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Peddler in a cellar atop a makeshift bed consisting of two barrels and a plank of wood, Jacob A Riis, 1890  

This chair ain’t big enough for the two of us! (Kibby and Benson Furniture and Undertaking promotional picture ca. 1910)

Seeing Washington tour, Starting Point Home Life Building opposite U.S. Treasury, souvenir portrait ca. 1900 

the 1840s, the city of New York mistakenly allowed the building of
train tracks along Manhattan’s West Side. Soon after, trains and
street-level vehicles collided in frequent accidents, leading the
Eleventh Avenue freight line to be nicknamed “Death Avenue.” To provide
more safety, the West Side Cowboys were formed, a contingent of several
men on horseback who rode ahead of the trains to signal their arrival.
In the 1930s a large project to reconfigure the West Side included the
relocation of the dangerous tracks to an elevated High Line.
Furthermore, the trains could move through factories and warehouses,
delivering and picking up supplies. The trains hummed along until they
faced competition with interstate trucks, and the southernmost section
was torn up in the 1960s. The last train moved through in 1980.

B.F. (Benjamin Franklin) Keith was a highly influential vaudeville and early motion picture theater owner. Born in 1846, at 17 Keith moved from New Hampshire to New York and began working at Bunnell’s museum and then in various circuses, including P.T. Barnum’s. In 1883, with

Colonel William Austin, he opened his own museum which they named the Gaiety. A 123 seat lecture hall was soon added above the curio museum where vaudeville shows began to appear.

 In 1886 he co-purchased the Bijou Theatre in Boston with Edward Franklin Albee II. Eight years later Keith opened a $600,000 self-named theatre next door to the Bijou, “B.F. Keith’s Theatre” which became their flagship location. Keith had strong belief in physical and moral cleanliness, partly in thanks to his pious Roman Catholic wife, and helped changed the way vaudeville was seen. The theatres he and his partner opened were morally clean, physically opulent and his stars were treated very well.

He and Albee went on to purchase the exclusive American rights to the Lumière patented cinematograph equipment (effectively the first motion pictures, which, unlike Edison’s single view viewer, allowed multiple people to watch the same film at once) in 1896, opening theatres in Boston, New York, Pennsylvania, and then across America, buying up smaller locations.

 By 1909 when he withdrew from business he had over 400 theatres with his name on them. He died in Florida in 1914.

Myriad of street vendors exhibit their wares on horse carts, Lower Manhattan, New York ca. 1907

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