New York City

Posted by Ellen

Back in 1909, high school graduation day was something like prom night nowadays; it had become so expensive and extravagant that the editors of the New York Times were fussing about it.

A girl's graduation dress might cost $10--$280 today--or even more. At the city's Washington Irving High School, the dressmaking department came up with the idea of dollar dresses--fabric, trimming, thread, buttons, etc., all purchased for less than one dollar total--to be sewn by the graduate herself. Twenty-seven girls in the class of 1909 took up the challenge, and according to the New York Times, all twenty-seven dresses were indistinguishable from the expensive ones worn by their classmates on commencement day.

In 1905 my grandmother sewed herself a wedding dress that looked much like these dresses. Assuming that the fabric and notions must have cost her about dollar, she would have earned the money by selling a hundred glasses of seltzer at a penny apiece, and then washing all hundred glasses.

Posted by Ellen

Mike Adams's shot of dancers on the Coney Island boardwalk won a purchase award in the 2012 Double Exposure photographic exhibition in Tuscaloosa.

Posted by Ellen

As the sun sets over New Jersey, the Milano's Italian Sausage trucks begin their nightly rounds in Manhattan.

New York City's new High Line Park repurposes an old elevated railroad track along the west side of lower Manhattan for strolling and people-watching high above the bustle of downtown streets. Trees and flowers grow out of the old track bed, blooming between the ties, while in the distance is the river, the skyscrapers, the restaurants and nightclubs, and, along this stretch of the route, the warehouses of the old meatpacking district.

 

Posted by Ellen

I've done my due diligence on this; "Richie's photo is 100% legit," says Michele, the photographer's wife. No Photoshop.

The signs were posted at the corner of Madison Avenue and 81st Street in Manhattan, one block east of the Met. "Only in New York," observes Richie, the photographer–but I beg to differ. Traffic is all screwed up everywhere nowadays, as is politics and the economy, and if you know which way to go, don't even bother trying to tell me because I can't believe anybody any more.

Posted by Ellen

This was the scene on Fifth Avenue in New York City during the 1904 Easter Parade.

Easter Parades are different from all other parades: no floats, no marching bands. They began spontaneously in the 1870s, according to what I read on the intertubes, as people got dressed up in their finest and went downtown to promenade. Easter parades still existed in Washington when I was a little girl, I believe along Connecticut Avenue. I never actually saw one in person, but I did get new clothes, new white gloves, and sometimes even a new hat with a ribbon.

If you click on this picture and study the enlarged version, there are plenty of details for your delectation: a horseless carriage amidst the horsey kind, a boy delivering flowers, men with tophats amongst the men with bowler hats. . . .

Posted by Ellen

For most of the twentieth century, the fare for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry--a five-mile, twenty-five-minute trip between Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan Island and St. George Terminal at the northern tip of Staten Island--was a nickel. By the late 1960s, when I took my ferry ride, there really wasn't anything else on earth you could still buy for a nickel; even a coke had gone up to a dime.

In the 1980s and 1990s the ticket price was raised a couple of times, till it cost a quarter. But then in 1997, for reasons I know nothing about, the fare was dropped altogether. It's a free ride now, and it operates twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Last year, people made twenty-one million trips on the ferry.

These people were taking their free ride late one night in December 2010.

Posted by Ellen

 

During the godawful heat wave of July 1901, nobody in New York was in a good mood, and everybody was mad at the ice companies. The reason was that hot summer weather was associated with both increased demand for ice and reduced supply of well water with which to make ice at the  big ice plants in Brooklyn and the Bronx. So the ice companies started using city water to supplement well water, and on the hottest days, they used so much municipal water that taps literally ran dry all over town. New Yorkers complained loudly to their elected officials, but the ice industry also had ways of "communicating" with politicians.

Giving away a little free ice--bring your own dishpan--was a public relations gesture on the part of the ice-makers. But note that a police presence was necessary at the ice lines.

The heat wave of July 1901, with temperatures near 100 degrees, killed thousands of people. The misery was compounded by the deaths of thousands of animals, including horses pulling ambulances and fire engines, who dropped dead in their traces while responding to emergencies. Sanitation crews fell far behind in removing carcasses from the streets. Anybody who could afford to get out of town got out of town.

 

Posted by Ellen

 

Looking southward down Manhattan from the top of 30 Rock, toward the Empire State Building and beyond. That's the Verrazano Narrows Bridge near the top of the photo, connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island.