Public Morals

From Museum of the City of New York blog: Summer in the City

Now that summer is in full swing, we look back at the ways New Yorkers have either escaped or embraced the heat.

The Drive in Central Park was a place to see and be seen, particularly for the wealthiest New Yorkers, who dressed in their finest attire and rode carriages through the park.

Byron Company. Central Park: The Drive, Summer. 1894. Museum of the City of New York.

At the turn of the century, long black stockings typically accompanied women’s bathing suits (or bathing gowns, as they were called). Bathing suits became less restrictive a few years later, when women began participating in competitive swimming.

Byron Company. Sports, Bathing, Midland Beach. 1898. Museum of the City of New York.

Before air conditioning, it was not uncommon for tenement dwellers to put their mattresses on the roof and sleep through the season’s hottest nights.

John Sloan. Roofs, Summer Night. 1906. Museum of the City of New York. 82.200.1

The Jackie Robinson Pool originally opened as the Colonial Park Pool in Harlem on August 8, 1936. It was one of 11 swimming pools opened throughout the city that year and funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a New Deal agency created to combat the Great Depression.

Sid Grossman. Federal Art Project. Colonial Park Swimming Pool, Harlem. 1939. Museum of the City of New York.

Some New Yorkers preferred water hoses to swimming pools.

United States. Office of War Information. Children spraying a hose from a porch. 1944. Museum of the City of New York. 90.28.88

Every summer, Coney Island’s boardwalk bustles with city dwellers seeking a respite from the heat.

Andrew Herman. Federal Art Project. Feeding Ice-Cream to the Dog. 1939. Museum of the City of New York.

Nathan’s Famous opened in Coney Island at Surf and Stillwell Avenues in 1916, where it still stands today and attracts scores of New Yorkers and tourists alike.

Andrew Herman. Federal Art Project. Nathan’s Hot Dog Stand, Coney Island. 1939. Museum of the City of New York.

Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park began hosting an annual poolside beauty contest called Modern Venus in 1913. Beauty contests flourished as bathing suits became skimpier.

Reginald Marsh. Modern Venus Contest at Steeplechase Park. 1939. Museum of the City of New York.

After World War II, folk singers began congregating in Washington Square. The singers and their audience clashed with some residents of the neighborhood, who thought they were a nuisance. In 1947, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation started issuing permits for public performances in city parks. In 1961, Parks Commissioner Newbold Morris rejected folk singers’ applications to play in Washington Square. Protests ensued, culminating in a fight between the musicians and their supporters and the police seeking to clear the crowds. In the end, a compromise was reached, with folk singers being allowed in the park on Sunday afternoons.

Frederick Kelly. Musicians – Washington Square. 1962.

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From God of Vengeance to Indecent
Tuesday, Apr. 19 at 7:00 pm

On February 19, 1923, theatergoers witnessed Broadway’s first lesbian kiss at the English-language premiere of God of Vengeance, a play by Yiddish writer Sholem Asch. Days later, the NYPD arrested the entire cast on obscenity charges. Asch’s provocative drama and the legal controversy surrounding it has inspired theater artists ever since – including author Paula Vogel, whose new play, Indecent, captures the drama surrounding the 1923 production. We’ll discuss the radical possibilities of Yiddish theater during this panel.  #YiddishTheater

Paula Vogel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Indecent
Rebecca Taichman, Director, Indecent
Marvin Carlson, Professor of Theatre, Comparative Literature and Middle Eastern Studies, CUNY Graduate Center
Joel Berkowitz (moderator), Professor of Foreign Languages & Literature, University of Wisconsin

$20 & up for non-members
$15 for City Museum Members…

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New York magazine has compiled “A Public Transformation” an online slideshow of photos documenting several prominent public spaces in New York City (read: Manhattan) during two different periods in history, in honor of an upcoming television series, TNT’s new cop-and-crime series Public Morals (premiering August 25 at 10/9c). Without further ado, here is the link to the feature which uses online technology to enable immediate comparisons between photos of well-known public spaces in New York City taken 50 years ago with those taken in our own time: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/07/a-public-transformation.html?mid=facebook_nymag

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