Where Bad Boys are Made Good

William Bartell was arrested in 1897 on a charge of “maliciously and willfully” breaking windows and smashing doors. Martin Leddy was arrested in April of that same year, charged with being “disorderly.” According to his mother, he “remains away from home late at night and associates with idle and vicious companions.” In 1902 Thomas O’Shaughnessey, Jr., was charged with vagrancy, having “no visible means of support, lives without employment… and does not give a good account of himself.” He was twelve years old.

Intake record, 1896. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

Intake record, 1897. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

Intake record, 1898. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

Intake record, 1899. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

What was to be done with such hardened criminals? Since they were under fourteen years of age, they were sent to the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys. Located at 18th Avenue between 56th and 58th Streets, this nine-acre estate was previously home to the Villa de Sales Academy, a Catholic boarding school for young ladies. By 1897 it was filled with hundreds of boys, all of them remanded by the court for committing misdemeanors. There the youth were taught military drills and battle hymns. They received practical instruction in a variety of trades, such as printmaking, cobbling, carpentry, and baking. They were given an education, a warm place to sleep, clothing, healthcare, and good food. There was discipline, of course, but it was to be fair and just, managed without corporal punishment. All of this without walls and fences, locks and bars. This was reform for a new era.

Report on Martin Laddie [Leddy], 1897. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

If you read the papers during the school’s tenure, you would be hard-pressed to form a differing opinion. Politicians, businessmen, and journalists extolled the virtues of the institution. The Reverend William Nichols of the Brooklyn Bureau of Charities said of it, “I do not know any school in our community where the boys are better cared for and instructed under better conditions. I thought as I listened to the beautiful music that every one of those boys in that band has a trade with which he may be able to earn his living some day when he leaves this institution.” While Justice Robert J. Wilkin commented, “I never went through a dormitory where the air was so sweet and clean…” And yet, over the course of its thirteen years there were numerous stories of mismanagement, neglect, and violence, as well as reports from multiple city agencies detailing poor conditions and extravagant costs.

Inmate report, 1900. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

The Brooklyn Disciplinary School for Boys was established by Chapter 235 of the New York State Laws of 1896. It was governed by a Board of Managers chosen by the Mayor of the City of Brooklyn. It was not, however, placed under the jurisdiction of any specific department. This became an ongoing point of contention when Brooklyn became part of Greater New York. The Charter of 1897 did not address the issue and instead let the original law stand as written. While the State Board of Charities had a nominal say in all such institutions, the actual governance was left to the Board of Managers and those they appointed as President and Superintendent of the school. For over a decade, the school was left to its own devices.

Census report of student body, 1900. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

Toward the end of the 19th century there were few options for wayward youth. Religious institutions were ill-equipped to act as reformers and even less-equipped to handle the hundreds of children sentenced by the courts for short-term care. Institutions like the House of Refuge were for felony cases and boys who had reached the age of maturity, while the majority of the other public and private charities focused on adult poverty or the care of infants. Thus the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys was born out of a necessity to address the rising number of troubled children convicted of minor offences, without resorting to harsh sentences. The solution to recidivism was to be holistic: discipline, education, instruction, with free time for play and, on occasion, brief visits home with their families. Typically the boys were charged in the Police Court (and post-consolidation, in the Children’s Court) with misdemeanors ranging from vagrancy to petit larceny. Their time at the school could run from a few months to five years or more, depending on the severity of the crime, their behavior, and their home situation—the sentence was entirely determined by the Superintendent and Board of Managers. If the boys received good marks for their military drills or work in the shops, they may be offered parole. If they ran away, no parole or consideration of release would be offered for a full year. Parents or guardians could also secure release if they needed help around the house or for family emergencies by writing directly to the superintendent, though this was often denied.

Unfortunately there were difficulties from the outset. The buildings were in poor condition and required continuous maintenance. In March, 1899 a fire broke out necessitating the removal of some of the students to the Catholic Protectory. In 1900 one of the buildings was condemned, again forcing the school to temporarily remove students to other institutions. As the population rose, at times exceeding 400 boys, the dormitories became overcrowded and the facilities degraded. It seemed that no matter how many improvements were made, there was never enough money to properly fix the problems, and the money that was granted was done so begrudgingly.

Investigator’s Report, 1910. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

Investigator’s Report, 1910. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

Then there were the scandals. Typhoid broke out in October of 1900 killing two children, forcing the school to address its consistently appalling sanitary conditions. In 1909 long-time Superintendent James P. Farrell was excoriated in the press and investigated by the Board of Managers for using city funds to pay for imported bacon, grapes, and game. This was followed by an investigation of the use of corporal punishment. Children, parents, and employees came forward to say they had witnessed countless acts of violence. In one instance a witness recalled hearing of a punishment known as the “Star-Spangled Banner,” wherein the child was stripped and beaten with a stick “for the number of stars and stripes on the flag.” There were even rumors that Farrell and house mother Anna Hutchinson were involved in a very tawdry affair. On top of this were the constant escapes. It was not uncommon for 50 or more children to decamp over the course of the year. While most were apprehended, there were always a few who succeeded.

Letter concerning a former inmate who drowned trying to escape from Randall’s Island, 1910. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

Letter concerning a former inmate who drowned trying to escape from Randall’s Island, 1910. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

Transcript of an interview reporting corporal punishment at the school, 1907. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

There were also positive aspects. Children were housed and trained together without regard to skin color or nationality. A banking system was instituted in order to teach responsible financial habits. The skills boys learned in the various shops allowed them to find employment upon release and help support their families. At the end of their sentence, an agent was even sent to their homes to make sure that conditions were such that the boy would not turn again to crime. In general, the school appeared invested in the well-being of the children, arranging for medical care or offering recommendations for employment. “I am anxious that the boy should profit by this opportunity, for I consider him deserving, and will look forward to a bright and prosperous future for the lad. It is assumed that you are as good as your word and that you will furnish him with shelter and support.”

Inspector’s report of Home Conditions, 1910. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

Inspector’s report of Home Conditions, 1910. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

Inspector’s report of Home Conditions, 1910. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

Inspector’s report of Home Conditions, 1910. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

Inspector’s report of Home Conditions, 1910. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

Letter from parent requesting her son’s discharge, 1908. Records of the Brooklyn Disciplinary Training School for Boys, NYC Municipal Archives.

Calls to close the school grew steadily after 1910. Due to the lack of oversight, the rising costs, and the need the replace much of the infrastructure, many politicians had decided the school had run its course. There was talk of purchasing land on Long Island to recreate the school on the “cottage plan,” wherein the boys would be placed in smaller houses instead of dormitories. A report by the Commissioner of Accounts in 1913 all but ended that chance. Instead a new State Disciplinary School was proposed. The plan called for a merger with the House of Refuge and the creation of a new, conglomerate institution in Yorktown Heights, Westchester County. That plan was eventually abandoned after residents fought to keep the facility out of their community and it wasn’t until 1932 that a new school was finally established further upstate in the town of Warwick.

The Disciplinary Training School for Boys officially closed its doors on September 1, 1914. Its tenure may have been brief, but the records tell a compelling story of a unique institution existing at the cross-roads of a new century. From intake files to correspondence, bills of lading to financial reports, it is apparent that the school had a hand in almost every facet of the city and borough of Brooklyn, as well as the larger conversation of youth reform.

The “Missing” Common Council Records of the Revolutionary War

The New York City Municipal Archives has an almost unbroken[1] set of records depicting City governance from 1653, when the city of New Amsterdam first received its charter, until 2013 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg left office. The one notable gap is from May 24, 1776 until February 10, 1784. These eight years, of course, cover an important time period because, on July 2nd, 1776 the Continental Congress declared independence from the British and the British fleet arrived in New York shortly thereafter. Researchers often wonder: “Where are the records of New York City government during the Revolutionary War? Were they destroyed?” Well the short answer is, there was no city government.

Mayor David Matthews, the last colonial mayor of New York, had been an alderman and took office as Mayor February 20, 1776, less than five months before the start of the Revolutionary War. Common Council Records, NYC Municipal Archives.

Mayor David Matthews took office on February 14, 1776. In May of 1776, the Continental Congress declared the colonies should form new governments separate from British rule. As tensions in the colony came to a boiling point, rumors of a plot to assassinate George Washington led to the arrest of several prominent Loyalists including Mayor Matthews on June 22, 1776. By August 27th, the British had driven back George Washington during the Battle of Long Island, and by September 15th, they had taken lower Manhattan, seizing what was then the whole of New York City. (Brooklyn, Gravesend, Harlem, etc. all were separate towns then.) From that day forward, New York City became the base of British operations in North America and the City was under military control. Matthews escaped from house arrest in Litchfield, Connecticut and made his way back to New York in December 1776. Although he retained the title of Mayor, his power was greatly reduced. Matthews did help run the police court, and may have been at least partly responsible for the notoriously poor treatment of patriots on the British prison ships.

The first page of the post-war, post-colonial Common Council minutes, from February 10, 1784. Common Council Records, NYC Municipal Archives.

During the war some towns in the present boroughs of Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens were considered Loyalist enough to return to local rule. Because New York City was considered too rebellious, the Common Council of New York was never reformulated for the remainder of the war. Mayor Matthews, wisely left town on November 25th, 1783, Evacuation Day, when the British Army departed Manhattan. Under the Confiscation Act, passed in 1779 by the New York Legislature, he was subject to summary execution if found in New York. He spent the remainder of his days in British-controlled Nova Scotia, where he died in 1800.

It would take three months from Evacuation Day for New York City to reconstitute a government.  The new Mayor (James Duane) and the Aldermen did not meet in Common Council until February 10, 1784. One of the new government’s first acts was to request that the previous clerk, Augustus Van Cortlandt, deliver to the present clerk, “Robert Benson all and every [sic] the Books Records Papers Seals and all other Matters & Things appertaining to the said Office.” And then the business of government moved on as before, creating records.

Whatever records the British Army created during the intervening war years were not part of this collection.

On February 17, 1784, upon the request of the Clerk Robert Benson, the pre-war Clerk Augustus Van Cortlandt, was ordered to turn over all books, records, papers, and seals. Common Council Records, NYC Municipal Archives.

[1] The record books covering 1657 and Sept. 1658 to Aug. 1659 are missing from the Dutch records for reasons unknown.


Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, ... v.8 (1774-1776). New York (N.Y.).



The Mayors and the Gay Pride Parade

Everyone loves a parade. Especially New York City mayors. Usually front and center—mayors march on every occasion—Veterans Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Columbus Day, Steuben Day, Puerto Rican Day, Norwegian Day (yes, in case you missed it, the 2019 Norwegian Day parade stepped off in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, on May 19).

And this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio will join an estimated 150,000 marchers when New York City hosts WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the uprising at the Stonewall Inn which galvanized the modern gay rights movement. In the blog this week we highlight photographs depicting New York City mayors marching in the annual Gay Pride parades.

The first Gay Pride parade took place on June 28, 1970, the one year anniversary of Stonewall. There is correspondence in the Municipal Archives indicating that mayoral staff members knew about the parade, but then-Mayor John Lindsay did not participate. Nor did his successor, Abraham Beame, during his term in office from 1974 through 1977.

Mayor Edward Koch marched in the 1985 Gay Pride parade with Judge Willliam Thom, New York’s first openly gay judge. June 30, 1985. Photographer: Holland Wemple. Edward I. Koch Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Edward Koch was the first New York City mayor to march in the Gay Pride parade. In 1985, the New York Times reported that it was the Mayor's first “official” appearance in the march—having joined it, unannounced, as it was ending in the prior year. The poster in this image is partially cut-off—it says “Pass the Gay Rights Bill Now.” Known as Intro. 475, the bill had been first introduced in the City Council in January, 1971. It eventually would amend the Human Rights Law and extend the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Commission to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on a persons’ sexual orientation. In 1986, the Council finally passed the bill and Koch signed it into law on April 2, 1986.

Mayor David Dinkins marched in the 1993 Gay Pride parade with Assembly Member Deborah Glick, the first openly gay state legislator elected in New York State. June 27, 1993. Photographer: Edward Reed. MAyor David N. Dinkins Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

David Dinkins’ supported the LGBT community prior to his election as Mayor in 1989, and sustained his commitment throughout his mayoralty. His photographs document numerous receptions and press conferences related to LGBT events as well as the June 27, 1993 parade. “It’s not unusual for me,” Mr. Dinkins said about taking part in the parade. “I’m here every year.”

Mayor Giuliani’s photographers used color film to capture the iconic rainbow colors of the LGBT movement. June 24, 2001. Photographer: Edward Reed. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Giuliani’s photographers recorded his participation in the 1995, 1996, 2000 and 2001 Gay Pride parades. During the 2001 march on June 24, 2001, Giuliani was joined by the then candidate-for-mayor Michael Bloomberg. The “Stonewall Car” is a 1969 Cadillac Coupe de Ville convertible. Photographer: Edward Reed. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Mayor Bloomberg marched with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the 2008 Gay Pride parade. June 29, 2008. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

The de Blasio family marches in the 2015 Pride Parade, June 28, 2015. Photographer: Rob Bennett. Two days earlier, on June 26, the U.S.  Supreme Court  held in a 5–4 decision that the Fourteenth Amendment requires all states to grant  same-sex marriages  and recognize  same-sex marriages  granted in other states.

The de Blasio family marches in the 2015 Pride Parade, June 28, 2015. Photographer: Rob Bennett. Two days earlier, on June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 5–4 decision that the Fourteenth Amendment requires all states to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.

During the 2016 Pride festivities, Mayor Bill de Blasio and first lady Chirlane McCray, with Al Sharpton and Cynthia Nixon stand before the Stonewall Inn, June 26, 2016. Photographer: Michael Appleton. On June 24, 2016, President Obama had dedicated the Stonewall National Monument as the first official National Park Service unit dedicated to telling the story of LGBT Americans. June 26, 2016

NYPD Surveillance of Lesbian and Gay Power

The Stonewall Riots that took place in the West Village at the end of June, 1969 mark the beginning of a movement for the basic visibility and full equality of all Americans regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The early morning raid on the Stonewall Inn was nothing new in itself, as the NYPD had been raiding and shutting down similar bars throughout the 1960s. Lesbian and gay New Yorkers had been increasingly responding to police harassment with acts of civil disobedience and activist journalism during the 1960s, but the scope of resistance at Stonewall was different. Another thing that was certainly different about Stonewall, though, was how it changed the NYPD’s views on gay and lesbian power in the City, as evidenced by their moving image surveillance logs. Before Stonewall, there is no mention in the NYPD records of film surveillance activities of groups agitating for gay, lesbian and transgender rights. After Stonewall, the NYPD began to identify not a specific group or individual activists for surveillance, but a broad movement that had begun to take hold: Gay Liberation.

Gay rights banner unfurled at an Anti-Vietnam War rally on August 2nd, 1969, only one month after Stonewall. NYPD surveillance film, NYC Municipal Archives.

The earliest instance of gay and lesbian rights appearing in the NYPD’s 16mm-surveillance footage occurred at an Anti-Vietnam War rally on August 2nd, 1969, only one month after Stonewall. Seen here is a Gay Liberation Front banner displaying the interlocked female/female and male/male graphics. It is important to understand that this film was shot by a plainclothes NYPD officer whose job it was to document potentially dangerous political groups. Although there are many other banners at this demonstration, the NYPD officer assigned to filming the anti-war rally took extra time to record these protesters. One month after putting down the Stonewall riot that lasted for days, the NYPD had come to see gay and lesbian activism as a potential threat akin to the Black Panthers or the Minute Men which they could not ignore.

Gay Activist’s Alliance (GAA) protest of the NYC Board of Examiners for refusing to grant teaching licenses to those suspected of being gay or lesbian, October 2nd, 1971. NYPD surveillance film, NYC Municipal Archives.

The first instance of the NYPD specifically surveilling and filming gay activists came on October 2nd, 1971. This protest was organized by the group Gay Activist’s Alliance (GAA), formed in 1969 by former members of the Gay Liberation Front. The group was protesting the NYC Board of Examiners for refusing to grant teaching licenses to those suspected of being gay or lesbian. Right away we can see in the film that the protesters are far greater in number than those in 1969 and they are there for one specific cause. Although the GAA was non-violent, NYPD officers responded with force as the barricades broke, shoving some to the ground with clubs and arresting them. It wasn’t just the NYPD that had taken notice of gay and lesbian activism, though. After the scene outside of the Board’s offices at 65 Court Street, organizers of the GAA expressed their indignation to crowds of news media that had gathered, eager to cover the event. As their activism had grown, so too had their visibility.

In 1972-3, politicians and the news media became targets of ire for the Gay Liberation movement, specifically the Inner Circle organization. The Inner Circle is an association of New York City journalists who write and perform a show parodying political figures at their annual charity dinner. On April 15th, 1972, the GAA “zapped” an Inner Circle event by giving pamphlets to the audience, rushing the stage and grabbing the microphone to list issues facing lesbian and gay New Yorkers. GAA member Morty Manford was struck while handing out pamphlets by Michael Maye, President of the Fire Fighters Association- and former Golden Glove boxing champion. Maye was charged with and later acquitted of harassment, but the experience motivated Manford’s parents to start PFLAG, or “Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays” in 1973. The film seen here is a protest of the Inner Circle one year after the incident.

GAA protest of the Inner Circle dinner in 1973. NYPD surveillance film, NYC Municipal Archives.

Depictions of lesbian and gay activism began to fade from the NYPD’s moving image surveillance as Stonewall fell further into the past, but the need for that activism only rose through the 1970s, 80s and 90s. As the HIV/AIDS epidemic hit New York especially hard, gay and lesbian voices began to disappear, amplifying the dire warnings of those who remained. Many founding members of the GAA passed away from AIDS-related complications (including Morty Manford). New activist groups that formed like ACT UP and the Silence=Death Project focused not on liberation, but survival. Many activists who remember that time still feel betrayed by the way the City made their communities feel unimportant and invisible.

WNYC-TV, 1991. NYC Municipal Archives.

Starting in the mid 1980s, the City’s municipal broadcast station, WNYC-TV began covering gay and lesbian concerns, bringing LGBTQ lives into living rooms throughout the five boroughs. In one episode of a five-part special, teens related their experiences of coming out to friends and family. The teens in this 1991 video are now in their early 40s. In their lives, they would have seen the development of medical treatments that dramatically reduced deaths from HIV/AIDS, the 2003 Supreme Court ruling that the Constitution protects same-sex sexual relations, the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, and the Stonewall Inn becoming a national monument, like the Statue of Liberty, in 2016. Yet all these highly visible milestones belie the very real, ongoing fight for fair and equal treatment. Sexual orientation is still a legal ground for discrimination in 26 states. Many activists who sought to advance the cause of Gay Liberation remain unrecognized and invisible in the eyes of history. The New York City Municipal Archives aims change this by expanding our understanding of New York City’s rich history and the contributions that LGBTQ residents have made to it.

Central Park: A Musical Destination for all New Yorkers

The blog this week highlights the long tradition of music concerts in Central Park. It is adapted from our new book, “The Central Park: Original Designs for New York’s Greatest Treasure.”

Alterations to Music Pavilion, mason’s and carpenter’s contract, 1886. Black and colored inks with colored washes on paper backed with linen, 23¾ x 34¾". Department of Parks Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

The vividly colored Music Pavilion was originally constructed in 1862 and was moved to several different locations on the Mall during its lifetime. Jacob Wrey Mould prepared this drawing for alterations to the structure in 1886.

New Yorkers have enjoyed musical performances in Central Park from its earliest days. Park planners Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted believed that their urban oasis should provide not only “healthful recreation,” but also serve as a cultural destination for the appreciation of art and beauty. In 1859, an estimated five thousand people delighted in the first formal concert at a temporary bandstand built in the newly-opened Ramble.

Temporary winter covering for the Music Pavilion, carpenter’s and ironmonger’s contract, 1869. Black ink with colored washes on paper backed with linen, 19½ x 21". Department of Parks Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

As crowds grew larger, Vaux and Olmsted decided that the west side of the Mall, near the Bethesda Terrace, would be the ideal spot for a permanent structure. As they explained to the Board of Commissioners of the Central Park: “This site is recommended because it is conspicuous without being obtrusive, and is easy to access from the promenade [later known as the Mall] and from one of the leading avenue entrances; while, to the north, it commands from its terraces and verandas the finest views that are to be obtained in the lower part of the park.”

By 1862, the overwhelming popularity of free concerts in the park prompted the Board of Commissioners to approve building a permanent Music Pavilion to be located at the north end of the mall. Architect Jacob Wrey Mould’s Moorish-influenced cast-iron and wood bandstand, with six slender red columns that carried a bright blue cupola decorated with gilt stars, is still considered one of his park masterpieces.

Study for a floating music pavilion on the Lake, c. 1861. Black ink and pencil with colored washes on paper backed with linen, 17½ x 18½". Department of Parks Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

These detail maps show the pavilion’s positions on the Lake during a concert and when not in use; the central panel lifts up to reveal a second seating arrangement for a larger orchestra.

Before the Music Pavilion was built, Olmsted had toyed with a much different location. In 1861, he wrote to Central Park Board Commissioner Andrew Haswell Green suggesting that a bandstand floating on the Lake might be the best place to feature orchestras and bands during the concert season. Always fearful that large crowds of any size would trample and ruin the grass, Olmsted also believed that acoustics on the Lake would carry the music to listeners scattered around its shores, including on the Terrace, where chairs could be placed. The structure could be movable and would offer seating arrangements for both large and small groups of musicians. In the end, it was Mould’s Music Pavilion that was built, but occasionally a ten-man cornet band would give afternoon concerts from a boat on the water.

Here the Music Pavilion can be seen in its original location at the north end of the mall just behind a small decorative fountain that lead toward to the Terrace. The Pavilion would later be moved further the south and the fountain would be removed altogether. Department of Parks Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Large crowds gather to enjoy a concert in the park, c. 1910. The bench seating was designed by Calvert Vaux especially for concert-goers around the Music Pavilion. Photo by A. Tennyson Beals, NYC Municipal Archives Collection.

Design for modification of the area in the vicinity of the Music Stand on the Mall, c. 1865. Black and colored inks with colored washes on paper backed with linen, 28 ½ x 21 1/4." Department of Parks Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

In this drawing prepared by Calvert Vaux, we can see the Music Pavilion located along the western side of the mall. In 1884, a statue of Ludwig Van Beethoven was installed near this location of the Pavilion where it still stands today.

In 1921, Elkan Naumburg, a retired banker and music lover, offered the city $100,000 to replace the acoustically outdated Mould Pavilion. Naumburg’s nephew William Tachau designed the new venue in a neoclassical style. It was constructed with cream-colored Indiana limestone with side staircases and a coffered and gilded half-domed ceiling. Dedicated in 1923 and described as a “Temple of Music,” the Naumburg Bandshell is one of the few examples of the City Beautiful architectural style in the park. It is nestled into a hillside near the Mall and Pergola and has hosted everything from orchestral performances and big band era dances to a rousing speech by Martin Luther King Jr.

In addition to the Music Pavilion and the Bandstand, in more recent years the Great Lawn and the Sheep Meadow have served as open-air venues for concerts on a much grander scale. Ranging from Barbra Streisand in 1967 and Elton John in 1980 to the massive crowds that flood through the gates to see the annual concert given by the New York Philharmonic each year, the park has been filled with music to the delight of all New Yorkers for over 160 years.

Harvest dance contest at Naumburg Bandshell, September 1942. NYC Municipal Archives Collection.

Music remained a popular attraction in the park even after the removal of Mould’s Music Pavilion. The Naumburg Bandshell, designed by William Tachau, replaced it in 1923 and is still in use today.

These illustrations, and more than 250 others, such as the original winning competition entry submitted by Olmsted and Vaux, meticulously detailed plans and elevations of many of the architectural features of the park, as well as intricate engineering drawings are included in “The Central Park: Original Designs for New York’s Greatest Treasure.” It is available at bookstores throughout the city and through on-line retailers.

Mayor Edward Koch walking through the crowds while waiting for the start of the annual concert given by the New York Philharmonic in Central Park, August 8, 1983. Mayor Edward I. Koch Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

The Philharmonic’s concert in 1986 had an estimated attendance of 800,000 people, one of the largest gatherings for a musical event in the history of the park.

Form 51

In October, 1950, acting Mayor Vincent R. Impellitteri addressed the Citizens Budget Commission at Carnegie Hall. He wanted to tell that group of concerned citizens (and voters in the next month’s special election) about the major issues facing the City: education, traffic, transit, smoke control. But he was pressed for time, he said. So instead, he decided to talk big picture: the City’s record-setting, billion dollar budget, and the topic of modern management. He did not attribute the seemingly astronomical budget to the large-scale social programs then underway, like building 70,000 low-cost housing units, an extensive hospital reconstruction program, new schools or subways, but rather, to “changing economic conditions which have affected every city, county and state,” in the country, noting percentage increases to the state and federal budgets even greater than the City’s.

Citizens Budget Address, Office of the Mayor, Vincent R. Impellitteri, NYC Municipal Archives.

Before expounding on those changing economic conditions though, he made a justification for a line item in that budget (to the eventual tune of $2,196,250) that he believed would ultimately save the city a great deal of money, and enable it to meet those ever-rising costs. “We now have a Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey at work,” he said. “Its members are studying the reclassification of our civil service employees, the operation of our subway system, our education department, our water supply problem, and City finances generally… I believe that economies will be the result of these studies. I have hopes that these economies will enable us to continue to meet the increasing cost of hospitals, welfare, schools, and other vital services.”

Begun under Mayor William O’Dwyer, the Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey was a sprawling three-year labor that culminated in a hefty, two-volume final report with a slew of recommendations for sweeping changes to various agencies and offices of the government. The Committee ultimately presented eleven major findings, and twelve management recommendations, and many four-, five-, and six-point plans with their own numbered lists of justifying principles and inescapable underlying forces. Whether its primary purpose, “the securing of good management, which will bring in its wake those economies arising from the best use of men, materials, and time in getting the work of the City government done,” was in fact accomplished, is a topic for further research. What’s clear is that City government needed some kind of diagnostic.

The City had become populous and complex, and it was only natural to wonder whether staff and resources were being put to the most efficient use, and plainly how. To properly fulfill its’ mandate, the Committee needed to know just how city worker’s hours were spent, what those hours cost, and the output they provided. They needed an ant’s-eye view of the thing. They needed to know what exactly, did a Watchman or a Hospital Helper, or a Custodian-Engineer do all day? What sort of tools and equipment did they use? Who did they interact with?

A good form is the hallmark of bureaucracy. The Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey’s response to this data-vacuum was a banner entry to the genre: Form 51. By June, 1951 they’d collected over 83,000 of them from city government’s labor force. This rate of return was 99.4% of the total the Committee’s Classification Project staff sought in order to reclassify civil service titles to more accurately reflect the work being performed.

Now they knew that for $3,100 a year, John Doran supervised the No. 1 oven on Rikers Island, the largest in the bakery, putting out 2,160 pounds of bread every 55 minutes. William K. Frese reported to the Fermentation Room at 6:50 AM. He made sure the dough was the right temperature before being hoisted in 1,000 lb. increments to a slide passing it through the ‘Divider’, sizing it appropriately for individual loaves of bread. They knew this occupied 50% of his time. The rest was divided equally between managing the cake room (the source of rolls, pies, and pastry), and supervising the inmates in their duties assisting the bakers.

Form 51: John Doran, Baker, Rikers Island. Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey, circa 1950. NYC Municipal Archives.

Form 51: William K. Frese, Baker, Rikers Island. Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey, circa 1950. NYC Municipal Archives.

Along with an incidental education in the manufacture of a perfect loaf of bread, Form 51 gave the Committee many of those fundamental details of City operations from which they strove to extract greater efficiency and savings. From the vantage point of the present day Form 51 shows a fairly vivid snapshot of a dozen or more 1950-era working-class civil-service vocations, detailing the tasks filling the day, to the tools of the trade, requisite experience and qualifications, and rate of pay. The descriptions vary with the individual providing them, some being rather terse and technical and others imbued with more narrative and personality. Richard T. Cairney, for instance, could have satisfactorily completed the form without elaborating on the care he took to instruct the inmates assisting him in the, “art of bread baking in order that they might be useful when they are released,” or that emergencies such as fog or ferry boat mishaps required him to take full charge of the bakery.

Form 51: Richard T. Cairney, Baker, Rikers Island. Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey, circa 1950. NYC Municipal Archives.

At McCarren Park in Brooklyn, Arkade Rudomen’s description of his duties charts the passing of seasons In the summer, he supervised the maintenance and operation of the swimming pool, then converted the swimming facilities into a recreation area in the fall, and with the arrival of spring reversed the process, painting and sealing expansion joints in the pool and erecting diving boards (Paul Friesel describes the same seasonal transformation at Sunset Park Pool…). The main pool was 330 ft. by 165 ft., the diving pool 100 ft. square. They had locker facilities to accommodate 5,000. Rudomen supervised a team of almost forty, from lifeguards and attendants to play directors, chlorinators, and ticketing agents. He’d previously been a lifeguard himself, in the employ of the Queens Borough President’s Office.

Form 51: Arkade Rudomen, Swimming Pool Operator, McCarren Park. Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey, circa 1950. NYC Municipal Archives.

Pieces of the 1950 public school experience are reflected in the Committee’s data-gathering mechanism as well. At the Manual Training High School in Brooklyn, the girls swam on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The boys swam on the complementary schedule. They were provided with towels and the right-sized suit, sterilized and mended if need be, by a Cleaner Attendant, like Helen F. Hagen. She also sterilized the football uniforms and, “all other paraphernalia,” from the basketball and track teams, the shop aprons, stockings and gym suits. For this work Hagen and her colleagues had at their disposal the Raymond Sterilizer-Washer, a cast-iron barrel capable of killing ordinary pathogenic organisms and spore-forming bacteria in 5 minutes, when operated at 15 pounds pressure.

Form 51: Helen F. Hagen, Laundry Bath Attendant, Manual Training High School, Brooklyn. Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey, circa 1950. NYC Municipal Archives.

After a morning swim, lunch for students and teachers alike may have consisted of soup and sandwiches, or roast beef with gravy and vegetables, with cakes, custards or pudding for dessert, all prepared by Cooks like Katherine Rumker, Bertha Telford and Rachel Hently. The cakes were made from scratch, not any mixes, at James Fenimore Cooper Junior High. They took Rachel Hently two and a half hours to finish. Then she got started on lunch, and continued cooking while she served from 11:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. She and the rest of the staff (the ‘help’, she writes) ate the lunch she prepared for them from 1:30 P.M. to 2:00 P.M. At Jr. H.S. 49 Bertha Telford consulted with the dietitian on the following day’s menu and the best possible use of the leftovers. Katherine Rumker’s accounting of her typical day makes it sound like the teacher’s cafeteria had the privilege of a daily custom order. And jello was standard fare.

Form 51: Katherine Rumker, Cook, PS 232, Brooklyn. Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey, circa 1950. NYC Municipal Archives.

A Barber employed at Bellevue Hospital had 13 wards to care for concerning shaves and haircuts. In the Nursing Department at Queens General Hospital, another shaved the heads of patients preparing to undergo surgery. At the City Home on Welfare Island, Victor Tripaldi managed 45 shaves and 10 haircuts a day.

Form 51: John Smith, Barber, Queens General Hospital. Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey, circa 1950. NYC Municipal Archives.

Form 51: Victor Tripoli, Barber, City Home, Welfare Island. Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey, circa 1950. NYC Municipal Archives.

The Butchers employed in the City’s prisons and hospitals provide an accounting of their cutting and cleaning. According to Anton Keltner, Goldwater Memorial Hospital went through a combined average of 3,600 pounds of meat, poultry, and fish per week. Every other day, Hospital Helper Angelo Donisi cleaned and mopped the morgue in Sydenham Hospital. He was also responsible for cleaning the test tubes in the second floor lab.

Form 51: Anton Keltner, Butcher, Goldwater Memorial Hospital. Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey, circa 1950. NYC Municipal Archives.

Form 51: Angelo Donisi, Hospital Helper, Sydenham Hospital. Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey, circa 1950. NYC Municipal Archives.

The actual utility of all this information in the context of the city’s mid-century budgetary examination is hard to evaluate. The reclassification plan for civil service titles that resulted from this survey, put forth by the firm of Griffenhagen and Associates at the behest of the Committee, was met with widespread disapproval by civil service unions and organizations throughout the city and state. As for the promised economic benefits of the Management Survey, City Construction Co-Ordinator Robert Moses had his doubts. In a 1951 letter to Comptroller Lazarus Joseph, Chairman of the Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey, Moses urged the taking of stock and correcting of misapprehensions. The municipal budget was steadily mounting, unavoidably and for good reason, he argued. “Economy is, of course, indispensable, but the notion which has been assiduously cultivated by various civic agencies and the press that enforced efficiency and economy will actually result in tremendous net cuts in the City’s expense budget and make it possible to meet inescapable demands for increases in pay and services within the present total and without new taxes, is just so much moonshine.” He went on, “I am for genuine economy, for cutting out waste, for the smallest practical number of competent, decently paid and well treated employees and for savings which do not cut services, but I ask that the experts on whom we are spending $2,000,000 concentrate on the big problems of financing and refrain from making mountains out of molehills.”

Robert Moses letter, 1951.

If the over-analysis of the daily tasks of a cross-section of city workers are the mountains and molehills Moses mentions, perhaps these accounts are of more value now than at the time of their creation. By and large, the records we deem historic and therefore preserve are those of policy-makers. For reasons of practicality and privacy we’re typically unable to maintain and make accessible the records of the individuals who actually execute the government’s policies, who actually provide the services to the citizens, who meet people face-to-face. Most of the time their contributions are reflected only indirectly. These job descriptions from the people performing the work are unique in that sense. Form 51 highlights the contrasts in culture and technology between that era and the present, and paints a partial portrait of earlier times that other records, or our imaginations, can fill in.


New York City Municipal Archives, Accn. 1954-023 Office of the Mayor, Vincent R. Impellitteri subject files, 1950-1953, Boxes 54-55.

New York City Municipal Archives, Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey position description forms, circa 1950.

Mayor’s Committee on Management Survey, Modern Management for the City of New York: report, 1953.