Tag Archives: 1940s

Adolph Green: The boy from the Bronx makes good

Some things

Bob Golby. [Adolph Green performing in A Party with Comden & Green.] 1959. Museum of the City of New York. F2013.41.5440.

Last Tuesday, December 2, 2014, marked the 100th birthday of Adolph Green, writer and lyricist. With his creative partner Betty Comden, Green composed lyrics for over 200 songs, wrote ten Broadway musicals, and penned nine screenplays including Singin’ in the Rain and big screen adaptations of Broadway hits On the Town and Bells Are Ringing.  Whether you saw NBC’s broadcast of Peter Pan Live! last week, or watched the romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle, or are a fan of the television show Glee, you’ve enjoyed the lyrical stylings of Adolph Green.

Sheet music for "New York, New York" from On the Town, 1944. Museum of the City of New York, 70.22.141B.

Sheet music for “New York, New York” from On the Town, 1944. Museum of the City of New York, 70.22.141B.

Born in the Bronx (“New York, New York, a helluva town. The Bronx is up but the Battery’s down”), Green attended DeWitt Clinton High School. After graduating, he spent time working various odd jobs while trying to make it as an actor. During one summer job as a camp counselor, Green befriended the young Leonard Bernstein, who was working as the camp’s music counselor. The most important meeting of Green’s career, however, would happen in 1938, when he was introduced to Betty Comden. A drama student at New York University, Betty Comden began a creative partnership with Green that would last over 60 years. Together with friends John Frank, Alvin Hammer, and Judy Tuvim (later known as Judy Holliday), Comden and Green formed a cabaret act called The Revuers.

Unknown. [The Revuers: Adolph Green, Betty Comden, John Frank, Judith Tuvim, Alvin Hammer.] ca. 1943. Museum of the City of New York. F2014.45.4.

Unknown. [The Revuers: Adolph Green, Betty Comden, John Frank, Judith Tuvim, Alvin Hammer.] ca. 1943. Museum of the City of New York. F2014.45.4.

Performing songs and sketches at the legendary Village Vanguard, the troupe often featured the young Bernstein as a somewhat impromptu accompanist. Below is an excerpt from a Revuers skit poking fun of the Tin Pan Alley song writing machine.  In the sketch, the great composer Cole Porter becomes Cole Warter.

Page from "Tin Pan Alley" sketch performed by The Revuers, ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York, Comden and Green papers.

Page from “Tin Pan Alley” sketch performed by The Revuers, ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York, Comden and Green papers.

Window card for A Party with Comden & Green, 1958-1959. Museum of the City of New York, 68.100.241.

Window card for A Party with Comden & Green, 1958-1959. Museum of the City of New York, 68.100.241.

Comden and Green worked with their good pal Bernstein to write the musical On the Town about three sailors on leave in New York City.  The musical opened on Broadway December 28, 1944 and was an immediate hit, putting the names of Comden, Green, and Bernstein on the musical map of New York. Comden and Green went on to write the book and/or lyrics for such shows as Applause, Bells Are Ringing, Do Re Mi, Subways are for Sleeping, On the Twentieth Century, and Wonderful Town. Their collaborators included Jerome Robbins, Tommy Tune, Hal Prince, and composer Jule Styne.  In 1958, Comden and Green performed their own material in the two-person musical revue A Party with Comden & Green. The show was such a hit that they revived it in 1977. Adolph Green passed away on October 23, 2002 in New York, New York (it’s a helluva town). Betty Comden died exactly four years and one month later. But with On the Town currently in revival at the Lyric Theatre and On the Twentieth Century set to open at the American Airlines in March, the party with Comden and Green goes on.

[Adolph Green and Betty Comden.] ca. 1955. Museum of the City of New York, F2013.41.5438.

Friedman-Abeles. [Adolph Green and Betty Comden.] ca. 1955. Museum of the City of New York, F2013.41.5438.

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.

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).

Prepping the girls for “As the Girls Go”

Since October the Theater department has been busy preparing 30,000 images of theatrical productions for digitization and cataloging. Images will eventually be made available on our Collections Portal thanks to the support of a Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  In the process of getting objects ready for digitization, our archival intern came across these rough proofs and final images prepared by the Lucas-Monroe studio for the musical As the Girls Go.  The photos offer a glimpse at photo manipulation  before the digital era.

Lucas-Monore [Scene from As the Girls Go] 1948. Museum of the City of New York. 80.103.172

Lucas-Monroe Studio. [Scene from As the Girls Go] 1948. Museum of the City of New York. 80.103.172

As the Girls Go opened in 1948 at the Winter Garden Theatre, but it was set five years in the future, with the inauguration of America’s first female president. Opponents of the President attempt to drum up scandal by throwing a bevy of beautiful women into the path of her husband, played by vaudeville comedian Bobby Clark.  Lucas-Monroe put out a series of publicity shots featuring the tempting beauties.

Lucas-Monroe Studio. [Unidentified actress preparing for photo shoot] 1948. 80.103.190

Lucas-Monroe Studio. [Unidentified actress preparing for photo shoot] 1948. Museum of the City of New York. 80.103.190

Lucas-Monroe Studio. [Unidentified showgirl and with possibly Edward Thayer Monroe] 1948. Museum of the City of New York. 80.103.189.

Lucas-Monroe Studio. [Unidentified showgirl with photographer, possibly Edward Thayer Monroe] 1948. Museum of the City of New York. 80.103.189.

The Lucas-Monroe studio began as Lucas-Pritchard in the mid-1930s. Photographer George W. Lucas and business manager Irving Pritchard formed a partnership that was later joined by portrait photographer Edward Thayer Monroe. The studio became known as Lucas-Monroe and captured hundreds of Broadway productions  until the company was dissolved in 1952. Lucas actually died ten years before, but Monroe was able to carry on the business successfully. (For more biographical information visit the excellent site on early Broadway photographers created by Dr. David S. Shields and hosted by the University of South Carolina.)

Of course, what beauty couldn’t use a little help here and there? Print alterations and image manipulations were standard practice in 1948.  See the rough proof below and the identified “problem” areas.

Lucas-Monroe Studio. [Rough proof of unidentified showgirl from As the Girls Go] 1948. 80.103.192

Lucas-Monroe Studio. [Rough proof of unidentified showgirl from As the Girls Go] 1948. Museum of the City of New York. 80.103.192

The finished proof follows, and it is easy to see how the woman’s upper right arm was slimmed down, the sides of her torso sliced, and hair frizzies minimized.

Lucas-Monroe Studio. [Unidentified showgirl from As the Girls Go] 1948. 80.103.191

Lucas-Monroe Studio. [Unidentified showgirl from As the Girls Go] 1948. Museum of the City of New York. 80.103.191

Even famed beauty and socialite Gregg Sherwood was unable to escape critique.

Lucas-Monroe Studio. [Gregg Sherwood from As the Girls Go] 1948. Museum of the City of New York. 80.103.194.

Lucas-Monroe Studio. [Gregg Sherwood from As the Girls Go] 1948. Museum of the City of New York. 80.103.194.

Her jacket is smoothed out, waist shaved, and anything close to tired eliminated from her face. Even the toe of her shoe was altered.

Lucas-Monroe Studio. [Gregg Sherwood from As the Girls Go] 1948. Museum of the City of New York. 80.103.193.

Lucas-Monroe Studio. [Gregg Sherwood from As the Girls Go] 1948. Museum of the City of New York. 80.103.193.

Alterations could be made a number of ways including re-touching with paint, ink, or airbrush, and manipulation of prints and negatives in the dark room. Digital camera technology and programs like Photoshop have made photo manipulation  infinitely easier and more prevalent.  So prevalent, in fact, that the debate on image alteration has been going strong for several years. Just last month a GIF of Jennifer Lawrence’s 2011 Flare cover surfaced online showing how much of the actress was cropped, cut, and shifted for the magazine’s final publication. The techniques for altering a model’s image have come a long way since As the Girls Go opened in 1948, but the practice hasn’t changed much and we have yet to elect a female President.

Stay tuned for more updates as we prepare, digitize, and catalog a wealth of images from the plays and musicals of the New York stage.

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

Officer Stanley Kronzak, North Brooklyn Beat from 1936-1954

Like most of New York City, the Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods of north Brooklyn have changed considerably in the last 75 years.

New York City Patrolman’s Log Books, 1936-1954, in the Stanley Kronzak Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 94.90.20A – 94.90.20II.

I obtained a unique glimpse into these neighborhoods’ past through the patrol notebooks of Officer Stanley Kronzak of the New York City Police Department.  Officer Kronzak was born in Pinsk, Russia, in 1908, and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1911.  He joined the police force in 1936 and was assigned to the 87th Precinct, which can no longer be found on current police precinct maps.  Based on the locations  referenced in his logs, Kronzak’s beat appears to have fallen in the eastern section of north Williamsburg and south Greenpoint, coinciding with parts of present day 90th and 94th precincts.  The notebooks cover the years of 1936 – 1954, and include Officer Kronzak’s record of each day’s events.

In most cases, Kronzak’s days were fairly routine.  On November 29, 1936, he noted the following, “Conditions reported… No door on street lamp – cable exposed – Cooper Park, pole#2W2C.”

Woodhull & Gale. Shelter House, Cooper Park, ca. 1915. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.7666.

Wurts Brothers. Grand Street and Graham Avenue, N.E. corner. Old buildings, Graham Avenue elevation, 1930. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.7192.

On June 15, 1948, he recorded that he escorted a man of “719 Grand Street [with] store receipts to Bank at Grand and Graham,” and later in the day escorted the Grand Theater receipts to the same bank.  On many days, Kronzak simply recorded the time, with the statement, “nothing to report.”

Excerpt from “The ‘Wick: Published to Encourage Thrift, by the Bushwick Savings Bank,” 1949, in the Stanley Kronzak Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 90.94.18.

Officer Kronzak is pictured to the left in “The ‘Wick,” a publication of the Bushwick Savings Bank, the same bank mentioned in the excerpt above.  The bank remains standing on the corner of Graham and Grand and though the stone facade still bears the name “Bushwick Saving Bank,”  it now houses a Chase bank.

Letter of Recognition to Officer Stanley Kronzak from Police Commissioner Lewis J. Valentine, 1942, in the Stanley Kronzak Collection. Museum of the City of New York, 90.94.13.

On April 17th, 1942, things got a little more exciting.  At approximately 1:15 PM, two men held up Vincent Perecelli’s bar and grill at 193 Frost Street.  The men made off with $333 from Mr. Perecelli’s pockets.  The two men ran from the premises and Mr. Perecelli began shouting “Hold up!”  The perpetrators first attempted to flee the scene in an automobile driven by a third man, but as Perecelli pursued them, the driver abandoned it and the robbers took off on foot.  Two detectives nearby heard the calls and apprehended one man. The other two, however, remained at large.   The detectives alerted a nearby patrol car.   Officer Kronzak was one of the two patrolmen in that police car. He gave chase and apprehended one of the robbers, recovering the stolen money and two loaded revolvers.  Following this event, Officer Kronzak received a letter commending his performance from the New York City Police Commissioner.

The image below shows the 15th Anniversary Dinner of his police academy class.  Kronzak is the man about half-way back, directly in front of a pitcher of beer on the banquet table, and is the only man in the whole photo wearing a bow-tie.  Officer Kronzak served on the police force for another five years following the dinner shown here, retiring in 1956 after 20 years of service and going on to work for a trucking company.

Techni-Photo Studio, Fifteenth Reunion of the Police Academy Class of March 1936, 1951. Museum of the City of New York. 90.94.11.

Many thanks to our intern, Richard, who assisted with matching photographs from our collection to the locations mentioned in Officer Kronzak’s logs.  Click on these links to view more images of the areas Kronzak patrolled in the Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

Prizefighters

If anyone had asked my opinion on boxing a few weeks ago, my response would have been tepid at best. I’d never really given the sport much thought. And yet I now find myself staying up way too late watching grainy videos of boxing matches and old ESPN documentaries about  famous boxers, discovering everything I can about New York’s  boxing world in the late 1940s through the 1950s. What caused this rapid change of heart?  Two words: Stanley Kubrick.

During Stanley Kubrick’s time at LOOK Magazine he photographed two stories about the daily life of boxers.  The first featured Walter Cartier in 1949 and the second Rocky Graziano in 1950. These boxers couldn’t have been more different, and tracing the careers of both highlights the spectrum of men who were lured to this sport.

Walter Cartier was born in the Bronx in 1922. He started boxing with his brothers at an early age (his twin brother Vincent would later be his trainer) and after World War II gained prominence  in boxing circles in New York City.  At the time that Kubrick shot the LOOK story, Cartier was a 24-year old rising fighter, known for being a precise, smart, intense middleweight boxer.  The article accompanying the photographs says that if, “the big purses elude him another year, he plans to quit the ring and attend law school.”  But the big fights came and for years he was constantly on the cusp of becoming the middleweight champion.  As an obituary reads, “Cartier was that handsome Bronx knockout kid who sold tickets. Here was a special kind of a fighter–clean living, loved being a boxer and always kept himself in shape.”

Below you can see the transformation from Walter Cartier, a typical young man living in Greenwich Village who goes on dates and plays with kids, to Walter Cartier the prizefighter.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Walter Cartier – Prizefighter of Greenwich Village . Walter Cartier eating in a restaurant. 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11122.88D.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Walter Cartier – Prizefighter of Greenwich Village Walter Cartier and Dolores Germaine playing on a beach.1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11122.110E.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) Walter Cartier – Prizefighter of Greenwich Village Girl holding a toy gun to Walter Cartier’s head.1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11122.155F.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Walter Cartier – Prizefighter of Greenwich Village Walter Cartier at a punching bag as Vincent Cartier and two other men watch.1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11122.51A.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Walter Cartier – Prizefighter of Greenwich Village Walter Cartier during a fight.1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.11122.236.

Where Cartier was dedicated, focused, and meticulous, Kubrick’s next boxing subject was a knockout king – tough and brutal.

Rocky Graziano (born Thomas Rocco Barbella)  grew up in the East Village (10th Street and First Avenue to be exact) and was a complete product of the rough neighborhood.  By the time he was six years old, he had a reputation of being a good fighter.  Or as he put it, “I was the best street fighter in history when I was growing up on the Lower East Side. Hell, I never lost a street fight. Never.  I thought I could lick Jack Dempsey or Joe Louis or anybody.  I was fantastic.”  With a nasty habit of stealing, as he described it,  “everything that began with an  ‘a’ — a piece of fruit, a radio, a car, anything that wasn’t nailed down,”  it’s perhaps unsurprising that Graziano had stints in reform schools and later, in prison.  (For more fantastic quotes, see his New York Times obituary here.) After a dishonorable discharge from the Army for punching a supervising officer, he found himself back in New York City.  A friend,  hoping to find an outlet for Graziano’s aggression, took him to boxing mecca Stillman’s Gym.

Graziano originally viewed boxing as an easy source of cash – he notoriously hawked his first medal for $15 – but his natural talent led him to become the middleweight champion in 1946.  If this sounds familiar, it’s because Graziano’s life story was made into the 1956 film, Someone Up There Likes Me, starring a young Paul Newman.

As with  Walter Cartier, Kubrick’s focus is on the transformation of Rocky Graziano from loving family man to boxer. It should be noted, however, that this story came out after Graziano’s two-year suspension from professional boxing due to failure to report an attempted $100,000 bribe.

Stanley Kubrick(1928-1999).Rocky Graziano, He’s a Good Boy Now. Rocky Graziano eating breakfast with his family. 1949-1950. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.12284.71B.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Rocky Graziano, He’s a Good Boy Now. Rocky Graziano playing cards with friends. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.12284.16A.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) Rocky Graziano, He’s a Good Boy Now. Rocky Graziano exercising. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.12284.46C.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999).Rocky Graziano, He’s a Good Boy Now. Rocky Graziano. 1949-1950. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.12284.35B.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999).Rocky Graziano, He’s a Good Boy Now. Man applying petroleum jelly to Rocky Graziano.1949-1950. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.12284.18B.

To see more of Walter Cartier, check out Stanley Kubrick’s first movie, the 16-minute Day of the Fight, which was inspired by the LOOK magazine story.

Both Cartier and Graziano continued to box through the mid-1950’s, after which they both tried their hands at acting, both securing steady roles in television shows. Walter Cartier performed in the Phil Silvers Show and Rocky Graziano co-starred in the Martha Raye Show.

Love in the Time of Weegee

As we continue to inventory and image the Museum’s holdings from the LOOK Magazine archives , we’ve discovered troves of images taken by famous photographers on assignment for the magazine.  Weegee is one of them.

The Museum has a handful of non-LOOK photographs depicting subjects that Weegee is mainly known for: sensational images of crime scenes.  The image below shows the bloodied corpse of Carlo Tresca, a socialist-turned-anarchist and the editor of an anti-Fascist newspaper.   Although Tresca managed to avoid multiple assassination attempts, his life came to an end while crossing Fifth Avenue and 13th Street.  A black Ford containing a squat gunman pulled up beside him and fired, shooting Tresca in the head.

Arthur (Weegee) Fellig (1899-1968). Man shining light on body of Carlo Tresca, New York.1943. Museum of the City of New York. 84.195.1

Weegee also captured police officers aiding an inebriated man.

Arthur (Weegee) Fellig (1899-1968). The Cocktail Hour. 1950. Museum of the City of New York. 84.195.4

Arthur (Weegee) Fellig (1899-1968). Policeman with wrapping paper-covered body of Lewis Sandano, New York. 1940. Museum of the City of New York. 84.195.10

The grim scene above shows the prone body of Lewis Sandano, shot and killed by policemen as he fled with a stolen overcoat.

Weegee shows a softer side in a 1948 series of photographs for LOOK showing soldiers returning from World War II and reuniting with their loved ones.

Arthur (Weegee) Fellig (1899-1968). Penn Station, 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2012.4.10720.1

Arthur (Weegee) Fellig (1899-1968). Penn Station, 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2012.4.10720.14

Arthur (Weegee) Fellig (1899-1968). Penn Station, 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2012.4.10720.16

Arthur (Weegee) Fellig (1899-1968). Penn Station, 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2012.4.10720.13

Arthur (Weegee) Fellig (1899-1968). Penn Station, 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2012.4.10720.24

His Penn Station images are hopeful and sentimental, and the viewer’s desire to look at them is compelled by something other than the grit of humanity.  In either case, however, Weegee’s photos portray an immense love for the city and care for his subjects whether deceased or living.

“Weegee: Murder Is My Business” is on view through September 2, 2012 at the International Center of Photography. All Weegee photographs used with permission from ICP.

“Painting for fun is catching on furiously among celebrated people”

In an October, 1948 article, LOOK magazine proclaimed, “Painting for fun is catching on furiously among celebrated people. About one hundred Big Names have answered a call for help from the Urban League.  Many have picked up a paintbrush for the first time….”

Joan Crawford, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Joe Louis, and many others donated their original artworks to the cause. Many, including an artistically struggling Joan Crawford who was described in LOOK as “attacking the canvas,”  allowed themselves to be documented during the harrowing creative process.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Celebrities Paint for a Cause, 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.10653.100,101

Although we don’t have images of Lena Horne, Joe Louis, and Frank Sinatra attending the benefit show, we have pictures of the paintings they produced:

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Celebrities Paint for a Cause, 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.10653.24

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Celebrities Paint for a Cause, 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.10653.4

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Celebrities Paint for a Cause, 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.10653.2

This last image begs the question, “Can and did Frank Sinatra paint the saddest clown ever?”

Betsy Bloomingdale - international socialite, style icon, wife to the heir of the Bloomingdale’s fortune, and close confidante of Nancy Reagan – also donated her efforts:

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Celebrities Paint for a Cause, 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.10653.108

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Celebrities Paint for a Cause, 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.10653.108

Here is “boy-next-door” actor Van Johnson hard at work on a painting:


Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Celebrities Paint for a Cause, 1948. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.10653.122

The Museum of the City of New York holds hundreds of outtakes from this shoot, images that never made it to print.  Though they were famous in their time, no one on our cataloging team recognizes the celebrities below. Do you?  Help us identify these individuals in our comments section!

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). Celebrities Paint for a Cause, 1948. Museum of the City of New York.

The “Dimming” of Times Square

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

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

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

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

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

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

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