Posts Tagged ‘New York in 1915’

Autumn light and solitude on Park Avenue

September 26, 2013

I’m not sure what part of Park Avenue painter Louis Michel Eilshemius depicts here. But I don’t think it matters.

He’s captured the orangey glow and foreboding solitude that can be seen and felt all over city streets at dusk in the fall.

Autumneveningparkavenue

In the catalogue for an exhibition of Eilshemius’ work at the National Academy of Design in Washington in 2001, the writer, Steven Harvey, comments:

“On the horizon there is a far off sparkle of the lights at the end of Park Avenue, muted in the soft gray atmosphere of night. It is a metropolitan vision at once barren, tough and yet strangely comforting. The ambivalence that Eilshemius felt in regard to New York as home is evident it his vision of the city.

“The isolation he personally felt is represented in his view of the city as a sparkling metropolis, largely uninhabited place for solitary evening walks.”

A nighttime view of Bleecker and Carmine Streets

April 5, 2013

It’s a dark night at this moment in time on the corner of Bleecker and Carmine Streets in 1915.

But there’s warmth and light from the shop windows and the apartments above, which illuminate small groups of Italian immigrants, who had settled into this part of the Village.

Luksbleeckerandcarminestreets2

Ashcan School artist and Greenwich Villager George Luks is the painter, and he often depicted immigrant crowds on city street corners.

Are we looking at the corner just across from Our Lady of Pompeii Church?

When New Yorkers pitched in for “Bundle Day”

February 11, 2013

The idea came from a businessman in St. Louis. In 1911, a banker named Ben Altheimer launched that city’s first Bundle Day—a day set aside to collect and give out clothes to the poor and unemployed.

Bundledayline

Bundle Day spread to New York in 1915. A Bundle Day committee, part of the Mayor’s Committee on Unemployment, was formed, headed by women with last names like Vanderbilt, Astor, and Hewitt.

They convinced pastors to mention Bundle Day in their sermons, and they printed tags to be handed out to parishioners that requested they donate “bundles” of garments for men, women, and children.

Bundledaysorting

Railroad stations, department stores, and express companies agreed to transport the bundles. Police stations and schools were serving as drop-off locations, wrote The New York Times on January 31, 1915.

“[Sic] no coat or wrap could be so ragged that it would not be welcome, and [sic] no pair of shoes so hopelessly worn that it should be omitted from a bundle,” the committee announced. They had recruited teams of unemployed cobblers and other tradesmen to transform old garments, paying them 15 cents an hour, so nothing would go to waste.

Bundledayshoes

Bundle Day was scheduled for February 4, and based on newspaper articles, it seemed to have lasted at least a week—and served lots of New Yorkers. The unemployment rate then was an estimated 16.2 percent.

“More than 100 women, shivering from the sharp, biting wind, stood in line yesterday morning at Bundle Day headquarters, 208 and 210 Fifth Avenue, waiting to receive the warm clothing that were being passed out as rapidly as possible by scores of attendants,” wrote the Times on February 10.

“Scores of other applicants, several of them invalid old men, were without coats, and stood shivering in lightweight tattered summer clothing. When possible these were provided for first.”

So what happened to Bundle Day? It appeared to have been held in the city for several years, then died out at some point; the last newspaper articles about it date to the early 1920s.

[Photos: George Bain Collection, Library of Congress]


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