A tale of the 'sporting life' of the Bowery from the 1870s and 80s. A former newsboy named Steve Brodie grabs the country's attention by leaping off the Brooklyn Bridge on July 23, 1886. Or did he?The story of Steve Brodie has all the ingredients of a Horatio Alger story. He worked the streets as a newsboy when he was very young, fighting the bullies (often his own brothers) to become one of the most respected newsies in Manhattan.He experienced his first taste of adulation and respect as a minor sports celebrity, participating in pedestrian competitions across the country. Back in New York, Brodie started a family and promptly lost most of his money at the race track. He yearned to do something athletic and attention grabbing again.The Brooklyn Bridge, completed in 1883, was a crowning architectural jewel linking two major cities; Brodie witnessed much of its construction during afternoons diving from East River docks. He now proposed an outrageous stunt that would garner him instant fame and fortune.He would jump off the Brooklyn Bridge!Was Steve Brodie a hero or a fool? A daredevil or a con artist? His story provides a window into the 'sporting men' life of the Bowery and a look into what may possibly be the greatest hoax of the Gilded Age.boweryboyshistory.comOur thanks to Grant Barrett of A Way With WordsFeaturing clips from the 1933 film The Bowery, the 1949 Warner Brothers cartoon Bowery Bugs and the 1958 recording of "The Bowery" by Billy Randolph & The High Hatters
In Washington Heights and Inwood, the two Manhattan neighborhoods above West 155th Street, the New York grid plan begins to become irrelevant, with avenues and streets preferring to conform to northern Manhattan's more rugged terrain. As a result, one can find aspects of nearly 400 years of New York City history here -- along a secluded waterfront or tucked high upon a shaded hill.In this episode, we look at four specific historic landmarks of Upper Manhattan, places that have survived into present day, even as their surroundings have become greatly altered. -- A picturesque cemetery -- the final resting place for mayors, writers and scandal makers -- split in two;-- An aging farmhouse once linked to New York's only surviving natural forest with a Revolutionary secret in its backyard;-- A Roman-inspired waterway that once provided a vital link to New York City's survival;-- And a tiny lighthouse, overwhelmed by a great bridge and saved by a strange twist of fame.For those who live and work in Washington Heights and Inwood, these historic landmarks will be familiar to you. For everybody else, prepare for a new list of mysterious landmarks and fascinating places to explore this summer.And that's just the beginning! Upper Manhattan holds a host of fascinating, awe-inspiring sites of historical and cultural interest. After you listen to this episode, check out our article on the Bowery Boys website entitled Secret Places of Upper Manhattan: Twenty remarkable historic sites in Washington Heights and Inwood.Boweryboyshistory.com
This month New York City (and the world) celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a combative altercation between police and bar patrons at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village, an event that gave rise to the modern LGBT movement. But in a way, the Stonewall Riots were simply the start of a new chapter for the gay rights movement. The road leading to Stonewall is often glossed over or forgotten. By the 1960s, a lively gay scene that traced back to the 19th century -- drag balls! lesbian teahouses! -- had been effectively buried or concealed by decades of cultural and legal oppression. A few brave individuals, however, were tired of living in the shadows.In this episode, we’ll be zeroing in on the efforts of a handful of young New Yorkers who, in 1966, took a page from the civil rights movement to stage an unusual demonstration in a small bar in the West Village. This little event, called the Sip-In at Julius', was a tiny but significant step towards the fair treatment of gay and lesbians in the United States.IN ADDITION: We'll be joined by Hugh Ryan, author of When Brooklyn Was Queer, to talk about the forgotten lives of LGBT people in the ever-changing borough of Brooklyn.Visit our website for photographs and more details -- boweryboyshistory.comThis episode features an audio interview clip from the podcast Making Gay History, as well as a musical clip of 'I Hear A Symphony' by The Supremes (Motown). Special thanks to our sponsor this week -- Flatiron School.
Some might find it strange that the Manhattan Detention Complex -- one of New York City's municipal jails -- should be located next to the bustling neighborhoods of Chinatown and Little Italy. Stranger still is its ominous nickname -- "The Tombs".Near this very spot -- more than 180 years ago -- stood another imposing structure, a massive jail in the style of an Egyptian mausoleum, casting its dark shadow over a district that would become known as Five Points, the most notorious 19th-century neighborhood in New York City.Both Five Points and the original Tombs (officially "New York City Halls of Justice and House of Detention") was built upon the spot of old Collect Pond, an old fresh-water pond that was never quite erased from the city's map when it was drained via a canal -- along today's Canal Street. But the foreboding reputation of the Tombs comes from more than sinking foundations and cracked walls. For more than six decades, thousands of people were kept here -- murderers, pickpockets, vagrants, and many more who had committed no crimes at all. And there would be a few unfortunates who would never leave the confines of this place. For the Tombs contained a gallows, where some of the worst criminals in the United States were executed. Other jails would replace this building in the 20th century, but none would shake off the grim nickname.Boweryboyshistory.com
The most iconic New York City foods -- bagels, pizza, hot dogs -- are portable, adaptable and closely associated with the city's history through its immigrant communities.In the case of the bagel, that story takes us to the Polish immigrants who brought their religion, language and eating customs to the Lower East Side starting in the 1870s. During the late 19th century, millions of bagels were created in tiny bake shops along Hester and Rivington Streets, specifically for the neighborhood's Jewish community.We start there and end up in the modern day with frozen supermarket bagels, pizza bagels, bagel breakfast sandwiches, bagel bites. BAGELS SLICED ST. LOUIS STYLE?! How did this simple food from 17th century Poland become a beloved American breakfast staples?It starts with a bagel revolution! Poor conditions in the bakeries inspired a worker's movement and the formation of a union that standardized the ways in which bagels were made. By the mid 20th century, modern technology allowed for bagels to be made cheaply and shipped all over the world.But the 'real' way to make a bagel is to hand roll it. In this episode, we speak to Melanie Frost of Ess-a-Bagel for some insight into the pleasures of the true New York City bagel. boweryboyshistory.com