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The Curb Market: 1905

New York circa 1905. "Broad Street exchange and curb brokers." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

New York circa 1905. "Broad Street exchange and curb brokers." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Old Stomping Ground

I love this 1905 photo and miss working at 25 Broad St (Paine Webber). I get a kick out of all the banana peels! Guess Peter Coyote is correct, it's a perfect food.

Thought I would share

Cute little moment they happened to catch.

Top 5

This is truly a great picture but curious what makes it so popular that it has virtually become a permanent photo in the top 5? The last posted comment was on 2-19. Thanks for any info.

[Links from Stumbleupon and Reddit. - Dave]


I got to thinking about all those discarded banana skins that seem to be in the gutters, on the road and doubtless on the footpath (sidewalk) in this photo. And wondered if this was a common sight in other locations where the fruit vendors plied their trade. Is this then the basis for the comical slipping on a banana skin routine? (BOBS).

A person slipping on a banana peel has been a staple of physical comedy for generations. A 1910 comedy recording features a popular character of the time, "Uncle Josh", claiming to describe his own such incident:
Now I don't think much of the man that throws a banana peelin' on the sidewalk, and I don't think much of the banana peel that throws a man on the sidewalk neither ... my foot hit the bananer peelin' and I went up in the air, and I come down ker-plunk, jist as I was pickin' myself up a little boy come runnin' across the street ... he says, "Oh mister, won't you please do that agin? My little brother didn't see you do it."(wikipedia)


I wonder what put a smile on the faces of the two men at bottom left, who btw look very much alike. Brothers? The bear of a man in centre front of the milling throng seems to be looking at the photographer.

Fruit Carts

If you're wondering what those carts are all about, they are selling fruit, not vegetables, to the brokers, who often didn't have time for a proper lunch. Instead, they'd grab a couple of apples or bananas, etc., and go back inside for more trading.

(This comment from food historian Jane Ziegelman)

The Third Level

So few women, it looks like the Egyptian demonstrations. Only 100 and a few years ago, some of our grandparents just kids then, but the cityscape is overwhelmingly male (except for a few women selling fruits and vegetables from the carts). Are the men actually purchasing vegetables to bring home for supper? There's one man in the foreground on the left smoking a cigarette, while the man next to him has his hand up to his face like he is using a cellphone. Or making a gesture of some kind ("Hey, can you spare a smoke?") Of course, this could be a Jack Finney time traveler who forgot he isn't supposed to bring his cellphone and that not only do cellphones not work on planes, they don't work when you take the Third Level either.

You could hear a pin drop

I worked on the Staten Island Ferry on weekends in the early 70's. The whole area was a ghost town when business was not in session. I remember the sound of a windblown rope hitting a flagpole that you could hear from blocks away.

Three left standing

Actually only three of the buildings shown here are still standing: 1) The New York Stock Exchange of George B. Post (the pedimented building midway up the left side of the street), built in 1903; 2) the Subtreasury, aka Federal Hall National Memorial, originally the US Custom House (the partially visible Greek temple at the corner of Wall Street), built by Town and Davis, 1833-1842; and 3) the Broad Exchange Building, second from the right, built by Clinton & Russell in 1900. Everything else you see has been torn down and replaced by newer buildings.

[The poster below was speaking of the 1970s. - Dave]

A tale of two citizens

A few paces behind the gent in the top hat is a fellow in working garb -- a lighter colored jacket that is open, with a different style hat.

And on the other side of the street, there is a fellow who is sitting on the railing, getting his shoes shined.

Nothing much changed by 1980

I worked at 48 Wall Street for 16 years. Wall Street intersects at those steps at the top of the picture. That is where George Washington once spoke. Really, very little had changed. Most of those buildings were still there, and the crowd levels were the same. By 1975 crowds weren't playing stocks but 3 card monte that would scram when the lookout whistled.

Until about 1980 men with bowlers and tophats still walked the streets. They were carrying physical stocks and bonds between dealers. There was a 4 pm drop dead delivery for all transactions.

Topless on Broad

Perhaps the crowd gathered are actually trading. Or maybe, when the man without a hat showed up, they all ran ran away from him, as if he were some strange alien, and are all discussing what they are going to do about this social deviant. Notice he's all alone there in the middle. Perhaps the man walking toward him (with something in his left arm...maybe a summons) will be the one to set him straight. "Sir, you need to put a hat on, or else. Get with the system, man."

What are the vendors selling??

I see apples and, what exactly? Parsnips? Carrots?

Hats off to you

I'm reminded of the Simpsons episode where Homer ends up in the psych ward after wearing a pink shirt to the plant. The guys in lab coats were probably headed right for the poor hatless gentleman right behind the lamp bulb when this picture was taken.

Strange that a century later those wearing hats on a regular basis are the odd ones.


There's one top hat (left foreground) vs 1,000 bowlers. Is this an executive? Mr. Peanut?

Post Lux Mortem

The crossbar is an artifact from the gaslight days, where the lamplighter would rest his ladder.

Neither Rain nor Snow

Great Photo! Does anyone know what the denizens of the Curb did when the weather got nasty, similar to what New York experienced this January?

One Hatless Male

And two women. Love the pic.

Get that man a hat!

I see you there to the left of the foreground globe... You think you can just stroll about in public half naked?

There's always one in the crowd!

And this is:

Where I have all my money invested? Wish I would have seen this photo before my chat with an investment dealer.

Au courant

Here's the 1905 look, complete with a bowler hat..

What are we all looking at?

It seems like there is a LOT of folks in the middle of the street doing something -- but what?

[Trading stocks. - Dave]

Lux Mortem

Awesome example of a Bishop's Crook Type #1 with crossbar. Today's reproductions are based on the BC type 24a, which look pretty close. But those globe luminaires hanging from the fluted fixtures are long, long gone.


I love to see if anyone is looking out those windows ... Found one!

The American Stock Exchange

The "curbstone market" was the predecessor of the American Stock Exchange.

No Autos

It's interesting that there don't appear to be any motorized vehicles in the picture. So far as I can see, everything is horse-drawn.

It appears to me that nearly all of the businessmen in the picture are wearing bowlers. For the most part, other hats, such as caps, are on younger men. Thus, I am guessing that the woman leaning out the window has sent the young man as a runner on some errand, and perhaps is, as coriander suggestions, adding something to the request.

Hey Joe

You can meet my brother tomorrow afternoon on Broad Street. He'll be the one wearing the bowler.

What did she forget to tell him?

Love the lady leaning out of the third floor window on the lower right to say something to the man who appears next to the lamppost, looking back up at her.

No bars

How did they ever get any business done? All of these businessmen, and not one using his cell phone!

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