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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • EAT MORE FISH, 1917

Macy's: 1905

Macy's: 1905

1905. "R.H. Macy & Co., New York." The famous department store. Corner tenant: Lucio's, the jeweler whose pearls, rubies and diamonds "defy detection." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

 

A Bygone Era

What a wonderful photo. I see several men carrying either a doctors bag or briefcase and everyone is dressed in their elegant finery, a far cry from what you would see today on any sidewalk. I often wonder what it was really like to have lived back then.

Happy Days Are Here Again

Shortly after the U.S. ended Prohibition in December, 1933, R H Macy's was awarded New York State's first Liquor License. Attached is a news photo from 1944. The crowd there were probably Long Island Railroad Commuters. NYC's Penn Station is a few short blocks from Macy's.

Artificial, it seems

I've found other old ads for the company and they call them "scientific" diamonds -- and they "defy detection" is because you can't tell them from real "old mine" diamonds.

I think we'd call them now artificial - even back then, the technology was new but pretty good.

[Gem-quality synthetic diamonds, which are identical chemically (if not spectroscopically) to geologic ones, got their start in the 1970s. What Lucio's was selling is probably what we would call costume jewelry. -Dave]

Looking west

This view shows the eastern side of Macy's, with Broadway and Herald Square in the foreground. Most likely, the photographer was on the platform of the 34th Street station of the Sixth Avenue El, Sixth Avenue forming the opposite side of Herald Square. At the extreme right is the famous James Gordon Bennett Memorial statue, honoring the founder of the New York Herald newspaper from which the square took its name.

35th Street heads away from Broadway on the right side of the picture. Then as now, Macy's delivery and service entrances are along the 35th Street side. One thing apparent from the view of this side is that the Macy's building in 1905 was much smaller than it is today. Over the next 20 or so years it was expanded in stages to the west until it reached Seventh Avenue.

The Lucio's building on the corner of Broadway and 34th is part of Macy's lore, as when the store was in the planning stage Lucio's owner refused to sell. Whether he was trying to stop construction entirely or was just holding out for a big payoff is not certain. Whatever the case, Macy's simply built around the smaller building, and did not demolish it even after acquiring the property some years later. The building's still there today, on the ground floor housing what must be the world's best-located sunglasses shop, though it's best known for the huge Macy's advertising signs that cover the upper stories.

At lower left is a statue of copper mining baron William Earl Dodge, who became a leading philanthropist and helped organize the YMCA. It was sculpted by the famous sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward and dedicated in 1895. In the early 1940's it was moved several blocks away to Bryant Park to accommodate renovations to Herald Square.

Defy detection?

Does that mean they can't be found, or they're so fake no one will be able to tell the difference?

Work Crew

What a great photo! Truly a moment frozen for all time. I was drawn to the "manhole crew" at the lower right. Soft hats, no safety signs or extensive traffic barriers, woman crossing right over the cord, etc. A different world! Lack of auto traffic is certainly a factor. Can anyone elaborate on what the crew is doing? Is the tool powered by air or electricity?

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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