Archive for the ‘Old print ads’ Category

Decades of ads asking New Yorkers not to litter

May 12, 2014

Littergarbagecan“Keep New York clean” the tagline on city garbage cans tells us.

It’s just the latest in a long history of ad campaigns to get residents to stop littering.

The early appeals focused on the health consequences of garbage, as this ad sponsored by the Fifth Avenue Association (a commercial group organized to keep factories off Fifth Avenue) makes clear.


Cleanliness for cleanliness’ sake seems to be the message in this 1936 campaign, sponsored by the Department of Sanitation.

Did the Sanitation heads really enlist kids to be “junior inspectors” and spread the word about proper trash disposal?


Littering on the subway and inside stations was called out too. I’m not sure when this ad came out, but it was produced by the IRT, which went out of business in 1940.


A giant waste basket in the middle Times Square shaming New Yorkers for their poor littering habits seems like a pretty effective tactic. This photo was taken in 1955.


Did the campaign work? Probably not—as anyone who remembers a trash-filled, littered New York in the 1970s can attest.

At least we’ve come a long way from throwing food and other waste in the street, expecting feral pigs to come along and clean it up for us, as New Yorkers actually did well into the 19th century!

 [Photos: NYC Municipal Archives; top photo: Shutterstock]


A souvenir from the other New York World’s Fair

April 21, 2014

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair. There, New Yorkers were introduced to the touch tone phone, caught their first sight of the Unisphere to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and were able to view Michelangelo’s Pieta.


Amid all the nostalgia for that fair, it’s worth remembering the century’s other New York World’s Fair. The 1939 version, also in Flushing Meadows, captured the imagination of the Depression-era city.


This Art Deco souvenir matchbook features the fair’s logo: an image of the Trylon obelisk and 18-story Perisphere, the iconic, futuristic buildings that helped make the fair seem so magical.

Both symbolized the promise of the Machine Age. Yet after the end of the fair, they were scrapped and used for armaments in World War II.

Wow, look at that pill box. No childproof safety features!

Medicine ads targeting the city’s aches and pains

April 7, 2014

When these medicine trade cards were circulating around New York, surgery was in its infancy and antibiotics had yet to be invented. The average New Yorker wouldn’t have enjoyed easy access to a doctor.


So when aches and pains and ailments struck, potions and remedies like these were there, ready to be picked up at the corner pharmacy.


[Above: the front and back of an ad for "Scott's Emulsion of Cod Liver Oil With the Hyophosphites of Lime and Soda," for a cough]


Did they work? Without an ingredient list, it’s tough to know. But the cards are interesting to look at—a reminder that earlier generations dealt with the stomach issues, headaches, and colds that drive us to Duane Reade today.


[Above, the back and front of a trade card for a medicine sold by Charles Schneider of East 17th Street, then the upper reaches of Kleindeutschland, the city's German neighborhood. What is it for?]


[Above: Alexander's Cholera Infantum Cure, made by the Alexander Medicine Co. in 14th Street and Sixth Avenue and sold by a druggist named Rosenzweig in Brooklyn, could help your kids get rosy cheeks, apparently.]

They’re part of the wonderful William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards in the New York Academy of Medicine Library—which has a recently renovated and reopened Rare Book Room, available to researchers by appointment at their headquarters on Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street.

The human hair dealers of Fulton Street

February 13, 2014

Brooklyn’s Fulton Street has a long history as one of the borough’s busiest shopping mecca.

And in the late 19th century, it was a posh, premier commercial strip—lined with fashionable boutiques, stationery stores, fine furniture dealers, and confectioneries.


And human hair dealers too, as these cards make clear. These sellers catered to the upper-class ladies of the then-independent city.


Faded hair switches—I wonder what they sold for? These cards are part of the fantastic, digitized Fulton Street trade card collection at the Brooklyn Public Library.

Poster stamps of the city’s top draws in 1915

January 2, 2014

I’d never heard of poster stamps until an Ephemeral reader told me about them.

Popular in the mid-19th century into the early 1900s, these advertising labels, each a little larger than a postage stamp, were a trendy collectible at the time.


They generally featured products and services—and in the case of these poster stamps, found in a thrift store and dating to about 1915, the product was New York City.


The reader who brought them to my attention was kind enough to send me images of 15 stamps, all by acclaimed poster artist Franklin Bittner.


Many are of the tourist attractions found on postcards today: the Statue of Liberty and the Plaza Hotel, for example.

Yet some feature places and buildings that don’t necessarily make it on the double-decker bus tours these days . . . or no longer exist at all.


The Hippodrome, once on Sixth Avenue at 43rd Street, is gone, and Times Square’s Astor Hotel no longer exists either.

St. Paul’s Chapel on Lower Broadway is mostly known now for its role as a relief center on and just after September 11, 2001. The Washington Square Arch is still there and must-see for out-of-towners. But no cars anymore.

Thanks to Lisa for sending them over!

Two top 1930s attractions at Rockefeller Center

December 7, 2013

RockcenteroysterbarNo no no, not the Christmas tree, ice skating rink, or the observation deck.

According to this vintage matchbook cover, visitors should check out the tobacco shop as well as the Gateway Restaurant Oyster bar and Cafe.

Both are in the RCA Building—not the GE Building, as it’s called today. The matches look like they date to the 1940s.

A New York Times article from 1934, not long after RCA Building first opened in 1933, reports that the restaurant would have “a forty-foot oyster bar” occupying two shops on the ground floor and the basement.


Matchbook covers were once fantastic venues for advertising. Check out these holiday-themed beauties from 1930s New York restaurants.

Where Brooklyn residents bought Christmas cards

November 28, 2013

Bought your holiday cards yet? This vintage Brooklyn business card is your reminder.

Sending Christmas greeting cards was apparently enough of a tradition in Brooklyn by the turn of the last century that stationery stores put them at the top of their list of amenities on business cards.


I wonder what “fringed” cards looked like. Too bad the S.H. Palmer & Company stationery store can’t tell us, because they’ve long closed up shop. The last address at 481 Fulton was a cell phone store.

This card is part of the wonderful Fulton Street Trade Card Collection at the Brooklyn Public Library.

A downtown club’s lineup in December 1985

September 16, 2013

Richard Lloyd, The Feelies, They Might Be Giants, Del Fuegos?

Looks like a decent lineup for the end of December 1985 at the Ritz, a club that occupied Webster Hall on East 11th Street from 1980 to 1989.


I’m not so sure about their New Year’s Eve lineup though. John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band had that one hit. And Soft White Underbelly . . . Blue Oyster Cult?


You could pick up tickets from Bleecker Bob’s on West Third Street—now closed, sadly.

[Both ads come from the Village Voice December 23, 1985]

What a West Village apartment cost in 1955

September 2, 2013


From the mid-1950s to the advent of Craiglist, the Village Voice was New York’s go-to reference when it came to finding a new apartment, especially if you wanted to live downtown.

And now that years of back issues of the Voice have been digitized, you can check out some of those ads—and the incredible rents some Village living spaces went for.

Even though Greenwich Village has been a pricey place to live for decades, rents were still much cheaper in the Beat era than today.


A 3-room elevator apartment with a fireplace at University and 10th Street? In 1955, it went for $183 a month.

Adjusted for inflation, that would be $1595 in 2013.

If you were willing to live on the Upper West Side in 1955, you could really score a bargain.

Three rooms in an elevator building on West 88th Street and West End Avenue would run you $98 a month—$854 today.

Renting a Greenwich Village apartment in 1917

July 22, 2013

Save for the pre-1930s telephone exchange (four digits!) and the old-school phrases like “to let,” this 1917 ad isn’t too far off from the kind that run today.


Doesn’t everyone who desires to live in Greenwich Village still want large rooms, fireplaces, balconies, as well as electricity and heat?

I only wish Pepe & Bro. listed prices!

The ad is from the NYPL Digital Gallery, and it originally ran in a publication called The Spectator.


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