Fri, 23 December 2016
We're in the mood for a good old-fashioned Gilded Age story so we're replaying one of our favorite Bowery Boys episodes ever -- Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst vs. the newsies!
Thu, 8 December 2016
Warm up the orchestra, lace up your dance slippers, and bring the diva to the stage! For our latest show we’re telling the origin story of Lincoln Center, the fine arts campus which assembles some of the city’s finest music and theatrical institutions to create the classiest 16.3 acres in New York City.
Wed, 23 November 2016
Truman Capote is a true New York character, a Southern boy who wielded his immense writing talents to secure a place within Manhattan high society. Elegant, witty, compact, gay -- Capote was a fixture of swanky nightclubs and arm candy to wealthy, well-connected women.
One project would entirely change his life -- the completion of the classic In Cold Blood, a 'non-fiction novel' about a brutal mass murder in Kansas. Retreating from his many years of research, Truman decided to throw a party.
But this wasn't ANY party. This soiree -- a masquerade ball at the Plaza Hotel -- would have the greatest assemblage of famous folks ever gathered for something so entirely frivolous. An invite to the ball was the true golden ticket, coveted by every celebrity and social climber in America.
Come with us as we give you a tour of the planning of the Black and White Ball and a few glamorous details from that strange, glorious evening.
FEATURING: Harper Lee, Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Robert Frost, Lillian Hellman, Halston, Katherine Graham and a cast of thousands (well, or just 540)
Thu, 10 November 2016
Edwin Booth was the greatest actor of the Gilded Age, a superstar of the theater who entertained millions over his long career. In this podcast, we present his extraordinary career, the tragedies that shaped his life (on stage and off), and the legacy of his cherished Players Club, the fabulous Stanford White-designed Gramercy Park social club for actors, artists and their admirers.
The Booths were a precursor to the Barrymores, an acting family who were as famous for their personal lives as they were for their dramatic roles. Younger brother John Wilkes Booth would horrify the nation in 1865, and Edwin would briefly retire from the stage. But an outpouring of love would bring him back to the spotlight and the greasepaint.
Thu, 27 October 2016
01: The first Ferris Wheel was invented to become America’s Eiffel Tower, making its grand debut at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. The wheel’s inventor George Washington Gale Ferris was a clever and optimistic soul; he did everything in his power to ensure that his glorious mechanical ride would forever change the world.
That it did, but unfortunately, its inventor paid a horrible price.
FEATURING a visit to one of the most famous wheels in the world and a trip to one of Chicago’s newest marvels.
This is a special preview for the new Bowery Boys spin-off podcast series The First: Stories of Inventions and their Consequences, brought to you by Bowery Boys host Greg Young.
Direct download: 01_The_Wheel__Ferris_Big_Idea_The_First_Special_Preview.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:05pm EDT
Thu, 13 October 2016
For this year's 10th annual Bowery Boys Halloween special, we're highlighting haunted tales from the period just after the Civil War when New York City became one of the richest cities in the world -- rich in wealth and in ghosts!
We go to four boroughs in this one (sorry Brooklyn!):
-- In the Bronx we highlight a bizarre house that once stood in the area of Hunts Point, a mansion of malevolent and disturbing mysteries
-- Then we turn to Manhattan to a rambunctious poltergeist on fashionable East 27th Street
-- Over in Queens, a lonely farmhouse in the area of today's Calvary Cemetery is witness to not one, but two unsettling and confounding deaths
-- Finally, in Staten Island, we take a visit to the glorious Vanderbilt Mausoleum, a historic landmark and a location with a few strange secrets of its own
PLUS: Stay tuned until the end to hear the trailer for the new Bowery Boys podcast series -- The First: Stories of Inventions and their Consequences
Thu, 29 September 2016
The Bronx was burning. The Bronx is now rising.
In the third and final part of our Bronx history series, we tackle the most difficult period in the life of this borough -- the late 20th century and the days and nights of urban blight.
The focus of this show is the South Bronx, once the tranquil farmlands of the Morris family and the location of the first commuter towns, situated along the new railroad. By the 1950s, however, a great number of socio-economic forces and physical changes were conspiring to make life in this area very, very challenging.
Construction projects like the Cross Bronx Expressway and shifts in living arrangements (from new public housing to the promise of Co-Op City) had isolated those who still lived in the old tenements of the South Bronx. Poverty and high crime rendered the neighborhood so undesirable that buildings were abandoned and even burned.
Mainstream attention (from notable television broadcasts to visits by the President of the United States) did not seem to immediately change things here. It would be up to local neighborhood activists and wide-ranging city and state programs -- not to mention the purveyors of an energetic new musical force -- to begin to improve the fortunes of this seemingly doomed borough.
FEATURING an interview with Inside Out Tours founder and chief tour guide Stacey Toussaint about the new Bronx renaissance.
ALSO: Appearances by Howard Cosell, Sonia Sotomayor, Robert Moses, Grand Wizzard Theodore, and Jimmy Carter!
Direct download: 214_Bronx_Trilogy_Part_Three_The_Bronx_Was_Burning.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:03pm EDT
Thu, 15 September 2016
In the second part of the Bowery Boys' Bronx Trilogy -- recounting the entire history of New York City's northernmost borough -- we focus on the years between 1875 and 1945, a time of great evolution and growth for the former pastoral areas of Westchester County.
Thu, 1 September 2016
The story of the Bronx is so large, so spectacular, that we had to spread it out over three separate podcasts!
In Part One -- The Bronx Is Born -- we look at the land that is today's borough, back when it was a part of Westchester County, a natural expanse of heights, rivers and forests occasionally interrupted by farm-estates and modest villages. Settlers during the Dutch era faced grave turmoil. Those that came afterwards managed to tame the land with varying results. Speculators were everyone; City Island was born from the promise of a relationship with the city down south.
During the Revolutionary War, prominent families were faced with a dire choice -- stay with the English or side with George Washington's Continental Army? One prominent family would help shape the fate of the young nation and leave their name forever attached to one of the Bronx's oldest neighborhoods. Sadly that family's legacy is under-appreciated today.
By the 1840s, Westchester County was at last connected to New York via a new railroad line. It was a prosperous decade with the development of the area's first college, a row of elegant homes and some of its very first 'depot towns'. Two decades later, the future borough would even cater to the dead -- both the forgotten (at Hart Island) and the wealthy (Woodlawn Cemetery).
The year 1874 would mark a new chapter for a few quiet towns and begin the process of turning this area into the borough known as the Bronx.
FEATURING: Many places in the Bronx that you can visit today and experience this early history up close, including Wave Hill, Pelham Bay Park, Woodlawn Cemetery, City Island and more.
NOTE: Thanks to Angel Hernandez from the Bronx Historical Society, not (as per our slip of the tongue in an older version of this show) the Brooklyn Historical Society.
Our book Adventures In Old New York is now in bookstores and online, wherever books are sold!
Thu, 18 August 2016
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?
Thu, 4 August 2016
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.
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
Thu, 21 July 2016
You might think you know this tale, but do we have surprises for you.
Thu, 7 July 2016
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.
Our book The Bowery Boys' Adventures In Old New York is now out in bookstores and on line at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Thu, 23 June 2016
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!
Thu, 9 June 2016
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)
Thu, 26 May 2016
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.
Thu, 12 May 2016
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.
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.
Thu, 28 April 2016
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.
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.
Fri, 15 April 2016
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!
Fri, 1 April 2016
This is the dirtiest Bowery Boys podcast ever. Literally.
Brooklyn's Gowanus -- both the creek and the canal -- is one of the most mysterious and historically important waterways in New York City. By coincidence, it also happens to be among its most polluted, shrouded in frightening tales of dead animals (and a few unfortunate humans) floating along its canal shores. Its toxic mix is the stuff of urban legends (most of which are actually true).
But this was once the land of delicious oysters. This was the site of an important Revolutionary War battle. This was part of the property of the man who later developed Park Slope.
But, in current times, it ALSO happens to be one of New York City's hottest neighborhoods for real estate development. How does a neighborhood go from a canal of deadly constitution to a Whole Foods, condos and shuffleboard courts?
With so many personalities (and with Tom gone this week) I needed a special guide for this fraught and twisted journey -- writer and historian Joseph Alexiou, author of 'Gowanus: Brooklyn's Curious Canal', bringing his expertise to help me wade through the most toxic portion of the show.
Fri, 18 March 2016
Washington Square Park torn in two. The West Village erased and re-written. Soho, Little Italy and the Lower East Side ripped asunder by an elevated highway. This is what would have happened in New York City in the 1950s and 60s if not for enraged residents and community activists, lead and inspired by a woman from Scranton.
Jane Jacobs is one of the most important urban thinkers of the 20th century. As a young woman, she fell in love with Greenwich Village (and met her husband there) which contained a unique alchemy of life and culture that one could only find in an urban area. As an adroit and intuitive architectural writer, she formed ideas about urban development that flew in the face of mainstream city planning. As a community activist, she fought for her own neighborhood and set an example for other embattled districts in New York City.
Her legacy is fascinating, often radical and not always positive for cities in 2016. But she is an extraordinary New Yorker, and for our 200th episode, we had to celebrate this remarkable woman on the 100th anniversary of her birth.
PLUS: ROOOOBERT MOOOOSES!
Tue, 8 March 2016
As we prepare for our #200th episode -- and the release of the first-ever Bowery Boys book -- we've decided to take a look back at our last 100 shows, at some of the highlights of the past six or so years. What were some of our favorite episodes? The most controversial episode?
Fri, 19 February 2016
This year is the one hundred anniversary of one of the most important laws ever passed in New York City -- the 1916 Zoning Law which dictated the rules for building big and tall in the city. So we thought we'd take this opportunity to ponder on the many changes to New York's beautiful skyline via the unique technical changes to construction rules.
Why are areas of lower Manhattan darkened canyons, and why are there huge public plazas inside buildings in Midtown? Why do older buildings have graceful and elegant set-backs but newer structures feel like monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey? This is a layman's history of building tall -- our apologizes to architects for simplifying such sophisticated concepts -- and the important laws that changed the face of NYC forever.
PLUS: This is our craziest podcast yet! We've decided -- as our 199th episode -- to hit the road! This entire show is recorded outside in front of the very spots that have most affected the city's decision. From downtown Manhattan and the Equitable Building to a surprising corner of Hell's Kitchen.
Fri, 5 February 2016
Greenpoint, Brooklyn, has a surprising history of bucolic green pastures and rancid oil patches. Before the 19th century this corner of Brooklyn was owned by only a few families with farms (and slaves tending them). But with the future borough of Brooklyn expanding at a great rate, Greenpoint (or Green Point, as they used to call it) could no longer remain private.
Industries like ship-building and petroleum completely changed the character of Greenpoint's waterfront, while its unique, alphabetically-named grid of streets held an extraordinary collection of townhouses. By the late 19th century, Polish immigrants would move on the major avenues, developing a 'Little Poland' that still characterizes the neighborhood.
But big changes are coming to Greenpoint thanks to new housing developments. How will these new arrivals fare next to the notoriously toxic Newtown Creek, a body of water heavily abused by industry?
ALSO: The world that young Patricia Mae Andrzejewski may have experienced in her childhood days before becoming a major rock star.
And coming in May 2016 -- The Adventures In Old New York, the first-ever Bowery Boys book!
Thu, 21 January 2016
On July 30, 1916, at just after 2 in the morning, a massive explosion ripped apart the island of Black Tom on the shoreline near Jersey City, sending a shockwave through the region and thousands of pounds of wartime shrapnel into the neighboring Ellis Island and Bedloe's Island (home to the Statue of Liberty).
Thousands of windows were shattered in the region, and millions woke up wondering what horrible thing had just happened.
The terrifying disaster was no accident; this was the sabotage of German agents, bent on eliminating tons of munitions that were being sent to the Allied powers during World War I. Although America had not yet entered the war, the United States was considered an enemy combatant thanks to weapons manufactures in the New York region and around the country.
But the surprising epicenter of German spy activity was in a simple townhouse in the neighborhood of Chelsea.
ALSO: New Yorkers still feel the ramifications of the Black Tom Explosion today at one of America's top tourist attractions.
Arriving in May 2016: The first-ever Bowery Boys book - Adventures in Old New York!
Direct download: 197_Danger_In_The_Harbor__The_Black_Tom_Explosion.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:24pm EDT
Fri, 8 January 2016
The Garment District in Midtown Manhattan has been the center for all things American fashion for almost one hundred years. The lofts and office buildings here still buzz with industry of making clothing -- from design to distribution.