Links to the entire set of notes
Page numbers refer to the page in the PDF and print versions.
64—a professor talking about dinosaur bones he’d dug up. Scientists discovered dinosaurs in the 1840s, and paleontology became a hot enough topic to lead to the Bone Wars of the 1870s-80s. Public lectures were also popular in this era, so naturally dinosaurs were one of the things people lectured about. Even small towns sponsored lectures, and New York City might host hundreds per year.
65—We have some cattle. Believe it or not, NYC did have cattle in 1888. In Alby’s time, in fact, parts of Manhattan were still farmland, although that was rapidly changing. There were slaughterhouses right in the center of the city. This article has some interesting information too, plus pictures.
66—The New York Central freight yard. This yard sat between 10th and 12th Avenues and 30th and 33rd Streets and during Alby’s time was part of the Vanderbilt empire. It was a major source of food and goods entering the city, which was great. What wasn’t so great was the rail line that went up and down 10th and 11th, right at street level, on streets crowded with pedestrians and other traffic. So many people got run over by the trains that the area was called Death Avenue. Enter the West Side Cowboys—and my next note.
67—What’s the job, sir? I’d never heard of the West Side Cowboys before and was delighted to discover them. These were men who were hired by the railroad to ride in front of the freight trains carrying a red flag (or a red lantern at night). The goal was to keep people from being run over. Shockingly, West Side Cowboys continued to ride in Manhattan until 1941, when the High Line replaced the street-level tracks. You can read about the cowboys here, here, here, and here (all with photos) or watch a film of one in action here.
70—An accompanying illustration showed Santa. By Alby’s time, Santa had been used in Christmas ads for several decades already. In 1881, Thomas Nast drew a Santa illustration that provided the modern conception of what he looks like.
77—“Vaseline.” This is another thing that sent me down the research hole for a while—no pun intended. People have been improvising for lube probably since prehistoric times. By Alby’s time, an easy, practical solution was available because Vaseline had been invented in 1872.
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And stay tuned for additional notes!
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