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Manhattan: 102 Years Ago

Manhattan: 102 Years Ago

Manhattan circa 1908. "New York skyline." Part of an eleven-section panorama. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Someone say Panorama?

Sorry for a bit of a screw-up where the Harbor starts on the left side because Photoshop has a bit of a malfunction, but here's the full panorama. Enjoy! 9528x960


I would also like to see the entire panorama. Even if bit by bit.


I bet Manahatta was given the nickname The Big Apple because of all the road apples on the streets. Come for the stunning architecture, run away gagging from the smell.

What I'm learning from this phenomenal site are the minimal changes from Civil War customs and architecture up through the 1910s. Regardless of incredible inventions, social norms hardly shifted at all till WW1.


I love drawing old NYC and I love Shorpy.

Check out my site for more.

Aroostook Conversion

Below is a before/after image of the Bunker Hill/Aroostook refit. (Stitched from the above Shorpy post and the image at Wikipedia, flipped left-right.)

For Tim David

Ok, it's not quite perfect, but HERE is the full panorama.

OK I wanna see the whole panorama

Can someone stitch it together?

[Have at it. - Dave]

More of the NYC navy

If you look to the left side of the picture, those boxy barges lettered for the New York Central are lighters used to service ships in other parts of the harbor besides at the railroad's own dock facilities. This page gives a nice overview of the kinds of facilities in the city including a map that shows an overall picture of where they were. Containerization finally killed this kind of transloading off in the early sixties when someone finally figured out that giving the stevedores two passes on the goods wasn't exactly labor-saving.

White Flier

From the pre-aviation era when "flier" meant fast ship. The Bunker Hill is an example of first quality American shipbuilding circa 1908. While "modern" in terms of amenities, ships of this time were not required to carry sufficient numbers of lifeboats for all people aboard. The Bunker Hill appears to be carrying four.

Scheduled "White Flier" time for one-way passage between New York and Boston was 15 hours.

ABC Pathfinder Railway Guide, 1912

Eastern Steamship Corporation


The Great Express White Steel Fliers Massachusetts and Bunker Hill.

Splendid Steel Freight steamships are operated by the Metropolitan Line between Boston, Mass. and New York.

The Massachusetts and Bunker Hill are notable examples of Modern Marine Architecture. Many of their staterooms are en suite, with connecting bath and toilet facilities. All staterooms are most attractively furnished, and equipped with the most modern sanitary fixtures. Inside staterooms are provided with electric fans. They are provided with a most attractive outside dining-room on the Main Deck, a Hurricane Deck Cafe; are equipped for the burning of oil as fuel, with Automatic Sprinkling Appliances, Wireless Telegraphy, Submarine Signal Service, and all other modern facilities to insures the Security and Comfort of passengers. All outside two-berth rooms, $2.00; Inside, $1.00. Electric Fans in inside room.

Re: Steampunk?

Steampunk is fairly reasonable, but I see it more as "Metropolis" - and I don't mean Superman's version!

Manhattan, 1908 on Shorpy

Are you going to put up the other 10 sections of the panorama - they would be of great interest to Rail Marine modellers along with many others.

[It's on Shorpy's to-do list! - Dave]


The former Bunker Hill in 1918.

City Investing Building

Standing shoulder to shoulder with the Singer Tower is the picturesque City Investing Building, designed by Francis H. Kimball and built 1906-1908. This view, which I've never seen before, shows how close together they really were. Sadly both were demolished together in 1968 to make way for the US Steel Building (now known as 1 Liberty Plaza).

Had to happen

The day has finally arrived. I have been shorpyized, One look at this photo and I recognized the Singer building right away. Mother said there would be days like this.

South Street Seaport

Pier 16, along with the unseen Pier 17 out of the photo on the right, is now part of the South Street Seaport, so it's likely that many of the smaller buildings on the extreme right-hand side of the photo still survive! Pier 15 bit the dust at some point, though.

NYC Tugboats

The New York Central boats are tugboats. The NYC along with Jersey Central and I believe the B&0, all operated tugboats which were used to move their RR barges to and from New York City.

"Bizarre camouflage" on former Bunker Hill

That type of ship camouflage was called a "dazzle pattern." It was widely used in WW I and also in WW II. Dazzle camouflage was meant to confuse attackers as to the ship's course and speed. It also confounded early range finders.

Steampunk? Really?

Hey I know the internet has to reuse the same old boring subculture buzzwords over and over again but stop misusing the term "steampunk."

The Industrial Revolution wasn't about form over function.

[So I suppose we could call you Anti Meme. - Dave]

Steampunk City

This image excellently represents the zenith of Steampunk USA -- look at all the plumes rising from the soaring skyscrapers, and the stalwarts of steam power on the mighty river.

A nation is coming into its own -- work is getting done.

Regard with awe the rising Manhattan silhouette –- all correct angles forming the canyons that will forever define the island, with just the right amount of added artistic flair that decorum & modesty would allow.

This is at the very moment prior to the time when noxious internal-combustion engine -- fueled by the devil's excrement -- began its century of degradation & domination.

[It was filthy, sooty coal that made the steam. The air over New York is a lot cleaner now. - Dave]

All Too Human

Yes. So many wonderful buildings, of which few we see here survive. This, however, to me, seems to be a view of humanity of a past time. A photo taken from the same spot today probably wouldn't give you the same feel.

The Flatiron's diminutive brother

was the German-American Insurance Building, on Liberty Street. It is now Louise Nevelson Plaza. Read all about it.

Camo ahead

Steamship Bunker Hill apparently became USS Aroostook, a mine laying ship, in WWI. The naval historical center has an interesting series of photos of her. Some of the photos show a pretty bizarre camouflage pattern, too.

S.S. Bunker Hill

New England Steamship Co. was the New Haven Railroad's dominant marine operator and served the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket from New Bedford. The Bunker Hill and others were overnight steamers to New England from New York.

Horizontal vs vertical

The long white boat and its wake make a pleasing and flourishing contrast with all the vertical lines.

Where would those "New York Central" boats have been going to/coming from? Do they connect with the railroad? Were they taking passengers across the river?

1908 Shellacking

For best quality shellacking …

Stubbs Buyers Directory for the Wholesale Drug, Chemical, and Allied Trades, 1918

Rogers & Pyatt Shellac Co.

79 Water St., New York.

[Suppliers of:]

  • Gum Copal
  • Gum Kauei
  • Gum Sandarac

50 stories

That Singer building dominated the skyline back in the day. Many buildings in NYC are 50 stories and over now, but it would be still be a very interesting landmark structure if it survived today.

What's that building?

What's that Flatiron-looking building just to the left of Rogers & Pyatt Shellac? I wonder if it's still standing.

More Singer!

Thanks for yet another great photo of the old Manhattan skyline with the Singer Building in it.

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