Archive for the ‘Old print ads’ Category

Dining at Grandpa Munster’s on Bleecker Street

January 2, 2012

If Britney Spears, Robert De Niro, and Jay-Z could try their hands at running a New York City restaurant, then why not Al Lewis, aka Grandpa Munster?

From 1987 to 1993, you could find the tall, affable Lewis—once a basketball star at Thomas Jefferson High School in East New York—in the restaurant he opened on Bleecker and Leroy Streets, Grampa’s Bella Gente Italian.

There he played up the whole Munsters thing, letting diners and passersby on the corner address him as grandpa.

After Grampa’s closed, he didn’t cease being a local celebrity. Lewis hosted a political talk show on WBAI in the 1990s. He even ran for governor in 1998 on the Green Party ticket (and scored 52,000 votes).

He died at age 82 in his home on Roosevelt Island.

[restaurant ad from the 1990 NYU course catalog]

“New York City as It Will Be in 1999”

December 29, 2011

Well, not exactly. But aside from the spaceship-like flying machines, the skyscraper-packed island isn’t so far off the mark.

It was published in the New York World on December 30, 1900. The Skyscraper Museum has a fascinating writeup about it, which was part of an exhibit on future New York:

“Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World was one of the most widely read newspapers of its day. The Sunday edition, which could sell as many as half a million or more copies around the United States, was filled with colorful artwork, cartoons, and cultural commentary.

“At the turn of the twentieth century, one of the World‘s most popular illustrators, Louis Biedermann, speculated on the future New York in 1999 in a lavish two-page spread that pictured Manhattan solidly packed with skyscrapers, including behemoth towers at least a hundred-stories tall, sporting landing platforms of airships.

“At a time when there were no controls on high-rise development, Biedermann’s illustration exaggerated present trends and technologies and reflected both the fascination and fears of unconstrained growth.”

“New York Riverfront at Night”

December 27, 2011

By day, the turn of the century waterfront must have looked industrial and gritty, the air choked with smoke.

But at night, as this vintage postcard shows, it’s another world. The city is enchanting—lit up by the glow of the moon and electric lights inside and outside buildings.

The first newsboy to hit the streets of New York

December 27, 2011

The tough job of a newsboy—buying copies of a paper from the publisher, then reselling enough on the street to scratch out a profit—originated in Manhattan in 1833.

That’s when an Irish immigrant kid answered an ad run by the sensationalist New York Sun looking for unemployed men to take on “vending this paper.”

“The first unemployed person to apply for a job selling the Sun was a 10-year-old boy, Bernard Flaherty, born in Cork,” recalls Munsey’s Magazine in 1917.

He couldn’t have realized it at the time, but Barney, as he was known, paved the way for thousands of newsboys after him in the 19th century. It was a gritty, unglamourous way to make a living:

“The majority of these boys live at home, but many of them are wanderers in the streets, selling papers at times, and begging at others,” writes James McCabe in 1873’s Lights and Shadows of New York Life.

“Formerly, these little fellows suffered very much from exposure and hunger. In the cold nights of winter, they slept on the stairways of the newspaper offices, in old boxes and barrels, under door steps, and sometimes sought a ‘warm bed’ on the street gratings of the printing offices, where the warm steam from the vaults below could pass over them.”

No wonder late 19th century social reformers opened “lodging houses” for newsboys and other kids who worked or lived on the streets.

[Photos: New York newsies, 1908 and 1910, from the Library of Congress]

The secret tragedies of a defunct midtown hotel

December 1, 2011

Ever hear of the Hotel Chesterfield? Probably not; it was a massive, unspectacular midcentury tourist and show folk favorite at 130 West 49th Street.

Built in the 1920s, it outlived its heyday and was demolished after the early 1960s. A sparkling office tower occupies its old location.

What major and minor tragedies occurred in each of the Chesterfield’s 900 rooms over the decades? A quick search through newspaper archives offers a glimpse.

First, a deadly fall out a window. In 1929, a young actress was sitting on her seventh floor window sill, waiting for her husband to come home so she could tell him about a job she’d landed.

When he arrived, she jumped up, only to lose her balance and plunge to an awning below.

A couple of French opera singers had their room robbed in 1947. While out at the theater one night, they returned to find the place ransacked. Items missing included a silver fox cape, jewelry, a portable radio, and two bottles of anti-seasickness pills.

And of course, suicide. In 1933 a 68-year-old retired salesman from Scranton shot and killed himself in his 10th-floor room. He had come to  New York, a brief article says, to visit his son.

Christmas ads for long-gone Brooklyn businesses

November 28, 2011

There was no such day as Black Friday in late 19th century Brooklyn, of course.

But the commercialization of the Christmas holidays was certainly in full swing, with businesses on Fulton Street—the city’s premier shopping drag at the time—coming up with homey images of Santa Claus and Christmas trees to sell their wares.

This card, from a grocery and tea dealer at 493 Fulton, shows as heartfelt a holiday scene as any ad you’ll see today: a well-dressed mother, a candlelit tree, a little girl watching from behind a curtain.

S. A. Byers Fine Boots and Shoes, at 527 Fulton, was trying to sell “elegant slippers for the holidays” by giving us a jolly Santa, crackling fire, stockings filled with gifts, and holly leaves.

These ads come from the Fulton Street Trade Card Collection, a database of old business cards made available by the Brooklyn Public Library.

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.