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Sixth Avenue Shoppers: 1903

Sixth Avenue Shoppers: 1903

Circa 1903. "Shoppers on Sixth Avenue, New York City." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Dress trains

I like how in this photo you can see clearly -- in almost all the female figures not facing the camera -- the woman's habit of gathering the fabric of the back of the dress with the right hand, and holding it at her side as she walks.

I'm in that building right now

As I type this, I'm at work on the 6th floor office in that building on the right --- which was only 6 years old in that picture. The old stairways are great, lots of iron details, as are the lions around the upper cornice. (Beats working in a building designed in Excel.)

Shorpy tops itself again

This is the perfect example of why I have to visit your site every day (or at least every few days). This is such a fascinating photograph.


When we look at this photo, with folks dressed in their Victorian finery, horses and buggies in the street, and not an automobile in sight, we can easily forget that, for these people, a place like Sixth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan was the absolute cutting edge of modernity and cosmopolitanism. It was dazzling! Nothing in history had been anything like it. In the days before radio, TV, etc., if you pulled someone off a potato farm in Aroostook County, Maine, and plunked him down in his overalls in the middle of this street scene, he would have been absolutely dumbstruck beyond comprehension - much more so than is possible today. A railroad train on an overhead track screeching down the middle of a street crowded with hundreds of well-dressed people and lined with buildings 8 and 10 stories high? Stupefying!!!


I used to work in that building in the mid 1980's before the neighborhood was revived as a shopping area. The building had some offices and smaller stores but the front shown here was empty.

Some great architecture detail inside too. They also had a separate house/apartment on the roof. There are still offices apart from the stores. It is a huge building.

Most of that area in the mid 80's was a bit abandoned and run down. It was a great idea to make use of all these amazing old buildings.

Live right there

I live like right next to the building with the pointy lamps. Currently has a Bed Bath & Beyond in there along with a JC Penney.

Siegel Cooper

Currently home to Filene's, TJ Maxx and others, this was one massive store in its day. Its grand opening was in 1896:

The Times reported that 150,000 people had attended the opening of what they called "a shopping resort." The store was prepared for 190,000 visitors a day, and employed 8,000 clerks and 1,000 drivers and packers. In addition to the usual vast array of merchandise of department stores then and now, Siegel Cooper had a telegraph office, a long-distance telephone office, a foreign-money exchange, stock-trading services, a dentist, and an advertising agency.

Another NY Times article here.

No wonder there were so many people there on the street!

Got my mom's saucepan there

Not five minutes ago I was discussing with my mother the six-quart saucepan I bought for her birthday while traveling in New York. Then I sat down and saw this picture of the very store where I made that purchase, 106 years later. Funny!


Isn't it amazing how many of the old structures are still there. Even more shocking is that those buildings look better now, more than a 100 years later, than they looked in 1903. Thanks for the great pix!

The Kicker is...

...part of the American version of the Ministry of Silly Walks? Great picture, it seems that no matter what era it is there are still people looking for bargains at Christmas.


I've become a Shorpyholic for a few months now... always interesting and full of potential questions which I've avoided until now... what is our friend, which I've called "Kicker," doing in the center of this wonderful photo? Great site which is a time machine that takes us back to days and people of long ago.

Christmas in the Heart

The sign in the center of the photo says "___ (Buy? The?) Christmas Dinner/25,000(?) Poor". There is a kettle, a la the Salvation Army, hanging just below the sign. Just past that, is a display of wreaths and other greenery.

A man, who may be the proprietor of the greenery stand seems to be performing a Ministry of Funny Walks skit, but that's neither here nor there.

Silver bells, silver bells

In response to the first commenter, I think this photo was taken near Christmastime. If I'm not mistaken, there's a Salvation Army bellringer in the center of the frame, with her hanging kettle for donations.

I was just shopping there this week!

Wow, what a wonderful find. I have long wondered what Sixth Avenue looked like when the elevated was there. So funny that I shop the Bed Bath & Beyond and other stores here a few times a month.

And now


Just mention the lack of people in the last photo and presto: a mob! I love it!


Looking at photographs like this, I'm reminded of a passage in Hebrews that says we are "as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore."


I think it's looking uptown. The building on the right with the decorative arch looks like the present home of Bed & Bath, Filene's and TJ Maxx.

No bare heads in 1903!

In a "Where's Waldo" kind of challenge, try to find someone, male or female (children don't count) who is not wearing a hat.

Ladies' Mile!

Wow! Great shot of the "Ladies' Mile" - I see Alexander Shoes at the corner of 19th street -- any idea if this is looking up or downtown? I'm on Sixth Avenue at that spot quite often.

Holy cow that's a lot of people.

Could these have been Xmas shoppers? Was it like this every day?

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