2005-11-30 / Star Journal

Queens Is Manufacturing, Farming, Homes Leader In 1913

Metropolitan Tower c. 1910 www.bc.edu Metropolitan Tower c. 1910 GGet 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 1913!

The Queens Chamber of Commerce released some statistics for 1912 from the Industrial Directory of New York . The volume devoted considerable space to Queens, saying: “Queens is of importance from three standpoints: As an industrial community, as a residential section, and as a truck farming section. The communities of greatest importance from the industrial standpoint are situated along Newtown Creek and on or near the East River. The principal residential communities are in the central part of the county; truck farming is carried on in the less highly developed sections.”

Gazette Photo
Steinway Reformed ChurchGazette Photo Steinway Reformed Church The report stated that there were 720 farms, comprising 14,588 acres (out of a total 82,883 acres for the entire borough). Over half of their produce for 1912 was fruits and vegetables. The report also showed that there were 851 factories, employing 31,687 workers. Over 110 different lines of manufacturing were carried on in the borough.

The same directory pointed out that the entire city had become a huge manufacturing center, with 34,000 factories, employing 682,796. This was 55 per cent of the entire state’s manufacturing. Manhattan had 68 percent of the manufacturing employees, Brooklyn 22 percent, Queens 5 percent, the Bronx 4 percent and Staten Island 1 percent.

On Monday, December 1, in Long Island City, a four-alarm fire destroyed the tin can plant of the Devoe branch of the Standard Oil Company. The fire was attributed to the explosion of a gas machine that was used for preparing solder. Damage was estimated at $1,000,000. Only five men were thought to be in the plant at the time of the explosion and ensuing building collapse, and all but one were thought to have made it out alive. This was the second fire within 18 months at a Standard Oil facility in Long Island City. The previous event was a fire which destroyed the box manufacturing plant of the company, causing the death of one fireman and injury to several workers.

After the fire, Joseph Amendola, a 24-year-old solderer, could not be found. On Tuesday, what was thought to be his badly burned remains were dug from the wreckage. The remains, which were little but a torso, were identified by Amendola’s brother-in-law. The coroner allowed the remains to be removed to an undertaking establishment. At the same time, officials determined that there was a second man, George Meyer, missing and presumed dead in the fire.

On Thursday, it was reported that Meyer’s remains, only a handful of burned bones, had been identified conclusively because of a cheap watch, a set of keys and other items.

On Friday, the number of victims of the fire rose to three, according to the Star, as a separate set of remains was found.

On Saturday, under the headline “One Man In Two Graves,” the Star reported that the remains found on Friday had been positively identified (because of a pocket watch) as Amendola, and that the other two sets of previously discovered remains (which had been separated by at least six feet in the building collapse) were those of Meyer. The Amendola family realized that instead of conducting a funeral for Joseph, they had buried Meyer’s torso in Calvary Cemetery.

The tangle was finally straightened out on Monday morning, December 8, when members of both families met and agreed that the part of Meyer’s body buried in Calvary would be moved to the Meyer family plot in Lutheran Cemetery and placed with the rest of his remains. The Amendola family purchased another plot in Calvary and planned another burial for Joseph’s true remains later in the week.

On December 17, a conference of the leaders of the Woman’s Suffrage Party of the city’s boroughs was held at the Masonic Temple in Jamaica. Women could not vote in 1913, so the purpose of the meeting was to plan for a campaign educating and securing the co-operation of men in the interests of the “votes for women” campaign and to induce them to vote for an amendment to the state constitution to grant women of New York the right to vote in state elections in1915. In spite of many speeches, and much campaigning the following year, the 1915 referendum was defeated. (Women in New York did win their state voting rights in 1917.Women nationwide were not granted the right to vote in national elections until the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in 1920.) New York’s Christmas tree stood in Madison Square. It was 75 feet tall and decked with hundreds of bright lights, which would be completely illuminated at 5:40 p.m. on Christmas Eve. At 5:15 church chimes would ring for 15 minutes, then the Metropolitan Tower chimes would take up the refrain. At 5:35, trumpeters would herald the glowing radiance of the “Star of Hope” at the top of the tree. The tree lighting was to be followed by caroling and celebrations every night until New Year’s Eve.

Christmas in Queens was ushered in at midnight with the sweet tone of coronets and other musical instruments coming from the vicinity of the Steinway Reformed Church. Many carols were played. Houses in the church’s vicinity lighted up as people rushed to their windows to hear the music, which was provided by members and friends of the Church.

In the children’s ward of St. John’s Hospital, Santa distributed gifts to the youngsters in the afternoon. In the evening, a special supper and entertainment was given for the hospital sisters, doctors and nurses.

On December 3, the Star reported that Elaine Golding, a professional swimmer, had boarded a steamer for the Panama Canal. She intended to be the first woman to swim the canal. She had participated in many swimming events in College Point under the guidance of Commodore Alfred Brown, a lifeguard who described himself as “the champion long-distance swimmer of the world”, who was already in Panama awaiting his own chance to swim the canal. Golding was not allowed to swim the Gaillard Cut, but swam most of the rest of the Canal from Cristobal to Balboa in stages between December 12 and 16. To this day she is the only woman to swim any part of the canal. (Today no swimming at all is allowed in the canal, but before it opened to commercial traffic in 1914, authorities did grant permission for some stunts such as this.)

That’s the way it was in December 1913.

The Greater Astoria Historical Society’s annual Holiday Party will take place at 7 p.m. on Monday December 5. A special lecture, “Toon Town: Comics Books and New York City” will be presented by author and social science professor Dr. Kent Worcester. Joining in the holiday festivities that evening will be the Goliard Singers, caroling the entrance of the holiday season. For more information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-728-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.

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