Category Archives: Digital Project

Members only: Private clubs in New York City

Clubs have been a part of New York City for centuries. How else are you expected to find like-minded people in such a bustling metropolis? In the early 19th century, the Hone Club was the preeminent dinner-giving club for upper class merchants (the eponymous member was Mayor Philip Hone); James Fenimore Cooper founded the deliciously-named Bread and Cheese Club (which was sadly not devoted to food, but rather literary pursuits); The City Club was  described as an “anti-bad-city government club”; and who could forget the Thirteen Club, whose stated purpose was “to combat superstitious beliefs” by hosting dinner parties with 13 guests on the 13th of the month? My favorite is the anti-club Club. Who said Gilded Age New Yorkers didn’t have a sense of humor? For the most thorough and exhaustive list, please see the King’s Handbook of 1892: pages upon pages of descriptions of every kind of club imaginable await you  here.

Some clubs were more exclusive than others. The private gentleman’s club, based on the English model, has had a long history in the five boroughs. Men socialized, dined, and drank with other men of their social class in beautiful surroundings. Membership to these clubs was (and still is) difficult to obtain: money, power, and the right connections are all must-haves. But thanks to the City Museum’s fabulous photo collections, we can pretend that we are members of some of the most exclusive clubs in town.

On June 30th, 1836, invitations were sent to various gentlemen of good social standing – Astors, Van Cortlandts, Stuyvesants, van Rensselaers, basically a roll call of every influential Dutch New York family – to join the newly founded Union Club, the first club devoted to wealth and social standing in New York. For decades it set the tone for every other club. As you can probably guess, the Union Club became very popular, very quickly and there was soon a waitlist to join.

The two images below are of the club’s clubhouse on 51st and Fifth Avenue, which it occupied from 1903-1933. Designed by Cass Gilbert, its facade is a sober statement of the conservatism and wealth of the club.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 51st Street and Fifth Avenue. The Union Club. 1928. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.3127

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 51st Street and Fifth Avenue. The Union Club. 1928. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.3127.

Unknown photographer. Main Stairway [Union Club, 1 East 51st Street.] 1930. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.123.9

Unknown photographer. Main Stairway [Union Club, 1 East 51st Street.] 1930. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.123.9.

Their current clubhouse on Park and 69th, designed by William Adams Delano and Chester Holmes Aldrich and pictured below, was described by Christopher Gray as, “chunky with rusticated limestone and a huge angled mansard roof so big it looks like a Fifth Avenue mansion gone wild.” With five dining rooms and humidors stocked with cigars, it’s clear that the Union Club is still catering to the wealthy and connected of New York.

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Samuel H. (Samuel Herman) Gottscho (1875-1971). The Union Club, 701 Park Avenue. General exterior. 1935. Museum of the City of New York. 88.1.1.3769

 

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Samuel H. (Samuel Herman) Gottscho (1875-1971). The Union Club, 701 Park Avenue. Foyer to entrance. 1935. Museum of the City of New York. 88.1.1.3756

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Samuel H. (Samuel Herman) Gottscho (1875-1971). The Union Club, 701 Park Avenue. Dining room, general view to portraits. 1935.Museum of the City of New York. 88.1.1.3760

New York society, however, is nothing if not fluid. After the Civil War, there was a huge influx of newly wealthy men who wanted access to the prestige of the Union Club. The older members of the Union Club were not impressed. They blocked the membership application of two men: John King and Dr. W. Seward Webb. Bad move. It turned out that John King was connected with J. P. Morgan and Dr. Webb was married to Eliza Vanderbilt (William Kissam’s Vanderbilt’s little sister). Morgan and Vanderbilt were so angered, they did the only sensible thing: they founded their own private club.

Dubbed the Millionaire’s Club by the press, the Metropolitan Club was singly focused on money. By 1892, 700 invitations were sent out and that alone was enough to ensure the club’s financial success. The next step was a clubhouse that alerted passers-by to the wealth of those inside. Morgan enlisted Stanford White, who told the New York Times: “The club house will stand unrivaled in its size, and although the style will be in the severest and simplest character of Italian Renaissance and the feeling of severity and solidity will be carried through the interior, the scale of the building and the nature of its materials will give it an appearance unlike that of any building in New York.”. Well, let it never be said that Stanford White didn’t have confidence in his abilities. The clubhouse was completed in 1893, on what was once the 8th Duke of Marlborough’s land. (As a interesting historical sidenote: William K. Vanderbilt’s daughter, Consuelo, would marry the 9th Duke of Marlborough, for more information read Lindsay’s fabulous blog post about dollar princesses here.)

Metropolitan Club, 5th Ave. & 60th St.

Irving Underhill (d. 1960). Metropolitan Club, 5th Ave. & 60th St. 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.29.221

 

[Metropolitan Club, 1-11 East 60th Street.]

Edmund V. Gillon. [Metropolitan Club, 1-11 East 60th Street.]. ca. 1975. Museum of the City of New York. 2013.3.2.2006.

Another way that the Metropolitan Club was progressive was that they had an annex where wives and daughters of the members held events. You can almost feel the collective shudder of the Union Club.

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James L. Breese and Carbon Studio. Interior Views of the Metropolitan Club House [Grand staircase.]. 1895. Museum of the City of New York. 90.44.4.3

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James L. Breese and Carbon Studio, Interior Views of the Metropolitan Club House [Possibly the West Room.] 1895. Museum of the City of New York. 90.44.4.4

Not all clubs were based entirely on money and family lines. Here are glimpses of other privates clubs.

The University Club was began by Ivy League graduates whose goals included, “promotion of Literature and Art by establishing and maintaining a Library, Reading Room and Gallery of Art, and by such other means as shall be expedient and proper for such purposes.” Thanks to a beautiful clubhouse designed by McKim, Mead & White, you can see just how well they accomplished those goals.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 1 West 54th Street. University Club. Interior, game room. ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.7948

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 1 West 54th Street. University Club. Interior, game room. ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.7948

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Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 1 West 54th Street. University Club. Interior, library. ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.7938

The Players Club is a different kind of club than the ones mentioned previously. Founded by Edwin Booth and located in a Gramercy Park South townhome remodeled by Stanford White, the private club was home to, as one contemporary quipped, “… gentlemen trying to be actors,” and its members come from the highest social groups of both the theater and business worlds. Here you can see the two most important parts of a gentleman’s club: the billiards table and  the bar (with the very attentive Connelly awaiting your order).

Josephine Barry. Player's Club, founded by Edwin Booth - 16 Gramercy Park Southern. 1947. 1947. Museum of the City of New York. 75.43.85

Josephine Barry. Player’s Club, founded by Edwin Booth – 16 Gramercy Park Southern. 1947. 1947. Museum of the City of New York. 75.43.85

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). [Players Club. Billiard room.] ca. 1939, Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.17081

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). [Players Club. Billiard room.] ca. 1939, Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.17081

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 16 Gramercy Park South. Interior, The Player's Club with Connelly, barkeeper. 1935, Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.6542

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 16 Gramercy Park South. Interior, The Player’s Club with Connelly, barkeeper. 1935, Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.6542

And finally, we have this perfect picture of members of the Yale Club, obviously having a fabulous time at a 1904 Bachelor’s Dinner.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Dinner - Bachelor 1904 Yale Club 30 West 44th St.  1904. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.3979.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Dinner – Bachelor 1904 Yale Club 30 West 44th St. 1904. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.3979.

For more images of club life in Gilded Age New York, please visit out Collection Portal here.

 

 

Unidentified: Lingering mysteries in the Theater Collection

Since fall of 2013, the City Museum has been involved in a large scale digitization project to digitally capture and describe over 30,000 images of theatrical production. It gives me great pleasure and supreme pride to announce we now have over 15,000 images freely available to view on the Museum’s Collections Portal. Cue streamers, balloons, fireworks, and all other celebratory ephemera.

15,000 images is a lot, and our powerhouse cataloging team has done an excellent job identifying the productions and people in each photograph. Every once in a while, however, a mystery emerges, and there is no way to know just who or what is in the photograph.  Let’s take a look at some of these mysteries: unidentified people or productions that deserved to be known.

Friedman-Abeles. [[Unidentified actress during rehearsal for Flora, the Red Menace.] 1965. Museum of the City of New York. 92.52.5.24

Friedman-Abeles. [Unidentified actress during rehearsal for Flora, the Red Menace.] 1965. Museum of the City of New York, 92.52.5.24.

The first mystery image comes from the 1965 Broadway production of Flora, the Red Menace. This musical not only marked the Broadway debut of Liza Minnelli, but was also the first collaboration between composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, the duo that went on to create Chicago and Cabaret.  In the above photograph, we see a dancer captured mid-air during a rehearsal.  Who was she and what was her role in Flora? The mystery endures.

Unfortunately, many of the unidentified persons are dancers, who as any lover of A Chorus Line will tell you, are no less deserving of recognition than the stars of the show.

Edward Thayer Monroe. [Unidentified dancer in "Bombo".] 1921-1922. Museum of the City of New York, F2013.41.923.

Edward Thayer Monroe. [Unidentified dancer in Bombo.] 1921-1922. Museum of the City of New York, F2013.41.923.

These two dancers (above and below) come from the 1921 musical revue Bombo. Built around the talents of star Al Jolson, these beautiful photographs beg the question of identity. What kind of pose is the dancer striking? Are those blonde curls a wig? So many questions.

Maurice Goldberg. [Unidentified dancer in "Bombo".] 1921-1922. Museum of the City of New York, F2013.41.917.

Maurice Goldberg. [Unidentified dancer in Bombo.] 1921-1922. Museum of the City of New York, F2013.41.917.

The passage of decades might perhaps explain the missing names of the Bombo dancers, but even a more recent production such as the 1971 musical Follies leaves gaps in knowledge when it comes to the some of the dancers.

Martha Swope. [Unidentified showgirl in "Follies".] 1971-1972. Museum of the City of New York, 92.52.26.33.

Martha Swope. [Unidentified showgirl in Follies.] 1971-1972. Museum of the City of New York, 92.52.26.33.

Showcasing the stunning costumes of Florenz Klotz, the identity of these Follies showgirls remain a mystery even amidst a musical about showgirls.

Martha Swope. [Unidentified actress in "Follies".] 1971-1972. Museum of the City of New York, 92.52.26.42.

Martha Swope. [Unidentified actress in Follies.] 1971-1972. Museum of the City of New York, 92.52.26.42.

Most of the mysteries in the theatrical production photographs revolve around the identity of the person in the picture. On rare occasions, however, the person is known, but the production remains unidentified.  In the photograph below, we know the performer is Dorothy Dickson, but we don’t know what she’s performing.

Hixon-Connelly. [Dorothy Dickson in an unidentified production.] 1917. Museum of the City of New York, X2013.42.797

Hixon-Connelly. [Dorothy Dickson in an unidentified production.] 1917. Museum of the City of New York, X2013.42.797.

This photograph was originally filed with Caliban of the Yellow Sands, but it does not at all resemble other photographs from that production. It possibly was mislabeled, but what is it then? Besides terrifying, I mean.

Unknown. [Unidentified performance.] 1900-1950. Museum of the City of New York, F2013.41.1328.

Unknown. [Unidentified performance.] 1900-1950. Museum of the City of New York, F2013.41.1328.

On rarer occasions still, we are totally stumped.  Dorothy Mackaill is identified in the dinner scene below but her companion is not.  Originally, the photograph was part of the the file for the 1912 play,  The Bird of Paradise, but Ms. Mackaill never appeared in that show. Also, the setting does not match the description of the play or particularly its Hawaiian setting.  It is even possible that this photograph could be a movie still. (Gasp!)  We just don’t know.

Unknown. [Theater still from an unidentified production.] ca. 1915-1935. Museum of the City of New York, F2013.41.776.

Unknown. [Theater still from an unidentified production.] ca. 1915-1935. Museum of the City of New York, F2013.41.776.

If you have any information, dear reader, about the above images (or any other unidentifieds you may have come across on the Collections Portal), please do not hesitate to email us at collections@mcny.org or leave a comment below..

Digitization of theatrical production photographs is made possible by the generous support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Frederick Loewe Foundation. And we are not done yet, so stay tuned for more Portal uploads, more blogs, and possibly more mysteries. Cue eerie music and curtain.

The Civilian War Effort in New York City During World War I and World War II

This week, we have a guest post from one of our Collections interns, Emily Arbuckle.  Emily is completing her Masters Degree in Information and Library Science and Archives Certificate at Pratt Institute, and just finished reprocessing the Museum’s World Wars I & II collection as part of our NEH funded ephemera project.

Over the past 15 years New Yorkers have come together in times of hardship, in the aftermaths of 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. New Yorkers also banded together for the greater good during World Wars I and II, as evidenced by the materials in the Museum of the City of New York’s ephemera collections. The following selections from the Collection on World War I and World War II is a sampling of materials documenting the myriad of volunteer opportunities available to New Yorkers during these periods of international turmoil.

Licensed Chauffeur, New York, 1920, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. Museum of the City of New York. 03.89.4.

Licensed Chauffeur, New York, 1920, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. Museum of the City of New York. 2003.89.4.

In response to World War I women began to take on new responsibilities in the war effort. The Motor Corps of America provided the opportunity for women to learn to drive and maintain vehicles. Here we see buttons and signage from a New York City Motor Corps volunteer named Dorothea Harnecker, donated to the City Museum by her daughter Mrs. Beatrice Stone.

Dorothea A. Harnecker, New York, N.Y., Motor Corps of America, ca 1917, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. Museum of the City of New York. 03.89.3.
Dorothea A. Harnecker, New York, N.Y., Motor Corps of America, ca 1917, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. Museum of the City of New York. 2003.89.3.

The Motor Corps of America was a volunteer  effort established by the National League of Women’s Services and the Red Cross. The organization provided transportation and ambulatory services to military personnel. The Motor Corps was one of the most demanding divisions of the league and required a chauffeur’s license, mechanic’s license, and many hours of training.

Motor Corps of America, Doro Harnecker-Momsen, 1917, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. Museum of the City of New York. 03.89.2.

Motor Corps of America, Dorothea Harnecker-Momsen, 1917, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. Museum of the City of New York. 2003.89.2.

 

Red Cross, U.S. Army Muffler, 1943, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. Museum of the City of New York.

Red Cross, U.S. Army Muffler, 1943, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. Museum of the City of New York.

Not all volunteer opportunities required such a high level of technical skills.  One way people of all ages helped the war effort was by knitting wool goods for service men overseas. During this time period knitting was a more common skill for an American to possess, and an easy way to volunteer one’s time. The Red Cross distributed patterns for clothing such as socks, mufflers, sweaters, and wristlets. Here is a pattern from 1943 for a U.S. Army muffler. Knitting circles using these patterns could be found in schools, churches, and homes all over New York City during the first and second World Wars.

In 1940, Mrs. Natalie Wales Latham founded one of these knitting circles in New York City as a World War II relief campaign called “Bundles for Britain,” an organization advertised on the pencil below.  Mrs. Latham began the organization by knitting wool goods for British sailors with a small group of women.  “Bundles for Britain” eventually grew to 1,900 chapters across the United States and began shipping out other items needed by the British troops such as medical supplies and ambulances.

Bundles for Britain, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. Museum of the City of New York.

Bundles for Britain, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. Museum of the City of New York.

During World War I the United States recommended reduced consumption of food in order to send more overseas and avoid mandatory rationing at home. Many Americans responded by cutting back on meat, wheat, sugar, and other critical foods. The Lawyers Club of the City of New York responded to the problem by funding a farm in the city called Club War Farms, Inc. This poster from 1917 invites recipients to a Harvest Festival Dinner Dance just after Thanksgiving to celebrate the harvest.

Harvest Festival Dinner Dance, Club War Farms, 1917, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. Museum of the City of New York. 40.90.211.

Harvest Festival Dinner Dance, Club War Farms, 1917, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. Museum of the City of New York. 40.90.211.

War Ration Book No. 3, , Joyce Swartz, 1943, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. 03.18.1c.

War Ration Book No. 3, Joyce Schwartz, 1943, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. 2003.18.1c.

Food shortages in the United States were even more pronounced during World War II, and mandated food rationing was unavoidable. Each American received a book of stamps, with particular stamps for each category of  rationed food, such as meat or canned goods. One could not buy the rationed food without providing a stamp. This ensured that food was distributed evenly throughout the country. Above is an example of one of the ration books in the museum’s collection.

Along with the shortage of food during World War II, New York City was also experiencing a shortage of workers. Men were being sent overseas and New York was considered a prime target of attack, necessitating extra protection at home. In 1942 City Patrol Corps was founded as a reserves police force.This handout urges New York citizens to join the City Patrol Corps in manning the additional posts during wartime as well as protecting New York citizens from “additional menaces.”

Front Line of City Defense from the City Patrol Corps, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. Museum of the City of New York.

Front Line of City Defense from the City Patrol Corps, in the Collection on World War I and World War II. Museum of the City of New York.

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These items and more are being digitized as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, and you will be able to view this collection and many others in the online Collections Portal in the coming months. Continue to check this blog for more selections from the ephemera archives as the Museum of the City of New York continues with the digitization project.  In the meantime, please check out at the finding aid for the Collection on World War I and II.

neh_logo_horizontal_rgbAny views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this post do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The origins of dining out in New York City

The holiday season is upon us, bringing with it numerous opportunities for eating and visiting restaurants.  As we prepare the City Museum’s ephemera collections for digitization as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, we’ve taken a closer look at New York’s relationship with dining through the restaurant and hotel menus in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality.

New Yorkers and visitors to the city today are able to enjoy nearly every type of cuisine, from dim sum to Swedish meat balls.  However, this hasn’t always been possible – “restaurant” was not in a New Yorker’s vocabulary until the mid-nineteenth century.  An 1825 visitors’ guide to New York, “The Picture of New York, or the Stranger’s Guide to the Commercial Metropolis of the United States,” contains information about eight New York City markets from which to procure fresh meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables, but no mention of dining establishments.  Those who wanted to eat out could visit a chophouse or tavern at a set dinner time for standard meat and potatoes fare.  Two Swiss brothers revolutionized dining in New York City when they opened Delmonico’s at the intersection of Beaver, William, and South William Streets in 1837.  Their restaurant was one of the first to allow diners to order from a menu at any time of day.  The 1838 menu from the Restaurant Français des Frères Delmonico is eleven pages long and features delicacies such as “Chicken pie with truffles” and “jumble of vegetables”.

Restaurant Français des Frères Delmonico, 1838, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality. Museum of the City of New York. 34.295.2.

Restaurant Français des Frères Delmonico, 1838, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality. Museum of the City of New York. 34.295.2.

Pirates Den, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality, Museum of the City of New York. 39.255.4.

Pirates Den, ca. 1928, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality, Museum of the City of New York. 39.255.4.

Delmonico’s earned a reputation as one of New York City’s finest dining establishments, and the concept of dining out in New York took off – until Prohibition.  Sure, you could still enjoy a multi-course meal without wine or cocktails, but it wasn’t nearly as fun.  New Yorkers and tourists instead found fun in the city’s speakeasies, like the Pirates’ Den on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village.  The establishment served a deathly-sounding Black Skull Punch, and its Pirate Band played dance music seven nights a week until 1am.

Visiting a restaurant to catch a glimpse of its celebrity proprietor is nothing new.  Jack Dempsey, a boxer and World Heavyweight Champion from 1919 to 1926, ranked second only to Babe Ruth among American sports icons in the 1920s.  He opened Jack Dempsey’s Restaurant in 1935 after retiring from boxing, and was known to frequent the restaurant’s corner booth.  A visitor could enjoy a plate of Boston baked beans, sliced Virginia ham, and Boston brown bread, and hope to have his menu signed by the professional boxer also known as the “Manassa Mauler.”

Jack Dempsey's Restaurant, 1956, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality. Museum of the City of New York. 85.55.1.

Jack Dempsey’s Restaurant, 1956, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality. Museum of the City of New York. 85.55.1.

Many of the menus in the collection offer a snapshot of food trends, some more appealing than others. Perhaps if you are feeling full from holiday over-indulgence, you can take a look at the “Cold Platter and Diet Delights” section of the Lenox Hill Grille menu for some New Year’s resolution meal inspiration.  A “Health Salad” consisting of fruit salad, cottage cheese, and Jello on a bed of lettuce served with Melba rounds sounds like a great way to kick off 2015.

Excerpt from Lenox Hill Grille, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality. Museum of the City of New York. 97.146.194A-E.

Excerpt from Lenox Hill Grille, ca. 1975, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality. Museum of the City of New York. 97.146.194A-E.

Images of ephemera from the Collection on Dining and Hospitality will soon be available on the Museum’s online Collections Portal, but in the meantime, you can check out images of New York City’s restaurants here.

neh_logo_horizontal_rgbAny views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this post do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Visiting New York City’s Hotels

Excerpt from "Members of Hotel Association of New York City, Rates per Day,"ca 1940, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality.  Museum of the City of New York.

Excerpt from “Members of Hotel Association of New York City, Rates per Day,”ca 1940, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality. Museum of the City of New York.

The holidays are prime tourist season in New York City – we’re coming up on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade next week, department stores are mounting their holiday window displays, and the ice skating rink is open at Rockefeller Center.  As we have continued to prepare the Museum’s ephemera collections for digitization as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, we’ve been able to take a closer look at some the hotels that have housed the throngs of tourists that flock to New York City, not just at the holidays but year round.  The following selections from the Collection on Dining and Hospitality are just a small sampling of what will be available in the coming months via the Museum’s online Collections Portal as part of this project.

One hotel that immediately caught our eye was the Hotel Shelburne, or rather, the yet to be realized Hotel Shelburne II.  The Hotel Shelburne is still in operation at Lexington Avenue at 37th Street, but in the early 1960s they had a much grander vision of their future.  The Shelburne II was scheduled to open on the moon by 1971.

Hotel Shelburne, ca. 1961, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality.  Museum of the City of New York. 94.41.2.

Hotel Shelburne (recto and verso views), ca. 1961, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality. Museum of the City of New York. 94.41.2.

If you read the guarantee on the verso of the promotional card above (right side of image), you’ll see that anyone bearing this card is entitled to a free weekend stay at the hotel, since the moon outpost wasn’t completed by 1971. Anyone want to give it a try?

As is to be expected, the collection holds several pieces of ephemera for the city’s more well known hotels, such as the Waldorf-Astoria.  The Waldorf-Astoria produced an entire promotional booklet titled “Behind the Scenes at the Waldorf-Astoria,” featuring profiles of staff and a look inside the kitchens, housekeeping, the”furniture hospital,”  and the domain of the “key man.” The booklet was donated to the Museum by Victor R. Ruiz, in honor of his mother, who worked in the hotel’s beauty salon for several years.

Excerpt from "Behind the Scenes at the Waldorf-Astoria," ca. 1940, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality.  Museum of the City of New York. F2014.18.37.

Excerpt from “Behind the Scenes at the Waldorf-Astoria,” ca. 1940, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality. Museum of the City of New York. F2014.18.37.

Waldorf-Astoria menu, 1907, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality.  Museum of the City of New York. 42.250.62.

Waldorf-Astoria menu, 1907, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality. Museum of the City of New York. 42.250.62.

The Colonades, Essex House, ca 1937, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality.  Museum of the City of New York. 2003.50.2.

The Colonnades, Essex House, ca 1937, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality. Museum of the City of New York. 2003.50.2.

One of the most common objects in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality is the menu.  These vary from day-to-day dinner menus, such as the one pictured to the right for the Waldorf- Astoria, to those for special events such as the one for the Essex House, pictured below.  The Essex House opened in 1931 on 59th Street; its iconic roof sign is still visible today. I wonder if New Year’s Eve of 2015 will compare with the the festivities pictured on the cover of this menu from the 1930s.

One of the oldest pieces of hotel ephemera in the Museum’s collection is this piece of private scrip, or money, from Crook’s Hotel and Saloon, dating to 1852. The Hotel was located at 80 Chatham Street, now Park Row.

Crook's Hotel and Saloon, 1852, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality.  Museum of the City of New York. 39.526.2.

Crook’s Hotel and Saloon, 1852, in the Collection on Dining and Hospitality. Museum of the City of New York. 39.526.2.

This name of  the establishment, “Crook’s Hotel and Saloon,” immediately brings to mind an image of a “wild west” period of New York City’s early history.  Though actually named for it’s proprietor Samuel H. Crook, the hotel did in fact gain an element of notoriety when Crook committed suicide in his rooms at the hotel in 1890.

Stay tuned for more selections from this and other ephemera collections here at the Museum.  Next time we visit this collection, will take a look at where all of these people – tourists and New Yorkers alike – ate when they were in town.

neh_logo_horizontal_rgbAny views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this post do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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.

 

Victoria and Tennessee Claflin, the sisters’ tale continues….

In the previous installation about the life of the Claflin sisters here, we saw the meteoric rise of Victoria and Tennessee “Tennie” Claflin, who shocked Gilded Age New Yorkers by becoming the first lady stock brokers in the city. The tale continues…

In Victoria’s quest for even more firsts, on January 10, 1871, she was the first woman to speak in front of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives about women’s suffrage. Tennie accompanied her as she deftly argued (Demosthenes guiding her way again) that the Constitution nowhere denies the vote for women, but instead gives the right to all citizens – a designation that should include women.  Her speech was so well-received that she became a national voice for suffrage along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. The politicians were not moved, however, and voted to table the discussion…until 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified.

With a taste for politics, Victoria declared that she was going to run for president of United States in 1872.

This was the beginning of Victoria’s rise in popularity as a public speaker. Her lectures routinely sold out venues like the Academy of Music as thousands crowded in to listen to her extoll the themes found within Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly. There were usually equal amounts of cheering and booing, but there was no question that she could put on a show. During a lecture at Steinway Hall, she went off-script and defined her stance on Free Love:

  “Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere.”

Unsurprisingly, this shocked the entire audience and was all over the papers in record time.  The cartoonist Thomas Nast, taking a break from destroying Tammany Hall, went as far as to call her “Mrs. Satan” in Harper’s Weekly, former beau Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt had long since distanced himself from the sisters, and what the public once thought was a novelty was turning into a threat.

Thomas Nast (1840-1902) for Harper's Weekly. "Get Thee Behind Me, (Mrs.) Satan!".  1872. Museum of the City of New York. 99.124.22.

Thomas Nast (1840-1902) for Harper’s Weekly. “Get Thee Behind Me, (Mrs.) Satan!”. 1872. Museum of the City of New York. 99.124.22.

At the same time, Victoria’s presidential campaign was gaining momentum. She had been endorsed by the Equal Rights Party (founded by Tennie and herself) and she had named the former slave turned politician Frederick Douglass as her vice presidential nominee. He was disinclined to respond to the nomination and instead actively campaigned for her rival, Ulysses S. Grant. But what better publicity for the Equal Rights Party to nominate a white woman and an African-American man? That said, it seems unlikely that Victoria ever thought she had a real chance at this election. Even if by some miraculous event she had gotten the votes, she wouldn’t have been eligible, because at 34 she was a year shy of the minimum 35 years required by the Constitution. But, just like opening a stock brokerage, she was again, “plant[ing] the Flag of women’s rebellion in the center of the continent.”

Convention in Apollo Hall, New York City, Victoria Claflin Woodhull Nominated for the President of the United States, 1872. Reprinted in One Moral Standard for All: Extracts from the lives of Victoria Clafin Woodhull and Tennessee Clafin. Museum of the City of New York. F2011.16.7.

Convention in Apollo Hall, New York City, Victoria Claflin Woodhull Nominated for the President of the United States, 1872. Reprinted in One Moral Standard for All: Extracts from the lives of Victoria Clafin Woodhull and Tennessee Clafin. Museum of the City of New York. F2011.16.7.

After the Free Love speech, other attacks to her reputation began to gain traction. So much so that the sisters’ funds were drained, political and social allies were few, and times were getting desperate in the Claflin home.  So Victoria played her last card. Using very true  gossip she got from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she published all the sordid details of the Beecher – Tilton Affair accusing popular Brooklyn preacher Henry Ward Beecher of not only adultery with a married woman, but being a hypocrite and practicing the same free love ideals that he preached against weekly. (For more details about this salacious affair, read Lindsay’s fantastic blog post.)

Immediately after the issue came out, the sisters were arrested on charges of obscenity, thanks to the overzealous efforts of Anthony Comstock, the self-appointed anti-smut vigilante who created the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. For six months he made it his life mission to jail the Claflin sisters – he had them arrested eight times (including on election night – when Ulysses S. Grant won reelection). During this time, Victoria and Tennie still had speaking engagements. The City Museum has a poster for a speech that Victoria had to go to extra lengths to give.  Or as she said: “I soon presented the appearance of an old and decrepit Quaker lady. In this costume I confidently entered the hall, passing a half-dozen or more United States marshals, who stood guarding the entrances and warning the people that there was to be no lecture there that night—so certain they were of arresting me. But I passed them all safely, one of them even essaying to assist me on through the crowd”.

Victoria C. Woodhull and Tennie C. Claflin, the distinguished lady bankers of New York. ca. 1873. Museum of the City of New York. 54.29.10

Victoria C. Woodhull and Tennie C. Claflin, the distinguished lady bankers of New York. ca. 1873. Museum of the City of New York. 54.29.10

Eventually cleared of all the charges from Comstock and others, the sisters were broke, friendless, and voiceless after the Weekly went under. Ironically, Vanderbilt may have once again helped the sisters, this time by dying in January 1877. The story goes that the Vanderbilt heirs wanted the sisters indisposed during the fight among Cornelius Vanderbilt’s family over the inheritance of his fortunes, so they may have helped finance the sisters’ 1877 move to England, where they both both found wealthy, titled husbands with whom to spend the rest of their days.

For a more complete look at the Claflin sisters, check out the endlessly entertaining The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, Suffrage and Scandal in the Gilded Age by Myra MacPherson.

Beating the summer heat with picnics, entertainment, and excursions

I have been enjoying this uncharacteristically cooler summer.  My window air conditioning unit is still sitting on the shelf in the closet, and with just two weeks of August left, I’m expecting it to stay there.  After over a dozen summers in this city, however, my memories of July and August heatwaves are filled with meals consisting solely of chilled food, sitting with my feet in a bathtub of ice water, and planning my leisure time with the single intent to escape – or at least momentarily distract myself from – the heat.  New Yorkers have long shared this summer sentiment, as  documented by materials in our Ephemera Collections, which will take us on a tour of how residents of this city beat the heat before air conditioning was a readily available option.

They had sandwiches for lunch and a bottle filled with punch, ca. 1915, in the Postcard Collection.  Museum of the City of New York. X2011.34.556.

They had sandwiches for lunch and a bottle filled with punch, ca. 1915, in the Postcard Collection. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.34.556.

With all of the city’s many amazing parks, who doesn’t love a summer picnic?  Breakfast, lunch, dinner – any meal is more enjoyable eaten outdoors than in a stuffy apartment, especially when accompanied by punch, as shown in the postcard above.  Employers recognized the benefit of giving their employees a break from sweltering offices for a while, as well.  The James D. Whitmore & Company  certainly steps up the game a bit for their staff picnic with this engraved program, below.  The event was held at “New Washington Park,” between 69th and 70th Streets at the East River – a space now occupied by New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Fifth Annual Afternoon and Evening Picnic, Employees of James D. Whitmore Co., 1881, in the Collection on Social Events.  Museum of the City of New York. 95.87.46.

Fifth Annual Afternoon and Evening Picnic, Employees of James D. Whitmore Co., 1881 (exterior and interior views), in the Collection on Social Events. Museum of the City of New York. 95.87.46.

Park Concerts, Season 1899, in the Collection on Culture and Entertainment.  Museum of the City of New York. F2011.101.18.

Park Concerts, Season 1899, in the Collection on Culture and Entertainment. Museum of the City of New York. F2011.101.18.

The city also offers a wide range of outdoor entertainment options, some of which we touched upon earlier this summer in Morgen’s post “Up on the roof, entertainment in plein air.”  With organizations such as SummerStage and Celebrate Brooklyn, two of many performing arts series that bring cultural events to parks and other public spaces in the city, New Yorkers have a wide variety of options for outdoor entertainment, many of which are free.  The program to the left features the musical lineup for a concert at Prospect Park, July 29, 1899. Click here to view the interior of the program.

Some entertainments offered a way to beat the heat indoors, as depicted in this advertisement below for the grand re-opening of  the Manhattan Roller Skating Rink, featuring a “patent cooling apparatus” and ice cream.

Manhattan Roller Skating Rink, 1885, in the Collection on Culture and Entertainment. Museum of the City of New York. 39.240.939.

Manhattan Roller Skating Rink, 1885, in the Collection on Culture and Entertainment. Museum of the City of New York. 39.240.939.

Of course, one way to beat the heat is simply to get out of town.  These days, popular culture loves to characterize the New York summer by the flight of many of its residents to “the Hamptons,”  but excursions to seaside locations have long been a tradition for New Yorkers.  U. S. Congressman John H. Starin purchased Glen Island and several nearby islands in 1879 in Long Island Sound, just north of the Bronx’s Pelham Bay Park, converting them into a summer resort that is often referred to as the first theme park.  The island is now owned and operated by Westchester County, though it is also home to a privately operated entertainment facility.

Starin's Glen Island, New Rochelle Harbor, Long Island Sound, ca. 1885, in the Collection on Culture and Entertainment.  Museum of the City of New York. 40.275.86

Starin’s Glen Island, New Rochelle Harbor, Long Island Sound, ca. 1885, in the Collection on Culture and Entertainment. Museum of the City of New York. 40.275.86

Iron Steamboat Company, 1883, in the Collection on City Infrastructure.  Museum of the City of New York. 54.252.2.

Iron Steamboat Company, 1883, in the Collection on City Infrastructure. Museum of the City of New York. 54.252.2.

While ferries ran daily to resorts such as Starin’s, where one would stay for several days at a time, the city was also full of companies that ran day drips to various beaches such as Coney Island and Brighton Beach, still popular destinations today.

Some companies offered boat excursions simply for the sake of getting a fresh breeze out on the water, such as this one on the Steamer Massachusetts.

Excursion, Steamer Massachusetts, ca. 1880, in the Collection on City Infrastructure.  Museum of the City of New York. 50.161.40

Excursion, Steamer Massachusetts, ca. 1880, in the Collection on City Infrastructure. Museum of the City of New York. 50.161.40

Manhattan Beach, another popular summer bathing destination, was accessible by a number of combinations of rail, trolley, and ferry.

Manhattan Beach Railway, 1878, in the Collection on City Infrastructure.  Museum of the City of New York. 43.425.47.

New York & Manhattan Beach Railway, 1878, in the Collection on City Infrastructure. Museum of the City of New York. 43.425.57.

You can see more images of New Yorkers picnicking, enjoying outdoor entertainment, and taking advantage of the city’s beaches on the Collections Portal, but don’t live vicariously through history – get out and enjoy the last bit of summer yourself!

High resolution images of these selections, and many more, will soon be available via the Museum’s online Collections Portal, thanks to the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

neh_logo_horizontal_rgbAny views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this post do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Decadance and Fashion: Costume Treasures

Theatre is a space that grants opportunity for collaboration, inviting artists of different medias to join together to create something much larger than themselves. It is an opportunity to take an any idea–a fantasy, an historical moment, or a work of literature–and breathe life into it on a new scale. Costume design is integral to this transcendence. Whether glamorous or realistic, the craftsmanship and vision that goes into each garment transports the body of the actor into an alternate realm. The Art Deco movement exemplifies the crossover of the traditional role of the artist. Practitioners were not relegated to one medium: they designed sets and costumes, wrote scripts, and at times acted in the same production. We highlighted fashion in last week’s post – Mod Women: New York Fashion of the 1960s (if you haven’t yet voted for our project to digitize this collection, please do so here!); this week we will look at theater costumes.  At the Museum of the City of New York, we are fortunate enough to have many rare documents related to productions with costumes of spectacular artistry. Please enjoy the following selection:

["Broadway Nights" theater still.]

White Studio. [“Broadway Nights” theater still.] 1929. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.11730

In high Art Deco style, George Barbier’s scenery and costumes for Broadway Nights depict a playfulness and stylization of urban culture in the 1920s. Barbier is also known as one of the premier fashion illustrators of his time, whose lavishly colored haute-couture fashion plates defined the movement.

[Katharine Cornell as Ellen Olenska in "The Age of Innocence".]

Vandamm. [Katharine Cornell as Ellen Olenska in “The Age of Innocence”.] 1928. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.7649

In The Age of Innocence Barbier teamed with Worth of Paris to create Katherine Cornell’s sumptuous gowns. (See more Worth gowns in our online exhibition Worth & Mainbocher: Demystifying the Haute Couture.)

F2013_41_3724

White Studios. [Beth Dodge, A Night in Venice.] 1929. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.41.3724

Barbier was famous for joining with designer Erté (Romain de Tirtoff) on some of the most memorable costumes of the 1920s (notably for the Ziegfeld Follies). The above piece depicts showgirl Beth Dodge (of the Dodge Twins) in one of her signature feathered numbers. The Twins were known as “The Two Birds of Paradise”– they literally dressed as birds while crooning with their nightingale voices.  Like Barbier, Erté was also a renowned illustrator, designing over 200 covers for Harper’s Bazaar.

Anna May Wong.

Carl Van Vechten. Anna May Wong. 1937. Museum of the City of New York. 42.316.426

The above image depicts screen goddess Anna Mae Wong in costume (designer unknown) as the princess Turandot, in the dramatic adaptation of Puccini’s Opera Turandot, Princess of China: A Chinoiserie in Three Acts.

47_86_118

Bertram Park. [Diana, Viscountess Norwich (Lady Diana Cooper) as the Madonna in ‘The Miracle’.] 1924. Museum of the City of New York. 47.86.118

51_116_137

[‘The Miracle’.] 1924. Museum of the City of New York. 51.116.137

Visionary artist Norman Bel Geddes designed these costumes from the The Miracle. Bel Geddes also designed the scenery, which replicated a Cathedral and featured burning incense (original sketches were recently on exhibit in the Museum of the City of New York’s exhibition Norman Bel Geddes: I Have Seen the Future). The Miracle was written by Max Reinhardt, who was a leading pioneer in the German Expressionist movement. The play was co-written by Karl Gustav Vollmöller, who also wrote the film Blue Angel (which launched Marlene Deitrich’s career). Diana, Viscountess Norwich, who played the statue Madonna, was one of the more famous socialites of her time, running in avant-garde circles with the “Lost Generation.”

[Tillie Losch in "The Band Wagon".]

[Tilly Losch in “The Band Wagon”.] 1931-1932. Museum of the City of New York. 62.97.403

[Fred and Adele Astaire in "The Band Wagon".]

Vandamm. [Fred and Adele Astaire in “The Band Wagon”.] 1931-1932. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.19

Ensembles designed by Kiviette for The Band Wagon depict the variety of pieces worn during during the golden age of the Broadway revue. The Band Wagon was considered the greatest examples of this style of show. It was the very last time Fred Astaire performed with his sister Adele on stage before she retired to marry Lord Charles Cavendish. Tilly Losch (Ottilie Ethel Leopoldine Herbert, Countess of Carnarvon) was also a collaborator with Max Reinhardt, who cast her in the London production of The Miracle. She enjoyed a long career as a dancer, choreographer, actress, and painter.

82_102_1

Nickolas Muray. [Dorothy Arnold as the Duchesse in the ballet ‘Nighingale and the Rose’, Greenwich Village Follies.] 1922. Museum of the City of New York. 82.102.1

The gown above was designed by James Reynolds for Dinarzade for the part of the Duchesse in a Follies ballet based on the Oscar Wilde poem, “The Nightingale and the Rose.”  “It was sea-green net with a scarf of lilac taffeta and garland of flowers in various shades of pink and mauve, jewels of emerald, diamonds and pearls.” Although not visible here, it is of note that Reginald Marsh painted the backdrops for the production.

[Mae West as Catherine II in "Catherine Was Great".]

[Mae West as Catherine II in “Catherine Was Great”.] 1944. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.41.1519

Cinema idol Mae West wrote and starred in Catherine Was Great. She is shown here in a piece designed by Mary Percy Schenck and Ernest Schrapps at the Sam S. Shubert Theatre.

[Eva Le Gallienne in the title role of "L'Aiglon".]

White Studio. [Eva Le Gallienne in the title role of “L’Aiglon”.] 1934. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.5967

Above, actress Eva Le Gallienne in menswear designed by Aline Bernstein for her famous title role “L’Aiglon.” Bernstein was a renowned costumer who went on to establish The Costume Institute (now housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Eva Le Gallienne was known as much for her love life as her professional career, having open affairs with prominent female actresses of her time.

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Ira D. Schwarz [Ruth Page (left) in the Music Box Revue.] 1922. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.41.3768

The Music Box Revue featured costume designs by Ralph Mulligan and Adrian (and music by Irving Berlin). Ruth Page (left) became a legend in the world of choreography and ballet.

[Jane Cowl as Cleopatra in "Antony and Cleopatra".]

[Jane Cowl as Cleopatra in “Antony and Cleopatra”.] 1924. Museum of the City of New York. 27.75.1

[Jane Cowl as Cleopatra in "Antony and Cleopatra".]

[Jane Cowl as Cleopatra in “Antony and Cleopatra”.] 1924. Museum of the City of New York. 52.248.20

A very Art Deco Cleopatra designed by Rollo Peters (who also played Antony) premiered at Shubert-Belasco Theater in 1924.

If you enjoyed these fashion images, check out last week’s post  Mod Women: New York Fashion of the 1960s, and don’t forget to vote for MCNY’s project here! As always, we are grateful to the Institute of Museum and Library Services for their generous support of the City Museum’s project to digitize our Broadway production photographs, without which these fabulous images would have remained hidden.

Mod Women: New York Fashion of the 1960s

Donald Brooks (1928-2005).  Coat, ca. 1966-1967.  Museum of the City of New York, 98.62.1.

Donald Brooks (1928-2005). Coat, ca. 1966-1967. Museum of the City of New York, 98.62.1.

The Museum’s Costumes and Textiles Department recently completed a thorough assessment of all 1960s garments in the collection, identifying those pieces that exhibit design and craftsmanship of the highest quality, add significant insight into the interpretive stylistic trends of New York City fashion, and are the finest examples of the type of costume. These garments, worn by notable women and created by legendary designers, vividly bring to life an intriguing  era and include afternoon dresses, evening gowns, miniskirts, coats, and jackets. Women’s fashions of the 60s underwent radical transformations, in fabric, form, and fabrication, reflecting the great societal changes of the time, including the emergence of a youthful counterculture and the women’s liberation movement.

Attributed to Norman Norell (1900-1972). Sailor Dress, 1968.  Museum of the City of New York, 84.14.16AB.

Attributed to Norman Norell (1900-1972). Sailor Dress, 1968. Museum of the City of New York, 84.14.16AB.

The Museum has submitted a proposal to digitally photograph approximately 146 dresses from this decade in order to share them publicly on the Collections Portal, and is now a finalist the Heritage Trust project, a social media contest sponsored by EMC Corporation – please vote for us here! New York City has long been recognized as an international fashion capital and access to this collection will provide a window into styles and trends that proliferated throughout the nation. Phyllis Magidson, Curator of Costumes and Textiles, recently  shared accounts and observations of the dresses featured in this post, which represent just a small sampling of the highlights proposed for inclusion in this project.

Norman Norell’s designs were dualistic in personality, a fusion of wholesome American fashion metaphors and worldly sophistication. Recipient of the first American Fashion Critic’s Award (commonly remembered as the Coty) in 1943, Norell was instrumental in elevating the stature and credibility of American design during World War II.

Norman Norell (1900-1972). Evening dress, "Tissue of Diamonds," for Lauren Bacall, 1963.  Museum of the City of New York, 86.154.1

Norman Norell (1900-1972). Evening dress, “Tissue of Diamonds,” 1963. Museum of the City of New York, 86.154.1

At a time when the couture houses in Paris were shut down by the war, Norell’s basic designs were customized to the American taste, honoring its preference for clothing to wear rather than pose in. Norell resuscitated the sheathe, a 1920s fashion mainstay, as his preferred fabric-conserving solution to the government’s  restrictions on fabric yardage. The style remained popular, and two decades later he designed his one-of-a-kind “Tissue-of Diamonds” sheathe for his favorite on-stage and off client, Lauren Bacall, to glorify the wearer’s body in the manner of his signature “mermaid” dresses. Epitomizing his American clientele, Norell felt that Bacall “has that throwaway thing about clothes…she puts on a dress and forgets it. She’s not precious about fashion.” The feeling was mutual: Miss Bacall loved wearing Norells because she felt comfortable in them, and was particularly fond of “those famous spangled dresses.”

Halston (1932-1990). Evening dress and mask, 1966.  Museum of the City of New York, 67.24AB.

Halston (1932-1990), for Bergdorf-Goodman. Evening dress and mask, 1966. Museum of the City of New York, 67.24AB.

Yet another dress in the collection with celebrity provenance is this Halston evening gown worn by Candice Bergen to Truman Capote’s storied 1966 “Black and White Ball” at the Plaza Hotel. Twenty year old Candice Bergen had only recently made her film debut in “The Group” when she found herself amongst the 540 guests invited to attend author Truman Capote’s “Party of the Century.” This dress was a gift from Bergdorf-Goodman, a dress exclusive for their Boutique On the Second Floor.

Emilio Pucci (1914-1992) for Saks Fifth Avenue.  EVening costume, mid 1960s. Museum of the City of New York, 95.148.3.

Emilio Pucci (1914-1992), for Saks Fifth Avenue. Evening costume, mid 1960s. Museum of the City of New York, 95.148.3.

Laura Johnson, a significant donor to the Museum’s Costumes and Textiles Collection and wife of Saks Fifth Avenue Chairman of the Board and CEO (1969-1978) Allan Raymond Johnson, orchestrated the selection of her wardrobe to reflect the array of labels available on the store’s sales floors.

Geoffrey Beene (1927-2004).  Dress, late 1960s.  Museum of the City of New York, 88.44.3.

Geoffrey Beene (1927-2004). Dress, late 1960s. Museum of the City of New York, 88.44.3.

Although she dressed heavily from the collections of such iconic New York designers of Geoffrey Beene, James Galanos, Ben Zuckerman, Donald Brooks and Pauline Trigere, she added international intrigue by interjecting such labels as Andre Courreges and Emilio Pucci. Johnson once addressed the boggling quantity of her acquisitions by stating that in his position, Mr. Johnson did not permit her to wear a garment after she had been photographed in it. Judging by the front row perch she occupied at the city’s most notable fashion shows, it is clear that she was quite successful in commanding the photographer’s lens.

Geoffrey Beene (1924-2004).  Evening ensemble, "American Beauty Rose," 1967.  Museum of the City of New York, 67.131AB.

Geoffrey Beene (1924-2004). Evening ensemble, “American Beauty Rose,” 1967. Museum of the City of New York, 67.131AB.

Johnson’s dress above, a design of Geoffrey Beene, represents another notable designer of the period. One of the inaugural group of eight designers immortalized on Seventh Avenue’s Fashion Walk of Fame in 2000, Geoffrey Beene directed his technical skills as well as creative prowess to the production of clothing that worked for the needs of the American woman. Acclaimed for his versatile, highly functional designs, Beene sought to create a lighter, more modern breed of garment.

He is cited as “a designer’s designer…one of the most artistic and individual of fashion’s creators” on Seventh Avenue’s Fashion Walk of Fame. Geoffrey Beene’s designs blurred the distinction between comfort and luxury, naivety and sophistication. Although soft-spoken in manner, Mr. Beene’s unfaltering command of his art is clearly evidenced here by the strong design and startling palette of this ensemble.

Pierre Cardin (b. 1922). Coat and skirt ensemble, ca. 1969.

Pierre Cardin (b. 1922). Coat and skirt ensemble, ca. 1969. Museum of the City of New York, 78.26.12AB.

Despite a new found confidence in the creative prowess of New York’s 7th Avenue, Americans of the 1960s were still entranced by Paris fashions, specifically the designs of Pierre Cardin and Christian Dior. The impact of the space-age and its sci-fi aesthetic is obvious in the design and fabrication of this mini-ensemble by Pierre Cardin to the left. Not only is its geometric cut and shape consistent with the reductive aesthetic the day but the high-gloss red vinyl used for its execution is quintessentially 1960s.  Already recognized for his superb tailoring, Pierre Cardin succumbed to the experimentalism of the youth culture, responding with this cutting edge (and water repellent) vinyl tour-de-force .

Marc Bohan (b. 1926) for Christian Dior.  Evening dress, 1968.  Museum of the City of New York, 79.71.

Marc Bohan (b. 1926) for Christian Dior. Evening dress, 1968. Museum of the City of New York, 79.71.

The Dior dress to the right belonged to Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, one half of arguably the most highly publicized romance of the 20th century, in which the King of England surrendered his throne in order to marry his beloved. A fixture on International Best Dressed lists throughout the 1940s and 50s, and  periodically criticized for her extravagant shopping sprees – particularly during the Second World War – women worldwide emulated the Duchess’s polished style. As Dior’s Creative Director, Marc Bohan resisted new fashion trends of the late 1960s to create this regal timeless gown, befitting the composure of his Best-Dressed Hall of Fame client.

Marc Bohan (b. 1926) for Christian Dior.  Mini dress, 1968.  Museum of the City of New  York, 71.79.3.

Marc Bohan (b. 1926) for Christian Dior. Mini dress, 1968. Museum of the City of New York, 71.79.3.

Bohan designed this dress to the left for Sunny von Bulow, another half of an infamous couple.  Nicknamed for her childhood disposition, heiress and socialite Sunny was tragically associated with one of the most notorious trials of the 1980s—that of her husband, Claus von Bulow, who was convicted but later acquitted of her attempted murder. The story of adultery, wealth, and  murder in high society dominated the headlines, and the case was the first criminal trial to be televised in the United States. This dress harkens back to brighter moments following Sunny’s 1966 marriage, when she and von Bulow were considered amongst this country’s most socially glamorous couples. Dior’s Marc Bohan selected a confectionery palette appropriate to Mrs. Von Bulow’s pale coloring for this billowy-sleeved mini dress.

These garments represent just a handful of items that will be digitized a result of a successful Heritage Trust award.  If you like the designs you see here, please help the Museum move forward with this project by voting here.  The photography generated by this project will be of the same detail and quality as that produced for the online exhibition – Worth/ Mainbocher: Demystifying the Haute Couture.  Stay tuned to our Facebook page, for more highlights from this collection.