EPISODE 343 In the 14th annual Bowery Boys Halloween podcast, we celebrate some classic strange and supernatural terrors written by the most famous horror writers in New York City history. Since 2020 is already a year full of absurd twists and frights, we thought we'd celebrate the season in a slightly different way. Don't worry! Tom and Greg are delivering a new batch of frightening stories. But this time the selected stories have been made famous by great writers who have lived and worked in New York City. Included in this year's terrors: -- A celebration of the 200th anniversary of Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," featuring the Headless Horseman and the backstory of this classic story's creation; -- The unsettling days of H.P. Lovecraft in Brooklyn where his xenophobia, racism and anxiety manifest into a pair of dark, claustrophobic tales, plucked from the waterfront and the West Village; -- A bizarre and allegedly true story (or is it an urban legend?) of an unconventional jewel thief, made famous by that 20th century purveyor of all things unbelievable -- Robert Ripley; -- And a look at the life of Patricia Highsmith -- celebrating the 100th anniversary of her birth a bit early -- whose nasty little tales of mad murderers have inspired Hollywood and unsettled a new generation of suspense lovers. Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
1 hr 23 min
EPISODE 342 Prepare to hear a few spirited stories in a whole new way. For the past couple years hosts Tom Meyers and Greg Young have also done a LIVE cabaret version of their annual ghost story show at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater. For reasons related to the fact that it’s the hellish year of 2020, we cannot bring you a live performance this year. But we miss the wonderful Joe’s Pub so much – and we miss being with our listeners in a cabaret setting with cocktails – that we’re presenting to you a live recording of our last show at the storied venue, recorded on Halloween night 2019, featuring pianist and composer Andrew Austin and vocalist Bessie D Smith. Prepare to hear new versions of your favorite ghost stories including: -- A Brooklyn house haunting that may be related to the spectres from a colonial-era prison ship; -- A famous murder trial from the year 1800 and a mysterious well that still stands in the neighborhood of SoHo; -- The ghosts (or other supernatural entities) which guard the treasure of the famous Captain Kidd; and -- The mournful secrets of a famed Broadway theater and the inner demons of a Hollywood icon. With an all new ghostly tale -- WHO HAUNTS THE FORMER ASTOR LIBRARY? boweryboyshistory.com Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
1 hr 21 min
EPISODE 341 Celebrating the history of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 150th year since its founding -- and certainly one of the strangest years in its extraordinary existence. The Met is really the king of New York attractions, with visitors heading up to Central Park and streaming through the doors by the millions to gasp at the latest blockbuster exhibitions and priceless works of art and history. And who doesn’t love getting lost at the Met for a rainy afternoon — wandering from the Greek and Roman galleries to the imposing artifacts within the Arms and Armor collection and the treasures of the Asian Art rooms? But this museum has some surprising secrets in its history -- and more than a few skeletons (or are those mummies?) in its closet. WITH Ancient temples, fabulous fashions, classical relics, Dutch masters, controversial exhibitions and the decorative trappings of the Gilded Age. AND Find out how the museum building has evolved over the years, employing some of the greatest architects in American history. PLUS An interview with the Met's Andrea Bayer, Deputy Director for Collections and Administration, on the museum's celebratory exhibition Making the Met 1870-2020. How do you launch an anniversary celebration during a pandemic and lockdown? boweryboyshistory.com Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
1 hr 23 min
Cleopatra’s Needle is the name given to the ancient Egyptian obelisk that sits in Central Park, right behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is the bizarre tale of how it arrived in New York and the unusual forces that went behind its transportation from Alexandra to a hill called Greywacke Knoll. FEATURING The secrets of the Freemasons, a mysterious and controversial fraternity who have been involved in several critical moments in American history (including the inauguration of fellow Mason George Washington.) PLUS A newly recorded tale about another ancient landmark that has made its way to New York City -- a column from the ancient city of Jerash, brought here because of ... Robert Moses? boweryboyshistory.com boweryboyswalks.com This is a re-presentation of a show originally released on June 26, 2014 with new 2020 bonus material recorded for this episode. Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
EPISODE 340 Charles Stratton, who would become world famous as “Tom Thumb” in the mid-19th century, was born in Bridgeport, CT on January 4, 1838 to parents of average height, and he grew normally during the first six months of his life -- to about 25 inches or so. And then, surprisingly, he just stopped growing. When P.T. Barnum, the master showman, would meet Charles and his parents, Charlie was 4, and he’d be signed on the spot to play the part of “General Tom Thumb” at Barnum’s American Museum. He’d be given a fancy new wardrobe, a new nationality (British), and a new age -- 11 years old. Charles would perform for the rest of his life as “Tom Thumb”. He’d enchant European royalty and American presidents, and sell out crowds around the world. And in 1863, during the darkest days of the Civil War, he’d be married in New York’s Grace Church to Lavinia Warren, another Barnum employee and another performer of short stature. Their wedding would be a sensation, and would actually knock news from the battlefields off the front page of the New York Times for three days. We're joined in today’s show by four guests: Dr. Michael Mark Chemers is a Professor of Dramatic Literature and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Theatre Arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He’s the author of Staging Stigma: A Critical Examination of the American Freak Show published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2008, in which he looks into the career and reception of Charles Stratton. Eric Lehman is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Bridgeport and the author of 18 books, including Becoming Tom Thumb, published in 2013 by Wesleyan University Press. Kathy Maher is the Executive Director of the Barnum Museum and is celebrating her 22nd year with the Museum. Located an hour out of New York City, P.T. Barnum's last museum continues to stand on Main Street in the heart of downtown Bridgeport, CT, his adopted home. Although the Barnum Museum is currently closed due to covid-19 regulations, the Museum remains active with social media, virtual programming and a major historic restoration and re-envisioning https://barnum-museum.org/ Robert Wilson has been the editor of The American Scholar magazine since 2004. Before that, he edited Preservation magazine and was the book editor and columnist for USA Today. His previous books include The Explorer King (2006), about the 19th-century scientist, explorer, and writer Clarence King, and Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation (2013), about the Civil War photographer. His most recent book, Barnum: An American Life (from 2019), has just been published in paperback. Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
1 hr 7 min
Fraunces Tavern is one of America’s most important historical sites of the Revolutionary War and a reminder of the great importance of taverns on the New York way of life during the Colonial era. This revered building at the corner of Pearl and Broad street was the location of George Washington‘s farewell address to his Continental Army officers and one of the first government buildings of the young United States of America. John Jay and Alexander Hamilton both used Fraunces as an office. As with many places connected to the country’s birth — where fact and legend intermingle — many mysteries still remain. Was the tavern owner Samuel Fraunces one of America’s first great black patriots? Did Samuel use his position here to spy upon the British during the years of occupation between 1776 and 1783? Was his daughter on hand to prevent an assassination attempt on the life of George Washington? And is it possible that the basement of Fraunces Tavern could have once housed a dungeon? ALSO: Learn about the two deadly attacks on Fraunces Tavern — one by a British war vessel in the 1770s, and another, more violent act of terror that occurred in its doorway 200 years later! PLUS: Where to find the ruins of Lovelace's Tavern, dating back to the days of New Amsterdam. boweryboyshistory.com frauncestavernmuseum.org This is a re-presentation of a show originally released on March 18, 2011 with new 2020 bonus material recorded for this episode. Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
EPISODE #339: Interview with author Eric K. Washington, author of “Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal”. The Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal were a workforce of hundreds of African-American men who were an essential part of the long-distance railroad experience. Passengers relied on Red caps for more than simply grabbing their bags -- they were navigators, they helped with taxis, offered advice, and provided a warm greeting. In his 2019 book, “Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal”, author Eric K. Washington tells the remarkable story of Williams, “The Chief” of the Grand Central Red Caps. He was a boss to many, a friend to thousands of passengers, and a confidant to celebrities, politicians… even occupants of the White House. He also tells the story of Grand Central Terminal, and specifically, of the Red Caps who worked here, especially during the Terminal’s heyday in the first half of the 20th century. And along the way, the book chronicles how New York’s African-American enclaves and communities developed and moved around the city. That huge story is told through the lens of this one, often underappreciated, and yet instrumental man -- James Williams. He was the chief of the Red Caps, but also an under-reported figure in the Harlem Renaissance. www.boweryboyshistory.com www.patreon.com/boweryboys Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Ancient space rocks, dinosaur fossils, anthropological artifacts and biological specimens are housed in New York's world famous natural history complex on the Upper West Side -- the American Museum of Natural History! Throughout the 19th century, New Yorkers tried to establish a legitimate natural history venue in the city, including an aborted plan for a Central Park dinosaur pavilion. With the creation of the American Museum of Natural History, the city finally had a premier institution that celebrated science and sent expeditions to the four corners of the earth. Tune in to hear the stories of some of the museum's most treasured artifacts and the origins of its collection. But there's also a dark side to the museum's history, one that includes the tragic tale of Minik the Inughuit child, subject by museum directors to a bizarre and cruel lie. PLUS: How exactly do you display a 68,100 lb meteorite? AND: What will be the fate of that controversial Theodore Roosevelt monument? A 2020 update! boweryboyshistory.com This is a re-presentation of a show originally released on November 24, 2010 with bonus material recorded in 2020. Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
PART 2 of our two-part podcast series, "A NEW DEAL FOR NEW YORK" EPISODE 338 In this episode, we look at how one aspect of FDR's New Deal -- the WPA's Federal Project Number One -- was used to put the country's creative community back to work and lift the spirits of downtrodden Americans. Federal Project Number One -- the "artistic wing" of the Works Progress Administration -- inspired one of the most important and lasting cultural revolutions in the United States, an infusion of funds that put musicians, painters, writers and the theater community back to work, creating works that would promote and celebrate the American experience. The already-rich creative communities of New York City thrived during the program in several unique ways -- from the stages of Broadway to the art studios of Harlem. In this episode we present several tales from the four main units of Federal One -- the Federal Music Project, the Federal Theatre Project, the Federal Art Project and the Federal Writers' Project Including the stories of these WPA creators -- -- Juanita Hall: A future Tony-winning actress whose WPA-funded gospel chorus performed more than 5,000 times -- Orson Welles: A brilliant stage producer (not yet a filmmaker) whose bold stage inventions pressed the limits of government censorship. -- Jackson Pollock: A budding painter just finding his artistic voice, making a living working on murals and canvas -- Zora Neale Hurston: The Harlem Renaissance anthropologist and novelist who used the WPA program to explore folklore and traditions in Florida. PLUS: The mural program, the WPA Guides and the contributions of WNYC and the New York Public Library boweryboyshistory.com Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
1 hr 10 min
EPISODE 337 -- PART ONE of a two-part podcast series A NEW DEAL FOR NEW YORK. For Part One, we look at the impact FDR and New Deal funding had in shaping New York City's bridges and parks -- thanks to an especially tenacious parks commissioner! New York City during the 1930s was defined by massive unemployment, long lines at the soup kitchens, Hoovervilles in Central Park. But this was also the decade of the Triborough Bridge and Orchard Beach, new swimming pools and playgrounds Faced with the nationwide financial crisis, newly elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose to boldly take the crisis on a series of transformative actions by the government that became known as the New Deal. No other American city would benefit more from the New Deal that New York City. At one point, one out of every seven dollars from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was being spent in New York. And the two men responsible for funneling federal funding to the city was Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and his new parks commissioner Robert Moses. Moses amassed a great amount of unchecked power, generating thousands of projects through out the city -- revitalizing the city landscape. How did Moses acquire so much power? And how did manage to funnel so much federal assistance into his own projects? boweryboyshistory.com Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.