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This volume is sponsored by 



BRUCE BLIVEN, Vice-President 

MORRIS L. ERNST, Secretary and Treasurer 











A Comprehensive View of the Me 
tropolis, Presented in a Series of 
Articles Prepared by the Federal Writ 
ers' Project of the Works Progress 
Administration in New York City 







HARRY L. HOPKINS, Administrator 

ELLEN S. WOODWARD, Assistant Administrator 

HENRY G. ALSBERG, Director of Federal Writers' Project 

HARRY L. SHAW, JR., Director, Federal Writers' Project of 
New York City 


1 HE "panorama" of New York presented in this series of articles has 
certain qualities in common with an actual panorama of the city, as seen 
from the crest of one of its giant skyscrapers. In neither does the broad 
view embrace a compositional pattern that is wholly tidy, and harmonious. 
What manifests itself in either case is the more or less fortuitous and 
empirical result of group activity. And on that account, perhaps, within 
the broader implications of our analogy, the work may be a more faithful 
and fitting reflection of its subject than could be achieved by any rigidly 
formal treatment. 

As prepared by the Federal Writers' Project of New York City, this 
volume represents the collective labor of many persons writers, research 
workers, editors, supervisors, photographers and others. While naturally 
seeking no individual credit for their own part in a cooperative task, they 
would be remiss in both courtesy and gratitude if they failed to acknowl 
edge the invaluable assistance given them by many persons outside the 
Project. They are particularly grateful to Hiram Motherwell, Publicity 
Director of the Welfare Council of New York City, who assembled the 
data utilized in the article on Social Welfare ; and to the following expert 
consultants in other fields: Frederick L. Ackerman, architect; Franklin P. 
Adams, author and columnist ; Brooks Atkinson, drama critic of the New 
York Times; Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Director of the Museum of Modern Art; 
Paul F. Brissenden, Assistant Professor of Economics, Columbia Univer 
sity ; Stephen Duggan, Director of the Institute of International Education, 
Inc.; Lewis Gannett, literary editor of the New York Herald Tribune; 
James Shelley Hamilton, National Board of Review of Motion Pictures; 
Charles H. Houston, Special Counsel for the National Association for 
the Advancement of Colored People ; James A. Hubert, Executive Director 
of the New York Urban League, Inc.; Vladimir D. Kazakevich, New 
York Chapter of the American Institute of Banking; Lawrence J. Keefe, 
Secretary to the Port of New York Authority; Max Lerner, editor of the 
Nation; Audrey McMahon, Assistant to the Director of the Federal Art 
Project; Frank Monaghan, Director of Library and Research, New York 
World's Fair, 1939; Lewis Mumford, author and architectural critic; Dan 
Parker, sports editor of the New York Mirror; James Powers, sports edi- 


tor of the New York News; Terry Ramsaye, editor of the Motion Picture 
Herald; Carl Randau, President of the Newspaper Guild of New York; 
Rebecca B. Rankin, Librarian of the Municipal Reference Library, New 
York; Chester A. Reeds, American Museum of Natural History; Lester 
Rosner, Research Director of the American Labor Party of New York 
State ; Margaret Schlauch, Associate Professor of English, New York Uni 
versity; Robert A. Simon, music critic of the New Yorker; Thomas P. 
Smith, Jr., Executive Division, Office of the Comptroller, New York; 
Mark Villchur, Chief of the Division of Foreign Language Press, Foreign 
Language Information Service, New York; M. R. Werner, author; Fred 
eric A. Willis, Assistant to the President, Columbia Broadcasting System, 
Inc. ; and Carl Zigrosser, art critic. Thanks are due to Joseph Gaer, Chief 
Field Supervisor of the Federal Writers' Project and Waldo R. Browne, 
Associate Editor of the Washington staff, under whose editorial super 
vision this volume was prepared. A word of thanks must also be accorded 
to the publishers for their helpful cooperation and their patient forbear 
ance in the face of many difficulties. 

It should be obvious that, in the discussion of twenty-six widely diverse 
subjects by many different writers, various individual opinions are bound 
to find expression. These latter are not necessarily the opinions of the 
Works Progress Administration or the sponsors of this book or the con 
sultants whose names appear above. 

The present volume, although complete in itself and sold separately, 
constitutes in effect the general introduction for a detailed guide book to 
New York City, prepared by the Federal Writers' Project, which will ap 
pear at an early date in the same general format and under the same 
sponsorship and publishing auspices. 



Preface v 

Metropolis and Her Children 3 

Habitat Map 20 

Trading Post to Cosmopolis 35 


New World Symphony 81 

Portrait of Harlem 132 

The Local Vernacular 152 

Market Place for Words 162 

In Studio and Gallery 181 

Bricks of the City 202 

Program Notes 231 

Folk Tune to Swing 241 

Entrances and Exits 266 




Pleasures in Palaces 284 

World of Wireless 294 

Newspaperman's Mecca 304 

Athletics by Proxy 312 

Water Gate 325 

City in Motion 346 

World Market Place 368 

Mechanics' Bell 379 

The Urban Pattern 397 

One-third of a City 423 

Body Politic 438 

Good Samaritan 453 


Learning for Life 471 

Perisphere and Trylon 487 

INDEX 503 


FANTASTIC METROPOLIS between 34 and 35 

Manhattan from Rockefeller Center 
Statue of Abraham de Peyster 
Fishing Boats in the East River 
Midtown Manhattan from St. Gabriel's Park 
Lower Manhattan from the Air 

Courtesy of McLaugblin Aerial Surveys, Inc. 
Night View of Lower Manhattan 
Old and New in Architecture 
Skyscrapers at Night 
Rockefeller Center Roof Gardens (with Detail) 

Courtesy of Rockefeller Center 
Trinity Church and Graveyard 

WHERE NEW YORKERS LIVE between 80 and 81 

Old Houses on West Eleventh Street 
MacDougal Alley, Greenwich Village 
Apartment Buildings on Central Park West 
Tenements on East Twenty-First Street 

Courtesy of New York City Housing Authority 
Park Avenue 
Park Avenue Courtyard 
Plaza Group of Residence Hotels 
Street in Barren Island, Brooklyn 
Street in St. George, Staten Island 
Old Residences on Brooklyn Heights 
Washington Square 

Courtesy of Federal Art Project 
Knickerbocker Village 
Sutton Place and Queensboro Bridge 
Workers' Cooperative Apartments in the Bronx 

WATERBOUND CITY between 190 and 191 

Statue of Liberty from the Battery 
Manhattan from the Upper Bay 



Upper Bay, with Governors Island and Brooklyn in Background 

Detail of Brooklyn Bridge 

Fishing Craft near Brooklyn Bridge 

Tudor City, Beekman Place and Sutton Place 

Aerial View of Triborough Bridge 

Courtesy of New York Department of Parks 
Newtown Creek, at Long Island City 

Courtesy of John Albert 
Where the Harlem River Joins the Hudson 
George Washington Bridge 

Courtesy of Port of New York Authority 
Docks on West Side of Lower Manhattan 

Battery Park, with Governors Island and Brooklyn in Background 
Erie Basin, South Brooklyn 


between 220 and 221 
Promenade Cafe, Rockefeller Center 

Courtesy of Promenade Cafe 
Pushcart Market in Mulberry Street 
West Washington Poultry Market 
Shopping Crowd at Fifth Avenue and Forty-Second Street 
Herald Square, Department Store Center 
Fruit and Vegetable Stands 
The Garment Center 
Fashionable Shops on Fifth Avenue 
Pushcart Fineries 
Bargains in Seafood 
Fulton Fish Market 
Pretzel Vendor in Union Square 
Sidewalk Cafe 

Courtesy of Chatham Hotel 
McSorley's Old Ale House 

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE between 330 and 331 

New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue Entrance 
Alma Mater, Columbia University 
Library and Chapel, Columbia University 
Campus of City College 


Brooklyn Botanic Gardens 

Zoo in Central Park 

Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center 

Public School on the East Side 

Brooklyn Museum, Entrance Hall 

Courtesy of the Museum 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Room in the American Wing 

Courtesy of the Museum 
Hay den Planetarium 
New School for Social Research 

NEW YORKERS RELAX between 376 and 377 

Polo Grounds, Home of the New York Giants 

Excursion Boats at the Battery 

Waiting in Line at Radio City Music Hall 

Rainbow Room, R.C.A. Building, Rockefeller Center 

Skating in Sunken Plaza, Rockefeller Center 

Broadway at Night 

Prospect Park, Brooklyn 

Hamilton Fish Municipal Pool 

Jacob Riis Beach 

Courtesy of New York Department of Docks 
Caravan Theater, Staten Island, and Detail of Spectators 
Courtesy of Federal Theater Project 

"Jam Session" 

Night Club Dance 

Courtesy of Stork Club 

NEW YORKERS IN TRANSIT between 422 and 423 

Grand Central Terminal 

Courtesy of New York Central System 
Subway Entrances at Wall and William Streets 
"El" Station at Hanover Square 

Courtesy of Federal Art Project 
Crowded Subway Platform 
S.S. Normandte in New York Harbor 
Steamer Docks in the North (Hudson) River 
West Side Express Highway 


Traffic at Columbus Circle 
Train Shed at Pennsylvania Station 
Motor Traffic on Fifth Avenue 
Staten Island Ferry 

Courtesy of New York Department of Docks 
Traffic in Times Square 
"Subway" Platforms in Brooklyn 

ART IN NEW YORK between 468 and 469 

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Roman Court 

Courtesy of the Museum 
The Cloisters, Fort Tryon Park 
Metropolitan Museum 

Courtesy of the Museum 
Machine Art and Modern Murals at the Museum of Modern Art 

Courtesy of the Museum 
Whitney Museum of American Art, Gallery and Sculpture Court 

Courtesy of the Museum 
Wax Dioramas in the Museum of the City of New York 

Courtesy of the Museum 
Museum of the City of New York, Entrance Hall 

Courtesy of the Museum 
Hispanic Society of America, and Court of Its Museum 

Courtesy of the Society 
Brooklyn Museum 

Courtesy of the Museum 
National Academy of Design 
Federal Art Project Class, Leonardo da Vinci School 
Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit on Park Avenue 

Unless otherwise indicated, all the photographs reproduced in this book 
are by staff photographers of the Federal Writers' Project. 




Metropolis and Her Children 

THE RUMOR of a great city goes out beyond its borders, to all the latitudes 
of the known earth. The city becomes an emblem in remote minds; apart 
from the tangible export of goods and men, it exerts its cultural instru 
mentality in a thousand phases: as an image of glittering light, as the 
forcing ground which creates a new prose style or a new agro-biological 
theory, or as the germinal point for a fresh technique in metal sculpture, 
biometrics or the fixation of nitrogen. Its less ponderable influence may be 
a complex of inextricable ideas, economic exchanges, associations, arti 
facts : the flask of perfume which brings Fifth Avenue to a hacienda in the 
Argentine, the stencil marks on a packing case dumped on the wharf at 
Beira or Reykjavik, a flurry of dark-goggled globe-trotters from a cruise 
ship, a book of verse 

Under the stone I saw them flow 
express Times Square at five o'clock 
eyes set in darkness 

read in a sheepherder's hut in New South Wales, or a Harlem band play 
ing Young Woman's Blues from a phonograph as the safari breaks camp 
in Tanganyika under a tile-blue morning sky as intensely lighted as the 
panorama closed by mountains in the ceiling dome of the African section 
at the American Museum of Natural History. 

The orbit of such a world city as New York also intersects the orbits of 
other world cities. New York, London, Tokyo, Rome exchange preferred 
stocks and bullion, ships' manifests and radio programs in rivalry or 
well-calculated friendship. During the 1920'$, for example, a jump spark 
crackled between New York and Paris. The art of Matisse, Derain, Picasso 
commanded the Fifty-Seventh Street market. The French developed a taste 
for le jazz and le sport; in an atmosphere of war debts and the Young 
Plan, the Americanization of Europe was mentioned. Paris, capital of the 



Valutascbweme, became the bourne of good and gay New Yorkers, the 
implicit heroine of a comedy by Philip Barry or a novel by Ernest Hem 
ingway. The French replied, though not always in kind. Georges Duha- 
mel pronounced a jeremiad against the machine apocalypse in America 
and Paul Morand, an amateur of violence, explored the sensational di 
versity of New York. These were symptomatic. The comments of Jules 
Romains went deeper and established fixed points for contrast with a later 

All the rays of force alive in the modern world move inward upon the 
city, and the burning glass of its attraction concentrates them in the flame 
that is New York. Historically, it has been to an exceptional degree a city 
of accumulation: its methods promotion and commerce, its principle ag 
grandizement. About a nucleus of Dutch and English even French 
Huguenot settlers it subsequently collected swarm after swarm of Irish, 
German, Italian, Jewish and Russian immigrants, a proportion of other 
nationalities, and Americans of many stocks from the seaboard and the 
interior. For the most part, those immigrants who remained in the city 
were compacted into districts especially suited to their exploitation, dis 
tricts as verminous and sunless as the Cloaca Maxima. Here, in dwellings 
that reproduced the foetor of the slave ship in all but the promise of 
eventual liberty held out to the more intelligent or ruthless, they formed 
a crawling agglomeration. This was the frontier of New York and the 
grim apotheosis of the frontier in the United States, preserved almost un 
touched into the third decade of the 2Oth century. 

The shawled refugees from European want and oppression, most of 
whom crossed the ocean in immigrant ships under conditions of the ut 
most squalor, were also transported by a succession of great New York 
trade vessels: the Black Ball and other Western Ocean packet lines, the 
world-ranging Donald McKay clippers, the first wood and iron steam 
ships. These were conned through the Narrows by men off the superb 
Sandy Hook pilot schooners which had been worked out from the designs 
of Isaac Webb in the 1830*5, the hollow-entrance experiments of Griffiths 
in the 1840'$, and the later masterly work of George Steers in such craft as 
the Moses H. Grinnell and the America, for which the America's Cup 
was named. Great numbers of immigrants and New Yorkers moved inland 
by way of the Hudson River sloops and steamboats, the Conestoga wagons, 
the Erie Canal barges and the railroads. Very early, therefore, the history 
of New York began to be a history of the successive phases in American 
transportation. As its lines of influence spread out into the interior, 


thickened and were fixed, it became more and more the commanding 
American city, the maker or merchant of dress silks and pannikins and 
spices, wines and beds and grub hoes. Long before the paramount age of 
sail ended, New York had taken on its alternate character as a great two- 
way transfer point and classification yard for men and goods and ideas 
moving between the other countries of the world and the great central 
plain of America. It has consolidated and enlarged this character with a 
multiplicity of functions which help to determine its position as the first 
city of the Western Hemisphere. 

Approach to the City 

For the American traveler coming home from Cape Town or St. Moritz 
or the Caribbean, and for those others who converge upon the city from 
Chicago and El Paso and Kildeer and Tonopah, New York has a nearer 
meaning. It is, in whatever sense, a substitute home town a great apart 
ment hotel, as Glenway Wescott wrote, in which everyone lives and no 
one is at home. In other eyes it may be a state fair grown to magnificence, 
a Main Street translated into the imperial splendor of Fifth Avenue. To 
such travelers the city is a coat of many colors becoming to each, but not 
quite his own. It is both novelty and recognition that pleases him: the 
novelty of its actual and amazing encompassment, the recognition of great 
shafts and crowds and thoroughfares remembered from a hundred motion 
pictures, rotogravures and advertisements. 

The man from another city will perhaps be least discommoded, his 
sense of the familiar both intensified and expanded. But to the men and 
women of the small towns, the sierras, the cornlands and grasslands, the 
seaboard coves and Gulf bayous farmers, automobile mechanics, pack- 
rats, schoolteachers New York cannot help but stand as a special order: 
the place which is not wilderness, the place of light and warmth and the 
envelopment of the human swarm, the place in which everyone is awake 
and laughing at three in the morning. These things are not altogether 
true, of course but magic does not need to be true. 

The traveler will know many things about New York and there will bey 
guides to tell him many more, in the particular and the large; but he will 
see by looking, and find out by asking, and match the figure to the 
phenomenon. He may know that New York City is made up of five 
boroughs, four of which Brooklyn, Queens, Richmond, the Bronx 
compose like crinkled lily pads about the basking trout of Manhattan. He 


will not know, perhaps, that he and the other men and women who 
travel with him helped to make up a total of 68,999,376 visitors to the 
city in 1936, an off year. If he is an agronomist, he may find a certain 
perverse irony in the fact that the 198,330 acres of the five boroughs, 
without any tillage worth mentioning, supported an estimated population 
of 7,434*346 in 1937. 

But it is less likely that the visitor who moves down one of those 
enormous radials that converge on New York from Seattle and Galveston 
and Los Angeles and Chicago will understand how Thomas Campanella's 
vision of a City of the Sun, published in 1623, has influenced the growth 
of such a modern metropolis as New York. Nor will he be aware, per 
haps, that the verses of Walt Whitman and the paintings of "The Eight" 
and the landscape architecture of Olmsted the elder, quite as much as the 
Roeblings' Brooklyn Bridge and the Hoe press and the steel converters of 
Kelly and Bessemer, helped to create the social climate of the emerging 

In the larger aspects of New York he may glimpse not only the results 
of the Randall Plan of 1811, but evidences of the influence of Geddes, 
Norton, Wright, McClellan, Bassett, Delano, Burnham, Keppel, James, 
the Olmsteds, Lewis, Whitten, Howard, Unwin, Wilgus, Mumford, 
Adams, McAneny, Stein, Perkins, Walsh, the indefatigable Moses, and a 
hundred others of the noble guild of city planners, up to and including 
the work of the Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs, the Port of 
New York Authority, the New York Department of Parks and the New 
York City Planning Commission. He will wish to know how the city 
changes, the extent and character of its physical property, and something 
about the nature and complexity of its functions. But he will understand 
that plant and function are never more than indicators of a series of cul 
tural choices and directions. Finally, he will be made aware of these choices 
and directions at their source, in the character, convictions and behavior of 
New Yorkers themselves: the faces, vivid or distracted, washed in neon 
light the color of mercurochrome, faces of men and women who work and 
eat and make love in catacombs under the enormous pylons of their city. 

The traveler approaches in bare winter or rainy autumn, in keen sea 
board spring or the dog days. He drives a faded sedan with a child slung 
in a hammock cradle in the rear ; or he takes the hot bouillon and crackers 
of the great airlines. He walks the glassed-in promenade deck of the 
Normandie or the open boat deck of the Nieuw Amsterdam; or he 
lounges in the doorway of the Manhattan's radio room. In the streamlined 


club cars of the Yankee Clipper, the Twentieth Century, the Royal Blue, 
the Broadway Limited, or in the day coaches of slower trains, he turns the 
pages of a national or trade journal published in New York Women's 
Wear, Collier's, Life, Variety, Printers' Ink and watches the conglomerate 
backyards of Albany-Bridgeport-Trenton slide past the window. Painted 
with slipstream whorls, his blunt-nosed bus trundles out of the lunch stop 
and bores Manhattan-ward again, the whipcord back of the driver twisted 
as he pulls out and around a great dark pantechnicon truck with small 
lamps at its clearance points. 

The traveler is a fuel company executive returning from a trip through 
the West, a copy of S award's Coal Annual wedged into the briefcase be 
side him ; an elementary school principal from Lewiston, bound for special 
courses at Barnard College; a Cleveland printer out of a job, a men's 
wear buyer from Jacksonville, a Brooklyn clergyman on his return trip 
from Rome, a Pittsburgh engineer coming back from a South American 
cruise, a San Francisco divorcee loosed in Reno and remarried to a Holly 
wood fashion designer commuting to New York. These make up a com 
posite American as alive and definite as Chaucer's pilgrims or Whitman's 
cameradoes of democracy. 

But perhaps only the industrial engineer begins to comprehend the 
technical changes in transportation between Chaucer's time or even 
Whitman's and the 1930*5. Unless the traveler drives his own car, he 
must resign himself to the helmsmen of the neotechnic age locomotive 
engineers, ships' quartermasters, bus drivers, transport pilots whose re 
sponsibilities have been reapportioned into a vast complex of schedules, 
maintenance men, radio directional and telephone signals, cartographers, 
traffic lights, instrument panels and routine instructions, all centered on 
New York. 

The helmsmen themselves are aware of their place in this network. The 
locomotive engineer knows it, intent on the block signals aimed at and 
swallowed by the rush of his train, a full minute to be made up between 
Poughkeepsie and Grand Central Terminal. The bus driver gunning his 
coach in heavy traffic over USi from New England, or the Albany Post 
Road, or the Sunrise Highway, or the loop over the Pulaski Skyway into 
the Jersey City mouth of the Holland Tunnel feels responsibility like a 
small knot between his shoulder blades: the need for quick and certain 
decisions, the judgment of space and time and the intent of drivers and a 
small boy heedless on a bicycle. 

The pilot of Flight 16 eastbound, crossing the Alleghenies in cloud at 


7,000 feet, knows it well. When his tally of instruments altimeter, clock, 
air speed, bank and turn, artificial horizon indicates that he has passed 
the outer marker, he reports by radio to the company dispatcher at Newark 
Metropolitan Airport, chief terminus for the New York district. Pas 
sengers rub at the bleared windows. But as he nears the inner marker at 
Martin's Creek, the mist begins to fade apart into soft translucent islands 
drenched with sun and the voice from the Newark radio control tower 
comes in with the tone of a man speaking clearly in the same room: 
"WREE to Western Trip 16, Pilot Johnson. Stuff breaking up fast. You 
are cleared at 3,000 feet to the range station. You're Number Two air 

In the chart-room of a transatlantic liner inbound from Cherbourg to 
New York, 200 miles off Fire Island in a pea-soup fog, the blasts of the 
automatic ship's siren at intervals of one minute vibrate amongst the 
polished metal or enameled instruments: the chronometers, telephone, 
radio compass, loudspeaker, mercury and aneroid barometers, gyro 
course-indicator and other devices of the new scientific navigation. The 
senior watch officer checks his chronometers against time signals from 
Nauen, Arlington and the Eiffel Tower. A seaman at the radio direc 
tional compass slowly swivels the frame of his antenna ring until the note 
of the Fire Island radio beacon plangent as a tuning fork, but crisper 
is loudest in his headphones. Making a cross-check, the junior watch 
officer sets down fathometer depth readings on a length of tracing paper 
in such a way that it can be laid over the chart for comparison with course 
and position marks. 

Immobile in the dark wheelhouse, the helmsman concentrates on the 
lighted compass before him. No longer must he watch for the telltale 
flutter of the leech, or nurse his ship in weather seas. In the 330 years 
between Henry Hudson's Half Moon, steered into the future New York 
Harbor with a wheel-and-whipstaff rig that resembled a four-armed cap 
stan with elongated bars, and the great express ships of the 1930'$, already 
obsolescent in view of operating costs, irreducible vibration and other fac 
tors, the helmsman's responsibilities have been shorn away by engineers 
and technicians. The automatic steering device, or "Iron Mike," has even 
in part replaced him. 

These new helmsmen of land and sea and air are the creatures of de 
manding time, their senses extended in the antennules of a hundred in 
struments. So they must necessarily regard the city a little as the gunnery 
officer does his target; but they too feel its magnetism. It comes to the 


traveler a great way off, like the intimation of any other dense human 
engagement. The expectant nerves contract, the mind is sensitized in ad 
vance. A familiar visitor, a New Yorker, waits for the sense of the city's 
resumed envelopment; but the bus passenger coming down over the Bos 
ton Post Road from New England watches traffic slow and thicken as the 
environs towns become larger, draw together, give off the effect of a 
brisker life. There is a moment in which he asks himself: "Are we in the 
city yet? Is this New York?" The visitor by rail, if he approaches from the 
south, may get hardly a glimpse of the towers before he tunnels under 
the river and coasts to a stop along the platform at Pennsylvania Station. 
Coming in from the north, he cannot help but be struck by the infinite 
pueblo of the Bronx. 

But to the traveler by air, especially from the north or east, the city 
appears with the instancy of revelation: the slowly crinkling samite of its 
rivers and New York Harbor vaporous beyond, the Bronx splayed out 
and interwoven with the tight dark Hudson Valley foliage, Brooklyn and 
Queens and Staten Island dispersed in their enormous encampments about 
the narrow seaward-thrusting rock of Manhattan. Seen thus from above, 
the pattern of the island suggests a weirdly shaped printer's form. It is as 
if the lead rules had been picked out for avenues between the solid lines 
of type which are buildings. The skyscrapers those characters too pointed 
to be equalized by the wooden mallet of the makeup man prickle up 
along the lower rim of Central Park, through the midtown section, and 
most densely at the foot of the island. 

These last are what the homebound traveler by water sees as his vessel 
comes through the Narrows into the Lower Bay, a journey and journey's 
end which has always somehow the quality of a public triumph. There 
stand the inconceivable spires of Manhattan composed, repeating the 
upthrust torch of Liberty, at first almost without the sense of great weight, 
the distraction of archaic and heterogeneous detail. The forms of "gypsum 
crystals," a giant's cromlech, a mass of stalagmites, "the Cathedrals and 
Great White Thrones of the National Parks," an Arizona mesa, a "ship 
of living stone," a petrified forest, "an irregular tableland intersected by 
shadowy canons," a mastodon herd, "a pin-cushion," the Henry Moun 
tains in Utah, "a vertical aggregation," dividends in the sky: such meta 
phors reflect its diversity of association. As Melville's Redburn indicates, 
the term skyscraper itself a noun full in the homely tradition of the 
American vernacular was once synonymous with moon-sail and cloud- 
raker as the name for a ship's topmost kites. 


Le Corbusier, celebrated French architect in the International style, 
refers to this massed upthrust as "the winning of a game: proclamation 
by skyscraper." And in the third book of Jules Remains' Psyche, Pierre 
Febvre thinks of it as "a rivalry of tumefactions constructed in haste on the 
rock of Manhattan, a -typical fragment of American unreality." Taken to 
gether, both images a sense of the grandiose subjective exemplified in 
architectural terms, and the perhaps consequent suggestion of imperfectly 
realized forms help to clarify a profound intimation of the familiar ex 
perienced by many travelers, even those who have no acquaintance with 
the city. In one of the Regional Plan volumes, this intimation is drama 
tized, simply enough, by photographs on facing pages: one of lower 
Manhattan, the other of Mont-Saint-Michel, the ancient fortress rock of 
France, a cluster of towers about which the tides swirl like level ava 

The visual analogy is striking, but it does not end there. The image of 
the medieval castle-town has gone deep into the consciousness of western 
man. Preserved in masonry at Mont-Saint-Michel and Carcassonne, styl 
ized in the perspectives of a hundred medieval and Renaissance painters, 
translated into fantasy in the fairy tales of Andersen and Perrault and 
the towers of Cloud Cuckoo Land, popularized in the colors of Dulac and 
Rackham and Parrish and the mass-production lampshade, it reappears in 
the apparition of lower Manhattan evoked by the new technology: the 
medieval image of power, the infantile or schizoid fantasy of withdrawal, 
the supreme image of escape to the inaccessible. 

The Concept of the City 

Historically, as Robert L. Duffus points out in Mastering a Metropolis, 
cities "have tended to grow up around something a fortification, a 
temple, a market-place, a landing-place." In other words, the selection of 
site and arrangement have usually been determined by a choice of social 
function, a definite cultural emphasis. Sometimes it was relatively acci 
dental. On the principle that travelers may be customers, a market town 
grew up at a crossroads. The walled towns of the Middle Ages, usually 
grouped about a castle for efficient defense, retained to some extent the lines 
of a military camp ; but the exigencies of space within the walls made for 
a certain homogeneous and charming irregularity. The radial plans of the 
Renaissance, of which Karlsruhe is the most striking example, probably 
developed from the Greek and Roman cities clustered around a central 


temple or forum, although they retained some of the medieval irregu 

Parallel with the unplanned growth of cities, there has always been a 
tradition of planned cities, conceived either as Utopias by Plato in his 
Republic, More in his Utopia, Campanella in his City of the Sun, Bellamy 
in his Looking Backward, Samuel Butler in his Erewhon, to name only a 
few or by architects and city planners for actual realization in stone and 
mortar. The geometrical design for Alexandria, and Wren's project for 
the rebuilding of London after the great fire were examples of this kind. 
Notable among them was the plan for Washington. Challenged by the un 
expectedly possible, Jefferson studied the city patterns of Europe and with 
Washington and L'Enfant evolved the American capital city. 

But it is significant that in general the tradition of abstract design, sur 
viving through the Renaissance, through Karlsruhe and Palladio and 
Wren into the era of L'Enfant's Washington and Haussmann's renovation 
of Paris, is basically eclectic, corresponding almost exactly to the ana 
chronistic revivals of the classic orders or the Gothic in architecture. But the 
criticism is not merely negative ; it implies a basic disregard of the primacy 
of cultural function, of the possible and fruitful coordination between 
plant and function and environment in a new order of the city. 

In any case, for good or ill, planned cities did not by any means repre 
sent the dominant mode in urban evolution. If there was one, it can only 
be called agglomeration; the gathering of flies around a stain of honey. 
More often than not, that honey was commerce, additionally sweetened by 
the perquisites of a capital city. Philip II, for example, deliberately built 
up the municipal strength of Paris as an offset to the challenge of the 
nobles, thus contributing to the new nationalism and the upswing of the 
merchant classes. Tudor London, clamorous with trades and spiky with the 
masts of ships, added central cells of industry to the commercial swarming 
of the city. After the great fires of the next century, Wren suggested that 
wherever possible industries should be relocated on the outer margins of 
the city a recommendation seconded by Walter Curt Behrendt and the 
New York Regional Plan in the 1930*5. 

The advent of what Sir Patrick Geddes called the paleotechnic period, 
early in the ipth century, with its criteria of absolute utilitarianism, 
gradually created the inhuman ratholes of London and Glasgow and 
Birmingham and New York and Berlin that "home city of the rent bar 
racks." Dickens described a composite of industrial cities as Coketown. 
"It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling 


dye"; and "the piston of the steam engine worked monotonously up and 
down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness. It 
contained several large streets all very like one another, inhabited by 
people exactly like one another, who all went in and out at the same 
hours, with the same sound upon the same pavements to do the same 
work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and tomorrow, 
and every year the counterpart of the last and the next." 

New York City, of all the great communities in the modern world, 
has been most acted upon by the agencies incident to the i9th century 
revolution in industry and techniques, most subject to the devastating 
consequences of I9th century laissez jaire and the tensions of exces 
sively rapid growth, most influenced by the multiplication and hyper 
trophy of functions, most compromised by a street plan which united 
some of the inconvenient features of the rigidly classical and the narrowly 
utilitarian, most unstable in the number and distribution of its population, 
most opportunistic in land uses, most anarchic in the character of its 
building, and most dynamic in the pulse and variety of its living ways. 

In a history of some 330 years, of which hardly more than a century has 
been taken up with major growth, New York has somehow condensed and 
accommodated the stresses of 20 centuries in the evolution of Rome or 
Paris. Such drastic foreshortening exacted a price and developed an op 
portunity. The price was paid and is being paid in the primary conception 
of the city as merely an accumulation : the largest size, the greatest number 
(even of units of quality), and the highest speed. It was paid in the ruth- 
lessness and the complementary meliorism that all this would somehow 
right itself of what may be called the utilitarian imperative, which cut 
off waterside areas from public use, gobbled up available park sites, cov 
ered blocks with sunless tenements and no less sunless apartment houses, 
made night and day indistinguishable under the overhanging scarps of 
lower Manhattan, fostered duplication and peculation and high taxes in 
municipal government, and centered a terrific volume of traffic in a few 
sectors already overburdened by subway and elevated concentration, the 
lack of through highways and the density of building. 

These became commonplaces, even rules of thumb. At a certain point, 
the practical effect was that a man could not go to the theater or visit a 
friend without a wholly disproportionate expenditure of time, energy, 
ingenuity and money. But in the deepest sense the sense, that is, in 
which these processes were at once an expression and reflection of the 
New Yorker's cultural attitude toward his city such factors tended to 


become psychological vested interests. The healthy dynamism of a develop 
ing metropolis was perpetuated as neurotic action for its own sake. The 
original necessity of enduring noise, dirt, conflict, confusion as symptoms 
of a transitional phase developed into a taste for the mindless intoxicant 
of sensation. Tall buildings convenient for intracommunication in such 
activities as finance became tall buildings for the sake of mere height and 
vainglory. In fine, the psychology of swift growth its quick sense of the 
expedient, its prompt resource, its urgent energy, its prodigality in human 
waste, its impatience with deeper interrelationships and effects, by-prod 
ucts or details was carried over and intensified in a period which de 
manded consolidation, an assay of cultural attitudes and values, planning, 
a new concept of the city. 

By 1938 the signs of this new attitude were already sharply manifest. 
Long before that, in 1931, Thomas Adams could write: "There is no city 
in the world that has a greater influence than New York. . . All over this 
continent it is imitated, even where it is said to be feared. Men say New 
York is a warning rather than an example, and then proceed to make it 
an example. Outside America, New York is America, and its skyscraper a 
symbol of the spirit of America. It is not only the largest city in the 
world, it is the greatest and most powerful city that is not a capital of a 
nation." There were jeremiads and panegyrics; this was a temperate state 
ment of the fact. 

All through the 1920'$, New York had been not only the symbol of 
America but the daemonic symbol of the modern the fortunate giant in 
his youth, the world city whose past weighed least heavily upon its future. 
Had not Paul Morand testified that the latest skyscraper was always the 
best? It was a city infallible in finance, torrential in pace, unlimited in 
resource, hard as infrangible diamonds, forever leaping upon the mo 
ment beyond. "You can get away with anything," said Ellen Thatcher in 
John Dos Passes' Manhattan Transfer, "if you do it quick enough." 
Speed with its dividend, sensation became the master formula in every 
human activity and technique: Wall Street, dancing, crime, the theater, 
construction, even death. "Don't get much time to sleep," said a Broad 
way soda clerk. "I have to sleep so fast I'm all tired out when I get up in 
the morning." This was rueful Eddington, the telescoping of time and 
space a cliche of the period in terms of the wear and tear on human 
metabolism. Photographers, draughtsmen, commentators all attempted to 
catch this loud moment or to translate it in terms of indefinite extension. 
An aseptic skyscraper city, an immense machine for living, was projected 


by such draughtsmen and writers as Hugh Ferriss, Sheldon Cheney, Ray 
mond Hood and Norman Bel Geddes (of whom an anonymous satirist 
remarked in 1937 that he suffered from "an edifice complex"). 

In this period too New York had broken out full sail as the American 
capital of the arts and a world capital of major importance. This was in 
itself an extraordinary phenomenon. Other large, recently colonial cities 
Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro, Toronto, even Mexico City had shown 
no such versatile and autochthonous upsurge. It could be explained only 
in part by a reference to great concentration of wealth and commerce 
as usual, a concentration in which artists had little share and against 
which, for the most part, they swung the shoulder of revolt. This cultural 
definition came out of the native genius of the city itself and was insepa 
rably collateral with it. To a remarkable degree, the formulation and in 
terpretation of that genius became the first task of the artist in New York. 

Historians of another age may find the cultural rivalries of the Eastern 
seaboard cities in the middle of the i9th century as fruitful a source of 
social interpretation as their contests in trade. Philadelphia had receded, 
Charleston and Baltimore settled into their graceful mold. But Boston, as 
Van Wyck Brooks has superbly recreated it in The Flowering of New 
England, produced a culture articulated in all its parts. It is necessary to 
indicate more closely here the relative scale of that culture. Its perfect 
symbol, perhaps, was the figure of Hawthorne confronting the Marble 
Faun. Its faithfulness to a special Anglo-American tradition at once de 
fined its limits and committed it to contest with the assimilative turbulence 
of its more democratic neighbor to the southward. Even in Emerson, per 
haps, there was something of the merely benign clergyman; even in 
Thoreau, a little of the truant schoolboy decorating his metaphorical hut 
at Walden with the knickknacks of Athens and Rome. And even in Emily 
Dickinson's triumph of the microcosmic, it was possible to feel the sedate 
child who withdraws from the world to thread in quietude the quick 
silver necklaces of the imagination. The neat coherence of parts, the good 
scholars competing for the prizes of the intelligence, the inflexibility of 
ethical referrents, the absence of that excess which is also the evidence of 
supreme vitality, the frugality and unanimity of pattern all these were 
the sedate lamplight of a provincial culture, a culture comparable to that 
of Ghent in the late i4th century or i8th century Dublin and Stockholm. 

But there were giants to the southward men who had consorted with 
the buffalo and leviathan, who were privy to enormous griefs and ecsta 
sies, who had faced the tremendous gales of the world in their most dis- 


integrative onslaught. These men Whitman and Melville were of an 
other breed, another stature ; and they proclaimed themselves men of Man 
hattan. They came of the same Dutch-English stock, bred by that Empire 
State through which the commerce of the nation had begun to pour. Moby 
Dick appeared in 1851, Leaves of Grass in 1855. Both books were shunned 
or excoriated. Then and later, the culture of New York resembled the 
tumultuous cross-rips of Hell Gate. Museums, opera, the theater, libraries, 
lecture halls, schools, the superb education of street and waterfront: these 
were lavishly available, and Whitman in particular made good use of them. 
But the dominant tenor of the city was savage in its commercial excesses, 
ravenous in land use (though the salvaging of Central Park began a few 
years before the Civil War) and brutal in its disregard for health, ameni 
ties, the elementary kindness of life. The deeper significance of such per 
sonalities as Whitman and Melville is that they were archetypes of the 
city's character-to-be. Their decisive feeling for the supreme importance, 
the frequent nobility of the common man, their immersion by choice in 
his hopes and occupations these were as foreign to the men of Boston, 
with their uneasy self-awareness in the role of scholar-gentlemen, as they 
would have been to that earlier New Yorker, the James Fenimore Cooper 
who wrote The American Democrat. 

"He who touches the soil of Manhattan and the pavement of New 
York," said Lewis Mumford, "touches, whether he knows it or not, Walt 
Whitman." Certainly it was Whitman who conceived the city as an image 
of the democratic process an historic reversal, it may be noted, of Thomas 
Jefferson's primary design. The city spoke out of Whitman's fiber: out of 
the broadest and most intimate lines of A Broadway Pageant and Crossing 
Brooklyn Bridge, out of 

Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son, 
Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking 
and breeding, 

or out of 

. . . submit to no models 

but your own O city! 

But in Democratic Vistas he faced all the implications of his image: splen 
dor in the amplitude and onrush, "the sparkling sea-tides" and "masses of 
gay color" which were New York, but confession that to the cold eye ap 
peared "pervading flippancy and vulgarity, low cunning, infidelity" and 


the rest, even to a degree beyond the average of mankind. But there were 
poets to be called up, poets to make "a literature underlying life"; to 
fertilize it, to create again and again the corrective vision of the city in an 
order more nobly human than itself. Whitman said it and said it plain: 

A great city is that which has the greatest men and women. 

Did he not help to make good his own words ? 

But in its essence, Whitman's concept of New York as a symbol of the 
democratic maelstrom was a neo-romantic one. It rejoiced in the splendor 
of the fact, hewed close to it, made it Homeric. But was it not, even in 
that society of transitional latitude, precisely a begging of the question as 
to what means were to be applied to the creation of what forms for what 
ends ends, that is, which might be translated concretely from the abstract 
liberty, equality, fraternity, plenty? Affirmation of greatness to nurture 
greatness, exultation in diversity for the use and promise of diversity, ac 
ceptance of barbarous poverty and wrong in the name of a more humane 
future, faith in the destiny of the free man intermingling freely with his 
fellows: these demanded a confident and practical vision of the city as a 
whole a vision broader than Campanella's, as instrumental as the ma 
chine lathe formulated and canalized in terms of New York's own native 
function and genius. 

On the contrary, Whitman's noble disorder, with its hospitality to every 
thing human, tended to emphasize precisely those impulses toward un- 
oriented mass, energy, diversity which came to their anarchic ultimate at 
the end of the 1920*5. It was Whitman's dynamic, with its dramatization 
of the common impulse, that prevailed in the evolving folkways of New 
York. Even in 1937, the city was most often presented in terms of speed, 
energy, quantity rather than as a correlative for human use and aspiration. 
Nor is it enough to point out, as Marie Swabey does in Theory of the 
Democratic State, that the natural criteria of democracy are predominantly 
quantitative. The confusion inheres in the fact that big numbers have so 
often been used as if they were equivalent to definitions of quality 
as if a tremendous number of housing units, even slum dwellings, some 
how indicated a corresponding total of human happiness. 

Side by side with the most devouring greed, it has almost always been 
possible to find a superb generosity of life in New York even, in the late 
1930'$, signs of a nascent change of heart. If the vainglory of power be 
gan to give way a little to the order of a genuine and mature society, there 


were men to be thanked for it too many names for this place. These were 
the men who created and recreated values; who translated those values, 
under one form or another, into instruments of civic welfare; and who 
implemented the common aspiration. Together with that aspiration, the 
sum of their vision and accomplishments determined the living concept 
of New York: that basic unity, that prerequisite and final virtue of per 
sons, which must be vital to the coherence of any human organization. 

There were engineers the Roeblings of Brooklyn Bridge, Clifford M. 
Holland of the Holland Tunnel, Nelson P. Lewis of the Board of Esti 
mate and Apportionment, Singstad and Amman of the Port Authority 
whose probity blossomed in highways and tunnels, or in the piers and 
cables of a bridge: such a bridge as Hart Crane had envisaged, a figure of 
the flight of time and the passage of mankind across the gulf. Stubborn 
bands and lone fighters John Peter Zenger of the New York Weekly 
Journal, whose trial in 1735 vindicated free expression in the press; Nast 
and Parkhurst and the Lexow Committee; Seabury and the City Affairs 
Committee of the 1920'$ these and a hundred others struck for the in 
tegrity of a free commonwealth. Scientists and research technicians, who 
worked with sludge digestion tanks and chlorination and polyphase alter 
nators, created a fresh environment available to the social imagination of 
an ampler culture. A John Dewey reground the tools of the mind ; a Thor- 
stein Veblen challenged the directions of American civilization, especially 
those directions which New York had long controlled. 

"A very little boy stood upon a heap of gravel for the honor of Rum 
Alley" in Stephen Crane's exact nightmare of the slums; John Dos Pas 
ses' Ellen Thatcher murmured: "I think that this city is full of people 
wanting inconceivable things"; and Thomas Wolfe's Eugene Gant cried: 
"Proud, cruel, everchanging and ephemeral city, to whom we came once 
when our hearts were high ..." These were novelists answerable to the 
truth of the living. There were men who created vivid museums, set up 
liberal schools, fought to establish capable hospitals. Even politicians who 
hoped for nothing but their own advantage sometimes inadvertently con 
tributed to the civic total, as Tweed did in setting out the pleasant boule 
vard along Broadway north of Sixty-Fifth Street, later routed by the sub 

Painters and photographers Albert Ryder and Thomas Eakins, the an 
cestors ; Steiglitz and Paul Strand and Berenice Abbott ; the genre work of 
Sloan, Glenn Coleman, Reginald Marsh, Lawson, Glackens, Kenneth Hayes 
Miller; John Marin's vision of the skyscrapers in a vibrating rondure of 


forms; Demuth's My Egypt and Billings' and Sheeler's stylization of in 
dustrial masses these and others literally created the human face of the 
city for the endowment of its citizens. The work of Hardenbergh and 
R. H. Hunt, among the older men, and of McKim and Stanford White in 
the 1890*5; Goodhue's churches and Snyder's neo-Gothic schools; the loft 
buildings of Ely Jacques Kahn; the skyscraper designs of Harvey Wiley 
Corbett and Raymond Hood; the model apartment groups laid out by 
Clarence Stein and Henry Wright, which helped to anticipate the Federal 
Government's plans for housing developments in the 1930'$: these were 
among the factors that made New York architecture the most exciting and 
various, if not always the soundest, in the world. Too, Whitman had his 
poets not often prophets, but men and women who struck a dark accusa 
tory music from the city's agonism: Edna St. Vincent Millay, Hart Crane, 
Louise Began, Archibald MacLeish, Horace Gregory. 

Forecast by such lively wine salesmen of the arts as James Huneker, a 
more thorough school of cultural commentators whose origins were mainly 
literary set out in the early 1920*5 to reexamine the pattern of New York 
as a prefiguration of the new America. Randolph Bourne's voice, and such 
books as Harold Stearns' Civilization in the United States, Waldo Frank's 
Our America, Paul Rosenfeld's Port of New York, Van Wyck Brooks' 
America's Coming of Age and William Carlos Williams' In the American 
Grain managed to make themselves heard above the noise of traffic. Lewis 
Mumford's broad and precise imagination, the warmth and vitality of his 
interpenetrating sense of the whole distinguished half a dozen volumes 
that culminated in the definitive Technics and Civilization and The Cul 
ture of Cities. There were, finally, the innumerable common heroes in the 
patient and immense body of the city: the workers in laboratories and hos 
pitals who died of X-ray burns or a finger pricked at an autopsy; the riv 
eter tumbled from his hawk's perch, falling voiceless and alone; orange- 
helmeted sandhogs coughing with silicosis or twisted with the bends; and 
the men who could work no more, the unremembered ones Stephen Crane 
found in the city's scratch houses in An Experiment in Misery, whose suc 
cessors were still there when Joseph Mitchell published his sketch, A Cold 
Night Downtown, in 1938. 

Together these engineers and artists and milk-wagon drivers forged a 
concept of the city, a unity for the city, out of the collective character and 
history of its inhabitants, just as the individuality of Paris was defined by 
Villon's reckless verses, the gardens of Marie Antoinette, Julian the Apos 
tate's addresses to "my dear Lutetia," Victor Hugo, the engineer Eiffel, 


Marie Curie's dedication and Jules Remains' great antiphonal hymn. This 
unity, in fact, is at the root of the caricature visualized by outsiders as "a 
real New Yorker" a certain large and shrewd liberality of thought and 
behavior, easy wit, compulsive energy, a liking for risk and the new, cu 
riosity, restlessness. 

There are those who consider that it is impossible to find any unity in 
the chaotic pattern of New York; or that, romantically enough, the emer 
gence of unity would cancel its major charm. But the uneconomic and anti 
social nature of many of the city's living ways demand a clear reorienta- 
tion. The potential unity necessary to such reorientation already exists in 
the New Yorker's own concept of his city. In this shared consciousness 
generated by a look, a grin, an anecdote as cabalistic to outsiders as the 
shop talk of mathematicians the complex of the metropolis finds its or 
ganizing principle, deeper than civic pride and more basic than the dom 
ination of mass or power. To the degree that this principle, this wise geol- 
atry, can be instrumented by the forms and processes appropriate to it, 
New York will emerge in greatness from the paradox of its confusions. 


Habitat Map 

.Nor so long ago, as time is reckoned in geology something like 
100,000 years ago, perhaps the Hudson entered the Atlantic south 
east of Long Beach and about 125 miles out from what is now Sandy 
Hook. From an airplane, if the weather is bright, the old channel may be 
seen as a wide dark streak on the sea. In those days the whole northeastern 
coast was a mile higher than it is now; the Palisades were twice as high 
(glaciers hadn't yet choked the Hudson bed) ; and Manhattan, not then 
an island, was a long chain of great hills. For 85 miles beyond what is 
now Sandy Hook the river flowed with smooth swiftness across the coastal 
plain. "Then," writes William Beebe, who has cast his nets into the gorge, 
"without warning, its waters plunged into the maw of a canyon mightier 
than man has ever seen." 

Attaining a width of seven miles farther out, the gorge here is about 
a mile wide and soon reaches a depth of 1,600 feet. Four miles farther 
along the canyon, where the continental shelf is submerged 1,000 feet, the 
gorge bottom takes almost a mile of Mr. Beebe's sounding wire. Here the 
full burden of the old Hudson which drained the area of the Great Lakes 
and had the Housatonic, Passaic and Hackensack as tributaries cascaded 
36 miles down a great valley to the Atlantic basin, whose floor is 2,000 
to 4,600 fathoms deep. The United States Coast and Geodetic Survey has 
undertaken to chart Hudson Canyon with an automatic sounding instru 
ment, the fathometer; and soon, even in the foggiest weather, ships will 
be able to steam straight into New York Bay by following the canyon's 

The Hudson carved its mighty gorge more than 10,000,000 years ago, 
when eastern North America was being elevated anew. More than 40,000,- 
ooo years before that, during a previous elevation, the Hudson ate its way 
across the highlands of upstate New York. 

After the gorge was cut, subsidence of the land embayed the Hudson, 
made an estuary of it as far as Albany, the tides ebbing and flowing up 



through this whole distance of 150 miles. The ragged coastal contour 
around New York City has not changed much since the last glacier left its 
terminal debris on Long Island and Staten Island some 35,000 years ago 
and began melting its way back to Labrador. It used to be claimed that 
the coast was sinking a quarter of an inch a year, or about two feet a cen 
tury, but geologists now dispute this which is encouraging. For the land 
wouldn't have to subside very much to change Manhattan into a group of 
islets and reefs; and 100 feet of uplift would cause the ocean to retreat 
far out beyond Sandy Hook, making the present waterways unnavigable. 
Such changes have happened and are likely to happen again, but not in 
any layman- reckoned time. 

And by the bye, no earthquake is likely to topple the American Babylon 
into the sea either. The glacier here at its end couldn't have been more 
than a half mile thick, hence the post-glacial uplifts and the rock fault 
ing that causes quakes have been slight. Around Quebec the ice was 
two miles thick, with 8,500,000,000 tons to the square mile, and there the 
uplift has been greatest. Tremors arising there and in New England may 
be felt to the southward; but no quakes have occurred in New York or 
are likely to occur. 

Harbor Outline 

The present mouth of the Hudson at the Battery is 18 miles from the 
entrance to New York Harbor. Divided into Lower Bay and Upper Bay, 
the Harbor is like a giant hour-glass. Through its neck, the Narrows, the 
sand- and refuse-laden tides ebb and flow. The entrance to Lower Bay is 
the five-mile stretch of ocean northeastward from Sandy Hook, New Jersey, 
to Rockaway Point, Queens. Ambrose Channel, seven miles long, 2,000 
feet wide and dredged to 40 feet, is the chief of the three channels cross 
ing Sandy Hook Bar and allowing ships into and through the Lower Bay. 
The harbor occupies a northwestern angle toward which southwesterly 
winds sweep from a great distance, and in the gateway the wind-driven 
shore currents meet and deposit some of their materials. The Hudson too 
carries down its sediment. Thus the bar grows, hooking away from the 
wind. The bar can obstruct but never close the harbor, for the rush of 
ebb tide sweeps pretty clean. Sandy Hook and its bar, and Coney Island and 
Rockaway Beach facing the sea on the South Shore of Long Island, are 
marked coastal irregularities. The shoreline here is straightening itself out. 
First the reefs and barriers become dry land, then the lagoons behind them. 


The south part of the Lower Bay, adjacent to Sandy Hook, is Sandy 
Hook Bay; near Staten Island it is Raritan Bay, five miles by seven. Both 
bays are shallow, shoaling to three fathoms or less over extensive areas. 
The Narrows, connecting the Lower Bay with the Upper Bay, is a strait 
about a mile wide between Staten Island and Long Island. As one enters 
the Lower Bay, Coney Island stands to the right. Farther off is the Rock- 
away peninsula, shielding Jamaica Bay from the ocean. Jamaica Bay, shal 
low and thick with islets, is eight miles by four, about the same size as 
the Upper Bay. 

As one continues northward through the Main or Anchorage Channel 
of the Upper Bay, Brooklyn lies to the east and Jersey City to the west, 
while straight ahead the towers of Manhattan thrust at the sky. Main Chan 
nel is a half mile wide and 40 to 90 feet deep. There are two other chan 
nels in the Upper Bay: one to the east, Buttermilk Channel, leading to the 
East River and separated from Main Channel by a broad shoal and Gov 
ernors Island; the second to the west, Kill van Kull, now dredged to 30 
feet and giving access to Newark Bay. 

Newark Bay is an estuary extending south from the confluence of the 
Passaic and Hackensack Rivers to Staten Island, a distance of about five 
miles. It is about il/ 2 miles wide. The channel up the bay, leading to the 
rivers and branching off to Port Newark Terminal as well, is dredged to 
30 feet. 

The most extensive shallows in the Upper Bay are in the western part. 
Almost in mid-channel lies Liberty or Bedloe Island. Near by, Ellis Island 
is really three islands joined by causeways and has been built up from three 
to 27 acres. Governors Island, now pear-shaped, has also been added to. 
In the early days cattle could cross to the island at low tide from what is 
now the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. 

The Upper Bay is continued in the Hudson and East Rivers. The latter, 
really a tidal strait to Long Island Sound, is 16 miles long, 600 to 4,000 
feet wide, and has a through channel of 35 feet at low water. There are 
three main islands in it, under the authority of Manhattan: Welfare (for 
merly Blackwell's), Randall's and Ward's Islands. The latter two help to 
support Triborough Bridge. 

The Hudson's width decreases gradually from 3,670 feet at the Battery 
to 2,770 feet opposite Fourteenth Street, increasing again to the greater 
part of a mile at the northern boundary of Manhattan. Its channel is 40 
feet deep. The Dutch called the Hudson the North River and the Dela 
ware the South River because these rivers, respectively, flowed through the 


extreme northern and southern territories held by the Dutch. From the Bat 
tery to about Fourteenth Street, where Manhattan loses its triangular shape, 
the Hudson River today is officially the North River, known as such by 
many native New Yorkers. 

The rise and fall of the tide in the harbor averages only about four feet, 
thus permitting the pier system. Ships of every size may enter or leave at 
any time ; but if vessels larger than the Queen Mary or the Normandte are 
built, they may have to wait for flood tide. The total water frontage of New 
York City is 578.4 miles. 

Topography by Boroughs 

Occupying about 323 square miles in the southeastern corner of the 
State, New York City is 36 miles long at its longest and i6l/ 2 miles at its 
widest. It comprises the five boroughs: (i) Manhattan (about 22 square 
miles, the smallest borough) ; (2) the Bronx (almost twice as large) ; (3) 
Brooklyn-Kings (about 31/2 times as large) ; (4) Queens (the largest bor 
ough, more than five times as large); and (5) Richmond-Staten Island 
(more than twice as large). The Bronx is the only borough on the main 
land. With the exception of Brooklyn and Queens (on western Long 
Island, east and south of Manhattan), each borough is separated from the 
others by water; even a part of the boundary of these two boroughs is 
formed by historic Newtown Creek, a four-mile tidal arm of the East 
River. Long Island is 120 miles long, 23 miles wide. 

On the map, the central borough of Manhattan, about i2l/ 2 miles long 
and 2 1/2 miles at its extreme width, looks like a small stone cleaver about 
to hack at the huge loaf of Long Island. The northern handle of this 
cleaver, beginning where the East River branches off into the Sound at 
Bronx Kills, is in the main bounded by the Harlem River, which becomes 
the United States Ship Canal (this traces in part the course of the old 
Spuyten Duyvil Creek) near the point where it flows into the Hudson at 
Spuyten Duyvil. The whole waterway is eight miles long. On the west or 
Hudson side, Spuyten Duyvil is 1 3 miles by water from the Battery ; on the 
east, Bronx Kills is 8l/ 2 miles above the Battery. 

Adjacent to the north is the fist-and-cuff- shaped area of the Bronx, with 
its bony knuckles in Long Island Sound and its cuff formed by the West- 
chester County boundary line. Opposite Manhattan to the west are the high 
columns of the Palisades and the port cities of Weehawken, Hoboken and 
Jersey City. In the harbor lies Staten Island, southwest of Manhattan. 


Shaped like Africa, it hugs the mainland of New Jersey to the west, from 
which it is separated only by the waterways, Kill van Kull and Arthur Kill. 

The staired and serried skyscrapers of Manhattan, rising from the bay 
to rival the Cathedrals and Great White Thrones of the National Parks in 
beauty and grandeur, are made possible by a tough bed of rock, Manhattan 
schist: a thick, unyielding, coarsely crystalline rock glinting with mica. 
This metamorphic formation, found on a major portion of the island, is 
near or at the surface uptown (there are exposures in Central Park) ; and 
the first step in the construction of many a tower of commerce or lofty 
domicile was the stubborn blasting of a cellar. South of about Twenty- 
Third Street, however, the island is covered with glacial drift of varying 
depths, washed down from the higher part of the island. At Trinity Church 
it is 26 feet to bedrock; 90 feet at City Hall; while at Tombs Prison (on 
part of what was once the site of the large Collect Pond used by Fitch in 
1796 for his experiments with the first screw-propeller craft), the builders 
found 40 feet of made ground, 30 feet of black mud, 5-10 feet of blue 
clay and 80 feet of gravel total to bedrock, about 155 feet. 

Manhattan schist crops up again on Governors Island, and there's a 
prong of it on Staten Island, which gives that body of land its third chief 
geological feature. The others are its hills of serpentine rock and its termi 
nal moraine. Schist is also the basal rock of Brooklyn and Queens ; but except 
for a few exposures (in Astoria and Long Island City) it is buried be 
neath hundreds of feet of glacial till. From Bay Ridge to Bath Beach, east 
of the Narrows, this drift material goes down from 200 to 500 feet re 
spectively to bedrock; 500 feet at Woodside; and 650 feet at Greenport. 

Over a period of two centuries and more, Manhattan's face has been 
lifted and relifted unceasingly. Abrupt ledges of rock have been levelled, 
deep narrow valleys filled, forests cleared. Where pools and meandering 
streams made great areas of marshland, canals have been dredged and the 
drained land filled. As the city expanded, miles of similar swampland in 
Brooklyn, Queens and Harlem have been reclaimed to provide space for 
buildings and homes. Battery Park, together with Water, Front and South 
Streets, are all on made land. In fact, the shoreline of Manhattan was once 
Pearl Street on the east ; and on the west below Fourteenth Street it ran 
along Greenwich Street. Washington Square, Gramercy Park, Madison 
Square, Tompkins Square are all located on one-time swamps. 

The swift converging currents of the Hudson and East Rivers no longer 
wear away the precious shoreline of the island, as they did at a good rate 
in the city's earliest days, when the tip of Manhadoes (Island of the Hills) 


was a great deal narrower. A rocky promontory projected from the shore, 
forming a natural breakwater, and in this sheltered cove Indians landed 
their canoes. Its boulders helped to construct the ramparts of Fort Amster 
dam. At that time the Battery was a receding bluff which fronted the Hud 
son between the present Bowling Green and Trinity Church. 

Broadway was laid out over an Indian trail that ran along a chain of 
hills from the Battery to the vicinity of Canal Street, where another trail 
cut east to Maiginnac, or Corlear's Hook, and west to the Village of 
Lapinikan, where the Indians crossed the forest-fringed Hudson to Hobo- 
kan, Hacking and on south to the Delaware. Covered with oak, hickory 
and chestnut, the chain of ragged hills extended to Canal Street, where 
valleys and marshland on both sides of the hills spread across the island 
so low that at high tide water flowed from river to river. In the valleys 
and the grassy dales between hills were the log houses and fields of the 
first settlers. Cowpaths across the marshes gave access to the upper part of 
the island, precipitous and wild, in whose somber forests and impenetrable 
thickets of grapevines, creepers, blackberry and raspberry bushes lurked the 
wolves, foxes, bears and panthers that preyed on the farmers' stock. The 
plentiful deer and turkeys, too, sometimes destroyed his crops. 

On the North River there was but one inlet or slip, that at the foot of 
Oswego, now Liberty Street; but there were many on the East River, 
Coenties Old Slip being the first of them. Extending a mile along the 
shore at the foot of Rivington were Marinus Willet's and Stuyvesant's 
Meadows. Here, by common repute, the pirates Kidd and Blackbeard 
buried their treasure. At Grand, Houston, Fifth, Seventh, Tenth and 
Thirtieth Streets the island's edge was frayed by marshes. At the western 
end of Canal Street the Lispenard Meadows 70 acres of salt marsh used 
as a skating pond in winter was connected by the Lispenard Creek to the 
Collect or Fresh Water Pond. Tombs Prison on Centre Street stands at 
what was about the middle of this famous Collect Pond. Called bottom 
less, it actually measured from 40 to 70 feet deep. Contemporaries spoke 
of it as a lovely sheet of water, and it was celebrated both for its fish and 
as a fine place for skating. 

Many of the hills on the lower part of the island were 100 to 130 feet 
above tidewater. One such was Bunker's Hill, at the junction of Grand 
and Elm Streets, commanding the bay and Staten Island, the Hudson, 
Jersey and the high ridge of Long Island. Corlear's Hook was broken by 
hills, some 80 feet high, strewn with big boulders; and on a large knoll 
rising just north of Collect Pond criminals were hanged. In an adjoining 


hollow Negroes suspected of inciting riots were burned alive. A fort, still 
standing a decade or so after the Revolution, topped the hill at Provost 
(now Franklin) and Varick Streets. Murray Hill remains as a rather in 
considerable elevation between Third Avenue and Broadway from Thirty- 
Second to Forty- Second Streets. 

Between the hills were waterholes, and sometimes a stream issued, wind 
ing to east or west. The area along the East River north of Central Park 
was marked by creeks and muddy estuaries. Harlem Lane began at about 
1 30th Street on the west and flowed into Hell Gate at Ninety-Second 
Street. Harlem Creek meandered to the Hudson from Goldfish Pond, a 
basin between Lenox and Seventh Avenues, nyth and ii9th Streets. At 
noth it crossed to Fifth Avenue and entered the Harlem Marsh. A stream 
let ran from a little pond in Manhattan Square to the large lake in Central 
Park, then on down to the East River. Minetta Brook, troublesomely redis 
covered by subway sandhogs in the 1920'$, started at about University 
Place; flowed through a section of the old Potter's Field in Washington 
Square; on past Sandy Hill; collected into a pond north of Richmond 
Hill; and then, beyond Varick Street, fell off into a salt marsh before 
finding its way to the North River. This brook separated Greenwich Vil 
lage from the contemporary city. Another brook ran through Tompkins 
Square to the soggy meadows of the East River ; and a stream flowing along 
Broad Street had a branch, the Beaver Canal, running down Beaver Street. 

In 1670 there were several public wells in the middle of the city's 
streets, their indifferent water being drawn with buckets, not pumped. The 
source of the most potable water was one of the springs feeding Collect 
Pond, at a point on the present Park Row between Baxter and Mulberry 
Streets. This became known as the Tea- Water Pump. The "tea- water man" 
bought this water at four pence the hogshead and peddled it about the 
village for a penny bill a gallon. Tea- Water Garden became a center of 
social activity where village boys played and matrons gossiped. 

The overflow from the pump created a pool of stagnant water ; and the 
Collect Pond degenerated at the end of the i8th century into a foul, 
disease-breeding cesspool. In 1774 Christopher Colles built a reservoir 
near the "New Gaol," which was more commonly known as Debtors' 
Prison. "Good pitch pipes, well-hooped with iron," were used to distribute 
the water to subscribing households. The Revolution caused suspension of 
this development, and service was not resumed until the beginning of the 
1 9th century, when Aaron Burr organized the Manhattan Company. This 
company dug a well near Broadway, north of the present Spring Street, the 


only use of which, as it turned out, was to serve as the "hiding place for 
the body of beautiful Gulielma Snow in one of New York's most famous 
murder mysteries." Another well was sunk in Reade Street. This tapped 
the subterranean springs of the old pump and gave the growing city a 
small supply of water. 

The springs which provided the city's early water supply have been a 
continual source of trouble. All attempts effectually to block their flow have 
failed. Adjoining basements ooze with their seepage, and engineers say that 
if the walls of the IRT subway station at Canal and Lafayette Streets were 
pierced, water would gush forth as from a fountain. 

The first successful attempt to relieve Manhattan from dependence on 
the uncertain flow of private and public wells was made in 1842, when 
the municipal authorities tapped the Croton River with an aqueduct having 
a capacity of 35 million gallons a day. Brooklyn was served by private 
wells until 1859. At that time a city water system was installed, using the 
surface and subterranean streams of Long Island sources which remain 
an essential part of the system today. In 1917 the first supply of water 
from the Catskill system was available 250 million gallons daily. 

In 1936 the municipally owned and operated system supplied 913,- 
000,000 gallons of water daily to New York City and sold about 20,- 
000,000 gallons daily to other communities. Costs of construction to 
January i, 1936, amounted to well over $513,000,000. Experts agree that 
this system is the greatest in the world, and that the water is unexcelled in 
purity and palatability. Principal sources are four watersheds in the Catskill 
Mountains and the Putnam and Westchester hills, which have an aggregate 
drainage area of 968 square miles. Aqueducts as large as railroad tunnels 
carry this water from the reservoirs to the city. Much of the terrain about 
the reservoirs is under public ownership, beautifully landscaped, and 
maintained as restricted parks. About the Croton watershed alone there 
are some 10,000 acres of such land. Work going forward in 1937 was 
intended eventually to swell the present huge water supply by 60 per 
cent, developing new watersheds in the upper tributaries of the Delaware 
River. There are still five private companies operating driven wells which 
supply some 59,000,000 gallons daily to localities in Brooklyn and Queens. 

The island of Manhattan rises in the north, with its highest places on 
the upper West Side ; perhaps for this reason the section was not built up 
until later than the upper East Side. A ridge on the West Side, rising gently 
northward from Fifty-Ninth Street, forms the imposing Cathedral Plateau 
which drops down again from n6th to 12 5th Streets this latter section 


called the Hollow Way in Washington's time and rises once more to 
St. Nicholas Heights. 

Descending in terraces toward the Hudson, to the east it falls suddenly 
through Morningside Park a declivity which extends northward from 
noth Street to Coogan's Bluffs into Harlem Flats, an alluvial plain. In 
many parts of this craggy area there were rather deep bowls, as at Seventy- 
Sixth Street, since filled in with debris from neighboring bosses of rock. 
These pits, as late as 1880, held the shacks of the period's Hoovervilles. 
Mount Morris, in the section of that name at Fifth Avenue between i2Oth 
and 1 24th Streets, is itself the terminal peak of an interrupted ridge. 

The ridge on the West Side rises again to Washington Heights proper, 
from 1 5 5th to 17 6th Streets, and toward the Hudson reaches the highest 
natural altitude in Manhattan 267.75 ^ ee ^ near ^ e s ^ e f ^ Fort 
Washington, just north of iSist Street and Fort Washington Avenue. 
This elevation extends into Fort Tryon Park. Just to the eastward, there is 
another sharp depression at Dyckman Street; then the ridge climbs into 
Inwood Park. Inwood Hill, northern tip of the island, is 232.75 feet in 
height. The street level at High Bridge water-tower, on the high bluff over 
looking the Harlem River, is 203.25 feet. 

Several transverse ravines, caused by faulting, lie in this handle section 
of Manhattan. These were probably courses worn by the four or more 
glaciers that scraped across the northern part of the island during the last 
ice age. In Manhattan and the Bronx the glaciers have grooved and potted 
the rock. Striated slabs, and granite boulders known as "travelers," are 
especially prevalent in Bronx Zoological Park. Most famous is the Rocking 
Stone, large as a small house, which hails from New England. Similar 
boulders tinted with greenish mica and milky quartz are found near the 
ball field in Central Park. Mount Tom, at Eighty-Third Street and the 
Hudson, is smoothed and planed by the ice, its base furrowed with glacial 

Inwood dolomite, a limestone, is found in large quantities in the Inwood 
and Harlem sections. It is an organic rock, formed by the metamorphosis 
of animal and vegetable deposits. An intrusion of granite near the Hudson 
between Forty-Eighth and Fifty-Fifth Streets used to be quarried, and can 
still be seen in a vacant lot opposite the Normandie's dock. 

Granite veins occur all through the schist, and it is in these veins that 
precious and semi-precious stones are found: garnets, amethysts, opals, 
tourmalines, beryls, chrysoberyls and what not. Ninety-nine species and 
170 varieties have been found in Manhattan, a record probably not excelled 


in the United States by any other locality of the same size. A deposit of 
garnets which netted a small fortune for the finder was uncovered at 
Broadway and Sixty-Fifth Street in 1888. Later, the largest perfect garnet 
crystal ever found in this country was thrown out of a ditch in West Thirty- 
Fifth Street, used as a doorstop in a shop, and eventually turned over to 
the New York Mineralogical Club, which exhibits its collections in the 
American Museum of Natural History. Apatite, columbite and menaccanite 
of rare or unusual size are among the minerals found on Manhattan Island. 
Although some amber has been taken from Staten Island, the other four 
boroughs of the city, whose foundational rock has been less disturbed by 
blasting in connection with construction work, have yielded relatively few 
mineral specimens. 

Fordham gneiss is the chief basal rock of the Bronx ; it is also found in 
the ledges of Spuyten Duyvil. The hills of the Bronx are a part of the 
foothills and worn extensions of the Green Mountains and the Berkshires. 
The highest point in the Bronx is Riverdale Hill 284.5 ^ eet at Iselin 
Avenue and West 25oth Street. Other high elevations, varying from 210 
feet to 141, are at Jerome Avenue, near East 233d Street; Van Cortlandt 
Park at Jerome and Moshulu Avenues ; Spuyten Duyvil ; the Grand Boule 
vard and Concourse at East i99th Street; and the Hall of Fame Terrace. 

The Bronx River, which courses through the center of the borough with 
a depth varying from a few inches to ten feet and a width of from ten to 
300 feet, is fed by its tributaries: Sprain Brook, Hutchinson Brook and the 
Sheldrake River. It is 15 miles long and empties into the East River n 
miles northeast of the Battery. In the main the borough of the Bronx re 
produces the geological features of Manhattan. Its group of north and 
south ridges declines eastward to the Sound from the high bluff of the 
Fordham section and Van Cortlandt Park. 

The bold escarpment of the Palisades, the most striking surface feature 
in the New York area, gives the Hudson a world-wide reputation for 
scenic majesty. The cliffs are formed of a volcanic rock, 350-1,000 feet 
thick, and rise to 700 feet. The vertical columns, developed during the 
cooling stage of the rock, suggested the ridge's name. The skeleton of a 
dinosaur that looked rather like a crocodile was uncovered at the foot of 
these Palisades. Jerseyite or not, he was christened Rutiodon manhat- 

With the exception of the Palisades, the New Jersey terrain near New 
York City is low-lying and marshy, as motorists crossing the Pulaski Sky 
way can testify. A large lake Lake Hackensack occupied the region be- 


low the Passaic River and west of the Hudson during the retreat of the 
last glacier. The Newark Lowland is a plain developed on inclined weak 
strata consisting of red sandstones and shales of Triassic rocks. Intrusive 
sheets of resultant volcanic rock form prominent residual ridges, such as 
the Palisades and the Watchung Mountains. 

Queens is sharply divided into North Shore (on the Sound) and South 
Shore (on the ocean) by northerly hills running the length of Long 
Island. Flushing Meadow Park, chosen for the site of the 1939 World's 
Fair, is a filled-in marsh used for years as a city dump. On the south shore 
there is much made land. In the northeastern sector, the glacial margins 
and outwash channels are particularly plain. The outermost margins, now 
fronting on the East River and the Sound, were once the shores of the 
Atlantic Ocean. Little Neck Hill 266.48 feet in elevation between 
Alley Pond Park and the Nassau County line, is the highest point in 
Queens. West of this point, Alley Pond Park includes, besides the Alley 
Pond, a flourishing bird sanctuary hospitable to quail, pheasants, Canadian 
geese, pelicans and heron. 

In Brooklyn, large areas of Flatlands, Greenpoint, Williamsburg and 
Red Hook have been raised above sea level. With the exception of the 
Brooklyn Heights bluff, and the morainic belt under parts of Greenwood 
Cemetery, Prospect Park and the site of the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn 
is extremely flat. Unlike the terminal moraine on Staten Island, the mo 
rainic knobs and kettle holes in Brooklyn and Queens constitute the most 
conspicuous topographical feature. This has largely determined, in the 
choice of sites for parks, cemeteries and railway beds, the development of 
the two boroughs. To the south is a glacial outwash visible a little above 
sea level. This terminal moraine, marking the southern boundary of the 
glacier, extends in a semicircle from Cape Cod to Seattle. 

The rounded hills on Staten Island, rising from the harbor and Kill van 
Kull, extend in a northeast-southwest chain 300-380 feet high and are of 
serpentine rock. At Richmond, in the center of the island, they disappear 
under the Fresh Kill Meadows. Morainic hills drop into the sea at Prince's 
(or Princess) Bay, near Tottenville, at the southwestern corner of the 
island. Innumerable boulders are scattered along the desolate shore of the 
Kill van Kull; and in the southwestern part of Staten Island there 
are sand dunes, marshland and much loneliness. Between the moraine and 
the flatlands the sea wind sweeps over pools of fresh water, patches of 
cedars, deserted houses and ragged acres of weed and brush between the 
farmlands. Todt Hill, 409.239 feet above sea level, is one of the highest 


elevations on the Atlantic Coast between Maine and Florida; but there is 
a point on Long Island High Hill, near Huntington approximately as 


New York's annual mean temperature is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, 
which coincides pretty closely with that of Paris, London and Berlin. But 
extremes, sudden variations and strong winds make the climate a bit trying 
to strangers. A drop of 20 degrees in a few hours is not uncommon. The 
weather's inconstancy is aggravated by the high average rainfall of Atlantic 
cities in the United States nearly double that of Europe's metropolises. 
Furthermore, one year's weather may be extremely unlike the next. 

Autumn is perhaps the preferred season. Late September rains are likely 
to be soon over, and one may reasonably count on a prolonged spell of 
fairly settled weather, clear skies and a mellow Indian summer. Late 
spring, with its patches of green poignantly concentrated in the city's 
squares, is lovely and poetic. For that matter, even during the bridge- 
expanding stress of July and the muggy dog days of August, when shirt- 
sleeved millions sit panting on the stoops, there are New Yorkers (not all 
out of town either) who will rise to assert that their city is the best summer 
resort in the world. Heat waves are often caused by what is termed the 
"Bermuda High" an area of high air pressure over Bermuda which sends 
warm humid air to the Atlantic seaboard. The official record is 102.3 de- 
grees, recorded on July 9, 1936. It was during this heat wave that the 
drawbridge across the Harlem River expanded and couldn't be closed, halt 
ing traffic for several hours. Changes in temperature cause the roadway of 
the George Washington Bridge to flex like a bow, producing up-and-down 
variations of as much as six feet at its midmost point. 

The lowest temperature ever recorded was 14 degrees below zero on 
February 9, 1934. The great blizzard of 1888 is still a favorite topic among 
older New Yorkers. The blizzard's fury caught the city unprepared, for 
neither Government nor individual weather prophets (not even the man 
who made predictions exclusively for the Herald) foretold the approach of 
the storm. It began on Sunday night, March n, in the form of a heavy 
rain lashed by wind. Shortly before midnight the rain changed to hail and 
the temperature fell, while the bruit of the gale increased until the wind 
was zooming at 60 miles an hour. Dry snow followed the hail, driven in 
blinding clouds. All day Monday the storm continued. Traffic practically 


ceased. Many persons who braved the outdoors were later found frozen to 
death. Monday night was the wildest and darkest the city has ever ex 
perienced. Chimneys, windows, awnings, fences were blown down. Not 
until 6 A.M. on Tuesday did the snow stop, the wind abate. In some places 
drifts completely covered street lamps and street cars. A week elapsed be 
fore the first train got through from Philadelphia. Another blizzard in 
1920, not quite so severe, brought great hardship and financial loss. 

New York Harbor is remarkably free of fog; but during cold spells, 
ice floes in the Hudson lodge against the piers, and in 1934 and 1935 they 
interfered seriously with shipping. The average velocity of the wind in 
the city is 15 miles an hour, stronger than in other important American 
cities. The heaviest gale ever recorded in New York whipped the city on 
February 22, 1912: velocity 96 miles an hour. A storm which swept the 
Atlantic coast late in 1932 brought a swarm of Arctic birds, called dovekies, 
and dashed many of them against the skyscrapers. Thousands were found 
all over the city, their limp bodies draped on telephone wires, in the 
streets, on the lakes and lawns of the parks. In 1878 a cyclone brought 
sooty terns tropic birds from the West Indies and the Caribbean. Some 
of them were found alive at Lake Ronkonkoma, Long Island. 

Animals, Trees and Flowers 

Close-packed blocks of buildings and teeming mankind haven't exter 
minated all native plant and animal life in the metropolitan area. Many 
species of wild birds nest in the five boroughs. In Central Park, although 
the number is now declining, 168 varieties have recently been noted; in 
Prospect Park, 200 species. There are 15,148 acres of park land within 
the city, for plant and animal conservation, including six bird sanctuaries, 
two of them in Central Park. Geese, pelicans and herons are among the 
species protected. The Staten Island reservation comprises 51 heavily 
wooded acres, a salt marsh for waterfowl, and a strip of dense underbrush 
for quail, pheasants and similar species. Nut trees in the parks attract chip 
munks and red and gray squirrels. A few snakes are around too, harmless 
hog-nose and garter snakes, though occasionally a rattler or a copperhead 
turns up along the Palisades. In the outlying districts you may startle a 
rabbit, or vice versa. Lizards are fairly common, and the ponds and streams 
breed salamanders, frogs and turtles. 

The pollution of the Upper Bay and the North and East Rivers doesn't 
stop countless would-be fishermen from fishing ; but in the waters of Staten 


Island, Pelham Bay and the Sound more than 60 kinds of fresh and salt 
water fish, some edible, are actually caught. Occasionally, perhaps, even a 
Manhattan pier fisherman may catch something more than likely a hook- 
wary shad, once abundant in the Hudson. Ellis Island was earlier called 
Oyster Island because of the fine oysters plentiful thereabouts ; and oysters, 
clams, crabs, lobsters and eels, as well as such curiosities as starfish, sea 
horses and jellyfish, can still be taken inside the city limits. 

Within 50 miles, more than 247 species of fish exclusive of those below 
the 2 5 -fathom level have been caught. Sand and brown sharks are common 
in this latitude. Females of the latter variety enter the bays in midsummer 
to give birth to their young. The true tropical man eater or white shark 
has been taken in this vicinity only once. In the early years of the i8th 
century sharks so infested the East River around the Catherine Slip Market 
that men were hired to catch them from the dock. Sam Way, one of the 
best with a handline, often got as many as seven a day, 14 feet or more in 
length (the story, no doubt, was a good deal longer than the fish). 

Few people would believe that there are still more trees in New York 
than buildings, but there are more than a million of them, nearly all be 
longing to the city. There' d be more if it were not for leaky gas mains 
and reckless motorists, chief causes in Manhattan at least of tree mortal 
ity. Horses used to kill city trees by eating the bark. In the iyth century, 
plum, pear and cherry trees grew wild in the woods. In the middle of the 
next century the streets were shaded by beech, elm, locust and lime trees, 
criticized by visitors as offering homes for tree-toads, whose "clamorous 
voices" stirred their ire. Remnants of the primitive woods survive in the 
squares and parks, along the streets and in outlying sections such as Forest 
Hills in Queens, the Edenwald section of the Bronx, and on Staten Island. 
The virgin Hemlock Forest in Bronx Park, containing about 3,000 trees, 
is particularly notable. 

The majority of New York's trees, however, are foreign varieties 
mostly planes, and stock from earlier imports of Norwegian and Japanese 
maples. Poplars, once so common, are forbidden now. They require plenty 
of water, and to get it a poplar sometimes drives its roots into sewers and 
water mains. For some reason, Chinese trees seem best able to endure New 
York's soot. The ailanthus, or Chinese tree of heaven, is locally called 
"the backyard tree." 

May spice and button bush swamp shrubs frequently are used by 
landscape gardeners for their beautiful, fragrant blooms. Holly, not gen 
erally found so far north, grows wild on a few spots of vacant land, par- 


ticularly on Staten Island. Dogwood, its white blossoms made inviolate by 
city ordinance, is common in the outskirts of town; and bayberry, once 
gathered by housewives who perfumed linen with its leaves and moulded 
candles from its berry wax, grows on many sandy spots. The laurel, whose 
bud-clusters break into pink bloom toward the end of June, is fairly com 
mon. Flowers still manage to grow in vacant lots and on rooftops, notably 
in the Gardens of the Nations at Rockefeller Center. Wooded or bushy 
spots sometimes conceal lady slippers. Where leaf mould is thick and rich 
the Indian pipe lifts its pallid stalk and bowl. Cardinal flowers appear 
along a few shaded streams. Numerous other blooms may be found 
throughout the warm months by watchful botanists. 

There are about 19,000 horses in New York as many as there ever 
were. The milk companies and others find it more economical to stick to 
the hoofbeats-at-dawn tradition. (Stories about milk horses, who get about 
a good deal at night, crop up time and again in the city's folk humor.) 
New York has something like 300,000 dogs and 500,000 cats. The number 
of rats and mice and cockroaches must be empirically reckoned. 

Some kinds of birds pigeon, sparrow, gull and chimney swift have 
learned new habits and are much at home even downtown. (Loosed in 
Central Park in 1863 were 14 sparrows, the first imported from Europe. 
They increased rapidly and were so well liked that swanky dwellings were 
built for them in the parks. Many people also kept them in their homes as 
pets.) Bats also persist and thrive downtown. An occasional butterfly 
pirouettes through Wall Street's canyon, nor do the towers of finance 
deter the ant from building his sandhill. In fact, insects beetles and lady- 
bugs and caterpillars do pretty well downtown, all things considered. 

Fantastic Metropolis 







* !< 
If H B 



it I 





Trading-Post to Cosmopolis 

THE HISTORY of New York has been primarily influenced by its physi 
cal situation on a great harbor at the mouth of a great river. Linked to the 
trading bent and activities of the early settlers, this led almost inevitably to 
the creation of a commercial metropolis made up of people from every 
country in the world. 

New York has contributed substantially to the nation of which it is the 
greatest city. It has long dominated American commerce and finance; and 
it has been the gateway through which millions of immigrants have passed 
to other parts of the country after first receiving their baptism in American 
ideals and opportunities. 

A great number of immigrants remained, and they were joined by people 
from all sections of the United States. These two groups constituted and 
still constitute New York. They are the brains and the brawn that have 
created a commercial empire in which the cultural phases of life have not 
been neglected during the long struggle upward from trading post to* 

Before the White Man 

The builders of that cosmopolis were preceded by three groups of Al- 
gonquian Indians. On Manhattan Island which constituted New York 
City until 1874 the Indians were neither a great nor a rich people. They 
existed in some 94 communities housing several thousand people, where 
they lived in fear of powerful enemies who had driven them to the sea 
and were levying tribute from them. Huddled together for safety, their 
existence was precarious and primitive. They achieved no particularly out 
standing qualities. 

Such living conditions had apparently existed for several generations 
before the appearance of even the earliest explorers, and it is not im 
probable that the Indians may have welcomed the Dutch as they did her 



cause they were thinking of a possible alliance against brutal foes among 
their own people. Whatever the motive, it is a matter of record that they 
never turned on the white man until he turned on them. For years they 
carried on a fairly extensive trade with the Dutch and English, this con 
structive phase of their relationship being marred, unfortunately, by the 
illicit traffic in rum that developed later, particularly in the Dutch period, 
and taxed the ability and patience of more than one provincial administra 

Discovery and Exploration: 1524-1609 

More than a century before that situation arose, the Indians had come in 
contact with an early explorer of New York's magnificent harbor. In 1524, 
85 years before Hudson's failure to find the northeast passage to the 
Orient's riches had turned him westward along our shores, Giovanni da 
Verrazano, an Italian explorer serving the King of France, visited the 
lower and upper bays. In May of the following year, Esteban Gomez, a 
Portuguese navigator representing the Emperor Charles V of Spain, was 
probably in the vicinity of New York, but his explorations, like those of 
Verrazano, failed to result in Spanish activity here. The rest of the i6th 
century, according to Stokes, "was a period of myth and mystery so far as 
the neighborhood of Manhattan Island was concerned." 

With the advent of the iyth century, the first of the great Dutch trad 
ing companies, which created in 50 years a world empire comparable to the 
British Empire, was organized. Formation of this and similar companies, 
in the midst of war with Spain, was the result of the need for new sources 
and new markets to serve Dutch trade. 

On April 25, 1607, the Dutch became masters of the sea by defeating 
the Spanish fleet at Gibraltar; and on January 8, 1609, the Dutch East 
India Company contracted with Henry Hudson, an English explorer- for- 
hire, to find a new route to the Indies by way of the northeast, around the 
northern coast of Russia and Siberia. Hudson failed to find that passage. 
Instead, for reasons much too confused to be considered historically re 
liable, he turned west and rounded what is now Sandy Hook on September 
2, 1609. Nine days later, he had moved into the Upper Bay of New York's 
present harbor, from which base his explorations up the river convinced 
him that a passage to the Orient was impossible in that direction. On 
October 4, 1609, he passed out of sight of Sandy Hook on his way home, 


his chief contribution being explorations of the harbor's lower and upper 
bays and of the river named after him. 

He was followed by a ship sent to the Hudson in 1610 by several 
Amsterdam merchants. Little is known about this ship, which some authori 
ties believe was commanded by Hendrick Christiaensen, who, according to 
the Dutch historian Wassenaer, was the first after Hudson to sail the river 
and is known as the most active skipper in numerous voyages to the Hud 
son during 1610-16, his career being cut short in 1616 when he was 
killed by an Indian at Fort Nassau on Castle Island, near what is now Al 
bany. In 1612, Christiaensen entered into a partnership with Adriaen 
Block, and the two visited the Hudson in a ship captained by one Ryser. 
By 1613, this partnership was apparently well established, Christiaensen 
having command of the Fortune and Block being in charge of the Tiger. 

The Tiger burned in New Netherland early in 1614 and was replaced 
by the Onrust or, as the word is usually translated, the Restless. One 
authority is of the opinion that the Tiger burned in the neighborhood of 
Manhattan Island, and that the Restless was built on or in the vicinity of 
the island; another maintains that both events occurred not far from Al 
bany. In any event, it is known that the Restless passed through Hellegat 
(Hell Gate), and that Block made important discoveries along the New 
England coast. 

Block's major contribution to exploration was his map of 1614. The 
original was lost, but an anonymous Dutch copy, the so-called "Figurative 
Map" of 1614, is still preserved in the archives of the States-General at 
The Hague. On this map, the name of New Netherland appears for the 
first time, and Manhattan Island is also represented for the first time as an 
island, thus indicating the thoroughness of Block's explorations. One 
chart and two maps had preceded Block's in the early iyth century; but 
his was by far the most accurate of its time, and it contributed greatly to 
his own and other subsequent explorations in 161416. 

Evidence has been offered, but no definite proof established, to support 
the theory that the "pretended Dutch governor" seen on Manhattan Island 
in 1613 by Samuel Argall, an English explorer, was Block. Though doubt 
may exist as to this claim, there can be no question that Block laid the 
foundations for exploration by Dutch adventurers in 1612-14 which led 
to the granting of the United New Netherland Company's charter in 1614. 

During the next 12 years, several more or less unproductive voyages to 
the New World, and the formation of other trading companies, preceded 


the first real settlement on Manhattan Island. On June 3, 1621, the Dutch 
West India Company, formed to weaken Spain's military and commercial 
powers, was granted a monopoly that superseded all others in America. 
Three years later, it sent out its first colony, which arrived at the mouth 
of the Hudson River in May 1624 and proceeded upstream to Albany. 
No settlement was made on Manhattan Island. A second contingent, in 
cluding cattle, arrived in April 1625. The cattle were first landed on what 
is now Governors Island and then moved to Manhattan, where some of the 
colonists remained only a very short time before proceeding with the cattle 
to Albany to join the first company. The stay of this group on Manhattan 
Island was merely a stop-over; there still was no real settlement on the 

The Era of Dutch Control: 1626-1664 

Hudson's explorations in 1609 had given the Dutch an exploratory title 
to the territory, so that the Dutch period dates technically from 1609. But 
what was later to become New York was not established as a permanent 
settlement until Peter Minuit, third governor-general of the Dutch West 
India Company, landed in New Netherland on May 4, 1626, attempted 
to settle on Governors Island, and then moved to Manhattan. From that 
time until September 8, 1664, when the town and its fort were formally 
surrendered to the English, the city of New Amsterdam was under Dutch 

New Amsterdam was originally one of several trading posts in New 
Netherland. This latter was a province organized and controlled by a 
Dutch trading company deriving its charter from the States-General of the 
Netherlands. Unlike various English provinces, New Netherland's bound 
aries were not specifically defined with respect to its field of operations. 
Instead, the province was composed of a rather loose association of trading 
posts. There were three on the Hudson River, three on the Delaware 
River, and one on the Connecticut at Fort Hope. Several of these preceded 
the permanent settlement of New Amsterdam on the lowest point of 
Manhattan Island. New Amsterdam eventually became the governmental 
and commercial center of New Netherland. 

The date of the settlement of New Amsterdam and the details regarding 
it are highly controversial. It is certain, however, that the first known settle 
ment on a permanent basis was not undertaken until after the arrival of 
Peter Minuit's group. They found, according to one authority, a site pre- 


pared at the lower end of Manhattan Island, where a blockhouse was being 
built. That unfinished blockhouse was the beginning of what later became 
Fort Amsterdam. 

The history of Fort Amsterdam is a story of continual struggle on the 
part of Dutch governors-general and citizens to create adequate defenses 
despite the glaring neglect of the settlement by the Dutch West India Com 
pany and the States-General of Holland. At no time did it constitute a 
real defense. Begun in 1626, and almost completely rebuilt ten years later, 
it was crumbling away in 1646. In 1647, Peter Stuyvesant, seventh gov 
ernor-general, noted that it resembled "more a mole hill than a fortress, 
without gates, the walls and bastions trodden under foot by men and 
cattle." In 1650, it did not have "one gun carriage or one piece of cannon 
in a suitable frame or on a good platform." Fourteen years later, it was 
so useless from a defensive standpoint that it could not resist the English 
men-of-war in the harbor and thus prevent surrender to the English. 
Within its poorly constructed walls were the governor-general's house, a 
double-roofed church with a square tower, barracks, prison, whipping 
post and gallows. There was no well or cistern. 

In 1626, Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island from the Indians for 
60 guilders, or about $24. This transaction was carried out according to in 
structions by the Dutch West India Company in Holland to Willem Ver- 
hulst, second governor-general and Minuit's predecessor. Knives, beads and 
trinkets constituted the "money" used. 

This period of Dutch control falls quite naturally into two major divi 
sions: pre-Stuyvesant and Stuyvesant. Before that colorful character's ap 
pointment as governor-general on July 28, 1646, and his arrival at New 
Amsterdam on May n, 1647, six governors-general in succession had 
struggled with the new colony's problems, the administration of William 
Kieft (1637-46) being the longest in those first 22 years of New Nether- 
land's history. 

Prior to Kieft, the material progress of the company's colonial venture 
had not justified the more than $165,000 that had been poured into it. 
Kieft did not improve matters. His administration was marked by the 
bloody and expensive Indian War of 1643-45, which occurred as a result 
of his bellicose attitude toward the natives and his unwarranted slaughter 
of a number of them in February 1643. Other events of his regime in 
cluded the granting of a large tract of land to spur tobacco growing; a 
mutiny among the garrison at Fort Amsterdam and its suppression; the 
issuance on May 10, 1640, of the first militia regulations, whereby all men 


were ordered to get good guns and report to their respective corporals in 
the event of trouble; and the appointment on December n, 1642, of 
George Baxter as English secretary of the province, this move being made 
because "of the number of English" who had "numerous law suits." 

The most important act of Kieft's administration was his consultation 
with a "Board of Twelve Men," elected August 26, 1641, on the subject 
of adequate punishment for an Indian murderer. Although this board had 
no judicial authority and few important functions, and was abruptly dis 
solved by Kieft on February 8, 1642, it may very properly be termed the 
beginning of representative government in the province. 

Kieft's term came to an end when the directors at Amsterdam recalled 
him, primarily because of a lack of profits for the company's venture, but 
also because of the number of protests and complaints from the people. 
He was lost at sea on September 27, 1647, while on his way to the Nether 
lands to defend his administration before the company's directors at 

His successor, Peter Stuyvesant, who arrived at New Amsterdam on May 
n, 1647, was the seventh and by far the best known of the Dutch West 
India Company's colonial administrators. His 1 7-year regime had the effect 
of eclipsing the other 21 years of Dutch occupation. Opinions may differ 
as to his true historical stature, but none can deny that oblivion would long 
ago have overtaken anyone less gifted in political manipulation and sheer 
showmanship. He was by all odds the most colorful figure of these years. 

Under him, the first distinctly municipal form of government came into 
being in New Amsterdam on February 2, 1653, when Stuyvesant and his 
council proclaimed the creation of a body resembling our present-day 
aldermen, as well as of a bench of justices. Limited though both of these 
bodies were in real authority, they constituted the first major concession 
to people who had come to the New World as little more than man-power 
for the Dutch West India Company. They fed the desire for a greater 
share in governmental affairs, and were followed by several assemblies, all 
convened by Stuyvesant. The first had 19 members, representing New 
Amsterdam and seven outlying towns in Long Island and Westchester. 
This group, which met December 10, 1653, was the most truly representa 
tive assembly yet called in New Netherland and the forerunner of others, 
all subject to call and dismissal by the governor-general, but all advancing 
the idea of giving the commonalty a voice in public affairs. 

Soon the municipal government began to function with increasing regu 
larity, until the demands of the various assemblies and the city fathers re- 


suited in a "common council," at which the first definite citizenship rights 
were proposed. These demands were granted when the great and small 
burgher-rights were created by law on February 2, 1657. The great burgher- 
right conferred citizenship upon all former as well as present provincial 
officials, burgomasters, schepens (corresponding to present-day aldermen), 
Dutch clergymen, and certain commissioned officers of the city regiment. 
The common or small burgher-right was given to all male inhabitants 
"who had kept fire and light within the City one year and six weeks," to 
all native-born, and to those who had already married or should there 
after marry native-born daughters of burghers. Between April 10 and May 
3, 1657, the burghers were registered, citizenship thus becoming an accom 
plished legal fact for the first time in the city's history. 

Commercially, the Dutch West India Company was a total failure; and 
in 1 66 1, New Amsterdam was bankrupt. Symptomatic of this situation, 
no doubt, was the commonalty's disregard of laws and ordinances designed 
to promote colonial interests. Again and again the people appear to have 
paid not the slightest attention to acts of the provincial and city govern 
ments, despite the severity of punishments inflicted on some who were 
prosecuted, such punishments including branding, public lashings, use of 
the rack and similar measures. 

The attempt to replace the thatched roofs and badly plastered wooden 
chimneys, both of which constituted a serious fire hazard, well illustrates 
the almost contemptuous disregard of many laws. Repeated ordinances and 
"final" warnings had no effect; indeed, the officer of the City Court who 
issued the "last and final" notice of 1657 reported that the people merely 
laughed at him as he read the order. Another example of this attitude is 
evidenced in connection with the ordinances which, beginning in 1638 
and continuing steadily almost to 1664, were issued to control excessive 
drinking. The use of liquor in the province had grown from mere lack of 
moderation to proportions so menacing as to threaten prosperity and prog 
ress. Yet neither the provincial nor the city government could make the 
slightest headway in effective restraint or control. Still further proof of 
the lack of respect for governmental edicts is revealed in the public atti 
tude toward ordinances calling upon the citizens to concentrate on Man 
hattan Island, to fence their lands and to form villages or hamlets for 
protective purposes. Not one of these commands was carried out as issued, 
and none was obeyed even to a decent degree until sheer necessity com 
pelled it. 

In addition to this lack of law observance, which in many cases amounted 


to nullification, the province was faced with a mounting burden of taxes 
that produced precious little in the way of justifiable or tangible results. 
The "evil genius" more responsible for this, probably, than any other in 
dividual was Cornelius van Tienhoven, who as provincial secretary helped 
himself to no small part of the hard-won taxes from 1638 to 1656, thus 
all too often making new and heavier taxes necessary. Dismissed finally 
from office, he committed suicide rather than face the charges brought 
against him. The combination of Van Tienhoven and a governor-general 
who was so lax about submitting any financial accounting that his superiors 
were forced repeatedly to call upon him to do so, together with a populace 
either unwilling or unable to face the stern realities of colonial life, finally 
bankrupted New Amsterdam. 

Although religious freedom existed in New Amsterdam, yet from the 
time when Jonas Michaelius became the first regularly ordained clergyman 
and organized what is now the Collegiate Church, to the very end of the 
Dutch regime, not a single religious organization other than the Dutch 
Reformed Church was permitted to erect a house of worship on Manhat 
tan Island. Nevertheless, other denominations, the Lutherans in particu 
lar, did organize small congregations with comparatively little persecution. 

Obviously, these years provided many "firsts" in the history of New 
York. The first recorded murder occurred in May 1638; the first assess 
ment list was made up in 1653; the first official price-fixing occurred on 
September n, 1653, when a duly convened assembly "froze" the prices of 
many articles; the first crop control program in the United States was set 
up March 20, 1653, when tobacco planters were ordered to devote certain 
parts of their holdings to "hard grain for Bread" in order to prevent fam 
ine; the first "overtime" pay for workmen was inaugurated on August 27, 
1656, when "extra weighing out of hours" at the weigh-house was put on 
an added-charge basis; the first recorded lottery was run off in March 
1655, "Bibles, Testaments and other books" being used to provide a profit 
for the promoter and funds for the poor; the first attempt at silkworm 
culture in the nation was made in 1657; the first recorded "third degree" 
was carried out on June 25, 1661, when a woman charged with stealing 
stockings was "placed on the rack, and threatened with torture" to make 
her talk; the first unemployment "home relief" on a local-community ba 
sis was inaugurated on October 26, 1661 ; and the first law against "loan 
sharks," very numerous in New Amsterdam at the time, was passed in 

The end of the Dutch West India Company's venture began on March 


22, 1664, when King Charles II of England gave to his brother, the Duke 
of York, a grant in America covering territory that included the highly 
desirable New Netherland holdings. The ink on this grandiloquently 
worded grant was hardly dry before the English began to convert its words 
into actualities; and a fleet of four warships under command of Colonel 
Richard Nicolls, first deputy-governor of the Duke's territories, forced 
formal surrender of New Amsterdam on September 8, 1664. Nicolls 
promptly renamed the place New York. 

Even in these last days of Dutch rule, the lack of preparedness for 
emergencies was evident, there being no adequate fort or guns or military 
stores with which successfully to resist invasion. 

Yet it was these Dutch who had established the first permanent settle 
ment on Manhattan; who had settled a number of outlying towns such as 
Breuckelen, Vlissingen (Flushing), Midwout (Flatbush), Heemstede 
(Hempstead), Ameersfoort (Flatlands), Middleburgh (Newton), and 
Gravesend; who had started a common school as early as 1638 and a 
Latin school in 1652; who had laid out a "city," no matter how crudely; 
who had developed friendly relations with the Indians, despite Kieft's 
blunders; and who had, above all else, laid the foundations for a com 
merce which was to become the backbone not only of the English regime 
but of all future development in this part of the New World. 

English Control at Its Height: 1664-1763 

After the oath of allegiance to the British monarch and the Duke of 
York had been proclaimed by Governor Nicolls on October 28, 1664, 
control of New York shifted from the Dutch merchants to the Duke as an 
individual proprietor, with the right to establish whatever form of gov 
ernment might please him. 

Unquestionably the most important single event under English control 
was the establishment of the right to a free press. This occurred as a re 
sult of Governor William Cosby's dismissal of Lewis Morris, long chief 
justice of the province, because of Morris' dissenting opinion in a case in 
volving the governor. The strong popular opposition to this move did not 
worry Cosby, who controlled the courts and the meeting of the legislature, 
through his legally granted powers; and who, furthermore, had the un 
qualified support of the city's only newspaper, William Bradford's New- 
York Gazette. To provide a medium for presenting their case, the Morris 
supporters started another paper, the New-York Weekly Journal, under 


the editorship of John Peter Zenger. The Journal stated its opinions 
bluntly until, as the result of charges made against him in the issue of 
October 7, 1734, Governor Cosby ordered Zenger's arrest. Zenger's New 
York counsel was promptly "disbarred," but Andrew Hamilton of Phila 
delphia came to the rescue with so able a defense that the jury acquitted 
Zenger. This victory had its immediate effect, newspapers thereafter be 
coming the medium through which the people openly secured a knowl 
edge of their rights, thus aiding the growth of a spirit of independence 
and hastening separation of the colonies from England. 

The second major achievement under English rule was in the realm of 
religious freedom. The Quakers held their first meeting under a roof in 
1671; the Lutherans established their own church, also in 1671; the 
French Church, on the north side of Pine Street, east of Nassau, was built 
in 1704; the Presbyterians erected a church on Wall Street, the first of 
that denomination in the city, and were permitted by the common council 
to worship in what was then City Hall while their edifice was being con 
structed. In 1707, when Governor Cornbury jailed the "nonconformist" 
ministers of these same Presbyterians, the courts tried and freed them de 
spite the governor's attitude, thus definitely establishing a remarkably lib 
eral degree of religious toleration in the province of New York. 

The charter which resulted from the general assembly called in 1683 by 
Governor Dongan, and subsequent additions thereto, was one of the three 
major groups of laws in force within the colony of New York from 1665 
to 1691. The first was the Duke's Laws of 1665, a code drawn up by 
Colonel Richard Nicolls, first governor of the Duke of York's province, 
and approved at a meeting of 34 deputies from 17 towns at Hempstead 
on March i, 1665. The Duke's Laws were the basis of government until 
1683, when an assembly elected according to the Duke's instructions to 
Thomas Dongan, fourth governor, met at New York on October i7th. 
This first general provincial assembly passed 50 statutes which constituted 
the law during 1683-1685. The assembly sat three times, twice in 1683 
and once in 1685. With its permanent dissolution by Dongan in 1685, the 
law-making function of the province fell to the governor and his council. 
This executive council passed laws in the king's name which superseded 
those enacted by the assembly of 1683. 

Of these three major groups of laws from 1665 to 1691, the charter of 
1683, which was in force 1683-85, is the best known. It included a 
charter of liberties, provided for new customs duties, and claimed the tax 
ing power for the assembly. Its "Charter of Libertyes and Privileges" is 


credited to Matthias Nicolls, a leading Englishman of the province. This 
charter was approved by King James II, but was never sent back to New 
York because of involved reasons upon which historians do not agree. 

A charter was granted to the city by Governor Dongan in 1686. In 
cluded in the provisions of this instrument, which continued in force 45 
years, was the Engttsh form of municipal government, under a mayor, 
sheriff, aldermen, etc., the right of electing aldermen, assistant aldermen, 
and sub-constables being granted to the voters in the several wards. This, 
in addition to the provision for making freemen of natural-born subjects 
of the king, or those who had been naturalized by the mayor, recorder 
and aldermen, constituted the major liberal gains. For signing this charter, 
Governor Dongan was paid 300 pounds sterling on authority of the com 
mon council. 

A Gilbert and Sullivan touch was provided in this period when, as the 
result of war between England and the Netherlands, New York was "cap 
tured" from the English by the Dutch on August 9, 1673, was renamed 
New Orange, changed its form of government back to that of the Dutch, 
and went through another oath-taking ceremony. Then, because of a treaty 
of peace signed in Europe, the entire show was staged over again, this 
time with Sir Edmund Andros, third governor of New York, acting as 
master of ceremonies in the "surrender" of the town back to the English 
on November 10, 1674. 

Fourteen years later, King James II annexed New York and East and 
West Jersey to the recently created Dominion of New England. Sir Ed 
mund Andros, former governor of the province of New York, was ap 
pointed captain-general and governor-in-chief of the Dominion of New 
England. Andros reached New York on August n, 1688, had the seal of 
the province broken in the presence of the council according to royal com 
mand, and ordered that the seal of New England should thereafter be 

But behind the formalities of Andros' reception lay factors that were 
rapidly pushing many of the people toward revolt. The heavy cost of main 
taining defenses was resulting in high taxes; the English on Long Island 
viewed with alarm the dissolution of the general assembly of 1683 and 
the creation of an executive form of government in which the governor 
and his council made the laws without recourse to popular opinion ; mer 
chants denied the legality of taxes and customs imposed by an all-powerful 
executive council; and many feared the growing power of Roman Catho 
lics in England, where the king was of that faith, and of Roman Catholic 


officials in the colonies. This last reason was perhaps the greatest contrib 
uting cause of the revolt that manifested itself in America when James II 
fled from England and the revolution there was capped by the ascension 
to the throne of William and Mary. 

Governor Andros of the Dominion of New England was seized and 
imprisoned in Boston, and the Dominion collapsed as a political entity, 
each part resuming its former independent state. In New York, Lieutenant- 
Governor Nicholson tried to control the growing unrest there. On May 
31, 1689, Jacob Leisler, a captain of the militia, seized the fort and set 
himself up as head of the government. From December n, 1689, when 
he had gained supreme command of the situation, until March 19, 1691, 
Leisler controlled the province of New York. Among his more construc 
tive acts was the calling of a municipal election, whereby Peter Delanoy 
became the first mayor chosen by popular vote, and the decided efforts he 
made toward colonial unity as a weapon against the French and English. 

On November 14, 1689, King William III approved the appointment 
of Colonel Henry Sloughter as governor of New York, but delay in fit 
ting out Sloughter's ships resulted in the arrival before him, at New York, 
of one of his subordinates, Major Richard Ingoldsby. Leisler refused to 
recognize Ingoldsby because the latter was not accredited by the king to 
take command of the province. When Governor Sloughter himself ar 
rived, he clapped Leisler and others into jail, and executed Leisler and 
his son-in-law for treason on May 16, 1691. This created bitter political 
dissension which endured for many years. An act of Parliament in 1694 
reversed Sloughter's and the trial court's verdict and vindicated Leisler 's 
seizure of the government. 

Piracy, which began to manifest itself in New York waters about this 
time, was subsequently suppressed by the same administrator who made 
an agreement in 1695 with Captain William Kidd to fit out a privateer 
and share in the prizes captured, and who later sent Kidd back to England 
to be hanged for piracy. This was the Earl of Bellomont. He arrived in 
New York as governor of the province in 1698, and almost immediately 
began a long series of reports to the lords of trade in England, in which 
he constantly stressed the prevalence of piracy around New York. Accus 
ing his predecessor, Governor Fletcher, of aiding the freebooters, Bello 
mont issued a proclamation on May 9, 1698, calling for the arrest of all 
known pirates and the suppression of piracy. From that day until April 
1 6, 1700, when the notorious Captain Kidd and 40 other pirates landed 
in England to be tried, Bellomont' s reports to the lords of trade pleaded 


steadily for good judges from England, an honest and able attorney- 
general, a man-of-war commanded by a trustworthy captain, and pay and 
recruits for the four foot-companies of soldiers in the city these, he 
averred, were the only means to put down piracy. 

Despite corrupt customs officials and a populace "impudent in abetting 
and sheltering Pirates and their Goods," Bellomont personally ordered 
the seizure, examination and imprisonment of his former partner, Captain 
Kidd; and to the commissioners whom he had appointed to examine 
Kidd's ship he forwarded jewels valued at 10,000 which Kidd had pre 
sented to Lady Bellomont during his term as the Earl's partner. 

Bellomont's unrelenting war against the pirates resulted in the dispatch 
ing of a man-of-war from England in 1699, and the king's order of 
February 10, 1700, which required that certain pirates be sent from New 
York to England with all witnesses and evidence against them. Among 
the prisoners was Captain Kidd, who, together with several of the others, 
was hanged soon after reaching England. With Kidd's execution, piracy 
in New York waters dwindled. 

Among the more constructive local administrations of this period were 
those of Abraham de Peyster and William Peartree. As mayor of New 
York from 1691 to 1694, Colonel de Peyster was very much interested in 
balancing the budget, his proposal of 1694 to sell certain vacant lots in 
the city to pay off the municipal debt being one of similar suggestions 
that were supported by the common council. Yet he was not niggardly 
with respect to civic improvements, as was demonstrated in 1696 when he 
was appointed by the common council to consider the building of a new 
City Hall a project to which he gave much time and thought. In 1698 
and in 1709, De Peyster was appointed to the governor's council, and in 
1701 he was appointed deputy auditor-general of the colony. Both in and 
out of these and other offices, De Peyster's efforts were often directed to 
ward projects not customarily associated with the interests of his class at 
the time. 

Colonel William Peartree, who served as mayor from 1703 to 1706, is 
credited with having effected several public improvements. On May u, 
1706, he caused the citizens to begin work on fortifications of the city, 
these being described in the Manual of the Corporation of the City of 
New York (1853) as "the first erected at the Narrows," the "principal 
incentive" therefor being cited as "the entrance of a French privateer 
within the harbor, which put the whole city in consternation." In 1705, 
the Manual continues, Colonel Peartree was entrusted "with the command 


of an expedition, consisting of a brigantine and two sloops, fitted out by 
several of the principal shipping merchants of the city, to cruise after a 
certain French privateer which had been depredating upon merchant ves 
sels bound for this port." Peartree established the first free grammar 
school, as well as a school for Negro slaves. He also improved conditions 
in the jail and provided a debtors' prison in the City Hall. 

One particularly disgraceful episode that stands out against the more 
constructive achievements of the period was the so-called "Negro plot" of 
1741. It began when several fires broke out in swift succession, was 
whipped up by lightning-like gossip implicating the colored inhabitants, 
and resulted finally in the imprisonment of more than 100 Negroes, the 
burning of 29 at the stake and the transporting of 88. Three whites were 
also executed before the hysteria died down. 

Among the many events of these years were the founding of the first 
mercantile exchange in 1670; the death of Peter Stuyvesant two years 
later; the establishment of part of the Boston Post Road in 1671, and a 
regular post between New York and Boston the following year; the ap 
pearance in 1680 of the first "trust" in American history, when coopers 
organized for the express purpose of raising the prices of casks; the set 
ting up of the first printing press and the establishment on November 8, 
1725, of the city's first newspaper, the New-York Gazette; the opening in 
1731 of the first public library when 1,642 books received from the Soci 
ety for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts were made avail 
able at City Hall; the organization of New York's first labor union, in 
1747, when 100 mechanics protested against the low wage scales in neigh 
boring provinces and combined to increase their own ; and the granting of 
a charter on October 31, 1754, to King's College, now Columbia Univer 
sity, financial support of which was made possible by a lottery. 

The Revolutionary Period: 1763-1783 

The Treaty of Paris in 1763 freed the colonies from dependence on the 
British government for protection against the French and Indians by elim 
inating the former from what was to be the United States and by mak 
ing peace with the latter. This led to swift development of the movement 
toward union of the colonies a result long foreseen by competent ob 
servers, who knew that only fear of the French and Indians had kept the 
colonies in line. 

The second force that now drove the colonies together and brought on 


the Revolution was a series of stupid blunders made by the British gov 
ernment under a young king too ignorant and unyielding to compromise 
on vital issues. Soon His Majesty's Government and the colonies were op 
posed on two fundamental issues: enforcement of the navigation laws, 
which would ruin a rich smuggling trade that was technically illegal but 
had been openly carried on for more than 100 years without official inter 
ference; and insistence by the home government on raising a permanent 
revenue from the colonies through direct taxation, the Stamp Act of 1765 
and the Townshend Acts of 1767 being prominent examples of these un 
wise measures. 

On October 7, 1765, the so-called Stamp Act Congress met at City Hall 
in New York, with 28 delegates seated from Massachusetts Bay, Rhode 
Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, 
South Carolina, and "the counties of New Castle, Kent and Sussex on 
Delaware." A "declaration of the rights and grievances of the colonists in 
America" was agreed to on October 19 and set forth in 14 articles, chief 
among which were the protest against "taxation without representation," 
the demand for the right to trial by jury, and the statement that the Stamp 
Act manifestly tended "to subvert the rights and liberties of the colonies." 
Three days later, the Congress approved an address to the king, a memo 
rial to the lords, and a petition to the House of Commons. On October 
25, the Congress adjourned after the clerk had been directed to make a 
copy of the proceedings for each of the colonies, and two sets to be dis 
patched to England. 

Among the "radical" organizations that did much at this time to con 
solidate opposition to England's sudden enforcement of the Navigation 
Laws in 1763, and to taxes levied in 1765 and 1767, were groups consti 
tuting the Sons of Liberty. They first made their direct influence felt when 
the Stamp Act laid a tax on all legal documents executed within the colo 
nies. When the stamps for this tax arrived on October 22, 1765, the peo 
ple were in an ugly mood, as threatening manuscript placards throughout 
the city evidenced. "The first Man," read one of these placards, "that 
either distributes or makes use of Stampt Paper let him take care of His 
House, Person & Effects." By November i, the government's refusal to 
surrender the stamps resulted in riots. Mobs, led by Sons of Liberty 
groups, roamed the town, broke open the governor's coachhouse, and 
burned it and the palisades they had ripped away in Bowling Green. Then 
they broke into and sacked the house of Major James, who had been ap 
pointed to enforce the regulations, and proceeded to train cannon on the 


city. Finally Lieutenant-Governor Golden turned the stamps over to the 
common council and they were put in the City Hall under care of the city 
watch. A few days later, the new governor, Sir Henry Moore, arrived and 
tried to placate the people by dismantling the fort and removing artillery 
stores placed there by Major James. 

Four years later, the New York assembly met and was asked by Golden 
to make provision for the king's troops. The assembly did so in return 
for issue to it of 120,000 in paper currency. The people, whose opposi 
tion to supporting the troops had previously been manifested, saw in this 
measure a betrayal by their own assembly; and clashes occurred between 
the people, led by Sons of Liberty groups, and the soldiers. 

When the Stamp Act of 1765 was repealed by Parliament in 1766, a 
declaratory act was passed asserting Parliament's right to tax America. On 
the basis of this declaratory act, duties were laid in 1767 on all paint, 
paper, glass and tea imported into the colonies. In March 1770, these 
taxes were repealed, with the exception of that on tea, which was main 
tained as evidence of Parliament's authority to tax the colonies. It was 
openly opposed by merchants throughout the Dominion of New England, 
but only Boston was selected for punishment because of such opposition. 
The admiration of many New York merchants for Boston's continued 
defiance of the tax resulted finally in the election on May 16, 1774, of the 
Committee of Fifty-One at Fraunces Tavern and the adoption of a reso 
lution to help Boston. 

On July 4, 1774, the committee nominated Philip Livingston, John 
Alsop, Isaac Low, James Duane and John Jay as representatives to the 
general congress of the colonies that the committee had proposed. Two 
days later, the radical faction of the committee, dissatisfied with conserva 
tive action, called a public meeting in what is now City Hall Park and 
passed stinging resolutions that resulted in withdrawal of n members 
from the committee. The general congress of the colonies, held at Phila 
delphia early in September 1774, adopted the "Association," an agree 
ment pledging the colonies to non-importation of British goods. That 
agreement was kept to the letter only by New York. 

News of the battles of Lexington and Concord reached New York on 
Sunday morning, April 23, 1775. Bands of citizens marched to the City 
Hall, seized the government and confiscated all arms. A Committee of One 
Hundred, chosen to bring order out of the existing chaos, was forced to 
proceed cautiously because of the many loyalists, a large party of whom 
planned to turn the city over to the English. Repeated clashes between 


these loyalists and the patriots marked the very severe winter of 1775-76. 

Washington arrived in the city on April 13, 1776, fought the Battle of 
Long Island, and fell bacfc to a fortified camp on Brooklyn Heights, from 
which he moved his forces to Manhattan on August 29. The English con 
centration of a superior force threatened the Americans, who now evacu 
ated the city proper and entrenched themselves on territory along the Hud 
son at Washington Heights. The opposing forces clashed finally at the 
Battle of Harlem Heights, fought over an area lying roughly between the 
present Riverside and Morningside Drives, from i2oth Street southward 
to 1 03d Street. The English were defeated, but Washington did not have 
a force sufficient to dislodge them from the city, which they had occupied 
on September 15, 1776, and which they held, under a military govern 
ment, for the next seven years. 

On April 20, 1777, a representative convention at Kingston, N. Y., 
adopted a constitution giving the choice of governor to the people for the 
first time, George Clinton being elected in June and inaugurated July 30* 

Four years later, Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown; and after 
two years of battling with an obstinate king, the definitive treaty of peace 
was signed September 3, 1783, by the American commissioners and His 
Majesty's Government. 

During the English occupation of New York, a devastating fire de 
stroyed about one- fourth of the city, September 21-3, 1776. But this dis 
aster was as nothing compared to the horror of the prison ships in Walla- 
bout Bay and the makeshift prisons on land, in which some 12,000 
American prisoners of war, including 2,637 men kft to garrison Fort 
Washington and later captured, died as a result of being deprived of food 
by grafting commissaries. Property belonging to royalists was marked and 
protected ; all other was confiscated by the Crown. The city became a ref 
uge for tories from all parts of the country. One of the most dramatic epi 
sodes of the period was Nathan Hale's execution as a spy on September 
22, 1776. 

Against the pleasant fact that no taxes were levied on the citizens (ex 
penses were met by revenues from wharf-dues, tavern licenses, etc.) was 
the unpleasant and unprecedented rise in the cost of living. Landlords in 
creased their rents as demand rose sharply, and some of the necessities of 
life soared 800 percent above normal prices. These factors, together with 
the disastrous fire of 1776 and the extremely severe winter of 1777, pro 
duced a steady increase in poverty, which became one of the major prob 
lems faced by the British commandants during the occupation. Consider- 


able damage was done to the churches of Dissenters, the military seizing 
and using them for prisons, stables, hospitals and storehouses. 

Despite such conditions, the town was gay. Beach bathing, a little the 
ater on John Street, band concerts, and even bull-baiting served to keep 
the tories and British officers amused. The outstanding social event was 
the visit of Prince William Henry, third son of the king, in 1781. He was 
the first person of royal lineage to visit America. 

The city's physical progress was remarkable considering the handicaps 
of the period. The population increased from about 12,000 in 1763 to 
21,863 for city and county in 1771. New streets were opened and devel 
oped as the city grew to the northward at a rapid pace. More churches 
were built, including St. Paul's, the Brick Presbyterian, and the city's first 
Methodist Church. The Chamber of Commerce, designed to encourage in 
dustry and trade, and the Marine Society, founded to promote maritime 
knowledge and to care for widows and orphans of sea captains, were 
formed in 1768. Two years later, New York Hospital was chartered, al 
though the fire of 1776 and the war prevented its actual operation as a 
hospital until 1791. 

On December 5, 1783, not a British flag remained in the harbor. A new 
nation had been born, and New York stood ready to enter upon an era of 
growth and prosperity such as it had not yet enjoyed. 

Reconstruction and Consolidation: 1783-1811 

City, State and nation went through a period of adjustment and recon 
struction that began immediately after the treaty of peace was formally 
signed with England in 1783 and continued until the War of 1812. Dur 
ing the intervening years, decided progress was made in several directions. 

State matters concerned the legislature, which met in the city from Jan 
uary 1784 to November 1796 (except for five sessions, held elsewhere). 
Governors Clinton and Jay occupied the Government House, begun in 
1790 to house State and Federal officers. Legislative acts directly concern 
ing the city included the incorporation in 1784 of the "Regents of the 
University of the State of New York," this act changing the name of 
King's College to Columbia College; the altering of ward designations 
from names such as Dock, East, etc., to First, Second, etc.; the act of 1799 
providing for gradual abolition of slavery throughout the State; and the 
petition of 1802 to construct a bridge across the East River, the first pro 
posal of its kind and one that was heartily ridiculed. 


Federal matters concerned the Congress, which met in New York City 
from its first session of January n, 1785, to August 30, 1790, when it 
moved to Philadelphia. After the adoption of the Constitution, Congress 
met for the first time under the terms of that instrument on March 4, 1789, 
in Federal Hall, which stood on the site of the present Subtreasury build 
ing. There, electors chose George Washington as first President on April 
6, 1789, the inauguration taking place 24 days later on the balcony of Fed 
eral Hall. Washington's stay in New York was marked by gracious enter 
tainment, walks "round the Battery," long drives in the family coach with 
Mrs. Washington and her two children, theater parties, and even a fishing 
trip to Sandy Hook in 1790. The President also sat for the portraits by 
Trumbull and Savage that hang today in City Hall. 

Important religious developments took place in the city after passage by 
the legislature in 1784 of an act allowing all religious bodies to be in 
corporated an act as important to religious equality as the Declaration 
of Independence to political freedom. The Catholics, who had been pro 
hibited from exercising their form of worship in Great Britain and the 
colonies, laid the cornerstone of St. Peter's, the first Roman Catholic 
church in New York, on October 5, 1785, at the southeast corner of 
Church and Barclay Streets. Twenty-three years later, a Roman Catholic 
See was created in New York. The first convention of the Protestant 
Episcopal Church in the State of New York was held here on June 22, 
1785, and this body was later organized as an independent branch of the 
mother church, just 90 years after Trinity Church had been chartered by 
Governor Fletcher. 

Building activity began to increase greatly. In 1800, about 100 build 
ings, half of them three-story structures, were under way. Seven years later, 
more new houses were built than in any previous year, while between 600 
and 700 dwellings and shops were begun in the spring of 1810. 

Between 1783 and 1812, commerce and industry suffered a serious 
slump, then enjoyed a recovery, and subsequently went into another decline 
that resulted in panic. In February 1784, the Empress of China sailed for 
Asiatic waters flying the American flag that had been adopted in 1777 
the first American ship to set out for the Orient with those colors. The 
Bank of New York was organized in 1784 as the city's first financial in 
stitution ; and the first fire insurance company was founded ten years later 
under the name of Mutual Assurance Company. In 1792, an agreement 
was effected among stock brokers that later resulted in formation of the 
New York Stock Exchange. Prior to 1792, outdoor trading had been con- 


ducted near a buttonwood tree that stood between Nos. 68 and 70 Wall 

The energies of the people were not, however, devoted entirely to com 
mercial adjustment and physical reconstruction. Amusements and sports 
occupied no little of their time, with theaters, pleasure gardens, circuses 
and various other diversions vying for patronage. 

Pleasure gardens were numerous. Best known were those owned by 
Joseph de Lacroix, a French restaurateur, at No. 112 Broadway, where 
ice cream and open-air concerts were featured ; and at the Bayard Mansion, 
between Broadway and the Bowery just below the present Astor Place, 
where private boxes under shade trees were the "ringside tables." Circuses 
were great favorites. From 1786 to 1808, eight of them held forth. They 
featured exhibitions of horsemanship, grandiose stage spectacles, bull- 
baiting and wild animal combats. 

The sporting gentry had their fill too. On August 13, 1789, they staged 
a yacht race off Sandy Hook that was the forerunner of the present Ameri 
ca's Cup races. Horse-racing in Greenwich Lane, fox-hunting and (in No 
vember and December of 1784) buffalo hunts with hounds, in which buf 
falo brought from Kentucky were used, rounded out the sports of the day. 

Various societies that continue to this day were organized. The "Society 
of Tammany or Columbian Order in the City of New York," established 
.in 1786 as a social and philanthropic organization, was developed into the 
present political machine by a long line of astute leaders from Aaron Burr 
down to Charlie Murphy. It was not the first Tammany Society in the 
United States, others having preceded it in Pennsylvania, Virginia and 
New Jersey. Two other organizations formed at this time were the New 
York Academy of Fine Arts (1802) and the New York Historical Society 

The closing year of this period, 1811, was extremely important in the 
city's history. On March 22, commissioners appointed in 1807 to lay out 
streets, roads and public squares submitted their report. With it they trans 
mitted a map drawn in triplicate by John Randel, Jr., from surveys made 
by him for the commissioners. One of the originals of that map, the most 
important of its kind in the entire history of New York, hangs today in 
the great Public Library at Forty-Second Street and Fifth Avenue, its faded 
ink marking the end of little old New York and the beginning of a great 

The plan of 1811 divided the greater part of Manhattan Island into 
rectangular blocks separated by north and south avenues 100 feet wide, and 


east and west cross streets laid out to 15 5th Street. Avenues that could be 
extended to Harlem were designated by ordinal numbers, from First at 
the east to Twelfth at the west; with four short avenues, A, B, C and D, 
east of First Avenue. 

Squares and other open spaces included Bloomingdale Square, from 
Fifty-Third to Fifty-Seventh Streets, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues; 
Hamilton Square, from Sixty-Sixth to Sixty-Eighth Streets, between Third 
and Fifth Avenues; Manhattan Square, from Seventy- Seventh to Eighty- 
First Streets, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues; Harlem Marsh, from 
io6th to 1 09th Streets, between the East River and Fifth Avenue; and Har 
lem Square, from nyth to i2ist Streets, between Sixth and Seventh Av 

Like nearly all attempts to effect improvement, the plan of 1811 aroused 
the customary chorus of opposition from self-appointed defenders of the 
"people's rights." Fortunately, the courts sustained the commissioners, and 
the haphazard community now began to develop along the lines of a 
planned system of thoroughfares that persists, basically, to this day. 

It was in this period of adjustment and reconstruction that De Witt 
Clinton began a distinguished public career in city and state that covered 
about a quarter of a century. Graduated in 1786 from Columbia College, 
he was appointed mayor of New York in 1803 and served ten terms in 
that office during the ensuing years to 1815. Then, in the period from 
1817 to 1828, he served two terms as governor of the State. Although his 
name is most prominently associated with the development of early inland 
waterways, notably the Erie Canal, Clinton was a pioneer participant in 
numerous other important activities. He was the first president of the So 
ciety for Establishing a Free School in the City of New York (later the 
Public School Society), the Literary and Philosophical Society of New 
York, the American Academy of Fine Arts and the Institution for the 
Relief of the Deaf and Dumb. He died at Albany on February 10, 1828. 

The War of 1812 

Work on the commissioners' plan of 1811 was interrupted in 1812 by 
the declaration of war against England on June 18, various diplomatic 
measures employed by President Jefferson having failed to stop both the 
French and English policy of search and seizure of American ships and the 
impressment of their crews. New York City's part in the war consisted 
chiefly in supplying men and money for the erection of fortifications to 


defend the harbor. In addition, New York was prominent in fitting out 
privateers that preyed on British commerce and naval forces, the city's ac 
tivities in this respect being second only to those of Baltimore. 

Of especial interest during these years was the development of steam 
boat navigation. As McMaster points out, there were no steamboats out 
side New York at this time, "but such was the commercial importance of 
that city that eight found employment in administering to the wants and 
conveniences of its citizens." One of those who helped to make possible 
that development was Cadwallader D. Golden, grandson of an English 
colonial governor and himself mayor of New York for three terms, in 
1818-21. It was Golden who in 1812 acted as attorney for Robert Fulton 
and his associates before the common council, and secured an extension of 
Fulton's contract with the city, thus assuring the success of the Steam Boat 
Ferry Company and the subsequent expansion of steamboat navigation. 
Later, after Golden had become mayor, he evidenced his interest in an 
other important public problem by presenting to the common council Rob 
ert Macomb's idea of bringing water to the city from Rye Pond. Al 
though the Macomb plan was not carried out, it served to stimulate dis 
cussion of this and other schemes that led to definite action some two 
decades later. Colden's Memoir of the Canal Celebration is one of the best 
contemporary accounts of the ceremonies in New York in 1825 when the 
Erie Canal was completed. 

Also important in this period was the establishment in 1812 of the 
State's public school system and the refusal of the Free School Society, 
which controlled practically all of New York City's non-sectarian elemen 
tary education, to submit to administration by the State authorities, though 
it accepted its share of school funds from the State. Not until many years 
thereafter did the city's public schools become a part of the State system. 

Material Prosperity and Civic Lethargy: 1815-1841 

The end of the War of 1812 marked the opening of a burst of com 
mercial activity. Imports, which had been seriously curtailed for several 
years, now flooded the port of New York. So huge was the total that, after 
merchants' demands were met, many cargoes of goods were sold directly 
to the consumer. This resulted in cutting off the market for the merchants, 
running citizens into debt for purchases far beyond their means, and the 
collapse of home industries developed during the past decade to replace 


imports from Europe. H^rd times set in, and the winter of 1815-16 was 
one of great suffering. Soup kitchens spread rapidly, until by March i, 
1816, they were feeding between 6,000 and 7,000 persons. 

But the depression soon passed. The famous Black Ball and other packet 
lines began their sailings to Europe, South America and the Indies. The 
seven-million-dollar canal system connecting New York with the interior 
was completed in 1825. Steam railroad transporation within and out of the 
city was initiated and expanded. Such improvements, coupled with an eager 
market for imports on the one hand and home products now protected by 
the tariff of 1816 on the other, resulted in unprecedented business activity, 
particularly as the flood of immigration was swiftly creating a shortage in 
housing and other related fields. 

Duties collected on imports ran as high as ten million dollars in one 
year; merchants from all parts of the country came to New York to trans 
act business; about 1,500 mercantile houses are said to have been estab 
lished in the first half of 1825; and hotel and transportation revenues 
soared. Twelve banks with a combined capital of 13 millions and ten ma 
rine insurance companies capitalized at ten millions were inadequate to 
handle the enormous business in their fields; and applications were made 
to the legislature for 27 more bank charters and 31 other corporation 
charters, the new companies having a total capitalization of 371/2 million 
dollars. Even the nationwide financial panic of 1837 failed to have an 
extended effect on the upswing. By 1841, the 185 commercial failures in 
New York, the attendant riots, and the suspension by banks of specie pay 
ments were fairly well in the background, and the boom was on again. 

Meanwhile, civic pride was crying aloud in the wilderness of commercial 
frenzy. Pauperism was plentiful at the lower end of the economic scale. 
The liquor traffic was running riot, the newly opened almshouse being 
taxed to the limit by many who spent their relief allowances in the 1,900 
licensed grog shops and 600 other sources of supply in the city. A housing 
shortage was created by the population increase from 96,373 in 1810 to 
312,710 in 1840, facilities being so inadequate that the universal moving 
day of May i found people gathered with their goods in the park or lodged 
in the jail until their unfinished houses could be made ready. Building was 
speedily and poorly done; sanitary measures were secondary to swift com 

Deep-seated antagonisms of native or naturalized Americans toward im 
migrants began to be manifested in riots and mob violence. Revision of 


the charter in 1834 and consequent direct election of the mayor produced 
in Tammany an overnight affection for these immigrants, who soon dis 
covered that he who giveth on election day taketh away on all others. The 
inevitable reaction on the part of these thousands of newcomers was either 
cynicism or apathy toward municipal affairs. Thus, with those at the top 
of the social structure interested primarily in economic rather than civic 
gains, and with the others antagonistic or indifferent, civic pride went with 
the wind. 

Streets were filthy and in poor repair. The great fire that broke out on 
December 15, 1835, consuming more than 600 buildings at a loss of about 
17 million dollars, demonstrated the utter inadequacy of the fire- fighting 
personnel and equipment. This fire destroyed the heart of the business 
section and nearly all of the old Dutch town that had survived the fires 
of 1776 and 1778. More than 17 city blocks were laid waste in the 
streets east of Broadway and south of Wall Street, and not until buildings 
in the path of the fire were blown up was it checked. Nearly all of the fire 
insurance companies were bankrupted by this disaster. Policing, performed 
by the unemployed, was too inefficient to cope with the riots of 1833-35. 
The inadequate wells and pumps that provided the only available drinking 
water were responsible for four epidemics between 1818 and 1834. An 
initial scourge of yellow fever had scarcely died down when the dread 
disease reappeared on an even wider scale in 1822. Then a third occurred 
in 1823, thousands fleeing the city and remaining away until November. 
Nine years later, cholera swept the city, killing 3,500 persons in 105 days. 

Early in the i9th century, an English visitor to New York had par 
ticularly noted "the colored people, the custom of smoking segars in the 
streets (even followed by some of the children), and the number and 
nuisance of the pigs permitted to be at large." By 1837, the scene had 
changed considerably. 

One hundred years ago, about one-sixth of Manhattan was compactly 
covered with houses, stores and paved streets, the rest being given over 
to farms and gardens. Broadway, extending for three miles from the Bat 
tery to the junction of Fifth Avenue and Twenty-Third Street, was still 
the finest thoroughfare. Houses were mostly of brick, two to six stories 
high. Of the 6o-odd hotels, only three were operated on the European 
plan, with rates ranging from $2 to $3.50 weekly, while the rest offered 
board and lodging on the American plan for from $i to $2.50 a day. Of 
the five theaters, the Park, in Park Row, was the oldest, largest and most 
fashionable; box seats cost $i, admission to the "pit" was 50 cents and to 


the gallery 25 cents. Other places of fashionable resort included the Bat 
tery; Castle Garden, which had been ceded by the United States to the 
city in 1823 and had served since as a place of public entertainment; and 
Niblo's Garden, at the corner of Broadway and Pine Street, one of the 
most frequented spots during the summer months. 

Churches numbered about 150 in 1837, tne Presbyterians leading with 
39 and the Episcopalians ranking second with 29. Educational facilities 
were surprisingly good for the time. Columbia College, on the site 
bounded by Murray, Barclay, Church and Chapel Streets, and the Uni 
versity of the City of New York, on the east side of Washington Square, 
constituted the principal non-sectarian institutions of higher learning. The 
General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, at the 
corner of Ninth Avenue and Twenty- First Street, and the New York Theo 
logical Seminary of the Presbyterian Church, on Wooster Street above 
Waverly Place, were two of the leading sectarian schools. Labor had its 
own Mechanics' School, established in 1820 by the General Society of 
Mechanics and Tradesmen to educate children of deceased or unfortunate 
members. Public schools maintained by the Public School Society totaled 
49, of which eight were for Negroes; the enrollment exceeded 12,000 
white and 1,000 colored pupils. In addition, there were several private 
schools and seminaries. The press had expanded rapidly beyond the seven 
daily, five semi-weekly and five weekly newspapers of 1817. In 1837, the 
city had more than 50 newspapers. 

In 1837, Philip Hone, who had been mayor in 1826-27 an< ^ was one 
of the city's leading social and political figures, built a new house at the 
southeast corner of Broadway and Great Jones Street, and there continued 
his diary, begun in 1828 and regularly maintained until almost the day of 
his death in 1851. This diary constitutes a record unrivalled in its field, its 
more than two million words being the most complete contemporary pic 
ture of a period in which its author played a prominent role. Politically,. 
Hone's real importance, as Allan Nevins has pointed out, "was as a coun 
sellor and agent of the great Whig leaders of Webster, Clay, Seward, 
Tallmadge, and Taylor. No man had a greater influence with the New 
York merchants." Apart from his political activity, he served as an officer, 
director, or trustee of many business, social welfare and civic organiza 
tions. In these other posts, he contributed steadily to the development of 
the city he loved, and through his diary he recorded and often interpreted 
the growth of that city from about 200,000 population to more than 


The Pre-Civil War Period: 1842-1860 

By 1842, New York had entered upon an era of remarkable expansion 
in population, wealth and commerce. Population leaped from 312,710 in 
1840 to 813,669 in 1860. The clipper ship carried the American merchant 
marine to its glorious peak in 1860, creating great fortunes as the Ameri 
can flag became supreme in the trade with China, in the California gold 
rush and on the Atlantic; until in 1860 American merchant tonnage rep 
resented not far from one-third of the world-total. The lower part of the 
city was crowded with buildings, the upper section began to develop by 
1853, and in 1860 the total assessed valuation of all real estate had in 
creased 206 millions of dollars over the figures for 1842. The passenger 
elevator, without which modern New York architecture would be impos 
sible, made its first screw-propelled appearance in 1859 at tne Fifth Av 
enue Hotel. Express services for packages had been developed by 1843; 
postage stamps for prepaid letters were inaugurated in 1846 by the New 
York postmaster and extended nationally in 1847; an ^ the telegraph cli 
maxed the speeding of communications when the first New York line was 
opened in 1845. 

It was in this period that land for Central Park was purchased and con 
struction of that beautiful development was begun. In 1850, the need for 
more parks was stressed by civic organizations; and in 1851, authority to 
buy land was approved by the legislature, and commissioners of estimate 
and assessment were appointed to secure land for a park. In 1856, the 
Central Park Commission, consisting of the mayor, street commissioner and 
several prominent citizens, was created. Designs for the park were sub 
mitted in 1856-57, those of Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux 
being selected. Land was acquired in 1856, work was begun in 1857 and 
the park was considered completed on the basis of the Olmstead-Vaux 
plans in 1876. To Andrew H. Green, executive officer and president of the 
Central Park Commission from 1857 to 1870, was given chief credit for 
the work. 

Hard times swept over the city in the same year that Central Park was 
begun, about 40,000 laborers being thrown out of work. Hunger meetings 
were held in public centers, particularly Tompkins Square. People marched 
through the streets demanding bread and work. Threats were made against 
public buildings, and troops were called out to guard the Custom House 
and the Subtreasury. Damage was done to private property, but no deaths 


were recorded as a result of these disturbances. Improved business condi 
tions solved the problem, which had threatened to get completely out of 
hand when such gangs as the "Dead Rabbits" and the "Bowery Boys" took 
advantage of the situation in violence and looting. 

Politically, this period was marked by two distinct developments. Slavery 
became a national issue, splitting the Democratic Party. In New York, at 
tention was centered on the charter, which was amended five times without 
really correcting the lack of centralization of power that contributed no 
little to the efficiency of Mayor Fernando Wood's corrupt political machine 
and the development of a technique whereby "Boss" Tweed later plun 
dered the city. 

Progress was made, however, in dealing with the three most important 
municipal problems: an adequate supply of water, public education and 
improvement of the police department. Of these, water supply was by far 
the most pressing, and construction of the Croton system became the great 
est single advance of the period. 

The second great advance of this period was in the field of public edu 
cation, which the Free School Society had dominated since 1805 and in 
which it had effected several improvements, including those of 1828, when 
it opened the first of its more than 60 primary schools. Although the 
Society had been sharing in the State's school funds, it had not and still 
was not operating under the regulations of the State-wide public education 
act of 1812. 

In 1831, the old question of permitting religious societies to share in 
public educational funds was re-opened when the Roman Catholic Benevo 
lent Society requested the common council to help its orphan asylum with 
a grant from the school fund. The council acceded to this request, thus 
reversing its position of 1824, despite objections by trustees of the Public 
School Society. Nine years later, the Catholics went considerably beyond 
their former request when the trustees of the Catholic Free Schools applied 
to the common council for aid. On this occasion, the Public School So 
ciety's objections were sustained by the council's denial of the application. 

The Catholics struck back at the common council's refusal to grant them 
aid by pointing out that the use of the King James Version of the Bible, 
as well as of other books that they deemed unacceptable to their church, 
virtually excluded them from sharing in the facilities of the common school 
system if they were to maintain their religious integrity. The subsequent 
deletion of objectionable matter from text-books failed to satisfy the Cath- 


olics, who carried the issue to the legislature, where it was taken up in 
1841. Then the Catholic groups organized and entered municipal politics. 
They were badly beaten in the subsequent mayoralty election. 

As a result of this agitation, and of recommendations by Governor Wil 
liam H. Seward, the legislature enacted a law in April 1842 that provided 
for management of schools sharing in public funds by officials elected by 
the people ; extended the State's public school system to include New York 
City; and, most important of all, prohibited allotment of public funds to 
any school that taught or practiced a sectarian doctrine. This was followed 
by creation of school districts within the city, one to each ward, where 
the voters elected two commissioners, two inspectors and five trustees of 
common schools. These ward commissioners became the board of education 
for the city of New York. 

The first ward school was opened in 1843. Five years later, 24 such 
schools had been organized. By 1853, after clashes with the new board of 
education, the Public School Society had transferred its 17 schools and 
other property to the city. In that year the Society, which had done so 
much for public education in New York, voluntarily dissolved. After 1856, 
the board of education completely controlled the schools. 

The third contribution of this period to municipal betterment was the 
development of the police department on a more efficient administrative 
and personnel basis. The department had long been woefully inadequate. 
In 1833 and again in 1844, public officials had sharply criticized it. As the 
Watch Department, it consisted of 1,525 regular and 300 special officers. 
Its 100 marshals were paid on a fee system that very obviously depended 
on the existence (and even the instigation) of crime. Night watchmen 
worked at other jobs during the day, and found it practically impossible 
to stay awake on their posts. There were no uniforms and there was little 

In 1844, the legislature passed an act empowering the city to organize 
a regularly paid day-and-night police force. Both mayor and common 
council refused the necessary approval; instead, they created a municipal 
force by city ordinance. One of the amusing results of this move was Mayor 
Harper's attempt to get the policemen into uniform, a proposal rejected 
by the men on the ground that, as free-born American citizens, they did 
not propose to wear "livery" and look like servants. 

By 1845, the failure of the locally-created police force was so obvious 
as to lead to approval of the legislative act previously rejected by the mayor 
and the common council. Under this act, the city was divided into regular 


police districts, each with its local police court; the chief of police was 
appointed by the mayor with the approval of the common council; cap 
tains, assistants and "roundsmen" were appointed for each ward by the 
mayor after being nominated by the ward's aldermen, assistant aldermen 
and assessors. The duties of the force were many. In addition to the usual 
police work, they lighted street lamps, sounded alarms and acted as street 
inspectors, health wardens, fire wardens, dockmasters and in other capac 

On June 19, 1845, George W. Matsell was appointed the first chief of 
this new organization, which managed to acquit itself in such a manner as 
to win official commendation from Mayor Havemeyer in 1848. Inciden 
tally, Matsell later published the National Police Gazette; and he was the 
author of Vocabulum, or The Rogue's Lexicon, the first considerable glos 
sary of New York underworld slang. 

The department was further improved in 1853, when revision of the 
city's charter created a Board of Commissioners to appoint officers, such 
appointments to stand during good behavior and to be revocable only "for 
cause." The free-born American citizens having resigned themselves to the 
idea of wearing "livery," a uniform was adopted, consisting of a blue coat 
with brass buttons, gray trousers and blue cap. This was the first com 
pletely uniformed, tax-supported, full-time police force in the city's history. 

Four years later, at the time of Mayor Fernando Wood's second admin 
istration, this force had become so inefficient and corrupt that the State 
legislature voted to abolish the Municipal Police, setting up in its stead a 
Metropolitan Police under five commissioners appointed by the governor. 
Outraged, Mayor Wood struck the appropriate pose; and the Municipals 
and Metropolitans had it out in a spirited hurly-burly on the steps of 
City Hall. The Metropolitans, outnumbered, got much the worst of the 
fracas until the Seventh Regiment, fortuitously marching down to the Bos 
ton boat, was called in. The mayor submitted to arrest; and the authority 
of the Metropolitan Police was subsequently established. 

An affair of international interest in this period was the "Exhibition of 
the Industry of All Nations," held in 1853-54. Inspired by the Crystal Pal 
ace Exposition of 1851 in London, civic-minded New Yorkers incorporated 
a company to promote and stage a similar exposition on a municipally- 
granted site now occupied by Bryant Park, west of the present Public 
Library. The building, of iron and glass, resembled the famous Crystal 
Palace of the English exposition ; and in it a total of 4,000 exhibitors from 
Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Holland, Austria, Italy, Sweden, 


Norway, Mexico, Turkey and other countries displayed their wares to ap 
proximately 1,250,000 visitors. 

The Civil War: 1861-1865 

Human nature being what it is New York's part in the Civil War is 
almost invariably associated with the dramatic Draft Riots of 1863 rather 
than with the more prosaic record of men, money and supplies that the 
city contributed generously toward the winning of the war. 

The riots were precipitated by many factors, among these being the 
previous hard times and the anti-militarist and anti-Union sentiment en 
tertained by large groups of New York Democrats. The main factor, of 
course, was resistance to the draft, in particular the popular indignation 
aroused by the actual setting up of drafting lotteries in Provost Marshals' 
offices throughout the city. 

As J. T. Headley, a contemporary chronicler, points out in his Pen and 
Pencil Sketches of the Great Riots, most of the conscripts "were laboring 
men or poor mechanics, who were unable to hire a substitute ... If a well- 
known name, that of a man of wealth, was among the number, it only 
increased the exasperation, for the law exempted everyone drawn who 
would pay three hundred dollars towards a substitute. This was taking 
practically the whole number of soldiers called for out of the laboring 
classes. A great proportion of these being Irish, it naturally became an 
Irish question and eventually an Irish riot." 

Street battles began on Monday, July 13, and continued into Thursday 
evening. Mobs sometimes numbering 10,000 persons the total of those 
involved was estimated at from 50,000 to 70,000 smashed the lotteries 
and, joined by the gangs that flourished under Mayor Wood, looted stores 
and burned buildings. Fury ruled the island from Union Square on the 
south to Shantytown on the north. Along with opposition to the draft went 
resentment toward Negroes as the precipitating cause of the war. The 
Colored Half Orphan Asylum, a substantial building on Fifth Avenue be 
tween Forty-Third and Forty-Fourth Streets, was burned, and many Ne 
groes were killed. 

By July 1 6, when troops recalled from the front took over the city, casu 
alties were as numerous as in some of the important battles of the Revolu 
tion and the Civil War. Estimates run all the way from 400 to 2,000 killed, 
with about 8,000 wounded. Property valued at between $1,200,000 and 
$5,000,000 was destroyed. "Investigation," says Bassett, "showed that the 


allotments of the Democratic enrollment districts were excessive, and when 
the error was corrected the draft proceeded quietly." In the end, exactly 
2,557 men were actually enrolled out of the 77,862 examined for service 
under the draft in New York State. 

New York City, however, contributed thousands of volunteers. By April 
23, 1 86 1, the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, twelfth, twenty-first and sixty- 
ninth State regiments of volunteers were on their way to, or already at, the 
front. In 1862, the city's troops were guarding the upper Potomac line; in 
1863, 12 regiments of the National Guard were used to check the Con 
federate advance on Pennsylvania and to defend Baltimore, their work 
being cut short when they were recalled to prevent further rioting in the 

In addition, troops were equipped and moved, in the early days of the 
war, by the Committee of Union Defense of the City of New York, this 
remarkable organization sending 36 regiments to the front and expending 
about $800,000. Of even greater importance was the Sanitary Commission, 
outgrowth of the Women's Central Association of Relief. It received and 
spent about five million dollars, and distributed supplies worth about 15 
millions. Its work in caring for the sick and wounded, and in the preven 
tion of disease, cannot be too highly praised. 

The city's total war contribution to the national treasury, including that 
of banks and other financial institutions, was estimated by Mayor Opdyke 
at 400 million dollars. Despite such expenditures, however, New York was 
not seriously crippled by the war. True, the physical growth of the city, 
as well as its population growth, had been checked, the population actually 
decreasing nearly 100,000 from 1860 to 1865. But the huge business of 
equipping and forwarding troops had so supplanted the former trade with 
the South that the commercial and financial structures more than held their 

The Tweed Ring: 1865-1874 

Perhaps the most important development of the decade immediately 
following the Civil War was the beginning of a profound change in the 
source of New York's wealth. Heretofore, the city had been dependent 
almost entirely on foreign and inland trade ; now it began to develop those 
manufactures which today constitute an enormous share of its economic re 
sources and power. This development was accompanied by excessive spec 
ulation, by many dubious or dishonest promotional activities, and by th<j 


welding of corrupt relations between business and politics. To these factors 
was due, in no small measure, the rise of the Tweed Ring, probably the 
greatest plunderers of a great city the world has ever known. 

The leading members of the ring consisted of William M. Tweed, Peter 
B. Sweeny, Richard Connolly and A. Oakey Hall, all of whom held im 
portant posts in the city government. The extent of their looting has never 
been accurately ascertained, because of the disappearance of records and the 
manner in which their transactions were carried out. Estimates vary from a 
minimum of 30 million dollars to a maximum of 200 millions, the latter 
figure including all the issues of fraudulent stock with which the ring was 
associated. Seventy-five million dollars is a fairly conservative figure. 

It is impossible to give definite dates for the entire period in which the 
ring operated, Tweed's own testimony on the subject being none too defi 
nite. But it was chiefly active from about 1867 to 1871. During those years, 
the construction and equipment costs for public buildings were somewhat 
startling. Items for one building, for example, included $7,500 for ther 
mometers, $41,190.95 for brooms, $531,594.22 for plastering, and $i,- 
294,684.13 for repairs to that plastering before the building was com 

One of the favorite devices whereby the ring looted the city treasury was 
that of raising accounts. If, for example, a bill was presented for $5,000, 
the creditor was told that the city could not possibly pay that amount, but 
that it would willingly discount a bill for $10,000. Thereupon, the creditor 
would present a new bill at the higher figure and receive the amount of his 
original bill, while the ring would pocket the difference. On most trans 
actions the difference was comparatively small in 1869. By 1870, re-sub 
mitted bills were normally 67 percent higher than the original bills. Later, 
they were 85 percent greater. 

Credit for bringing about the exposure and downfall of Tweed and his 
associates belongs to George Jones, proprietor, and Louis J. Jennings, edi 
tor, of the New York Times, and to Thomas Nast, brilliant cartoonist of 
Harper's Weekly. When Jennings had finally secured a sufficient amount 
of incriminating evidence from within the organization itself, Jones was 
offered five million dollars to suppress publication of the facts, while Nast 
was approached with a bribe of $500,000. But the ring had at last come 
up against men who could not be bought; and on July 8, 1871, the Times 
began publication of its expose, as Nast kept hammering away with his 

The result, from the standpoint of justice, was disappointing. Tweed 


was the only important member of the ring to go to prison. He died in 
Ludlow Street Jail on April 12, 1878, nearly six years after his first arrest, 
subsequent escape, flight to Spain and extradition to stand trial here. 

Territorial Expansion: 1874-1898 

Two years before the nation celebrated the looth anniversary of the 
Declaration of Independence, the limits of New York City were expanded, 
for the first time in its history, beyond the shores of Manhattan Island. 

On January i, 1874, the townships of Kingsbridge, West Farms and 
Morrisania (which were then part of the Borough of the Bronx in West- 
chester County) became a part of New York City by authority of the State 
legislature. Today the area constitutes that part of the Borough of the 
Bronx (in Greater New York) lying west of the Bronx River. 

On November 6, 1894, a proposal to consolidate certain localities adja 
cent to New York was submitted to popular vote. Included among these 
localities was an area within Westchester County that had not been an 
nexed in 1874. This part of the county now voted against the proposal. 
But the adverse majority was so small that it was ignored by the annexa- 
tionists; and on July i, 1895, the whole section east of the Bronx River 
became a part of New York City, as a result of Senator Robinson's Annexa 
tion Bill. This action occurred three years prior to the effective date of the 
enabling legislation that created Greater New York. The territory thus 
taken included Throg's Neck, Unionport, Westchester, Williamsbridge, 
Bronxdale, Olinville, Baychester, Eastchester, Wakefield and Bartow. 

The history of the area embraced in these two annexations north of the 
Harlem River is very confused, representing the coalition of several villages 
that had been assembled little by little in an uneven manner. The first 
recorded settlement was that of Jonas Bronck, "a Dane or Swede" who ar 
rived in New Amsterdam with his Dutch wife in 1639, and settled in 1641 
near the mouth of the river named after him. In addition to Bronck, the 
most prominent names in the earliest history of the Bronx are those of Mrs. 
Anne Hutchinson, who settled in 1643 at Pelham's Neck; John Throck- 
morton and a few others, who came in October 1642 to what is now 
Throg's Neck; and Jonkheer Adrien Van Der Donck, who was made a 
patroon and settled on a tract of land extending about eight miles north 
of Spuyten Duyvil. 

In 1874 and 1895, the annexations already noted made the old Borough 
of the Bronx, in Westchester County, part of New York City under the 


then existing charters. In 1896-97, the charter of the proposed Greater 
New York was prepared, submitted to the people and approved. On Janu 
ary i, 1898, the area comprising the 1874 and 1895 annexations north of 
the Harlem River, which was already part of New York City, became the 
Borough of the Bronx in Greater New York. 

Since that time, the Bronx has developed at a rapid rate. In 1900, its 
population was 200,507; 25 years later, it exceeded one million; and in 
1936 it was only 288,001 less than Manhattan's, as compared to 1,477,720 
less in 1916. Today, the Bronx ranks third in population among the five 
boroughs, fourth in area and fourth in assessed valuation. 

When Greater New York became a legal fact in 1898 by virtue of 
enabling legislation, the Bronx was already an established part of New 
York City. Not so, however, the areas that were to become the Boroughs 
of Brooklyn, Queens and Richmond. 

The flourishing city of Brooklyn had a background almost as old as that 
of New York itself. In 1636, the first grant of land was made there to 
A. Bennett and Jacques Bentyn at Gowanus, where they erected a house. The 
following year, Joris Jansen de Rapalje and his wife, Catelyna Trico, came 
to live on adjacent land known as the Waal-boght. It was this same Cate 
lyna Trico who, outliving her husband by many years, became known as 
"the mother of Brooklyn" by virtue of her eleven children and subsequent 
descendants, numbering 145 in 1679. 

In 1645, settlers between the Waal-boght and Gowanus Kill (a section 
roughly approximating the present Fulton, Hoyt, Smith Streets district) 
founded a town called Breuckelen, the name being the same as that of an 
ancient village in the Netherlands. It was granted local officials in 1646 as 
other towns Roode Hoek (Red Hook), so named because of its rich red 
soil, Gowanus, Nieu Utrecht and Ameersfoort (Flatlands) developed on 
Long Island. Later, English settlers came to Gravesend, Jamaica and Flush 

After the English seizure of New Amsterdam in 1664, Breuckelen be 
came, successively, Brockland, Brocklin, Brookline, and finally Brooklyn. 
In 1816, it was made an incorporated village; in 1834, a city; and in 1898, 
the Borough of Brooklyn in Greater New York. Its. population at the time 
of consolidation was considerably less than Manhattan's. In 1923, it passed 
Manhattan's figure. Today, it leads all of New York's boroughs in popula 
tion, stands second only to Manhattan in assessed valuation, and is second 
in area with 47,660 acres. 

Adjacent to Brooklyn and southeast of Manhattan lies another of the 


areas consolidated in 1898, the Borough of Queens. The first settlement in 
this territory was made at Flushing Bay, the formal charter of Vlissingen 
(Flushing) being dated 1645. The first provincial laws to recognize Vlis 
singen officially were the so-called Duke's Laws, proclaimed in 1665 by 
Governor Nicolls and his council, sitting as a court of assizes at Hempstead 
before deputies assembled for the purpose from Vlissingen and other Long 
Island and Westchester towns. This code was designed principally for what 
was then known as Yorkshire, a political entity, composed of Long Island, 
Staten Island and what was then Westchester County. 

In 1683, Governor Dongan of the province of New York issued writs 
for the election of a general assembly that met October 17 at New York 
and resulted in the creation of Queens County from a part of Yorkshire. 
Even then, Queens was famous for its two race courses, New Market and 
Beaver Pond, the mile-long course around Beaver Pond at Jamaica being 
especially well known. On May 27, 1823, a race run there for a $20,000 
purse was witnessed by a crowd estimated at between 40,000 and 50,000 

In 1929, Queens went over the one million mark in population, and by 
1936 its total of 1,280,805 was not far behind that of the Bronx and was 
fourth among Greater New York's boroughs. In assessed valuation, it was 
well ahead of the Bronx. In area, it ranks first by a wide margin, its total 
of 70,370 acres being practically four times greater than Manhattan's, and 
larger even than the Manhattan and Brooklyn areas combined. It is in 
Queens, at the historic Flushing Meadows, that the World's Fair of 1939 
will be held. 

Southwest of Manhattan lies Staten Island, another of the territories in 
corporated in Greater New York. This island, which became the Borough 
of Richmond under the 1898 consolidation, resembled and still resembles 
early New York more than any other division of the modern city. For here 
remain such hills and other natural beauties as long ago disappeared in 
Manhattan's leveling process. 

The early history of Staten Island is extremely difficult to trace, as far as 
the first actual settlers are concerned. It is known that three attempts to 
colonize the territory by the patroon system failed, although David P. de 
Vries, who went there in 1636, and Cornelius Melyn, who arrived in 1640, 
loom importantly in the island's history. 

The first permanent settlement was made by Peter Billiou and eighteen 
others in 1661, the settlement being named Oude Dorp, meaning Old 
Town. Three years later, after the English had captured New Amsterdam 


and changed its name to New York, British names were given to other 
parts of the province, including Staten Island, which now became a divi 
sion of "Yorkshire" known as the "West Riding." Later, the Indians sold 
the entire island to 'a man named Ryssel, who soon discovered the Indian 
aptitude for selling the same thing repeatedly, and at a higher price each 

There were only some 200 families on the island when it became the 
English county of Richmond on November i, 1683, under Governor Don- 
gan. On March 7, 1788, Richmond became a county of New York State. 
One hundred and ten years later, it was incorporated in Greater New York 
as the Borough of Richmond. 

In 1698, the population of Richmond consisted of 654 whites and 73 
Negroes. Four years later, it had decreased to a total of 505 ; and in the 
nine years following 1703, there was a gain of less than 800. Eleven years 
later, the inhabitants numbered 1,506, of whom 255 were Negroes. By 
1771, the total of 727 in 1698 had increased to 2,847 an average gain of 
only 30 persons a year. The first Federal census of 1790 listed 3,835 per 
sons. Fifty years later, the figure was 10,965 ; and by 1936, it had reached 

The Greater New York charter that had translated the popular vote of 
1895 into the legal fact of consolidation in 1898 had been very strongly 
criticized at public hearings held in January 1897. The Bar Association, 
Board of Trade, Clearing House Association, City Club, Union League 
Club, Reform Club, and Real Estate Exchange had expressed their opinions 
in no uncertain terms. Even Mayor Strong of New York, ex-omcio member 
of the Charter Commission that had framed the instrument, reversed his 
position when the charter was submitted for his approval as mayor. But 
the legislature overrode his veto by large majorities in both houses. The 
criticism did not cease after January i, 1898, when Greater New York 
became a fact despite these protests. On the contrary, it mounted until the 
1898 charter was revised in 1901. The revised instrument, which became 
effective January i, 1902, was virtually a new charter throughout. 

Prosperity and Progress: 1879-1909 

By 1879, the nation had begun to recover from the panic of 1873, and 
New York entered upon a phase of its modern growth which, while not 
devoid of the corruption that had characterized the Tweed era, was marked 
at least by increasingly determined efforts to better the governmental struc- 


ture and thus to control in a greater degree the various factors contributing 
to an unbelievably rapid expansion. 

By 1909, 300 years after Henry Hudson's arrival in New York's mag 
nificent harbor, the city was not only the undisputed colossus of the west 
ern hemisphere, but a giant among world-giants as well. The three decades 
between 1879 and 1909 constitute the first phase of New York's develop 
ment as a modern city. 

Politically, the period contributed evidence of a civic pride lacking for 
years. In 1882, the first of several organized public attempts to defeat cor 
ruption was staged. Although unsuccessful, it contributed to the legislative 
investigation of 1884, which was particularly interesting because of the 
appearance on the New York scene of a young man named Theodore 
Roosevelt, who headed the Assembly committee and submitted a report 
lashing, among other things, the Police Department. Ten years later, 
Roosevelt became president of the Board of Police Commissioners. In that 
post, he succeeded in doing a job sufficiently sound to bring himself to the 
attention of the nation, which later made him President. 

The election of William R. Grace as mayor in 1884 was the first victory 
for good government in this period. Two years later, the idea of inde 
pendent tickets had so far progressed as to make possible the first labor- 
union candidate for mayor Henry George, the single-taxer. Both he and 
his Republican opponent, Theodore Roosevelt, were defeated by Abraham 
S. Hewitt, the Democratic nominee. 

From 1888 to 1894, Tammany completely dominated municipal affairs. 
Then came the famous exposures of Police Department graft by the so- 
called Lexow Committee of 1894. These shocking revelations resulted in 
the nomination of a fusion candidate, William L. Strong, who defeated 
Tammany and turned in a generally good administration. But Strong lost 
political support because he and his adherents did not give enough thought 
to political realities, with the result that Tammany won the 1897 election. 

Again the community regretted its choice, and once more fusion defeated 
corrupt politicians by the election in 1901 of Seth Low and the temporary 
smashing of Tammany's power in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Richmond. 
This was the victory that carried William Travers Jerome into the district 
attorney's office in New York County and loosed a one-man crusade against 
Tammany which that organization is not likely to forget. Low was followed 
by George B. McClellan, a Tammany candidate whose independence, par 
ticularly in his second term, cut the Hall to the quick. 

The awakening of civic pride, as the result of political developments de- 


manding greater interest in the community by its citizens, was accompanied 
by other developments in various fields. Street improvements on an im 
portant scale began in 1889. Two years later, there were 365 miles of paved 
thoroughfares. Electricity for lighting began to replace gas in 1880; and 
in 1887 the tremendous task of moving electric light wires from the forests 
of poles to underground conduits was initiated. 

This latter move turned out to be of great advantage in the building 
boom that reached its peak in 1901, probably the year of greatest activity 
in real estate and building that New York has ever known. Many rambling 
old structures below City Hall were replaced by modern office buildings. 
Within a few years, the skyscraper began to dominate lower Manhattan, 
center of the city's big-business activities. The Flatiron, Singer, Metropoli 
tan Life and Woolworth Buildings exemplified a new and distinctly Amer 
ican type of commercial architecture. 

Residential construction was particularly prominent on Fifth Avenue, 
where the Vanderbilts, Carnegies and other wealthy families were building 
elaborate mansions ; and to the north in Morningside Heights, Washington 
Heights and the Bronx, where large tracts of land were being utilized as 
apartment house sites. 

New public buildings included the Criminal Courts, the Custom House, 
and the Hall of Records, all completed by 1907 ; the Municipal Building, 
begun toward the end of this period; the Metropolitan Opera House, 
opened in 1883; and Carnegie Hall, completed in 1891. Two large de 
partment stores began construction of new quarters at Greeley Square; 
the new Pennsylvania Station was started; and Longacre Square became 
the center of unparalleled real estate and building developments that re 
sulted in the Times Square of today. 

New educational structures were projected or opened. On Morningside 
Heights, Barnard, Teachers and Columbia Colleges, together with Union 
Theological Seminary, constituted a noteworthy group. New York Uni 
versity opened its uptown center in 1895, and City College dedicated simi 
lar quarters in 1908. In 1895, 15 new buildings and annexes were being 
built for public school use. Public high schools were inaugurated with the 
opening of the first three in September 1897. 

Along the waterfront and in the parks, important improvements were 
also effected. In 1897, five new piers were under construction, and plans 
for seven more had been approved. Between 1904 and 1909, about 35 
miles of new wharfage were constructed. Park development had progressed 
so steadily that the New York Improvement Commission recommended, in 


1907, a city-wide parkway system connecting the independent borough sys 
tems a recommendation that, in its basic features, is now (1938) being 
carried out by Park Commissioner Moses. 

With the close of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1907, this first 
phase of the development of modern New York was well advanced. The 
first transatlantic radio message, the first successful flight of a heavier-than- 
air craft, the first skyscraper and the first subway were accomplished facts. 
Engineering and scientific genius had provided the bases upon which the 
city was now developing physically. 

New York had become a colossus. It had the money, the power and the 
ability to maintain and to strengthen its undisputed supremacy. It had the 
room to grow even more huge. It had a throbbing, almost a terrifying, 
vitality. It had unlimited ambition, and the power to translate that ambi 
tion into reality. Yet this power, this hugeness, this vitality were essentially 
those of a frontier town sprawling beyond its limits. New York knew com 
paratively little and cared less about the world beyond its borders. It was 
satisfied to have and to hold. Despite its world-wide commerce, it could 
hardly be called world-conscious in anything save rates of exchange. 

The new colossus had grown in bone and sinew and muscle. Now it was 
about to develop intellectually through a broadening of its interests ; it was 
about to become truly cosmopolitan. 

From Metropolis to Cosmopolis: 1910-1937 

In this period, at least three factors contributed to the second phase of 
New York's modern development. They were the administrations of Mayors 
Gaynor and Mitchel, the revelations of the Seabury and Dewey investiga 
tions, and the development of a cosmopolitan viewpoint as the result of 
the World War and a later domestic crisis. 

William J. Gaynor, who was elected mayor in 1909 and served until his 
death on September 10, 1913, has been described as combining "the gift 
for literary gossip and philosophy of Philip Hone, the clever wit and satire 
of the elegant A. Oakey Hall, and the simple earnestness of Peter Cooper." 
Certainly Gaynor was unusual. He challenged the Tammany machine that 
had nominated him; he refused so steadily to yield to patronage demands 
that the machine denied him a renomination ; he sued his most enthusiastic 
journalistic supporter, the World, for libel; he fought William Randolph 
Hearst, the publisher, to a standstill; and he probably lost the Presidency 
of the United States by declining the proffered aid of Colonel House, the 


man who is credited with putting Woodrow Wilson in the White House 
and who had first sought Gaynor as the nominee. 

Before becoming mayor, Gaynor had been a reporter, lawyer, vice cru 
sader, writer and a justice of the Appellate Division of the New York 
Supreme Court. He was considered an authority on libel and slander, and 
his judicial experience was marked by continual effort to reduce the long 
and involved terminology of the law to brief and exact statements of fact, 
as well as by a viewpoint remarkably liberal for those days. "Nothing is 
more distressing," he stated in an article published more than 30 years ago, 
"than to see a bench of judges, old men as a rule, set themselves against 
the manifest and enlightened will of the community in matters of social, 
economic, or commercial progress." The plain people were his primary in 
terest, and it is said of him that he understood them as did no other man 
of his time. Intolerance of any kind, particularly racial, was abhorrent to 
him. He was the champion especially of the Jews, and he had many power 
ful Jewish friends. 

Gaynor's emphasis upon brevity of speech throughout his public career 
was never better demonstrated than during the simple inaugural ceremonies 
at Qry Hall after his victory of 1909. His speech consisted of exactly 31 
words: "I enter upon this office with the intention of doing the very best 
I can for the city of New York. That will have to suffice. I can do no 
more." About six months later, he was shot by a dissatisfied employee of 
the Dock Department on the deck of the Kaiser Wilhelm as he was about 
to sail for Europe. The bullet was never removed, and three years later he 
died as a result of the wound. 

Denied a renomination by Tammany in 1913, Gaynor entered a three- 
cornered contest independently, only to die before the campaign got under 
way. This left the regular Tammany nominee and a young man named 
John Purroy Mitchel as the candidates. Mitchel had been nominated by the 
"Committee of 107," a fusion organization created to beat Tammany and 
also to prevent the re-election of Gaynor. He won by about 120,000 votes, 
and became mayor on January i, 1914. 

Although only 34 years old, Mitchel had been in politics for seven years, 
as assistant corporation counsel, commissioner of accounts, president of the 
Board of Aldermen, and acting mayor for a time in Gaynor's regime. 
Like his predecessor, he gave New York good government in the face of 
a still powerful Tammany machine and an electorate by no means as po 
litically aroused or well-educated as it is today. Theodore Roosevelt re 
garded him as having "given us as nearly an ideal administration ... as 


1 have seen in my lifetime, or as I have heard of since New York became 
a big city" ; and Oswald Garrison Villard wrote of his regime: "Never was 
the fire department so well handled, never were the city's charities so well 
administered, nor its finances grappled with upon such a sound and far- 
sighted basis . . . Under him the schools progressed wonderfully, while 
prisons were carried on with some semblance of scientific and humanitarian 

Among Mitchel's various services to the city were a thorough reorganiza 
tion of the police department under Arthur Woods as commissioner, the 
cleaning up of gambling and vice at Coney Island, the preparation of a 
corporate stock budget that showed just where the city stood on public ex 
penditures, the supervision of a complete schedule of city property that 
stopped purchase by the municipality of its own holdings, the mapping of 
the city's zoning plan, the launching of investigations that led to the re 
moval of two borough presidents, and initiation of the West Side improve 
ment program that has now been finally achieved. Despite these construc 
tive services, Mitchel was beaten by Tammany in 1917, his defeat being 
attributed to various reasons, not the least of which was a lack of diplo 
macy in the handling of delicate political situations. He enlisted at once 
in the Army, was commissioned a major in the air service, and was killed 
in a fall from a scout plane during the last stage of his training period, 
on July 6, 1918. 

His successor, John F. Hylan, became mayor on January i, 1918, and 
from that day to January i, 1934, Tammany Hall was in undisputed con 
trol of New York's government. Few mayors of New York have been so 
savagely criticized as Hylan, and fewer still could better hold their own in 
the rough and tumble school. That he was personally honest even his worst 
enemies conceded. Three investigations during his administrations failed 
to turn up anything worth while. Indeed, most of the departments were 
run surprisingly well, with practically none of the old-fashioned graft. 
This was credited to "Boss" Murphy's "enlightened" leadership of Tam 
many Hall rather than to Hylan. The latter, according to many observers, 
was merely a figurehead. 

Yet Hylan had forced himself on the powerful Charlie Murphy as the 
Tammany candidate in 1917 with no more background than about n years 
of service in rather obscure judicial posts. His strategy was beautifully sim 
ple. It consisted of setting up the "Allied Boards of Trade and Taxpayers' 
Associations of Brooklyn," an organization with headquarters in a bat 
tered letterbox at No. 1028 Gates Avenue, where Hylan had his law office, 


and a membership composed of himself, two fellow lawyers and a vaude 
ville entertainer. For 12 months prior to the 1917 campaign, this "alliance" 
poured out caustic criticism of Mayor Mitchel, while Judge Hylan repeated 
that criticism before many civic organizations throughout the city. Curi 
ously enough, it never occurred to anyone to look into the "Allied Boards 
of Trade and Taxpayers' Associations of Brooklyn" until just a few days 
before the election. It was too late then, for Hylan had made himself a 
front-page figure. Throughout the eight years of his regime as mayor, Hy 
lan was one of the most effectively publicized men New York has ever 

During these superbly press- agented administrations, the kind of gov 
ernment that Mayor Gaynor had initiated and Mayor Mitchel had carried 
forward came to an end, especially after Mayor Hylan' s record plurality of 
more than 420,000 in 1921 had convinced Tammany that continuation of 
a more or less laissez jaire policy would do quite well. Nevertheless, Mayor 
Hylan did have to his credit an uncompromising stand against the "trac 
tion interests," as he termed them, which some authorities contend saved 
the city millions of dollars. 

In 1925, Tammany turned for its candidate from the elderly, plodding, 
bewildered, unflinchingly honest Hylan to the young, effervescent, cock 
sure, night-clubbing James J. Walker; and Walker's election justified the 
Hall's strategy. From 1925 to 1930, Tammany gave New York what has 
been well described as "high, wide and handsome government." Then the 
Hall began to turn an anxious eye toward a certain Mr. Samuel Seabury, 
who in August 1930 was appointed a referee by the Appellate Division of 
the New York Supreme Court, First Judicial Department, to conduct an 
investigation into the magistrates' courts of Manhattan and the Bronx. In 
March 1931, Governor Roosevelt selected Mr. Seabury to investigate and 
report on charges against Thomas C. T. Crain, district attorney of New 
York County; and a month later he was made counsel to the Joint Com 
mittee of the New York State Senate and Assembly, created to investigate 
various departments of government of the city of New York. Under all 
of these appointments, Mr. Seabury had power merely to investigate, re 
port and make recommendations. 

The recommendations submitted by Mr. Seabury on the reorganization 
of the magistrates' courts more directly affected the average New Yorker 
than the inquiry into District Attorney Grain's activities or even the inves 
tigation by the Joint Committee. But it was in this last that the dramatic 
clash between Seabury and Mayor James J. Walker focused attention on 


testimony so damaging to Tammany Hall as to make possible an anti-Tam 
many victory in 1933 and an even more crushing defeat of the Tiger in 


Most amusing of all the testimony was that of James A. McQuade, then 
Tammany leader of the Fifteenth Assembly District in Brooklyn and Regis 
ter of Kings County. It was brought out that McQuade had deposited about 
$520,000 over a period of six years, on a total salary for that period of less 
than $50,000. Questioned about this, McQuade replied that "33 other Mo 
Quades" were dependent on him. "They were," he said, "placed on my 
back, I being the only bread-winner, so to speak, and after that it was nec 
essary to keep life in their body, sustenance, to go out and borrow money." 
Such borrowed money, McQuade explained, accounted for the $470,000 
above and beyond his visible earnings. With it, he saved the "33 other 

One direct result of this investigation was the sudden resignation of 
Mayor James J. Walker before Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt had a 
chance to hear all the evidence that Seabury adduced. Indirectly, the Sea- 
bury revelations are credited with being a tremendous factor in the elec 
tion of Fiorello H. La Guardia in 1933 on a fusion ticket. On the occasion 
of this election, William Travers Jerome remarked: "Tammany goes out, 
and Tammany comes back in, and you've got to be realistic about it." So 
far Mr. La Guardia, an excellent politician, has been very realistic about 
it, indeed much too realistic to suit Tammany, which went down to an 
other smashing defeat in the re-election of Mayor La Guardia on Novem 
ber 2, 1937. 

Mayor La Guardia's first administration had to its credit a long list of 
public improvements. Among these were the tearing down of the notorious 
City Penitentiary on Welfare Island to make way for a hospital, and the 
transfer of the convicts to a new city prison on Riker's Island ; the Ward's 
Island sewage disposal plant; the great Triborough Bridge, in use since 
July n, 1936; an increase in number of the city's hospital beds; the first 
real start made on slum clearance; the magnificent parks, boulevards and 
bridges, and the hundreds of new playgrounds, created in most cases with 
the help of Federal funds. 

Thomas E. Dewey was the second major investigator of this period. On 
July i, 1935, he was appointed by District Attorney William C. Dodge of 
New York County as a special deputy assistant district attorney "to conduct 
an investigation of vice and racketeering before an extraordinary grand 
jury." The idea of so appointing Mr. Dewey was not Mr. Dodge's; it had 


been urged upon Tammany's district attorney by Governor Herbert H. Leh 
man. Four Republican leaders of the bar had declined to serve, and had 
joined in seconding Governor Lehman's recommendation. 

Mr. Dewey came to his new position with a broad knowledge of rack 
eteering methods and personalities, having already, as special assistant to 
the U. S. Attorney-General, placed several racketeers in government peni 
tentiaries. From the day of his appointment to July 29, when he and the 
first eight of his assistants were formally sworn, Mr. Dewey was busy lay 
ing preliminary plans. On August 7, he opened his investigation and 
caused the arrest of the first racketeer. By September n, when the indicted 
man had pleaded guilty to an extortion charge, the public began to see in 
this 33-year-old special prosecutor the newest hope of law and order. 

On October 25, it was reported, a new group took over all major rack 
ets in New York, Brooklyn and Newark. This group virtually asked Mr. 
Dewey what he was going to do about it. On April 18, 1936, they had 
their answer. On that day, the powerful "Lucky" Luciano (Lucania) found 
himself jailed in New York City in the unheard-of -bail of $350,000, which 
he could not raise; and on June 18, he was sentenced to a prison term of 
from 30 to 50 years, with other members of his gang getting similarly stiff 
sentences. This was Mr. Dewey's most sensational conviction. It drove the 
vice gang to cover, and was followed by impressive victories in the case of 
other rackets, notably those in the restaurant and poultry businesses. 

The rackets that had flourished for years in New York, exacting tribute 
from rich and poor alike, were now definitely on the run a condition 
confidently expected to continue as long as Thomas E. Dewey has the 
power to make indictments and to prosecute them. This power was assured 
him when he was elected District Attorney of New York County in No 
vember 1937. 

But neither the Seabury nor the Dewey investigations, important though 
both of those were to good government and law enforcement, constituted 
the really significant contribution of the period now under review. That 
lay in another and not nearly so evident a field ; and it changed New York 
from a sprawling and overgrown colossus into a cosmopolitan city. 

This development began with the World War. Millions were put under 
arms. Nationality met nationality, and found it not at all a bad experience. 
Thousands went overseas ; and even in very bitter circumstances, they man 
aged to survive contact with "foreigners." Intimacy bred an understanding 
of the other fellow such as these clannish New Yorkers had never before 


The war ended. But millions who had been taken out of their complacent 
little group-existence did not cease to be interested in things they had seen, 
heard and read about. The press, more than anything else, had broadened 
the viewpoint not only of those who had gone to fight but of those who 
stayed at home. However restricted by censorship, it had still furnished 
news, and in so doing had expanded its foreign service far beyond the 
1910 standard. By 1926, the old system of maintaining only London and 
Paris offices, and there picking up stuff via the foreign news agencies, was 
no longer adequate. The war had doubled or tripled the number of corre 
spondents. Papers had been forced to send men to places never before 
directly covered. During the war, correspondents had naturally written 
about the war. Now, they were writing about the problems that the struggle 
had left in its wake. 

America found itself linked to nation after nation through loans. New 
York was the financial center of the country. It was interested in loans, in 
economic losses, in the effects of those losses on industry and jobs. Pres 
ently the papers were printing a tremendous amount of foreign political 
news. New Yorkers read it; for they began to sense that the politics of 
Russia, of Europe, of the Far East had a great deal to do with loans and 
trade and jobs. Nations that had been little more to the average New 
Yorker than a stereopticon slide now became vital to his well-being. He 
didn't understand the situation, but he did see a lot about it in the papers. 
And as he read, the world shrank. "Foreigners" were now neighbors; Eu 
rope and the Soviet Union and the Far East were inextricably mixed up, 
somehow, with prosperity and profits and work in New York. 

From 1915 to 1926, when foreign news was steadily increasing in the 
press, Washington news was decreasing. This condition reflected the curi 
ous fact that, although New Yorkers had learned to know the world, they 
were still strangers to the United States. Beyond the city limits, everything 
was "the sticks" useful as a market for New York products, to be sure, 
but unimportant otherwise. The factors having to do with the purchasing 
power of that market were as little known to the average New Yorker as 
the same foreign trade factors once had been. For years New York had 
been virtually the capital of the United States. The money was there, the 
power was there, and national policies were created by that money and 
that power. Washington was merely the loudspeaker through which New 
York announced itself and the inconsiderable amount of Washington 
news proved it. 

The election of 1932 changed all that. The nation, facing a very serious 


emergency, turned its eyes to Washington in 1933 precisely as it had turned 
them to Europe in 191418. The future of the country depended to a large 
degree on what was done in Washington. People wanted to know. Again 
the press met their demands, and again New Yorkers expanded their view 

Today the long march and countermarch from colony to cosmopolis, 
from Peter Minuit's little settlement on the lower tip of Manhattan Island 
to the vast machine of the modern city, has gained for the moment a sta 
bilization point. Worship of the grandiose is no longer enough. New York 
has grown up to the beginnings of a cosmopolitan maturity. What she will 
do with it, how she will divert the terrific flume of her energy into the 
orderly dynamos of social realization, the years ahead must determine. 

i Where New Yorkers Live 



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New World Symphony 

ON THE island of Manhate, and in its environs," reported in 1646 
Father Jogues of the Society of Jesus, "there may well be four or five hun 
dred men of different sects and nations: the Director General told me that 
there were men of eighteen different languages." Roundly the good father 
damned this confusion of tongues, likening the spirit created thereby to 
the "arrogance of Babel." Scarcely ten generations later, persons of foreign 
stock resident in New York City had increased some ten thousand times, 
until in 1930 the foreign born and their children accounted for almost 
three-fourths of all the city's residents. 

Much of what has come to be considered peculiarly "American" is the 
direct contribution of persons of foreign stock. Freedom of belief? The 
Dutch of New Amsterdam, more concerned with trade than with theology, 
early established a tradition of religious toleration that drew settlers from 
almost every country of Europe. Democracy? A century before the United 
States became a nation, and two centuries before New York was incorpo 
rated in its present form as a city, a "Gen 11 Assembly of All the Freehold 
ers," representing Dutch, English, French, Portuguese, Swedes, and Finns, 
met in 1683 and, abetted by the governor, Colonel Thomas Dongan, an 
Irishman, took steps to end a feudal and unrepresentative rule. Political 
freedom ? When a tide of new political ideas surged through Europe in the 
1 8th century, immigrants brought some of these ideas to the American 
colonies, and Filippo Mazzei, an Italian, wrote in an American newspaper 
the words "all men are by nature created free and independent" which 
were paraphrased by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independ 
ence. Business, and that most "American" of American institutions, the 
Chamber of Commerce? The courtly company that founded the New 
York Chamber of Commerce in 1786 included among its charter members 
two gentlemen of Dutch origin who were born in New York, a French 
Huguenot, four native born of English stock, an Englishman, a Scot, and 
two of Irish stock, probably Irish born. Material wealth and physical 



grandeur? During the great migration from Europe after 1880, it was 
predominantly these "men of different sects and nations" who erected phys 
ical New York its streets, bridges, tunnels, railroads, wharves, and build 
ings, creating with their own hands much of its material wealth, yet some 
how finding leisure to leave to their city a considerable legacy in science 
and the arts, in social improvement and political leadership. 

In the process the immigrant gave far more than he received. His rich 
agrarian culture he exchanged for the poverty-stricken culture of industrial 
society. He traded his native string orchestras and folk tunes for commer 
cial tumpety-tump ; expressive group dances for cheap dancehalls; tradi 
tional historic or romantic rhymed narratives for machine-made fiction and 
the distortion of contemporary history in the news columns. A few folk 
traditions, encouraged by religious groups and such organizations as Inter 
national House, remain. Thus the Swedes of New York still preserve some 
of their native crafts and gather round the smorgasbord; the Neapolitans 
annually parade the effigy of their martyred patron, San Gennaro, along 
Mulberry Street between booths filled with sweetmeats, candles and offer 
ings; the Finns celebrate a non-existent harvest, dancing the Ploughman 
Waltz over a soil imprisoned in concrete; in autumn Hungarians escape 
to the countryside for the szureti mulatsagok, the festival of the grape; 
Dutch children dance the Boer's romton and celebrate St. Nicholas' Eve 
on December fifth; German meistersingers hold annual singing contests; 
the koumbaros, godfather, still maintains his position of authority in many 
Greek households; Russian singers still chant epics thousands of unwrit 
ten lines long; Ukrainians still sing Oh, Don't Go, Gritzu and The Wide 
Dnieper Weeps and Moans; on Easter Sunday Czech young men still have 
the privilege of spilling water on young women they meet and of placing 
their hats in the kitchen sink to be filled with Easter eggs ; Rumanians dance 
La Hora and celebrate on May tenth their day of independence ; Yugoslav 
women occasionally wear headdresses with floating veils and capes richly 
embroidered and trimmed with gold braid; Poles dance the mazurka, the 
krakowiak and the polka; New York orthodox Jewry still celebrates on the 
Passover the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea by Moses and the Chil 
dren of Israel, and in a mood of nostalgic nationalism still plants trees on 
La'g b'omer in the rite of ever-recurring spring-millenial remembrance of 
their agricultural past in Zion. Foreign colonies still exist in New York, 
retaining their food stores, newspapers, mutual benefit societies, steamship 
agencies, banks, and are still colorful, teeming and "picturesque." 

But customs based on agrarian ways, however tenderly fostered, could 


not long survive the impact of industrial society; nor could a body of tra 
ditional modes of thought long withstand its modern equivalent the lan 
guage and social practices associated with a job. Foreign-born residents of 
New York did not drop their traditional social patterns without a strug 
gle, but organized, as had the Yankees in New England two centuries be 
fore them, their group against the world, attempting to build up their 
own cultural and economic institutions, challenging the new world in a 
group instead of taking the individual plunge into American life. But the 
world was moving much faster than in ijth century New England, and 
the tremendous pressure of industrial society succeeded in dissolving most 
of these national groups. No longer does a foreign colony in New York 
have the status of a genuine "foreign quarter," where the leaders of the 
foreign group live, contributing to its life. The foreign sections of the city 
shift ever more freely, disintegrate ever more quickly; each year better 
paid workers migrate from the upper level of the colony to other parts of 
the city; each year poorer members of other foreign stocks filter in below. 
The colony becomes less and less a center of national culture, a focusing- 
point of tradition and more and more plain slum. 

As recently as 1924, Konrad Bercovici wrote: "A map of Europe super 
imposed upon the map of New York could prove that the different for 
eign sections of the city live in the same proximity to one another as in 
Europe: the Germans near the Austrians, the Russians and the Rumanians 
near the Hungarians, and the Greeks behind the Italians. People of west 
ern Europe live in the western side of the city. People of eastern Europe 
live in the eastern side of the city. Northerners live in the northern part of 
the city and southerners in the southern part. Those who have lived on the 
other side near the sea or a river have a tendency to live here as near the 
sea or the river as possible. ... A reformation of the same grouping takes 
place every time the city expands. If the Italians move further up Harlem, 
the Greeks follow them, the Spanish join them, with the French always 
lagging behind and the Germans expanding eastward." 

This ingenious generalization, if it was ever true, is so no longer. The 
major groups of Italians, Germans, Irish and Jews are widely distributed 
throughout the city. In Manhattan the Italians live in the vicinity of City 
Hall Park, near Battery Park, in Greenwich Village south of Washington 
Square, in the southeast quarter of the lower East Side, in Hell's Kitchen, 
in the northern part of Chelsea, in Madison Square, in Columbus Circle, 
near the Queensboro Bridge, in Yorkville and near Harlem Bridge. They 
predominate in the English Kills, Brooklyn Heights and Fort Greene sec- 


tions of Brooklyn; make up two-thirds of the inhabitants of the South 
Brooklyn section; and are found in fourteen other well-defined neighbor 
hoods of Brooklyn from Highland Park to Coney Island. They are well 
distributed throughout the Bronx and Queens, and make up 28.9 percent 
of the total foreign white stock in Richmond. The Jews are found on the 
lower East Side, in Central Park West, south of Columbia University, near 
Mount Morris Park, near City College, and in Washington Heights, in 
Manhattan ; they make up nine-tenths of the population of Brownsville in 
Brooklyn, are well distributed through the other neighborhoods of Brook 
lyn, are scattered through Queens, and are heavily concentrated in the 
Bronx. The Irish are found in Manhattan from Battery Park to Manhat- 
tanville, where they make up one-third of the population, and in Brooklyn, 
the Bronx and Queens. The Germans are scattered even more widely, 
many of them living in Queens and Richmond. Many Greeks live in Chel 
sea, Manhattan; many Poles around Battery Park and on the lower East 
side near Tompkins Square; English in Queens and Richmond; Hungar 
ians in Yorkville; Scandinavians in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Richmond; 
Czechoslovaks near Battery Park and in Yorkville. Only 4,000 of the 
18,000 Chinese in New York live in Chinatown (Pell and Mott Streets). 

The New Yorker of foreign white stock, having made tremendous con 
tributions to the city for 300 years, is now in process of becoming socially 
invisible. As soon as he can "get on," that is, as soon as he is accepted 
economically on the basis of individual merit without invidious reference 
to racial origin or cultural inheritance, he is considered to be "assimilated." 
In New York the chief obstacle to absorption seems to be not cultural dif 
ferences but physical traits. 

The process of becoming socially invisible is accelerated by the tendency 
toward intermarriage in the second generation between members of differ 
ent foreign white stocks. Thus the ratio of intermarriage for men and 
women of all nationalities, as a group, is about 14 of every 100 marriages. 
In the second generation, intermarriage is approximately three times as 
frequent. Within each group, three main forces work to produce amalga 
mation with other groups. The first is the preponderance of marriageable 
men over marriageable women, the major cause of intermarriage in the 
first generation. The second is a diminution of intensity of group con 
sciousness in the second generation. The third and most important factor is 
the rise in economic status, which encourages intermarriage in both the 
first and second generations. Strong religious preferences are factors that 


discourage intermarriage by the Jews, who intermarry the least, the Ital 
ians, who intermarry almost as infrequently, and the Irish. 

"There are more Italians in New York City than in Rome, Milan, or 
Naples," runs the familiar assertion, "more Irish than in Dublin, more 
Jews than in any other city in the world." Such statements mean little, 
however, unless there is first some agreement as to just who are the "Ital 
ians," "Irish," and "Jews." New Yorkers loosely use the term "Italian," 
for instance, to cover several categories of residents: a person of "Italian 
descent"; an "Italian-speaking" person; any citizen of Italy, regardless of 
mother-tongue, who lives in New York; or even a person who "looks like 
an Italian" or has an "Italian-sounding" name. Even if the term is limited 
to denote only a person born in Italy, the "Italian" may still be, if he 
comes from the Riviera, French in stock, Teutonic if he comes from the 
Val d'Aosta, Albanian if from Calabria or Sicily, Slav if from Cividale, or 
Spanish (Catalan) if from Sardinia. If the "Italian" came to New York 
since the World War as a native of one of the "redeemed" provinces of 
Austria, he may have been born a German, a Slovene, or a Croat. 

Popular use of the term "Jew" is still more confusing. A "J ew >" as the 
term is currently employed, may be a member of one of a dozen ethnic 
groups, whose skin may be white or black; who speaks Yiddish and reads 
Hebrew, speaks Yiddish and speaks Hebrew, or who speaks and reads 
neither; who belongs to one of the three major groups of Judaism, or 
none; whose place of origin may have been Poland, Africa, Oceania, or 

Implicit in popular use of national designations, but clearly coming to 
light in such general expressions as "racial groups" and "newer races" 
used to denote persons of foreign stock, is a mythological concept of race, 
and the mystical idea of a nationality that can somehow transcend geo 
graphical and political frontiers. The United States Census Bureau, how 
ever, confronted with the realistic task of tabulating the population, in 
dulges in no such fourth- dimensional boundary jumping. It does attempt 
to make a rough division of the population by color; "white" (somewhat 
more accurately defined by the schoolmaster in A Passage to India as 
"pinko-gray"), "Negro," and "other." The last group includes Indians, 
Chinese, Japanese, and, since 1930, Mexicans. The native white popula 
tion is usually divided into two groups: (i) those of native parentage 
(both parents native to the United States), (2) those of foreign parentage 


(both parents foreign born), and of "mixed" parentage (one parent native 
and the other foreign born). 

The foreign white stock, as defined by the Census Bureau, is composed 
of two distinct elements: the foreign born white and the native white of 
foreign or mixed parentage. Foreign born whites are classified according 
to country of birth. Native whites of foreign or mixed parentage are classi 
fied according to the country of birth of the father, except that where the 
father is native and the mother foreign born the classification is according 
to the country of birth of the mother. 

In considering the foreign white stock resident in the five boroughs of 
New York City, then, only the first generation (the foreign born) and the 
second generation (the native born of foreign or mixed parentage) can be 
accurately examined. Accordingly, when reference is made to an "Italian" 
living in present-day New York, the term indicates one of the following: 
a person born in one of the political subdivisions of Italy existent in 1930; 
a person both of whose parents were born in Italy, or one of whose parents 
was born in the United States and the other in Italy, or whose father was 
born in Italy and whose mother was born in some other foreign country. 
In the instance of the Jews, a group which has no single country of origin 
and for which separate treatment is given in a subsequent section of this 
article, figures from the American Jewish Year Book, published under the 
sponsorship of the American Jewish Committee, have been used. The Ne 
groes, who play so important a part in the life of the city, are treated in a 
separate article. 

The United States Census Bureau figures for 1930 are not only the most 
complete and the most reliable, but are further significant because in 1930 
the United States had the largest foreign born population in its history 
14,204,149. In that year, also, 38,727,593 were immigrants or the chil 
dren of immigrants. In 1931 there were more aliens who left the United 
States than entered it, the net loss for the year 1930-31 being 10,237 
aliens. Each year thereafter showed an ebbing of the tide which from 1820 
to 1930 had brought to the United States 37,762,012 immigrant aliens. 

The stemming of this tide began with the quota laws of the early 
1920*5. The first quota law had been passed in 1921. Under the quota law 
proclaimed in operation as of July i, 1929 there could be admitted 
yearly a maximum of only about 153,900 alien immigrants. This quota did 
not apply to Canada, Mexico, or independent countries of Central and 
South America, but did apply to such Filipinos as were not then citizens 
of the United States. Total exclusion, with certain exceptions, continued 


to be applied, as it had been for years, to the so-called "yellow races" of 
China and Japan. The Ellis Island Committee, a non-partisan group of 
men and women appointed in 1933 to inquire impartially into conditions 
at Ellis Island and the welfare of immigrants generally, urged that the 
immigration quotas, in view of widespread unemployment, be maintained 
without substantial amendment. The Committee recommended, however, 
the amending of the quota law to avoid the separation of husband and 
wife, parents and children, which has been an evil ever since the quota 
law was passed ; and the opening of asylum to political and religious refu 
gees from other countries. 

In 1930 the foreign white stock resident in New York City numbered 
5,082,025, or 73.3 percent of the total population of 6,930,446. Of the 
boroughs of New York, the Bronx led with 82 percent foreign white stock, 
followed by Brooklyn with 77.9 percent, Manhattan with 67 percent, 
Richmond with 65.5 percent, and Queens with 64.3 percent. 

The Italian group alone numbered 1,070,355 or 21.1 percent of 
the total foreign white stock in New York. It ranked first in Brooklyn, 
Richmond and Manhattan, but second to the Russians in the Bronx and to 
the Germans in Queens. The Italians were followed by the Russians with 
945,072 (18.6 percent) and the Germans with 600,084 (n-8 percent). 
The Irish from the Irish Free State, to which could be added the 1.5 per 
cent from Northern Ireland, followed with 535,034 (10.5); and the 
Poles with 458,381 (9 percent). Austrians numbered 5.7 percent of the 
total foreign white stock in New York City, English 3.5 percent, Hungar 
ians 2.3 percent, Rumanians 1.8 percent, Swedes 1.3 percent, Norwegians 
1.2 percent; while the French, Lithuanians, Danes, Latvians and Belgians 
fell below one percent. Jews, variously estimated at from one and three- 
quarters millions to two millions, illustrate the fact that the boundaries of 
European nations cut arbitrarily across minority groups. And the majority 
of immigrants from a foreign country may not necessarily be of the domi 
nant stock of their native land. An overwhelming proportion of Russians 
in New York City, for instance, are Jews, as are large sections of the 
Poles, Rumanians, Austrians, and others. Of Russian immigrants from 
1 88 1 to 1906, it is estimated that 2 percent were Slav and 98 percent non- 
Slav, largely Jews. Of the 216,000 Russians who entered the country in 
1906, 125,000 were Jews, and the rest included many of Lithuanian, Finn, 
and German stock. 

Central, southern and eastern Europe contributed over half the foreign 
white stock of New York, as compared to less than one-third originating 


in northwestern Europe, less than one-tenth from the Americas, and 1.5 
percent from all other countries. On the whole, those from northwestern 
Europe and Germany represented an older immigration. 

The large proportion of foreign white stock among New Yorkers (73.3 
percent compared with 31.5 percent for the United States as a whole) is 
nothing new. It goes back, in fact, far earlier than 1820, when statistics 
of the country of origin of foreign immigrants to the United States began 
to be kept. 

Charles M. Andrews remarks in The Colonial Period of American His 
tory that in 1664 "the Duke of York became the proprietor, not only of 
an oddly fashioned territorial area but of an equally strange assortment of 
peoples Dutch, English, French, Swedes, and Finns." Of the early inhab 
itants of New York Andrews writes, "Racially these people were of great 
variety, Dutch, Walloons, French, English, Portuguese, and, after 1655, 
Swedes and Finns. There were a few Jews, and many Negroes from Brazil 
and elsewhere." On Manhattan and in the present Westchester county the 
Dutch, a trading people, constituted three- fourths of the total population, 
the English, largely farmers, less than one-fourth, and the French and 
other nationalities the remainder. 

To the Dutch, French, English, Irish and Scots exerting important in 
fluences upon early New York should be added the Germans, present from 
its earliest settlement in New Amsterdam, of which the first director gen 
eral, Peter Minuit, is claimed as a German. By arrangement with the 
British government, groups of Germans were brought over from the war- 
torn provinces of Holstein and the Palatinate in 1708 and 1709. About 
1706 the Jews erected their first synagogue on Mill Street, the only such 
for a hundred years. Not until the revolutionary year 1848, however, did 
the great tide from northwestern Europe begin, to continue until the early 
days of the Civil War. In 1820, but 8,385 immigrant aliens entered the 
ports of New York, Philadelphia and Boston. In the decade 1821-1830 a 
total of but 143,439 new immigrants arrived, as contrasted with a total 
for the decade 1841-1850 of 1,713,251. 

In Ireland, Scotland and England, in Germany and northwestern Eu 
rope, peasant peoples, racked by wars, decimated by famine, repressed by 
governments still retaining many of the elements of feudalism, listened to 
incredible tales of America and believed. Agents of the firm of Rawson 
and McMurray of New York were typical of many others in making such 
assertions as that (1837) a migrant from the British Isles could get "io 


British money per month and his diet, as wages; that everyone was on a 
perfect equality in America ; that the common laboring man received high 
wages and sat at the same table with his master . . . and that with ease an 
independent fortune could be made." No sooner did they touch the Amer 
ican shore, however, than these hopefuls fell prey to "a new class of 
grafters runners, agents, brokers, etc., who lived on the immigrants, find 
ing the new arrivals gullible because of their inexperience in the Ameri 
can situation" (L. G. Brown, Immigration). These agents, often of the 
country of the very people they victimized, herded the new arrivals into 
boarding houses, and "proprietors of these establishments were always in 
terested in giving insufficient and indifferent food and accommodations. In 
all cases their profits were measured by this economy, and in some in 
stances, when they made a bad speculation in relation to a ship's entire 
passengers, cruelty, evasion, and neglect were resorted to as the only 
means by which they could escape bankruptcy. . . . The buildings employed 
were usually selected in the suburbs of the city, rather for economy than 
for adaptation, and almost necessarily deficient in ventilation. ... So odi 
ous did these places become that hundreds of sick and destitute quitted 
them in terror and disgust." In 1830 the Mayor of New York sent a mes 
sage to the President of the United States concerning the pauperism and 
crime being bred among the immigrants in the city, who were crowded 
into what a generation before had been the homes of the old Knicker 
bockers and their descendants, but which had become filthy and over 
crowded tenements. In 1848 a committee of the New York Assembly in 
vestigated and reported on frauds perpetrated on immigrants, and in 1852 
a State legislative committee was appointed to investigate the work of the 
New York commissioners of immigration. Not until 1864, when the first 
wave of immigration had passed its peak, did Congress establish a gen 
eral immigration assistance office in New York City. 

Many proposals were made, both during this period and later, to im 
pose a head tax on immigrants, to limit their numbers, and to deprive 
them of the right to vote. Labor unions sought a "protective tariff" against 
the influx of cheap labor. The "Know-Nothing" or American Party was 
formed to protest against this tide of aliens, especially against such as 
"owed allegiance to the Pope of Rome." In an effort to control the arrival 
of "undesirables," New York passed about 1848 a law requiring a bond 
of $300 which made the shipowners and passenger agents responsible for 
those who were sick or destitute for a period of five years a responsibility 
that was evaded by agents, who provided private "hospitals" and "poor- 


houses" of their own. After immigrants had acquired the vote, appeals 
were made to them to vote for candidates of the same country of origin, as 
for example this circular, issued about 1856 in New York City: "Irish 
men to your post, or you'll lose America. By perseverance you may become 
its rulers. By negligence you will become its slaves. Your own country was 
lost by submitting to ambitious rulers. This beautiful country you gain by 
being firm and united. Vote the tickets Alexander Stewart, Alderman; 
Edward Flanagan, Assessor; both true Irishmen." 

In 1861 only 91,918 immigrants arrived in the United States; in 1881 
their number rose to 669,431. In the decade 1881-1890 there entered 
5,246,613 immigrant aliens, as contrasted with 1,713,251 in the period 
from 1841-1850. Each of the years 1905, 1906, 1907, 1910, 1913, and 
1914 brought to the United States over a million. In general, periods of 
prosperity in the United States coincided with periods of heavy immigra 
tion. Thus both immigration and prosperity were high in 1873 and low in 
1879; rising in 1882, falling in 1885; high in 1892, low in 1897; and the 
long period of prosperity from 1900 to 1915 coincided with the high peak 
of immigration. 

This second great wave originated not in northwestern Europe like the 
first, but in countries of eastern and southern Europe. "A line drawn across 
the continent of Europe from northeast to southwest," says John R. Com 
mons in Races and Immigrants in America, "separating the Scandinavian 
Peninsula, the British Isles, Germany, and France from Russia, Austria- 
Hungary, Italy, and Turkey, separates countries not only of distinct races 
but of distinct civilizations. It separates Protestant Europe from Catholic 
Europe; it separates countries of representative institutions and popular 
government from absolute monarchy ; it separates lands where education is 
universal from lands where illiteracy predominates; it separates manufac 
turing centers, progressive agriculture, and skilled labor from primitive 
hand industries, backward agriculture, and unskilled labor." 

Such generalizations should not be interpreted to mean, however, thai 
the immigrants of the second wave, coming from southeast of this imagi 
nary line, were inferior to earlier immigrants or to earlier "American" 
stock. Dr. Ales Hrdlicka, after a statistical examination of descendants of 
older American stock and of fourteen national groups of white immigrants 
who arrived in the United States before the World War, stated that "the 
results were, in brief, that not in one single item, except stature, has it 
been possible to discover, in the healthy, non-crippled, non-defective im 
migrant from any of the different nationalities in Europe, any inferiority. 


... If through such investigation it is impossible to find a substantial, 
meaning difference from the sound older stock that has peopled America, 
there surely cannot exist between the older stock and the newer comers 
any substantial superiority or inferiority." A census monograph on the oc 
cupations of immigrants and their children by Niles Carpenter, based on 
the 1920 United States Census, extended these investigations into the eco 
nomic field. While available statistics were too meager for any general 
conclusions, they indicated that the "older" immigrant no more chose cer 
tain occupations than the "newer" arrivals, and that "the distinctions be 
tween 'old' and 'new' immigration cannot be taken to imply any significant 
differences in the economic behavior" of the races and nationalities under 
consideration. Concerning the mixture of the various stocks Dr. Hrdlicka 
remarked: "So far as science is able to see, there has not been, to this mo 
ment, a trace of any bad effect of these mixtures on the American people ; 
much rather otherwise. Probably a good part, perhaps a very important 
part already of the power and strength of the American people is the re 
sult of these very mixtures." 

The immigrants of the second great wave came from the lowest eco 
nomic stratum. Thus one-quarter of the Italians coming over in the great 
wave after 1881 are supposed to have had their passage paid by friends 
and relatives in the United States. The Italians were not fleeing political or 
religious persecution, or, as in the case of the Jews of Russia, the Arme 
nians and Syrians of Turkey, and the Slavs of Hungary, oppression by 
other national groups in power. The Italians attempted to avoid, by migra 
tion, exploitation by another class of their own race. In the southern Italian 
provinces and Sicily, where the power of the landlords was greatest, rental 
of farm land was high and crop prices low. Agricultural laborers in Italy 
received in 1900 from 8 to 32 cents a day in wages, yet had to consume 85 
percent of their wages for food, as against 62 percent in Germany and 41 
percent in the United States. Some idea of the low standard of living in 
southern Italy can be had from the fact that a peasant in Apulia was accus 
tomed to consume 10 pounds of meat a year, although paupers in English 
workhouses were alloted 57 pounds each per year. 

The overwhelming majority of the immigrants, with the exception of 
the Jews, were of an agrarian tradition and training. An examination of 
the occupations of 15 ethnic groups listed in the 1920 census supports this 
contention, showing that of the total number in these groups, 13.5 of the 
farmers were Irish, but in the United States only 1.3 percent were en 
gaged in this occupation, turning instead to railroad construction and 


operation, and the steel industry. Irish women furnished 81.3 percent of 
domestic servants within these groups. The Scandinavians either migrated 
westward into farming areas, or became domestic servants and textile 
operatives in the city. 

These agrarians, cast suddenly into a highly industrialized city, were 
forced to make in a few months an about-face in modes of living which 
had been transmitted to them unchanged since the Middle Ages. In their 
homes they continued to employ primitive methods of sanitation which, 
though harmless in an agrarian civilization, in the crowded tenements of 
New York induced disease. In their native countries they were by no means 
unskilled at tilling the soil, but in New York they dropped into the ranks 
of common labor, and as such built New York's railroads, bridges, build 
ings and streets. 

Many immigrants who technically entered the port of New York never 
had the slightest contact with the life of the city. An eye-witness (Dr. 
Hrdlicka) tells of "droves of immigrants taken at Castle Garden by pa- 
drones or agents, led like a flock through gloomy downtown New York 
and over the ferry to Hoboken, where trains of old cars were waiting to 
carry them directly to the Pennsylvania coal fields and factories. . . . They 
never heard, never saw, never felt the real America, they were kept rather 
away from American influence and contact, lest such a contact might open 
their eyes and help them to revolt against the conditions of their labor. 
Their employers did not want prospective Americans, they wanted only 
the human beasts of labor." 

In New York the alien immigrant soon learned a few necessary Ameri 
can words ; thus the Italian of a decade's residence began to astound more 
recently arrived compatriots with such expressions as gwbba (job), san- 
gukcw (sandwich), and sonomagogna (son of a gun). With the acquisi 
tion of American words came the acquisition of something of the Ameri 
can's sweeping largeness of idea. To the peasant in his native village, a 
native of the next village was a "foreigner." In New York, however, he 
had to mix with natives of his whole province or district, and here began 
his first lesson in the democratic process. From the native of a village he 
became, while living in New York, the native of a province, and even 
the native of a single country. 

Even when the immigrant adopted America as his country, he still was 
set apart from other Americans by language and customs, often by the 
nature of his job. If a recent arrival, and hence the poorest and worst paid, 
he sometimes was recruited to break a strike of other workers, thus erect- 


ing a further barrier against himself. Often by joining an American labor 
union the alien immigrant first began to absorb some of the traditions of 
American democracy. The immigrant's children, however, went to New 
York schools, read New York papers, took part in New York amusements 
and sports, and became hardly distinguishable from children of native 
stock. In 1938, however, 180 foreign language periodicals were still be 
ing issued, in 27 languages, in Greater New York; these included 30 daily 

Generalizations as to occupations and contributions of foreign stocks in 
New York are frequently made, but rest on slight statistical information. 
Thus the Ukrainians of New York, many of whom work as window wash 
ers and dish washers, have made great contributions to sport; the Irish, 
whose unskilled hands first labored at building the city, have made many 
contributions to journalism, the theater, building and construction, and city 
politics; the Italians, most of whom began as day laborers, and many of 
whom were later concentrated in the clothing industry, contributed to sci 
ence, music, art and politics ; the Yugoslavs, besides repairing furnaces and 
houses, have furnished scientists, inventors, musicians and literary men to 
New York; the Scandinavians, mechanics and craftsmen, have made im 
portant contributions to music and to the maritime industry ; the Jews, al 
though usually associated in the popular mind with industry, commerce, 
and trade, have made significant contributions to the arts and sciences, as 
well as to education and social welfare. 

In the pages which follow are sketched, in barest outline, something of 
the history and contributions of some of the numerically important foreign 
stocks of the city. 


Italians have shared in the growth and history of New York City ever 
since its harbor was entered by Giovanni Verazzano, the Florentine navi 
gator, in 1524 eighty-five years before Henry Hudson set eyes on Man 
hattan Island. In New Amsterdam were a number of Italians among 
them one Mathys Capito, in 1655 a clerk of the Municipal Bookkeeping 
Office. When in 1657 a group of Waldensians Italian Protestants came 
from Piedmont in Italy to settle finally in Delaware, some are believed 
to have settled at Stony Brook, Staten Island. 

Staten Island was an early haven for Italian political refugees. Here a 
small group of revolutionary leaders and exiles lived after the unsuccess- 


ful Italian uprisings of 1820, 1821, 1830 and 1848 against Austrian 
rule. Among these exiles were Giuseppe Garibaldi, leader of his country's 
revolutionary forces, and Felice Foresti, later professor of Italian at Co 
lumbia College and United States Consul to Genoa. The oldest Italian set 
tlement in Manhattan was the "Mulberry Bend" district in the vicinity 
of Mulberry Street, later to become an area of notorious overcrowding, 
poverty and squalor. In 1880 the Italian population of New York, chiefly 
North Italians, was only 12,000. It was not until after 1880, when the 
United States inaugurated its open-door immigration policy and a flood of 
Italian immigrants, encouraged to migrate by their own government, be 
gan to sweep in through New York harbor, that "Mulberry Bend" and 
other Italian settlements in the city reached their greatest density of popu 

America needed these immigrants: industrial expansion and the build 
ing of new railroad trunk lines in the West had created a demand for 
great numbers of unskilled laborers. They came chiefly from the south of 
Italy from Sicily, Sardinia, Apulia, Calabria but North Italians from 
Venetia, Lombardy and Piedmont were among them too. 

Large numbers of the newly arrived immigrants were subjected to ex 
ploitation at the hands of some of their fellow-countrymen who had pre 
ceded them. These were the padrones, agents who took charge of the im 
migrants from the moment they arrived and thenceforth preyed upon them 
in every possible way. The padrone found his client a job, installed him as 
a slum tenant, and acted as his banker, profiting by each transaction. In 
addition to acting as employment agent and interpreter, he often induced 
clients to quit their employers, rehiring them to some other company and 
making an extra fee in the operation. Many of the padrones became men 
of considerable wealth and influence. Some Italian laborers, dazed and 
cowed by this treatment, became strike-breakers, and thus earned the hatred 
of other sections of the population. 

But the Italian worker did not long remain blind to the advantages of 
union organization. In 1900, when excavation was begun on the Lexing 
ton Avenue subway, 4,000 Italian immigrants were brought in to displace 
Irish and Polish laborers. Under the spur of intolerable conditions, these 
Italians organized a union, struck for higher wages, shorter hours, better 
working conditions, and won their strike. Their victory marked the first 
participation in the organized labor movement by Italians in America. It 
was followed in 1904 by another victorious strike involving 5,000 Italian 


excavators and bricklayers working on the construction of the Bronx Aque 

Italians, first brought into New York's needle trades by employers to 
fight off the trade unions, now comprise one of the most important sec 
tions of organized labor in the needle industries. At present the roster of 
organized Italian labor in the city includes 100,000 members in the In 
ternational Ladies' Garment Workers Union; some 15,000 in the Amal 
gamated Clothing Workers Union; about 100,000 in various branches of 
the bulding trades unions; and a large representation in the longshore 
men's union, the musicians' union, and barbers', waiters' and shoe work 
ers' unions. Besides protecting his economic interests, many of these unions 
make important provision for meeting the cultural and educational needs 
of the Italian worker. 

Italian workers have consistently gained in skill and specialization. A 
statistical investigation of jobs held by Italian bridegrooms reveals that in 
1916 the percentage of laborers among them was 32.5. By 1931 the per 
centage had fallen to 10.6 clear indication of a constant betterment of 
position among this group. Their specific occupations were in 1931, in 
order of numerical importance, laborers, chauffeurs, barbers, tailors, shoe 
makers, clerks, painters, mechanics, salesmen, bakers, plasterers, carpenters, 
cooks, pressers, butchers, ice dealers, waiters, printers, bricklayers, drivers, 
operators, icemen, machinists, plumbers, electricians, cabinet makers, up 
holsterers, grocers, fruit dealers, laundry workers, restaurant workers, auto 
mechanics, cutters and masons. A fuller list would include doctors, law 
yers, merchants, contractors, engineers, executives and a considerable num 
ber of workers in the highly skilled crafts. 

No account of New York's cultural development would be complete 
without reference to Italian contributions. Italian musicians were in New 
York before the Revolution. In 1774 Nicholas Biferi established a music 
school in the city, and gave harpsichord recitals the following year. Lo 
renzo da Ponte, famous as the librettist of several of the Mozart operas, 
came to New York in 1805 and later became first professor of Italian 
language and literature at Columbia College, doing much to advance Ital 
ian opera in the city and to champion the cause of Italian culture gen 
erally. The increasing popularity of Italian opera led in 1854 to the estab 
lishment of the Academy of Music on Fourteenth Street, and here Adelina 
Patti made her debut in 1859. In l88 3 tne Metropolitan Opera House 
opened, destined to bring to New York Caruso, Toscanini, Galli-Curci, 


Cavalieri, and the others in its long roll of musical celebrities. Toscanini's 
subsequent career as conductor of the New York Philharmonic Symphony 
Society orchestra did much to raise the level of musical appreciation in the 
country as a whole. The wealth of Italian art works in the city's museums 
attests to the grip of Italian tradition on American culture. In literature, 
the rich cultural heritage of Italy was introduced to Americans rather by 
writers of native stock Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, Wil 
liam Dean Howells, Edith Wharton than by Italians. 

The Italians of New York have participated widely in the civic and so 
cial life of the city, contributing many of its public officials. The city's 
Italians never voted as a racial bloc, although many of them were active 
in the Italian Federation of Democratic Clubs. Only a small minority of 
New York's Italian population takes enough interest in the internal poli 
tics of the mother country to align itself in fascist and anti-fascist groups. 

Evidence of the community spirit of Italians is provided in the existence 
of their numerous benevolent, philanthropic, medical, cultural, educational, 
sports and business clubs and institutions in the city. Among these are the 
Italy- America Society, a cultural group ; the Haarlem House, the Casa del 
Popolo, the Mulberry Community House, and other community houses; 
the Italian Welfare League, the Italian Community Councils and the Or- 
dine del Figli d 'Italia (Sons of Italy) among the social service agencies; 
and Columbus Hospital and the Italian Medical Center among the medical 

The Casa Italiana was presented to Columbia University in 1927 by New 
York's Italian community. Its bureau of information provides data from 
Italian archives and libraries; it contains an Italian reference library; it ar 
ranges exchange fellowships between Italian and American universities; 
and its educational bureau devotes itself to the study and publicizing of 
cultural and social changes that affect Italian immigrants and their descend 
ants in America. 

The great majority of Italians in New York are Roman Catholics. 
Their churches in Manhattan include St. Joachim's at 26 Roosevelt Street, 
built in 1888; the handsome church of Our Lady of Pompeii at Bleecker 
and Carmine Streets ; and the Church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel at 1 1 5th 
Street near First Avenue. Some of New York's most colorful spectacles 
are provided by the celebration of Italian saints' days and religious fes 
tivals. There are also some 30 churches, chapels and missions which min 
ister to the needs of Protestant Italians in Greater New York. (For a full 
treatment of the Italians, see The Italians of New York, 1938.) 



German immigrants began to arrive in New Netherland as early as 
1630, and it seems altogether likely that a fifth, possibly a fourth, of 
the inhabitants of New Netherland prior to 1664 were of German origin. 
Throughout the second half of the lyth century, the immigrants coming 
from Amsterdam to New Amsterdam included natives from all sections 
of Germany Northern Germany, the lower Rhine district, Westphalia, 
Friesland, the Hanseatic cities, Hessia, Thuringia, the Elbe districts, Suabia 
and the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland. 

The most prominent and colorful personality among these German-born 
immigrants was Jacob Leisler, for a short time during the English Revolu 
tion of 1688 the virtual ruler of the city. Leisler called the first congress 
of American colonists together. It was supposed that a plan was made to 
conquer Canada, and that an expedition by water and land, aided by a 
force of Mohawk warriors, was prepared. Evidently the leaders fell out 
among themselves and the plot failed of execution. The new British gov 
ernor of New York, Colonel Henry Sloughter, entered charges against 
Leisler and his son-in-law, Milborne, both of whom were hanged on the 
spot where Pearl and Centre Streets now meet. Leisler was later exon 
erated, an indemnity was paid to his heirs, and his remains were trans 
ferred with distinguished honors to the grounds of the Dutch Reformed 

The early years of the i8th century brought to New York a large in 
flux of immigrants from the Palatinate, a German province on the Rhine 
devastated and impoverished by the wars of Louis XIV and by the destruc 
tion of its vineyards in the severe winter of 1708-9. British lords of trade 
objected that "should these people be settled on the Continent of Amer 
ica, they will fall upon Woollen and other Manufactories to the prejudice 
of the Manufactures of this Kingdom now consumed in these parts." 
These fears were allayed with the assurance that "such mischievous prac 
tice may be discouraged and checqued much easier" in America than else 
where. Of 3,000 of these Germans who sailed for America in 1709, more 
than one-third died on the voyage from bad food and contaminated water. 
The British authorities of New York did little to protect these immi 
grants and even allowed their exploitation by swindlers and speculators. 
Many who remained in the city were compelled to work in a condition of 
virtual serfdom, while those who could do so migrated to upper New York 
State and Pennsylvania. 


Among the Germans from the Palatinate who arrived in 1711 was 
an orphan, John Peter Zenger. Apprenticed to William Bradford, owner 
of New York's first newspaper, the New-York Gazette, Zenger later 
started a newspaper of his own, the New-York Weekly Journal, and 
launched a vigorous campaign against corruption among the city's British 
officials. "We see men's deeds destroyed," he wrote, "judges are literally 
displaced, new courts erected without the consent of the legislature, by 
which it seems to me trials by Jury are taken away when a governor 
pleases ; men of known estates are denied their votes. . . . Who is there in 
the province that can call anything his own, or enjoy any liberty longer 
than those in the administration will condescend to let them, for which 
reason I left [the administration], as I believe more will." British offi 
cials retaliated by bringing a suit for libel against Zenger, who was finally 
sentenced to jail. But the more Zenger incurred British wrath, the more 
popular he became with the people of New York. His acquittal after re 
lentless prosecution was occasion for public demonstrations throughout the 
city. Another German youth, John Jacob Astor, who arrived in the city in 
1783, was at the time of his death in 1848 one of the wealthiest men in 

By 1834 New York had enough Germans to support a weekly news 
paper, the Staats-Zeitung, printed on a handpress and edited by Gustav 
Adolph Neurnan. Its circulation that year was 2,000; by 1840 it had 5,000 
readers. In 1850, under new ownership, it began to be issued as a daily 

Carl Schurz, who took part in the German revolution of 1848, escaping 
in romantic fashion, came to the United States in 1852 and quickly became 
a leader in American life. He campaigned for Lincoln in 1860, was United 
States minister to Spain in 1861, and later served as major-general in the 
Union Army. At one time he was part owner of Die Westliche Post in St. 
Louis, on which Joseph Pulitzer afterwards worked, and was later on the 
editorial staff of the New York Evening Post, the Nation and Harper's 
Weekly. He was elected to Congress from Missouri, and for four years 
was Secretary of the Interior. He lived in New York from 1881 until his 
death in 1906. His lifelong friend, Abraham Jacobi, born in Germany of 
Jewish parents, became a specialist in children's diseases in New York and 
was president of the American Medical Association in 1912 and 1913. 

Radical German immigrants who came to New York after the defeat of 
the German revolution in 1848 founded the Free Workers' School, one 
of the earliest experiments in workers' education in the United States. 


Headquarters were finally established on Second Avenue in Faulhaber's 
Hall. Here were taught for the first time in America the theory and phi 
losophy of socialism under the guidance of Germans who had received 
their inspiration from Marx and Engels. 

In 1859 the Paulist Fathers, a new Catholic order in America, was 
founded by Father Isaak Thomas Hecker and its headquarters established 
at Columbus Avenue and Fifty-Ninth Street. In 1865 Father Hecker 
founded the Catholic World, a monthly magazine, and a year later he 
created the Catholic Publication Society, now known as the Paulist Press. 

Among the first to answer President Lincoln's call for Civil War vol 
unteers were local regiments composed largely of Germans. These included 
the Steuben Regiment, Blenkons Artillery, the Turner Regiment, First 
Aster Regiment, the Fifth German Rifles, the Sigel Rifles, and the Steuben 
Rangers. The Staats-Zeitung, then under the editorship of Oswald Otten- 
dorfer, supported the government vigorously throughout the war. Otten- 
dorfer was later active in the fight against the Tammany ring. 

In the second half of the i9th century brewing in New York came un 
der the virtual monopoly of German- Americans. In 1859 Peter Doelger 
founded the brewery firm of his name. In 1854 Anton Hupfel founded 
the brewing company which also bears his name today. The Lion Brewery, 
which has been in continuous operation since 1850, was the first to bring 
the Pilsener style beer to the American table. In 1883 Piel's beer began to 
foam as the result of the establishment of a gigantic brewery in Brooklyn. 
Other New York breweries founded in this period by German immigrants 
or persons of German stock are Pilser Brewing Company, Eberhart Brew 
ing Company, Ebling Brewery, John Eichler Brewing Company, and Jacob 
Ruppert Brewery. 

As the German population of the city increased during the latter part 
of the 1 9th century, a settlement known as "Little Germany" began to 
extend along the East Side, from Houston Street to what is now known as 
Yorkville. Tompkins Square, its center, was popularly known as der We'tsse 
Garten the white garden. Until the influx of Italians and Slavs at the 
turn of the century, almost all of the lower East Side was dotted with Ger 
man beer halls, German clubs and German stores. Today there still stand 
landmarks of that period : the old Catholic Church of St. Nicholas on Sec 
ond Street east of First Avenue, St. Mark's Church on St. Mark's Place 
near Second Avenue, Beethoven Hall on Fourth Street, Luchow's restau 
rant on Fourteenth Street, Teutonia Hall on Sixteenth Street, and Scheffel 
Hall on Third Avenue near Seventeenth Street. 


By 1896 the Free Workers' School, which had conducted most of its 
activities on Saturdays and Sundays, underwent reorganization and ex 
pansion because of the Raines Law forbidding any institutions other than 
hotels to remain open on Sundays. A house was rented at 206 East Eighty- 
Fourth Street and the name of the organization was changed to the Work 
men's Educational Association. In 1898, the Workmen's Educational As 
sociation established a Home Association, and in 1906 moved to the 
present Labor Temple, one of the largest centers of social activities in 
present-day Yorkville. Until the World War the Association enjoyed both 
popularity and prosperity, but anti-German feeling evidently discouraged 
membership. Prohibition, which virtually brought an end to the Asso 
ciation's lighter festivities, dealt the organization an even greater blow. It 
lost many of its German members and had to seek the support of other 
national groups. Today relatively few of the organizations that meet in 
Labor Temple conduct their activities in the German language. Anti- 
German feeling during the World War also resulted in many German 
firms operating under American names. This was especially true of the 

In 1930 the population of German stock in New York was 600,084. Of 
these, 237,588 were born in Germany, while 362,496 were born in the 
United States of German or mixed parentage. Germans were more numer 
ous than any other foreign white stock in Queens, where they were 26.6 
percent of the total foreign white stock; second only to the Italians in 
Richmond, where they were 14.5 percent; and in Manhattan they were ex 
ceeded by the Italians and Irish, representing 11.3 percent. In the Bronx 
they made up 10.3 percent of the foreign white stock; in Brooklyn, 7.6 

In Harlem the Germans have been crowded out by Italians and Slavs. 
Formerly populated almost entirely by Germans, Harlem today still has 
the landmarks of its German days, such as the Harlem Casino, the Alham- 
bra, and a number of churches. Yorkville, centering around East Eighty- 
Sixth Street, is at present the only section in Manhattan with a fairly com 
pact German population. 

Forty years ago the Bronx was almost exclusively a German district. 
Now, in spite of the large quota of Germans in that part of the city, the 
German element is noticeable only in scattered sections of the borough. 
Among these are the Morrisania section around Third Avenue and i6ist 
Street, the Van Cortlandt section, Pelham Bay, Franz Sigel Park and Cro- 
tona Park. 


Brooklyn once had a large number of German sections such as the Bor 
ough Hall vicinity, the Myrtle Avenue section, DeKalb Avenue, the Bed 
ford section, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Flatbush, Ridgewood and Williams- 
burg. At present only the Ridgewood section has a more or less compact 
German population. 

In many sections of Queens a large proportion of the population is of 
German origin. These sections include Astoria, Woodside, Middle Village, 
Steinway, Maspeth, Newton, Elmhurst, Corona, Flushing. More than half 
the population of Jamaica is of German stock. The residents of Staten 
Island are largely of German origin. In Stapleton certain signs of Ger 
man community life have survived. But as a whole, the German element 
of the city is being rather rapidly absorbed. 


Those of Irish stock in New York (in 1930 numbering 614,000, of 
whom 535,000 were from the Irish Free State) due to their kinship 
with the dominant Anglo-Saxon culture easily adapted themselves to new 
conditions, without isolating themselves for any great period from the 
main stream of American life. Thus the Irish have never created anything 
like an Irish quarter in New York; they have always lived "all around the 

Most of the Irish who came to this city before the American Revolution 
were Protestants from the North, although the first record of an Irishman 
in the colony of New Amsterdam is that of a Catholic, Hugh O'Neal, 
who was married in 1643 to the widow of Adriean de Donck, a Dutch 
farmer of the Bronx. In 1683 another Irish Catholic, Sir Thomas Dongan, 
became governor of the English province of New York, and was re 
sponsible for the charter which has come down to us in modified form. 
Sir Thomas opposed the keeping of slaves, opened the first free common 
school in America in 1685, and proclaimed the doctrine of religious tol 

Sir Thomas' compatriots in the little colony, slightly more than 400, 
were the town's blacksmiths, tailors, weavers, woolcombers and cobblers. 
Several managed to attain a higher estate; there was, for instance, An 
thony Duane of County Galway, after whom a street was named, whose 
son, James, was New York's first mayor after the Revolution. Thomas 
Lynch, a shipping agent and importer, established a thriving business on 
Dock Street. William Mooney, the "Liberty Boy," was the founder and 


first Grand Sachem, in 1789, of the Society of Tammany, then called the 
Columbian Order. 

The great wave of Irish immigration that began in the middle iSoo's 
had its impetus in the Irish famine of 184647, bringing more than two 
million Irish to the United States in less than 20 years. Most of these set 
tled in New York. They brought with them a passion for political and 
religious freedom and hatred for the English. The poverty and political 
persecution of the Irish in Ireland account for much of the subsequent 
development of the Irish in America. Most of the Irish were peasants 
whose ancestors had been farmers for centuries. Because they associated 
poverty with life on the land, they preferred to remain, for the most part, 
in the large cities. Totally unequipped to cope with the problems of a 
highly industrialized community such as New York, they were forced 
down to the level of the lowest economic groups. 

Tammany, although it had been founded by an Irishman, was not con 
trolled by the Irish in the first few years of its existence. In 1817 the Irish 
group within the organization made its first successful bid for control when 
it succeeded in electing Thomas Addison Emmett, a distinguished Irish 
lawyer, to Congress. From that time on Tammany became increasingly Irish, 
and Irish political leaders built Tammany into the city's most powerful 
political organization. "Honest John" Kelley, Richard Croker, Charles 
Murphy, "Big Tim" Sullivan were some of those who perfected the 
technique which enabled that organization to acquire control of every 
branch of municipal activity and to hold it for almost a century. 

Most of Tammany's continued power and prestige lay in its ability to 
provide jobs and political preferment for its supporters, and for the Irish 
immigrants who were constantly pouring into the city during these years. 
The process of filling vacancies in the police and fire departments with 
Irish gave to these branches of the municipal service an Irish complexion 
which has persisted to this day. Other department vacancies were filled 
with deserving political henchmen. 

Much of the hostility which the Irish encountered on their first arrival 
in this country was due to their Catholic faith. In many cities there were 
even anti-Catholic riots, but from the beginning the Catholic Church has 
been allowed to develop in New York with little friction. Its growth in 
this city owes a great debt to Irish membership and to three great Irish 
prelates Cardinals McCloskey, Farley and Hayes. The church preserved 
much of the Irish cultural heritage ruthlessly suppressed by the English 
invader, and a great deal of the Celtic genius thus had its only outlet 


within the church. The church continued to play a great part in the life of 
the Irish American, and has always reflected him at every stage of his de 
velopment. In the beginning outside contributions were necessary to build 
the city's first Catholic church, St. Peter's, erected in 1786 a simple 
structure to which Charles IV of Spain gave $1,000. By 1879 there stood, 
as a symbol of the progress which had been made since that time, the 
magnificent St. Patrick's Cathedral, erected entirely from funds raised 
among local Catholics. 

The Irish of New York have always participated in the dramatic, lit 
erary and industrial activities of the city. To Broadway they have given 
some of its finest actors, dramatists and producers. For a period the Ameri 
can stage was dominated by such Irish figures as John Drew, Ada Rehan, 
Chauncey Olcott, among the actors ; Augustin Daly, among the producers ; 
and, among the playwrights, Dion Boucicault, James A. Herne and Wil 
liam Harrigan. 

Among composers have been Victor Herbert and Edward MacDowell; 
among singers Geraldine Farrar and John McCormack. Horace Greeley 
and E. L. Godkin were among the outstanding journalists of Irish stock 
who helped make New York a newspaper capital. Irish men of letters have 
included Finley Peter Dunne, Lafcadio Hearn, Harvey O'Higgins and 
Joyce Kilmer. 

In medicine the Irish gave to the city Dr. John Byrne, one of the earliest 
researchers in cancer, and William McNeven, a pioneer of American medi 
cine. To the industrial development of the last century the Irish contrib 
uted such inventors and engineers as Christopher Colles, Patrick B. De- 
laney, Robert Fulton, John Phillip Holland, John Bart McDonald and 
John Joseph Carry. One of the earliest department stores in the city was 
founded by Alexander Stewart, and one of the most successful American 
shipping lines by W. R. Grace, another Irishman. 

English, Scotch, Welsh 

The first mass migration of Englishmen to New York came in 1664 
when Colonel Richard Nicolls forced the surrender of Peter Stuyvesant, 
rechristened the hitherto Dutch town of New Amsterdam and became 
the first British governor of New York. In the first years of British rule, 
English and Welsh arrived in large numbers and settled for the most part 
on the tip of Manhattan below Wall Street and in the southwestern area 
of Staten Island. 


While Scotch settlers had trickled into the city since its founding, it 
was not until 1764 that they began to arrive in any considerable num 
bers, as the result of the border wars between England and Scotland. 
With them came the "Ulster Scots" or Scotch-Irish who had settled in 
Northern Ireland before migrating to the colonies. The heavy flow of 
Scotch and Scotch-Irish continued for ten years. 

By the end of the eighteenth century, a colony of several hundred 
Scotch weavers, mainly from Paisley, had settled in what was then called 
the Village of Greenwich. 

Little remains of these settlements, and today New York's more than 
six percent of the nation's total British population is scattered through 
the city. Tottenville, Staten Island, is the only thing resembling a "British 
quarter"; the site of an old English colony, it still houses some of the 
descendants of the early settlers. In 1930 New York's English population 
was 178,703, Welsh 5,000, and Scotch 71,187. 

British influence has made itself felt on the governmental structure as 
well as on the economic and cultural tone of New York. In the formative 
period of the city's history it was British enterprise that raised the city 
to commercial and maritime importance. It was in this same period of 
English rule that the molds were cast of the city's political structure, 
much of which has remained to this day. 

British shipping interests which first made New York an important 
seaport still figure largely in the city's commercial life. Chief among the 
lines which handle New York's sea-going traffic is the British-owned 
Cunard White Star Line. 

Relic of the days when England set the pattern for American literature 
are the many New York publishing houses which have grown out of 
American branches of long established British concerns. These include 
Thomas Nelson & Son, The Macmillan Company, and Longmans, Green 
& Company. 

English influence on New York architecture is seen in many of the 
city's churches and in the manor-like homes of Westchester. Churches of 
English origin are Trinity Church, St. Mark's in the Bouwerie, First 
Presbyterian Church, rebuilt on the corner of Rutgers and Henry Streets 
in 1796, and the Scotch Presbyterian Church on Grand Street which dates 
from 1756. 

The Van Cortlandt Manor House in Van Cortlandt Park, the Philipse 
Manor House in Yonkers and the Jumel Mansion overlooking the upper 
reaches of the Harlem River are among the more celebrated copies of the 


English country house. Modern counterparts are seen in Westchester imi 
tations of this style. 

Chief among the old English landmarks which dot the city is Fraunces 
Tavern at Pearl and Broad Streets, celebrated rendezvous before and after 
the Revolution. Ye Olde Chop House at 118 Cedar Street was also a 
well-known resort of Colonial days, patronized by Franklin, Burr, Madi 
son and Thomas Paine. 

The city's water supply system owes its origins to a British model used 
in London in 1613. English metal construction set the patterns for 
Brooklyn Bridge and New York's sewers followed the designs of British 

Famous Britishers in New York's history are Gilbert Blackford, instru 
mental in founding the Aquarium; Samuel Gompers, of Jewish origin, 
the first president of the American Federation of Labor; Thomas and 
John Henderson of the Anchor Steamship Line; Duncan Phyfe, a Scot 
who created beautiful examples of American furniture and in 1795 opened 
a shop on Fulton Street, on the site of the present Hudson Terminal 
Building; John Paul Jones; Peter Fleming, the surveyor who laid out the 
grades for New York State's first railroad; Archibald Gracie, founder of 
the Lying-in Hospital, the Cedar Street Presbyterian Church and the 
Chamber of Commerce. James Lenox and Andrew Carnegie were Scots 
linked with New York's growth. Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes is 
the son of a Welsh minister. Commodore Perry and Henry Ward Beecher 
were of Welsh descent. 

Chief among the British organizations are the Societies of Saint George, 
Saint Andrew and Saint David, the patron saints respectively of England, 
Scotland and Wales. St. George's Society, with headquarters at 19 Moore 
Street, gives its annual dinner on St. George's Day, April 23, and 
throughout the year carries on philanthropic work among British resi 
dents in the city. St. Andrew's Society, a Scotch organization with head 
quarters at 105 East Twenty-Second Street, is similar to St. George's 
Society in aims and functions, climaxing its activities with dinner on 
St. Andrew's Day, November 30, the main feature of which is the cere 
monial serving of the haggis, borne in by Highland bagpipers as Robert 
Burns' Address to the Haggis is recited. The Welsh St. David's Society 
at 289 Fourth Avenue carries on philanthropic work and stimulates and 
preserves interest in the Welsh language, literature and customs. 

Other British organizations in New York include the Daughters of 
the British Empire, which maintains the Victoria Home for the Aged, 


near Ossining; the British Apprentice's Club, made up of cadet officers 
of the English merchant marine; the British Great War Veterans of 
America; the British Luncheon Club; the Over-Seas League, and the 
British Club of New York. The last three are social organizations with 
a general membership of English-born New Yorkers. 

The British Empire Chamber of Commerce, a semi-official institution 
operating under a license from the British Board of Trade, has offices 
in the British Empire Building at 620 Fifth Avenue, where it maintains 
a permanent exhibition of British products, and publishes a monthly trade 
paper, the British World. 

The English Folk Dance Society at 637 Madison Avenue is a branch 
of the English Folk Dance and Song Society founded by Cecil Sharp 
in 1911. 

The Federation of Scottish Societies includes among its member organi 
zations several lodges, the Caledonia Club, the Celtic Society and the 
Gaelic Society. 

The English-Speaking Union of the United States, an organization to 
promote mutual understanding between the English and American peoples, 
has 13,000 members in this country, and is affiliated with the English- 
speaking Union of the British Empire, which has a membership of more 
than 10,000. 


The references to Russian immigration, as reported by the United States 
Census Bureau, do not give even an approximate picture of the number 
and importance of the Russians in New York as an ethnic or linguistic 
group. All immigrants from Russia, which is populated by more than 80 
nationalities representing many ethnic, linguistic, racial or religious groups, 
are classified as "Russians" in the census, even though they do not speak 

Of the four important waves of immigration from Russia, the first, 
which arrived in 1880, was largely composed of Jews from Poland and 
Ukrainia who fled pogroms and unbearable economic conditions. The sec 
ond influx began about 1890, with Slavs of the peasant class well in the 
majority. The Russian revolutionary upheaval of 1905 and its subsequent 
defeat gave a new impetus to emigration, and this third wave continued 
until the World War and the revolution of 1917. Although a large pro 
portion of these political refugees was not ethnically Russian, these immi- 


grants, largely of the educated classes, possessed a common tradition and 
language that gave them the designation of the "old Russian colony." 

Between 1920 and 1925, at the end of the civil war in Russia, thou 
sands of the members of the nobility and upper classes fled Russia. To 
gether with some of the older Slavic immigrants, they formed what has 
come to be known as the "new colony" as distinguished from the "old col 
ony" of pre-revolutionary immigrants. The new group, numbering about 
5,000, lives near Madison Avenue and i2ist Street and along Broadway 
from 1 35th Street to i5yth Street. They are, of course, violently opposed to 
the present Russian government. 

Four Russian dailies represent as many shades of political opinion, and 
New York contains many Russian fraternal and cultural associations. Rus 
sian contributors to American arts and sciences include such outstanding 
men in New York as Nicholas Roerich, Vladimir G. Simkhovich, Igor 
Sikorsky, Serge Rachmaninoff and the Fokines. 

In 1930 Russian white stock of all classes and racial origin living in 
New York numbered 945,072, or 18.6 percent of the total foreign white 
stock in the city. 


One of the most important groups of people from southern Russia and 
the eastern part of the former Austrian province of Galicia is made up 
of Ukrainians, known also as Ruthenians or Little Russians. They are all 
ethnically Slavs and most of them are of peasant origin. Of all Slavic lan 
guages theirs is most akin to Russian. Those who come from Galicia be 
long to the Greek Catholic or Greek Uniate faith, those from the Russian 
Ukraine are Eastern Orthodox. About 80,000 Ukrainians, representing the 
largest Slavic element, live in New York and publish a daily newspaper in 
their language. 


Large-scale Greek immigration began in the 1890'$. A few of the 
arrivals before this time were Turkish subjects from Crete and the 
Aegean Islands. In the no years up to 1930 421,489 Greeks entered the 
United States. New York has the largest Greek colony in the nation, with 
more than 25,000 of the total 174,526 foreign-born Greeks in the United 
States in 1930. Chicago is second with about 15,000. 


Most of the city's Greeks live in three main areas. The most populous 
is in the Thirties west of Sixth Avenue; the oldest is on Madison Street, 
between Catherine and Pearl; the third, largely residential, is on Second 
Avenue in the Thirties. But one must not expect to find in any of these 
regions a distinctly Hellenic settlement; a few shops and restaurants 
alone give evidence of the national origin of many of the inhabitants. 
None of the more prominent Greek churches is located in these neighbor 
hoods. The new Greek residential section on Washington Heights centers 
around the church of St. Spyridon at Wadsworth Avenue and iy9th Street. 

Holy Trinity Orthodox Greek Church, built in 1904 and subsequently 
burned, was rebuilt at 31 East Seventy-Fourth Street as the cathedral of 
the archdiocese of all Orthodox churches in North and South America. 
On January 6, Epiphany Day, Greeks march in procession through the 
streets, led by priests in their sumptuous robes, with ikons borne by 
acolytes. The chief priest carries a cross to the water's edge at the Bat 
tery, and others cast the cross into the waves, blessing the sea; the cross 
is then rescued by a believer who plunges into the chill water and brings 
it to shore. March 25 marks the coincidence of the feast of the Annun 
ciation of the Virgin with the anniversary of Greek Independence Day, 
when every Greek who can do so takes part in the joint celebration. On 
this occasion the Consul General usually attends the service at Holy 

New York has a Greek day school (Forest Avenue, Bronx, attached to 
the Church of Zoodochos Peghe) and about 50 afternoon and evening 
schools where some 2000 pupils are instructed in the Greek language. 
Two principal newspapers in Greek are published in New York, and there 
are several Greek book shops. 

Although they are rarely worn in public, native Greek costumes may 
be purchased in the shops in the Greek quarters. Greek restaurants of 
all kinds abound, but to enjoy the real native cuisine one must go to 
those eating places in the Greek quarters patronized by Hellenes. 

There are two Greek theatrical troupes which from time to time give 
performances in the vernacular of plays by modern authors (consult the 
Greek newspapers Atlantis and Keryx for time and place). Greek pro 
grams are heard daily over the radio. 

Best known of the Greek societies are the American-Hellenic Educa 
tional Progressive Association and the Greek- American Progressive Asso 
ciation. Philaptochos (Ladies Charity Organization), closely affiliated 
with the church, has 600 branches in the United States. 


Of all the businesses in which American Greeks are engaged, the sell 
ing of cut flowers is easily the first. There are many Greek importers and 
manufacturers of Turkish and Egyptian cigarettes. Not the least among 
New York's business enterprises operated by Greeks are motion picture 
theaters, candy shops, lunch rooms and night clubs. 


New York's Little Rumania was one of the city's most interesting 
foreign colonies during the great migration from the 1 890*5 to the early 
i9Oo's. Its restaurants were notable not only for their Rumanian delica 
cies but also for their clientele: bearded men with derby hats, shabbily 
dressed wives and children, drinking the sour wines of the homeland 
while listening to Rumanian ballads played by a tiny native orchestra. 

Today New York's five or six hundred Rumanian gypsies in the lower 
East Side and other sections of Manhattan constitute the city's only 
closely-knit Rumanian colony. The 88,000 Rumanian Jews in New York 
live scattered throughout the five boroughs. .About 5,000 Rumanians from 
Transylvania and Bukovina are largely of the Eastern Orthodox faith and, 
like the Rumanian Jews, are scattered throughout the city. Most of these 
worship in a special chapel attached to St. Nicholas' Russian Orthodox 
Cathedral at 15 East Ninety- Seventh Street, Manhattan. The Rumanian 
Jews usually worship in the synagogues nearest their homes, but there 
are two congregations which were founded during immigration days and 
which still have a definite Rumanian stamp: the First Rumanian- Amer 
ican Congregation, 89 Rivington Street, Manhattan, and the First Brook 
lyn Rumanian- American Congregation, 224 Hopkins Street, Brooklyn. 

A major national holiday is celebrated by Rumanians in New York on 
May 10, in commemoration of the liberation of Rumania in 1877 ^ rom 
Turkish rule. 

With few exceptions, most of the Rumanian restaurants in New York 
cater to a Jewish clientele. Experts agree, however, that the food resembles 
the native Danubian cuisine rather closely. Meals in Rumanian restaurants 
are often accompanied by Rumanian gypsy music. 

A large Rumanian bookstore in New York is the Rumanian Book 
Depository Company's shop at 37 East Twenty-Eighth Street. It carries 
a large stock of Rumanian and English books, magazines, and newspapers 
and serves readers in all parts of the United States. Despite the fact that 
there are larger or more significant Rumanian groups in Ohio, West 


Virginia, Colorado and Pennsylvania, where the farmer and laborer of 
Transylvania and Bukovina are more at home than in the metropolis, 
New York is the cultural capital of Rumanians in America. The Insti 
tute of Rumanian Culture is in New York; Leon Feraru, an outstanding 
authority on Rumanian literature, is Professor of Romance Languages 
at Long Island University; the first Rumanian Symphony of George 
Enesco was introduced in America by Arturo Toscanini and the Philhar 
monic Orchestra; and a well-known Rumanian- American writer, Konrad 
Bercovici, has for years lived and worked in New York. 


The countrymen of Louis Kossuth and Joseph Pulitzer constitute one 
of the city's smaller foreign groups. Particularly striking is their parade 
on May 15, a holiday for Magyars in New York, when they assemble 
on East Eighty-Second Street and march in honor of Louis Kossuth, whose 
statue stands impressively on Riverside Drive. 

There were Hungarians in .America as long ago as during the Revolu 
tionary days, when one of them, Michael de Kovats, fought as a colonel 
in Washington's army. Most of them, however, came here after the ill- 
fated Hungarian revolution of 1848. Today there are in the city some 
150,000 residents of Hungarian stock, about 90,000 of whom are Jews. 

From 1880 to 1914, 230,000 Hungarians entered the port of New 
York, and nearly half of these settled in the city to form the largest single 
Hungarian group in the country. Most of the others went on to Pennsyl 
vania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, where they became miners, steel work 
ers, and agricultural laborers. Those who remained in New York settled 
at first on the lower East Side in the vicinity of Houston Street and Ave 
nues A and B, but with the coming of newer immigrants the colony began 
to move. Since 1905 it has been a relatively permanent part of York- 
ville between Seventy-First and Seventy-Ninth Streets, east of Lexington 

Most Hungarians in New York are employed in the food industries 
and in the needle and building trades. A few are musicians, among them 
Erno Rapee, conductor of the Radio City Symphony Orchestra, and Emery 
Deutsch, music director for station WABC. 

The people of Hungarian birth or parentage in the city maintain four 
Protestant (Hungarian Reformed) churches, two Catholic churches and 
30 synagogues. These groups also conduct church schools, largely for 


teaching the Hungarian language, tradition, and culture to American- 
born children of immigrants. 

Most of the Hungarian clubs and societies in the city are chartered as 
sick and benevolent associations, and two or three date from the 1850'$. 
The best known of those more recently established is the Ady Endre 
Society, founded after the World War to aid political refugees from 
Hungary. It sponsors literary forum evenings annually and publishes a 
Hungarian language weekly, Az Ember (The Man). Another group, the 
Culture Society, was founded in 1931 and is known in the Hungarian 
colony for its dramatic productions, musicales, and lectures. Efyleti Elet 
(Club Life), a monthly publication with 15,000 circulation, is the offi 
cial organ of many Hungarian organizations. Eight publications are issued 
in Hungarian in New York, including the Hungarian daily, Amerikai 
Magyar Nepszava. 

The Elore Hungarian Players, 380 East Eighty-First Street, an affiliate 
of the Hungarian Workers' Federation, is a leading Hungarian dramatic 
company in America. All plays are presented in Hungarian, usually at 
the Fifth Avenue Theater and at the Heckscher Foundation. 

The Tobis Theatre, First Avenue and Seventy-Eighth Street, is the 
sole permanent Hungarian motion picture house in the country. Prob 
ably it is the only one in the world that shows Hungarian pictures exclu 
sively, for in Hungary, where only about fifteen pictures are produced 
annually, the theaters often show American and British films. 

The Hungarian stores in New York are the chief importing and dis 
tributing agencies in this country for Tokay wines, Budapest salami, 
and goose livers, the latter a favorite Hungarian delicacy. The stores 
have a nationwide trade, sending their wares to the Hungarian-born 
miners and steel workers throughout the country. 

It is in the unpretentious eating places of Yorkville and the lower East 
Side that authentic Hungarian delicacies are to be found. The large 
and gaudy places boasting gypsy music and elaborate cuisine are seldom 
so truly Hungarian. 


Czechoslovakia has contributed more than 40,000 to the population of 
the New York area, and since the World War, when that country won 
its independence and formed a democratic government, Czechs and Slovaks 
here have combined many of their interests. Earlier each gathered in 


widely separated vicinities in Manhattan, the Czechs in the lower part 
of Yorkville, between Seventy-First and Seventy-Fifth Streets, east of 
Second Avenue, and the Slovaks downtown from Fourth to Seventh Street 
east of Avenue A. Now some Slovaks are moving into the northern dis 
trict. About 15,000 Czechs live in Queens County, chiefly in Astoria, with 
smaller groups in Winfield, Woodside, Corona and Jackson Heights. 

Most of the Czechoslovaks in New York are Roman Catholics, but 
there are many American Czechs who are not affiliated with any church. 
The Roman Catholic Czechs attend the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual 
Help, 323 East Sixty-First Street, and St. John the Martyr's, 254 East 
Seventy-Second Street. Protestants attend the Jan Huss Church (Pres 
byterian), 349 East Seventy-Fourth Street, and the Madison Avenue Pres 
byterian Church at Seventy-Third Street. There are four Slovak churches, 
one Roman Catholic, with a large congregation, St. Nepomucky Church 
at Sixty-Sixth Street and First Avenue. The other churches of this lan 
guage group are the Slovak Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist and Slovak 

Czechs and Slovaks keep alive their traditions and languages by main 
taining separate schools where after public school hours children are 
taught history and the native speech. The Sokol (Falcon) Athletic Union 
of New York and other organizations are especially concerned with calis 
thenics and sports. Other groups present native dramas, folk songs and 
forms of entertainment which have their origin back in the home country. 
The largest meeting place is Bohemian National Hall, 335 East Seventy- 
Third Street, Manhattan, where forty-eight organizations meet regularly. 
Among the most popular choral groups are the Huss Choir, Jan Huss 
House, Seventy-Fourth Street near First Avenue, and the Sokol Singing 
and Dramatic Society, 420 East Seventy-First Street. Czechoslovakia has 
contributed prominent artists to the musical and theatrical world. 

The daily newspaper New Yorkske Listy (Czech) was established in 
1879 and New Yorksky Dennik (Slovak) in 1912. Slovak v Amerike is 
a semi-weekly periodical and Tydenni Zpravy is a weekly. 

At Jan Huss House, on Seventy-Fourth Street near First Avenue, there 
is a Czech museum. 

Balkan Slavs 

New York City has 10,600 persons of Yugoslav stock Serbs, Croats 
and Slovenes of whom 6,500 were born abroad. Established about 1890, 


the earliest Yugoslav colony in New York City was centered around 
Twenty-Third Street and Tenth Avenue, Manhattan. The colony now 
extends along Ninth and Tenth Avenues between Twenty-First Street 
and Fortieth Street. There are many Balkan Slavs in Astoria, Long Island. 
Of the entire Balkan group in the city the Bulgarians are fewest in num 
ber, comprising only about 100 families and 300 transients, most of whom 
live in upper Manhattan. 

Croats, Serbs and Slovenes have sharply defined cultures. The Croats 
and Slovenes are influenced by Austrian and Hungarian cultures, while 
the Serbs have acquired many Turkish traditions and customs. 

Croats and Slovenes are generally Roman Catholic ; the Croatian church, 
SS Cyril and Methodius, is located at 552 West Fiftieth Street, the 
Slovene church at 62 St. Mark's Place. The Serbs, few in number 
and without a church of their own, attend the Russian Orthodox Church 
on Houston Street near Second Avenue, where services are conducted in 
the ancient Slavonic church language. The Slovenes also have an audi 
torium at 253 Irving Avenue, Ridgewood, Brooklyn. Several Yugoslav 
schools have been established in the city; a Croatian school is affiliated 
with the church on West Fiftieth Street, and others are supported by 
New York Yugoslav societies, which number more than 100 and sponsor 
cultural, political and mutual aid programs. 

Art, music, drama, literature and the dance, education, science and in 
dustry all have been enriched by Yugoslav New Yorkers. A few of 
these are Nichola Tesla and Michael I. Pupin, noted scientists ; Henry Suz- 
zallo, sociologist and president of the University of the State of Washing 
ton; Prof. R. R. Radosavljevich, educational psychologist; Louis Adamic, 
author ; and Tashamira, the interpretive dancer. 

Yugoslavs have their own restaurants where native foods may be en 
joyed and special occasions celebrated. Music is supplied by a native 
tamburitza orchestra and an evening often ends with the kolo the 
ancient national dance performed by both patrons and professionals. 

The holiday most widely observed by Yugoslavs is celebrated on De 
cember i, anniversary of the establishment in 1918 of the Kingdom of 
Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later called Yugoslavia), when these three 
peoples were united under one flag. The feast of SS Cyril and Methodius, 
who converted the Slavs to Christianity in the ninth century and trans 
lated the Scriptures into Slavic, is observed on June 7 by Yugoslavs of 
both Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox faith. 

Four Yugoslav newspapers are published in New York: Svijet, Croa- 


tian daily; Glas Naroda, Slovenian daily; Srbski Dnevmk, Serbian daily; 
Hrvatski List, Croatian newspaper issued three times a week. 


Scattered about the city in the Bronx, Harlem and the East Side 
are about 6,000 Estonians, one of the latest groups to emigrate. Most 
of them left Estonia, whose people are closely related to the Finns, after 
the unsuccessful revolution of 1905 in Russia. 

Estonians in New York are engaged chiefly in various forms of skilled 
labor. They publish a weekly newspaper in their native language and they 
support two social organizations and three churches of their own. Periodi 
cally they hold music festivals at which many of the men and women ap 
pear in the Estonian peasant costume. 

Lithuanians and Letts 

After 1868, Lithuanians came to New York in considerable numbers, 
as a result of oppression in the homeland. According to the Federal census 
of 1930, there were 31,000 persons of Lithuanian parentage in the city at 
that time. 

Three newspapers published in the Lithuanian language do much to 
maintain the group's national identity. Ranging in allegiance from Catho 
lic Nationalist to Communist, these organs are intimately bound up with 
organizations almost equally diverse: sick and death benefit societies, 
religious, artistic, literary, musical, social, and other groups. Local 54 of 
the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America is composed entirely of 

The largest colonies of Lithuanians are in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and 
Queens. Several Lithuanian Roman Catholic Churches in the city have 
well-trained choirs. An outstanding musical group is the Aidas Chorus. 
A school for children and a radio station, WMBQ, with seven Lithu 
anian announcers, help to keep the language alive. A sports federation 
includes eight baseball teams. 

The Lithuanians and Letts who came from the Baltic provinces of Czar- 
ist Russia speak languages related to each other, which form a special 
branch of the Indo-European family. 

Most of the 16,000 Letts in New York left their native country now 
independent Latvia after the Russian revolution in 1905. Concentrated 


in Brooklyn and the Bronx, the Letts work principally as bricklayers, car 
penters and unskilled laborers. Many of the women are engaged in the 
needle trades and in domestic service. 

Letts have founded several clubs and societies for persons of their 
nationality. The largest of these has its own dramatic group, a chorus 
and a string orchestra. 

There is no permanent Lettish church, but two congregations, Baptist 
and Lutheran, hold services once a month in Judson Memorial Church 
on Washington Square and in the John Street Church. 


In spite of the fact that they are more nearly akin to the Anglo-Amer 
icans than any other group from the European continent, the Scandi 
navians of New York have preserved much of their native culture and 
modes of life. Many live in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, which 
is full of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish shops, restaurants, book 
stores and churches. The majority of Scandinavians who came over in 
the great immigration of the i9th century settled in the vast farming 
regions of the Middle West to follow the traditional agricultural life 
of their fathers. Thus New York has only 20,000 residents of Danish 
stock out of the more than 500,000 in this country, 63,000 of Norwegian 
stock out of 1,100,098, and 71,000 of Swedish stock out of more than 
one million and a half. 

The first Scandinavians came to New York with Henry Hudson in 
1609; there were a few Danes among the crew of the Half Moon when 
it entered New York Bay that year. Until late in the i9th century there 
were hardly more than one thousand in the entire city. A Norwegian, 
Claes Carstensen, may have determined Brooklyn as a residence for most 
of the Scandinavians who subsequently settled in New York, when he 
purchased in 1642 some 60 acres of land in the section later known as 
Williamsburg. In 1704 the Norwegian and Danish residents of the city 
erected a stone chapel on lower Manhattan near Broadway and Rector 

The Scandinavians who remained in New York became, for the most 
part, mechanics, seamen and skilled workers in the building trades. More 
than 60 percent are members of trade unions. They are especially nu 
merous in such unions as the Carpenters', Bricklayers', Painters', and 


International Seamen's. The leaders in the movement for unionization 
have been those Swedes who came to New York after the Swedish gen 
eral strike of 1909. 

Most of the Scandinavians in this city are Lutherans, each nationality 
maintaining its separate church. The first Swedish church in the city, 
however, was the Swedish Immanuel Methodist Episcopal Church, of 
which the first services were held in 1845 on an old ship anchored in 
the Hudson River. Den Norske Sjomandskirke (Norwegian Seamen's 
Church), which has been maintained chiefly for Norwegian sailors since 
1878, has always had its pastor selected by church and governmental 
authorities in Norway. 

The Swedes are especially well known for their talented singers, some 
of whom have been featured on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera 
House. Many Swedes have won distinction in engineering. 

The Danes have also been prominent in musical and professional life. 
Jacob A. Riis, a Danish immigrant, became a well-known journalist. His 
articles in the New York Tribune and other newspapers on the disease- 
ridden slums of New York, along with such books as The Making of an 
American and How the Other Half Lives, were important contributions to 
sociological literature. 

Scandinavians have established numerous benevolent, charitable and 
social organizations, as well as several newspapers. Danes and Norwegians 
have one newspaper each, with a circulation of 4,100 and 9,000 respec 
tively; the Swedes have five newspapers with a total circulation of 14,000. 
All Scandinavians unite in the celebration of Leif Erickson Day on 
October 9; the Danes alone observe Grundslovsdagen, or Constitution 
Day, on June 5 ; the Swedes celebrate on November 6 the anniversary of 
the death of their great national hero King Gustavus Adolphus, at the 
battle of Liitzen. 

Peoples of the Near East 

During the later decades of the i9th century, Turkish massacres drove 
Armenians and Syrians to American shores in steadily increasing num 
bers. The wave of near-East immigration reached its peak in the last 
decade of that century. In 1896, a number of Turks joined the exodus 
when Sultan Abdul Hamid II, in a precedent-breaking decree, permitted 
his own nationals to leave the empire. 


Of the three near-Eastern groups, the Syrians have the largest popu 
lation in the city, numbering 30,000 throughout greater New York. The 
Armenians come next with 22,000, while the Turks in New York num 
ber only about 300. 

Only 1,000 of the city's Syrians live in Manhattan, along Washington 
Street between Morris and Rector Streets. The largest Syrian colony in 
the city lies between De Graw and State Streets, running from the East 
River to Hoyt Street in Brooklyn. A smaller settlement has grown up in 
the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. 

New York's Armenians live for the most part between Twenty-First 
and Thirty-Second Streets, in the district east of Lexington Avenue. Other 
colonies center about Bathgate and Washington Avenues in the Bronx; 
along Amsterdam and St. Nicholas Avenues between iSist and i9ist 
Streets in Washington Heights; and near Fifteenth Street and Fourth 
Avenue, Brooklyn. 

The Turks are settled mainly along Rivington and Forsythe Streets 
in Manhattan. 

While the Syrians are mainly importers, dealing in embroideries, laces, 
linens, brass ware, pottery, exotic foods and Asiatic objects of art, the 
Turks are for the most part unskilled laborers, while the Armenians 
participate in the whole range of the city's occupations. 

Armenians and Syrians in the city are almost without exception Chris 
tian, the former adhering to the Gregorian Church while the latter have 
formed a number of sects related to the Greek Orthodox and the Greek 
and Roman Catholic Churches. St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church at 
57 Washington Street, best known Syrian church in the city, conducts 
services in Syrian. 

The Turks are exclusively Mohammedans. The only real mosque in the 
city, at 1 08 Powers Street in Brooklyn, claims most of the devout. Some 
belong to the Mohammedan Unity Society at 67 West 12 5th Street. 

The Syrians are the most nationally-conscious group of the city's near- 
Eastern population, boasting three Arabic dailies, a tri-weekly and a 
semi-monthly. Leading newspaper is Al-Hoda (The Guidance) published 
at 55 Washington Street. Other publications include Al-lslash (The Re 
form), The Syrian Eagle, Democratic Party organ; the tri-weekly Mirror 
of the West; and the semi-monthly news magazine, As-Sameer. 

Armenian left-wing groups publish the daily Panvor (Worker), which 
is the only near-Eastern publication comparable to the Syrian press in 
the city. Armenians also publish two New York weeklies, Gotchnag (The 


Church Bell), a religious and literary magazine, and The Armenian Spec 
tator, a political magazine dedicated to Armenian independence from 
Turkey and in opposition to Soviet Armenia. 

The only Turkish publication is a monthly bulletin put out by the Turkish 
Aid Society, 2344 Eighth Avenue, the only strictly Turkish organization 
in the city. 

Few of the customary holidays of these nationalities are observed in 
the city, and these are mainly political. Armenians celebrate April 24, 
All-Armenian Martyrs Day, commemorating the Armenian victims of 
Turkish pogroms during the World War, and May 20, Armenian Na 
tional Independence Day, celebrating the autonomy of Soviet Armenia. 

The Syrians in New York, 85 percent of whom are Lebanese, hail 
the founding of the republic of Lebanon on September i. The principal 
Turkish political holiday is October 27, anniversary of the founding of the 
Turkish republic in 1923. 

New York has come to rank high in Arabic literary history as the 
final home of Syria's leading modern poet, Kallil Gibran, who lived in 
the city for many years and died here in 1931. 


Simultaneous with the tide of European immigration to the east coast 
of the United States during the last half of the i9th century, waves of 
Chinese and Japanese began to pour into the west. The Chinese, mainly 
from Canton province, began to settle in this country during the middle 
of the century. In 1852 Commodore Perry broke through Japanese iso 
lation and paved the way for future migrations. Later, Chinese were 
driven eastward by the west coast anti-Chinese disturbances that led finally 
to the exclusion acts barring Chinese and Japanese immigration, and many 
eventually settled in New York. 

While 1930 figures give the city's Chinese population as 18,000 and 
the Japanese as only 2,000, the latter wield an influence in New York's 
commercial life considerably greater than the former's. Headed by the 
powerful Tokyo House of Mitsui, whose local offices cover a floor of 
the Empire State Building, New York's Japanese are mainly engaged in 
large scale importing. With the exception of a number of domestic and 
restaurant workers, the Japanese are reasonably prosperous. 

In sharp contrast, the Chinese are mainly small shopkeepers, art and 
curio dealers, domestic workers and laundrymen. They live in some of 


the city's worst tenements. Their few doctors, artists and teachers have 
a clientele largely limited to their own countrymen. "Chinatown," so 
familiar to out-of-town sightseers, is in the Bowery district northwest 
of Chatham Square. 

Many of the city's Japanese and several hundred Chinese in New 
York are Christian. The only Buddhist temple in the city is in the pri 
vate apartment of a Japanese priest, many of whose congregation arc 
white Americans, the rest Japanese. Devout Chinese Buddhists worship 
in their own homes, repudiating the two joss houses in Chinatown as 
tourist attractions. 

Chinese fraternal organization, which once centered about the much 
publicized tongs, has shifted, and the nature of the tongs themselves 
has changed. Once marked by racketeering, gambling and bloodshed, tong 
affairs have been quiet for some years. For the most part the tongs have 
returned to their original character of benevolent and protective societies. 
The main tongs in Chinatown are still the Hip Sings at 61 Doyers Street, 
and the On Leong Tong at 41 Mott Street. The Chinese Consolidated 
Benevolent Society, enrolling members of both organizations, now adju 
dicates all tong disputes. 

The Chinese publish three dailies in New York, largest of which is 
the liberal Chinese Journal, which boasts a circulation of 9,000. Other 
papers include the Chinese Nationalist Daily, organ of the Kuomintang's 
New York branch, and the Chinese Republic News, featuring mainly 
Chinese Masonic lodge news. There is also the Chinese Vanguard, a 
weekly published by the left-wing Chinese Workers' Club. 

The Japanese in New York publish two periodicals, the Japanese Times 
and the Japanese American. Both reflect the official Japanese government 

New York's Chinese and Japanese have, like most other nationalities, 
dropped most of their native customs. The holidays celebrated in the city 
are political rather than religious or traditional. Chinese New Year's day, 
which may occur anywhere from the first of January to mid-February, is 
still celebrated with dragon parades and firecrackers, but is almost the 
only occasion for large-scale observance. The Chinese commemorate the 
birth and death of Sun Yat Sen and the founding of the Chinese Re 
public, while the Japanese bow to the Emperor's picture on his birthday. 

Both of these groups are fervidly patriotic, but only the Chinese 
maintain a complete school for their children, at 64 Mott Street. Smaller 
Japanese schools are attached to various Japanese Christian churches. A 


Chinese dramatic society stages plays, and two Bowery movie houses show 
Chinese films after 10 P.M. 

Following in the wake of the far-Eastern migrations that landed first 
on the Pacific Coast came the Koreans and Filipinos, some of whom 
crossed the continent to settle in New York. Koreans filtered in with 
the flood of Chinese and Japanese immigrants, until they reached their 
present population of about 200 in the city. 

The Filipinos came in much larger numbers, their influx reaching 
its height after 1910. Until the establishment of the Philippine Com 
monwealth in 1935 they were classed as "nationals," an intermediate 
category neither citizen nor alien. They are now considered alien and their 
immigration is limited to 50 per year, thereby stabilizing their population 
in the city at the present figure of 4,000. 

Small colonies of Filipinos have grown up along Second Avenue be 
tween Thirteenth and Sixteenth Streets and on Sixty-Fourth and Sixty- 
Fifth Streets between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan. 
In Brooklyn there is a settlement along Sands, Concord and Nassau Streets 
and another along Columbia and Hamilton Avenues. 

The Koreans form no colony but are scattered throughout the five bor 
oughs. Like the Filipinos, they are chiefly employed as domestic and res 
taurant workers. A few Koreans are importers. 

While the Koreans are mainly Protestant in religion, the Filipinos are 
generally Catholic. Both groups are highly patriotic. The Koreans publish 
a fervidly nationalist weekly, New Korea, while the Filipinos continue to 
celebrate as their chief holiday the anniversary of the death of Jose Rizal, 
national hero executed by Spaniards when they ruled the country. Other 
national occasions observed by Filipinos include National Heroes Day and 
the anniversary of the founding of the Philippine Commonwealth. 

The 500 Hindus and the 100 Persians in New York are for the most 
part fairly prosperous merchants and importers. 

Hindu immigration followed shortly after the visit of Swami Vive- 
kananda to the World Religious Conference at Chicago in 1893. In the 
years immediately following the conference more than 2,000 Punjab 
farmers came to settle near Stockton, California, but those that came 
farther east were mainly merchants, missionaries or students. 

Foremost Hindu religious organization is the Vedanta Society at 34 
West Seventy-First Street, founded by Swami Vivekananda and now under 
the direction of his disciple, Swami Bodhananda. The society publishes 
a monthly, Vedanta Darpana (Mirror of Vedanta). The World Fellow- 


ship of Faiths, with headquarters in the Hotel New Yorker, is the only 
other important Hindu organization in the city; it publishes a quarterly, 
Appreciation, and a semi-annual, Dharma (The Law). 

The only Persian societies in the city are the Association for Persian 
Art and Archaeology and the Iran Society, both cultural organizations. 

Spanish-Speaking People 

Spanish is the mother-tongue of some 200,000 residents of New York, 
The great majority of these have come from the Carribean region, chiefly 
Puerto Rico, and the rest from Spanish America and Spain. 

Of the city's four Spanish-speaking districts or barrios, the largest is 
in lower Harlem, stretching from noth Street to 12 5th Street between 
First and Manhattan Avenues, and from loist Street to 12 5th Street for 
two or three blocks east of Madison Avenue. This barrio, as well as the 
one in the Red Hook district of Brooklyn, is mainly Puerto Rican. In the 
past ten years another colony, made up originally of more well-to-do 
Puerto Ricans, has been growing up on Washington Heights, between 
1 3 5th and 15 3d Streets along Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. Other 
Spanish-speaking families have been moving into this district, as they 
emancipated themselves from the slums of Harlem and the lower East 
Side; but it is doubtful whether this will develop into a closely-knit 
colony, as its way of life differs little from that of its neighbors, the 
trend being towards at least an outward absorption. Another barrio is to 
be found in lower Manhattan, close to the Brooklyn Bridge, mainly 
around Cherry and Roosevelt Streets. The people here are largely from 
the Spanish provinces of Galicia and Catalonia. In conversation with 
other Spanish-speaking people they use Spanish proper (Castilian), but 
among themselves they speak Gallego (similar to Portuguese) and Cata- 
lonian (a derivation from Provencal). 

The shifting barrios followed the usual social trend, from slums to 
West Side districts, but the racial factor also came into play in the case 
of the Spanish-speaking people. Before the World War there were few 
Carribeans in the city, and the old Spanish barrio above Canal Street was 
made up chiefly of Spaniards proper and South Americans. After the war 
came the first large influx of Puerto Ricans, many of whom later shifted 
to Harlem. One of the causes of this shift seems to have been the diffi 
culty encountered by many of the darker or colored Puerto Ricans in 


finding homes in the old district. Others followed, as the color line or 
racial prejudice is little known among these islanders, and before long 
most of the Puerto Ricans were concentrated in lower Harlem. 

While the great majority of Spanish-speaking people came here to 
escape hopeless poverty, a large proportion of the others came as a result 
of political repression. Each violent overturn of a regime in Latin America 
brought refugees to New York. Ever since Latin America freed itself 
from Spanish rule, New York has been a center of opposition movements 
by refugees ; and many historical figures, including ex-presidents, dictators 
and cabinet officials, have spent years of exile here. The movement for 
the independence of Cuba was greatly aided by the revolutionary junta 
in New York, under the leadership of the Cuban patriot, Jose Marti. 
When the exiled adherents of a cause returned to the homeland, following 
a revolution, their opponents often took their place here as exiles. In the 
case of Spain, almost all the refugees who came here were workers forced 
to flee from the homeland following the periodical violent suppression 
of labor movements. Only a small proportion of Spaniards have emigrated 
here, as most Spanish emigrants leave their country for economic reasons, 
settling in Latin America where the mother-tongue is spoken. 

Although the Spanish-speaking people are often lumped together as 
a single group, they represent a rich variety of social and racial elements. 
The few who come from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay are usually Latins 
with little Indian mixture. Mexicans have a large admixture of Indian 
blood, and can be easily recognized as mestizos. The few Peruvians, Ecua 
dorians and Dominicans have Indian and mulatto admixtures ; while many 
Puerto Ricans and Cubans have some Negro blood. Intermarriage is com 
mon among the Spanish-speaking people, but generally follows class lines, 
which in turn run parallel to racial shades. In general, social status forms 
a stronger line of cleavage than complexion. 

As is true of most immigrant groups, the standard of living is low 
among the Spanish-speaking people as a whole. For the majority of these 
people, coming to New York has meant a shift from a backward agricul 
tural to a highly industrialized economy, and many of them have become 
unskilled laborers and domestic servants. Among the women, large num 
bers have gone into the needle and millinery trades, often doing piece 
work at home for starvation wages. Families are usually large, living 
quarters are greatly overcrowded, and undernourishment is widespread. The 
depression brought great suffering, three or four out of five families 
being thrown on relief. 


Another element is made up of those in the skilled trades, particularly 
as mechanics, motor car drivers, electricians, linotype operators, pressmen, 
etc. Most have learned these trades in New York, but many of the Span 
iards came here as skilled mechanics. In contrast with the rest of the 
Spanish- speaking people, few workers, skilled or unskilled, are to be 
found among the South Americans here. These few are usually connected 
with banks or export and import firms as translators, correspondents, and 
in other capacities. This element avoids the slum barrios, being able to 
afford homes in the Washington Heights section or in the rooming- 
house district between Central Park West and Amsterdam Avenue. 

The Puerto Ricans have a special significance. They come here as Ameri 
can citizens, and form the great mass of the Spanish-speaking people in 
New York. The acute over-population of the island and its desperate 
economic condition with more than three-fourths of the inhabitants chroni 
cally unemployed, have caused a continued exodus limited only by the 
difficulty of securing the necessary steamship fare. Virtually all of the 
150,000 Puerto Ricans in New York have come here since 1918. It is 
noteworthy that nearly all emigrating Puerto Ricans come to this city. 
Perhaps the chief reason is that the steamship lines land most of them here, 
but there are other reasons as well. In 1918, the Federal government im 
ported some 15,000 unemployed workers from Puerto Rico for the war 
industries in Georgia, the Carolinas, Louisiana and Arkansas. The end of 
the war threw these thousands out of work, and they were given the 
choice of free transportation back to the island or shifting for themselves. 
Most of them chose to stay in this country; but chiefly because of racial 
discrimination in the South, they drifted northward and finally settled in 
New York. 

Migratory workers comprise the bulk of New York's Mexican popula 
tion, and for this reason no particular locality in the city can be designated 
as Mexican. In 1930 some 3,000 Mexicans were recorded as living in 
New York City. Works by three noted Mexican artists, Orozco, Rivera 
and Siqueiros, are on view in the city. There are four frescoes with social 
themes in the Orozco Room at the New School for Social Research, and 
21 panels by Rivera at the New Worker's School. Siqueiros conducted an 
experimental workshop on Fourteenth Street in 1936. 

Spanish social organizations and clubs in this city are mainly concerned 
with mutual benefits, charity and entertainment. They are usually based 
on provincial lines; thus, those coming from Spanish Galicia have the 
Centra Gallego, those from Asturias the Centra Asturiano, etc. The Latin 


Americans also have their political clubs, including socialist, communist 
and syndicalist organizations. 

Since the beginning of the present century, many Spanish- language 
publications have appeared and disappeared in New York, in connection 
with the rise and fall of political activities and revolutionary movements 
in the home countries. Among the more permanent efforts was the Puerto 
Rico Herald, founded in 1908 by Luis Munoz Rivera, an early Puerto 
Rican patriot ; this weekly supported the first movement for Puerto Rican 
home-rule under the American flag. The first Spanish-language daily in 
New York was La Prensa, founded in 1916 as a weekly. It was originally 
supported largely by Spaniards, but in recent years it has become the 
organ of the whole Spanish-speaking community. It provides more news 
from Latin America and Spain than any other New York newspaper. It 
is politically independent, although it supports the Loyalist cause in the 
present Spanish conflict. A new daily with a decided liberal trend, La 
Voz, founded in 1937, also makes its appeal to all elements in the Spanish- 
speaking community. There are several weeklies, representing various 
social and political trends, but publications of this type are usually short 
lived. A monthly magazine, La Nueva Democracia, represents the liberal 
and Protestant point of view, and is mainly directed against political 
dictatorships in Latin America. 

While most Spanish-speaking persons are born Catholic, few of the men 
are church-goers. There are five Catholic churches in New York. Nuestra 
Senora de la Esperanza, Nuestra Sefiora de la Madalla Milagrosa, and 
Parroquia de la Santa Agonia are uptown, Nuestra Senora de la Guadalupe 
is downtown, and the Parroquia de San Pedro is in Brooklyn. The Prot 
estants have sermon halls and one church, the Spanish Evangelical Church 
on West 1 1 5th Street. Many followers of the French spiritualist Kardec are 
to be found among the Spanish-speaking people. 

On Saturday nights, the Puerto Rican section of Harlem is alive with 
music and merry-making. There are only about 8,000 Cubans in New York, 
but it is Cuban music that accompanies the dancing everywhere among the 
Spanish-speaking people and indeed has invaded New York's night life 
in general. A number of cafes and cabarets with Cuban atmosphere have 
appeared during the last few years. In addition to the many inexpensive 
Spanish restaurants and cabarets catering especially to the Basque, Gallego, 
Catalan or Asturian compatriots of the proprietors, there are several night 
clubs frequented not only by the Spanish-speaking population but also by 
many others in search of slightly exotic entertainment. Such cabarets, with 


Spanish dancers, Spanish food, and Spanish, Cuban and Argentine music, 
where New Yorkers try to show the natives how the tango and the rhumba 
should be danced, can be found in Greenwich Village, on the outskirts of 
Harlem, and in other parts of the city. 

Two regular Spanish radio programs are broadcast from stations WHOM 
and WBXY, and a weekly musical program is sent out from a Spanish 
cabaret in Greenwich Village over WEAF. Harlem is the home of two 
theaters that specialize in the showing of films produced in Spanish-speak 
ing countries. 

The city's Spanish-speaking population celebrates annually on Columbus 
Day their Dia de la Raza (Day of the Spanish Race), when a parade is 
held which ends at the statue of Columbus in Columbus Circle. 

Jewish People 

According to the best available estimates, about 1,750,000 present-day 
residents of New York City are designated as Jews. Members of this group 
have never been able to agree as to the basis of their cohesion. Are they 
a race, a people, a religious confraternity, a singular cultural constellation, 
or merely a "remarkable accident of history"? There are, for instance, 
those Jewish assimilationists who stand solidly upon the assumption that 
what makes a man a Jew is his adherence to Judaism. The orthodox Jews, 
on the other hand, think of themselves as both a religious group and a 
nation, a conception obviously derived from the theocratic nature of the 
Jewish state in Biblical times. The political Zionists, excepting of course 
the religionists among them, generally take the view that the Jews are a 
people, a national entity possessing an ancient historic and cultural past. 

Besides these large groups, there is the considerable body of assimila 
tionists who for various reasons deny that the Jews are either a race, a 
nation, or a religious confraternity. First they cite historical evidence in 
the attempt to invalidate the contention that the Jews are pure and dis 
tinctive racially. They point to the fact that intermarriage was widespread 
in ancient times between Jews and non-Jews, even non-Semites, particu 
larly with the Canaanites, Philistines, Moabites, Amorites, Assyrians, Bab 
ylonians, Persians, Medes, Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. They further 
bring to bear the considerable body of facts testifying to the mingling of 
many strains and the fusion of widely diverse stocks in which Jews were 
involved during the centuries after the Dispersion and throughout the en 
tire Christian era. 


The Jews of New York come from nearly every country under the sun, 
talk fluently in nearly every known tongue and dialect, and mentally re 
veal the imprint of an infinite variety of cultures. Physically, too, they are 
as diverse as there are types in the ethnological museum. Professor Franz 
Boas, the eminent anthropologist, once made a careful study of the somatic 
traits of several thousand New York Jewish immigrants and their progeny. 
He discovered among them Jews who were blond, brunette and red 
headed; Jews with blue, gray, brown and black eyes; Jews with round 
skulls and long skulls; Jews with straight, hooked, retrousse, long and 
short noses; Jews who looked Nordic, Mediterranean, Mongolian, and 
Negroid ; Jews with thin lips and thick lips ; in short, Jews who resembled 
members of all the known types and races of mankind. 

But however Jews may differ in their definitions and conceptions of 
what constitutes a Jew, there can be no doubt that through more than three 
centuries a more or less cohesive group of individuals classified as Jews, 
originally professing various foreign national loyalties and still largely 
representative of diverse cultures, has played a prominent part in the 
economic, cultural, professional, and philanthropic life of New York City. 

The first Jewish settler in New Amsterdam was Jacob Barsimon. He 
arrived on the Preboom from Holland on July 8, 1654. In the following 
month, 23 Jewish refugees from Brazil disembarked from the St. Catherine 
at the Battery. These men, women and children were descendants of those 
Jews who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal by Ferdinand and 
Isabella in 1492, and who had gone to live under scant sufferance in 
Holland. When the Dutch secured a foothold in Brazil, these 23 had been 
among those who had emigrated in 1624, hoping their lot would be a 
happier one. Unfortunately, nemesis in the form of the conquering 
Portuguese and the ubiquitous Holy Office forced them to flee for their 
lives from Brazil. 

The new arrivals received an openly hostile reception from Governor 
Peter Stuyvesant ; he petitioned the Dutch West India Company in Amster 
dam for permission to expel them from New Netherland so that "these 
blasphemers of the name of Christ ... be not allowed further to infest 
and trouble this new colony." But the company, with a prudent eye on its 
guilders, replied on April 26, 1655, that "it would be unreasonable and 
unfair" to comply with the Governor's request. Despite this ruling, Stuy 
vesant denied the Jews the right of citizenship, prohibited them from 
engaging in retail trade and put obstacles in their way when they asked 
permission to purchase a burial ground. 


Even after the English had wrested the Colony from the Dutch in 1664 
the tiny Jewish community continued to struggle under the burden of many 
discriminations and humiliations. It was not until 1686 that the Jews of 
New York were permitted to hold public religious services. They then 
proceeded to organize the Shearith Israel Congregation, and erected a 
synagogue on Beaver Street a few years later. 

Most of these early Jews engaged in commercial pursuits; the rest were 
small manufacturers or skilled workers. By 1687, New York had its Jewish 
butchers, chandlers, hairdressers, saddlemakers, goldsmiths and watch 
makers. Two decades later, New York Jews were carrying on an extensive 
trade with the West Indies and Portugal. The Jewish community grew 
slowly but steadily. By 1738 a number of Jews were members of the New 
York militia; and in 1740, when the Royal Naturalization Act was 
promulgated, they acquired the rights and privileges of citizenship. 

In 1769 a number of New York Jews signed the first historic document 
concerning civil rights in America, the Non- Importation Resolution. 
Although at the outbreak of the War for Independence no more than 2,500 
Jews were living in the colonies, of whom 400 resided in New York, a 
number of Jews fought in the Continental Army or gave it material sup 
port. Rabbi Gershom Mendes Seixas preached sermons against British 
tyranny and in defense of human liberty, fleeing for his life when the 
British invaded New York. Hayim Solomon, a Polish Jew, gave his entire 
fortune to the Continental Congress when funds were desperately needed. 

At the close of the i8th century the Jewish population of New York 
consisted principally of descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, 
numbering approximately 4,000. There was also a small group of German 
and Polish Jews. Later, during the first and second decades of the i9th 
century, Jews began to arrive from Germany and Poland, as a result of 
the period of reaction in Europe after Napoleon's defeat. By 1840 the 
Jewish population had increased to almost 10,000. Most of the German and 
Polish Jewish immigrants settled on the lower East Side. They were soon 
joined by other German Jews who emigrated after the debacle of the re 
publican revolution of 1848 in the German states. The German element 
of the Jewish community soon became dominant. Many of them started 
as peddlers, but before long had become clothing manufacturers, store 
keepers, traders and professionals. Among the workers many entered the 
fur and jewelry trades, and quickly became adjusted to the American scene. 

At the outbreak of the Civil War the Jews of New York volunteered by 
thousands. They were pro-Union and abolitionists, many of them having 


brought over their equalitarian idealism from the revolutionary Europe of 

Jewish immigrants still continued to arrive in large numbers from the 
German states. By 1880 fully 80,000 Jews were residing in the city. In 
May 1 88 1, Czar Alexander III of Russia promulgated the infamous May 
Laws which further restricted the rights of the already persecuted and im 
poverished Jews in the Russian Empire. Mobs attacked the Jewish quarters 
in the cities, towns and villages. The Jewish masses thought only of 
flight, especially to America. Russian Jews, and later Jews from Galicia, 
Poland, Rumania and other countries, poured into New York. Since the 
metropolis contained the largest Jewish community in the country, and 
in addition offered the greatest economic opportunities, a vast number of 
Jews decided to settle there. 

By 1914 there were more than a million Jews in New York, most of 
them on the lower East Side, where they lived in squalid and overcrowded 
tenements, suffering like the other immigrant groups from poverty, mal 
nutrition and unsanitary conditions. The majority of these immigrants 
worked in the rapidly developing garment trades. Some became manufac 
turers or contractors, who frequently established workshops in their own 
tenement homes. Thus arose the sweatshop, with its accompanying evils of 
exploitation, disease and child labor. These conditions gave rise to a no 
table proletarian literature in Yiddish, characterized by morbid speculation 
about the futility of life in the face of overwhelming wretchedness and 
poverty, and even more markedly by a spirit of outrage and rebellion 
against exploitation and human degradation. 

By 1888 several small Jewish trade unions were organized in the United 
Hebrew Trades. Although the latter started out as a strictly Jewish labor 
body, its present membership is composed of at least 60 percent Gentiles. 
Its influence has subsided recently, due to the fact that the international 
bodies of its member unions have taken over all work of organization. 
Perhaps the most influential of these internationals is the Ladies Garment 
Workers Union, founded in 1900. It has at present a membership in New 
York of 190,000 workers, organized in about 200 locals; virtually two- 
thirds Of the members are women and about half are Jewish. 

Two other powerful Jewish labor internationals operate in the city. One 
is the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. It was organized in 
1914, and has now a New York City membership of about 20,000, of 
whom about half are Jews. The International Fur Workers Union, organ- 


ized in 1904, and with a membership of 10,000 in the city, is about 80 
percent Jewish. 

The efforts of these unions did much toward driving the labor-sweater 
out of the apparel industry and bettering working conditions. Higher 
wages and shorter hours made it possible for thousands of Jewish workers 
to move out of wretched tenements into brighter and cleaner homes in the 
healthier neighborhoods of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. 

Jews now occupy an important place in manufacturing, wholesaling and 
retailing, as both workers and employers. They have also taken a prominent 
place in the professional life of the city. With the economic depression of 
recent years, the overcrowding of the professions has become an even 
acuter problem than hitherto, particularly for Jewish professionals. Anti- 
Semitism has made its appearance in a number of educational institutions. 
Jews, no matter how talented, find it difficult to get appointments on the 
faculties of some institutions, and certain professional schools have estab 
lished quotas for Jewish students. 

The multiplicity of community problems raised by the enormous growth 
of Jewish population in New York has resulted in the establishment of 
many Jewish social welfare agencies, charity organizations, hospitals, 
homes, centers and asylums. More than 90 of these are now organized in 
the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies, which 
acts as a central coordinating agency in raising and allocating funds. A 
similar Federation in Brooklyn performs the same service for its member 
institutions within that borough. The city also has a number of inde 
pendent social welfare organizations and several thousand Jewish benevo 
lent and mutual benefit societies. 

At the same time, extensive relief work is carried on by New York Jews 
for Jewish communities and institutions abroad. The Joint Distribution 
Committee, organized in 1914 for war relief work, is still actively func 
tioning as a distributor of millions of dollars, collected from Jews all over 
the country, to needy Jews in Germany, Poland, Rumania and elsewhere, 
for the settlement of German Jewish refugees in Palestine and South 
America, and for colonization in the Crimea of Jews from the old Russian 
ghettos. The Icor, an association to aid the colonization of Jews in the 
Soviet Union, including Biro-Bidjan in the Far East, was organized in 


Zionist organizations active in New York for the establishment of a 
homeland in Palestine are the conservative Zionist Organization of Amer- 


ica, the labor Poalei Zion and Zirei Zion Federation, the ultra-orthodox 
Mizrachi Zionist Organization, the Hadassah, which provides hospital and 
medical service to Jewish settlements in Palestine, the Junior Hadassah, 
and Avukah, the intercollegiate Zionist Society. 

The various schisms that divide all religious sects also exist among the 
Jews. But, in general, religious Jews may be divided into two major 
groups. Those from western, eastern, and central Europe are usually 
described as Ashkenazim; and those from the Mediterranean countries, 
North Africa and Asia are called Sephardim. These two appellations 
actually refer only to the kind of liturgies customary among the Jews of 
these countries. The Jews of New York are preponderantly Ashkenazim. 
By and large the Sephardim are ultra-orthodox. But the Ashkenazim are 
divided into four camps: the orthodox, the chassidic, the conservative and 
the reformed. Each has its own synagogues, employing different liturgies 
and ceremonies; they also differ widely in theology. 

The Shearith Israel Synagogue, founded by Spanish-Portuguese Jews to 
ward the end of the iyth century and now situated at Central Park West 
and Seventieth Street, is the leading orthodox synagogue of the Sephardim 
in New York. It has an imposing interior, and its ceremonials and liturgy 
are characterized by great dignity and simplicity. The Jewish Center Syna 
gogue, at 131 West Eighty-Sixth Street, is a leading center of orthodoxy; 
and the Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, at 270 West Eighty-Ninth Street, is 
one of the outstanding conservative houses of worship. Perhaps the best- 
known Reform Temples are the Central Synagogue at 652 Lexington 
Avenue and the Temple Emanu-El at Fifth Avenue and Sixty- Fifth Street. 

Clustering around the hundreds of synagogues and temples in New York 
are various denominational Jewish educational systems. There are 480 
Jewish religious schools of all varieties, with an attendance of some 65,000 
children. About half of the latter attend the orthodox-conservative Talmud 
Torahs, in which the Bible, Jewish history and the Hebrew language are 
the principal studies. In addition, about 10,000 children attend after reg 
ular school hours the ultra-orthodox type of religious school the Cheder, 
in which the verbal translation of the Hebrew Pentateuch into Yiddish is 
the sole educational activity. 

There are six Yeshivas, or orthodox schools of higher Hebrew studies, 
in New York. The best known of these is the Yeshiva College, at iSyth 
Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Besides the work of its Hebrew Teachers 
Institute, its principal function is to train orthodox rabbis. Devoted to the 
same tasks, although on a larger scale, is the Jewish Theological Seminary, 


at Broadway and i22d Street. Most of the younger orthodox rabbis and 
teachers of America are trained in its Seminary and Teachers Institute. 
The Jewish Institute of Religion, at 40 West Sixty-Eighth Street, is the only 
reform rabbinical seminary in New York. 

There are other types of Jewish education, mostly of a non-religious 
kind, with emphasis on Jewish culture and the Yiddish language and 
literature. The Jewish National Workers Alliance, a Labor-Zionist organi 
zation, has 1 8 schools, with an attendance of about 1,000; the Sholem 
Aleichem schools, supported by progressive nationalistic Jewish workers, 
are 20 in number and are attended by 1,200 children; the Workmen's 
Circle Schools, of socialist tendencies, number 50 and have about 3,000 
pupils; then finally the International Workers Order has a number of 
Jewish schools, with an attendance of about 3,000. 

The two foremost Jewish newspapers of New York, the Daily Forward, 
a socialist organ, and the Morning Freiheit, an exponent of communism, 
have been prominent forces in the Jewish labor movement. The former 
has a circulation of approximately 170,000, the latter of about 50,000. 
Two other influential Yiddish dailies are the Zionist-nationalistic Day and 
the orthodox-conservative Morning Journal, each of which has a circula 
tion of about 83,000. In addition to these dailies, New York is the home 
of a number of Jewish periodicals, issued weekly, monthly or quarterly 
and published in Yiddish, Hebrew or English, which represent a wide 
range of social, political, economic and cultural viewpoints. 


Portrait of Harlem 

JL HOUGH always restricted by tradition to certain residential areas, trades 
and professions, the Negro has lived and labored in New York for more 
than three hundred years. He is one of the most vivid figures in the city's 
history; and in terms of progress and chronology, his continuous adjust 
ment to New York's ever-changing environment, the manner in which he 
has reacted to the handicaps and penalties imposed upon him because of 
class and color, make a record of dramatic interest and social challenge. 

In 1930, 327,706 Negroes were residents of New York, the largest 
single concentration of Negro population anywhere in the world. Though 
Negroes are to be found in all five boroughs of the city, by far the largest 
number some 250,000 in all live in Harlem, an area of Upper Man 
hattan roughly circumscribed by 15 5th Street on the north, noth Street 
on the south, the Harlem and East Rivers on the east, and Amsterdam 
Avenue on the west. In addition, the Manhattan area also contains small 
Negro colonies in Greenwich Village, Chelsea, the East Side, San Juan 
Hill and Yorkville. Brooklyn has the largest Negro population outside of 
Manhattan, with more than 68,000 residents centered for the most part 
in the Stuyvesant Heights and Brownsville sections. Negroes are also scat 
tered in many small settlements throughout Queens, Bronx and Richmond. 
Before the depression, economic security afforded a few the opportunity 
to migrate from Harlem to the comparatively luxurious Merrick Park de 
velopment in Jamaica. 

The earliest available records show that u Negroes were brought to 
the settlement of New Amsterdam in 1626 in the capacity of slaves. 
For nearly one hundred years thereafter, the majority of Negroes in the 
settlement were either indentured servants or slaves. Under the rule of the 
Dutch colonists, many Negroes were granted freedom, for the Dutch often 
did not know what to do with them and a rigorous system of slavery had 
not yet been established. Though regarded as slaves, Negroes had the right 
to travel, assemble, marry and own property; and they were also afforded 



some degree of legal protection. It was not until 1664, when the English 
conquered the Dutch, that slavery became a profitable, flourishing and op 
pressive institution modeled upon the slave system of Virginia. In 1694 
the colony possessed about 2,170 slaves, and in 1709 open slave-markets 
were operating in New York. Living for the most part in the center of the 
city, in Greenwich Village near Spring and Broome Streets, and near the 
establishments that employed them, most of the Negroes in early New 
York labored as domestics, chimney sweeps and ship calkers. A few, who 
had obtained freedom from their masters through determination and fru 
gality, owned small businesses. 

The first school for Negroes in New York was opened in 1704 by Elias 
Neau for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. 
It was intended for religious instruction only as was a school opened in 
1760 by several clergymen. The first secular educational institution was the 
African Free School, organized chiefly by the New York Manumission So 
ciety and opened in 1787. Forty-seven years later, when Negro children 
were transferred to the public school system, there were seven African 
Free Schools in the city. 

An early protest indicating spirit on the part of the Negro population 
was registered in 1710, when a slave brought suit against his master for 
wages. Another incident of the Negroes' early struggle for human rights 
occurred in 1712, when a group of slaves, smarting under a sense of in 
tolerable wrong, met in an orchard in Maiden Lane and planned an insur 
rection against the whites. Severely suppressed by the militia, the insurrec 
tion brought savage retaliation. Out of it, however, grew fear and respect 
for the Negroes which found expression, on the one hand, in legislation 
to control them, and on the other, in many attempts to abolish the slave 

A much more important insurrectionary event in the colonial period was 
the plot of 1741. It is clear from available records that this insurrection 
was planned, and Negroes as well as poor whites took part. The popula 
tion of New York at that time numbered some 10,000, about one-fifth of 
whom were Negro slaves; there were also several hundred white inden 
tured servants whose lot was no less harsh. With the outbreak of nine fires 
in different parts of New York, rumor spread that the slaves were trying 
to burn the city and murder the entire population. During the ensuing ter 
ror, every Negro seen on the streets was arrested. Whites became impli 
cated when a search for stolen goods led to the tavern of John Hughson, 
whose servant girl was arrested and made to confess knowledge of the in- 


surrection under torture. Her story was so fantastic as to involve all of 
the Negro population and a considerable portion of the white. A special 
session of the Grand Jury was held, and the ensuing trial lasted through 
out the summer. Public hysteria and panic, intense in New York, spread 
throughout the country. Of 154 Negroes cast into prison, 13 were burned 
at the stake, 18 hanged, and 71 transported to the West Indies. Twenty 
whites were arrested, John Hughson, his wife, and John Ury, an unfrocked 
Catholic priest, being later executed. 

Between 1741 and 1766, increasing numbers of Negroes succeeded in 
purchasing their freedom. During the Revolution they were accepted 
for military service by both America and England. New York was one of 
the few States to reward Negro soldiers with freedom; and in 1799 an act 
was passed conferring gradual emancipation and ending slavery in the 
State on July 4, 1827. Free Negroes had the rights of citizens, including 
the right to vote. 

Barred from the professions and most of the trades, Negroec found that 
whites accepted them more readily as owners of taverns and inns. Samuel 
Fraunces, a master steward, operated a famous tavern (still standing at 
Broad and Pearl Streets) where on December 4, 1783, Washington de 
livered the "Farewell Address" to his army. "Black Sam," as Fraunces was 
called, owned the "Mason's Arms" on Broadway from 1759 to 1762; and 
he later purchased the Delancy Mansion on the site of New York's first 
hotel where he conducted an inn known as the "Queen Charlotte." 

Fraternal lodges, churches and mutual aid societies began early to play a 
prominent part in the social and educational life of New York's Negroes. 
Most of the freedmen belonged to the New York African Society for 
Mutual Relief, founded in 1808. Negroes made an appeal to the Ameri 
can Odd Fellows for a charter, which was refused. After a special dis 
pensation granted by the English branch, the Philomathean Lodge of the 
Grand United Order of Odd Fellows was formed in 1843. A fusion of 
social welfare work with the operation of the Underground Railroad came 
about through the establishment of the Moral Reform Societies. 

One sign of cultural advance manifested itself in 1821 with the estab 
lishment of the first Negro theater, at the corner of Mercer and Bleecker 
Streets. The company gave performances of Othello and other Shake 
spearean dramas. The National Advocate of September 21, 1821, reported 
that James Hewlett was acting his most famous role, that of Richard III. 
The authorities finally enjoined the company from playing Shakespeare, 
doubtless because of growing antagonism toward the Negro. 


After the abolition of slavery in New York State in 1827, the struggle 
of the Negroes to improve their status and to help their enslaved brothers 
in the South changed gradually from intermittent outbursts to a planned 
movement. The struggle for human rights, equality and liberty which was 
agitating the minds of men in the post-Revolutionary period had its effect 
upon the Negro. The latter, having made some cultural progress, began 
to see his problems in realistic terms and organized accordingly. 

A number of New York Negroes were ardent and prominent workers 
in the abolitionist cause. In 1827, nearly four years before the appearance 
of William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator, a group gathered in the home of 
M. Boston Crummell and launched the first Negro newspaper in America, 
Freedom's Journal, under the editorship of John Russwurm and the Rev. 
Samuel E. Cornish. This journal not only helped to shape the ideas of 
Negroes on the burning question of slavery, but also appealed to many 
anti-slavery whites and influenced the policies of the abolition societies that 
were organized soon after. 

In 1830, Peter Williams published an eloquent protest against racial 
discrimination in New York City. Theodore S. Wright, a graduate of 
Princeton, also wrote on the subject with vigor and logic. David Ruggles 
published The Genius of Freedom, a quarterly magazine called The Mir 
ror of Liberty, and several sardonic anti-slavery pamphlets under such titles 
as "The Extinguisher Extinguished" and "An Antidote for a Poisonous 
Combination Recently Prepared by a 'Citizen of New York' Alias Dr. 
Reese." Ruggles was one of the first promoters of the Underground Rail 
road in New York, officially termed the Vigilance Committee, and he was 
later connected with the New York Reform Society. By means of the 
"Underground," he is said to have aided 600 fugitive slaves to freedom. 
One of these, destined to become much more famous than his benefactor, 
was Frederick Douglass, who in 1838 was sheltered in Ruggles' home at 
the corner of Church and Lispenard Streets. 

Other Negro leaders in the struggle for human rights were Henry High 
land Garnett, preacher, orator and pamphleteer, who issued the first call 
for a general strike among the slaves ; Samuel Ringgold Ward, son of fugi 
tive parents, one of the most effective lecturers for the Anti-Slavery So 
ciety; J. W. C. Pennington, who in 1841 wrote A Text Book of the Origin 
and History of the Colored People, a pioneer contribution on this subject; 
James McCune Smith and Charles Bennett Ray, who published the weekly 
Colored American; and Alexander Crummell, son of M. Boston Crum 
mell, who became a prominent scholar and agitator against slavery. Well 


known in anti-slavery circles were two Negro women Harriet Tubman, 
who brought slaves out of the border states and worked as well in western 
New York, and Sojourner Truth, who took part not only in the anti- 
slavery struggle but in the woman's suffrage movement. 

White abolitionists worked side by side with their Negro comrades in 
Underground Railroad service and in propaganda activities. Important 
among these were James Birney, who freed his slaves in Kentucky and 
became secretary of the American Anti-Slavery Society in New York ; Hor 
ace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune; Richard Hildreth, historian 
and author of the first anti-slavery novel; Charles A. Dana, editor of the 
New York Sun; Sydney Howard Gay, who conducted the Anti-Slavery 
Standard and was an effective "underground" agent; William and John 
Jay, two jurists who by their anti-slavery services nobly upheld an eminent 
name; Theodore Weld, one of the most devoted workers in the Anti- 
Slavery Society ; Angelina Grimke of South Carolina, a forceful speaker at 
the women's anti-slavery auxiliaries in New York City; and the Tappan 
brothers, Arthur and Lewis, prominent merchants and philanthropists. 

But the Negroes' economic and educational progress was checked in 
1850 by the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law, and many of the anti- 
slavery leaders fled to Canada and Europe to escape being subjected again 
to bondage. Though there existed in New York no definite laws restricting 
Negroes, the general attitude was so strongly pro-southern that prejudice 
acted in place of law. Anti-abolitionist feeling grew rapidly, in spite of 
efforts of the churches and the Anti-Slavery Society. 

At a time when slave rescues were common throughout the North, New 
Yorkers were sending fugitives back to the South. The debts of southern 
planters to New York merchants, the pro-slavery influence of Governor 
Horatio Seymour, the increasing antagonism between the slaves and the 
newly arrived immigrants these factors served to intensify anti-Negro 
feeling up to the very brink of the Civil War. As the war progressed, anti- 
abolitionist feeling heightened in New York, and during the early part 
of the conflict the army refused to enlist Negro troops. When emancipa 
tion was proclaimed as a war measure in 1863, the bitterness grew. In spite 
of this, however, Lincoln authorized the recruiting of Negroes. 

The draft law of 1863 created such resentment that a three-day riot fol 
lowed the first efforts to enforce it. During the riots hundreds of Negroes 
were killed or badly beaten. Business stopped, and mobs controlled the 
city. The Colored Orphan Asylum on Fifth Avenue was burned. Condi- 


tions became so appalling that the Merchants' Committee had to grant 
relief to nearly 11,000 Negroes. 

After the war, the nation centered its attention upon the ex-slaves of the 
South, and the problems of northern freedmen were more or less neg 
lected. Many of the New York leaders went South to work among their 
freed brothers. Frederick Douglass moved to Washington in 1869. The 
failure of New York State to ratify the i5th Amendment caused many 
northern Negroes to realize that emancipation was but a first step toward 

Business establishments conducted by Negroes became fairly common in 
New York during the last two decades of the i9th century. Hotels, res 
taurants, "honky-tonks," saloons, professional clubs and small stores were 
opened. In 1881, the Nail brothers operated a well-known restaurant and 
billiard parlor at 450 Sixth Avenue. Jockey Isaac Murphy, three times win 
ner of the Kentucky Derby, Pike Barnes, winner of the 1888 Futurity, the 
pugilist Joe Cans, and many other Negro celebrities of turf and ring were 
patrons of this resort. 

The fields of amusement and personal service offered the Negro his 
most promising opportunities for advancement. Ford Dabney led the sing 
ing Clef Club orchestra at Ziegfeld's Roof Garden ; Williams and Walker, 
Cole and Johnson, and Ada Overton were notable successes in New York 
and London. Oriental America, with an all-Negro cast, opened at Palmer's 
in 1896, displaying the talents of Sidney Woodward, Inez Clough, William 
C. Elkins and J. Rosamond Johnson, all of whom were destined for star 
dom in the years to come. Will Marion Cook's Clorindy, with lyrics by 
Paul Laurence Dunbar, starred Ernest Hogan at the Casino Roof Garden. 
Although minstrelsy was originated by white actors in the 1830*5, it was 
in this field that the Negro distinguished himself most highly and made an 
indubitable contribution to the American theater. 

One of the worst "of Manhattan's several race riots occurred in August 
1900, following a quarrel between a Negro and a white man in which 
the latter was killed. Negroes were seized and beaten throughout the city, 
with policemen often assisting in the assaults. In the following year, more 
than a hundred Negroes were lynched throughout the United States. The 
response of Negro leadership was immediate and impassioned. W. E. B. 
Du Bois wrote The Souls of Black Folk, a sensitive interpretation of the 
Negroes' plight at the beginning of the 2oth century. The book proved a 
turning point in the history of Negro thought, and had a tremendous in- 


fluence upon the Negroes of New York. In it, Du Bois took sharp issue 
with the philosophy of Booker T. Washington, who at that time was the 
recognized leader of his race. 

Growth of Negro leadership during the early years of this century was 
evidenced by the organization of business men's leagues, in New York 
and other large cities, by Fred R. Moore, editor of the weekly Colored 
American. But while the Negro middle class was developing measures of 
organization and self -protection, the larger part of New York's Negro 
population, numbering some 60,000 in 1901, was excluded from trade 
unions, and Negro workers had to compete for jobs with newly- arrived 
immigrants at unequal odds. 

For several decades after the Civil War, most of New York's well-to-do 
Negroes enjoyed a fairly stable community life in Brooklyn. But on Man 
hattan Island, where the poorer class predominated, the Negro population 
was scattered and shifting, though with its largest numbers in the blighted 
areas of the lower West Side. Moving slowly northward as the city ex 
panded in that direction, the chief center of Negro population was by 
1900 in the region of West Fifty-Third Street and the neighboring San 
Juan Hill district. But it was not long before the region became so con 
gested that many Negroes were seeking homes still further north. 

At this time, scores of modern apartment houses that had been built in 
Harlem for white tenants were largely empty, owing to a lack of adequate 
transportation facilities. Philip A. Payton, a shrewd and enterprising Ne 
gro realtor, persuaded the owners of one or two buildings on i34th Street 
to fill them with Negro tenants. Before long, other buildings were taken 
over and filled. This invasion, as it was termed by white residents of Har 
lem, evoked an organized social and economic war. As though they were 
fighting plague carriers, the Hudson Realty Company, acting for white 
property owners, purchased all West Side property owned or rented by 
Negroes and evicted the tenants. Payton, with J. B. Nail, Sr., in retaliation 
organized the Afro- American Realty Company, which purchased buildings 
occupied by white tenants and in turn evicted them. Also St. Philip's Epis 
copal Church, one of the oldest and wealthiest Negro churches in New 
York, purchased 13 apartment houses on West 13 5th Street, and rented 
them to Negroes. 

The white tenants gave way, and block after block of apartment houses 
stood deserted. Reluctantly, the landlords leased them to Negroes. As 
the years passed, the "black blocks" spread and the present "city within 
a city" took form. The migration to Harlem was immensely augmented by 


the large-scale influx of southern Negroes who came North during the 
World War in search of higher wages. At the end of the war, the Negro 
population of New York was estimated to be four times greater than when 
the movement to Harlem began. 

But after the larger part of New York's Negro population had settled 
in Harlem, owners of apartments elsewhere refused to rent them to Ne 
groes; consequently, rents in the highly congested Harlem area are often 
twice as much as in other comparable sections of the city. This district's 
density of population and the extremely high rentals have created alarm 
ing conditions. In 1935 it was found that as many as 3,871 Negroes lived 
in a single city block, and that many families were paying half or more 
of their incomes for shelter. Eighty-four percent of the residential build 
ings are from 20 to 34 years old. These conditions account in some part 
for a death-rate that has reached 15.5 per thousand. Early in 1934, exas 
perated tenants organized the Consolidated Tenants' League to combat 
high rents and improve living conditions. The Federal-built Harlem River 
Houses, a Public Works Administration project accommodating 527 fam 
ilies, has shown the way to better things although it has accomplished little 
in relieving the congestion of Harlem's wide-spread slums. 

But not all of Harlem is slum area. Scattered throughout the district are 
many well-built homes. The section on i38th and i39th Streets between 
Seventh and Eighth Avenues is known locally as "Strivers' Row," because 
so many middle-class Negroes desire to live there; and "Sugar Hill," on 
upper Edgecombe and St. Nicholas Avenues, possesses the newest and tall 
est apartment buildings in Harlem, as well as many fine private homes. 

The Negro's restriction to certain trades and professions has made him 
particularly vulnerable to suffering during times of depression. As early 
as 1910, when Negroes comprised less than two percent of the city's popu 
lation, the majority were employed in domestic service. The labor shortage 
caused by the World War, however, enabled a few to enter the fields of 
transportation, mechanics and manufacture. When the depression struck in 
1929, many actors, musicians, messengers, porters and domestic servants 
were thrown out of work. The extent to which Negro income depends 
upon domestic employment is evidenced by the fact that more than 85 per 
cent of employed Negro women are in domestic and personal service. 
Though today they account for only a little more than five percent of the 
city's population, Negroes comprise more than 20 percent of the total 
number of persons on relief rolls. 

Although Harlem is the largest Negro community in the world, most 


of its restaurants, hotels, saloons and retail shops are owned by Greeks, 
Germans, Jews, Italians, Irish, and other white groups. In business, more 
than in any other field, the Harlem Negro has shown a lack of initiative 
that puts Harlem in sharp contrast with many Negro communities through 
out the country. Negro boys and girls are rarely employed as clerks in 
Harlem stores, but work downtown as maids, porters, elevator and errand 
boys. Most of Harlem's Negro-owned businesses are in the field of per 
sonal service. The community contains more than 2,000 Negro barber 
shops and "beauty parlors." On the other hand, Harlem has proved a 
haven for the professional class, which numbers about 5,000. Physicians 
and dentists are especially numerous. 

Catering to the inner man is one of Harlem's chief industries, and eat 
ing-places are to be found everywhere throughout the district. These range 
from tiny Negro-owned restaurants in private homes and basements to 
large chain-cafeterias controlled by white capital and the cafes and cab 
arets that play a prominent part in New York's night life. Prominent in 
this field are Father Divine's 15 restaurants, where a meal featuring chicken 
or chops is served for 15 cents. 

During the Prohibition era, many of the Negro-owned saloons passed 
into Italian hands, and remained open in spite of the law. Most of Har 
lem's saloons are still Italian-owned; but some of the better known tap 
rooms and cabarets are conducted by Negroes. 

Playing the central role in the life of the Harlem Negro is not the 
cabaret or cafe, as is commonly supposed, but the church. Thousands of 
the early southern migrants met for religious services in apartments and 
homes. Later they purchased the existing churches of white Baptists, Meth 
odists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians in the Harlem region. The actual 
surrender of a white church to Negroes was done with something ap 
proaching ritual: a joint service would be held at which the out-going 
white congregation would welcome the in-coming black. 

It is difficult to say which is the more numerous of Harlem's two largest 
religious sects, the Baptists or the Divinists. The Baptists have the largest 
churches, such as the Abyssinia and Mt. Olivet, but it is possible that 
Father Divine has more followers in his many "Heavens" throughout the 
city. There are two general types of churches in Harlem: the conventional, 
which embraces the long-established organizations, including the Method 
ist, Baptist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregationalist ; and the un 
conventional, consisting of the tabernacles of "prophets," the "storefront" 
meeting places, the synagogues of Black Jews, and the houses of various 


sects and cults. The "Church of the Believers of the Commandments" may 
be across the street from a Daddy Grace "House of Prayer." The "Meta 
physical Church of Divine Investigation" may be a few doors from the 
Black Jews' "Commandment Keepers." Add to these the Moorish Temples, 
Sister Josephine Becton's churches, the tabernacles of Prophet Costonie, 
the "Heavens" of Father Divine, and the sanctuaries of Mother Home, 
and some conception of Harlem's many diverse religions and cults may be 

Because of its highly sensitive social and political temper, Harlem has 
been termed the "focal point in the struggle for the liberation of the Negro 
people." It was but natural that the long effort to free the Scottsboro boys 
should begin in Harlem, and the greatest demonstration in connection with 
the release of four of them occurred when thousands of Negroes jammed 
the Pennsylvania Station to welcome them to New York. During Italy's 
invasion of Ethiopia, anything concerning Italy on the movie screen 
brought forth immediate hisses and catcalls. In the consciousness of this 
oppressed community, current events are commonly interpreted as gains 
or set-backs for the Negro people. This social restlessness results in many 
public demonstrations. Harlemites in increasing numbers attend street 
meetings protesting evictions; picket stores to compel the hiring of Ne 
groes, or WPA offices to indicate disapproval of cuts in pay or personnel ; 
parade against the subjection of colonial peoples, or to celebrate some new 
civic improvement; and march many miles in May Day demonstrations. 

Harlem's peculiar susceptibility to social and political propaganda is well 
illustrated in the case of Marcus Garvey, a West Indian, who for a few 
years in the early 1920*5 was known as "provisional President of Africa." 
He advocated the establishment of a Black Republic in Africa, and 
preached racial chauvinism. As head of the Universal Negro Improvement 
Association, Garvey was the first Negro leader in America to capture the 
imagination of the masses, and no one else has so stirred the race con 
sciousness of the Negroes in New York and elsewhere. The Negro World, 
once powerful organ of his Universal Negro Improvement Association, 
attracted such contributors as Edgar Grey, Hubert Harrison and William 
Ferris to its pages. Garvey's financial manipulations in connection with his 
steamship company, the Black Star Line, led to his downfall. He was in 
dicted by the Federal Government for using the mails to defraud, served a 
term in the Atlanta penitentiary, and was later deported. 

The most serious rioting that Harlem has known occurred in the spring 
of 1935, at a time when many of the white-owned business establishments 


on West 1 2 5th Street were being boycotted for their refusal to employ Ne 
groes. A leading figure in the attendant agitation was a person calling 
himself Sufi Abdul Hamid, who in gaudy Egyptian uniform preached anti- 
Semitism on the street corners and was regarded by Harlem's Jewish mer 
chants as a "Black Hitler." On March 19 a Negro boy was caught stealing 
in one of the boycotted stores. Rumors immediately spread throughout 
Harlem that the boy had been beaten and killed by the white proprietor ; 
large crowds gathered in and near West 12 5th Street, and in spite of 
police efforts an orgy of window-smashing and store-looting followed. As 
emphasized in the report of an investigating committee appointed by 
Mayor La Guardia, the outbreak had its fundamental causes in the terrible 
economic and social conditions prevailing in Harlem at the time. 

When the Federal Emergency Relief Administration began operations, 
it found a majority of Harlem's population on the verge of starvation, as a 
result of the depression and of an intensified discrimination that made it 
all but impossible for Negroes to find employment. Landlords, knowing 
that their tenants could not move to other neighborhoods, had raised rents 
exorbitantly, and wholesale evictions followed. The FERA, with its suc 
cessors the Civil Works Administration and the Works Progress Admin 
istration, brought a new lease on life to Harlem's underprivileged. WPA's 
monthly checks constitute a considerable part of the community life-blood, 
and white storekeepers are quick to join with Negro relief workers in pro 
testing against any threats to their jobs. Today one notes a very decided 
lessening of the dangerous tension that pervaded Harlem in the dark win 
ters of 1934 and 1935. 

Although New York had had a few scattered Negro writers before that 
time, what is sometimes termed the "literary renaissance" of Harlem dates 
from about 1925. The movement was in large part initiated by the publi 
cation of the Survey Graphic's special "Harlem Number" and of Alain 
Locke's interpretative anthology entitled The New Negro. A host of 
young writers made their appearance in the middle and late 1920*5, among 
them Walter White, Eric Walrond, Rudolph Fisher, Jean Toomer, Claude 
McKay, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Wallace Thurman, Jessie Fau- 
set, Nella Larsen, Zora Neale Hurston, George Schuyler and Arna Bon- 
temps. Confined almost exclusively to Harlem, this literary movement was 
notable in that for the first time the American Negro depicted his own life 
with a wide and varied range of talent and feeling. For a few years Negro 
writers created more than they ever have before or since that period. Joyce's 
Ulysses influenced some of them; and even the gospel of Gertrude 


Stein claimed a number of Negro adherents. Some members of the move 
ment were apotheosized in Carl Van Vechten's Nigger Heaven, a novel 
that New York read with avidity. The poetry of McKay, Cullen and 
Hughes expressed in new rhythms and beauty and vigor the bitterness 
and despair of Negro life in America. Toomer, in Cane, sounded a new and 
lyric note in American prose ; and Walter White, in The Fire in the Flint 
and Flight, dealt with the Negro's struggle in both South and North 
against the barriers of color. Jessie Fauset, Nella Larsen and Claude Mc 
Kay frequently depicted Harlem life in their novels. James Weldon John 
son, long a Harlem resident, and later a professor at Fisk and New York 
Universities, elaborated in Black Manhattan the description of Harlem 
that was a prominent feature of his earlier Autobiography of an Ex- 
Colored Man. Rudolph Fisher, Wallace Thurman, George Schuyler and 
W. E. B. Du Bois wove fantasy and satire into their descriptions of Negro 
life. With the beginning of the national depression in 1929, the move 
ment largely disintegrated. 

Among the Negro artists of Harlem are Augusta Savage, Aaron Doug 
las, Richmond Barthe, Charles Alston, E. Sims Campbell, Vertis Hayes, 
Bruce Nugent, Henry W. Barnham, Sara Murrell, Romare Beardon, Robert 
Savon Pious, and Beauford Delaney. Of these Aaron Douglas, painter and 
mural artist, Richmond Barthe, sculptor, Augusta Savage, sculptress, and 
E. Sims Campbell, painter and cartoonist, are the most prominent. Many 
Negro artists are employed on the Federal Art Project, under whose direc 
tion they have executed murals for the new wing of the Harlem Municipal 
Hospital. Harlem now boasts of 15 art centers, in churches, the Y.M.C.A., 
the Y.W.C.A., and neighborhood houses, where classes are conducted in 
painting, ceramics, carving and sculpture. Best known for its exhibitions is 
the Uptown Art Laboratory. The Federal Art Project in New York has dis- 
, covered an immense amount of latent artistic talent among the Negro 
children of Harlem. 

Until very recently the doors of the American theater have not been 
open to the Negro playwright, who has therefore had no opportunity to 
master the technique of the stage. Only in rare instances have producers 
presented plays written by Negroes. Willis Richardson's one-act plays were 
produced in some of the little and commercial theaters; and in 1925, Gar 
land Anderson's Appearances ran in the Frolic Theatre. Wallace Thurman 
collaborated on Lulu Belle and Harlem, both well known on Broadway. 
In 1937, Langston Hughes entered the field of the drama with his Mu 
latto. The Krigwa Players were pioneers in the little theater movement. 


Today Harlem's thespians are for the most part associated with the New 
Theater League and the Federal Theatre Project. 

Prominent among those plays written by whites in which Negro actors 
have had an opportunity to depict the lives of their people are Eugene 
O'Neill's The Emperor Jones and All God's Chillun Got Wings, produced 
in 1920 and 1924; Edward Sheldon and Charles MacArthur's Lulu Belle, 
which opened in New York in 1926; Paul Green's Pulitzer Prize play, 
In Abraham's Bosom, produced in 1926 at the Provincetown Playhouse; 
Marc Connelly's The Green Pastures, which started in 1929 on its long 
career of sensational success; and Paul Peters' and George Sklar's Steve 
dore, first presented in 1930. 

New York, like Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago, has its celebrated 
music schools and opportunities for musical expression, which have al 
ways attracted Negro artists. The successes of Hall Johnson, Roland Hayes, 
Paul Robeson, Jules Bledsoe and Marian Anderson are nationally known. 
Many of Harlem's Negro musical artists are now associated with the Fed 
eral Music Project. 

Of all the popular personalities whom Harlem has shared with Amer 
ica, Bill "Bo jangles" Robinson has evoked the most lasting and genuine 
affection. As the world's ace tap dancer, he has appeared on the stage or 
screen of every city and town in this country, and has earned a reputation 
as a philanthropist in his private life. In 1934, he was elected "unofficial 
mayor" of Harlem. 

By adoption, Harlem claims the Negro show girl, Josephine Baker, who 
came out of the slums of St. Louis and earned the title of "Empress 
Josephine" during her stay in Paris in 1931 with the "Dixie Steppers," 
a company that had begun by touring the South in a series of one-night 
stands. She became a European celebrity as star of the Folies Bergere, and 
married Count Pepito De Albertini. 

The late Richard B. Harrison, whose theatrical career knew only one 
role, made his debut at the age of 66 and achieved the greatest fame of 
any Negro actor. His life was closely bound up with "De Lawd" of Marc 
Connelly's play, The Green Pastures, and little is recorded of his earlier 
career. When the play was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1930, Lieutenant 
Governor Herbert Lehman presented "De Lawd" with the Spingarn medal 
at the Mansfield Theater before an enthusiastic audience. In 1936, the en 
tire nation mourned the death of the man who "brought God to Broad 

Florence Mills, who ranks as one of America's greatest musical comedy 


stars, came to New York after a Chicago cabaret career, and was featured 
by Paul Slavin at the Plantation Cafe. She made her first Broadway ap 
pearance in the popular Shuffle Along, and achieved her first European 
triumph in Dixie to Broadway. She died in 1927, shortly after a success 
ful European tour in Blackbirds. 

Paul Robeson, a graduate of Rutgers College who achieved national 
reputation in his student days as a football star, made his first appearance 
on the professional stage in Mary Hoyt Wiborg's Taboo. Later he replaced 
Charles Gilpin in Roseanne, and in 1924 he became a national figure in the 
American theater by starring in Eugene O'Neill's All God's Chillun Got 
Wings. After appearing in Show Boat in London, he played the title role 
of O'Neill's Emperor Jones in Berlin in 1930. In 1926 he appeared as the 
star of Jim Tully's Black Boy. He has sung and acted throughout Europe, 
has played prominent roles in many motion pictures, and is the outstanding 
Negro actor of today. 

Though Negroes are considered to be an exceptionally musical people, 
Harlem's general interest in music is largely limited to those popular jazz 
orchestras that originated within its boundaries. Some of the greatest of 
Negro bands Will Vodery's, Leroy Smith's, Duke Ellington's and 
Fletcher Henderson's acquired their initial fame in downtown New York, 
It was through their often startling innovations in jazz and swing music 
that Negro orchestra leaders held sway. Whether it was jazz as it was 
"jazzed" by Cab Calloway in the 1920*5, or swing as it was "swung" by 
Jimmie Lunceford in the 1930*5, the white popular jazz and swing or 
chestras took most of their cues from Harlem orchestras and their Ne 
gro leaders. Most of the prominent Negro bands have reached a large pub 
lic through their phonograph recordings, and Negro band-members are 
protected by the powerful Local 802 of the American Federation of Musi 
cians, affiliated with the American Federation of Labor though there are 
evidences of discrimination against Negroes in the matter of wages. 

Harlem's boast that it is an area where new dance steps are created is 
indisputable. Just who initiated the "truck" is not known. Cora La Redd of 
the Cotton Club, "Rubber Legs" Williams, Chuck Robinson, and Bilo and 
Ashes have all put forward their individual claims. It is interesting to note 
that there are many kinds of "trucking," the "picket's truck," the "poli 
tician's truck," the "Park Avenue truck," the "Mae West truck," and the 
"Hitler truck." Among other contemporary Harlem dances is the "shim- 
sham," a time-step featuring the "break" with a momentary pause; and the 
"razzle-dazzle," which involves a rhythmic clapping of hands and a rolling 


of hips. The riotous "Lindy Hop" is a flying dance done by couples in 
which a girl is thrown away in the midst of a lightning two-step, then 
rudely snatched back to be subjected to a series of twists, jerks, dips and 
scrambles. All of these and many more can be seen in Harlem's dance halls, 
at house parties, on beaches, and in the streets in summer to the tune of 
WPA Music Project bands. 

There is but one legitimate theater in Harlem, the Lafayette, upon whose 
stage the greater part of Harlem's theatrical tradition was made. For years 
the Lafayette was the home of the Lafayette Stock Company ; and together 
with the Lincoln Theater, home of the Anita Bush Company, it catered 
to Harlem's smart set. Andrew Bishop, Inez Clough, Rose McClendon, 
Abbie Mitchell, Anita Bush, Laura Bowman and Leigh Whipper were 
among the most popular of Harlem's matinee idols. 

Gradually the Lafayette's legitimate drama gave way to vaudeville, 
movies replaced vaudeville, and finally in 1935 the house closed its doois 
altogether. In 1936, the Federal Theatre, working with a Negro cast, 
opened the Lafayette again to legitimate drama, producing Frank Wilson's 
Walk Together Chillun, Rudolph Fisher's The Conjure Man Dies, and 
Orson Welles' production of Macbeth, which attracted national attention 
because of its Haitian locale and unusual interpretation by Negro actors. 
Macbeth was followed by Gus Smith's and Peter Morrell's Turpentine, 
Carlton Moss's adaptation of Obey's Noah, George .Kelly's The Show Off, 
George McEntee's The Case of Phillip Laivrence, Dorothy Hailpern's 
Horse Play, four of Eugene O'Neill's one-act plays of the sea, and Wil 
liam Du Bois' Haiti. 

A number of prominent motion picture actors have come from or been 
associated with Harlem notably Bill "Boj angles" Robinson, who has ap 
peared with Will Rogers, Shirley Temple, and other screen favorites. Be 
ginning in 1910, before the industry moved to Hollywood, West Jenkins 
appeared in many pictures over a period of years. The cast for King Vid- 
or's Hallelujah was entirely recruited and organized in Harlem, then trans 
ported to Los Angeles. Nina Mae McKinney, star of the picture, was a 
Harlem chorus girl. The first effort of Negroes to produce their own pic 
tures was made by the Micheaux Corporation of Harlem, which has more 
than 30 pictures to its credit. 

Negroes have participated in sports and athletics in New York since 
1800. Tom Molyneaux, a Negro ex-slave who became champion boxer in 
1809, made the old Catherine Market his headquarters. Almost all the 
Negro boxing champions and near champions Joe Jeanette, Sam Lang- 


ford, Joe Cans, Tiger Flowers, Battling Siki, Jack Johnson, Harry Wills, 
and Kid Chocolate lived for most of their fighting careers in New York. 
Canada Lee, now an actor, and Buddy Saunders were born in New York. 
Joe Louis, the present heavyweight champion, is an adopted citizen of 

The most popular of Harlem sports is basketball, and during the long 
season various expert Negro teams, among them the famous Renaissance 
quintet, provide entertainment for many thousands. The sporting con 
sciousness of Harlem is evidenced by the huge Negro attendance at base 
ball games in the Yankee Stadium and at the Polo Grounds. Thousands ac 
claimed John Woodruff, Jesse Owens, Eulace Peacock and Cornelius John 
son when they broke world records at the new Randall's Island Stadium; 
and other Negroes have been prominent in New York track meets from 
the days of Howard Drew down to Ben Johnson. Bicycling and horseback 
riding are popular among the theatrical and sporting sets, while golf is 
played to some extent. Cricket is popular among the West Indians, who 
are so adept that they meet many of the world's leading teams. 

For the most part, Harlem gains its knowledge of current events in the 
outside world from the Negro weeklies of New York and other large 
cities rather than from the metropolitan dailies. The leading Negro week 
lies published in New York are the New York Age, a Republican journal 
which under this and various other names has appeared continuously since 
1880; the Amsterdam News, a supporter of the New Deal; and the New 
York News, which is widely read among Father Divine's followers. 

Harlem's best known and most widely used library is the 13 5th Street 
branch of the New York Public Library, which houses the famous Schom- 
burg Collection of material relating to Negro life. This collection is the 
result of 30 years of research by Arthur Schomburg in the United States, 
Central and South America, the West Indies, Haiti and Europe. It com 
prises more than 8,000 volumes and 1,500 manuscripts, numerous engrav 
ings and specimens of primitive African art. 

The community's facilities for public education are woefully inadequate. 
Although the population of Harlem has more than tripled since the World 
War, not one new school building was constructed in this region during 
the post-war period until 1937. Many of the buildings are antiquated fire- 
traps, without playgrounds or auditoriums. In one school, lunch is served 
to 1,000 children in a room designed to seat only 175. There are no spe 
cialized or nursery schools, and because of discriminatory zoning Negro 
students are not permitted to attend newer and better-equipped schools in 


adjacent areas. According to Mayor La Guardia's Commission on Condi 
tions in Harlem, one of the contributing factors in connection with the 
rioting of March 1935 was the deplorable conditions prevailing in the 
public schools. 

Harlem's importance in New York politics has grown along with its 
increase in population. In 1897, Tammany Hall gained dominance over the 
Negro vote through "Chief" Lee, a noted Negro leader, and until recently 
it has retained control by dispensing political patronage. Of the nine Ne 
groes elected as New York aldermen, seven have been Democrats and two 
Republicans. But because of the depression, increasing economic and racial 
discrimination, displacement in jobs, and the rise of workers' organiza 
tions, thousands of Negro voters have deserted the two older parties to 
join or support the Labor, Socialist, or Communist groups. 

In 1920, Harlem elected its first Negro alderman, George Harris, an 
Independent Republican. To maintain its prestige among the Negroes, 
Tammany in the following election ran a Negro candidate for alderman, and 
regularly since then Harlem has been represented in the Board of Alder 
men. When the Tenth Municipal District was created in 1930, two Negro 
attorneys, James S. Watson and Charles E. Toney, were elected judges. 
The recent appointments of Myles A. Paige as city magistrate, of Hubert 
Delany as commissioner of taxes and assessments, and of Eunice Hunton 
Carter and Ellis Rivers to District Attorney Dewey's staff have placed Ne 
groes in new and important fields of public service. 

Legally, there is no racial discrimination in New York. Negroes were 
not excluded from or segregated in vaudeville and legitimate theaters un 
til the early 1920*5. Some New York theaters practice discrimination by 
refusing to sell tickets to Negroes or by maintaining that all seats are sold ; 
others admit Negroes only to certain sections of the house. Except for 
some of the "little cinemas," there has never been discrimination on the 
part of motion picture houses. 

Twenty years ago only Negroes of unusual distinction would dare to ask 
for accommodations in downtown hotels. Gradually, however, the larger 
hotels have become much more liberal in this respect. But discrimination 
in restaurants is still common. Of late, law suits have compelled many 
restaurants to alter their policy, and today a Negro can eat in many down 
town restaurants without being asked to sit behind a screen or without 
finding that a cup of salt has been stirred into his soup. In some sections 
of Harlem itself there are bars and cafes that discriminate against Negroes ; 


and the windows of many rooming-houses carry the familiar southern sign: 
"For White Only." 

Present-day Negro organizations, both national and local, represent many 
varying schools of thought. Some advocate amalgamation, passive resist 
ance, colonization, salvation through "art and joy"; others favor collec 
tive political and economic action on the part of white and black. 

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was 
organized in May 1909, and in the following year Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois 
became its director of publicity and research and editor of its national or 
gan, The Crisis. In his words, the aim of the Association was to create "an 
organization so effective and so powerful that when discrimination and in 
justice touched one Negro, it would touch 12,000,000 ... an organization 
that would work ceaselessly to make Americans know that the so-called 
'Negro problem' is simply one phase of the vaster problem of democracy 
in America, and that those who wish freedom and justice for their country 
must wish it for every black citizen." The Association's militant legal 
struggle against segregation and for civil rights and its long fight against 
lynching are now known throughout the country. In 1931, James Weldon 
Johnson resigned as executive secretary of the Association and was suc 
ceeded by Walter White. 

To assist the thousands of southern migrants coming into the city, and 
to make investigations into social conditions among Negroes, the National 
Urban League was organized in 1911. Under its auspices many of the 
Negro professional social workers in New York have received their train 
ing; and through its Industrial Department it has aided thousands of un 
skilled Negroes to equip themselves with trades. More than any other social 
agency, the League has fought for a better community life among Negroes, 
better housing conditions, and against crime, disease and unemployment. 
Its official organ, Opportunity Magazine, edited by Elmer A. Carter, inter 
prets the changing social and economic scene for the American Negro. 
The New York Urban League was organized in 1918 as a separate and dis 
tinct branch of the national League. Besides maintaining a playground and 
a summer camp for Negro children, it has helped to form and guide sev 
eral WPA projects. The League has emphasized its fundamental concern 
in securing better working conditions for Negroes, exposing unfair labor 
practices, fostering unionism and aiding in the education of workers in 
the lower and unskilled ranks. 

The youngest and largest of the mass organizations devoted to the social, 
economic and political equality of the Negro is the National Negro Con- 


gress, a federation of Negro organizations which attempts to unify the 
activities of all groups, particularly trade unions. The Congress is wide in 
scope and purpose, and active in the prosecution of its aims. It has held 
two national meetings, one in Chicago in 1935, the other in Philadelphia 
in 1937. 

Since the founding of the New York African Society for Mutual Relief 
more than a hundred years ago, Negro fraternal societies have increased 
so rapidly that they now comprise the greater number of organizations 
among the Negroes of Harlem. They are motivated by the need for mutual 
aid and companionship. There are Negro Elk, Odd Fellow, Mason, Pyth 
ian, Woodmen and Philomathean lodges, whose large membership makes 
possible the maintenance of mountain homes, bands, athletic leagues and 
summer camps, along with various other activities. 

The Young Men's and Women's Christian Associations in Harlem differ 
little from the white Associations throughout the country. They are cul 
tural centers, meeting places, educational institutions, as well as centers 
for sports and recreation. The buildings of both organizations were built 
recently and are imposing structures, designed to serve the manifold in 
terests of thousands of youths and adults. The forums and debates held 
here often emphasize the economic plight of the Negro. 

Perhaps the strongest of Negro organizations in Harlem are the trade 
unions. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, with a national mem 
bership of more than 6,000, maintains elaborate headquarters under the 
leadership of its president, A. Philip Randolph. In 1929 the Brotherhood 
affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, and in 1936 it was ac 
corded an international charter. Since the depression and the inception of 
the Committee for Industrial Organization, there is hardly a trade or pro 
fession in Harlem that is not organized. Barbers, clerks, laundry workers, 
newspapermen, bartenders, teachers and domestic workers have all formed 
unions for mutual protection. Most of these unions are affiliated with the 
Negro Labor Committee, a representative central body that gives common 
guidance to Harlem's trade union activities. The problems of the unem 
ployed are dealt with chiefly through the Workers' Alliance, which main 
tains several branches in this area. 

Harlem is the home of one of the outstanding units of the New York 
National Guard, the 369^ Infantry, organized in 1913 as the i5th Regi 
ment of State militia. These Negro troops were under fire for 191 days 
on the western front during the World War, and were the first Ameri 
cans to reach the Rhine. On December 13, 1918, they received from the 


French Government a collective citation for conspicuous valor, and the 
Croix de Guerre was pinned to the regimental colors. 

The question of what will ultimately happen to the Negro in New York 
is bound up with the question of what will happen to the Negro in Amer 
ica. It has been said that the Negro embodies the "romance of American 
life"; if that is true, the romance is one whose glamor is overlaid with 
shadows of tragic premonition. 


The Local Vernacular 

PRODUCT of scores of nationalities, thousands of occupations and mil 
lions of people in necessary and constant contact, of whom some never 
leave the city while others come and go in a day, the New York lan 
guage reflects every facet of a multifarious environment: the clatter of 
riveting-guns, the sighs of the weary, the shrill warnings of policemen's 
whistles, the sunny chatter of perambulating nursemaids, the jittery laco- 
nisms of waiters, countermen, cabbies, musicians, busboys on the run, doc 
tors, lawyers, nurses, thieves and radio entertainers. To suggest the quality 
of this ever-bubbling linguistic amalgam and to give some indication of 
its hows and whys is the intention of this brief survey. A few of the more 
representative words and phrases have been selected as examples in each 

At the outset the reader should be assured that the New York language 
is no strange cacophony of foreign tongues intelligible to trained linguists 
only. Full of Americanisms now standardized by wide currency (nertz, 
baloney, in your hat, wise guy, etc.), and containing expressions which 
originated in other sections of the country {yippee, yowzuh, you bet, 
whoopee, etc.), the town's talk reflects the alertness of its writers, enter 
tainers and everyday folk in picking up colorful new expressions irrespec 
tive of origin. Foreign influences emanating from the last half century's 
great immigration streams seem definitely on the wane, judging by the 
1930 census, which places nearly two-thirds of the total white popula 
tion in the native-born column. Furthermore, according to the best authori 
ties, the presumable importance of the foreign influence on language in 
New York has been neither well established nor accurately measured. 

Professors William Cabell Greet of Columbia University, Margaret 
Schlauch of New York University and Robert Sonkin and David Driscoll 
of Brooklyn College all agree as to the difficulty of placing definite carry 
over tendencies in the speech of recorded subjects, though Driscoll points 
out the emphasized articulation of the so-called "dental consonants" 



"d," "ts," "z," "sh," "ch" and "n" as indicating foreign influence. But 
since phonetics as the study of speech-sounds bears a somewhat ambigu 
ous relation to semantics as the study of word-meanings we may mini 
mize this evidence, especially if we grant that language as communication- 
activity reflects, in its way, the total environment of which it is a part. 
Most of the existing foreign language influences, among which Yiddish 
probably ranks first in the number of carryovers, have been more or less 
thoroughly assimilated. Witness kosher (literally, sanctioned by Jewish 
law, but extended to mean genuine, straight goods, the real McCoy; a 
right gee or guy) ; kibitzer (an unwelcome adviser, one who intrudes) ; 
shikse (a Gentile girl) ; schnorrer (a beggar, also a haggler over small 
things, a picayune chiseler) ; schlemiel (a gentle fool); schmegeggie (a 
stupid person) ; nebach (term of condescending affection for a weakling) ; 
shiker (a drunkard) ; mazuma (money, the dough, the chips) ; meshuggah 
(crazy) ; pfui (an exclamation of disgust or contempt) ; schlepper (a poor 
slob, also a customer who doesn't buy) ; kishkes (literally intestines, tripe, 
but expanded to the Hemingway sense of guts, basic courage) and maz- 
zaltov (congratulations, best wishes). 

The League of Nations vocabulary of food shaslik (segments of lamb 
broiled on a skewer, Russian style, sometimes with vegetables) ; blintzes 
(fried rolls containing cheese or meat, etc.) ; bouillabaisse (the fish chow 
der of Marseilles) ; ravioli (small flat dumplings filled with chopped meat 
or sausage) ; smorgasbord (Swedish hors d'oeuvres) has long been a. 
part of the city's cosmopolitan language. Idiomatic expressions of foreign 
derivation, such as the droll He should have stood in bed (it would have 
been better for him if he had never got into this situation) and the horta 
tory Poosh 'em opp! (a call to action in the sense of Get going! Get 
rolling! Let's see you go in there now!), are definitely limited in usage. 

If we align the 1933 U. S. Census Bureau estimate of population (7,- 
154,300) with figures for the combined average circulation of the city's 
English-language newspapers for the six-months' period ending Septem 
ber 30, 1935 (weekday, 4,663,283; Sunday, 5,862,823), we shall get 
some indication of the heat turned on under the melting pot of speech. 
Trains, buses, automobiles and planes have telescoped the wide-open 
spaces, so that people from all regions of the country now come to New 
York and leave their impress. It is estimated that no fewer than 50 million 
persons visit New York yearly. No longer a shining city of the East much 
discussed but seldom experienced by the average American, New York 


may impress him as provincial, despite its size and "style" ; but he is likely 
to find it "different" rather than foreign. 

The New York language, then, is no babel of patchwork patois ; neither 
can it be considered a well-established body of jargon, slang and varied 
colloquialisms fitting into a loose but rather recognizable syntax, like 
the special dialects of the American South and West. The character of 
language in any given region is related to the education, hereditary back 
ground, occupations and economic status of the people of that region; 
generally speaking, in the South and West language has become standard 
ized to some extent because the factors mentioned have been relatively 
pegged by the given elements of development. For example, Burke and 
Jefferson Counties in Georgia, adjacent to each other as are Manhattan 
and the Bronx, have a population which speaks a language distinct in 
color and idiom but which has varied little in decades; whereas in New 
York, an environment subject to innumerable factors in a flux of constant 
change, it is entirely possible to ask "Where are you going?" one instant 
and "Whe' yuh goin'?" the next, without the slightest trace of self- 
consciousness in either case, depending upon the auditor and the urgency 
of the moment. 

"The Big City rhythm" has been dealt with in the movies, radio, books 
and magazines, but the fact remains that everything which has been told is 
no more than a pale suggestion of the dominant moods of the town, the 
qualities that place it by itself in the world: the whirling, driving tempo 
of existence, the efforts to relax within the battle to exist, the compli 
cated individual adjustments to myriad personal relationships and to the 
whole process of the living city. But make no mistake, the average New 
Yorker loves the town. Though he may never have been to the Aquarium 
or climbed the insides of the Statue of Liberty, it's his town for better or 
worse. Never does he consider the permanent possibility of renouncing 
the subway or wearing a gas mask against the traffic-generated monoxide 
fumes. Hand him a deed to a hundred acres in the country and more than 
likely he will return it with: "What? No Hubbell-Mungo Sunday duels? 
No ice hockey? No Monday Winchell column on Sunday night?" 

Swift tempo, high pressure, more retail sales each year, more per capita 
sales, nearly eighty-one millions spent for amusement in 1935, more than 
656,000 registered passenger automobiles, close to half a billion dollars 
a year in wages (excluding salaried employees), hotels taking in nearly 
sixty-five millions yearly, value of produced goods close to three billion 
yearly is it any wonder that the language of the city should project ten- 


sion and release epigrammatic terseness when the economic machinery 
operates, and slacken to a grateful legato when night comes and one pre 
pares for another day? 

Unless it's out! Out to theater, recital, movie or nickelodeon, mingling 
with the gay Broadway or Second Avenue or Grand Concourse or Four 
teenth Street or Coney Island crowds. Then, if the mood is strong and the 
purse not too light, on to the downbeat (the accented basic rhythm of hot 
music) at the Onyx, the intimate Caliente, the Roseland and Savoy ball 
rooms, the sepia Uptown House, Childs and never mind tomorrow, here 
it is! 

Yet to presume on the part of first-time visitors a total ignorance of the 
metropolitan argot would be incorrect. The movies (Three Men on a 
Horse, Lady for a Day, Little Miss Marker, etc. ) ; radio (Harry Hershfield, 
Gang Busters, Walter Winchell, Manhattan Moods, etc.); the "funnies" 
(Moon Mullins, Popeye the Sailor, Barney Google, Grossly X-aggerated, 
etc.); the syndicated columns (Winchell's On Broadway, Sobol's The 
Voice of Broadway, Beebe's This New York, Lyons Den, etc.) ; the maga 
zines (The New Yorker, Variety, Time, etc.) ; and books (Guys and Dolls, 
Bodies Are Dust, Brain Guy, Thunder Over the Bronx, The Thin Man, 
Butter field 8, I Can Get It for You Wholesale, etc.) have certainly intro 
duced the "New York style" into the contemporary national culture. 
Within these media the Dorgans, Conways, Lardners, Winchells, Baers, 
O'Haras, Kobers, Durantes and Runyons have given the nation scram, lay 
an egg, palooka, belly-laugh, Reno-vate, yes we have no bananas, twenty- 
three skiddoo, Alcoholiday, Park Rowgue, wisecrack, applesauce, you said 
it, hard-boiled, pushover, click, laugh that off, yes-man, middle-aisling it, 
socko, step on the gas, kiss the canvas, throw in the sponge and many 
others. Our slang-makers may be separated into two classes: those who 
listen and repeat, and those who simply sit down, concentrate and create. 
Among the latter are Dorgan ("Tad" of fond memory), Jack Conway and 
the practically inimitable Winchell, well on his way to becoming the 
nation's official chronicler of Things About Somebodies That Everybody 
Never Even Dreamed Of. Among the efficient leg-and-ear men, class John 
O'Hara, Damon Runyon, Leonard Lyons and the late Ring Lardner. 

Inoculated with these influences, the out-of-towner may be able to trans 
late the following: "Pipe the pushover, he thinks he's a click with his doll 
because she told him she'd lohengrin and bear it, but all she wants is a 
stand-in to pinch hit for the last heart, who lost all his what-it-takes in an 
under-the-bridge-at-midnite payoff." But to conclude that New Yorkers 


converse in this cryptic manner would be contrary to fact. The truth is that 
the average talk of the town is more of an attitude than a vocabulary. The 
same person who puts your breakfast on the table and remarks, "I hope 
everything is to your taste, sir," may, after receiving a lavish tip, say to the 
headwaiter, "Keep a gander on the visiting fireman with the ice on his 
cuffs, he's out to make a flash," or perhaps simply, "The guy in the corner 
just held up a bank." 

Similarly, a girl or bimbo may be perfect or the business, may maneuver 
or play for a break, be cheated or gypped, unbalanced or screwy, have a 
nose or scbnozzle, become angry or griped, be informed or know her 
onions, leave quietly or take a run-out powder, gamble everything or shoot 
the works, and be a nuisance or a stiff pain. 

Also one may buy on credit or be cuffed, ask permission to leave or see 
a man about a dog, engineer a difficult coup or pull a fast one; and, with 
no malice whatsoever, one may be told that he takes it in the arm (ex 
aggerates), is cockeyed (fantastically in error), and that he'd better not 
get his bowels in an uproar (excited). Heard each day are countless 
similar expressions, some going strong after years of usage (you said a 
mouthful), others quickly discarded (ish kabibble, so's your old man). 
H. L. Mencken believes that span of usage depends somewhat upon the 
logical content. This is borne out by observing the relationship between 
logical content and flexibility of use. Go peddle your papers is colorful, 
clear and refers to a precarious, generally humble function of city life ; and 
since its basic sense is universally understood, it lends itself to many 
nuances of meaning, depending on the individual who uses it, and to 
whom. It may mean go away; be a good fellow and leave; go away before 
you get hurt; mind your own business, you lug (or sweetheart) ; or leave 
us alone, can't you see we're busy? And in the case of the universal oh 
yeah? we have an expression wherein the logical content is no less power 
ful for being somewhat subtle. It reflects an attitude toward the city's life- 
processes the good-humored cynical reproach, the brief signal of frank 
disbelief, the useful beats of stalling in the rhythm of a situation, the 
projection of the speaker's hope, disgust, anger, love, philosophy, politics 
or unqualified withdrawal. In his routine chatter, the New Yorker cannot 
get along without his oh yeah? It is his most valuable buffer, knout, 
pacifier and bubble-pipe, a necessary protective lubricant in the daily wear 
and tear. 

Of late a humorously conceived system of language corruption called 
double talk or talking on the double has made itself felt. Its function is to 


seduce or rib the unknowing listener into believing that he is either deaf, 
ignorant or ready for a lifetime run in the part of Napoleon. Double talk 
is created by mixing plausible-sounding gibberish into ordinary conversa 
tion, the speaker keeping a straight face or dead pan and enunciating 
casually or of the cuff. If he is a true practitioner of this insane craft he 
will always speak with a slight mumble; and it is no wonder that this 
folk-variation of Gertrude Stein should manifest itself in theatrical and 
pugilistic circles, where the ability to master an intelligible yet sotto voce 
mumble is considered a prerequisite of the trade. Among the leading ex 
ponents of this mad jargon, which Clem White, ice-hockey promoter, 
characterizes as "the quickest way to poison your mind," are Lou Raymond, 
Whitey Bimstein, Phatzo Zuckerman, Hymie Caplin, the Ritz Brothers and 
Mushky Jackson. 

Observe in this sample of Mr. Hymie Caplin's double talk the creation 
of gibberish having a distinctly "sensible" sound, and the ingenuity with 
which it is woven into the entire melody line: "Well, take now you're in 
a restaurant. So you say to the waiter, 'Gimme the chicken and vegetables 
but portostat with the chicken with the fustatis on it.' So he says 'What?' 
and you say 'You know, the portostat, and moonsign the savina on the 
top, with the vegetables.' " Note also the bizarre sympathy of Mr. Whitey 
Bimstein in conversation with a defeated pugilist: "Sure ya got pressed in 
the third, kid. You done all right, but your trouble is ya fonnastat when 
you go forward with your left hand. That's a pretty bad fault. All ya have 
to learn is ya come forward when ya fest 'em up on the referee with the 
old sedda m'credda." 

Delectable though it may be, double talk is surpassed as the crowning 
contribution to the fantasy of the New York language by the verbal nug 
gets of Jimmy Durante of the East Side, Coney Island, Broadway, Holly 
wood, London "and all pernts to a disasterous season." His prodigious 
vitality, boisterous pseudo-arrogance and unabated cosmic self-affirmation 
are startlingly projected in the documentation of his categorical imperatives 
and in the frothy rhythms of his strange, valid furies. His It's mutiny! and 
Am I mortified! are best known to the nation, but no catalogue of Durante- 
cisms can suggest the hysterical tension he brings to a situation and the 
overbounding exaggeration he gives to its essential quality. His famous 
nose large, acute, and shrewd is but an extension of his heart. 

"I get you!" he will shout. "A story on Jimmy the Man! A story on 
Jimmy the Human Bein' ! The idea is terrific ! It's marvelous ! It's dyna 
mite!" Or on the melancholy of fame: "Many's the time I'd like to go 


into the Automat for a cuppa coffee. But I can't do it. They would reck- 
onize me. I'd be mobbed. I can't disguise my probiscuity ! Jimmy the Man ! 
Jimmy the Human Bein' !" 

Once, as Michael Mok relates in the New York Post, Jimmy noticed an 
extremely thin and anemic little man wearing a tiny feather in his hat 
band. At his side walked a very tall and very stout woman. Jimmy's re 
action was instantaneous, explosive and complete: "Lookit! Lookit! A 
mountain climber! Intrepid! Intrepid!" 

Only a New York could have produced a Durante, for in New York 
of all places one can appreciate the comic aspects of widely disparate in 
dividuals forced to try to understand each other. This is a result of the 
social cosmopolitanism of the town, made necessary by its complex socio- 
economic relationships. Jimmy the Well-Dressed Man is its comic symbol, 
its Fantasia No. i, and those pricked by his linguistic darts laugh the 

These words-patterns are an accurate reflection of the exciting and 
heterogeneous life of New York. The complexity of the economic proc 
ess produces super-specialization in occupations, many of which create 
their own jargons. In them are to be found the "typical" elements which 
energize the language as a whole. Scores of these jargons exist. Just as it 
would be impossible for the tourist to encounter them all in one visit, so 
is it impossible in the short space of this article to give more than a few 
brief samples. 

In using taxicabs the visitor will do well to keep his ears open, for the 
talk of the hackies brims with imagination based on an extreme sense of 
reality. Evidence of the heavy pressure of their work, the epigrammatic 
nature of their patter is traceable to the necessity for quick, succinct lan 
guage. Pausing at the red light, they will shout to each other. "Hey, hoople, 
[a hackie working on a 24-hour stretch}, howza clock on 'at stone- 
crusher?" (what's the meter-reading on that cab with the knocking 
motor?). The answer may be: "It's the ice-breaker [his first fare that day] ; 
see you on the show-break" (time when the theaters discharge their audi 
ences, but also an expression meaning "au revoir"). 

Should the visitor be fortunate enough to receive special permission, he 
may attend the morning lineup at Police Headquarters, where persons 
frcked up during the previous day are brought for examination before an 
audience of detectives and plainclothes men. He will hear more strange 
talk in an hour than he can possibly remember. The bad actors may include 
youngsters up for their first rap (sentence) for crashing a joint (burglary) ; 


cons (convicts) caught after lamming a joint (escaping from the scene of 
a crime) or crashing the stir (escaping from jail) ; shady shonnikers* 
(pawnbrokers), sleek valentinos (young men kept by older women), and 
perhaps a stolid chopper (machine-gunner) on his way to the hot seat 
(electric chair) or extradition to a State where convicted killers do a dance 
(are hanged) rather than burn (are electrocuted). 

In cafeterias, diners, lunchettes and luncheonettes the cries of counter 
men repeating orders to the chefs will prove amusing to the out-of-towner. 
Staples surviving the introduction of microphones include nervous pud 
ding for Jello; burn the British or toasted Wally for a toasted English 
muffin; smear one, burn it for a toasted cheese sandwich; bottle o' red 
for catsup ; one to go for an order to be taken out ; one cow for a glass of 
milk; stretch it for a large glass; burn one with a feather for a chocolate 
malted milk with an egg in it; and the strident eighty-six, a warning to 
the cashier that a customer is trying to leave without paying his check. 

Radio has introduced many new expressions into the national language. 
Easily recognizable are hog the mike, wanna buy a duck?, check and 
double-check, are ya listenin'?, ether and theme song. Equally colorful is 
an inside (professional) lingo which employs killie loo bird for a flighty 
coloratura, old sexton for a bass with a sepulchral voice, talking in his 
beard for a muffled voice, fax for facilities, town crier for one who sings 
too loud, fighting the music for lack of ease in singing, down in the mud 
for very low reproduction volume, line hits for occasional chirps on trans 
mission circuits, fizzy for an unclear voice, fuzzy for an unclear program, 
and on the nose for ending a program on schedule to the second. 

The instinctively creative qualities of the Negro are fully brought into 
play in his use of language, and no trip to New York should omit a visit 
to the Savoy Ballroom, where all Harlem comes to dance and gossip. Re 
flecting an abounding interest in theater, music and dance, the Harlem 
lingo contains the rich impressionism and conscious emphasis characteristic 
of people living as special minorities; for vitality, variety and quality of 
imagery, it rates as one of the most exciting elements of the New York 
language. Harlem folk talking amongst themselves never feel "all right" 
they're mellow as a chick; or if the opposite happens to be the case, 
they're beat to the bricks, or beat to the socks. One who talks too much is a 
gum-beater or solid gum-beater, while an unclassified nuisance is a bring 
down or a hanger. Uninhibited dancers or party men are called rugcutters, 
sometimes with a lowbrow connotation; highbrows are high-jivers. The 
word jive has many meanings, among which are to joke with or kid, and 


to court a girl, as I'm jiving a chick. The jive is on refers to group excite 
ment, healthy or otherwise. When one owns a car he's on rubber, and to 
pretend is to be s tiffin'. Lace up your boots, baby is a cryptic admonition to 
get wise to yourself. Anything wonderful is murder or a killer, and to call 
out "Stop!" one says Blackout! Hundreds of similar expressions make the 
Harlem lingo a pleasure to listen to, albeit sometimes difficult to under 
stand or dig. 

Of all New York jargons, the most colorful and original is the popular 
or jazz musicians' language. The Negro's contribution here has been as 
significant as his influence in modern folk music. Greatest of all the great 
trumpeters of the day, Louis (Satchelmouth) Armstrong has created more 
of this language than any other individual. The imaginative and freely re 
laxed quality of the best modern dance music is found in this lingo. 

Loiter near the bandstands at Roseland and the Savoy, get a table up 
close in some of the smaller places such as the Onyx, the Uptown House 
and Hickory House, or simply stand on the sidewalk among the crowd of 
musicians gathered outside union headquarters on Fiftieth Street just off 
Sixth Avenue, and you will catch words and expressions no more compre 
hensible to uninitiated non-musicians or ickies than Sanskrit. How are 
we to know that a Dracula is a key-pounding pianist who lifts his hands 
up to his face, or that the bass fiddle is the doghouse, or that shmaltz 
musicians are four-button suit guys and long underwear boys? Similarly, 
the initiate must learn that the gutbucket or riding chorus is the poly 
phonic climax to the playing of a tune or recording; that to be in the 
groove is to be playing very well; that riffs are deftly improvised rhythm 
phrases ; and that a solid sender is a musician who is master of his instru 
ment and who can do expressive things with it. Who in the world but a 
jazz musician would suspect that B-flat means dull, G-fiat brilliant, and 
out of this world though it has taken on ickie connotation most com 
pletely in the groove? Jazz musicians relish their lingo and invariably say 
cat for musician, Hi Gate! for hello, s tinker oo for poor, shmaltz for sugary 
music and wacky for anything stupid or foolish. They are thrilled or sent 
in their jam sessions (informal and experimental collective improvisa 
tions), and have little respect for the papermen of the craft, or those who 
play only written music. Gettin' of or going to town on the last chorus or 
gutbucket is one of the thrills of the business to good hot men. 

The word swing, now popularly used as a noun to denote music in the 
most recent phase of the ragtime- jazz tradition, originated and is properly 
used as a verb to describe a method of playing in exceptionally expressive 


rhythm patterns, either individually or collectively, and with organized 
freedom of improvisation. Swing, gate! is an exhortation to a solid sender 
to take a Boston or let go with all the riff s, licks and kicks in his reper 
toire. And as the sun rises over the housetops and the last bottle of milk 
is set down at the last apartment door, the cats deposit their instruments in 
their cases and depart with: "Take it easy, Pops, see ya on the downbeat." 
In conclusion, it can safely be said that the New York language as a 
whole mirrors accurately the characteristic social relations of this immense 
and prodigiously busy city. Propriety may be the rule in courts, hospitals, 
"conference rooms, employment bureaus, schools, waiting rooms and in all 
situations wherein each person according to his station must exercise proper 
restraint. But when these restrictions are absent, in shops and subways, cabs 
and cafeterias, children's playgrounds and grownups' night spots, in all the 
gay sparkle and grinding routine of the New World's Number One 
Metropolis, you will find a language as stunning and stimulating as the city 


Market Place for Words 

JNfiw YORK CITY is frequently referred to as the "literary capital" of the 
United States. It would be more accurate to say that it is the nation's out 
standing literary market place, one of the great publishing centers of the 
world. American publishers have tended more and more, since the mid 
dle of the 1 9th century, to concentrate on Manhattan Island; although a 
number of important houses are still to be found in other cities. The same 
thing is true of magazines, literary syndicates, etc. New York is also the 
chief production center for the playwright. Literary and dramatic agents 
naturally have their offices where the largest amount of business is con 
ducted; and aspiring or successful writers, if they do not migrate here, 
frequently have occasion to visit the city. Not to be overlooked is the in 
fluence of New York reviewers and other groups in shaping the critical 
opinion and reading tastes of the country. 

By virtue of the size of the reading public which it commands and the 
consequent size of the author's potential royalties, New York has come to 
acquire international importance as a publishing center. Whether or not it 
may accurately be termed the country's "literary capital" is a more or less 
academic question. Earlier in the century, when the "midwestern renais 
sance" was at its height, H. L. Mencken created a tempest in a teapot by 
conferring the title of "literary capital" upon Chicago, withdrawing it 
later when the movement headed by Sandburg, Masters and Anderson ap 
peared to have spent itself. Until then, aside from the growing conscious 
ness and fast-spreading reputation of its Greenwich Village in the earlier 
years of the century, New York does not seem to have given the question 
a great deal of thought, but busily went on with its publishing, editing, 
printing, book reviewing, its occasional making and unmaking of reputa 
tions ; with not a little writing, though by no means all the writing in the 
country, being done in the shadow of its skyscrapers. In other words, it 
remained essentially a market rather than a self-conscious "capital"; and 
much of the same unsentimental, hard-faceted spirit that went into the 



building of its financial supremacy was manifest in its literary production. 

Relatively few of America's better-known writers, past or present, have 
been native New Yorkers; and there is little real basis for the common 
belief that as soon as a writer has made or is beginning to make a success 
he moves to Manhattan. As to the influence of New York in determining 
the literary taste and reading habits of America, something in the way of 
qualification and distinction is called for. Through such book supplements 
as those of the Times and the Herald Tribune, such weeklies as the New 
Republic, the Nation, the Saturday Review of Literature, and the New 
Masses, and such newspaper columns as those by Harry Hansen, Lewis 
Gannett and others, New York exerts a ponderable influence upon re 
viewers and readers in other sections, and so has a large share in molding 
literary opinion. But no one can accurately gauge the influence of New 
York critics on the great mass of book buyers. The latter are perhaps more 
inclined to be governed by local opinion; and reviewers in smaller towns 
and cities, while sometimes swayed by the metropolitan verdict, are as 
likely as not to display independent reactions. On the whole, it is prob 
ably in the higher realms of literature that New York's critical influence 
is operative. That influence obviously has nothing to do with the huge 
sales of such contemporary authors as Lloyd Douglas and Temple Bailey, 
any more than it had with the sales of Harold Bell Wright and Gene 
Stratton Porter in former years; and it is decidedly open to question how 
much of its success such a book as Main Street owes to what the metro 
politan reviewers may or may not have said about it. 

All this is in no wise intended as a refutation of New York's claims to 
literary eminence. Those claims are very real ones ; the city occupies a place 
all its own, and one that it will probably retain for some time to come. 
But a "literary capital" it is not, in the sense, for example, that Philadel 
phia was during the last half of the i8th century, when, with such writers 
as Tom Paine and Benjamin Franklin in the foreground, literature was 
closely associated and frequently fused with national politics. Neither does 
New York hold the cultural one might say, the spiritual hegemony that 
was Boston's from about 1820 to shortly before the Civil War, during the 
period of the Unitarian revival, the Transcendentalist movement, and the 
early abolitionist movement. It was in the decade or two immediately pre 
ceding the Civil War that New York began coming to the front as the 
country's most important literary center, gradually taking the position that 
Philadelphia had more or less unconsciously lost and that Boston was 
slowly but surely relinquishing. This transitional phase may have been 


initiated as early as 1845, when Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" appeared 
in the New York Mirror and attracted national notice. However, it is not 
easy to confine such shifts within definite dates, as a very brief sketch of 
the highlights in New York's earlier literary history may indicate. 

That history might properly be said to begin with Washington Irving, 
the first outstanding man of letters that New York can claim. But a few 
men before Irving had been prominent in the city, though they lived and 
wrote elsewhere as well. One of these was Tom Paine, already mentioned 
in connection with Philadelphia. For three or four years after the Revolu 
tion, Paine was frequently in New York; and the last seven years of his 
life were spent here and on a farm in New Rochelle that had been given 
him by the government for his services to the Revolutionary cause. Philip 
Freneau, most important of American poets before Bryant, was born in 
New York City in 1752, and for nearly a decade after his marriage in 
1789 he was chiefly engaged in journalistic work here, editing first the 
Daily Advertiser, then later (following the failure of his National Ga 
zette in Philadelphia) the Time-Piece. Though Charles Brockden Brown, 
the first American to make a profession of authorship, belongs to Phila 
delphia, his more noteworthy novels including Wieland and Arthur 
Mervyn were written while he was living in New York, from 1798 to 

In connection with the pre- Irving era, note should be made of the exist 
ence in New York City, beginning as far back as 1752, of a number of 
periodicals of a literary or semi-literary nature: the Independent Reflector, 
the Occasional Reverberator, the Instructor, the John Englishman, the 
American Magazine, the New York Magazine, the American Minerva, the 
Literary Magazine, the Lady and Gentleman's Pocket Magazine, the 
Monthly Magazine and American Review and the Rush Light. All of these 
were decidedly provincial in character. 

It is more than birth and long residence in New York, more than the 
brilliant reputation he achieved in this country and abroad, that make 
Washington Irving the city's outstanding literary figure of the early period. 
He was the first important American writer to deal with New York as 
material for literature, the first to animate it with the breath of a larger 
cultural world. His earliest published writing, the essays in Salmagundi 
(1807-8), was largely concerned with the Manhattan background; and 
his first book was the humorously satiric Dietrich Knickerbocker's History 
of New York (1809). Returning in 1832 from a sojourn of 17 years in 
Europe, and establishing his home near Tarrytown on the Hudson, Irving 


continued to dominate the New York literary scene for more than a quarter- 
century, until his death in 1859. 

Of Irving's minor literary contemporaries in New York, the best known 
were his intimate friend and Salmagundi associate, James Kirke Paulding, 
a pioneer in the field of realistic American fiction ; and the two poets, Fitz- 
Greene Halleck and Joseph Rodman Drake, who collaborated in a series 
of satiric verses on contemporary New York celebrities, published over the 
signature of "Croaker & Co." in the Evening Post. Paulding's novels 
(Koningsmarke, The Dutchman's Fireside, Westward Ho! etc.) are little 
read today; but Halleck's "Marco Bozzaris" and Drake's "The Culprit 
Fay" still survive in the standard anthologies. 

Much of James Fenimore Cooper's early life, from 1811 to 1835, was 
spent in New York City or its suburbs ; and it was here that he wrote the 
earliest and in some respects the most successful of his novels The Spy, 
The Pioneers, The Pilot, Lionel Lincoln, The Last of the Mohicans. As 
founder and leading spirit of the Bread and Cheese Club, and in numer 
ous other activities, Cooper played a prominent part in New York literary 
affairs of the 1820*5 and early 1830'$. One of his later novels, Le Mou- 
choir (1840), deals with fashionable life in Manhattan. 

With his reputation as the author of "Thanatopsis" and other notable 
poems already made, William Cullen Bryant came to New York from 
Massachusetts in 1826 as sub-editor of the Evening Post. He was advanced 
to the post of editor-in-chief three years later, and for half a century 
thereafter he was one of the most influential and elevating forces in New 
York journalism. Another poet- journalist of this early period, though one 
who ranked very considerably below Bryant, was Nathaniel Parker Wil 
lis, who for a decade or two before the middle of the century was asso 
ciated with George Pope Morris on the New York Mirror, and later con 
tributed to the Home Journal a colorful weekly interpretation of the Man 
hattan scene. It was Willis who accepted Poe's "Raven" for publication in 
the Mirror, and who later gave the poet regular employment as well as the 
benefits of a generous friendship. 

If New York, after adopting William Cullen Bryant, has no writers of 
eminence to show down to the time of Poe and Whitman and Melville, 
this does not mean that the city was barren of literary activity. During the 
first half of the I9th century, more than 50 magazines were published in 
Manhattan or nearby, among them the American Review and Literary 
Journal, the American Monthly Magazine and Critical Review, the New 
York Mirror, the New York Review and Atheneum Magazine, the New 


York Literary Gazette, the Knickerbocker Magazine, the American 
Monthly Magazine, the New York Review, the Columbian Lady's and 
Gentleman's Magazine, the Literary News Letter, the American Review 
and Whig Journal (later the American Whig Review) , the Broadway 
Journal and the Literary World. 

Edgar Allan Poe's life in New York divides into two periods. A few 
months after his marriage to Virginia Clemm in 1836, the poet took his 
child-wife and her mother to New York, where they boarded on Carmine 
Street until the summer of 1838. Then, unable to make a living, Poe re 
moved his family to Philadelphia. In the spring of 1844 they were back in 
New York, boarding in a farmhouse near Eighty-Fourth Street and Broad 
way, and it was here that "The Raven" (begun in Philadelphia) was put 
into final form. The publication of this poem early in 1845 brought to 
Poe his one brief experience of a favoring fortune. Willis found a posi 
tion for him on the Mirror, other editors sought him out, and the fashion 
able salons paid him homage. For a few months in 1845, he was editor 
and nominal owner of the Broadway Journal. Early in the following year 
he moved his household to "Turtle Bay" on the East River, then to the 
cottage at Fordham that is now New York's chief literary shrine. But by 
this time the clouds were gathering about him once more. The winter of 
1846-7 was one of desperate poverty for the poet and his family, and in 
its midst occurred the death of Virginia. Soon after this event, Poe began 
the tragic wanderings that ended with his death at Baltimore in the au 
tumn of 1849. 

Less brief and fortuitous than in Poe's case was the association with 
New York of two other literary titans, Walt Whitman and Herman Mel 
ville. Both were born in 1819 Whitman at West Hills, Long Island, 
Melville in New York City. Except for the three years of sea-wanderings 
that generated the immortal Moby Dick and three or four lesser classics, 
and for the period of 1850-63 when he lived on a farm near Pittsfield, 
Massachusetts, virtually all of Melville's mature life was spent in New 
York. For two decades, from 1866 to 1886, he was an out-of-door inspec 
tor of customs on the Gansevoort Street pier the name Gansevoort, iron 
ically enough, being that of his maternal grandmother and a preceding 
line of affluent ancestors. What Melville in those 20 years might have con 
tributed to American literature, had his genius received anything but the 
scantiest critical recognition and material reward, is a matter for tragic 

Yet while Melville was renouncing authorship for a life of routine 


drudgery, Walt Whitman was serenely though stubbornly maintaining his 
artistic purposes in the face not merely of critical indifference but of vio 
lent critical abuse along with poverty as well; and he continued to pur 
sue them with equal vigor and equanimity almost to the end of a life 
longer by a year than Melville's. Beginning in boyhood as "printer's devil" 
on the Long Island Patriot, Whitman spent more than 25 years in associa 
tion with various Brooklyn newspapers, making frequent trips by ferry to 
Manhattan, where he roamed the streets at night, hobnobbed with convivial 
cronies at Pfaff's, or haunted the gallery in opera-houses and theaters. 
These experiences, along with wanderings in eastern Long Island and (for 
a few months of 1848) through the South to New Orleans, distilled in 
the alembic of Walt's unique genius, went to the making of Leaves of 
Grass, first issued by a Philadelphia publisher in 1855. Midway in the 
Civil War, Whitman left Brooklyn for Washington, and the remainder 
of his life was passed in the capital and in Camden, New Jersey. 

With the close of the Civil War, a host of figures begins to crowd the 
local literary stage; so that such a brief sketch as this must henceforth 
emphasize groups and main tendencies rather than individual writers. The 
decade or so immediately following the war constituted that "Gilded Age" 
of which Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner wrote in 1873. Their 
novel has been described as a collaboration of the frontier and the effete 
East; for Clemens was at this time fresh from the mining camps, river 
boats, and printing offices of the pioneer West, while Warner was a per 
fect representative of the Genteel Tradition. Together the two men viewed 
their country, in all its sprawling, promising, menacing inchoateness 
viewed it, significantly, in relation to the new and disquieting civilization 
that Wall Street appeared to be imposing upon the nation at large and its 
public life, a civilization dominated by New York City, capital of the 
financial North and East. For while the transition from the rule of indus 
try to that of modern finance had not as yet been effected, Wall Street 
already was rapidly assuming the role that it has played for the past half 
century and more the Wall Street that Melville had written about in 
Bartleby the Scrivener, that was to be the despair of Lafcadio Hearn and 
the inspiration of Theodore Dreiser. 

Meanwhile, the Genteel Tradition in American letters, which had 
stemmed in large part from Washington Irving, was finding its last local 
representatives in such competent poets, critics, and journalists as Rich 
ard Watson Gilder, George William Curtis, Edmund Clarence Stedman, 
and Richard Henry Stoddard. The work of its earlier representatives was 


now little more than a lingering scent of lavender, soon to be dissipated 
in the heady ozone of the new industrial day and the new American life 
with which Howells and James were to grapple with so poignant a sin 

It is in William Dean Howells' A Hazard of New Fortunes that Boston 
may be said to have had its definitive, its more than a little bewildered, 
look at New York City and the commercial spirit that seemed to pervade 
the metropolis and to emanate from it, spreading over the rest of the land 
to the imperilment of higher values. Virtually all the characters in the 
book either take a definite attitude toward or stand in a definite relation 
to the world of business. And Howells, the Ohio farm boy become the 
perfect Bostonian, is at a loss to grasp it all, but remains the Bay State 
visitor, doing his best to be understanding and polite. 

The short of it is that the United States of America, in the eyes of the 
sensitive observer, was becoming that "banker's world," that "banker's 
Olympus," which is described in The Education of Henry Adams and in 
Adams' novel, Democracy. From now on for several decades, down through 
the era of the "muckrakers" and after, the financier "Titan" was to be a 
luring theme, and the rise of many a Silas Lapham was to be traced. It 
might seem, accordingly, that the preeminence of New York's Wall Street 
would confer upon the city a moral- literary ascendancy comparable to that 
of Transcendentalist Boston in its prime. What militated against this was 
the vastness of the new American nation, and the resulting diffuseness as 
well as complexity of the American scene as is apparent in those two 
outstanding novels of the post-bellum years, The Gilded Age and Democ 

The pioneers, from Daniel Boone to the gold-seekers of 1849, na< ^ 
pushed back the physical frontier; it remained for the writer to take pos 
session of the new and uncharted provinces, in the form of literary re 
gionalism or sectionalism. Bret Harte had made a beginning before the 
Civil War, and he was followed by Mark Twain, Edward Eggleston, 
George W. Cable, and numerous minor figures; by the southern region- 
alists, Sidney Lanier, Thomas Nelson Page, Joel Chandler Harris, James 
Lane Allen, and others ; and by the New Englanders, Sarah Orne Jewett, 
Mary E. Wilkins, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. A California gold camp, a 
flatboat on the Mississippi, the backwoods of Indiana, Creole New Orleans, 
the Tennessee Mountains, the Ozarks, sentimental Dixie, a village on the 
Maine coast these were subjects, seemingly, far from the madding Stock 
Exchange, far from the tide of metropolitan streets and the rhythm of 


metropolitan life (though not so far, after all, as Sarah Orne Jewett and 
Mary E. Wilkins, among others, were to discover). 

The regional theme had its day and passed, tending to merge in the 
end with the Genteel Tradition. One thing it revealed was the fact that 
America henceforth was too large and varied a country to be subjected to 
the cultural sway of, or even to take its prevailing literary tone from, New 
York, Boston, Philadelphia, or any other single center of population. The 
later and less conscious regionalists of the 2oth century, such as Sherwood 
Anderson, Willa Gather and Zona Gale, were to go on writing of the 
Nebraska, Ohio or Wisconsin that they knew. They were also to keep 
their places of residence in the hinterland ; yet, like so many of the earlier 
sectional writers, they were to come to New York to make their publishing 
arrangements and to enjoy occasional intervals of recreation. And New 
York, being not merely the market place but the editorial workshop, some 
how feels that they belong to her. 

Some of the writers who did try living and working in New York were 
having none too pleasant a time of it. That exotic citizen of the world 
and of no world Lafcadio Hearn, was one of these. Having failed to find 
among the natives of Martinique the superior way of life that he craved, 
Hearn came to Manhattan. He found it a nightmare "frightful, devilish." 
It led him to the conclusion that "civilization is a hideous thing," and to 
the exclamation, "Blessed is savagery!" Nothing short of an earthquake, 
as he saw it, could produce any improvement. He was, in brief, hope 
lessly stunned by it all. Nevertheless, Hearn's was too keen a mind not to 
perceive that there was a story, a very big story, even in Wall Street. But 
it was a story that he could never write, and he did not see how any writer 
could manage it. "Fancy," he said, "a good romance about Wall Street, 
so written that the public could understand it! There is of course a tre 
mendous romance there; but only a financier can really know the ma 
chinery, and his knowledge is technical. But what can the mere litterateur 
do, walled up to heaven in a world of mathematical mystery and ma 

Hearn refers here to a basic problem of the novelist who would deal 
with the unfamiliar world of big business the problem of documenta 
tion. But it was not an insolvable one, as Dreiser, Norris, and others were 
to prove. It was, however, a very real problem for the writers of this era 
who saw the full complexity of the theme, and who were not so sure of 
their bearings as was Emerson when he wrote: "It is only the young man 
who supposes there is anything new in Wall Street. The merchant who 


figures ... is very old business. You shall find him, his way, that is, of 
thinking concerning the world and men and property and eating and 
drinking and marriage and education and religion and government the 
whole concatenation of his opinions in Rabelais and Aristophanes. Pan- 
urge was good Wall Street." 

What Emerson is saying, of course, is that the mercantile spirit, the com 
mercial attitude of mind and outlook upon the world, is the same down 
the ages. This does not take into account the economist's distinctions with 
regard to the forms of capital. The truth is that the industrial capital of 
Emerson's day was not the same as the merchant and usury capital of a 
former day ; and by now, industrial capital was about to undergo a further 
transformation into monopoly finance capital. Hearn was no more an econ 
omist than Emerson, but at least he realized that things were not quite so 
simple as the Sage of Concord would make them out to be. There was 
something there; he took one look and gave it up, leaving the problem 
to other men, who were to wrestle with it with varying degrees of success. 

But there was another side of the picture, another aspect of the civiliza 
tion that Wall Street, the commercial spirit, big business (call it what you 
will) had come to typify. That civilization was one of violent extremes 
and violent contrasts of wealth and poverty, of senseless luxury and un 
speakable destitution contrasts that nowhere took on a more sharp-edged 
quality than in the nation's metropolis, with slum and aristocratic man 
sion often within stone's throw of each other. This was apparent even 
before the Civil War, at the time when George Lippard, pioneer of prole 
tarian literature and a "Marxist before Marx," wrote his New York: Its 
Upper Ten and Lower Million. Now, in the last decades of the century, 
New York's famous "Four Hundred," under the leadership of Ward 
McAllister and like arbiters, was disporting in luxurious orgies at New 
port and on Fifth Avenue; while on the Lower East Side and the Bowery, 
and in other tenement sections of the city, there were hunger, want, over 
crowding, crime and prostitution, with conditions rendered worse by New 
York's vast and constantly increasing immigrant population. 

It was this other New York that Stephen Crane saw, and that he pic 
tured in his masterpiece, Maggie, the story of a slum girl. With his clear 
and honest vision, his bitter hatred of human stupidity and corruption, 
Crane succeeded in creating the classic of the Bowery, home of the "crea 
tures that once were men," the lumpenproletariat. It is true that he failed 
of an ultimate, penetrating comprehension of slum and slum-dweller; he 
was considerably frightened by what he saw. But his unrelenting integrity 


and straightforwardness of vision carried him far, and paved the way for 
the social realism that was to spring up in the later i89o's. 

As for New York's moneyed aristocracy, it was not until the early years 
of the present century that it began to inspect itself, in the novels of 
Edith Wharton. In The House of Mirth (1905), and later in The Custom 
of the Country (1913), Mrs. Wharton subjected the social group of 
which she was a member to a searching criticism within a distinctly class- 
limited set of values. The aristocrat had failed of being an aristocrat, and 
the fault lay with money, in the hands of the nouveaux riches; which was 
much the same point of view, with the same element of snobbishness in 
it, as that of Henry James in his fragmentary Ivory Tower. Mrs. Wharton 
finally, in her popular success, The Age of Innocence (1920), was to 
take refuge in nostalgia for the iSyo's, when "society" was truly "good," 
having not yet been corrupted by the newcomer from "the Street" with his 
facile millions and his ignorant disregard for the aristocrat's code of con 

It is interesting to note that the publication of The House of Mirth 
virtually coincided with that of Upton Sinclair's story of the Chicago 
stockyards, The Jungle. The new social realism that has been spoken of 
was now finding expression in the writings of such authors as Frank 
Norris, Sinclair and Robert Herrick; and it appeared that Chicago, with 
its stockyards and its wheat pit, was to be the principal locale of the im 
pulse. It was certainly a sturdier-seeming if a cruder brand of realism that 
Chicago offered at this period ; and this it is, according to H. L. Mencken, 
that accounts for the first westward shift of the "literary capital," a trans 
ference that was to be repeated in the second decade of the century, when 
Chicago's "renaissance" began to flower. 

Meanwhile, in New York the eight years from 1902 to 1910 might al 
most be called the "O. Henry Age." Fresh from an Ohio prison where, 
whether guilty or not, he had served a term for embezzlement, the "king 
of story tellers" had at once entered upon his task as chronicler of the 
little lives of New York's little people in Upton Sinclair's words, "the 
obscure and exploited masses of New York, the waitresses and hat- 
pressers, soda-jerkers and bums, the taxi drivers and policemen, O. 
Henry's Tour Million.' " Fearful as he was of the dark and pain of life, 
he was yet no more fearful than were his readers, those same little people 
for whom he wrote; and they loved him for it. They loved him, too, be 
cause he did know their lives, even though the meaning of it all eluded 
him as it did them. His faith in the "order of things that be" was little 


less than sublime, his gaze was never too prying, and his humor was a 
healing balm. 

Someone has said that O. Henry made the short story "the most demo 
cratic form of literature in America." Critics will point to the mechanical 
quality of his tales, which is not to be denied ; those tales are the culmina 
tion of that technique of the "well-made story" which was begun by Poe 
and carried on by Bret Harte. Yet O. Henry contributed much to modern 
interest in the short story form; and his works, like those of Jack London 
and Upton Sinclair, are eagerly devoured all over the world today. Hun 
dreds of thousands of copies have been printed in the Soviet Union; and 
the native of South American pampas or Siberian steppes may still lose 
himself in the joys and sorrows of a department store salesgirl in a New 
York hall bedroom of the 1900'$. 

If New York in these early years of the century was not displaying the 
vitality of that "hog butcher to the world," Chicago, it was, by way of 
compensation, beginning to take on the cosmopolitan cast of culture that 
it has worn ever since, as entrepreneur between the Old World and the 
New. This was the era of Sloan, Luks, Bellows, and Henri in the graphic 
arts each very American in his way, but each aware of European currents. 
The "Nude Descending a Staircase" appeared in 1913. And James G. 
Huneker, most cosmopolitan of American critics, was commuting between 
New York and Philadelphia. It was in this period that Greenwich Village, 
the only section approaching a Latin Quarter that America has been able 
to claim, assumed a place upon the cultural map, as artists and writers 
alike took possession of the little old houses below Eighth Street. For a 
decade or two it was to be the romantic thing for the budding young gen 
ius to move down to the Village and "starve it out." Many writers who, 
like Theodore Dreiser and Sinclair Lewis, were to achieve literary and 
commercial success spent their hopeful earlier days in New York's little 
Bohemia. Later, from about 1916, the Village became the home of the so 
cial radical of Max Eastman and Floyd Dell, of Art Young and Bob 
Minor; and as Freud appeared above the horizon, the Villagers went in 
heavily for psychoanalysis, including the psychoanalysis of literature, and 
there was a strenuous revolt against "Puritanism." All of which, needless 
to say, added to the "color" and the increasingly noisy reputation of the 
American Montparnasse, which came to be associated with free love, free 
verse, and all the isms, social and esthetic. 

New York may be the common gateway for European literature and lit 
erary trends ; but even here, on at least two occasions, Chicago has stolen a 


march. The first time was in the 1890'$, when, with such a periodical as 
the Chap Book and such a firm as Stone & Kimball publishing the work 
of such men as Ibsen, Maeterlinck and Beardsley, the city at the foot of 
Lake Michigan contrived to out-yellow the Yellow Book. The second occa 
sion was in the 'teens of the present century, when the British Imagists, 
Aldington and others, saw fit to ignore New York and send their wares to 
Harriet Monroe, the elocution teacher who, casually enough, had founded 
Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. It was also in Chicago that Margaret Ander 
son and Jane Heap, with the ideological backing of Emma Goldman, 
launched that intelligentsia-shocking organ, the Little Review, "making 
no compromise with the public taste." The Little Review did not tarry 
long in Chicago, however, but after exhausting the list of printers who 
would extend it credit, moved on to New York City, to be followed by a 
small group of those who wrote for it. In Manhattan this periodical en 
joyed its most hectic days, centering about the banned publication of the 
first instalments of James Joyce's Ulysses. 

While the Midwest was engaged in discovering itself in terms of liter 
ature, New York writers were about to embark upon another and more 
ambitious voyage of exploration, their objective being nothing less than 
the "discovery" of America, of the continent's "soul" and the meaning of 
its vast sprawling civilization. There was a feeling in the air that the "great 
American novel," the "great American poem," were yet to be written. 
Out of this was to grow one of the best, if shortest lived, literary maga- 
2ines that the country has known, the Seven Arts, which numbered among 
its editors and contributors Waldo Frank, James Oppenheim, Randolph 
Bourne, Van Wyck Brooks, Louis Untermeyer, Conrad Aiken and others. 
The Seven Arts, unfortunately, was started on the eve of America's entry 
into the World War, and its career was cut short by governmental sup 
pression ; but that career is notable in American literary history. 

The fostering impulse behind the Seven Arts was one of "back to our 
native roots" the same impulse that was to find expression, some years 
later, in Hart Crane's poem The Bridge, and that eventually, in the 1920*5, 
was to degenerate into a sterile cult of the skyscraper, of a skyscraper civili 
zation and its "Lively Arts." Combined with the expression of this im 
pulse was a new note of social liberalism, sounded with particular force in 
the pages of the Seven Arts by Randolph Bourne, one of the most promis 
ing critics America has had. His name and that of Van Wyck Brooks stand 
out conspicuously in the field of native criticism in the first quarter of the 
present century. 


Short lived as it was, the Seven Arts had its effect, not only upon indi 
vidual writers such as Waldo Frank as evidenced in his City Block and 
later works, but upon the war and post-war generation as a whole. Some 
members of that generation, after having gone through the blood and 
mire of the trenches, might come back to America, take one look, give it 
up as a bad job, and return to the terrace of the Cafe du Dome and the 
falling franc; but liberalism henceforth was in their blood a liberalism 
that was to enable them to withstand the finely carved disillusionment of a 
Wasteland, and that in the end, after 1929, was to bring them into the so 
cial melee. In passing, it may be remarked that most of these "Exiles" 
chose New York for home and workshop, after their season of expatria 
tion. It was, in fact, from New York that the expatriate movement started, 
in 1922, after Harold Stearns and his 29 fellow- Americans had sat down 
to look at their country, had found it sadly wanting, and had penned their 
Civilization in the United States. All of which may be regarded as the bit 
ter frustrate end of that impulse for which Randolph Bourne and the 
Seven Arts had stood. 

While young Europeans of the post-war period were giving vent to 
their disillusionment in the tragic clownings of Dadaism, America was 
witnessing the spectacle of "flaming youth." The Prohibition Era was on, 
and in New York the speakeasy took the place of the cafe. As one poet of 
the day has put it: 

The philosophy of our time was written by bootleggers, 
And we went to the speakeasies for knowledge and hope, 
And the taste was bitter in our mouths. 

This was the generation whose higher despair found voice in Scott Fitz 
gerald's This Side of Paradise. It was a generation that read the Smart Set, 
and later found hilarious and "sophisticated" consolation in the American 
Mercury. "Debunking" was an essential phase of the period. 

All, however, was not levity and smartness in this too tinny interlude. 
The era had its serious possibly a trifle over-serious, not to say ponderous 
expression in the magazine, the Dial, which had come to New York in 
the year following the Armistice. The Dial was not a new periodical, hav 
ing had an existence of nearly forty years in Chicago. Under the distin 
guished editorship of Francis F. Browne, it had been a conservative but 
authoritative medium of American thought. It now underwent a reincar- 


nation, or rather two reincarnations: the first under Robert Morss Lovett, 
assisted by Randolph Bourne, Harold Stearns, John Dewey, Thorstein 
Veblen, and others, when it became a militantly liberal organ with a "re 
construction program"; then under Schofield Thayer, when it put on a 
quiet yellow garb, put aside liberal things and social-minded contributors, 
and began publishing what was taken by the intelligentsia of the 1920'$ to 
be the last word in art and literature, from America and abroad. 

The list of Dial contributors makes curious reading today, including as 
it does Anatole France, Oswald Spengler, Benedetto Croce, Paul Valery, 
T. S. Eliot, Ford Madox Hueffer (now Ford Madox Ford), Van Wyck 
Brooks, William Butler Yeats, Arthur Symons, Ernest Boyd, Hugo von 
Hofmannsthal, Thomas Mann, George Saintsbury, Maxim Gorky, George 
Moore, Conrad Aiken, Paul Rosenfeld, Sherwood Anderson, E. E. Cum- 
mings, Amy Lowell, Carl Sandburg, George Santayana, John Dos Passos, 
Edmund Wilson, Lewis Mumford, Hendrik Van Loon, Kenneth Burke, 
Hart Crane even Michael Arlen. The managing editors under Thayer 
were, in succession, Stewart Mitchell, Gilbert Seldes and Marianne Moore. 

The Dial was noted for its annual writer's award of $2,000, instituted 
in 1921, which went in turn to Sherwood Anderson, T. S. Eliot (for The 
Wasteland), Van Wyck Brooks, Marianne Moore, E. E. Cummings, Ezra 
Pound, William Carlos Williams and Kenneth Burke. The magazine 
passed out of existence in 1928. 

Another of New York's serious periodicals that expired in the 1920*5, 
and one whose passing is still regretted by many, was the Freeman, edited 
by Albert J. Nock. It was especially noteworthy for its news of English 
and Irish as well as continental literature. 

But, on the whole, literary seriousness was at something of a discount; 
the "light touch school," a la Carl Van Vechten and the earlier Aldous 
Huxley, was more popular. For these were the boom years of Harding 
"normalcy" and Coolidge prosperity, when, riding high on a bull market, 
the stock broker and uptown New York began discovering Greenwich Vil 
lage as a slumming ground. True, a few pioneer left-wing writers were at 
work John Dos Passos, Michael Gold, John Howard Lawson, Isidor 
Schneider, Joseph Freeman, and others; but they were definitely in the 
minority, and with the exception of Dos Passos they were little heeded. In 
his Ten Days That Shook the World, John Reed had founded a new tradi 
tion ; but that tradition, with the exception of such a notable early work as 
Gold's Jews Without Money, was yet to burgeon. In Manhattan Transfer 
(1925), Dos Passos conveyed upon a remarkably ambitious canvas the 


surging and tumultuous rhythm of the metropolis a rhythm that springs 
from the interplay of social forces, mass action and events, mass emotions 
and the like and succeeded in achieving a certain epic quality. 

Following the stock market crash of 1929, the New York literary scene 
took on a decidedly different aspect, even though the change was not at 
once highly visible. The economic crisis that oppressed the nation as a 
whole could not but have its effect upon writers; and it was from New 
York that the first literary reactions to the depression were to come. After 
an initial period of bewilderment, there was much talk of "proletarian lit 
erature," and a whole new school of young novelists and poets sprang up 
almost overnight. As it happened, the earliest "proletarian" novels (Al 
bert Halper's Union Square is an example) dealt with the New York 
scene, and the New Masses became the center of critical controversy on 
the subject, with Granviile Hicks, Joseph Freeman, Isidor Schneider, and 
others seeking to provide a critical orientation. 

Out of this movement were to come a number of writers who have 
since established themselves: Robert Cantwell, Albert Halper, Josephine 
Herbst, Grace Lumpkin, Fielding Burke, William Rollins, Robert Gessner, 
Edwin Seaver, Clara Weatherwax, Leane Zugsmith, Edward Newhouse, 
Ben Field, among the story tellers; Kenneth Fearing, Horace Gregory, 
Harry Kemp, Alfred Hayes, Genevieve Taggard, Langston Hughes, among 
the poets ; Clifford Odets, Albert Bein, Em Jo Basshe, George Sklar, among 
the dramatists. Not all of these writers are from New York, but a majority 
of them have lived here. The settings they choose for their work are widely 
divergent, each writing of the social scene that he knows best; for the 
proletarian school seems to have ushered in a fresh kind of sectionalism 
one that might be described as an industrial regionalism in literature. New 
York, none the less, remains the ideological seat of the movement, and 
perhaps since 1929 it is nearer than it ever was before to being the coun 
try's "literary capital," since it is here that the major critical battles and 
there have been some spectacular ones are fought out, over literary-social- 
economic questions. After occupying the center of the literary stage for 
several years, the proletarian movement seems to have subsided a little, as 
did the left-wing drama on Broadway; but there are signs that, like the 
drama, it is due for another period of popularity. 

Out of the heightened social thinking and social awareness of the de 
pression era came the first Writers' Congress, held in New York City in 
June 1935. At this meeting, the League of American Writers was formed, 
on a broad basis of opposition to fascism and imperialist war. A second 


Congress was convened in New York in June 1937. Waldo Frank was 
the League's first president; he was succeeded in 1937 by Donald Ogden 
Stewart. A record of the first Congress will be found in the volume en 
titled Proletarian Literature in the United States; the papers read at the 
second meeting are given in The Writer in a Changing World. The 
Writers' Union, organized in 1934 and disbanded in 1937, was among 
the leaders in the campaign for a Federal Writers' Project. The Authors' 
League functions as a trade union and advisory agency for writers. 

Of the New York reviewers, Harry Hansen is one of the most popular ; 
his air of "Olympian serenity," as some one has described it, is seldom 
ruffled. Lewis Gannett of the Herald Tribune and Robert Van Gelder and 
Ralph Thompson of the Times are widely read over the breakfast table. 
Herschel Brickell of the Post is an intelligent commentator in his field. 
John Chamberlain's reviews in the Times were formerly a popular feature 
of that newspaper; but Chamberlain, and formerly Archibald MacLeish, 
the poet, is now with Fortune, one of the leading de luxe magazines. The 
Herald Tribune's literary supplement is piloted by Irita Van Doren, that 
of the Times by J. Donald Adams. The Saturday Review of Literature, 
edited for many years by Henry Seidel Canby and now under the direc 
tion of George Stevens, is lively and informative. The New Republic, 
with Malcolm Cowley as literary editor, maintains its reputation for liber 
alism in the literary as in the social-political field ; as does, though less con 
sistently, the Nation's book section, now edited by Margaret Marshall. 
Clifton Fadiman's page in the New Yorker, a bit out of place amid the 
studied lightness of that publication, is thoughtful and discriminating in 
its comment and reaches an audience that might not otherwise be attained. 
The left wing is represented by the New Masses, which in addition to a 
regular weekly book department has a monthly literary section; and by 
Edwin Seaver's column in the Daily Worker. Several of the monthly maga 
zines, such as Harper's, Scribner's, the Forum, etc., contain book review 

It is magazines of the type just mentioned that continue to reach the 
general reading public of the country and to preserve for that public a link 
with metropolitan life and modes of thinking. In this field, more than 
one landmark has disappeared. The Century, which for some thirty years 
was edited by Richard Watson Gilder, is no more; it ended under the 
editorship of Glenn Frank. The Bookman is another memory, a fond one 
for many readers, who recall its intimate glimpses of writing celebrities; 
no publication today covers precisely the same ground. Attempts by Bur- 


ton Rascoe and others to revive this magazine in the after-war years proved 
unsuccessful. There are those, too, of an older generation, who remember 
the Nation under E. L. Godkin, a long vanished Critic under Jeanette and 
Joseph Gilder, and the days when William Dean Howells conducted the 
"Editor's Study" in Harper's and was engaged in discovering Stephen 
Crane and other promising young men. 

From all the writing, editing, and publishing that goes on in New York, 
it might well be assumed that there is a great deal of "literary life" in 
the city. Such life is not lacking, but it follows a pattern of its own. With 
the exception of the Cafe Royal on the lower East Side, where Jewish 
writers and theatrical people gather, there is little in New York to recall 
the cafe life of the continent. Even the Algonquin, once frequented by 
Dorothy Parker, Franklin P. Adams, Robert Benchley, Dashiel Hammett, 
Alexander Woollcott, and many others, is now almost a tradition of the 
past as a haunt of the literati. The salon, which plays so prominent a part 
in French literary life, seems to have attained little popularity in New 
York. One exception is to be noted in Muriel Draper's "at homes," dis 
continued and resumed at intervals, which are attended by publishers, 
writers, musicians, and artists. The favored relaxation of the city's literati 
is the author's tea, given often by a book or magazine publisher or by a 
bookshop proprietor. As a rule, writers living in New York tend to fre 
quent literary or political rather than social sets. 

As for the literary club of the type popular in the i9th century, it is 
now practically non-existent, in New York as elsewhere. From 1815, when 
the Literary and Philosophical Society was formed, there were at various 
times many of these organizations in Manhattan: the famous Salmagundi 
group, the Bread and Cheese Club, the Fortnightly Shakespeare Club, the 
Quill, the Century, the Authors, the Lotus, the Knickerbocker, the Irving, 
the Seventy-Six Society, and others. Today, about the only kind of "club" 
in which the up-and-coming New York writer is interested is the Book 
of the Month Club or the Literary Guild, which denote sales, royalties, 
and a nation-wide reputation. 

When all is said, New York City is the writer's market rather than a 
"literary capital." Publishing houses, magazines, literary syndicates and 
agents these are the things that, to the average writer, mean a livelihood, 
economic security, success, possibly lasting fame. The rest is more or less 
in the nature of window trimming, very attractive after bread and butter 
are assured, and useful at times in assuring bread and butter. In this re 
spect, literature in New York is true to the temper of modern Manhattan. 


The Federal Writers' Project 

The economic plight of the writer not endowed with an independent 
income has even in periods of general prosperity been discouraging. The 
few writers who starved it out until fame reached their garrets have been 
memorialized in many romantic biographical sketches ; but of the many 
who were forced by want to abandon their literary aims no record exists. 

In New York City, where struggling authors are to be found in greater 
numbers than anywhere else in the country, the depression of the early 
1930'$ had unusually severe effects, and there was a united demand that 
the Federal government should include in its work-relief program a plan 
to employ the writer in work suited to his training and talent. 

With the inauguration of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works 
Progress Administration, late in 1935, the New York City division of the 
project was organized on the same basis as in each of the States. At its 
peak, the project employed more than 500 workers; in July 1937 the num 
ber had dropped to below 400. Some were employed as administrators, 
supervisors, photographers, map-makers, typists, filing-clerks, proofreaders, 
and in other necessary non-literary capacities. The writers included re 
search workers and those who in the past have devoted themselves to 
newspaper reporting and the writing of magazine articles, radio scripts, 
poetry, plays, novels and short stories. 

The primary task of this project was to prepare an inclusive guide book 
to New York City, for publication in the American Guide Series. But it 
soon became apparent that only a small part of the valuable material gath 
ered by the project's research workers could possibly be included in the 
New York Guide. A number of secondary enterprises were then evolved, 
among them an annual Almanac for New Yorkers, of which the volumes 
for 1937 and 1938 have received wide distribution; a series of racial stud 
ies, the first of which, The Italians of New York, has already appeared; 
a number of volumes for children, after the manner of Who's Who in the 
Zoo, published in 1937; a Bibliography of Bibliographies Relating to 
Labor, an Encyclopedia of New York City, a Motion Picture Bibliography, 
and others. 

Though the technique of planning creative work for so heterogeneous 
a group and within the necessary limitations of the national program 
has not yet been fully perfected, it has been clearly demonstrated that a 
high degree of cooperation may be secured among the writers on a large 
collective task. 


The encouragement that this project has afforded to aspiring writers in 
their individual strivings may be gauged in part from the fact that several 
of those on the project have published books written "off -time" while 
their daily needs were supplied by the project for work done on the Guide 
and other books, that one of the New York WPA writers has been 
awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, one has received a prize in a nation 
wide Story Magazine contest, and still another has been given the Shelley 
Memorial Award for Poetry. 


In Studio and Gallery 

EARLY American painting developed along two main lines: the tradition 
of the professional artist, working under the influence of European train 
ing and models; and the handicraft tradition, improvising an art in con 
nection with the making and decoration of useful objects. For two centu 
ries these two lines of creative activity continually crossed and recrossed 
each other under the pressure of American social and cultural conditions. 
Often they converged in the individual artist an artisan coming in con 
tact with imported paintings and, through copying or belated schooling, 
acquiring a professional manner; a studio-trained artist turning his hand 
to the popular demand for inn-signs, "limnings" or ornamentation. But 
while American handicraft art lay outside the main currents of traditional 
art-values, American professional painting remained a provincial version 
of the European schools. And it was not till past the middle of the i9th 
century, when the country commenced to grow into its present industrial 
stature, that an independent American art arose. 

In the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam art was, necessarily, a 
chance pursuit. The colonist who had acquired an art-training before 
leaving for the New World was compelled upon his arrival to devote his 
energies to more practical pursuits. Severed from the art and teachings of 
Europe, a continued development of technique was impossible. The artist 
inclined to employ his talents in this raw country could resort only to 
drawing upon his memory of the masters he had seen back home. Where 
memory failed, invention supplied what it could. Jacobus Gerritsen 
Strijcker found relief from his duties as farmer, merchant and magistrate 
by painting a number of portraits indicating that he must have had occa 
sion to study the approach of the prominent Dutch painters of the lyth 
century. Evert Duijkinck, glass-maker and limner by trade, appears, how 
ever, to have been far removed from any contact with Rembrandt or 
Hals. On the purely utilitarian side were those engravers of maps and 
views who came with the explorers and early settlers as gatherers of 


182 ART 

"news," and who from their sketches supplied the Old World with 
reports, often fantastic enough, of life among Indians, monsters and an 
abundant nature. 

The colony that fell to the British in 1664 had reached a population of 
some 10,000. The century that followed was marked by an almost unin 
terrupted expansion. The increase of commerce and of immigration 
brought in its train new public buildings, fine residences, schools and 
newspapers. Paintings and engravings found their place on the walls of 
homes and public buildings, and artists continued to arrive from abroad. 
Native painting thus became a colonial transplanting of the English por 
trait school. At length a few artists found it possible to maintain them 
selves by obtaining portrait-commissions from the commercial and official 
aristocracy. The most memorable among these early professionals are 
Copley, Earl and Feke. Neither Copley nor Earl is associated with New 
York City, except through an occasional commission. John Singleton 
Copley, "the best painter produced by colonial America," passed his early 
life within a small circle in Boston and his later years in the English 
homeland. Ralph Earl was a native of Connecticut. Robert Feke is some 
times connected with New York, but little is actually known of the 
background and studies of this artist. An important visitor to the colony 
was Joseph Blackburn, who arrived from Bermuda in 1754 and remained 
for nine years. His style is typical of the period. In a three-quarter por 
trait of a rigidly posed figure the artist displays his virtuosity by the 
detailed reproduction of the designs and textural sheen of his sitter's 
carefully draped garments. The drawing and modeling of the face 
emphasize the hard, linear quality of his English contemporaries. A 
rectangular upper corner of the canvas opens upon a landscape of clouds 
and classical architecture receding into the distances. The total effect is 
one of dignity, and of extreme, if somewhat strained, orderliness appro 
priate, apparently, to the patron's own conception of his class distinction. 
With individual variances and with different degrees of success, this basic 
pattern of colonial painting was repeated by other New York profession 
als, Lawrence Kilburn, William Williams and John Durand. 

Until the Revolution, studio art in New York consisted of such por 
traits, painted for the satisfaction of native and newly arrived merchants 
and officials. Into the modeling of these worthies and their ladies creep 
traces, often hardly perceptible, of the local rigors of living of a certain 
severity and bareness, a certain impulse towards simplicity and directness, 
a pioneer forthrightness of arrangement, reflecting the artisan regard of a 


practical people for things that are above all well-made and useful. It is 
this narrowing and concentration that constitutes the identifying sign of 
colonial painting within the English school to which it belongs. 

But beneath the art addressed to the "high people" of the colony had 
already sprung up the multiple manifestations of an art, rarely recognized 
as such, of the common folk: the work of the craftsmen and amateurs of 
the 1 8th and i9th centuries who supplied a popular demand for art 
house painters, sign painters, portrait limners, carpenters, shipwrights, 
wood carvers, stone cutters, metal workers. In the busy port town of 
New York, makers of ships' figureheads, weather vanes, shop and inn 
signs, decorative grave-stones and carvings, lawn figures and hitching 
posts found a ready market. For many years sculpture in America con 
sisted solely of the work of these artisans. William Rush, the first notable 
American sculptor, was a carver of figureheads and portrait busts. Itinerant 
artists, commonly self-taught, supplied more modest homes with portraits 
and landscapes, many ground out in stereotyped repetition, others, more 
rare, revealing the operation of an original genius for character, color and 
design, and achieving with their makeshift knowledge startling harmonies 
and insights. To the folk tradition of this horde of anonymous artists 
belonged Pieter Vanderlyn, who as a youth emigrated to New York from 
Holland. His portraits and sign paintings indicate that he was an impor 
tant popular artist, an American "primitive" of high caliber. To this same 
popular tradition belongs also, though in a different sense, the famous 
series of lithographic prints historical scenes and portraits, country and 
city views, sentimental and sporting subjects, etc. published in the mid 
dle and later i9th century by Currier and Ives of New York, which served 
as models for many a homespun artist. 

Previous to the War of Independence, New York City had already 
become a center of resistance to the authority of the Crown. Having risen 
to social ascendency, its merchants, though still considering themselves 
loyal subjects, were prepared to assert and defend their own interests and 
their own version of life. The war, which drove out or discredited the 
adherents of nobility, cemented the prestige of the local financial and 
trading classes. By 1790, when the Federal capital was removed from 
New York to Philadelphia, the city had already become, in the scale of 
the period, a metropolis. Outwardly, this growth was accompanied by 
cultural advance. New schools and universities were established and news 
papers and public institutions multiplied. Essentially, however, commer 
cial activity submerged all other pursuits. 

184 ART 

Benjamin West, called the "Dean of American Painting," had left the 
American colonies towards the middle of the i8th century and after three 
years of study in Italy had settled himself in London as a painter of 
portraits and historical subjects. He attained great prominence under 
George III, and in 1792 succeeded Sir Joshua Reynolds as president of 
the Royal Academy. This honored ex-American set up a school of art in 
London which came to be known as "The American School." To West 
and his school early Republican painters, almost without exception, 
owed some part of their training. The esthetic principle with which 
West animated his pupils was that the story depicted upon a canvas ought 
to exert an elevating influence, through its appeal to moral, patriotic or 
religious emotions. It seemed to the artists of the young Republic that 
American history demanded to be treated in precisely this manner. 

Returning from West's studio imbued with the expectation that ex 
tensive commissions would be proffered them by the new government, 
the pupils of West were doomed to deep disappointment. The officials of 
the new Republic participated but slightly in the artists' grandiose con 
ceptions of history and allegory. For the art of the capitol they turned to 
French decorators and architects. American artists soon found themselves 
compelled to apply their main energies to the painting of portraits and 
family groups, or to abandon painting altogether for activities more 
harmonious with the temper of the times. A number of historical paint 
ings were executed, however, for private and public purchasers. John 
Trumbull's familiar Battle of Bunker Hill, painted in West's studio, dates 
from this period, as well as his The Surrender of Cornwallis, The Signing 
of the Declaration of Independence, The Surrender of Burgoyne, The 
Resignation of Washington. Trumbull had been in personal contact with 
the Revolution and its heroes. He had served with the colonial army, had 
sketched plans of the enemy's military works at Boston, and later had been 
arrested in London and released through the mediation of West. His full- 
length portraits of Washington, George Clinton, Hamilton and Jay, exe 
cuted during the 1790'$, became part of the collection of the City Hall 
of New York. Trumbull was also president of the American Academy of 
Art founded in New York in 1802. 

Gilbert Stuart, whose Athenaeum portrait of Washington remains the 
accepted likeness, also studied under West, but his work shows little of 
West's influence. Like most artists of his period he passed some time in 
New York, but his career can scarcely be identified with the art of this 
city. The same must be said of that remarkably versatile craftsman, 


entrepreneur, soldier, lecturer, naturalist, artist, Charles Willson Peale, 
whose history belongs to that of colonial Philadelphia. His son, Rem 
brandt Peale, trained by his father and by Benjamin West, served, how 
ever, as president of the American Academy and was one of the original 
members of the National Academy of Design. Other portrait and historical 
painters of the school of West who worked in New York include Thomas 
Sully, William Dunlap (author of a History of the Rise and Progress of 
the Arts of Design in the United States), and the inventors, Robert 
Fulton and S. F. B. Morse. It was characteristic of the age that the two 
latter should have divided their art with other interests. John Wesley 
Jarvis, who contributed a number of portraits to the City Hall gallery, 
was Sully 's partner in a portrait-painting enterprise in New York. Among 
the recorders of historical events was also Robert Walter Weir. 

The war of 1812 brought great hardship to the advancing city, but its 
termination was followed by a new spurt in business, building and popu 
lation. When in 1825 the great Erie Canal was officially opened, the 
increase of wealth and immigration and the expansion of the city's area 
moved forward still more rapidly. 

This intensive material aggrandizement, however, brought with it no 
corresponding improvement in cultural and esthetic taste. The mechanical, 
the spectacular and the didactic proved more engrossing to the imagina 
tion of both upper and lower classes than the serious historical and 
legendary themes of the West school. Waxworks, stuffed animals, natural 
curiosities, geographical views and melodramatic tableaux drew crowds 
and money for their exhibitors. The question of artistic quality received 
little attention. 

The controllers of public life augmented their esthetic anesthesia with 
moralistic intolerance. When John Vanderlyn attempted to exhibit his 
Ariadne at the American Academy, its withdrawal was demanded by 
parents who feared the depraving effects upon the students of the pres 
ence in the building of an image of a nude reclining in a landscape. Thus 
Vanderlyn's early attempts to introduce the influence of the French school 
of David was met not with appreciation and intellectual interest but with 
a scandal. In sculpture the effects of prudery were even more disastrous; 
the study of the human figure was fatally impeded in a society where even 
a cast of the Venus de Milo had to be locked up out of sight. 

Legislative intolerance brought to an end an interesting experiment, be 
gun in 1838, in the popular dissemination of art. The Apollo Association, 
later renamed the Art Union, was formed on the plan of collecting five 

186 ART 

dollars from each of its members and spending this fund on works of art 
which, after being exhibited, were distributed by lot. A copy of an engrav 
ing, a critical bulletin and free admission to the exhibitions were included 
in the membership fee. This forerunner of the modern book club proved 
very successful, soon reaching a subscription of one hundred thousand 
dollars a year. Many talented artists were thus brought before the public. 
The enterprise was terminated, however, when it was found to violate the 
law against lotteries. 

In this epoch of the settlement of new territories, the eyes and fancies 
of the city turned towards the rural life from which it drew its substance. 
A sentimental naturalism varying from the melodramatic panoramas of 
Cole, Church and Bierstadt to the literalist pastorals of Inman and Mount 
succeeded the decline of portrait and historical painting in the English 
manner. Art of the pre-Civil War decades is identified with the land 
scapes of these and other nature-painters who collectively came to be 
known as the Hudson River school. 

The "Father of American Landscape," Thomas Cole, was born in Eng 
land and during his youth spent in Ohio learned the rudiments of painting 
from a wandering German portraitist. Arriving in New York in 1825, he 
exhibited his landscapes in the window of an eating-house in Greenwich 
Village where they attracted the attention and patronage of Trumbull. 
With the funds earned by the sale of paintings he departed for the 
Hudson River Valley to work directly from nature. In later years he 
studied abroad, and, inflating his notions of art with meditations on grand 
allegorical themes, produced such series as The Voyage of Life and The 
Course of Empire. These, with his Expulsion from Eden, acquired by the 
Metropolitan Museum, and his Catskill landscapes, gained him consider 
able fame. 

The Hudson River painters, like those whom their canvases were 
intended to please, found themselves absorbed almost exclusively by 
subject matter and story-telling. A panorama limited only by the four 
boundaries of its frame and leaving its sentiment with the beholder com 
pleted the purpose of the artist. Color, form or compositional value can 
scarcely be said to receive more than elementary consideration; occasion 
ally, certain touches of virtuosity in lighting intervene as a relief. Flat, 
diffuse and unevocative, thin in pigmentation, over- detailed with static and 
unresolved superficialities, the landscapes of the Hudson River group 
lacked as a rule both esthetic harmony and psychological incisiveness. Yet 
to the Hudson River painters belongs the important distinction of having 


been the first (with the exception of isolated folk artists) to take American 
painting out of doors. 

Asher Brown Durand, another "father" of this movement, first gained 
attention through his popular engravings of Trumbull's Declaration of 
Independence and Vanderlyn's Ariadne. After a period of portrait paint 
ing and of study abroad he returned to America and became prominent as 
a landscape painter and president of the National Academy. Cole's pupil, 
Frederick E. Church, preferred the melodramatic in nature to the moral 
and metaphysical romanticism of his master. Natural marvels volcanoes, 
icebergs, tropical daybreaks, giant waterfalls attracted his fancy, and in 
search of these vistas he traveled over the world. His work was well 
calculated to achieve immediate success ; he was elected to the Academy in 
his early youth and subsequently found many purchasers both here and 
abroad. Other successful academicians were the genre painters Henry 
Inman and William Sidney Mount, both of whom did much work in New 
York and are well represented in its museums; also John Frederick 
Kensett and Eastman Johnson, whose methods, derived from the disci 
plined and unimaginative Diisseldorf school in Germany, were applied to 
reproducing the American scene in a manner similar to that of the Hudson 
River school. 

The impulse to record nature in detail also inspired John James 
Audubon, whose Birds of America, originally engraved and published 
in London, quickly brought him a lasting success. Audubon, whose 
artistic training developed for the most part outside the schools, ought 
perhaps to be linked with American folk art, which reached its culmina 
tion around the 1850'$. His fresh and dynamic renditions of bird-plumage 
and bird-posture reveal the utilitarian objectives and the freedom from 
school restraints of the gifted artisan. His art is achieved through the im 
mediate sincerity and faithfulness of his recording. The preservation of 
the house he built on the Hudson, near what is now 15 8th Street and Riv 
erside Drive, and the recent popular reprint of his book testify to the 
continued regard in which his work is held. 

In recapitulating the development of American art up to the Civil War, 
this relationship of Audubon to folk art is extremely suggestive. It 
exemplifies the constant tendency on the part of the two main currents in 
American art local craftsmanship and European borrowing to flow to 
gether at the center: on the one hand, through the transformation of 
self -trained amateurs and shop-skilled handworkers into disciples of some 
European school, and on the other, through the application of art to 

188 ART 

popular demands. But while this flowing together occurs repeatedly in 
individual artists, the currents themselves remain at their extremes rigidly 
apart: a cultivated art of the upper class and a makeshift art of the com 
mon man. 

This separation of cultivated education from popular life affected both 
our pristine native art and our borrowings from abroad. Since only the 
rich or the proteges of the rich could acquire a European schooling, the 
requirements of the wealthy patrons were bound to determine the per 
spective in which European culture would be approached. Merchants, 
landlords and public officials decided, in the last instance, what ought to 
be borrowed from Europe. And with their naturally conservative and 
esthetically indifferent tastes they inevitably demanded the "best," that is, 
the most established artistic articles Europe could supply. Hence the more 
forward-moving of the European schools, the early appreciation of which 
could rest only upon an impulse towards artistic and theoretical discovery, 
were for a long time avoided by American students. 

With the fixing of the boundaries of American "fine art" in this man 
ner, the social origins of individual artists became a matter of merely 
personal importance. The artisan-turned-artist who "arrived" as a fash 
ionable portraitist or landscapist came to produce his work in competition 
with and in the style of the European academician. There remained no 
center of resistance which would enable him to place the stamp of a 
different kind of life upon his necessary derivations. His transformation 
into a European was too complete: the "American" characteristics of pre- 
Civil War art are, essentially, negative characteristics, arising from uncon 
scious limitations rather than from positive esthetic purposes. The Amer 
ican student not only increased his education by his study abroad he 
capitulated to it. 

The rigid duality of American creative currents left its effects also upon 
the artist who remained true to the native traditions. Here the remoteness 
of cultural forms forced expression into crude, primitive moulds, and, by 
preventing an interchange of ideas and methods, condemned folk art to 
isolated, atomic "springing-up," with no hope of a unified organic de 

These tendencies are especially obvious in sculpture. We have referred 

above to the masterful achievements of American makers of figureheads, 

weather vanes and trade symbols. Of these folk artists William Rush and 

John Frazee succeeded in leaving an individual impress on their products 

^and in extending their skill into portrait modeling of a high order of 


characterization. Frazee, proprietor of a marble-cutting shop in New York, 
studied at the American Academy and applied both artistic training and 
artisan skill to his carvings of tombstones, busts and decorative mantels. 
Clark Mills, cabinet-maker and sculptor, fashioned America's first eques 
trian statue. But while these laborers in the wilderness were forging the 
beginnings of American sculpture, often without having seen a single 
example of what the masters of this art had accomplished, their contem 
poraries who studied abroad promptly succumbed to an abject conservatism 
and a loss of identity. The Italian school of the expatriate Dane, Bertel 
Thorwaldsen, became the center to which American students were drawn 
in the pre-Civil War epoch. Numberless imitations of classical models 
were produced. A prominent member of this school was Thomas Craw 
ford, who was born in New York but made his permanent home in Rome. 
He gained success with his mythological groups and figures: Orpheus 
Entering Hades in Search of Eurydice, Hebe and Ganymede, Sappho. The 
many commissions which he executed for American purchasers were 
typical of the sculpture of the Italianate school. 

If in the two centuries before the Civil War American art remained 
nothing more than "a local dialect of the great language of European 
art" the phrase is Holger Cahill's and even fell in the middle decades 
of the 1 9th century into an insensitivity deeper than ever, the explanation 
is to be found in the lack of free play between the cultivated tradition 
upon which it drew and the ever-changing needs of the American people. 
In 1 9th century Europe, the old culture, striving to maintain its stability, 
was from generation to generation taken in hand by and made to serve 
the interests of new social elements. Within these tensions the successive 
schools of European art replaced one another. Nowhere so well as in 
America did European culture retain a relative stability; America was the 
Academy of Europe. Before an American art could appear it was neces 
sary to begin borrowing in a new and more radical way. 

In the decades following the Civil War, America lifted itself out of its 
agricultural and mercantile past and entered its industrial phase. A vast 
national expansion followed which sent wealth and organizational power 
pouring into and through the port city of New York. The embryonic 
metropolis matured, rapidly taking on the physiognomy which it bears 
today. Its size and tempo increased at an enormous rate: skyscrapers, 
traffic, advertising, newspaper extras and ornate residences; standardized 

190 ART 

housing blocks, tenement slums and street markets composed its visible 

Social and cultural life were thrown into new relations by this upheaval 
beneath it. Europe, brought closer by the improved methods of trans 
portation, by the gigantic flood of immigration, by new political and 
trade arrangements, saw industrial New York mounting the historical 
incline that was to achieve the level of its own capitals. The spiritual 
lag of the province gave way as the city took its place in world-civilization. 

New museums and schools of art in New York made study abroad no 
longer an absolute necessity in education. Private purchases continued to 
augment the available store of European examples. Newspapers, art maga 
zines and reproductions carried art far down into the mass of the people. 
Soon the ingression into art of the lower social strata was no longer 
attended by an abnegation of previous values; instead there commenced 
the preparation of that succession of violent revolts against the academic 
which was to shake the art-world in the years to follow, and from which 
art in New York was to derive so much of its energy. 

Under these conditions the two earlier currents in American art came 
together in a synthesis which for the first time raised American painting 
to an independent position. Fundamentally, this synthesis represented the 
spiritual encounter of city and country, of rural and cosmopolitan values, 
of the farm handicraftsman and the trained urban technician. 

Slowly American art intensified its searching, broke more and more 
decisively with the prettiness and sentimentality of earlier styles, became 
harsher and more nakedly critical, absorbed and exchanged its European 
teachings at an accelerated speed. A genuine, serious American art came 
into being, attended by anguish and rebuffs but persisting defiantly out of 
a new sense of inner necessity, a new conviction of possessing a role and 
a function. American art acquired a core of critical resistance which 
brought selection and purpose to its derivations. 

At the moment when this new birth occurred began the exhaustion of 
the older strains: the rich production of folk art dwindled after 1860 and 
ceased almost entirely by the end of the century; the talented American 
apprentice of the European atelier lost his educational monopoly and was 
relegated to the dim halls of the Academy. 

The art of Homer, Eakins and Ryder, the pioneers of the new spirit ii 
American art, breaks decisively both with the sentimental scene and tl 
classical tableau. For the realists, Homer and Eakins, art is an instrumei 
of research into and communication of objective facts; to the mystic an< 

Waterbound City 















ascetic Ryder the transcription of an image brought into being by an 
inner state demands no less faithfulness and accuracy. All three are far 
removed from mere "good painting" according to the tenets of some 
esthetic school. 

Winslow Homer began his self -instruction by persistently drawing from 
life, deriving his teaching, so to speak, from the objects he was attempting 
to render. In New York he refined this amateur approach by periods of 
professional instruction and through study of native and imported litho 
graphs and paintings. He opened a shop for wood-engraving, and found 
employment as a lithographer and as a magazine illustrator, reporting the 
Civil War from the front for Harper's Weekly. The water-colors of his 
maturity reflect the ability thus gained to seize quickly the immediate 
appearance of events. If the rough and ready tradition of the shop and 
the finesse of the studio had alternately characterized the education of 
Peale and Durand, shop and studio came together stylistically in Homer, 
in the break with "finish" for the sake of accurate depictions of light and 
form relations. In his travels, he was the trustworthy reporter of peoples, 
occupations and natural phenomena, finding little to attract him in the 
art of Europe though he studied in Paris for a year yet expending 
great devotion on the movements of the sea off the coast of Maine, or on 
the palms and colored races of the South. 

Thomas Eakins was a realist in a deeper sense. His artistic insight cuts 
beneath the surface like the scalpel of the surgeon in his famous Clinic 
canvases. Thoroughly trained, familiar with the schools and masterpieces 
of France and Spain, a pupil of Gerome in the Ecole des Beaux Arts and 
of Leon Bonnet, he applied his technique not to the reproduction of the 
artistic manner of some European movement but to the direct analysis of 
local personalities and activities. The cosmopolitan language of his art 
probed the prose- world of contemporary life with the simple directness 
and adherence to fact with which the farmer-painter of early Pennsylvania 
might have attempted his colloquial reproduction of environing hills and 
streams. Thus genre painting in his hands, as in Homer's, had nothing 
in common with the smooth surface attitudes of Inman and the Diissel- 
dorf decor. Playing over the details of muscles, nerves, veins and dress, 
strong contrasts of light and shade point consistently to his major empha 
sis, the anatomy of human character. To this he willingly subordinated 
color and composition in his portrait, sport and genre studies. 

The new social life of post-Civil War America affirmed itself in the 
critical and often harsh observations of Eakins, The grace and beauty 

192 ART 

which Eakins was accused of neglecting in his canvases were lacking too 
in the young industrial civilization which he accepted as his subject. 
These were the days of Thomas Nast's effective cartoon attacks on the 
Tweed Ring, an epoch which this tireless draughtsman characterized 
politically by introducing the symbols of the Republican Elephant, the 
Democratic Donkey and the Tammany Tiger. Says Parrington in his Mam 
Currents of American Thought: "The idealism of the Forties and the 
romanticism of the Fifties, the heritage of Jeffersonianism and of the 
French Enlightenment, were in the Seventies put thoughtlessly away, and 
with a thorough lack of social conscience, with no concern for civiliza 
tion, no heed for the democracy it talked so much about, the Gilded Age 
threw itself heedlessly into the rough and tumble business of money 
getting and money grubbing." The tough-minded talents of Eakins re 
flected this spectacle, attempting neither to reject nor to gloss over its 

At the moment, however, when industrial society began to observe itself 
realistically, a powerful force of negation sprang up within it, equalling in 
its lyrical intensity the violence of the life which it thrust aside. 

Despite all obvious differences, Albert Pinkham Ryder might be called 
the American Van Gogh. In his work, as in Van Gogh's, imaginative 
conceptions, founded upon strong religious and ascetic emotions, modify 
and exaggerate natural appearances; direct and simple statements break 
through inadequate training and subject drawing and color to new needs 
of expression. Ryder never underwent the radical modifications which the 
influence of the Impressionists wrought in the development of Van Gogh. 
Nor could the skies of New England and smoky New York pour down 
upon him the sunlit intoxications of Provence. It is night, not sharp day 
light, that inspires Ryder. His landscapes and fables are heavy and brood 
ing, like the thick solemn impastos of the Dutch modernist's early isolated 
gropings towards a significant language. Ryder worked slowly and pain 
fully, endlessly painting and repainting, never completely satisfied that his 
inner image had been conveyed. His moonlit subjects, drawn from mid 
night walks at the Battery or from folk tales, Shakespeare, the Bible, or 
some self-invented legend, became friezes of overpainting or were de 
stroyed in the effort towards perfection. Out of his nights of sharply 
jutting masses, emerge the incandescent green, silver and blue apparitions 
of ships, clouds, seasurges, allegorical horsemen, in a sweeping simplicity 
of shapes which links his work to the best of the romantic modernists. 
This real opposition to the realities of modern industrial life already 


foreshadows in Ryder one of the major esthetic attitudes of the art to 
come in America. 

About the dominant figures of these three pioneers whose work consti 
tutes the Declaration of Independence of American painting other changes 
were affecting New York City's art. In landscape painting the influence 
of Diisseldorf had yielded to the "new naturalism" of the Barbizon school. 
Of the purposes of this school Millet, one of its leaders, had written: "I 
try not to have things look as if chance had brought them together, but 
as if they had a necessary bond between themselves." As this French 
influence began to mount, artists turned their backs upon the labored 
pastorals of Diisseldorf and the picturesqueness of the Hudson River style 
and strove for the mellow harmonies of Millet and Corot. Sponsored by 
the landscapists Inness and Martin and by the sensitive and cultivated 
artists and travelers Hunt and La Farge, French art now became the pre 
dominant European source of American instruction. George Inness, the 
slowness of whose development testified to the difficulties of self-training, 
progressed from the formless panoramas of his earlier years to the con 
trolled atmospheres of his maturer landscapes. Homer Martin, who began 
by pursuing the traditions of Cole in his renderings of the untamed scen 
ery of the Adirondacks, was in time so far penetrated by French examples 
that in his last paintings he proceeded to break up his tones and lay them 
side by side in heavy strokes in order to achieve the effects of the Impres 
sionists. The cultured eclecticism of Hunt and La Farge ranged as far as 
the Italian Renaissance; and in the windows and murals which the latter 
executed for several New York churches he attempted to recapture the 
transcendental quality of the masters. Alexander Wyant died in New 
York after painting landscapes which showed an English rather than the 
general French tendency. Another important landscapist of this period 
was Ralph Albert Blakelock, in whose original and largely self -tutored 
talent resemblances are sometimes found to the genius of Ryder. 

Succeeding the Barbizon influence, Impressionism became the dominant 
American derivation from European sources. Weir, Glackens, Twachtman 
and Hassam are the outstanding American reputations of this phase. Of 
these, Childe Hassam and William Glackens painted street scenes of New 
York City. The fate of Impressionism in America, however, wherever its 
teachings were not leavened with fresh purposes, is perhaps best summed 
up in the following quotation from a recent bulletin of the Brooklyn 
Institute of Arts and Sciences: "The strangest thing about impressionism 
is that when it was invented, it was attacked as a radical movement sub- 

194 ART 

versive of established traditions and public morals. Now it is the manner 

of the academics." 

Thus the absorption of European trends continued throughout the last 
quarter of the i9th century. During this period many of the famous New 
York collections, including the Frick and the Havemeyer, were established. 
The Municipal Art Commission was created in 1898. It was an epoch of 
vigorous learning and assimilation. All foreign trends were attentively 
and sympathetically scrutinized by American artists, if not by the buyers 
and the officials of art. The upsurge of original energy which had pro 
duced Homer, Eakins and Ryder was not to spread into new local chan 
nels until it had enriched itself with a thorough education. By the turn of 
the century this had been accomplished: the expatriate Whistler had 
studied Japanese prints and had declared for "musical painting" in the 
jargon of modernist theory; Mary Cassatt, another expatriate, had been 
accepted as a ranking artist among the followers of Degas and the Impres 
sionists; the poetry and art criticism of Baudelaire had stimulated a new 
romanticism; "art for art's sake" had become a slogan; ideas, mystical, 
socialist and scientific, had infiltrated the minds of American artists both 
at home and abroad; the effete superficialities of Sargent had dazzled 
wealthy New Yorkers with the prospect of sitting for a portrait by a 
fashionable American "master"; Chase and Duveneck had drawn art back 
to the studio with the emphasis in their teaching on the brush drawing 
and heavy paint-mass technique of the Munich School. 

In sculpture important strides had been taken by the pioneering efforts 
of Henry Kirke Brown and his pupil, John Quincy Adams Ward. Brown 
had spent four years of study in Italy, but unlike so many of his com 
patriots abroad he succeeded in retaining his native character. His Abra 
ham Lincoln and equestrian statue of Washington, both at Union Square, 
show a rugged originality rare in his period. Ward, though American 
trained, was a finished craftsman whose realism has evoked comparison 
with Eakins and Homer. His bronze Washington at the Subtreasury 
Building and his Pilgrim, Shakespeare and Henry Ward Beecher are im 
portant city monuments. 

At the time when the Paris influence became dominant in painting, it 
was brought forward also in sculpture in the plastic romanticism of 
Saint-Gaudens, who studied in New York and worked with La Farge be 
fore leaving for Paris. Saint-Gaudens is represented in this city by the 
Admiral Farragut monument in Madison Square and by his Peter Cooper 
and equestrian statue of Sherman. Other practitioners of the new style, 


though without the verve and feeling of Saint-Gaudens, were Frederick 
MacMonnies, modeler of Nathan Hale and Civic Virtue in City Hall 
Park, and George Gray Barnard, familiar to New Yorkers through his 
fountain at Columbia University, his Pan in Central Park, and his unique 
museum "The Cloisters." 

By the end of the i9th century American art was prepared to set a fast 
pace for itself. The decades to follow were to witness a veritable cloud 
burst of creation in the plastic and graphic arts. But certain obstacles had 
first to be met and overcome. The conservatism which had shackled pre- 
Civil War art still retained powerful strongholds. True, the Academy had 
changed its style and was to change again in the future. But it had re 
mained constant in its procedure of barring the road to the new wher 
ever it appeared, as something radical, destructive and artistically mean 
ingless. In 1877, New York artists had already felt compelled to set 
themselves into organized opposition to the esthetics of the Academy. In 
emulation of their Paris colleagues, who in an analogous situation had 
defied the Paris art authorities with their Salon des Refuses, they formed 
the Society of American Artists. The stale eclecticism of the Academy 
with its lucrative control over commissions had felt in itself an inner 
resistance to all living currents in American art, both to the direct and 
forthright discoveries of Ryder and Eakins and to the intellectual and 
technical innovations of the more significant importations. Ryder, Eakins, 
Inness, Wyant and Martin, who had been consistently ignored by the offi 
cial cliques, were joined by La Farge and Hunt in the exhibitions arranged 
by the new society. 

The Academy, however, proved to be not merely an Organization but a 
Process. By the time the first decade of the 2oth century had been reached, 
the art rejected by the Academy in the 1870*8 had won its way to emi 
nence, and had begun to yield to still fresher forces, which it had helped 
to create. The moment had now arrived for the Academy to accept the 
former outcasts, in order to gain their support in opposing the new threats 
to its prestige. In 1906 the Society of American Artists amalgamated with 
its old foe to form the present National Academy of Design. 

But a tremendous secret accumulation of artistic energies was to alter 
radically the character of art production in New York. And against the 
flood of painting, sculpture, graphic art and photography that swept up 
out of this first decade of our century the excommunications of the Acad 
emy proved of little avail. 

The "refuses" of the 1900*5 consisted of artists who in the 1890*5 had 

196 ART 

been coming together in the Philadelphia studio of Robert Henri and 
quietly preparing a revolt against all that was dead in American art. The 
majority of the "Henri Group" were newspaper illustrators whose art was 
produced in direct contact with the life of the times. Technically, they had 
developed in themselves an alert workmanlike ability to faithfully repro 
duce the tonalities and atmosphere of streets and public gathering places. 
Intellectually, they had immersed themselves in social and political cur 
rents, familiarizing themselves, more or less deeply, with the ideas of 
Bellamy, Henry George, Nietzsche, Tolstoy, socialism, individualism and 
the labor movement. Through Eakins and his disciple, Thomas Anshutz, 
who taught at the National Academy, members of the group had acquired 
a taste for an esthetic of uncompromising realism. Henri himself had 
practiced an independent approach to the masterpieces of Velasquez, 
Goya, Hals and Rembrandt, as well as to the realists and Impressionists 
of France. In the words of one observer, the Group "cared more for life 
than for paint." 

In 1908 "The Eight," as they were also called, presented their work 
before the eyes of New York. Exhibitors included Henri, John Sloan, 
George Luks, William Glackens, Arthur B. Davies, Everett Shinn, Ernest 
Lawson and Maurice Prendergast, the latter having discovered for himself 
the work of Cezanne and the post- Impressionists. The variety of their 
techniques reflected the backgrounds of American and foreign art from 
which they had emerged romanticism, realism, impressionism, commer 
cial illustration. It was against the academic and all that it stood for that 
they were united. But what was more important was that once again the 
influences of the past both native and foreign had been absorbed into an 
idiom of American experience. In this sense their work was a direct con 
tinuation of the spirit of Homer, Eakins and Ryder. 

The reaction to their show could not have been unexpected: from their 
critics the "Henri Group" acquired the additional colorful labels of "The 
Revolutionary Black Gang" and "The Ashcan School." Their paintings 
and prints of slums, race tracks, park benches, bathing beaches, busy thor 
oughfares, rooftops, backyards, old paupers and children of the poor 
seemed no more to belong to art than had the dots and dashes of color 
of the early Impressionists. 

Most of the "Henri Group" had come to New York by 1900. In a 
spiritual sense, these artists might be said to constitute the first "New 
York School." For their work was of and concerning the city, both sub 
jectively and with respect to its material. In any event, these streets and 


inhabitants of New York now became the concern of a whole corps of 
artists, who bestowed upon their subjects not the remote touch of Has- 
sam's Madison Square or Fifth Avenue but a close intruding observation 
into the condition and habits of the people. In addition to the city-scene 
paintings by "The Eight," poolrooms, restaurants, prizefights, circuses, 
beauty parlors and human types belonging exclusively to the city made 
their appearance also in the canvases of Glenn O. Coleman, Jerome 
Meyers, George (Pop) Hart, Reginald Marsh, George Bellows and Ken 
neth Hayes Miller. 

Out of this realistic movement and animated by its spirit of critical 
opposition arose also the satirical social and political cartoons of Bob 
Minor, Art Young and Boardman Robinson, and in succeeding decades 
the caricatures and social commentaries of Peggy Bacon, Mabel Dwight, 
and the sharply conceived lithographs and paintings of William Cropper. 
A determined impulse to speak to the broad masses had brought a new 
vitality to the graphic arts. Lithography as an art medium had declined 
towards 1900, leaving etching as the sole important graphic medium. 
Whistler, Cassatt, Duveneck, Twachtman, Joseph Pennell and Hunt had 
practiced the printmaker's art. The situation in this field at the opening 
of the century is summed up as follows by Carl Zigrosser in his Pine Prints 
Old and New: "The favorite etchers of that period made romantic views 
of foreign architecture, or pretty landscapes, or sentimental portraits of 
animals or of human 'types.' They spoke in the language though not 
always in the spirit of Whistler, Meryon, Haden, Cameron." 

The new realistic and analytical spirit inaugurated by "The Eight" 
brought a return of lithography and wood-engraving. In the expansion of 
techniques that followed, with the rise of photography and the motion 
picture as independent arts, with the development of color-reproduction 
of painting, the making and circulation of prints became part of a great 
movement to render art easily accessible to all and to cause it to form a 
normal element of daily life. Among the etchers and lithographers of the 
past 25 years are Sloan, Hassam, Bellows, Hart, Coleman, Rockwell 
Kent, Miller, Weber, Hopper, Davies, Albert Sterner, Ernest Fiene, John 
Marin, Marsh, Hugo Gellert, Alexander Brook, Louis Lozowick, John 
Taylor Arms, George Biddle, Kuniyoshi. Other printmakers of New York 
include George Constant, Adolph Dehn, John Groth, Kerr Eby, Wanda 
Gag, Isami Doi, Philip Reisman, Raphael Soyer, Howard Cook, Emil 
Gauro, Doris Rosenthal; and such newspaper and magazine cartoonists 
as Rollin Kirby, Peter Arno, Otto Soglow, Denys Wortman. 

198 ART 

On the heels of the realistic commentators on social life came the 
experimental "modernists." In the year of the first exhibition of "The 
Eight" Alfred Stieglitz had opened his "291 Fifth Avenue," which soon 
became a center of authentic novelty in art. In a long series of exhibi 
tions "291" brought under one roof the works of the European modern 
ists, Rodin, Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne, Picabia, Henri Rousseau, 
Picasso, Braque, Severini, and of the Americans, Marin, Hartley, Dove, 
Steichen, Weber, Walkowitz and O'Keefe. Stieglitz himself was essentially 
committed to "spirit," a yearning vague enough to allow a broad range 
of choice from a photograph of the Five Points Clothing House: The 
Cheapest Place in the City to the passionate markings of the first Amer 
ican abstractionists. 

The most memorable event in the American art world, the famous 
"Armory Show" of 1913, whose aim was to bring together everything 
that was vital in modern art both here and abroad, arose from the currents 
that flowed through "The Eight" and "291." The Association of Amer 
ican Painters and Sculptors which prepared the International Exhibition 
at the armory included seven members of the original "Henri Group." In 
the American Section, alongside the works of the realists, Henri, Luks 
and Sloan, and of the Impressionists, Glackens, Weir, Twachtman and 
Hassam, emerged the avant-garde canvases, watercolors and sculpture of 
Karfiol, Lachaise, Walkowitz, Marin and Prendergast, as well as of the 
modernist forerunner Albert Ryder. The publicity, consisting mostly of 
abuse, which this exhibition received enabled the New York public to 
encounter for the first time, and to ridicule in its turn, the discoveries of 
post- Impressionism, Fauvism and Futurism. 

Thus, arm in arm, modernism and realism in American art came into 
prominence during the second decade of this century. The modernists 
found in the museum, in machinery, in dreams and in reveries and in 
mathematical relations the life which the realist sought in the street and 
the subway. The European masters of the American modernists had pur 
sued the trail of art through antique, Oriental and primitive styles; they 
had borrowed from Egypt, Persia, East India, China, Japan, Byzantium, 
from classical Greece as well as from savage Africa, Polynesia and the 
Oceanic Islands, from Mexico, Peru and the North American Indians. 
The Americans, almost without exception, applied these teachings to con 
temporary experiences. The structural delicacy of the watercolors of Dick 
inson, Demuth and Marin; the mystical and sensitive landscapes and the 
allegorical nudes of Davies; the post- Impressionist, Cubist and Fauvist 


figures of Weber, Walkowitz, Kuhn and Karfiol; the mechanical designs 
of Stella; the eclectic experimentalism of Morris Kantor and Samuel 
Halpert these reflect the reality of our epoch no less than the photo 
graphic factory scenes of Charles Sheeler or the night-life of Guy Pene 
Du Bois. In spite of the differences and the polemics that were to divide 
realist and modernist schools in later years, the two movements thus 
showed themselves at their inception to be two branches of a single stalk, 
the art of the city, both in its local life and in its world-relations. 

The analysis, historical and theoretical, to which the modernists sub 
jected all art brought to sculpture a new point of departure. Cubism, 
Futurism, and Fauvism had found in Negro and primitive figures a simple 
and striking embodiment of the principles of rhythm, design, architectonic 
balance and significant relation of plane and mass. A new analytical acid 
had also been applied to the classics of Greece, Rome and Florence. The 
modelings of Crawford and the Thorwaldsen school now seemed remote 
indeed from sculpture's essential aims. The rough- surfaced monuments of 
Jacob Epstein, an expatriate, evoked startling and often disturbing con 
ceptions of a kind not hitherto associated with the art of sculpture. Gaston 
Lachaise's Figure of a Woman became a familiar example of modernist 
treatment of mass, balance and subtlety of form-relations. William 
Zorach's more easily assimilable subjects achieved wide circulation. Others 
working in the modern manner included Maurice Sterne, Robert Laurent, 
Alfeo Faggi, Elie Nadelman. Paul Manship made an academic utilization 
of modern archaeological research and produced a style of decoration 
which became a fashionable adjunct of architectural design. Jo Davidson 
executed portraits of the famous. Among the many sculptors of recent 
years whose work is worthy of attention are Mahonri Young the realist, 
Isamu Naguchi, Ahron Ben Shmuel, Chaim Gross, Arthur Lee, Heinz 
Warneke, Boris Lovet-Lorski, Harold Cash, Hunt Diederich, Reuben Na- 
kian, Aaron Goodleman, John Flannagan, Marion Walton, Sonia Brown, 
Dorothy Greenbaum, Duncan Fergusson. Especially interesting are the 
accomplishments of the abstractionists Alexander Calder, John Storrs, and 
the Russian, Alexander Archipenko. 

It was under modernist influence that American folk art was rediscov 
ered, its best examples collected and exhibited, and its esthetic value 
brought into focus with the art of the world. Modernism, with its his 
torical perspective, found more to admire in the rudimentary but sound 
artisanship of a Pickett or Hicks than in the studiously elaborated graces 
of the Diisseldorf professionals. 


Since the Armory show and the annual exhibitions open to all artists 
of the Society of Independent Arts, the division between realism and 
modernism has grown more conscious and more pronounced, though an 
overlapping has been constantly visible in the majority of American 
artists. Extremists are rare in American art. Such artists as Georgia 
O'Keefe, Peter Blume, Francis Criss, Stefan Hirsch, Stuart Davis, Edward 
Hopper, Niles Spencer, Walter Pach lean towards formalism without 
fully discarding realistic elements. Marsden Hartley, Louis Eilshemius, 
Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Alexander Brook, Reginald Marsh, Andrew Dasburg, 
Ernest Fiene, Leon Kroll are romantics with varying modernist and 
realist stresses. These main trends are expressed in the two most active of 
the recently established art centers, the Whitney Museum of American 
Art and the Museum of Modern Art. As their names suggest, the Whitney 
emphasis is upon local tendencies and the American scene, while the 
Modern Museum seeks out all manifestations, wherever they be found, to 
which the modernist spirit is attracted. In these two major divisions of 
2oth century art the two main currents in early American art, localism 
and the foreign influence, reappear in a more mature form. 

The conflict between realism and modernism has brought about the 
organization of an "Abstract Group" and the establishment of collections 
sponsoring the non-representational in art. This difference of approach 
was also reflected in the debates concerning the new social art brought 
forward during the late 1920*5 and the 1930'$. In connection with this 
social art, the murals of Thomas Benton received a varied response and 
a new source of inspiration was contributed by Mexico in the murals of 
Orozco and Rivera. The rejection for political reasons of the decoration 
executed by the latter for Radio City led to bitter controversy. 

Economic problems of artists produced novel events in New York City 
during the 1930'$. Semi-annual outdoor shows established an informal 
art market in Washington Square. During the economic crisis which began 
in 1929, depressing art sales and stifling private patronage, artists organ 
ized themselves into the Artists Union to demand Federal support for 
art. The Federal Works Art Project was set up in 1933 and later the 
Federal Art Project of WPA. The latter has brought vast changes in 
the art situation in New York. Its mural decorations of public build 
ings, its allocations of easel and graphic work, its art center and public 
exhibitions, its Art Teaching Department, the faithful copying of old 
art objects by its Index of American Design division all have served 
to bring indigenous American art before an immense new public. Its 


encouragement of talent, through providing the means of subsistence and 
contact with the public, has served to bring forward such excellent 
younger artists as Ashile Gorki, Philip Evergood, Gregorico Prestopino, Joe 
Solman, Max Spivak, James Newell, Lucienne Bloch, Alfred Crimi, Louis 
Guglielmi, William de Kooning, Joseph Pandolfini, Harry Gottlieb, and 
others, as well as such sculptors and graphic artists as Eugenie Gershoy, 
Anton Refregier, Hubert Davis, F. G. Becker. At present a number of 
artists' organizations, together with organizations of writers, musicians 
and actors, support a Congressional measure calling for the establishment 
of a permanent Federal Art Project. 

Thus the program of "The Eight," aiming to connect the activity of art 
with the life about it, has continued, in changing forms, as a dominant 
factor in the art of New York. The Artists Congress, a national organiza 
tion stressing the political and social values of art, holds frequent ex 
hibitions in New York and sponsors conferences here to discuss the artist's 
responsibilities in modern society and to protest against reaction and fas 
cism. The city's public museums and private exhibition galleries provide 
the means for continual intercourse with the outside world of art. New 
York City is no longer merely the chance birthplace or residential choice of 
individual artists, schools and collections it has become a national clear 
ing-house and a world-center of art. 


Bricks of the City 

WHAT American has not desired to ascend to the top of the Empire 
State Building, or stand on the footwalk of the Brooklyn Bridge? High 
on his vantage point on the bridge, the wind blowing a metallic whistle 
through the wires above, the boats far below his feet, he looks through 
the mighty network at those towers of Manhattan, still higher than him 
self, the most awe-inspiring of all architectural views afforded by the 
modern world. Below the towers, the shore is fringed with docks, the 
ocean vessels chiefly freighters on this side delivering cargoes that 
explain the strong odor of coffee and spice that blows from the waterfront 
warehouses. It is not the "immense tremor" of the open ocean that sur 
rounds us here, but the busy motion of the quiet harbor, so shut in as to 
appear like a lake. Far off on the horizon to the southwest, beyond the 
Statue of Liberty, is the graceful arc, dimly visible, of the Bayonne 
Bridge, connecting the largest of New York's islands except Manhattan 
to the New Jersey mainland ; on the opposite side of the Brooklyn Bridge 
and in close proximity to it are the other famous "East River" bridges: 
far from beautiful, some of them, but all brutally business-like and 
immense, their feet not in fresh water but in salt. They dwarf, as if from 
another world, the bridges of the other river cities such as Florence or 
Paris or London. Looking at Manhattan itself, one sees the second sky 
scraper cluster at midtown: the Empire State Building slightly off to the 
left, the Chrysler Building's fountain-like pinnacle to the right, the broad 
slab of the R.C.A. Building of Rockefeller Center remotely visible in the 
distance, while numerous less famous structures serve to fill out the group. 
But even as his eye sweeps this view at the magnificent portal of New 
York, the judicious visitor is aware that not all is splendor. The great 
downtown skyscrapers do not simply rise from the water's edge. In front 
of them, especially to the north of the bridge, is a great low nondescript 
area, block after block of shabby brick dwellings whose sides are covered 
with fading patent medicine signs, an area like eroded debris at the foot 


of a cliff the notorious New York East Side. If one leaves the bridge to 
walk these streets, one is confronted again and again by the kind of view 
that shocked the world when a German architect photographed it and put 
it in a book: the sight of the unmitigated meanness of the tenements 
smacked against the very walls of the "cathedrals of commerce." This is 
one example of the many kinds of abrupt contrast that are far more truly 
characteristic of New York than the selected magnificence that appears in 
the Sunday papers. More than any other American City, New York pitches 
high against low, rich against poor, the elegant against the squalid. All 
occur juxtaposed, with scarcely a buffer and rarely a disguise. 

The energy, the brutality, the scale, the contrast, the tension, the rapid 
change and the permanent congestion are what the New Yorker misses 
when he leaves the city. 

The study of the almost volcanic eruption of New York's skyline should 
not be pursued without a word of caution. Almost anyone can glibly 
explain the skyline in terms exclusively economic. The narrow island, the 
great influx of population, the consequent scarcity of land, and as a result 
the towering buildings thus runs the argument that is almost universally 
accepted. Accurate as far as it goes, it has misled countless people into 
believing that a skyscraper was always the result of a simple calculation 
in profit and loss. The development of New York is actually far more 
enigmatic. Without digressing into a sociological or economic essay, we 
might barely mention a few factors slurred over by this simple account; 
the fact, for example, that the giant buildings occupy only a very small 
fraction of the land actually available, and that, right into the depression, 
there was a tendency to move offices into fewer, taller buildings, occupying 
less and less of the land that was available, meanwhile leaving surround 
ing areas in financial straits. Again there is the fact that New York pays 
far less than an "economic" share of many essential services; for example, 
freight is lightered across the harbor without charge but at great expense, 
and if these and other items had been charged against the city in advance, 
the net profitability of New York's congested building habits might have 
been called into serious doubt, and this without even mentioning the 
incredible costs of such items as building the subways. 

The point is not that economic explanations of the skyline are wrong, 
but that taken by themselves they are incomplete. The business nature of 
the town is to be far more completely understood if we know the nature 
of its history. In this historic past, three successive powerful impulses 
acted on New York. Like a series of great waves, they drove the vessel 


always in the same course. Any major force that might have diverted the 
city from its single-line development seems to have been lacking, or to 
have just touched and then passed the city by. 

New York from the very beginning was devoted single-mindedly to 
commerce. It was superbly situated for a port. The Hudson had made 
New York the chief outlet of the West and permitted it to surpass Phila 
delphia in population even before the completion in 1825 of the Erie 
Canal. No religious oppression affected the Dutch who founded New 
Amsterdam, to render them philosophic or to put them under the leader 
ship of learned parsons like those who established the Puritanic culture 
in New England. The Dutch spent their energy on developing trade. 

Next, the port of New York developed into a manufacturing center. 
This was largely due to a second stroke of luck: vast coal deposits were 
found highly accessible in nearby Pennsylvania. Labor came in a great 
wave from Europe. The effect of industry piled on commerce was cumu 
lative, and cumulatively utilitarian. 

Immediately after the Revolution and at the beginning of this new 
industrial expansion there occurred a brief episode that might have broad 
ened the city's permanent nature. New York became the national capital. 
But before the city's outlook and planning could adapt themselves to the 
new situation, the seat of the Federal Government was moved elsewhere 
and the comprehensiveness of viewpoint and breadth of planning that 
might have ensued yielded once more to the one-sided attitude of the 
market. The results will be clearly seen expressed in the city's street plan 
and its lack of park plans. 

Finally, the effect of its combined trade and industrial leadership was to 
give New York dominance in finance. Hereafter the metropolis wielded a 
new power which permitted her to be ruthless even in the face of geog 
raphy, and to call this ruthlessness "strictly economic." The river and the 
port had produced trade; the coal and the labor combined with the trade 
had produced industry; the two together had created the dominating 
power of money, its influence reaching like radio across all physical bar 
riers and helping to rivet together a purely business culture that piled the 
profits and the buildings higher and higher in the same places. The psy 
chology of the people was profoundly influenced by the history of 
the place; and that, as we shall see, has had quite as much to do with 
the architecture of present-day New York as have land values. If, in the 
course of the headlong development of the city, a New Yorker without 
hesitation tears down a historic Vanderbilt mansion for the sake of erect- 


ing a block of stores, his action in refusing to be diverted is more eloquent 
of the historical tradition and culture of New York than the mansion 
itself. Again, New York began to regulate the shape of tall buildings only 
after they had already transformed many of the streets into permanently 
sunless canyons, whereas Boston laid down in advance regulations against 
what were considered excessive building heights ; which showed the effect 
of historical tradition rather than the relative chances of profit and loss 
in the two cities. 

The Seaport Colony 

Of the New Amsterdam period, the architectural remains are few. The 
Dutch fort stood with its center at about the site of the present Custom 
House, the Governor's House being inside the fortifications. Wall Street 
derives its name from having run along the north wall or rampart hastily 
erected against the English. Of the little Dutch town with its two-hundred- 
odd houses not a trace remains. The houses of Dutch origin still standing 
within the present boundaries of New York are those that were outlying 
farm houses, chiefly in the western sections of Long Island and on Staten 

Perhaps it is just as well. The town houses as we see them on the old 
maps were the familiar trim Dutch houses as found in Holland itself, often 
with the characteristic stepped gables turned toward the street. The out 
lying houses, on the contrary, gradually evolved a character all their own, 
existing in New Netherland but nowhere else in the world, a type we 
call Dutch Colonial. Its two chief earmarks are its diminutive size and the 
handsome roof that was gradually developed to curve outward, forming 
an overhang protruding well beyond the wall. The Dutch, says Miss Bailey 
in her admirable monograph on these houses, had less use for the upper 
or garret floor than the English; and when they began to use a gambrel 
roof they sacrificed bedroom space to achieve a handsomer and steeper 
roof line. 

The oldest known example in the city is the Schenck-Crooke House, at 
East Sixty-Third Street and Mill Avenue, Brooklyn, set in a lane in a little 
hollow behind Public School 236. The steepness of the plain gable roof 
is evidence of its great age. The overhang, as often happened, is said to 
have been added later, and so were the sloping dormers. There remains 
unchanged the unusual inside framing, built shiplike with curved timbers 
and an arch-like inverted frame; for the Schencks were shippers as well 


as millwrights and built a dock in the adjoining Mill Basin. Scholars can 
find a number of other Dutch houses of historic interest ; the casual visitor 
would probably prefer a visit on Staten Island to New Dorp, where three 
charming examples exist close together. The oldest is the Britton Cottage 
in New Dorp Lane, now belonging to the Staten Island Historical Society, 
simply and neatly built of random fieldstone; the plain gable roof, how 
ever, is scarcely typical, having an unusually flat slope and no overhang 
at all. Another is the so-called Lake-Tysen House, a larger example than 
most, built probably 172040, with the typical Dutch gambrel roof (the 
graceful overhang is supposed to have been added later) and the typical 
three chimneys. The plan is characteristic: a wide central hall with two 
rooms on each side. A charming house is the Lakeman-Cortelyou-Taylor 
House, though its gambrel is of the New England type two equal sec 
tions instead of a short nearly horizontal one at the top and a long one 
on the side. Still another excellent composition is the Stillwell-Perine 
House, 1476 Richmond Road, Dongan Hills, really two houses separately 
occupied for 100 years, the older part dating from about 1680, the front 
from about 1713. In Brooklyn, the Lefferts Mansion in Prospect Park 
furnishes a precedent for "Hollywood Dutch," the deep curve being car 
ried through the whole lower leg of the gambrel instead of being confined 
to the overhang. The Lott House and the Remsen House show the earlier, 
diminutive, thick-walled, small-windowed and steep-gabled construction 
of their older wings in contrast to the full development of the later 
period, at the end of the i8th century. 

"Dutch Colonial" continued to be built long after the English occupa 
tion, for the Dutch and English inter-married and lived peaceably side by 
side. A very handsome late example is the Dyckman House, at Broadway 
and 204th Street. This was not built until 1783, at the end of the Revo 
lution. Carefully restored, it is now a city museum. It displays the charm 
ing use the Dutch made of varied building materials. The front wall is 
brick; the end walls are uncoursed fieldstones in heavy mortar; and the 
gables are covered with wide clapboards. 

The Dutch imprint on the city remains chiefly in a line of distinguished 
families and in the realm of tradition, rather than in buildings. Names 
survive the Bowery, which was the road leading past the chief farm or 
bouwerie of the Dutch West Indies Company; Coenties Slip, which 
according to legend is a compound evolved from the names of the Darby 
and Joan of New Amsterdam, Coenrat and Antye's Slip ; Spuyten Duyvil, 
which memorializes Trumpeter Anthony Corlear's watery bout with the 


devil; Pearl, Beaver, Vesey, Hague, and John Streets, Maiden Lane 
(T'Madde Paatje) and others. The stoops of the houses, splendidly 
adapted to the early New Yorker's living habits, had their origin in Dutch 
lowland building customs; it was not the fault of the Dutch that in the 
later brownstone houses the stoops were carried over from mere habit and 
their earlier purpose completely misunderstood. Of this, more will be said 
in the discussion of the average New Yorker's dwelling quarters. 

English Colonial houses go back to a fairly early date. High on a mound 
overlooking the sea at the southern end of Staten Island in Tottenville 
stands the Billopp or Conference House, erected by Captain Christopher 
Billopp in 1677 on an early patent from the Duke of York. Quite as 
simple as the Dutch houses, its lines are nevertheless English, standing 
higher and more openly to the air. In this house on September n, 1776, 
Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Edward Rutledge met Lord Howe 
and rejected his demand for unconditional surrender of New York. An 
other Colonial house, Fraunces Tavern, dating from 1719 and still in use 
as a restaurant, at the southeast corner of Pearl and Broad Streets, earned 
its fame at the end of the Revolutionary War, when Washington was 
banquetted in the large second-floor room and there took leave of his 
officers. Of New York's later and larger Colonial mansions, the country 
houses are the ones that remain: Alexander Hamilton's "Grange," the Van 
Cortlandt House, and the Jumel Mansion built in 1765 the last-named 
for its scale and detail and for its exceptionally delicate and effective two- 
storied portico. 

Federal New York 

After the Revolution came an episode that might have changed the 
entire history and appearance of the city. New York, a small city in what 
was then considered the most beautiful setting on the continent, was chosen 
the nation's first capital. It was in this connection that L'Enfant remodeled 
the Federal Hall (on the site of the present Subtreasury Building on Wall 
Street), where Washington was inaugurated as first President; and that 
Government House, a stately porticoed mansion long since destroyed, 
was built on State Street, in the vicinity of the present Custom House, 
for occupation by the President. When the Government was moved, first 
to Philadelphia and then to Washington, this building was converted into 
a customs house. 

Of the row of city dwellings originally adjoining Government House, 


there remains only Number 7 State Street, now used as a rescue mission. 
Its tall full-height columns, arranged in a picturesque if awkward curve, 
are supposed to have marked the termination of the row, of which Mc- 
Comb is reputedly the architect. The exceptionally handsome interior of 
this house is unfortunately closed to the public. At Number 9, the house 
once immediately adjoining, Lafayette was given his great New York re 
ception on the occasion of his return to the United States in 1824. 

Had the seat of Government remained in New York, the city might 
in time have acquired some of the breadth and dignity of planning asso 
ciated with the capitals of great states such as the L'Enfant Plan at 
tempted to secure for Washington. There might still have occurred dis 
putes about the appropriateness of geometric monumentality in the layout 
of a city, but it seems impossible that New York would have developed 
as it did in almost defiant crowding on part of the tip of an island. 

In the early years of the i9th century, Joseph Mangin, a French engi 
neer, with John McComb as partner, created one of the finest buildings in 
the city the present City Hall. Few buildings in America of any period 
are as gracious, as beautifully poised, and as felicitous as the City Hall. 
The two wings are nicely balanced against the central section and the 
handsome cupola, now fortunately restored after being for a time replaced 
by an ugly dome. The windows are large and beautifully proportioned. 
The detail has a Gallic liveliness and deftness; due to Mangin it savors 
somewhat of Louis XVI instead of the grave King George. The interior 
should not be missed by the visitor to the city; the rotunda contains a 
beautiful circular stairway, while the upstairs rooms not only display the 
felicitous interior style of the building but show a good many of New 
York's early treasures of art and furniture. 

On April 3, 1807, a commission was appointed to lay out a city plan. 
On March 22, 1811, it submitted its report, with a map by John Randel, 
Jr. Its recommendation drew the hand of a heavy fate upon New York, 
for it proposed the gridiron street system. The commission decided that 
"a city must be composed principally of the habitations of men, and 
straight-sided and right-angled houses are the most cheap to build and the 
most convenient to live in." 

Elsewhere in the present volume is discussed the effect of this plan on 
topography and traffic; we confine ourselves here to its effect on archi 
tecture. It permanently limited the shape, the outlook and the surround 
ings of every kind of future building. It meant, to begin with, that for 
better or worse every house was to be fitted to a lot, regardless of such 


considerations as sunlight, prevailing winds and view. The plan divided 
the city into uniform building lots, always 100 feet in depth, easy to trans 
fer and to speculate in. Consideration of the stages whereby this made 
rational building more and more difficult instead of simple must be left 
to the section on housing; suffice it to say that only within the past few 
years has it been possible for a few large-scale enterprises, usually in out 
lying sections, to cut across the gridiron plan in the interest of restoring 
on modern terms the rational type of building that prevailed before the 
mischief of the plan began. A second effect has been that only rarely does 
a building in New York possess a vista; so that, paradoxically, in just the 
city of the United States where the greatest amount of "architecture" has 
been produced, that architecture is most difficult to see. The skyscraper 
architect must compromise on embellishing the entrance visible from the 
street and then apply himself to that part of the mass which will be visible 
from a distance if it towers above its neighbors. A corollary is that in 
New York the conspicuous buildings are not the high ones but the low 
ones, especially those low ones favored by a few feet of open space such 
as the Public Library and the City Hall. 

Besides the examples already mentioned, the Federal era has left a 
sprinkling of other buildings worth attention, especially because they pre 
serve the architectural record. There are a few late Colonial houses, such 
as the charming one with its fan doorway at the end of Cherry Street 
(built about 1790), and a scattered group (to be described more fully in 
another context) that survives in Greenwich Village. Another monument 
is the famous St. Paul's Chapel on lower Broadway, by James McBean. It 
is perhaps one of the best of the American churches modeled on James 
Gibbs' work, and is very handsome with its grayish stone hall and tall 
lively spire. 

When we come to the Subtreasury Building on Wall Street we are con 
fronted by a totally different trend from the Colonial. Though no longer 
the capital, New York continued to share in the architectural ideals of the 
young republic. Just why these turned to classical models, first Roman and 
then Greek, is a scholars' dispute. Some believe that it was political en 
thusiasm for the Roman republic and for the 1821 war of independence 
of the Greeks ; others believe that the Greek, at least, was purely a turn of 
taste. At any rate, whether the American felt like a Greek or had 
merely decided to dress like one, Latrobe's Bank of the United States in 
Philadelphia, with its Doric temple porticoes, built in 1799, took the 
country by storm. 


In New York the old Custom House, now called the Subtreasury Build 
ing, shows this somewhat heavy classical hand. It is a crude version of the 
Parthenon, with changes for the sake of windows. It was erected during 
the period 1834-41. At the same time on the opposite side of Wall Street, 
the Merchants Exchange was built, fronted by another colonnade, con 
siderably more refined, above which a second was later imposed when a 
story was added for its present occupant, the National City Bank. 

Churches diverged somewhat from the common mode, since Classical 
Revival churches were soon followed by Gothic Revival ones, and both 
kinds were built, according to preference, at the same time. The best 
known Gothic Revival churches are the late ones, built just before or 
shortly after the Civil War and therefore belonging to a rather later time. 
They are Grace Church (with an elaborateness that drew the ire of Whit 
man), Richard Up John's Trinity Church, and St. Patrick's Cathedral by 
James Renwick. However, there remain numerous other and older ex 
amples. On the lower East Side, four old churches typify tlie two parallel 
architectural trends. The old St. Patrick's, at Prince and Mulberry Streets, 
is the earliest example of the Gothic Revival ; designed by Joseph Mangin 
(the interior and upper part of the wall were rebuilt after a fire later), it 
is "terrible but big." Another more pleasing pointed-arch church, built 
1817-18, stands a block east of Knickerbocker Village on Market Street, 
and has been recorded in detail by the Historic American Buildings Sur 
vey. Two of the Greek Revival instances are the Church of St. James 
(probably by Maynard Lefevre), on James Street east of Chatham Square, 
and the Marinist Temple just off Chatham Square. On West Thirteenth 
Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues stands another example, with a 
Greek Doric portico in granite. 

American houses built at this time resembled Greek temples to a degree 
never approached in Europe. New York shows very few such houses en 
tirely surrounded by columns; but precariously surviving on Lafayette 
Street is a part of a Colonnade Row, a block-long series of dwellings 
erected in 1827, with a Greek Corinthian colonnade across the whole 

Another once extremely handsome row, built in the 1830*5 and linger 
ing now in disrepair, is found on Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, near 
Westervelt Avenue, New Brighton; it sadly reminds us that our fore 
fathers knew how to make the waterfront of what is now the dirty Kill 
van Kull a handsome and stately drive. In the opinion of Professor Talbot 


Hamlin, a special authority on the Classic Revival in New York, the finest 
single example in existence is the old merchant's house on East Fourth 
Street between the Bowery and Lafayette Street. But the most accessible 
and best preserved group in the finest setting is the splendid collection of 
mansions existing both singly and in connected rows on Washington 
Square. The example on the eastern corner of Fifth Avenue is of noble 
simplicity. It has no porticoes or pediments, only a modest Ionic canopy 
over the door, three stories of well proportioned and beautifully spaced 
fenestration, a simple wooden entablature painted with a Greek fret, and 
over the plain cornice a simple balustrade: yet one might search far for 
a calmer or more felicitous statement. 

The Young Industrial City 

New York of the early iSoo's was rapidly finding new ways of earning 
a very handsome living. When Washington bade farewell to his Revolu 
tionary officers at Fraunces Tavern, the removal of British restrictions on 
trade made a rapid commercial expansion certain. Not so many decades 
later, New York became, among other things, the chief builder of the 
superlative Yankee clipper ships and operator of the Black Ball and other 
ocean packet lines. From this glorious period date the few remaining sail- 
lofts and ship chandleries on Front Street, then South Street. 

One of the next phases in the development of New York's history was 
the growth of industry in the wake of commerce. By 1820 New York 
already had a desperate housing problem, which helps to explain the 
building boom that carried straight through into the panic of 1837. 

The effects of manufacturing and immigration on the architecture of 
New York ever since the first quarter of the i9th century have been be 
yond calculation. Therefore, instead of following the usual procedure, and 
expounding the decadence in residential and public building that followed 
the classic revival a dreary subject it might be wiser to speak of one 
type of structure, still existing by the hundreds, which though usually 
awkward and unlovely nevertheless marked the inception of a totally new 
technique in the old art of building. 

We refer to the despised "cast-iron front." Lewis Mumford in The 
Brown Decades ascribes the introduction of cast iron as a material not 
only for interior columns but for the facade of buildings, to Bogardus in 
1848. The exact date or architect is of minor importance, however, for 


the use of iron had long been increasing first in ugly sheet-iron cornices 
as well as handsome wrought-iron fences, then in "tin" roofs supplanting 
wooden shingles. 

With a kind of naive surprise, those of us who have been told a great 
deal in recent years about a new architecture of metal and glass as if 
there had been a hiatus between the Crystal Palace and the recent 1920*5 
walk along lower Broadway and the streets heading from it to the west 
ward, noting one after another of these "cast-iron fronts," built not long 
after the Civil War, in which the proportion of glass to frame compares 
favorably with present-day standards. After viewing these early examples, 
even our "glass houses" such as the new one by the Corning Company 
on upper Fifth Avenue seem a little less than revolutionary departures. 

What put a stop to the "cast-iron front" was the hazard revealed by the 
Chicago fire that the iron, unprotected by masonry, would warp in in 
tense heat. Nevertheless, here was the beginning of the great modern 
surge toward a strictly industrial building technique, since neither the iron 
nor the glass could be found, like wood or stone, in a natural state, but 
had to be fabricated. 

It is curious to note that among architectural critics only the German, 
Werner Hegeman, has thus far had a kind word to say for the "cast-iron 
front." Hegeman declared a preference for the Stewart Building in New 
York (now the older part of the Wanamaker store) to the vaunted Field 
Warehouse by H. H. Richardson in Chicago, on the score of "greater sim 
plicity and less pretension." Whatever may be the opinion of other ob 
servers on the point of taste, it is clear that in efficiency, lightness, airiness, 
and simple order the Stewart Building is on the more progressive side. 
It is this type, rather than the heavy fortress of Richardsonian Roman 
esque, that lies in the direct line of modern building. 

In contrast with their industrial and commercial structures, the houses 
of the men who brought industrial preeminence to New York were not of 
the sort to inspire architectural history. The exotic residences of the early 
get-rich-quick Wallingfords represented every sort of opulent excess: 
Moorish castles, Gothic fabrics, mock Italian villas, Swiss chalets, what 
ever fancy might desire. Inside, these monsters were decked out with 
nooks and alcoves marked by wooden spindle screens, ottomans, what 
nots and sentimental statues. One picture of a "millionaire's parlor" 
shows even the legs of the grand piano tied up in huge bowknots of rib 
bon a yard wide. 

Hotels are among the structures readily accessible to the public which 


retain some of this exuberance; and a good measure of gilt and voluptu 
ous accessories will be found in such a house, for example, as the Ansonia. 
An English visitor to a New York hotel during President Grant's admin 
istration, when asked by his wife why he did not put out his shoes to be 
shined, replied that he was afraid he would get them back gilded in the 
morning. Some of the energy of those times, is carried over today in the 
sumptuous lobbies and auditoriums of the more overpowering movie 
houses the Paramount, for example, of which it was said that its owners 
"spent a million dollars and made every nickel show." Houses of the 
parvenu, Victorian and romantic types are perhaps more numerous in 
Brooklyn or on Staten Island than in Manhattan, a good Brooklyn district 
to study being the one surrounding Prospect Park. The drab brownstone 
types here were chiefly speculative residences that mushroomed during the 
iSyo's and later. They may be found on almost any downtown cross-street. 

The Great Bridges 

Brooklyn Bridge was the greatest achievement in New York architec 
ture after the Civil War. At a time when the architects were producing 
brownstone fronts, Victorian Gothic churches, and strangely stiffened and 
distorted Renaissance post offices and court houses, the only fresh blood 
seemed to flow in the veins of an engineer. When the bridge was com 
pleted in 1883, the event was celebrated as a national holiday. The Presi 
dent attended the dedication. The city was hilarious. In their desire to 
venture out on this "eighth wonder of the world," the citizens rushed 
forth in such crowds that a moment's panic on one of the first days after 
the opening caused two people to be trampled to death. 

The bridge represents an American epic of heroism. Everyone knew 
that throughout 12 years, while the bridge was being built, the chief en 
gineer had lain partially paralyzed on a bed in Brooklyn Heights. Every 
one knew that the lady to take the first drive across the new structure was 
his faithful and highly capable wife, who had acted as the engineer's in 
termediary throughout the whole tedious work. 

The bridge was not, as a matter of fact, designed by Washington A. 
Roebling, the man who actually built it, but by his famous father, John A. 
Roebling an energetic, careful, hard-driving man, pitiless with himself 
and with his children, a student of Hegel who had written his own "View 
of the Universe" but who with the same thoroughness devised a ropewalk 
on his Pennsylvania farm, inventing designs, methods and organization as 


he went along. In the Brooklyn Bridge, John Roebling drew up the last 
and best of his bridge designs; his son was there to carry on when a 
stupid accident caused the fatal infection of the father's foot with tetanus. 
Despite increases in cost and numerous delays, the bridge eventually 
emerged, a triumph of the engineer's art. And even though thoughtful 
critics had fault to find with the somewhat stiff and bluff use of Gothic 
forms in the towers, the artists loved it from the very start and continue 
to celebrate it in prints and paintings today. The soundness and sincerity 
of Roebling somehow managed to come through. 

The Manhattan Bridge, with steel towers instead of stone, is just 
matter-of-fact ; the Williamsburg Bridge, with towers like contorted peach- 
basket masts from a battleship, is aggressively ugly ; the Queensboro canti 
lever bridge is merely quaint. Indeed, the Queensboro structure, with its 
romantic cast-iron pinnacles, stands at the opposite pole from the three 
sober bridges located around the bend, and crossing the Harlem River. 
Both the Washington Bridge of 1889 (not the George Washington Bridge 
across the Hudson) and the High Bridge consist of large steel arches in 
the central span, joined to a range of solid stone arches on land at the 
abutments. The High Bridge is quite narrow; originally it was of stone 
all the way, and carried the famous Croton Aqueduct across the Harlem 
River. The third Harlem River bridge is the steel one now being double- 
decked for the Henry Hudson Parkway. 

New York takes especial pride in two great recent bridges the George 
Washington and the Triborough. Both won the medal of the Institute of 
Steel Construction as supreme architectural achievements in their respective 
years of completion. The George Washington Bridge with its central sus 
pension span of 3,500 feet has been surpassed in length by the Golden 
Gate Bridge of San Francisco; but the citizen of New York is still will 
ing to pit it against the Coast bridge, asking no favors on the point of 
design. Curiously, its towers were intended by Cass Gilbert, the architect, 
to be clad in stone, a fact that explains the arches and the big hooks still 
protruding from the concrete foundations; but the plan was defeated on 
the score of cost, and the city is happier with the steel of Amman the 
engineer. Since the completion of the Henry Hudson Parkway, this colos 
sal and magnificent bridge has come into its own, for there is scarcely an 
architectural landscape anywhere else in United States to vie with the 
river, the Palisades, the escarpments of Riverside Drive, and (tying it all 
together) the grace and majesty of the George Washington Bridge. 

The Triborough has a setting that will vastly improve with the com- 


pletion of the West Side Highway. It is really a series of bridges, clean- 
cut and exciting in the operation of its functional units; for it has a sus 
pension span, a lift-bridge span, and a third span that is cantilevered. A 
small point, but an important one so often and irritatingly overlooked by 
engineers when they build bridges, is that the railing is safe yet low 
enough to allow the automobile occupant a view of the horizon. 

Skyscraper Background 

The skyscrapers are the children of the bridges. Few realize that the 
greatest school for steel construction was the bridge school, and that to 
this day the beams and trusses for tall buildings are fabricated in the 
"bridge shop." From the bridges, then, we might step to their off -spring 
on the shore. 

Among these, Rockefeller Center is the largest and most spectacular 
group. The Empire State is the tallest single building, though it is equaled 
in cubic content by the R.C.A. Building at Rockefeller Center. The old 
Woolworth Building, opened in 1913, perhaps ranks as the most famous; 
dated or not, its soaring proportions and fine detail stamp it as an archi 
tectural masterpiece. The Municipal Building, largest of the city's admin 
istrative units, with its tremendous street colonnade, its fussy and dispro 
portionate circular tower, represents one more effort to prove the classical 
style adaptable to tall steel-cage construction. 

Why are skyscrapers built? The reasons generally given have been busi 
ness reasons, but underlying these are others of a less abstract kind. Cass 
Gilbert, the architect, liked to tell how Frank Woolworth came to put up 
the tallest building in the world at a time when the New York skyline 
was still dominated by the Metropolitan Tower. The Metropolitan Insur 
ance Company had refused Woolworth a loan, and in so doing had roused 
his ire. He happened to see a postcard from Calcutta with a picture of the 
Metropolitan Tower its fame as the tallest building had spread all over 
the world. Woolworth made a survey to determine the Metropolitan's 
exact height, and then ordered his architect to exceed it. Many sky 
scrapers, large or small, owe their origin to similar rivalries; and the 
march of the bigger-and-better white elephants, goaded along by such 
fortuitous competition, was not halted until two or three years after 1929. 

On Lexington Avenue between Forty-Third and Forty-Fourth Streets, 
one block beyond the enormous Chrysler Building, it was found profitable 
to erect a three-story structure that houses a Childs restaurant. This is a 


direct outcome of the usual "skyscraper economics," which are too com 
plicated to explain in a brief analysis. One fact, however, can easily be 
understood: the comparatively enormous expense of skyscraper building. 
A 3o-story building costs not merely ten times but often 30 times as much 
as a three-story building. The foundations alone, going down to bedrock, 
are extremely costly; the earth and rock removed to prepare for the Em 
pire State Building weighed three-quarters as much as the building itself. 
Other costs increase in proportion. 

The age of the various skyscrapers can be roughly gauged by their 
height. Just as, generally speaking, the youngest mountains are the high 
est, so the very tallest of the skyscrapers are the latest. 

New York and Chicago 

The skyscraper originated not in New York but in Chicago. Apart from 
its early introduction of the cast-iron front, New York contributed to the 
skyscraper only one indispensable element the elevator. The first com 
mercial passenger elevator installation, in 1857, was in a building on the 
corner of Broadway and Broome Street, though the honor is claimed for 
Cooper Union and others. The old Fifth Avenue Hotel was famous for 
its "vertical screw railway," installed by Otis Tufts in 1859 as the first 
passenger elevator run by steam. The "screw" was a hollow grooved tube 
surrounding the whole car and revolving around it on the principle of a 
worm gear. The first office-building elevator installation was in the first 
Equitable Building on Broadway, designed by George B. Post and com 
pleted April 19, 1871. This installation cost $29,657. Its success was 

The first skyscraper, it is now generally conceded after violent contro 
versy, was the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, designed by William 
LeBaron Jenney and erected 18834. The New York architect George B. 
Post made plans in 1880, accepted 1881, for the Produce Exchange Build 
ing in New York, which was finished simultaneously with the Home 
Insurance Building, but used metal framework only in the inside courts. 
New York's building code then as now a source of anger to the pro 
gressives forbade the use of metal framing in outside walls. Not until 
1892 was this code amended, permitting New York to limp along after 
Chicago; and not until 1899, with the erection of the St. Paul Building, 
could New York claim a structure taller than any in Chicago. 

The St. Paul Building, still standing east of St. Paul's Chapel on lower 


Broadway, showed the complete ineptitude of the first attempts in New 
York City to stretch the classical formula over vertical buildings. It 
looks like a series of one-story structures piled on top of one another^ 
each with its own pilasters and cornice. An even more glaring example 
of inappropriate design is found in the American Telephone and Tele 
graph Building at 195 Broadway (not to be confused with the New York 
Telephone Building on Vesey Street). 

When these landmarks were erected, Louis Sullivan of Chicago had 
already proclaimed the gospel of the skyscraper as a single soaring unit, 
setting up his own world-famous Wainwright Building in St. Louis as an 
example. But New York passed Sullivan by. Of his work the city possesses 
only a minor example, the building at 65-69 Bleecker Street. Saarinen 
removed the last horizontal emphasis left by Sullivan the flaring roofline. 
He allowed the vertical piers to run to the very top of the structure, where 
he simply cut them off. A good later application of this method is evi 
dent in Howells' Pan-hellenic Building at First Avenue and Forty-Ninth 
Street ; while an even more daring example is the Daily News building on 
East Forty-Second Street, by Raymond Hood. 

Cubes and Setbacks 

The Equitable Building, designed by Frank Graham and erected In 
1912, was the last great skyscraper of the pre-setback era. Its "cubage" is 
colossal in proportion to the ground it occupies; in fact, this structure of 
42 stories carries the highest tax assessment of any real estate in New 
York $29,000,000, exceeding the assessment on the 85 stories of rent 
able floor space in the Empire State Building, and that on the yo-story 
R.C.A. Building. The Equitable roused fears that future skyscrapers 
might cut off all light and air from the streets, besides reducing the value 
of neighboring real estate, if remedial measures were not taken. 

New York devised the setback principle to provide at least a partial 
remedy. Under the law embodying this principle, the city is divided into 
zones, each of which has its own individual requirements, though in all cases 
the rule is that at a certain height every building must recede from the 
street, the degree of recession to be calculated in relation to the width of 
the street upon which the building stands. This law had a vast effect in 
altering New York architecture from a sheer vertical to a modified pyrami 
dal shape. The setback rules are not entirely rigid, and slight differences 
in interpretation have led to considerable variety along any given street. 


However, the uniform general requirements have brought about some 
semblance of order in the chaos of styles and mass effects characteristic of 
our buildings. The most famous of the early setback buildings is the Shel- 
ton Hotel, erected in 1924, in which the utmost care was employed in the 
designing and balancing of masses. 

It has not generally been noticed, in the common preoccupation with 
copying setback effects, that Rockefeller Center embodies a still later prin 
ciple. The setbacks here are mere vestiges. The larger buildings rise sheer, 
but with the radical difference that they do so at a distance away from the 
street line. There is perhaps the first step toward a possible future trans 
formation of the city, in which extremely high buildings might go up 
without a break, provided they were entirely surrounded by a sufficient 
amount of open space. This idea, promulgated by the French architect 
Le Corbusier in the early 1920'$, would call for a degree and extent of 
centralized control over land holdings that not even a Rockefeller could 

Skyscraper Groups 

To describe even the most important of New York's skyscrapers indi 
vidually would require the space of a whole book ; and therefore the pres 
ent remarks will be confined to characterizing a few groups in various 
sections of the city. Each district seems to have its own special character 
in this respect: there is a distinct Wall Street skyscraper type and another 
distinct midtown type. 

In the Wall Street region, the most striking impression of all apart 
from the stalagmitic tower shapes is that the whole agglomerate looks 
not like steel but stone. These are lithic monuments. They aspire toward 
"monumental mass," with emphasis on the weight. Apart from the com 
petition of styles and detailed treatment, the chief long-range competition 
seems to have consisted in seeing who could build a structure with the 
greatest appearance of stability and permanence. The street has gone be 
yond making its towers heavy and solid : it has decorated them with classic 
symbols, thus adding the lure of antiquity to the promise of safe invest 
ments. Hence the whole northern front of Wall Street from Broadway to 
Pearl Street is taken up by different varieties of classical treatment. Even 
the Bank of the Manhattan Company, trying a venture in "modern," has 
retained an adequate repertory of free classical allusions. Here and there 


during the last afterglow of the boom, in 1930 or 1931, a few lighter and 
more business-like structures made their appearance, such as the North 
American Insurance Building by Shreve, Lamb and Harmon; but the 
familiar, older type of the street is still predominant. 

Among downtown buildings, the most interesting are the Woolworth 
Building, still holding its own by virtue of its fine soaring quality and its 
fine subtly colored detail; the fortress-like Telephone Building at Barclay 
and Vesey Streets, by McKenzie, Voorhees & Gmelin and designed by 
Ralph Walker; and No. One Wall Street, with its compact shape, and 
the remarkable effect of the fluted surface of its entire wall (this also by 
Ralph Walker, the firm having changed to Voorhees, Gmelin & Walker). 
For vigor one might want to add the tower of the National City Bank and 
Farmer's Trust Company, if one could be excused from examining the 

Bordering Madison Square is what might be called the insurance group, 
more stately than the bunched towers farther downtown because arranged 
to be seen from across the park. This group includes the Metropolitan 
Tower, a handsome coronet- shaped new Metropolitan building to its rear 
on Fourth Avenue, and the New York Life Insurance building in a con 
verted "American Gothic" one of the last works of Cass Gilbert. 

In the midtown section, the buildings of Raymond Hood seem to ex 
press the aspirations of the region. On East Forty-Second Street stands his 
Daily News building, mentioned above, with its simple square-cut shape, 
its few easy setbacks, its flat striped walls like giant curtains, and its bright 
orange window-shades that give the building a festive appearance at night, 
like the paper illuminations in a parade. It was erected in 1930. On West 
Forty-Second Street, Hood made another strikingly modern attempt in the 
vividly colored, blue-green, terra-cotta faced McGraw-Hill Building, with 
its tan window shades, the windows in banks of four creating a decidedly 
horizontal emphasis. These two have the marks that in the 1920*5 were 
considered "modern": the bold color, the sharp outline, the uniform treat 
ment of the envelope, the simplicity of massing, the avoidance of all tags 
of the traditional styles. In cleanliness they vie with two other groups that 
are perhaps still more successful because of greater openness in setting 
the great hospital aggregations at the Presbyterian and the Cornell 
Medical Centers. Here we can see what the commercial skyscraper 
might become, when its architecture is not conditioned by the high value 
of restricted areas of land. 


Buildings for Industrial Work 

A person accustomed to the factories of the usual industrial town might 
easily be baffled, in a hasty survey of New York, to know where so many 
of its people follow industrial pursuits. The answer is "in lofts." Fac 
tories of the traditional type exist, to be sure numbers of them border 
the route to Queensboro Plaza on Long Island, others are strung out along 
the Long Island Railroad, and so on. But in midtown Manhattan the 
ubiquitous garment and fur trades occupy anomalous loft buildings, some 
six or eight stories high, reaching back the full depth of the block with 
just room enough for an air shaft. The loft is "architecture" only when it 
grows to vast proportions, becoming essentially a big ventilated box en 
closing a series of huge floors. In such a loft building there are no light 
courts or other interruptions, because the lighting is artificial. 

Some of these structures, such as the Port of New York Authority 
Building, though not especially distinguished architecturally, are enormous 
affairs, embracing far more acreage of floor space than any skyscraper. A 
frequent and traditional method of decorating these huge cubes is a modi 
fication from old fortress structures such as the Palazzo Vecchio at Flor 
ence, Italy: a collar-band supplied in the form of a cornice or corbel table 
as, for example, in the Furniture Exchange on Lexington Avenue at 
Thirty-Second Street, where the decorative details are actually geometric 
and modern. At No. 2 Park Avenue stands a variation, remarkable for 
the spangling of bright colors in its terra-cotta sheathing. For a time this 
was the city's chief exhibit of modernism. 

Sometimes a cross is made between the loft type and the factory type. 
One of the most interesting structures in the city, from the standpoint of 
both function and form, is the Starrett-Lehigh Building on 26th Street at 
Thirteenth Avenue. Here smaller manufacturers may take individual 
floors or parts of floors. The railroad tracks come into the building at 
ground level, and a highly ingenious interior system of elevators and load 
ing platforms permits truck or rail shipment of materials and finished 
goods without the necessity for street transfer at any point in the process. 
Except for the tower at the entrance, the building has remarkably clean 
lines. As all the weight is carried by interior columns, there are no bearing 
members in the outside walls, but only an exciting combination of alter 
nate full-length strips of horizontal glass windows and brick fill. Not 
even at the angles are the window lines broken. 

In another version of the same basic design, the Cashman Laundry in 

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the Bronx, the same architects (R. G. & W. M. Cory) achieve an even 
more successful effect of lightness, the broad white wings being canti- 
levered from the entrance tower, which is treated in four vertical pilasters. 
Any account, however brief, of New York's industrial structures would 
be incomplete without mention of the monumental warehouse in South 
Brooklyn, built of reinforced concrete as an Army Supply Base in 1917 
from designs by Cass Gilbert. 

Recent Public Buildings 

As contrasted with some of the office and industrial structures, the re 
cent public buildings of New York hold no promise of lasting fame. The 
chief group, around Foley Square, composes into nothing in particular, and 
competent mediocrity is the usual attribute in the public buildings in other 
districts as well. There is, nevertheless, one very promising new trend, 
namely that shown in Federal post office substations as for example, at 
Fourth Avenue and Thirteenth Street, or again on Twenty-Third Street 
east of Lexington Avenue. Compared to recent European buildings for 
similar purposes, these American examples have a merit that must be called 
very mild; but compared to the kind of structure that most of the typical 
substations continue to occupy in America, or more specifically in New 
York, the advance is almost revolutionary. The new attitude seems to 
claim, for the institutions of the great American People, at least a fraction 
of the dignity and grace that are normally expected in the branch offices of 
a private city bank. 

Colleges and Universities 

Among the numerous attractive college groups in New York City there 
are two that have had an influence on college architecture: City College 
and more especially Columbia University. The uptown City College quad 
rangle at 1 3 5th Street is a competently planned group, draped in late 
Gothic forms and made pleasing to regionalists by the use of a local mate 
rial rarely employed in New York buildings the Manhattan schist. The 
trim is equally unusual a terra cotta so white that only the grime of the 
city has saved it from an appearance of jumping entirely out of the picture! 

Columbia University was one of the earliest American institutions of 
learning to achieve a flavor of urbane maturity, attained through the con 
sistent use (due to the notable architect Charles McKim) of exterior treat- 


ment based upon the Italian Renaissance. Columbia's appearance of ma 
turity rested upon the fact that she did not seek to mimic whole Renais 
sance buildings but employed her chosen "style" rather as a decorative 
accessory, furnishing colonnades and uniform cornices to buildings that 
were essentially a series of large cubes arranged around squares. In recent 
years Columbia has lost conviction, so that her latest buildings are neither 
studied Renaissance nor clear-cut expressions based upon modern engineer 
ing. The older, domed library by McKim at the center of the university 
group was long a focal point of architectural discussion, alternately ad 
mired for its classical composition and criticized for its functional limi 

More serious than criticisms of this library are the criticisms that could 
be made of the layout as a whole. The university chose to surrender to 
apartment-house use its land holdings that extended straight to the escarp 
ments of the Hudson River, and in so doing let business considerations 
destroy what was perhaps the most spectacular architectural opportunity 
that had ever been in the possession of any American university, an oppor 
tunity never to return. 


The churches of present-day New York are too numerous for compre 
hensive treatment in limited space. It must suffice to present a note or two 
on the examples that are outstanding by virtue of beauty, size, or historical 
associations. As to outstanding architectural beauty, few competent critics 
will be found to challenge the great claims of the Church of St. Thomas on 
Fifth Avenue, by Bertram Goodhue. This church is accounted by some 
authorities as one of the finest architectural achievements of any sort in 
the United States, by virtue of the remarkable combination of delicacy with 
great strength, by virtue of beautiful balance, and (in the interior) by vir 
tue of the unprecedented effect of a magnificent reredos. Goodhue, a de 
signer whose personal romanticism gave individual character to all the 
Gothic studies he made, produced two other outstanding church buildings 
in New York, St. Vincent Ferrer and the Chapel of the Intercession. 

Goodhue's warmth is lacking in the city's largest church, designed by 
the great master's surviving partner, Ralph Adams Cram. This church, the 
Cathedral of St. John the Divine, will when completed be one of the three 
or four largest cathedrals of Christendom. (Statistics purporting to give it 
exact rank, whether as "first in the world" or something else, are not really 


decisive and must be interpreted with care. ) The fervor that has gone into 
raising this immense structure has a heavily intellectual cast, delighting 
those scholars who like to watch the solution of an intricate problem in 
Gothic, a problem which the architect set himself not as a copyist but as if 
he were a Gothic architect working in medieval times. 

A church preeminent for a still different reason is the Riverside Church, 
in the building of which John D. Rockefeller was heavily interested. 
Though the Gothic architecture of this high-towered steel- skeleton pile has 
excited no great critical approbation, there are certainly no Gothic vaults 
and pointed windows in existence anywhere that house so complex a set of 
facilities of a social-service nature. The building is an architectural tour de 
force putting the Gothic libraries and gymnasiums of our colleges to 
shame, by incorporating the essential facilities of them all. 

Among Jewish synagogues, the outstanding example is the richly exe 
cuted Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue, by Butler, Stein and Kohn ; the 
outstanding "modern" church to date is the First Swedish Baptist Church 
on East Sixty-First Street, by Martin Hedmark. The single district, how 
ever, that is most rewarding to the connoisseur of church architecture is 
Brooklyn Heights. Here, within walking distance of one another, are 
churches of great interest and widely varying type. At one end is Plymouth 
Church, made famous by Henry Ward Beecher. Though designed in "con 
gregational" fashion by an amateur committee, with an exterior somewhat 
barn- like, this building makes a deep impression by its "meeting-house" 
character: sunlit, chaste, democratic and withal graceful. The region 
abounds in interesting Gothic Revival churches, such as Grace Church. 
One other church building on the Heights must be launched at last into 
architectural history the modest Church of the Pilgrims. Designed by the 
well-known architect Richard Upjohn in a manner very unusual to him, 
and built with extreme simplicity in fieldstone, this church has been 
obliged to wait for both the classical and the Gothic Revival to lose their 
force before being recognized as a remarkable precursor of the tendencies 
we now call "modern." Unfortunately, poverty has already lost for this 
church its former graceful steeple. 


New York is a city of big hotels. Nothing is left of the famous hos- 
telries that once marked lower Broadway, and perhaps the only house that 
recalls the orderly and quiet style in which the best of them were built is 


the Brevoort, on lower Fifth Avenue. Midway between the Brevoort and 
the modern hotels in respect to period is the Chelsea Hotel on Twenty- 
Third Street, with its picturesque tiers of balconies against a Victorian red 
brick front. More characteristic of the country-wide type of modern hotel 
are the Pennsylvania, the Commodore, and the Roosevelt, built around a 
system of long corridors running through a main building slab and its 
series of wings projecting at a right angle. 

What might be called the typical New York hotel is the hotel in a 
tower. This tower may take the shape of a broad truncated pyramid with 
intricate and interesting setbacks, like the New Yorker, or it may rise 
sheer, like the Savoy-Plaza, the Sherry-Netherland, and the Pierre, a 
stately group of big hotels at the Central Park Plaza. The older Plaza Hotel 
in the same setting is a fine example of relative restraint exercised upon the 
florid baroquish hotel style of the turn of the century. 

Twin towers are to be found not only along the western boundary of 
Central Park but in the most modern and perhaps the most pretentious of 
all hotels in New York, the Waldorf-Astoria. This edifice, apart from its 
lavish appointments, has interest as an engineering feat, since it spans the 
tracks of the New York Central, and makes use of this fact to furnish the 
Waldorf guests with private railroad sidings. The problem of carrying a 
frame down through the track tunnel and still insulating the building 
against vibration was a formidable one. It calls to mind that all the big 
hotels have to solve still another spanning problem, of which the general 
public is quite unaware. Over the ceilings of the large lobbies and dining 
rooms of the first floors lies the enormous weight of floor after floor of 
small rooms up above, with the result that the trusses over these first-floor 
ceilings are colossal. 

''Genteel Houses" of the Middle Class 

Architectural histories have generally dealt with the living quarters of 
only those New Yorkers who occupied houses very imposing or very old. 
As a matter of fact, such structures have formed but a small part of the 
living accommodations of New Yorkers, and the really fascinating story 
lies elsewhere. It is easily possible to find houses that trace a complete 
cycle of domestic evolution, beginning more than a century ago and con 
cerning the great middle class. 

Though the oldest of these houses are to be found on Cherry Street, 
where they were built very early in the i9th century, the largest number 


survive in Greenwich Village. Here is to be found a special type of early- 
New York residence of the highest excellence, one that Fenimore Cooper 
referred to as "a species of second-rate genteel houses that abound in 
New York, into which I have looked in passing with utmost pleasure." It 
is a house two stories high, with an attic under the pitched roof above, 
which had two or very rarely three dormers; the frontage is only ex 
ceptionally more than 20 feet, but almost never less. As originally con 
structed by mechanics working from manuals rather than from architects' 
plans, this house sat behind a tidy wrought-iron fence, and showed the 
street a face of bright red brick above a basement of brownstone or occa 
sionally marble. The details are exceedingly simple. The windows are 
under plain stone lintels; but the doorways, though always chaste, show 
considerable spirited variety in the handling of classic details. These door 
ways always have some form of transom light, sometimes a fan-light, in 
addition to side-lights, giving an effect of bright welcome and insuring 
a well-lighted hall. The main doorway is always reached by a stoop; and 
this is important, for it relates to one of the most practical house-plans 
for a modestly comfortable scheme of life ever adopted throughout large 
areas of a city. 

The stoop was important because it neatly separated the formal en 
trance from the service or basement entrance, permitting the living quar 
ters in a highly practical way to occupy two floors, while the whole house 
could be kept only two rooms deep. The apparently simple arrangement 
of these straightforward houses of the i82o's is remarkable chiefly be 
cause, after more than a century, persons of modest means in New York 
are once more beginning to dream of living in new houses with every 
window freely open to unobstructed light, instead of facing a narrow 
alley or a "light shaft." The principle of city dwellings only two rooms 
deep, which a hundred years ago was taken as a matter of course, has be 
come an "idealistic" demand of modern housing. 

The basement of these old houses was a pleasant affair looking out on 
the small planted court in front and the garden in the rear. These base 
ments are still considered desirable now that most of the houses are used 
as small apartments. In the original scheme, the front room of this base 
ment was either the dining room or the family living room (in the latter 
case the dining room was upstairs) ; while the kitchen was always to the 
rear, deliveries being made through the side-hall. Guests could come up 
the stoop and be properly received in the upper hall and in the "draw 
ing room" that opened from it, the latter being usually connected with 


the rear room by a wide doorway. The upper floors contained front and 
rear bedrooms, with sometimes a third hall bedroom at the head of the 
stairs. A simplifying factor was the total absence in the house of bath 
rooms; the "temples of Cloacina" were balanced at the two rear corners 
of the lot. Even the stairway in the house we have described was pleasant, 
for it began well back and had its own window at the landing. 

Speaking of these houses, Montgomery Schuyler said: "They were 
more than decent; they were 'elegant.' The adjective cannot be applied to 
the contemporary small houses of Philadelphia or Boston. They were de 
cent, in the one case with a Quakerish simplicity, in the other with a 
Puritanic bleakness; but they were decidedly not elegant." Schuyler con 
sidered that a large part of the charm of the New York houses came from 
the visible roof and the dormers ; but both these features tended gradually 
to be suppressed as the century progressed, until in the 1840'$ the full- 
fledged Greek revival demanded that the roof be concealed behind a 

The Brownstone Front 

The change to a cornice, and incidentally to greater severity of line, 
brought gradual deterioration ; for the cornice was most frequently of tin, 
opening the way to the horrors of the brownstone and parvenu periods. 
Nevertheless, the first corniced houses, scattered examples of which may 
be seen on some of the streets opening westward from Seventh Avenue 
below Tenth Street, were chaste and dignified. 

More ominous than the tin cornice was the concurrent shrinkage of the 
house front. It is no accident that the charming small dormered houses 
are still chiefly found in the irregular streets of Greenwich Village. When 
the planning commission of 180711 made the standard New York lot 
100 feet deep, it unwittingly struck a mortal blow at the comfort of the 
merchant or professional man who had been paying a rental of from $300 
to $500 a year for his small house. Land became too expensive, and the 
only way out was to build houses with a narrower frontage. Contracted 
in width, the house required greater depth, with the result that the brown- 
stone and other later individual city houses, even of the well-to-do, pos 
sessed an interior not only cavernous but wastefully arranged. As Lewis 
Mumford points out in his book, The Brown Decades, not even the stone 
itself was suitable for the use to which it was put. In the earlier houses 
it had been employed structurally in basements, and occasionally as 


bonding stones in the brick walls above ; but now it was used as a veneer 
to conceal the real structural facts behind a smooth and slick facade. The 
grain of the stone now went the wrong way, and it frequently spalled ; so 
that a coat of stucco was often added by later builders over the stone. 

This type of house, as Schuyler points out, still retained one virtue that 
later individual houses built by private owners were to lose. The brown- 
stone fronts were speculatively built in large groups, and they had a saving 
monotony. Since there was no excellence to show, this lack of asser- 
tiveness was a positive virtue. But the later private builder, when he em 
ployed an architect of his own, endeavored to give his dream-castle a 
degree of distinction that would knock out all the rest of the street. Hence 
the fist-fights and shoulder-turnings of turrets against loggias, and loggias 
against cornices. 

To dwell on this combat would be tempting, were it not for the fact 
that our original New York average professional man or merchant had in 
the meantime fled. He could afford neither an architect nor his own four- 
story house, whether brownstone or any other. So he took the new elevated 
railway to the outlying districts of the Bronx, or the ferries to New Jersey ; 
or he helped to fulfill John Roebling's prophecies about the heavy use of 
the Brooklyn Bridge; or he began living in Manhattan in a new type of 
dwelling the flat. 

Homes of Today 

Since that time the average New Yorker's solutions to his problem have 
provided little to brag about. For some reason, owning one's own home in the 
outlying regions no longer permitted the owner to build compactly up to 
his neighbor, as had been done when the "outlying region" was still 
Greenwich Village. Every individual home had to be free-standing, with 
its own driveway, its own row of windows looking into the neighbors' in 
stead of facing on the street and yard; later every home needed its own 
garage. Only when limited-dividend corporations undertook large-scale 
operations was it possible to build, on modern terms, something approach 
ing in both layout and amenities the little "genteel houses" of which 
Cooper spoke. At Sunnyside, Long Island, was set the leading example; 
the houses were joined end to end, only two rooms deep; the wasteful 
driveways and individual garages were eliminated, making way for con 
tinuous garden space and park ; in addition, since this is a noisy automobile 
age, very different from the age of carriages, a beginning was made toward 


turning the face of the houses away from the street. The later develop 
ments at Hillside and under the PWA will be discussed in the separate 
article on housing. 

Attention has been concentrated here upon the homes of the middle 
class, because unfortunately a discussion of past and present dwellings for 
the great mass of the city's workers would deal not with architecture but 
with its negations. New York had a desperate housing problem as early as 
1820; the problem remains a desperate one as this book goes to press; 
and as such is dealt with in a separate article. 

The rich, too, have been obliged to adapt themselves to the high value 
of land. The fine homes that used to line Fifth Avenue have been fight 
ing a losing battle for survival against the great apartment and office build 
ings. Only one of the original Vanderbilt houses now remains; the most 
famous, the best known work of the architect Richard M. Hunt, dis 
appeared long ago. On Madison Avenue at Fiftieth Street, the old Villard 
Mansion stands in gloomy isolation, the design of its windows still boldly 
declaring its free derivation by the architects, McKim, Mead & White, 
from the Renaissance Cancelleria Palace in Rome. The wealthy have found 
it more convenient, on the whole, to live in great roomy country man 
sions on Long Island, and to camp, as it were, in New York. Though the 
city contains large areas of "blighted" districts bringing no return to their 
owners, the difficulty of assembling a sufficient number of plots to secure 
spacious layouts for the wealthy is still apparently greater than the diffi 
culty of coping with traffic problems to reach spaciousness at some distance 
from the center. 

Within the city, there exists a situation perhaps unique in the United 
States namely, that rich and poor rub elbows, and an address indicates 
little or nothing concerning social status. As one after another of the older 
fashionable districts has lost its social standing, its occupants have moved 
restlessly about to new locations ; and of these, some of the most available 
have been surrounded by slums. The most dramatic of such contrasts is 
the one chosen by Sidney Kingsley for his play Dead End, supposedly 
inspired by the famous River House at the foot of East Fifty-Second Street, 
with private yacht landings for its wealthy tenants, in an environment of 
old-law tenements. The most imposing group of fashionable apartment 
houses fronts on Park Avenue, the so-called "gold-diggers lane" a double 
line of vast boxes conservatively designed ; while a late development is the 
special type of Bronx apartments lining the Grand Concourse, none being 
in the fashion of the day unless equipped with "corner windows." 



One glance at almost any rental plan for one of the more expensive 
apartment buildings will show why the real fascination of this type as an 
architectural problem lies not so much in the fagades as in the planning. 
Within the one external cube there must be all sorts of irregular accommo 
dations. Apartments vary considerably in the number of rooms to be pro 
vided on a single floor. But this is only a beginning. Apartments can also 
embrace two or more floors and use their own interior stairs. Moreover, the 
chief room can be two stories high. The result is a three-dimensional fit 
ting together of irregular units that puts the average Chinese puzzle in the 
shade. The irregularity is perforce mirrored in the disposition of the 

Many wealthy districts are solidly built with almost no provision for 
outside light and air, and have been scorned by reformers as "super- 
slums." Life for the occupants is not too rigorous, however, since they are 
rarely at home, and since they enjoy the benefits of such improvements as 
sun-lamps and air-conditioning. The latter puts a strain on the city water 
supply; indeed the whole business could be managed more simply by less 
crowded use of what is now idle blighted land. But simple answers have 
no appeal for the "sophisticated" New Yorker. 

Rockefeller Center 

Every city has some outstanding monument that characterizes it in the 
eyes of the world. For New York, perhaps the most appropriate expres 
sion is found in Rockefeller Center. Anyone viewing this great complex 
is aware of a departure in architecture from long accepted tenets not only 
of construction but of esthetics. In the great knife-like prow and cliff-like 
side of the R. C. A. Building there is no easy flowing harmony. This 
mass that dominates the whole development typifies, on the contrary, the 
suddenness, the brutality, the overpowering scale of New York. The 
building seems almost to have been forced upward by pressure from both 
sides. The "Channel" through which it is approached is no wide avenue 
but an enlarged fissure. In the whole group there is the squareness, the 
blockiness, of a project that means business. At night, when the Center 
takes on a certain softness, its taller elements losing themselves in envelop 
ing mist, there is some semblance of an Egyptian calm; in daylight this 
effect is instantly dispelled. The proportions are not classic. Their play 
against one another is restless. From certain angles, the jagged rhythm of 
the buildings appears to endow them with motion. In minor details, such 


as the grouping of windows, there is a certain harshness; the harmony is 
only occasionally resolved. The light blue and gray tone of the buildings, 
derived from the combined effect of limestone and aluminum in the walls 
and the color of the window shades, is cool and aloof. In the few places 
where it is permitted, the ornament is fragile and sentimental; and the 
sculpture in general can scarcely be said to have reached emotional maturity. 

Apart from its physical form, the economic organization of Rockefeller 
Center is expressive of New York. It sucks tenants out of a large area 
of smaller obsolescent buildings into one close-packed super-center. More 
over, it is an organization of amazing complexity, a city in miniature, 
where a tenant need not leave the premises in order to see the latest first- 
run movies, or buy a complete outfit of clothing, or study the newest 
manifestations of art and science, or engage passage to foreign countries 
with visas to match. 

The complexity of the endeavor is mirrored in the architectural forms. 
Everywhere one senses that the architects struggled to do their best with 
problems just a little too big for complete mastery. Hence, pieces of work 
that are the flattest kind of failure stand next to fragments brilliantly 
successful. Thus, although the foyer of the Music Hall contains what is 
probably the largest and emptiest mural in the world, the auditorium with 
its vast arched and banded ceiling is a conception of great daring carried 
through to a stunning effect. 

In its way, the Center is an effort to reduce New York to order, still 
keeping it New York. The Center retains the gigantism, the ruthless prey 
ing of the large upon the small, the close packing, the impersonality of 
the whole; and yet attempts to secure sunlight and air (at least for itself), 
pleasant promenades, gardens (with Hollywood costumes for the attend 
ants), art, a sense of scale and drama, and such other pleasures as the 
metropolis can afford. 


Program Notes 

IT is always a bit hazardous, in any period of transition such as we are 
passing through today, to attempt to fix the musical character of a city, 
either from what has gone before or from what may be happening at the 
moment. New York is a sovereign case. What shall we say about it with 
out seeming to say too much or too little ? One thing is reasonably certain. 
The many and diverse elements in New York's musical caldron have been 
seething too long not to have fused at last into an amalgam having recog 
nizable qualities and characteristics. The consideration that, in a single 
afternoon or evening, performances are given over to such diverse forms 
of expression as opera, swing, symphony and chamber music, oratorio and 
madrigal singing, vocal and instrumental recitals, need not cloud the issue. 
Out of all the sound and fury, the clash of credos orthodox and unortho 
dox, the invasion of schools foreign and domestic, it should yet be pos 
sible to distinguish signs of the genuinely indigenous and collective voice 
of New York. 

The beginnings of music in the city can be traced back to the liturgies 
brought over by the early Dutch settlers, but records on the subject are 
scant. These practical and hardy pioneers were undoubtedly more tolerant 
than the Puritans, who believed music was not something to be enjoyed 
for itself, but was rather an adornment to religious services. What little 
secular music flourished at the time (confined for the most part to street 
tunes and romantic ballads) was commonly frowned upon, by and large, 
as worldly and unworthy, even when it bore the Continental tag. This was 
not, it is only fair to add, an exclusively Colonial attitude. The same feel 
ing about secular music obtained abroad, where composers of the day were 
devoting their best talents to the service and glorification of the church, 
creating a wealth of oratorios, canons, motets and anthems. 

Music proper that is to say, music divorced from its role as hand 
maiden to the church or as an interlude to dramatic skits, music com 
posed and listened to for its own sake may be said to date in New York 



from an event known as Pachelbel's Recital, which occurred on January 
21, 1736, at the home of one Robert Todd, vintner. It was a concert for 
the benefit of Charles Theodore Pachelbel, a German organist, who came 
to New York from Boston, and who, on this occasion, played the harpsi 
chord part. No other musical event of any importance is recorded until 
April 30, 1750, when John Gay's ballad divertissement, The Beggar's 
Opera, with music by John Christopher Pepusch, was presented at the 
Nassau Street Theater, with an orchestra supplied by the British Military 
Band (the British military, by the way, directed at this time most of the 
secular musical activities in the city). This event, too, seems to have been 
a seed cast on stony ground, for not until a score of years afterward do 
the records begin to indicate musical events of more or less regular fre 
quency, and an audience that could be depended upon to support them. 

The earliest figures in the field of local music, pioneers whose work 
as composers, performers, or conductors is identified with New York, are 
Francis Hopkinson, James Hewitt, James Lyon, William Tuckey, John 
Henry Schmidt, Gottlieb Graupner to mention only the more prominent. 
All of them leaned heavily on traditional forms and ready-to-hand sub 
ject matter, though they made brave if ineffectual attempts at originality. 
It took courage in those days to deal with one's own background, for any 
thing native in art was considered of dubious worth and rather a presump 
tion. But men like Hopkinson and Hewitt managed to make themselves 
not merely heard but also respected ; and in some measure they helped to 
break down a little of the prejudice (which still persists in some quarters) 
against both native and contemporary music. 

Hewitt's fame rests largely on his Clementian piano sonata, The Battle 
of Trenton (1792). Grove also credits him with the ballad opera, Tam 
many (1794). The date and title of the "first" American ballad opera are 
matters of some dispute. John Tasker Howard goes so far as to suggest 
that ballad operas were probably performed in New York from 1732 on. 
In any case, it is fairly certain that Hewitt collaborated with William 
Dunlap on Pizarro, which was given a New York hearing in 1800. Four 
years earlier, Dunlap had worked with Benjamin Carr on The Archers of 
Switzerland (1796) and with Victor Pellisier on the score of The Vintage 

( I 799)- 

To Hopkinson, a Philadelphian by birth, friend of Washington and 
signer of the Declaration of Independence, belongs the distinction of 
having written, when he was only twenty-two, the first secular musical 
composition of native origin to be published in America, a song called 


My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free (1759). In addition, Hopkinson 
composed O'er the Hills, for tenor and harpsichord, a very popular piece 
in its time; and the Washington March, which was played whenever the 
President and his family appeared publicly. Hewitt later converted this 
march into the New York Patriotic Song, which enjoyed a vogue. 

Lyon, whose compositions were mostly anthems and hymns, is another 
contender for the title of "America's first composer." Tuckey is known 
chiefly for having directed the earliest American performance of Handel's 
Messiah in 1770, two years before it was heard in Germany. Graupner's 
contributions to the technique of the popular concert were made mostly 
in Charleston and Boston. He is often referred to as the "father of Amer 
ican orchestral music." 

But audiences of the post-Revolutionary era still lacked a proper under 
standing of musical values. They sought quantitative rather than qualita 
tive programs, and there arose virtuosos fully prepared to meet that de 
mand. A tenor of the day, one Signer de Begnis, announced that he would 
sing, at a forthcoming concert, "six hundred words and three hundred 
bars of music in the short space of four minutes." 

Music in New York first began to assume a serious character with the 
forming of musical societies. The initial attempt in this direction goes 
back to 1773-4, w ^ tn tne founding of the Harmonic Society, which fol 
lowed the lead set by the Orpheus Club in Philadelphia (1759). Others 
in New York were the Musical Society (1788), the St. Cecilia Society and 
the Apollo Society (1791), the Uranian Society (1793) and the Euterpean 
Society (1799). Apart from the artistic and financial value that these pio 
neer musical organizations had for their own members, they were impor 
tant in spreading the gospel of good music by sponsoring concerts and 
creating audiences. The foremost orchestras of that day generally com 
prised an ensemble of not more than 25 instruments, but even so they 
were sufficient to acquaint New Yorkers with the compositions of Bach, 
Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and occasionally also, as a concession, Hewitt 
and Hopkinson. By 1819 New York boasted a musical audience large 
enough and dependable enough to support entertainment of a substantial 
order. Accordingly, preparations were made for the presentation of grand 
opera. Rossini's Barber of Seville was the first given (1821). It was fol 
lowed in 1823 by Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, and two years later by 
Von Weber's Der Freischiitz. All these were sung in English. The first 
grand opera to be presented in the original tongue was probably The 
Barber of Seville. The event occurred at the new Park Theater in 1825, 


with the celebrated Garcia family (Manuel and his two daughters, Maria 
Malibran and Mme. Viardot) heading the cast. 

The success of these presentations encouraged an influx of Italian with 
some French and German operas, mainly through the efforts of Lorenzo 
da Ponte, Mozart's librettist, a celebrated adventurer who was possessed 
by the dream of a permanent opera in New York with himself as chief 
librettist. He pinned his hopes at first on Garcia, who had brought the 
original Italian opera company to New York in 1825. Later he turned to 
Montressor's Richmond Hill Theater, where Signorina Pedrotti was the 
current attraction. She had taken the place of Maria Malibran (heroine 
of a modern opera by Robert Russell Bennett and Robert A. Simon), who 
had deserted the American musical stage for Europe. Thirty-five perform 
ances were enough to convince all concerned that the experiment was a 
failure; but Da Ponte, still persisting in his plan, decided that the only 
solution was a theater especially built for opera. His tenacity resulted in 
the elegant and lavish Italian Opera House, the first theater to "boast a 
tier composed exclusively of boxes." Rossini's La Gazza ladra, with Signo 
rina Fanti as prima donna, occupied the stage on opening night. This time 
two seasons went by before Da Ponte realized the futility of his endeavors 
in the New York operatic field. 

Max Maretzek, cited in Arditi's memoirs as the cleverest of all impre 
sarios, began his American career at Palmo's, which opened in 1844 with 
Bellini's / Puritani, In the cast were Borghese, the prima donna, and An- 
tognini, mentioned by a contemporary critic as the greatest tenor ever 
heard in New York. During Maretzek's regime at Palmo's and later at 
the Astor Place Opera House, a long list of great singers performed under 
him: Pedrotti, Fanti, Caredori, Grisi, Mario ("for a generation afterward 
all tenors were measured by Mario's standard"), Sontag, Jenny Lind, Al- 
boni, and Salvi. 

Most of this constellation passed over to the Academy of Music when 
the latter was founded in 1854, to be joined subsequently by Patti, Vest- 
vali, Badiali, Amodio, Brignoli, Lagrange, Mirate, D'Angri, Piccolomini, 
Nilsson, Lucca, Albani, Gerster, Maurel and Campanini. Many American 
singers who began to appear in opera for the first time scored their initial 
successes at the Academy. Among these were persons whose glamor en 
dured as long as the generations of opera lovers who thrilled to their 
voices were alive: Clara Louise Kellogg, Annie Louise Gary, Minnie 
Hauk, Alwina Valleria, Emma Nevada, Lillian Nordica, Adelaide Phil- 


lipps and Josephine Yorke, all of whom made later successes in the opera 
houses of England, France, Germany and Italy. 

The Academy's star began to set when the Metropolitan Opera House 
was opened in 1883. The Metropolitan is, of course, the outstanding name 
in the long history of New York opera. Krehbiel, the eminent critic, at 
tributes its founding to social rather than artistic impulses; and this is 
confirmed by the fact that the Academy had everything requisite for opera 
except the genteel sufficiency of boxes necessary to take care of the rapidly 
expanding moneyed classes in New York, to whom a box at the opera 
was the symbol of social success. Henry Abbey was first in the long roster 
of the Metropolitan's great impresarios; he staged Italian opera the first 
year to the tune of a $600,000 loss. The next year, Leopold Damrosch 
persuaded the directors that the way to success lay in the presentation of 
German opera. 

Except for a brief interregnum, again under Abbey, this second period 
showed the mark of Damrosch's "fatalistic belief in Wagner opera." 
Anton Seidl, who had been associated with Wagner as a young man, was 
looked upon as the Wagnerian "prophet, priest and paladin." Great stars 
in the operatic firmament under the new dispensation were Amalia Ma- 
terna (who had participated in the Wagner festivals at Bayreuth since 
their inception in 1876), Marianne Brandt, Mile. Schroeder-Hanfstangl, 
Frau Auguste Seidl-Kraus, Anton Schott, Jean de Reszke, Emma Eames, 
Katharina Klafsky, Milka Ternia, Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Lilli Leh- 
mann, Emil Fischer, Ernest van Dyck, Anton van Rooy and Albert Nie- 
mann. Caruso's acquisition in 1903, engineered by Conried the impre 
sario, and the signing of Gustav Mahler, who became conductor of German 
opera in 1907, were other milestones in the history of the Metropolitan. 

There have been many lesser shrines, notably Pike's Opera House 
(1868), which became the Grand Opera House when it was taken over 
by Jay Gould and Jim Fisk in 1869. Oscar Hammerstein entered the field 
twice, in 1892 and again in 1910, with two separate Manhattan Opera 
Houses. In 1913-15 an energetic effort was made to establish a new 
rallying-point in the Century Opera House. Italian, German, French, Rus 
sian and American opera companies also invaded the scene at various 
times; but though a number of them were competent and worthy of sur 
viving, they were all short-lived. There have been recent ventures of opera 
at the Hippodrome and elsewhere in the city, sponsored by rival companies, 
but the Metropolitan remains, today as formerly, in full possession of the 


While opera was thus becoming established, the musical organizations, 
all active but none too prosperous or effective, were casting about to pool 
their interests and identities. In 1842, under the inspiration and leadership 
of Ureli C. Hill, a Connecticut Yankee, a merger was accomplished. The 
name chosen was the Philharmonic Society of New York. This organiza 
tion, which merged with the National Symphony in 1921 and combined 
with the New York Symphony in 1928, functions today as the Philhar 
monic Symphony Society of New York, the oldest and most justly cele 
brated of the city's orchestral organizations. 

However, the prejudice against native compositions, soloists and themes 
still persisted. The music-publishing houses found a very limited market 
for domestic wares, and the orchestras maintained that they could hold 
their audiences only when they featured the classic European masters. 
Even the Philharmonic accepted native works only on condition that the 
Board of Governors approved them, and about one native composition a 
season was the maximum presented. 

This prejudice was not limited to music: it obtained in practically all 
the arts. Provincialism was a stubborn root and hard to eradicate. Here 
and there attempts were made at promoting native productions, but with 
indifferent success. On September 27, 1850, New York heard its first 
homespun opera, Rip van Winkle, composed by George F. Bristow, the 
Philharmonic's first violinist for 30 years. American Indian, Negro and 
local compositions were also making some headway. The Civil War, in 
particular, gave impetus to the Negro spirituals, the war songs of Henry 
C. Work and George F. Root, and the Stephen Foster songs Swanee 
River, My Old Kentucky Home and the rest. But all this was a cry in the 

A great step forward was taken in 1864 when Theodore Thomas, a 
conspicuous figure in the musical life of his day, inaugurated orchestral 
concerts at Irving Hall. Conducting in America before Thomas' advent 
was rather a haphazard affair, although in Europe Berlioz already had 
perfected a conducting technique. Thomas with Leopold Damrosch, who 
was adding to his European achievement by organizing the Symphonic 
Society was the first in New York to turn conducting into an art and 
a profession. These two men and Berlioz are regarded as the chief fore 
runners of the great symphonic conductors of our own day. 

With the founding by Leopold Damrosch in 1874 of the Oratorio So 
ciety; with the introduction in 1879 of the first Gilbert and Sullivan light 
operas; with the grand music festival celebrations in 1881, when Berlioz' 


Requiem, excerpts from Wagner's Die Meister singer, and Beethoven's 
Ninth Symphony were given by an orchestra of 250 pieces and a chorus 
of 200; with the start of the Wagnerian music dramas at the Metropoli 
tan in 1884 (though Tannhauser had a hearing as far back as 1859 at the 
Stadt Theater) ; and with the building in 1891 of Carnegie Hall, at first 
known as Music Hall (the occasion marking Tschaikovsky's first appear 
ance in America) with these events music in New York may be said to 
have passed definitely out of the experimental or provincial stage. 

The prejudice against living talent was still strong, however. The ad 
vent of such conspicuous native composers as Edward MacDowell, Henry 
K. Hadley, Rubin Goldmark, Daniel Gregory and Charles T. GrifTes 
should supposedly have left no doubt in the minds of our people that the 
American composer really had something to say and that what he had to 
say was eminently worth listening to. But prejudice, stronger than convic 
tion, continued to hold its own. 

After the Spanish-American War and the turn of the century, New 
York, because of its financial preeminence, became a kind of world clear 
ing house for music and performing musicians and ensembles. Experiments 
at the Manhattan Opera House, the Kneisel Quartette, the foreign opera 
ventures, the Beethoven Society, the Mendelssohn Glee Club, the Flonzaley 
Quartette, all flourished. The accent, however, was on money rather than 
on music. This "gold standard" provided a dangerous basis for artistic 
values. Tempting sums brought the greatest singers, dancers, instrumen 
talists in a mad scramble to America's shores. New York, the new Eldo 
rado, witnessed as a consequence an unbroken pageantry of front-rank 
musical talent, such as it had never known before: Kubelik, Ysaye, Thi- 
baud, the De Reszkes, Paderewski, McCormack, Melba, Casals, Kreisler, 
Caruso; from La Scala came Toscanini and Gatti-Casazza, the one as or 
chestral conductor, the other as managing director, of the Metropolitan 
Opera. But concurrent with the coming to New York of all these distin 
guished foreigners was the gradual elevation to stellar rank of our own 
divas and virtuosos: Victor Just, Maud Powell, Horace Britt, Albert 
Spalding, Guy Maier, Lillian Nordica, Leon Barzin, Louise Homer, Marie 
Rappold, Geraldine Farrar, Clarence Whitehill, Reinald Werrenrath and 

The World War, which confirmed New York's position as the premier 
power in the international money marts, also decisively established its pre 
eminence as patron of music. The Jazz Age, following close upon the 
war, brought into sharp relief all the vernacular influences Negro spirit- 


uals, blues, hot music and work songs; military, circus and Broadway 
night-club bands ; hillbilly and Western ballads that had been animating 
and shaping our musical idioms and trends since the Civil War. Jazz was 
and is in its later metamorphoses a definite contribution to American 
folk music; its value lies not so much in the usually trivial or derivative 
songs and compositions written for it, as in its assertion of the principle 
of free improvisation, a principle that has developed instrumentalists of 
remarkable technical dexterity and considerable creative resource. But in 
the early 1920'$ it constituted a challenge to the future of American for 
mal music. Out of jazz and the other folk idioms, a group of young mod 
ern composers in the 1920'$ and later (George Gershwin, Leo Ornstein, 
Robert Russell Bennett, Randall Thompson, Deems Taylor, Werner Jans- 
sen, Samuel Barber, Roy Harris, Roger Sessions, Walter Piston, Aaron 
Copland) adapted whatever elements they found useful in creating new 
patterns for a native American music in the classical mediums sympho 
nies, concertos, operas, tone poems. Today, among others, Alec Temple- 
ton, the English composer-pianist, and Robert McBride, a young composer 
from the West, are experimenting with the jazz idiom as a primary mu 
sical structure, sometimes with brilliant effectiveness. 

In other directions the war also caused considerable confusion in mu 
sical values. But it accomplished one thing at least it focused attention 
on talent flowering in America. More than that, it stressed the need of 
actively encouraging that talent and of securing to it an adequate monetary 
return. In time, as an answer to the first need, there were established 
foundations (Juilliard) ; scholarships (Naumburg, Schubert Memorial, 
Philharmonic) ; awards (Guggenheim, Pulitzer, National Broadcasting 
Company). In answer to the second need, a host of musical organizations 
sprang into being. Among the most active are the American Guild of 
Musical Artists, the National Federation of Music Clubs, the National 
Music League, the League of Composers, the American Society of Com 
posers, Authors and Publishers, the American Music Alliance, the Amer 
ican Guild of Organists, and (most recent of all) the Affiliated Grand 
Rights Association. 

The post-war era brought with it radio, community concerts and the 
revival of song festivals, music in the films, the popularization of outdoor 
summer concerts and national "music weeks." These have democratized 
music by making it available in every village and farmhouse in the coun 
try. Radio, with its numerous excellent programs, its scope and variety, its 
incomparable facilities for reproduction, has earned the lion's share of 


credit for this result in terms of audience. The democratization of the con 
trol of music was not an overnight phenomenon. Throughout the years 
various orchestral, vocal, and even purely philanthropic organizations 
sought to bring music and the people closer together, by way of free or 
low-priced admissions to concerts, free instruction in schools and settle 
ments. The Mendelssohn Glee Club, the music federations, the MacDowell 
Chorus (which became, in 1912, the Schola Cantorum) helped consider 
ably toward that end. But these were individual, isolated, and for the most 
part fugitive attempts. What was needed was a concerted and sustained 
effort, backed by a powerful agency and directed by musicians with a 
strong social consciousness. All this was inherent in the establishment of 
the Federal Music Project of the Works Progress Administration. Almost 
before anyone was aware of what had happened, the direction of the coun 
try's musical destinies, controlled heretofore by a relatively small group 
of directors and patrons, was transferred to the people. The significance 
of this change, this musical coup d'etat, may be summed up by saying that, 
as a result of it, music today is no longer caviar for the privileged few but 
meat and drink for the millions. And these millions are not merely passive 
listeners they are active participants. They go to music with a will and 
an open mind; they come away from it as from a service in which they 
have had a part. An art that began as part of a communal service is once 
more serving the community. 

The activities of the Federal Music Project in New York are extensive. 
From December 1935 to November 1937, the Concert Division and the 
Music Education Unit of the project gave 6,971 concerts to an aggregate 
audience of 4,903,458 and made 4,010 radio broadcasts. The perform 
ances, most of them free, were held at more than 350 churches, museums, 
public libraries, parks, etc., in the five boroughs. The project also pre 
sented 147 paid concerts to an aggregate audience of 75,417 at the Fed 
eral Music Theatre in 1937. The Music Education Unit, composed of two 
sub-projects, (i) the Teaching of Music and Music Appreciation and (2) 
the Recital Division, instructed thousands of New Yorkers in 36 music 
subjects ranging from piano tuning to musical therapy. During 1935-7 
there was a total attendance of 4,029,069 at 267,312 classes held in 150 
centers. The unit sponsored 2,028 extra-curricular activities (student con 
certs, operettas, recitals, etc.) that drew an attendance of 228,791. The 
Recital Division has n groups of performers. 

As for the American composer, his day seems also to have arrived at 
last. Through the WPA Composers' Forum-Laboratory, a device perfected 


by Ashley Pettis, entire evenings are given over to the presentation of a 
single composer's works. On such occasions, the composer himself is re 
quired to be present to answer questions put to him by the audience. If 
the compositions performed find favor, the bay and laurel are his ; other 
wise he must be prepared to take the consequences. This immediate judg 
ment is, of course, not final, nor is it meant to be. Besides the Composers' 
Forum-Laboratory, there is the opportunity offered by WPA orchestras all 
over the country, which are eagerly receptive to native talent. Their pro 
grams have included the work of such Americans as Copland, Hadley, 
Goldmark, Chadwick, Mabel Daniels, Roy Harris, Daniel Gregory Mason, 
Edgar Stillman-Kelley, Charles Wakefield Cadman, Quincy Porter, John 
K. Paine and others. 


Folk Tune to Swing 

Vv HEN the old Academy of Music was being razed in 1926 to make way 
for the Consolidated Gas Company building, there was a feast of remi 
niscence in the metropolitan press. Tony Pastor's, formerly in the same 
block, got almost as much space as its more dignified neighbor. The names 
of great concert stars who had appeared at the Academy shared the fading 
limelight with Weber and Fields Helene Mora, the female baritone, 
who helped to popularize Harry Kennedy's Say Au Revoir But Not Good 
bye and sang it at the composer's funeral; and the original Pat Rooney, 
with his soft-shoe interpretation of Sweet Rosie O'Grady. This demolition 
was a love feast at which there were few guests. Most of the excavation 
watchers were curious but frankly unaware of the significance of this par 
ticular part of Fourteenth Street at Irving Place. Those who knew best 
what the name of Tony Pastor signified had long since moved on to the 
Tin Pan Alley of the Times Square district. 

With the world's biggest song business well in hand in 1936 Tin Pan 
Alley wrote the nation's songs to the tune of $5,000,000 the metropoli 
tan music manufacturers nevertheless occupy an anomalous position. By 
and large, the products of the Alley are not folk music; nor can they, ex 
cept by the kind of musical chicanery publicized by tune detectives, claim 
relationship with the classical composers. This does not mean that indi 
vidual songwriters lack distinction but simply that the products of the 
Alley, with exceptions to be noted, have followed the trend of popular 
taste a taste dictated less by the will of the people than by the social 
patterns of the time. 

Popular art, in the sense in which we use that term here, is created not 
by the people but for them. The distinction is particularly obvious in the 
case of popular song, which as a rule is musically less distinguished than 
the folk or classical music from which it so often derives. This is not be 
cause popular art of a high standard is impossible but because, by its very 
nature, it rests on the structure of the society in which it exists, reflecting 



in an exaggerated fashion the virtues and weaknesses of that society. In a 
field that has more than its share of the false and the artificial, popular 
song manages to convey, to those who take stock of its limitations, a sur 
prisingly accurate picture of the times and the people. 

We learn from George Stuyvesant Jackson's Early Songs of Uncle Sam 
that such songs were used in 1815 to popularize the issues which divided 
the forces of Thomas Jefferson from those of Alexander Hamilton. These 
verses, for example, celebrate the Jeffersonian point of view: 

Your union's a knot no intrigue can untie, 
A band which the sword of no tyrant can sever; 
Chased by Reason, the shades of Opinion shall fly, 
And the murmurs of faction be silenced forever. 
From the father to son, every blessing you've won 
Unimpair'd to the last generation shall run. 

The same device combines with modern advertising in Those Foolish 
Things Remind Me of You, composed by Jack Strachey, Harry Link and 
Holt Murrell in 1935, to suggest that in that year of grace women smoked 
cigarettes, used lipstick and traveled by airplane to romantic places, the 
probable mingling with the improbable in the process of melodic wish- 
fulfillment in reverse a new variation on the torch song (related to blues 
but limited in its subject matter to the theme of frustrated love). 

Our Tin Pan Alleyites, sponsored for the most part by big business 
(the majority of popular songs today are published by companies under 
control of the large Hollywood film studios), tend to avoid the purely 
political, though a tinsel patriotism is often assumed. Exceptions are rare 
but notable. The Yacht Club Boys, who made their hit at one of the more 
exclusive upper East Side night clubs, poke fun at alphabetic government 
agencies in such a way as to indicate not so much their knowledge of gov 
ernment as their awareness of what will please their special audience. The 
capable composers who scored Modern Times for Charles Chaplin did a 
very fine job of adapting wordless but significant variations on songs by 
Joe Hill, balladist of the Wobblies, and The Prisoner's Song. 

Pianos in the Alley 

There is no better vantage point from which to see the panorama of 
popular music in America than New York's Tin Pan Alley, that shifting 
section now more or less bounded on the north by Fifty-Second Street, the 


swing sector of the Rialto; on the east by Fifth Avenue; on the west by 
Eighth Avenue, which, like Sixth Avenue, flanks Times Square with the 
backstage poverty of pawnshops, rooming houses and small hotels; and 
on the south by Thirty-Eighth Street. The flippant name for the Alley is 
supposed to have had its origin in the offices of a music publisher-com 
poser of the 1890'$. This is possible; but in the Bryant's Minstrels pro 
gram for November 25, 1861, the show is described as a "Grand Tin- 
Pan-O-Ni-On of Pot Pourri." Aside from being a heavily loaded pun, 
this suggests that the Alley need not have waited for a piano with mando 
lin attachment to acquire its name. Today its most famous composers, and 
some of its most capable, spend more time in Hollywood than in New 
York. But New York may still lay claim to most of this music publishing 
business, which has flourished since the earliest days of the Constitution. 
One of the first smash hits of the Revolutionary period was more in the 
nature of an already well-seasoned folksong than what is now called a 
commercial pop tune the intrepid Yankee Doodle, which turned Tory 
derision into democratic pride. 

Though native music was published here so long ago (and occasionally 
even an English importation, such as The Girl I Left Behind Me, attained 
wide popularity), the national song hit was not to become a reality until 
almost 50 years later. Troupes of minstrels did for 1840 what nation-wide 
hook-ups do for the present that is, they made it possible for the song 
hit of the day, more often than not of New York origin, to be sung, 
hummed and whistled simultaneously in diverse parts of the country. 
There is no doubt that in this manner they helped to shape a national pat 
tern of thought, particularly on such compelling subjects as home, mother 
hood and young love. But to trace the moral atmosphere of the i9th cen 
tury to the influence of popular music would be inaccurate. The popular 
music of that era emerges as part of a social pattern. Whatever the crime, 
the guilt of the Alley has never been more than that of aiding and abetting. 

This it has done, with a frankness always surprisingly unabashed. Thus 
more than one sentimental pop tune had an origin as immediate as the 
song's content. In the Baggage Coach Ahead, written by the Negro com 
poser Gussie L. Davis, is said to refer to an actual (and harrowing) inci 
dent ; and the charming Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie, by one of Tin 
Pan Alley's finest melodists, Harry von Tilzer, was inspired by a news 
paper clipping read in the lobby of the Hotel Breslin on a rainy day. 
With a superior knowledge of its technical apparatus, Tin Pan Alley has 
remained faithful to this tender tradition. In the year 1937, for example, 


it promulgated My Cabin of Dreams, Sailboat in the Moonlight, Where 
or When? and That Old Feeling. 

The popular conception of Tin Pan Alley, a conception aided by Holly 
wood and its talent for hyperbole, is still that of an uninhibited mad 
house, with composers and their lyricists in the role of zanies who nail 
the reluctant publisher to a chair while he listens to the year's (unpub 
lished) smash hit. A sober tour of the district, however, is enough to con 
vince anyone that the glamor-and-screwball atmosphere has long been 
concealed behind polite but firm secretaries; executives who, aside from 
their Broadway tastes in haberdashery, might as well be in the cream sepa 
rator business; mahogany desks and, more often than not, photo-murals 
in place of the old-time collection of autographed pictures of stars who 
plugged the firm's songs. Here and there, of course, an office typical of 
the Alley in its halcyon youth can still be found. Here the telephone girl 
reads Variety as she hums one of the firm's numbers; zanies scramble 
hither and thither ; and from innumerable cubbyholes fitted out with anti 
quated uprights come (with or without words) the unpublished and, alas, 
often never-to-be-published smash hits of the season. 

Statistically, the shorter-lived hits of today are written by fewer song 
writers as the new century's downbeat sounds its accent. A closer concen 
tration of the music business, the decline of the sheet music and phono 
graph record industry, and the rise of radio and moving pictures these 
factors augured ill for the many. The lucky few among the nation's song 
writers were rewarded with air-conditioned bungalows in the glamor City 
of Celluloid. The less lucky stay-at-homes obligingly ground out You 
Ought to Be in Pictures and continued to take schnapps with their 
schmaltz (cheaply sentimental sweet music) in the depths of the Fifty- 
Second Street underground. 

The Rise of the Minstrels 

If there is any single factor that encourages a study of chronology in 
popular song, it is the distinction that within a hundred years whatever 
may be the case with America's classical composers songwriters, while 
confined pretty much to the limitations of the popular music field, have 
nevertheless used their source material with a naturalness not possible a 
century ago. Gershwin's Summertime shows that the composer understood 
the richness of theme inherent in American Negro music, and one hardly 
needs to be told that Gershwin felt this music as part of the American 


scene, or that he looked upon Bessie Smith, the blues singer, as a creative 
folk artist. This is a sign for the future. In the past the unassimilated ele 
ments in American popular music were very evident, as was also the indi 
cation of an emergent pattern in which these elements native folk music, 
classical and popular music from abroad were to take their places. 

Almost from the beginning, one of the dominant influences in Amer 
ican popular music has been the folk music of the American Negro, which 
in turn utilized to great advantage the old English folk music, hymns and 
a diversity of other folk sources, particularly in such places as New Or 
leans a port of entry for French, Spanish and Italian emigrants and a 
center of the slave trade from all parts of Africa. Old Zip Coon (now 
known as Turkey in the Straw) was adapted from Negro folk music for 
the burnt-cork business back in the 1 840*5; and certainly since that time 
the most typically American strains of popular music have derived largely 
from the folk music of the Negro. The first important influence was a 
melodic one, as revealed in the work of Stephen Collins Foster, who wrote 
for minstrel shows. The second influence though chronology here is a 
matter of conjecture was that predecessor of jazz, ragtime; and of course 
the third was jazz itself, which came to its lusty infancy in the city of 
New Orleans at about the turn of the century. 

Stephen Foster lived and wrote in New York. He died miserably at 
Bellevue Hospital in January 1864, after his friend and collaborator, 
George Cooper, had found him lying naked and wounded in the hall of 
an old lodging-house at No. 15 Bowery. Foster's work need not be con 
fused with folk music; but the influence of American folk music upon it 
was more profound than is usual in the case of popular balladists. To 
fastidiously musical ears there is, even in the best of these songs My Old 
Kentucky Home, Old Black Joe, Old Folks at Home the strain of senti 
mentality that mars so much of our popular music. But there is also some 
thing indigenous and genuine about them, notably in the Poesque dark 
ness (Foster could recite Poe's verses "with thrilling effect") of Nellie 
Was a Lady and in the up-and-coming Susannah. One can hardly imagine 
an American background without the songs of Stephen Foster. It was 
quite natural that the melody of Camptown Races should be utilized to 
help describe the Lincoln-Douglas debates in a quasi-folksong of the 
time, Lincoln Hoss and Stephen A.; just as it was natural that Dan Em- 
mett's Dixie, written for a minstrel show in 1850, should have been ac 
cepted by the rank and file of the Confederate South. Carry Me Back to 
Old Virginny was perhaps even more indigenous in inspiration. Written 


by a Virginian, James A. Bland, the offspring of former slaves, it has the 
slow solemnly rhythmic quality that characterizes so much Negro folk 
music. Bland also gave to the quartet contingents In the Evening by the 

Many colored song writers, taking their cue from white writers for the 
minstrels, composed songs about themselves and their way of life. Irving 
Jones' / Live as Good as Any Other Coon was typical of their output; 
though here and there, as among the white composers, an outstanding tal 
ent such as that of Bland revealed itself. 

Later, Ernest Hogan, a Negro comedian who is said to have been al 
most as good as Bert Williams, wrote a song entitled All Coons Look 
Alike to Me (1896). This song was justifiably resented; yet when two 
Negroes, Bert Williams and George Walker, came to New York as the 
century was turning the corner, their act was a great success, though it was 
in out-and-out coon style. They did the Cakewalk, a fad with both black 
and white; and Williams challenged William K. Vanderbilt, who had 
taken up the dance, to a Cakewalk contest for a side bet of $100. The rep 
ertoire of Williams and Walker featured the coon song tradition. Walker 
died and Bert Williams went on alone to success on the New York stage, 
starring in the Ziegjeld Follies until his death in 1922. Despite the limi 
tations of his subject matter, which was sometimes an unconscious slur 
upon his own people, Williams was a great entertainer, and his many imi 
tators still pay tribute to his talent. 

With the demise of the coon song era and its undesirable (however 
unconscious) humorous disparagement, there appeared a new type of 
Negro performer and a more self-respecting style of entertainment. When 
Billy Johnson of the comedy team of Cole and Johnson died, Bob Cole 
sent to the south for a new partner, J. Rosamund Johnson, a young Negro 
musician. The team of Cole and Johnson made a hit in vaudeville and 
became even more famous as collaborators in song writing. Rosamund's 
brother, James Weldon Johnson, who later became a leader of his race in 
America, quit school teaching in the South and joined them. He and Cole 
wrote lyrics and Rosamund the music. Their songs were varied some 
times romantic, sometimes quaint and humorous, but never in the old 
clownish coon style. During their rise the coon song went into the dis 
card; and the coon-shouter (loudly exuberant singer of Negro songs) 
disappeared from the theater. 

While W. C. Handy was notating the blues and New Orleans com- 


posers were participating in the development of the still nascent jazz 
strain, Negroes in the North carried on their work in the popular music 
field. Hallie Anderson, the capable singer and musical director, supplied 
orchestras for the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem and the Howard in Wash 
ington, D. C. For the most part, her efforts were in the channels of con 
ventional popular music, as were those of James Reese Europe, founder 
of the Clef Club in New York, who studied under Hans Hanke of Leip 
zig, Germany, became a renowned figure in the field of popular music, 
and wrote Castle Walk. Later he gained greater fame as leader of what 
was perhaps the outstanding American band in France during the World 
War. In discussing a concert under the auspices of the Clef Club given at 
Carnegie Hall in May 1912, Schirmer's Musical Quarterly said: "Few of 
the players in that great band of more than a hundred members had re 
ceived any musical training whatever. They were, by profession, elevator 
men, bell-boys, porters, janitors or followers of still humbler tasks, for 
few trades-unions then admitted colored men, so that the vocations open 
to the Negro were about as restricted and over-crowded as the Negro 
streets themselves." In the program for that concert one or two ragtime 
pieces are listed, a similar number of pieces that suggest the minstrels, 
and one number that was to become a swing standard, Panama. 

In summarizing some of the important Negro influences of the i9th 
and early 2oth century on popular music, two interesting developments 
may be noted. The first, and most important, is that Negro folk music, 
along with white folk music, proved a constant freshening influence on 
popular music, even though the latter most often referred back to this 
source material only in diluted form. (White folk music influenced our 
popular song by way of individual composers rather than in waves of in 
fluence. It was also an indirect influence, in its inter- relatedness with Negro 
folk music.) The second development is that the direct Negro contribu 
tion to the popular music field became to some extent merely a corollary 
of the white influence. Thus the impact of new materials, felt so definitely 
in the i9th century (as exemplified, say, in the source-materials of a 
Stephen Foster or a James Bland) was to subside until the emergence of 
jazz music, except in the case of individual composers. The popular music 
field was sufficiently strong, economically if not culturally, to take into its 
maw a variety of influences, assimilate them and utilize them in songs the 
patterns of which continued to show a fundamental vitality despite the 
lukewarm sentimentalism that usually marked their construction. 


Tony Pastor and Tin Pan Alley 

To bring this story up to the birth of jazz the second major folk in 
fluence after that of the minstrels it is essential to review the latter part 
of the 1 9th century, this time confining ourselves to the immediate en 
virons of the Alley. No mention of that period would be properly docu 
mented without the name of Tony Pastor. His first theater was at 585 
Broadway; his second at 201 Bowery, that thoroughfare whose venal glo 
ries were celebrated in The Bowery Lass, The Boys in the Bowery Pit, 
One of the Boys, and (most famous of all) The Bowery, by Charles H. 
Hoyt, introduced in A Trip to Chinatown, which had its debut in Madi 
son Square Theatre on November 9, 1891. Tony Pastor's third theater, the 
one usually meant when Tony Pastor's is referred to, was on East Four 
teenth Street. It opened October 24, 1881, and one of its specialties was 
the topical song, a sort of March of Time to music. 

From Tony Pastor's came such variety stars as Pat Rooney (who sang 
his own Are You the O'Reilly?), Nat Goodwin, Gus Williams, Denman 
Thompson, Neil Burgess, John and Harry Kernell, May and Flora Irwin, 
Evans and Hoey, Delehanty and Hengler. Appearing at Tony Pastor's in 
that era of minstrels was to the profession what "playing the Palace" be 
came in the great Keith days before Hollywood took Broadway over the 
hurdles and national networks brought in the era of "guest stars." Harri- 
gan, of Harrigan and Hart, was also one of the song-writing team of Har- 
rigan and Braham. They composed many comic Irish songs, among them 
The Mulligan Guards, a number satirizing the pseudo-military groups 
that sprang up after the Civil War. Subsequently, as Kipling relates in 
Kim, this became the rallying song of British Tommies billeted in India. 
Tony Pastor was himself an entertainer who introduced to the pre-auto- 
mobile age the lilting strains of Daisy Bell. Most of us have forgotten the 
title but not the words of this song about the-bicycle-built-for-two, a song 
that the English composer, Harry Dacre, first conceived as he was trying 
to get a bicycle (built for one) through the American customs. 

Tin Pan Alley was by 1880 the leading musical machine-shop in the 
land, though its prominent composers were not always New Yorkers. 
From 1880 to 1900 there were, however, several New Yorkers who con 
tributed to the annual crop of popular songs. In the Good Old Summer 
Time was written by Roy Shields and George (Honeyboy) Evans, natives, 
and the number had its debut in the Herald Square Theatre. Sweet Gene- 
vieve was the work of Stephen Foster's erstwhile collaborator, George 


Cooper. Walking Down Broadway (which Spaeth puts in the 1850*5) 
was the work of William Lingard and Charles E. Pratt, and used the ex 
pression "O.K." Joseph J. Sullivan, whose father owned a small dairy 
farm in what is now Long Island City, wrote Where Did You Get That 
Hat? and introduced it at Miner's Eighth Avenue Theatre. The Band 
Played On was also written by a New Yorker, John F. Palmer, and had 
its debut in the Harlem Opera House. 

The 2oth century, so far, has made a much more impressive showing 
in respect to composers of New York origin. Several of the big names in 
the song-writing field are those of natives of Manhattan or its sister bor 
oughs. But the point is of only relative importance. The Alley belonged 
to New York, and the tyros from the hinterland could take it or leave it. 
Usually they took it. Meanwhile, of course, the regional aspects of the 
country were beginning to be submerged in a national pattern, a process 
facilitated by the development of transportation. Witness Charles K. Har 
ris's After the Ball, written in Chicago and introduced in Milwaukee in a 
New York show, Hoyt's A Trip to Chinatown. 

While the Alley ground out its lesser products, the predecessors of 
commercial pops, it also developed a tradition of songs worthy of com 
parison with folksong. Paul Dresser and Harry von Tilzer were in their 
time outstanding exponents of this tradition. Both were from the midwest 
and brought with them the genuineness that characterized the best Ameri 
can folk music. Among their works, the commercial pops they ground 
out for the ickies (persons lacking in taste) of their day have been 
forgotten, or are remembered only in a spirit of whimsy; but their con 
tributions to the heritage of popular music remain significant. Paul Dresser 
was immensely popular in the i88o's and iS^o's. A New Yorker from the 
midwest, he is mainly remembered for On the Banks of the Wabash 
(words by brother Theodore Dreiser) ; but the number of his that is most 
played today, a favorite of the jazz improvisers, is My Gal Sal. 

Dresser died in 1906. By that time the second great composer of popu 
lar music in the period was enjoying a fame that was to be his for years 
to come. Harry von Tilzer was not a New Yorker, but he spent the greater 
part of his life in Tin Pan Alley it was he, in fact, who is said to have 
given the Alley its name. Von Tilzer, like Dresser, produced the kind of 
popular music that seemed to be in demand. His songs, sentiment and all, 
emerged from the social environment of which they were a part. Thus we 
have a number in the coon song tradition, What You Goin' to Do When 
the Rent Comes Round? ; a toast to his own background, Down Where 


the Wurzburger Flows; a rousing predecessor of the motherhood cycle, 
/ Want a Girl Just Like the Girl Who Married Dear Old Dad; a few 
lines, much parodied, anent the popularity of excursion steamers, On the 
Old Fall River Line; a triumph in teardrops, A Bird in a Gilded Cage; 
and an easy-to-sing perennial, Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie. 

In the early years of the 2Oth century, an up-and-coming New Yorker 
with an eye to the main chance wrote Will You Love Me in December As 
You Did in May? This young man, James J. Walker, subsequently found 
other niches for his talent, not the least of which was the Tammany 
mayoralty of New York City. Tiger or Indian, Tammany itself had made 
one of several comebacks. Gus Edwards and Vincent Bryan were all set 
to give the National Democratic Club smoker the season's bringdown 
(deflationary influence or person) in the way of a ditty entitled In My 
Merry Old Oldsmobile; but the Tiger's whiskers were out, and the boys 
gave them Tammany instead. That was in 1905. In those days Tammany 
Hall was next door to Tony Pastor's, and Casey Jones was just a scab who 
hadn't joined the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Those who 
tripped the light fantastic did it in the genteel measures of the period, 
by gaslight. 

William Jennings Bryan took his cue from Tin Pan Alley and told the 
world to take back its gold and change to silver. In 1907, a line of chorus 
girls in daring knee- length bathing suits tripped out across the stage of 
the Jardin de Paris, on the roof of the New York Theatre in Longacre 
Square, singing: "And they'll say on the beach, there's a peach, there's a 
peach of a Gibson bathing girl." This first Ziegfeld Follies established 
the Ziegfeld spectacle as an annual event. It had "The Taxi Girls" with 
"To Hire" signs on their red tin flags. It also featured May MacKenzie, 
a principal figure in the Harry K. Thaw case, and the comedienne, Nora 
Bayes, who sang When Mother Was a Girl. This period might also be 
called The Merry Widow or Floradora era. The former (first produced in 
New York in 1904, at a Third Avenue beer hall known as the Orpheum) 
gave birth to reams of romantic melodies and led directly to the musical 
"production" films of Hollywood; the latter went lightly operatic and 
heavily platitudinous with Tell Me, Pretty Maiden. 

Some years before the World War, a singing waiter at the Chatham, 
a drinking place on Doyers Street near the Bowery, wrote Alexander's 
Ragtime Band. This composition showed the influence of the improvised 
ragtime that was to lead into jazz. Aside from being of sufficient musical 
importance to give its composer a place in the annals of hot music, the 


words of Alexander's Ragtime Band were prophetic especially the lines 
about the bugle call, played as it was never played before, that would 
make you want to go to war. The war clouds were over Europe, and be 
fore jass had quite become jazz the Alley, like other moulders of popular 
opinion, had fallen into a kind of anticipatory war propaganda, in the 
midst of which I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier was a still small 
voice, rather badly pitched. 

The period between 1900 and the World War witnessed a great gen 
eral enthusiasm for dancing, in which ballroom dancing, a particularly 
urban phenomenon, replaced group and folk dancing. The ragtime dances, 
for the most part, were hybrids, representing the current interest in rag 
time music and in Continental light music. The latter was epitomized so 
ably by the Merry Widow Waltz that there appeared / Want to Be a 
Merry Widow, Since Mariutch Learned the Merry Widow Waltz, and 
finally (from the pen of a gentleman who sensed the shift in public taste) 
I'm Looking for the Man Who Wrote the Merry Widow. 

Another phenomenon that persisted into the 2oth century was the dia 
lect song. At about the time Robert Cameron Rogers' poem, The Rosary, 
was being set to music by Ethelbert Nevin and designated "semi-classical," 
Harry von Tilzer ground out a commercial pop called Mariutch Make-a 
da Hootch-a-Ma-Cootch. This and many other numbers celebrated the 
Italian immigrant; and the Italian dialect comedian became a familiar 
type along with the Irish, Negro, German and Jewish. 

The smash hit of the 1920'$, Yes, We Have No Bananas, has Papa 
Handel to thank for its resounding invocation. It was a pure nonsense 
song and a relief to the public from the usual run of sentimental trash 
foisted upon them by a music-publishing tradition that had, and still has, 
some pretty low ideas about the mass mind. But the fruit business takes 
us ahead of our story. By 1914, Irving Berlin was well on the way to his 
transposing piano and the exploitation of his talent for the production of 
melodic pops. Other composers already in the limelight were Lew Brown, 
Jerome Kern and Gene Buck. 

The foundations for modern ballroom dancing had already been laid 
before the war. The old-fashioned waltz gave way to more intimate steps: 
the hesitation, the turkey trot, the bunny hug, the grizzly bear, the tango 
and later the fox trot. A popular turkey trot was Tres Moutarde, imported 
from France, the title of which indicated that ragtime music was consid 
ered hot, in somewhat the same sense that jazz is today. Sigmund Rom- 
berg, who subsequently gave his all to the sweet school and to operetta, 


wrote a few turkey trot pieces Some Smoke and Leg of Mutton. Mayor 
John Purroy Mitchel invented a step called the "twinkle" and Bernard 
Baruch, better known as a banker, also won cups in dancing contests. 
Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, however, disapproved of such abandon and per 
suaded Vernon and Irene Castle to invent the "Innovation," a touchless 
tango, which was introduced at one of her parties but did not become 

Dance fads brought prosperity to such dine-and-dance places as Busta- 
noby's and Louis Martin's Cafe de 1'Opera. It also popularized the tea 
dance, which had seemed so extraordinary when it was inaugurated at the 
Cafe des Beaux Arts. But jazz, full-blown, had hardly reached Chicago 
when the country embarked on its first World War. Dance orchestras 
were, in fact, orchestras, not bands. The bass was still self-respectingly 
bowed, and music made up in manners what it lacked in melody. 

The New York regiments had gone to the Civil War singing Shoo Ply, 
Don't Bother Me. The song favorite of the Spanish- American War was 
taken from the minstrels, There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town To 
night, the music of which was written in 1886 by Theodore Metz, band 
leader for the Mclntyre and Heath Minstrels. Words by Joe Hayden were 
added in 1896. As for the World War, Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever, 
played amid scenes of marching men in uniform and flying regimental 
colors, probably made more business for the recruiting sergeants than any 
thing especially written for the purpose. And while the folks at home 
were being stimulated with Prepare, U.S.A. and Just a Baby's Prayer at 
Twilight, the doughboys themselves were entertained with similar num 
bers, including the revived Silver Threads Among the Gold. Parodies on 
this and other wartime songs were discussed by Philip Sterling in the 
April 1935 issue of New Theatre magazine. One of the Silver Threads 
variations begins in this macabre fashion: 

Put your wooden arms around me, 
Hold me in your cork embrace. 

We can find sufficient evidence, too, that the Negro regiments had songs 
in their kit other than They'll Be Mighty Proud in Dixie of Their Old 
Black Joe. There was a characteristic stanza that went: 

Joined the army for to get some clothes, 
Lordy, turn your face on me. 
What we're fightin' about nobody knows, 
Lordy, turn your face on me. 


Among the major numbers that helped to build up and sustain the war 
psychology were George M. Cohan's Over There; Johnson and Wenrich's 
Where Do We Go from Here?; the enormously successful Keep the 
Home Fires Burning; Goodbye Broadway, Hello France; the sentimental 
Rose of No Man's Land; and that most popular of the stuttering songs, 
K-K-K-Katy. But before passing judgment pn composers who helped put 
the war across, it might be well to recall our original premise: that popu 
lar music and this applies particularly to its shortcomings emerges as 
part of a social pattern. 

At the top of the sheet-music business in the early 1920*5, after the 
World War, a smash hit might last more than a year and reach a sale of 
5,000,000 copies. By 1931 the life-span was reduced to three months and 
the probable sheet sale to a mere 300,000 copies. Several factors brought 
about this change. While the phonograph did much to reduce sheet-music 
sales, the radio was the main factor in cutting down the life expectancy 
of a song hit. That anguished request, "Please turn off the radio," is occa 
sioned as often by the monotony of hearing the same tune time after time 
as by the undistinguished quality of so much of the popular musk on 
the air. 

When the radio came in, it edged out the phonograph and all but 
sounded the knell of sheet music. As usually happens in such crises, the 
composers and lyricists were left holding the bag. But recently, through 
the organization of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Pub 
lishers, the claims of the rank and file song-writers have been getting more 
attention. It is significant that the 2Oth century witnessed not only a re 
habilitation of the popular music field but of its composers and interpret 
ers as well. At the same time that ASCAP began to come to life to express 
in some measure the needs of composers, Local 802 of the American Fed 
eration of Musicians cleaned house and elected a rank and file progressive 
slate of officers. The new administration of Local 802 has done much to 
protect and improve the status of musicians in general. 

Blues into Jazz 

In bringing the story of popular music up to the 1920*5, the introduc 
tion of jazz into this music is of sufficient importance to warrant separate 
treatment. Among the elements that went to make up ragtime were those 
that were later to engender the jazz strain itself the potpourri of the 
American songbag and particularly the folk music of the Negro people. 


In ragtime a sense of its quasi-folk origins was preserved in low places. 
The pianist of the honky-tonk and working-class dance halls improvised 
ragtime and played the blues as well. It was this improvised ragtime that 
showed the closest relation to the jazz that succeeded it. 

Late in the i9th century this style produced its greatest composer, the 
Negro Scott Joplin. He wrote Maple Leaf Rag, still a favorite with hot 
musicians, and he also tried his hand with ragtime material in classical 
forms. Among other numbers that have come down into jazz is Ida, Sweet 
As Apple Cider, written by Eddie Leonard, the minstrel star, in 1903. 
Long before 1900, honky-tonk pianists were encouraged with the admoni 
tion "Jass it up!" and someone who shouted this at the Original Dixie 
land Band in Chicago is indirectly responsible for the use of the word as 
applied to New Orleans hot music. The most reputable evidence places it 
as slang, neither Northern nor Southern, traceable to Elizabethan usage. 
In ragtime, two features of jazz were already in evidence: rhythmic va 
riety and emphasis, and melodic improvisation. 

In the realm of popular music, ragtime was not jazz, yet what distin 
guished them was less a treatment of different materials than a greater 
refinement of melody and rhythm. In dance rhythm this was particularly 
obvious the jerky gyrations of ragtime gave way to the rhythmically 
more graceful variations of the foxtrot. Perhaps the toddle, which cele 
brated in dance form the early days of the new music, best exemplified 
this. Rather silly as viewed from the sidelines, this dance step of Chicago 
emphasized all four beats of the measure and the vibrato as well. Subse 
quently the development of improvised jazz to its highest point was to 
find its accompaniment in an urban folk dance, the Lindy Hop. The name 
identifies it as to period. As to style, it varied from city to city, sometimes 
descending to vulgar and senselessly rhythmic elaborations, but never los 
ing sight of its fundamental steps. In New Orleans it utilized the shag 
as well. In the Carolinas it achieved in city-country dances what the Man 
hattan supper clubs achieved years later in their publicity columns the 
Big Apple. In Harlem's Savoy Ballroom during the year of the Lindy Hop 
many of the greatest jazz improvisers were playing Louis Armstrong, 
Earl Hines, Coleman Hawkins, Joe Smith. These are names of perhaps 
little significance to the public today, but to musicians and composers who 
know their indigenous music they are names that immediately suggest the 
tremendous creative force that went into the development of jazz. 

Distinctions of rhythmic and melodic refinement aside, more important 
differences between ragtime and jazz become perceptible only as one looks 


into the history of jazz music. First of all, this music was discovered in 
the South, where it had become an urbanized folk music. Negro and 
white, the bands of improvising musicians in New Orleans played "ear 
music"; and while they picked up odd jobs here and there, they were 
considered "fakers" (faking was, in fact, an early word for jamming, 
very free and spirited group improvisation hy a small or jam band) as far 
as local musical circles were concerned. New Orleans papers became 
alarmed when New York announced jazz as of New Orleans origin, and 
they relinquished all claim to this new product of an urban life. It was 
solely this improvised music of New Orleans origin, however, that had 
first claim to the word. That it was radically different from popular music 
of the day should be obvious from the above. It was to become patently 
so in 1917, when Victor issued two records one by Joseph C. Smith's 
orchestra, the other Livery Stable Blues, a recording by the Original Dixie 
land Jazz Band then playing at Reisenweber's in New York City. It is of 
some significance that when jazz bands play this latter piece today they 
usually conform to a modification of the original orchestral pattern. 

This music was born of various elements of Negro worksongs, spirit 
uals, and blues; of ragtime, Creole songs and mountain "ballets"; and, 
curiously, of military and brass band music. Early in the 2oth century, 
funeral music already an established tradition in New Orleans featured 
what came to be known as the nucleus of a jazz band (minus piano, 
which couldn't march) : cornet, clarinet, trombone, drums. The usual pro 
cedure at funerals was to play a slow blues (vernacular lament, usually 
but not always statement, repetition, response; usually but not always, 
pentatonic scale) on the trip to the graveyard. For the return, something 
lively and gay would be featured, such as that favorite of New Orleans 
clarinets, High Society Rag still to be a featured item in 1937 with 
Sharkey Bonano and his New Orleans Sharks, Manhattan's most popular 
Dixieland-style band. High Society seems to have been inspired by the 
flute passage in a John Philip Sousa march. 

The irrepressible gaiety of this number makes people question its use at 
funerals. A similar question was asked in the winter of 19367, when 
Tamiris and her group, aided by an orchestra and a Negro chorus, all of 
the WPA Dance Theater, interpreted On to de Bury in' from Negro Songs 
of Protest, a collection by Lawrence Gellert. Krehbiel, an authority on folk 
music, remarked that most Negro spirituals and worksongs were in major 
keys, the blues finding expression in the minor scale. He discovered also 
that Negroes were encouraged to sing happy songs, since the melancholy 


sort might remind them of their miserable lives; their folk singers also 
believed in a hereafter that would reward them with all that had previ 
ously been denied them. As for the forceful rhythms, some plantation 
owners paid bonuses to singers who could increase the output of work 
through the use of fast tempo. 

One of the most interesting aspects of early jazz is that for the most 
part it is a folk music without words. Tiger Rag, High Society and other 
important numbers had no words until their acceptance in the popular 
music field demanded that lyrics be added to them. The blues did have 
words, and many of them had words of social significance; but when it 
came to recording the blues, the many significant lyrics, for fairly obvi 
ous reasons, were neglected and emphasis was placed on the sexually 
conditioned blues. It is important to understand these blues, if only so 
that one may clearly evaluate the cheap and tawdry imitations of them 
which emerged from Tin Pan Alley. 

The folk music of the American Negro has never been without social 
connotations. Spirituals were the language of the Underground Railway 
in the i9th century, just as they are the language of unity today in those 
parts of the South where the right of collective bargaining is denied share 
croppers and they must organize secretly, and just as in Harlem they have 
gone into the making of "Rent Blues" or theme songs of a housing prob 
lem. Industrialism and the gradual urbanization of the South brought the 
folksong to the city; but there was little place for it there in a milieu al 
ready dominated by popular music, and it retreated to the honky-tonk. A 
honky-tonk car was sometimes hooked on to the train that carried itinerant 
workers from job to job; and Meade (Lux) Lewis, one of the greatest 
of blues pianists, celebrates this in a wordless but beautifully composed 
piece of music called Honky Tonk Train Blues. 

A majority of the early jazz songs that have become known in orches 
tral repertoires as swing standards evolved as the result of collective im 
provisation. The Dixieland Band is responsible for several, as is King 
Oliver's Creole Band. The New Orleans Rhythm Kings, a band of New 
Orleans and Chicago musicians, contributed Farewell Blues, Bugle Call 
Rag, Tin Roof Blues, and other numbers. Hoagy Carmichael, for many 
years associated with New York's Tin Pan Alley, composed Washboard 
Blues while still at the University of Indiana leading a jazz band there 
and working with other bands such as the Wolverines, the midwest or 
ganization that featured Bix Beiderbecke. All in all, the South and the 
midwest gave the Alley a score or more of talented composers who 


brought into popular music the refreshing strain of jazz as it emerged 
from folk music itself. George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and 
other New York composers participated in this development. In many 
cases, however, the Alley composer, smothered by his environment, was 
forced to bend his talent to the will of the publishing houses; this was 
particularly true in the early days when jazz was looked upon as more or 
less of a novelty. 

In the early 1920*5 the situation had changed very little from what it 
was in 1916, when the Dixieland band came to New York. The site of 
Reisenweber's in 1937, however, revealed a former movie palace, its box 
office boarded up, the fake Roman pillars fronting the second floor already 
showing an appearance of age. Behind these pillars late in 1916 the Origi 
nal Dixieland Jazz Band gave New York City its first taste of jazz. For a 
number or two the diners sat at their tables, listened, and stared. The boys 
were playing their own New Orleans music Tiger Rag, Ostrich Walk, 
Blum' the Blues and the New Yorkers didn't know what to do about it. 
Finally the manager explained that it was dance music and the couples 
came out on the floor, one after another, and stayed there until the band 
was exhausted. 

The orchestras that still put manners before melody were startled to see 
the commercial record companies playing up "the jass" for all the novelty 
there was in it and there was certainly an excess of naivete and novelty 
in early jazz. Some of the "name-band" boys caught on, though often 
they headed directly for the cornfield (from corn, corny, corn fed, indicat 
ing faked, inept or hackneyed attempts at hot music ; generic metropolitan 
synonyms for the rustic and countrified). Earl Fuller's orchestra was at 
Rector's; and with Ted Lewis playing clarinet, Fuller, coming under the 
Dixieland influence but not quite up to it, could lay claim to the dubious 
honor of being the first important corn band. 

Meanwhile, in the country at large and particularly in the midwest, 
hot musicians, Negro and white, played in honky-tonks, ginmills, working- 
class dance halls. In these places the improvisational spirit of early jazz 
was preserved, and its instrumental contributions were developed. The 
musicians played what they felt, as LaRocca of the Dixieland band ex 
pressed it, "from the heart." Their music also caught on with the college 
crowd; the young men and women of the early 1920*5 have been its most 
fervent supporters. Bix Beiderbecke and the Wolverines, encouraged by 
Hoagy Carmichael, played many college engagements. There and then 
began the practice of cats (fans) "freezing" before the band to catch the 


hot choruses which, with the Wolverines, were strictly variations-on- 
theme. Although they played the college circuit, the Wolverines had a 
minimum of pops and no waltzes in their repertoire. 

Frank Signorelli, a Dixieland pianist of the 1920'$, joined the Memphis 
Five and the first Cotton Pickers. The second Cotton Pickers, a recording 
set-up, enlisted pianist Rube Bloom, author of Swamp Fire and a talented 
composer in the hot music field. Both bands included a trombone player, 
Miff Mole, who made great contributions in solo work and in stylistic in 
fluence on the bands in which he played. Red Nichols' Red Heads were 
perhaps the first New York band to show the Chicago influence in effects 
that displayed a mingling of the quite distinct Negro and white traditions. 
Already, in the small Gennett recording studio at Richmond, Indiana, 
Negroes and whites were playing together as they did in the ginmills on 
Chicago's South Side. In New York during the 1920'$, white improvisers 
sat in with the Negro bands in Harlem; and by 1936 both Negroes and 
whites were sitting in with the jam bands in the drink-but-better-not-try- 
to-dance places along the section of West Fifty-Second Street called Swing 
Lane. For a few eventful nights the Negro trumpeter from Luis Russell's 
band, Henry (Red) Allen, Jr., of New Orleans, sat in with Chicagoans 
Joe Marsala (clarinet) and Eddie Condon (guitar) at Hickory House. 

The Nichols bands, which are everywhere in the history of jazz, contrib 
uted a note of suavity to the hot strain. To some extent they helped carry 
along the improvisational and rhythmic tradition that was to emerge, again 
in Chicago, in a period jazz (ca. 192732) called Chicago style. (This is 
not to be confused with classic swing, sometimes called Chicago swing, 
which developed much earlier.) In line with New York's reputation for 
heading the parade, the two bands that developed hot arrangements, pav 
ing the way for the influence of hot music on popular music as such, were 
those led by Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. The list of their 
personnel reads like an honor roll of musicians who have contributed to 
hot improvisation and instrumental style. 

The younger generation growing up with the new music gave it a sub 
stantial following. Their dance-steps cake, collegiate, and the Charleston 
that led into the Lindy Hop developed parallel to the development of 
jazz itself. When Red Nichols and his Five Pennies were at Roseland play 
ing the precise stacatto jazz audible now only on the records made under 
the name of the Red Heads, there were always several couples dancing 
cake style, a style significant both for its complications and for its casual 
restraint. Broadly speaking, this was the Flapper Age, in retrospect an age 


of wise-cracking innocence. For New York's growing crowd of jitter-bugs 
(synonymous with cats) there were increasing numbers of hot spots the 
Colonnades, Connie's Inn, the Savoy, the original Cotton Club where the 
flavor of jazz, elsewhere obscured by the prevalence of popular music, was 
showing that, like old wine, it could and did improve with age. 

From a musician's point of view, New York was never the hot-music 
center that Chicago so decidedly was in the 1920'$. For this reason it 
points up what happened to hot music and its exponents in that decade. 
Popular music was called jazz, and musicians began to call the music that 
was improvised, or of that spirit, hot jazz, sometimes referring to it, even 
in those days, as swing. (Today swing has no more specific significance to 
the public than did jazz in, say, 1926; though it has been assimilated more 
generally through hot orchestrations and the popularity of a few of its 
"names.") The California Ramblers (many of them bona fide New York 
ers, as were the Memphis Five) adapted hot materials to an early variety 
of "commercial swing." To a Detroit orchestra led by Gene Goldkette 
goes much of the credit for introducing into name-bands small nuclei of 
hot musicians. In this band was Joe Venuti, hot fiddle ; Eddie Lang, great 
est guitar soloist in hot jazz; Don Murray, of the silver clarinet; Frankie 
Trumbauer, C-melody sax; Bix Beiderbecke, a jazz composer whose im 
provisations on cornet are fully as important as his compositions; and 
Steve Brown (from the New Orleans Rhythm Kings) who slapped the 
bass fiddle and called it the doghouse. Red McKenzie, who organized the 
Mound City Blue Blowers with Eddie Condon, the fine rhythm guitar, 
induced the Goldkette hot nucleus to make records. Their first recording 
as a hot unit was Singin' the Blues, a Dixieland piece. Paul Whiteman 
took over this hot nucleus almost intact; and it became customary for 
name-bands to include a few improvisers who could swing out for the 
cats. Thus, the inculcation of popular music with the hot music germ took 
place largely in New York City. Hot bands, as such, found it difficult to 
earn a decent living, and the improvisers were gradually absorbed in name- 
bands, playing hot style for records only. 

This is an important point to bear in mind, for a technical reason. The 
hot bands on platforms, and subsequently in recording studios, used about 
the same number of rhythm and melodic instruments. Of the melodic in 
struments, one of each was standard clarinet, sax, trumpet, trombone a 
disposition that allowed for more counterpoint, in keeping with the folk 
music from which hot music derived. The emphasis on rhythm was obvi 
ous, particularly in such record bands as the Chicagoans, in the formation 


of which Red McKenzie and Eddie Condon were again prominent. It 
was only in the commercial hot bands (bands that play hot arrangements, 
as against hot improvisations) that the stiltedness of harmonic arrange 
ment was avoided. Consequently these bands Fletcher Henderson's, Duke 
Ellington's and the rest had a great influence on popular orchestration. 

Throughout the development of present-day jazz, the most important 
single influence has been that of the Negro. When, in more recent years, 
the Benny Goodman band was packing them in at New York's Paramount 
Theater and Pennsylvania Hotel, the arrangements were often the work 
of Negroes: Fletcher Henderson, Jimmy Mundy, Mary Lou Williams. As 
a unit of the large band, the Goodman Trio Goodman (clarinet), Wil 
son (piano), Krupa (traps) was perhaps the first Negro and white 
combination to fill important ballroom, theater and hotel engagements 
from coast to coast. The same personnel, with vibraphonist Lionel Hamp 
ton, also played as the Goodman Quartet. Both groups were everywhere 
acclaimed. Just as the music had from the first vaulted color barriers, so 
the men who played it with a few unhappy exceptions refused to be 
limited by invidious standards. And the public itself, steeped in prejudice, 
was beginning to come round to the idea that pigmentation might have 
less to do with personality and talent than innumerable other factors. 

The Negro, with his wealth of folk-music background, was also to cre 
ate two of the important band styles of 1937: one represented by Andy 
Kirk's orchestra, with Mary Lou Williams as pianist and arranger, the 
other by Count Basic's orchestra, with Basic himself, composer of Rose- 
land Shuffle, as pianist. Both bands came out of Kansas City. The discov 
ery of the latter, like the first public notice accorded to Goodman, Bob 
Hackett and others, was largely due to John Hammond, who has devoted 
so much of his time to the cause of hot music in general and the rank-and- 
file musician in particular. 

Negro composers have also produced some of the best hot jazz com 
positions. Duke Ellington, of course, stands first, with half a hundred 
numbers running from the Debussyan Misty Mornin' through Black and 
Tan Fantasy and In a Sentimental Mood to Caravan. The list also includes 
King Oliver (West End Blues, Sugar Foot Stomp); Jelly-Roll Morton 
(Wolverine Blues, Kansas City Stomps) ; Fats Waller (Honeysuckle Rose, 
Wringin' an' Twistin' ) ; Eubie Blake (Ain't Misbehavin', Love Me or 
Leave Me), who collaborated with Milton Reddie on one of the most 
charming numbers of 1937, / Praise Sue, for the WPA production Swing 
It; Fletcher Henderson; and Don Redman. 


Of the many concerts that have set out to "explain" hot music to the 
public, only two or three have been primarily concerned with it. The cele 
brated Paul Whiteman concert at Aeolian Hall in 1924 presented only 
one favorite of the swingsters, a pop tune called Whispering. At that time 
George Gershwin was still much more influenced by popular music than 
by hot jazz. It was only in his later work that he began to utilize hot in 
strumentation, though such European composers as Ravel, Stravinsky and 
Les Six had perceived immediately that the great contribution of hot 
music, apart from its melodic improvisations, lay in the imaginative fresh 
ness of its instrumentation. In 1928, Whiteman participated in another 
"jazz" concert, this time including several authentic hot numbers and per 
formers; but unfortunately both Grofe the arranger, and Whiteman 
himself leaned heavily on the much diluted classical forms that had seeped 
down into what was euphemistically called the semi-classical field. 

In 1936, a concert of hot music at the Imperial Theater in New York 
lost money, though the SRO sign was out. At that time a song called The 
Death of Swing had already been published. Something more than a year 
later, the Columbia Broadcasting System sponsored a concert in one of its 
Times Square radio theaters to celebrate the first anniversary of the Satur 
day Night Swing Club. Standees packed every corner of the house. 

Between them, these concerts signalized two important developments in 
latter-day swing. The first was a return to the small three-to-seven-piece 
band (Raymond Scott's Quintet, Bob Crosby's Bobcats, Benny Goodman's 
Quartet and Tommy Dorsey's Clambake Seven) usually as a big-band unit. 
The popularity of the Goodman four and of Raymond Scott's admirably 
stylized but rather mechanical compositions (Dynamo, Twilight in Tur 
key) set off this revival. In these new small units the rhythm instruments 
were often predominant, as against the accented horns and reeds of the 
Dixieland and modern jam bands. 

The second development is suggested by the fact that the Imperial 
Theater get-together was sponsored by the Onyx Club, a late hangout for 
hot orchestra men, who often "sat in" with the band. It was soon discovered 
by the cats and the curious. A faintly lighted blue-and-orange music box 
and bar with the photographs of hot immortals dim on its walls, the Onyx 
Club sponsored Leo and his Spirits of Rhythm, a jam band that included 
such performers as Buster Bailey (clarinet) and Frankie Newton (trum 
pet) ; Martha Raye, in 1937 the gate-mouth singing star of Hollywood; 
Stuff Smith's fervid jam band; and Eddie Riley, whose demonstration of 
the internal economy of a battered old horn made The Music Goes 'Round 


and 'Round a national furore in 1935. The Onyx Club's 1937 find was 
Maxine Sullivan, a handsome Negro vocalist from Pittsburgh, who reinter 
preted such old favorites as Loch Lomond and Annie Laurie in relaxed 
and subtle swing style. 

Along with hot instrumental technique, a hot vocal technique had de 
veloped. It was Louis Armstrong who pioneered this technique, as it was 
Louis who replaced a cornet with a trumpet and gave jazz its hot style 
on the latter instrument. Armstrong could take an authentic hot tune and 
give it out "from the heart" ; or he could take a pop tune and reinterpret 
it, often ribbing (satirizing) it. He contributed largely to that wealth of 
humor which developed as one of the features of hot jazz. Ribbing was to 
culminate in jive treatment at its worst so abandoned that it had lost 
touch with itself and was a sign only of creative sterility. Hot men jive 
a great deal the environment encourages it; but they also reserve their 
talent for genuinely hot interpretation and melodic improvisations, as any 
one may learn by listening to Joe Marsala, Taft Jordan, Bobby Hackett, 
Eddie Condon, Pee-Wee Russell, Bud Freeman, George Brunies, Harry 
James, Jesse Stacy, Tommy Dorsey and others in the New York night 
spots. Among the better hot vocalists should be listed Louis Armstrong, 
Henry Allen, Jr., Jack Teagarden, Red McKenzie, Mildred Bailey, Ella 
Fitzgerald, Adelaide Hall and Billie Holiday. Bessie Smith, regarded by 
most hot singers as the standout in their field, was fatally injured in an 
automobile accident in September 1937. 

This hot talent at least a hundred gifted improvisers could be listed 
has begun to affect the popular music field (witness the success of such 
bands as Tommy Dorsey 's, Count Basic's, Bob Crosby's, Benny Good 
man's, Bunny Berrigan's, all of which may be called commercial swing 
bands) ; but composers per se are still proscribed by the moguls of music, 
who argue that the public isn't ready for originality. Raymond Scott, Regi 
nald Foresyte and other composers whose work is related to hot music find 
this work more acceptable when it is tagged with "funny" titles. Aside 
from a few hot composers such as Duke Ellington, the upsurge of creative 
talent to be expected in an era of hot music is apparent for the most part 
in the originality of arrangements rather than of compositions. 

The Alley Today 

Meanwhile, the commercial pops followed the times without probing 
too deeply. Prohibition gave us Come Down and Pick Out Your Hus- 


band; the year 1929 inspired I'm in the Market for You. There was a 
sentimentally effective vulgarization of the jobless in Brother, Can You 
Spare a Dime? from J. P. McEvoy's revue Americana, which opened in 
1932 with a sardonic line of ticker tape moving across a translux screen: 
"My country may she always be right; but right or wrong, Mickey 
Mouse." It was that sort of year. The musical field had been doubly hit: by 
the depression, and by musical mass production in the radio and the talking 
picture. Sound pictures had come in with Jolson's The Jazz Singer in 
1927. As usual, the evil of plagiarism continued. The publishers of 
Avalon were required to pay $25,000 because the tune derived a little too 
obviously from Puccini's E Lucevan le Stella. The Alley public was less 
shocked by this $25,000 duplicity than by the fact that a composer of 
Italian opera was still alive. 

There were innumerable other pops related to the depression of 19305 ; 
but the Alley songs, held down as they were by publishing restrictions, 
had little direct significance. The beginning of a recognition that social 
conditions entailed social responsibility popularized the heroic mood of 
Disney's Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?, which had been preceded 
by Harold Arlen's implicitly topical Stormy Weather with its melody sug 
gestive of Joe Oliver's West End Blues. 

With the depression came a greater interest in labor organization; and 
the folk tune of John Brown's Body, which had been adapted to Civil 
War use in The Battle Hymn of the Republic, was adapted to labor use 
in Ralph Chaplin's Solidarity Forever. Perhaps none of the later songs 
had quite the folk quality of the Negro soldiers' war blues, Black Man 
Fights Wid De Shovel, or of Joe Hill's Casey Jones (which implies that 
there is labor justice only in hell). An exception was Death House Blues 
(Scottsboro Blues), refrain by Peter Martin and music by Earl Robinson, 
with its moaning 

Nine nappy heads wid big shiny eye, 
All boun' in jail an* boun' to die, 

lifted up by the chant of the chorus: 

White workin' man goin' to set dem free, 
Black workin' man goin' go set dem free. 

There were other effective compositions, such as the anonymous Hold the 
Fort, which began as a song set to a gospel hymn by English transport 


workers; Abe Lincoln, derived from Lincoln's second inaugural address, 
rearranged by Alfred Hayes and put to music by Earl Robinson, in 1937 
the song of the American Abraham Lincoln Battalion in Spain. The Cradle 
Will Rock, by Marc Blitzstein, and Pins and Needles, by Harold J. Rome, 
brought to the stage an original musical treatment of material relating to 
the everyday life and problems of the people. 

Isolated and fragmentary, the social forces that inspired this new mate 
rial began to penetrate the Alley. Popular composers were becoming increas 
ingly aware of the public demand for less schmaltz and more significant 
compositions. The late 1920*8 and early 1930'$ produced an encouraging 
number of songs whose lyrics were not thick with romance and whose 
melodies had something of the elasticity of good musical thinking. In the 
smart revue and musical field, Cole Porter (Gay Divorcee, Fifty Million 
Frenchmen) and the English Noel Coward (Bitter Sweet, This Year of 
Grace) brought quick wit and an engaging dilettante freshness to the job 
in hand. Among the better revue composers and lyricists were Jerome 
Kern (Show Boat, Roberta) ; Vincent Youmans (Rainbow, Hit the Deck) ; 
Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (A Connecticut Yankee, Babes in 
Arms) ; Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz (The Band Wagon) ; Irving 
Berlin (Music Box Revues, Face the Music); Harold Arlen and Ted 
Koehler (Cotton Club Revue) ; and Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh 
(Blackbirds of 1928). 

But the foremost composer of this period was George Gershwin, who 
died in 1937. His work ran all the way from the earlier George White's 
Scandals through Girl Crazy to the political satire Of Thee I Sing and 
the Negro folk-opera Porgy and Bess. Gershwin earned the unspoken trib 
ute of the hot musicians, who have a highly selective ear for the popular 
tunes that lend themselves to improvisation. His / Got Rhythm was the 
number played most frequently at a jam session held in 1937 at New York 
City. In one set Artie Shaw (clarinet), Chick Webb (traps) and Duke 
Ellington (piano) improvised for more than ten minutes on this com 
position by one of New York's finest native musicians. 

No doubt there would be more composers of Gershwin's caliber if the 
younger men were encouraged to recognize the tradition and to utilize the 
discoveries of hot music. This applies, of course, as much to the so-called 
serious composers as to those in the popular field. In the future it may 
quite possibly come to be regarded as sheer musical ignorance that an 
American composer should be unfamiliar with the hot choruses or varia- 
tions-on-theme created by such improvisers as Bix Beiderbecke, Sidney 


Bechet, Frank Teschmaker and the early Louis Armstrong. The composers 
of the future will not look down on this music of their progenitors. They 
will understand it as a product of its environment, and its composers as 
workers in a songshop that did not always favor the best talent or the 
finest exercise of talent. This understanding, with a more courageous ap 
proach to the environment itself, may lead to a music as true to the life 
of its times as is the best folk music. 


Entrances and Exits 

THE CURTAIN rose on the New York stage more than two hundred years 
ago on December 6, 1732. A circle of candles stuck on nails project 
ing from a barrel hoop illuminated the Honorable Rip van Dam's very 
honestly labeled "New Theater," and a stove in the foyer provided little 
more than a fire hazard. George Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer, re 
vived many times since, was the offering. The bench-lined room, other 
wise bare, displayed a large notice exhorting the audience not to spit. 

David Douglass, another pioneer of the theater, who offered the first 
play based upon an American theme and whose presentations were often 
attended by George Washington, thirty years later found himself con 
strained tq offer "a Pistole reward to whoever can discover the person who 
was so very rude as to throw Eggs from the Gallery last Monday." 

One of Douglass' theaters, the Park, on Park Row near Ann Street, was 
the city's first playhouse of real architectural pretensions. Here the "star" 
system, the practice of subordinating vehicle and cast to the celebrated 
actor, was definitely established. This house, built in 1798, was destroyed 
by fire in 1820, and the new theater that went up on the same site ruled 
the American stage for half a century thereafter. Here Edmund Kean acted 
in Shakespearean drama; the first American production of Italian opera, 
with Italian singers, was presented here; James Hackett, W. C. Macready, 
Charles Kemble, Tyrone Power, Junius Brutus Booth and Charlotte Cush- 
man (the greatest tragedienne of her day) were among the celebrities to 
appear upon its stage. 

In 1796, William Dunlap acquired an interest in the old American 
Company, and began a notable career as playwright-manager. After a term 
with this company in the John Street Theater, he took over the New Park 
Theater as director and manager. He introduced many of the plays of 
Kotzebue, and through his promotion of horror subjects did much to 
bring about the vogue of the mystery play. Although he was America's 
first professional dramatist, he is chiefly remembered today as the author 



of the first documented History of the American Theater (1832) and a 
History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United 
States (1834). 

The Bowery era of the New York theater, extending from about 1800 
to around the middle of the century, would seem in the light of historic 
fact to have held even more glory, gaudiness and turbulence than legend 
attributes to it. Built in 1826, the Bowery Theater that year presented Ed 
win Forrest in Othello. It burned down no fewer than three times within 
the next ten years, and again in 1845. Incidentally, in the history of the 
early theater the phrase "destroyed by fire" recurs with sinister monotony. 
It is usually followed, however, by the statement that "a new structure 
was promptly erected upon the ashes of the old." 

Although the early New York stage was dominated by the European, 
and no responsible group could be found to challenge this supremacy, 
there were certain critics who dared to hope that the American theater 
would develop its own native actors and plays. Washington Irving thus 
disposed of such persons: "Let me ask them one question. Have they ever 
been to Europe? Have they seen a Garrick, a Kemble, or a Siddons? If 
they have not, I can assure you (upon the word of two or three of my 
friends, the actors) they have no right to the title of critics." Nevertheless, 
during the Bowery Theater fire of 1845 the audience prevented firemen 
from reaching the burning structure because uniforms recently issued to 
the police too closely resembled those worn by English bobbies to suit 
freeborn American taste. In 1849 ^ e great English actor W. C. Mac- 
ready was driven from the stage of the Astor Place Opera House by a mob 
that gathered in response to the anti-English demagoguery of Edwin For 
rest. When Macready tried again, a few nights later, more than ten thou 
sand exasperated critics assembled in Astor Place and stoned the theater. 
Macready fled to the then distant village of New Rochelle, and later to 
Boston and England. 

Evaluating the drama of the Bowery era, and of the decades immedi 
ately following it, is a matter that demands caution in the use of gener 
alizations. If some of the offerings seem at this date incredibly puerile, 
surely no one could complain of the frequent presentations of Shake 
speare, of Congreve and Steele, of The Beggar's Opera. And if there is a 
belief today that much of the old-time acting was overdone, full of sound 
and fury, it must be noted that theatrical conventions change. Authorities 
have pointed out that the lighting of the early stage was so uncertain and 


dim that the actor, fearful of not being seen, at least wanted to make sure 
of being heard. 

With the middle of the i9th century, the pace of affairs in the theater 
perceptibly quickened. Dion Boucicault arrived from London in 1853, to 
become later on, with his novel production devices, "the upholsterer of 
the American stage." Boucicault, a man of prodigious energy, staged and 
adapted many plays that did much to set the fashion of the period. Aside 
from his many activities as writer, actor, director and producer, he ex 
erted sufficient pressure on Congress to secure the first passably sound 
copyright laws protecting the previously victimized dramatist. Although 
dominated for the most part by European models and tastes in the the 
ater, with Joseph Jefferson he adapted and produced Rip Van Winkle, 
which helped to focus attention on American folklore as fertile material 
for the playwright. 

Such offerings as Fashion, Under the Gas Light, The Black Crook, After 
Dark and The Drunkard were the popular highlights of a period that ex 
tolled violent melodrama, permeated with moral fingerpointing. It is in 
structive to note that these plays, taken so seriously in their day, served 
as satires on the same period when revived in the early 1920*5 and played 
as faithfully as possible to the original versions. But their melodramatic 
structure may be partly justified from the fact that life itself in relation to 
these subjects was then something of a melodramatic experience. Strait- 
laced Victorian morality, however, was slow to disappear from the theater. 
It is difficult today to take seriously an innocence that could be shocked 
by Maude Adams in a role calling for feigned tipsiness. Not until the 
post-war period was Victorianism laughed from the boards. It had, never 
theless, its triumphs, notably in the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan and 
of Victor Herbert. 

The period from the middle of the i9th century to well into the 2Oth 
was the halcyon age for actors, when individual stars and such all-star 
stock companies as Augustin Daly's dominated the stage. Edwin- Forrest, 
Edwin Booth, Mrs. Gilbert, Ada Rehan, James Lewis, John Drew, Maude 
Adams, the Barrymores, Mrs. Fiske and many other Americans, along with 
a host of noted artists from abroad Sarah Bernhardt, Eleanora Duse, 
Salvini, Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, Forbes-Robertson, the two Coquelins, 
Rejane, Mounet-Sully, and others attracted large audiences that cared less 
for the content of the plays produced than for the brilliance of the acting. 
The star system is still prominent on the New York stage, though very 


few present-day actors and actresses wield the compelling influence that 
was exercised by the great figures of the theater's halcyon period. 

As early as 1847, Walt Whitman had been calling for a distinctly 
American drama. "If some bold man," he wrote, "would take the theater 
in hand in this country, and resolutely set his face against the starring 
system . . . some American it must be, and not moulded in the opinions 
and long established ways of the English stage . . . [if such a man would], 
revolutionize the drama, and discard much that is not fitted to present 
tastes and to modern ideas engage and encourage American talent, look 
above merely the gratification of the vulgar and of those who love glitter 
ing scenery give us American plays, too, matter fitted to American opin 
ions and institutions our belief is he would do the Republic service, and 
himself too, in the long run." 

Even the European-minded Augustin Daly in the late i86o's and iSyo's, 
had challenged certain restrictions under whkh the native playwright 
labored. Why, he asked, must American dramatists select a foreign back 
ground for a play about a "wild, whooping American girl" when "a re 
spectable New York, Boston or Philadelphia family would be equally 
distressed and amazed by such a girl"? This may seem an extremely left- 
handed plea for an American drama, but Daly's conception of the latter's 
future was a large one. He predicted that "our national drama will be 
established without restriction as to subject or plot. The coming dramatist 
will be indifferent on that score. Neither Shakespeare nor any of his, 
contemporaries . . . made the national drama of their native lands by 
the delineation of national character only. We must not exact of the 
American dramatist more than has been demanded of its dramatists by 
any other country." Daly pictured "the silent brooding observant boy in 
the gallery" who was to write the play of the future -a perennial picture 
and prophecy, it must be noted. 

The production of Ibsen's best work and the early plays of Bernard 
Shaw, who was successful as a playwright in New York before he was in 
London, and of the problem plays of Arthur Wing Pinero and Henry 
Arthur Jones, was destined to exert the most considerable influence, how 
ever, on the theater to follow, particularly upon the playwrights. Previ 
ously in the theater, controversial social subjects had been either ignored 
altogether or glossed over with romanticism. After Ibsen and Shaw (with 
the latter's provocative prefaces), the serious-minded playwright could 
feel that almost any subject was material' for dramatic treatment. Even t 


such a Messianic play as Jerome K. Jerome's The Passing of the Third 
Floor Back may be considered one of the first steps toward a more robust 
and serious theater. 

The immediate American predecessors of today's celebrities, the men 
who made possible the achievements of our contemporary drama, were 
David Belasco and Charles Frohman among the producers, and Clyde 
Fitch, Augustus Thomas, Eugene Walter, Edward Sheldon and William 
Vaughn Moody among the playwrights. Belasco' s chief contribution con 
sisted of innovations in the mounting of plays. He was the first to in 
troduce from Europe such important devices, now an integral part of 
stagecraft, as reflectors, borders and spotlights. He had also, at times, a fond 
ness for literal realism in his settings. But Frohman, a less legendary figure 
than Belasco, probably made the more substantial contribution by encour 
aging many young writers and by his skillful production of classic and 
modern plays. Under these two men, the stage presentation tended to be 
come more the group-effort that it is today, rather than a blind gamble in 
which the efforts of designer, producer, director and actor were pieced to 
gether at random. 

Augustus Thomas, who died in 1934, was "the playwright to whom 
America turned with confidence for the drama that clothes significant ideas 
with power and restraint and the comedy that delights through kindly and 
adroit revelation of human frailty." This appraisal by Arthur Hobson 
Quinn is doubtless accurate. Even today Thomas is regarded as the most 
completely American playwright of the pre-war years. His plays dealt with 
themes of sectional, historical and social interest. They were plays about 
cowboys, Mexicans and army officers, plays that popularized certain homely 
American situations. 

The career of Clyde Fitch as a playwright began in 1890 with his roman 
tic Beau Brummel, and for twenty years thereafter he was one of America's 
leading dramatists. For the most part he pictured the life of New York's 
upper classes; and although his plays were rarely profound or original, 
he was an unusually accurate observer of externals, of the curious and 
amusing, and his work discloses a groping for fresh values. 

Eugene Walter first attracted attention in 1907 with Undertow, a drama 
of journalism, politics and railroads. The Easiest Way, produced two years 
later, brought him his greatest fame. Contemporary critics hailed it as 
"realistic" and "epoch-making," though critical opinion today commonly 
regards it as no more than skillful melodrama. 

Edward Sheldon rendered some aspects of American life never before 


portrayed on the stage. His first success, Salvation Nell, gave a realistic 
picture of slum existence; and his next play, The Nigger, dealt with a 
racial theme in the tragedy of a southern governor who discovers that he 
has Negro blood. 

William Vaughn Moody, as far as his prose plays are concerned, is 
chiefly remembered for The Great Divide, which ushered in the "drama 
of revolt" and which many critics consider of permanent value. The Faith 
Healer, produced four years later, was a failure on the stage, though it still 
finds readers to whom anything written by Moody has importance. 

In 1909, a group headed by Winthrop Ames built the New Theater 
at Sixtieth Street and Central Park West. Structurally, the New Theater 
was considered a progressive step in theater architecture. But it seated 
2,500 people, its acoustics were bad, and Ames soon found it unsuited to 
his purposes. In accord with his altered conception of the drama as requir 
ing an intimate relationship between audience and the stage, in 1913 he 
built his Little Theater, seating only 299, on Forty-Fourth Street. Ames 
brought to the New York theater an elegance and a refinement that were 
soon to be adopted by a number of other producers. He represented a 
reaction against the growing power of the chain-producers, exemplified so 
strongly for the next two decades by the Shuberts, and set an example for 
the many "independents" who despite economic handicaps have long 
maintained a measure of idealism and held to a relatively high standard in 
their productions. Arthur Hopkins, Jed Harris, Guthrie McClintic and 
others owe much to Ames. 

As far as the commercial theater is concerned, one of the peculiar fea 
tures of its post-war history is its continued concentration in what is gener 
ally known as the theater district. Forced by high rentals, huge production 
costs and the fickle taste of the public to be highly competitive in every 
branch of his trade, the New York producer regards as more than dan 
gerous any attempt to show his wares very far east or west of Broadway 
below Forty-Second Street and above Fifty-Second. An occasional attempt 
has been made to break away from this area; but the spell of the "Great 
White Way" continues to hold, and both audience and producer are soon 
found back in the district. 

The Broadway theaters have to some extent been in forced competition 
with the Hollywood producers from the early days of the silent screen; 
but since the advent of "talkies" and color films this situation has grown 
acute. Producers are often subsidized by Hollywood and plays are written 
and produced with the picture rights in mind, the New York production 


being regarded as a sort of preview test before an audience and a means 
of securing preliminary publicity for the picture version. The playwright 
who is eager to reach a large audience is forced to yield to this procedure, 
since even the most successful play on Broadway is seen by only a small 
portion of the American public and Hollywood controls the only medium 
that reaches the masses. 

That the legitimate theater has been able to survive at all under these 
conditions, or to save itself from deteriorating beyond any semblance of 
dramatic respectability, has been due largely to the work of a number of 
special groups principally the Provincetown Players, the Neighborhood 
Playhouse, the New Playwrights, the Theater of Action, the Theater 
Union, the Theater Guild, the Group Theater and the Mercury Theater. 
In their various theories and methods, these groups have done more to 
invigorate the theater, both legitimate and otherwise, than any other force. 
They gathered audiences for new playwrights and artists that Broadway 
producers were often quick to take advantage of, and their ideas are re 
flected in Hollywood pictures; for Hollywood, with all its technical effi 
ciency and splendor, still relies largely on the legitimate theater for ideas. 

The earliest and perhaps the most important of these groups was the 
Provincetown Players. In 1915, a few summer residents at Provincetown, 
Massachusetts, organized for the purpose of presenting original plays writ 
ten by members of the group. In 1916, they made their first New York 
appearance in MacDougal Street, in what soon became known as the 
Provincetown Playhouse. Although the leadership and personnel of the 
organization underwent many changes during its career, it clung consist 
ently to one important principle that the playwright's work should not 
be a mere vehicle for the actor, the designer and the director, but rather 
that the work of these theater craftsmen should serve the dramatist. Lead 
ership and inspiration for the early Provincetown group came largely from 
George Cram Cook, although John Reed was very active and had much to 
do with its success. Later a triumvirate composed of Eugene O'Neill, Ken 
neth MacGowan and Robert Edmond Jones assumed control ; while in its 
final period on MacDougal Street it was under the direction of Henry 
Alsberg, M. Eleanor Fitzgerald and James Light. 

The Provincetown Players presented play after play by Eugene O'Neill 
before he was taken up by commercial managers and became a popular 
playwright ; and it gave a first hearing on the stage to many other writers. 
Sherwood Anderson, Djuna Barnes, Louise Bryant, E. E. Cummings, 
Floyd Dell, Theodore Dreiser, Max Eastman, Edna Ferber, Virgil Geddes, 


Susan Glaspell, Paul Green, Michael Gold, Alfred Kreymborg, Edna St. 
Vincent Millay, David Pinski, John Reed, Michael Swift, Edmund Wilson, 
and Stark Young are some of the authors who at one time or another fig 
ured in its program. Such sensitive directors as Jasper Deeter and James 
Light were developed here, while more than a score of actors and actresses 
famous today had their start at the Provincetown. A notable accomplish 
ment of this group was its work in bringing the Negro actor to the legiti 
mate stage. Paul Robeson, Charles Gilpin, Frank Wilson, Jules Bledsoe, 
and Rose McClendon were made known to the public largely by way of 
MacDougal Street. No more brilliant array of literary and theatrical talent 
has enriched the American stage than that assembled by the Provincetown 

The Neighborhood Playhouse, organized in 1915, was the pioneer of 
the Little Theater movement in and around New York City. Originally 
this group had been an expression of East Side settlement activity, in 
tended to provide slum-dwellers with good drama and to give people in 
the neighborhood who had talent a chance to act in it. Later, under the 
management of Irene and Alice Lewisohn, the small house on Grand 
Street became a significant drama center that attracted discriminating the 
atergoers from all parts of the city and assumed a degree of national im 
portance. The project was abandoned in 1927, by which time it had made 
nearly a hundred productions, many of them New York premieres. It first 
produced The Dybbuk, and a number of dramatic curiosities such as James 
Joyce's Exiles. Its Grand Street Follies became such a success in 1922 that 
the versions of this and later seasons were reproduced in an uptown play 

An outgrowth of the Washington Square Players, founded in 1915 and 
organized in 1919 on a season subscription basis, the Theater Guild 
under Philip Moeller, Theresa Helburn, Helen Westley, Lawrence Lang- 
ner, Lee Simonson and others did much in its early period to encourage 
higher standards of playwriting and production and the treatment of con 
troversial themes. Its first production, Bonds of Interest, failed in a finan 
cial sense ; but its second offering, John Ferguson, was a great success. By 
its fourth season, the Guild had 12,000 subscribers, and was planning 
for its own million-dollar theater on Fifty-Second Street. The latter opened 
in 1925 with an elaborate presentation of Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra. 

Operating at times as many as three theaters at once, the Guild has been 
in the nearly twenty years of its existence the most prolific and consistent 
producing stage organization in New York perhaps in the world. Its 


repertory has ranged through a wide variety of classics, modern plays and 
revivals. It has produced most of the later plays of Eugene O'Neill and a 
considerable number of European adaptations. Its productions of Elmer 
Rice's The Adding Machine in 1923 and John Howard Lawson's Proces 
sional in 1925 were important events, while From Morn to Midnight, 
Liliom and R.U.R. had a stimulating effect upon the American theater. 

Although a few foreign language groups and occasionally an independ 
ent producer brought the social dramas of Ibsen, Galsworthy, Gorki, 
Hauptmann and others to New York, and pageants had been staged to 
further the interests of labor, notably at the old Madison Square Garden 
under the direction of John Reed, it was not until 1926 that New York 
had its first organization to concentrate on labor drama for a labor audi 
ence. This was the Workers' Drama League, which is mentioned farther 
on in this article. In 1927, a few writers, most of them previously associ 
ated with this league, organized the New Playwrights. The enterprise was 
not self-sustaining (the late Otto Kahn financed it), but it paved the way 
for numerous successors. Its productions of plays by Paul Sifton, Upton 
Sinclair, Michael Gold, John Howard Lawson, Em Jo Basshe, and John 
Dos Passos provoked controversy and helped to clarify issues to be de 
bated later on a wider front. 

In 1926, Eva LeGallienne founded her Civic Repertory Theater on 
Fourteenth Street. Devoted principally to modern classic dramas, Miss 
LeGallienne' s company had a considerable following. But although the 
admission rates were low in comparison with other New York houses, it 
was not a self-sustaining venture; and when its subsidy gave out in 1932 
the enterprise was discontinued. 

Other important influences on the New York theater of the 1920*5 
were the visits of the Irish Players from the Abbey Theater, Dublin, and 
of the Moscow Art Theater company. The Irish Players came first before 
the World War, bringing plays by Synge and others that set a new stand 
ard for serious playwrights. Later, their presentation of plays by Sean 
O'Casey and other Irish dramatists, left an indelible impression. In 1923, 
Morris Gest brought to New York the Moscow Art Theater, with its" 
great actors taught by Stanislavsky and its repertory of plays by Chekhov, 
Andreyev, Tolstoi, and other Russian writers. The Stanislavsky method of 
acting has been adopted, in its most complete form, by the present Group 
Theater. The Habima Players, a Hebrew group from Russia, played for a 
time in New York in the late 1920*5 to a considerable following. 

It was not until the economic misery of the depression began to pene- 


trate more and more deeply that increasing numbers of people, rejecting 
the commercial theater that breathed no hint of this, turned to the social 
drama and gave it a variety of forms. The sponsors of this development 
believe that drama should reflect the lives and problems of the masses. 
Workers, labor organizers, the people of average or sub-average economic 
means, are the heroes and heroines of their. new plays. The theater, they 
say, must be no longer preoccupied with drawing-room and boudoir crises, 
buc with current issues in political and economic affairs. 

In 1929, the Workers' Laboratory Theater found an audience for a 
new type of stage production that needed no more than a hall or a street 
corner for its production. Using a technique that could easily adapt the 
vital news of the day to stage production, this group, later known as the 
Theater of Action, adopted methods later expanded and employed with 
considerable success by The Living Newspaper unit of the Federal The 
ater Project. Unemployed, Scott sboro and Newsboy were typical titles and 
themes among its productions. 

Peace on Earth, an anti-war play, inaugurated the activities of the The 
ater Union in 1933. It was received by the labor press and audience with 
enthusiasm but by the Broadway critics with anguish. This play was fol 
lowed by Stevedore, an analysis of race prejudice and oppression that 
brought down both the left and the right sides of the house. Plays by Paul 
Peters, George Sklar, Friedrich Wolf, Albert Maltz, Albert Bein and John 
Howard Lawson figured in the Theater Union program. When the group 
suspended its collective activities in 1937, it announced that the purpose 
for which it had been formed was being adequately served by other or 
ganizations and individuals. 

Although critics were reluctant to see the value of the social-minded 
theater, the militant and vital theater folk were not without their propa 
gandists. In April 1931, the Workers' Laboratory Theater issued two hun 
dred mimeographed copies of its bulletin, Workers' Theater. In Septem 
ber 1933, this bulletin was renamed New Theater Magazine, and under 
the audacious editorship of Herbert Kline it soon became the most impbf- 
- tant publication of its kind in America. It fought for truth in the theater, 
and introduced in its pages such sensational hits as Waiting for Lefty, 
Bury the Dead and Hymn to the Rising Sun. 

Broadway, however, was slow to accept the strongly motivated social- 
minded play. Grand Hotel, employing all the old tricks of melodrama, 
was among the hits in a season when the theater was beginning to be 
darkened by a crisis the existence of which it did not openly admit. Paul 


and Claire Sif ton's 1931, a tragic transcript of unemployment, produced by 
the Group Theater, drew so little of the Broadway trade that it closed 
within a week and a half. 

It was the Group Theater, originally a subsidiary of the Theater Guild, 
that reacted most sensitively to the drama with a strictly social or labor 
theme and (despite the failure of 1931) proved the box-office value of 
Sueh drama. Its announced policy was to present plays based upon con 
temporary social issues. It has shown some confusion in following this 
aim; and had it not been for the short but vivid career of the Theater 
Union, it might not have reached its present importance. The organization 
produced Sidney Kingsley's Pulitzer Prize play Men in White, Paul 
Gfeen's House of Connelly and Johnnie Johnson, and several plays by 
Clifford Odets. 

It would be wrong to assume, however, that until the voice of labor 
Vas heard within the independent theater movement there had been no 
plays or playwrights with keen social awareness. Prior to the World War, 
such plays as Augustus Thomas' The Copperhead, Eugene Walter's The 
Easiest Way, Edward Sheldon's The Nigger and William Vaughn Moody's 
The Great Divide were concerned with themes certainly no further re 
moved from the reality of their times than, for instance, such major works 
of Eugene O'Neill as All God's Chillun Got Wings, The Emperor Jones, 
and Mourning Becomes Electra. A comparison of the works of these 
dramatists brings to light more similarities than differences. All were more 
concerned with the stage possibilities of their material than with the un 
derlying import of their themes. All wrote more or less around and on 
the surface of important questions; none was a dramatic genius whose 
ideas and methods have had much to do with revolutionizing either ways 
of thinking or the stage, and all wrote in a similar romantic and melo 
dramatic vein. 

Furthermore, these men were not the first dramatists to deal with con 
troversial social themes. Before and after the Civil War, many plays on 
vital and even revolutionary issues of the day were produced on the New 
York stage. On December 16, 1859, just fourteen days after the execution 
of John Brown at Harper's Ferry, a dramatization of the event was pro 
duced at the Bowery Theater, under the title of The Insurrection, or 
Kansas and Harper's Ferry. As a forerunner of The Living News 
paper type of theater, so popular at the moment, this is not without sig 
nificance. Technical innovations have been added aplenty since then, but 
the idea of dramatizing current issues close on their happening is not new. 


Uncle Tom's Cabin was also an early social play, and the New York 
Herald in 1852 advised "all concerned to drop the play at once and for 
ever. The thing is in bad taste is not according to good faith to the 
constitution . . . and is calculated, if persisted in, to become a firebran4 
of the most dangerous character to the peace of the whole country." 

Nor would it be correct to assume that outside the independent theater 
movement the New York stage was altogether lacking in vitality. Max 
well Anderson dramatized current issues in What Price Glory (written in 
collaboration with Laurence Stallings), Gods of the Lightning (an ex^ 
position of the Sacco-Vanzetti trial and its implications, written in cok 
laboration with Harold Hickerson), and a few of his other plays. Elmei? 
Rice has been consistently sensitive to major conflicts and modern prob- 
lems. Plays like Martin Flavin's The Criminal Code, John Wexley's 
The Last Mile and They Shall Not Die, Sidney Howard's Yellow Jack, 
and Sidney Kingsley's Dead End show to what extent the theater in 
general has become socially conscious. Ever since the production of Be 
yond the Horizon in 1920 and The Hairy Ape in 1922, the many plays 
of Eugene O'Neill have had their considerable influence on both the 
so-called sophisticated and the socially responsible playwrights, and have 
attracted international attention, climaxed in 1936 by the award to their 
author of the Nobel Prize for literature. 

The commercial theater, while for the most part lagging considerably 
behind the experiments of others, has nevertheless created several types of 
theatrical entertainment very much worthwhile in their own right. Of these, 
perhaps the outstanding example is the light, satiric, fantastic revue, found 
at its best in the various Kaufman-Connelly-Ryskind-Gershwin-Hart coffb 
binations. Beggar on Horseback in 1924, by George S. Kaufman and Marc 
Connelly, was one of the earliest of these theatrical cocktails to win wide 
popularity. They appeared regularly thereafter, welcomed by a diversion- 
seeking public that had wearied of Ziegfeld's and Earl Carroll's and 
George White's "glorified girl" in a Taj Mahal setting itself an innova 
tion in its day. The song and dance type of musical play is still popu 
lar. Plays or musical comedies of political satire continue a tradition that 
began in the days of Weber and Fields and of Harrigan and Hart, and 
still employ many of the methods characteristic of those comedians. 

A second type of strictly American theater is exemplified in Spread 
Eagle and What Price Glory. The latter play, by Laurence Stallings and 
Maxwell Anderson, was the first popular drama in our time to "debunk" 
war sentiment, and is still a reference point in the drama. It marked with 


considerable emphasis the theater's liberation from some of the more 
persistent Victorian taboos. After What Price Glory there were plenty of 
plays whose language and conventions still reeked of refinement, but the 
unwritten and immutable law that they had to do this was now repealed. 
Broadway by Philip Dunning and George Abbott, and Chicago by Maurine 
Watkins, both produced in the 1926-27 season, continued this vein of 
hard-boiled, high-speed realism. They were followed by George Manker 
Watters' and Arthur Hopkins' Burlesque, and then by Ben Hecht's and 
Charles MacArthur's smash-hit The Front Page, which like their predeces 
sors effectively caught the gaudy colors and staccato rhythms of the times. 
This is true also of the plays written and produced in collaboration by 
George Abbott and George Kaufman. These easily recognizable types 
swift paced, dexterous and sparkling were the commercial theater's unique 
contribution to Hollywood and to world drama. 

Craig's Wife, by George Kelly, the 1926 Pulitzer Prize winner, and 
Sidney Howard's The Silver Cord of the following year, both of them 
Guild productions, opened a new vein in the perennial domestic-problem 
play. Many of the plays of Eugene O'Neill were concerned with domestic 
tragedies and various underlying falsities in our social life. This vein was 
continued with distinction more recently by Lillian Hellman in her sensa 
tional The Children's Hour. Philip Barry's plays show excellence of dia 
logue, not always used to important advantage. As for the contribution 
perhaps it should be called the touch of Noel Coward in recent years, 
among such diverse proclivities as his it is difficult to say where the facile 
leaves off and real talent begins. George Jean Nathan labels him a "stage- 
wright" an unusual but by no means rare phenomenon in the theater 
and diagnoses his plays as containing situations but not characters. Private 
Lives and the widely known Design for Living, among the many Coward 
plays, are modernizations of the Victorian drawing-room drama. They 
belong, in a sense, to impolite comedy, just as the many plays of Rachel 
Crothers belong strictly to polite comedy. 

New York has had a foreign language stage for a considerable period. 
A pioneer in this field was the German Theater, on Irving Place, which 
had considerable influence and a devoted following in the 1890'$. Here 
the plays of Lessing, Sudermann, Hauptmann and others were given in 
the original, with prominent German actors and actresses in the leading 
parts. Another notable influence on American stage setting and acting, 
though for a much briefer period, was Copeau's Theatre du Vieux Colum- 
bier. Maurice Schwartz's Yiddish Art Theater was long an important 


dramatic center in New York's East Side, with which Stella and Luther 
Adler, Paul Muni and other prominent actors and actresses have been 
associated. This organization now makes its productions in the uptown 
theater district. The Artef, a Jewish group organized on a cooperative 
basis in 1935 by Jacob Mastel, has won a distinctive place among the city's 
art theaters; and many of its productions, directed by Benno Schneider, 
have been notable. Since the early 1920'$ the musical comedy star Molly 
Picon has been one of the most popular individual figures in the Jewish 
theater of New York. 

No development of recent years in the theatrical world has more sig 
nificant implications than the Federal Theater, a part of the national relief 
program inaugurated in 1935 under the Works Progress Administration. 
Productions of new plays and revivals of old ones, minstrels, marionette 
and children's theaters, circuses, light opera, vaudeville, a training school 
and studio theater for drama teachers installed in the old Provincetown 
Playhouse, even a showboat anchored off a Hoboken pier opposite Man 
hattan's Twenty-Third Street all of these sprang into being in the most 
sudden rejuvenation the New York theater has ever known. 

Employing at its peak more than 5,000 persons, mostly actors, theater 
technicians, writers, etc., the Federal Theater in New York in 193637 
had more than fifteen distinct units operating more than a dozen theaters. 
Its principal units near the theater district, the Experimental Theater, the 
Popular Price Theater, The Living Newspaper, and "891," as well as the 
Negro Theater in Harlem, were tremendously successful. These units, 
under the supervision of Hallie Flanagan, Philip Barber, Virgil Geddes, 
Edward Goodman, Walter Hart, John Houseman and Morris Watson, 
produced play after play that ran to packed houses for weeks in the very 
midst of the depression. Plays on contemporary themes such as Chalk 
Dust, Battle Hymn, Class of '29, Native Ground, Processor Mamlock and 
Hymn to the Rising Sun, and revivals of classics such as Dr. Faustus and 
Macbeth were among its more notable offerings. 

Perhaps the most successful of the WPA producing units, however, was 
The Living Newspaper. Using a technique combining journalism and the 
theater by means of actors, a voice amplifier, charts and signs, "stills" and 
moving pictures, it presented several significant productions. Triple-A 
Plowed Under dramatized effectively the plight of the farmer; Power 
tackled the subject of public versus private ownership of the utilities as 
exemplified by hydro-electricity and the TVA; while One Third of a 
Nation successfully dramatized the housing problem. 


The Federal Theater is the first subsidized theater on a large scale ever 
attempted in America. Offering almost every form of stage entertainment 
and playing to millions of people, it has clarified a number of issues. It 
has proved, first, that there is a large public anxious to see living actors on 
the stage in plays dealing with living issues, providing the prices are low ; 
second, that to exist on an impressive scale the theater needs Federal sub 
sidy, unburdened by censorship ; and third, that at no time in the past has 
the theater absorbed more than a very small part of the talent at its 

With Broadway producers and the Federal Theater presenting socially 
minded plays, the 1937-38 season offered only one militantly left produc 
tion by an independent theatrical organization The Cradle Will Rock, 
originally rehearsed as a Federal Theater production but presented by the 
Mercury Theater, whose most important members were drawn from the 
Federal Theater group. Pins and Needles, an outstanding musical revue of 
the season, was sponsored by the International Ladies Garment Workers 
Union. The production of this revue by a recognized trade union has im 
portant implications. It has been evident for some time to those of ex 
perience in theatrical production that the "left theater," like any other 
today, cannot exist long as an independent organization. It also must be 
subsidized. Should the day come when a large and progressive labor or 
ganization can sponsor a theater for and about the people, then and only 
then will we have a people's theater. 

In 1937, along with its presentation of The Cradle Will Rock, the 
Mercury Theater staged a production of Julius Caesar in modern clothes 
and with a contemporary emphasis on the theme of dictatorship. On a 
virtually bare stage, lighting effects swiftly and vividly painted the back 
ground. The play had all the force of a present-day "thriller," and became 
an instant hit. The same group has since presented Thomas Dekker's The 
Shoemakers' Holiday in a similar manner and with similar success. 

Behind the scenes as it were, the men and women who make up the 
great rank and file of the theater have long been struggling to improve 
conditions of existence that were frequently deplorable. Among the ear 
liest of their organizations was the White Rats Actors' Union, formed in 
1900 "for the purpose of founding a brotherhood among all vaudevil- 
lians, perhaps with a view of eventually embracing all those who act or 
perform on the mimic stage." In 1916, when vaudeville was about at its 
zenith, the union had 25,000 members in good standing. Today the lead 
ing organization devoted to the cause of the actor in the legitimate theater 


is Actors' Equity Association, which is affiliated with unions embracing 
screen actors and radio performers. Equity's great triumph came in 1919 
when, after the managers' association refused to deal with it, a strike was 
called that lasted for 30 days, spread to eight cities, closed 37 plays and 
prevented the opening of 16. The result was a decisive victory for the 
actors. Since then even the playwrights have organized (as a branch of 
the Authors League), and today nearly every type of theater worker be 
longs to a union. 

The financial depression that began in 1929 brought the New York 
theater to its greatest crisis. It had already been heavily undermined by 
Hollywood, which had lured away many of its most talented actors, writ 
ers and directors. "Broadway" as traditionally known was in truth no 
longer on Broadway, for the motion picture firms had been steadily pur 
chasing the existent theaters and erecting huge houses on "the Great White 
Way," until the legitimate stage found itself pushed around the corner 
east and west on the side streets. Even there, and overbuilt with theaters 
as the city was (more were erected between 1900 and 1929 than in the 
entire preceding century), huge rentals prevailed. What Lee Simonson has 
called "smash-hit economics" dictated, and still dictates, the dizzy rules of 
the theater game. Rents, salaries, production costs are all based upon the 
premise that the producer either has a tremendous success that will bring 
him millions or he has nothing at all, and as a result, credit expansion has 
reached giddier proportions in the theater business than it has in other 
spheres. The once prosperous "road business" has declined to insignificant 
proportions. Except in the case of a few unusually successful Broadway 
hits and some of the more important Theater Guild productions, com 
panies are seldom sent out from New York. But by developing production 
groups in many other cities, the Federal Theater is going a long way to 
ward the establishment of locally supported theaters for the presentation 
not merely of New York successes but of indigenous regional plays as 
well. From these large cities as production centers, the Federal Theater 
plans to send out its plays to communities in the neighborhood of each 
city; and thus to some extent the "road" will be revived. 

Vacillating between the extremes of industry and art, the commercial 
theater represents a complicated problem, and its progress is necessarily 
slow. During the 1937-38 season, the idea of plays without scenery as 
adapted by the Mercury Theater was taken up by other producers. 
The scenic designers' union, seeing a threat to its craft, threatened to im 
pose a $ 1,000 fine on all productions not using scenery. Strindberg was 


kicking useless canvas walls and shrubbery off the stage back in the 1890'$, 
and the resources of light as expounded by Adolph Appia years ago have 
long been available. Broadway, however, discovers all this as a great in 
novation in the year 1937. 

The New York theater is the sum of many influences that are often 
contradictory in motives and ideals. It will adopt a method or style used 
fifty years ago as readily as it will the newest innovation, providing either 
brings money to the box office. While probably the most active theater in 
the world, it is still on the whole an old-fashioned affair that lags in the 
rear of progressive theory and experiment. Its buildings are obsolete 
uncomfortable to sit in and out of keeping with new esthetic standards; 
even the newer ones have had to imitate the horrible examples of theater 
architecture of the past because they must squeeze in between two other 
buildings in order to find a place in the district. 

Realistic settings were a fetish with Belasco. It is recorded that on one 
occasion, to provide an accurate background for a scene in a theatrical 
rooming house, he bought the furnishings and decorations of a room in 
such a house and removed them, wallpaper and all, to the stage. A revolt 
against such hard-and-fast literalism set in ; but the stage, particularly since 
the World War, is still too much preoccupied with the man who designs 
the sets and mounts the play. 

The theater, commercial or otherwise, is of course an ephemeral affair 
if it does not produce a dramatic literature. The New York theater has 
occasionally done something toward this end, although writers and authors 
as distinguished from "stage carpenters" still have only a small part in it. 
The gulf between literature in print and on the stage has been lessened 
only slightly. The printed play is seldom reviewed in literary journals, and 
our established authors seldom think in terms of dramatic writing. 

The New York theater belongs when it does not belong to the real 
estate agent to the showman, the entrepreneur, the director, the person 
ality actor and actress, the promoter, the press agent, the dramatic critic 
and the high-priced box-office clientele. It rarely admits the independent 
thinker. In a negative way it may arouse and provoke through satire; it 
may even finance plays of popular protest; but aside from novel inter 
pretations of Shakespeare and other classics, it cannot support dramatic 
literature. Nevertheless, it would be far less than it is without its Brady, 
Gordon, Harris, Hopkins, Miller, Pemberton, among the producers; its 
Barrymores, Lunts, Katharine Cornell, Helen Hayes, on the stage; and the 


many competent directors and craftsmen who have made it, in its way, 

Vaudeville, once immensely popular, has all but perished before trie on 
slaught of radio and the sound films. In its pure form it was still to be 
seen in 1938 as an adjunct to a screen program in only three New 
York theaters, one of them on Broadway. And remnants of it still survive 
as part of the stage presentations in such movie houses as the TToxy and 
Radio City Music Hall. But vaudeville's less 'respectable sister, burlesque, 
is well patronized in New York. Although the word "burlesque" is offi 
cially taboo in advertising, the houses presenting this form of entertain 
ment flourish in considerable number, both in and outside the regular 
theater district. 

As far as the drama is concerned, theatergoing in New York City may 
be an uncertain adventure we no longer have a "comedy theater," for 
example, where one can be somewhat sure beforehand what to expect; 
but a little investigation proves one thing to be true, that in the course of 
a few seasons, providing one has the price of admission, almost all types 
of theater may be found, in productions that are unmatched anywhere else. 


Pleasures in Palaces 

THE AMERICAN cinema has impressed its influence on a thousand com 
munities from Bucharest to Surabaya, New York among them; but the 
influence of New York on the cinema constitutes a unique cultural relation 
ship. Indirectly but unmistakably, the metropolis puts its stamp on Ameri 
can motion-picture art. 

The keen-eared movie-goer may have observed that Popeye, gnarled 
knight of the clenched fist and the corncob pipe, speaks Tenth Avenue's 
indigenous tongue. Betty Boop, epitome of short-skirted innocence in the 
1920'$, scolds her little dog and sings her copyrighted ditties in exagger 
ated New Yorkese. It is not unlikely that her creation was suggested by 
the personality and appearance of a musical comedy and screen actress, 
Helen Kane, whose short-lived star rose in the Bronx. 

Hew York's vital contribution to screen acting art lies not alone in the 
number and quality of actors it claims as natives. It has produced indi 
viduals whose screen personalities and acting style symbolize America and 
its people. 

Just as William S. Hart was a national idol during the period of pre-war 
growth and the World War itself, so it is entirely logical that James Cag- 
ney should have become the embodiment of the Great American Male dur 
ing the Babylonian years of the Coolidge era. Hart's vast popularity was 
based on the vitality with which the pioneer tradition persisted in the life 
of the American people. This tradition gave way in part, however, before 
the increasingly urban substance and coloration that American culture be 
gan to assume in the post-war period. 

In the unsophisticated years when Bill Hart and his pony were idols 
of the screen, the ideal man was straightforward, fearless and pure. But in 
the sybaritic 1920*5, this paragon of American manhood, imbued with the 
ideology of speedy success, turned tough, unscrupulous and glib. Because 
his acting embodies all these qualities and modifies them with a subtle 
warmth of attractive personality, Cagney and his tommy-gun became the 



apotheosis (almost the caricature) of this spirit, replacing Hart and his 
six-shooter as symbols of America. Such observations are necessarily over 
simplified, perhaps too exclusive ; but they help to illuminate certain major 
changes of emphasis in the national psyche. 

Again, as a cinematic reflection of its own admittedly insular life, New 
York has contributed such a typical personality as Lionel Stander. No one 
who has ever elbowed his way through the lower East Side will fail to 
recognize the raucous voice, the good-humored sneer, the compressed lips, 
the critical lift of the eyebrows, the noisy obtuse cynicism even the callous 
deadliness he displayed in A Star Is Born that mark Stander as New 
York's own. 

Equally indigenous to New York's celebrated sidewalks is that night 
club fish-out-of -water in the motion pictures, Jimmy Durante. He repre 
sents New York of the 1920*5 not merely as a living caricature of New 
York's Al Smith. His characterization of the unlettered but shrewd polit 
ical adviser in The Phantom President was a pat, if accidental, commentary 
on New York politics; and his self-libelous label, "Schnozzola," could have 
blossomed only in New York's polyglot give-and-take. Moreover, his vio 
lent self-assurance smacks of a cross between the slightly bewildered but 
intensely adaptable immigrant and the youth whose haywire eagerness to 
make good often develops into a burst of confusion-for-its-own-sake. At 
his liveliest, Durante combines the best features of a good terrier and a 

Conversely, another character actor, Allen Jenkins, symbolizes still an 
other variety of New Yorker: the hardboiled and amiable cluck, an un 
derprivileged, frustrated individual who mistakes his own boisterousness 
for good-fellowship, his obtuseness for deep thinking and his vulgarity 
for wit. 

Nor is New York extravagant in claiming at least two of the Marx 
Brothers. Harpo, by virtue of his pantomime and his music, is universal; 
but Groucho, with his be-moustached aplomb, his cocked eye and his omi 
nous walk, is a travesty on every phase of metropolitan ambition and pre 
tense. Chico represents the glib ingenuousness masking a predatory shrewd 
ness that is essential for survival in most of New York's foreign quarters. 
The character he has created of the foot-loose and tongue-loose vagabond 
may be obsolete in its externals, but it has strong roots in the life of New 
York's ghettos. 

Edgar Dale, in The Content of Motion Pictures, a study published by 
the Payne Fund, reports that out of 115 pictures on which his researches 


v/ere based, 37 had their settings in New York, while 13 others were set 
in other large cities. Undoubtedly the New York skyline and Times Square 
have become two of the most common bits of scenery on the world's 
screens. It is not the whim of urbanized and sophisticated writers that 
makes the metropolis so common a locale for screen dramas. It's simply that 
the most crowded cage in the zoo attracts the greatest number of specta 
tors. If the essence of all drama lies in a conflict of forces, then New York 
must necessarily continue to be one of the screen's principal sources of 

Broadway's close-packed ranks of picture palaces reveal at a glance, for 
better or worse, the city's chief agency of entertainment and culture. The 
self -same glance also points out the New Yorker's easiest avenue of escape 
from the strident realities and the gruelling tempo of metropolitan en 
deavor. Perhaps New Yorkers have greater need for short and frequent re 
laxation. Often the dwellers in other American cities may escape to a small 
garden plot, to the open road, to playing fields, even to mere restful idle 
ness among quiet houses and streets whose tree-lined aspect offers relief 
from the grimness of factories and the austerity of office buildings. The 
New Yorker lacks such workaday variety. The end of his day's work, or 
his day's search for work, brings no relief. On the contrary, it intensifies 
his feeling of oppressive concern. 

The sense of physical confinement that lurks in a remote corner of his 
consciousness during the day becomes overwhelming as he goes down into 
the crowded subway. Even his cramped living quarters offer no room for 
the unbending of his weary spirit. The apartment houses in which he lives 
are as closely packed as the office buildings where he works. The tenements 
look as grim as the factories. His mild but recurrent claustrophobia is fully 
roused by the time he has finished his evening meal; and the habit of a 
narrow but intense physical activity urges him like a drug. Where to go? 
There is a motion picture house in every second block. The answer is, in 
evitably, the movies. 

Yet among New Yorkers there has grown up a very strong demand for 
the creation of a motion picture art that has greater consonance with reality. 
Those few motion pictures that reach beyond the fixed Hollywood pattern 
to deal seriously with social realities are always certain of an audience in 
the metropolis. Pictures like Fury, The Black Legion, and They Won't 
Forget are seldom failures in New York. 

The movie-goer who is not isolated from his neighbors by the darkness 
of a theater and the physical hypnotism of the screen may discover that 


most audiences seldom betray a great variety or intensity of reactions. New 
York audiences, however, are critical. The vast number of movie houses 
permits them to express their criticism of any single picture in the manner 
most profoundly understood by producers non-attendance. 

The comparatively discriminating tastes of New York fans have led to 
a marginal revolt against Hollywood on the adjacent fronts of exhibition 
and production. At about the time the Paramount Building first reared its 
precariously balanced globe against the midtown sky, the little cinema 
movement was sprouting roots among a new type of movie-goer. German 
importations such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Variety, The Last Laugh, 
and Russian epics on the order of The End of St. Petersburg, Potemkin and 
Ten Days That Shook the World, had suddenly revealed to aloof esthetes 
that the motion picture could be more than a form of slow and painless 
intellectual suicide. Their appetites whetted by foreign achievements, these 
esthetes rediscovered Charlie Chaplin, canonized Krazy Kat and well-nigh 
deified Mickey Mouse. New York entrepreneurs, adept in exploiting even 
the most obscure and exotic desires of the paying customers, began to im 
port foreign pictures and to revive meritorious domestic productions. The 
logical next step was the establishment of houses that specialized in the 
showing of esoteric films. In the first years of sound, when the picture 
shortage was acute, the exhibition of foreign pictures attracted another new 
audience from the foreign-born communities. 

In the field of production, the revolt against Hollywood followed simi 
lar lines. Those who had come to regard the cinema with intense serious 
ness sought to drive home their strictures by example. Isolated experiment 
ers tried to develop a new camera technique that would liberate the film 
from the Hollywood idiom. Others made films that were clearly under the in 
fluence of the English documentalists, who apply their creative imagery to 
such ordinary undramatic topics as the fishing industry, the radio and the 
postal service. Ralph Steiner made films without actors the hypnotically 
rhythmic Surf and Seaweed and H 2 O. Robert Florey made The Death of a 
Hollywood Extra and The Loves of Mr. Zero; James S. Watson and Mel 
ville Weber produced Lot in Sodom; and news of even more daring ven 
tures began to filter across the ocean from France and Spain and Germany. 
Recently, the traditions of this energetic if somewhat directionless move 
ment have been absorbed and revised in a trend toward the production of 
documentary films under Government auspices, resulting thus far in two 
distinguished efforts, The Plow That Broke the Plains and The River, both 
made by Pare Lorentz. 


No matter where these new films were made, they had their greatest 
repercussions in New York. They spurred the intellectuals to louder cries 
against Hollywood and stronger efforts to make their own films. Unof 
ficially, Hollywood producers welcomed although they did not support 
this movement, because it diverted pressure formerly exerted on them for 
the production of unprofitable films. Labor groups turned to movie-making 
in a valiant effort to counteract what they considered anti-labor propaganda 
incorporated in many Hollywood films. They even avowed the intention of 
taking Hollywood's audiences away from Hollywood. The Workers Film 
and Photo League, probably the most energetic and clear-headed of these 
insurgent groups, produced a series of newsreels, the documentary film of 
a hunger march on Washington, and the semi-documentary Taxi. Nykino 
Films made Pie in the Sky, an experimental satire of high cinematic quality 
and engaging ribaldry. Significant in this connection was the cooperation 
of actors from the Broadway legitimate stage. The rapid development of 
amateur film equipment, which made it easier and cheaper to get high- 
caliber results, gave further stimulus to the movement away from Holly 

New York's importance as a center of advanced ideas, coupled with its 
dominant position as an exhibition center, has made it the logical mecca 
of the serious film student. What cinematic work cannot be seen in New 
York? There are new releases, old pictures, foreign pictures. Academic 
research in the film art is further facilitated by the existence of the Theatre 
Collection of the New York Public Library and the Film Library of the 
Museum of Modern Art. The latter, a privately endowed project, has at 
tained international importance, in the few years since its foundation, as 
an institution that serves with equal facility the demands of the industry 
and the investigations of the film esthetician. 

The art of the cinema has grown apace since the first public exhibition 
of the Edison- Armat Vitascope in 1896, drawing without discrimination 
from all the intellectual treasures of the ages on which it could lay a prof 
itable if heavy hand. But New York, fountainhead of the nation's con 
temporary culture, fostered the motion picture palace that has made a place 
for itself in every metropolitan community. 

Its origins were probably innocent of any motive save profit. In 1912, 
when Adolph Zukor imported the four-reel picture Queen Elizabeth, movie 
houses were for the most part unpretentious. His importation demonstrated 
the success of pictures longer than the customary two reels. As a more or 
less direct result, George Kleine, one of the leaders of the Motion Picture 


Patents Company, brought over the eight-reel spectacle, Quo Vadis. Be 
cause the film's length put it beyond the scope of the nickelodeon, Kleine 
resorted to the large legitimate theaters and succeeded, intentionally or ac 
cidentally, in giving an impressive setting to his spectacular film. It opened 
at the Astor Theatre on April 21, 1913, and ran for 22 weeks at a one- 
dollar top. 

When Mitchell Mark opened his Strand Theatre in 1914 and the Tri 
angle Film Corporation followed suit with the Knickerbocker Theatre, 
there was more than immediate profit at stake. These houses represented 
a conscious effort on the part of the motion picture industry to cloak an 
accomplished fact in respectability. The motion picture had become a pur 
veyor of culture and amusement to the intellectually hungry immigrants 
of the lower East Side during the first teeming decade of the century. 

The nickelodeons, when silent movies had barely developed the elemen 
tary device of written subtitles, were offering primitive two-reel versions 
of Romeo and Juliet to the accompaniment of passionate but unpolished 
rendition of Shakespeare's lines by an off -screen reader. From the wells of 
contemporary reminiscence there often bubble up stories by born-and-bred 
New Yorkers who tell how "we used to take our lunch to the nickelodeon 
and stay all day." 

Long before Mitchell Mark achieved the splendor of the Strand, earnest 
discussion raged in trade papers and general publications about the nickel 
odeon as a substitute for the saloon; about the nickelodeon as the poor 
man's theater ; and about the motion picture as an agency of great potential 
if not actual social value. 

But Mark's pretentious theater was more than the first modern "cathe 
dral of the motion picture." It was the star to which were later hitched 
such stratospheric wagons as those of the late Roxy (Samuel L. Rothapfel) 
and Hugo Riesenfeld. The quoted phrase is Roxy's in concept, if not 
literally. Until Mark's and Roxy's arrival in the field of exhibition, the 
respectability of the motion picture had been in doubt. Mark's money and 
Roxy's resourcefulness allayed that doubt forever. Music, originally a su 
perficial refinement, became essential to cinema expression. The physical 
setting of film exhibition became important. Mark's coup in the establish 
ment of the Strand on Broadway set the inexorable laws of competition in 

The old Rialto and the Rivoli rose on Broadway in quick succession. In 
1919 the Capitol opened as the largest theater in the world and the era 
of the super-movie house became an accepted fact. The Paramount, the 


Roxy and Radio City Music Hall followed at comparatively short inter 
vals. Perhaps the evidence of a distinct pattern in the motion picture cathe 
dral's development is due to the fact that all of those named, save the 
Paramount, felt the guiding hand of the same man Roxy. 

Unfortunately the magnitude of these theaters outstripped the caliber of 
the films they sheltered. Perhaps also because vaudeville still made strong 
competitive claims as a form of popular entertainment, the cathedrals con 
tinued to present stage shows; and the term "presentation house" became 
common in the industry's parlance during the Harding-Coolidge-Hoover 

These presentations grew increasingly lavish and spectacular, but their 
quality remained negligible. They were, for the most part, competently pro 
duced, but they lacked the intimacy and informality of vaudeville ; and they 
failed to make good their claim as spectacle, partly because the images on 
the movie screen dwarfed the live actors and dancers on the stage. 

The super-theater was, on its economic side, a reflection of the struggle 
for monopoly control of the motion picture industry. In the years following 
the war, the major film companies were preoccupied with consolidating 
their positions as producers and distributors. The competition for markets, 
always keen, assumed a new and two-fold aspect in the 1920'$. Each major 
producer turned his energies to the acquisition of a nation-wide theater 
chain large enough to insure the minimum of showings consistent with a 
profitable return on every picture he produced. At the same time, the super- 
theater in New York became a potent force in attracting bookings from 
independent theater owners. The phrases "three smash weeks at the Roxy" 
and "a box-office record-breaker at the Paramount" are still frequent in ad 
vertising intended for exhibitors. The glamor of a gala first night made 
good publicity for general consumption. In cities like Chicago, Cleveland, 
Detroit, Philadelphia, the huge presentation houses yielded a profit; in 
New York, the super-theater was often a financial liability maintained only 
to heighten the prestige of a producing company and its interlocking thea 
ter chain. 

If the super-movie house began life as an awesome and forbidding ca 
thedral, it now exists as a castle in whose sheltering shadow the humble 
serf and artisan may work and play. "Early-bird matinees" and "midnight 
shows" have made it a haven for the footsore and discouraged job-hunter, 
the venturesome housewife, the impromptu family party and the city-bound 
victim of summer's heat or winter's cold. The interior of the modern 
super-cinema is far more than an auditorium and a screen. The galaxy of 


paintings on the walls, the elaborate lounges where one may sit for hours 
in upholstered comfort, are standard equipment. The immaculate and im 
posing appointments of the washrooms are almost a consolation for the 
occasional disappointments of the screen. No cathedral is without an in 
firmary for emergencies; one even boasts a maternity ward. Of all the 
super-houses, the Radio City Music Hall has been least compromised by 
the tastes and practices of misguided architects and decorators. Its archi 
tecture is recognizably modern, and its decorations bear the effective stamp 
of muralists and sculptors whose esthetic sins, if any, are easier to forgive 
than those of their predecessors. 

The sound film and the era of economic depression have wrought 
changes in the cathedrals. The stage show persists in the larger ones, but 
it has lost the hectic overtones attendant on its determination to be regarded 
as super- spectacle. The stabilization of the industry and the improved qual 
ity of films have contributed a quieter atmosphere and tone. 

The heyday of the presentation palace for silent pictures was concurrent 
with the rise of the little cinema movement. Discriminating intellectuals 
and faddists alike shrank from the ballyhoo, the impersonal and often ill- 
considered splendor, of the big houses, as well as from the mediocrity of 
the films. The little cinema houses, as they sprang up in response to the 
demand for unusual films, sought to create an atmosphere of intimacy and 
informality. The architecture and decoration were frankly modern, in con 
trast to the corrupted classicism of the big houses. Unable to offer mother- 
of-pearl washroom fittings, the little cinemas held out ping-pong tables, 
demi-tasses and cigarettes in the lounge. One such house with a Park Av 
enue clientele installed a checkroom for pets. The intimacy and informality 
in these theaters are more than artificial atmosphere; they help to induce 
moods of lively and intelligent reaction to the program. 

The newsreel theaters, particularly the Trans Lux houses, have contrib 
uted notably to the architecture and decoration of small theaters. They have 
also given a new and healthy direction to movie-going habits. The wide 
variety encompassed by their programs in the course of 60 minutes news, 
comedy, travel and educational films is making for a greater catholicity 
in audience tastes. Again, the newsreel theater offers the usually articulate 
New Yorker a public forum for the expression of his political and social 
faith, whatever it may be, in a period when aloofness from politics has 
become a rarity. During the Roosevelt-Landon campaign in 1936 the news- 
reel houses resounded perpetually with cheers and hisses, applause and 
boos, as the opposing candidates appeared on the screen. Any student of 


politics and government might have gauged New York's reaction to Presi 
dent Roosevelt's proposal for enlarging the Supreme Court by the applause 
and dissent of newsreel audiences, as protagonists or opponents of the plan 
spoke from the screen. 

Booing has become a prevalent form of expression for movie audiences, 
carried over perhaps from the tradition of the baseball park ; and politically 
minded film-goers seem to consider two current European dictators 
especially as fair game. Following the outbreak of the Spanish civil war 
in 1936, many a theater resounded with cries of "No Pasaran," slogan of 
the Spanish Loyalists and their sympathizers. Such expressions have been 
emphatic and widely distributed. 

In one instance, probably unique in movie history, audience disapproval 
was aimed, not at the content of the newsreel, but at the producer. Hearst- 
Metrotone News was compelled to withdraw its name from the screen be 
cause of wide public displeasure at the policies espoused by publisher Wil 
liam Randolph Hearst. An account of the matter in the issue of Time 
magazine for November 23, 1936, contains the following: "Unfortunately, 
while Metrotone was scrupulously avoiding every trace of partisanship, its 
famed producer's newssheets were doing nothing of the sort. By last sum 
mer cinemaddicts who objected to Hearst's newspaper policies had taken 
to booing Hearst Metrotone News whenever it appeared on the screen, 
picketing theaters that showed it. First move of theater managers was to 
cut the titles with the Hearst name on them and insert substitute titles and 
sub-titles. Last week, after his return from Europe, William Randolph 
Hearst made the change official." 

The wedding-cake architecture of many American office buildings, the 
elaborate appointments of business offices, the glimmer of a young girl's 
platinum blonde hair, the familiar utterance of words derived from un 
familiar lexicons these are the externals of the influence the cinema wields 
on New York and Kamm's Corners alike. 

The more basic forms and content of this influence, however, have been 
subjects of perennial discussion by sociologists, clergymen, clubwomen and 
art critics. None has hesitated to cast a stone in the direction of the screen 
(though perhaps only the little cinema has been immediately constructive). 
The sociologists and clergymen have approached unanimity in their charge 
that the cinema is dangerous as a social force; they sometimes fail to take 
note of the social forces that shape the cinema and are reflected in it. 

Art critics have protested (though not so loudly in recent years) that the 
cinema is per se not an art at all, because it employs industrial methods, 


machinery and organization; they ignore the fact that artists in all ages 
have sought to make their art greater by applying to it all the resources 
of science. No one reproached Leonardo da Vinci for his work as a scien 
tist or for discovering, incidentally, the principle of modern photography. 
And no one effectively discounted the French impressionist painters for 
their preoccupation with Cherreul's spectrum analysis and the physics of 

For the rest, the social ends and esthetic resolutions that this most social 
of the arts may attain in the future are limited only to the progressively 
higher levels of social organization and cultural development achieved by 
American civilization itself. 


World of Wireless 

IN THE world's intricate spiderweb of radio communication, New York 
forms a central node. The city's radiotelegraphic facilities, day and night, 
keep up a running conversation of war, business and politics with the 
rest of the world in the dot-and-dash language of telegraphy. The city 
is also the central link of two international chains in the transmission 
by radio of the human voice. International short wave programs, originat 
ing abroad, are retransmitted from New York to other radio stations in 
the country via the broadcasting chains and telephone wire systems, and 
the city is the radiotelephone "bottle-neck" where international messages 
are handled. Yet these are by now commonplace aspects of the routine 
workings of civilization's underlying machinery of communication. 

It is in broadcasting, where radio most vividly touches the lives of the 
people where it enters their homes with words and music to become 
part of the daily routine of living that New York plays one of its 
most significant and popularly appreciated roles. 

Much of radio's latter-day development may be credited to America, 
and in that development New York has played an important part. Knowl 
edge of the fundamental phenomena upon which radio is based dates 
back nearly 26 centuries, when the Greek experimenter, Thales of Miletus, 
caught a glimpse of electrical attraction induced by friction. More than 
22 centuries passed before this phenomenon was described by the Eng 
lish scientist, William Gilbert, in his work De Magnete, where the 
word "electric" appears for the first time. Gilbert heads the long list 
of distinguished experimenters who formulated the basic laws of elec 
tricity, a list that includes Volta, Coulomb, Gauss, Ampere, Ohm, Caven 
dish, Faraday and a host of others. But the birth of radio proper did 
not take place until the iSyo's, when the great Scottish mathematician, 
James Clerk Maxwell, developed the wave theory of electromagnetism. 
He calculated that electromagnetic waves travelled at the speed of light, 



and showed that the length of these waves depended on the electrical 
"length" of the circuit producing them, just as the pitch of a harp's 
note depends on the length of the string that produces it. Thus radio 
was born on paper. In 1888, a German professor, Heinrich Rudolph 
Hertz, succeeded in producing the radio waves Maxwell had predicted 
by discharging sparks of "static" electricity across the gap between a 
pair of small metal balls, and was able to send his "Hertzian" radio 
waves over a distance of several hundred feet. In the 1890*5, Guglielmo 
Marconi took Hertz's apparatus, connected one of the metal balls to 
the earth, the other to an "antenna" strung in the air, and shot his sparks 
across the gap between them. By 1903 he was sending and receiving 
radiotelegraph messages across the Atlantic Ocean. 

Shortly thereafter the American physicist, Professor R. A. Fessenden, 
pointed out that radio could be used to carry the human voice as well. 
In 1905, J. A. Fleming, an English inventor, produced his two-element 
"valve" or vacuum tube; and in September 1906, Professor Fessenden 
was able as a result to install an experimental radiotelephone transmitter 
at Brant Rock, Massachusetts. Here he arranged transmissions of voice 
and music that were picked up by startled ship operators at sea in what 
was undoubtedly the first successful radio broadcast in the world. In 
the same year, Dr. Lee De Forest of New York added another element 
to the Fleming "valve," and thereby evolved the three-element radio 
tube, called by him the "audion." This third element was the "grid" a 
kind of electrical trigger which made it possible for a tiny electric cur 
rent to reproduce an exact duplicate of itself on an enormously ampli 
fied scale. This invention above all others was responsible for the 
development of radio as it is known today. 

In the winter of 1909, Dr. De Forest used his audions to arrange a 
radiotelephone broadcast of Caruso singing Pagliacct at the Metropolitan 
Opera House, and picked it up at his home for the benefit of a circle 
of invited guests. Radio broadcasting as a commercial possibility was 
then just around the corner. But De Forest's radio tube was technically 
an improvement on the Fleming "valve"; the Marconi Company held 
the Fleming patents and by court decision was able to enjoin De Forest 
from manufacturing his tube, but could not itself make the three-element 
audion so far superior to the Fleming tube. Other patent holders entered 
their claims as well; and there matters stood deadlocked in one of the 
most costly, infinitely complicated and confused series of patent litiga 
tions on record until October 1919, when the various conflicting inter- 

296 RADIO 

ests pooled their patents and formed the Radio Corporation of America. 

In 1919, the ban on amateur radio which had been imposed during 
the World War was lifted, and amateurs returning from military service 
opened their radiotelegraph and radiotelephone stations again. Among 
them was Dr. Frank Conrad, an engineer of the Westinghouse Electric 
and Manufacturing Company, who rigged up an experimental radio 
telephone amateur station at his home in East Pittsburgh, and conducted 
regular musical broadcasts for the benefit of an audience of 15 or 20 
fellow amateurs. By the summer of 1920 his audience had grown to sev 
eral hundred, and Pittsburgh department stores were advertising "ap 
proved radio receiving sets for listening to Dr. Frank Conrad's concerts." 
Now fully aware of the implications of this experiment, the Westing- 
house Company installed a new radiotelephone transmitter in one of its 
buildings under Dr. Conrad's supervision, just in time to broadcast the 
Presidential election returns of 1920 to an audience estimated at 1,000. 
The broadcast was an immediate success. 

The new station the first regular broadcasting station in America 
received the call letters KDKA. Other stations followed rapidly and the 
sale of radio receivers and parts began to boom. By 1922 there were 
several stations in New York, among them station WEAF, established 
by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company as the first station 
offering its facilities for rental on a time basis to commercial sponsors. 
By 1923 the licensed radio stations in the country numbered 573. 

In 1922 a New York station sent its program by wire to a Chicago 
station to be broadcast there simultaneously, in the first successful "chain" 
broadcast. WEAF, the pioneer toll station, then became the central point 
where programs were originated and sent by wire to other stations of 
the country in a broadcasting chain of ever-growing size. The cost of 
these programs was distributed proportionately between the commercial 
sponsors and the chain stations using the programs. In 1926 the National 
Broadcasting Company was organized by Radio Corporation of America, 
the General Electric Company, and the Westinghouse Electric and Manu 
facturing Company to take over stations WEAF and WJZ in New York 
for service as the cores of two national broadcasting chains the so-called 
"red" and "blue" networks. The Columbia Broadcasting System and 
other chains were quick to follow the precedent set for nationwide pro 
gram release. 

Until recently, New York's dominant position in the nation's broad 
casting scheme remained unchallenged in every phase, but New York, 


once supreme as the point of origin of chain programs, has since given 
way to Hollywood. A current report shows that of 44 top-bracket com 
mercial radio programs, Hollywood was originating 36, Chicago six, 
and New York only three. Yet New York is still the financial and admin 
istrative headquarters of more than half the country's stations; the point 
where radio-control circuits are planned and managed; the focal point 
where radio advertising the life-blood of American broadcasting is 
bought and sold; and the center of radio's comparatively new subsidiary 
industry, the making of "electrical transcriptions" the phonograph rec 
ords that are used by all the smaller stations. 

New York City is now the home of the four largest national broad 
casting networks, of two regional networks, and of a tributary station 
of a seventh chain. Of the "big four," the National Broadcasting Com 
pany owns and operates two the "red" (WEAF) and "blue" (WJZ) 
networks. Though their studios are in Rockefeller Center's "Radio City," 
their transmitting equipment the real "station" is housed outside the 
city boundaries: that of WEAF at Bellmore, Long Island, and that of 
WJZ at Boundbrook, New Jersey. The Columbia Broadcasting System, 
for which station WABC is the local outlet, maintains four "studio the 
aters" in the city; all of them connected by wire circuits to the station's 
transmitter at Mountain View, New Jersey. Station WOR, the metro 
politan outlet of the Mutual Broadcasting System, is a New Jersey station 
owned by the Bamberger department store in Newark. A number of its 
studios are in New York ; others, along with its transmitter, are in Newark. 

The smaller regional networks are the Intercity, with station WMCA, 
and the Empire State, with the Hearst-owned station WINS, as New 
York City outlets. Station WHN, noted as the original home of the 
"Major Bowes Amateur Hour," is an affiliate of the country's most power 
ful station, WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio. How powerful this station is can 
be grasped from the fact that its maximum power reaches 500,000 watts 
as compared to 50,000 each for such well-known stations as WEAF, 
WABC, and WOR. 

Of the dozen or so other stations in the city all of them small, un- 
affiliated with networks, and intended for local service only the reputa 
tions of three in particular, because of the unusual type of service they 
render, have spread beyond the metropolitan boundaries. These are 

WQXR is the first of the country's so-called "high-fidelity" stations. 
Its channel in the radio spectrum occupies 20 kilocycles instead of the 

298 RADIO 

usual ten an advantage which makes possible the faithful transmission 
of music, so that this station is noted for the quality of the classical music 
it specializes in broadcasting. 

WNYC, "New York's Own Station," is owned and operated by the 
city, and for that reason belongs to the limited category of broadcast 
stations that are non-commercial and accept no advertising. It has been 
of civic value in publicizing announcements, programs and advice from 
the police, fire, health, sanitation and educational departments of the 
city. Although it lacks funds to attract high-priced performers, it is one 
of New York's most popular stations because of the high quality of its 
musical programs, its lectures in a variety of fields by college instructors, 
and its experiments in radio school-room educational programs. Its trans 
mitter, with a power of 1,000 watts, is in the Greenpoint section of 

Station WEVD, founded in 1927 as a memorial to the Socialist leader, 
Eugene V. Debs, occupies a position unique among the city's stations. 
It is identified with the slogan "Voice of Labor," and serves as a chan 
nel for full discussion of labor problems. It accepts no compensation 
for time on the air taken by political discussion; it invites leaders in all 
phases of labor, politics, education and economics to use its facilities; 
and it claims to broadcast a wider educational program than any other 
comparable station. Station WEVD has produced one of its most pop 
ular programs in its "University of the Air," under the direction of 
Hendrik Willem van Loon, noted historian, author and artist. A distin 
guished volunteer faculty conducts four nightly periods a week. The suc 
cess of the "University" has been such that transcriptions of its courses 
in philosophy, psychology, art, history, labor, economics, literature and 
drama have had a country-wide distribution to other radio stations on 
a non-profit basis. Oswald Garrison Villard, Heywood Broun and Nor 
man Thomas, along with other nationally known persons, are associated 
in the administration of WEVD. 

Station WBNX, sometimes called "The Voice of the Bronx," is typical 
of the several smaller stations of the city that make a special appeal to 
the polyglot section of New York's population by means of foreign lan 
guage broadcasts. These stations find audiences large enough in almost 
any nationality group to make their entertainment commercially worth 
while. WBNX has gone further into a systematic nationality approach 
than any other New York broadcaster. Nearly one-fourth of its programs 
combine both racial and language appeals, and include Italian, Irish, 


Jewish, Negro, Polish, Spanish, Hungarian, Ukrainian and Greek periods. 

Through the local outlets of the big chains New Yorkers hear the same 
radio programs that reach the smallest hamlet of the country. But in 
the quality of these programs, even more than in their variety, New 
York has made its most important contribution to broadcasting. It has 
raised the level of the musical taste of the. nation, for here originated, 
and originate, the great opera and symphony broadcasts. To the excellence 
of the music selected, New York adds what no other city in the country 
or even the world can add: the excellence of presentation. Great 
operas are presented in their entirety by the Metropolitan Opera Com 
pany; great symphonies are played by the world's finest orchestras, led 
by the world's greatest conductors. The audience of these broadcasts has 
grown to an incalculable size. Likewise in drama, the plays of Shakespeare 
and Ibsen, as well as of numerous later dramatists, have been pre 
sented by many of America's best known actors and actresses. In politi 
cal education, Town Hall forums, held in New York weekly during the 
winter months, have revived a democratic institution that in similar form 
exists now in other communities. The New York forum, however, has 
the advantage that its platform attracts the outstanding political and social 
leaders of America. 

A phase of broadcasting most important to the buyer of radio adver 
tising is the time-of-day placement of programs, and of the day of the 
week as well. The value of the period from Monday to Friday is fairly 
uniform, as a whole, the important distinction lying in the hours of each 
day. Saturday and Sunday have special values, and are considered good 
for some programs and less good for others. The summer months give 
an expectancy of fewer listeners than the winter months; but the great 
est difference appears in the values before and after 6:30 P.M. Adver 
tisers usually deem the early evening hours the most valuable, and pay 
double for the privilege of using them. To the advertiser, the cost of 
sponsored programs, from morning to night, may run as low as $50 an 
hour on a small station to $15,000 an hour on a nation-wide broadcast 
over a major network. 

Radio stations, advertisers, and advertising agencies find it imperative 
to ascertain the comparative popularity of various types of radio pro 
grams. Acting for an association of advertisers, a New York statistical 
firm through branches in 33 cities annually makes 400,000 telephone calls 
to determine what radio-set owners are listening to. The highest rating 
during the latter part of 1937 was accorded to "Charlie McCarthy," 


the ventriloquist's dummy, whose Aristophanic remarks and opinions have 
earned deferential comment even in the dignified editorial pages of the 
New York Times. 

A universal program feature worthy of special comment is the "news 
flash." It was made possible by the establishment in 1934 of two special 
ized radio news services, the Press Radio Bureau and the Transradio News 
Service. Press Radio presents Associated Press news through the networks 
of both the National Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcast 
ing System in two five-minute broadcasts each day, as well as supplemen 
tary flashes on occasions of special importance. The Mutual Broadcasting 
System, represented by station WOR in New York, is provided with 
United Press news flashes by Transradio. Press Radio has 12,000 miles of 
leased teletype wires in the United States, and serves some 300 radio sta 
tions and 40 newspapers. It does not operate a radio station itself, but 
daily transmits through the short wave radio transmitter of Press Wireless, 
Inc., at Little Neck, Long Island, to isolated points in this country and 
abroad where the teletype service is not available. Press Radio evolved 
from the discontinuance of a similar service by the National Broadcasting 
Company, under pressure applied by the powerful American Newspaper 
Publishers' Association. The employees who had been conducting the news 
services of NBC promoted Press Radio, which was an instant success and 
compelled other news services and newspaper rivals of radio stations to 
flash news by radio, in modification of the newspaper publishers' original 

A promising new trend in program content has been brought about 
by the work of two Works Progress Administration units: WPA Radio, 
organized in April 1937, and the Federal Theater Radio Division, or 
ganized in March of that year. The Federal Theater Radio Division gave 
Shakespeare and Eugene O'Neill to its listeners a year before their plays 
were featured by the major networks. Its program series included an 
educational innovation, a dramatization of James Truslow Adams' Epic 
of America, sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary. Through the 
New York City Board of Education and station WNYC, this feature 
was rebroadcast to 49 high schools in New York City, reaching a million 
and a half students (1937-38). 

Witnessing a broadcast is one of the keenest delights of the radio fan, 
and this fact has been utilized by New York stations to bring the public 
to the threshold of the microphone. Those who will take the trouble 
to arrange for passes from one to three weeks in advance have the choice 


of more than a score of broadcasts weekly. Most stations welcome visit 
ors to the limit of their capacity, but the very small stations do not en 
courage them. The Columbia Broadcasting System maintains four "studio 
theaters" in New York, in addition to 15 other studios on company prem 
ises or leased property; the Mutual Broadcasting System, one. Activities 
of the National Broadcasting Company are confined to Radio City in 
Rockefeller Center. There, under one roof, is housed one of the most 
elaborate radio organizations in the world. Of its more than 40 studios, 
one is a guest theater. 

No discussion of New York's radio facilities would be complete with 
out mention of broadcasting's quiet step-sisters the governmental and 
emergency services. In the Greater New York area, four direction-finder 
stations and ten radio beacons, all using telegraphic code, are scattered 
along the coast to guide ships in and out of New York harbor. Five code 
stations broadcast weather warnings to ships at sea. Now that the range 
of radio receivers has been extended to include the short-wave bands, 
the average listener can hear the clipped, monotonous voice of New 
York's police radio stations. Three such transmitters flash orders to the 
roving radio-equipped police cars WPEE, WPEF and WPEG. Station 
WPY keeps in contact with the police boats in the harbor. The fire de 
partment maintains a similar station, of 500 watts power, to keep in 
touch with the harbor fireboats. And New York's radio amateurs main 
tain more than 2,000 private radio transmitting stations that chatter end 
lessly with amateurs in the rest of the country and in almost every foreign 
nation of the globe. 

Television, though still within the realm of experiment, antedates suc 
cessful voice-broadcasting radio. As far back as 1842, more than 60 years 
before the Fessenden broadcast, a Scotsman, Alexander Bain, devised 
the first known apparatus for the electrical transmission of visual images 
at a distance. A more efficient device serving the same purpose was pro 
duced independently in 1847 ky an Englishman, F. C. Bakewell. In the 
larter's machine, the picture to be sent was drawn on electrically con 
ductive paper with an insulating ink; the paper was placed on a rotating 
drum, and a metal stylus in contact with this drum was connected by wire 
to the receiver, where the pressure of an inked brush poised against an 
other rotating drum was controlled by an electromagnet. As the stylus 
moved over the picture at the transmitting end, the inked brush traced an 
identical path on a blank piece of paper in the receiver. When the stylus 
touched a dark area, the brush pressed down hard ; when the stylus touched 

3<32 RADIO 

a white area, the brush lifted itself off the paper and in fifteen minutes 
or so the original picture in the transmitter was reproduced in facsimile by 
the receiver. The most modern television equipment is precisely analogous 
in its method of operation. For the stylus it substitutes a swiftly moving 
finger of light, for the inked brush a cathode-ray pencil in the receiver 
that "paints" an immediately visible image on a fluorescent screen; in 
place of the inter-connecting wire it uses an ultra- short- wave radio circuit 
and in order to produce the illusion of moving pictures, it works several 
hundred thousand times as fast, sending and receiving some 30 or 40 pic 
tures a second instead of one every fifteen minutes. 

In 1884, the so-called scanning disc used in television transmission 
today was invented by Paul Nipkow, a young German; not for so incon 
sequential a use as television, but in connection with his amazing "elec 
trical telescope," a device intended ultimately to be used in astronomical 
observation for the purpose of magnifying distant stars and planets elec 
trically instead of optically and a possibility still far beyond the reach 
of present day television. In 1890 an American, N. S. Amstutz, success 
fully transmitted a photographic half-tone over a twenty-five-mile wire 
line. At about the same time the photoelectric cell was invented; and in 
1895 another American experimenter, C. Francis Jenkins, who has worked 
on television ever since, conceived on paper the idea of substituting 
"wireless" for wire line circuits and sending motion pictures by radio. 
By that time television had gone so far that it had to stand still and wait 
for radio to catch up with it. 

It was not until 1923, when Jenkins successfully transmitted a portrait 
of President Harding from Washington to Philadelphia, that television 
as such took its next important step forward. Meanwhile engineers had 
been working behind closed doors. In 1927 the Bell Telephone Labora 
tories sent television pictures from New York to Washington; in 1928 
the first television drama was broadcast by the General Electric Company 
from Schenectady; in the same year a special television broadcast from 
England was received by R. M. Hart at Station W2CVJ in Hartsdale, 
New York; and in 1929 Dr. Vladimir Zworykin announced his new 
"kinescope," or cathode-ray television tube. In 1931 Jenkins opened the 
first television station in New York, station W2XCR, broadcasting tele 
vision programs on regular schedule. It was quickly followed by several 
others: stations W 2 XBS, W 2 XBO, W 2 XAB, W 2 XF and W 2 XR; and 
New York became the center of a television boom that lasted until 1933. 
Thousands of television outfits were constructed by amateurs, manufac- 


tured receivers were offered for sale in the department stores, and tele 
vision "fan" magazines appeared on the news stands. But the boom was 
premature and proved to be something of a fiasco. The stamp-size pictures 
were very poor in quality, New York's regularly broadcasting television 
stations disappeared, and television retired again behind closed doors. 
There it now remains, issuing reports from .time to time of brighter and 
larger images, of television in natural colors, of stereoscopic television in 
three dimensions but still awaiting the day when it can emerge as a 
commercially practicable reality. 

As the connecting link between radio and the talking movies, televi 
sion opens up a host of possibilities, with innumerable psychological, 
social and political as well as technical implications. With its coming, 
there is the certainty that radio's influence will be woven even more deeply 
into the pattern of American life. 


Newspaperman's Mecca 

ON NOVEMBER 8, 1725, William Bradford put forth the initial issue of 
his New-York Gazette, the first newspaper to be established in the colony. 
In the more than two centuries since that event, journalism in New York 
City has had a notable and colorful history. To recount that history even 
in broad outline is a task that cannot be attempted in such a book as this. 
What follows here is no more than a brief record of the city's present-day 
facilities for the gathering and presentation of news, with some notes on 
the evolution and character of those facilities. 

Eight major dailies harvest the current crop of news events for metro 
politan readers. The Times, generally considered the best all-around news 
paper of the lot, has been characterized as "the newspaperman's news 
paper." This is a distinction previously held by the Sun, in the heyday of 
Richard Harding Davis, Frank Ward O'Malley, Will Irwin and the rest; 
and by the old World, when it boasted a staff of such brilliant special 
writers as Walter Lippmann, Laurence Stallings, Alexander Woollcott, 
Franklin P. Adams, and Heywood Broun, and a crew of star reporters 
under Frank Cobb, Herbert Bayard Swope, James W. Barrett and other 
city editors. 

The encyclopedic Times acquired its formidable reputation under the 
late Adolph S. Ochs, a Chattanooga publisher who took it over in 1896 
and who was responsible for the policy that established it in the front rank 
of newspapers. From that time on and especially since the World War, 
when public interest in European affairs reached a new high the Times 
has steadily increased its foreign news-gathering facilities. Now it excels 
all other American papers in the amount and quality of its foreign news 
coverage. It has also been in the forefront in the general tendency toward 
specialized reporting. At home and abroad it employs a distinguished staff 
of reporters, some of whom have achieved spectacular feats. 

In the days of its founder, Henry J. Raymond, the Times displayed a 
notable zeal for political reform. Its most glorious successes in the role of 



crusader were scored in 1857, when a Washington correspondent's ex 
posure of the Land Grab Deal resulted in the expulsion of four members 
from the House of Representatives, and in 1871, when it helped to bring 
the Tweed Ring to book. Under the guidance of Adolph S. Ochs and 
Arthur Hays Sulzberger, Ochs' son-in-law and successor, it has striven to 
make its appeal, qua newspaper, nationwide. That it has succeeded in be 
coming America's foremost newspaper not even its severest critics will 

The Times 1 most formidable New York rival in the dissemination of 
news is the Herald Tribune, which leads it in popularity in the wealthier 
sections of the city and suburbs. The Herald Tribune is notable especially 
for the crisp contemporaneity of its local coverage, in which respect it is 
considered in some quarters the superior of the Times; while its editorial 
page is much livelier than that of its foremost rival. It resulted from the 
merger in 1924 of two of New York's oldest newspapers. In 1872, White- 
law Reid, members of whose family are the Herald Tribune's present pro 
prietors, bought the Tribune equity from its owner-editor, Horace Greeley, 
one of the first in the long line of great American editors. Greeley cher 
ished high political ambitions, so high that certain contemporaries charged 
that he was suffering from messianic delusions (an affliction attributed 
to editors and publishers to this day). A master in the art of political 
diatribe, he enjoyed, through the paper he had founded in 1841, a power 
and prestige that lasted until his death in 1872. 

The Reid family acquired the Herald in 1924 from Frank Munsey, who 
four years earlier had bought it from the estate of James Gordon Ben 
nett, the son of that paper's eminent founder. The elder Bennett was one 
of the earliest pioneers in the field of sensational journalism, author of 
the remark that a newspaper's function was not to instruct but to startle. 
Modern reporting owes much to both Bennetts for their conception of what 
constitutes news. Stories other papers would not touch scandals, chancy 
bits of gossip, neighborhood trivia were all printed in the Herald, side 
by side with news of national interest. This paper, founded in 1835, was 
the first to report events in the realms of Wall Street, society, sports and 
the weather. 

But the last straw for the contemporary London Daily News was the 
Herald's inauguration of the interview. The News commented severely on 
that "portion of the daily newspapers in New York" which was "bring 
ing the profession into contempt so far as they can by a kind of toadyism 
or flunkeyism which they call 'interviewing'." Bennett would stop at noth- 


ing to get the news even if he had to make it himself, which he did 
often enough or to scoop a rival for circulation purposes. It is said that 
he spent a half million dollars reporting the Civil War and considered it 
well worth the price. The younger Bennett, carrying on the family tradi 
tion from 1866, sent Stanley out to Africa to find Livingstone, exclusively 
for the Herald. 

By the 1890*5 the Bennetts had come to be regarded as conservative in 
fluences in comparison with the current crop of sensationalists who were 
frantically stirring up the journalistic waters around New York in quest 
of higher circulation. Chief among these was Joseph Pulitzer, who had 
acquired the World in 1883 in an effort to duplicate his St. Louis suc 
cesses in New York. Pulitzer outdid Bennett in sensational circulation 
schemes intended to attract the barely literate masses of New York. Appro 
priately enough, the term "yellow journalism" originated in the office of 
the World, when a Pulitzer cartoonist in an idle moment created the 
famous "Yellow Kid" cartoon character. 

When Pulitzer died in 1911, he left to his three sons an immensely suc 
cessful paper, the name of which was everywhere synonymous with mili 
tant and courageous liberalism. Twenty years later, on February 27, 1931, 
New York was reading the story of "The End of the World." The jour 
nal's death was mourned by the entire newspaper profession, especially 
those members who still regard the old World as their real Alma Mater. 

The Scripps-Howard interests acquired the assets of the World after 
its demise, and Roy Howard combined it with the Telegram to form the 
present World-Telegram. Though this paper boasts of progressive tend 
encies, it is indefinite in character and not too firm in its convictions. Stan 
ley Walker in City Editor characterizes the World-Telegram as "alive in 
its news, but skimpy and shot through with dubious semi-crusades." Its 
chief distinction is its battery of distinguished columnists, including Mrs. 
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Heywood Broun, Westbrook Pegler, Hugh John 
son and others. 

William Randolph Hearst has been the enfant terrible of local journal 
ism ever since he burst upon the New York scene in 1895, flushed by his 
California triumphs, and began to publish the Morning Journal (after 
wards the American). Although he made some popular innovations that 
have been adopted by many other newspapers, he has contributed nothing 
lasting to New York journalism. Even the American, his personal mouth 
piece and considered the darling of all his papers, was never a profitable 
business and not solid enough to last. It was finally merged (1937) with 


his tabloid Mirror and the Evening Journal. The former except for 
Walter Winchell, the tattletale of the big city, who invented a private 
vernacular for the double purpose of enlivening gossip and avoiding libel, 
and Mark Hellinger, the mass-production O. Henry of Broadway is a 
cross between the superior Daily News and the Graphic of horrible, if 
sometimes amusing, memory. The present Journal- American suffers from a 
plethora of features, and its news pages have gained little or nothing in 
caliber as a result of the merger. 

Another entrepreneur who failed to contribute anything solid to the 
city's journalism was Frank Munsey, who invaded New York in 1891. He 
was responsible for the death, by merger or otherwise, of so many papers 
that a wit was finally impelled to remark that "good newspapers when 
they die go to Munsey." Yet the Sun was one sheet that managed to sur 
vive the fatal Munsey touch, perhaps because it had preserved some of the 
strength once imparted to it by its great editor, Charles A. Dana, and the 
long line of newspapermen who worked in the shadow of his formidable 
reputation Samuel Hopkins Adams, Will Irwin, Edward ("Chimmie 
Fadden") Townsend, David Graham Phillips, Ray Stannard Baker and 
(greatest legend of them all) Richard Harding Davis. 

After Munsey's death in 1925 the Sun was acquired by a group of his 
former employees. It caters to the ultra-conservative elements of the city, and 
its inside pages reveal a fondness for the antiquarian and other features 
which are of less than cosmopolitan interest. Though its news stories are 
usually well written, there is little about it to suggest that it was once the 
"newspaperman's newspaper." 

New York of the early post-war period broke out with a rash of tab 
loids. There appeared, within a few years of each other, the Daily News, 
Bernarr Macfadden's now defunct Graphic, and Mr. Hearst's Mirror, al 
ready mentioned in this article. The Daily News, first in the field and the 
most successful of the lot, was started in 1919 by Captain Patterson of the 
Chicago Tribune, and in less than ten years its circulation had soared well 
over the million mark. George Seldes attributes the amazing popularity of 
the tabloid at this time to the current disillusionment with the more sober 
press in the post-war years. But a more convincing explanation of that 
popularity must take into account a physical form far more convenient for 
subway and streetcar reading than that of the "full size" papers, an abund 
ance of more or less sensational news pictures, and a condensed style of 
news treatment that requires little time or effort for its mental digestion. 

In 1933, J. David Stern, who had been operating several Pennsylvania 


and New Jersey newspapers, took over what was left of the Evening Post 
and restored its original name, the Post. New York's oldest surviving 
journal, it had been founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton and edited 
at one time by William Cullen Bryant. Under E. L. Godkin, a firebrand 
of New York journalism, and later under Oswald Garrison Villard, it had 
acquired a reputation for liberalism. This liberal inclination survived in 
part even after it was taken over by Cyrus H. K. Curtis of Philadelphia. 
Its news section and editorial page salaamed to Wall Street (a ritual ges 
ture of the 1920'$) and New York was mildly titillated each autumn by 
Post editorials thundering against Harvard and Princeton teams for 
playing football with their social inferiors. But it supported many worthy 
causes, including municipal reform, and it played a strong hand against 
John H. McCooey, late Tammany leader of Brooklyn, and throughout the 
Seabury investigations. 

When Stern took it over in 1933, he immediately converted the Post 
into a forthright New Deal supporter. The paper stresses news of intrinsic 
social importance. Its editorial page, manned by a group of younger men, 
is a trifle shrill at times but easily the liveliest and most outspoken in the 
city. Altogether the Post has made more impressive gains than any other 
newspaper in New York in the last few years, though there is still a touch 
of the small town about its make-up and circulation methods. 

Every borough has its own newspapers but the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 
once edited by Walt Whitman, and the Bronx Home News are the only 
ones that can be considered of metropolitan stature. Among dailies of 
closely specialized or "trade" character, the Wall Street Journal and 
Women's Wear are conspicuous. 

The Daily Worker, official organ of the Communist Party of the United 
States, occupies an important place among New York's labor newspapers. 
Many well-informed persons outside the labor movement now find it 
necessary or desirable to supplement their reading of the regulation news 
papers with a perusal of the Daily Worker in order to obtain a balanced 
and comprehensive view of current affairs. The Jewish Daily Forward 
is also notable for its labor news coverage, and it has played a prominent 
part in furthering trade union organization among New York's workers 
the needle trades workers in particular. 

In the foreign-language field, no fewer than 35 dailies, with a combined 
weekday circulation of approximately 800,000, are published in New 
York City. Chiefly prominent among these, with respect to the number of 
readers that they reach, are the Forward, Jewish Morning Journal, Der 


Tag, and Freiheit, in the Jewish (Yiddish) field; // Pr ogres so Italo- 
Americano, Corriere d' America and La Stampa Libera, Italian; New York 
Staats-Zeitung und Herold, German; Amerikai Magyar Nepszava, Hunga 
rian; Nasz Przeglad, Polish; Novoye Russkoye Slovo and Russky Golos, 
Russian; and New Y or sky Dennik, Slovak. Others of the city's foreign- 
language newspapers are mentioned in the various sections of the article 
on Nationalities, contained in the present volume. 

New York's very large Negro population has no local daily of its own, 
but it supports three weekly papers the New York Age, the Amsterdam 
News, and the New York News. 

That special phenomenon of the American newspaper world, the Sun 
day edition, attains in New York a bulk and comprehensiveness not to be 
matched elsewhere. Of the foremost metropolitan papers that inundate 
the Sabbath with countless reams of news-print, the Times and the Her 
ald Tribune offer by far the most palatable and nourishing fare. Each has 
its separate magazine and book-review supplements, its rotogravure pic 
ture sections, and its many pages of feature matter written by competent 
specialists in every main field of current interest along with a vast array 
of advertising that makes these other things possible. 

Though they contain special features of various sorts, the Sunday edi 
tions of the Journal- American and the tabloid News and Mirror for the 
most part merely increase the volume and speed the tempo of these papers' 
regular week-day editions. Each is blanketed in several layers of colored 
"funnies," and the Journal- American carries as a supplement Mr. Hearst's 
widely syndicated American Weekly. 

Outside the borough of Manhattan, the only metropolitan newspaper 
that publishes a Sunday edition is the Brooklyn Eagle, which follows the 
general pattern of its more affluent contemporaries on the other side of the 
East River, while maintaining an individual emphasis on matters of espe 
cial interest to residents of Brooklyn, Queens and the rest of Long Island. 

New York's lone Sunday afternoon newspaper, the Enquirer, employs 
most of the devices known to sensational journalism in an effort to gain 
patronage from those who throng the city's restaurants and theaters on 
Sunday night. 

Twenty-one New York newspapers in the foreign-language field ap 
pear on Sunday, several of them with magazine supplements, rotogravure 
sections and other special features. The Daily Worker also has its Sunday 
edition, with a magazine section. 


The circulation of New York's principal Sunday newspapers is by no 
means confined to the metropolis, but reaches out to nearly every town 
and hamlet in the country. The News, with a total of more than three mil 
lion readers, heads the list in this respect. Through book stores and other 
special distribution channels, the book supplements of the Times and the 
Herald Tribune attain a large national circulation. 

The most remarkable journalistic development of the New Deal period 
was the first stirring of labor consciousness among newspapermen a phe 
nomenon that finally flowered into the present American Newspaper 
Guild, with Heywood Broun as its national president. The Guild was given 
considerable impetus by the NRA, and after a while picked up power 
enough to go ahead on its own. Its declared purpose is that of all labor 
unions collective bargaining to obtain better conditions and wages, with 
the addition that it seeks to raise the standards of the profession. It has 
met with the bitter opposition of many publishers, who were quick to raise 
the cry of "freedom of the press"; but it has already won several notable 
victories. A few old city-room die-hards mutter darkly about the impend 
ing doom of a noble calling; but the majority of news gatherers, especially 
in New York, have rallied to the movement with great enthusiasm. The 
Guild's more sanguine supporters even look forward to the time when, by 
the strength of their organization, they will be able to demand a more 
complete freedom in factual reporting. Carl Randau, president of the New 
York Guild, has revealed that "a few alert publishers are already recogniz 
ing that only through constant honesty in the news can they retain the con 
fidence of the public a confidence that has been largely sacrificed through 
the flagrant special pleading many editors have injected into the news 

All the major press associations make New York their headquarters. 
The first to begin operations here was the Associated Press, which began 
as a purely local affair in 1848 and gradually developed into the vast and 
powerful world organization that it is today. It was followed by the orig 
inal United Press in 1882; this service was soon forced to discontinue, but 
it was later revived by the Scripps-Howard interests. Hearst's International 
and Universal News Services, which followed soon after and have since 
been merged, serve the Hearst papers as well as others. The New York 
City News Association, a cooperative enterprise to which most of the ma 
jor papers belong, covers the routine stories in Manhattan and the Bronx, 
including news from most of the far-flung municipal buildings. The Stand- 


ard News Association provides a similar service for a territory that takes in 
the remainder of the metropolitan area. 

The trend toward "chain" journalism has been increasingly apparent in 
New York, as elsewhere throughout the country, in recent years. Today, 
four of the city's eight major dailies are in the hands of men who own 
newspapers in several other cities. In the resulting standardization and loss 
of individuality, journalism is slowly losing its glamor and interest. A 
symptom of the public craving for more individual fare is seen in the cur 
rent vogue of the columnists, both serious and light, who sometimes give 
the only personal touch to a paper, by providing the interpretation and 
comment that were once functions of the editorial page. 

Many of Manhattan's most celebrated newspaper workers have deserted 
journalism for more lucrative fields. Radio has claimed a number of those 
with good voices, others have succumbed to the lure of Hollywood's lush 
pastures, while still others have retired to do the "free lance" writing that 
all newspapermen dream of doing some day and so few accomplish. But 
notwithstanding these defections, Manhattan remains the newspaperman's 
mecca. From the journalistic backwaters of the republic a steady flow of 
seasoned veterans and aspiring neophytes pours Manhattan-wards, their 
ears humming with the roar of its giant presses. They flock to New York 
for the greater rewards held out to those who "make the grade," and for 
the chance it gives the working reporter to see for himself at close hand 
the vast and lavish spectacle of the great metropolis. 


Athletics by Proxy 

I HE NEW YORKER the average insensitive resident is conditioned, 
even oblivious, to crowds. He is a member of many publics; his life is 
spent among great crowds of his fellows, herded together in search of 
happiness or trains. He belongs at one time to the subway public, at an 
other to the theater audience or the fight mob. But he always belongs to a 
crowd, and except at rare moments (in telephone booths or shower baths) 
he is only one of the faces one sees without recognition in such crowds. 

That is why, to look at New Yorkers, one goes to the Garden, or the 
Yankee Stadium or even the subway. In those places the New Yorker is 
immersed in his native mass ; he is excited or delighted, irritated or tired, 
but safe and with his guard down. Look as long as you please. 

This crowd-man, if he has come from the outlands, tends to balk at his 
fate when he first becomes aware of it. But that soon stops. On some un 
marked day he doesn't care any more, one way or another. He's a New 
Yorker then. He knows the high-sign. 

But, the laws of motion being what they are, one doesn't get much 
recreation in crowds. Most citizens, condemned to lives in which the el 
bows of other people are jammed into their patient ribs, don't get much 
play. And, because of that, New Yorkers make the world's greatest audi 
ences. They will wait in line longer, they will pay more, they will gamble 
more on a bad fight than will the citizenry of Elyria, O., on a good one. 

Supposing these assertions to have been admitted into evidence, it fol 
lows that any discussion of the place of sport in the city's life must deal 
primarily with those games in which a few men participate, to be watched 
by thousands of others. But first a word about the men and the women 
who watch. 

There was a time when a fight fan was not to be seen at a tennis match, 
and the baseball mob spent dull winters because they didn't like basket 
ball. Crowds were typical then ; now they tend to coalesce, to represent as 
audiences not a single New York type but New York in the mass. You 



may see top hats at the fights and low brows at the Metropolitan Open. 

A number of forces worked for a number of years to bring this about. 
There were, for instance, the great 1920'$, the Big Money, and such 
great national movements as Tex Rickard, Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Bill 
Tilden, Bobby Jones. 

Each of these men, by the power of his personality or in the case of 
Rickard the depth of his guile, caught the fancy of population brackets 
which had never thought before of the specific sport in which the indi 
vidual hero was engaged. Each man arrived at the right time, a point not 
to be lost sight of in considering their titles to greatness. 

Dempsey and Ruth, of course, simply took advantage of an increasing 
national interest in old and established sports. Tilden and Jones foisted 
their games onto the public consciousness by dint of sheer technical virtu 
osity. But Tex Rickard created a cult and a mystery ballyhoo. 

Rickard, too, came along at the right time. But, more than the others, he 
helped to fashion the time. Dempsey swung a hook or Ruth a bat out of a 
deep physical necessity. Rickard created the million-dollar gate only after 
due process of intellection. 

He appeared on the New York scene in 1915, and took the Garden for 
his own. The old Garden, to be sure, had been in Madison Square long 
before Rickard had been anywhere. It had been Madison Square Garden 
since 1879, following an early career as a railroad station and successive 
incarnations as Gilmore's Garden and Barnum's Hippodrome. Giants had 
rebuilt it in 1890, the elder Morgan and P. T. Barnum using their money, 
Stanford White his ill-starred genius. White had lived atop the building 
in one of the first penthouses, in sight of the ornate if nude Diana. 

But it didn't suit Rickard for long, memories or no memories. In March 
1916 he staged the Willard-Moran fight in the old building, but by 1920 
he had envisioned the Big Money. The million-dollar gate arrived with 
the Dempsey-Carpentier fight in July 1921, and in 1923 Dempsey pulled 
another million through the turnstiles to see him in there with Firpo for 
about four minutes. 

In spite of the sociologists of the sports pages, Tex wasn't thinking 
about a monument to play when he got the ear of John Ringling and 
started his "Association of 100 Millionaires." Tex was thinking that now 
the fight racket was respectable; that he, Tex Rickard, wanted dough and 
needed more room. 

The new Garden was capitalized for $5,650,000 and completed in 1925 
at Eighth Avenue and Fiftieth Street. It's still there. 


Nowadays, if New York has a heart, it might be the Garden. Almost 
everyone goes there, for one purpose or another. There are dog shows, and 
Sonja Henie and mass meetings; one may pay 25 cents to sit through a 
mass meeting or $300 for a box at the horse show. Les Canadtens may do 
battle with the Americans on the night after Henry Armstrong has 
knocked over another featherweight. 

The Garden is probably America's greatest spot for ethnic research; it 
has a lot of influence on cultural values, and no top-flight anthropologist 
would be lost in one of its crowds; it contributes to the social well-being 
of the community, and it earns a pretty profit. It's quite a place. 

The Garden (always excepting the ball parks in summer, which become 
gridirons in fall) is in almost absolute control of professional and semi- 
professional sport in New York. Boxing, hockey, and (in recent years) 
basketball have become its special charges. 

In the city of New York 15 corporations are licensed to operate 20 clubs 
or arenas in which pugs may throw punches at one another for a fee. But 
under the iron hand of Mike Jacobs, who learned at the feet of Rickard, 
only the Garden has access to the top-notchers. Every high ranking heavy 
weight is contracted either to the Garden or to Jacobs personally. 

Jacobs came into control during 1937, after a long and bitter duel with 
Jimmy Johnston, the colorful "Boy Bandit." Since the death of Rickard 
the associates of the Madison Square Garden Corporation had cast about 
here and there for a successor. They didn't find one. Johnston did well for 
a time, but he never came within shouting distance of Rickard's $3,000,000 
dividends in four years. 

Jacobs, who had been the power behind the throne of the Twentieth 
Century Sporting Club, came into the Garden on a pay-as-you-go arrange 
ment during 1937. Jacobs' sagacity in judging the crowd's temper is shown 
by his gamble with Sonja Henie in January 1938, in which the Scandi 
navian ice star carted off about $300,000, and the Garden directorate 
smiled from the windows of various exclusive clubs. 

The Garden is indisputably a great cultural center and a good solid in 
vestment. At least a carrying income is assured each year from rentals 
the circus, rodeos, horse and dog shows, mass meetings and conventions. 
And the increasing mass attention to spectator sports, nurtured in some 
cases by the Garden management, makes the gamble with the gate more 
and more of a sure thing. 

The directors seem at present inclined to play safe, taking an assured 
income rather than the bigger risks for greater gains of the days of Rick- 


ard. But that assured income is greater today than in Tex's time. The 
Garden controls the New York Rangers and has a receipt-sharing agree 
ment with the Americans, while even the amateurs use the place for hockey 
and pull big gates. 

So it may be that the high-flying days are over. Maybe the Garden has 
become just an investment, with no stake in the great outdoor fights or 
any other of the bigger promotions. But for a long while to come one may 
see claret on its ring floor or hockey players (they paid the directors $640,- 
ooo in 1935) bashing one another with their sticks. The color and noise 
are not gone. It's just that business is indisputably business. 

Spectator Sports 

The great divide in sports used to admit of clarification. There were 
professionals and amateurs. It was all as simple as that. Today only one 
generality, and that very rough, is admissible. There are people who 
play and people who watch. 

Consider the players. Collegiate basketball, in New York, has become a 
highly profitable sport. The game has moved from the smaller gyms into 
the Garden, and a promising double-header between two New York teams 
and two visiting quints will fill that great cultural center on any night you 
care to name. And filling the Garden for basketball means seating more 
than 16,000 addicts. 

Now then. Are the players amateurs? They get no money for their 
services ; their schools insist that no advantage, monetary or scholastic, ac 
crues to them as a result of their efforts. They must be satisfied, it seems, 
with the things of the spirit. Yet they are engaged in a strictly commercial 
enterprise, from which one commercial institution (the Garden) and vari 
ous educational institutions profit. The methods employed in attracting big 
gates are those of the prize-ring or hockey promoters. A column of news 
paper publicity is so much cash in the bank to the participating firms or 
institutions, if you like. 

This subtle distinction, which makes amateurs of persons engaged in 
professional activity, extends to every sport that draws an audience. An 
amateur sport used to be one which great numbers of people played, for 
pleasure only, and without reference to the number of onlookers. But for 
the purposes of the present term paper it becomes simpler to forego the 
amateur-pro hairline. There remain, then, sports which great masses of 
the people play, and sports which great masses of the people watch. 


Batter Up! 

Among watched games, of course, baseball comes first. And in baseball 
New York comes first. 

The three major league teams draw each season almost three million cus 
tomers. The Yankees top the list. Their stadium accommodates more than 
83,000 for baseball, and in addition they've been the best team in the 
game for the past two years. 

The Yankees are a well-mannered group of business men, highest paid 
on a team average the game has known. They seldom have fights on the 
field ; they are courteous, if cool, with the umps. They can hit harder as a 
group than the opposition, and their pitching and fielding are as good as 
the best. They have a great farm system, and can outbid any club in sight for 
new talent. Some New York sports writers, after the 1937 nickel series 
(that's carfare, not gate receipts), seriously suggested that the Yanks were 
too good for the present major leagues, and that their proficiency, if carried 
out on so high a plane much longer, would lessen interest in the game. 
That hasn't happened yet, evidently. People still go to ball games. 

The Giants are gentlemen off and on. One of the greatest defensive 
combinations ever, they defend themselves at one and the same time from 
hot grounders, internecine strife and public vilification. Giant players 
never look on the flowing bowl, and are respected by one and all. Even 
the Yankees respect them. 

Another aspect of the purely professional game is presented by the 
teams which make up the National Negro Baseball League, in which New 
York is represented by the Black Yankees, who play at Dyckman Oval. 
Though Negroes have been playing professionally since the i88o's, and 
have developed more than one authentic star of the diamond, none has yet 
appeared in major league baseball. 

New York has a fair representation of amateur and semi-pro teams, but 
the paucity of diamonds throughout the greater city restricts their growth. 
Land values, in most cases, make city purchase of ground prohibitive, and 
the parks have almost reached the point at which one more diamond 
wouldn't be fair to people who don't play baseball. 

Thus variations of the game have taken hold in New York. In point of 
numbers participating, "stickball" is easily the city's greatest summer 
game. For this variant, the required equipment is a rubber ball, a broom 
stick, and a street with or without traffic. 


Primarily a kid's game, it often enough pulls papa off the front stoop of 
an evening to do or die against the kids from the next street. 

Softball, because most playgrounds offer space for it, and any vacant 
lot (there are vacant lots) is large enough for a diamond of sorts, is 
played by thousands. Organized teams and leagues account for 25,000 
adult players alone, while the playground pits many more thousands of 
kids against one another in dubious battle. Dubious, since neighborhood 
teams often lay bets against one another, and when the dough's on the 
line . . . Even rumors of thrown games occasionally float ominously about 
the lower East Side. 

The Manly Art 

In point of annual attendance boxing would seem to rank an easy sec 
ond to baseball in the collective New York mind. In the professional 
ranks, of course, the Garden dictates. There were times when Mike Jacobs 
was the Garden's only serious rival, with his lease on the Hippodrome and 
his position as head of the Twentieth Century Sporting Club. But, during 
1937, Mike consolidated himself. He runs the Garden, and he runs the 
Hippodrome. The really top-line bouts go into the Eighth Avenue taber 
nacle. The Hipp may be regarded as a testing field for talent. 

Among the larger of the second-flight clubs are the Windsor Palace (the 
fans still call it St. Nick's), the Broadway Arena and Dyckman Oval. 
They all do well enough, and the very small temples throughout the five 
boroughs seem still able to pay the rent. 

The amateur game flourishes, with the Daily News Golden Gloves tourna 
ment leading the way, and other organizations sponsoring occasional simon- 
pure bouts. The boys are sometimes, alas, not amateurs. But they fight, and 
how they fight! 

For figures on the real love-of-the-game variety of boxing one would 
have to post checkers outside the various institutional gyms and count the 
busted noses as they pass out the doors. 

Wrestling, too, was once regarded as a manly sport. But that was be 
fore Bill Muldoon (now among the shades) took over the cult and the 
mystery. Nowadays, though lots of people attend matches, the State Ath 
letic Commission will have little or nothing to do with the business. These 
affairs are held weekly at the Hippodrome and fairly regularly at most of 
the town's small clubs, and must be billed as "exhibitions." The artists, 
Df late, have taken to beards in alarming numbers. 


Hell on he 

Ice hockey, after all these years, has hooked on in New York. The 
Rangers and Americans fill the Garden regularly, and pay handsome divi 

The rise of the game really dates from 1925-26, when the Americans 
and Rangers joined the newly organized professional loop. The amateurs 
had been at it regularly since the i88o's, but their audiences were then, 
as they are now, restricted to a few fans and the student bodies of par 
ticipating schools. 

Then the pros arrived, swinging. They have made it the fastest and 
roughest game now played anywhere ; they have created probably the most 
fanatic sports audiences to be found. They have littered the Garden's fancy 
icing with opposing players, and they have made money in scads. 

Very nearly 500,000 fans see the Rangers and Americans each winter 
at the Garden. 

Hockey is probably directly responsible, incidentally, for the astonish 
ing vogue of winter sports which has swept the city and the country. New 
Yorkers, a few of whom skated, seem never to have thought of what might 
be done on skis, snowshoes or bobsleds. But, with the rise of hockey, they 
began to see the ingenious uses to which a pair of skates might be put. 
The 1936 Olympics, with their stress on winter sports, finished it off. 
Nowadays an astonishing number of our citizens, who naturally can't ski 
or toboggan in a borough like Manhattan, hopefully watch the winter 
skies and keep posted on the snow trains. 

The professionals have entered here, too. The 1937 Winter Carnival 
at the Garden was a smashing success, what with a real ski-run and all. 
But Sonja Henie, who does "Tales of the Vienna Woods" and such things, 
came along in January of 1938 to make that money look like peanuts. 

Dying for Dear Old . . ; 

Even men now living can remember when football had to do only with 
colleges. Now, in New York at least, the pros threaten to give the col 
legians a run for it. 

College football, of course, still dominates the situation. On any Satur 
day through the season there's at least one important game in town, since 
Fordham and N.Y.U. like to be at home when Columbia's away, and since 
the feeling is mutual. 


New York is a big-time football town these days. True, during the 1937 
season New York University was something less than a ball of fire, and 
Columbia never reached the boiling point. But Fordham ? Indeed, yes. The 
only game the Rams didn't win was a tie, and it took Pitt to do that to 
them. New Yorkers are hard put to it to understand those Rose Bowl 

The Army-Navy game or the Army-Notre Dame classic can always fill 
the Yankee stadium. 

Manhattan and City College have been coming fast of recent years, but 
they're still far from the class of the others. The five local teams draw 
something like a million persons at the gate each season, and the Army- 
Navy or Army-Notre Dame session pulls about 90,000 more. 

It's the pros, though, who provide the really astonishing feature of foot 
ball in New York. They've only been at it for about ten years in these 
parts, but they've arrived. The Giants, of the National Professional 
League, last fall played to almost 250,000 spectators in seven home games. 
The old charge that the pros were inclined to take things easily is heard 
no more; possibly the greatest game played in New York during the 1937 
season was the Giants' 10-0 win over the Green Bay Packers great be 
cause with a skill never seen on a college field was combined a viciousness 
in tackling and line play that even the collegians at their maddest couldn't 

Naturally this new dispensation needed a patron saint to guide it on its 
successful way. His name is Tim Mara. He books the horses here and there 
about the land; he is a shrewd father to his players, and nourishes care 
fully the growing "Die for dear old Mara" spirit among the fans. The 
Giants organization is often referred to as Mara University, which tells 
the story. 

Disorder on the Court 

Collegiate basketball has come in for some previous attention, but it's 
worth another word. For the game about here has risen to an eminence 
that it boasts in few other sections. On the basis of year-in and year-out 
intersectional play only the Pacific Coast teams can claim an advantage 
over the big town schools, though few of the far westerners have ap 
peared here. 

In spite of the changes in rules there is little uniformity of basketball 
method throughout the country. Western teams shoot fast and often, and 


when two such teams meet the resulting score may be anything at all. 
Defense is the word in the Midwest. But in New York it's all floor play 
passing to the point, sometimes, where the spectators stagger slightly on 
the way out. New York teams, City College, notably, tend to overdo the 
passing game, sacrificing points to technical brilliance. 

In basketball the minor schools hereabouts play on an equal footing 
with the bigger ones; as often as not City College (one of the outstand 
ing basketball schools of the nation) is better on the court than such giants 
as N.Y.U. or Columbia. St. John's of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Long 
Island University draw crowds as great as those which watch Fordham or 

While the five other teams meet one another every season, Columbia, a 
member of the Eastern League, is inclined to be a bit coy with the local 
talent. The Lions met only N.Y.U. during the 1937-38 season. 

The pro game in New York is at the moment in a bit of a muddle. 
Despite its great influence on the collegiate brand of play, it has undoubt 
edly suffered at the hands of the schoolboys. Good gates are still the rule 
at the Hippodrome, but the accruing prestige isn't what it was. 

There are too many teams, for one thing. There are the Celtics (now 
owned by Kate Smith), the Visitations, the Jewels, and a host of other 
less conspicuous pro clubs. It is not uncommon for a player during a single 
week to appear with two or more teams, and the loosely-organized pro 
loop tends to take on the aspect of a wrestling troupe, with the difference 
that the pro basketballers play to win. 

Probably the oldest and the best team now playing professional basket 
ball is the great Renaissance Five of Harlem. This Negro club, members 
of no league, can beat almost any pro team in the business, and their audi 
ences are constant and large. Of late they have taken to protracted tours, 
but they make an occasional stand against local teams, to the acute discom 
fort of the latter. 

The game is popular in every one of the city's thousands of gyms, and 
several amateur leagues for men and women flourish. 

Some Others 

Track and field events, long handicapped by lack of facilities in and 
about New York, have come to the front recently as spectator sports, with 
the indoor version bulking ever more large in the public eye. The Knights 


of Columbus games and the Millrose meet, with its famed Wanamaker 
mile, attract outstanding men in every event. Of the track events, sprints 
and the mile are favored by the fans, with such figures as Cunningham, 
Venzke, San Romani and Lash making the mile run a highlight of any 
meet. Field events suffer somewhat indoors, though the high jump and the 
pole vault, granted that topnotchers are participating, will evoke a cheer 
or two. 

Completion, during 1936, of the Randall's Island Stadium has given the 
city a fine outdoor field. Its cinder track is said to be the best in the 
country, though no spikes have yet cut it in record time. 

The city's outstanding outdoor meet has come to be the annual Labor 
Games at the Island stadium. It attracts stars and crowds, and presages 
labor as a growing force in sports. Track and field sports among the 
youngsters are principally under the supervision of the Public School 
Athletic League and the Parks Department. 

Golf, too, has a bright future in the city. There are ten civic links within 
the town's area, but they were something to be ashamed of until a while 
back. But WPA, in collaboration with Commissioner of Parks Robert 
Moses, has taken the tin cans out of the fairways and sodded the greens, 
among other things. 

Golf in New York is still far from a mass game, and not many of the 
citizens ever see an event like the Metropolitan Open. But the sport is 
coming along, and will come faster when equipment prices fall within 
the range of the average purse. 

Not a great deal of competitive swimming is done around New York. 
Such amateur competition as occurs is confined to indoor pools in various 
clubs and institutions. But from the public standpoint swimming is the 
greatest mass sport of all. 

Here again WPA takes a bow, for since the beginning of the work 
relief agency n great public swimming pools have been opened in the 
five boroughs, and two beaches have been made habitable for humans. 
Orchard Beach, opposite City Island in the Bronx's share of the East 
River, is alleged by experts to be one of the world's outstanding examples 
of reclamation. 

Then, of course, there remain such beaches as Coney Island, Brighton, 
Rockaway and (farther out) Jones Beach, as well as several others along 
the Long Island and Jersey shores, with their immense summer crowds. 


Then there's tennis. The game grows and grows, but if one comes 
down to it it's not a mass game in New York, even today. Some few 
hundred thousands hold a racquet at one time or another, but the number 
of real devotees looms very small, to use a paradox, on the New York 
scene. There's a distinct lack of public courts, and a noticeable lack of 
money to pay rental fees or club dues. 

Forest Hills may be regarded as a New York enterprise, but the gal 
leries at the annual National Amateur tourneys or the not-annual-enough 
Davis Cup finals represent a very, very small segment of the populace. 

Pro tennis, meanwhile, isn't as important as the newspapers once 
claimed it to be. A Vines-Perry match once filled the Garden, but filling 
the Garden once in a year is no criterion. The case could be clinched by 
pointing out that New York has never produced a great hand with the 
racquet, but why labor the point? 

The six-day bike races have two functions: they keep people away from 
home nights, and they bring the Garden about $170,000 a year. But they 
occur only once or twice during each year, which may be just as well, all 
things considered. 

Polo is played indoors and outdoors by men who can afford polo ponies. 
They're strictly amateurs, because they have money enough or resources 
enough. Pros are pros because they need the money. Polo is played and 
watched by people who don't need the money. 

Auto races haven't attained much foothold around and about New 
York, in spite of the reopening of Roosevelt Raceway at Westbury, L. I. 
The Vanderbilt Cup races were held at this road track in 1937, but one 
race, even a big one, is still one race. 

There remain other games which New Yorkers watch while other New 
Yorkers play. Soccer, for instance, boasts 700 teams in various city leagues, 
but attendance is pretty well restricted to the foreign born. Rugby is played 
occasionally, but there are no figures on where, when or why. People 
fence, shoot arrows at targets, play lacrosse and field hockey, bowls and 
billiards. But they do these things because they like to do them, and you 
could count the gate on the fingers of one billiard cue. 

The usual gym games handball, volley ball, and the rest haven't the 
appeal in New York that they have in other cities, because we have here 
too many people and too few gyms. The court games, such as court tennis, 
squash racquets and squash tennis, are prohibited to most, since relatively 
few people belong to private clubs. There is, incidentally, only one public 
court tennis layout in the entire city. 


National Games 

The Italians are steeped in a very old culture, and any one of them 
could beat you at bocci. The Irish sing well, have elected a lot of alder 
men, and play hurley better than the Sassenach. West Indians are polite, 
wear white flannels, and will take you on at cricket and trounce you in a 
genteel manner. 

These are the three great national games still flourishing hereabouts. 
You may see bocci on any vacant lot where Italians gather, and if you 
want to cheer at the sight of one wooden ball colliding with another 
wooden ball that's up to you. The Irish lay the caman fiercely about every 
Sunday at Innisfail and Van Cortlandt Parks. The West Indians stand 
around Van Cortlandt Park weekly with those funny bats and that mys 
terious manner affected by cricketers. 

Sailboats sail, yachts yacht, and shooters shoot here and there. People 
play lawn bowls, roque and croquet. But not many people could name one 
star in these sports. 

Supervised Sports 

One doesn't have to tell the young how to play. They seem to figure it 
out for themselves. But in such a city as this other considerations enter 
uninvited. How are the kids to be kept out of the way of trucks, trolleys, 
and gangs? How are they to learn other games as well as, unattended, 
they would learn dice, blackjack and pitch-penny? 

The Public School Athletic League tries to answer the question during 
those days and hours when the kids are within the League's range of fire. 
The Police Athletic League (on the badge it says PAL) supplements the 
effort of the schools. 

PAL a branch of the Juvenile Aid Department had a membership 
of 74,260 boys and girls at the close of 1937, each a dues-paying member 
at ten cents per year. Adults may become associate members at a cost of 
one dollar, and it's worth it. 

The organization boasts a double-barreled value. It teaches a boy or girl 
how to play team games off the streets and it unlearns a lot of what 
the streets teach him about cops. The kid who is taught to box by a cop 
is never likely to become a cop-fighter, the Juvenile Aid Department rea 
sons. The cops seem to agree. 

New York, more than any other city in America, is dotted with insti- 


tutions devoted to the welfare of the young. The welfare of the young 
is partly bound up with games, so the kids do fairly well. They could 
do a lot better, but housing has nothing to do with an essay on sports. 

On a Moral Note 

The horse is admittedly a noble beast which runs at four tracks in or 
adjacent to New York City. The primary idea in a horse race is to see 
which horse is best in a given group. In an effort to determine this superi 
ority men have lost their shirts, homes and happiness, and have made 
merry and money. 

The four metropolitan tracks are Belmont, Jamaica, Acqueduct and 
Empire City, and during 1937 they played to more than 1,300,000 fans. So 
racing is a mass sport ; but that isn't the half of it. 

Of each hundred persons who follow the races one may say conserva 
tively that 30 will see a race at one time or another during their lives. The 
others are occupied only with the possible riches to be gained by monetary 
insistence on the quality of some particular horse. According to the 
estimate of a large booking syndicate, about 950,000 New Yorkers lay 
a bet with the corner bookie at one time or another. (The track-goers 
usually bet with the books there. ) 

The bookies are much less numerous than the bettors, and the bookies 
take rather than lay bets. In the long run, against any run of luck by any 
number of bettors, a bookie will win. He will win because he risks only 
his theory that horse players really don't know horses, or anything. 

Here are some figures: 

About 10,000 horses are raced in the United States each year. Of these 
about 500 are fairly consistent winners. About 1,500 are in-and-outers 
("give him a heavy track and he'll deliver"), and the remainder are plugs, 
a charitable enough term. The bettor doesn't know which of his picks 
belong to the 8,000 and which to the 500. The bettor, therefore, loses. 

Horse-racing, a great sport in itself, has tended to bring about the ex 
tension of small-time gambling into every other game. This gambling has 
always been a business with a small portion of the population. Today it 
has become a pastime among a great number of people. One bets on the 
horses, the fights, football, baseball and the game ceases to be a game. 

But in the end it's hard to blame the bettor. He likes to play ; there isn't 
quite enough room or time, so he plays at a distance. That's the tragedy 
of that typical crowd. 


Water Gate 

.CMBRYONIC New York evolved from the germ of ocean commerce, and 
the infant settlement was nurtured on salt water. Salt water provided its 
nourishment during more than three hundred years of prodigious growth. 
Salt water conveys sustenance to the modern city's gargantuan anatomy. 
Without its great harbor, in short, the New York of today would have 
been impossible. By the same token, commerce and shipping have molded 
the city's destiny. 

One hundred years ago, your average New Yorker was acutely port- 
conscious. Even more than Broadway, South Street was the Main Street of 
the little metropolis; and virtually every stream of metropolitan life 
financial, commercial, industrial and social flowed into the "street o' 
ships." Here was the profitable outlet for accumulated capital; this was 
the happy hunting ground for enterprising traders, where golden oppor 
tunity beckoned and rewarded the ten-dollar-a-month clerk no less 
than the established merchant. Here ships were bought and sold, within 
earshot of the famed East River yards that laid them down. Here too were 
the gala launchings and Liverpool packet sailings, always attended by vast 
throngs and not a little conviviality. The New Yorker of 1837 could boast 
something besides a trace of salt in his veins ; there was inevitably a wisp 
of seaweed in his hair. "The beach" evoked aspirations and images not 
even vaguely resembling those that contemporary New Yorkers associate 
with Coney Island. There was an immediate tie-up between what hap 
pened on South Street and a man's bank balance or his butcher bill. 

One hundred years ago, the Port of New York was the City of New 
York. There were distinctions, of course, but historically they are unim 
portant. New York in 1837 was America's premier seaport, but hardly 
more than that. It was primarily a mercantile city. And precisely at that 
time ships and shipping were laying the foundations of an edifice that 
would engulf South Street and require water frontage extensive beyond 
the wildest dreams of early i9th century merchants. The City of New 



York today is more than the port; and the port includes more than the 
waterfront of the city. 

In less than 100 years New York was transformed from a seaport town, 
maintained by a few docks, warehouses and shipyards, into a great world 
metropolis, supported by tens of thousands of factories and countless 
other wealth-producing enterprises. And while that aggregate of water 
front activity which may loosely be called maritime industry is not the 
city's only industry as, practically speaking, it was a hundred years ago 
it is still the city's basic industry. 

The waterfront is the heart of a gigantic metropolitan organism. Before 
we dissect this mighty heart and investigate some of its mysteries, we 
might consider our initial postulate that New York City without its harbor 
would have been impossible. On the surface, this is almost axiomatic. But, 
as we shall see in our observations on the Port of New York's life-and- 
death struggle with competing ports, this obvious proposition requires 
frequent argument and proof. 

Nature was unusually beneficent with New York Harbor. This body 
of water is one of the largest natural harbors in the world. Seven 
major bays (Jamaica, Upper and Lower, Raritan, Gravesend, Newark and 
Flushing), some of them bigger than well-known harbors abroad, plus 
the mouths of four large rivers (Raritan, Passaic, Hudson and Hacken- 
sack), plus four estuaries (Arthur Kill, Kill van Kull, East River and 
Harlem River), go into its composition. Its 67 well-defined anchorage 
grounds have an area of 92,500 acres. Heavy ocean fog is infrequent in 
the harbor. In addition to being virtually landlocked, it is never ice-bound ; 
its mean tide range is only four and a half feet; and it is equipped with 
exceptionally deep channels, both natural and dredged. New York's main 
channels have a depth of 40 feet, practically a minimum requirement for 
such modern liners as the Normandie and Queen Mary. What nature 
marred or forgot man has remedied or supplied; since 1853 the Federal 
Government has expended more than $10,000,000 on harbor improve 
ments here. 

Besides these outstanding physiographical features, New York Harbor 
is blessed with an extraordinary geographical location. It is directly acces 
sible to the Atlantic Ocean, only two hours' steaming time, or about 17 
miles, separating the Manhattan waterfront from the open sea. The good 
fortune of New York in this respect is doubly apparent when we note 
that Philadelphia and Baltimore, two of the port's chief rivals, are situ 
ated 102 miles and 179 miles respectively from the sea. New York is 


likewise remarkably favored with a short all-water route to Boston, via 
the sheltered East River, Long Island Sound and the Cape Cod Canal ; and 
from 1835 until 1933 there was an inland all- water barge route from New 
York to Philadelphia via the Delaware-Raritan Canal. 

This combination of factors would have been sufficient, in itself, to 
insure the port's popularity with shipping interests. But the harbor has 
another geographical virtue as well, equalling and at one time surpassing 
all others in economic significance. It is connected, by inland water routes, 
with the Great Lakes, Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River. The 
general and historical importance of this circumstance is clearly demon 
strated by a simple statement of fact and a few well-worn statistics. New 
York is the only port on the Atlantic coast of the United States connected 
by waterways with the interior. In the decade 1811-20, before the Erie 
Canal (which completed the inland route to the interior) was opened, 
New York exports were valued at $88,000,000, as compared with 
$65,000,000 for South Carolina, which was second, and $50,000,000 each 
for Louisiana and Georgia. Between 1840 and 1851, as canal traffic 
steadily mounted, New York exports increased to $302,000,000; while the 
exports of South Carolina, its nearest rival on the Atlantic coast, amounted 
during the same period to $86,000,000, and those of Massachusetts to 

Given a harbor naturally magnificent, plus a great estuary located at 
"the seaboard portal of the best highway approach to the West," plus the 
Erie Canal linking that harbor with a fabulously wealthy interior, and 
the sum spelled immense advantage to trade. It is self-evident that trade 
attracts vessels and vessels attract trade. This is not necessarily an endless 
process; and it is, of course, subject to a multiplicity of other factors. But 
with the opening of the Erie Canal, New York decisively captured 
supremacy from her rival ports. She retains that supremacy today, on a 
scale beyond comparison in the western hemisphere. 

Radius of the Port 

Before surveying that colossus, the New York waterfront, it may be 
advisable to glance briefly at the map in order to understand exactly what 
constitutes the Port of New York. Your average New Yorker thinks of 
the shores of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and lets it go at that. But not so 
the scientific student of port affairs. 

Considered as an economic unit, the Port of New York embraces the 


entire area within a 2 5 -mile radius of the Statue of Liberty. It extends 
westward beyond the Passaic River and southward beyond Perth Amboy in 
New Jersey, farther than Jamaica Bay on the east, northward to Tarrytown 
on the Hudson River, and as far as Port Chester on Long Island Sound. 
This territory of more than 1,500 square miles, with a population of be 
tween ii and 12 million persons, contains some 40,000 industrial estab 
lishments, which produce annually goods valued at about $8,000,000,000. 
Altogether, the port district ranks as the country's greatest commercial, 
financial and residential community. 

Rail and Road 

Serving this community overland are upwards of 300 motor truck lines 
and 10 great trunk line railroads, competing thunderously for the millions 
of tons of freight dumped and loaded on port district shores annually. 
The importance of these railroad systems in the port economy cannot be 
overemphasized. Shipping in the port constitutes the right arm of the 
giant organism, and railroad transport is the left. Deprived of one or the 
other, the organism would be disastrously crippled. 

As another glance at our map will show, the difficulties of railroad 
freight distribution in the port district are enormous. The Cyclopean body 
of the metropolis was conceived on Manhattan Island. As it grew and 
became cramped in these narrow confines it spread, perversely, not to the 
mainland but to Brooklyn and Long Island. This anatomy was reasonably 
in harmony with the times in which it was molded. But under the condi 
tions and demands of a voracious and prolific hinterland, whose very 
life-blood flowed through railway arteries, it was bound to be an exas- 
peratingly inefficient structure. Long before railroads appeared on the 
scene, shipping had taken root on the east bank of the Hudson, next to 
the center of population. In order to reach this rich source of revenue and 
compete successfully with canal and river carriers, the railroads had no 
alternative but to occupy the west bank of the Hudson and go nautical. 
Rails cannot be laid on a river, but they can be bolted to a scow. And 
freight can be transferred to lighters. Thus the Port of New York's free 
lighterage and carfloat system, which makes every dock in the port avail 
able to every railroad in the port, came into being. We shall have occasion 
to consider this system later. 

The first railroad to connect the port with the interior, the New York 
Central, alone succeeded in establishing passenger and freight terminal 


facilities on Manhattan Island. Most of the great railroads that followed 
had to accept the Jersey shore as the end of their lines and, as indicated 
above, very grave maritime responsibilities for the delivery of freight. 
The consequent investment in terminals, classification yards, pier stations, 
towing vessels, float bridges, carfloats, lighters, barges, ferries and other 
marine equipment runs into hundreds of millions of dollars. 

The complexities and ramifications of railroad transportation in the port 
district require far more extended discussion than is possible here. Else 
where in our survey of harbor activity we shall find it necessary to outline 
certain phases of railroad marine operations. It is sufficient now to note 
that in the development of Port of New York's waterfront, railroads have 
played a part that equals and may even exceed that of the strictly seagoing 

The Waterfront 

We have already alluded to the magnitude of the New York water 
front. In order to enjoy a close-up view of its vast contours, we should 
need a launch capable of turning up some 16 miles per hour, with provi 
sions and gasoline for a 48-hour run. This would be the equivalent of a 
voyage from Sandy Hook to Savannah, Georgia a rather exhausting 
journey, even if it were done in easy stages. A much more convenient, if 
not quite so comprehensive, concept of the waterfront can be gained from 
a few statistics. 

Of the 771 miles of direct shoreline fringing Port of New York bays 
and waterways, 578.4 miles are waterfront boundaries of the five bor 
oughs of New York City. Measured around the 1,800 piers, wharves and 
bulkheads in the port, developed waterfrontage covers 350 miles. The 
city's share of this stretch of developed frontage is about 285 miles, 
including a greater frontage on deep water, probably, than any other port 
in the world certainly greater than that of any other port in the United 
States. Along the waterfront of the city proper are more than 700 piers 
and wharves, from 50 to 1,700 feet in length, some of them anti 
quated, but many ultra-modern and equipped to accommodate the world's 
largest steamships. Of these piers about 270 are owned by the city, 410 
are privately owned, 27 belong to the Federal Government and nine to 
the State. The New York City holdings are concentrated along the Man 
hattan waterfront for the most part, although certain sections of the 
Brooklyn and Staten Island waterfronts also belong to the city. A few of 


the city-owned piers are reserved for departmental and public use; most 
of them are leased for five-year periods to railroad and steamship compa 
nies. Rentals on piers such as those comprising the new Transatlantic 
Terminal from West Forty-Eighth to Fifty-Fourth Streets run as high as 
$200,000 annually. Smaller piers, of the type used by the railroads, rent 
for about $40,000 a year. 

State ownership of waterfront property in the city is limited to the 
barge canal terminals in each of the boroughs, except Staten Island. 
Federal Government waterfront property includes the Navy Yard and the 
Army Base in Brooklyn, and the Staten Island lighthouse basin. Several 
islands in the harbor and the shoreline of a number of army reservations 
are also owned by the Federal Government. 

The extent and distribution of New York City's shoreline holdings are 
best indicated by the following figures: Along the Hudson (North) River 
waterfront of Manhattan the city owns 12 miles of a total of 13.33 miles; 
along the East River waterfront of Manhattan and the Bronx, 7.9 miles 
of a total of 13.3 miles; and on the East River waterfront of Brooklyn 
and Queens, 2.4 miles of a total of 27.7 miles. 

Private ownership of waterfront property is nearly at a minimum along 
the North River-Manhattan waterfront, totaling only 1.2 miles; on the 
East River waterfront of Queens and Brooklyn it totals more than 2 3 miles. 

Hub of the Port 

The North River waterfront of Manhattan is the most valuable and 
intensively developed section of the port. It unquestionably ranks, in this 
respect, with any similar area in the great ports of the world. Here are 
located the terminals of most of the express lines in the European pas 
senger service; the terminals of the lines engaged in South American, 
West Indian and coastwise service; and the pier stations of eight major 
trunk line railroads. There are no large industrial establishments along 
the North River waterfront, almost the entire section being devoted to 
passenger and freight facilities. 

This area contains more than no piers, 24 ferry slips, and 8 float 
bridges, where freight cars are transferred from shore tracks to carfloats 
and vice versa. Between 25 and 30 of the total number of piers are used 
in foreign or intercoastal trade, a few more than 40 in domestic trade, and 
about 40 serve the railroads. Since most of the latter are south of Fifty- 
Ninth Street, these figures reveal one of the troublesome problems created 

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by railroad marine operations. Forty percent of the most valuable steam 
ship frontage along the West Side of Manhattan perhaps the most 
valuable in the whole port district is devoted to railroad freight opera 
tions having no direct relation to shipping. This state of affairs was made 
inevitable, of course, by the fierce competition among common carriers 
for the large volume of domestic freight consigned to Manhattan Island. 

A primary task of the Port of New York Authority was to bring 
about a consolidation of the many duplications of service that sprang 
from this carrier competition, so that deepwater frontage might be re 
leased for ocean terminals. In spite of considerable effort by the Port 
Authority to accomplish this end, progress has been hampered by various 
factors, not the least of which is the sharp rivalry among carriers. Eventual 
solution of this problem may well rest with the fate of legislation pro 
posing national consolidation of the rail systems. 

Ever since the opening of the present century, steamship operators and 
the city government have been confronted with the problem of supplying 
adequate berthage, in close proximity to railroad passenger terminals and 
hotels, for ships that are constantly increasing in number and size. The 
general progress in this direction is demonstrated by the fact that approxi 
mately half of the steamship piers in the port can accommodate ocean 
going ships. This means that more than 100 miles of side wharfage are 
available for deepwater berthage. A few years ago it was estimated that 
new dock construction in the Port of New York in a single year equalled 
the entire deepwater dockage of Portland, Maine. Since 1920, between 
75,000 and 80,000 feet of wharfage have been constructed for ocean 
steamship use. At the present time the city is proceeding with a compre 
hensive plan for the development of its North River property. Several 
modern pier projects are in progress or nearing completion. 

Along the East River waterfront of Manhattan and the Bronx there are 
1 08 piers, 1 6 ferry slips and eight carfloat bridges, as well as nearly 100 
bulkheads and shore wharves. The piers along the Manhattan waterfront 
of the East River comprise approximately 90 of the total, but only about 
seven of these are used in foreign trade. A few of the piers are employed 
in the coastwise freight trade, and about 20 are used by the railroads. 

We have already had occasion to mention the role of South Street in 
the city's development. The East River waterfront of Manhattan was, of 
course, the nucleus of the port. For the student of American merchant 
marine history, this stretch of beach swarms with the phantoms of famous 
clippers and the ghosts of the men who built them. But the forests of 


towering masts and jaunty bowsprits that shaded South Street in the 
clipper ship era have disappeared forever. Only a handful of ocean-going 
vessels continue to dock in this area, barely keeping alive South Street's 
1 9th century packet tradition. Although it has a deep channel, the East 
River is narrow and handicapped by treacherous tidal currents condi 
tions poorly suited to the docking problems of a modern super-ship. 
Various industrial and other establishments, ranging from gas and 
slaughter houses to hospitals and luxurious apartment hotels, have covered 
the retreat of shipping from this area. 

A large percentage of the 196.8 miles of Queens Borough shoreline is 
undeveloped. But the banks of Newtown Creek, which separate Brooklyn 
from Long Island City, are crowded with a conglomeration of industrial 
plants, and harbor activity in this region is particularly marked. 

The most intensively developed portion of Brooklyn's 201.5 miles of 
waterfront extends from the mouth of Newtown Creek south to Bay 
Ridge. This area is occupied almost entirely by facilities for ocean-going 
cargo carriers, intraport lighterage and railroad carfloatage. Passenger and 
freight terminals of steamship lines to all parts of the world, hundreds of 
large industrial plants, dozens of warehouses, as well as the most extensive 
dry-docking and ship repair facilities in the port, are in this section. 

Most important among the developments along this stretch of the 
Brooklyn shore are: (i) Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal, one of the 
principal warehousing and freight transfer enterprises in the port. Various 
commercial and industrial concerns make use of its facilities, foremost 
among which are carfloat connections with all the major trunk line rail 
roads. (2) Jay Street Terminal, nine piers comprising 91,000 feet of side 
wharfage, one float bridge and more than 1,000,000 square feet of ware 
house space. (3) New York Dock Company Terminal, extending for a 
distance of 2.5 miles along Buttermilk Channel and consisting of the 
Fulton, Baltic and Atlantic Terminals. In addition to its 27 piers and two 
float bridges, the New York Dock Company development includes 89 
warehouses and 91 factories, 35 miles of track and a fleet of 50 motor 
trucks. Nearly 25 percent of the entire ocean freight tonnage of the port 
moves through the company's property. (4) Erie Basin, one of the oldest 
terminals in the port, which comprises ten piers three of them more 
than 1,000 feet in length several warehouses, a sugar refinery, and ship 
repair establishments ranking with the greatest in the country. We shall 
come back to these later. (5) The New York State Grain Elevator, ope 
rated by the State of New York in conjunction with the Barge Canal 


Terminal adjoining it. This elevator has a storage capacity of 2,000,000 
bushels. (6) Bush Terminal, one of the major docking, storage and indus 
trial developments in the world. Behind its eight piers, offering side 
wharfage for 35 average-size steamers, are approximately 140 warehouses 
and industrial loft buildings, served by a marginal railway affording 35 
miles of trackage and carfloat connections with all trunk line railroads. It 
has been estimated that 20 percent of the entire export and import traffic 
moving through the port is handled at this terminal. 

Like the Borough of the Bronx, Staten Island's role in the port economy 
is rather modest. Except for the Kill van Kull waterfront and certain 
sections between Brighton and Rosebank, its 57.1 miles of direct shoreline 
are largely undeveloped. The unfortunate chance whereby the large-scale 
waterfront enterprise of the port has, comparatively speaking, avoided the 
Borough of Richmond, is one of destiny and geography. Whereas the 
Dutch preferred Manhattan in the iyth century, the railroad and steam 
ship lines in the 2oth prefer the shortest path between two points. Staten 
Island, in short, is somewhat out of the way; traffic lanes point in other 
directions. The late Mayor Hylan attempted to challenge this scheme of 
things, but his accomplishments were regarded by New Yorkers at large 
as a monument to his lack of business acumen. The 13 piers constructed 
by his administration along the Stapleton waterfront at a cost of $30,000,- 
ooo were promptly dubbed "Hylan's Folly," for the ocean-going vessels 
they were built to accommodate did not materialize. 

However, if "Hylan's Folly" failed to reshape Staten Island's destiny, 
his project is scheduled finally to obtain at least a measure of its original 
objective. The Federal Government approved four of these piers as a 
terminal for the Foreign Trade Zone opened in 1937 in the Port of New 
York. The announcement of this decision was made by the Secretary of 
Commerce on January 29, 1936. Under the terms of the act authorizing 
this zone, the first in the United States, goods may be brought into the 
restricted area from any foreign country, without passing through the cum 
bersome red tape of customs inspection; they may be processed or stored 
within the zone, and then passed through American customs or trans 
shipped to a foreign country. Responsible authorities maintain that the 
zone will eventually prove of incalculable value to the Port of New York. 

Flanking the Foreign Trade Zone are the only two private terminals on 
Staten Island the American Dock Terminal, consisting of four piers and 
31 factory and storage structures, which have the advantage of being 
served directly by standard-gauge railway trackage, connecting by way of 


the B. & O. Staten Island system with the major trunk lines; and the 
Pouch Terminal, which has three piers and 25 factory and warehouse 
units, also served directly by the B. & O. 

Although the New Jersey waterfront is an inseparable part of the whole 
port organism, extended treatment of its ramifications belongs in a survey 
of common carriers in the port. This is not to say that New Jersey's part 
in ocean-going trade is negligible. Indeed, a number of outstanding steam 
ship lines operating out of the port maintain terminals in Jersey City, 
Hoboken, Weehawken or Newark. 

Considered from the point of view of foreign commerce, however, the 
Brooklyn and Manhattan waterfronts are by far the most strategic. The 
great majority of the passenger lines employ terminals on Manhattan 
Island ; most of the freight lines operate from Brooklyn. 

Close to 200 vessels of one kind or another tie up at the piers and 
wharves of the port every day. An analysis of the distribution of inbound 
ships on a typical day, made by the Port of New York Authority, shows 
that more than one-third, or 36 percent, docked in Brooklyn and nearly 
one-quarter were berthed in Manhattan, while 16 percent docked along the 
principal sections of the Jersey waterfront Hoboken, Jersey City, Bay- 
onne, and so forth. 

Approximately 90 steamship lines are engaged in foreign trade out of 
the Port of New York. Operating for the most part on regular schedules 
and with frequent sailings, they supply the shipper and importer with 
direct service to and from the major ports of Europe, South America, the 
West Indies, Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand. Many of the 
world's outposts are also reached by steamers operating regularly out of 
New York. In addition to fast freight service, many of these lines offer 
passenger service and vacation cruise itineraries duplicated at no other 
American port. Some 25 lines operate vessels accommodating passengers 
to the more important ports of Europe and the Near East. Nine lines are 
engaged in regular passenger service to Africa, the Far East and around 
the world; and about 18 lines maintain passenger vessels on regular 
schedules and cruises to ports in the West Indies, South America and 

Since 90 percent of the sailings on these itineraries are direct (no 
intermediate calls at other domestic ports), New York appeals particu 
larly to exporters of high-grade manufactured goods and importers of 
quality merchandise, as well as to overseas travelers. In consequence, this 
port has become the gateway for approximately 50 percent by value of 


the foreign trade of the United States and 85 percent of the country's 
foreign passenger traffic. 

In addition to the steamship companies operating vessels in foreign 
trade, there are seven lines in the intercoastal or Pacific Coast service. Pas 
senger accommodations are available on four of these intercoastal lines, 
with facilities ranging from the "luxury" type on Dollar liners to the in 
formal one-class type on Luckenbach freighters. At least seven steamship 
companies operate vessels to ports on the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf; 
and a few lines dispatch freight vessels to Sound and inland points. 

Waterborne Commerce 

The amount and value of the commodities dumped on New York piers 
every year by vessels engaged in foreign and domestic trade are enor 
mous; and the commodities they take away are only a little less consider 
able. Let the figures for the calendar year 1936 tell the story. 

During the course of that year, 13,479,929 tons of commodities of 
almost every conceivable kind, valued at $2,913,001,116, were landed in 
the Port of New York out of the holds of ships from foreign ports. With 
deduction for gold and silver shipments valued at $1,149,225,000 that 
were included among the 48,784 tons of "precious metal" imports, the 
value of merchandise and raw materials brought into the port during 1936 
amounted to $1,763,776,116. Compared with the Philadelphia port dis 
trict imports of 4,765,115 tons valued at $169,207,820, Baltimore's 
imports of 4,519,970 tons worth $70,777,740; and the imports of the 
entire San Francisco Bay area imports of 959,688 tons worth $98,006,187, 
during the same calendar year, the colossal character of the port's import 
business becomes readily apparent. 

In the sphere of export trade the port's national supremacy is likewise 
unchallenged. While the San Francisco Bay area was exporting 2,462,131 
tons valued at $102,937,822, Baltimore 765,600 tons worth $14,907,322, 
and the Philadelphia port district 1,159,903 tons valued at $62,454,393, 
the Port of New York loaded 5,926,044 tons of cargo worth $1,130,891,- 
305 (exclusive of gold and silver) on foreign-bound ships. The high 
quality of merchandise exported from the Port of New York is revealed 
by the fact that while tonnage volume was considerably less than one-half 
the volume of imports, the total value of exports was nearly two-thirds the 
total value of imports. 

In round numbers, the entire foreign trade of the port during 1936 


amounted to 19,400,000 tons, with a total valuation of $2,894,000,000. 
During the same period, the total waterborne foreign commerce of the 
entire United States, again in round numbers and excluding gold and 
silver, amounted to 90,000,000 tons valued at $5,307,000,000. Thus in 
the calendar year 1936, the Port of New York handled approximately 54 
percent by value and 21 percent by volume of the nation's grand total 
of foreign maritime commerce. 

In the field of domestic waterborne commerce, traffic in the port at 
tained even more enormous proportions. No less than 91,291,715 tons 
of everything from adrenalin to zwieback, having a total valuation of 
$4,969,671,721, moved through the port during 1936. In comparison, the 
entire waterborne commerce, both foreign and domestic, of the Phila 
delphia port district amounted to 34,171,000 tons, valued at $1,081,800,- 
ooo ; the entire waterborne commerce of the San Francisco Bay area was 
25,685,000 tons, valued at $1,062,177,000; and Baltimore's entire water- 
borne commerce was 21,886,000 tons valued at $695,838,000 a com 
bined total of 81,742,000 tons of waterborne freight worth $2, 839,81 s,- 
ooo. These three ports certainly cannot be called sluggards, but their total 
waterborne commerce was exceeded by the Port of New York's domestic 
waterborne traffic alone. 

There are four general types of domestic waterborne commerce: (i) 
coastwise, (2) internal, (3) intraport, (4) local. Coastwise traffic, of 
course, is self-explanatory, but brief definitions of the other types may 
be necessary. Internal traffic refers to traffic between a port and an inland 
point via a tributary waterway, such as the Hudson River. Intraport traffic 
is that between the several arms or channels of a port i.e., traffic involv 
ing the use of more than one channel or waterway. Traffic between 
Brooklyn and the North River waterfront, or between Hoboken and the 
East River waterfront, for example, is intraport traffic; the use of more 
than one channel is involved in these movements. Local traffic refers to 
freight movements involving the use of no more than one harbor channel 
or waterway. Thus, traffic across the North River between Manhattan and 
Weehawken, or across the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn, 
is local. 

Of chief importance in 1936, with respect to both value and volume, 
was the port's coastwise traffic. Receipts attained the tremendous total of 
28,554,604 tons, valued at $1,186,430,648. Shipments came to 7,608,499 
tons, valued at $1,000,109,270. Coastwise tonnage was 32.6 percent of 


the entire waterborne tonnage of the port nearly double the foreign 
traffic tonnage, which amounted to 17.5 percent of the total. 

Next in value and tonnage were intraport shipments and receipts, 
totaling 34,810,231 tons valued at $1,751,214,961. This traffic consti 
tuted about 31.4 percent of the port's total waterborne volume of freight. 

Local traffic followed, with 14,129,888 tons, or about 13 percent of 
the total waterborne tonnage, valued at $862,846,490. 

The final category, internal traffic, accounted for only 5.6 percent of 
the total waterborne tonnage, or 6,188,493 tons, valued at $169,070,352. 
Since the origin or destination of most of this freight was the New York 
State Barge Canal System, it may be permissible to discuss briefly, at this 
point, the relation of the canal system to port economy. As previously 
noted, Erie Canal commerce played a decisive part in the early develop 
ment of New York as a city and port. The importance of the canal 
diminished rapidly, however, after the appearance of the New York 
Central Railroad on the scene. By 1873 the New York Central was carry 
ing as much tonnage as the canal; by 1884 it was carrying twice as much; 
and in 1915 it transported 64,000,000 tons of freight, as compared with 
about 2,000,000 tons handled by the canal system. 

Traffic on the barge canals has been increasing steadily since 1919, 
when it amounted to only 1,238,844 tons. The present volume represents 
a rise of approximately 500 percent over the bottom of 1919. Despite rate 
cutting tactics favorite and efficient bludgeon used by the rail systems to 
squelch competing canal operators the canal system is regaining a con 
stantly increasing quantity of bulk freight from the common carriers. 

If present plans of the State of New Jersey to widen, deepen and reopen 
the Delaware and Raritan Canal under Federal auspices should materialize, 
a general resurgence of internal water-transportation in the New York 
area may very conceivably develop. Certain shippers would unquestion 
ably regard with favor an inland water route linking the Great Lakes with 
Baltimore and points in the South. Such a route would benefit the New 
York State Barge Canal System, but the port's coastwise traffic would be 
affected, since the projected canal would shorten by 264 miles the present 
voyage from New York to Baltimore. 

Returning to the subject of Port of New York's waterborne commerce, 
and recapitulating: During the calendar year 1936, 110,697,688 tons of 
cargo valued at $7,864,339,142 moved over the waters of New York 
Harbor. During the same period, all waterborne cargoes moving through 


Houston, Texas, Baltimore, the San Francisco Bay area and the Phila 
delphia port district totaled 105,543,787 tons and were valued at $3,459,- 
235,455. In other words, although the Port of New York moved only 
5,153,901 more tons of cargo, the total tonnage handled had nearly twice 
the value of the combined cargoes moved by the other four ports. 

A glance at a small cross-section of the mountainous cargoes passing 
through the port is not without interest. 

Unusually large exports in 1936 included the following: 872,000 tons 
of general merchandise, 467,000 tons of motor vehicles and parts, 641,000 
tons of wheat, 258,000 tons of flour and meal, 197,000 tons of hay and 
feed, 169,000 tons of kerosene and gasoline, 546,000 tons of lubricating 
oil and grease, 277,000 tons of iron and steel manufactures, 107,000 tons 
of coal-tar products, 135,000 tons of copper manufactures and 450,000 
tons of scrap iron. The smallest export item was one ton of mats and 

Conspicuous in the vast bulk of imports poured into New York docks 
during 1936 were the following: more than 4,500,000 tons of petroleum 
products, 735,000 tons of coffee, tea, cocoa and cocoa beans, 535,000 tons 
of fruits and nuts, 905,000 tons of raw sugar, 346,000 tons of flaxseed, 
309,000 tons of paper manufactures, 263,000 tons of inedible vegetable 
oils, 101,000 tons of bags and bagging, 217,000 tons of wood pulp, 
366,000 tons of gypsum, 358,000 tons of iron ore, 414,000 tons of crude 
rubber. Cargoes of almost every commodity and raw material under the 
sun followed the above in varying volumes. The smallest import was 
airplanes and parts, 6 tons; the next smallest was office appliances, 14 

"Duty-Free" Imports 

The only commodities brought into the port from foreign lands during 
1936 of which there is no record were smuggled goods. The total value 
and volume of this traffic were probably unimpressive. 

Time was when smuggling was a highly respectable practice in New 
York and its environs, some of the city's most reputable citizenry not 
only encouraging this practice but even participating in it on occasion. 
There is no question that many early New York fortunes were erected on 
such a basis. How vigorously smuggling once flourished in this area is 
indicated by the state of affairs that prevailed at Oyster Bay early in the 
1 8th century. The Customs Officer, who received 30 pounds as salary and 


one-third of all seizures, begged to be relieved of his duties ; for although 
most of the inhabitants were relatives of his, he had been threatened with 
bodilj violence. 

Nowadays the United States Treasury Department, through the Com 
missioner of Customs and a special staff of agents, keeps a vigilant eye 
on duty-evasion rackets in the port, which fall into four general categories. 
Least spectacular are the drawback fraud and undervaluation. The former 
is a method employed by dishonest commercial firms to collect illegally 
the refund of import duty allowed by law on certain raw materials 
that have been processed or made into manufactured articles. "Under 
valuation" is chiefly practiced by returning globe-trotters, but even large- 
scale importers have been known to indulge in it. 

The most spectacular duty-evasion rackets are classified as miscellaneous 
and narcotics. Under miscellaneous fall such practices as the smuggling 
of watch-movements, diamonds, etc. Recent tariff revisions have deprived 
the watch-movement racket of its lucrative character, but illicit traffic in 
high-quality optical equipment, such as binoculars and cameras, has been 
increasing. Although diamond smuggling remains a constant challenge, 
"Miscellaneous Division" agents in the port dealt the trade a severe blow 
in 1937 when they seized more than $200,000 worth of gems in a single 

The narcotic traffic is most vexing of all. Usually operated by syndi 
cates or big-time mobsters, this traffic is not necessarily checked for long 
by apprehension of the carriers. In spite of the strictest vigilance, a certain 
flow of drugs into the port is inevitable. Seizures and arrests are fre 
quent, however; during the fiscal year that ended June 1937, drugs 
mostly opium valued at approximately $2,350,000 were seized in the 
port district. 

Handling the Cargoes 

The main bulk of New York's waterborne freight moves, of course, 
through the normal channels of trade; and when this deluge of freight 
descends on the waterfront, processes far more involved and impressive 
than duty evasion are brought into motion. To the uninitiated, the result 
is chaos and bedlam. The discharge, loading and transfer of waterborne 
freight are accompanied, indeed, by great confusion and travail. But the 
latter are surface phenomena. Beneath tumult and turmoil the waterfront 
functions with the smoothness and precision of a new Diesel engine. 


Consider the following: During 1935, 21,589 cargo carriers of all 
types and sizes passed through Ambrose Channel. (Figures showing 
similar traffic bound in and out via East River are not available.) In their 
cabins were 1,106,260 passengers; in their holds was an overwhelming 
proportion of the port's 55,569,076 tons of foreign and coastwise freight. 
The great majority of these carriers arrived and sailed on schedule time. 

This remarkable accomplishment was made possible by the highly co 
ordinated activities of three armies of labor: one inland, one alongshore 
and one afloat. Equipped with tens of thousands of trucks, the inland 
army storms the waterfront from near and far, bombarding it with freight 
and being bombarded in return. Making use of a harbor fleet second to 
none, the army afloat storms the waterfront from every point of the 
compass, likewise bombarding it with freight and being bombarded in 
return. Finally, equipped with more freight-handling machinery than is 
available in any other port in the world, the alongshore army stands on 
the docks between, giving and taking in both directions, and maintaining 
in addition a private feud with the ships. On the shoulders of this 
"middle" army of longshoremen, numbering from 30,000 to 40,000, rests 
the heavy and dangerous responsibility of moving freight into and out 
of the cargo carriers. 

The port's supply of machinery for this work consists chiefly of esca 
lators, trailers, skids, and lift-trucks. The lift-trucks, of which there are 
well in excess of 1,000 in the port, are usually electrically operated, 
rubber-tired and self-loading. They can be turned in their own length, and 
are fitted with special equipment such as small crane hoists, cradles, tiering 
apparatus, chisel prongs and newsprint scoops. With the last-named 
appliance, newsprint rolls weighing 1,700 pounds can be automatically 
tiered three high. These trucks are also used to shuttle trailer and skid 
loads of freight about the docks and warehouses. The number of trailers 
and skids in the port has been estimated at 150,000. 

Cargo is transferred from the lower holds of ships to pier or lighter 
by the ship's tackle and winches. Some 50 piers are equipped with special 
cargo masts. For use in handling extra-heavy cargo, 150 floating hoists 
are on call in the harbor, together with 70 floating derricks, some of them 
built to handle weights up to 300 tons. 

In spite of this mechanization, or perhaps because of it, longshoremen 
in the port nurse many grievances. "Speed-up" causes the loudest and 
most frequent complaint. Others include (i) the "shape-up" system of 
hiring, which is said to breed favoritism and the "kick-back" or buying 


of jobs; (2) excessive "sling-loads," dangerously heavy load hoists out of 
the hold; and (3) the 44-hour week. The loudest demand is for "West 
Coast conditions," which include: (i) union hiring halls and the rotation 
system of hiring; (2) 2,ioo-pound maximum sling load; and (3) the 
3O-hour week. 

Completely organized in the International Longshoremen's Association, 
Port of New York longshoremen are under conservative American Fed 
eration of Labor leadership. While rank and file sentiment (1937) looked 
toward the swelling Committee for Industrial Organization tide, ILA 
officialdom dropped its anchor and prepared for storm. 

As figures already cited will indicate, 48,940,000 tons, or about 44 
percent of New York's waterborne commerce, is strictly inner harbor 
traffic, classified as intraport and local freight movements. The operation 
of this traffic requires, as has been pointed out, a harbor fleet second to 

This fleet numbers no fewer than 6,000 barges, scows, lighters, car- 
floats and tugs, and the "army afloat" that mans it approximates 15,000 
men. Functioning on the port's water highways as efficiently as switching 
engines on a railroad belt line, this harbor fleet is indispensable for the 
distribution of general freight, food products and building materials 
throughout the port district. 

These operations are conducted by scores of private firms and eight of 
the great trunk-line railroads the Central Railroad of New Jersey, the 
Baltimore & Ohio, the Lehigh Valley, the Pennsylvania, the Erie, the 
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, the New York Central and the New 
York, New Haven & Hartford. In addition to lighterage (towed barges 
that have been loaded from freight cars or terminals), the railroad lines 
employ car floatage (towed barges carrying freight cars on rails) as a 
means of harbor freight transfer. Carfloats may transfer freight cars via 
float bridges to the tracks of terminals, such as Bush and New York 
Dock ; or they may tie up alongside a pier or ship. Much to the annoyance 
of competing ports, both services are performed by the railroads without 
extra cost to the consignor or consignee, since they are merely the equiv 
alent of terminal extensions of the carriers' rails. 

Lighterage service in the harbor may originate at any of the following 
general points: (i) rail terminals; (2) local points; (3) vessels from 
foreign ports; (4) vessels from coastwise ports; (5) vessels from internal 
ports. Since traffic may move from each of these general points of de 
parture to each of the other four and to destinations identical with the 


point of departure itself (with two exceptions: "local" and "vessels from 
internal ports," which naturally dispatch lighterage only to each of the 
other four), there is a total of 23 possible forms of lighterage freight- 
transfer in the port. All of which helps to explain the endless and dis 
cordant whistling and lowing of New York harbor craft. The infinite 
possible combinations of lighterage routes intersect at an infinite possible 
number of points, and the result is a kind of efficient bedlam in mid- 

Railroad marine equipment in New York Harbor represents an invest 
ment of $35,000,000 in 150 towboats, 323 carfloats, 1,094 lighters and 
barges and 44 ferryboats. This fleet is manned by 3,400 men. Carfloats 
from 257 to 360 feet long, some of them carrying 23 cars, float a monthly 
average of 75,000 freight cars loaded with about 940,000 tons of mis 
cellaneous freight. In this connection, it should be noted that carfloat 
freight tonnage is not included in the "local" and "intraport" statistics 
previously cited in this article. 

The magnitude of private and industrial lighterage operations in the 
harbor is indicated by the fact that more than 500 tugs are owned by 
towboat and lighterage companies; about 50 by oil, coal and terminal 
companies; and 20 more by steamship companies. Although tugboats are 
generally associated with the drama of ocean liner sailings and arrivals, 
this is but a minor phase of their role in port economy. In addition to the 
lighterage and carfloat towing duties already mentioned, their work in 
cludes removal of waste material, wrecking and salvage operations, trans 
fer of ships from pier to pier or from pier to drydock, towing of cargoes 
to coastwise and internal ports, and so forth. Docking the Normandie is 
merely a detail in the average work week of a towboat. 


Between the close of the War of 1812 and the outbreak of the Civil 
War, shipbuilding in the port of New York rivaled and possibly out 
ranked even the shipping industry. More correctly, perhaps, these were 
facets of the same gem: an increase in the luster of one added to the 
brilliance of the other. In those days, American cargoes were carried in 
American ships. The East River yards were known the world over for the 
quality and numbers of packet and clipper ships sliding down their ways. 
There was a world demand for East River products, and tens of thousands 
of skilled artisans labored in the vicinity of South Street to supply it. 


The Civil War drove American shipping from the seas and New York's 
shipyards into oblivion. Except for a brief upsurge during and shortly 
after the World War, American shipping in general and New York con 
struction in particular have drifted in the doldrums. 

Facilities for ship construction in the port, however, are still plentiful. 
Disregarding those of the United States Navy Yard, the city proper con 
tains 26 shipbuilding plants. Four of the largest in the United States are 
in Brooklyn; and several other large yards operate on the Kill van Kull 
waterfront in Staten Island. But except for some city ferryboat and naval 
destroyer work during 1935-7, new construction in the port area has been 
limited in recent years to scows, barges and a few towboats. 

Although 15,000 workers are engaged in this industry in the port area, 
the majority of them are employed on ship repairs. The fact that most 
of the yards in the port are accessible for ship repair work has naturally 
increased the popularity of the port among ship operators. Special equip 
ment and skilled mechanics are always available in the event of damaged 
hulls or machinery. Dry docking facilities include 50 floating docks, six 
of which can handle ships of 10,000 to 27,000 tons. In addition there 
are two commercial graving docks, one of which can care for ships up to 
713 feet in length. In case of an emergency in which no commercial 
drydock is available, the four graving docks at the Navy Yard may be 
used. All but a dozen of the largest ships afloat can be serviced at port 

In ship repair facilities, as in all other facilities related to the flow of 
water-borne commerce, the Port of New York is first in the United States. 

The Port of New York Authority 

New York's ascent to supremacy in the world of shipping and com 
merce was conditioned by the major factors of a superior physiographic 
situation plus the methods of hand-to-mouth commercial development. 
Long-range planning has been notably absent throughout the whole course 
of its development. The port just grew; and men hurried along in the 
wake of its growth, striving breathlessly to adjust old conditions to new 
situations. Inefficiency and waste in port economy were conseauently 

Makeshift compromises with the demands of progress were permissible 
in the era of transition from Hudson River sloops to Hudson River steam 
boats. In the era of transition from side-wheelers to the steel leviathan, 


makeshift compromises were injurious to the best interests of the port. 
And since the contradictions thus engendered were aggravated in direct 
ratio to the growth of the whole organism, these compromises were bound 
to become downright dangers. The usurpation of valuable steamship 
frontage by competing common carriers is a case in point. The senseless 
duplication of harbor freight services, inevitably reflected in higher freight 
rates for the inland shipper, is another. These problems were in turn 
complicated by a more serious circumstance. 

Although natural geography, as we have seen, especially favored the 
port, political geography has not been so kind. The Port of New York is an 
economic unit, but the harbor and district are divided by state lines. There 
were and are not only state rivalries to complicate matters; municipal 
jealousies flourished and still flourish as well. New Jersey fought for 
the Foreign Trade Zone; Port Newark demands a rate-differential on 
railroad freight. And looming in the background are the ambitious de 
signs of other Atlantic and Gulf ports on New York's foreign commerce. 

The compulsive need for a joint agency to correct the anarchies of port 
economy was finally recognized, and in 1921 the States of New York and 
New Jersey created a medium charged to protect their general mutual 
interests and to plan for the port's future. 

A thorough discussion of this medium, the Port of New York Authority, 
is hardly possible within the limitations of this article. We have already 
had occasion to note its efforts to obtain the release of Manhattan railroad 
piers for steamship use. Several steps in this direction have been made, the 
most recent being the coordination of less-than-carload freight deliveries, 
initiated by the railroads in 1935 after 14 years of Port Authority agita 
tion. In addition, the Authority has built in Manhattan a $16,000,000 
union inland freight terminal which is served by the trucks of all the 
trunk line railroads. 

Balked, on the whole, in its efforts to remedy the hardened harbor 
arteries, the Port Authority tackled the problem of efficient freight dis 
tribution through the port district from another angle. Since the motor 
truck was becoming an increasingly important factor in the delivery and 
pick-up of freight at the port piers, interstate highways by bridge and 
tunnel were the logical solution. Port Authority accomplishments in this 
field the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, the George Washington Bridge, 
the Outerbridge Crossing, the Goethals and Bayonne Bridges connecting 
Staten Island with New Jersey are too well known to require comment 


The organization's activities behind the scenes are less well known 
but no less vital. Port Authority lawyers are in the midst of a grim and 
bitter warfare that rages in the chambers of the Interstate Commerce 
Commission and elsewhere between the port and combinations of its 
eastern seaboard and Gulf rivals. Arguing that New York's great volume 
of foreign trade is due to certain unfair preferences and practices, these 
rivals are more or less continually initiating or preparing wholesale as 
saults on the railroad rate structures. Differentials of two and three cents 
per 100 pounds are already in the trophy rooms of Philadelphia and 
Baltimore respectively. New Orleans has differentials, and wants them 
improved. Galveston occupies a similar position. Even tiny Port Albany is 
frowning at New York. The warfare is deadly serious, of course ; much of 
the port's bulk traffic has already been diverted to rival ports. New York's 
high-class freight traffic, however, is the coveted plum. 

But the Port of New York, as we have demonstrated, is a Brobding- 
nagian structure, equipped with almost limitless facilities and resources. 
Whatever the outcome of the differential wars, it will long continue to be 
the outstanding port of call in the western world. 


City in Motion 

IN WHAT is perhaps its most striking general aspect, the island of Man 
hattan may well be likened to a gigantic ant-hill, teeming with an inces 
sant and almost furious intensity of motion. Along the shadowed canyons 
of its streets, through vast stretches of tile-lined or whitewashed tunnels 
piercing its foundational rock, and over many miles of sky-effacing trestle- 
work roars a ceaseless traffic of human freight exceeding in volume and 
density that of any like area in the world today. 

Besides this centralized activity within the confines of Manhattan, there 
is a large and constant movement of traffic to and from the other boroughs 
of Greater New York. A river runs between Manhattan and the Bronx; 
another river cuts it off from Brooklyn and Queens; and the Upper Bay 
spreads out between Manhattan and Richmond. These barriers to land 
travel from borough to borough have resulted in an almost unbelievable 
concentration via ferries, bridges and tunnels, nearly all of which lead to 
Manhattan. There the greatest traffic flow of its kind in the world occurs 
twice each business day, this borough being the bottle-neck into which mil 
lions of passengers are poured between eight and nine in the morning, and 
from which these same millions are siphoned out again between five and 
six in the evening. 

The public carriers involved in New York City's huge intracity passen 
ger movement are: (i) Subway and elevated lines, the rapid transit sys 
tem; (2) street surface railways; (3) motor buses; (4) taxicabs. For the 
year ending June 30, 1937, the combined traffic of all these carriers con 
sisted of more than three billion passengers, or (reckoned on the basis of 
340 "full traffic" days) a daily average of more than nine million. Of this 
total, approximately 60 percent was handled by the subway and elevated 
lines, 1 8 percent by street surface railways, 19 percent by motor buses, 
and three percent by taxicabs. 

But for a complete picture of the "city in motion," one must take into 
account also the vast commuting army that like an ebbing and receding 



tide daily flows into and out of New York ; the horde of transient visitors, 
arriving and departing by railroad, bus, airplane and steamer; the hun 
dreds of thousands of private motor cars and commercial trucks that throng 
the city thoroughfares. Some of the commuters and perhaps all of the 
transient visitors, while they are within the city, figure in the intracity pas 
senger totals above cited. But in their coming and going, at any rate, these 
groups as a whole comprise a separate and very considerable element of 
traffic movement. 

Highlights of Transit History 

Traffic has been a matter of public concern in New York since the days 
of the Dutch, as is indicated by an ordinance of June 27, 1652, prohibit 
ing "fast driving" and forbidding cartmen to stand or sit in their vehicles 
"except on the Broadway." Seventy-nine years later, the revised laws and 
ordinances of the English included regulations concerning "carts and cart- 
men" on the public highways; and in 1786, the first hackney coach, fore 
runner of today's taxicab, was introduced by James Hearn, whose stand was 
outside the historic coffee house at Old Slip. 

Stages running at short intervals along regular routes included lines from 
Wall Street and the lower city to the Dry Dock, Greenwich Street, 
and Fourteenth Street; and from the Bowery and Bayard Street to York- 
ville, Bloomingdale, Harlem and Manhattanville. There were more than 
120 vehicles on all lines to and from Wall Street, some drawn by two and 
others by four horses. The fare below Fourteenth Street was generally i2l/ 2 
cents ; to Yorkville, 18% cents ; and to Harlem and Manhattanville, 25 cents. 
On all days except Sunday, when the horses were permitted to rest, the aver 
age number of passengers carried was about 25,000. The rush period came 
between noon and three P.M., when merchants and others were returning 
to their homes for dinner. The hackney coaches in 1837 totaled more than 
200 ; and fares, fixed by law, were 371/2 cents for less than one mile and 
30 cents for from one to two miles. 

In Manhattan, horsecars were operated at this time by the New York 
& Harlem Railroad Company, which dispatched cars every 20 minutes 
from the Bowery, opposite Prince Street, to Harlem a distance of seven 
miles. At first, mules were used as motive power, especially in Brooklyn, 
but they were abandoned later in favor of the more popular and less opin 
ionated horse. Street cars were introduced in Brooklyn on July 3, 1854, by 
the Brooklyn City Railroad, after New York had been using them for more 


than 20 years. These Brooklyn cars hauled a comparatively enormous traf 
fic in the 1850*5, the total in 1858 being 7,500,000 passengers, drawn from 
a population of only 225,000. After 1864, when the first open cars were 
introduced in Brooklyn, the popularity of horsecars and the consequent 
passenger totals steadily increased. 

Meanwhile, in 1846, the Harlem Railroad was operating steam trains 
as well as individual horsecars, the latter running chiefly to Thirty-Second 
Street. Above that thoroughfare, steam power was permitted. Schedules 
show that cars were dispatched from City Hall to Twenty- Seventh Street 
at six-minute intervals throughout the day and every 20 minutes through 
out the night, at a fare of 6^ cents; to Harlem, every hour during 
the day, at a fare of i2l/ 2 cents; and to White Plains, four times daily at 
a fare of 50 cents. Below Twenty-Eighth Street, transportation facilities in 
1846 consisted chiefly of 12 lines of omnibuses, operating 258 vehicles. 

By 1860, six street railroad lines were running horsecars and steam trains 
on a city- wide five-cent fare; and 16 omnibus companies controlled 544 
licensed stages over fixed routes to all parts of the city below Fiftieth 
Street, as well as to neighboring villages, at a six-cent fare. 

The need for better transit facilities was reflected seven years later in 
the beginnings of elevated rapid transit. In 1867, an experimental half- 
mile of elevated track for a projected cable-operated road from the Battery 
to Yonkers was built, but it proved a failure. In 1875, the mayor was em 
powered to appoint a board of commissioners to study the problem of rapid 
transit. This board chose elevated railways as the best rapid transit me 
dium, and selected Second, Third, Sixth and Ninth Avenues as routes for 
such railways. 

On June 5, 1878, the Sixth Avenue elevated line was opened from Rec 
tor Street to Central Park; and in August 1878, the Third Avenue line was 
opened to Sixty-Seventh Street. Steam locomotives had been definitely se 
lected as the motive power, much to the annoyance of the citizenry, who 
complained about soot, cinders and live coals dropping in the streets. In 
1902, the elevated system did away with locomotives and live coal showers 
by electrifying all the lines. 

In 1880, the lines on both sides of the city reached Harlem, about one 
year after all elevated properties in New York had been leased by the 
Manhattan Railway Company; and on January i, 1903, the Interborough 
Rapid Transit Company, which was to operate the subways then being 
built, leased the Manhattan Company's elevated railroads for a term of 
999 years. 


Meanwhile, plans for subways were being proposed. In 1868, the New 
York Central Underground Railway Company was incorporated to build 
a line from City Hall to the Harlem River. It built nothing. In the same 
year, the Beach Pneumatic Transit Company was formed to carry parcels 
underground by means of compressed-air tubes, the terms of the incorpo 
ration being broadened the following year, to include transportation of 
passengers. On February 26, 1870, the Beach Company completed and 
opened to the public an eight-foot brick tunnel under lower Broadway, 
between Murray and Warren Streets, as a one-block sample of the subway 
it proposed to construct under Broadway and Madison Avenue. 

The experimental run with a car propelled by compressed air was suc 
cessful, but engineers at that time regarded a railroad beneath the streets 
as unsound, and laymen lampooned the project in a popular song of the 
day. Beach and his subway were soon forgotten. Years later, when the first 
of the present systems was proposed, no less a figure than Russell Sage, 
millionaire Wall Street operator, declared: "New York people will never 
go into a hole to ride. . . . Preposterous!" 

Cable traction for surface routes was introduced in 1885 on the 12 5th 
Street and Amsterdam Avenue lines, and this form of motive power was 
widely adopted within the next few years. The year 1885 also witnessed 
construction of the Broadway street-car line, after severe opposition had 
previously defeated the scheme. Work progressed rapidly, so that cars were 
being operated over the entire line from Bowling Green to Union Square 
by June 21, 1885; and omnibuses, which had been running on Broadway 
for many years, were now withdrawn a situation that was to be reversed 
51 years later. 

In 1891, a State legislative act created the Board of Rapid Transit Rail 
road Commissioners. Three years later, this act was amended to provide for 
municipal ownership and construction of a rapid transit line, if the people 
approved such a move as they did by a large majority. Soon thereafter, 
the commissioners laid out routes, despite opposition that included a test 
case to determine the constitutionality of the Rapid Transit Act. In its 
decision of July 28, 1896, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme 
Court declared the act constitutional. 

Four years later, after continued legal and other opposition, the first 
subway contract was awarded to John B. McDonald. This contract was for 
the IRT route from City Hall northward through Manhattan and into the 
Bronx. It was dated February 21, 1900, about five months after the first 
electrification of street railways had been effected on the Third Avenue 


line, between Sixty-Fifth Street and the Harlem Bridge, as a forerunner 
of city-wide electrification. Even increased speed, however, did not solve 
the problem of congestion, which was indicated by New York's amazing 
passenger traffic as far back as 1903, when the number of street car and 
elevated passengers exceeded the total for all trunk line railroads in North 
and South America. 

On March 24, 1900, ground was broken for the first subway at City 
Hall Park. On July 21, 1902, bids for the Brooklyn extension were opened 
and the contract awarded to the Belmont-McDonald syndicate, which was 
already building the original subway. In 1904, this original subway was 
opened from Brooklyn Bridge to i45th Street and Broadway on October 
27, to 1 57th Street on October 12, and to West Farms on November 26. 
In 1905, it was extended farther northward to iSoth Street in the Bronx 
via the Harlem River tunnel, and southward from Brooklyn Bridge to 
Bowling Green. In 1906, it moved northward in Manhattan as far as 22ist 
Street. Two years later, the southward extension was completed to Borough 
Hall, Brooklyn, in January, and to Atlantic Avenue in May; while north 
ward progress was made from 22ist Street to 242d Street and Broadway, 
in the Bronx, present terminus of the IRT's West Side line. 

Although these subway developments added materially to the city's rapid 
transit facilities, they were still not sufficient to keep pace with a constantly 
increasing population. The so-called "dual contracts" for further subway 
construction, signed on March 19, 1913, provided for a total trackage of 
620 miles, as against 296 miles then in existence. The new or added fa 
cilities were to be built by the original subway company (the Interbor- 
ough) and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, this latter being the 
operator of the elevated railroads in Brooklyn and Queens. By 1916, sub 
way congestion was such that 1,200,000 passengers were sometimes being 
transported daily by lines with a rated capacity of only 400,000 passengers 
a day. This congestion was noticeably reduced by southward extension of 
the IRT lines to Utica, Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues, Brooklyn, in 
1920; by another extension to New Lots Avenue in 1924; and by com 
pletion of the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation's new lines. 

Greatest of all aids to improvement of the situation was the municipally 
constructed, owned and operated Independent system, the trunk line of 
which was opened on September 10, 1932, from 2O7th Street to Fulton 
Street in Manhattan. On February i, 1933, the Independent's trunk line 
had been extended southward to Jay Street, Brooklyn, via the Cranberry 
Street tunnel; on October 7, 1933, it was carried to its terminus at Church 


Avenue, Brooklyn; and on April 9, 1936, Independent trains began to 
operate publicly through the Rutgers Street tunnel from Manhattan to 
South Brooklyn. 

In 1938, the Independent system was actively concerned with a large 
development designed to provide additional underground rapid transit, es 
pecially in Brooklyn. In Manhattan, construction of the Sixth Avenue line, 
planned to run from Eighth Street to Fifty-Third Street, was well under 
way, adding one more link to the world's largest municipally owned, con 
structed and operated rapid transit railroad. 

Financial and Political Imbroglios 

Underground rapid transit was not easily won in New York. The so- 
called traction lobby, representing the street car and elevated railroad in 
terests, fought the idea vigorously, as it had fought other advances for 
more than half a century. Since 1832, when the introduction of horse- 
drawn street cars on metallic rails had demonstrated the possibility of prof 
its in large-scale passenger traffic for a small per capita fee, the moneyed 
class had looked upon transportation as a matter to be handled between 
itself and the politicians. The latter, suddenly finding themselves in a posi 
tion to grant or withhold a privilege for which certain interests were will 
ing to pay a high price, developed what might charitably be termed the 
bargaining instinct. This was not surprising, for the idea that charters 
might be worth anything to the city itself did not develop for many years. 
On the contrary, transit operators were looked upon as benefactors, since 
they furnished cheap transportation in a period when that commodity was 

The idea that private interests should pay to the city part of the profits 
they reaped as the result of charters took hold eventually, although even 
then the traction lobby defeated the purposes of bills introduced to that 
end by inserting the word "net" before "proceeds" and letting bookkeep 
ers do the rest. This era of private ownership was at its height between 
1865, when the first rapid transit bill was passed by the legislature, and 
1880, when the elevated railroads were completed. The next 15 years 
1880-95 have been termed "the era of public ownership" by James Blaine 
Walker, an authority on the subject. "During that time," Mr. Walker 
points out, "the perpetual and gratuitous franchise was abolished and the 
right of the public to build, pay for, own and if necessary operate street 
railroads was successfully asserted." 


The change in sentiment toward municipal ownership did not dismay 
the traction lobby, which continued its obstructionist tactics. As far back as 
1873, it had defeated a bill introduced in the legislature to authorize the 
city to build and operate a rapid transit railroad; and in 1888 it killed off 
Mayor Abram S. Hewitt's idea for a rapid transit set-up substantially the 
same as that later incorporated in the act passed by the legislature on May 
22, 1894, after the voters had emphatically approved municipal ownership. 
In the 68 years from 1832 until 1900, when the people finally got their 
way, the graft in New York City rapid transit paralleled the legislative 
corruption of steam railroad financing in the State. 

In 1894, the Board of Rapid Transit Railroad Commissioners was given 
State legislative authority to utilize the city's credit and to proceed on the 
basis of municipal ownership of the proposed subway. This aroused the 
street car and elevated railroad interests, whose lobby had already engi 
neered legislation so drastic that only those able to command tremendous 
financial resources could hope to submit a bid on subways. Such action 
eliminated virtually all interests except those in control of or in sym 
pathy with those who controlled the existing street railway and elevated 

The rapid transit commissioners were unquestionably honest men, but 
they were also conservatives who thought in terms of private enterprise 
and were not sympathetic toward the new-fangled notion of "municipal 
ownership." For six years after the rapid transit act had been amended in 
1894, the commissioners were parties in fact, even against their wishes, to 
the time-killing tactics employed by street car and elevated railroad inter 
ests. Neither of these factions wanted an increase in transportation facili 
ties. "The more congestion the bigger the dividends" was then a demon 
strated fact, and the private capital that controlled the situation did not 
relish the idea of seeing its highly profitable congestion reduced by new 
facilities. Every possible obstruction was thrown in the way of the new 
legal machinery designed to put an end to, or at least to lessen, the con 

The traction interests were successful. Indeed, they were too successful, 
for they finally overreached themselves and produced that rare phenome 
non a thoroughly aroused public opinion. This was the result of three 
moves. First, the Metropolitan street railway interests asked bluntly for a 
perpetual franchise. Second, Mayor Van Wyck, who had been doing every 
thing he could to help the street railway and elevated people, introduced 
an innocent-looking resolution before the rapid transit board, asking for 


power to contract for construction and operation of the proposed subway 
by private capital instead of on a municipal ownership basis, as then pro 
vided by law. Third, a bill was introduced in the State legislature to take 
municipal ownership out of the transit act and to give the rapid transit 
commissioners power to grant to the Metropolitan interests, without com 
petition, a perpetual franchise for a subway, with the privilege of charging 
a ten-cent fare on express trains. Oddly enough, this bill was not noticed 
even by civic organizations until well on toward the end of the legislative 
session. When it was brought to light, however, the voters who had previ 
ously approved municipal ownership at the polls staged mass meetings 
such as New York had seldom seen before, and convinced the rapid tran 
sit commissioners that New Yorkers didn't intend to be put off any longer. 
This result, however, by no means ended the efforts of powerful groups 
and individuals to manipulate New York's transportation necessities for 
their own private gain. The development of underground rapid transit 
during the early years of the present century was attended by much shady 
dealing on the part of financiers, contractors, and politicians ; as was also, 
though on a smaller scale, the development of motor bus transportation 
in the 1920*5. 

Efforts Toward Unification 

After the original subway was completed and opened, the Interborough 
Rapid Transit Company which had withdrawn from a series of confer 
ences with the Public Service Commission and the special Transit Commit 
tee appointed by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment to cooperate 
with the PSC reentered the picture on February 12, 1912, with a new 
plan for city-wide rapid transit development. This reentry of the IRT dis 
pleased the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, which had no subways at 
that time but was making application to the State and city conferees for 
construction and operation of the proposed new lines. The issue was fur 
ther sharpened by the fact that the Board of Estimate had formally noti 
fied the Public Service Commission that it would approve construction 
contracts on the proposed subways for operation by the Brooklyn com 
pany ; and the BRT had signified its intention to operate the lines now be 
ing reconsidered for the IRT. 

Thereupon a handsome battle-royal was staged between the two com 
panies. For more than a year they fought to gain public support of their 
respective proposals. Finally, on March 19, 1913, the so-called dual con- 


tracts were executed, certain lines being apportioned to the Interborough, 
others to the Brooklyn company. Under these contracts the city was to get, 
among other things: (a) rentals from the companies; (b) taxes, etc.; (c) 
12 percent of revenue for maintenance exclusive of depreciation; and (d) 
compensation for depreciation at the rate of five percent from the IRT and 
three percent from the BRT. Five cents was stipulated as the fare to be 
charged by both companies. 

Almost from the day they were executed, the dual contracts, under 
which subway facilities were considerably expanded, have been a subject 
of bitter debate. This has resulted in the drafting of four major "unifica 
tion plans" since 1931, all designed to "recapture" the subways for the 
city and to retain the five-cent fare. These plans differed so sharply in de 
tail that agreement between the three parties concerned was virtually im 

"Unification" is a convenient term intended to describe the idea of put 
ting all subways and elevateds, with their related properties, under one 
operating system. In 1937 there were two operating companies, the IRT 
and the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation. Transfers between the 
trains or stations of one carrier and those of the other, or even between 
subway and elevated properties controlled by the same parent company, 
could not be effected without payment of an additional fare. Under unifi 
cation, all lines would constitute one system and, as some proposals sug 
gest, transfers to all lines would be possible at stated points on a single 
fare. Millions of words of testimony by experts have been recorded on 
this subject; but even the experts disagree among themselves, thus making 
it extremely difficult for the layman to understand the situation. 

The first step, of course, is that the city must make arrangements to pay 
for the private holdings at once instead of at the stipulated expiration date 
of contracts under which these holdings are being operated by private in 
terests. Today, the price to be paid depends upon the willingness of the 
private interests to terminate the operating contracts before the legal dates 
set therefor, at a price and under conditions that must be approved not 
only by the companies and the city but by the Transit Commission as well. 
So far, it has been impossible to secure agreement among these three 

As previously stated, four major unification plans have been proposed. 
In June 1931, Samuel Untermyer, special counsel to the Transit Commis 
sion, proposed a gross purchase price to the private interests of $489,804,- 


ooo. In December 1931, the Transit Commission submitted its own tenta 
tive plan, the gross price being set at $474,500,000. On November i, 
1935, Samuel Seabury, special counsel to the Board of Estimate, and A. A. 
Berle, Jr., Chamberlain of the City of New York, submitted to the Board 
of Estimate the so-called Seabury-Berle report, proposing a gross price of 
$430,751,000, together with a "Memorandum of Understanding" between 
themselves as representatives of the Board of Estimate and "committees 
for the various classes of securities of Interborough Rapid Transit Com 
pany and Manhattan Railway Company." This understanding did not bind 
the city and the private security holders, but merely cited terms and condi 
tions upon which final negotiations might be approached or based. On 
May i, 1937, John J. Curtin, special counsel to the Transit Commission, 
reported to the commission on the Seabury-Berle Definitive Plan and the 
memorandum, and submitted his own alternative recommendations, fixing 
the gross price at $343,469,000. 

As of June 30, 1937, the total stake of the city in privately operated 
subways owned by the city, as against the total stake of the private com 
panies, was as follows: 


Private Interests 







389,203,000 258,488,000 

In addition to the total of $389,203,000 shown above, the city also hid 
$729,193,000 tied up in its own municipally-operated subway the Inde 
pendent System. Thus New York City's grand total stake in all subways 
was $1,118,396,000. 

Analysis of rapid transit traffic in New York for the 1 2-year period of 
1925-36 (selected because its sharp variations in economic conditions pro 
vide a fair average) shows that the total of 1,898,104,385 passengers for 
1936 was nearly six percent more than the yearly average for the period, 
with the Independent's gain of about 65 percent over its 1932-36 average 
accounting for the general increase. In other words, rapid transit continued 
to be the chief agent of passenger movement within New York in 1936, 
carrying more persons in that year than surface railways, buses and taxi- 
cabs combined, and showing a three-to-one lead over its nearest competitor. 


Street Cars 

This competitor, the street car, dominated all transportation facilities 
within the city's present corporate limits from shortly after 1832, when 
the crude forerunner of today's streamlined car was first run on flat metal 
lic rails, to about 1915. In 1860, the passenger total of street surface rail 
ways was more than 50,000,000; in 1900, it exceeded 600,000,000; and as 
late as 1915, subways and elevateds combined were carrying fewer pas 
sengers than the street cars. Seven years later, though rapid transit now 
held first place, the street surface railway total exceeded one billion. The 
effect of motor bus transportation was not seriously felt by the street cars 
until 1930; but thenceforward the descent was rapid, the number of pas 
sengers carried in 1937 being fewer by nearly half a billion than in 1930. 

Chiefly responsible for this tremendous loss was a carrier that had been 
little more than a minor item in the 1925 totals. Insignificant then, the 
motor bus steadily increased in importance until in 1936 it was literally 
pushing the once-mighty surface railways off the streets that they had 
dominated for so many years. 

Street cars are apparently doomed in New York. In one borough, Rich 
mond, they were completely superseded by buses in 1934. In Manhattan, 
street railway passenger totals dropped from more than 345,000,000 in 
1925 to less than 85,000,000 in 1936. In Brooklyn, where street cars have 
played an enormous role, the 1936 total was about 135,000,000 less than 
in 1925, while Queens slumped more than 50 percent from its 1925 total. 
Only in the Bronx did 1936 fail to show a decided loss as compared with 
the figures for 1925. 

Further indication of the swift decline of the once-mighty street car is 
to be found in statistics of the number of passenger cars owned or leased 
by all common carriers within the city. In 1900, street surface railways 
operated 81 of every 100 such cars; in 1930, 38 of every 100; in 1937, 
17 of every 100. The decline is still further evidenced in the loss of track 
age. In 1919, when the "emergency" buses first began to operate on a five- 
cent fare, street car tracks extended over the city's five boroughs to a total 
of 1,344.37 miles. By 1937, this total had been reduced to 811.07 a l ss 
of nearly 40 percent within seven years. 

Motor Buses 

More than a century ago, horse-drawn stages and omnibuses were trans 
porting passengers over fixed routes, precisely as motor buses do today. 


But they rapidly disappeared after the introduction in 1832 of horse- 
drawn street cars running on metallic rails; and from about 1860 to 1915 
the street car was the undisputed leader in interborough traffic totals. 

About midway in this period, however, a company was organized to 
transport passengers once more by bus. This was the Fifth Avenue Trans 
portation Company, Ltd., incorporated October 29, 1885, and still in busi 
ness as the Fifth Avenue Coach Company. The Fifth Avenue buses did 
not threaten the street car's supremacy, since they carried and still carry 
a special class of traffic, necessarily limited because of the ten-cent fare. 
Nevertheless, this pioneer in the revival of bus transportation did a large 
business, and as late as 1925 it carried 67,700,517 of the 68,713,208 pas 
sengers credited to all buses in that year. The effect of the "emergency" 
bus lines inaugurated in 1919 did not begin to be decidedly evident in bus 
traffic totals until 1926. This was 19 years after the Fifth Avenue Coach 
Company had introduced the first gasoline-motor buses in New York. 

The gradual city-wide replacement of street cars by buses operating on a 
five-cent fare began in. 1919, when the New York Railways Company ob 
tained legal permission to abandon four of its crosstown trolley lines in 
populous lower-Manhattan districts, thus leaving those areas without ade 
quate transportation facilities. The city's Department of Plant and Struc 
tures thereupon obtained buses from neighboring cities, which it placed in 
operation under temporary revocable permits issued to owners and oper 
ators. As the result of court actions brought against the city in this con 
nection, many of the bus lines were stopped and the purchase of buses by 
the city was enjoined. But the authorities went ahead with other "emer 
gency" operations, gradually spreading out to boroughs other than Man 

The tremendous development of motor bus transportation in New York 
is evidenced by the total of 587,595,507 passengers carried during the year 
ending June 30, 1937. This total represents a gain of more than 28 per 
cent over the figures for the previous year, when 45 major companies were 
operating 2,763 vehicles over about 170 routes totaling more than 785 
miles in length. 

Buses have brightened the streets up a bit. They differ in color and in 
interior appointments. Some, for example, are upholstered in a smooth 
leather-like material, while others have brightly colored fabric coverings. 
Many are automatically ventilated, and all are infinitely less noisy than the 
street car. This latter advantage has contributed to a rise in real estate val 
ues, as has also the removal of street car tracks, largely by WPA workers, 


an improvement that gives an appearance of greater width to the street 
and provides a smooth-surfaced roadway from curb to curb. 

Hacks and Hackmen 

The advantages of bus operation, including the highly important five- 
cent fare, have cut heavily into the passenger totals of taxicabs, New 
York's fourth largest carrier. The hackmen once enjoyed a heavy business 
transporting people to and from the comparatively isolated sections not 
served by crosstown trolley lines. Now bus routes are so frequent that their 
passengers have access to many districts hitherto served only by cabs. 
Cabs are not passing from the picture; although the 1936 total of about 
73,000,000 passengers was far below the yearly average of about 135,- 
000,000 for the period from January i, 1926, to March 31, 1937. During 
this period, the number of cabs decreased from an average of 26,504 for 
the whole period to 13,555 on March 9, 1937, or about 48 percent; the 
number of drivers dropped from an average of 67,660 for the whole pe 
riod to 40,871 on March 31, 1937, or about 39 percent. 

Back of today's huge taxicab fleets stands the memory of October i, 
1907, when motor cab service was inaugurated in New York by 35 bright- 
red four-cylinder Darracqs, which appeared before leading hotels and set 
out to compete with the old hansom cabs. From that day on, taxicabs have 
been a perpetual source of discussion, first as to their desirability in the 
horse-and-buggy era, later as to the number necessary for the city's needs. 
The latter question has often been before the Board of Aldermen, whose 
last attempt at control, before the Board went out of existence on January 
i, 1938, was the ordinance signed March 9, 1937, by Mayor La Guardia. 
This gave the Police Department discretionary power to fix the number of 
cabs as of that date, the total then being 13,555. 

The outcome of this and other measures has had, and will very likely 
continue to have, very little effect on the men who drive the cabs. They 
are a colorful lot. Drawn from many nationalities and including all types, 
they know New York from end to end. They work hard, play hard, and 
talk among themselves in one of the most interesting of New York's many 
jargons. They are hackles and their job is hacking. Sometimes they ride 
stick up, which means carrying passengers without running the meter; at 
other times they ride the ghost, which refers to running an empty cab with 
the flag down in order to bring the metered mileage to the minimum re 
quired by the company. Canaries are company inspectors, beefsteaks are 


policemen, and neutrals are crazy people. These are only a few of the 
many odd terms one hears in the early morning hours at some beanery 
where drivers have gathered to eat and to talk things over. 

In 1934, the large-fleet drivers struck. Since then, efforts have been 
made to stabilize the business, especially that of the independently-operated 
cabs, which are outnumbered two to one by the fleet cabs. Rates are usually 
"20 and 5" 20 cents for the first quarter-mile and five cents for each ad 
ditional quarter. Some independents charge 2O-and-io, or 25-and-5, these 
rates being for converted private cars of the de luxe type. 

Hacking is one job at which women have proved almost a total failure. 
On March 31, 1937, there were only about 18 licensed women taxicab 
drivers in the city, not one of whom appeared actually to be driving a cab. 


All the major carriers within the city utilize one or more of three means 
of transport ferries, bridges and tunnels between boroughs separated 
by water. 

Ferries are the oldest of the three, the first ferry having been operated 
in 1641 by Cornelius Dirckman, a farmer who plied a rowboat between 
New Amsterdam and the straggling settlements on Long Island. This type 
of service was followed by the pirogue, a two-masted flat-bottom sail 
boat supplemented by oars. It was with a pirogue plying between Staten 
Island and Manhattan that the first $1,000 of one of the country's great 
fortunes was earned by Cornelius Vanderbilt in the iyth century. 

Steam supplanted oars and sails on May 10, 1814, when the Nassau 
made the first steam ferry run between Brooklyn and New York at an aver 
age speed of five miles an hour. It was owned and operated by the Fulton 
Ferry Company, headed by Robert Fulton and William Cutting, who had 
a 2 5 -year lease on service between Beekman Street slip and the old ferry 
slip in Brooklyn. This side-wheel type of ferryboat gave place to the mod 
ern screw-propeller vessel after 1885, when the Bergen was launched by 
the Hoboken Company from the Delamater Iron Works at Newburgh, 
New York. Latest of all developments is the electric ferry, introduced in 
1926, and capable of a speed of from 15 to 18 miles an hour. 

That the ferries still being used for interborough traffic have an impor 
tant part in that movement is shown by the figures for 1926-36, during 
which period the ferries carried a yearly average of 32,384,566 passengers 
and 3,318,936 vehicles. In 1936, passengers totaled 29,237,507 and vehi- 


cles 2,621,652 a decrease of about nine percent for passengers and 21 
percent for vehicles from the yearly averages for the period. 

Municipal ferries and those owned by railroads having their terminals 
on the New Jersey side of the Hudson do the largest share of this business. 
The city operates boats over six routes, with a uniform five-cent fare for 
passengers and a sliding scale of rates for vehicles. Service on these lines 
has been greatly improved since the city took them over from private own 
ers and operators. In addition to its six public routes, the city runs several 
departmental ferry lines serving city institutions on islands in the East 


As four of its five boroughs Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Rich 
mond are either islands or parts of islands (only the Bronx is on the 
mainland), New York has always had to consider the problem of water in 
its larger transportation plans. Before Brooklyn Bridge, first of the great 
East River crossings, was completed in 1883, a score of ferry lines criss 
crossed the rivers and bay. Now almost all of these are gone, replaced by 
62 bridges and 16 tunnels railroad, rapid transit and vehicular which 
bear the tremendous daily flow of traffic within and to and from the city. 
Manhattan Island itself, surrounded by the Hudson, Harlem and East 
Rivers, resembles a many-legged insect, with all the tunnels and 1 5 of the 
bridges radiating from it into Long Island on the east, the Bronx on the 
north and New Jersey on the west. 

Except for the Outerbridge Crossing and the Goethals and Bayonne 
Bridges, which span the waters between Staten Island (Richmond) and 
New Jersey, and the famous Hell Gate railroad bridge connecting the As 
toria section of Queens with the Bronx, all of the city's notable bridges 
have a base in Manhattan. Over the East River are the Brooklyn, Manhat 
tan, Williamsburg, Queensboro and Triborough Bridges; and above the 
Hudson is the George Washington Bridge. Nine smaller structures over 
the Harlem River join Manhattan and the Bronx. Within the borcaighs 
outside Manhattan and connecting some of them are 43 other bridges, 
from 65 to 1,900 feet in length, which span such inlets as Gowanus Canal, 
English Kills, Beach Channel, Shell Bank Basin, Bronx River and New- 
town Creek. 

Best known of all these structures is Brooklyn Bridge, which for 
many years after its opening on March 24, 1883, was considered one of 


the engineering wonders of the world. Costing more than $25,000,000 
and with a span of 1,595 f ee ^ ^ was designed mainly for pedestrians be 
tween Brooklyn and Manhattan, but is now used almost entirely by sur 
face cars, subway trains and automobiles. Brooklyn is further linked to 
Manhattan by the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges, opened in 1903 
and 1909 respectively. Together with Brooklyn Bridge, they bear the bulk 
of the Long Island-Manhattan traffic over the East River. Only occasional 
pedestrians use most of the large bridges, but the Williamsburg is a fa 
vorite promenade of tenement dwellers from both sides of the river. 

Queensboro Bridge casts its shadow on fashionable Beekman and Sut- 
ton Places, Manhattan, as well as on the city hospitals and the home for 
the insane on Welfare Island in the center of the river. This structure, of 
the cantilever type, with a span of 1,182 feet and two upper levels one 
for elevated trains, the other for vehicular traffic was completed in 1909; 
and until the Triborough Bridge was opened in 1936, its narrow roadways 
were packed day and night with motor traffic between midtown and up 
town New York and Long Island points. Now the Triborough, which 
cost $60,300,000 more than half of it from PWA funds connects up 
per Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens with a gigantic Y-shaped crossing, 
linking the highways of Westchester and Long Island and relieving the 
traffic burden on the streets and bridges of lower Manhattan. This newest 
of the city's bridges is a model express sky-highway system with 19 miles 
of roadway, including the approaches. In 1937, it was used by 11,171,956 
vehicles, which paid tolls amounting to $2,845,109. 

For a while after its completion in 1931 the George Washington 
Bridge, whose main span is 3,500 feet long, was the longest suspension 
bridge in the world, but it is now surpassed in length by the San Francisco- 
Oakland Bridge over San Francisco Bay. Built at a cost of $60,000,000 
over a period of 41/2 years, the George Washington rears two majestic 
towers on each bank of the Hudson River at Fort Lee, New Jersey, and 
iSoth Street, Manhattan and provides Manhattan with its only direct 
overwater link with the west. The slender span between the towers is 250 
feet above the water and has two roadways and a footwalk, which afford 
an incomparable view of the Jersey Palisades, on one side, and of upper 
New York on the other. 

High Bridge, connecting Manhattan and the Bronx, is the oldest of the 
city's bridges and most notable of the Harlem River crossings. It was built 
in 1839-48, long before modern bridge-building principles were known. 


In addition to its other facilities, this massive masonry structure carries an 
aqueduct of the city water supply. 

Three bridges link Staten Island with New Jersey and provide addi 
tional outlets between New York and points west and south. The Goethals 
Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing, both opened in 1928, are sister spans 
of the truss type, overhanging each end of Arthur Kill ("kill" is the 
Dutch equivalent for "stream") on the west side of the island. On the 
north side, Bayonne Bridge, with a span of 1,675 ^ eet crosses Kill van 
Kull into Bayonne and leads directly to the Jersey entrance of the Holland 
Tunnel in Jersey City. The three bridges cost a total of approximately 

Particularly impressive is the East River span, more than 1,000 feet 
long, of the Hell Gate Bridge, above mentioned. The bridge in its en 
tirety carries the four tracks of the New York Connecting Railroad, linking 
the Pennsylvania and the New Haven railway systems; and it is used for 
through freight and passenger trains between the areas covered by those 

Some idea of the traffic flow across New York's interborough bridges 
may be gained from the fact that during the period 1926-36 an average 
of 15,104,815 subway and trolley cars, 289,741,745 vehicles, and 1,100,- 
318,425 persons (passengers and pedestrians) crossed these structures 


Far below Manhattan's bridges and the waters they cross, nearly a score 
of tunnels burrow into that island from adjacent land areas. Beneath the 
East River are eight arteries of the city's subway systems and one of the 
Pennsylvania Railroad. Three more subway tubes underlie the Harlem 
River. Under the Hudson are the Pennsylvania Railroad tunnel, the up 
town and downtown Hudson Tubes used exclusively by the Hudson and 
Manhattan Railroad (a Newark-New York system), the Holland Tunnel 
and the new Lincoln Tunnel. Underlying Newtown Creek on Long Island 
is a tunnel that connects Brooklyn and Queens over the Independent sub 
way system. 

The oldest of the under-river crossings is the Harlem River Tunnel of 
the IRT's Lenox Avenue line, connecting Lenox Avenue between i42d 
and i43d Streets in Manhattan with 149^1 Street in the Bronx. It was 
opened on July 10, 1905. The latest tunnel within the city, the Independ- 


ent subway's East River crossing from Fulton Street in Manhattan to 
Cranberry Street in Brooklyn, was completed on December 12, 1933. 

The average length of the East River transit tunnels is about 2,500 feet, 
while those beneath the Hudson are as long as 6,000 feet. They cost from 
three to seven million dollars each. Although most of the under-water 
crossings are at about the same general level, at some points they are sunk 
so deeply, because of obstructing bedrock or intervening land subways, 
that elevators or escalators are needed at their terminals to carry passen 
gers to the surface. 

The Holland Tunnel, a double-tubed vehicular passage between Canal 
Street in Manhattan and Provost Street in Jersey City, is one of the world's 
greatest engineering feats. Built by the States of New York and New Jer 
sey, it required more than seven years to build and cost $50,000,000. It 
was opened on November 13, 1927. Its two tubes lie 72 feet below the 
surface of the Hudson River; the northern one, for west-bound traffic, is 
8,557 f eet l n g> an d ^e southern, for east-bound traffic, is 8,371 feet. 
Each tube has a 2O-foot roadway. The interiors are white-tiled, brilliantly 
lighted, and ventilated by 84 huge fans. Policemen, stationed at intervals 
on a catwalk along the walls, supervise the movement of traffic. 

Two important vehicular tunnels are in course of construction as this 
book goes to press the Lincoln, under the Hudson River from West 
Thirty-Ninth Street in Manhattan to Weehawken in New Jersey; and the 
Queens Midtown, under the East River from East Thirty-Eighth Street in 
Manhattan to Long Island City in Queens. One of the Lincoln Tunnel's 
two tubes was opened late in 1937 ; the other is expected to be ready for 
traffic in 1940. The Queens Midtown Tunnel will be completed in time to 
serve as the pivotal link in a direct motor route from Manhattan to the 
grounds of the great World's Fair in 1939. 

Commuters and Transient Visitors 

What may for want of a better term be called the "in and out" traffic 
movement of New York, as differentiated from traffic confined within 
the city limits, comprises an annual total of considerably more than 
300,000,000 passengers, although its exact volume is for various reasons 
rather difficult to estimate. By far the largest number of these passengers 
are either commuters or transient visitors ; but they include also a relatively 
small number of resident New Yorkers who travel either habitually or 
occasionally beyond the city boundaries. 


Those who work in New York and live outside the city constitute the 
largest army of commuters in the world. On every business day through 
out the year, this army converges upon and moves into the city from the 
west, the east and the north to retreat later in the day over the same 
routes into a far-flung suburban area. 

Of the commuting traffic that originates on the New Jersey side of the 
Hudson River, the largest part is handled by the Hudson & Manhattan 
Railroad, an inter-city system between New York and Newark via Jersey 
City and Hoboken, with its own under-river tunnels (known as the Hud 
son Tubes), its own terminal and subway in Manhattan. In addition, New 
Jersey commuters utilize six major railroads the Pennsylvania, the Erie, 
the Lackawanna, the Lehigh, the Central of New Jersey, and the West 
Shore. Of these roads, the Pennsylvania and the Lehigh run their trains di 
rectly by tunnel to the Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. The four others 
terminate on the Jersey shore of the Hudson, and their passengers are 
transferred to Manhattan either by ferries owned and operated by the rail 
roads or through the Hudson Tubes as a service included in the original 

Commuters from the east stream in from Long Island, where the Long 
Island Railroad dominates the whole area beyond the limits of Brooklyn 
and Queens. In 1936, this railroad carried a total of close to fifty million 
passengers. No such traffic volume was ever dreamed of when the Brook 
lyn & Jamaica Railroad Company completed connections between Brook 
lyn and Jamaica on April 18, 1836. Even in 1861, when the road opened 
its first South Shore division to Islip, or in 1883, when the Montauk divi 
sion was opened, the 1936 totals would have been considered fantastic. As 
a matter of fact, the company's original plan was not so much to handle 
Long Island traffic as to provide a short cut to Boston by ferry across Long 
Island Sound at Greenport, that being the primary purpose of the Brook 
lyn- Jamaica-Hicksville line, opened July 25, 1844. But the New Haven's 
all-land route to New England proved much more attractive, and the Long 
Island Railroad turned instead to the business of transporting Long Island- 
New York passengers almost exclusively. The railroad uses the Pennsyl 
vania's tunnel under the East River, and lands its passengers at the 
Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. 

Commuters from the north and northeast are for the most part residents 
of Westchester County or of the neighboring Connecticut area to the east. 
They travel to and from the city on two principal railroads, the New 
York Central and the New Haven, both of which utilize the Grand Cen- 


tral Terminal in the midtown section of Manhattan. Certain of the New 
Haven's trains, however, run directly to another Manhattan terminal, the 
Pennsylvania Station. The volume of this commuting traffic from the 
north and northeast is considerably smaller than that of either the New 
Jersey or the Long Island traffic. 

In addition to the army of commuters that daily throngs the city, New 
York is host each year to a tremendous number of transient visitors from 
every part of the United States and indeed, from every part of the world. 
They are constantly coming and going, by railroad, bus, private motor car, 
airplane, and steamer. 

An average of between 60 and 70 million passengers, other than com 
muters, enter or leave New York annually by means of the trunk-line rail 
ways and their subsidiary facilities, making this city one of the busiest 
centers of railway passenger travel in the world. The more important of 
these railways are mentioned above, in connection with commuting traffic, 
but there are some others that serve the city. Four of them the Pennsyl 
vania, New York Central, New Haven, and Lehigh land their passen 
gers in Manhattan, at either the Pennsylvania Station or the Grand Central 
Terminal. The others have their metropolitan terminals on the adjacent 
shore of New Jersey, chiefly in Jersey City. 

The extent of New York's in-and-out motor traffic cannot be estimated, 
because one of the five boroughs is part of the mainland and two others 
occupy only a relatively small section of Long Island so that vehicles may 
enter or leave these three boroughs by many thoroughfares. But some no 
tion of the volume of motor traffic into and out of the island of Manhattan 
may be formed from the fact that (taking into account only two of several 
main connecting links) nearly twelve million motor passengers were car 
ried through the Holland Tunnel and more than seven million over the 
George Washington Bridge, in 1936. 

A large proportion of these passengers, whether commuters or transient 
visitors, consisted of bus patrons. New York is the most important motor 
bus center in the United States, being served by lines to every part of the 
country and to hundreds of suburban points. In midtown Manhattan are 
half a dozen principal bus terminals, with ticket offices, waiting rooms, in 
formation booths, etc.; and subsidiary stations are scattered all through 
the main business sections of the five boroughs. 

Although by no means inconsiderable in itself, the total number of 
New York's transient visitors who arrive and depart by steamship consti 
tutes less than one percent of the in-and-out traffic as a whole. The facili- 


ties and other factors involved in this particular phase of the city's passen 
ger movement are described elsewhere in the present volume (see article 
dealing with Maritime Affairs). 


Air travel to and from New York is chiefly served by the Newark Met 
ropolitan Airport, at Newark, New Jersey. This is the metropolitan port 
of entry and departure for four major airlines the American, Eastern, 
Transcontinental & Western, and United. New York business accounts for 
about 90 percent of this airport's traffic. Passengers are transported be 
tween Manhattan and the airfield by special limousine buses. During the 
first nine months of 1937, 227,252 passengers arrived at or departed from 
the Newark Airport an increase of 42,486 over the corresponding period 
in 1936. 

Most important of the ports within the city is Floyd Bennett Field, 
municipal airport of the City of New York, at Barren Island, Brooklyn. 
When dedicated in 1931 this was considered one of the best fields in the 
East, but so far it has had small success in competing with Newark for a 
major share of the metropolitan air traffic. At present (1938) the city is 
spending several million dollars upon improvements and additions here, 
in an effort to bring more business to airports within the city limits. 

Even more extensive is the projected development of North Beach 
Municipal Airport in Queens, which was purchased from the Curtiss- 
Wright interests for $1,300,000 in 1937. In collaboration with the Federal 
WPA, the city will spend approximately $12,000,000 in a large-scale im 
provement program to be completed before the opening in 1939 of the 
World's Fair, the site of which is only a short distance from the airport. 

The city is also pushing a proposal designed to utilize part of Gover 
nors Island as an air field. This move has the support of many civic leaders 
and is being urged vigorously before Congress, which must grant permis 
sion to use this Federal property for the purpose. 

Commercial airports of minor importance in the metropolitan area in 
clude Holmes Airport, in Queens ; Flushing Airport, near Flushing, L. I. ; 
Brentwood Airport, Brentwood, L. I.; American Airport, Farmingdale, 
L. I. ; and Patchogue Airport, on Great South Bay, near Patchogue, L. I. 
Seaplane anchorages for aerial commuters include the Wall Street Skyport, 
foot of Wall Street, East River; the Thirty-First Street anchorage on the 
East River; and the 12 5th Street facilities on the Hudson River. Anchor- 


ages are also provided at North Beach Airport, in Queens, and at Edo 
Seaplane Anchorage, College Point. 

Mitchell Field, near Hempstead, L. I., is the principal United States 
Army airfield in this area; and Miller Field, at Dongan Hills, Staten 
Island, is a subpost of Fort Wadsworth used by a squadron of the New 
York National Guard Aviation Corps. 

Forward Look 

Two proposals of major importance in the extension of New York's 
existing transportation facilities were advanced in 1937. On February 8, 
Mayor La Guardia requested the New York City Tunnel Authority to 
study plans for a vehicular tunnel that would link Staten Island with the 
adjacent New Jersey mainland. The second proposal, submitted March i 
by the Port of New York Authority to Governor Hoffman of New Jersey 
and the legislature of that State, contemplated linking the communities of 
northern New Jersey with midtown Manhattan by means of a new rapid 
transit system costing $187,500,000. The outstanding feature of this enor 
mous development would be the creation of a new rapid transit center at 
Fifty-First Street, Manhattan, in the vicinity of Rockefeller Center, with 
an extension of the Hudson Tubes and other existing facilities to this 

By such constant planning for the future, New York has in recent years 
kept abreast of its traffic needs and moved steadily forward in the develop 
ments necessitated by a population pressure that has no equal anywhere in 
the world. To a city thus able to cope with its own perennially evolving 
situation, population density and other primary factors hold no terrors. 


World Market Place 

UNDERLYING the diverse factors that brought about New York's ascent 
to supremacy among cities, trade the buying and selling of goods was, 
and still is, that function with respect to which all other of the city's lo 
calized economic processes occupy an ancillary position. New Yorkers were 
traders before they were colonists, they were tradesmen before they were 
industrial entrepreneurs, and they were merchants before they were bank 
ers. Whether it consisted of bartering with the Indians, dealing with richly 
laden pirates, marketing the prizes of privateers, selling the Government 
condemned ships and rifles, or simply carrying on a legitimate exchange 
with the general public, trade was the driving force that overcame all bar 
riers and reduced all obstacles to New York's future greatness. 

To sell something for more than it cost, to buy something at less than it 
could be sold for this was the key that unlocked the door to riches, this 
was the formula that engendered New York's great fortunes. Shipping, 
transportation, banking, even industrial production, were but necessary ap 
pendages of trade, grafted to the primary economic organism as the urge 
und possibilities for greater profits increased. 

This was not peculiar to New York alone. It was characteristic of the 
entire historical epoch and civilization that sprang from the wreckage of 
feudal society. But New York, more than any other of the world's metro 
politan monuments to the glittering achievements of trade, symbolizes the 
fabulous chemistry of the buying and selling formula. In most modern 
cities one or another particular auxiliary of trade has acquired greatness 
in its own right, usurping or overshadowing its progenitor. In the case of 
New York, however, all the auxiliaries of trade shipping, transporta 
tion, industrial production, and banking have acquired greatness in their 
own right, but with the exception of banking alone they remain in subordi 
nate positions. Because of Wall Street's national and international ramifi 
cations, New York as a financial center outranks New York as a commodi 
ties market. From an appendage of New York trade, Wall Street has 



developed into an appendage of world trade. In this respect Wall Street 
may be said to have independence, greatness in its own right. Within the 
bounds of metropolitan economy, however, trade retains its basic and his 
toric function. New York is more a city of merchants than of bankers, of 
shopkeepers than of stockbrokers, of clerks than of industrial workers. It 
may not be World Market Place No. i, but it is indisputably and demon- 
strably United States Market Place No. i. 

In round numbers, the entire United States in 1935 recorded wholesale 
transactions approximating $42,803,000,000. In the same year New York 
did a wholesale business valued at $9,618,000,000, or more than 22 per 
cent of the national total. Among all American cities, Chicago made the 
closest approach to New York's accomplishments in the wholesale field, 
but its transactions were but slightly in excess of one-third of the New 
York total. Only three other American cities, Boston, Philadelphia and 
San Francisco, did a wholesale business amounting to more than a billion 
dollars in 1935, and New York's wholesale business far exceeded the com 
bined total of all three plus that of Chicago. 

In the field of retail trade, New York likewise occupies a predominant 
position among American cities. In 1935 its total retail sales amounted to 
$2,847,000,000, which was about eight percent of the national total. No 
other American city could show anything like this figure, the closest being 
Chicago with less than half the New York total. As a matter of fact, New 
York City transacted more retail business in 1935 than did any state in the 
Union except the state in which it is situated; and this business was con 
ducted in more stores (numbering 115,500) than were in operation in 
any state except New York and Pennsylvania. Employed in the retail and 
wholesale establishments of the city in 1935 were 522,908 persons, or 37,- 
764 more than were employed in the city's industrial plants. Supervising 
this great army of wage-workers were 114,882 proprietors and firm mem 
bers. Employees in the city's retail and wholesale establishments received 
an average of about $1,500 each for their labor in 1935, as against an 
average of about $1,200 paid to the city's factory workers. 

The foregoing data establish the general quantitative picture of market 
ing in the metropolis. In a qualitative examination it should be noted, first 
of all, that retail establishments in New York City can be classified in 
three main categories characteristic of retail marketing in any community. 
Briefly, these categories are as follows: (i) stores engaged in the selling 
of "convenience goods," such as groceries, meats, drugs, baked goods, to 
bacco, etc.; (2) stores selling the so-called "shopping lines," consisting of 


wearing apparel, house furnishings, dry goods, etc.; (3) stores that sell 
"luxury goods," such as expensive jewelry, furs, antiques, etc. 

In New York, as in every other community, an overwhelming majority 
of retail establishments belong in the first category. Engaged in the mar 
keting of commodities that have a generally low sales price, such retail es 
tablishments find it profitable to cluster close to the heart of comparatively 
small residential districts. In 1935 almost one-half of all the retail stores 
in the city, 52,161 to be exact, were engaged in the marketing of food 
stuffs. That these stores were, for the most part, small-scale neighborhood 
enterprises is shown by the fact that they were operated by a total of only 
60,300 employees. Stores of this type are scattered, in proportion to popu 
lation concentration, over all five boroughs of the city. In themselves they 
are no more distinctive of New York than of any other city. 

New York's world-wide reputation as a shopping center derives pri 
marily from retail outlets that belong in the last two categories above men 
tioned the great department stores, the countless "specialty" shops, the 
"exclusive" gown, millinery, art and antique stores. These establishments, 
particularly the department and specialty types, constitute the shopping 
mecca of the entire metropolitan district. They cater to the varied tastes 
and needs not only of New York's millions, but of additional millions in 
New Jersey, Long Island, Connecticut and upstate New York. Unlike the 
"convenience goods" shops, the location of such establishments is deter 
mined more by their accessibility than by their proximity to the buying 
public. During the past 30 years, consequently, New York's retail shop 
ping district has shown a marked tendency to crystallize in the area of 
Manhattan bounded by Thirty-First Street on the south and Fifty-Ninth 
Street on the north, between Third and Eighth Avenues on the east and 
west the area that is most accessible to all parts of the metropolitan dis 
trict. This area receives a majority of the quarter-million or more who daily 
visit the city, for most of these visitors arrive at the Pennsylvania and 
Grand Central Terminals. Since all the city's rapid transit systems con 
verge on the center, the area is also directly accessible to the hordes of 
bargain hunters among the native population, whether they come from the 
outermost reaches of the Bronx or from the depths of Kings or Queens. 

The central retail shopping district, conforming to this first principle of 
profitable retail operation, is distinguished first of all by intensive concen 
tration of retail outlets. Here are a majority of the most modern and best 
equipped metropolitan agencies that retail service and amusement as well 
as merchandise. Definite location patterns are discernible in the district, 


but little homogeneity. Certain shops that handle similar goods or serve 
similar social strata tend to develop a location center peculiar to their spe 
cial function. Along and in the vicinity of Thirty-Fourth Street, for in 
stance, are many of the mammoth department stores, which sell the most 
goods to the most people. Along Fifth and Madison Avenues, between 
Thirty-Fourth and Fifty-Ninth Streets, are most of the "quality shops," 
where the cost of an article is reputedly a secondary consideration with 
the patrons. Then there is "automobile row" on Broadway between Fifty- 
Fifth and Sixty-Fifth Streets, the art galleries and antique shops in the 
region around Fifth Avenue and Fifty-Seventh Street, and a number of 
other distinct centers in each of which are shops specializing in a particu 
lar type of merchandise. This clustering trend is a response, for the most 
part, to consumer desire to "shop around," to deliberate and compare be 
fore making a purchase. To some extent, too, clustering develops in the 
vicinity of establishments that do extensive advertising, the reason being 

Before the development of modern methods of transit and transport, 
proximity to the buying public was the decisive factor in determining the 
location of New York's central retail shopping district. The history of 
this central district, accordingly, has been virtually identical with the his 
tory of Manhattan's residential development. Originally, of course, the 
district was in the lower end of the island. By 1850 it had pushed north 
ward to Canal Street, only a short distance south of the newly developing 
residential area. Thirty years later the shopping center had effected an 
other northward migration, this time to Fourteenth Street and again in the 
wake of the residential movement. By 1900 a further move had been made, 
along with the northward-bound populace, to Twenty-Third Street. The 
movement toward Thirty-Fourth Street and beyond began early in the 
present century. Very gradually, and virtually in inverse ratio to the tempo 
of transit development, proximity to the buying public ceased to be a loca 
tion determinant. 

There is every reason to believe that New York's central shopping dis 
trict will remain permanently rooted in the area that it currently occupies. 
City planners have called attention to the fact that only the financial dis 
trict has the economic power to displace the retail merchants, should it 
ever feel the urge to move north. Business and banking firms have shown 
a tendency to move their administrative offices northward in recent years, 
but the only apparent effects on the central shopping district have been 
new skyscrapers, greatly increased street and sidewalk congestion, and a 


still further influx of retail establishments stocked with wares to catch the 
fancy of the new armies of office employees. 

Retail merchants in the city as a whole manage to retain their tradi 
tional enterprise, even in the face of adversity. There were nearly 12,000 
more stores in New York in 1935 than in 1929, although the total 1935 
dollar volume of business was only about one-half the 1929 total. Whether 
in a boom or a depression year, however, the lion's share of the city's re 
tail business is transacted in Manhattan. Thus, in 1935 the total dollar 
volume of sales in Manhattan exceeded by $77,666,000 the corresponding 
total in the other four boroughs combined. 

Wholesale marketing is concentrated in Manhattan even more inten 
sively than retailing, 91 percent of the city's vast volume of wholesale 
business in 1935 having been transacted on the island. Although virtually 
all this business was carried on below Fifty-Ninth Street, Manhattan con 
tains no central wholesale area comparable to the central retail shopping 
district. With few exceptions, each of the 20 or more well-defined whole 
sale market sections in the city is composed of all the agencies dealing in 
certain products, clustered together in a specific neighborhood. The whole 
sale market for butter, cheese and eggs, for example, is concentrated on 
Greenwich Street, on the west side of downtown Manhattan ; most of the 
wholesale leather establishments are in the old "Swamp" district, below 
the Brooklyn Bridge; the wholesale shoe distributors are on Reade and 
Duane Streets in downtown Manhattan; the wholesale fish market cen 
ters around the intersection of South and Fulton Streets. Similarly concen 
trated in particular neighborhoods are the fruit and produce markets, the 
coffee and tea markets, the women's garments market, the men's garments, 
the headwear, jewelry, silk goods, woolen goods and cotton goods markets. 
The wholesale hardware, drug and paper markets, on the other hand, are 
composed of scattered agencies, although the latter remain in the central 
area. Only the groceries and fresh meat markets are made up of widely 
scattered agencies. 

This tendency of some wholesale agencies to cluster and of others to 
scatter is created by factors peculiar to the selling process in each case. 
Where price fluctuations are frequent, where buyers come to the market, 
or where the determination of quality is important, the market is com 
posed invariably of clustered agencies, since the proximity of every dealer 
to all the others in each case is essential to the efficient transaction of busi 
ness. Where, on the other hand, price and quality are standardized, the 
market tends to disperse over a wide area. 


The forces determining the locations of the various clustered markets 
are less easy to define. Generally speaking, the markets in which fashion is 
a factor, such as fur, women's garments, millinery and silk, have gravi 
tated uptown toward the central retail shopping district; markets where 
trucking economy is a paramount consideration, such as the fruit and 
produce market or the butter, eggs and cheese market, tend to concentrate 
near the railroad pier stations on the lower west side. In at least one case, 
that of the leather market, the location seems to have been established by 
tradition, the "Swamp" having been associated with New York leather 
operations since earliest times. 

Unlike the retail merchant, whose existence depends upon his ability 
to attract the public eye, the wholesaler as a rule operates behind the scenes, 
generally in an out-of-the-way neighborhood and usually in obsolete 
premises. Of his role in the city's economic life, the public at large knows 
little and cares less. Nevertheless, that role is of primary importance. The 
wholesaler is the stoker who feeds the city's mighty productive machine; 
he is the distributor of its million-fold products. He is host to much of 
the avalanche of rail and water-borne cargoes that descend daily on the 
city. Such functions will be necessary to the end of time. 

In addition to being America's greatest commercial center, New York 
is also this country's major industrial city. More workers are paid more 
wages for producing more goods in more manufacturing establishments 
here than in any other American city or, indeed, than in any one of 43 
states. In 1935 (the latest year for which figures are available) 485,144 
workers were employed in 26,061 factories scattered throughout the five 
boroughs of the city. For converting $1,756,000,000 worth of raw ma 
terials (including fuel and power) into $3,666,000,000 worth of prod 
ucts, these workers were paid $582,000,000 in wages. Only the states of 
New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio paid more wages to 
more factory workers, and produced manufactures of greater total value. 
New York City contained twice as many manufacturing establishments as 
any state in the Union other than New York and Pennsylvania, the latter 
having only 20 more than one-half the New York City total. With refer 
ence to the United States as a whole, New York City factories employed six 
percent of all the workers, who were paid nearly eight percent of all the 
wages for manufacturing eight percent by value of all the products of the 

While 77 percent of all the manufacturing establishments in New York 


State during 1935 were situated in New York City, these gave employment 
to only 54 percent of the total number of workers in the state and manu 
factured only 60 percent by value of all the products. This indicates that 
New York City industrial establishments were, as compared with those of 
the rest of the state, generally small-scale enterprises. The output per fac 
tory, from the point of view of value, was considerably smaller in New 
York City than in the rest of the state. On the other hand, the city's highly 
skilled wage-earners were producing, man-for-man, more valuable com 
modities, and were being paid higher wages. The raw materials passing 
through the hands of the average New York City worker annually were 
increased in value by $3,900, while raw materials passing through the 
hands of the average worker up-state were increased in value by only 

The preponderance in New York City of highly skilled workers en 
gaged in the manufacture of high-quality articles is one of the primary 
reasons for its dominant position among American industrial cities. Some 
of the other factors that helped to mold the industrial pattern were the 
ready accessibility of capital, raw materials and specialized machinery. Of 
great importance also were the geographical peculiarities of the city region, 
creating grave transportation problems, and the concentration of popula 
tion on Manhattan Island, leading to excessive land values, high rents and 
acute traffic congestion. In addition to these basic factors, which condi 
tioned the establishment and growth of industry in general, were numer 
ous minor factors peculiar to specific industries. In certain trades, as for 
example, the making of women's cloaks and dresses, it was essential that 
the plants be located in close proximity to the favorite haunts of the buyers, 
in this case the mid-town hotels near the Pennsylvania and Grand Central 

Industrial establishments engaged in the fabrication of products that 
require large reduction in bulk or weight of raw material avoided Man 
hattan because of space and transport problems. The water barriers sepa 
rating Queens, Brooklyn and Richmond from the New Jersey railheads 
discouraged such establishments from taking advantage of the large tracts 
of undeveloped acreage in these boroughs. Conversely, industries manufac 
turing products that involved little or no reduction in the bulk or weight 
of raw materials took early root in Manhattan and (in cases where im 
mediate juxtaposition to the market was not a primary condition of sur 
vival) in the adjoining boroughs. Where quick accessibility to the great 


East Side labor market was a major consideration, as in industries subject 
to seasonal fluctuations in demand, Manhattan factory sites were vitally 
necessary. In the same fashion, Manhattan became, and continues to be, a 
favorite locale for industries that find it possible to function in run-down 
and obsolete buildings. 

Despite transport, traffic, warehousing and realty difficulties probably 
unparalleled in any other important manufacturing area, Manhattan Island 
is today, as it has been from the beginning, the hub of industrial activity 
in the metropolitan region. Since 1910, when nearly 49 percent of the 
city's population was concentrated in Manhattan, there has been a steady 
exodus to Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens, until today only 22 percent 
of the population remains in Manhattan. But there has been no propor 
tionate dispersal of manufacturing establishments. Some industries, such 
as tobacco products, have fallen from a position of importance to one of 
relatively minor consequence. Certain branches of the garment industry, 
such as underwear, shirtwaists, kimonos, children's wear and house dresses, 
in which both the operation and the product are more subject to stand 
ardization than cloaks and dresses and men's wear, have shown a tendency 
to favor the outlying boroughs. Similarly, the heavier branches of the 
metal products industry and most of the chemical establishments have 
drifted to the environs. In the main, however, Manhattan is still the fa 
vorite site for New York's industrial activities. 

Turning again to the 1935 statistics, we find that of the city's 26,094 
industrial establishments 18,694, or about 72 percent, were situated in 
Manhattan. Employed in these latter were 288,000, or about 59 percent, 
of the city's industrial wage-earners an average of about 15 workers to 
each factory. The value of the commodities manufactured in these Man 
hattan establishments amounted to $2,432,000,000, which was 66 percent 
of the total value of all the products manufactured in the city. Of the 
total value of commodities manufactured in Manhattan, more than $i,- 
322,000,000 was added in the course of manufacture, representing nearly 
70 percent of "added value" for the entire city. Thus, while output per 
factory on Manhattan Island was less than in the other four boroughs, the 
Manhattan factory workers as a whole were performing more skilled opera 
tions and turning out more valuable merchandise than workers in the other 
boroughs of New York City. 

A few city- wide statistics for 1935 concerning those industries in which 
Manhattan holds undisputed leadership will convey, to some extent, an 


idea of the scale of operations. Engaged in the manufacture of fur goods 
were more than 2,000 shops employing about 9,500 wage-earners. The 
value of their product exceeded $124,000,000, which was 86 percent of 
the value of all fur goods manufactured in the United States. There were 
10,272 apparel and accessories plants (nearly triple the number of plants 
in the city's next most important industry), which employed an average 
of 187,334 workers and manufactured goods valued at $1,383,000,000, 
more than $675,000,000 of this sum being added in the process of manu 

Next in importance with respect to the number of plants involved and 
value produced was the printing and publishing industry, with 3,159 es 
tablishments, employing 49,783 wage-earners and turning out products 
valued at $490,357,000. Book, music and job printing was the largest 
division, with 1,886 establishments in which were employed 20,631 work 
ers. The total output of this division exceeded $155,519,000 in value, 
which was about 22 percent of the national total in the same division. The 
newspaper and periodical publishing division of the industry followed next 
in number of plants and wage-earners, but the value of its products ex 
ceeded the value of the first division's products by nearly $100,000,000, 
and amounted to 21 percent of the national total. 

Of greater importance than the city's printing industry, from the point 
of view of value produced, and nearly equaling it in total number of 
plants in operation, was the foods and beverages industry, with 3,072 es 
tablishments, employing 49,906 wage-earners and producing commodities 
valued at nearly $545,000,000. More than 2,100 of these plants, employ 
ing 24,100 workers, were engaged in the manufacture of bread; the total 
value of bread products exceeded $157,000,000, nearly one-half of this 
amount being added in the process of manufacture. In the next largest 
division were 132 confectionery establishments, manufacturing goods 
valued at more than $28,500,000 and employing 6,329 wage-earners. 
Among the various other establishments in this division were 99 ice cream 
plants, 28 malt liquor plants and three sugar refining establishments. 

Establishments engaged in the manufacture of metal and machine-shop 
products, ranging from boilers to structural and ornamental ironwork, 
numbered 1,689. There were 1,031 textile plants, 898 wood products 
plants, 653 chemical plants, 414 establishments making stone, clay and 
glass products, 378 paper and paper products plants, and 129 establish 
ments manufacturing tobacco products. The manufacture of jewelry, pre 
cious articles of metal, and similar products occupied an average of 3,388 

New Yorkers Relax 




* "* " ""' ~ 







v * i 









workers in 466 plants. Their output was valued at $32,679,000, nearly 
$12,000,000 of which was added in the course of manufacture. 

In the miscellaneous category were 3,805 establishments, 212 of them 
making signs and advertising novelties, 152 making toys, 106 making 
trunks, suitcases and bags, 80 making windowshades and fixtures, and 
various others manufacturing everything from feathers and plumes (95 
percent of the national total) to buttons (27 percent of the national total). 

While Manhattan Island contains a disproportionate number of these 
manufacturing establishments, industries that require spacious plant facil 
ities or that are unaffected by the whims of fashion have shown in general 
a preference for the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. Industrial establishments 
in the Bronx are of about the same average size as those in Manhattan, but 
in the other two boroughs they are generally larger. The average number 
of workers per factory in 1935 was 27 in Brooklyn and 32 in Queens, 
whereas the average in Manhattan was only 15. But Brooklyn, with 24 
percent of the total city area and 37 percent of the total population, con 
tained only 17 percent of the city's manufacturing plants; and Queens, 
with 35 percent of the total area and 17 percent of the total population, 
contained only five percent of the city's manufacturing plants. 

Industrial planners have long been conscious of the maladjustment of 
uses to areas which these figures reveal. Yet the heavy tribute in overhead, 
street congestion, trucking costs, transport demands and human misery 
exacted by the over-concentration of industry on Manhattan Island has not 
resulted in any appreciable shift of manufacturing to the outer boroughs. 
Even in the period immediately following 1933, when the financial crisis 
reduced the number of industrial plants in operation in New York City 
to 19,233, fewer by far than at any time since 1899, location trends re 
mained in the traditional groove. Between 1933 and 1936 the number of 
reopened and newly established plants in Manhattan increased by 37 per 
cent, while the increase in Brooklyn and Queens amounted to only 28 
percent and 27 percent respectively. 

Even more distressing than the failure of industry to effect a more logi 
cal site distribution in New York City is the closing of many of its plants 
since 1929. By the end of 1935, when the incidence of industrial produc 
tion was approaching its post-depression peak, 3,300 fewer plants were 
in operation in New York City than when the financial crisis began. Idle, 
along with these plants, were more than 76,000 wage-earners who had 
been working six years before. The drop in wages from the 1929 total 
exceeded $328,000,000. Products manufactured in 1935 were worth $3,- 


666,000,000 a drop of $2,242,000,000 from the 1929 total of $5,908,- 
000,000. The economic losses resulting from this reduction in industrial 
activity were catastrophic ; the consequent suffering and misery have prob 
ably surpassed anything ever before experienced in a modern industrial 


Mechanic? Bell 

IN THE Webb Institute of Naval Architecture in the Bronx there has 
rested silently for several decades a great 9oo-pound throat of bronze. 
This is Mechanics' Bell, which shipwrights hung a hundred years ago at 
Stanton and Goerck Streets, in lower Manhattan. From its point of van 
tage near the shipyards on the East River, this bell signalled the end of 
each ten-hour day, in defiance of the custom of the 1830'$ which demanded 
that artisans work "from dark to dark." The shipwrights who rested its 
shoulder on odd pieces of scaffolding and tied a length of tarry rope to its 
tongue were unaware that its pealing symbolized not only their struggle 
for a ten-hour working day but something much more significant a new 
division of society and the emergence of a new class of which these arti 
sans as yet but dimly felt themselves a part. Mechanics' Bell rang in the 
rise of the merchant-capitalist and the first of a cycle of financial crises 
which were to become so terrible a part of the new economy; the separa 
tion of trade societies, where masters and men were on an equal footing, 
into trade unions of workers on the one hand and associations of employ 
ers on the other ; the beginning of a remarkable series of intellectual move 
ments clustering around workers' educational, political and economic aims. 
The storing of Mechanics' Bell in the Bronx, several miles from the 
mouth of the East River, in 1897, was coincident with the close of a great 
era. The technique of collective bargaining had been adopted and perfected. 
Trade unions, at first regarded as conspiracies, had become legally recog 
nized bodies. The vote had been gained for wage earners, imprisonment 
for debt abolished, education made universal and free. Thomas Skidmore, 
George Henry Evans, Robert Dale Owen, Frances Wright, Albert Bris 
bane, Horace Greeley, William Weitling, Joseph Weydemeyer, J. P. Mc 
Donnell, John Swinton, Henry George, Father McGlynn, Daniel DeLeon, 
had spoken to two generations of workers in New York City. The Work- 
ingmen's Party, the Equal Rights Party, the Phalanxists, the Single Taxers, 
the Workingmen's Alliance had embodied the political aspirations of var- 


380 LABOR 

ious groups. The Knights of Labor had yielded to the American Federa 
tion of Labor. For the first time in American history, national trade unions 
had succeeded in weathering a major business crisis, and felt confident that 
they could survive future crises. The population of New York City was 
about three million, a rush of foreign-born was storming Ellis Island, and 
Wall Street was the symbol of a concentration of wealth that in the next 
30 years was to have as profound an effect on the lives of the majority as 
had the rise of the merchant-capitalist. 

By 1930 the working population of New York had grown to a figure 
greater than the city's entire population in 1897. More than three million 
persons worked for wage, salary, fee or commission. The majority of wage 
earners were engaged in manufacturing. More than a million persons were 
employed in the manufacture of iron and steel, leather and shoes, paper 
and printing, textiles, clothing and in other manufactures. Clothing was 
the largest single manufacturing industry, with 141,202 persons engaged 
therein. Building trades mechanics accounted for nearly a quarter million 
workers, including 53,569 carpenters, 54,122 painters and glaziers, and 
62,528 laborers. There were 297,809 transportation and communication 
employees. Among the largest groups of workers were domestic and per 
sonal service employees, numbering 448,838, of whom 135,939 were house 
servants other than cooks. 

When New York became the nation's business and financial center, 
every important national firm felt a need, real or fancied, of maintaining 
an office in the city. This contributed to the growth of a comparatively 
large white collar class. In 1930 there were more than a half million office 
or clerical workers not in stores, and a quarter million professional and 
white collar workers other than clerks and sales persons, including 49,381 
teachers. Retail store and commission salesmen totalled 195,358. 

New York also became a major intellectual center, not only for litera 
ture, science and art, but for labor. New developments such as the Ameri 
can Labor Party, originating in New York City, had profound influence 
on the direction of workers' political movements throughout the country. 
Also of importance to workers elsewhere was the fact that in the nation's 
business, financial and cultural center and in its greatest industrial city at 
least one-third of all those who worked for a living belonged to labor 
unions. By 1938, union organization was the rule in New York City in 
all manufacturing industries, in transportation, and in the building trades 
and miscellaneous industries. Unions were established in a less degree 
among municipal employees, professionals and utility workers. Largely un- 


organized, though there was some unionization among them, were domes 
tics and other servants, clerical and office workers and store salesmen. 
Company- dominated organizations or company unions in 1938 were estab 
lished chiefly among clerical workers in some of the larger offices. 

An organized class of highly specialized workers did not exist in colo 
nial New York. Labor was not hired, but bound, and consisted of inden 
tured servants and apprentices, or of convicts and slaves. Among the in 
dentured servants were not only skilled workers such as dyers, weavers, 
carpenters and barbers, but doctors and surgeons, dancing masters and 
teachers of fencing, writing, drawing and arithmetic. Many of these in 
dentured servants became freemen, joining the large body of free residents 
merchants, retailers, mechanics and free servants in the New Amster 
dam of the 1650*5. Unless he managed to acquire land, however, the free 
man had no voice in the management of the colony. 

When in 1628 a body of emigrants erected on Manhattan 30 rude log- 
houses thatched with reeds, a counting house, a sawmill and a flour mill 
were all that their simple community economy required. In the century 
and a half following, the number of skilled workers gradually increased. 
Many mechanics fought as soldiers of the Revolution. But the winning of 
political freedom for the colonies did not yet mean political freedom for 
the mechanic. Under the constitution of New York of 1777 he could vote 
only if he held land in freehold. 

Negroes acquired rights gradually and incompletely. Under the Dutch, 
enfranchised Negroes were allowed to acquire and hold land. After the 
English acquired possession of the Colony, however, this practice was ex 
pressly prohibited. As early as 1684, the colonial General Assembly passed 
a law that "no servant or slave shall either give, sell or truck any commod 
ity whatever during their term of service." This law was reenacted in 1726, 
and again in 1778. By 1790 there were 5,915 Negroes in New York City. 
With the emancipation of Negro slaves by the acts of 1799, 1817 and 
1827, Negroes began to engage in the trades and professions, and records 
indicate the existence in 1835 of Negro carpenters and joiners, shoemakers, 
tailors, dress and cloakmakers, clockmakers and teachers. 

Many a master workman successfully operated his own business, and 
after the Revolutionary War masters and journeymen banded together in 
common organizations for the purpose of furthering their trade. The Gen 
eral Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen was founded in New York in 
1785 to resist the competition of foreign goods, and held meetings and 

382 LABOR 

parades to influence public opinion. In 1821 this society founded a school 
and a library to further the education of apprentices. But the position of 
the master workman slowly grew less secure, and from George Washing 
ton's to Andrew Jackson's day he struggled desperately to retain control 
of his trade. By the 1830*5 the merchant-capitalist was definitely in com 
mand. As early as 1817, New York printers expelled an employer member 
from their society and declared, with italic emphasis: "This society is a 
society of journeymen printers; and as the interests of the journeymen are 
separate and in some respects opposite to those of the employers, we deem 
it improper that they should have any voice or influence in our delibera 

Union organization, however, was still regarded as a conspiracy against 
the public order, and in 1818 the New York Typographical Society was 
refused articles of incorporation because these did not provide that the so 
ciety would not "at any time pass any law or regulation respecting the 
price or wages of labour or workmen." Eight years before, the cordwainers 
of New York had been forced to defend themselves in court on the charge 
of conspiracy. At the trial their counsel put the case for the "closed shop" 
as follows: "If an individual will seek to better himself at the expense of 
his fellows, when they are suffering privation to obtain terms, it is not 
hard that they leave him to his employers ; and the most inoffensive man 
ner in which they can show their displeasure is by shaking the dust off 
their feet, and leaving the shop where he is engaged." The term "union" 
was used for the first time in New York in its modern labor sense in 1825, 
with the forming of the Nailers' and the Weavers' Unions. 

In 1830 Manhattan was about the size of Syracuse a hundred years later, 
with a population of 202,589. Many poor workingmen owing sums from 
$2 to $100 were annually sent to debtors' prison, where they were given 
a single quart of soup every 24 hours, but neither bed nor fuel. There were 
no tax-supported schools, and the Public School Society of New York City 
estimated that some 24,000 children between the ages of five and 15 years 
were deprived of schooling. Even in the so-called public schools a fee was 
charged until 1832. 

Male citizens had held the vote since 1821, but not until 1829 did 
mechanics organize a political party of their own the Workingmen's 
Party of New York City. After a whirlwind campaign of two weeks in 
1830, the party elected an assemblyman and a State senator. A New York 
assemblyman of the old school described this political organization of 
workmen as "more dangerous than any ... in the days of the French 


Revolution." The press called members of the Workingmen's Party "level- 
ers" and "workies," and described their movement as the "dirty-shirt 
party" of a "ring-streaked and speckled rabble," whose leaders were "lost to 
society, to earth and to heaven, godless and hopeless, clothed and fed by steal 
ing and blasphemy." The Commercial Advertiser and the Journal of Com 
merce attacked the system of universal suffrage that could bring into being a 
party "which is emerging from the slime of this community, and which is 
more beastly and terrible than the Egyptian Typhoon." Yet the platform 
of the Workingmen's Party called merely for the establishing of free pub 
lic schools, the reform of banking, the curbing of monopoly, the abolition 
of imprisonment for debt, improvement in election methods, reform of the 
militia system, payment of adequate fees to jurors and witnesses, civil serv 
ice reform, religious freedom and the abolition of capital punishment. 

Prominent in the political and reform movements of the 1830'$ was 
Thomas Skidmore, a machinist strongly influenced by the ideas of Thomas 
Paine. Skidmore published in 1829 The Rights of Man to Property in 
which he maintained that the unequal division of property caused the ills 
of society. George Henry Evans, brother of the famous Shaker, became edi 
tor of the New York Working Man's Advocate in 1829, and devoted his 
life to land reform. Robert Dale Owen, son of the famous philanthropist, 
became editor of the Free Enquirer in New York, where he was associated 
with Frances Wright, rationalist, social reformer, and champion of wom 
en's rights. Other workers' papers established in these years were the Daih 
Sentinel and the Evening Enquirer. 

New York workers supported the free land movement for which Skid- 
more and Evans carried on unremitting propaganda for a generation after 
1828. It was the alliance of Eastern wage earners interested in stimulating 
emigration to the West (thus improving the market for their own labor) 
with frontiersmen in national politics that made possible the election of 
Andrew Jackson and later the election of Abraham Lincoln. 

As the century advanced, however, and the infant commercial system 
grew stronger, political action yielded to the more immediate task of union 
organization. In 1833 there were at least 15 organized trades in New York. 
These included several trades mainly employing women, such as book 
binding, in which the binders formed in 1835 the Female Union Associa 
tion and struck for higher wages, and the garment industry, in which 
seamstresses organized a union in 1836. From February to December of 
1836 no fewer than 13 strikes of skilled workers were recorded in addi 
tion, no doubt, to many others unrecorded. A central union body organ- 

384 LABOR 

ized in 1833, published a paper, The National Trades' Union, from 1834 
to 1836. Most of these early unions feared that participation in politics 
would bring division into their primarily economic organizations, and they 
adhered to immediate demands for higher wages and shorter hours. The 
first national convention of trades unions was held in 1836, and the first 
national body set up; it prematurely and unsuccessfully attempted to rep 
resent all working men. In its place, national organizations of various crafts 
were formed. 

With the panic of 1837, the labor movement was crushed out of exist 
ence. Unions, city trades unions and councils, national federations, and the 
labor press disappeared. Wages were reduced and thousands lost their jobs, 
6,000 building workers being discharged in New York City alone in 1837. 
A "dense multitude of many thousands" gathered in the park in front of 
City Hall in February 1837 to demonstrate for "bread, meat, rent and 
fuel." This demonstration and others were sponsored by the newly organ 
ized Equal Rights Party, formed by workingmen who had seen their trade 
unions dissolve in the panic and who sought some alternate means of gain 
ing security. The party defeated Tammany in the city elections in 1837. 
Tammany, now early in its career putting into effect its principle of "if 
ye can't lick 'em jine 'em," in the next elections placed on its ticket five 
members of the Equal Rights Party, on condition that the latter withdraw 
its other candidates and thus embarked on a policy, the main source of 
its strength for almost a hundred years, of organizing the labor vote. 

The panic of 1837 deepened into a long depression, the "hard times" 
of the 1 840*5. The merchant-capitalists, who had been busy fighting the 
trade unions, now turned to fighting the business crisis a large part of 
their strategy consisting in attempting to undermine one another. Although 
the weaker ones vanished, the remaining merchant-capitalists became 
stronger than ever. 

The "occult power" of machinery, as the land reformer Thomas A. 
Devyr phrased it, was now rapidly overtaking handicraft, and in the con 
sequent shifts and readjustments the new class rung so bravely into being 
by Mechanics' Bell suffered incredible hardship. The first great wave of 
unskilled laborers from Europe arrived to swell the labor market. "Hard 
times" brought to the working men a feeling of frustration. Their unions 
had all but vanished, the Workingmen's Party was a thing of the past, the 
Equal Rights Party had been absorbed by Tammany. The right to vote, 
held for about 20 years, had served only to strengthen merchant-capitalist 
policies. Small wonder that a band of beckoning spirits, the intellectuals, 


found in the 1840*5 many followers among workers. Robert Dale Owen, 
in New York after the failure of New Harmony, Josiah Warren, the 
founder of "time stores" and of the American school of intellectual anarch 
ists, Albert Brisbane, and the rest, although preaching diverse methods 
of solving the problems of society, had a common aim: the introduction 
of "harmony" into the productive world, the collaboration of the consumer 
with the producer and of the entrepreneur with the laborer. They opposed 
both political action and trade union organization. Brisbane, returning to 
America in 1834 a convert to Fourier, announced that society must be 
organized into "groups," "series," and "sacred legions" based not on 
modes of production but on men's passions and desires. 

As editor of the New York Tribune from 1841 to 1872, Horace Greeley 
had an enormous influence on the temper of the age. His philosophy, never 
clearly defined, contained elements of land reform, currency reform, 
Fourierism and abolitionism. William Weitling, a German immigrant, who 
in 1850 founded in New York the Republik der Arbeiter, saw more clearly 
than Brisbane or Greeley that producing and distributing cooperatives re 
mained at the mercy of the bankers who supplied the capital. He therefore 
proposed the organization, not of more cooperative ventures, but of "banks 
of exchange," or cooperative banks, which in his view would effectively 
displace the merchant-capitalist. 

The cooperative propaganda of the 1840'$ found a fertile field in New 
York, and a number of societies were set up, both of the producers' and 
of the consumers' type. Most of them failed. The reason assigned by the 
workers themselves, as reported in Greeley' s Tribune, was the rapid turn 
over of the membership. Too many leaders were drawn away to the West 
or tried to start little businesses of their own. This factor of mobility also 
accounts largely for the apparent desultoriness and lack of stamina in the 
trade unions of these years. 

With the rush of immigrants to New York and the rise in business 
activity in the early 1850*5, there began the separation of skilled from un 
skilled labor, and the rise of craft unions solidly organized on the basis of 
regular dues, fixed meetings and contracts with employers. As the earlier 
artisans had expelled employers from their ranks, the skilled workers now 
excluded from their unions all "friends of labor" not working at the trade. 
Parallel to the growth of craft unions was the new tendency among work 
ers speaking a foreign language to make up a single local or union. Prices 
began to rise rapidly, and the skilled workers, whose wages lagged con 
siderably behind the rising cost of living, made great gains in organiza- 

386 LABOR 

tion. In 1853 and 1854, Greeley's Tribune sometimes recorded in a single 
issue as many as 25 or 30 strikes, while Greeley himself in an adjoining 
editorial would thunder against the trade unions, which he alternately op 
posed and cajoled during the rest of his career. Weitling, too, was strongly 
opposed to trade unionism, maintaining that it was a device of capital to 
hold the workers in check. 

The hard times of the 1840*5 were scarcely over when a new depression 
in 1854-5 deepened into the panic of 1857. Mobs of desperate men and 
women roamed the streets of New York shouting "Bread or death!" and 
threatened to attack the Subtreasury Building. Had it not been for the 
safety-valve of the westward migration and the increasing tension over the 
slavery question, the revolutionary events in Europe might have had a 
parallel in American industrial cities such as New York. 

Many workers in New York had ardently supported the abolition move 
ment, but the attempt made during the Civil War to apply the Conscrip 
tion Act in New York resulted in mob fighting and the erection of barri 
cades in the streets. The provision of this act permitting a man of draft 
age to purchase immunity from military service for the sum of $300 was 
strongly resented. The average worker, to whom the sum represented a 
large share of his annual income, and who was aware that some of those 
who thus purchased their freedom were making huge war profits, felt that 
the entire burden of the war was on his shoulders. Riots began on Mon 
day, July 13, 1863, and continued until Friday. What began as a demon 
stration against the unfairness of the Conscription Act ended in bitter 
street warfare, the destruction of property, the