Broadway’s Everlasting Magic in 11 Pictures

William Shatner once said, “My plan has always been to return to Broadway every 50 years.”

Very few places have an appeal that comes close to Broadway. People come from all over the world to New York City and seeing a Broadway show is always on their list.  What is it about this place that has drawn in hundreds of millions of souls, made so many careers, and broken so many people? For the actors who performed there, Broadway is a brutal and beloved place. Ethel Merman said, “Broadway has been very good to me. But then, I’ve been very good to Broadway.”

It was once called The Great White Way, a reference to the brilliantly lit street devoted to leisure and amusements. I’m not positive about this, but I believe the signs were lit with gas until the mid-twentieth century, which would explain the ethereal glow in the photos from the 1910s and 1920s. It isn’t only the theatres though, the life force seems to spring up through the pavement. Let’s take a look and see what we can discern through the pictures.

Stereoscope of Broadway from Liberty Street in 1896. Photograph by Albert S. Campbell (LOC)

 

Broadway, looking north from Cortlandt Street, New York, N.Y 1900 Detroit Publishing Co. (LOC)

 

Looking up Broadway from Dey Street, New York City 1900 Detroit Publishing Co. (LOC)

 

Broadway and Herald Square Theatre at night, New York City 1907 (LOC)

 

Beggar Peddler on Broadway – Woman holding a small child and a box of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum, in front of a building on Broadway in New York City; pedestrians on sidewalk in background. 1909 (LOC)

 

My personal favorite! Broadway at Night. 1910. Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Stereoscope – Looking down from the tower of Woolworth Bldg., New York City Keystone View Company 1920 (LOC)

 

Stereoscope of The Great White Way — night scene on Broadway above Times Square, New York City Keystone View Company 1920s (LOC)

 

Charles Lindbergh rode up lower Broadway in an open car next to Mayor James J. Walker, Grover Whalen is in front of the Mayor 1927 (LOC)

 

Look how nicely everyone was dressed! Corner on Broadway 1952 – Photographed by Angelo Rizzuto (LOC)

 

Times Square & Broadway Aug 1953. Billboards for Admiral Television Appliances and Pepsi-Cola, and signs for Schraff’s, Newman’s Theatre, Capitol Theatre, and Howard Street sign for 43rd St.  – Photographed by Angelo Rizzuto (LOC)

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