Tag Archives: 1930s

Dorothy Dignam and Gramercy Park

This week we will have a guest post from yet another one of our fabulous summer interns, Mickey Dennis, a student at Washington State University, who is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Public History.  Mickey was with us nearly full time for two months, so he had the opportunity to really dig into some of our collections.  I turn it over to him now to share what he learned while processing the Dorothy Dignam Collection on Gramercy Park.

Dorothy Dignam started her career in the advertising business in Chicago in the 1920s. She was a prominent force throughout the advertising and copywriting fields, especially in fashion, beauty, and homemaking, during a period where men dominated the scene. Scenes from Mad Men might spring to mind. She relocated to New York City, eventually moving into No. 18 Gramercy Park and becoming an active member in the Gramercy Park community. She became the assistant editor for the Gramercy Graphic and wrote articles for local papers. Throughout the rest of her life, she collected newspapers and magazines that had articles about former and current residents, local events and buildings, and anything else that related to the quiet and exclusive community.  She also wrote segments for other publications, such as the “Special to the Villager,” pictured below.

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Gramercy Park Paragraphs, December 1954, in the Dorothy Dignam Collection on Gramercy Park. Museum of the City of New York. PRO2014.3, folder15.

Reproduction of "Gramercy Park," George Bellows (1882-1925) from unknown publication, in the Dorothy Dignam Collection on Gramercy Park. Museum of the City of New York. PRO2014.3, folder 2.

Reproduction of “Gramercy Park,” George Bellows (1882-1925) from unknown publication, in the Dorothy Dignam Collection on Gramercy Park. Museum of the City of New York. PRO2014.3, folder 2.

As a newcomer myself to New York City – by way of growing up in Illinois, undergraduate school in Missouri, and graduate work in Washington – Gramercy Park was an unknown place to me. I’m still not even sure I pronounce it correctly 100% of the time. [That’s ok, Mickey – just remember it’s “GRAMurSEE,” not “GraMERCY ” – but you had it mastered by the end of the internship!] So when I originally sat down to process Dorothy Dignam’s Collection on Gramercy Park, I was completely unfamiliar with the park and its surrounding neighborhood.

Lands of Samuel B. Ruggles in the Twelth Ward in the City of New York, ca.1831. Museum of the City of New York, 29.100.2973.

Lands of Samuel B. Ruggles in the Twelth Ward in the City of New York, ca.1831. Museum of the City of New York, 29.100.2973.

In 1831, Samuel Ruggles purchased the “Gramercy Farm” from James Duane, son of Mayor James Duane and a descendant of Peter Stuyvesant. This included the Krom Moerasje, which is the Dutch term for “crooked little swamp” and the origins of the area’s name. Ruggles filled the swamp and began developing it. He laid out an eventual 60 plots around “Gramercy Square” and deeded rights of the square to the property owners surrounding it. Because of Ruggles’s actions, Gramercy Park is one of only two private parks in New York City; the other is located in Sunnyside Gardens, Queens.  Residents of the Gramercy Park neighborhood must pay an annual fee in order to receive a key to enter the park. Key access is largely limited to owners of the original lots and members and guests of organizations which reside on the park such as the Players Club and National Arts Club.

Gramercy Park by John Falter (1910-1982), cover of Saturday Evening Post, February 11, 1950, in the Dorothy Dignam Collection on Gramercy Park. Museum of the City of New York. PRO2014.3, folder 1.

Gramercy Park by John Falter (1910-1982), cover of Saturday Evening Post, February 11, 1950, in the Dorothy Dignam Collection on Gramercy Park. Museum of the City of New York. PRO2014.3, folder 1.

According to Dignam’s notes on the verso of the Saturday Evening Post cover below, Falter painted the image from the window from the National Arts Club. The New York Times has even written an article about the exclusivity of the park.  However, it is not just the park itself that gives this area so much lore. Celebrities, dignitaries, artists, writers, and other prominent people have called Gramercy Park home, including: O. Henry, Samuel Tilden, Washington Irving, George Bellows, Gregory Peck, John Steinbeck, John Barrymore, Thomas Edison, Jimmy Fallon, Julia Roberts, and even John F. Kennedy.

 

Gramercy Park is located near many notable New York City landmarks. The Flatiron Building and Madison Square Park are a short stroll from Gramercy Park. Delmonico’s, which held numerous dinners for prestigious clubs and people and was synonymous with fine dining during the late 1800s and early 1900s, had a location in the area, and the Columbia University Club called the neighborhood home between 1910-1915.

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Gramercy Graphic, September 1952, in the Dorothy Dignam Collection on Gramercy Park. Museum of the City of New York. PRO2014.3, folder 4.

Many residents of the Gramercy Park neighborhood  subscribed to the Gramercy Graphic. This was the neighborhood’s own monthly publication that reported on neighborhood improvement, human interest stories of former and current residents, and local events. One can really get a sense of how residents envisioned their neighborhood after reading the “From Our Office Window” section of the Gramercy Graphic each month. In most months’ editions, the editors are very concerned about the noise level of cars, construction, and people as well as the dangers of ne’er-do-wells that stand on the sidewalk in front of businesses. They wanted to create a secluded area of peace and quiet within the commotion of New York City. Although the hustle and bustle is extraordinarily interesting and exciting, after spending the summer living in the city, I can’t exactly blame them.

Click here to see more images of Gramercy Park from the Museum’s Collections, and if that reference to Mad Men piqued your interest, be sure to check out the Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Mac Conner: A New York Life, opening this Friday September 10th.

Happy Birthday to Berenice Abbott

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). Manhattan Bridge, Looking Up, 1936. Museum of the City of New York, 49.282.115.

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). Manhattan Bridge, Looking Up, 1936. Museum of the City of New York, 49.282.115.

Thursday, July 17th, is the 116th anniversary of Berenice Abbott’s birth (1898-1991).  The Museum of the City of New York holds over 2500 works in the collection by Abbott, who grew up in Ohio and lived briefly in New York’s Greenwich Village before moving to Europe in the 1920s, where she developed her photography skills.  Abbott returned to New York City in 1929, and after several attempts to obtain funding, was eventually hired by the Federal Arts Project (FAP) to execute what came to be known as “Changing New York,” a photo-documentary series of 305 images of the changing urban landscape of New York City.  You can read more about this project in an earlier post – Berenice Abbott and Elizabeth McCausland’s “Changing New York.”

In the three years since the Museum has launched this blog, numerous posts have drawn on Abbott’s work to narrate the city’s history.

Abbott’s scope was wide, and she traveled to all five boroughs, capturing locations such as Astoria, Queens; Bath Beach, Brooklyn; Shore Acres, Staten Island; Westchester Square, the Bronx; and multiple locations in Manhattan.  Take a a quick moment to peek around on Google Maps, and you’ll see that none of these structures below exist anymore.

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Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) for the Federal Arts Project. 27th Avenue, no. 805, Astoria, 1937. Museum of the City of New York, 43.131.1.430.

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). Belvedere Restaurant, 1936.  Museum of the City of New York, 49.282.43.

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). Belvedere Restaurant, 1936. Museum of the City of New York, 49.282.43.

The house in Astoria and the Belvedere Restaurant (located at Bay 16th and Cropsey Avenue, Brooklyn) were replaced with apartment buildings that appear to have been built within a decade of the photographs.

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991).  Hope Avenue, no. 139, 1937.  Museum of the City of New York, 89.2.1.252

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). Hope Avenue, no. 139, 1937. Museum of the City of New York, 89.2.1.252

The existing house on Hope Avenue in Staten Island may still have the same rock wall around the property, but it’s difficult to say for sure.

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). Gasoline Station, 1936. Museum of the City of New York, 89.2.2.30

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). Gasoline Station, 1936. Museum of the City of New York, 89.2.2.30

As for the Gas Station in the Bronx – Dock Street and East Tremont Avenue don’t even intersect up anymore – Herman H. Lehman High School now sits on the site, though the station may have been demolished as early as the 1930s or 1940s to make way for construction of the nearby Hutchinson River Parkway.

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) for the Federal Art Project. Rockefeller Center with Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, 1936. Museum of the City of New York, 43.131.1.311.

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) for the
Federal Art Project. Rockefeller Center with Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, 1936. Museum of the City of New York, 43.131.1.311.

We could fill this post with an endless stream of images Abbott took of businesses, buildings, and landmarks that no longer exist; or some, such as Rockefeller Center, to the left, that were just in the early stages of construction, and remain as icons today.   As we honor the birth week of the photographer who had the foresight to capture the city as such a pivotal point in its history, take a look at her other images online, and see what lost fragments of the city’s urban landscape you can identify.

 

A visit to Sochi, 1939.

Postcard issued by Grinnell Lithographic Company. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  New York World's Fair, Exposition Souvenir Corporation, ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. 88.63.17

Postcard issued by Grinnell Lithographic Company. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. New York World’s Fair, Exposition Souvenir Corporation, ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. 88.63.17

What do the  2014 Winter Olympics and the 1939 New York World’s Fair have in common?  The promotion of Sochi, Russia as a tourist destination.

As mentioned in a earlier post, the 1939 New York World’s Fair featured state and international pavilions.  These spaces served to educate visitors to the Fair about the history, politics, arts, culture, economy, and industry of a particular location; and also served as tourism bureaus.   The Pavilion for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or Soviet Union, as Russia was known in 1939, was an example of increased cooperation with the West evident in the 1930’s.

Materials such the “Intertourist Map of the Soviet Union” (shown below) featured example travel itineraries through the U.S.S.R.  One such “tour” spent four days in Sochi, located on the northeast coast of the Black Sea.  Note the total cost for a third class travel package – $110.00.

Map issued by Intertourist, Inc. Excerpt from Intertourist Map of the Soviet Union. Ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.60.

Map issued by Intertourist, Inc. Excerpt from Intertourist Map of the Soviet Union. Ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.60.

SSochi travel brochure. Intourist, ca. 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.61.

Sochi travel brochure. Intourist, ca. 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.61.

The Soviet Pavilion also distributed informational brochures on specific destinations.  The brochure for Sochi is to the right.  While one would expect some obvious changes in the 75 years in between the 1939 New York World’s Fair and the 2014 Winter Olympics, one difference in the way the city is marketed for the two events jumps out at me right away – the climate.  The brochure to the right depicts a downright tropical scene.  According to the text inside the brochure “The Caucasian shores of the Black Sea, that blissful, sunny corner of the globe, has [sic] always enticed the traveler with the incomparable beauty of its scenery and the wonderful healing power of its climate.”  Yet the Sochi of the Winter Games is just that – wintry.

Bill Morris, Chief Photographer of the New York World's Fair. Snow bedecks the Soviet Pavilion, 1940.  Museum of the City of New York.  1939-1940 New York Worlds Fair Collection.

Bill Morris, Chief Photographer of the New York World’s Fair. Snow bedecks the Soviet Pavilion, 1940. Museum of the City of New York. 1939 -1940 New York World’s Fair Collection.

Before I opened the Sochi travel brochure, I assumed it must look the way I would image most of Russia, and any city hosting the Winter Olympics to look: cold and snowy.  This photograph to the left, of the Soviet Pavilion covered in snow during its dismantling in Flushing Meadows Park following the conclusion of the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair much better fits the image I had in mind.  However, the fact is, the climate hasn’t changed; Sochi is simply a city that has seasons.  According to the Washington Post, Sochi is the warmest city to ever host the Winter Olympics, and some initial concerns for this year’s games included avalanche risk and snow drought.

The mysteries of Sochi don’t end with the climate, however.  The 1939 travel brochure boasts, “[T]his lovely resort stretches for 25 kilometers along the sea coast.  Magnificent sanatoria, rest-homes, clinics, and hotels nestle amid…fine bathing places and aquatic sport stations.”  Once again, I’m surprised.  The word “resort” evokes images such as this one:

Excerpt from Sochi pamphlet, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.61.

Excerpt from Sochi travel brochure, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.61.

But “sanatoria, rest-homes, and clinics,” brings to mind something like this:

Excerpt from Sochi pamphlet, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.61.

Excerpt from Sochi brochure, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.61.

nalchick

Nalchick travel brochure. Intourist, ca. 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.58.

Sarah Kanowski of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that these sanatoria were the destinations of many Soviet workers who spent up to six weeks “cleari[ing] the coal dust from their lungs.”  While these days, the “resort” aspects of the city seem to outweigh the “clinical” attractions, Sochi still offers curative relaxation, as shown in this photo essay by Simon Schuster from Time.

One still wonders, however, in a country so known for its cold temperatures that the 1939 World’s Fair featured a “Pavilion of the Arctic” as part of the greater Soviet Pavilion, why one of the warmest cities in Russia was chosen for the Winter Olympics.  Why not somewhere like Nalchik, which the brochure to the right describes as featuring a “mantle of snow and snow-clad ridges?”  Perhaps even more remarkable is the glimpse we have at pre-Cold War Russia through the lens of the country’s own tourism marketing materials, and the ability to look at the city now, as it hosts one of the premier sporting events in the world.

The Museum is grateful to the Council on Library and Information Resources , whose support made it possible to share these finds from the 1939 -1940 New York World’s Fair Collection as a result of a generous Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).

Relaxing with a summer cocktail – it wasn’t always so easy.

Just because this August has been cooler than usual (or perhaps it just seems that way after July’s heatwave), doesn’t mean those New Yorkers of legal drinking age are any less fond of their summer cocktails.  These days, one doesn’t have to wander the streets for too long before coming across a bar, or at least a restaurant with an extensive drink menu.  My personal preference is to find somewhere with sidewalk seating or a backyard garden to enjoy the fresh air, like the one below, which was located not far from where my apartment stands today, in central Brooklyn.  I like to imagine myself waving friends in for a drink as they come home from work.

Postcard published by Charles Stock & Co. Lithography.  Fred Winter's Summer Garden, ca.1910.  Museum of the City of New York. X2011.34.3840.

Postcard published by Charles Stock & Co. Lithography. Fred Winter’s Summer Garden, ca.1910. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.34.3840.

Unknown. Liquor Valued at More than $100,000 Seized by Police at 2501 Pitkin Avenue, Brooklyn, 1921. Cityana Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 91.69.19.

Unknown. Liquor Valued at More than $100,000 Seized by Police at 2501 Pitkin Avenue, Brooklyn, 1921. Cityana Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 91.69.19.

Grabbing a drink in New York, or anywhere in the country for that matter, didn’t remain as easy as it was in the image above from the early 20th century, nor as easy as it is today.  During the Prohibition era (1920-1933) the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcoholic beverages was illegal throughout the United States under the 18th Amendment.  While the actual consumption of alcohol was not covered under the terms of Prohibition, I certainly wouldn’t have been sitting at a sidewalk table waving at people, drink in hand.  However, when there is a will (and the incentive of making a profit), there is a way!  By the early 1920’s, speakeasies, establishments largely operated by organized crime networks that sold alcoholic beverages illegally, began to crop up all over the city.

The exact number of speakeasies in operation during Prohibition is unknown due to the very nature of their business.  In 1930 Police Commissioner Grover Whalen had provided an estimate of 32,000 (twice the number of legal saloons in New York City prior to Prohibition), though other estimates held the figure at nearly 100,000.  David J. Hanson, Ph.D, provides more historical background on Prohibition in New York in his article posted on the SUNY Potsdam, website.

This map created by New York Magazine shows the locations of some of the more well known speakeasies, including the Stork Club, the Merry Go Round, the 21 Club, and Leon and Eddie’s.  Many establishments flagrantly sold alcohol, having secured the willingness of law enforcement to turn a blind eye, thanks to generous bribes; in fact, donors to the Museum’s collection of speakeasy cards include two lawyers and a judge.  However, a culture of secrecy still surrounded the illegal speakeasies, and individuals were often required to show membership cards such as the ones shown below, before being granted admittance:

Cotton Club membership card, ca. 1930, in the Collection on Nightlife. Museum of the City of New York. X2012.102.69.

Cotton Club membership card, ca. 1930, in the Collection on Nightlife. Museum of the City of New York. X2012.102.69.

The Simplon Club, Inc. membership card, 1933, in the Collection on Nightlife. Museum of the City of New York. X2012.102.32.

The Simplon Club, Inc. membership card, 1933, in the Collection on Nightlife. Museum of the City of New York. X2012.102.32.

The Stork Club membership card, 1932, in the Collection on Nightlife. Museum of the City of New York. 38.382.17.

The Stork Club membership card, 1932, in the Collection on Nightlife. Museum of the City of New York. 38.382.17.

In order to keep the speakeasies stocked with alcohol, the business of bootlegging, the illegal transportation and sale of alcohol during Prohibition, became extremely lucrative, and was likewise primarily under the control of organized crime.  Not only would bootleggers supply alcohol to the speakeasies, they made home deliveries, as well.  They advertised their trade by distributing booklets which included price lists, cocktail recipes, and even the occasional purchase incentive gifts – such as a set of glasses that packed up small enough to fit into your pocket!

Paddy's price list, ca. 1930.  Museum of the City of New York. X2012.102.40.

Paddy’s price list, ca. 1930. Museum of the City of New York. X2012.102.40.

And here’s that recipe for a “Summer Cocktail:”

Excerpt from Mixed Company, a Book of Choice Recipes from Brook's, ca. 1930.  Museum of the City of New York. 56.71.73.

Excerpt from Mixed Company, a Book of Choice Recipes from Brook’s, ca. 1930, in the Collection on Nightlife. Museum of the City of New York. 56.71.73.

Click here to view the entire “Mixed Company” advertising booklet. You’ll notice many cocktail recipes from this era contain heavy portions of lemon, syrup, and other flavors.  These ingredients were intended to mask the actual taste of the inferior bootleg alcohol.  While there are some recognizable brand names on the list below, there are others that certainly don’t ring any bells.

Excerpt from Penrod's price list, ca. 1930, in the Collection on Nightlife. Museum of the City of New York. X2012.102.30.

Excerpt from Penrod’s price list, ca. 1930, in the Collection on Nightlife. Museum of the City of New York. X2012.102.30.

An increase of crime and violence surrounding the illegal alcohol trade eroded support for Prohibition.  Eventually most Americans came to the opinion it was nearly impossible to enforce and created more problems than it solved.  Popular opinion contributed to the decision by the United States legislature to delegate the authority for controlling the sale of alcohol to each individual state.  While many states promptly repealed Prohibition themselves, some continued the practice as recently as 1966.  Some local municipalities still prohibit the sale of alcohol, but by in large, it is legal to purchase alcohol in the United States today.  So next time you raise a glass, you might also want to toast the ratification of the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment and Prohibition at the national level, on December 5, 1933.

Cover of Rex's priocelist, ca. 1930, in the Collection on Nightlife. Museum of the City of New York. X2012.102.64.

Cover of Rex price list, ca. 1930, in the Collection on Nightlife. Museum of the City of New York. X2012.102.64.

See here for more images related to cocktails in the Collections Portal.

Berenice Abbott and Elizabeth McCausland in a “Changing New York”

Archival Intern Suzanna Calev.

Archival Intern Suzanna Calev.

This week, we have a  guest post from our fabulous archival intern, Suzanna Calev, who is currently obtaining a double Master’s Degree in Library Science with a concentration in Archives Management and History at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. Suzanna recently completed processing Berenice Abbott’s Changing New York papers  (the finding aid is available on the Museum’s catablog for archival collections).  Suzanna’s  insights on the collection, and her experience of processing it:

Every time I return to New York, I find the city has changed.  Whether it is the demise of my favorite brunch place or the construction of a new high-rise, New York City is always changing, always re-inventing itself.  Being a native of the city, I should not be surprised by this, but I always have a mixed feeling of hope and nostalgia by the transformation of the city I love, missing the old stomping grounds from my childhood and hoping that the coming changes are favorable ones.

Perhaps this is exactly what the photographer Berenice Abbott felt when she returned to New York City in 1929. Originally from Springfield, Ohio, Abbott moved to Greenwich Village in 1918 with college friends. She moved to Paris in 1921 and it was there that she developed an interest in photography, working as an assistant to Man Ray. Her return to New York City was meant to be temporary, but when she saw how much the city had changed – the skyscrapers replacing nineteenth century classical columns, new towers and structures popping up all around her – she decided to move back permanently to capture this transformation through the lens of a camera.  For more information on Abbott’s life,  as well as the Changing New York  project, take a look at the finding aid for Berenice Abbot’s Changing New York papers.

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Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). “Park Avenue and 39th Street,” 1936. Museum of the City of New York. 40.140.91

After photographing the city independently for six years, unable to get financial support from organizations, foundations, or private individuals, she was finally hired by the Federal Art Project (FAP), a small division of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) formed in 1935 to centralize various public work projects. The FAP was a relief agency for artists and supported the work of many painters, photographers, and printers, including Romare Bearden, Ben Shahn, and Lee Krasner.

In 1937 the Museum of the City of New York mounted an exhibition, Changing New York, of Abbott’s photographs for the FAP. This prompted interest in publishing a Changing New York book that would include both the photographs and captions written by Elizabeth McCausland, a writer, art critic, and Abbott’s longtime partner.

Abbott’s papers relating to the project, along with several of Abbott’s photographs from the Changing New York project, were in the custody of the Metropolitan Museum of Art prior to their transfer to the Museum of the City of New York.  The Changing New York materials appear to have been deposited with the Met as a matter of convenience, if not accident, when the FAP presented the Met with materials from another project.  Because of the City Museum’s role in the original exhibition, the Met felt the rightful home of the papers was with the City Museum and custody of the collection was transferred in 1947 along with 215 unmounted and 71 mounted photographs from the Changing New York project.

The Berenice Abbott papers contain the original captions proposed for the book and they are an absolute treasure to read.  They reveal the literary genius of McCausland, who attempted to produce cinematic effects with her descriptions of the photographs.  For example, she implored the reader to recite “like Vachel Lindsay’s train announcer” the names of various cheeses for Cheese Store on Bleecker.

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). "Park Avenue and 39th Street," 1936. Museum of the City of New York. 40.140.91

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). “Cheese Store,” 1937. Museum of the City of New York. 40.140.29

Original, Unpublished captions by Elizabeth McCausland for Changing New York, "Berenice Abbott papers." Museum of the City of New York.

Original, Unpublished captions by Elizabeth McCausland for Changing New York, 1938, “Berenice Abbott Changing New York papers.” Museum of the City of New York.

E. P Dutton, the publisher of the book, foresaw many tourists visiting New York and buying guidebooks for the opening of the 1939 New York’s World Fair, so he wanted Abbott’s book to be a simple guidebook that could attract multiple audiences. As a result, he rejected McCausland’s original captions, such as the one for the Cheese Store, pictured above.  The published Cheese Store  caption below is strictly factual:

Excerpt from "Changing New York: Photographs by Berenice Abbott." New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1939, 84.

Excerpt from “Changing New York: Photographs by Berenice Abbott.” New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1939, 84.

It saddens me that Dutton didn’t use McCausland’s original captions.  The published captions lack her lyrical voice. Many of the original captions convey McCausland and Abbott’s political and social beliefs, which may have been too radical for Dutton and Co., Inc.  For example, the original caption for Gunsmith and Police Department suggested that the placement of the gun over the shop facing the police department in Abbott’s composition was intentional.

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), "Gunsmith and Police Department," 1937. Museum of the City of New York. 49.282.113

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), “Gunsmith and Police Department,” 1937. Museum of the City of New York. 49.282.113

Original, Unpublished captions by Elizabeth McCausland for Changing New York, 1938, "Berenice Abbott Changing New York papers." Museum of the City of New York.

Original, Unpublished captions by Elizabeth McCausland for Changing New York, 1938, “Berenice Abbott Changing New York papers.” Museum of the City of New York.

McCausland’s bold caption above was replaced with a toned down version that suggested a cooperative relationship between the Police Department and Frank Lava’s gun shop:

Excerpt from "Changing New York: Photographs by Berenice Abbott." New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1939, 64.

Excerpt from “Changing New York: Photographs by Berenice Abbott.” New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1939, 64.

Although Dutton had final say over the captions, thankfully we can still see how Abbott and McCausland viewed the changing landscape of the city and how they wanted to impart these changes to the general public.  Despite the conflicting vision over the Dutton book, it is comforting to know that no matter what the era, New York City continuously surprises and mesmerizes its inhabitants.

Discovering the World’s Fair Collections

Thanks to a generous Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), as Project Archivist, I now have the pleasure of exploring and organizing the rich array of World’s Fair objects at both the Museum of the City of New York and Queens Museum of Art along with Hoang Tran, the project’s Archival Fellow.  The two museums have embarked on an 18-month project to make their collections from the 1939/40 and 1964/65 New York World’s Fairs accessible.

Since late March when Hoang and I began to work with and explore the materials, I have often longed to transport myself back to the Fairs and take in the sights, smells, and sounds in person. While archivists don’t possess time traveling machines, we do the next best thing by providing historical context through our arrangement and description of the materials. In this case, we hope that our guide to the collections, or “finding aid,” will allow researchers to construct their own Fair “visits.”

Official Guidebooks, 1939 and 1964, in the New York World’s Fair collection.  Museum of the City of New York.

Official Guidebooks, 1939 and 1964, in the New York World’s Fair collection. Museum of the City of New York.

Lacking that time machine, in order to remain true to the character of the Fairs, we turned to the Official Guidebooks to organize materials as the fairs themselves were physically organized: by zone or area and by exhibit. This approach is not without challenges, as identifying subjects in photos is not always straightforward and research time is limited. When necessary, we make educated guesses based on the information available, or use more general categories.  Once the collections are accessible, we expect that researchers will have insights which will help refine our work.

The 1939/40 Fair was divided into seven “zones” and the 1964/64 Fair into five “areas.” As we used the guidebooks to familiarize ourselves with the organization of the Fairs, we were occasionally surprised by what we learned.  For example, the Infant Incubator at the 1939 Fair, which housed premature infants viewable through glass windows, was located not in the Medical and Public Health Building as we had guessed, but rather in the Amusement zone.  Such distinctions demonstrate how public ideas of “amusement” have changed over time, illustrating the essential nature of primary sources when describing and investigating the past.

Our second challenge was scouring the Museum’s collections for all evidence of World’s Fair materials.

Archival Fellow Hoang Tran surveys objects at the Museum's offsite facility.

Archival Fellow Hoang Tran surveys objects at the Museum’s offsite collections storage facility.

One of the unique characteristics of this collection is the diversity of object types represented. In addition to the boxes that had been set aside for processing, World’s Fair related items are present within the Decorative Arts; Costumes and Textiles; Photographs, Drawings, and Prints; Theater; and Toy collections.

Project Archivist Annie Tummino surveys design renderings in the Museum's Curatorial Center.

Project Archivist Annie Tummino surveys design renderings in the Museum’s Curatorial Center.

To locate and describe these materials, we searched the Museum’s collections management system and consulted with curators to take advantage of their knowledge of their collections.  A highlight is a group of several hundred design renderings which have already been digitized and made available on the Museum’s online Collection Portal. The majority of the items, however, have been underutilized due to their disparate locations and lack of description. While these objects will continue to “live” in their respective departments, we are excited to bring them together intellectually in a single finding aid for the first time.

Later in the summer the World’s Fair project team will move to the Queens Museum of Art (QMA), where we will inventory their extensive collection and integrate it into the finding aid. We have already surveyed boxes and objects at their offsite facility, with an eye towards ensuring that the archival arrangement developed for the Museum of the City of New York’s collection will accommodate both museums’ holdings.

In addition to an extensive collection of printed ephemera and photographs, the QMA possesses unique items including film and audio recordings, world’s fair uniforms, and materials documenting Salvador Dalí’s Dream of Venus exhibit at the 1939 Fair. The QMA building was in fact originally designed to house the New York City Pavilion at the 1939 Fair and its Panorama of the City of New York, of world-wide fame, was commissioned by Robert Moses for the 1964 Fair.

The World's Fair team uncovers a flag from the 1939 Fair.

The World’s Fair team uncovers a flag from the 1939 Fair.

A large portion of both Museums’ World’s Fair materials were donated by average fair-goers who picked up pamphlets, maps, and souvenirs during their visits; photographed the strange and wonderful sights; and sent postcards to friends and family. One imagines the Fairs loomed large in the donors’ personal histories, prompting them to save ephemeral items and seek out institutional homes for their preservation.  We are honored to be entrusted with the job of making these collections  accessible, and we hope you will join us for the duration of the grant as we make more highlights and discoveries available on our tumblr.

Golden Boy at the Tonys

This Sunday, an estimated six million theater lovers will gather around their television sets for the live broadcast of the 67th Antoinette Perry (Tony) Awards, the annual event honoring Broadway theater presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League. Child-star turned Broadway champion Neil Patrick Harris will host for his third consecutive year, no doubt delivering an opening number that will dazzle with both wit and jazz hands.  I will be one of those six million, but Tony time for me is always bittersweet. As much as I enjoy the celebration of theater, the awards remind me of all the things I did not get out to see. This year, my biggest regret is Golden Boy With eight nominations, it is the most nominated play this season, and it closed this past January. There is some consolation , however, in using the Theater Collection of the City Museum to look back at the original production and its musical adaptation.

Souvenir program. Golden Boy, ca. 1937. Museum of the City of New York. 43.308.5.

Souvenir program for Golden Boy, ca. 1937. Museum of the City of New York. 43.308.5.

Opening at the Belasco Theatre on November 4, 1937, Golden Boy was the fifth full-length play from Clifford Odets  produced by the Group Theatre of which Odets was an integral part.  The play starred Luther Adler as  Joe Bonaparte, a young man gifted both as a boxer and violinist. The action revolves around Joe’s struggle between a life of fulfillment as a musician or the fame and fortune to be found in the ring.  The latter dream cannot occur without grave risk to the former.  Along the way, Joe falls in love with Lorna Moon (played by Frances Farmer), the girlfriend of his manager. The original production ran for 250 performances. It was directed by Harold Clurman, one of the founders of the Group Theatre, with assistance by company member Stanford Miesner. Golden Boy was the company’s biggest hit.  The show made enough money to support the company’s next two seasons. In the wake of their success, several members of the Group felt the allure of Hollywood. Odets’s own experience on the golden coast of California served in part to inspire Joe Bonaparte’s struggle.

Alfredo Valente. [Scene in the dressing room from Golden Boy.] 1937. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.8863.

Alfredo Valente. [Scene in the dressing room from Golden Boy.] 1937. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.8863.

Unknown. [Scene at the Bonaparte's home in Golden Boy] 1937. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.1641.

Unknown. [Scene at the Bonaparte’s home in Golden Boy.] 1937. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.1641.

The original production ran before the American Theatre Wing had conceived the notion of an award named in the memory of  actress and director Antoinette Perry.  In addition to Adler and Farmer, the cast included Morris Carnovsky as Joe’s father and Lee J. Cobb in a small role.  Cobb would later go on to star in the original production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, which won eight Tonys in 1949 at the second Antoinette Perry Awards. That production was directed by Elia Kazan. Kazan is perhaps best known for his work as a film director, but in 1937 he was an actor with the Group Theatre and part of the original Golden Boy cast.  (He’s the mug leaning against the wall in the scene below.)

Alfredo Valente. [Scene from Golden Boy.] 1937. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.8864.

Alfredo Valente. [Scene from Golden Boy.] 1937. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.8864.

Lee J. Cobb would return to Golden Boy, starring as Joe’s father, in the 1952 revival. Joe Bonaparte was played by John Garfield who had actually left his small part in the original run of the show to pursue a career in Hollywood.  In 1937, Garfield was frustrated when the leading role Odets promised him was given instead to Luther Adler.  He finally got his shot in 1952.

William Auerbach-Levy. [[Lee J. Cobb, John Garfield, Joseph Wiseman, Bette ] 1952. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.1717.

William Auerbach-Levy. [Joseph Wiseman, Bette Grayson, Lee J. Cobb, John Garfield, Joseph Wiseman] 1952. Museum of the City of New York. 64.100.1717.

The show ran just 50 performances. It garnered no Tony mentions, and it proved to be Garfield’s last work. He died less than two months later.

Until this season’s offering, the 1952 production was the only revival since the original production. However, in 1964 a musical adaptation starring Sammy Davis, Jr. opened at the Majestic Theatre.

Souvenir program for Golden Boy, ca. 1965. Museum of the City of New York. 68.119.1761

Souvenir program for Golden Boy, ca. 1965. Museum of the City of New York. 68.119.1761.

The devil-may-care attitude displayed on the above souvenir program belies the true action of Golden Boy the musical. Charles Strouse and Lee Adams composed music and lyrics for the show.  Odets wrote the first version of the book, but his death in 1961 led to playwright William Gibson working on the script during the show’s out of town previews. The time frame was updated to the mid-1960s, and the lead character of Joe was re-worked with Sammy Davis, Jr. in mind.

Sam Siegel. Sugar Ray Robinson and Sammy Davis, Jr. in rehearsal for Golden Boy. 1964. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.8875

Sam Siegel. Sugar Ray Robinson and Sammy Davis, Jr. in rehearsal for Golden Boy. 1964. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.8875

Despite his perhaps unlikely physique, Davis played a boxer pulled between the lure of easy money and finding spiritual fulfillment as an artist.  The struggle was broadened to encompass the greater theme of an African-American man trying to find success in America. The romantic tension between Joe and Lorna is heightened because Joe is black and Lorna is white.

Friedman-Abeles. [Sammy Davis, Jr. and Paula Wayne in Golden Boy] 1964. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.8868.

Friedman-Abeles. [Sammy Davis, Jr. and Paula Wayne in Golden Boy] 1964. Museum of the City of New York. 68.80.8868.

 Golden Boy the musical ran for over 560 performances. It garnered four Tony nominations including Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical but did not take home any awards.

The rival of Odets’s original play opened last December at the Belasco Theatre that housed the original production. It ran just 53 performances, but with eight nominations, it is by far the most recognized play. I still regret not getting out to see it, but now I kind of wish I’d been around to see Sammy Davis, Jr. croon in the musical.

The curious case of the Carolyn Capers

In the normal course of my day as Theater Archivist for the Museum of the City of New York, I can count on encountering objects that impress, interest, inform, or even surprise me. Rarer is the object that utterly confounds me, such as the following image, discovered while doing some routine research.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Amatuer Productions, "Carolyn Capers of 1935, " 1935. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.20075

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Amateur Productions, “Carolyn Capers of 1935.” Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.20075

Who were these people and what could they possibly be doing?

Information in the record linked the “Carolyn” of the capers to the  Carolyn Laundry in Harlem. Located around 111 East 128th Street, the Carolyn Laundry was a large wash and delivery service that operated in the early decades of the 20th century.  There’s evidence to suggest a branch or garage space in the Bronx in addition to the Harlem building. The company was concerned with maintaining a clean workplace. As early as 1915, workers from various departments participated in monthly meetings that addressed safety concerns.  I wasn’t able to dig up much else on the history of the organization or its fate. The Byron Company, however, documented just enough aspects of life at the laundry to pique the curiosity.  Below is the building’s exterior.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Carolyn Laundry, 111 East 128th St., Building, With Auto Trucks, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.6829

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Carolyn Laundry, 111 East 128th St., Building, With Auto Trucks, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.6829

The delivery men all stand at attention next to their trucks, the very picture of a formal and professional work environment.  A photograph of the “Capers” is perhaps a bit less formal.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Amateur Productions, "Carolyn Capers," 1930. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.20067

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Amateur Productions, “Carolyn Capers,” 1930. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.20067

I still don’t know how exactly the “Carolyn Capers” emerged from the laundry. My best guess is that the “Capers” consisted of employees putting on amateur entertainments, presumably for each other. I found no evidence that the performers pictured were, in fact, employees, but it was not unheard of for companies to provide an entertainment outlet for their employees as a way to boost morale. It is possible that the office parties of yesteryear involved costumes, props, and a few solid musical numbers.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) Carolyn Laundry, 111 East 128th St., Weighing Bags of Laundry, 1928. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.6819

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) Carolyn Laundry, 111 East 128th St., Weighing Bags of Laundry, 1928. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.6819

Workers, like the ones pictured above, might have been able to kick up their heels with an original dance routine.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Amateur Productions, "Carolyn Capers," 1930. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.20065

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Amateur Productions, “Carolyn Capers,” 1930. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.20065

The “Capers” appear to follow a variety show format. The Byron Company captured a few years of productions. It’s possible the “Capers” was an annual event in the follies tradition of Ziegfeld, Grand Street, and Greenwich Village.  I haven’t noticed a particular holiday theme, but the footwear and lack of set pieces seem to imply dance numbers, songs, and comedic sketches.  These are not the dramatic poses of a straight play.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) Amateur Productions, "Carolyn Capers," 1930. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.2069

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) Amateur Productions, “Carolyn Capers,” 1930. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.20069

At the very least, performers showed more leg than work uniforms allowed.

Bryon Company (New York, N.Y.) Amateur Productions, "Carolyn Capers, 1934," 1934. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.20071

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) Amateur Productions, “Carolyn Capers, 1934.” Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.20071

Though I found no information specifically about the “Capers,” amateur productions were experiencing a significant boom in Harlem at the time they were performed. Playwright and teacher Randolph Edmonds wrote in 1949 about the “Negro Little Theatre Movement,” describing a huge influx of  amateur performances in predominately African-American neighborhoods. The Little Theatre Movement sprang out of communities forming small groups to perform non-commercial works for each other. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, several amateur groups emerged in Harlem as a way to give outlet and find audiences for African-Americans excluded from the Broadway stage. The world famous Apollo Theatre began its amateur night in 1934. The “Capers” may seem to us a curious anomaly, but they were very much a product of their time.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Amateur Productions, "Carolyn Capers of 1935," 1935. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.20074

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Amateur Productions, “Carolyn Capers of 1935.” Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.20074

Visit the Museum’s Collections Portal to view more images of the Carolyn Laundry and the company’s capers.

Art Deco Treasures

Art Deco architecture flourished in Europe and the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. Spurred by the 1925 Paris exhibition Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes which boasted over 16 million visitors, structures such as the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building began dotting the New York City skyline. Below are some recently digitized photographs, not yet available on the Museum’s portal, that struck me as particularly beautiful in their exemplification of Art Deco architecture.

The Ziegfeld Theatre opened to audiences on February 2, 1927 with the musical comedy “Rio Rita”. The 1,638-seat theater, named in honor of impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, was financed by William Randolph Hearst and Arthur Brisbane and designed by Joseph Urban and Thomas W. Lamb. Located at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 54th Street, the theater dazzled audiences during its 38-year tenure with original productions of “Ziegfeld Follies of 1931″ and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, to name a few. The limestone structure was razed in 1966 to make way for an office building. In 1969 a 1,131-seat movie palace named after the original Ziegfeld Theatre opened just a few hundred feet away.

Ziegfeld Theatre. 1927. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.84

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) Ziegfeld Theatre. 1927. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.84

Graybar built their namesake building at the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 43rd Street from 1926-27, which served as the distribution company’s corporate headquarters until 1982 . In 2012, New York City Department of Planning (DEP) announced a proposal to rezone East Midtown, the area generally located between Second and Fifth Avenues, from 39th to 57th Streets. Some people are worried that the proposed rezoning could lead to the demolition of older buildings which are not protected by landmark status. Following the DEP’s announcement, the Municipal Art Society of New York submitted the Graybar Building as well as 16 other structures in East Midtown to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for evaluation.

420 Lexington Avenue. Graybar Building, detail of middle entrance. 1927. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.2609

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 420 Lexington Avenue. Graybar Building, detail of middle entrance. 1927. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.2609

The Goelet Building, now called the Swiss Center Building, was built from 1930-32 and designed by Victor L. S. Hafner. The engineering firm E.H. Faile & Co. produced the building’s structural frame. Commissioned by Robert Goelet, the building was constructed at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 49th Street, on land previously occupied by the Goelet family mansion. The building’s heritage was beautifully displayed on the main entrance at 608 Fifth Avenue: the cast metal tympanum, shown in the three photographs below, featured a shield with the family monogram “G” as well as the family crest, the swan. Subsequent modifications to the building in 1965 by the Swiss Center included removal of the entrance arch on Fifth Avenue.

608 Fifth Avenue. Goelet Building. Detail of metalwork over entrance. 1931. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.4841

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 608 Fifth Avenue. Goelet Building. Detail of metalwork over entrance. 1931. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.4841

608 Fifth Avenue. Goelet Building. Detail of metalwork over entrance. 1931. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.4842

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 608 Fifth Avenue. Goelet Building. Detail of metalwork over entrance. 1931. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.4842

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 608 Fifth Avenue. Goelet Building. Entrance. 1930. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.4906

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 608 Fifth Avenue. Goelet Building. Entrance. 1930. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.4906

The Herman Ridder Junior High School (Public School 98) in the Crotona Park East section of the Bronx was designed by the Board of Education’s Bureau of Design and Construction and built from 1929-31 in response to the borough’s rapid increase in population during the 1920s. The concept of junior high schools, where young teenagers could transition to high school or prepare to enter the workforce, was relatively recent at that time.  The junior high schools in existence were modeled after elementary school plans, albeit with some modifications. The Herman Ridder Junior High school was the first school in New York City built specifically with the needs of junior high students in mind.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) Boston Road and 173rd Street. PS 98, Herman Ridder Junior High School. 1933. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.5573

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) Boston Road and 173rd Street. PS 98, Herman Ridder Junior High School. 1933. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.5573

The Bronx had become a magnet for the middle class with upwardly mobile aspirations, an affordable alternative to pricey Manhattan real estate. The completion of the Jerome Avenue subway line in 1918 made the area more accessible and therefore, more desirable. Scores of Art Deco apartment houses were being constructed during this time. The boom was particularly evident along Grand Concourse. Perhaps one of the most beautiful examples is 888 Grand Concourse, shown in the photographs below. It was designed by renowned architect Emery Roth in 1937.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 888 Grand Concourse. Apartment building. 1937. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.7464

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 888 Grand Concourse. Apartment building. 1937. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.7464

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 888 Grand Concourse. Apartment building. 1937. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.7465

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 888 Grand Concourse. Apartment building. Entrance. 1937. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.7465

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 888 Grand Concourse. Apartment building. Entrance. 1937. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.7467

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 888 Grand Concourse. Apartment building. Entrance. 1937. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.7467

Digitization of the Wurts Bros. Collection was made possible by the generous funding and support of the Leon Levy Foundation.

Remembering the New York World’s Fair of 1939

Handbill from the 1939 New York World's Fair.  1939-1940 World's Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York

Handbill from the 1939 New York World’s Fair, 1939, in the1939-1940 World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York.

Designing Tomorrow: America’s World Fairs of the 1930’s” opened at the Museum of the City of New York  December 5, featuring a core traveling exhibition organized by the National Building Museum, which was then expanded and adapted by the City Museum.

New York’s celebrated World’s Fair of 1939-40, held in the newly built Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, drew millions of visitors with its promise to reveal “The World of Tomorrow.” As one of the last – and the largest – of six world’s fairs that were held in the United States in the 1930s, the New York fair was the culmination of years of planning that looked to design, science, and technology to alleviate the bleak conditions of the Depression and create a brighter future.

In addition to the collection of 1939 World’s Fair architectural drawings and paintings, postcards, and photographs the Museum holds a significant collection of ephemera that documents visitors’ experiences and provides insight into the techniques used to market the fairs both to the public and to exhibitors.

I Have Seen the Future Pin, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York.

I Have Seen the Future Pin, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York.

Since the ephemera is not yet digitized, and only a small selection from the collection is showcased in the exhibition, I wanted to share further examples of the types of material that visitors to the fair took home as keepsakes.

See the New York World's Fair from a Comfortable Chair, 1939, in the 1939-1940 World's Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 96.156.86

See the New York World’s Fair from a Comfortable Chair, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 96.156.86

The visitor experience was a priority of the fair.  Attendance exceeded over 44 million people during the course of the fair’s two seasons.  In order to make those numbers, not only did the exhibits have to be interesting, but the actual experience of visiting the fair needed to be exciting and pleasurable.  The brochure to the left,  “See the New York World’s Fair from a Comfortable Chair,” advertising guide chair tours starting at $0.50 for fifteen minutes, is just one example of the materials held in the Museum’s collection that illustrate how the actual experience was marketed to the public.

The fair offered a vast variety of themed exhibits – international, state, technology, transportation, and business – and almost all of them provided printed literature and souvenirs to accompany the experience.  Many of the international and state pavilions were hoping to inspire travel and tourism to their areas.

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 1939, in the 1939 New York World's Fair Collection.  Museum of the City of New York. 96.156.62

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 96.156.62

Business and technology pavilions used the fair to share their latest innovations and promote commercial interests.

New York World's Fair: Bakelite Pin, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair Collection.  Museum of the City of New York.

New York World’s Fair: Bakelite Pin, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York.

Mr. Peanut Bookmark, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York.

Mr. Peanut Bookmark, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York.

Much of the ephemera shows how concepts such as color moving film and air travel, which we take for granted today, were novel in 1939.

Color Movies with 16mm Keystone, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York.

Color Movies with 16mm Keystone, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.291.

Excerpt from United Air Lines: Service from New York to Chicago and Everywhere West, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.67.

Innovations in transportation were essential to visualizing “the world of tomorrow,” and the General Motors Futurama was one of the most popular exhibits.

Futurama, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.17.

Futurama, 1939, in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 95.156.17.

List of titles on St. Moritz Hotel envelope,  “Dream of Venus” pavilion for Amusement Zone, ca 1939.  Queens Museum of Art. Queens Museum of Art,  from the Jean Farley Levy                 Queens Museum of Art, from the Jean Farley Levy  and Julien Levy Estate, partial gift of Eric Strom (2004.2.15)

List of titles on St. Moritz Hotel envelope, “Dream of Venus” pavilion for Amusement Zone, ca 1939. Queens Museum of Art. Jean Farley Levy and Julien Levy Estate, partial gift of Eric Strom, 2004.2.15.

Currently, these objects and others like them are stored in several boxes with relatively no order, and little descriptive information for providing access.  In a collaborative project with the Queens Museum of Art, the Museum will soon embark on an 18-month project to make our collections from both the 1939/40 and 1964/65 New York World’s Fairs more accessible as a result of a generous Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).  This project will allow the two museums to process and describe their relatively unknown and inaccessible World’s Fair collections, intellectually uniting all materials in a single finding aid, and providing object-level cataloging for selected highlights from both collections.  The Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in the CLIR program.

Screen capture from a 1939 newsreel, 1939. Queens Museum of Art. Gift of Charles Locasto, 1987.1.2WF39

Screen capture from a 1939 newsreel, 1939. Queens Museum of Art. Gift of Charles Locasto, 1987.1.2WF39