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Something Wonderful: New York City in 1911

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  • Kinch March 25, 2019, 12:19 PM

    Never again, Miranda.

    In other news, it’s *still* not Harry Sternberg Week over at Wrath of Gnon.

  • ghostsniper March 25, 2019, 2:20 PM

    I could stare at that picture….for a long time.
    In fact I do, frequently.
    It does something in the center of my brain, soothing, even cool.
    Refreshing. Like a small mental vacay.

    I snagged that pic a few years ago and it’s in rotation on the desktop of one of my machines.
    It’s in between the mint condition cherry red 1969 Mustang Mach 1 and me in full army combat field garb next to a lake in austria where later that day in the winter of 1975 I and 29 other soldiers would do a 600 foot high 1700 foot long cable slide for life back into germany.

    When I first grabbed that pik I did a google for the largest one available. Then I spent a fair amount of time in google maps street view finding that exact same view, except from the street rather than the sidewalk. It’s all diff now. Looks about like all the other dismal stuff on this planet. Insane urbania. Masses of worthless people everywhere, getting on each others nerves. Something went wrong, between then and now. Lot’s of things. Mostly from massive population explosion.

    The pix rotate each day. Things I like, or remember. I think I was born in the wrong century, and perhaps, wrong continent.

  • PA Cat March 25, 2019, 4:29 PM

    Can’t help noticing one thing missing from the film: it was obviously shot in pleasantly warm weather (most of the gents are wearing straw boaters, no one is wearing a winter coat, some of the ladies are carrying parasols to ward off the sun rather than rain)– but there are NO shots of a baseball game in either the Polo Grounds or Hilltop Park. Considering that the then-NY Giants were the NL champions in 1911, you’d think the cameraman would have taken the opportunity to show off something else that was wonderful about NYC in 1911. I suppose he took the phrase “street scenes” literally.

  • Hale Adams March 25, 2019, 9:38 PM


    I get it — I look at that picture, too, and try to imagine what it was like to be there. I have my own set of things that I would be tempted to sell my soul to the Devil if only he could supply them, like a few years spent living as a well-to-do man in a prosperous part of the United States circa 1900, as in that picture.

    The sad fact is that the world in that picture was a very special place, not so much because it is the past (and therefore presumed to be a golden age of some kind) but because the scene is of (as I recall from an Internet search) Saratoga Springs, New York, circa 1910. The people you see in that picture may not have been the “one-percenters” of their day, but they were pretty darn well-off. The “Joe Averages” of that day were people like yours and mine — workaday “grunts” making a buck or two day, working 60-hour weeks, if not longer (especially if they were hardscrabble farmers, like my kin).

    Rose-colored glasses and all that ….. I sometimes wish I had been born in 1862 and not 1962, which would have meant that I could have seen things like railroads that are now long-vanished, for instance. (There are few things more melancholic than an abandoned railroad right-of-way. Yeah, I’m weird.) But it would have also meant dying of appendicitis at age 13 in 1875, instead of being made very sick by it in 1975 before going under the knife.

    Does this present age have its problems? Yes, and some pretty nasty ones. But the past was no picnic either.

    My two cents’ worth.

    Hale Adams
    Pikesville, People’s still-mostly-Democratic Republic of Maryland

  • Casey Klahn March 26, 2019, 10:55 AM


    What can we do about it? Can’t go back, but maybe we can try to get something nice from it. My house was built about then: 1914. The woodwork alone is irreplaceable, stained a dark mahogany color but actually local pine. Local pine as hard as steel, just about. You cannot drive a nail, and a Sawzall tearing into it is a sweaty, nearly foolhardy, chore. 2×6 framing and those boards are dimensional (real 2″ by 6″). It is fun if I can get into the groove to do small remodels.

    As the snow disappears, I’ll be back in the old Model T Ford garage continuing that remodel. New oil studio. Old glass windows on all sides, except I’ve taken them out of the south side; too much light.

    My hometown in Western Washington enjoys the nostalgia of how it looked in the 1910s and thereabouts. Very similar to NYC, in a much smaller way. However, the suits, dresses, street cars and building facades do look of the same type. Shit. Those were industrious days, and it was a riotous time for the amassing of capital. Somewhere in my lifetime (I was born in 1958) the whole thing went completely to hell. Federal courts closed down the woods for a fuken owl. Money dried up and main street houses went abandoned. All for a fantastic story of how an owl was homeless (which he was nothing of the sort).

    Anyway. I walked around NYC last Fall. Bums with shit on their pants. Which I appreciated, because it was one less I had to avoid on the sidewalk.

    Have a nice day.

  • Vanderleun March 26, 2019, 11:25 AM

    You know, that “one-less” observation actually gives me hope for the next time I am in NYC/LA/SF/Chico….. ARRRRRGH!

  • ghostsniper March 26, 2019, 12:19 PM

    There are 2 types of drying that occurs with all woods. The regular kind you are familiar with, where the water inside and out evaporates. Then there is the kind of drying woodworkers are familiar with, where the cells of the wood collapse in on themselves. Turn circles into lines. The wood becomes smaller. What was cut and milled to accommodate the kiln drying size, then over time further shrinkage happened. Time caused those cells to collapse and as they did they turned to iron. I’ve seen 120 year old southern yellow pine hard as any oak could hope for. Hard enough that driven nails bend and cut nails break off. You have to drill it first and that bit better be carbide. And if you want to remove an existing nail you have to cut it off, drill it out, glue a dowel in it’s place.

    You know Hale, you can try to pick the pepper out of the fly shit but there is no question life in general was much better in the US in the early 1900’s than today. Were there ailments and conditions back then that caused unbelievable sorrow? Of course, but the counter to that is, were there AIDS and Hepatitis C back then? We could go on and on like that.

    In the last half of the 20th century things started to accelerate out of control and some say this is the other side of the parabola and there is nothing to be done about it. Because, history. Others say resource depletion. Everybody scrambles for the last crumb. We can’t see the bigger problem for we are trapped inside and lack the perspective of standing back and looking at the whole.

    Rest assured, back in 1910 the average person had more important things on his/her mind than an illusory deep state, ISIS, southern border walls, and whiney big mouth children disguised as adults. All of these things were beneath the average turn of the centurion and he/she had a full slate of things to occupy their time, things that mattered, things that made their lives better, things that supported the collective conscious of the nation. Yes, even in Saratoga Springs.

  • Tony March 29, 2019, 6:20 PM

    The top pic is Broadway of Saratoga Springs, NY

  • Sam March 31, 2019, 9:10 PM

    A wonderful thing indeed. Fascinating. I, too, feel I was born in the wrong era, although I gravitate more towards, say, rural New England, 1870s or 80s. Even this looks too modern, or at least too urban for my tastes, although it’s a far cry better than typical street scenes today. Yes I am aware of all the tradeoffs that living back then would entail, but after giving it a great deal of thought I think it’d be worth it. In any case, logic and rationality have nothing to do with it; I feel surrounded by an alien world when I look around me today, and no amount of telling myself how much worse it was then, really, can change how I feel about it. I too get a strong sense of nostalgia, or loss maybe a better word, when I stand on a abandoned railroad line and think of the bustling traffic that once filled it. But I get a similar feeling when I see an overgrown farm that is basically just forest now, and the old stone fences that cross all through the woods. Some man hewed that land clear with his own hands, plowed and planted crops on it for generations. Dragged all those thousands of stones out of the fields and stacked them into walls. Erected all these now-collapsing barns. Now the farms are abandoned and going back to nature, impenetrable second growth brush. The roads are widened and paved, the houses are gone, replaced or modernized. The world itself it gone, and it makes me so bitter and sad I can hardly stand it some times. I ask myself why I walk around to look at these things when it causes so much pain, but I can’t stand to not do it either. I sometimes wonder how I can endure it, and it’s just getting worse. At least the many of the roads are unpaved, but for how long? Every year a few more old barns collapse, and a field grows a little higher with brush, until one day you look at it and realize they are actually TREES now. My father remembers planting potatos on his grandfathers hill farm in the 1950s. It is now a maple forest ready for timbering.