1. Herald Square, 1903. This and most of the following photos come from large 8" x 10" glass plate negatives. They were taken by photographers working for the Detroit Publishing Company, a business that made a lot of money selling the public both photographs and postcards. In all the photos I'm showing here there was enough light so that the exposure time need not have been very long. As a result even people and horses in motion are reasonably unblurred. This photo was taken in the morning. As you can see by the clocks, it was 9:55am when the shutter closed. The day is pretty warm and sunny and a light breeze comes from the west. There's only one motorcar, an electric hansom cab.
In this detail a policeman gives directions to two young women. He's pointing them uptown, but toward what I couldn't say.
For the men, bowler hats are the rule, though we can also see a top hatted guy who seems to be a doorman and a gent with a light-colored sport coat and fedora to match. The one lady in view lifts her long skirts so's to walk more easily. The only young person is a newsboy whose business doesn't seem to be brisk. I wonder what job the workman with bucket has.
2. Herald Square, 1904. It's 10:30am, a bit later in the day than it was in 1903. It seems to be a bit hazy and, though people don't have on their summer duds, the short shadows suggest that it's June or July. We've only one motorcar in sight.
In this detail, you see large rolls of paper for the presses. Horace Greeley presides over his bit of real estate. A few blocks north on 42nd Street the Times Building is nearing completion.
Except for the white hat at bottom, it just doesn't seem that these New Yorkers indulge in summer clothing. It's pleasant to see how pedestrians feel no compulsion to keep to the sidewalks and not just cross as they please but seem to wander about, uptown and down.
3. Herald Square, 1905. The clocks aren't telling us the time, but the shadows are the same as in the 1904 photo. Once again clothing seems to indicate a coolish day though the month must be June or July.
We see a lady in the open window with the sun illuminating the work in her lap.
The clock hands and faces have been temporarily removed.
Men carry advertising signboards on sticks.
Here again are big rolls of press paper. The sacks may contain rags for wiping ink off the big steam-driven rotary presses.
4. Herald Square, 1907. Macy's, the largest department store in the world, is prominent in this photo. The corner building is famous, the owners having sold to one of Macy's competitors (whose motives remain murky).
The broad intersection of 34th, Broadway, and 6th Ave. invited big advertising, including a sign for the Herald Square Theatre.
And also a sign for a competing theater, the Hippodrome. You have to look a bit closely to see the two men changing the old ketchup sign to one for a self-stropping safety razor.
Two men on the 6th Ave. El converse and watch the passing scene.
5. Herald Square, 1908. You can tell by the Herald Building clocks that it's just 1:00pm though it seems by the shadows to be noon on a day late in June. The weather seems to be a bit hazy, warm, and still. Although in previous photos the clothing seems inappropriate to the season, it appears just right in this one. Maybe fashions have changed. There are women with parasols and light colored hats. The men wear light colored hats themselves, some of them boaters. This photo is the left side of a pair which, when stitched together, were used to make the postcard shown in my recent blog post.
In this detail we see two helmeted police officers chatting. As before, pedestrians walk every which way over the broad intersection. A boy in a cap — maybe a paperboy from the Herald — seems to be hitching a free ride on a street car.
This detail shows some interesting motorcars, including an electric hansom cab, a chauffeur driven open car, and an owner driven closed one. There's a street sweeper and horse-drawn goods wagons. It's apparent that none of the vehicles is moving quickly. Again we see sacks along side the Herald Building.
Here's another big theater sign, this one for the Savoy Theatre. The area was a theater district before the Herald made it also a newspaper district, and Macy's made it a shopping destination.
The photos of Manhattan at this time rarely show privately owned and driven carriages. This one looks like a racer and it may be returning from an outing on the Harlem River Speedway. The carter under the umbrella is guiding a team of three horses though his load seems light.
Here, a lady in white seems to be watching her reflection in store window and a doorman in top hat seems amused. It's tempting to think the doorman is the same one we saw in 1903. There's no way to tell.
And here another young woman is pretty clearly examining her reflection while a nearby gent in a boater does some window shopping. A lady with a purposeful stride seems to be observing the cameraman at work.
This wider detail shows the lady in white and grinning cabman again and also a bored passenger in a hansom, two carters with a load of barrels (one of whom seems to be missing a leg). There's lots of variety in the attire of the easygoing midday crowd.
A motorist may be checking traffic behind but I think it's more likely he's appreciating a view of a lady who's standing on Broadway observing traffic. You can see the somewhat unusual team of three just in front of said lady.
6. Herald Square, 1909. This shows more of the square than we've seen in the other photos.
7. This 1912 illustration is entirely different from the photos and in fact a photo of this scene would not have been successful using the technology available at the time.
Herald Square postcards - Google image search
NYC Postcards - Herald Square on flickr
Herald Square, NY City
vintage New York postcards on ephemeralnewyork
I'd rather be on old Broadway with you from the NYPL Digital Gallery — "I’d rather be on old Broadway with you, dear where life is gay and no one seems to care; This shady lane and summer sky so blue, dear Does not appear to me like Herald Square."
From my grandfather:
The difference between old-fashioned city dry-goods and modern department stores is striking enough to make the transformation appear difficult. Yet the change was accomplished in a simple way. R. H. Macy opened a haberdashery on Sixth Avenue, near Fourteenth Street, in 1858. A shrewd Yankee, he extended this business to other dry-goods, and he absorbed, one after another, adjoining stores. Amongst the additions to space, one made in 1888 gave the firm more room than they could utilize for dry goods. It occurred to Mr. Isidor Straus, a junior partner, that arrangements for the sale of the crockery of L. Straus and Sons, in which Mr. Straus was likewise interested, might result in advantage to both firms. When the partners of Mr. Straus consented, they were agreeably surprised to find how well their underwear harmonized with toilet sets from Warren Street. The sales of dry goods and china increased simultaneously. The success led to additions of other departments—books and stationery, shoes, hats, wines, and groceries. Macy's example was followed. More than thirty human beehives, called department stores, exist here now, the most successful being within a mile of Greeley Square, the shopping center of Manhattan. Mr. Straus, elected to Congress in 1893, assisted William L. Wilson in framing the tariff which bears his name. He was an able financier and great philanthropist, but he disclaimed credit for the creation of department stores, an achievement which should make his name famous in the annals of commercial history. -- The Commercial Progress of Gotham by Louis Windmuller in The Progress of the Empire State: New York State and City edited by Charles Arthur Conant (The Progress of the Empire State Company, 1913)