Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category

New York’s high-school student strike of 1950

March 24, 2014

StudentstrikebrooklynpubliclibraryIt all started with a proposed teacher pay raise.

In 1950, New York City high school teachers called on Mayor William O’Dwyer to increase their 2-5K yearly salaries by $600.

O’Dwyer balked, offering no more than $200. In response, teachers stopped supervising extracurricular activities. So O’Dwyer’s administration suspended sport teams, clubs, and other school groups.

With their extracurriculars gone, students were angry.

To protest O’Dwyer, they staged a student strike over three days in late April, ditching their morning classes or not showing up at all.

SchoolstrikeheadlineInstead, thousands of high-school kids (mostly from Brooklyn) marched to City Hall in Lower Manhattan, with the number of strikers swelling on the third day.

“Carrying banners on which their pro-teacher sentiments were scrawled in lipstick, they held up subway trains, wrecked automobiles, and dared police to break them up and were prevented only by hasty police action from forcing their way into the office of Mayor O’Dwyer, who had refused to discuss higher salaries,” wrote Life on May 8.

Studentstrikelifemagazine

Of the strikers, The New York Times reported, “The vast majority of the youngsters were laughing and good-natured, and moved when they were asked. A few tried to stand their ground and spoke sharply to the police about ‘democracy’ and ‘people’s rights.’”

Studentstrikelifemagazine2By that third afternoon, the police had cleared out the students, and most returned to class the next morning.

School officials claimed the strikes were organized by “subversive elements,” according to Life. The teachers insisted they had nothing to do with it and denounced the striking students.

Was it worth it? Well, it took another 18 months for the city and the teachers to reach a pay compromise, and extracurriculars didn’t resume until September 1951, according to an excellent piece on the strike from Brooklynology.

[Top photo: Brooklynology/Brooklyn Public Library; Life magazine]

Old Brooklyn’s adorable schoolyard gardeners

March 22, 2014

The whole farm-to-table food movement? It’s not as new to affluent Brooklyn as you’d think.

In 1905, this group of young, sun-protected (look at those wide-brimmed hats and bonnets!) residents posed next to their wheelbarrows and watering cans in their backyard school garden.

Prattlittlefarmerskindergarten1905

They were enrolled in the kindergarten at Pratt Institute in Clinton Hill, which apparently had a little plot of land to help these city kids learn about dirt, seeds, and growing their own food.

Life in a New York University dorm in 1897

January 30, 2014

Today’s NYU students have an array of university housing options available to them. In 1897, dorm options were probably more limited.

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This 1897 photo shows the inside of a dorm room at the old University Heights campus in the Bronx, personalized with a horseshoe . . . and boxing gloves? One student is trying to study, the other appears to be playing music . . . college life hasn’t changed.

The caption to the photo, from this fascinating NYU history website, states: “The earliest evidence of university housing is an 1840 list of six students residing in the old University Building on Washington Square.”

NYU had fraternities back then too. Here, some 1890s bros smoke pipes and do bong hits.

A pioneering photographer’s Greenwich Village

January 27, 2014

Born in 1870 in Ontario, Jessie Tarbox Beals starting taking photos in 1888, the year she won a camera for selling a magazine subscription.

She then scored staff photographer jobs at national newspapers, mostly in upstate New York and New England.

Jessietarboxbealspatchinplace1910

Beals was the rare female news photographer in a field dominated by men—partly because journalism was generally closed to women.

But also, few women could lug the 50 pounds of camera equipment required for the job (while wearing a whalebone corset, no less).

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In 1905, she and her husband settled in New York City. Here she produced some of her most enduring images, particularly after she moved to Greenwich Village in 1917 and opened a studio in Sheridan Square.

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A favorite subject was Bohemian life: the tearooms and cafes where writers and artists congregated, as well as the Village’s crooked alleys and mews.

The Ink Pot, above, was a small magazine run from a Sheridan Square office, per the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation.

Jessietarboxbealscrumperie

She also trained her camera on street life scenes, particularly of city kids at school (below, a school lunch at P.S. 40) and at play, selling photos to leading magazines and newspapers and turning some into postcards.

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She credited her success with her ability to hustle work—and also her inner strength. “‘Mere feminine, delicate, Dresden china type of women get nowhere in business or professional life,’” she wrote in her diary, according to a 2000 New York Times article.

Jessietarboxbealsportrait“They marry millionaires, if they are lucky. But if a woman is to make headway with men, she must be truly masculine.’”

Beals (at left) moved away from New York in the late 1920s to work in Chicago and Los Angeles.

The stock market crash brought her back to the city, where she struggled to make a living in an increasingly crowded profession.

She died in the charity ward of Bellevue Hospital in 1942 at age 71, destitute.

[Top photos Library of Congress; school photo: New York Public Library Digital Collection]

Addresses carved into Lower East Side corners

January 2, 2014

These old-school street name carvings pop up in the city’s tenement districts—and few neighborhoods have as high a concentration of tenements as the Lower East Side and East Village.

Avenuecaddresscarving

Avenue C above Houston Street was rebranded the East Village in the 1960s. But this red-brick residence with the graffiti tag on the upper left has the vibe of the LES.

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Above, turn-of-the-century Public School 42 notes its address: on the corner of Hester and Orchard Streets.

Interestingly, this is now known as the Benjamin Altman school, after the department store founder, the son of German immigrants who opened his first dry-goods store on nearby Attorney Street.

Divisonandpikesign

Division and Pike Streets are firmly in Lower East Side territory. Thanks to Ephemeral reader Iman for the great snap!

Cooper Square, flanked by the el and streetcars

October 21, 2013

No sleek boutique hotels stand out in this vintage postcard view of Cooper Square at the turn of the last century.

Instead, there’s an elevated train on the Third Avenue side, streetcars and horse-drawn carriages on Fourth Avenue, and a little pedestrian activity on the sidewalk.

Coopersquarepostcard

The yellow building on the right, at 61 Cooper Square, is the former Metropolitan Savings Bank, built in 1867. It’s still there—still sporting some of the coolest Victorian windows and roof in the neighborhood.

Is that a horse fountain at the bottom right?

A dazzling relic of an old city school building

August 19, 2013

Not only did the city used to construct light, airy, inspiring school houses a century ago, but they installed pretty sweet brass doorknobs, like this one.

Publicschoolnydoorknob

I imagine having these in every hallway gave school buildings a little extra specialness, which fed school spirit and pride.

PS177marketmonroests.jpg1922Remnants like this of demolished schools pop up for sale online occasionally. And Olde Good Things on West 24th Street just got some in.

A pair might run you a couple hundred bucks, but they are enchanting. How many little kid hands touched this one over the years?

I wish I knew which school it came from—perhaps one of these two beauties, PS 177 formerly on Market and Monroe Streets or PS 103, once at 49 East 119th Street.

PS103east119thst1920

Both photos were shot in the 1920s, and both are part of the NYPL Digital Collection.

Old signs left behind on defunct city streets

June 24, 2013

If you have no idea where Manhattan’s College Place once was, you’re not alone.

This stretch of modern-day West Broadway between Barclay and Murray Streets was given the name in 1831, a likely nod to Columbia University, which once existed nearby.

Collegeplace

Columbia moved uptown, and eventually the name fell out of use. A remnant of the old moniker is carved into a red-brick building at Warren Street.

75thand9thave

Meet me at the corner of 75th Street and Ninth Avenue? It sounds odd to our ears, but it wasn’t until 1896, when Ninth Avenue was renamed Columbus Avenue.

The tenement building with the address chiseled into it predates the name change.

Grotesque readers at a Gramercy public school

April 22, 2013

I love the Gothic entrance to P.S. 47, a city school on East 23rd Street that serves both deaf and hearing students and also goes by the name The American Sign Language and English Secondary School.

PS47facade

PS47bookreader1The facade features gargoyles and vaguely Medieval-looking figures in hoods and cloaks. It’s all a little Harry Potter-esque, which should charm the students who attend.

But my favorites are the two figures flanking a doorway to the left of the main entrance, each figure holding open books in spindly hands.

PS47bookreader2

 

The figures don’t resemble kids, but I’m not sure who they are supposed to be or represent.

They appear to be reading aloud, yet they’re a little too creepy-looking to be teachers!

Here’s another literature-loving grotesque, from a building at the City College campus in the 130s.

What did NYU frat boys look like in the 1890s?

February 28, 2013

Meet the bros from Psi Upsilon fraternity, posing in their house at the college’s University Heights campus in the Bronx in 1897.

The photo comes from a fascinating historical timeline on New York University’s website.

NYUfrat1897

A bong (or a hookah pipe?), goofy hats, experiments in facial hair—they don’t look that different from the NYU students flocking to downtown pubs and dive bars today!


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