Archive for the ‘Old print ads’ Category

Downtown’s now-defunct indie record stores

August 1, 2011

Everyone mourns the passing of an independent bookstore. But fewer tears seem to be shed for the rapid demise of many of New York’s indie record stores—tiny nooks that often had as much coolness cred as the music they sold.

Some are still around—but not these long-gone haunts in Chelsea, the East Village, and the West Village.

In July 1982, 110 St. Marks Place was the location of Saint Mark’s Music Exchange. Today it’s Paprika, an Italian restaurant.

According to a 1991 New York Times rundown of record stores, Vinylmania had three stores. “They say vinyl’s on the way out, but not here,” the article quotes the store owner.

Opened in 1978, the store closed in 2007.

The same New York Times piece says Midnight Records “combines collectors’ items from the 1950s to the present with newer releases from bands like Dimentia 13; it also has magazines like Psychotronic and Bucketfull of Brains.”

Looks like they closed up the store in the 2004, according to this list. Cool Runnin is in the closed category as well, though it doesn’t give the year of its demise. They were in the Reggae music business since 1984.

All ads come from early to mid-1980s issues of the monthly East Village Eye.

The Brooklyn Museum’s hit art exhibit in 1921

July 15, 2011

Alphonse Mucha’s Art Nouveau style became hugely popular in New York and Europe around the turn of the century, thanks in part to his theatrical posters of top actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Czech-born Mucha even lived in the city for a few years, his 1904 arrival trumpeted by the Daily News, which called him “the greatest decorative artist in the world.”

So when the Brooklyn Museum staged a retrospective of Mucha’s drawings, paintings, and posters in early 1921, about 60,000 New Yorkers packed the museum in January and February to see it.

The success of the exhibit may have had to do with the fact that it was free.

“Alphonse Mucha opted to allow free entry rather than charging each visitor fifty cents,” states the website of the Musuem of Art Nouveau and Art Deco in Spain.

“At the time money collected for admission went to the artist, and for Mucha it would have amounted to a very substantial sum.”

A beach scene on an old Brooklyn business card

July 4, 2011

Could those be the grand old seaside hotels of late  19th century Brighton Beach, Coney Island, or Bath Beach in this vintage business card?

It’s part of the Brooklyn Public Library’s Fulton Street Trade Card Collection, a fascinating digital archive of Brooklyn business ephemera and proof that the advertising biz more than 100 years ago was just as cloying as it is today.

The colossal midcentury hotels of 46th Street

July 4, 2011

Small boutique hotels with an air of chic exclusivity are all the rage in Manhattan today.

But back in the 20th century, Times Square hotels advertised themselves as if they were mini cities—hundreds of rooms, bars, restaurants, and ballrooms.

With its row of shrubs and lack of a street view, the Hotel Century doesn’t even look like an urban hotel.

Built in the 1920s on 46th Street and Sixth Avenue, it boasted “16 floors of hospitality” and 350 rooms—each with a private bath, shower, radio, and television, according to this 1950 postcard.

So who stayed there? Well, in the 1930s, the top floors were home to a Columbia University fraternity. Suicidal people booked rooms as well. Newspaper accounts note several suicides in the 1930s and 1940s.

The Hotel Century is long gone; 111 West 46th Street is now the site of a theater that looks like it dates to the 1960s.

Unlike the Century, the Hotel Edison, on Broadway between 46th and 47th Streets, still exists. And judging by all the tourists hanging around its gaudy Art Deco lobby, it’s doing a thriving business.

Opened in 1931, the Edison had 1,000 rooms, three restaurants, radios, “circulating ice water,” and air conditioning—in its “public rooms” only.

Too bad the massive “Hotel Edison” signage on top of the building, as seen in this postcard, no longer exists. It was a beauty.

The 1870s version of Missed Connections ads

June 24, 2011

Think those missed connections/I saw you personals are only as old as Craigslist or the back page of the Village Voice?

Nah. They were around at least 140 years ago, according to a city guidebook called Lights and Shadows of New York Life, published in 1872, which reproduced several in its pages.

The book detailed the appeal of the “personals” printed in the first column of an unnamed city paper:

“Very many persons are inclined to smile at these communications, and are far from supposing that these journals are making themselves the mediums through  which assignations and burglaries, and almost every disreputable enterprise are arranged and carried on.”

So then as now, these missed connections-type ads don’t always have an innocent, romantic aim.

But apparently many did. “If a lady allows her face to wear a pleasant expression while glancing by the merest chance at a man, she is very apt to find some such personal as the following addressed to her in the next morning’s issue of the paper referred to.”

So what are the odds that any of these men hooked up with the lady they were looking for? I guess we’ll never know.

When the Eden Musee thrilled 23rd Street

June 22, 2011

The Eden Musee opened at 55 West 23rd Street in 1884—and New York had never seen anything like it.

Imagine an entertainment mecca that featured grisly and gaudy wax displays: think Queen Victoria, President Arthur, and an imagined scene from the Spanish Inquisition.

There was also a “winter garden” concert hall and periodic bookings of notable people at the time, such as Sitting Bull.

And don’t forget the robot named Ajeeb who challenged customers to a game of chess (a real human chess champion was hidden inside).

All this could be experienced for just 50 cents. No wonder New Yorkers packed the French Renaissance building off Sixth Avenue in the newly chic Madison Square area.

As the years went on, the Eden Musee “resort” had to up the ante. They held an annual orchid show, hosted vaudeville acts, even showed the first motion pictures.

Movies turned out to be its downfall. Audiences no longer wanted to see wax figures and live shows; they craved film.

A June 8, 1915 New York Times headline put it this way: “Eden Musee Faces Bankruptcy Court: Northward Movement of Stores and Moving Picture Craze Hurts Wax Works.”

But for more than 30 years, the place had a good run.

An East Village nightlife guide from 1985

June 20, 2011

A lot has changed in the 26 years since the East Village Eye published this guide to the neighborhood’s coolest bars and restaurants (bar drinks $1 till 10 pm, for starters).


The Ritz went back to being known as Webster Hall; CBGB, Downtown Beirut, and 8BC, among others, bit the dust; and perhaps strangest of all: the Palladium is now Palladium Hall, a towering New York University dormitory.

What remains of some defunct city businesses

June 13, 2011

For these three companies, the only remnants are paper receipts dating to the turn of the last century, all found amazingly preserved in a Clinton Hill brownstone.

They don’t tell us much, but they provide a clue or two as to what daily life was like and what services were available.

Like that if you needed an ambulance, you had this horse-drawn carriage service to rely on to get you to the hospital.

I have no idea what anyone would need pure oxygen gas and calcium lights for, but this DUMBO supplier says they’re “for all occasions.”

Imagine the uproar if a gun store tried to open on Broadway and Duane Street today? But in 1897, this one sold “every variety.”

The coolest spot for second-hand clothes in 1985

May 20, 2011

Not only did Zoot run very cool ads in downtown publications, this vintage rags emporium had two locations: 1980s cool-kid hot spot Broadway at Astor Place as well as future hipster land Kent Avenue in Williamsburg.

This ad ran in the May 1985 issue of the East Village Eye—with Susan Seidelman of Desperately Seeking Susan and Smithereens fame on the cover!

Paper remnants of long-ago Brooklyn businesses

May 12, 2011

If you live in an old Brooklyn house, check under your floorboards.

That’s how one resident of a circa-1887 Clinton Hill brownstone mansion discovered a treasure of letters, receipts, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera dating from 1900 to 1910.

Why the papers were stashed beneath the floorboards is a mystery.

But I’m glad they were. They offer a rare glimpse of the ordinary businesses and services available to well-off Washington Avenue residents at the end of the Gilded Age.

Oh, and the phone exchanges! Imagine reaching a business with just a 2- or 3-digit number.

John D. Gunning offered “sanitary examinations and peppermint tests” as part of his plumbing and gas fitting business, above.

He must be the same John D. Gunning whose 1917 death notice in the New York Times notes that he “succeeded his father in the contract plumbing business.”

The Union League Stables were next to the glorious Union League Club building, now a senior citizen community center.

Amazingly, F.M. Fairchild Sons funeral directors are still in business—but on Long Island, not in Brooklyn.


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