New Year’s Eve in post-Civil War New York City

It’s 1865 in New York City. The Civil War is over, families are together, and the holiday season is a firmly commercialized event.

Still, I’m not sure what to make of this illustration, from the digital collection of the Museum of the City of New York. Several children stand in front of a store display, their eyes trained on the toys. Meanwhile, a well-dressed woman and girl stand slightly to the side, watching the other kids delight in the window display.

An image of the haves meeting the have nots? It’s a strangely disquieting illustration, with no one else on the sidewalks on what the caption tells us is New Year’s Eve.

[MCNY, 1865, MNY5788]

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8 Responses to “New Year’s Eve in post-Civil War New York City”

  1. Tim Farrell Says:

    The manner of the woman and young girl’s dress leads me to believe that she is a war widow.

  2. Dreamofjeanie Says:

    The card only says, ‘New Years Eve’. Is it NYC? Weren’t festivities always celebrated at midnight?
    Thank you

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I’m assuming it is New York City because it’s part of the collection of the Museum of the City of New York, and the shop window would resemble other shop windows that emerged in Manhattan in the middle to end of the 19th century, a time that saw a rise in consumerism and shopping as we know it today.

  3. Tom B Says:

    My first thoughts too were War Widow and Have/Have Nots. Although nobody looks poor or vagabond.

  4. Steven J Newman Says:

    The equivalent of a street photo today.

  5. Bob Says:

    This is the “Christmas card of Harry Peters, 1939, depicting a ca. 1865 lithographed [by Kimmel and Forster] scene of Vesey Street in New York City on New Year’s Eve. Children and a woman are gathered in front of a store window displaying toys.”

    See https://catalog.mwa.org/vwebv/holdingsInfo?searchId=2048&recCount=10&recPointer=17&bibId=150199

    Harry Peters was a collector and author on 19th century American lithographs, particularly Currier and Ives. He also donated parts of his collection to the Smithsonian (https://amhistory.si.edu/petersprints/about/index.cfm), the Museum of the City of New York (https://mcnycatablog.org/2015/09/21/harry-t-peters-papers-1790-1988/), and others. A copy of this card is apparently also in the papers donated to MCNY (Series V.C 71 Graphic Collections: Holiday Cards 8 Peters, Harry T: New Year’s Eve circa 1925-1940).

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