Archive for July, 2010

Strange Fashions In Burial Robes

From July 10, 1910


STRANGE FASHIONS IN BURIAL ROBES: How the Whims of Various Eccentric People as to How They Should Be Clothed in Death Are Carried Out (PDF)

Not surprisingly, a lot of women wanted to be buried in the wedding dresses. And one woman wanted to be buried in all her expensive furs so that none of her feuding relatives could have them. But this story is my favorite:

“One of the oddest whims I have ever been called upon to humor was that of the man who insisted on going to his grave wrapped in the traditional sheet. He sent for me several days before he died and explained his fancy.

“I misunderstood him at first. I thought he meant an ordinary white shroud… But he quickly corrected that impression.

“‘I don’t mean anything of the kind,’ he said. ‘I want to be buried in a sheet — a plain, every-day white sheet.’

“For once my curiosity got the better of my good manners.

“‘I will do as you ask, of course,’ I said, ‘but will you kindly tell me why you want to be dressed in that peculiar style?’

“The old fellow’s answer fairly staggered me.

“‘Because I am going to do a good deal of haunting when I’m through with the flesh,’ he said, ‘and I’m going to take the sheet along with me, so there will be no delay about getting down to business. I’m going to leave lots of people behind who have been playing me mean tricks all their lives. I have never been able to get back at them in my present state, but just wait till I get clear of these fetters, and if I don’t haunt them good and hard and make them wish they’d done the square thing by me when they had a chance it won’t be my fault.’

“I couldn’t make it out then, and I have not been able to make out since, whether the old chap was downright crazy or just eccentric,” concluded the undertaker. “Any way, it was not my business to investigate his mental condition. My business was to bury him in a sheet, so long as he asked me to and was willing to pay for it, and I performed my part of the transaction to the letter.”

I’m skeptical, though. The undertaker is never named, and being buried in a white sheet doesn’t seem like so outrageous a request that it would prompt such surprise. The more I come across articles like this, the more I think 1910 must have been a weird time to live.

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Written by David

July 9th, 2010 at 10:00 am

Posted in Humor,Life

Hunting A Job When a Man Is Over Forty Five

From July 10, 1910


HUNTING A JOB WHEN A MAN IS OVER FORTY FIVE: Some Are Pathetic Figures but Others Turn Apparent Adversity to Good Account (PDF)

An interesting look at ageism in hiring in 1910. It describes the “pathetic” man of 45 who can’t get a job, but offers hope in stories of companies who found some of their best employees in the over-40 crowd. Said one employer:

“I never had a better office force in my life, and from the first things went smoothly. There was no breaking in of green men; no carelessness; no idleness; no unruliness.

They were all tried veterans, and they knew exactly what was expected of them and they did it efficiently. They saved me an endless amount of annoyance and irritation so common in breaking in new, untried men.”

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Written by David

July 9th, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Politics

“Little Mothers” Write Playlets With Helpful Plots

From July 10, 1910


“LITTLE MOTHERS” WRITE PLAYLETS WITH HELPFUL PLOTS: The Authors Are Only Twelve Years Old but They Have Grown Up Ideas About Keeping Babies Well (PDF)

The Little Mothers’ League was a club for girls in public school that taught them how to properly care for babies. Started in 1910 by Sara Josephine Baker, the idea wasn’t as much to prepare them to be parents themselves, but to give them the means to help their parents by taking care of their siblings. By teaching these kids, the Board of Health could get information about good habits and hygiene to parents who were too busy to seek out information themselves.

The article reprints several short plays that were written by members of the Little Mothers’ League to illustrate what they’ve learned. Here is one of them:

The first play was written by “E. K.” of Public School 22 and deals with the dangers following the common belief that a breath of fresh air will kill the baby.

Acted by two girls and a baby in a dark, uncomfortable room, with the windows shut up as tightly as possible.

Miss Smith — (Coming into Mrs. Jones’s, as usual.) — Good morning, Mrs. Jones. Why does your baby cry so heartily?

Mrs. Jones, (somewhat terrified,) — She seems to have some fever, and I do not know what to do to her.

Miss Smith — Well, why do you not go to see a doctor about it? (Looking at the windows and at the baby’s wrappings.) I know what it is. She feels too warm. You need to open the windows and take some of her wrappings off her. Then you will see how more comfortable she will feel, and she will also begin to play around on the floor.

Mrs. Jones, (takes some of the wrappings off the baby and opens the windows. Then, seeing how the baby stops crying and beings to play around on the floor, she says) — Miss Smith, I thank you very much for your kind advice, and I would like to know where you have learned all of these useful things.

Miss Smith — (Showing her badge to Mrs. Jones,) — Why, Mrs. Jones, I am a member of the Little Mothers’ League, and this is where I learn all of these very useful things.

The other plays printed in the article teach “the horrors of grocery milk”, that you should listen to your doctor instead of your neighbors, and that pineapple is not good food for babies:

Mother — Baby wants something to eat.

Child — (Mother) What?

Mother — I guess a piece of pineapple.

Child — Mother, what, pineapple for a baby?

Mother — What’s the matter?

Child — You do not mean pineapple for a baby, do you?

Mother — Yes, I think baby will like a piece very much.

Child — No matter if the baby will like it or not it is not healthy for babies.

Mother — Who told you that?

Child — I belong to Little Mothers’ League. They teach us how babies ought to be kept.

Mother — You did not tell me that. I would have stopped giving it to the baby a long time ago.

This should really be an Off Broadway production.


Written by David

July 9th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in Education,Life,Theater

Historical Documents Reproduced In Postal Cards

From July 10, 1910


HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS REPRODUCED IN POSTAL CARDS: Ingenious French Scheme of Supplying the Man in the Street with Sources of History at First Hand (PDF)

Let me get this straight. These people found interesting historic documents that were in the public domain, and then repackaged them for a modern audience? That’s genius!

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Written by David

July 9th, 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Life

Fifty Years Fight To Keep Central Park From Invasion

From July 10, 1910


FIFTY YEARS FIGHT TO KEEP CENTRAL PARK FROM INVASION: Since Back in 1859 Just After It Was Established Vigilance Has Been Necessary to Keep the Great Playbround from Being Used for Special Objects (PDF)

Believe it or not, sports were not permitted in Central Park when it opened. It was a place to stroll and relax, but but not to play. The website explains:

The reasons why lay in the transformation of popular sports, particularly baseball, just at the moment the park was being built. In the 1850s New York and other large cities experienced an athletic boom; interest burgeoned in cricket, prizefighting, boating, ice skating, gymnastics, foot racing, horse racing, and especially baseball… The ball clubs saw the new park as the answer to their dreams, but Olmsted and the board began to wonder whether their presence might prove, instead, to be a nightmare. In May 1861 the commission rejected the applications of baseball clubs for use of the park.

If the park board would not allow baseball and cricket clubs, what was to be done with the playgrounds that had been in the plans from the start? After nine years of intensive discussion… the commissioners restricted the playgrounds to schoolboys who could produce a certificate of good attendance and character from a teacher. And even these exemplary lads found the fields open to them only three days of the week. Working-class youths were largely excluded, since relatively few of them went beyond elementary school in this period. A year after the commissioners opened the fields to schoolboys, they made a similar arrangement for girls. In 1867 they permitted schoolgirls to play croquet on the lawns three afternoons each week.

So kids were allowed to play on the lawns, but adults wouldn’t be permitted to play until the 1920s. Here in 1910, we can see a proposal for tennis courts, a bowling green, and football field in the North Meadow, plus a running track around the reservoir. The article explains that these are all contrary to the park’s purpose:

The Committee on Statuary, Fountains, and Architectural Structures… found that if any portion of the Park was set aside for such special purposes the ground that could be used by children for their general play would be curtailed, and it was decided that it was more important to provide wide open spaces than special playgrounds.

If you compare the proposed map with the North Meadow as it appears today, you can see that the western tennis courts are exactly where they were proposed. The meadow itself now has several baseball and soccer fields. The track around the reservoir is one of the most popular places for runners in the park. And kids can play whatever they want no matter how bad their school attendance may be.

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Written by David

July 9th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Development,Sports

A Tree Near This City That Is Nearly 320 Years Old

From July 3, 1910


A TREE NEAR THIS CITY THAT IS NEARLY 320 YEARS OLD: It Has Withstood the Storms of Centuries and the Axe of Progress and Is a Rarity (PDF)

Alas, the tree described here as “a beautiful spreading tulip tree towering over 125 feet high” is no longer standing. But there is a nice tribute page online which has several photos of the tree, and of the plaque that now marks the spot where the tree once stood.

Should you wish to visit the plaque, you can follow these directions from the article:

For the benefit of those readers who might like, sometime, to pay it a visit — it is really wonderful when one stops to think that there is actualy [sic] one tree in Manhattan of such great age — here are the directions how to find it. Take a Broadway Subway, and get off at the Two Hundred and Seventh Street station. Walk directly west along Emerson Avenue about a mile, or until you nearly reach the edge of the woods — Cold Spring Grove. Then bear off northwest along either one of the two roads — paths they really are — that lead toward the water, and then — well, ask anyone who lives in the little houses bordering the creek to direct you to the “big tree” — they’ll do so.

Well, Cold Spring Grove is now Inwood Hill Park, and the paths may have changed a bit in the past 100 years, but it should still be a nice place to visit. The park is the largest remaining forest land on Manhattan, and walking through those woods it’s easy to forget you’re on the same island as a concrete jungle.

Incidentally, the oldest living tree in the city is now 331-year-old English Elm tree in Washington Square Park known as Hangman’s Elm. Legend has it that the tree was used for public hangings, although there are no records that verify this.

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Written by David

July 2nd, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Nature

The City Is The Landlord Of This Tented Town

From July 3, 1910


THE CITY IS THE LANDLORD OF THIS TENTED TOWN: A Rental of One Dollar a Week Is Asked, Which Is Really a Water Tax — 2,000 Persons in a Picturesque Community (PDF)

From the headline, I assumed the article was about a shanty town, perhaps a precursor to the shacks and tents in Central Park during the Great Depression, but I was dead wrong. This is more like a commune on a beach, paid for by the City of New York.

500 permits were available for families to live in tents on Orchard Beach in The Bronx. There was running water, beautiful views of the ocean, porches, social life, music, and festivities. And it was free! The tenants just had to pay one dollar for the running water.

This city on a beach flourished until Robert Moses ruined all the fun in 1934. Here is a bit of history from the website of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation:

By the time Moses was named Parks Commissioner in 1934, the campsite had become a well-established colony, complete with a city-like infrastructure. Campers enjoyed conveniences such as street cleaning, mail and fire service, ice delivery, and garbage hauling. Tents that Parks built in the early part of the century gave way to more stable structures with electricity, running water, and telephone service. After a lawsuit was filed in 1927, the city moved to officially endorse this arrangement. Moses remained wary of the encampment’s elite appearance, however, and devised a plan to create a facility that the entire city could use. In February 1934, he gave the campers a year to vacate the site.

Today, families can still sleep in a tent on Orchard Beach as part of the city’s weekly summer park campouts. They rotate between the city’s parks each weekend throughout the summer. The remaining dates for camping on Orchard Beach this year are July 30 and August 27. Registration is required.

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Written by David

July 2nd, 2010 at 9:30 am

Good School Lunches For Three Cents Prove A Success

From July 3, 1910


GOOD SCHOOL LUNCHES FOR THREE CENTS PROVE A SUCCESS: And for a Penny More Dessert Is Supplied — That Is the Interesting Result of Experiments by the School Lunch Committee (PDF)

It’s nice to read an account of a School Lunch Committee that cares about affordable nutrition in schools where poor children are often malnourished.

For a child who is really very ill-nourished one meal a day is not the solution of all its troubles, but it goes a good way toward helping. Moreover, the luncheons are planned so carefully that for each 3 cents the child gets almost half the number of calories that scientists have declared necessary for a day’s nourishment. So the one meal does a good deal. There was some talk when the subject of this experiment was first broached to the effect that it was unnecessary, that no children went to school complaining of hunger. It was the old trouble of confusing hunger with malnutrition. But now, armed with facts and figures, the committee is ready to prove its case. And then they will doubtless ask, “What are you going to do about it?”

Everybody knows that children who have not a fair start in life are likely at some time in some way to become a charge to the State. Fortunately only a small proportion of them ever come to this, for if it were the rule there would be no money for anything but caring for invalids and paupers; still, whenever a child is neglected the State runs the chance of having some day to pay for it.

On all sides we hear about race suicide, and we have it drilled into our ears that the nation whose birth rate declines is well started on the road that leads to degeneration. To all of this everybody is constantly saying “Amen” with pious fervor. Meanwhile what children there are in the country may die from malnutrition without anybody becoming particularly excited over the fact.

The country wants children; the country must have children; and then when children do come the country does not seem to feel that it is its business to keep them alive…

It would really seem to an impartial observer from Mars or some other logically minded planet that we ought either to take care of the children when they are here or else drown them as soon as they are born.

Jamie Oliver would be proud.

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Written by David

July 2nd, 2010 at 9:15 am

The Migratory New Yorker And Where He Goes

From July 3, 1910


THE MIGRATORY NEW YORKER AND WHERE HE GOES: How the American Has Become a Wanderer Over the Face of the Earth and the Various Places to Which He Wanders (PDF)

Where did 1910 New Yorkers go in the summer? The New York Times Magazine researched 5,000 New Yorkers and came up with the above map and explanation of how people traveled by boat and rail.

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Written by David

July 2nd, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Adventure,Life