Sunday, March 28, 2010

Milton Okun: Part 4

not the best quality video, but a top quality composition that Milton Okun shares credit for. Probably my second favorite Peter, Paul and Mary song.
from wikipedia
"Go Tell It on the Mountain" is an African-American spiritual compiled by John W. Work dating back to at least 1865 that has been sung and recorded by many gospel and secular performers. It is considered a Christmas carol because its original lyric celebrates the Nativity of Jesus: "Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born."
In 1963, Peter Yarrow, Noel "Paul" Stookey, and Mary Travers, along with their musical director, Milt Okun, adapted and rewrote "Go Tell It on the Mountain" as "Tell It on the Mountain", their lyrics referring specifically to Exodus and employing the line "Let my people go," but implicitly referring to the Civil Rights struggle of the early '60s. The song was recorded by Yarrow, Stookey and Travers on their Peter, Paul and Mary album In the Wind and was also a moderate hit single for them. (US #33 pop, 1964). Civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer used this rewritten version of the song as an anthem during the mid-1960s.

A Hatful Of Rain

Another gem of info from Gene Reiser was that A Hatful Of Rain was filmed in the Smith Projects.
A Hatful of Rain is a 1957 dramatic film. The movie was a rarity for its time in its frank depiction of the impact of drug addiction.
It stars Eva Marie Saint, Don Murray, Anthony Franciosa, Lloyd Nolan and Henry Silva. The movie was adapted by Michael V. Gazzo, Alfred Hayes and Carl Foreman from the play by Gazzo. Foreman was blacklisted at the time of the film's release. The Writers Guild of America added his name to the film's credits in 1998, 14 years after his death. It was directed by Fred Zinnemann and features a strong musical score by Bernard Herrmann. Diego was asked by Fox to rescore his prelude for the film as the original was considered "too terrifying".
Franciosa was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
The setting is a housing project apartment. Johnny Pope is a soldier who returns from the Korean War, where a stay in a military hospital has left him secretly addicted to morphine. His emotional distance (and his tendency to stay out all night) alienate him from the apartment's other residents: Johnny's pregnant wife Celia, and his brother Polo. Celia is convinced that Johnny is having an affair, but of course the truth is far worse. Johnny and Polo's father, John Sr., arrives in town and stays with them in the small apartment, further complicating a tense situation and leading to a dynamic and dramatic climax.

Milton Okun: Part 3

Adapted and Arranged by Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, Mary Travers and Milton Okun
Hey Hey (Jane, Jane), my Lord and Lord (Jane, Jane)
I'm a gonna buy (Jane, Jane), three mockin' birds (Jane, Jane)
One for to whistle (Jane, Jane), one for to sing (Jane, Jane)
One for to do (Jane, Jane) most any little thing (Jane, Jane)
Children go where I send thee, how shall I send thee
Hey Hey, my Lord and Lord
Well I'm gonna send thee three by three
Three for the Hebrew Children
Two for the Paul and Silas
One for the little-bitty baby
That's born, born, born in Bethlehem
Hey Hey, my Lord and Lord
I'm a gonna buy three hunting dogs
One for to run, one for to shout,
One for to talk to when I go out
Well I'm gonna send thee six by six,
Six for the six that never got fixed
Five for the five that stayed alive
Four for the four that stood at the door
Three for the Hebrew Children
Two for the Paul and Silas
One for the little-bitty baby
That's born, born, born in Bethlehem
Hey Hey, my Lord and Lord
I'm gonna buy three muley cows
One for to milk,
One to plow my corn
One for to pray on Christmas morn
Well I'm gonna send thee nine by nine
Nine for the nine that dressed so fine
Eight for the eight that stood at the gate
Seven for the seven that came from heaven
Six for the six that never got fixed
Five for the five that stayed alive
Four for the four that stood at the door
Three for the Hebrew Children
Two for the Paul and Silas
One for the little-bitty baby
That's born, born, born in Bethlehem
Hey Hey, my Lord and Lord,
I'm a-gonna buy three little blue birds
One for to weep,
One for to mourn,
One for to pray when I am gone.

Milton Okun: Part 2

Wow, I wonder if Seth Babits knew Milt Okun was living in KV. Linda could have been a big star.

Who's Who In Knickerbocker Village History: Milton Okun

The second piece of great KV history information that Gene Reiser revealed to me was the Milt Okun once lived at Knickerbocker Village.
New York-born singer, producer, arranger, and pianist Milt Okun has been a force in popular music since the early '50s, no small achievement for a man whose first paying role in the field was as a junior high school music teacher in the New York City public schools. Born in New York in 1923, Okun grew up with a love of music that extended from traditional folk songs to opera. After World War II, he rejoined the civilian work force as music teacher in junior high school in New York. He chanced to be hired as a pianist for Harry Belafonte on a short tour during the early '50s, and was subsequently lured away from his teaching job to work full-time for Belafonte. He left the latter's employ after five years, during which time he served as an arranger and producer, in addition to leading his band.
With that experience under his belt, and the folk music revival starting to take off, Okun became active as a performer in his own right. He played clubs around New York, in which his tenor voice went over extremely well on traditional folk songs, and he cut several albums in the 1950s and early '60s, including Merry Ditties (1955) and, with Ellen Stekert, Traditional American Love Songs (1957) for the Riverside label; America's Best Loved Folk Songs (released on Warwick in 1961); and Adirondack Folk Songs and Ballads (issued on Stinson in 1963). He also worked alongside Leon Bibb and Hally Wood during the mid- to late '50s as a member of the Skifflers quartet, who recorded the album Goin' Down to Town for Epic in 1957. He turned to arranging and producing in the late '50s, and it was in the latter capacity that Okun had his greatest impact on music, working with such acts as the Brothers Four and the Chad Mitchell Trio in the early '60s.
His most widely known credit in this area, however, was as the arranger for Peter, Paul and Mary -- he played a key role in helping them develop the three-part harmony sound that made them the most successful group act of the 1960s folk boom. By that time, he had also started Cherry Lane Music, his own publishing company, which was still going strong 50 years later. With the end of the folk boom in the mid- to late '60s, he moved on to working with individual members of the groups, most notably John Denver. Later in his career, Okun worked with Plácido Domingo, which allowed him to return to his first musical love, classical music.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Paddy Chayefsky: Marty

Vote the 24th best picture of all time and written by a guy who once lived in KV.
That's something.

Paddy Chayefsky: Part 2 Of Interview

Some of the interesting comments posted on youtube with this clip
man what i would give to sit down and talk with this man...such a brilliant mind, constantly spouting strong, intelligent thoughts and ideas...

I wonder what Paddy would think of the Internet. I'm sure that he would praise it as a means for anyone to not only express themselves but also be able to search and find information and not necessarily rely on the old established outlets that only give you a limited perspective on a story. But I'm sure he'd have other opinions about it as well. I wish he were still alive today and still writing powerful satire.

And he's not the only one who has been saying it for a long time. There's McLuhan and Postman and Chomsky, they all speak of the isolationist, apathy inducing effects of the medium configuration. I wonder why we haven't been paying attention to these dozens of very important intellectuals telling us about the dangers of our post literate televised culture? Guess.

The uncritical interaction with mediums and ignorance of process over content is the root of most of our current problems.

Granted, but to be fair I think that in many cases, guys like Chomsky and McLuhan were so far ahead of the curve that at one time their ideas sounded quite bizarre. Many if not most people found McLuhan's books totally incomprehensible, and large chunks of them are still beyond a lot of people even today. What will this world be like when we've caught up with McLuhan (assuming that ever happens)?

Who's Who In Knickerbocker Village History: Paddy Chayefsky

Meeting and interviewing Phil was great but it had to take back seat over meeting a fellow KVer at the Brooklyn College adult course on LES history. I was talking to the class about Knickerbocker Village and a gentlemen raises his hand and says,"You should read the Knickerbocker Village blog." The gentlemen was none other but Cliff Gromer's old pal Gene Reiser. Only a short while ago Gene sent me a pic of the KV water tower sign to post. Gene was a wealth of new KV history info. To me, the prize was the fact that Paddy Chayefsky once lived there. I have to get more specifics from Gene, but I would guess Chayefsky lived there sometime after he returned stateside after WW2
from a biography

Sidney “Paddy” Chayefsky (January 29, 1923 – August 1, 1981), real name Sidney Aaron Chayefski of Ukrainian Jewish parentage, was an acclaimed dramatist who transitioned from the golden age of American live television in the 1950s to have a successful career as a playwright and screenwriter for Hollywood.
He was born in the Bronx, New York. He studied at the City College of New York and Fordham University and served in the army during World War II, during which he was awarded a Purple Heart.
He began writing for a living in the 1940s. His work on Marty, first as a live production for television in 1953 and then for film two years later, gave him his first major success. The film, starring Ernest Borgnine, won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Chayefsky’s work on that and other teleplays inspired comparisons with Arthur Miller, and he received an Academy Award for his work on the screenplay. He focused on screenplays after the success with Marty, with films such as The Goddess (for which he received an Oscar nomination) and The Bachelor Party. In the 1960s his writing credits included The Americanization of Emily and Paint Your Wagon. He went on to win two more Oscars for his work on The Hospital (1971) and the film for which he best known, Network, for both of which he also received Golden Globe awards. His last screenplay was based on his novel Altered States, though on the film he was credited under his real first and middle name, Sidney Aaron, because of disputes with the director. He is known for his comments during the 1977 Oscar telecast after Vanessa Redgrave, when she went to accept her award for Best Supporting Actress in Julia, made a controversial speech denouncing Zionism by the Israeli government. He made a comment during the program immediately after hers in which he stated that he was upset by her using the event to make an irrelevant political viewpoint during a film award program. He said, “I would like to suggest to Miss Redgrave that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation and a simple ‘Thank you’ would have sufficed.” Paddy Chayefsky died in New York City of cancer in 1981 and was interred in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York

Phil's Lower East Side

I had the good fortune to meet Phil at the Institute for Retirees at Brooklyn College (IRPE). For more about the IRPE and to learn about the courses they offer
Phil's dad must have been one of the first Seward Park graduates. Phil knew the joys of Guss' pickles, but he didn't stick around the LES long enough to know about Cheap Heshies

Back To Luis Guzman's Lower East Side

here Rene Calderon, played by Luis Guzman, hustles for Rasta Monsta. "Rasta Monsta, tastes like fruit punch, pero spicy."

The Lower East Side Of Jerry Stiller

an excerpt from a 2007 article in the forward entitled STILLER A STELLAR HIT AT CENTER FOR JEWISH HISTORY GALA
“My father was a Litvak, my mother a Galitz — one Sunni, the other Shi’ite,” Jerry Stiller told the guests at the Center for Jewish History’s December 6 Board of Overseers and Board of Governors dinner, held in the center’s impressive atrium. Special guest Stiller added: “I was born during the Lindbergh baby abduction. It was the Depression… we shared a Lower East Side tenement bathroom with a red-haired communist. My father, who worked for the [Works Projects Administration] on the Palisades Parkway, used to say, ‘Derharget zol er vern!’ [“He should drop dead!”]. I went to Seward Park High… my early theater work was with the Henry Street Playhouse… I was with the Actors Temple… my first award was for contributions to Jewish culture.” In 1991, at another event, Stiller told me, “You know, I went to the downtown Talmud Torah.”“I’ve had a lucky career,” he continued at the dinner. “There was ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ with my wife, [Anne Meara].” Apropos his character in “Seinfeld,” he joshed: “How does a family that eats kasha knishes have a name like Costanza? We were a Jewish family in the witness protection program.” While working on the hit TV series “The King of Queens,” Stiller struck his head getting out of a cab. Rushed to New York Presbyterian Hospital, he got an MRI and was reassured that “there’s no brain damage,” but he was warned not to make any decisions during the coming week. “I went to the [Jewish community center], took a shower and went to the pool. ‘Mr. Stiller, don’t you wear trunks?’ I was asked. So much for no brain damage.”
From her table seat, Meara suddenly called out: “Jerry! I can’t see you! Can you stand up straight?” Unphased by Meara’s offstage cue, Stiller cited “Seinfeld” actor Michael Richards, best known as the ensemble’s character Kramer. (So unhinged had Richards become at a recent club gig that his rant using the “n” word became the actor’s self-immolation heard ’round the world.) “One of the most gifted people,” Stiller lamented. “He has a dybbuk. His life’s gone down the drain. He was heckled, and he lost it.” Stiller then asked the audience: “Have any of you every been heckled? Anne and I were in a small club doing one of our [Jewish] Heshy and [Irish] Mary Elizabeth Doyle skits. A guy next to me taunted me, ‘Jew! Jew! Jew!’ I ignored him. Anne later scolded me, ‘Why didn’t you say where? Where?”
Here’s a sampling of this “Abie’s Irish Rose” couple’s first meeting. Heshy: “We go to the Catskills.” Mary Elizabeth: “So do we!” Heshy: “We go to Hymie’s kochalayn [bungalows]. Mary Elizabeth: “We go to Hennesy’s Haven near the Shamrock Chalet.”

The Lower East Side and How To Make It In America

about the video from speakeasy
If the basic plot of HBO’s new comedy series “How To Make It in America” seems a bit slight — two friends hustle to create a denim line and sell $700 jeans — it nevertheless feels accurate. The show is set in downtown Manhattan neighborhoods like the Lower East Side, where sneakers are displayed on fashion boutique shelves as if they were sculpture. The series, which premieres tomorrow night, is being described as an “Entourage East,” but that’s not quite right. Stripped of the power plays and financial high-stakes of the movie industry, “How To Make It” is more like a fun romp through the youth culture; “Entourage” if Vince and the gang only went to cool parties and girl-chased and didn’t have to worry about “Aquaman’s” opening-weekend gross.
The concerns here are of a smaller sort: whether or not Ben (Bryan Greenberg) and Cam (Victor Rasuk) can scrape up the cash to buy black market selvage denim; how Ben will deal now that his ex-girlfriend (Lake Bell) is dating a rich hotelier. But the characters and setting are so winning that you’re happy to let “How To Make It” glide along like an all-night loft party. To the extent that the show has gravitas, it comes from the presence of Luis Guzman as a loan-shark cousin to Cam and the tri-state distributor of a Jamaican-inspired energy drink, Rasta Monsta. Considering we can still recite Guzman’s lines in “Carlito’s Way,” it’s great to see him back in New York, at least on screen. Speakeasy talked with Guzman and series executive producer Ian Edelman.

Flacco From The Vladeck Projects

If you're not watching How To Make It In America You Should Be. One of the characters is
Flacco from the Vladeck Projects. He rips off Rene Calderon, played by former LESider Luis Guzman. Here Rene gets revenge

Johnny Maestro: John Mastrangelo

I think the above is John's grandfather WW2 draft registration card. He is living on Roosevelt Street in 1942. Johnny Maestro was born John Mastrangelo. From my neighborhood sources there was always some minor controversy about where Johnny Maestro hailed from.(There's no controversy on his talent). I heard about this at last year's Smith reunion
Joe Bruno tells me that Johnny's brother Pee Wee lived in Knickerbocker Village at 16 Monroe Street in the 70's.

RIP Johnny Maestro

Johnny passed away on Wednesday of this week
Johnny's fourth ward origins and the crests from
Formed in New York City, USA, in 1956, the Crests soon became one of the most successful of the ‘integrated’ doo-wop groups of the period, after being discovered by Al Browne. Headed by the lead tenor of Johnny Maestro (Johnny Mastrangelo, 7 May 1930, USA), the rest of the band comprised Harold Torres, Talmadge Gough, J.T. Carter and Patricia Van Dross. By 1957 they were recording for Joyce Records and achieved their first minor pop hit with ‘Sweetest One’. Moving to the new Coed label, the Crests (without Van Dross) recorded their signature tune and one of doo-wop’s enduring classics, ‘16 Candles’, a heartfelt and beautifully orchestrated ballad. It became a national pop hit at number 2 in the Billboard charts, paving the way for further R&B and pop successes such as ‘Six Nights A Week’, ‘The Angels Listened In’ and ‘Step By Step’. At this time the band was almost permanently on the road. Following ‘Trouble In Paradise’ in 1960, the band’s final two chart singles would be credited to The Crests featuring Johnny Maestro. However, this was evidently not enough to satisfy their label, Coed, whose priority now was to launch the singer as a solo artist. Mastro’s decision to go solo in 1960 (subsequently calling himself Johnny Maestro) weakened the band, although they did continue with James Ancrum in his stead. Their former vocalist made the charts with ‘Model Girl’, still for Coed, in the following year, before re-emerging as leader of Brooklyn Bridge, an 11-piece doo-wop group who are best remembered for their 1968 single ‘The Worst That Could Happen’. After ‘Little Miracles’ failed to break the Billboard Top 100 (the first such failure for the Crests in 10 singles), Gough moved to Detroit and a job with General Motors. He was replaced by Gary Lewis. However, the Crests were now entangled in legal disputes with Coed over the ownership of their name. They eventually moved to Selma, although the songs made available to the group were now of significantly inferior quality, including ‘You Blew Out The Candles’, a blatant attempt to revisit the success of ‘16 Candles’. The band continued to tour throughout the 60s, though Torres had left to become a jeweller, leaving a core of Carter, Lewis and Ancrum. Later line-ups were organized by Carter for lounge sessions (although there are no recordings from this period), and in June 1987 the original line-up (minus Van Dross) was re-formed for a show in Peekskill, New York.

from my PS 177 classmate Rich about the article above
I remember the Crests started out of the Smith Projects. One of the backup singers' brother, Franklin, was in our class. Or so it was claimed by Franklin. I don't remember his last name and don't recognize it from the members of the group

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mollie Steimer And Me

well actually Mollie Steimer and my wife
from pseudo-intellectualism back in 2006
"Mollie Steimer was born in Dunaevtsky, Russia, on 21st November, 1897. When she was fifteen her family emigrated to the United States and settled in New York. Steimer found work in a garment factory and soon became involved in trade union activities. This led to her reading books on politics including those by August Bebel (Women and Socialism), Mikhail Bakunin (Statehood and Anarchy), Peter Kropotkin (Memoirs of a Revolutionist) and Emma Goldman (Anarchism and Other Essays). In 1917 Steimer joined the Frayhayt, a group of Jewish anarchists based in New York. Steimer shared a six-room apartment at 5 East 104th Street in Harlem with members of the group. This also became the place where the Frayhayt held its meetings and published its newspaper, Der Shturm (The Storm). The Frayhayt group were opposed to the United States becoming involved in the First World War. On 23rd August, 1918, six members of the group were arrested for publishing articles that undermined the American war effort. This included criticizing the United States government for invading Russia after the Bolshevik government signed the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. One of the group, Jacob Schwartz, was so badly beaten by the police when he was arrested that he died soon afterwards. The others, charged under the terms of the Espionage Act, appeared in court and on 25th October, Steimer was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. Three of the men, Samuel Lipman, Hyman Lachowsky and Jacob Abrahams received twenty years. Many people in the United States were appalled by these sentences. This included people such as Roger Baldwin, Norman Thomas, Felix Frankfurter, Margaret Sanger and Lincoln Steffens. A group, the League of Amnesty of Political Prisoners was formed and it published a leaflet on the case, Is Opinion a Crime? Steimer and the the other three anarchists were released on bail to await the results of their appeal. Over the next few months Steimer was arrested seven times but after being held in various prisons was always released without charge. On the 30th October, 1919, she was arrested she was taken to Blackwell Island. While in prison the Supreme Court upheld her conviction under the Espionage Act. Steimer was now transferred to the Jefferson City Prison in Missouri. During this period A. Mitchell Palmer, the attorney general and his special assistant, John Edgar Hoover, used the Sedition Act to launch a campaign against radicals and their organizations. Using this legislation it was decided to deport immigrants from Europe who had been involved in left-wing politics. This included Steimer, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman and 245 other people who were deported to Russia. Deported to Russia on the Estonia, Steimer arrived in Moscow on 15th December, 1921. The Bolshevik government hated anarchists and soon became a target for the Russian Secret Police. On 1st November, 1922 she was arrested with her partner, Senya Fleshin and charged with aiding criminal elements in Russia. Sentenced to two years in Siberia, Steimer managed to escape and return to Moscow where she worked for the Society to Help Anarchist Prisoners. She was soon arrested and on 27th September she was deported to Germany where she joined Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman in Berlin. With Senya Fleshin Steimer opened a photographic studio in Berlin. Steimer was also active in the Joint Committee for the Defense of Revolutionaries (1923-1926) and the Relief Fund of the International Working Men's Association for Anarchists (1926-32). When Hitler came to power Steimer and Senya Fleshin were forced to flee to Paris. When France was invaded by the German Army the couple moved to Mexico where they ran a photographic studio. Mollie Steimer died in Cuernava, Mexico, on 23rd July, 1980."
It is more than likely that my wife's great aunts, Fannie and Lisa Luchkovsky were members of the Frayhayt group. They were long time anarchist activists. Perhaps they had spent considerable time at the East Harlem location. Last year at a memorial service in Los Angeles I spoke to Fannie's son, Jerry, about some lost family history. (Jerry is a veritable walking treasure trove of history, baseball especially). Jerry told me about the story of Mollie Steimer. Evidently, Fannie and Lisa had to go on the lam during that time because they had also been distributing pamphlets against WWI participation. He said later in their lives they had visited Mollie Steimer in Mexico. I was going through some old pictures we had of Fannie and Lisa and I found one of Fannie with a woman who definitely looked like an older Mollie Steimer. On the back of the photo was a logo from the SEMO Studio in Mexico. SEMO must have been an abbreviation for Senya Fleshin (SE) and Mollie (MO). If you double click on the picture it will enlarge to a size where you can see it clearly. Fannie is pictured separately to the right.

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Anniversary: Mollie Steimer

On Thursday evening the Remember The Triangle Fire Coalition hosted a public event with live performances. One of them was a puppet opera with a character based on the young labor activist Mollie Steimer. I searched for Mollie in the census. I found her living at 43 Essex Street, the current address of lower east side favorite G and S Sports.

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Anniversary: 2010 Bell Ringing Ceremony

New York State Labor Dept. Commemorates 99th Anniversary Of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

State Labor Commissioner Colleen Gardner today joined state legislative and union leaders to commemorate the 99th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, which led to the tragic death of 146 garment workers. At a ceremony at the Empire State Plaza, Commissioner Gardner acknowledged the importance of the fire, which significantly changed worker protection laws.
On March 25, 1911, fire swept through the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, trapping workers on the top three floors of a 10-story building, where exits were locked and fire escapes were defective. The tremendous public outcry that followed the tragedy led New York State to enact many of the first significant worker protection laws in the nation.

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Anniversary: 2003 Interview With David von Drehle

from pbs news hour
the transcript
Gwen Ifill speaks with historian David Von Drehle about his recent book, "Triangle: The Fire That Changed America," which chronicles the devastating blaze at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City in 1911 that killed 146 workers and led to industry reforms.
GWEN IFILL: The book is "Triangle: The Fire That Changed America." The author is David Von Drehle, a reporter for The Washington Post. He tells the story of the 1911 inferno that engulfed the triangle shirt waste factory in New York. Within only 15 minutes, at least 140 workers, most of them immigrant Jewish and Italian women, perished. Decades later, the book recounts how the fire changed the course of American labor, politics and feminism, and ultimately set the stage for Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. David, welcome.
DAVID VON DREHLE: Good to be here. Thank you.
GWEN IFILL: What made you curious about this topic? What made you decide to write about it?
DAVID VON DREHLE: I used to live in New York as a reporter. And I was out walking one day and passed a building with a historical marker on it that announced that this was the building in which the triangle shirtwaist fire had happened. The building is still there, part of New York University. And I found myself walking past it as I went around the neighborhood, and each time I would look up at the windows and wonder what actually happened there, and over time the wondering turned into research, which then eventually turned into this book.
GWEN IFILL: Tell me about the fire, because it's something which niggles in the corners of our minds. We think we know what happened that day, but it was pretty horrific the way you write about it.
DAVID VON DREHLE: It was a stunning catastrophe really. It started in a bin of fabric scraps under a cutting table where they cut the pieces for these blouses. The Triangle Waist Company was the biggest maker of women's blouses in New York, occupied the top three stories of a ten- story building. On the eighth floor they cut the pieces for thousands of blouses, and the scraps went into bins. And at closing time on Saturday, March 25, 1911, somebody was sneaking a cigarette probably, dropped a match or a cigarette ash into one of these bins, and it went up like a firebomb. Within just five minutes, the entire 9,000 square feet of the eighth floor was a solid mass of flame. The workers on that floor barely escaped with their lives.
The workers on the top floor, the tenth floor, were alerted to the fire, and they escaped, most of them, by running to the roof and going to the adjoining buildings. But on the ninth floor, this was where 250 or so workers put the pieces together into finished blouses, long rows of sewing machines, and they didn't get any notice of the fire until they saw the flames billowing up outside the windows. There was panic. The exits were inadequate. A fire escape collapsed. And one of the doors out of the factory was locked. They locked the doors at closing time every day to prevent workers stealing garments. They had to pass by a night watchman and open their purses. And because that door was locked and the fire escape collapsed and flames cut off the other door, 146 workers died.
GWEN IFILL: Some people tried to jump into an elevator shaft, and the doors closed and died that way. Some people tried to jump out the windows. Now, of course, since 9/11 we're all familiar with people who in their desperation to escape can actually leap out of a tall building. You write about it in an evocative manner. I wish you'd read a little bit for us.
DAVID VON DREHLE: I'd be happy to. "A young woman stood in a window as flames flickered around her. She flung her hat grandly into the air. Then she opened her purse and threw all the money down. Then she jumped. Two young women wrestled at another window. One was trying to keep the other one from jumping. She failed and her friend went down. The one remaining, Sally Winetrowd, steadied herself against the building, raised her hands and began gesturing.
"To those watching from far below she appeared to be delivering a speech to the nearby beautiful air. She finished speaking and followed her friend. Shepherd" -- this was William Gun Shepherd, a newspaper reporter who saw this -- "Shepherd saw a young man wearing a hat appear in a Washington place window. The man helped a young woman step onto the window sill, then held her away from the building like a dancer perhaps or, as Shepherd put it, 'like a man helping a woman into a streetcar. He let go.
"'He held out a second girl in the same way and then let her drop,' Shepherd wrote. 'Then he held out a third girl. They didn't resist. The fourth one was apparently his sweetheart. Amazed, the bystanders saw them embrace and kiss. Then he held her out into space and dropped her, but quick as a flash he was on the windowsill himself. His coat flattened upward, the air filled his trouser legs. I could see that he wore tan shoes and hose. His hat remained on his head.'"
GWEN IFILL: David, you write about these women, many of them who worked in this ... in this plant and who lost their lives, many of them immigrants, many of them not really completely English-speaking. Who, who were they?
DAVID VON DREHLE: Most of them were Eastern-European Jewish immigrants, and the rest were southern Italians. Young women, two women as young as 14 years old, died in this fire. They came to the United States, in the case of the Eastern Europeans, fleeing political and religious oppression in the dying Russian empire. I tell the story of one Rosie Friedman, a girl who at the age of 14 left her family in Bialystock, crossed Europe by herself, came across the Atlantic in steerage alone, arrived at New York to live with an aunt and uncle she probably had never met. She went to work in the garment factories, paid room and board for her place to live, and somehow managed to send money home to support her family as well. You would think that this would be an extraordinary one-of-a-kind story, but there were hundreds of young people working at this factory much like this. They were astonishingly brave and resourceful people.
GWEN IFILL: And yet the fate of these people ultimately affected the course of American history in many ways. Presidents' and mayors' and governors' careers were all affected by what happened that day, March 25.
DAVID VON DREHLE: It's really quite amazing. This fire happened at precisely the moment that New York City politics were primed for an upheaval, a major shift. The city had been run by the corrupt Tammany Hall Machine for two generations, but Tammany, the Democratic Party, was being squeezed. Below them they had a rising force of radical socialism in the working classes of the city, these newly organized garment workers who had political parties and labor unions and were asserting themselves as never before. And on the top end of the scale, there were middle-class and upper-class progressives, sort of Teddy Roosevelt Republicans. And when they got together on issues they could squeeze Tammany Hall and beat Tammany Hall.
The boss of Tammany, Charlie Murphy, chose this fire as a chance to embrace reform for the first time. The two young men who took the task and passed sweeping workplace and labor reforms went on to great careers. Al Smith was one; he became the governor of New York and ran for president. Robert Wagner was the other; when a New York Democrat named Roosevelt got to the White House, Wagner essentially wrote the New Deal in the United States Senate. He passed the Social Security act, the unemployment insurance act, workers' compensation -- on and on, the things we live with to this day.
GWEN IFILL: And finally one of the things that always makes me curious about books like this is the reporter's work. You assemble at the end of this book, the first complete, or as complete as you could make it, list of all the victims of this fire. Just describe how you did it.
DAVID VON DREHLE: Well, it had never been done before. The newspapers at the time were good at some things, but they didn't have the interest in the specific lives that were lost. And after 9/11, I felt like this was something that needed to be done. So I combed miles and miles of blurry microfilm looking for names and eliminating names that were obvious misspellings or duplicates, and ultimately finally coming up with 140 names. Six of the victims were never identified. I felt given the legacies that this fire and these victims left to us that it was something that history owed to them at least to record their names in one place.
GWEN IFILL: David Von Drehle, you have done a very good recording of the names. Thank you very much for joining us.
DAVID VON DREHLE: Thank you, Gwen.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tim Sullivan: King Of The Bowery 2

Since Tim always made sure everyone had shoes in his Bowery ward I thought this song might fit. The singer, Maria Dunn is deserving of a wider audience
the lyrics
I walked as a soldier, they carried me home
Then I walked to the factory, they gave me the dole
So I read 'til my head spinned to know of this world
That I shared with a pretty young girl
I came across the water from County Tyrone
And I took my first steps at the century's turn
I walked as a schoolboy, no shoes to my name
Learning my pleasure and poverty's pride my shame
I walked as a soldier, they carried me home
My chest with a bullet and a wallet now torn
Every snapshot was pierced, faces young and serene
Just the friends of a soldier in 1917
It's the shoes of a man tell a life the way words never can
I walked with my Kate as the twenties roared on
Now here was a woman both canny and strong
A fine crop of children the blessings she bore
And we taught them the riches of even the poor
Yes I walked with the unions to ring in some change
That our labour be valued and ours a fair wage
And I walked with my ballot to vote out the means
And I stood with the people on Glasgow Green
Now I walk as an old man, they carry me home
My mind sometimes faulty, belaboured and slow
But I still tell my stories, songs and my dreams
To those with the patience for old memories

Tim Sullivan: King Of The Bowery

Tim's Funeral
I heard Richard Welch speak about his excellent book, King of the Bowery: Big Tim Sullivan, Tammany Hall, and New York City from the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era at the Tenement Museum. One of the strong points he makes is that in studying LES history not enough research and interest has been devoted to this crucial pre 1900 and early 1900 time.
Tim Sullivan's bio, an excerpt from wikipedia
Timothy Daniel Sullivan (July 23, 1862 – August 31, 1913) was a New York politician who controlled Manhattan's Bowery and Lower East Side districts as a prominent figure within Tammany Hall. He was euphemistically known as "Dry Dollar", as the "Big Feller", and, later, as "Big Tim" (because of his large stature). During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, he controlled much of the city's criminal activities between 14th Street and the Battery in New York City. He is credited as being one of the earliest ward representatives to use his position to enable the activities of criminal street gangs.
Born to Daniel O. Sullivan and Catherine Connelly (or Conley), immigrants from Kenmare, County Kerry, Ireland in the slum of Five Points. Daniel Sullivan, a Union veteran of the American Civil War, died of Typhus in October 1867 at the age of thirty-six leaving his wife to care for four children. Catherine remarried in 1870 to an immigrant, alcoholic laborer named Lawrence Mulligan, eventually having six more children.
At the age of eight, Sullivan began shining shoes and selling newspapers on Park Row in lower Manhattan. By his mid-twenties, Sullivan was the part or full owner of six saloons which was the career of choice for an aspiring politician. Sullivan soon caught the attention of local politicians, notably Thomas "Fatty" Walsh, a prominent Tammany Hall ward leader. In 1886, at the age of twenty-three, he was elected to the state Assembly in the old Third District.
That year, Sullivan had married Helen (née Fitzgerald). Gradually, he began building one of the most powerful political machines which controlled virtually all jobs and vice below 14th Street in Manhattan. His base of operation was his headquarters at 207 Bowery. By 1892, Tammany Hall leader Richard Croker appointed Sullivan leader of his assembly district of the Lower East Side.
Sullivan briefly served one term in the U.S. Congress from March 4, 1903 until his resignation on July 27, 1906. According to some accounts, Sullivan was dissatisfied with the graft and anonymity of political life in the Capitol prompting his resignation while remarking that "In NY, we use Congressmen for hitchin' posts." He was later elected to Congress in 1912, but due to ill health, never took his seat. (See, A.F. Harlow, Old Bowery Days). Instead, Big Tim chose to remain a state senator for most of his political career serving two terms in the New York State Senate from 1894-1903 and again from 1909-1912.
It could be said that Sullivan was one of the earliest political reformers and was aligned with women's rights activist Frances Perkins and sponsored legislation limiting the maximum number of hours women were forced to work; improving the conditions of stable and delivery horses and of course, gun control legislation euphemistically termed the Sullivan Law.
Despite his political and criminal activities, Sullivan was undeniably a successful businessman involved in real estate, theatrical ventures (at one point partnering with Marcus Loew), boxing and horseracing.
Along with various other Sullivans (Big Tim also branched out into popular amusement venues such as Dreamland in Coney Island, where he installed a distant relative, Dennis, as the political leader. Sullivan, whose control extended to illegal prizefights through the National Athletic Club, influenced the New York State Legislature to legalize boxing in 1896 before ring deaths and other scandals caused the law's repeal four years later.
Among other laws he helped pass was the Sullivan Act, a state law that required a permit to carry or own a concealed weapon, which eventually became law on May 29, 1911. However, with many residents unable to afford the $3 registration fee issued by the corrupt New York Police Department and guaranteed his bodyguards could be legally armed while using the law against their political opponents.
He was extremely popular among his constituents. In the hot summer months, tenement dwellers would be feted to steamboat excursions and picnics to College Point in Queens or New Jersey. In the winter months, the Sullivan machine doled out food, coal and clothing to his constituents. On the anniversary of his mother's birthday, February 6, Sullivan dispensed shoes to needy tenement dwellers. The annual Christmas Dinners were a particularly notable event covered in all of the city papers. Although he had a loyal following, his involvement in organized crime and political protection of street gangs and vice districts would remain a source of controversy throughout his career.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Barney Ross: Interview With Douglas Century

an excerpt from a 2006 Leonard Lopate interview with Douglas Century
A Rough and Tumble Life
Douglas Century reflects on the life of the great Jewish boxer Barney Ross. He grew up in a tough Chicago neighborhood, and lived through his father’s murder and his mother’s nervous breakdown before dabbling in small-scale crime and finally becoming a championship boxer. The new biography Barney Ross is part of the Jewish Encounters series.

Douglas Century's site

Barney Ross vs.Tony Canzoneri: Title Rematch, Sept, 1933

from time:
In Chicago, a regulation of the Illinois State Athletic Commission makes it obligatory to score prizefights by points, ten to a round. When Lightweight Champion Tony Canzoneri had finished defending his title last week against a sad faced young Hebrew named Barney Ross (Bernard Rossofsky) the referee gave both fighters 50 points. One of the judges gave Ross 52. Canzoneri 48. The other judge gave Ross 53, Canzoneri 47. That made Ross the new champion but the sweltering crowd in the Chicago Stadium, believing that to win a championship a man should do more than fight ten clever defensive rounds without falling down, loudly booed the decision. Said Canzoneri, who had indubitably won the first round, been outboxed in the next two, come on fast till the sixth and then traded punches carelessly till the fight ended: 'The decision was the surprise of my life. . . . Honestly, I thought I was so far ahead that I coasted in the eighth and ninth, did not extend myself in the tenth. . . ." Said Ross: 'I fought just as I planned. I coasted myself in those closing rounds.''
A fighter who had never been heard of four years ago, Bernard Rossofsky was born in Manhattan, reared in Chicago. He made the Chicago Tribune Golden Gloves learn in 1920,. Like many Golden Gloves boxers, he promptly turned professional. Unlike most, he won his fights. Last week's was his 23rd victory in a row. All Hebrew lightweights who know how to execute a simple feint are automatically compared with Benny Leonard. Slick little Ross may turn out to justify the analogy better than his predecessors—Sid Terris, Ruby Goldstein, Al Singer—if, as he promised to do last week, he gives Canzoneri, who had held the title for three years, a return match next autumn. Far more uncertain than the light weight situation is the condition of the heavyweight championship. This week's fight between Jack Sharkey (champion) and Primo Camera is actually no more than an elimination bout to provide a worthy opponent for Max Baer, who beat Schmeling. In Oakland, Calif., newshawks last week unearthed another Baer possibly even more alarming than Max—his brother "Buddy" Baer, 17, 6 ft. 4½ in., 246 lb., who plans to become a professional fisticuffer next autumn.

from cyber boxing
Since the first fight with Canzoneri, there had been a lot of speculation -- especially from the New York press -- that Canzoneri had been jobbed by a hometown decision. Ross, who never ducked anybody, gave Canzoneri a rematch on Tony's home turf in New York City. The return bout, on September 12th, before more than 40,000 roaring, stomping fans in the Polo Grounds, was a major Big Apple event. The celebrity's in the crowd included members of the Presidential Cabinet, governors, mayors, famous mobsters & movie, radio & recording stars.This time scheduled for 15 rounds, the fight was a brutal, bloody, bout. It wasn't until the last few rounds, when Ross had Canzoneri out on his feet, that Barney was able to develop a clear cut edge. After the fight, Ross indicated that he was glad he had not knocked out the gallant Canzoneri.

Guadalcanal and Barney Ross

I posted before on Barney Ross. An update, I believe I found the Ross family living at 355 Madison Street in 1910. Soon after they moved to Chicago. The clip above came from a pretty bad, as I remember it, 1957 movie called Monkey On My Back
from rotten tomatoes
Synopsis: Andre De Toth's MONKEY ON MY BACK stars Cameron Mitchell (HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE) as ex-boxer Barney Ross. Ross returns from military service in Guadalcanal, where he became addicted to morphine after succumbing to malaria. Unable to kick his craving, Ross becomes a fully-fledged heroin addict, much to the dismay of everyone around him. Although the film isn't graphic in its depiction of a fallen man caught up in the throes of a powerful addiction, it was still very much ahead of its time. Otto Preminger's THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM precedes De Toth's film by two years, and its tale of a poker player trying to give up heroin is the most obvious cinematic predecessor to MONKEY ON MY BACK. But such films were few and far between in the 1950s, making this a brave stab at tackling addiction in a time when drug taking was barely mentioned in the movies. Based on the true story of boxer Barney Ross, Martin Scorsese's docudrama RAGING BULL is another close cinematic bedfellow; if nothing else, De Toth's film certainly keeps some impressive company

an excerpt from the excellent unrepentant Marxist
Barney Ross and the "tough Jew"
In the mid-1950s, my family lived in an apartment above the Kentucky Club, a nightclub catering to NY Jews who stayed at bungalow colonies and small hotels during the summer. Most of the acts were veterans of the Jewish stage like Molly Picon or Moishe Oysher but the biggest draw was the Jewelbox Revue, a group of men who performed in drag. One day I came home to find one of the performers in our living-room, where my mom was sewing some sequins on his costume as a favor. She nonchalantly introduced this charming Black man as "Miss Peggy", as he preferred to be called.
The Kentucky Club had hired famed ex-boxing champion Barney Ross as a "greeter" one summer, which one I can't exactly remember. But I do have vivid memories of spending time with him on the street corner in the evenings as he took a break from his duties. Resplendent in a tuxedo and puffing on a cigarette beneath a streetlamp, he cut a dashing figure. He was always happy to chat with me, as were many of the people at the Kentucky Club who treated me like their mascot.
Since that time, I have learned few details about Ross's life, other than the obvious fact that he was a Jewish boxer and that he had kicked a morphine addiction developed as a way of suppressing the pain of wounds suffered at Guadalcanal. His struggle was dramatized in the 1957 biopic "Monkey on My Back."
When I learned that a new biography of Ross by Douglas Century had been published, I would have bought it even if it were nothing but a standard sports biography. I was really curious about who Barney Ross was and how he compared to the image of him that lingered with me all these years.
"Barney Ross" is the third volume in a joint project of Schocken and Nextbook publishers called "Jewish Encounters" that seeks to promote Jewish literature, culture, and ideas. Although a biography of Barney Ross might be the last thing to expect in the same series of already released studies of King David and Maimonides (Moses, Spinoza and others to follow), Century does achieve a kind of monumentality. Century connects Ross not only to legendary figures that preceded him, like Daniel Mendoza the British Jew who was the champion of the London Prize Ring in 1792, but to a host of important cultural and political figures such as Saul Bellow, who came out of the same hardscrabble Chicago streets. Additionally, Century draws out all the interesting political and social implications of Barney Ross's amazing tendency to cross paths with controversial Jewish personalities from Irgunist Peter Bergson to Jack Ruby.
Beyond the interest that is sustained in Barney Ross as an individual, Century also addresses a phenomenon that is the subject of two earlier works by other writers, namely the "tough Jew." In considering Barney Ross and the Jewish boxer in general as an example of this phenomenon, Century contributes to a debate on the "Jewish Question" that will remain unresolved until contradictions between Jews and their ostensible antagonists are resolved on a higher level.
Dov Ber Raskofsky, who would assume the name Barney Ross after launching a career as a boxer, was born to Itchik and Sarah Rasofsky on the Lower East Side on December 23, 1909. Although his father had taught Hebrew back in Brest-Litovsk, he made a living as a small grocer. This was a trade he would continue once he arrived in the USA, following his departure in the aftermath of state-sanctioned pogroms in 1903.
Within two years of his birth, Ross and his family would depart for Chicago to take over a grocery store in the Maxwell Street ghetto, also the home of bandleader Benny Goodman, future Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, actor Paul Muni and William Paley, who would one day run CBS.
Maxwell Street was a poverty-stricken rat's nest that was a breeding ground for pneumonia, TB and diphtheria. It also bred many Jewish criminals, who, like the Jewish boxers of the time, were considered "tough Jews." This included Jacob Guzik, who was Al Capone's financial adviser and Samuel "Nails" Morton, who provided protection to Jewish businessmen against marauding gangs from other ethnic groups. In 1917 Morton was arrested for nearly beating to death several members of a Polish gang.
Barney Ross began running with young Jewish hoodlums at an early age and soon gained a reputation for being an effective street fighter despite his small size--his nickname was "Runt."
In 1923, Itchik Rasofsky was shot and killed by robbers in his store. Shortly afterwards, Barney Ross dropped out of high school and started hustling on the street. His younger two brothers and sister were put into an orphanage. Two years later, at the age of fifteen, he began hanging out at Kid Cross's gym where Jackie Fields (born Jacob Finkelstein) trained. Fields would win the gold medal at the Paris Olympic in 1924 before turning pro. In this period, it is estimated that 30 percent of all professional fighters were Jewish. Despite the deep prejudice against sports in general and especially fighting in the Jewish community, many men became boxers for the same reasons that Irish, Italian and Blacks would: to escape poverty. But other nationalities would not have to overcome the psychological hurdle created by a millennium of Jewish traditions.

Ross at Guadalcanal
When the Japanese, attacked Pearl Harbor, Ross — beyond draft age at 32 — received a waiver to join the Marines. Assigned to serve as a boxing instructor, Ross instead asked for combat duty and was shipped to Guadalcanal, sow* of some of ft bloodiest fighting in the Pacific. On patrol one night Ross and three comrades were attacked by a superior force of Japanese troops. All three of Ross’ comrades were wounded. He gathered them in a shell crater and defended them through the night by firing more than 400 rifle rounds. When he ran out of bullets, Ross threw 22 grenades at enemy machine gun positions. Ross claimed that he said two hours of prayers, "many in Hebrew," hoping to make it through the night. Finally, at dawn, with two of his three comrades dead, wounded in the leg and foot himself and out of ammunition, Ross — who weighed less than 140 pounds — picked up his surviving wounded comrade (who weighed 230 pounds) and carried him to safety. Ross, whose helmet had more than 30 shrapnel dents, was awarded the Silver Star for heroism.
Ross all the morphine he asked for. When he got out of the hospital, Ross toured military plants to raise morale among workers, but couldn’t shake his need for morphine. When his habit began to cost him $500 per week and his wife left him, Ross sought admission to a federal drug treatment facility. While few gave him much chance of breaking the habit, Ross went "cold turkey" and, after much agony from withdrawal, emerged 120 days later having kicked the habit. While he lived in constant pain from his wounds, Ross spent the remainder of his life speaking out against drug abuse. Hollywood later turned Ross’ autobiographical account of his addiction into the movie "Monkey on My Back."

The Shot Tower In The News

Early History in America
In 1807, Thomas Jefferson had congress pass the Embargo Act of 1807 which forbade all international trade to and from American ports, and Jefferson hoped that Britain and France would be persuaded of the value and the rights of a neutral commerce. This was the end of importing lead shot from England, France and the rest of Europe where shot towers produced tons of shot for American export. European shot towers had sprung up all over Europe after the construction of the first shot tower by William Watts in 1783 in Bristol, England and the American colonies were major buyers.
With this turn of events (Jefferson's embargo), shot towers began to be constructed in the colonies for American consumption. The first two were in Philadelphia (Sparks Shot Tower) in 1808 and the Jackson Ferry Tower in Wytheville, Virginia in 1807. Both these towers produced shot and bullets for the War of 1812. The Sparks Shot Tower in Philadelphia is the first "smoke stack" type tower in America. The tower produced tons of ammunition during the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Four generations of the Sparks family kept the tower in operation until 1903. The tower is now part of a city playground with a recreation center at the base. It's a prime example of Philadelphia's reputation for superb brickwork. The operation was completely above ground while the Jackson Ferry Tower in Wytheville, built one year earlier, has much of it's drop underground. The combined drop (above and below ground) of the Jackson Ferry Tower is 150' with the above ground rectangular tower standing 75 feet and the underground shaft another 75 feet.
In 1774 Thomas Jefferson purchased 157 acres of land including the Natural Bridge in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia  from King George III of England for 20 shillings. Later, Jefferson himself used the "Watts Method" of making shot by dropping molten lead from the top of the Natural Bridge into the stream below. That small stream is Cedar Creek.
Early shot towers where found in the New England states in the early 18th century and flourished in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, where they were used in the manufacture of lead shot for shotguns.
An example of a shot tower was the Youle Shot Tower, built around 1830 on the banks of the East River, beyond Kip's Bay on Manhattan Island in the state of New York. The owner, George Youle, was a dry goods merchant. This particular shot tower operated for years and was quite productive, selling much of its inventory to hardware and sporting goods dealers in New York and Pennsylvania. In turn, the dealers supplied the Indian Bureau, the American Fur Trade and a number of suppliers in the south and west.

The Center Street Shot Tower

About shot towers
Early History in England and Europe and the story of William Watts
British forces had been issued lead shot for their muskets but because of imperfections in manufacture, much of it suffered from pockmarks on the surface, making it inefficient and even dangerous. Then in 1783, William Watts of Bristol, UK took out a patent for his new technique, a process "for making small shot perfectly globular in form and without dimples, notches and imperfections which other shot hereto manufactured usually have on their surface". Up until this time shot had been produced in 8-10 cavity molds. This very time consuming.
What's the shape of a falling raindrop? We like to sketch raindrops with a tear-drop shape. Actually, they're spherical. Once they've fallen far enough, surface tension has pulled them into the shape with the least surface. That's a sphere. In 1782 an English plumber named William Watts saw possibility in that. He realized that if he dropped molten lead far enough through the air, it, too, would form into spheres.
The surface tension of lead is a lot higher than that of water, so it forms very perfect spheres indeed. He saw that he had a new way to make buckshot. Watts went back to his brick row house in Bristol and began adding floors to it. It was already three stories high. He doubled that, He put some castle-like trim on the top and called the design Gothic. He wanted his neighbors to like the addition, but the real action was inside his strange new home.
He knocked holes through each of the floors inside and put a water tank at the bottom. At the top, he poured lead into a sieve. The lead formed into spheres as it fell six floors. By the time the drops hit the water below, they'd started to solidify. The water caught and cooled them the rest of the way. Up to then, most shot was cast. That was very labor-intensive. Shot was also made by pouring lead into a sieve over a barrel. That really did give tear-shaped drops. Before Watts, no one had yet realized that a much longer fall would give spheres. Watts saw how he might greatly cut the cost of making high-quality shot. Then he gambled his home that it would work. And it did. Shot towers like his sprouted all over England and Europe.
Yet the process changed little. Shot makers added an up flow of air, and they invented ways to sort out deformed shot. Yet Watts old patent still gave a pretty good description of 20th-century shot-making. In fact Watt's old house -- his original shot tower -- kept producing shot until 1968. Watt's invention teaches us the two essential elements of good invention. The first is perception. Watts gazed more closely at nature and saw what other people had missed. The other element is simplicity. Others had labored to control the process with their own hands. Watts had the grace to stand aside and let nature do the work for him. The real beauty of this process is that, in the end, there is no human process at all.
from NYPL Digital Gallery, The New York Public Library

Chatham Square: 1905

From the great shorpy blog
Some of the informed comments that accompany the picture
1905 was the first year for racing at Belmont Park.
Chatham Square in the Bowery was the heart NYC's popular theater and public amusements in the late 1800s. It got rougher and raunchier, and for most of 20th century was home to derelicts, drunkards, served by many bars and flophouses and famous missions, to feed and save the men that haunted its shadows.
Proctor's 58th Street was a vaudeville house, one of several Proctor Theaters, later part of the Keith's Circuit, then RKO.
I get a kick out of the lion heads gracing the smokestack.
Notice that the horses are running clockwise in the illustration, the way they still run in Europe. Belmont ran clockwise until 1921, when they changed course to counterclockwise, which is the direction all horse racing in the United States is run. The Belmont Stakes was already 38 years old when the new Belmont Park opened to great fanfare in 1905, and is the oldest of the Triple Crown races, inaugurated in 1867, 8 years before the Kentucky Derby. Over a hundred years later a day at Belmont is still a great way to while away the afternoon under the beautiful trees.
Check out Google Maps street view for Chatham Square. You will be astounded at how many of the buildings are still there. Interesting to note is that even in this picture, many of the buildings look old. I wonder how old some of these "high rises" were in 1905. I have to believe they were already 30 years old, minimum, at the time of this photograph. Also, for you non-New Yorkers, this area is at the edge of Chinatown today. No sign of it in 1905

Meyer Berger: Who's Almost Who In KV History?

Meyer Berger's biography mentioned he was born on the LES in 1898. I was hoping it would be close to KV. I found him in the 1900 census at 89 Lewis Street, near Stanton in the 11th Ward. It was just up the block from where the above photo was taken. from NYPL Digital Gallery, The New York Public Library

Staff Sergeant Matthew Alberti Of 11th Street

I wonder if my mother knew him. She lived just down the block from him at 516 E. 11th in 1942. They were just about the same age. See a previous post about Sergeant Alberti

Meyer Berger On The Joy Of Crippled Children

Berger Smith                                                            
Jackie was from the Smith Projects. I wonder whether any KVer or Smith person knows who she is?

Meyer Berger On Gangsters

Berger New Gangsters                                                            

My Favorite Berger: Meyer Berger

I'm reading the above book. Meyer is pictured overlooking the Smith Houses. Murray Kempton, Pete Hamill, Juan Gonzalez, Bob Herbert and many others are all Berger protege's.
Saving Private Berger: Meyer Berger, who was born 100 years ago Tuesday, spent most of his 60 years on earth writing the most human of human interest stories. A legendary Times reporter, he found roguish tales among the mobsters of Murder Inc. and charming vignettes among the drunks on the Bowery. He invented our About New York column, and he could write it with the lilt of a St. Patrick's Day parade or the cadence of a caisson carrying war dead up Fifth Avenue. He was our master storyteller, the O. Henry of daily journalism. But in the spirit of his time, Mike Berger kept private lives private, most notably his own, no matter how illuminating the details.
So it has taken the better part of his century to learn one tale, about Mike himself, that he recounted only under duress and only to one man.
That man is Ben S. Laitin, a 91-year-old resident of Delray Beach, Fla. -- and the brother of Joe Laitin, whom many reporters well remember as a reliable spokesman for Federal agencies a generation ago. According to an essay that Ben Laitin has agreed to share with me, he too handled press relations, for the Belgian pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair, where he used to routinely supply colorful nuggets for Mike Berger's column about fairground fun and folly.
In that summer of '39, Laitin's family vacationed at a tourist home in the Catskills, which was run by an elderly widow named Randall and her 40-ish daughter, Lila. Ben remembers the Laitins walking a mile each day to obtain The New York Times and how they then shared it around the house.
One day, Lila Randall picked up the paper and, encountering the Berger World's Fair column, exclaimed, I know him!
Ben made no secret of his skepticism. How could this lonely and remote woman know the great Mike Berger. In response to his doubt, Lila quickly confessed that though she felt extremely close to Mike, she had never actually met him. Indeed, she had been left to wonder for 20 years why she hadn't.
Pressing for details, Laitin learned that back in 1917 a young Lila had devoured hundreds of letters published by The New York World from American doughboys in France who were looking for female pen pals. One struck her as particularly charming. It was from a Pvt. Meyer Berger, and she dared to reply. That daring act led to an exchange of dozens of letters, and Lila eventually produced most of Mike's for Laitin's inspection. And sure enough, they bore the Berger touch, describing a young soldier's life at the front, his Army buddies and, gradually, his professional ambitions and romantic yearnings. The letters promised Lila that he would come calling soon after the armistice. But he never came.
Laitin, touched by Lila's 20-year mystery, decided to risk asking why.
As he now remembers their next meeting at the World's Fair, Berger confessed at once to a ''subconscious feeling of guilt all these years.'' But Mike also betrayed an urgent curiosity about Lila's appearance and state of mind. He speculated that she must have thought him killed in action or perhaps involved with another girl. He was involved all right, he said, but strictly in his work. And then came the punch line: the one time he made an effort to keep his promise to visit Lila, he ventured forth unannounced, had a strange though perhaps irrelevant adventure and lost his nerve.
Berger told Laitin how he set out to find Lila one night, hitchhiking around upstate New York with a flashlight to flag down vehicles. One of them turned out to be a 10-ton truck from which a man suddenly emerged and shoved a shotgun at his chest, shouting, Hands up!
I'm just out of the Army and trying to hitch a ride to see my girl, Berger recalled pleading.
A veteran, huh? came the response. What outfit? What company? Who was your sergeant? You better have some good answers!
Berger said he almost fainted with relief when told that his clipped answers were satisfactory.
Well, kid, you are one lucky s.o.b. It just happens that my outfit was only a mile or so down the line from yours, and my sergeant was a buddy of yours, so you get a free pass. Go see your girl, but if you have to hitch a ride, take some other route or do it in daylight. This road's the main line down from Canada for all us rum runners and we tend to be a little jumpy when we're stopped this time of night by someone who hadn't ought to be there. Now, there's a lot of thirsty citizens down in the city, and we can't keep 'em waiting any longer. So g'bye and good luck.
It was 4 A.M. when Berger finally reached the Randall homestead, feeling cold and out of place and petrified at the thought of meeting a strange woman to whom he nonetheless had felt drawn. He camped on the porch waiting for sunrise, then started to think.
I thought what the hell was I doing there, a Jewish boy from a tough section in Brooklyn, with an unmistakable accent, heavy black-framed glasses and a growing bald spot. What if the sight of me was such a letdown for Lila that her disappointment showed? What if her parents were anti-Semitic? What if. . .what if...
I finally what-iffed myself out of any romantic notions, Berger told Laitin. I tiptoed off that porch and headed home.
Mike told Laitin he was the only person in the world to whom he had told the story he called ''Berger the Cowardly Lion.'' He doubted he would tell it even if he wrote an autobiography. But talking about it had been cathartic: Maybe that'll make it easier to wonder about the road not taken.
Laitin, still feeling for Lila, said it was not too late for at least a few steps on that road: A top reporter like you just can't leave a story unfinished.. . .It's time to write Lila. . .call her. . .meet her. . .I won't press for details; as the catalyst, I'll be satisfied to learn that I brought two star-crossed young romantics together as mature adults. Keep me posted.
Some time later, when Laitin was about to move to Chicago, he could not resist one last call to Berger to learn whether his advice was heeded, whether Mike finally made amends by revealing himself to Lila.
Yes, I did, Mike told him. We met in the city several times. She's a lovely person and we discussed the wartime episode -- without embarrassment. We parted friends. I owe you, Ben.
I'm not a fan of this Berger's work

Guadalcanal and NYC War Heroes

I couldn't locate any Fourth Ward heroes but Staff Sergeant Matthew Alberti was from the 17th Ward on 11th Street, between Avenues A and B.

Guadalcanal Diaries 2

from another site on Guadalcanal

with the Pacific being shown on HBO. I thought I'd post this, which I never did to accompany part 1 from 3 years ago. Jon Seda plays John Basilone who was a medal of honor winner
audio from:
great image source
Siege Marked First American Offensive of World War II
Aug. 7, 2002 -- Sixty years ago today, thousands of U.S. Marines splashed ashore on a remote island in the southwest Pacific, called Guadalcanal. The first American offensive of World War II, their mission was to seize an airfield. What followed was six months of desperate struggle against not only the Japanese military, but heat, jungle, rain, disease and hunger.
In a two-part series for NPR/National Geographic Radio Expeditions, Neal Conan visits some of the famous battle sites and talks with veterans about the crucial struggle.

Guadalcanal and Sergeant John Basilone

I was hoping that Basilone came originally from a sixth or fourth ward family. They were from Manville, New Jersey instead
more videos on the hbo series can be found here

Ethnic New York: 1921

The article mentions the 4th Ward Greeks discussing Venizelos and the political situation in Greece. It appears the consensus in the Madison Street coffee houses was anti-Venizelos. I thought he was a "good guy"
an excerpt about Eleutherios Venizelos from a history of Greece:
In 1910 Eleftherios Venizelos, born in Ottoman ruled Crete, and founder of the liberal party, becomes the prime-minister. Venizelos is the kind of leader that comes around once in a generation and it is not a coincidence that this is the period of the greatest growth for Greece. In October of 1912 the first Balkan War breaks out with Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria attacking Turkey. A month later Thessaloniki is captured and becomes part of Greece. In March of 1913 King George is assassinated in Thessaloniki and is succeeded by Constantine I. In July during Balkan Wars 2, Bulgaria attacks Greece and Serbia and is beaten. The two victors split Macedonia. Venizelos is hailed as Europe's most charismatic statesman but in Greece he has his passionate followers and there are those who just as passionately hate him, including King Constantine whose sympathies are undoubtedly with the Kaiser and the Germans, though he claims to wish Greece to remain neutral in the war. Venizelos resigns and then in June is re-elected, returns to power only to be forced to resign again in October. In the December elections his followers abstain and Venizelos establishes a provisional government of the New Hellas in Thessaloniki. The Royalists in Old Hellas are attacked and then blockaded by the French and British who want Greece to enter the war with Germany on their side. In the end King Constantine escapes from Greece, though he does not abdicate the throne, and is replaced by George's second son Alexander who is more acceptable to the French and British. The Venizelist Parliament of June 1915 is recalled and dubbed 'The Lazarus Chamber' because it has been awakened from the dead.
At the start of the 20th century Greece's navy is obsolete, consisting of three old battleships and some torpedo boats. In the shipyards at Livorno, Italy is a battleship which has been ordered by the Italian Navy and then cancelled. The Greek government buys the ship and it is christened the Averoff after the wealthy benefactor George Averoff. The ship rules the northeast Aegean during the Balkan wars and is an important part in the liberation of Mount Athos and the islands of Limnos, Thassos, Samothraki, Tenedos, Aghios Efstratios, Mitilini, and Chios. The power of this ship and the success at sea keeps the Sultan from challenging the Greek Navy and keeps the Turkish fleet out of the Aegean. The Jewel of the Hellenic fleet was destined to sail through history, through the two world wars with greater glory than any other Naval vessel in the history of the Hellenic Navy. For more on the Battleship Averoff click here
On Tuesday November 21 1916, the HMS Britannic, larger and considered even more unsinkable than her famous sister ship the Titanic, explodes and sinks in just 55 minutes outside the harbor of the island of Kea while doing service as a British hospital ship in the Gallipoli campaign.