All the ways to get around Times Square in 1913

This is Broadway approaching Times Square in 1913. It’s hard to make out some of the store and theater signs in this postcard, but you can see the ad for the Hotel Normandie (once located on 38th Street) advertising itself as “absolutely fireproof”—a definite selling point at the time.

What strikes me most in this view is the variety of transit modes: automobiles, wagons, streetcars, horse-drawn carriages, pedestrians walking, even a bicycle or motorbike—with no traffic lights or lanes yet to facilitate getting around!


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12 Responses to “All the ways to get around Times Square in 1913”

  1. Shankar Subramanian Says:

    Wonderful! Hard to imagine that the flashy lights were not there in Times Square. Thank you for sharing !

  2. beth Says:

    I love the way it looked then –

  3. Tom Dulski Says:

    talk about variety of transport, I was watching “the Naked City” the other night and was shocked to see how common horses were in the city in 1947.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I’ve noticed that too in movies and photos through the 1940s. Lots of tradesmen used horses and wagons, like milkmen.

  4. TomF Says:

    Last night I just happened to be reading the chapter about Times Square in Mike Wallace’s Greater Gotham. Here’s what it says about the electric sign atop the Normandie Hotel: “In 1910 a Dayton, Ohio sign man enacted the chariot race from Ben-Hur above the Normandie Hotel: wheels spun, drivers cracked whips, legs galloped, and tails waved, while on the street below, a special squad of police kept immobilized gawkers moving.”

    • Tom B Says:

      The movie was made in 1925. Was there a book where he got that chariot race image?

      • Bookwoman Says:

        Ben Hur is a novel by Lew Wallace, published in 1880 and eventually becoming the bestselling novel in 19th c. America.

      • Bob_in_MA Says:

        There was a stage production around the turn of the century that included a simulated chariot race.

  5. Jonathan E Goldman Says:

    True! 1st traffic light in NYC was installed in March of 1920 at 42nd/5th:

  6. GhostBikeCollector Says:

    The first permanent traffic lights in NYC weren’t introduced until 1920.

  7. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thanks! I’ve seen photos of those old traffic towers with the lights on them. This is a great article explaining the history of traffic lights in NYC:

  8. countrypaul Says:

    Just a little deeper history: traffic lights were something New York was NOT first at having. From Wikipedia: “An electric traffic light was developed in 1912 by Lester Wire, a policeman in Salt Lake City, Utah, who also used red-green lights. On 5 August 1914, the American Traffic Signal Company installed a traffic signal system on the corner of East 105th Street and Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio.”

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