Posts Tagged ‘Incredible New York’

The “loud and lurid” Haymarket on 30th Street

June 25, 2010

In the late 19th century, the Tenderloin district—from Madison Square to the West 40s along Broadway—was the city’s boozy, sleazy, party area, kind of like Times Square in the 1970s.

Incredible New York, by Lloyd Morris, describes it this way:

“Here were located the most noted gambling resorts and brothels, the garish saloons, restaurants and dance halls where prostitutes solicited customers, the shady hotels and lodging houses where couples without luggage could hire rooms by the hour or the night.”

But no place in the Tenderloin was as sinful as the Haymarket, here painted by John Sloan in 1907.

“The Haymarket—which combined the attractions of a restaurant, dance hall, and variety show—saw to it that you did not lack feminine companionship,” wrote Morris. “The fun, like the females, was loud and lurid.”

The evolution of the Bowery Boy

October 3, 2008

In the early 1800s, when the Bowery became the theater and entertainment district of New York, the Bowery Boy of the time was more of a stylish young city guy than outright thug. A New York Times article entitled “Passing of the Old Bowery,” published in 1905, describes him as such:

“The Bowery Boy of those days was more or less of a dandy, so far as oiled hair, grandiloquent manners, and showy clothes go to make a dandy. He was aggressive, and always ready for a spree, regardless of consequences.”

By the 1860s, as the Bowery grew rougher and New York was rocked by the draft riots, the Bowery Boy had became an anti-Catholic, nativist gang member. Incredible New York, published in 1951, explains:

“He had already become a dubious hero of American folklore when the draft riots made him a civic menace, and respectable New York determined to do away with him. The Bowery Boy was not an adolescent. He was a mature tough of bellicose nature, with a taste for easily concealed lethal weapons: brass knuckles, a razor-sharp knife, a short length of iron pipe, a gun.

“In his leisure hours, on parade, he looked like a fancy-dan. He wore a tall beaver hat, an inordinately long black frock coat, loud, checked bell-bottomed pants, a vivid, floppy kerchief knotted under his collar. . . . The Bowery Boy was a plug-ugly always ready for a row, and he resented nothing more than the intrusion of outsiders into his favorite haunts.”

By the end of the century, the Bowery Boys had disappeared . . . only to be revived in the 1940s and 1950s as a streetwise yet loveable group of ruffians in the Bowery Boys movies.