Archive for the ‘Old print ads’ Category

Where gentlemen got their hair done in 1852

June 7, 2012

The St. Nicholas Hotel, between Spring and Broome Streets on Broadway, was an opulent marvel of a hotel that catered to New York’s wealthy elite in the years before and after the Civil War.

Opened in 1853, it was the first hotel to offer “water closets” with hot and cold water as well as gas in every room.

Guests also had the opportunity to get coiffed and groomed, thanks to Phalon’s, the “hair dressing establishment” located in the hotel.

“A clean hairbrush for every visitor” Phalon’s advertised, reports a 1934 New York Times article on wood engravings, from which this 1853 print was likely made [from the NYPL Digital Collection]

The St. Nicholas bit the dust in 1884.

Vacation homes hidden on downtown rooftops

May 17, 2012

I love the compact rooftop houses that pop on on residential buildings all over the city—especially when they look like they belong on Cape Cod or in the Catskills rather than Chelsea or the West Village.

This sweet little ranch resembles something you’d find out West. Even the few trees shading the house have a big-sky vacation feel.

If you lived here, you’d wake up each morning under one of the coolest faded ads in Manhattan.

New York City doesn’t have too many saltbox houses. But then there’s this little bit of Massachusetts on a rooftop just south of Madison Square Park. The drawback: living steps away from an Apple billboard.

This Eighth Avenue and West 13th Street three-story home could fit near the dunes in Amagansett, no? It’s a smaller, contemporary version of the building it’s perched on top of.

Check out more incredible rooftop living quarters here.

Long-defunct clubs of 1980s Manhattan

April 12, 2012

They’re physically gone, but these performance spaces still live on in vintage newspaper ads—in this case the September 1984 issue of monthly East Village arts paper East Village Eye.

It must have been rough getting over to Chandalier, between Eighth and Ninth Streets off Avenue C. In 1984, this wasn’t exactly gentrified territory.

“The door opens onto a long narrow room, the front half of which serves as the performance space and seating area,” states this reference. “The back half houses the wooden bar with several wobbly stools, a fireplace that doesn’t seem to work, and piecemeal old furniture where spectators sit waiting for the performance to start.”

Today the building houses a hardware store.

The Shuttle, not far away on East Sixth Street between Avenues A and B, opened in 1984. A former squat, the space hosted readings, art exhibits, and East Village character/character actor Rocket Redglare’s cabaret show.

121 West 31st Street is an unmarked storefront, and almost no trace of Pizza a Go Go—a former dance club?—remains.

But there is this reference to the place; it’s on a page of party pics featuring a young Madonna and other cool kids from a monthly paper called NY Talk.

“The best New York bands of the late ’70s”

January 16, 2012

That’s according to this early 1980s ad, offering a free cassette (cassette!) of the best 1970s downtown rock to anyone who forks over $12 for a year’s subscription to the East Village Eye.

Television and Patti Smith are at the top of the list, as well as lesser-known bands who haven’t been quite so mythologized, such as The Model Citizens and Theoretical Girls.

It was a very different East Village scene than the one we have today, explains Lisa Robinson in a 2002 Vanity Fair article, by way of Bryan Waterman’s 2011 book, Marquee Moon:

“No one talked—ever—about the stock market. No one went to the gym. Everyone smoked. Bands did two sets a night. Television jammed for hours at a time. Onstage (and off), Patti could talk like nobody’s business. . . . Patti Smith and Television and the Ramones and Talking Heads and Blondie were like our own little black-and-white 8mm movies that we thought would conquer the world.”

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.