Archive for the ‘Old print ads’ Category

Vintage cards for defunct Manhattan businesses

November 15, 2011

Not only is Ackerly & Sandiford gone (mmm, smelts!) but so is the Fulton Fish Market, relocated to Hunts Point in the Bronx after opening on South Street in 1822.

The logo looks turn of the century, but the five-digit phone number means the card can’t date back any earlier than 1930, according to this historic phone exchange website.

Furniture dealer P. Bechstein’s business could predate telephones, as there is no number on the card.

Bowery and East Fifth Street is a little north of today’s restaurant equipment district. But this could be one of the first Bowery businesses to sell chairs, tables, and other items to the restaurant trade.

Sex ads placed in 19th century newspapers

November 13, 2011

In the 20th century, they ran in the back pages of alternative weeklies like The Village Voice, and today, they clog up Craigslist and other online sites.

But in the 1870s, respectable newspapers were the only venue for sex-related ads, like the one above, arranging a meeting between semi-anonymous partners.

“Many of these advertisements are inserted by notorious roues, and others are from women of the town,” writes James D. McCabe in his 1872 guidebook Lights and Shadows of New York Life, where reproductions of the ads appear.

“Women wishing to meet their lovers, or men their mistresses, use these personal columns,” he added.

There must have been some degree of public outcry about these ads. McCabe quotes the New York World, apparently defending their placement:

“The cards of courtesans and the advertisements of houses of ill-fame might as well be put up in the panels of street cars.”

“If the public permits a newspaper to do it for the consideration of a few dollars, why make the pretense that there is anything wrong in the thing itself? If the advertisement is legitimate, than the business must be.”

Newspapers also published the 19th century versions of Craigslist’s Missed Connections.

Scary posters aimed at 1930s tenement dwellers

November 9, 2011

The 1930s and 1940s seem to be the dawn of the public-health poster—those often corny and over-the-top reminders to wash your hands, eat healthier meals, stop spitting, learn to swim, even get tested for gonorrhea and syphilis.

Created by Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project artists between 1936 and 1943, they’re little gems offering insight into the urban health issues that preoccupied the era.

One common target for department of health bureaucrats was the overcrowded, airless tenement apartments still home to so many New Yorkers.

These two posters drive the point home pretty well. Clutter and trash on fire escapes contributed to fire, and unsanitary conditions helped spread disease and contribute to infant mortality.

Check out more New York City WPA posters at this Library of Congress link.

Super cheap East Side apartments in the 1980s

September 26, 2011

Do you ever wish that you could go back in time and pay 1980s prices for Manhattan real estate today?

If you could jump in the way back machine to 1984, a one- or  two-bedroom apartment in the Norfolk Arms at 170 Norfolk Street could be yours for under $65,000.

What would you pay these days to live in what was then a dicey block on the Lower East Side? According to Streeteasy, the number would be in the vicinity of a half million.

The “Village East” address in this ad isn’t specific, but 2,500 square feet of “rawish” loft space for under two grand a month sounds like a steal.

Both ads come from the September 1984 issue of the East Village Eye.

Faded receipts from defunct city businesses

September 20, 2011

Think about the receipts you’ve carelessly stashed in your junk drawer or wallet. If they survived the next hundred years, what would they say about how New Yorkers lived in 2011?

I’m sure the homeowner who left these receipts under the floorboards of his Clinton Hill townhouse about a century ago had no idea that they would shed light on which industries thrived in turn of the century New York.

Ferrell & Ruth were dealers in the seven major food groups for well-off New Yorkers. And hey, 176 Bedford Avenue is smack dab in the center of hipster Williamsburg today, the site of the Salvation Army thrift store.

Of course, ice companies still exist. But obviously refrigeration has drastically reduced their numbers. I wonder if 600 pounds of ice for $1.30 was a bargain?

The ice industry was actually pretty dirty back in the day.

Ship plumbing, now that’s a specialized trade. Fred Buse’s operation was on Old Slip off the East River, where the city’s maritime industry thrived.

[Special thanks to J. Warren for loaning me these bits of ephemera]

Piels: one of the last Brooklyn breweries

September 6, 2011

The three Piels brothers came to Brooklyn from Germany and opened their eponymous brewery in the hinterlands of East New York in 1883.

They couldn’t have imagined that their beer—made with the preferred “soft” water native to Long Island—would be a hometown lowbrow (to put it mildly) favorite for the next 90 years.

[A Piels coaster from the 1950s. Less what? Non-fermented sugar.]

“Piels was selling about a million barrels a year in the mid-1950s, hardly a major player but still prized across the Northeast as one of those lower-end, popularly priced regional brands whose market had always been the working classes,” reports a New York Daily News article from 1998.

Part of Piels appeal were its popular Bert and Harry commercials. When the company dropped the campaign, the beer’s popularity plunged too. After taking over a few other local breweries, Piel’s sold itself to a Michigan brewer and bid Brooklyn good-bye in 1973.

Vintage matchbook ads for ethnic restaurants

September 1, 2011

You can discern a bit about the city’s culinary history based on the ads bars and  restaurants used to print on the free matchbooks they once offered.

Patrissey’s opened in 1906 and served Neapolitan standards. The old-school eatery snagged a new name, Nolita’s, in 2000. Which didn’t last, of course.

“Sometime around 1920, enterprising Mr. Lum took a five-minute walk north from Chinatown and opened this Canal Street Institution—three-story, white-tiled—with clothier Moe Levy as angel,” writes Knife and Fork in New York, a 1948 guide.

Lum Fong is gone, but another Chinese restaurant has taken its place.

“Distinctive European Atmosphere” raves the copy on this matchbook about the Russian Tea Room. Knife and Fork in New York wasn’t too impressed:

“Menu offerings include Russian hors d’oeuvres, beef a la Strogonoff, chicken cutlet a la Kiev, and French and American stand-by dishes.”

The place is currently still open, with the same garish decor it’s been known for for decades.

The goofy grotesques of Morningside Heights

August 15, 2011

Morningside Heights is another New York neighborhood that seems to be filled with these wonderful, whimsical stone carvings.

                           Designers of Morningside Heights’ stately apartment buildings may have been influenced by Columbia University on 116th Street.

Or the Cathedral of St. John the Divine at 110th Street served as the inspiration.

Or maybe it was just the timing; gargoyles and grotesques were popular with architects around the turn of the century, when the West Side blocks of the 90s and 100s were developed.

Whatever inspired their creation, these grotesques are charming to encounter, especially the silly guys at the Brittania at 527 West 110th Street.

A scholar. A soup-cooker. A soup gobbler. A chicken eater. (A chicken eater?) These limestone ornaments are found all along the circa-1909 building.

“Hands off my rotisserie chicken!” he seems to be saying. In fact, a 2009 New York Times article reveals that the grotesques are meant to symbolize “some form of the homely art of housekeeping.”

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.”


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