Archive for November, 2011

Today Washington Square Park is known as a public place of leisure.   Individuals may use the park to read, take their dogs, stand

photo courtsey of gawker.com

on a soapbox, showcase their musical talents and partake in a myriad of other recreational activities. Washington Square Park has come to be a defining aspect of Greenwich Village, and has provided a space and place for individuals to gather and share ideas and experiences. However, as with all space and places in New York, Washington Square Park was not always a place of leisure.  It was not even always a park.  It was not until 1827 when Philip Hone (a war hero from the War of 1812) became Mayor of New York[1] that Washington Square Park became such.  He pushed for the development of the park in order to mimic London’s high-end residential neighborhood West End. [2] This was in attempts to lure wealthy individuals to live in the area, an effort that was successful.  To add the extra push for his campaign, Hone proposed the park to be named after President George Washington in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of his presidency (and the American Revolution).   Again, an effort that was obviously successful.

Previous to this turn of events, the large public space was designated as a common cemetery where victims of the Yellow Fever epidemic were buried in 1797.[3]  Bones and human artifacts are regularly discovered each time renovations occur at Washington Square Park, and even on occasion when ConEd needs to break ground for repairs.  Eventually the space was appropriated for public gallows.   This led the big English Elm tree near the northwest portion of the park to be dubbed “the hanging elm.”  There are no extant records of anyone ever being hung on the Elm tree, however there are several accounts of individuals being hung from gallows a measly 150 meters away.[4]  The tree is estimated by the Department of Parks and Recreation to be about 330 years old, making it one of the oldest trees in Manhattan.  This bit of information is particularly astounding given that English Elm trees only have the life expectancy of about 300 years.[5]

Upon some research, I discovered the connections between the park, the Elm tree, public gallows and London, England.   In medieval London, there was a public gallows called Tyburn whose locale moved several times throughout England’s history.  Originally it was near the Tiborne River where, according to the famed medieval chronicler Hollinshed, “the fatal elm tree grew.”  The area is also called “The Elms at Smithfield,” because of the abundance of Elm trees in the area.  Chaucer also notes that criminals were taken to Tyburn to be hung from an Elm tree.[6] Also, Roger de Mortimer, the First Earl of March was also hung on an Elm tree at Tyburn in 1330.  Eventually there was also a three-legged wooden gallow that was constructed at this site, which was darkly and affectionately called “The Tyburn Tree.”  This clearly is a reference to the Elm trees where criminals were hung previous to the construction of the gallows. In 1873 this was also the site of “Elms Lane” in Bayside.[7] The last criminal was taken to the Elms at Smithfield in 1790, and the gallows moved to St. Giles across the street from a hospital.  At this particular location of the gallows victims were said to receive a parting alcoholic beverage.[8]

While it is unclear whether or not the English Elm Tree at Washington Square Park was popularized as the hanging elm because of the history of hangings “at the Elms” at Smithfield, the correlation between the two is overwhelmingly strong.  The area around Washington Square Park was also where very wealthy British families such as Mayflower legacies Johnstons and Griswolds settled – another strong correlation between Britain and Washington Square Park.

photo courtsey of bbc.co.uk

Ironically, the biology of an Elm tree also works well as a metaphor for death because each growing season the inner bark of the Elm tree dies and is reborn the next spring.  This process is what creates the “tree rings” on the inside of an Elm.  By counting each ring, the Department of Parks and Recreation was able to determine the tree’s age.  Also, just like the criminals hung by the Elm tree, the trees have a very delicate vascular system.   The out-break of the Dutch Elm Disease in the 1960s attacked the vascular system of the Elm and devastated some 20 million trees in England.   The disease was called The Dutch Elm Disease because it was first discovered in Holland in 1917.   English Elms were not always associated with the gallows – like Washington Square Park, Elms also have a fluid identity that changes over time.  When English Elms were first widely planted in the 17th and 18th centuries, they were used mostly to provide shade for farmers in their fields.  Farmers would also plant lines of Elms in order to demarcate the end or beginning of their private farming property.[9]

[1] Flint, Anthony.  Wrestling with Moses: how Jane Jacobs took on New York’s master builder and transformed the American City. New York: Random House Digital, 2009, 67.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Pilla, Domenick. “The Hangman’s Tree in Washington Square Park.” The New York Times. Online edition. April 4, 2011.  Accessed 4 November 2011.

[5] Elmcare.com. http://elmcare.com/. Accesed 4 November 2011.

[6] Kirwan, Daniel Joseph. Palace and hovel, or Phases of London life: being personal observations of an American in London, by day and night. Hartford: Columbian Book Co., 1878, 157.

[7] Notes and Queries. Oxford University Press, 1873.  via Google Books. http://books.google.com/books?id=L_zfAAAAMAAJ&dq=elm+tree+and+gallows&source=gbs_navlinks.  Accessed 4 November 2011.

[8]  Thombury, George Walter and Edward Walford. Old and New London: a narrative of its history, its people and its places, by W. Thornbury (E. Walford). 1880.  via Google books.http://books.google.com/books?id=lekHAAAAQAAJ&dq=the+elms,+smithfield&sou sou=gbs_navlinks_s. Accessed 4 November 2011.

[9] Elmcare.com.  http://elmcare.com/.  Accessed 4 November 2011.


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Nursery Schools socialize and prepare young children for further schooling; however, women created the impetus for the first nursery schools in the United States. When, in 1917, the U.S. officially entered World War I women began entering the workforce in large numbers in order to replace male soldiers. For the first time in American history, many working class women needed to leave the home for the workplace, and had no way to care for their children during that time. Thus, The Board of Education began all-day care for children as a wartime activity.

When the war ended the continuation of nursery schools depended on organizations other than the Board of Education. Greenwich House, a social settlement house, was the first of its kind to have a nursery school. Based on the well-researched English model, Greenwich House operated a Montessori class and an informal nursery school for children between the ages of two and six. The House opened the nursery school for children in 1920 in partnership with Columbia University’s Teacher’s College and Mrs. R. J. F. Schwarzenbach. Although the war had ended, many women remained in the workforce. For this reason, Greenwich House opened its nursery school only to children of working mothers.

Due to shifting population demographics, school enrollment declined in the period between 1920-1930. Individuals and childless couples moved into the Village and some families moved out. Nonetheless, Greenwich House increased its social services during this decade. Mothers and children first became involved with Greenwich House through the Baby Clinic, then the Nursery School and the Kindergarten. After graduating from the Kindergarten, many continued to participate in after-school programs such as music, theater, dance, pottery, and woodworking. Occupied until five o’clock in the evening, mothers picked up their children once their work day ended.

1921 Children's Red Cross Class at Greenwich House. Photo taken by Hiram Myers. Greenwich House Photo Collection, Tamiment Library, NYU.

In addition to these recreational activities, health was of particular importance to educators at Greenwich House. Summer camps and “fresh air” field trips to more rural areas were nice getaways, but students at the Greenwich House Nursery School also participated in cardiac classes as part of their daily routines. The young students received free doctor’s checkups, and the Red Cross taught them health education focused on nutrition and exercise. When Greenwich House opened in the beginning of the twentieth century, the ninth ward had the densest population and the highest infant mortality rates in New York City. By the 1920s, health consciousness was on the rise and mortality rates were on the decline.

1931 Kindergarten class on the rooftop of 27 Barrow St. Greenwich House Photo Collection, Tamiment Library, NYU.

In order to provide solid mental and physical education for the youngsters, Greenwich House needed space. Classroom space was found inside the main house, but outdoor play areas were more difficult to come by. Originally located on Jones Street, Greenwich House created an outdoor space for Kindergarteners to play in the yard. By the time the Nursery School opened, the settlement had moved to 27 Barrow Street.  Lacking a yard in its new location, Greenwich House created a playground on the roof of the house, so that students could be outside and off the street. Replete with a sandbox and other playground equipment, the roof-top gave students a place to play and do their cardiac classes all year long.

For the most part, the Nursery School and Kindergarten were for neighborhood kids. In the 1925-1926 school year, which lasted for ten months, most Kindergarten students lived in areas immediately surrounding Greenwich House. For example, multiple students lived on Barrow Street, Jones Street, Christopher Street, Cornelia Street, West 10th, Bedford Street and Carmine Street. One girl, Jean Shay, came from as far away as East 19th Street, perhaps because her mother knew of the school’s many activities and low price. Trained teachers taught the geographically homogenous, but ethnically diverse, students drama, song, block play, painting, cardiacs, and arts and crafts, including the household arts. Teachers read books such as Peter Rabbit to students and taught them how to care for classroom plants. Students received free meals and engaged in what Greenwich House Director Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch termed “work-play.” Through play and group work, students learned social, intellectual, and physical skills.

Although school and after-school activities offered at Greenwich House were inexpensive or free, the activities themselves cost a lot of money. In 1922, the Nursery School cost $4,000, the Pre-School nurse cost $1,650, the nutrition worker cost $1,800, and outdoor play leaders cost $1,500. This was in addition to teacher’s salaries and the after-school programs. In order to pay for the Nursery School, Greenwich House board members sent out a fundraising letter in 1921 to wealthy New Yorkers. Asking for a donation of $10, $25, or $100, the letter said,

Do you want to help a group of neighborhood children make a good start in life?…The children are left at Greenwich House before nine o’clock by their mothers or big sisters, are unbundled, and immediately seem to feel the pleasant space and freedom of their schoolroom. They play, work, and quarrel with equal intensity all the morning, have a lunch, a long rest, and more working – playing until five o’clock, the end of the school day.

Activities in the school are referred to as “character building” and aim to impress upon readers the importance of the nursery school, both for the children and the neighborhood at large.

After reading such a letter, and learning about all the opportunities afforded to young children at Greenwich House, wouldn’t you feel compelled to make a donation? Enough patrons must have because the Nursery School at Greenwich House continued successfully for many decades after its introduction in 1920.


Greenwich House Records TAM 139 (R-7088), Tamiment Library, New York University.

Simkhovitch, Mary Kingsbury. Neighborhood; My Story of Greenwich House. New York: Norton, 1938.

“Teachers to Consider Schooling for Babies.” New York Times (1923-Current file): XX11. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007). Apr 19 1925. Web. 4 Nov. 2011 <https://ezproxy.library.nyu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/103638054?accountid=12768>.

The International Montessori Index. http://www.montessori.edu/

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In 2009, forty years after the Stonewall Riots, New York City rebranded itself as a Gay Destination. The city initiated a marketing campaign in relation to the ortieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. George A. Fertitta, a chief executive of NYC & company, the city’s tourism marketing agency “estimated that 10 percent of the city’s 47 million visitors last year were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and noted that out-of-town visitors spent $30 billion in the city last year” (Chan).  This shift showed how the city was trying to portray itself as a gay friendly metropolis to attract new visitors and to raise the city’s image as a safe place for homosexuals.

      The idea for a gay community march started in 1970 with the Christopher Street Gay Liberation March. The event originated outside of the Stonewall Inn, at 53 Christopher Street, the morning of June 28, 1970, and continued up Fifth Avenue to end in Central Park. The march started with only a few hundred people at Stonewall and ended with several thousand by the time it concluded in Central Park. The marches formed to bring gay and lesbian individuals together and show they were a sizable minority population, something that mainstream society did not believe. The purpose of the march was to build a safe community for homosexuals and part political rally (they were uniting for legal rights). Specifically, in the 1970s there was a need to create legislation that would protect this community from police brutality and police raids of gay bars and clubs.

The marches continued to bring awareness to causes that were specific to the homosexual community. By 1973, the Christopher Street Liberation Day March was already an expected event.  In a New York Times article, Homosexuals March Down 7th Avenue; Bars Represented To Each His Own’, John Darnton writes, “Singing, chanting, clad in festive and arresting garb. thousands of homosexuals and supporters of homosexuals’ rights marched through mid-Manhattan yesterday, past smiling policemen, wide-eyed tourists and blase New Yorkers who passed it off with a live-and-let-live shrug.” This shows the acceptance in a few short years by New Yorkers to the Gay Liberation Movement.

After rallying for political changes in the 70s, the 80s saw the need for AIDS awareness and healthcare reform. The 1983 Parade was organized by the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee, whose members said it was “dedicated to AIDS victims everywhere” (Mcgill). AIDS heavily effected the homosexual community, specifically in New York and San Francisco, since those two cities had the largest population of homosexuals living in them. The media type-casted the disease as being limited to homosexual and needle using drug addicts.  In AIDS Expert Sees No Sign of Heterosexual Outbreak, by Lawrence Altman of the New York Times, the Center for Disease Control stated, “The principal victims of AIDS in this country remain homosexual men and intravenous drug users, who together account for 9 out of 10 cases. Federal officials believe that about 4 percent of the nation’s reported AIDS cases were acquired through heterosexual intercourse, in many cases by the sexual partners of drug addicts.” This is further stated by Douglas McGill in his New York Times article, Homosexuals’ Parade Dedicated To AIDS Victims, where he states, “Of 1,641 cases of the ailment reported in the United States, the disease has killed 644 of its victims. New York City has reported 45 percent of all cases. Seventy-one percent of the victims of AIDS are said to be homosexual or bisexual men.”  Through rallying for support and awareness the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community became aware that this disease could affect everyone. Education of safe sex and other practices can be linked to these movements. Many gay clubs and bars started providing free condoms to help support safe sex practices.

The 90s saw the petitioning of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a campaign that allowed gays and lesbians in the military as long as they did not reveal their sexual orientation. Prior to 1992, gays and lesbians were banned from serving in any branch of the military. With the election of Bill Clinton, many gays hoped to lift the ban against homosexuals serving in the armed forces. To reach a compromise, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was formed by the US Government and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. To the homosexual community this was appalling, and the 90s saw many lawsuits to help repeal this act. It was not until 2011, and several other Presidents, that this act was finally overturned.

The 2000s was a time when most gay and lesbians fought for the right to marry their partners and adopt children. Gay couples were constantly denied the right to marry. Many heterosexual individuals saw the right to marry to be only between a man and a woman, others turned to religious scriptures to justify their arguments. The right to marry was also debated in Presidential elections, where it was argued it was a State’s right over Federal involvement. Homosexual couples wanted to the right two marry for several reasons, but two of the most important were:  If a partner was hospitalized, the right to find out or make medical decisions is reserved for spouses and immediate family members. This caused several conflicts because family and partners did not always get along. The second issue was adoption. Most adoption agencies will not allow a single unwed individual to adopt. Gay couples had to go through extra steps just to reserve the right to have a family. These issues are just some examples that differentiate homosexual and heterosexual married couples. Additionally, the GLBTQ community adopted a different stance to gain the right to marry and adopt. In Some Gay Rights Advocates Question Drive to Defend Same-Sex Marriage, by David Dunlap of the New York Times, states, “What we needed to learn from the military fight is that we have to build more political power before we win any gay issue on a national level.” Through marching, holding rallies, and gaining national attention to this issue, some states have granted gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. Furthermore, to show the support of adopting children, Pride Parades started to include family friendly activities.

The 2009 Gay Pride Parade differed from previous years because New York City’s government and tourism groups took a larger responsibility in helping plain and market the event. The biggest change the city implemented was to move the parade from its typical Sunday date and put it on Saturday. This change was mostly due to Father’s Day. If the parade stayed on Sunday it would have conflicted with that holiday.

The city invested 1.9 million dollars in advertising. This campaign was announced by the city and included a push in marketing in Europe and the Continental United States. According to The New York Times, “The $1.9 million marketing initiative includes print ads in the June/July issue of Out magazine, outdoor advertising in Britain and Spain, and online ads that will urge travelers to ‘Join the Rainbow Pilgrimage and plan your journey.’ The campaign also includes travel packages that can be booked at a new Web site (nycgo.com/gay), and partnerships with the tourism Web sites lastminute.com and Travelocity. Bus shelters and street banners in the city also will promote the campaign, which includes a trailer for a 30-minute documentary about gay life in New York by the filmmaker George Hickenlooper” (Chan) The campaign’s slogan was “Rainbow Pilgrimage” and painted NYC as Mecca for the gay community. In addition to marketing, NYC took a larger role in parade planning by telling the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer communities where events should be held and what kinds of events they should sponsor.

           The New York Times’: Stonewall Anniversary as Gay Tourism Event, allowed members of the gay community the opportunity to comment about the campaign online. The city painted itself as being a safe haven and a place where homosexuals are considered equal, but the comments almost all were negative about the city taking this stance since gays and lesbians still did not have equal rights. For example, in response to the article, Candice writes, “I’m personally sick of my queer identity being marketed and exploited when I’m still stuck here unable to get the same rights as most other people in this country.” This was a common reaction, but did not hinder the popularity of the parade.

Even with several homosexual organizations opposing the marketing campaign the parade was a huge success. The event was one of the highest attended Parades to date, which was impressive considering the bad economy. This parade also brought important attention to Gay Marriage, which at this time was being debated in several state legislatures and also with the Federal Government. The parade is a symbol that stands for hope and equality. Each year the GLBTQ community works hard to create educational, fun, safe, and diverse programs for everyone to enjoy.

Works Cited

Altman, Lawrence K. “AIDS EXPERT SEES NO SIGN OF HETEROSEXUAL OUTBREAK.” The New York Times [New York] 5 June 1987: n. pag. New York Times Online. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/‌1987/‌06/‌05/‌us/‌aids-expert-sees-no-sign-of-heterosexual-outbreak.html?scp=9&sq=AIDS+Outbreak&st=cse&pagewanted=print&gt;.

 Candice. Online posting. City Room. The New York Times Online, 8 Apr. 2009. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/‌2009/‌04/‌07/‌from-stonewall-riots-to-rainbow-pilgrimage/‌#comment-403205&gt;.

Chan, Sewell. “Stonewall Anniversary as Gay Tourism Event.” The New York Times [New York] 7 Apr. 2009: n. pag. New York Times Online. Web. 30 Oct. 2011. <http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/‌2009/‌04/‌07/‌from-stonewall-riots-to-rainbow-pilgrimage/‌#respond&gt;.

Chan, Sewell. “Stonewall Uprising Given Role In Tourism Campaign.” The New York Times [New York] 7 Apr. 2009: n. pag. New York Times Online. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/‌2009/‌04/‌08/‌nyregion/‌08tourism.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1320347774-oc9zzHfJ+vD5TvCi+Tp6cQ&gt;.

Darnton, John. “Homosexuals March Down 7th Avenue; Bars Represented To Each His Own.’” New York Times Online. The New York Times , 25 June 1973. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://select.nytimes.com/‌gst/‌abstract.html?res=F70615F63959137A93C7AB178DD85F478785F9&scp=5&sq=Christopher%20Street%20Liberation%20Day%20March&st=cse&gt;.

Dunlap, David W. “Some Gay Rights Advocates Question Drive to Defend Same-Sex Marriage.” The New York Times [New York] 7 June 1996: n. pag. New York Times Online. Web. 30 Oct. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/‌1996/‌06/‌07/‌us/‌some-gay-rights-advocates-question-drive-to-defend-same-sex-marriage.html?src=pm&gt;.

McGill, Douglas C. “Homosexuals’ Parade Dedicated to AIDS Victims.” The New York Times [New York] 27 June 1983: n. pag. New York Times Online. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/‌1983/‌06/‌27/‌nyregion/‌homosexuals-parade-dedicated-to-aids-victims.html&gt;.

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As I walk from NYU to the West 4th Street subway station most days, I pass through a small garden on the corner of West 4th Street and 6th Avenue. The garden is at an unusual location, pressed up against the Washington Square Diner on one side, and the West 4th Street basketball and handball courts on the other. Inside the gates, it is crowded with green plants, and depending on the seasons, colorful flowers. An urn stands in the middle of the path through the garden, and a few feet away, a new-looking stone slab sits at the edge of a flower bed.

Golden Swan Garden Plaque

Image: Hester Goodwin, 2011

“In the early 1900s, at this site stood the Golden Swan, also known as the Hell Hole, one of Eugene O’Neill’s inspirations for Harry Hope’s saloon in “The Iceman Cometh,” which opened at our Circle in the Square Theatre at Sheridan Square, on May 8, 1956.”

Built in the 19th century, the Golden Swan stood until 1928, when the structure was demolished as part of the building of the Sixth Avenue Subway. The longtime proprietor, Thomas Wallace, is widely accepted to be O’Neill’s inspiration for the proprietor of the bar in “The Iceman Cometh,” the most famous off-Broadway revival of which was itself produced in Greenwich Village. In the 1930s, after the demolition of the Golden Swan, the site was made into a playground, then a recycling center, and finally fell into disrepair and remained an empty lot until 2000, when the City of New York completed its renovation of the site as a tiny park on less than half an acre of land.

But the importance of the Golden Swan/Hell Hole to Greenwich Village is far from left behind in the early 20th century. Since then the bar has become somewhat of a neighborhood legend, occupying space not on the corner of West 4th and 6th, but in the pages of New York Times local and human interest columns. Even in absentia, the institution evokes the rough and romanticized history of Village Bohemia, with its dark dives where geniuses tortured themselves into producing masterworks. The most famous of these geniuses was the playwright Eugene O’Neill, who in the first two decades of the 20th century was making his name with the nearby Provincetown Players, and who often could be found “irretrievably drunk in the Golden Swan.” (Source: Gray, Christopher, NYT 2001. See below for citation.) It is his image which can be found on the stone slab in the garden, and his Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning plays which add to the prestige of the site in Village history.

Backyards, Greenwich Village, 1914

"Backyards, Greenwich Village, 1914." Artist Unknown. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

In addition to the often repeated history of Eugene O’Neill’s Hell Hole, the Golden Swan may also have been representative of another facet of Greenwich Village History– the history of Little Africa along Minetta Lane. In the 19th century, Greenwich Village was a remote area of Manhattan, and one of the oldest African American communities in New York City gradually grew along the banks of Minetta Spring. By the heydey of the Golden Swan in the early 20th century, the spring was covered and the neighborhood had filled up, but African American residents remained a prominent part of the community, often occupying the same space as their Caucasian neighbors. Establishments that catered to both African American and white clientele were called “black and tans” after the skin colors of the customers inside (see this post for more about “black and tan” bars.)

Although the Golden Swan is no longer standing as the Hell Hole on West 4th, the Golden Swan Garden and its historical plaques remind basketball players, subway riders, NYU students, and Village residents that such an establishment once existed in their neighborhood. Though in some ways this keeps with the common view of the Village as a gritty artist’s paradise, the plaque also commemorates the work of Eugene O’Neill and the legitimately fascinating history of the Village as a theatrical center during the early 20th century. In contrast, African Americans patrons are not mentioned in the garden, but they are an important part of its history as well. Perhaps the more people become interested in the garden and the Golden Swan by walking through, as I did, more people will become aware of the interracial history of Greenwich Village. Perhaps one day there will be a second plaque to go with the first.

Selected Sources and Further Reading

Callahan, Jennifer. “City Lore.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Jan 30, 2005. https://ezproxy.library.nyu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/92930218?accountid=12768.

Gray, Christopher. “Streetscapes/Readers’ Questions.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Jun 03, 2001. https://ezproxy.library.nyu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/91900006?accountid=12768.

Brittanica Online– Eugene O’Neill Biography

NYC Parks Department– Golden Swan Garden

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The mere mention of saloons immediately conjures images of people satisfying their carnal desires by imbibing large quantities of alcohol amongst a rowdy scene of drunkards. Similar images have been popularized through the slumming accounts of journalists such as Jacob Riis and undercover detectives. These stories delivered to a wide range of audiences first hand accounts and initial exposure to an underground world of debauchery and racial intermingling. As a result of journalistic slumming, the black-and-tan saloons became a site of exotic curiosity for distant onlookers to project their imagination, as well as fears. Although there are several accounts that speak of the violence, prostitution and racial intermingling that occur within and surrounding the black-and-tan saloons, the negative casting of these spaces overshadows the community functions saloons fulfilled for ethnic minorities and the working class.

Interior of the Golden Swan Saloon, as depicted in John Sloan's Hell Hole in 1917.

Black-and-tan saloons, also called black-and-tan dives, is precisely what the name connotes – an intermixing of the African-Americans and Caucasians, as well as those of mixed heritage and Asian races. Regarded as a “low establishment,” the name was derived from a concert hall that featured “scantily clad African American women dancing for the entertainment of its mostly white customers.”  The racially charged term “Black-and-tan” was used repeatedly in news mediums. Such is the case with Jacob Riis, a muckracker journalist and social documentary photographer who spoke of his encounters with black-and-tan saloons in the chapter “The Color Line in New York,” of his famous book How the Other Half Lives:

“The moral turpitude of Thompson Street has been notorious for years, and the mingling of the three elements does not seem to have wrought any change for the better. The border-land where the white and black races meet in common debauch,  the aptly-named black-and-tan saloon, has never been debatable ground from a moral stand-point. It has always been the worst of the desperately bad. Than this commingling of the utterly depraved of both sexes, white and black, on such ground, there can be no greater abomination.”

Riis’ sketch discards journalistic standards of objectivity and instead reveals personal opinions of disgust, thereby representing as journalistic fact the morally degenerative nature of black-and-tan saloons . Other slumming accounts include undercover cops who took detailed notes and later anonymously published them. One detective wrote that saloons in the vicinity of Minetta Lane and Carmine Street were “so vicious that a policeman is on the corner for duty.” Prior to the 1920’s, the worst saloons were considered to be at this corner (Minetta and Carmine).  Another detective observed: there are  “nigger wenches drinking at the bar, several coons playing dice and some white men standing around. The back room is a ‘hore house in distress (simply rotten).”

These portraits aroused great panic amongst the whites and New York City municipal authorities and urban reformers. They believed that “the existence of black-and-tan saloons not only permitted racial intermixing, but actively promoted it.”  In 1914, a letter from the general secretary of Committee of Fourteen, Frederick H. Whitin to Progressive reform photographer Lewis Hine, suggested that the black-and-tan saloons were “catering to not only to whites, as well as blacks, stimulating a mixing of the races.” Chad. H. Heap points to the sexual connotation imbued in the language. Latent in the interpretations of black-and-tan saloons are creations of racial binaries;  white is emblematic of “purity” and black as “immoral.” Thus logic suggests racial intermixing would result in contamination of the white race. To take the metaphor further, Heap suggests that “tan” represents a hybrid of the races, an offspring produced from intermixing. Other racial characterizations of slummers and frequenters of black-and-tan saloons reflected negatively on these ethnically diverse establishments. For instance, black prostitutes were exoticized as being “Amazon-like” in physique and were often blamed for robberies reported by white men. Thus, black women were thought of as being wildly untamed in behavior and deemed as a social threat. Even more dangerous in the mind of reformers was how these saloons encouraged activity that blurred the line between civil activity and acts of indecency that could lead to moral corruption.

Black-and-tan saloon in Little Africa, photo by Jacob Riis, NYPL Collection

Despite some facts that were established in exposès of black-and-tan saloons, journalists and slummers failed to recognize the social functions that black-and-tan saloons provide. Saloons or dives in Greenwich Village, such as Thomas Wallace’s Golden Swan and Green Cup Café were hot spot for artists and bohemians alike, oftentimes a place for social exchange between races that were discouraged in other public spaces. These places also offered refuge for new ethnic immigrants to continue practicing their cultural traditions and ensure they are preserved, such as holding musical performances in the saloon. Black-and-tan saloons offered ethnic minorities a place where they could slowly adjust to American culture with others of the same ethnicity or social class. Madelon Powers describes the saloon as a space where “an emerging culture which preserves elements of the past, while simultaneously transcending longstanding regional differences.” Powers goes further to describe the significance of saloons as creating a sense of community for ethnic minorities, a primary step in building the cultural bridge to American culture. Additionally, it is the racial intermingling itself that encourages new dynamics in social relationships through cultural exchange. This in itself, was something that challenged conventional behavior and thinking, which spurred creativity and social change.


Allen, Irving Lewis. The City in Slang: New York Life and Popular Speech. New York: Oxford University, 1993.

Heap, Chad C. Slumming: sexual and racial encounters in American nightlife, 1885-1940. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2009.

McFarland, Gerald W. Inside Greenwich Village: a New York City Neighborhood, 1898-1918. University of Massachusetts, 2001.

Powers, Madelon. Faces Along the Bar: Lore and Order in the Workingman’s Saloon, 1870 – 1920. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1999.

Riis, Jacob A. and David Leviatin. How the Other Half Lives. New York: Scribner, 1890.

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During the American Civil War, New York City became an intensely volatile area.  1861 saw New York City as a patriotic place which sent troops to the front with much fan fare.  By 1863, however, New Yorkers turned against the Union war effort.  Politics and the devastation of war account for much of this civil unrest.

In May of 1861, the 83rd New York Infantry marched down Broadway among hundreds of supporters shouting encouragement to the men of Greenwich Village who were going to preserve the Union.  After such devastating engagements as 1st and 2nd Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville the support for the war among those who waved flags in 1861 began to wane.  New York City lost thousands of sons, brothers, husbands, and friends during the battles of 1861-1863.  That the Union lost most battles during 1861-1863 did not instill confidence in the success of the North.

Throughout the war the Mayor of New York, Fernando Wood was vehemently opposed to the war.  As a Peace Democrat, Mayor Wood opposed the Lincoln Administration’s objective of bringing the South back into the Union through force.  The dominant political party in New York City during the war was the Democratic Party, primarily the “Copperhead” faction of that party.  Opponents to the Peace Democrats gave them the title of “Copperhead” because they wore copper badges to identify their opposition to the war.  A more poignant image contained in the name, however, is that of a dangerous serpent.  Republicans and War Democrats viewed Peace Democrats as dangers to the Union and New York City contained many of these dangerous opponents to the war effort.

In New York City, Copperheads used racial prejudice and fear to turn New Yorkers against the war.  They portrayed the war as a means to bring free blacks north to take away jobs from white New Yorkers.  For those competing for low wage jobs, the prospect of this competition caused a vehement reaction against “Black Republicans” and their war.

As support from home diminished, men in Union regiments from New York City began to feel the stresses resulting from this situation.  Some, demoralized by Copperheads, decided to leave the Union army.  1863 saw a rise in desertions and by the end of the war 44,913 soldiers from the State of New York would be listed as deserted.  The 83rd New York Infantry Regiment saw about 300 instances of desertion.  Some of these were “bounty jumpers” who were men that would travel from community to community collecting enlistment bonuses then deserting.  Nine men who gave the name of “Smith” deserted within a month of enlistment in the 83rd New York.  Others left because of demoralization or fear.  Many desertions occurred in 1862-1863 showing that the unit from Greenwich Village was not immune to the effects of Union loses and Copperhead activity.

The National Conscription Act and its enforcement in 1863 led to more volatility in New York City.  For the most part, Irish immigrants viewed this act as a means of forcing working class white men to fight a war to bring competition for jobs to the city.  The act also aggravated class differences in the city.  Rich residents could purchase a substitute to serve in their stead.  This policy, intended to raise some of the funds necessary to wage a war, infuriated the working class population of New York City.  On July 11th 1863, the act was enforced and caused a riot more intense than any up to that point.  The riots eventually caused over 100 deaths and much destruction of property.  During the riots, Union troops fresh from the Gettysburg Battlefield, came to the city to suppress the rioters. Working-class New Yorkers, already against the war, saw troops in blue coming into their city armed to quell a rebellion.  This helped turn more New Yorkers against the government of President Lincoln.

In 1864, Copperheads planned an uprising in the city on Election Day.  Hoping to help defeat the Union cause and Lincoln’s reelection bid, these confederate sympathizers tried to once again instigate New Yorkers to rebel against the Union Government.  The plot failed, however, and New Yorkers seemed to ride out the rest of the war quietly.  Citizens of New York City turned to the ballot box in 1864 to express their displeasure with the nation’s situation.  President Lincoln received only 33% of the vote in New York City.

The majority of men in the 83rd New York stayed loyal to the Union cause and were not swayed by Copperhead New Yorkers to leave the ranks or, for the most part, vote against the Union in 1864.  They fought to preserve the Union despite discouragement from home.  The men of the 83rd New York answered Lincoln’s call in 1861 and served faithfully until 1864.


“83rd NY Infantry Regiment’s Battles and Casualties during the Civil War – NY Military Museum and Veterans Research Center.” New York Division of Military and Naval Affairs. Web. 02 Nov. 2011. <http://dmna.state.ny.us/historic/reghist/civil/infantry/83rdInf/83rdInfMain.htm&gt;.

“A City Divided: New York and the Civil War.” Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Web. 02 Nov. 2011. <http://chnm.gmu.edu/lostmuseum/lm/272/&gt;.

“Abraham Lincoln and New York – Election Day, 1864.” Abraham Lincoln’s New York. Abraham Lincoln, Election & Politics. Web. 02 Nov. 2011. <http://www.mrlincolnandnewyork.org/inside.asp?ID=102&gt;.

Lonn, Ella. Desertion during the Civil War. Gloucester, MA: P. Smith, 1966.

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Bon Marche, Eugene Atget. George Eastman House Collection.

Maybe it was the late afternoon light. As I walked around the Village the other day with my camera in search of the past, I was drawn to surfaces. The shadow cast on red-orange brick by a black ladder, a white dog looking downbeat, leashed to the historic Beatrice Inn, and a haunting plaster face on a window frame on Charles Street, all inspired me to click the shutter. As I made the photographs, they made me think of Eugene Atget, and Berenice Abbott. They took me through the surfaces, and over eighty-five years into the past.

Eugene Atget—one of the great photographers of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, and one of the pioneer documentary photographers—about whom not many facts are known, was a former seaman and actor who photographed in and around Paris for three decades, beginning when he was around forty in the late-1890s. After focusing initially on making photographs for artists to use in their work (documents pour artistes), he soon shifted focus to the documentation of Old Paris, which was dying away.

Atget made thousands of photographs of the city and its environs—beautifully detailed, realistic images of doors, storefronts, ornaments, ironwork, signs, reflections and street life. He sold his work to museums, libraries and historical societies, as well as to painters and theater directors. He worked alone, in the patient manner of the nineteenth century photographer, using a large format camera. By the time of his death in 1927, he was relatively unknown in photography and art circles, except by a small group of admirers that included young Berenice Abbott, who would go on to spend a lifetime championing his work.

Abbott met Atget through Man Ray, the famous 1920s social photographer of Paris, who she worked for as a darkroom assistant beginning in 1923. Abbott had previously left Ohio at age twenty to live in Greenwich Village where she was involved with the Provincetown Playhouse, and tried her hand at sculpture, before following an exodus of artists to Paris in 1921. She excelled at photography and printing and left Man Ray to start her own studio in 1925, the same year she met Atget.

She got to know Atget over the next two years, buying prints from him, and taking his portrait. She became fascinated with his work and when he died she bought half of his prints and plates. She took these with her back to New York in 1929 and soon grew obsessed with doing for New York City what Atget had done for Paris—documenting a city in flux, and one that had changed radically in the years she was gone, particularly through the building of enormous skyscrapers.

Milligan Place, Berenice Abbott. One of Abbott's photographs of Greenwich Village included in Changing New York. New York Public Library.

Abbott eventually found an outlet and a source of funding for her vision and in 1935 began to work for the Federal Arts Project of the New Deal’s Works Projects Administration to document the changing face of the city with the same type of camera Atget used. This work culminated in a 1937 exhibit, a book, Changing New York, and a collection of 305 prints, which are housed at the Museum of the City of New York.

Abbott photographed across the city for the project but paid special attention to Greenwich Village, where she lived, at 50 Commerce Street. Her Village photographs for Changing New York, capture in a straightforward documentary style, the juxtaposition and layering of time and periods, the historical importance, mystery and plain charm of the neighborhood. Technically stunning and uniquely beautiful, they are essentially documentary in that they are concerned with time and place, with the passage of time and memory, and with the social landscape. They show the deep influence of Atget, perhaps more than the others, since Greenwich Village is much like Old Paris.

Aside from making new work, and teaching photography at the New School in the Village, Abbott continued to promote Atget and search for a home for his work. In 1954, the Limelight, a coffeehouse and photography gallery, opened at 91 Seventh Avenue South. The owner was a young photo retoucher and passionate fan named Helen Gee, and she made Limelight—the only commercial photography gallery in the country—into a central space for the world of serious photography.

One night in 1956 Abbott was at Limelight and told Gee there was something she wanted to talk to her about. She wanted to put on an exhibit of Atget’s work. Gee jumped at the opportunity, and soon went to look at prints in Abbott’s apartment a few blocks away. Gee was taken aback by the work, sixty Atget images printed by Abbott, “one more marvelous than the next.” Abbott was relieved, and told Gee, “I’ve been carrying Atget on my back for thirty years.”

14-16 Gay Street, 2011. Abbott photographed these buildings for Changing New York. Photograph by Hanan Ohayon.

The exhibit was a popular and critical success, and many of the prints sold—at twenty dollars a piece—an uncommon event at Limelight. It was the first time in twenty five years that an exhibit of the Abbott/Atget work had been shown. The Limelight closed in January 1961, after a seven year run, opening the door to many Downtown galleries, just as Eugene Atget opened the door for Berenice Abbott, and as Abbott opened the door for Eugene Atget, and as all of them opened my eyes.

Gee, Helen. Limelight: A Greenwich Village Photography Gallery And Coffeehouse in the Fifties. Albequerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1997.

Szarkowski, John. Atget. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2000.

Worswick, Clark and Berenice Abbott. Berenice Abbott & Eugene Atget. New Mexico: Arena Editions, 2002.

Yochelson, Bonnie. Berenice Abbott: Changing New York. New York: The New Press, 1997.

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Walking home from class on Monday night, I felt oddly out of place in “normal” clothes compared to the hordes of people wearing outlandish and imaginative costumes. After living in Los Angeles for the past four years and attending the annual West Hollywood Carnaval, I had high expectations for Halloween in Greenwich Village, and I was not disappointed. This year’s Village Halloween Parade was attended by an estimated two million marchers and spectators. The combination of the enormous puppets, musicians, stilt walkers, and of course, the general participants in their wildly creative costumes, all made for a very memorable night.

Poster for the 1974 Village Halloween Parade. Courtesy of The New York Theatre Wire.

Established in 1974, the Village Halloween Parade has evolved over time from a relatively small event into one of New York City’s main cultural attractions. In its infancy, the parade was put on by the Theater for the New City, a theater company infamous for their politically-charged plays, but the actual concept for the parade was the brainchild of Ralph Lee. Lee, an Amherst graduate who studied dance and theater in Europe as a Fulbright scholar, began experimenting with producing large masks, puppets, and props during his post-graduate stint as an actor in Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. In collaboration with the Theater for the New City’s founders, George Bartenieff and Crystal Field, Lee decided to host a parade on Halloween night, mostly targeted at the children of the West Village, as a way to showcase some of Lee’s masks and puppets. Though the neighborhood cooperated with the Theater for the New City, the parade’s inaugural year was fairly modest. The following year, however, participation rose to about 1,500 marchers, with the event ending again, as it had in its first year, in Washington Square Park. The 1975 parade earned an OBIE, an award given by The Village Voice to Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theater groups for their productions.

For the 1976 parade, a formal production team and a not-for-profit organization called Village Halloween Parade, Inc. were created. The organization hired musical groups to perform in the parade and worked with local schools to provide opportunities for children to help artists create puppets for the event. The parade route was adjusted in 1977, with participants now walking along 10th Street from Greenwich Avenue to 5th Avenue and then entering Washington Square Park through the arch. However, when the parade reached over 250,000 participants in 1985, the route was once again changed, this time moving to its current location along the broader Sixth Avenue to accommodate the crowd.

Lee eventually grew disconnected from the event he created, bemoaning particularly the loss of the “spontaneity” of the parade, and ceased organizing the event after 1985. He told The New York Times that as, “the number of onlookers began to overwhelm the participants… that’s what killed it for me.” Lee’s assistant, Jeanne Fleming, became the director of the parade in 1986. Fleming, who describes herself as a “celebration artist,” strives to use the design of public events to promote community building, and to that end she has put emphasis on allowing the public to contribute their own puppets to the parade.

Village Halloween Parade 2011 at Sixth Avenue and Washington Place.

The Village Halloween Parade often serves as a venue for political demonstrations. As Fleming noted, the parade, “is really a reflection, a microcosm, of what’s going on in the world or in the city.” At this year’s event, members of the Occupy Wall Street movement marched in the parade, many holding signs with Halloween-themed messages like “Stop the vampire economy” and “Chains you can believe in” (see image at right). The parade has also been an important symbol of hope and healing for the city and the country as a whole in the wake of tragedy. After the September 11th attacks, most people assumed that the parade would not take place that year. Rather than cancel the event, parade organizers changed the theme of the parade to Phoenix Rising, with the nation’s revival from the ashes of 9/11 symbolized by a large puppet of the mythological bird made by artist Sophia Michahelles.

The Village Halloween Parade is far from universally beloved. Although it was originally intended to be a family-friendly event (and continues to be advertised that way on its website), some groups have criticized the parade for encouraging vulgarity because of the risqué costumes many participants wear. Others have proposed moving the location of the parade to a less residential area, and some say the event is unsafe because the rowdiness of many of the participants inspires violence. By and large, however, most New Yorkers seem to appreciate the artistry, the sense of community, and the pure fun that the parade promotes. In Fleming’s words, the parade is, “the place where… the world come[s] to let down their hair and be themselves.”


Deepti Hajela. “NYC Parade brings spookiness to the streets, with skeletons, floating eyeballs.” The Associated Press, October 31, 2011. Accessed November 1, 2011. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gxHNGTnre3x6YGF7GAu39Te3r8gw?docId=93075755a5de41a781b7cc2cf74e7d96.

Andrew Jacobs. “Neighborhood Report: Greenwich Village; The Parade: Too, too? Or Too Much?” The New York Times, October 29, 1995. Accessed November 2, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/10/29/nyregion/neighborhood-report-greenwich-village-the-parade-too-too-or-too-much.html.

Jack Kugelmass. “Imaging Culture: New York City’s Village Halloween Parade.” In Feasts and Celebrations in North American Ethnic Communities, edited by Ramon Gutierrez and Genevieve Fabre. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995.

Kay Laureen Wylie-Jacob. “The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, 1974-1993.” PhD Dissertation, New York University, 1995.

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The history of housing for African Americans in New York City has been one of continual mobility. Black communities have always faced the highest rents, and were displaced repeatedly from neighborhoods (and traditional forms of employment) by newly arriving immigrant groups.

Before the Civil War, the majority of the black population in the city lived in the notorious Five Points neighborhood in lower Manhattan. After the violence of the 1863 draft riots, wealthier African Americans escaped Manhattan for the relative calm of the outer boroughs, and the working class black community migrated north, to Greenwich Village. In fact, the neighborhood had boasted a significant black population since the 17th century, when freed African Americans established an agricultural community in the vicinity of the Minetta stream. This population was augmented not only by New York-born blacks moving into the neighborhood, but also by the considerable northern migration of southern-born blacks in the post Civil War period.

By mid-century, Greenwich Village was known as “Little Africa” and was an impoverished, densely populated area with poor sanitary conditions. The African American population in the area was concentrated in Minetta Lane and Minetta Street, where it was easiest for blacks to rent an apartment. Life in New York City was difficult for African Americans during this period. Limited employment opportunities resulted in poverty and high-density living conditions. Disease was widespread in these areas, and for many years the death rate exceeded the birth rate for blacks in the city.

Little Africa was also the object of considerable white fascination: with its violence and “Black and Tan” clubs allowing for interracial socializing, whites considered the area to be one of libertine pleasures. In addition to the interracial social spaces provided by the Black and Tan clubs, the residential areas of the neighborhood were also integrated. Federal census records from 1900 show that most buildings housed both black and white families, and there were also a number of interracial couples noted in the census. In addition to significant African American and West Indian communities, there were also Irish and Italians resident in the neighborhood.

The growth of the African American population of Greenwich Village was also related to the fashionable housing which began to border Washington Square Park during the 19th century. Many blacks found employment as domestic servants in these houses. However, as immigration from Europe increased, the wealthy began to employ these new immigrant classes, eliminating a traditional form of employment for black New Yorkers. Tensions in the community heightened with growing black unemployment, and the African American community began to relocate further north to the Tenderloin district (24th through 42nd Streets) towards the end of the 19th century. However, the rapid pace of immigration of blacks from the American South meant that the black population of Greenwich Village continued to increase until the turn of the century.

Although the residents of Minetta Lane faced significant discrimination and poverty, white liberal reformers ignored the black community of Greenwich Village. In 1913, when settlement house worker Mary Simlovich campaigned for city playgrounds for local working class children, she specifically recommended that the tenement houses on Minetta Street and Minetta Lane be torn down to make room for the playground. Clearly, she did not consider the working class black children who resided in Greenwich Village to be deserving of a neighborhood playground.

Churches were the main form of local institution that catered to the black community in Greenwich Village. Local black churches included Abyssinian Baptist Church, the Zion African Methodist Church, the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Parish of St. Benedict the Moor. These churches had significant congregations of approximately one thousand members. The Zion African Methodist Church, founded in 1796 when a group of black worshippers broke with their congregation over the issue of segregation in church services, sold their original building in lower Manhattan for $90,000 and went on to own property throughout the city. Neighborhood churches provided not only religious services, but also daily community activities and entertainment such as recitals, concerts and reading groups. However, these churches all relocated around the turn of the century, following their departing congregations.

From the freed slaves of the 17th century to immigrants from the American South at the turn of century, Greenwich Village has a significant history as a place of residence for New York City’s African American population. Although currently largely invisible, this history has played an important role in shaping the neighborhood that we know today.

Manhattan: Minetta Lane - MacD... Digital ID: 721651F. New York Public Library

Minetta Lane – MacDougal Street, 1923

(NYPL Digital Galleries)

Further Reading:

Callahan, Jennifer. “City Lore; Minetta Moments.” New York Times, January 30, 2005. Accessed November 2, 2011. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A02EEDD143BF933A05752C0A9639 C8B63&pagewanted=all

Johnson, James Wheldon. Black Manhattan. Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 1991.

McFarland, Gerald W. Inside Greenwich Village: A New York City Neighborhood, 1898-1918. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 2005.

Sacks, Marcy S. Before Harlem: The Black Experience in New York City Before World War I. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

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Since the advent of Apple’s iPhone in 2007, mobile technology has changed drastically. Natural User Interfaces, like the iPhone’s multi-touch technology, are everywhere—in the subway, our doctors’ offices, in airport terminals, and museum exhibits. Additionally, mobile technology is now seamlessly integrated into our daily lives. We use smartphone applications to choose a restaurant, take photos, read books, check movie times, find our cars, check blood sugar levels, and so much more. New applications on multiple platforms (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry) are released daily; some, like Angrybirds, become cultural phenomena, and some decay on little-visited pages in the App Store.

Just last week, on October 27, 2011, 1000 Memories released a new mobile application for the Apple iPhone, Shoebox by 1000 Memories. Similar to Historypin but without the context of a map, 1000 Memories is a online social platform for uploading, organizing, and sharing photographs, both historical and personal. And because memories come in so many shapes and sizes, 1000 Memories now also supports content in the form of audio, video, stories, documents, and quotes. 1000 Memories provides users with a tool to add dates, tags, and captions to digitized photos. 1000 Memories aims to permanently preserve digital photographs—they work with the non-profit Internet Archive and with high-performance data servers to ensure that uploaded content is never lost. Click here to learn more about this process. And with their easy to use data-export feature, users are able to download their content an unlimited number of times.

1000 Memories, the Social Network:

As a social network, 1000 Memories has become very popular. So far, they have partnered with the CBC Late Show, the Internet Archive, Livestrong, and the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation.  However, 1000 Memories is most popular among general users. With the ability to upload an unlimited amount of content and several innovative features, 1000 Memories is accessible for every user—the grandchild digitizing Grandma’s 35 mm slides (a project I’ve undertaken several times), the parent archiving the child’s milestones, or the historian organizing a photographic archive.


Shoebox: On 1000 Memories, the “Shoebox” refers to the content a user has uploaded. Because so many people keep old photographs in shoeboxes, this is a very appropriate use of the term.  Users can elect to allow friends and family members to also add to their shoeboxes, creating a shared online memory quilt.

Family Tree: Another innovative feature of 1000 Memories is Family Tree. Family Tree allows users to map their family heritage with digital photographs, documents, video, audio, etc. However, it also connects family members and their shoeboxes in one integrated location, creating a shared, visual dialogue of memories. As Historypin showcases photographs, video, and audio in the context of a geographical location, 1000 Memories showcases content within the context of connections, with both family and friends.

Click here for a sample Family Tree of Tolkien’s beloved hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. And click here for Ernest Hemingway’s Family Tree.

Shoebox, by 1000 Memories:

While 1000 Memories as a social network is a valuable tool, one of the most exciting features created by 1000 Memories is Shoebox by 1000 Memories, the smartphone application. While the app is at present only available on the iPhone, mobile developers are currently working on a version for Android. Shoebox integrates the iPhone’s camera feature as a convenient mobile scanner. Traditionally, scanning photos has been an arduous and expensive process—purchasing equipment, manually scanning hundreds or more photographs, and editing damaged and discolored photos. But with Shoebox, users can simply take a picture of an old photograph or document and upload it to their 1000 Memories profiles all through the iPhone application. And with 1000 Memories’ incorporation of Grizzly Labs edge detection and perspective-correction technology, users’ photos and documents are expertly scanned.

Shoebox, by 1000 Memories and Greenwich Village:

While Shoebox is not a practical tool for cultural institutions like Historypin is, 1000 Memories and the Shoebox mobile application is extremely useful for everyday users, especially users on a budget, because the mobile application and 1000 Memories registration is free. Find the iPhone application in the App Store. Unlike most scanning and photo editing software available, Shoebox by 1000 Memories has an extremely intuitive user interface, making digitizing photos and documents a snap for a user with any level of experience. Citizens of Greenwich Village can share their history with friends and family—tagging, comments, and interpreting their history and the history of the community. And because 1000 Memories is currently beta testing a GEDCOM file importer, users will soon be able to import files generated from Ancestry.com, Geni.com, and other genealogy websites and software.

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