Boro Presidency Is Dangerous Job 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 February 1914!
Joseph Bermel, who was elected in 1905, resigned his position while still under charges on April 28, 1908, and the next day sailed for Europe and political oblivion.
In 1908, Lawrence Gresser was elected by the Board of Aldermen to fill Bermel’s unexpired term. He was reelected in 1909 and served less than two years of his four-year term before being ordered removed by Governor John A. Dix on September 28, 1911.
Joseph Cassidy’s tribulations came long after his term of office closed. He was indicted by the Grand Jury of Kings County in 1912, after the Grand Jury of Queens County had refused to indict him on charges of conspiring to sell a Supreme Court nomination to William Willett, who was also charged with bribery in buying the nomination. Cassidy’s trial began on January 27, 1914, and resulted in a guilty verdict on February 2. He was sentenced on February 4: “The judgment of this court is that you be confined to the State Prison at Sing Sing for a period of not more than one year and six months, or less than one year, and that you be required to pay a fine of $1,000.”
To add to Cassidy’s woes, on February 9, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court upheld a verdict in the Queens County Supreme Court which required Cassidy to pay his share, amounting to $3,500, of the rental of offices in Manhattan, occupied for several years by the Cassidy, Chapman and Van Nostrand Real Estate Company.
Mr. Stephen Bolles Halsey passed away on Friday the 13th at the age of 74. He was the son of Stephen A. Halsey, the “founder of Astoria.” The father was a trustee of the village of Astoria nearly the entire period from its inception until consolidation into Long Island City; he was instrumental in the erection of the building known for many years as the Fourth Ward Public School; about 1840, he purchased a ferry which came to be known as the Ninety-Second Street ferry; he was largely concerned with the building of the Remsen Street Reformed Dutch Church in 1836, the Presbyterian Church on Franklin Street in 1846, and when the first Catholic Church was built in Astoria, he donated the stone for the foundation; he organized the Astoria Gas Works, a plant which supplied Astorians with gas for nearly a quarter of a century; and the first fire company called “Astoria Fire Engine Company No. 1” was formed by his agency. Stephen Bolles Halsey was a member of Astoria Hook and Ladder Company No. 1.
Mail carrier service was extended to Douglaston and Little Neck. Before, a trip to the post office was required to get mail. Some, being commuters, liked the old system where they could simply drop by the post office on the way to work or on the way home. The postmaster pointed out that the new system would benefit women and families in that mail would not be carried around all day and then home by the men. The only objection which the postmaster could not remedy was expressed to a reporter: “What will our women and some of the men do now? Why, the post office was the only place we could get the village news.” The Star suggested that “they might become subscribers of this paper, if they are not already, and they will get the ‘real’ news.”
Promoters of sex hygiene received a setback when the New York City Board of Education announced that the teaching of the subject would not be tolerated in the public schools. Other cities had recently done the same, “indicating that a general awakening is taking place throughout the country to the pernicious effects of educating children to exalt the flesh, while little or no consideration is given to the cultivation of the higher selfhood, which alone is capable of weathering the storms of human experience through which most of us have to pass.”
In words that seem incredible today, a prominent thinker of the time said “It is well for America that the Pilgrims of 1620, the Boys of 1776, and the soldiers of 1861 had not yet been educated in the germ theory, else the weak and anemic manhood and womanhood, which results from such education, might have miserably failed in those grand achievements for which we have learned to love and honor their memory.”
Equally incredible, the Star commented on some parents’ feelings about this issue: “Parents are coming to the conclusion that, unless Boards of Education put a stop to what has become known as the ‘hysteria of hygienics,’ the public schools will lose a measure of their usefulness as builders of the strong, moral citizenship so characteristic of the founding fathers of our nation. They argue that, if fear is the chief factor in all sickness and disease, it is time our schools excluded teachings the nature of which is to inspire fear, and give our children instruction that will fill their thoughts with hope, happiness and health.”
You could ask at any drug store for a 50 cent bottle of “Wyeth’s Sage and Sulphur Hair Remedy.” The product was based on a mixture of sage tea and sulphur. It was guaranteed to “darken the hair so naturally, so evenly, that nobody can possibly tell it has ever been applied. Besides, it takes off dandruff, stops scalp itching and falling hair. What delights the ladies is that, besides beautifully darkening the hair after a few applications, it also brings back the glow and luster and gives it an appearance of abundance.”
In Rome, Pope Pius expressed the liveliest interest in baseball to a delegation of baseball dignitaries from America and laughingly regretted that the Vatican grounds were not big enough to permit an exhibition game for his benefit. After asking innumerable questions and having the fine points of the game explained to him by the experts, the Pontiff turned to Cardinal Merry del Val and ordered him to introduce baseball in all Catholic clubs where it was not already played.
Prior to this meeting, authorities in Rome had been alarmed by a too faithful translation of the vivid language (e.g., “Doyle died at the plate.”) used by American baseball writers in describing the game to such an extent that they feared that any game between rival teams would outdo in horror and brutality anything that the old wall of Rome ever witnessed in the days of gladiators.
That’s the way it was in February 1914.
The society’s exhibit, “Look Up, Look Down, Look Around” is open to the public Saturdays noon to four in the Quinn Building, 35-20 Broadway, in Long Island City.
For more information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-728-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.