Witty Ads #3–1900


I can’t tell if this ad is for men or women. It’s for coloring and dressing human hair. But if they are referring to a ‘little knot of hair’ in the back of the head, I’m assuming they mean those prim little buns some women wore. The Nineteenth century was all about long, curly, wavy unkempt messy buns on women!

But ladies and gentlemen, would you seriously put this solution on your head? Perhaps I shouldn’t be asking that when half the ingredients in a simple bottle of modern day shampoo can’t even be pronounced.

Ayer’s hair tonic (Please, whatever you do, do not smoke or light a match around my luxurious mane!):

(1) Dissolve 9 pounds of lead acetate in water; (2) add 9 pounds of cream of tartar, dissolved in water (as little water as will take it up); (3) wash this precipitate in water twice; (4) dissolve the precipitate in 30 pounds of solution of caustic soda (specific gravity 1.07); (5) add sufficient water to bring quantity to 13 pounds; (6) add 6 1/2 gallons of glycerine.

Seek and ye shall find almost anything on the internet. Go to this website to learn more about Ayers Hair Vigor and other hair tonics sold in the 19th century. Hair Raising Stories.


Green-Wood Cemetery~The City of the Dead

Green-Wood Cemetery was first established in 1838 and it was the 3rd rural or Garden variety cemetery in the United States. A brief history of pre-Victorian cemeteries will show that your average Church yard burial ground was every bit as frightening as they appear in those old, scary Frankenstein movies.

Lumpy-bumpy tombstones from over-piled graves, creaking iron gates, and weather permitting, haunting mist all around. Then there were the rats and bug infestations. Noxious and sometimes deadly odors emanated from within due to exposed body parts and skeletons being forced to the surface. It was also unfortunate that these graveyards were often in residential areas, and outbreaks of cholera and other diseases from polluted water were common.

Garden cemeteries were a blessing for the public as the cities expanded and more land opened up. Bodies were interred there by the thousands and beautiful new headstones were erected.

*If you’re dark-humored and preferably not squeamish, then you will love the hilarious and fascinating E-Book, ‘The Smart Aleck’s Guide to Grave-Robbing’ by Adam Selzer and the Smart Aleck staff.

In it you’ll find everything you need to know about the illustrious occupation of 19th century grave-robbing–What does it take to be a ‘Resurrection man’ and sneak off into the dead of night to steal corpses for Medical research? This book has the pros and cons, the tools and tricks of the trade, and the history of cemeteries, coffins, and mummy un-wrapping parties. (And you thought your parties were wild!) And because they are smart-alecks, it comes complete with quizzes, assignments, and experiments that you hopefully DON’T try at home. For information on the talented Adam Selzer and his books, visit one of his websites.

Green-Wood cemetery is filled with lavish monuments and carvings. Down to this day it boasts luscious, flowering trees and bushes, freshly manicured lawns, benches, and even a gorgeous fountain area to rest your tired feet after taking one of the 2 Self-guided walking tours.

These forty-five page booklets are a wonderful collection for any Brooklyn enthusiast’s library. Even if you don’t make the tours you can still see many pictures of the graves and read brief biographies and histories of all the famous (and infamous) people buried in Green-Wood. Visit the website for complete information on everything Green-Wood has to offer to the public.

The Green-Wood Cemetery Walk #1 & 2

I had the opportunity to visit back in October–I highly recommended that you:

1. Wear loose clothing that you don’t mind getting dust or grass-stains on. Dress in layers. Even if it’s chilly, you will get very hot on your trek. Green–Wood is very hilly and you’ll find yourself climbing up and down, and getting up close to the tombs. I kept peering into the mausoleums even though I knew exactly what I was going to find each time–an empty, musty-smelling room with the actual tombs embedded into engraved stone walls. Seriously, what did I expect?

In some cases, you might need to lean on headstones to help you scale the hills. I couldn’t help it! Beware of going to the cemetery after a rainy day. There is a very real danger of slipping and falling and almost killing yourself if you hit your head on marble or granite.

2. Wear sturdy boots or sneakers and comfortable socks.

3. Keep a copy of the free map they offer at the Cemetery entrance and use it from time to time. If you are a newbie to the tour like I was, chances are you WILL get lost. Don’t go without those books. It helps to know the history and livens the tour.

4. Plan to spend a good 2 to 4 hours of your day inside the cemetery. Bring snacks or a light lunch and carry bottled water! That is a must, especially in warmer weather. Otherwise, you’ll end the day looking as though you belong buried there as you stumble around dehydrated and over-heated. (Just don’t litter the place!)

My sister and I were so lost that it was near closing time and the guard had to come around and take us back to where we started. This was an hour after he’d also taken us halfway across the cemetery to find our family’s plot, which has 4 generations buried there.

5. Make sure to use the restrooms before you start, especially if you are a water guzzler. Because once you begin the tour there are no bathrooms along the way. And guys, don’t even think about it–that’s somebody’s family member down there.

6. If in a group, keep the noise at a minimum, not because you’ll wake the dead, but because there are still funeral services going on all day-except Sundays. The website and booklets say up to 5, and it would be highly disrespectful to interrupt.

My sister had the better camera and she took some wonderful images that I’d like to share below.







The Victorian Egyptian




The Fountain



Fist bumping carved angel


Luna Park, Coney Island in 1903

Posted by Ethel Malley on Youtube: Luna Park, one of the great amusement parks of Coney Island’s Heyday, in 1903. Footage is from “Rube and Mandy’s visit to Coney Island” (Edison Manufacturing Co., 1903). Music is “Meet Me Down at Luna, Lena”, sung by Billy Murray (1905).


The Williamsburg Bridge Opening–1903

Vintage Silent footage I found on Youtube. It was one of Thomas Edison’s many short films of historic events at the turn of the century. I have never seen so many top hats, Derbys, and coattails in my life. And they all appear to be the same color. Whatever you do, DO NOT lose your hat. Unless you had your name or initials stitched inside, you will never find it again.

The secret tunnel of Atlantic Avenue


Under Atlantic Avenue lies an abandoned Long Island Rail Road tunnel. It is the oldest tunnel in Brooklyn and dates back to the 1840’s. The tunnel runs from Boerum Place to the Waterfront and was built by the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad.  The tunnel was used to transport produce from Long Island to the Ferries, from there they were delivered to grocers around New York. The tunnel was closed in the 1860’s. There was much speculation that the tunnel was used by bootleggers, smugglers and spies, but those rumors remain unfounded. In 1980 urban explorer and Brooklynite Robert Diamond rediscovered the tunnel and had it re-opened. Up until 2010, the public was allowed to take guided tours on some Saturdays throughout the summer. The group started from a manhole at Atlantic Ave. and Court Street.

As of 2012 the D.O.T has yet to give a proper reason as to why the tunnel was closed, save for there being fire hazards and thus placing the blame for the closure on the FDNY. To see pictures and read more about this fascinating piece of Brooklyn history, visit the main website–Brooklyn Historic Railway Society. You can also find out how to help petition to get this tunnel once again opened to the public and read all the pertinent information and actions taken by the D.O.T on the website.

I’m disappointed I never had a chance to see this tunnel in person. I spent more time the last few years reading about Old Brooklyn and old New York than actually seeing it. This year will certainly be different. I have to see what’s left before Brooklyn is completely remodeled for future generations and all that’s left is one little cobblestone on Water Street.

Old Brooklyn Postcards #2

This is a fascinating image of Atlantic and Nostrand Avenue from 1896. I always love when I can still find the old cobblestone streets and trolley tracks. You mostly see them in downtown Brooklyn.

I’ve discovered a fun way to do Before and After photos with these postcards by using Google Earth. It is such an amazing program to work with, and almost unsettling to know that satellites are watching and streaming images right up to our front doors. I’m sure most people in the 19th Century could not have imagined that humans were capable of such inventions, except maybe the fathers of the science fiction genre, writers Jules Verne and H.G. Wells among other lesser known writers.

If I were to explain it to someone from the past, I would have to say something along the lines that it’s a man-made device that can hover above the earth and mimic the eyes of God.

Atlantic Avenue and Nostrand as of 2012

(Hopefully this closer to being right. My sense of direction is a little faulty.)