Posts Tagged ‘New York City in 1908’

A tough painter depicts a tender New York

April 27, 2015

George Luks arrived in New York from Philadelphia in 1896.

Passionate and energetic, he was one of many young painters (along with artist friends he met in Philly, like Everett Shinn and William Glackens) whose work focused on the tenderness of the city’s underbelly.

[“The Bread Line”]


“One of the dynamic, young group of American Realists known as the Ashcan School, [Luks] was a tough character who in art and life embraced the gritty side of turn-of-the-century New York,” states the Brooklyn Museum.

Macho and combative, he first worked as an illustrator at the New York World, honing his skills outside of his newspaper job by painting peddlers, poor older women, street kids, and other down and out New Yorkers—as well as impressionist-like scenes of the city at play and at street markets.

[“Madison Square,” 1915]


In 1908, he’d gained notoriety as a member of the Eight, a group of social realist painters whose dark, gripping work attracted controversy.

Artistic styles change fast, and soon, Luks’ urban realism was out of fashion.

“Ironically perhaps, by the time Luks exhibited at the Armory Show in 1913, his formerly radical subject matter and style were overshadowed by the developing abstract movement,” states one gallery site.


[“Spring Morning in New York,” 1922]

220px-George_Luks_I“Luks would teach at the Art Students League in New York from 1920 to 1924 and go on to establish the George Luks School of Painting in New York,” on East 22nd Street.

His death in 1933, at age 66, was characteristically dramatic. On October 29, Luks (at left) was found in the early morning hours slumped in a doorway, beaten to death after a barroom brawl.

Lining up for Salvation Army Christmas baskets

December 22, 2014

Ever wonder exactly where your money goes when you drop bills or coins into a Salvation Army kettle?

In the early 1900s, the cash in those kettles helped fund Christmas dinner for New York’s less fortunate—include a takeaway dinner basket with enough food to feed six people.


The line to receive one of these baskets stretched down the block on 43rd Street and Lexington Avenue on December 25, 1908.


“A crowd of 5,000 eager men, women, and children formed a long line early yesterday morning outside the Grand Central Palace, waiting for the annual Christmas basket distribution of the Salvation Army,” wrote The New York Times the next day.


“There was not only dinner waiting, but staff Capt. Welde, from a large basket, distributed nickels for carfare, while further along the needy were provided with clothing.


“The staff brass band provided music and Police Capt. Landtry of the East 51st Street Station kept order. There was also a stereopticon exhibition and later in the day children received presents from a mammoth Christmas tree.”


Photographer George Bain captured these images of the Christmas Day wait in line, and then the faces of recipients as they took their goods home.

He also had the foresight to take a photo of the contents of the basket, above.

[Photos: LOC]

Taking a drive on the Harlem River Speedway

July 23, 2012

Where is the quaint, summery, country-like scene depicted in this postcard, stamped 1908? Harlem, of course.

“Recognizing the long-standing popularity of horse racing among New Yorkers, the city built a ‘Harlem River Speedway’ along the west bank of the Harlem River in Manhattan,” writes

“The 95-foot-wide dirt roadway stretched two and one-half miles from West 155th Street north to West 208th Street. Presaging the automobile parkways of the 20th century, the speedway was flanked by trees and pedestrian walkways. When it was not being used as a racetrack, the Harlem River Speedway was used as an exercise track.”

Built in 1898, it was opened to automobiles in 1919 and paved a few years later. By the 1940s, it was closed off and incorporated into the Robert Moses-backed Harlem River Drive.

The lovely bridge in the background is the High Bridge. Closed for 40 years, it’s currently being restored and is set to reopen next year.

The great New York to Paris auto race of 1908

November 5, 2010

Inspired by a 1907 race that took drivers from Peking to Paris, car-crazy thrill-seekers came up with an even bigger challenge: a round-the-world race from Manhattan to Paris.

So at about 11 a.m. on February 12, 1908, six cars representing the U.S., Italy, France, and Germany lined up at the starting point in Times Square, which was packed with 250,000 onlookers.

Then they were off—up Broadway and onto primitive roads through the Midwest to San Francisco. There, they hopped a ship to Valdez, Alaska, then a freighter to Siberia.

In Siberia, only three cars were left: teams representing the U.S., Italy, and Germany. The race resumed across Asia, Eastern Europe, and then to Paris.

So who got first prize? The official winner was the U.S. team, driving a 1907 Thomas Flyer. They reached Paris on July 30, 1908.

The Germans actually arrived in Paris four days before the Americans—but they were given a 30-day penalty because they shipped their car part of the way by rail, among other shortcuts.

[Bain Collection/Library of Congress photos]

One of the first Italian restaurants in the Village

September 21, 2010

Italian restaurants have been thriving for so long in New York City, it seems strange to imagine a time when there were none.

That was just before Enrico & Paglieri opened on West 11th Street off Sixth Avenue.

“Countless people’s first Italian table d’hote meal was had here at this proudly immaculate place which, going and growing since 1908, now takes the underparts of three brownstone houses,” states 1948 restaurant guide Knife and Fork in New York.

“A la carte scope is broad and luxurious, taking in all the traditions and offering many specialties of the house, such as pate de foie gras, made on the premises, containing sherry and brandy, straciatella soup, (chicken stock, yolk of eggs, rice), risotto Piemontese (fried in broth with chopped squash, green peas, truffles).”

Enrico & Paglieri closed up shop sometime in the 1970s. Can you still get a full Italian Sunday dinner at a restaurant in New York City at 1 p.m., as listed in the guidebook?