2015-08-05 / Star Journal

Advances Made During The Dog Days Of Summer 1901

The Greater Astoria Historical Society presents pages from the Long Island Star Journal.

Welcome to August 1901!

The steamy, languid summer days of August 1901 witnessed a world astride two separate eras. The great age of global exploration still echoed long into the 20th century, and that month English explorer Robert Falcon Scott set sail aboard the RRS Discovery on an intrepid voyage to explore the Ross Sea in Antarctica. The new age, however, was to be an age of remarkable, unprecedented innovation and progress. That August, 114 years ago, saw Englishman Hubert Cecil Booth receive a patent for the world’s first electric vacuum cleaner, and near Bridgeport, Connecticut German immigrant Gustave Whitehead claimed to have flown the world’s first heavier than air flying machine. Although his claim is mired in controversy and the evidence lost to history, in 1986 actor and accomplished aviator Cliff Robertson successfully flew a replica of Whitehead’s early aircraft.

Back home in Queens, August found the well-heeled “Hill Colony” in Astoria somewhat lonely as locals fled to much cooler beach and mountain resorts to escape the sultry New York summer. Although the shady trees of old Franklin Street (27th Avenue) and gentle East River breezes kept some of the gracious, elegant homes in that “knoll of society” occupied through August, as the Long Island Weekly Star explained, “There appears to be a certain fascination about going ‘into the country’ or ‘down by the seashore’ and no matter how pleasant the home, it is closed toward the end of June and the family with bag and baggage hie themselves to some distant place.”

For those lacking the money or the desire to stray far from home that summer, they could certainly outfit themselves for a night on the town with a trip to The Klondike. Billing itself as “Long Island’s Always Busy Store,” the Grand Pan- American Sale offered “Red Hot Bargains for Cool Shoppers” including panama straw alpine hats for 25 cents each and a type of men’s undergarment called balbriggans for 15 cents each. The Klondike stood at the corner of Flushing Avenue and Blackwell Street in Astoria, now 36th Street and Astoria Boulevard.

For rich and poor alike, those wellattired or shabby, summer evenings in Queens at the local beer garden allowed locals to trade cramped, hot apartments and homes for an evening under the stars with draft beer, live music and good friends. And lest we forget our neighborhood letter carrier, who must toil in snow, rain, heat and gloom of night, the local branch of National Association of Letter Carriers held its annual picnic at Scheutzen Park at the corner of Broadway and Steinway Avenue that month. The postmen themselves sold tickets to the festive gathering, which included a concert by the 65-piece Brooklyn City Letter Carriers’ Band and dance music from Professor Ever’s orchestra.

Queens is a bright patchwork of communities with a rich history stretching back centuries. That August, the Weekly Star paused to remember the first officers of the law in the early Queens villages of Hallet’s Cove, Dutch Kills and Ravenswood. Even in the steamiest summer months, the constables were chosen by a vote of freeholders in each town to patrol the roads wielding a formidable, six foot long tipstaff with a royal emblem on the head. “Their instructions were ‘To keep the dignity of the law and town regulations without fear or favor, to raise the hue and cry after murderers, thieves, burglars, to apprehend such as are overtaken by strong drink or who are caught in profane swearing on the road or in the field, Sabbath breaking, vagrant persons, night walkers and such as offend against the public peace.”

That’s the way it was in August 1901!

For further information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718- 278-0700 or visit our website at www.astorialic.org.

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