Detail from the book jacket of Hoodlums New York, a 1959 collection of hard boiled true crime tales from a police reporter "on friendly terms with governors, mayors, cops, politicians, Broadway celebrities, crooks and racketeers."
I was upset to hear that one of our neighbors, Main Street Ephemera, will be closing its storefront in the next month. Since he moved here from Smith several years ago, owner Dave has been a source of many great finds for us, particularly related to New York history. Postcards, stereograms, trade magazines, burlesque programs, old menus, canceled checks, Esso maps, Tin Pan Alley sheet music, B-movie lobby cards, and publicity shots of forgotten crooners were Dave's stock-in-trade. And manna for this collector.
Last week we stopped by the shop, which will remain open sporadically through March, and found more proof (seen here) why Dave's eye for the queer and arcane lived up to Main Street's motto "Where the Historical Meets the Hysterical." Make sure to visit before he abandons the place forever, though he will remain a visible presence at one of the many city flea markets in the spring and summer.
--Peter Miller, Freebird Books
The cover of a guidebook to New York, with illustrations and photographs of notable Manhattan and Brooklyn landmarks, offered as complements from Harris Bank in 1909.
An undated stereogram of a Brooklyn ferry boat.
A 1928 menu from the Cortile restaurant in midtown, which offered a $1.50 dinner with cream of mushroom soup, baked ham, mashed turnips, shredded cabbage salad, and snow pudding, pineapple and kumquat sauce among their options. A pint of claret was available for an additional 75 cents.
An advertisement and direct order form for a 1935 collection of tales about a young messenger boy on the streets of the Lower East Side. Originally written by Abraham Burstein in the New York Jewish Daily News, its protagonist Abie "is involved in many matrimonial difficulties, in synagogue politics, in business and racial dilemmas, and in all of them he solves difficult problems with the help of his own humor and cleverness and the always available telegraph office." Story titles included "The Various Uses of Feet" and "Father Kelly Uses Yiddish."
The program from an annual luncheon commemorating the great New York blizzard of 1888. The three-day snowstorm marked a critical point in New Yorkers' collective memory a century ago, an event that dumped over three feet of snow, stranded thousands of commuters, and led to the deaths of 200 people across the five boroughs. In the years following, nostalgic survivors met to swap stories and award guests for the best essay on the subject. This gathering featured Dr. Vilhjalmur Stefansson as guest speaker and stereopticon views from John T. Washbourn.
Fiorello LaGuardia at a "crime conference" (according to the back of the photo), hosted possibly by the Herald-Tribune newspaper. It is dated April 1936. It would be a gutsy year for LaGuardia in his efforts to crack down on organized crime, giving Special Prosecutor Thomas Dewey the go-ahead to bring down Lucky Luciano and his massive prostitution ring.
A direct order form from Bloch Publishing Company ("The Jewish Book Concern"), the same press behind The Ghetto Messenger. Founded in 1854, Bloch remains a family-run business, an outgrowth of the Reform Judaism movement centered in Cincinnati (they would move to New York in 1901). Ask the Rabbi was a one of a kind quiz book from 1927 that contained 2,000 questions (and answers) about Jewish ritual, holidays, customs, literature, history, values and beliefs.