Times Square at Night, 1908-2018

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I avoided Times Square when I lived in New York. Most of the city’s residents do – the Square’s too crowded; it’s too loud and bright and far too commercial. That was my general opinion for years, and still is, more or less. But right now I’m missing it.

I didn’t come to appreciate that garish tangle of streets until last year. I returned to the city for a work trip and was put up at a hotel on 46th street and 8th avenue, not far from an AA meeting I enjoy and a few doors down from the Scientology HQ, which I didn’t even know existed. Mel Brooks was performing two buildings further east, closer to 7th avenue and the runoff of Times Square proper.

It was the perfect summer night for a stroll. The Square was as white hot bright as ever; it was chaotic and cacophonous. A replica Back to the Future DeLorean drove by and life-sized cartoon characters jostled for change as a light drizzle fell. It was past 11, but despite the hour and weather, people were still everywhere, strolling, hustling, and gawking – thousands upon thousands of the reasons I once bypassed the so-called Crossroad of the World at all costs.

Today those crossroads are quiet as the Big Apple continues battling the pandemic. As my own lockdown continues I find myself wishing I could be back in the time before, right there in Times Square’s throbbing center – and I’m sure other people do, too, even New Yorkers.

Until we can be there, here are 23 images of Times Square at night, all taken between 1908 and 2018. A lot happened in those 110 years – two world wars, a Great Depression, some recessions, HIV, 9/11, the Great Recession, a super storm, and a whole lot of other shit – and Times Square stood strong: a tinsel testament to humankind’s tenacity and audacity; a glittering epicenter for all people. It will be so again, and will be for decades to come, come hell or high water, for better and for worse. And I look forward to being in the thick of it.

Scrollable version of the slideshow below.

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Found in the LOC: 20 Old Newsstands, 1937-1943

(“Chicago, Illinois. Newsstand in Union Station train concourse, 1943,” Jack Delano)

Newspapers have played a central role in the American narrative since colonial days, when editors, writers, and just plain average folk used the media to make change. And papers remain just as important to our democracy today, as Trump and his allies try to twist reality to their own interests. And the American people know this; that’s why, even as print versions suffer and shutter, digital subscriptions to outlets like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal continue to soar – We want the truth!

To celebrate the newspaper and its essential place in our culture, here are 20 images of newsstands across America, from 1937-1942, taken by some of the greatest names in photography: Marjory Collins, Russell Lee,  Edwin Locke, Arthur Rothstein, and John Vachon.

What’s so incredible here is the wide, only-in-America spectrum of representation: From Japanese Americans reading magazines to Mexican Americans selling diarios, from Baltimore workers reading news about World War II to a New Yorker newsie lost in dozens of titles; from Minnesota to Memphis, Texas to Oregon, these are snapshots of America as it is and as it should always remain.  And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for some early editions of Detective Comics and Action Comics!

(“Los Angeles, California. Newsstand on a street corner, 1942,” Russell Lee)

Check out the whole collection AFTER THE JUMP!

And click here for more Found in the LOC!

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Found in The LOC: Buying Flowers in NYC, 1900

With Easter right around the corner, what better time to feast our collective eyes on some shots of New Yorkers buying their holiday bouquets in Union Square circa 1900? See fifteen more, all found in the LOC, after the jump.

And for more “Found in the LOC,” click here.

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