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A View of Times Square, New York in the 1880s.

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I have been collecting early U.S. coins by type and in one case (early half dimes) by date and major variety for over 30 years. During that time my perceptions about the age of some coins have become shall we say “warped.” For example I’ve come to view coins dated in the 1880s be almost modern, which is a contorted perspective given vast differences between the way we live today and the way Americans lived a 120 years ago.


Recently I read a book about the history of Times Square, New York, and the description of what that area of the city was in 1880 was a real eye opener. Back then the really settled part of New York City ended blocks before what is now called Times Square. Back then it was called Long Acre Square, and it was the equivalent of we would call today “auto row.”


If you were having trouble with your carriage, you took it to Long Acre Square for repairs. If you will looking to trade or buy a new carriage, Long Acre Square was the place to go. And if you looking to buy, sell and trade horses, you would need to look no further. In fact there were so many horses, the smell of manure was said to be overpowering.


After dark the area pretty well shut down for “decent people.” The only street lamp was a gas light. The rest of the city had electric ark lights that sizzled and sparked. The streets of Long Acre Square were populated by pick pockets, ladies of the evening and other rough charters. Of course those of us where familiar with the area in the 1970s would say, “Times have not changed.”


At any rate I thought that it was interesting to get a view of New York City when those “modern” coins from the 1880s were in circulation.

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I'd like to see some PRICES of everyday items from some of those periods.


Just to see exactly WHAT could have been purchased with a Capped Bust $5 gold piece. Or a 1793, 1833 and 1850 half cent.

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There are some great books called "The Everyday Life in America Series":


"Everyday Life in Early America: by David Freeman Hawke

"The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1790-1840" by Jack Larkin

"The Expansion of Everyday Life, 1860-1876" by Daniel E. Sutherland

"Victorian America" by Thomas J. Schlereth

"The Uncertainty of Everyday Life, 1915-1945" by Harvey Green

"As Various as Their Land" by Stephanie Grauman Wolf


I have "Victorian America", which has chapters on "Moving", "Working", "Housing", "Consuming", "Playing", "Striving", and "Living and Dying".


The show an annual budget for a factory laborer ($489.00), a glassworker ($1,040.00) and three "middle class" families ($966.00, $1,850.00 and $790.00).


They also talk about how just about every "everyday" expense cost a nickel, including a shave and a haircut, a new shirt collar, a beer, a dozen roses, a box of Cracker Jack.


If you want to get a feel for what life was like in the 19th century, I recommend these books!

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I like the example of the shirt collar. So, let me get this straight. I have this old and ratty shirt, but I think I'll only replace the collar. 27_laughing.gif Oh, those were the days.....



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Actually, John, in those days shirts were made without attached collars or cuffs - you would have separate collars and cuffs that you would attach to the shirt when you got dressed. I don't know if it was a technology issue (they didn't know how to make attached collars and cuffs that would stand up to laundering) or a fashion/cleanliness issue (collars and cuffs would get dirty first, so you replaced them before you had the shirt laundered).


(For example, if you look up the history of the Arrow Shirt company, you'll see that they started life as the Arrow Collar company.)


edited to add: Also, as we all know, the collars and cuffs are where shirts start to wear out first.

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if i was back then in times square i would be walking around in knickers or knickerbockers as the case may be


and i would be selling you cherry ices from a store also with delicious confections and in the back would be a coin store of sorts where collectors can come to chat buy and trade


and also keeping an eye on the whores

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