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The Bowery: 1900

New York circa 1900. "The Bowery near Grand Street." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

New York circa 1900. "The Bowery near Grand Street." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Barcalow & Co. Photographers

My ancestor was Richard Garrison Barcalow, photographer. According to my records his gallery and studio was at 76 Bowery. By the time this photo was taken he was deceased and the building sold, but the painted sign remains! When he owned the building it was three and a half stories with a peaked roof that he had installed a skylight in for his gallery. Supposedly the building was built circa 1790 and is still there!
Thanks so much for posting this!


The train makes me think of childhood viewings of Thomas the Tank Engine for some reason.

The locomotive is an 0-4-4, which is rare. I've never seen one in person. Then again this type of urban elevated track is an unusual place to find steam engines.

Recycling the manure

In London in the late 19th century the "manure problem" was just the flip side of the "hay problem." Special sailing barges called stackies would bring horse fodder up the Thames from the countryside. It would be piled so high that the mainsail couldn't be properly set and the guy on the tiller couldn't see where he was going.

On the return trip, a boatload of manure was taken back to the fields, a journey which could take several days.

Looking North

This is looking north on Bowery. You can tell by looking at the street addresses on the buildings. Saranac's at 57, Firuski's at 70-72, *arcalow and Co. Photographers appears to be at 76 (or 78), and there's a business at 97, up the street.

You can't really re-create this vantage today, obviously, because the el no longer exists. But if you look at the Flickr link I posted yesterday, you can't re-create that one either. You'd have to stand at about 53 or 55 Bowery, and as pedrocooper pointed out, that address no longer exists. You'd basically have to stand in the middle of the Manhattan Bridge approach. Good luck with that!

If I had to guess, I'd say that if you could plant yourself at the exact spot where that Flickr picture was shot, it would be roughly here (you might have to spin the map around so you're "facing" roughly north up Bowery):

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Bowery El Signals

Note the "pot" signal at left foreground and again just past the switch at right center. Pot signals were somewhat similar to switchstand targets, having two indications and rotating. They were also used on the "big" railroad interlockings as dwarf signals, but were later outlawed and generally replaced by dwarf semaphores. Great photo!


After my

original post, I found a great website which documents storefronts on the lower east side (current view).

Also, in response to kjottbein, this view in the original photo is looking north from below Canal Street (where the trolley car is).

Re: Manure questions

Perhaps some manure was recycled as fertilizer but the amounts generated from the thousands of horses in the city was enormous. The vast majority of manure washed straight into the local bays and rivers. Mark Kurlasnky's excellent book, The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell documents how oysters, once the staple food in NYC, were slowly degraded by pollution from the growing metropolis. In regards to another north-east bay, Scott Nixon's research has shown that all the horses in Providence, R.I. polluted Narraganset Bay with enormous amounts of nitrogen run-off, even when compared to that of today's fertilized lawns and golf courses.

Manure answers

If you'll look here:
you can see a bunch of manure loads waiting to go somewhere.. Maybe to local farms?

Also, as a little girl in the 1930's, my mother was given the task of running out to the street with a dustpan and brush to collect freshly dropped "horse apples" whenever they appeared, they were then applied directly to the family's garden.

Steam & Lightning

This picture captures an interesting time in the history of technology when steam engines, the motive power of the industrial revolution, were on their way out and being replaced by electric motors.

The two intersecting streetcar lines with their conduit slots supplying power to the streetcars reveals the fact that electricity had finally become useful traction power source. Soon it would inevitably make its way upstairs to the elevated lines, where the little Forney steam engines wouldn't be tugging elevated trains along for much longer.


There is a sign for 'Saranac' near the right edge of the picture, under the tracks (look to the right of the track switch). Saranac is a regional beer, brewed in the Adirondacks since the 1880's, and is still around. They also make soft drinks.

Manure questions

It's amazing to me how free of manure the streets are in this picture in spite of all the horses. Mickey D's street-level photograph shows why. The cleaning cart and barrel must be for quick pick-up. Which suggests there would be sanitary workers stationed at various points along the thru-way. But then, what did they do with the stuff once the barrels were full? Where did it go? Did they have some kind of system for producing fertilizer?

Which way?

Can anyone tell if this is looking north or west on Bowery? I like to stay at the SoHotel when I'm in NYC, which is at the corner of Bowery and Broome street, one street up from Grand st.

If get in line now

We can swing by CBGB's to catch the first show! I hope the Ramones will be there...

The El Tracks

Notice how close the elevated railroad tracks are to the buildings. The noise and vibration had to be near unbearable. The Bowery is a continuation of 3rd Avenue, starting at about 4th Street. The El was torn down in Manhattan around 1953. Many of the original tenements still exist.


That is a nice little steam-powered Forney locomotive on the elevated line. They served "el" lines before electrification took place.

Firuski Auctioneers

In 1880 Samuel Firuski initiated a family auction business on Fulton Street 16. In 1896 they established the Pioneer Warehouse Company on Flatbish Avenue. Pioneer is still owned by members of the Firuski family and Louis's grandson, Robert Seligmann, manages the operation

Street level

I found a good picture of this area from street level:

The Manhattan Bridge

of 1909 took care of the buildings on the immediate right. Today the east (right side) of Bowery ends at 77 and picks up at 25 south of the Manhattan Bridge entrance. Thanks again Dave for these wonderful photos!

A tree grows in Brooklyn

But not in the Bowery.

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