When Christmas was in the air in 1908 New York

“Christmas in the Air” is the title of this illustration, a black and white rendering of various New Yorkers crossing paths on a city street just before the holiday.

James Montgomery Flagg, a prolific illustrator in the early 20th century (he came up with the Uncle Sam “I Want You” poster), captures different scenarios: men carry packages for the women they are with, a boy in a uniform looks happily at a dollar in front of a well-dressed couple, and a thin man who might have been called a tramp at the time holds out his hand in front of a woman ringing a bell.

The mix of people and feel of these vignettes are from 1908, but they’re really timeless New York street scenes, right?

[Image: MCNY 62.40.16]

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8 Responses to “When Christmas was in the air in 1908 New York”

  1. boxwoodbooks Says:

    Woman with a bell is probably in the Salvation Army. There would have been a collection pot hanging from the tripod, just partially visita le in front of her.

  2. NEH Says:

    The boy is selling newspapers – his bag is just visible. The well-dressed man near him is holding a paper. I suspect he has paid the newsboy much more than the paper’s cost…

  3. aspicco Says:

    I would guess the “boy in a uniform” is selling newspapers (by the bundle under his left arm, held up with the strap across his shoulders) and has gotten a stunning tip?

    • aspicco Says:

      …especially since the wealthy looking gent is holding a newspaper and looking at the boy in anticipation of his happy surprise? (Or am I overthinking this?)

    • Beth Says:

      I agree. He’s got a strap across his shoulder, implying a bag to hold the papers. It must have been a nice Christmas tip, since papers cost about $.05.

      • ephemeralnewyork Says:

        Yes, good eye, I didn’t see the strap! The older couple behind him look stunned at his tip, too.

  4. Tom B Says:

    I see a lot of detail in that illustration. Some Artist have no respect for Illustrators.
    Not enough diversity for NYC. It was truly a different world back then.

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