Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Months after the Draft Riots, New York celebrates the first national Thanksgiving, in the shadow of war and lunar eclipse

Above: A Thomas Nast illustration from Harper's Weekly, November 1863, clearly putting the event in the context of war and hardship. 

In practice, Thanksgiving celebrates the supposed feast between the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors in Massachusetts. But meals of 'thanksgiving' have been part of the Western world customs for hundreds of years, and today the meal is more an excuse to gather the family together and count the seconds until holiday shopping.

Because that 'original' meal was only vaguely documented, let me give you a more definite event -- 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln declared a national celebration of Thanksgiving for the last week in November:

"I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."

Perhaps you did a double-take at that statement.  There's no mention of Pilgrims or Indians in Lincoln's proclamation, which was made on October 3, 1863.  There is, of course, several soothing religious references. (You can read the entire statement here.)  After all, the United States had been fighting a Civil War for over two and a half years. Any words of peace and calm, paired with boasts of American bounty and expansion, would have put the bloody conflict in a divine context.  "[H]armony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict," Lincoln wrote.

At right: Thanksgiving dinner at 'the Home for the Friendless', 1860s.  I cannot imagine a more grimly named institution! courtesy NYPL

New Yorkers had celebrated a form of Thanksgiving for many years prior to the 1863 proclamation.  But the feast had always been considered a regional, New England celebration, one a little foreign for the city.

From The New York Sun, November 26, 1863:  "The sights and scenes in our city yesterday afforded evident indications of a unanimous determination ... to break up once and all the monopoly of Thanksgiving, so long enjoyed by the New Englanders.  For years past, it had been a standing boast of the genuine 'Down Easters' that the air of New York was unsuited to the festival of the Pilgrim fathers."

Below: Washington Market, always a hectic place, was especially so on Thanksgiving. This scene from Harper's Weekly depicts frantic shoppers in 1872. Courtesy Library of Congress

Don't tell New Yorkers what they can't have!  The Sun promised a "racy and peculiar" New York Thanksgiving that year.  The markets were clogged with shoppers, as New Yorkers came out in force to purchase items for their own Thanksgiving meals.  Every other man on the street seemed to have a naked bird flung over their shoulders.  "Evidentally, every family man and woman, who could raise the number of greenbacks, invested them in Thanksgiving fixings."

This might have been a little journalistic posturing.  Just five months earlier, New York had been ablaze in the Draft Riots, several days of violence towards its own citizens, fueled by an unfair conscription policy and the fears and racial hatreds of its citizens.  Most of the burned buildings had been cleared, but the bloodshed was on many minds.  Many benefits throughout the city raised money for injured Union soldiers and the families of those who had died in battle.

The Sun quietly refers to the Draft Riots' most sickening event, the burning of the Colored Orphan Asylum.  "At the Five Points House of Industry the little ones are to have a bountiful feast.   The colored children burnt out by the mob will be taken care of at Carmansville."

Below: Boy with a turkey, circa 1910-1915 (LOC)

Generally speaking, celebrations went forward as they would in subsequent years -- the food, the church services, the carousing, the merriment, decades before anybody would think of blowing up gigantic balloons and dragging them down Broadway.

However, one thing had been very different that year.  On the evening before Thanksgiving, New Yorkers looked up into sky and witnessed a partial lunar eclipse.

While the event might have filled some with dread, it cast a mysterious pall further south, on the battle field of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  It occurred hours after the Confederacy's defeat by the Union army and helped shield the Southern forces as they slipped away by cover of fog.

Alongside news of New York's embrace of Thanksgiving, the newspapers that day reported of a victory and a death toll:  "General [Joseph] Hooker, in command of General Geary's division, Twelfth corps, General Osterhau's divison, Fifteenth corps, and two brigades, carried the north slope of Lookout Mountain, with small loss on our side, and a loss to the enemy of five hundred or six hundred prisoners: killed and wounded not reported."

Monday, November 25, 2013

Where did New Yorkers first buy recorded music?

"Photograph shows a boy and a girl dancing while an Edison Home Phonograph plays in a house in Broad Channel, Queens, New York City." -- taken between 1910-1915

Here's something many people thought they'd never see again in New York City -- the opening of a new record store.  Rough Trade, known for their famous London record shop, will open an awesomely spacious new store in Williamsburg this week, with vinyl-record listening stations, a coffee shop, live performances and a heap of nostalgia on its shoulders.

Remember Tower Records on Broadway?  Virgin Records in Times Square?  The old subway Record Mart? The long-vanished Commodore Record Shop?  The past is littered with the ghosts of music stores long gone.

But where did people first buy recorded music in New York City?  The first recordings came on phonograph cylinders, long tubes with the grooves etched along the front, often made with wax.  Essentially, they looked like --- and probably smelled like -- big, decorative candles.

They were soon in competition with phonographs in a flat, wax disc form, the musical delivery device which eventually won out and became the standard for decades.

In the beginning, recorded music was played in exhibition halls, not available for home use.  By the 1890s, the first musical devices were available for purchase, and phonographs were sold in establishments that offered instruments, music boxes or early electronics -- Broadway piano stores (like the one above, in 1910) or the places down on the soon-to-be-named Radio Row which offered New Yorkers the latest technology.

Naturally, the first records were made to play on Edison machines, pricey novelties in the late 1890s.  Here, in 1898, you could put a down-payment on the purchase of a phonograph machine and a bicycle -- a real hipster double-play today!

Another advertisement from 1898 presents Edison records at just "$5.00 a dozen", found at the St. James Building at Broadway and 26th Street.  Of course, a great many of these records were spoken word, not music;  after all, they were nicknamed 'talking machines' at this time.

I was able to find a few other early photographer retailers in old newspaper advertisements.  For instance, Douglas & Co., at 10 West 22nd Street, appears to be one of New York's earliest retailers specializing in recorded sound.  From Dec 16, 1900:

By 1903, Douglas & Co. had moved downtown, closer to the electronic retailers that would later specialize in radio and televisions:

Another early phonograph retailer I was able to locate was A.B Barkelew & Kent.  "Call and hear them. They talk themselves."  They would eventually move to Vesey Street and, in 1902, claim "the largest stock in New York."

As early in 1899, Barkelew & Kent could claim to be one of New York's first used record stores.  From a trade ad: "We exchange records you tire of and do not like."

Interestingly, early record stores were listed alongside advertisements for sporting goods.  This ad is from May 1902:

And since we're celebrating the opening of a new record store in Brooklyn, I should add that one of Brooklyn's first major record stores was at A.D. Matthews Department Store on Fulton Street.

From an April 1900 advertisement:

Sunday, November 24, 2013

New Bowery Boys podcast artwork. How do we look?

Our designer is the exceptionally talented Thomas Cabus.  You can take a look at some of his other work -- including the design of the award-winning Circle of 6 app -- at this link.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tough Enough: Teen Criminal Mugshots from 100 Years Ago

Okay, maybe it's just me that does this, but occasionally I love perusing the document archives of the New York Department of Records, a treasure trove of municipal maps and photography from the past.

Buried amid the grisly crime photographs and disaster images are an interesting array of mugshots.  With little information attached, we can only try to figure out the lives of these people through their clothing and expressions.

Below I present to you a few of the junior mugshots from the Department of Records, those teenagers and young adults who commits a host of unknown crimes between 1910 and 1920. Try and imagine what their lives might have been like, what might have driven them to commit the crimes in which they were captured, or whether were even guilty at all. Whatever happened to these young men? If I can find more information on them, I'll update this post.

I'm linking directly from the Department of Records, so you can click into each entry and drag the images around. Please give it a few seconds to load. Their website is a bit tricky.

Name: L. Rose
Taken: 1916-1920

Name: Louis Cohen
 Taken: 1916-1920

Name: Benny Stern
Taken: August 13, 1913

 Name: "Wolf"
 Taken: 1916-1920

Name: Unknown
 Taken: 1916-1920

Name: Jone
Taken: 1916-1920

Name: Goffe
Taken: 1916-1920

Name: McAvoy
Taken: 1916-1920

Name: Unknown
Taken: March 17, 1911
Name: W. Dorsch
Taken: 1916-1920

Thursday, November 21, 2013

History in the Making 11/21: Everybody Take A Cab Edition

Taxis, not as taxing! The caption for the photo above: "New York City Mayor's Bureau of Licenses condemning a taxicab after new ordinance regulating taxicab meters went into effect on August 1, 1913."  The law was withheld in state court 100 years ago today, kicking in a new set of lowered cab fares for New Yorkers.  The price list is below.

-- The Bowery Boys were featured in last weekend's issue of the Wall Street Journal in an article about the economics of podcasting. The article by Jo Piazza -- which also features Catie Lazarus of the Employee of the Month podcast -- is depressingly titled 'So Many Podcasts, So Little Profit.'  [Wall Street Journal]

-- What's the latest on the remains of the Bull's Head Tavern that were found on the Bowery during the excavation for a new boutique hotel?  Well, demolition hasn't stopped. [The Lo-Down]

-- Also wiped from the New York City landscape -- 5Pointz, the graffiti palace in Long Island City and the Louvre of graffiti art. But a new condominium is on the way!  I'm not a clairvoyant, but that new condo better have paint-resistant surfaces  [New York Times]

-- Perhaps you've biked or driven past this building many times, the Flatbush Avenue campus of Long Island University with the curious marquee.  It was once the spectacular Paramount Theatre, dating from 1928.  Nick takes you inside, looking for the remains of this former movie palace. [Scouting NY]

-- Amazing New York nurses from 1942! Another lovely find from the Shorpy digital photo blog. [Shorpy]

-- The curious journey of a neon liquor sign on the Upper West Side.  "In as much as New York's old neon signs are metaphors for survival against the odds, Riverside and its old sign say it loud and clear." [New York Neon]

-- And you'll be getting a preview of our new look this Monday!  It's far more interesting and presentable than, say, our original look.

-- One hundred years ago today, the battle to lower cab rates, spearheaded by the New York Evening World, was won when an appellate court withheld regulations passed by New York's board of aldermen.  It also eliminated 'private hackstands', which created virtual monopolies for wealthier private cab companies .  Here is the new list of cab fares in 1913:

Picture above and newspaper excerpts courtesy the Library of Congress

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Harlem on a high note: The grand Harlem Opera House

Proctor's Harlem Opera House.

A ton of people on-stage at the Harlem Opera House in 1907. During this period, it was owned by vaudeville impresario Keith Proctor and called Proctor's Harlem Opera House. Pictures courtesy the Museum of the City of New York 

 The Hotel Theresa, subject of this week's podcast, had a rather unusual neighbor in its early years.

Harlem is known for a rich musical heritage in a variety of genres, but did you know it also had very old ties to world of opera, from as far back as the 19th century?

Oscar Hammerstein was a wealthy New York cigar maker who decided to dip his toe into real estate ventures, and in a most surprising neighborhood.  Thanks to the construction of the elevated railroads in the 1880s, the once-distant Harlem was now linked to the heart of the city, and thousands began moving there, particularly European Jewish immigrants.

Theatre, Harlem Opera House 125th St. & 8th Ave.Hammerstein built dozens of rowhouses for prospective residents, but his real vision was the Harlem Opera House (at right), constructed in 1889 and located at 207 West 125th Street, on the other side of the street from the Hotel Winthrop (later the Hotel Theresa).

For a time, it really did just showcase operatic productions, of both the severe and light varieties.  According to author Jonathan Gill, "Hammerstein had a broad vision of what uptown theatergoers wanted, and he produced both popular and genteel drama and opera in English translation, an experiment that proved attractive to audiences who were willing to pay up to $2.50 a ticket."

Famous stars were drawn here from the stages of Herald Square.  For instance, Edwin Booth performed Shakespeare here in 1889, a few years before his death.  Lillian Russell, a favorite of the New York pressperformed the show 'An American Beauty' here in March 1897.

The Opera House helped create a miniature theater district here along 125th Street.  Hammerstein himself built the Columbus Theatre the following year, bringing more popular fare -- namely, vaudeville.  Soon the street would become one of New York's great centers of burlesque entertainment.  Many years later, Hurtig & Seamon's New Burlesque Theater would open a couple doors down from the opera house, later changing its name to the Apollo Theatre.

Hammerstein, however, could not make the Harlem Opera House a financial success, and he was soon lured downtown to build his most renown theaters (and places that would later inspire his grandson Oscar Hammerstein II.)  The Harlem Opera House was sold and transformed into a more traditional vaudeville house.  By the 1930s, to compete with the thriving amateur nights over at the Apollo, the Harlem Opera House had its own amateur nights.  Its most notable discovery is one of the greatest names in music -- Ella Fitzgerald.

Below: Another view of the Opera House, here as Proctor's Opera House, courtesy NYHS.  The balconies to the left belong to the Winthrop Hotel -- compare this picture to the Winthrop photo here -- to be replaced in a few years by the Theresa.

The Opera House was torn down in 1959.  Surprisingly, it appears there was the possibility of a new opera house in Harlem being built in the late 1960s, under the guidance of Gian Carlo Menotti, but that never panned out.  However, the operatic tradition lives on today with the Harlem Opera Theater, founded in 2001.

Below: You can still find the Harlem Opera House in Harlem -- on the walls of the 125th subway station, in mosaic form!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Hotel Theresa: An historic treasure of Harlem

The Hotel Theresa, as it looks today, White Castle and all.

PODCAST The Hotel Theresa is considered a genuine (if under-appreciated) Harlem gem, both for its unique architecture and its special place in history as the hub for African-American life in the 1940s and 50s.

The luxurious apartment hotel was built by a German lace manufacturer to cater to a wealthy white clientele. But almost as soon as the final brick was laid, Harlem itself changed, thanks to the arrival of thousands of new black residents from the South.

Harlem, renown the world over for the artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance and its burgeoning music scene, was soon home to New York's most thriving black community.  But many of the businesses here refused to serve black patrons, or at least certainly made them unwelcome.

The Theresa changed its policy in 1940 and soon its lobby was filled with famous athletes, actresses and politicians, many choosing to live at the Hotel Theresa over other hotels in Manhattan.  The hotel's relative small size made it an interesting concentration of America's most renown black celebrities.

In this podcast, I give you a tour of this glamorous scene, from the corner bar to the penthouse, from the breakfast table of Joe Louis to the crazy parties of Dinah Washington.

ALSO: Who is this mysterious Theresa? What current Congressman was a former desk clerk? And what was Joe Louis' favorite breakfast food?

To get this week's episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services, subscribe to our RSS feed or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and Player FM from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #158 The Hotel Theresa: The Waldorf of Harlem

The Hotel Winthrop which sat on the spot of the Theresa before it was torn down in the early 1910s, deemed a bit inadequete for the growing neighborhood. (Courtesy Museum of the City of New York)

From the February 4, 1917, issue of the New York Tribune, making note of its "large spacious dining room overlooking the Palisades."

The Hotel Theresa, circa 1915.  Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York
Hotel Theresa, Seventh Ave. & 125th Street.

Boxer Joe Louis was one of America's most famous athletes in the 1940s and a frequent guest at the Teresa.  Joe fought the German boxer Max Schmeling twice, both times at Yankee Stadium.  Max bested Joe in the first match, but on the second go-around in 1938, Louis knocked out Schmeling in the first round.  He enjoyed his win that evening at the Theresa, as thousands of fans gathered in front of the hotel and throughout the city in celebration.

Malcolm X speaking to crowds in front of the Hotel Theresa -- back when there was a Chock Full O Nuts on street level! The former Malcolm Little would be very associated with the hotel, headquartering here after his split with the Nation of Islam.  Photo by Larry Fink c/o WNYC

Jet Magazine and Ebony Magazine founder John J Johnson conceived the ideas for both magazine at the Hotel Theresa and frequently published articles about the Theresa.

 A notice in a 1954 issue of Jet announcing the opening of the Hotel Theresa ballroom, called the Skyline.

In its final years, the Hotel Theresa was even featured in an Alfred Hitchcock film 'Topaz'. The film fictionalized and played around with an actual event that took place at the Theresa -- the arrival of Fidel Castro here in 1960.

You can see the Hotel Theresa briefly in the film's trailer (at 1:19):

And finally, I featured the music of Una Mae Carlisle in the show.  She was frequently hired to play the Theresa's club room in the late1940s.  Tragically, Ms. Carlisle died of an illness in 1956, or else she's certainly be better known today:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Edwin Booth, American Hamlet, born 180 years ago today

Edwin Booth, the Gilded Age's most famous American actor, was born 180 years ago today.  Here's a few past blog posts on Mr. Booth (and his infamous brother John Wilkes Booth) to commemorate the great thespian's contribution to New York City history:

-- Booth owned a theater at 6th Avenue and 23rd Street that nearly bankrupted him. However it was a favorite stage for international star Sarah Bernhardt.

-- Booth came from one of America's great acting families of the 19th century.  Father Julius Brutus Booth (that name!) once performed at the Park Theatre on Park Row.  Tom told a ghost story relating to the Park Theatre in this year's ghost stories podcast.  Meanwhile, the theater impresario who hired Julius, Stephen Price, was buried in the now-vanished graveyard of St. Mark's-in-the-Bowery.

-- Booth's final performance (as Hamlet) was at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  He's prominently featured in our podcast on the subject from June 2012.  Here's a picture of him in his signature role as Hamlet.

-- You can find statues of Edwin Booth in various places in New York.  Of course, he stands in Gramercy Park, near the location of his famous Players Club.  But you can also find his bust up in the Bronx, in the Hall of Fame of Great Americans. 

-- Booth was a good friend of another icon who later made New York his home -- Mark Twain.  In fact, Twain often stayed at Booth's Players Club, smoking cigars and playing pool.  Booth comes up in my podcast on Mark Twain's New York.

-- And finally, a look at New York City in 1864, the year the Booth brothers played to great acclaim at Booth's Winter Garden, just a few months before John Wilkes assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Top picture courtesy New York Public Library / Billy Rose collection

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Charles Kellogg, the man who put out fires with his voice

New York has seen its share of bizarre entertainments, especially back in the days of vaudeville, when people would pay for almost anything that amused or titillated.  A few months ago, I wrote about the novelty star Don the Talking Dog, who allegedly spoke a handful of English and German words.

But another vocally talented star was the hot vaudeville ticket one hundred years ago -- Charles Kellogg, the man who could extinguish fire with his singing voice.

Kellogg was an early environmentalist and promoter of California's redwood forests.  He billed him as 'California's Nature Singer,' known for his sterling emulation of bird song,  recording his aviary music for Victor. "He was born with the throat of a bird," said the New York Times.  Imagine cranking up this record on your Victrola, his 'duet' with Romanian soprano Alma Gluck:

Kellogg voice was allegedly superhuman.  It could not only emulate the sounds of nature, but it could protect nature from devastating flame.

He performed this particular trick in New York on November 11, 1913, at the brand-new Palace Theater (Broadway/47th Street), performing for an audience which included various New York fire chiefs, several scientists, and an auditorium full of curiosity seekers.  Also on hand: William Temple Hornaday of the Bronx Zoo, his reputation recently sullied over the whole Ota Benga scandal.

During the demonstration, Kellogg proved he could affect the flickering flame on the other side of the stage by first aiming his 'bird song' at it, then by drawing a bow across a sheet of metal.  "He stood fifty feet away from the flame and drawing the bow across the metal and singing his bird song the flame acted the same way, finally going out."

Kellogg continued his display of natural gifts by demonstrating a divining rod for finding water, then by dropping to the floor and "demonstrated the Indian way of making fire by friction with two pieces of redwood."

Captivating, I'm sure, but not enough to convince New York's fire chiefs.  "It has not yet reached a point where Fire Commissioner Johnson will put male quartets in the fire house ready to dash to a fire and render a popular ballad." [source]

Kellogg returned to New York in 1917 with another redwood-inspired creation -- his 'redwood motor home', called the Travel Log (pictured below), which he and his wife took cross-country.  The idea of a 'mobile home' was a true novelty for the day.  Kellogg's Travel Log was briefly displayed at a motor car salesroom on Broadway and 57th Street to the delight of auto enthusiasts.

Picture courtesy NPR

By the way, Mythbusters recently took up Kellogg's challenge as to whether the human voice could put out a fire.  The verdict -- yes, it can, but not at any decibel Kellogg could have possibly been singing in. More information here.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The end of war: New York newspapers celebrate Armistice Day and the end of World War I

Armistice Day 1918: An impromptu gathering of New Yorkers gathered in front of City Hall. (NYPL)

Today is Veterans Day in the United States, a holiday devoted to the memory and service of those in the American armed forces.  While this is a commemoration of all men and woman who have served -- during war and peace-time -- the specific date of Veterans Day (November 11) derives from one particular moment -- the end of World War I, on November 11, 1918.

By 1919, several individual states had already made Armistice Day a holiday.  According to the New York Tribune, the first Armistice Day parade that year took place at four in the morning, when Brooklyn post office workers and a thousand other well-wishers took to the streets in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Armistice Day was declared a national holiday in 1938.  At the completion of World War II, the national holiday was expanded to include those who had served in that war, officially renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

But I do find it interesting that the date itself commemorates a specific event, and one that brought a flood of relief and passion to millions of people around the world.  Here's how the major New York City newspapers presented the event to their readers:

  The New York Tribune, November 10, 1918

The New York Tribune, November 11, 1918

A font-kerning nightmare! The New York Evening World, November 11, 1918:

Semi-colon heaven! The New York Sun, November 11, 1918

The New York Times, November 11, 1918

Friday, November 8, 2013

Let's go see the horses at Madison Square Garden!

Click into the pictures for greater detail.  Pictures courtesy the Library of Congress

These unbearably cute orphans were lined up to go to the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden which began on November 15, 1913.  These are of course the days of the Garden down at the northeast corner of Madison Square, the glorious McKim, Mead and White structure topped with a glittering statue of Diana.

Once inside, the children were witness to a marvelous variety of events, including horse racing, pictured here:

Here's another view of an earlier event from 1910:

The National Horse Show was one of New York's big society events, as much a see-and-be-seen spectacle as the opera.  Did anybody care about the dressage, the equestrian excellence?  Perhaps some. But many were just there for the fashion show as society doyennes and big-money mogul strutted the latest styles.

"If you wish to learn which horses are entered in the harness classes of the Horse Show, your quest will entail the mild labor of turning over the pages of the official catalogue.  If, on the other hand, you wish to see the entrants in a far larger "harness" class than anything the horses have to offer, all you need do is turn your head from the promenade of Madison Square Garden to the boxes and then back to the promenade again."

From the Nov. 17th Evening World

From the Nov. 21st Evening World

So how did a group of poor orphans get invited to high society's big event? It was a gesture of charity by the Vanderbilt family -- Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt* was president of the horse show -- who invited 3,000 orphaned children from around the city to sit in the balconies.

"The city's little wards have looked forward to this occasion for many months.  They always do.  They know Santa Claus Vanderbilt.  After the show each of them will leave the Garden with a substantial present.  It is their Christmas Day." [source]

* Two years later, Mr. Vanderbilt would die in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Lower East Side went back in time this week

Was this photograph taken yesterday on the set of Steven Soderbergh's new mini-series The Knick, or was it taken back in the 1910s?  The answer is at the bottom of this blog post!

This week, a little stage magic is manifesting in the Lower East Side. The Broome Street of 2013 has been turned briefly into the Broome Street of 1910!  Steven Soderbergh has been shooting his new mini-series The Knick in New York this week, a tale of old Knickerbocker Hospital set over a century ago.  This required the boutique-and-lounge strewn Broome be reverted to its days of immigrants, wagons and pushcarts.

Tom wandered through the set last night and took these photographs:

Hay, it's one of the Bowery Boys!

Interestingly,. there's an actual Stag's Head up on 51st Street!

Gothamist also has a fine set of pictures from the set, featuring some extras in costumes.  The Soderbergh mini-series will debut on Cinemax in 2014. 

Compare these with some actual pictures and illustrations of the Lower East Side in the early 1910s:

Mulberry Street clam seller (circa 1900-1905), cleaned-up image courtesy Shorpy.

"Street scene from 1915," actual street unknown (NYPL)

A Lower East Side hot-potato merchant (NYPL):

Essex and Hester Street, photo-mechanical postcard, date unknown (NYPL)

Illustration from Ladies Home Journal, Sept 1910, of a typical LES 'street scene' (NYPL):

As for this photograph -- this is not a picture of a hipster film extra from 2013, but a man taking a brief nap in a park in the Lower East Side, photo dated 1912. ( LOC)