New York, New York
I (heart) New York. Doesn’t everyone? I’m talking about NYC, the Big Apple, the City of Dreams, the City That Never Sleeps, Empire City. It’s a destination of distinction.
It is also a place with a compelling history. New York City was the first capital of the United States, and George Washington’s first inauguration ceremony took place on a balcony there. But that’s not all New York City is known for. Read on.
New York Yankees, 1913
Some considered them the underdogs in 1913. It was their first season out as the Yankees, having played their prior 10 seasons as the Highlanders. They had nothing in fans compared to, say, the Giants or the Brooklyn Dodgers.
This American League team also changed its baseball field. The Yankees signed a deal to play its games at the Polo Grounds, a huge step up from Hilltop Park in Washington Heights. It should have been a good season.
But it got off to a bad start from the get-go. Spring training was held at the prestigious Hamilton Cricket Grounds in Bermuda, a far cry from former camps in Alabama and Georgia. It was not a great trip. Frank Chance, player-manager, hurt his back. Hal Chase, second baseman, twisted his ankle running bases. And the entire team got seasick on the boat back to the mainland.
The jinx was in. Their first year as the Yankees, the team finished in seventh place, with a 57-94 record.
A 13” x 21” copy of the baseball card portrait seen above was offered for free in exchange for 40 Fatima cigarette coupons by Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company in North Carolina, although its marketing department was in New York City. The Fatima Turkish Blend Cigarettes pledge was “No gold tips but finest quality.”
The earliest suspension bridges—centuries back and countries away—were built with twisted grass. The chains and towers of modern suspension bridges are an excellent improvement!
The Manhattan Bridge is a fine example. It is 6,855 feet long and connects southeastern Manhattan with western Brooklyn in New York City. This double-deck motorway was designed to improve traffic flow, with four lanes on top and three lanes below for car travel. Additionally, the bridge includes four subway lines, a pedestrian lane, and a bikeway. It carries more than 80,000 vehicles daily, not to mention the 320,000 people or so who use its public transportation lines every day.
It’s an old bridge. Construction of the Manhattan Bridge began in October 1901. It is one of three built to span the East River. Originally called “Suspension Bridge Number 3,” it had many of the same elements as the first bridges, the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges.
The bridge had a rocky start. Construction commenced with two different engineers and a couple different plans. It was finally taken over by another engineer, beginning in 1904. His design saved money, material, and time. The push was on to finish the bridge due to the burgeoning amount of traffic jamming the neighboring Brooklyn Bridge.
Finally, on December 31, 1909, the $31-million, graceful Manhattan Bridge opened to through traffic. Although no trains could cross yet and the pedestrian walkway was not finished, outgoing Mayor George B. McClellan, Jr. was there with flair. According to the New York Times, he led “a little cavalcade of automobiles and carriages” across the bridge. Steam whistles shrieked on both sides. It is rumored that, once across, the mayor said, “Now finish the damn bridge.”
On the 100th birthday of the bridge, 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers named it a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
The photographer, Irving Underhill (1872-1960), took this shot on March 23, 1909, nine months before it opened. Underhill is well known for his photographs and postcards of iconic New York scenes.
Engine 91, New York
Starting in 1658, bucket brigades were organized in the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam and are considered the start of the New York Fire Department (NYFD). The brigade’s hooks, ladders, and leather buckets were paid for with fines assessed on households with dirty chimneys. A fire watch was set up. Wardens roamed the streets from evening until dawn, looking for fires. They were nicknamed prowlers.
The firefighters in this photo are a long way from the days of the bucket brigade. They gathered in Manhattan on March 20, 1913, on a cold, wet day to celebrate the first trip of Engine 91. Proud members of the NYFD, they stand ready for action in double-breasted uniform coats and fire hats.
Although the NYFD was manned by volunteers for many years, it had switched to paid professionals some time before this photo was shot. The officers and firemen worked tough hours and were paid according to their ranks. Firefighters spent 24 hours a day at the firehouse with only one day off a week. They were allowed to go home twice a day for meals. This rigorous schedule afforded the average fire fighter 13 cents an hour or about $1,000 a year.
The New York Fire Department celebrated 150 years of heroism in 2015. Its firefighters are known to be heroes. In that time, nearly 1,150 firefighters have lost their lives in the line of duty.