Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Assorted mishaps from the 1964 New York World's Fair -- in its first month and before it even opened



Certainly Robert Moses expected there to be a few little problems to arise at the opening of the 1964 World's Fair on April 22, 1964.  And for the most part, the most popular attractions launched without a hitch.  But a host of bad press on opening day and a litter of minor issues created a sense of unease among some organizers.

The fair was already a controversial venture by Moses -- unsanctioned by the official World's Fair organizers and sold wholesale to a bevy of corporations as a way to fund the hugely expensive endeavor.  Moses' own reputation was on the wane by 1964; the fair would further tarnish it.  Whatever enthusiasm New Yorkers had for the fair in 1964 evaporated with its completion in the fall of 1965, with reports of ludicrous financial mismanagement and a gradual indifference by fair-goers to its line-up of generally un-amusing amusements.

So these first few mishaps from the months before and after opening, in retrospect, seem to be a harbinger for the greater fiascoes which followed.  Money issues, faulty machinery, injuries, lack of planning -- welcome to the World's Fair of 1964!


1) The World of Food never opens
With hundreds of new temporary structures going up, you wouldn't think that a single building lagging behind would be much of an issue.  But the prominently placed World of Food  -- standing 75 feet from the fair's entrance -- was one of the largest pavilions on the fair, and little work had been done on it since ground-breaking in January.

The building was to celebrate cooking and gardening, with weekly festivals devoted to a particular food (shrimp, apples), a rooftop 'edible garden' and a model kitchen with the most innovative home appliances.  A teen center on the ground floor would host cook-outs and clam-bakes with appearances by the hottest young stars of film and television.

It would have, that is, except the organizers ran out of money, and a large gaping construction site sat like an open sore marring the fairgrounds.  Moses and fair organizers wanted to level the site immediately, fighting it out in court with the World of Food organizers.  Finally, two weeks before the opening, the uncompleted venue was finally torn down.

But there was no time to fill the lot, so on opening day, an odd gap in an otherwise tightly organized grounds greeted visitors.  Gift shops sold World of Food souvenirs anyway.  Meanwhile, the fair paid thousands of dollars to store the unused construction materials off site.  [More information at Bill Young's excellent World's Fair site. Image above is also from there.]

2) Ceramic catastrophe
The most spectacular displays were often at the pavilions hosted by foreign countries.  The Pieta at the Vatican Pavilion, for instance, would become one of the most popular attractions.  The organizers from Spain, however, would have to scramble when they opened crates containing a 50-foot ceramic relief by Antonio Cumella called 'Homage to Gaudi," only to discover that much of it had been crushed in transport.

Welders furiously labored to repair the work before the fair opened.  Some semblance of the work was eventually displayed.

Courtesy New York Daily News

3) Rain on Opening Day
The April 22nd opening was to be one of the greatest events in New York City history, and in volume, it certainly was.  Ten of thousands clogged the highways in one of New York's ugliest traffic days. Over 90,000 made it to the fairgrounds to witness opening ceremonies that included a speech by president Lyndon B. Johnson, president for only a few months after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

But fair organized had planned for 250,000 attendees.  Keeping people away was the "November-like weather," torrential morning rain and a chilly, cloudy afternoon.  The New York Times reported:  "The World's Fair opened yesterday morning with a parade that had everything. But mostly it had rain, and 4,000 sodden marchers outnumbered the hundreds of sodden bystanders."

4) Protesters and arrests
President Johnson and fair organizers were met with picketers and sit-ins, mostly civil rights organizers.  They managed to heckle Johnson through his entire speech at the Federal Pavilion and sit in at several fair venues.  In particular, protesters camped out in shrubbery outside the pavilion and had to be forcibly removed.  "It was dreadful, dreadful," said one state official.

By the end of the day, over 300 people had been arrested by police.  What had particularly incensed protesters was a variety show at the fair called "America, Be Seated," a "minstrel-style" show that meant to turn the derogatory stereotypes of old into something fun and jazzy for the 1960s.  "I think we'll start a whole new wave of minstrel shows," hoped producer Michael Todd Jr, (stepson of Elizabeth Taylor), promising no "burnt cork" and that every performer in the integrated cast would be wearing "his own face."

It was still deemed too offensive for many and quickly closed within two days, raking in a grand total of $300.

Below: From the New York Times, April 23, 1964


5) City locked down
If you weren't at the fair, you were probably cursing it out.  A planned "stall-in" by demonstrators to stop traffic throughout the city failed to materialize, but the city planned for it anyway, created a veritable police state that day.  "Police cars and tow trucks waited sometimes as close as every half mile along Grand Central Parkway."

This tension led to a near-disaster at one subway station, when four protesters and three police officers were injured "when a crowd tried to stop one morning subway train." [source]


6) No hospital
Five days after opening, seven fair goers were injured inside fair transportation sponsored by Greyhound Bus Lines. One of these "Glide-a-Ride" vehicles hit one of the eleven General Foods arches (pictured above), causing minor injuries.

But there was no hospital facility on the fairgrounds -- "[T]he hospital was expected to open late next month" -- so the injured were treated at the employee's dispensary and advised to see their own doctors at once. [source]


Leonidoff's Wonder World. Pic courtesy Randy Treadway at World Fair Community. There are many more rare photos of this event there.)

7) Water and Ice Catastrophes
Two big-name entertainments at the fair were plagued with constant accidents and delays before they opened.  Leon Leonidoff, famed producer at Radio City Music Hall, watched as his "Leonidoff's Wonder World" befell perpetual mishaps, mostly associated with a faulty mechanical swimming pool.  The show was hugely expensive and not a big draw (see photo above).  It closed within two months.

Meanwhile, Olympic champion Dick Button was having similar issues over at Dick Button's Ice-Travaganza.  His woes involved transportation costs and salaries associated with his mostly European cast.  This show, too, was considered a failure, closing a few weeks after its opening opening.

However it did have a skating chimpanzee in a dress, so that's something to celebrate.

8) Elephant Attack
Six days after the fair opened, a trainer was "stepped on" by a chained elephant named Anna Mae.  Again, as no fair hospital had been opened, the trainer was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital.

You can imagine what the conditions for this poor animal were probably like.  The animal, known for "her erratic temperament," was chained to two other elephants at the time of the attack.


Above: the Ford Pavilion (NYPL)

9) Ford Pavilion Smoked Out
Nine days after it opened, a transformer at the Ford Pavilion -- featuring Walt Disney's Magic Skyway -- caught fire, issuing smoke into the attraction and causing 2,000 people to be evacuated.  The conveyor belt Skyway was also prone in its early days to malfunctions, leaving fair-goers trapped in late-model Ford vehicles in front of caveman and space-age dioramas. [source]

10) The World's Fair Bus "Riot"
May 16 was a day of record attendance at the fair, so it should be assumed that it was also a day of high tensions and long lines.  People were especially impatient that evening while waiting to board shuttles back to the parking lot.

"A shoving, yelling crowd of 15,000 persons went into near panic," creating four blocks of mayhem as people attempted to squeeze into an inadequete number of vehicles.  A "riot call" was made on the fairgrounds, with additional police and several ambulances called to treat minor injuries and several women who had fainted.

"They acted like animals," commented one bus inspector. Said another, who had been grabbed and lifted by his tie:  "If we lived through [Saturda] night, we can live through anything." [source]

Top image courtesy Flickr Marsmett Tallahassee

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

African lions and dinosaurs, musical plastics and electricity: The sights and sounds of the 1964-65 World's Fair


The World's Fair of 1964-65 opened fifty years ago today!  We visited this unusual New York mega-event on the podcast a few years ago.  Give this show a listen to get a good introduction to our city's strangest celebration of the future.  You can listen to it here or download it from the Bowery Boys Archive:



With its dozens of special pavilions, with its dazzling displays of technology and innovations, the World's Fair of 1964-65 was an especially filmic event, with corporations making canned industrial films to promote their participation in the event.  Here's a few notable (and often cheesy) examples:


Start with this introductory video, reported by Lowell Thomas, best known as the man who made Lawrence of Arabia famous. He was loosely depicted in the Oscar-winning from a couple years before.



This film on the Florida Pavilion could have been taken from an episode of Leave It To Beaver. "In this film, viewers learn about the dolphins that performed at the New York World's Fair."

 

The Sinclair Oil Corporation created its own Jurassic Park, Sinclair's Dinoland.  After all, it was an oil company! Get it?  This attraction also had some of the most popular souvenirs.



Sinclair could fuel your Ford to get to the fair. So why not celebration the Ford Motor Company at its automobile fantasia -- the Ford Motor Skyway, designed by Walt Disney!

 

For a continental view of the park, British Pathe made this amusing promotional documentary:




But this film is my absolute favorite, most likely meant for American classrooms -- a celebration of the creation of the Unisphere!   It features Robert Moses, the Crystal Palace, the Eiffel Tower and an amazingly weird mod spider sculpture.

 

Here's a good time, toe-tapping tribute to plastics, in a musical tribute by DuPont. "The Wonderful World Of Chemistry" was staged at the DuPont Pavilion 48 times a day.



Over at the Johnson Wax Pavilion, you would have experienced this unusual documentary short -- To Be Alive, directed by Francis Thompson and Alexandr Hackenschmied (known as the cinematographer of Maya Deren's Meshes in the Afternoon).  The following  year, the film was the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short!



Eastman Kodak also had a pavilion and released this film about how to take the best pictures at the World's Fair.  Of course, today, this looks like the most Instagrammed film in history:



New York created a special "Subway Special" to get from Manhattan to the World's Fair.   This became today's 7 train and still one of the easiest ways to get out to Flushing-Meadows.  It also comes with a catchy tune!



And finally, here's a selection of beautiful shots from Life Magazine, most taken in April 1964 in promotion for the fair:

The United States Pavilion featured a 15-minute film-ride on American history that culminated in its infamous Hall of Presidents (photographed by George Silk):


In another George Silk photograph, Masai tribesmen dance at the African Pavilion which featured caged lions, a museum of African artifacts, and a "tree-house restaurant" featuring the decidedly unauthentic "African Punch."



Several structures at night, including the Tower of Light and Walt Disney's Progressland Pavilion (the domed building at top) for General Electric, "showing the role of electricity in the progress of man." [Here's the brochure.]



The fiberglass tent atop the New York State Pavilion's Tent of Tomorrow, the framework of which still stands like a ruin out in Flushing-Meadows. (Life/George Silk)



Thursday, April 17, 2014

100 years ago today, somebody tried to murder the mayor


John Purroy Mitchel in front of City Hall, one month after the assassination attempt (May 11, 1914, courtesy Library of Congress)


It was an pleasant early afternoon one hundred years ago today when Mayor John Purroy Mitchel boarded an automobile on Park Row carrying other members of his staff, including police commissioner Arthur H. Woods, tax commissioner George V. Mullan and corporation counsel Frank Polk.

Suddenly, a man later identified as Michael P. Mahoney approached the vehicle, pulled out a revolver aimed at the mayor and pulled the trigger.

Mahoney, described as "a wretched, despairing, mentally weak old man" and a bit of a "semi-lunatic," was an unemployed blacksmith who blamed the mayor for a host of personal grievances. After drifting from city to city, he arrived hopeless in New York, living in a boarding house on East 50th Street.   Later found in his room was a disturbing collection of rantings against a host of prominent citizens and organizations, most notably Andrew Carnegie.

But on this particular day, he meant to off the mayor.  Within his pocket were angry letters to the mayor, although I'm not sure when he intended to present these.

From the New York Times, April 18, 1914



I'll let the original New York Times incident report narrate the rest:

"Suddenly ... Woods saw, just over his shoulder, a shabbily dressed man, with scraggy gray beard, lurch up to the street side of the car, draw a revolver from his coat pocket and level it at the Mayor in the rear seat.  In a moment, he had leaped upon the assailant, striking his shoulders with both arms and bearing him to the street. But he was not in time."

Mahoney's bullet ended up whizzing by Woods and the mayor, hitting Polk through the chin, shattering the jawbone and instantly dislodging two teeth which flew from his mouth.

"He got me! He shot me in the mouth," Polk managed to scream.

Below: Frank L. Polk, obviously before the incident (LOC)



The mayor's cheuffeur leapt to Woods' aid, wrestling the gun from Mahoney's hand.

The mayor, meanwhile, was well equipped to defend himself;  in his pocket he carried his own revolver.  After all, the last mayor, William Jay Gaynor, had also been shot by a disgruntled constituent.  "The experience of the last administration teaches us that there are always a few crazy people in every community and no one can foretell what they will do," Mitchel said.  Luckily, he did not need to use his weapon.

Hundreds soon gathered around the car.  While word inaccurately circulated that the mayor had been assassinated, others leaped upon the would-be murderer, a bizarre heap of bodies upon the sidewalk.  Mitchel, Polk and the rest were then rushed to the basement of City Hall to assess the chaotic and bizarre situation.

Under interrogation later that morning, Mahoney explained why he missed the mayor.  "The trouble is that I didn't wear my glasses. I'm near-sighted."

Mitchel's chauffeur found Polk's dislodged teeth and later returned them to Polk. He later joked that he would have the teeth mounted in gold.

The front page from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:



Although Polk would wear a slight facial scar for the rest of his life. it clearly didn't hinder his career in any way.  He was later Under Secretary of State of President Woodrow Wilson and started a prominent law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell which is still very much in business today.


We talk about this frightening event in our podcast on the Boy Mayor of New York. This blog post has more pictures of Mayor Mitchel, and you can find the podcast here and on iTunes.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Charlie Chaplin on Wall Street: The tale behind the 1918 photo



The comedy legend Charlie Chaplin was born 125 years ago today in London, so I thought I'd use the opportunity to re-post one of my favorite photographs of Wall Street.

In the 1918 photo above, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks draw tens of thousands to Wall Street and the foot of the United States Sub Treasury building (i.e. today's Federal Hall) to drum up support for World War I war bonds (or, more precisely, Liberty Bonds).

The United States had entered the conflict the prior year, on April 6, 1917, and began selling bonds to raise funds for the war effort.  Although many Americans were caught up in a patriot fervor, war bond sales were initially quite weak.  Most Americans in the late 1910s had never bought a bond of any kind.

To promote sales, the government began enlisting celebrities from several fields of entertainment, most notably motion pictures.  Since the New York area was filled with film stars -- Hollywood not yet being the center of the film business -- its streets were soon filled with dutiful movie stars, extolling the patriotic and moral virtues of supporting their county through bond sales.

My favorite instance of this was the sale of doughnuts -- considered a symbol of wartime -- on the street by glamorous movie stars like Martha Mansfield.  The Sub Treasury building, New York's largest bond repository, was often the center of such rallies and fund drives.  (There were even doughnut auctions held on the steps here.)  It made sense to bring the biggest stars to the Sub Treasury to drum up the most publicity.

And so, on April 9, 1918, as the New York Tribune headline goes, "20,000 Throng Wall Street to Hear Movie Stars Tell How To Win War."

Chaplin threw himself into the war effort, embarking on a nationwide tour to promote the sale of bonds.  That year he would make a propaganda film called The Bond:



But there may have been a bit of self-promotion in his appearance at the Sub Treasury.  His film A Dog's Life would conveniently open in movie theaters five days later.

People weren't used to hearing their movie stars speak in 1918.  "I never made a speech before in my life," he proclaimed through a megaphone that noon, standing in front of the statue of George Washington. "But I believe I can make one now."



The dashing Fairbanks -- known for swashbucklers and romances -- happily broke character, goofing around with Chaplin to the delight of the crowd.  "Folks, I'm so hoarse from urging people to buy Liberty bonds that I can hardly speak."

As eager as audiences were to hear their matinee idols, it was their horseplay that caused the greatest satisfaction:

"It was difficult for the lay ear to determine whether Chaplin or Fairbanks got the most enthusiastic reception.   But there one was feature that got more than either. That was the combination of Chaplin and Fairbanks.   The later carried the former around on his shoulders, and the 20,000-odd crowd howled with delight."


Afterwards, Fairbanks and vocalist Harvey Hindemeyer led the crowd in a rendition of "Over There," the American war anthem written by Broadway impresario George M. Cohan the previous year. (The story behind that song was featured in our podcast on the birth of the Broadway musical.)

Mary Pickford was also on a war bonds tour through America at this time.  The following year, Pickford, her secret lover Fairbanks, Chaplin and the film director D.W. Griffith would start the film studio United Artists.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Stunning Wilderness: John James Audubon saves the birds and creates a rare 19th century masterpiece


Happy Easter!  Audubon's Golden Eagle with its bizarrely depicted bunny prize.  Notice the small man in the background. That's Audubon himself as 'an American woodsman', the only appearance he makes in this series of watercolors.


You'd be forgiven for thinking that the latest show at the New-York Historical Society -- Audubon's Aviary: Parts Unknown (Part II) -- is about birds.  It's in the title, after all.

The gallery, painted sky blue, is filled with them, most in studied, formal poses, trapped in elaborate picture frames, a static zoo for slightly unusual animals.  You've certainly seen the work of John James Audubon and might be familiar with his style.  His creatures are sometimes arched and twisted around a frame in a way that seems otherworldly.

But take your focus off the individual subjects and look around. You're basically standing in the middle of one of the greatest publishing achievements in history.

The Birds of America is an ambitious book of wondrous art, published in sections between 1827 and 1838 and collected in a double-elephant-folio (almost 40 inches tall).  The watercolors here are studies for the original edition of Birds, one of the most treasured books of the 19th century, a landmark of publishing and a charmingly dated approach to animal preservation.

This is the Historical Society's second Audubon show, this time mostly featuring images of water fowl. (Part three will come next year.)  The individual birds themselves may either bewitch or repel you -- depending on your tolerance for 19th century scientific formality -- but the overall display is surprisingly moving.  You're standing here in an age where the published tome itself has become an endangered species.

Audubon was one of the most esteemed New Yorkers of the early 19th century, although as the era's greatest naturalist, he was rarely in one place for long. (His family roots in France frequently took him back overseas where he was widely hailed.)  He owned an upper Manhattan estate Minniesland where his descendants lived for decades.  The watercolors you see in this exhibit were stored at Minniesland for decades; his wife Lucy often bringing them out to the delight of dinner guests.

 Audubon Terrace sits on most of that land today.  Audubon is buried nearby at Trinity Cemetery.

A vista of Audubon's home and the Hudson River. You can see this particular print in NYHS's exhibit:


Hardly any of The Birds of America depicts any creature he would have seen from his porch.  The exhibit takes you along on his travels, constantly on the move over the Atlantic Ocean on the search for specimens. And we get to meet some of his collaborators, including his sister-in-law Maria Martin, who contributes some of watercolors in the collection.

His drive to preserve seems especially prescient today.  In 1829 he wrote  "When I see that . . . the vast herds of elks, deer and buffaloes which once pastured . . . in these valleys . . . have ceased to exist; that the woods are fast disappearing under the axe by day, and the fire by night . . . when I remember that these extraordinary changes have all taken place in the short period of twenty years, I pause, wonder, and, although I know all to be fact, can scarcely believe its reality."

Little did he know that it would be the book itself -- not just the birds within his own great masterpiece -- that would now seem to be similarly imperiled.

You may the most transfixed with the bound edition of The Birds of America in the middle of the gallery.  Behind glass, its dimensions give it the appearance of something you might find at the Cloisters museum.

Audubon's Aviary: Parts Unknown (Part II of the Complete Flock) on display at the New-York Historical Society, until May 26, 2014.  Visit their website for more information.



All images courtesy New-York Historical Society

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Neon Beautiful: Images of New York at Night 1946


"In New York the first lights start to come on at night long before the last light has gone out of the sky." 

 In 1939, a young Paris-born photographer named Andreas Feininger moved from his home in Germany to the United States. He took a job at Life Magazine in 1943, a few years after the publication's retooling by publisher Henry Luce into a showcase for photojournalism.

Feininger would become one of America's great photographers of the 20th century. He didn't document places. He transformed them. In the era before frequent photo manipulation, Feininger could make the ordinary mythical. He could photograph a building and make it look like a rocket ship.  His vision was painterly, finding the iconic within the simple. And when he photographed extraordinary things -- like his favorite subject, New York City -- the result was often transcendent.

On August 5, 1946, Life ran a photo essay by Feininger called "New York At Night."  It's extraordinary for several reasons.  Most Life photography up until this time -- in fact, most Feininger's finest work --  was in black-and-white.

In fact that issue is all black-and-white -- except the advertisements and "New York at Night."

Just a few years before, New York was a darkened city at night due to wartime precautions.  But in the summer of 1946, the city was again abuzz.  Color photography itself had seen startling innovations but it was still a dazzling rarity then.

A revitalized New York City rendered in color prints by one of Life's brightest talents?  It was the closest a print publication could come to conjuring magic.

Here's several images from "New York at Night," courtesy Life Magazine.  You can view the entire issue here for some context. (It's worth a read, especially the article on a kids radio station!)

You can click into each image for greater detail.  And see if you can identify where in Midtown each of these photographs were taken!

















And some music to put you in the mood, a song that was near the top of the charts in the summer of 1946:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A short history of New York City's various Titanic memorials


From a 1912 handbill, drumming up support for a proper memorial. (Courtesy Seaman's Institute)

In our podcast on the South Street Seaport, we forgot to mention a very interesting little landmark to the area -- the Titanic Memorial, a 60-foot white lighthouse that sits in the little plaza at Fulton and Water Streets.

This was no mere decorative lighthouse as it seems today.  For much of its history, it was an operational light source, a beacon over the East River.  Below: The memorial's first home, atop the Seamen's Church Institute (Courtesy NYPL)


The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, killing more than 1,500 people from all social classes.  The loss shook society to its core.  Among the victims were prominent New York businessmen and benefactors such as John Jacob Astor IV and Benjamin Guggenheim.  As New Yorkers mourned the loss of loved ones, they immediately funneled their grief into the building of memorials, the physical remembrance of a disaster that left virtually no trace behind.

Mayor William Jay Gaynor gathered community leaders to City Hall in May 1912 to solicit ambitious ideas of the new memorial.   The Evening World attributes one idea for a lighthouse to engineer Carroll Livingston Riker, who suggested "the lighthouse should be located at some perilous point on the coast, illuminated by a most powerful light and with a great fog horn that may be heard many miles as part of its equipment."

Meanwhile, a less dramatic lighthouse memorial (pictured above) was funded by J.P. Morgan and planned for the top of the new Seamen's Church Institute at 25 South Street.  The lighthouse was equipped with a time ball which was lowered at noon to help distant sailors adjust their equipment.  (This same sort of ball is affixed to the top of One Times Square in 1908, dropped every year at ring in the new year.)

The lighthouse memorial was dedicated on the first anniversary of the disaster with many family and friends of victims in attendance.

The New York Times claims the lighthouse and ball drop features atop the Institute "were simply features of the existing plan, relabeled as a memorial." [source]  However it became New York's most prominent remembrance of the Titanic disaster after all when, over at City Hall, nobody could make up their mind on a truly grand memorial.  (All you need to know about the city's failed efforts is illustrated in this 1912 headline on one meeting -- "One Man Made 18 Speeches.")

Meanwhile, there were other Titanic memorials being planned in other parts of the city.  In Greenwich Village, in the Washington Square studios of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the artist began work on a sculpture for a national memorial in Washington D.C.

She displayed a model for the memorial in February 1916 that drew gasps from society women.  "[T]he present figure with its pedestal extends from floor to ceiling and catches interesting lights that add to the highly dramatic conceptions."  [source] At left: A study of the Titanic memorial which was displayed at Whitney's Village studio. (Courtesy AAA/Whitney Museum)

Whitney's triumphant statue --of a figure with arms outstretched (not unlike Kate Winslet's pose in the film Titanic) -- was completed in 1918 but not installed in Washington until 1930 due to waterfront construction delays.  A

Yet another Titanic memorial was planned in June 1912 to honor philanthropists Isador and Ida Strauss near their home on the Upper West Side. A competition was held in 1913 for aspiring sculptors, with Augustus Lukeman's pondering nymph the eventual winner. The statue and the newly named Straus Park were formally dedicated on April 15, 1915.

Featured at the dedication ceremony were 800 children who had been helped by Straus' Educational Alliance in the Lower East Side.

Below: Dedication of Straus Square and its curious monument. (Courtesy Library of Congress)



As for the Titanic Lighthouse Memorial?  It sat dutifully atop the Seamen's Institute for decades, its green light a welcome beacon to those entering the harbor.  By the 1950s, shipping no longer came through the area of New York's waterfront, and the Institute eventually sold its building.

The lighthouse was donated to the South Street Seaport Museum in 1968, then a budding institution formed just a couple years prior to protect the historic structures of the area.  For a time, the lighthouse actually sat on the waterfront before relocating back to its present home in 1976, in a park partially funded by Exxon Oil.

There was one other memorial to the Titanic disaster -- the Wireless Operators Memorial at Battery Park.  This bronze cenotaph and fountain was dedicated in 1915 to nine intrepid employees -- "wireless heroes" -- who died on the Titanic and in other ocean disasters.

Wrote J. Andrew White in 1915: "It is an eloquent reminder of a tradition that has grown out of the brand of courage which seeks no precedent, which, founded on the heroic action of a mere boy, has been written in the indelible annals of the men who go down to the sea in ships."

But don't go looking for the memorial today.  It's been in storage since 2005. Will we ever see it again?



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The naming of Times Square -- 110 years ago today!




Looking south towards the Times Building, 1904 and 2013: Top pic courtesy Library of Congress; Bottom pic courtesy nyclovesnyc

From the New York Times, April 9, 1904:

"Mayor [George B.] McClellan yesterday signed the resolution adopted by the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday last changing the name of Long Acre Square to that of Times Square.  This follows out the recommendation of the Rapid Transit Commission and of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company, which is to operate the subway, and it is intended by the Rapid Transit Commission at its next meeting to call the subway station at Broadway and Forty-Second Street Times station.

The resolution with Mayor McClellan has signed becomes operative at once, and authorizes the President of the Borough of Manhattan to take such steps in the matter as may be proper and necessary.  This includes the alteration of street signs.  Times Square takes in the triangle on which the new building of The New York Times is situated, and the name applies to the entire section between Forty-Second and Forty-Seventh Streets, Broadway and Seventh Avenue."

You can check this entire 1904 issue of the New York Times on their snazzy, endlessly fascinating new TimesMachine, which gives you access to their entire array of back issues.

Below: The illustration of Times Square which ran in the April 9th issue:


Below: A letter written by publisher Adolph Ochs to the New York Herald (Courtesy New York Public Library)

"I am pleased to say that Times Square was named without any effort or suggestion on the part of the Times.  It was brought about by the necessity of naming the Subway Station in the Times building something other than Forty-second Street or Broadway, as there were other stations both on Forty-second Street and Broadway......."

"The old name of Long Acre Square meant nothing, signified nothing."




Newspaper content courtesy the New York Times