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Slices of Life

I don’t have any grand theme today, other than illustrating some minor aspects of daily life about 100 years ago. First, above, RMS Lusitania arriving in New York for the first time in September 1907. The ship was the largest and fastest passenger liner in the world, which would explain the crowd willing to stand on top of a bunch of barrels to get a good look. An interesting artifact of old films: warm colors and particularly reds came out darker than than our eyes perceive them, which is why silent-film-era actors wore such white make-up. The funnels (smokestacks) were painted an orange-red that was the trademark color of the Cunard Line, but they look almost black here.

Next up, a crowd stopping a streetcar during a strike in 1916:

I get a perverse pleasure from finding old mistakes, and the service responsible for this picture labelled it “Stopped car on 86th St. and 6th Ave. 1916” which it is not. There is no intersection of 86th Street and Sixth Avenue and never has been, since that is in the middle of Central Park. In theory, this could be 86th Street and Sixth Avenue in Brooklyn, in Bay Ridge, but (a) there was never an elevated train above either of those streets and (b) that area was not this heavily built up in 1916. The streetcar is labelled “86th Street Crosstown”, which makes sense since there is a transverse road that carries 86th Street below Central Park. The elevated tracks over Ninth (Columbus) Avenue carried both the Ninth and Sixth Avenue trains in this area, so maybe that’s how the label-writer got confused. In any case, nice lattice truss carrying the station structure over 86th Street.

Finally, “Push cart market, east side” in 1915:

One of the interesting urban-design problems that a lot of cities faced in the early 1900s was what to do with space below elevated structures. (Parking for cars was not yet on anyone’s radar…and radar was not yet on anyone’s radar.) The approaches of the Brooklyn Bridge, some 30 years earlier, were built as masonry vaults that could be rented as warehouse space, but that was an expensive solution. Market space, like this, was a much easier approach: you didn’t have to provide anything but the space itself. It’s not clear to me what the elevated structure here is: the light indicates that there is not a solid deck above, so it’s probably not one of the bridges, but the steelwork is heavier than most of the elevated trains. It may have been a juncture or other part of the elevated that wasn’t just straight track.