78 Years Ago Today: “Camera Tells Graphic Story of Spectacular Destruction of Giant Hindenburg”

The New York Times; newspaper; Hindenburg; blimp
The New York Times, May 24, 1936 (2006.23.1)

Ready for the return voyage on her second visit to the United States. The Hindenburg tied up to the mooring mast at the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst. The photograph, made by special arrangement, was taken at a distance of fifty feet with an extreme wide angle lens, showing the impressive size of the giant airship as it appears to a person standing near.

Sam Shere, [Crash of the Hindenburg, Lakehurst, New Jersey], May 6. 1937 (225.2003)

The New York Times; newspaper; Hindenburg; blimp
The New York Times, May 9, 1937, p.10 (2006.23.5)

The world’s greatest airship meets disaster at the end of her first North Atlantic crossing of the year.
The dirigible Hindenburg, carrying thirty-nine passengers and a crew of sixty-one, plunging in flames to the ground at Lakehurst, N.J., following an explosion as she was maneuvering for a landing after riding out a violent electrical storm. The picture, one of the most remarkable news photographs ever taken, shows the huge craft enveloped in fire at both ends as the 7,300,000 cubic feet of hydrogen in her gas chambers ignited to make her an enormous torch. Less than four hours earlier millions of New Yorkers had admired the beautiful ship as she flew over the city en route to her American port. (Times Wide World Photos.)

The metal skeleton of the enormous craft melts to scrap in the intense heat of the conflagration.
A view of the burning of the Hindenburg, with a huge cloud of flame and black smoke rising high in the air. Half of the framework already has been consumed and the rest rapidly is disappearing, with spectators powerless to check the flames. (Times Wide World Photos.)

The New York Times; newspaper; Hindenburg; blimp
The New York Times, May 9, 1937 (2006.23.5)

The Flaming Pyre that a few seconds before had been the dirigible Hindenburg.
The great air-ship burning fiercely from end to end as the crumpled, twisted mass sank to the ground on the landing field at Lakehurst. Filled with inflammable hydrogen, the big craft was reduced to smoking embers with a swiftness which awed those gathered to cheer the completion of the ship’s twenty-first crossing of the North Atlantic. (Times Wide World/ Photos)

A Fragment of the craft which was among the last bits to yield to the flames.
A close-up of the wreckage, showing the destruction of one of the motor gondolas by the fire after the framework of the Hindenburg had been burned bare and reduced to twisted metal. (Times Wide World/ Photos)

The tragic end of 135,000 miles of air travel.
The flames crackling about the intricate framework of the Hindenburg after the craft had plunged to the ground. (Times Wide World/ Photos)

The crumbling framework as the flames complete their work of destruction.
Spectators surrounding the wreckage of the airship, seeking to help those of passengers and crew who managed to survive the disaster. (Times Wide World Photos)

newspaper; Hindenburg; blimp; fire
Albany Evening News, May 7, 1937, p. 12 (2006.23.2)

Nose Down, Tail Still Aloft and Spouting Flames, the Hindenburg Crashes

newspaper; Hindenburg; blimp; fire
Albany Evening News, May 7, 1937, p. 13 (2006.23.2)

Camera Tells Graphic Story of Spectacular Destruction of Giant Hindenburg.
Flames, starting in ship’s stern, sweep forward with incredible speed to envelope the yet undamaged bow which keeps craft afloat.

Fire trucks of little avail in crash as this striking picture of the disaster shows.

Flaming skeleton all that remains of the huge, proud craft of a few minutes before.

Closeup view of skeleton shows how completely the craft fell prey to hungry flames.

This woman, one of the few survivors, is led from the tragic scene.

The search for bodies in the hot debris begins.

The Hindenburg hits the ground, a seething funeral pyre for scores.

Die Volks Illustrated, (Photo-montage by John Heartfield, Volume 16, No. 20, May 19, 1937 (87.2005)

The Cause
Autarky. To save foreign currency, the perished airship ‘Hindendburg’ was filled with highly explosive hydrogen gas instead of nonflammable helium gas. This was because the ‘Four Year Plan,’ on account of the gigantic armaments expenses, must exercise autarky (self-sufficiency and isolation from the world economy) in all other areas. (Translation of caption, from TMS.)

78 Years ago today, on May 6, 1937, the airship Hindenburg exploded in Lakehurst, New Jersey. A few newsreels from archive.org:

Hindenburg Explodes, from the great Prelinger Archives on Archive.org.

A few links from the Internet:
“The Hindenburg 75 years later: Memories time cannot erase” – NJ.com
New York Times – On This Day
Preserving the Heritage of Naval Air Station Lakehurst:
Navy Lakehurst Historical Society

Audio can be heard here.
A page from the National Archives.

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Weegee Wednesdays: Weegee Does New Jersey. Or, “I always got lost in Jersey.”

Unidentified Photographer, Weegee on Lindbergh Case, Flemington N.J., ca. 1935, (19796.1993)

Three days and 73 years ago, on April 26, 1942, Weegee photographed a tragic train crash in the Exchange Place station on the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad. (Low ridership due to the construction of tunnels and bridges under and over the Hudson River led to the bankruptcy and transformation of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad into the Port Authority Trans-Hudson, PATH, around 1962.) The Weegee archive is now located in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River and in a different state, from Weegee’s beloved Manhattan; about an hour from Weegee’s last residence in Midtown.

This post presents Weegee in New Jersey, maybe chronologically, beginning around 1935 when Weegee was in Flemington, New Jersey, covering the trial surrounding the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s son. Weegee writes about visiting The Garden State a few times in his autobiography, Weegee by Weegee, 1961. The earliest reference is from the late 1930s. He has left Acme Newspictures to be a freelance photographer and after some success as a crime photographer he begins to have serious fiancial problems:

The Daily News, which never failed its faithful readers, had a beaut; screaming two-inch black headlines over the whole front page: “JERSEY AXE MURDER.” A mother had come home, found her seventeen-year-old strawberry-blonde daughter with a boy friend, and objected to their love-making on the kitchen floor. The loving couple had grabbed a handy axe, hit the woman over the head, and killed her.
Why did it have to happen in New Jersey, why not in midtown Manhattan? The story was a natural for any paper, a gift from heaven for the tabloids. But so far, no pictures. The sob sisters and reporters were rounded up, given a couple of thousand dollars (as a starter) to buy the couple’s life story, exclusive pictures, etc. As an extra inducement, one paper even sent a lawyer over to prepare the couple’s defense.
I was itching to go. It would take my mind off my financial crisis. But I had no gas in my car. Besides, I always got lost in Jersey.
I called up the New York Post and offered to go on speculation if they would get me there. They were interested. They sent down one of their reporters (Leo Katcher [1911-1991, an editor at the Post and perhaps most famous for an interview with Bruno Hauptmann, while in jail], who has since become a very successful Hollywood writer [The Eddy Duchin Story, 1956] and producer) to pick me up at headquarters. We drove off in his sports car.
We reached the jail around five in the morning. Instead of the mob of newspaper reporters I excepted to see, we found the jail deserted. The warden said that the mob had been there but that he had not permitted anyone to talk to the couple or to take their pictures until the morning. The newspaper crowd had made a gentleman’s agreement to go to sleep and to come back at eight a.m.
We were in luck. The warden was an old friend of Katcher’s; Leo, who had once covered Jersey, had done the warden many favors. So I asked the warden to bring the couple out, also to tell the girl to make up real pretty. The papers like their murderesses pretty and wholesome.
When they appeared, she looked nice, a real museum piece. The boy friend looked as if he could have made the All-American axe team. This was too good to be true. I began to work fast. Like a movie director, I shouted, “Let’s see the love-light in your eyes!” I had them hold hands, kiss, and embrace… full-length shots walking towards the camera, also close-ups. I went on shooting until I ran out of plates.
I could hardly wait to get back to the Post darkroom to finish the pictures. The Post made their first edition with my shots. It was the only New York paper to run pictures. I got twenty-five dollars in cash from Walter Lister, the city editor, then fifteen dollars from Associated Press Photos, ten dollars from Acme, and fifteen from the Mirror [65$?]. Even the Herald Tribune used my pictures on the front page. So far I had cleaned up seventy-five bucks. The axe murder had saved my life. I guess that some must die that others must live.
Weegee by Weegee, (1961) pp. 48-51

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pm_1942_04_27_p02-03a copy 4
pm_1942_04_27_p02-03a copy 2
pm_1942_04_27_p02-03a copy 3
PM, April 27, 1942

Hudson-Manhattan Train Jumps Rails in Station… …4 Are Killed, 260 Are Reported Hurt

1. Four people died and 260 were injured when New York-bound Hudson-Manhattan train from Newark jumped rails 10:50 last night in Jersey City Exchange Pl. Station. First two cars of train telescoped, left; third car landed on platform. Cause of the crash had not been determined early today. The motorman was arrested on a manslaughter charge.

2. Firemen dig into rammed cars. They used acetylene torch to free 13-year-old Negro child in one car. The child was taken to hospital with more than 200 other people.

3. Inside of car shown at right in first photo looked like this. Hats, packages, other articles carried by passengers were strewn around. This car, third in train, was first to jump track. Andrew Sabol, of Brooklyn, a passenger, said: “As the train came into the station it began lurching from side to side. Then it stopped. Lights went out…”

4. After it came to rest, first car of train tilted at angle. Service on busy Newark-New York City line was held up for hours. Crash cut telephone cables, disrupting service for 275,000 phones in Staten Island, Jersey City and Newark.
PM Photos by Weegee

Two years later, a resort fire and a fiery Republican…

Weegee, Palisades Park fire, girl bather gives a piece of ice to injured fireman, August, 1944 (1081.1993)

Weegee, “Palisades Park Fire, Money also Burns, Rescue of Cash Registers,”, August, 1944 (15174.1993)

2nd Resort Fire in 2 Days Rout 35,000… 25 Fire Companies Battle Park Blaze… Seeking Relief from Heat at Palisades Park
Everybody pitched in and helped in first aid yesterday. One girl bather cooled off an overcome fireman with pieces of ice. Another gave a fireman water.

PM, August 14, 1944

Palisades Park Burns; 27 Injured in Hospitals
Three-Fourths of Jersey Resort Destroyed; 5000 Stranded in Pool
The second devastating fire in two days in amusement parks in the New York area yesterday destroyed three-quarters of Palisades Park, on the Jersey side of the Hudson River at 125th St. The blaze started in the Virginia Reel, filled with men, women and children…

Weegee, [Clare Boothe Luce, Newark, New Jersey], October 7, 1944 (8972.1993)

Weegee, [Clare Boothe Luce addressing New Jersey State Women’s Republican Club, Newark, New Jersey], October 7, 1944 (8960.1993)

PM, “Rep. Luce making a campaign speech, October 4, 1944, Photo by Weegee

PM, October 8, 1944, Photo by Weegee

Name-caller. Rep. Clare Boothe Luce, addressing the New Jersey State Woman’s Republican Club in Newark last Saturday night, called the Administration’s foreign policy “schizophrenic” and said that contributions to CIO’s Political Action Committee were a “union poll tax.” If GI Joe is to get a break after the war, she said, Gov. Dewey “is the inevitable man” to give it.”

From the Naked City to the Naked Country… (I’m going to go out on a limb and write that this was probably about twenty years after Weegee was photographed covering the Lindbergh kidnapping case in Flemington, perhaps the late 1950s…)

One summer when things were a little dull around police headquarters, I picked up a book on nudists. Being naturally curious, I immediately decided to become a nudist myself. I bought a copy of a nudist magazine, looked over the pictures, and discovered an ad which read, “Respectable nudists wanted to join group.” I figured that I might pass…
[At the nudist colony office on West forty-second Street, after filing out an application.] When she observed that I was a photographer, she said that I was just what the group wanted. They were looking for a photographer to make publicity pictures for the nudist magazines and to use in the office to impress prospective members. I was offered the job of camp photographer, which meant that I would get my membership, lodging, and meals for free.
I accepted the offer. I was told to be at the office early Saturday morning to take off for the camp, which was in New Jersey. New York doesn’t allow nudist camps…
It was lunchtime. The cooks, waiters, and waitresses [link is to a short New Yorker article, called “Where They Are Now”, By Lauren Collins, about the subject of an Arbus photo] were all naked… [Perhaps Diane Arbus was inspired by Weegee to photograph at Sunshine Park (1931 to 1983), in Mays Landing, a New Jersey nudist camp, in the early 60s. Sunshine Park was founded by Ilsley Boone (1879–1968) and was the national headquarters of the American Sunbathing Association.]
Sunday, I was very busy helping the members to set their camera, to load their films, etc. My camera case came in very handy for carrying my cigars and matches, but I had no place to pin my badge. (I thought of having it tattooed on my chest.)…
Everyone seemed to have a camera. Soon there were so many photographers in the nudist camp that I put up a tent like the one Matthew Brady, the Civil War photographer, used. I even started a nudist camera club. This one was a great improvement over the camera clubs in the city. [Weegee’s photos from a nudist camp can be seen here, here, here, and here.]
I had plenty of models for my photographs. I had switched from cold, dead bodies of gangsters to the nice, warm, sun-kissed bodies of the nudists. I was back to nature, a primitive with a camera, like Grandma Moses. I put a shingle over the tent: “THE WEEGEE SCHOOL OF PRIMITIVE PHOTOGRAPHY.”
Weegee by Weegee, (1961) pp. 77-80

Weegee Wednesdays is an occasional series exploring the life and work of Weegee.

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100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

USSR in Construction, “Soviet Armenia,” February 1936, (2012.13.30)

A Land of Ancient Culture
Where Ararat and Alagez Rear Their Summits to the Skies
Where Lake Sevan Extends its Waters
Where Foaming Streams Roar Down Mountain Chasms
Here lives one of the most ancient peoples of the world – The Armenians. As early as 2,500 years ago, Armenia was mentioned in historical documents. The ancient historians Herodotus and Xenophon wrote of the country of shepherds, of the Armenians, of their habits and customs. Situated on the very boundary of Europe and Asia. Armenia was invaded and ravished for many centuries by numerous conquerors who devastated the rich culture of ancient Armenia and destroyed the people of the country, and even at the present day, relics of this ancient culture can be seen in Armenia, silent witness to its past history – ancient architecture, sculpture and documents. USSR in Construction, “Soviet Armenia,” February 1936


The Armenians are one of the most ancient peoples in the world. After thousands of years they have now again acquired
A country of their own.
Everything in this reborn country,
Its towns,
Its industry,
Its agriculture, is new.
The gaze of hundreds of thousands of Armenians scattered over the face of the earth turns toward Soviet Armenia, now free from oppression, poverty and permanent fear of the conqueror.
For two and half thousand years the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Byzantines, Arabians, Mongols, Seldjuks, Osmans and the Russian Tsarist Satraps plundered and tortured the peaceable Armenian people. The conquering hordes marched through the country leaving ruin and death in their train.
Not so long ago, in 1915, [a chronology is here] under the rule of the Young Turks, two-thirds of the Armenian people were exterminated (“Approximately one and a half million Armenians were killed from 1915-1923. The remaining part was either islamized or exiled“). The notorious [Mehmet] Talaat Pasha [(1874-1921)] cynically declared that “There is no longer any Armenian problem, because there are no longer any Armenians.”


USSR in Construction, “20 Years of the Great October Socialist Revolution” – “Union of Soviet Republics,” September – December 1937, (2012.13.48)

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide I am posting several page spreads from USSR in Construction, “Soviet Armenia,” February 1936 and a few pages from the article “Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic,” in USSR in Construction, September – December 1937. (The complete text, the images above, and a few more can be found in an old Fansinaflashbulb post.) These pages portray and promote the Soviet construction of Armenia after the, in part, Ottoman destruction and an agrarian past. “The Armenian republic that emerged at the end of the first world war represented only a small part of historic Armenia. It was briefly independent before becoming part of the Soviet Union until 1991, when it regained its independence. Turkish (western) Armenia disappeared from the maps.” (The Guardian, April 16, 2015.)

The 1949 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as:
“Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” The Guardian, April 23, 2015

April 24, 1915 is the day when the Ottoman Empire began its systematic and premeditated genocide against the Armenian people by arresting hundreds of Armenian and Christian intellectuals and leaders in Constantinople. They were later executed. An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1922. It’s hard to understand that the Turkish Government, under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, continues to deny the Armenian Genocide. And it’s disappointing that President Obama hasn’t publicly acknowledged the Armenian Genocide, even though he called for the passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution when he was a Senator in 2008 . The United States has not officially recognized the Armenian Genocide. If atrocities, like the Armenian Genocide, are not acknowledged, it becomes more difficult to prevent them in the future.


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Weegee Wednesdays: “There should be suthin deep between us…”

April is the craziest month, photographing
Lilacs out in the dead land, archiving
Memory and desire, preserving
Dull roots with spring rain…

If April is National Poetry month and if it’s a Weegee Wednesday, then this must be a post about photography, poetry and poets in a mad, very loud and naked city by Weegee… Poets, bohemians and the colorful characters who perform their poems, impecuniously and mostly in Greenwich Village, were perennial penniless subjects of Weegee photographs. PM Newspaper PM, July 28, 1941, (2007.15.223), pp. 18-19 Perhaps the first significant meeting of Weegee (not Fellig) and poetry, in lower Manhattan: Weegee photos on the left, page 18, and photos of real Greenwich Village poets on the right, page 19, by Ray Platnick.

These Are Pictures of Real, Honest-to-Greenwich Village Poets You don’t have to be a celebrity to get your verses displayed on the Village Arts Center, 1 Charles St. If your lines are short and to the point, and a member of the club likes it, and if there is space on the plaster walls, you have the club’s permission to print your works on it. These pictures of Greenwich Village poets were taken on the club this week end, on the occasion of a club anniversary. Most of them have published volumes of verse, which is hard and creditable work. It doesn’t pay much. Diana Barrett Moulton, poet, [holding her book, Beer and Skittles] also poses for portraits in spare time. Maxwell Bodenheim, novelist and poet, at first refused to pose. Then he consented, on condition he could give the clenched fist salute. Joe Gould, 51, Harvard ’11, has been working these 20 years on the Oral History of Today. It includes only material Mr. Gould has seen, or heard by word of mouth. Verses on the club wall behind him are his own. He is a satiric poet and a book reviewer. PM, July 28, 1941, p. 19

pm_1943_09_22z PM, September 22, 1943, pp. 12-13, photos by Dan Keleher

There’s Some Life in the Village Yet PM Attends Joe Gould’s 54th Birthday Party The flaming days of Greenwich Village are gone, but there are still some bright sparks among the embers. One of these sparks is Joseph Ferdinand Gould (Harvard ’11). Joe Gould, Yankee Bohemian, ex-ethnologist, ex-expert on Albanian politics, ex-police reporter, ex-book reviewer has spent the last 28 years in an intimate study of poverty. In that time he had been voluntarily unemployed becase he was too busy writing his Oral History of Our Time, into which he pours everything of interest that he sees, hears or happens to think of. Its 9,000,000 words (so far) make it probably the longest literary work of all time. [Presciently predicting Twitter, perhaps.] Gould, who once told an interviewer that he was “the foremost authority in the United States on the subject of doing without,” writes incessantly, sometimes in a bar, sometimes a Bowery hotel, sometimes riding all night on the subway. Joe Gould, author of an unpublished book which is 11 times longer than the Bible… Gould recites his poem of social unconsciousness, The Barricades. He declares Communists are too conservative to suit his tastes… In this candid shot are, left to right: Joseph Mitchell [1908-1996], who wrote Gould’s New Yorker profile, Professor Sea Gull (December 12, 1942, p. 28); Dawn Powell [author, 1896-1965], and Gould and Beauford Delaney [1901-1979], well known artist. [“Blowing soap bubbles is fun, too…” 17454.1993]

weegee_17405_1993 Weegee (1899-1968), The Sidewalk. Open air poetry exhibit in Greenwich Village… Even poets like to eat… But there were few buyers…, ca. 1944, (17405.1993) Members of the Raven Poetry Circle assembled in front of Judson Memorial Church during their annual poetry exhibition. Raven founder, Francis Lambert McCrudden is in the center of the group, in front of his poems, wearing a pith helmet. Great blog post about the Raven Poetry Circle, “Quoth the Raven Poetry Circle” on the “From the Stacks” blog from the N-Y Historical society. weegee_17400_1993 Weegee (1899-1968), [Two poems by Joe Gould], ca. 1944, (17400.1993) weegee_9388_1993 Weegee (1899-1968), [Joe Gould and poem], ca. 1944, (9388.1993) Joe Gould (1889-1957), bohemian, poet, subject of two profiles by Joseph Mitchell in New Yorker, Professor Sea Gull (December 12, 1942, p. 28), and “Joe Gould’s Secret,” (September 19 and 26, 1964,p. 61) not the author of Oral History of Our Time [“Revisiting Joe Gould’s Secret” by Sewell Chan, NY Times City Room blog, August 17, 2007] is affectionately and amusingly photographed and preserved, pickled perhaps, in the above photo-montage. weegee_negative_959z Weegee (1899-1968), [Dylan Thomas], ca. 1950-53, (9398.1993) DT memorably photographed presumably in that last few years, or days, of the poet’s life. Writing from midtown Manhattan: “And I have no idea what on earth I am doing here in the very loud, mad middle of the last mad Empire on Earth: – except to think of you, & love you, & to work for us…” Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), “The Love Letters of Dylan Thomas,” p. 89 weegee_16862_1993z Weegee (1899-1968), Poetry Circle, ca. 1960 (16862.1993) Ted Joans (born Theodore Jones, 1928 – 2003), beat generation poet, painter, musician, holding a book or papers, is the star of this reading in Greenwich Village; signs on the walls read: “Regardez” and, not visible in this photo: “Geniuses, Sigmund Freud, 1856 – 1957, André Breton, born 1896 [-1966]”

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me, And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the darkroom the photographers come and go
Talking of Weegee…

Weegee Wednesdays is an occasional series exploring the life and work of Weegee.

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Bread – Preparing

USSR in Construction, “The Soviet Food Industry,” August 1938, (2012.13.55)

Regards, April 13, 1934 (2011.7.251)

This is the third and penultimate post about BREAD. The first and perhaps best bread post is here, the second, and second best, is here. (Yes, the words are sandwiched between the images.)

chleb – Polish
pão – Portuguese
pâine – Romanian
chlieb – Slovak
kruh – Slovenian
rooti – Somali
pan – Spanish
mkate – Swahili
bröd – Swedish
ekmek – Turkish
bánh mì – Vietnamese
bara – Welsh
akara – Yoruba
isinkwa – Zulu

Bread in different languages (from Google translate and the link is a Google image search – an experiment).

Marvin Koner (1921-1983), Woman Cutting Bread, Immigration Story, Italy, 1956 (3599.1992)

Leonard Freed (1929-2006), [Three elderly men sitting in front of a house cutting bread and fruit], 1976 (2014.56.28)

Aleksandras Macijauskas, In the market, Lithuanian Countryside Markets, No. 56, Siauliai, 1974 (1138.1986.y)

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A Love Story

Jill Freedman, Tinker Boys, County Kerry, 1973 (9.1988)

Jill Freedman, Fiddlers Light, County Donegal, 1974 (50.1988)

Jill Freedman, Sailing Homeward, County Galway, 1984 (32.1988)

Jill Freedman, Sligo Women, County Sligo, 1974 (7.1988)

Jill Freedman,Man with Pipe, County Sligo 1974 (6.1988)

Born in 1939 in Pittsburg the adventurous young Jill Freedman left the parental house the moment she could and spent several years living in Europe and Israel. During her travels in the sixties –a time when she was not yet documenting the stories around her with a camera, she also went to Ireland, visiting a music festival. Ms. Freedman returned in 1973 to capture and share the stories of the country and its people, to which she developed a deep love. A feeling she describes best in her own wordsI loved the gentleness, the sweet shyness, the warm welcomes and farewells, the soda bread warm from the hearth, and always a sup to eat and drink. Guinness fresh as mother’s milk, all the nutritional benefits of dark amber whiskey. The pleasure they had in welcoming a stranger, who left a friend. After over 40 years, Ms. Freedman’s photographs of Ireland still tell a moving story of a photographer who connected deeply to a people who love music, their country and life itself.

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Weegee Wednesdays: “Dora,” Weegee says, “is a singer of sentimental songs at Sammy’s. She sings very loud, but good.”

Weegee (1899-1968), [Dora performing at Sammy’s on the Bowery, New York], April 16, 1944 (14254.1993)

PM, April 16, 1944, p. m4

Seventy one years ago tomorrow, April 16, PM published a photo of Dora Pelletier, an entertainer at Sammy’s Bowery Follies (267 Bowery), singing, and the words of Weegee, a freelance photographer (who lived a few blocks away at 5 Centre Market Place).

Weegee reports on Sammy’s, the Bowery
At No. 267 on the Bowery, among the missions and the flop houses is Sammy’s, the poor man’s Stork Club [14322.1993], the only saloon on the Bowery having a cabaret license. There is never a cover change. There’s no cigaret girl – a vending machine puts out cigarets for a penny apiece [14349.1993]. There’s no hatcheck girl – patrons prefer to dance [20068.1993] with their hats and coats on. But there is a lulu of a floor show [14298.1993], according to Weegee, who covers Sammy’s for us.
The place was opened 10 years ago by Sammy Fuchs [2384.1993] as a regular Bowery barroom. Three years ago a well-dressed man wearing a monocle began dropping in. He would sit at a table by himself and drink. Then Sammy got curious and asked the fellow how come. The fellow answered, “I am an English lord who is tired of the stuffy and formal drinking places uptown and prefer the Bowery, where I know I will escape my friends.”

It grew and it grew
Sammy figured there must be hundreds of characters like that, so he enlarged his place, took out the cabaret license, put in an orchestra and entertainers and the place began to grow. Now Sammy has just taken over the building next door to double the capacity of the place [2032.1993].
As customers arrive from uptown in cabs they are besieged by a bunch of panhandlers asking for a dime for a glass of beer. They get it, too. The place is jammed, the uptown crowd mingling happily with the Bowery crowd [125.1982].
Jimmy Durante once dropped in and gave a free show; also Irving Berlin and wife. (Mr. B. got his start in the Bowery, you know.) Toward midnight some odd types [14228.1993] drop in for a quick one. There is a woman called Pruneface; a man called Horseface; Ethel, the Queen of the Bowery [2023.1993], who generally sports a pair of black eyes “that nature did not give her,” (according to Weegee); a man with a long white beard called The Bishop who, old timers say, is looking all over the Bowery for the man who stole his wife 40 years ago.
Weegee says that one evening “while I was at Sammy’s absorbing the atmosphere and drinks, a midget walked in. He was about three and one-half feet in height. I invited him to have a drink with me. He said he had just arrived from Los Angeles where he had been working for the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., walking the streets dressed as a penguin advertising Kool cigarets. The midget was flush and started buying me drinks. He proudly showed me his social security card and told me that he was 37 years old, and single, as the girls were only after money. After the seventh round of drinks this midget got boisterous and offered to fight [2029.1993] any man (his size) in the house.”

Scotch at $1 – and why
Sammy told Weegee the other night that the new 30% Federal tax hadn’t affected the volume of business. A sign [14305.1993] over the bar says “Drinks of Scotch, $1.” [14307.1993] Sammy gave Weegee the breakdown for the figure…
The extra penny is added because Sammy’s cash register doesn’t add odd numbers. Bowery drinkers don’t mind paying a buck for a drink of Scotch, says Weegee, because it makes them feel important and besides they are helping the war effort by contributing the tax money to Uncle Sam. Sammy sells beer for 15 and 20 cents, rye for 55 and 65.
Sammy greets his patrons at the door. He frisks some of the Bowery ones if he spots a bulge on their hips. They sometimes try to smuggle in a bottle of smoke (straight alcohol) to drink in the washroom. Sammy is wise to the chisellers, but he is a friendly fellow.
“I know Sammy gave $100 without being asked for it for a woman in the neighborhood who died and there was no money for for the funeral,” Weegee told us. “He also takes care of customers’ valuables. I also saw him turn men away from his bar, telling them not to drink till their day off. I saw one woman at the bar give Sammy her wrist watch and $30 to save for her until the following day.
“Sammy [14305.1993] is sector commander of the air raid wardens in the neighborhood and has contributed $5000 worth of equipment. He is known as Mayor of the Bowery and his ambition is to become Mayor of New York City.
PM, April 16, 1944, pp. m4-m5

Weegee’s reporting in PM resembles Weegee’s entertaining encounters with, and photos of, the denizens of Sammy’s published a year later in Naked City (1945). The text in Naked City was entertainingly embroidered with a few more gags and the tax and war material was cut.

The Bowery
At No. 267 Bowery. sandwiched in between Missions and quarter-a-night flop houses, is “Sammy’s,” the poor man’s Stork Club. There is no cover charge nor cigarette girl, and a vending machine dispenses cigarettes [14349.1993]. Neither is there a hat check girl. Patrons prefer to dance [20068.1993] with their hats and coats on. But there is a lively [14298.1993] floor show [2032.1993]… the only saloon on the Bowery with a cabaret license.
As the customers arrive from uptown in cabs, they are greeted by a bunch of panhandlers who don’t ask for the usual “got a nickel for a cup of coffee mister,” but instead for a dime for a glass of beer… and get it too. Inside, the place is jammed with the uptown crowd mingling with the Bowery crowd and enjoying it [125.1982]. But towards midnight some odd types [14228.1993] drop in for a quick one. There is a woman called “Pruneface,” a man called “Horseface”… “Ethel” the queen of the Bowery [2023.1993] who generally sports a pair of black eyes that nature did not give her, a man with a long white beard, who old timers say is looking all over the Bowery for the man who forty years ago stole his wife… they wonder when the two meet whether the wife-stealer will get beat
up or thanked.
While I was there absorbing the atmosphere and drinks, a midget walked in… he was about three and a half feet. I invited him for a drink. He told me that he had just arrived from Los Angeles, where he had been working for a Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co., walking the streets dressed as a penguin. The midget was flush and started buying me drinks. He proudly showed me his social security card, told me that he was thirty-seven years old, was single as the girls were only alter money, that once in a while he got some affection, but had to pay for it… After the seventh round he got boisterous and offered to fight [2029.1993] any man his size in the house. Sammy grabbed the midget and threw him out through the doorway which has a red neon sign saying “Thank you, call again,” hollering at him not to ever come back again. Sammy’s has a blacklist just like Billingsley’s Stork Club [14322.1993] uptown.
Sammy greets all his patrons at the door. I noticed he frisked some of the Bowery ones. He told me that they were the “bottle” babies and he could spot them by the bulge in their hip pockets. They would try to smuggle in a bottle of “smoke” into Sammy’s place to drink in the washroom because if they drank out in the street or hallways the cruising patrol wagons would pick them up. Sammy is wise to all the tricks of the Bowery chiselers. but he is also a friend and always ready to lend a helping hand… lending money so a man can get cleaned up, load and a room while he is getting over a hangover. I know Sammy gave $l00 without being asked for it for a woman in the neighborhood who died and there was no money for the funeral. He also takes care of his customers’ valuables. I saw one woman at the bar give Sammy her wrist watch and thirty dollars to save for her till the following day, and I also saw him turn men away from his bar, telling them not to drink till their day off.
Sammy [2384.1993] is known as the “Mayor of the Bowery” and his ambition is to become Mayor of New York City. And when that happy day arrives Sammy [14305.1993] promises free drinks in every gin mill in town.
Weegee, Naked City, pp. 138-139

Weegee was so smitten with Sammy [20102.1993] and Sammy’s that both of his book parties Naked City (1945) [20068.1993] and Weegee’s People (11/11/1946) [20078.1993] were held there…

It’s really Weegee Wednesday, a weekly series of Weegee related posts. The premiere post begins with Weegee’s reportage on Sammy’s and a photo of a singer of sentimental songs’ swan song. (Perhaps coincidentally ICP’s new exhibition space is located near the site of the former Sammy’s.) If you like Weegee’s work, please return next week; if you don’t like Weegee’s work, please return next week anyway… for another very loud but good post on Weegee Wednesday…

Weegee (1899-1968), [Dora at Sammy’s on the Bowery, New York], April 16, 1944 (14255.1993)

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