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?

In this episode, we look back on the one day of the year that New Yorkers look forward.  New Years Eve is the one night that millions of people around the world focus their attentions on New York City -- or more specifically, on the wedge shaped building in Times Square wearing a bright, illuminated ball on its rooftop.

In the 19th century, the ringing-in of the New Year was celebrated with gatherings near Trinity Church and a pleasant New Years Day custom of visiting young women in their parlors.  But when the New York Times decided to celebrate the opening of their new offices -- in the plaza that would take the name Times Square -- a new tradition was born.

Tens of millions have visited Times Square over the years, gazing up to watch the electric ball drop, a time-telling mechanism taken from the maritime tradition. The event has been affected by world events -- from Prohibition to World War II -- and changed by the introduction of radio and television broadcasts.

ALSO: What happened to the celebration which it reached the gritty 1970s and a Times Square with a surly reputation?

PLUS: A few tips for those of you heading to the New Years Eve celebration this year!

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 195_Midnight_In_Times_Square_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:55pm EDT

Nellie Bly was a determined and fearless journalist ahead of her time, known for the spectacular lengths she would go to get a good story. Her reputation was built on the events of late September-early October 1887 -- the ten days she spent in an insane asylum.

Since the 1830s Blackwell's Island had been the destination for New York's public institutions of an undesirable nature -- hospitals for grave diseases, a penitentiary, an almshouse, even a quarantine for smallpox. There was also a mental institution -- an insane or lunatic asylum -- rumored to treat its patients most cruelly.

The ambitious young reporter decided to see for herself -- by acting like a woman who had lost her mind. Her ten days in this particular madhouse -- the basis of her newspaper articles and a book -- would expose the world to the sinister treatment of the mentally ill and the loathsome conditions of New York institutions meant to care for the most needy.

But would the process of getting this important story lead Nellie herself to go a little mad? And once she got inside the asylum, how would she get out?

ALSO: Not only is a vestige of the asylum still around today, you can live in it!

Direct download: 194_Nellie_Bly_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:55pm EDT

St. Mark's Place may be named for a saint but it's been a street full of sinners for much of its history. 

One of the most fascinating streets in the city, St. Mark's traces its story back to Peter Stuyvesant, meets up with the wife of Alexander Hamilton in the 1830s, experiences the incredible influx of German and Polish immigrants, then veers into the heart of counter-culture -- from the political activism of Abbie Hoffman to the glamorously detached parties of Andy Warhol. 

And that's when the party gets started! St. Mark's is known for music, fashion, rebellion and pandemonium. Let it be known -- this is one of the wildest, most creative, most exciting streets in New York City history. 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 193_St._Marks_Place.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:15pm EDT

Don't be frightened! It's the ninth annual Bowery Boys ghost stories podcast. We're here to guide you through the back alleys ... OF TERROR!

In this installment, we take a look at the spectral lore behind some of New York City's most famous landmarks, buildings with great reputations as iconic architectural marvels and locations for great creativity. 

But they're also filled with ghost stories:

Who are the mysterious sisters in colorful outerwear skating on the icy pond in Central Park? And why are there so many uninvited guests at the Dakota Apartments, one of the first and finest buildings on the Upper West Side?

Meanwhile, at the Chelsea Hotel, all the intense creativity that is associated with this great and important location seems to have left an imprint of the afterworld upon its hallways.

Over at Grand Central Terminal, the Campbell Apartment serves up some cocktails -- and a few unnatural encounters with Jazz Age spirits.

Finally, on the Brooklyn Bridge, a tragedy during its construction has left its shadow upon the modern tourist attraction. Who's that up ahead on the pedestrian pathway?

A little spooky fun -- mixed with a lot of interesting history -- and a few cheesy sound effects!

www.boweryboyshistory.com

 

Direct download: 192_Haunted_Landmarks_of_New_York.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:47pm EDT

A little after midnight on September 21, 1776, the Fighting Cocks Tavern on Whitehall Street caught on fire. The drunken revelers inside the tavern were unable to stop the blaze, and it soon raged into a dangerous inferno, spreading up the west side of Manhattan.

Some reports state that the fire started accidentally in the tavern fireplace. But was it actually set on purpose – on the orders of George Washington?

To understand that damning speculation, we unfurl the events that lead up to that moment – from the first outrages against the British by American colonists to the first sparks of the Revolutionary War. Why did New York get caught up so early in the war and what were the circumstances that led to the city falling into British hands?

Underneath this expansive story is another, smaller story – that of a young man on a spy mission, sent by Washington into enemy territory.  His name was Nathan Hale, and his fate would intersect with the disastrous events of September 21, 1776.

PLUS:  The legacy of St. Paul’s Chapel, a lasting reminder not only of the Great Fire of 1776 but of an even greater disaster which occurred almost exactly 225 years later.
 
www.boweryboyshistory.com
 
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Direct download: 191_Great_Fire_of_1776.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:49pm EDT

 The gripping and startling tale of Typhoid Mary is a harrowing detective story and a chilling tale of disease and death. Why are whole healthy families suddenly getting sick with typhoid fever -- from the languid mansions of Long Island's Gold Coast to the gracious homes of Park Avenue? Can an intrepid researcher and investigator named George Soper locate a mysterious woman who may be unwittingly spreading this dire illness?

Mary Mallon -- is she a victim or an enemy? One of the weirdest and divisive tales of the early 1900s. What side are you on?

 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 190_Typhoid_Mary.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:58pm EDT

In this episode, we recount almost 175 years of getting around New York in a private ride.  The hansom, the romantic rendition of the horse and carriage, took New Yorkers around during the Gilded Age. But unregulated conduct by ‘nighthawks’ and the messy conditions of streets due to horses demanded a more sophisticated solution.

At first it seemed the electric car would save the day but the technology proved inadequate.  In 1907 came the first gas-propelled automobile cabs to New York, officially ‘taxis’ due to a French invention installed in the front seat.

By the 1930s the streets were filled with thousands of taxicabs. During the Great Depression, cab drivers fought against plunging fare and even waged a strike in Times Square. In 1937, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia debuted the medallion system as a way to keep the streets regulated.

By the 1970s many cabdrivers faced an upswing of crime that made picking up passengers even more dangerous than bad traffic.  Drivers began ignoring certain fares – mainly from African-Americans – which gave rise to the neighborhood livery cab system.

Today New York taxicab fleets face a different threat – Uber and the rise of private app-based transportation services. Will the taxi industry rise to the challenge in time for the debut of their ‘taxi of tomorrow’?
 
Boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 189_Taxi_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:28pm EDT

On the evening of June 25, 1906, during a performance of Mam'zelle Champagne on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden, the architect Stanford White was brutally murdered by Harry Kendall Thaw. The renown of White's professional career -- he was one of New York’s leading social figures -- and the public nature of the assassination led newspapers to call it the Crime of the Century.  But many of the most shocking details would only be revealed in a courtroom, exposing the sexual perversities of some of the city’s wealthiest citizens.

White, as a member of the prestigious firm McKim, Mead and White, was responsible for some of New York's most iconic structures including Pennsylvania Station, the Washington Square Arch and Madison Square Garden, where he was slain. But his gracious public persona disguised a personal taste for young chorus girls, often seduced at his 24th Street studio, famed for its "red velvet swing".

Eveyln Nesbit was only a teenager when she became a popular artist's model and a cast member in Broadway's hottest musical comedy. White wooed her with the trappings of luxury and subsequently took advantage of her. The wealthy playboy Harry Thaw also fell for Nesbit -- and grew insanely jealous of White. Soon his hatred would envelop him, leading to the unfortunate events of that tragic summer night.

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 188_Stanford_White_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:39pm EDT

In the 1890s a newspaper rivalry between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer helped bring about the birth of the comic strip and, a few decades later, the comic book.  Today, comic book superheroes are bigger than ever -- in blockbuster summer movies and television shows -- and most of them still have an inseparable bond with New York City.

What's Spider-man without a tall building from which to swing? But not only are the comics often set here; most of them were born here too. Many of the greatest writers and artists actually came from Jewish communities in the Lower East Side, Brooklyn or the Bronx.

For many decades, nearly all of America's comic books were produced here.  Unfortunately that meant they were in certain danger of being eliminated entirely during a 1950s witch hunt by a crusading psychiatrist from Bellevue Hospital.

WITH a special chat with comics historian Peter Sanderson about the unique New York City connections of Marvel Comics' most famous characters.

FEATURING: The Yellow Kid, Little Orphan Annie, Batman, Doctor Strange and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

ALSO: What iconic movie maker once co-owned New York's very first comic book store?

 

Check out www.boweryboyshistory.com for images relating to this program.

Direct download: 187_Super_City__New_York_and_the_History_of_Comic_Books.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:29pm EDT

Hell’s Kitchen, on the far west side of Midtown Manhattan, is a neighborhood of many secrets. The unique history of this working class district veers into many tales of New York's criminal underworld and violent riots which have shaken the streets for over 150 years.

This sprawling tenement area was home to some of the most notorious slums in the city, and sinister streets like Battle Row were frequent sites of vice and unrest. The streets were ruled by such gangs as the Gophers and the Westies, leaving their bloody fingerprints in subtle ways today in gentrified building which at one time contained the most infamous speakeasies and taverns.

We break down this breathtaking history and try to get to the real reason for its unusual name. And we have a devil of a good time uncovering it!

www.boweryboyshistory.com

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Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

Direct download: 186_Hells_Kitchen.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:38pm EDT