The Bowery Boys: New York City History
New York City history is America's history. It's the hometown of the world, and most people know the city's familiar landmarks, buildings and streets. Why not look a little closer and have fun while doing it?

Ann Lohman, aka Madame Restell, was one of the most vilified women of the 19th century, an abortion practitioner that dodged the law to become one of the wealthiest self-made women in the Gilded Age. But is her reputation justified?

Thoughts on abortion and birth control were quite different in the 1830s, the era in which Madame Restell got her start. It was society and marital morality -- not science and religion -- that played a substantial role in New Yorkers' views on the termination of pregnancy.  Restell and countless imitators offers a wide range of potions, pills and powders to customers, provided in veiled wording in newspaper advertisements.

By the 1860s Restell was insulated from serious interrogation and flaunted her unique position in society by planting her Fifth Avenue mansion in a very controversial place. But she soon became a target of New York's most dogged reformer, a man who considered her pure evil and the source of society's most illicit sins.

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Direct download: 211_Madame_Restell.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:01pm EDT

New York has an interesting, complex and downright weird relationship with video games, from the digital sewers below Manhattan to the neon-lit arcades of Times Square.  In this grab bag episode – filled with nostalgia and nerdyness -- we capture all sides of the relation.

First -- the relationship between the city and the arcade itself, once filled with shooting galleries, skee ball and pinball machines which, in  the 1930s. became public enemy number one for one of New York’s most powerful mayors.  

The era of Space Invaders, Pac Man and Donkey Kong descends in New York during its grittiest period – the late 70s/early 80s – and arrives, like an alien presence, into many neighborhood arcades including one of the most famous in Chinatown – an arcade that is still open and the subject of a new documentary 'The Lost Arcade'.

While the video game industry is not something New York City is particularly associated with, the city does in fact set the stage for this revolution of blips and joysticks at the start of the 20th century.  

Then it's on to Queens when you can find one of America's great tributes to the video game, in the arcade collection at the Museum of the Moving Image. 

At the end Greg goes into the games themselves to explore New York as a digital landscape that continues to be of fascination to game developers and players alike. 

So are you ready Player One? Grab your quarters and log in to this New York adventure through the world of video games.

 

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Our book The Bowery Boys' Adventures In Old New York is now out in bookstores and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Direct download: 210_Digital_City__New_York_and_the_World_of_Video_Games.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:46pm EDT

You might think you know this tale, but do we have surprises for you.

The Waldorf-Astoria -- or the Waldorf=Astoria or even the Waldorf Astoria -- has been a premier name in hotel accommodations since the opening of the very first edition on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue (the location of today's Empire State Building).

But the history of the current incarnation on Park Avenue contains the twists and turns of world events, from World War II to recent diplomatic dramas. In essence, the Waldorf Astoria has become the world's convention center.

Step past the extraordinary Art Deco trappings, and you'll find rooms which have hosted a plethora of important gatherings, not to mention the frequent homes to Hollywood movie stars. But its those very trappings -- some of it well over a century old -- that finds itself in danger today as recent changes threaten to wipe away its glamorous interiors entirely.

boweryboyshistory.com

Our book The Bowery Boys' Adventures In Old New York is now out in bookstores and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Direct download: 209_Waldorf_Astoria.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:10pm EDT

New Yorkers can be tough to crack, maneuvering through a rapidly changing, fast-paced city. But they can, at times, also be easily fooled.

In this episode, we explore two of the wackiest stories in early New York City history, two instances of tall tales that got quite out of hand. While both of these stories are almost two centuries old, they both have certain parallels to modern-day hucksterism.

In the 1820s, the Erie Canal would completely change the fortunes of the young United States, turning the port city of New York into one of the most important in the world.  But an even greater engineering challenge was necessary to prevent the entire southern part of Manhattan from sinking into the harbor. You read that right -- New York was sinking! That is, if you believed a certain charlatan hanging out at the market.....

One decade later, the burgeoning penny press would give birth to another tremendous fabrication and kick off an uneasy association between the media and the truth. In the summer of 1835 the New York Sun reported on startling discoveries from one of the world's most famous astronomers. Life on the moon! Indeed, vivid moon forests populated with a menagerie of bizarre creatures and winged men with behaviors similar to that of men on Earth. 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Our book The Bowery Boys' Adventures In Old New York is now out in bookstores and on line at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Direct download: 208_Great_Hoaxes_of_Old_New_York.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:59pm EDT

The first subway in New York -- the first in the United States! – travelled only a single block and failed to influence the future of transportation. And yet Alfred Ely Beach's marvelous pneumatic transit system provides us today with one of the most enchanting stories of New York during the Gilded Age.

With the growing metropolis still very much confined to below 14th Street by 1850, New Yorkers frantically looked for more efficient ways to transport people out of congested neighborhoods. Elevated railroads? Moving sidewalks? Massive stone viaducts?

Inventor Beach, publisher of the magazine Scientific American, believed he had the answer, using pneumatic power -- i.e. the power of pressurized air! But the state charter only gave him permission to build a pneumatic tube to deliver mail, not people.

That didn't stop Beach, who began construction of his extraordinary device literally within sight of City Hall.  How did Beach build such an ambitious project under secretive circumstances? What was it like to ride a pneumatic passenger car?  And why don't we have pneumatic power operating our subways today?

FEATURING: Boss Tweed at his most bossiness, piano tunes under Broadway and something called a centrifugal bowling alley!

Direct download: 207_The_First_Subway__Beachs_Pneumatic_Marvel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00pm EDT

Before New York, before New Amsterdam – there was Lenapehoking, the land of the Lenape, the original inhabitants of the places we call Manhattan, Westchester, northern New Jersey and western Long Island.  This is the story of their first contact with European explorers and settlers and their gradual banishment from their ancestral land.

Fur trading changed the lifestyles of the Lenape well before any permanent European settlers stepped foot in this region. Early explorers had a series of mostly positive experiences with early native people.  With the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam, the Lenape entered into various land deals, ‘selling’ the land of Manhattan at a location in the area of today’s Inwood Hill Park.

But relations between New Amsterdam and the surrounding native population worsened with the arrival of Director-General William Kieft, leading to bloody attacks and vicious reprisals, killing hundreds of Lenape and colonists alike. Peter Stuyvesant arrives to salvage the situation, but further attacks threatened any treaties of peace.  But the time of English occupation, the Lenape were decimated and without their land.

And yet, descendants of the Lenape live on today in various parts of the United States and Canada.  All that and more in this tragic but important tale of New York City history.

 

(My apologies for messing up the pronunciation of the word Wickquasgeck. And I was doing so well too! -- Greg)

 

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Direct download: 206_The_Lenape__The_Real_Native_New_Yorkers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00pm EDT

The young socialite Dorothy Arnold seemingly led a charmed and privileged life. The niece of a Supreme Court justice, Dorothy was the belle of 1900s New York, an attractive and vibrant young woman living on the Upper East Side with her family. She hoped to become a published magazine writer and perhaps someday live by herself in Greenwich Village.

But on December 12, 1910, while running errands in the neighborhood of Madison Square Park, Dorothy Arnold -- simply vanished.

In this investigative new podcast, we look at the circumstances surrounding her disappearance, from the mysterious clues left in her fireplace to the suspicious behavior exhibited by her family.

This mystery captivated New Yorkers for decades as revelations and twists to the story continued to emerge. As one newspaper described it: "There is general agreement among police officials that the case is in a class by itself."

ALSO: What secrets lurk in the infamous Pennsylvania "House of Mystery"? And could a sacred object found in Texas hold the key to solving the crime?

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Direct download: Dorothy_Arnold_-_final_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:51pm EDT

The Cotton Club, Harlem's most prominent nightclub during the Prohibiton era, delivered some of the greatest music legends of the Jazz Age -- Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Fletcher Henderson, Ethel Waters, the Nicolas Brothers.  Some of the most iconic songs in the American songbook made their debut at the Cotton Club or were popularized in performances here.

But the story of gangster Owney Madden's notorious supper club is hardly one to be celebrated.

That the Cotton Club was owned by Prohibition's most ruthless mob boss was just the beginning. The club enshrined the segregationist policies of the day, placing black talent on the stage for the pleasure of white patrons alone. Even the club's flamboyant décor -- by Ziegfeld's scenic designer, no less -- made sure to remind people of these ugly admission practices.

This is the tale of Harlem late night -- of hot jazz and illegal booze, of great music and very bad mobsters. Featuring some of the greatest tunes of the day by Ellington, Calloway, Waters, King Oliver and more.

 

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THIS PODCAST FEATURED MUSICAL SNIPPETS FROM THE FOLLOWING SONGS:

Black and Tan Fantasy - Duke Ellington

Drop Me Off In Harlem - Duke Ellington

Speak Easy Blues - King Oliver Jazz Band

Charleston - Paul Whiteman

Mood Indigo - Duke Ellington

Swing Session - Duke Ellington

If You Were In My Place - Duke Ellington

Minnie the Moocher - Cab Calloway

I've Got The World On A String - Duke Ellington

Stormy Weather - Ethel Waters

On The Sunny Side of the Street - Duke Ellington

 

NOTES ON THIS SHOW:

-- I made two amusing flubs in this show 1) Duke Ellington's nickname is probably inspired by the Duke of Wellington, not (obviously) the Duke of Ellington, 2) the name of the movie with Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers is obviously named Stormy Weather, not  Stormy Weathers (which must be the name of a drag queen somewhere)

-- Jack Johnson's story is so much more complex and I wish I had more time to talk about him.  For more information, check out the incredible documentary (and the book it's based on by Geoffrey C Ward) called Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson.

 

Direct download: 204_The_Cotton_Club__The_Aristocrat_of_Harlem.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:03pm EDT

#203 Nikola Tesla in New York

The Serbian immigrant Nikola Tesla was among the Gilded Age's brightest minds, a visionary thinker and inventor who gave the world innovations in electricity, radio and wireless communication. So why has Tesla garnered the mantle of cult status among many?

Part of that has to do with his life in New York City, his shifting fortunes as he made his way (counting every step) along the city streets. Tesla lived in New York for more than 50 years, and although he hated it when he first arrived, he quickly understood its importance to the development of his inventions.

Travel with us to the many places Tesla worked and lived in Manhattan -- from the Little Italy roost where the Tesla Coil may have been invented to his doomed Greenwich Village laboratory. From his first job in the Lower East Side to his final home in one of Midtown Manhattan's most famous hotels.

Nikola Tesla, thank you for bringing your genius to New York City.

www.boweryboyshistory.com

 

ARRIVING IN JUNE 2016: The Bowery Boys Adventures In Old New York, a time-traveling journey into a past that lives simultaneously besides the modern city.

Pre-order now at Barnes and Noble, Amazon or at your local bookstore.

Direct download: 203_Nikola_Tesla_in_New_York.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:56pm EDT

Join us as we experience the tastes of another era by visiting some of the oldest culinary institutions of the Lower East Side. From McSorley's to Katz's, Russ & Daughters and Economy Candy -- when did these shops open, who did they serve, and how, in the world are they still with us today? We explore the topic with author Sarah Lohman of the Four Pounds Flour blog.

Join us as we taste our way through the history of the Lower East Side!

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 202_Lower_Eat_Side.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:28pm EDT