fascinating places. Here we take a look at some the more interesting residences, images of which are featured in the Museum’s collection. All photographs were taken by Edmund V. Gillon and donated to the Museum by Blair Davis.

Brooklyn Heights

In 1965 the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) designated the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, bounded roughly to the north and the west by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, to the south by Atlantic Avenue, and to the east by Court Street, Cadman Plaza West and Old Fulton Street. This act ensured the preservation of the neighborhood’s signature brick and brownstone buildings, most of which were built in the 19th century, and the protection of the neighborhood’s tree-lined character, which has remained relatively unaltered since the Civil War. It is no surprise, then, that Brooklyn Heights has some of the most exceptional housing the city has to offer, including the four examples below.

Edmund V. Gillon. College Place. 1970-2000. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.468

Edmund V. Gillon. [College Place.] 1970-2000. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.468

Carriage houses are holdovers from times when horse-drawn vehicles were the primary method of transportation; the buildings stored carriages and horse tack. Although rendered obsolete by modern transportation, some carriage houses still exist in the city. The carriage houses in Brooklyn Heights were built around the mid-19th century and are often located on alleys or quiet side streets.

Edmund V. Gillon. 165 Columbia Heights. 1970-2000. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.792

Edmund V. Gillon. [165 Columbia Heights.] 1970-2000. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.792

Despite their humble origins, but perhaps because of their limited supply, carriage houses are now considered fashionable, highly desirable residences, and come with a corresponding hefty price tag. Renting a three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bathroom carriage house can set you back $10,000 a month. The carriage house pictured to the left was put on the market in 2008 for $7.2 million, but eventually sold in 2012 for $4.1 million.

Edmund V. Gillon. Riverside apartments, 4-30 Columbia Place. ca. 1975. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.92

Edmund V. Gillon. [Riverside apartments, 4-30 Columbia Place.] ca. 1975. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.92

The Riverside apartments  were built in 1890 by William Field & Son and financed by philanthropist Alfred Tredway White, whose motto was “philanthropy plus five percent. ” White accepted a limited return on his investment in exchange for building affordable housing for Brooklyn’s poor and working class families. The Riverside buildings occupied only 49 percent of the lot, which allowed space for an internal courtyard. White’s progressive ideas about housing were years ahead of the law, and more generous as well: in 1895 the New York Tenement House Law was changed to require that a new tenement occupy no more than 65 percent of its lot.[1] The Riverside received praise from Jacob Riis, who wrote in his 1890 book, How the Other Half Lives: “Its chief merit is that it gathers three hundred real homes, not simply three hundred families, under one roof.” Although four of the nine buildings in the Riverside complex were demolished to build the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the LPC nonetheless included the Riverside apartments in the 1965 Brooklyn Heights Historic District designation. At a time when housing for working and middle class New Yorkers is in dwindling supply, and developers declare “There are only two markets, ultraluxury and subsidized housing,” White’s business model is sorely missed.

Edmund V. Gillon. 70 Willow Street. ca. 1978. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.938

Edmund V. Gillon. [70 Willow Street.] ca. 1978. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.938

The Greek Revival house at 70 Willow Street was built around 1839 by Adrian Van Sinderen and is commonly referred to as the Capote house. From 1955 to 1965 Truman Capote rented a room in the house, where he wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s. While he was living there he also noticed a news article about the 1959 murder of a Kansas family that would lead him to write  In Cold Blood. This three-story, 11-bedroom, 9,000-square foot mansion with the impressive pedigree recently sold for $12.5 million.

Roosevelt Island

Edmund V. Gillon. Octagon Tower. 1970-2000. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.570

Edmund V. Gillon. Octagon Tower. 1970-2000. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.570

Octagon Tower was part of the New York City Lunatic Asylum (later Metropolitan Hospital) on Roosevelt Island. It was built in 1835-1839 by Alexander Jackson Davis. In 1955 the hospital vacated the facility when it left Roosevelt Island for Manhattan. The buildings fell into a state of disrepair, as you can see in the picture to the right. But in 2006 the ruins were converted to luxury housing, with the newly restored Octagon Tower serving as the lobby entrance.

Nolita

Edmund V. Gillon. 190 Bowery. ca. 1975. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.788

Edmund V. Gillon. [190 Bowery.] ca. 1975. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.788

 You would never guess that the building pictured to the left at 190 Bowery is now a single-family residence. The former Germania Bank building was built in 1898-1899 by Robert Maynicke for its namesake, which served the middle class German residents who populated the area along and to the east of the Bowery, north of Division Street. The building functioned as a bank until the mid-1960s, when photographer Jay Maisel purchased it for $102,000. Maisel moved into the six-story, 72-room, 35,000-square foot building and continues to live there today with his wife and daughter, leading Wendy Goodman of New York magazine to declare 190 Bowery “maybe the greatest real-estate coup of all time.”

Greenwich Village

In 1969 the LPC designated the Greenwich Village Historic District which included the two structures pictured below.

Edmund V. Gillon. Washington Square Methodist Church, 135-139 West 4th Street. ca. 1972. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.300

Edmund V. Gillon. [Washington Square Methodist Church, 135-139 West 4th Street.] ca. 1972. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.300

The former Washington Square Methodist Church at 135-139 West 4th Street was built 1859-1860 by Gamaliel King and constructed of marble in the Romanesque Revival style. Just over 100 years later it became known as Peace Church for its opposition to the Vietnam War. From 1973 to 1984 Reverend Paul Abels served as the church’s pastor. Abels was the first openly gay minister in a major Christian denomination in the United States. Ahead of his time, Abels performed “covenant ceremonies” for gay couples unable to wed legally. In 2004 the shrinking congregation sold the building to a real estate developer, who retained the facade and converted the interior to luxury apartments.

Edmund V. Gillon. Portico Place, 143 West 13th Street. ca. 1985. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.417

Edmund V. Gillon. [Portico Place, 143 West 13th Street.] ca. 1985. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.1.417

Another church converted to residences is Portico Place. It was originally the 13th Street Presbyterian Church, built in 1847 in the Greek Revival style and attributed to Samuel Thomson. Over the years the congregation merged with other nearby Presbyterian churches and eventually came to be known as the Village Presbyterian Church. The congregation disbanded in 1975 and the building was placed on the market in 1977. In 1982, the former church became a 15-unit residential building.

1. New York (State). Tenement House Commission, The Tenement House Problem: Including the Report of the New York State Tenement House Commission of 1900, Volume 2 (New York: Macmillan, 1903), 275.

Street clocks – how New Yorkers kept time on the go.

Street clocks once dominated the sidewalks of New York City. First introduced in the 1860s, the clocks quickly became popular with businesses looking for novel ways to advertise and with the general public who appreciated the convenience.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Broadway - Southwest Corner of 32nd Street Looking North. 1898. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.17118

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Broadway – Southwest Corner of 32nd Street Looking North. 1898. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.17118

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Theatre, American, 42nd Street Between 7th & 8th Aves. ca. 1900. Museum of the City of New York. 29.100.1180

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Theatre, American, 42nd Street Between 7th & 8th Aves. ca. 1900. Museum of the City of New York. 29.100.1180

Few of these clocks exist today, however. Some became casualties of accidents as automobiles proliferated in the 20th century. Others gave way to the digital timepieces that predominate today.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). The Corn Exchange Bank. West 42nd St. Branch. 303 West 42nd Street. 1927. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.15338

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). The Corn Exchange Bank. West 42nd St. Branch. 303 West 42nd Street. 1927. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.15338

Sensing this unfortunate trend, in 1981 the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated eight sidewalk clocks still standing as landmarks, including the one below.

Berenice Abbott. Tempo of the City I. 1938. Museum of the City of New York. 40.140.249

Berenice Abbott. Tempo of the City I. 1938. Museum of the City of New York. 40.140.249

This double faced cast-iron clock at 522 Fifth Avenue on the southwest corner of 44th Street was manufactured in 1907 by the Seth Thomas Company.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Sidewalk clock and Guaranty Trust Company building. ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.17786

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Sidewalk clock and Guaranty Trust Company building. ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.17786

It originally stood one block south on Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street in front of the American Trust Company, but was moved to its current location in the 1930s when the American Trust Company merged with the Guaranty Trust Company.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 513 5th Avenue and 43rd Street. Postal Life Building, detail of lower stories. ca. 1917. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.2106

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 513 5th Avenue and 43rd Street. Postal Life Building, detail of lower stories. ca. 1917. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.2106

Now it stands proudly as a reminder of a not too distant past.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Sidewalk clock and Guaranty Trust Company building. ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.17827

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Sidewalk clock and Guaranty Trust Company building. ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.17827

What skating rink is that? Who lived in that house? Solving mysteries in the collection.

From time to time, the Collections Department receives inquiries from the public about the information associated with images we’ve cataloged online.   The data in the catalog records is pulled from inscriptions on photographs, and from photographers’ logs, notes, and shot lists that were acquired along with many of the Museum’s major photographic collections, such the Wurts Brothers  or Byron Company.  When we notice something that seems incorrect, we conduct further research, but generally, we consider these materials primary sources, and with collections numbering in the tens of thousands of images, must trust that the photographers kept accurate records.   Nobody’s perfect of course, and from time to time a researcher, or just someone browsing images on the Collections Portal, comes across an image they feel has been misidentified and reaches out to us, often through the research@mcny.org email (to learn more about our collections research services, check out the research page on the Museum’s newly redesigned website!)

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 5 West 51st Street. 1932. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.14118

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) Old Carnegie Residence. 5 West 51st Street. 1932. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.14118

One such situation occurred when we were contacted by a researcher from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, which resides in the former Andrew Carnegie family residence on Fifth Avenue and East 90th Street.  The Cooper-Hewitt had, in turn, been contacted by a preservationist, who was seeking to confirm the address of an even earlier Carnegie residence.  That researcher referenced the photograph to the right from our collection, which at the time was identified on the Collections Portal as “Old Carnegie Residence. 15 West 51st Street.”  That description came directly from one of the Wurts Brothers photography logs, shown below. If you enlarge the image of the log book, you’ll see on the bottom right corner of the right page the description of the photograph: “Aug 19 1932. Fred R. King. [...] Photo Old Carnegie Residence. 15 West 51 St.” Or does it actually say 5 West 51 St.? It’s hard to tell.

Wurts Bros. log book.

Wurts Bros. log book.

Detlef Lienau, Design for George Mosle Residence, 5 West 51st Street, N.Y., 1879. Courtesy of Detlef Lienau architectural drawings and papers, Department of Drawings and Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library.

Detlef Lienau, Design for George Mosle Residence, 5 West 51st Street, N.Y., 1879. Courtesy of Detlef Lienau architectural drawings and papers, Department of Drawings and Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library.

The preservationist who contacted the Cooper-Hewitt wasn’t even interested in the Carnegie Mansion, she was interested in 15 West 51st Street, in relation to a preservation project her firm had underway.  The Cooper-Hewitt confirmed that the Carnegies lived at 5 West 51st, not 15 West 51st, but they then looped us into the conversation to determine the actual address of the residence pictured above.  The Cooper-Hewitt had been seeking an image of the house at 5 West 51st Street, to no avail; all they had found was the elevation to the left, created when the house was originally built in 1879 for George Mosle by Detlef Lienau, which they supplied to us.

We  zoomed in on the photograph in question (you can do this too – clicking the photograph will take you directly to our Collections Portal, where you can use the magnifying glass icon to  see the details.) There was no address visible on the building, but there was a sign indicating that the structure had recently been sold. Going back to the log book, the name Fred R. King was associated with the address. Frederic Rhinelander King (1887-1972) was an architect; notably, he designed the Women’s National Republican Club at 3 West 51st Street, built from 1933-1934.  The Wurts Brothers probably took the photograph for King just before construction of the clubhouse.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 7 West 51st Street. Graves House. ca. 1905. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.796

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 7 West 51st Street. Graves House. ca. 1905. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.796

With over 125,000 images available online, our Collections Portal is often the best source for identifying discrepancies in catalog records. We found the image to the right, then identified as “[Perhaps] West 51st St. #7. Graves House.” It looks much the same as in the first photograph, and to the right of it is the original building in question. At this point we were confident in identifying the original image as 5 West 51st Street, and the image to the right as 7 West 51st Street.  When we looked back at the elevation supplied by the Cooper-Hewitt and compared it to the photograph, certain common architectural details – such as the balustrade under the third story windows – began to emerge, affirming that in fact we’d identified the early Carnegie Residence, 5 West 51st Street.  Good news for the Cooper-Hewitt; not so much help for for the preservation planner.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). St. Nicholas Rink. 1898. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.10826

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). St. Nicholas Rink. 1898. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.10826

Pictured to the left is another misidentified image brought to our attention by a researcher. The photograph was originally described by its creator Byron Company as “Rinks, Iceland Skating Rink, B’way 53rd Street & 7th Ave.” The date given was 1898. But as the researcher pointed out, Iceland skating rink did not open until 1916. We weren’t certain if the title, the date, or both were incorrect. We zoomed in on the image. This revealed a group of people sitting on the sidelines to the left. Their attire led us to believe that the given date of the photograph, 1898, was indeed correct. So now we knew that the photograph wasn’t of Iceland skating rink – but what was it? We looked at rinks on the Collections Portal, but nothing matched the image. We wondered if it could possibly be St. Nicholas Rink, before it became a full-time boxing arena.

St. Nicholas Rink opened in 1896 on 66th Street and Columbus Avenue and was one of the first enclosed ice skating rinks to take advantage of refrigeration technology. The facility has an entry in Wikipedia with an accompanying image. The image on the Wikipedia page gave us hope that the Museum’s photograph was of St. Nicholas Rink. In the Streetscapes column published February 6, 2005 in the New York Times, Christopher Gray writes that the building was “a broad, industrial-like structure with a procession of high brick arches in neo-Classical style…” After reading this description and seeing the photograph of the rink’s exterior published with the article, we believed that the Byron image showed St. Nicholas Rink.

We are grateful when someone points out questionable information on the portal, and continue to invite comments. If you have insight into an image on the portal, email us at portal@mcny.org.  In addition, the Museum shares a “Friday Mystery Image,” every week on our Facebook page.  Check in around lunchtime each Friday if you’d like to help us identify unknown images in our collection.