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The Bowery Boys: New York City History

History Podcasts

The tides of American history lead through the streets of New York City — from the huddled masses on Ellis Island to the sleazy theaters of 1970s Times Square. The elevated railroad to the Underground Railroad. Hamilton to Hammerstein! Greg and Tom explore more than 400 years of action-packed stories, featuring both classic and forgotten figures who have shaped the world.


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The tides of American history lead through the streets of New York City — from the huddled masses on Ellis Island to the sleazy theaters of 1970s Times Square. The elevated railroad to the Underground Railroad. Hamilton to Hammerstein! Greg and Tom explore more than 400 years of action-packed stories, featuring both classic and forgotten figures who have shaped the world.




Christmas in Old New York: Holiday History

This week we're highlighting an especially festive episode of the Gilded Gentleman Podcast, a show with double the holiday fun, tracing the history of Christmas and holiday celebrations over 19th-century New York City history. Licensed New York City tour guide and speaker Jeff Dobbins joins host Carl Raymond for a look at the city’s holiday traditions dating back to the early Dutch days of New Amsterdam up to the modern innovations of the early 20th century. You'll learn.... -- the connections between Sinterklaas and Santa Claus -- the history of display windows, department store Santa Clauses and Christmas tree sellers -- how Hannukah was adapted in America to help newly arriving Jewish immigrants keep hold of their traditions -- why Santa could truly be called "a native New Yorker" And then Carl welcomes actor John Kevin Jones who has been performing an annual one-man adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Merchant’s House Museum, now in its 11th season. Kevin discusses the origins of Dickens’ famous story and how he adapted it for the stage.


#421 Evacuation Day: Forgotten Holiday of the American Revolution

For decades New Yorkers celebrated Evacuation Day every November 25, a holiday marking the 1783 departure of British forces from the city they had occupied for several years during the Revolutionary War. The events of that departure -- that evacuation -- inspired annual celebrations of patriotism, unity, and a bit of rowdiness. Evacuation Day was honored well until the late 19th century. But then, gradually, the party sort of petered out..... Of course, Americans may know late November for another historically themed holiday – Thanksgiving, a New England-oriented celebration that eventually took the place of Evacuation Day on the American calendar. But we are here to tell you listener – you should celebrate both! Greg and Tom tell the story of the British's final years in their former colonies, now in victory known as the United States, and their final moments within New York City, their last remaining haven. The city was in shambles and the gradual handover was truly messy. And then, on November 25, 1783, George Washington rode into town, basically traveling from tavern to tavern on his way down to the newly freed city. The Bowery Boys chart his course (down the Bowery of course) and make note of a few unusual events -- wild parties, angry women with brooms, and one very lucky tailor. PLUS: Where and how you can celebrate Evacuation Day today. Other Bowery Boys episodes to check out when you're done with this one: -- New York City During the Revolutionary War -- The Revolutionary Tavern of Samuel Fraunces -- The Great Fire of 1776 -- The Brooklyn Navy Yard and Vinegar Hill


#420 Garbo Walks: Old Hollywood in New York

Greta Garbo in New York! A story of freedom, glamour, and melancholy, set at the intersection of classic Hollywood and mid-century New York City. The biography of a legendary star who became the city's most famous 'celebrity sighting' for many decades while out on her regular, meandering walks. Garbo had once been Hollywood's biggest star, a screen goddess who survived the transition from silent pictures to sound in such movies as Grand Hotel, Queen Christina, and Camille. But her career was over by the 1940s, her exotic and distant screen presence no longer appealing in the years of World War II. And so the actress -- famous for her line "I WANT TO BE ALONE" -- moved to New York City and stayed here for the rest of her life, living in a fabulous apartment near Beekman Place on the east side of Manhattan. Her favorite activity was walking, two long trips a day in her dark glasses and trench coat, committed to freedom of urban exploration and enjoying a livelihood in the city that we all take for granted. In attempting to live her life freely, however, she opened herself to the intrusive behavior of others — some obsessed with her as an iconic movie star, others simply gravitating to her elusive reputation. By the 1970s and surging by the 80s, Garbo sightings became a popular urban scavenger hunt. You had Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and Greta Garbo! Visit the website for more information and images Interested in more Bowery Boys podcasts about New York and the movies? Here's some suggestions: Marilyn Monroe: Her Year of Reinvention The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino At Home With Lauren Bacall Mae West: 'Sex' on Broadway Her New York story reveals some bigger themes about living in a big city -- finding privacy and even solitude in a place with eight million people.


The Official Gilded Age Podcast: S2 E1 with Lord Julian Fellowes

Here's the first episode of HBO's The Official Gilded Age Podcast, hosted by Tom Meyers of the Bowery Boys Podcast and Alicia Malone of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), the official companion podcast for the HBO series The Gilded Age, streaming on Max. Each week Tom and Alicia will discuss what happened on screen and the real people, places and events featured on the show. Easter Sunday, 1886, and a new war is brewing in Gilded Age society. Are you ready to pick a side? Join hosts Alicia Malone and Tom Meyers as they dissect Episode 201, “You Don’t Even Like Opera,” with extraordinary guest Lord Julian Fellowes. Subscribe to HBO's The Official Gilded Age Podcast to get future episodes


Rewind: The Gilded Age Mansions of Fifth Avenue

So we don't know if you’ve heard, but New York City is an expensive place to live these days. So we thought it might be time to revisit the tale of the city’s most famous district of luxury — Fifth Avenue. For about a hundred years, this avenue was mostly residential -- but residences of the most extravagant kind. At the heart of New York’s Gilded Age — the late 19th-century era of unprecedented American wealth and excess — were families with the names Astor, Waldorf, Schermerhorn, and Vanderbilt, alongside power players like A.T. Stewart, Jay Gould and William “Boss” Tweed. They would all make their homes — and in the case of the Vanderbilts, their great many homes — on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. The image of Fifth Avenue as a luxury retail destination today grew from the street’s aristocratic reputation in the 1800s. The rich were inextricably drawn to the avenue as early as the 1830s when rich merchants, anxious to be near the exquisite row houses of Washington Square Park, began turning it into an artery of expensive abodes. In this podcast, Tom and Greg present a world that’s somewhat hard to imagine — free-standing mansions in an exclusive corridor running right through the center of Manhattan. Why was Fifth Avenue fated to become the domain of the so-called “Upper Ten”? And what changed about the city in the 20th century to ensure the eventual destruction of most of them? The following is a re-edited, remastered version of two past Bowery Boys shows — the Rise and Fall of the Fifth Avenue Mansion. Combined, this tells the whole story of Fifth Avenue, from the initial development of streets in the 1820s to its Midtown transformation into a mecca of high-end shopping in the 1930s. \This could also serve as a primer to the HBO series The Gilded Age, the official podcast co-hosted by Tom Meyers which debuts on October 30. Visit the website for further information.


#419 Ghost Stories by Gaslight

A brand new batch of haunted houses and spooky stories, all from the gaslight era of New York City, the illuminating glow of the 19th century revealing the spirits of another world. Greg and Tom again dive into another batch of terrifying ghost stories, using actual newspaper reports and popular urban legends to reveal a different side to the city's history. If you just like a good scare, you'll enjoy these historical frights. And if you truly believe in ghosts, then these stories should especially disturb you as they take place in actual locations throughout the city -- from the Lower East Side to the Bronx. And even in cases where these 19th-century haunted houses have been demolished, who’s to say the spirits themselves aren’t still hanging around? Featured in this year's crop of scary stories: -- A ghostly encounter at the Astor Library (today's Public Theater) involving a most controversial set of mysterious books; -- A whole graduating class of ghosts stalks the campus of the Bronx's Fordham University, and it may have something to do with either Edgar Allan Poe or the film The Exorcist; -- Just north of Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, a haunted townhouse vexes several tenants, the sight of a hunched-over man in a cap driving people insane; -- In the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, a small apartment in today's Two Bridges neighborhood becomes possessed by a poltergeist with a penchant for throwing furniture .... and punches. One vainglorious showoff named Jackie Hagerty learns the hard way; -- And before the days of Riverside Drive, a rustic old mansion once sat on the banks of the Upper West Side, with a mysterious locked room that must never be opened. Visit the website to see images of the real-life haunted houses and places featured in this podcast. Listen to the entire collection of Bowery Boys ghost stories podcasts here.


#418 Theodore Roosevelt's Wild Kingdom

Theodore Roosevelt was both a New Yorker and an outdoorsman, a politician and a naturalist, a conservationist and a hunter. His connection with the natural world began at birth in his Manhattan brownstone home and ended with his death in Sagamore Hill. He killed thousands of animals over his lifetime as a hunter-naturalist, most notably one of the last roaming bison (or American buffalo) in the Dakota Badlands. Many of his trophies hang on the walls of his home in Long Island; other specimens "live on" in institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History. But as this episode's special guest Ken Burns reveals in his newest mini-series The American Buffalo, Roosevelt's relationship with the animal world was complicated and, in certain ways, hard to understand today. As one of America’s great conservationists, President Roosevelt's advocacy for wildlife and public land helped to preserve so much of the natural richness of the United States. And his involvement in the creation of the New York Zoological Society (aka the Bronx Zoo) would set the stage for one ambitious project that would help bring the American buffalo back to the Midwestern plains. This episode marks the 165th anniversary of Roosevelt's birth in October and the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site (which plays a small but important role in today's story. ) Visit the website for more information and images from this week's show. This show was engineered by Casey Holford at Stitcher Studios and the interview edited by Kieran Gannon.


#417 Walking the East Village 1976-1996

The rebirth of the East Village in the late 1970s and the flowering of a new and original New York subculture -- what Edmund White called "the Downtown Scene" -- arose from the shadow of urban devastation and was anchored by a community that reclaimed its own deteriorating neighborhood. In the last episode (Creating the East Village 1955-1975) this northern corner of New York's Lower East Side became the desired home for new cultural venues -- nightclubs, cafes, theaters, and bars -- after the city tore down the Third Avenue Elevated in 1955. By the mid-1970s, however, the high had worn off. The East Village was in crisis, one of the Manhattan neighborhoods hit hardest by the city’s fiscal difficulties and cutbacks. It had become a landscape of dark, unsafe streets and buildings demolished in flame. But the next generation of creative interlopers (following the initial stampede of Greenwich Village beatniks and hippies) built upon the legacies of East Village counter-culture to create poems, music, paintings, and stage performances heavily influenced by the apocalyptic situations around them. This was something truly distinct, a creative scene that was thoroughly and uniquely an East Village creation -- punk and hardcore, murals and graffiti, fashion and drag. In this episode Greg hits the streets of the East Village in a special live-on-the-streets event, with musician and tour guide Krikor Daglian (of True Tales of NYC), exploring the secrets of the recent past -- from the origins of skateboarding to the seeds of the American alternative rock scene. FEATURING: CBGB, Supreme, the Pyramid, Club 57, Niagara, 7B, Brownies, and many others AND special guests Bill Di Paola from the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space and Ramon 'Ray' Alvarez from Ray's Candy Store ALSO: Check out our Walking The East Village playlist, curated by Krikor and Greg -- on Spotify


#416 Creating the East Village 1955-1975

Before 1955 nobody used the phrase "East Village" to describe the historic northern portion of the Lower East Side, the New York tenement district with a rich German and Eastern European heritage. But when the Third Avenue El was torn down that year, those who were attracted to the culture of Greenwich Village -- with its coffeehouses, poets and jazz music -- began flocking to the east side, attracted to low rents. Soon the newly named East Village culturally became an extension of the Village with new bookstores, cafes, experimental theaters, and nightclubs. By the mid-1960s the hepcats were replaced by hippies, flamboyant and politically active, influenced by the events of the 1960s and a slightly different buffet of drugs. At the same time, the neighborhood's Ukrainian population grew as well after the United States provided visas to thousands of refugees from Europe displaced by World War II. By the 1960s Puerto Ricans also lived in the eastern end of the district, sometimes called Alphabet City (and eventually Loisaida). In this first of a two-part series on the history of the East Village, Greg is joined Jason Birchard from Veselka Restaurant, who shares his family's story, and by theater historian David Loewy to discuss the influence of Joe Papp and The Public Theater, a stage whose first production would capture the very counter-culture dominating the streets around it. Visit the website for images and more information Further listening: Nuyorican: The Great Puerto Rican Migration St. Mark's Place: Party Time In The East Village The Secrets of St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery


Rewind: The Rebellious History of Tompkins Square Park

This episode on the history of Tompkins Square Park ties right into an all-new two-part episode coming in September, the first part coming at you next week. Tompkins Square Park is the heart and soul of the East Village. And it's also one of New York City's oldest parks! However this was not a park designed for the service of the upper classes in the mid-19th century. It provided open air and recreational space for the many hundreds of thousands of immigrants who moved into the Lower East Side, particularly Germans who filled the park with music, food and social gatherings. But the park has also been a place for people to voice their descent. It's become a most rebellious place over the decades. This is a story of vice presidents and labor unions and drag queens and punks. Visit the website for more information This show was originally released in 2014.


#415 The Early Years of Central Park

Stroll the romantic, rambling paths of historic Central Park in this week's episode, turning back the clock to the 1860s and 70s, a time of children ice skating on The Lake, carriage rides through the Mall, and bewildering excursions through The Ramble. You’re all invited to walk along with Greg through the oldest portion of Central Park. Not only to marvel at the beautiful trees, ancient rocks, flowers, and the dizzying assortment of birds but to look at the architecture, the sculptures, and the fountains. The idea of a public park -- open to all people, from all walks of life -- was rather new in the mid-19th century. The original plan for Central Park by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux emphasized an escape to the natural world. But almost immediately, those plans were altered to include more monumental and architectural delights. In this rambling walking tour, Greg visits some of the most beloved attractions of the park including Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, Naumburg Bandshell, Bow Bridge and Belvedere Castle. And he's joined by two very special guests: -- Sara Cedar Miller, historian emerita of the Central Park Conservancy and author of Before Central Park -- Dr. Emma Guest-Consales, president of the Guides Association of New York City and tour ambassador at One World Observatory. Visit our website for more information


#414 The Brooklyn Navy Yard and Vinegar Hill

The tale of the Brooklyn Navy Yard is one of New York's true epic adventures, mirroring the course of American history via the ships manufactured here and the people employed to make them. The Navy Yard's origins within Wallabout Bay tie it to the birth of the United States itself, the spot where thousands of men and women were kept in prison ships during the Revolutionary War. Within this bay where thousands of American patriots died would rise one of this country’s largest naval yards. It was built for the service and protection of the very country those men and women died for. A complex that would then create weapons of war for other battles -- and jobs for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. In this episode, Greg is joined by the amazing Andrew Gustafson from Turnstile Tours who unfurls the surprising history of the Navy Yard -- through war and peace, through new technologies and aging infrastructure, through the lives of the men and women who built the yard's reputation. And the story extends to the tiny neighborhood of Vinegar Hill, famed for its early 19th-century architecture and the mysterious mansion known as the Commandant's House. FEATURING the origin story of Brooklyn's most sacred public monument -- at home not in Vinegar Hill (at least not anymore) but in Fort Greene. Visit our website for more information and also head to Turnstile Tours for information on their tours of the Navy Yard.


#413 The New Storytellers: Landmarks, Diners and Everyday New Yorkers

Instead of looking back to the history of New York City in this episode, we are looking forwardto the future -- to the new generation of creators who are celebrating New York and telling its story through mediums that are not podcasts or books. Today we are celebrating the historians, journalists and photographers who bring New York City to life on social media platforms like Instagram. There are a million different ways to tell a good story and the guests on today's show are doing it with photography and short films, exposing new audiences to the best of New York City – its landmarks, its people, even its diners. Featuring interviews with three of our favorite people: Nicolas Heller, aka New York Nico, the "unofficial talent scout of New York City," the filmmaker and photographer who manages to capture the magic of the city’s most interesting and colorful characters Riley Arthur, aka Diners of NYC, who explores the world of New York City diners, great and small, in hopes to bring awareness to many struggling local businesses Tommy Silk, aka Landmarks of NY, who shares illuminating photos and videos featuring the city’s most interesting and sometimes overlooked architectural gems Featuring stories of the Neptune Diner, the Green Lady, the Little Red Lighthouse, Junior's Cheesecake, Tiger Hood and City Island. And follow the Bowery Boys on Instagram and on TikTok and on Threads (@boweryboysnyc)


A Gilded Age Tour Up the Island of Manhattan

It’s one of the great narratives of American urban history — the northward trek of New York society up the island of Manhattan during the 19th century. Bringing you this special story today is writer, tour guide and historian Keith Taillon from KeithYorkCity, joining Carl Raymond from the Gilded Gentleman podcast to analyze this unique social migration. They present a fascinating virtual tour through over 100 years of New York City history, showing how the Gilded Age developed and evolved from an architectural and urban planning point of view. For more information visit the Bowery Boys website, subscribe to the Gilded Gentleman podcast and check out Keith's adventures at his website.


Rewind: The Deadly Draft Riots of 1863

This month we are marking the 160th anniversary of one of the most dramatic moments in New York City history – the Civil War Draft Riots which stormed through the city from July 13 to July 16, 1863. Thousands of people took to the streets of Manhattan in violent protest, fueled initially by anger over conscription to the Union Army which sent New Yorkers to the front lines of the Civil War. (Or, most specifically, those who couldn’t afford to pay the $300 commutation fee were sent to war.) In many ways, our own city often seems to have forgotten these significant events. There are very few memorials or plaques in existence at all to the Draft Riots, a very odd situation given the numerous markers to other tragic and unsettling moments in New York City history. In particular, given the number of African-Americans who were murdered in the streets during these riots, and the numbers of Black families who fled New York in terror, we think this is a very significant oversight. In this episode, a remastered, re-edited edition of our 2011 show, we take you through those hellish days of deplorable violence and appalling attacks on abolitionists, Republicans, wealthy citizens, and anybody standing in the way of blind anger. Mobs filled the streets, destroying businesses (from corner stores to Brooks Brothers) and threatening to throw the city into permanent chaos. Visit the website for more information FURTHER LISTENING Fernando Wood: The Scoundrel Mayor of New York The Hoaxes and Conspiracies of New York And did you see this performance from the musical Paradise Square, set during the Draft Riots?


The Making of the Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance feels like an American tradition that traces itself back to the Founding Fathers, but, in fact, the original version is only written in 1892. (And the version you may be familiar with from elementary school is less than 70 years old.) This is the story of the invention of the Pledge, a set of words that have come to embody the core values of American citizenship. And yet it began as part of a for-profit magazine promotion, written by a Christian socialist minister. Listen to the pledge wording evolve throughout the years and discover the shocking salute that once accompanied it. Featuring: Tom Meyers as the voice of Francis Bellamy, the inventor of the pledge. This is a reedited, remastered version of an episode of Greg's spin-off show The First, originally released in 2017 Visit the website for more information and images And after listening, please read this article by Sam Roberts on questions over the pledge's authorship


#412 The New York Parking Wars

Take a look at a historic photograph of New York from the 1930s and you'll see automats, newsies, elevated trains and men in fedoras. What you won't see -- dozens and dozens of automobiles on the curb. In a city with skyrocketing real estate values, why are most city streets still devoted to free car storage? It's a situation we're all so used to that we don't think twice about it. Whatever happened to the curb? Long-term and overnight parking used to be illegal in the early 20th century. The transition from horse-drawn carriages to gas-powered automobiles transformed neighborhoods like Times Square and reconfigured everyday life on the street. But before the 1920s, parking those glamorous new Model Ts on the street was tolerated only in short-term situations. By the 1940s, however, New Yorkers were simply too reliant on the automobile, and the city's parking lots and garages were simply not adequate. (For many New Yorkers, like Seinfeld's George Costanza, they're still not acceptable). Street parking was de facto legalized with the advent of alternate-side parking rules, and soon parking meters and 'meter maids' were attempting to keep a handle on the chaotic situation. Eventually the car took over. Will it always be this way? In this special episode, Tom and Greg are joined by Slate Magazine writer Henry Grabar, author of Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains The World, who exposes some shocking parking violations and even offers a few couple solutions for the future. Visit the website for more images


#411 Miss Subways: Queens of the New York Commute

From 1941 and 1976, dozens of young women and high school girls were bestowed the honor of Miss Subways with her smiling photograph hanging within the cars of the New York subway system. This was not a beauty pageant, but rather an advertising campaign which promoted the subway and drew the eyes of commuters to the train car's many advertisements for cod liver oil, cigarettes and frozen foods. The program was overseen by modeling agent guru John Robert Powers whose work for retail catalogs and newspapers would help define the 'girl-next-door' image of the mid 20th century. However this blonde Midwestern template soon looked out of place promoting the subway system of one of the most diverse cities in the world. By the 1960s, winners of this fleeting title began to reflect the many types of women who commuted and used the subway. Listen in as Greg tells the story of the Miss Subways pageant then participates as a judge for a brand new Miss Subways competition, held in Coney Island in April. But what does this title mean in 2023? FEATURING A visit to the New York Transit Museum, the City Reliquary, Coney Island USA's Seashore Theater and Ellen's Stardust Diner VISIT THE WEBSITE for more information and many photographs


#410 The Roeblings: The Family Who Built The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge, which was officially opened to New Yorkers 140 years ago this year, is not only a symbol of the American Gilded Age, it’s a monument to the genius, perseverance and oversight of one family. This episode is arranged as a series of three mini biographies of three family members -- John Roebling, his son Washington Roebling and Washington's wife Emily Warren Roebling. Through their stories, we’ll watch as the Brooklyn Bridge is designed, built and opened in 1883. PLUS: One more Roebling! Greg and Tom are joined in the studio by Kriss Roebling, the great, great-grandson of Washington and Emily Roebling. He shares his own surprising family stories -- and brings in some extraordinary artifacts from his family's past! Visit our website for more pictures and information about this show FURTHER LISTENING: That Daredevil Steve Brodie! The Queensboro Bridge and the Rise of a Borough Crossing to Brooklyn: How The Williamsburg Bridge Changed New York The George Washington Bridge


Rewind: The Birth of the Broadway Musical

The Broadway musical is one of New York City's greatest inventions, over 160 years in the making! It's one of the truly American art forms, fueling one of the city's most vibrant entertainment businesses and defining its most popular tourist attraction -- Times Square. But why Broadway, exactly? Why not the Bowery or Fifth Avenue? And how did our fair city go from simple vaudeville and minstrel shows to Shuffle Along, Irene and Show Boat, surely the most influential musical of the Jazz Age? This podcast is an epic, a wild musical adventure in itself, full of musical interludes, zipping through the evolution of musical entertainment in New York City, as it races up the 'main seam' of Manhattan -- the avenue of Broadway. We are proud to present a tour up New York City's most famous street, past some of the greatest theaters and shows that have ever won acclaim here, from the wacky (and highly copied) imports of Gilbert & Sullivan to the dancing girls and singing sensations of the Ziegfeld revue tradition. CO-STARRING: Well, some of the biggest names in songwriting, composing and singing. And even a dog who talks in German! At right: Billie Burke from a latter-year Follies. (NYPL) Visit the website for more information and images. This episode was originally recorded in 2013. Since then we have recorded many shows on the Broadway theater district. Please check out these shows for more information: -- Mae West: 'Sex' On Broadway -- Rodgers and Hammerstein -- West Side Story: The Making of Lincoln Center -- The Shuberts: The Brothers Who Built Broadway -- The Cotton Club: The Aristocrat of Harlem -- Tin Pan Alley and the creation of modern American music