State-of-the-Art Photography Captures Bridge In 1914
Get into a conversation with a long-time Queens resident and you’re likely to discover a subscriber of the Long Island Star-Journal, a daily paper that informed the community about local and world news until it folded in 1968. A banner across the Star-Journal masthead reminded readers that the newspaper’s name came from the merger of the Long Island Daily Star (1876) and the North Shore Daily Journal--The Flushing Journal (1841).
Welcome to December 1914!
The Star—Journal had a special treat for its readers: "Bridge by Moonlight—A Remarkable Photo of Queensboro Bridge Feature of Xmas Star."
"The feature of the annual Christmas edition of the Daily Star to be issued next Friday [December 18, 1914] will be a special art supplement, printed on heavy coated paper and containing a splendid reproduction of the most remarkable photograph ever made of the Queensboro Bridge. It requires no little skill to take a photograph at night and this picture is the result of several attempts to get a satisfactory view of the big structure. The artist, Dr. W.T. Kilmer, of Manhattan, one of the best-known amateur photographers in the city, took the photograph from the roof of a house near the riverfront in the vicinity of East 53 Street. It required over 15 minutes to complete the exposure. During that time the movement of the full moon was clearly recorded on the plate, as is shown by the hazy outline in the picture.
"The lights on the bridge, on Blackwell’s Island [Roosevelt Island] and on the Long Island City shore gleam with amazing distinctness; the illumination of the west face of the Brewster clock at the Bridge Plaza shows distinctly, although it is about a mile away from where the camera was located. The massive superstructure of the bridge never looked more impressive than it does in this picture, its gigantic bulk of steel being silhouetted plainly against the sky. Looking beneath the arch of the west island pier, one can see the tower and part of the roof of P.S. No 4 on Prospect Street [28th Street] and Crescent Street. The upper part of the terra cotta works, immediately to the south of the bridge, is also clearly outlined against the sky. The brilliant spots of white in the lower parts of the picture represent street lamps on Blackwell’s Island. Being near the river’s edge, their reflection in the water gives extra vividness to the picture.
"The photograph as reproduced by the Star makes a subject of both artistic value and local significance, and it has been printed on sheets of expensive calendared paper in order that it may be conveniently framed. Past experience with Christmas covers led to the conclusion that such a picture, especially designed for framing and small enough to be inserted in the half-page fold of the newspaper would be appreciated more by the readers of the Star than the larger cover picture, which was so frequently and unavoidably soiled by the time it passed through the wholesale and retail news dealers’ hands and got to the reader.
"The Star is indebted to the C.P. Goerz American Optical Company for permission to reproduce this wonderful photograph. The exposure was made with a Goerz Dagger Lens."
When Star—Journal readers had framed their Christmas pictures, they would have been pleased to read that thanks to a new service, "the automobile parcel post delivery, the Christmas mail in Long Island City is being handled with greater dispatch than ever before, even though it is the largest in the history of the post office. The parcel post mail is now exceeding all records in the local post office,’ Assistant Post Master Keegan told a Star reporter. ‘The two delivery vans installed by Postmaster Kelley, however, are taking care of the rush in a splendid manner, and there is absolutely no congestion, an unusual condition at this time of the year. If we still had the horse and wagon for the parcel post, there would probably have been a record-breaking jam of Christmas mail.’"
The Star—Journal noted, "A curious feature of the Christmas mail this year is the marked decrease in the number of Christmas cards sent by mail." Proving themselves rather poor prophets, Queens postal officials predicted that "the Christmas card fad is dying out." In 1914, first-class parcel post cost 2 cents an ounce. Cuban cigars—a popular Christmas gift at the time—cost $2.75 for a box of 25. Ice hockey skates were $4, but roller skates could be had for a mere $1.19. The highly popular Victrola phonograph could be purchased for as little as $15, although a top-of-line model could set you back $250. A brass bed was advertised in the Star—Journal for $9.50 and a rocking chair for $11.75. Fashionable hats were available for two or three dollars.
And what about a new winter outfit to go with the hat? At this period women were still more likely to make clothes themselves or have them made by a dressmaker. To combat the cold, "Velvet was never so much the craze," the Star—Journal noted, adding "that woman whose wardrobe does not boast at least two velvet gowns is poorly equipped indeed for the winter campaign." For coats, sealskin was popular—"Lucky is the woman who has enough of last year’s coat to make over by adding new fur for the tunic portion." A collar of skunk was recommended to go with one’s Hudson seal coat, a reminder that times have certainly changed in some respects.
Warm coats were needed on Christmas Eve when public festivities took place with falling snow making "a fairy tale scene." Spurred on by grandiose celebrations in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where a telegraphic signal from President Woodrow Wilson in the White House was given to light the tree in McCracken Park, public Christmas trees were lit up in Jamaica, Flushing and Long Island City. And the unfortunate were not forgotten. Money was collected to buy coal and other comforts for the poor, and funds were being raised for refugees, many of them children, made homeless by the German invasion of Belgium. As the first year of World War I came to a close, British and German troops declared an unofficial truce on Christmas Day and played football in No Man’s Land. Few would have predicted in 1914 that the war would last for nearly four more years and draw many nations, including the United States, into that bitter conflict.
That’s the way it was in December 1914.
Compiled by Clare Doyle, librarian, Greater Astoria Historical Society. For more information, contact the society at 718-278-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org