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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

Cleaning the soot off of Union Station (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1948)

The Tower Building, completed in 1889, was New York’s first steel skeleton building and first sky scraper. It stood at 129 feet, with 11 stories. Not very impressive today, but very imposing at it’s time. 

By the time of it’s demolition 26 years later by the Morris Building company many other sky scrapers had surpassed the Tower Building, including the Woolworth Building, dwarfing the elder structure at 790 feet and 57 stories.

Brooklyn Bridge as seen from the Fulton Ferry Grand Terminal, ca. 1889.

During the winter of 1866 the east river waters froze making it impossible to cross via ferry. This, coupled with dangerous overcrowding, made the construction of the bridge a necessity.

Following the completion of the bridge, in 1883, ridership of the ferry declined until operation stopped altogether in 1924 and in 1926 the building was demolished.

Nathaniel Griswold Lorillard, nicknamed “Grizzy”, and party at Jerome Park race track, ca. 1886.

Nathaniel was son of tobacco baron and racehorse enthusiast, Pierre Lorillard IV.  In 1760 Nathaniel’s  great-great-grandfather founded P. Lorillard and Company in New York which today remains the oldest tobacco manufacturer in the United Sates.

Nathaniel for a time was erroneously credited with introducing the then unheard of tuxedo to the United States. He died of consumption in 1888 at the age of 24.

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