The Lights of Broadway

The lights of Broadway dazzled the editors of “The Talk of Town,” who commented on the changing displays that brightened The Great White Way.

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Cover of August 7, 1926 issue by Stanley W. Reynolds.

Broadway hit its prime in the 1920s, when many old buildings originally used for housing or commercial interests became more valuable as places to hang brightly lit signs.

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Broadway in the 1920s (emaze)

The “Talk” editors were more or less impressed by the displays. Despite their garishness, the Broadway lights were also a symbol of the youthful exuberance of Roaring Twenties New York:

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Daytime view of Times Square in the 1920s (tumblr)

The “Talk” editors sang the praises of the “aortic” Grand Central Station, which they dubbed a place of both dignity and efficiency that sorts a “surprisingly cheerful stream” of travelers with a certain rhythm, set in motion by an impassive gateman:

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The main concourse at Grand Central Terminal, 1929. (New York Transit Museum)

The Talk writers also added this lyrical observation of the traveling masses:

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Talk also noted the recent travels of Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr., who was an apparent heir to the Vanderbilt fortune until he shunned high society and was disinherited by his parents for becoming a journalist and newspaper publisher. The Talk segment noted that Vanderbilt had returned from travels in Europe, where among other things until he rubbed elbows the Italian dictator Mussolini and observed the curious habits of people under his fascist rule:

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Italian Premier Benito Mussolini (1883 - 1945) leaving for Tripoli, 13th May 1926. His nose is bandaged after an assassination attempt on 26th April by Violet Gibson, who shot him with a revolver at close range. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Italian Premier Benito Mussolini (before he started wearing the fascist uniform) leaving for Tripoli on May 13, 1926. His nose was bandaged after an assassination attempt on April 26 by a British woman, Violet Gibson, who shot him with a revolver at close range. She was ruled insane and deported to England (Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty)

Next Time: Talking Pictures…

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Published by

David O

I read and write about history from the perspective that history is not some artifact from the past but a living, breathing condition we inhabit every moment of our lives, or as William Faulkner once observed, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." I read original source materials, such as every issue of The New Yorker, not only as a way to understand a time from a particular perspective, but to also use the source as an aggregator of various historic events. I welcome comments, criticisms, corrections and insights as I stumble along through the century.

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