Exhibit

What’s New in Our Making A Museum Exhibit? From the Archives: A Lost Ticket From Katz’s Deli

The Lower East Side landmark and makers of famously large and delicious sandwiches, Katz’s Deli, is undoubtedly well known to readers of this blog. Founded in 1888, family owned and operated, When Harry Met Sally, “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army,” etc. All old hat to you experienced New Yorkers, who would never order mayonnaise on your pastrami and always tip your cutter.

And veteran Katz’s patrons are naturally familiar with the ticket system used to ensure everyone pays their check: every adult receives a ticket, printed with a grid of numbers, upon entry; each adult must return that ticket when exiting, even if unused. Lose the ticket, and it’s a $50 fee. It’s an archaic system that has induced curiosity, rage, and panic in customers, and has become as integral to the Katz’s experience as pickles, shared tables, and fading celebrity photos on the walls.

While you can display your Katz’s ticket knowledge with a t-shirt or socks, the high price for a lost ticket makes the ticket itself a highly unusual item to find outside the confines of Katz’s. Truly lost tickets are a rare occurrence, according to Jake Dell, Katz’s current owner, and indeed the historical timeline posted in the deli’s window states that the first lost ticket didn’t happen until 1962. We don’t know the story of how this ticket, found on the street, escaped – did it cost the erstwhile owner $50 or an hour or two of dishwashing work, or did the staff take pity and let them go? – but it represents a slice of New York life that can only be found one other place in the city.

The Fantasy Coffin Experience (and other funerary traditions)

Friday, March 22, 2019 – Talk at 7:00 p.m. – Museum open until 9:00 p.m.

RSVP for this event on Facebook

Alert readers of the City Reliquary’s blog and recent Reliquary visitors are no doubt familiar with author Sarah Murray’s Ghanaian fantasy coffin in the shape of the Empire State Building, now on view in our Making A Museum exhibit. If you’d like to learn more about how that coffin came to be – and about more fascinating funerary traditions from around the world – be sure to attend her talk at the Reliquary on Friday, March 22 at 7:00 p.m.!

Ms. Murray will share stories and photos from her book Making An Exit, an exploration of the extraordinary creativity unleashed when we seek to dignify the dead. Her research took her around the world and brought her to create a unique plan for her own eventual send-off.

The event will be free with admission to the City Reliquary Museum! We’ll be open special late-night hours from 6-9 p.m. so there will be plenty of time to check out all our exhibits and new additions before and after Ms. Murray’s talk at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be available by donation.

What’s New in our Making A Museum Exhibit? From the Archives: Helen Hayes Theater Brick

The original Helen Hayes Theater once stood on 46th Street near Broadway. Built in 1911 – one of nearly 80 theaters to be built in the Broadway district between the IRT’s opening in 1904 and the stock market crash of 1929 – it was originally envisioned as an NYC version of the risqué Parisian venue Follies Bergère, with dancers roving among the audience seated at supper tables, but soon switched to a standard seating configuration and changed its name to the Fulton. In 1955, the theater was renamed the Helen Hayes to honor the EGOT winner and “First Lady of the American Theater.”

While in operation, the Helen Hayes/Fulton Theater hosted the initial run of many classic Broadway plays and musicals: The Jazz Singer in 1925, Dracula (starring Bela Lugosi) in 1928, Arsenic and Old Lace in 1941, Gigi (starring Audrey Hepburn) in 1952, Long Day’s Journey Into Night in 1956, and Equus in 1976, among many others. But by the 1970s, Times Square and the theater business had both changed substantially. Many live theaters had long since been converted to movie houses or turned to seedier entertainment. Theatergoers were increasingly uncomfortable attending shows in a notorious part of town.

In 1973, developer John Portman proposed a massive new hotel development on Broadway between 45th and 46th, on property where the Helen Hayes and four other classic-era theaters stood. Mayor Ed Koch strongly supported new development to revitalize the area, and under political pressure the Landmarks and Preservation Commission voted against designating the theaters. Actors, producers, and preservationists rallied with the goal of saving Broadway, staging numerous public protests and temporarily enjoining construction. But these efforts ultimately failed, and on March 22, 1982, destruction of the theaters commenced.

In April of that year, Scott Edelman, friend of the Reliquary and theater fan, reached through the construction fence surrounding the site of the future Marriott Marquis and retrieved a brick from the pile of rubble on the site of the Helen Hayes Theater. In 2015, he generously donated that brick to the Reliquary, and his accompanying letter to us shows his authentic love for this forgotten palace of the stage. You can see both in our exhibit.

Some have persuasively argued that the Broadway Massacre of 1982 was ultimately crucial in saving live theater in New York. The protest organizers redoubled their calls for protection of classic Broadway theaters and succeeded in landmarking 46 theaters and passing zoning to protect the historic Theater District while still allowing new mixed-use development. Continuing new investment, following Portman, and vastly reduced crime rates in Times Square have made it a top tourist attraction that draws significant revenue for the city and hundreds of thousands of visitors each year (sometimes, it seems, all on the same day!), attracting new demand for live theatrical productions.

What’s New in our Making A Museum Exhibit? W.F. Mangels Speed Boat Ride

This tropical-themed boat was part of a children’s ride named Speed Boat constructed by the W.F. Mangels Company of Coney Island in the 1950s. Speed Boat consisted of eight boats that followed a circular undulating track around a central lighthouse pillar. The boat’s rear seat has a ship’s wheel with bells attached, and the front seat has a cast aluminum mock gun.

William F. Mangels emigrated from Germany as a teen, and started his eponymous amusement ride company by the time he was twenty, in 1886. With his mechanic’s training, ingenuity, and complete devotion to figuring out what would be the most fun, Mangels quickly became prominent in his chosen field. His most famous ride, The Whip, was first installed at Luna Park, Coney Island, in 1914 and spread rapidly from there, with more than 500 Whips in amusement parks around the world. Mangels held more than fifty patents for amusements he designed, including wave pools, shooting galleries, carousels, and coasters.

Mangels’ love for the world of amusements led, in 1929, to his directorship of the American Museum of Public Recreation, located on Coney Island close to his own factory on West 8th Street. The Museum, dedicated to play facilities of all kinds, included in its collection carousel animals, patent documents, drawings of jousting matches and ancient festivals, bicycles, sleighs, marionettes, and an extensive library. Sadly, the Museum was not a financially successful venture; however, many of its paper holdings as well as Mangels’ own company papers, blueprints, and drawings are held by Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

William F. Mangels died in 1958 and is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. His creations live on – you can still ride one of his carousels on Coney Island today!

What’s New in our Making A Museum Exhibit? St. Denis Building Directory

The St. Denis Building, at 80 East 11th Street at Broadway in Manhattan, is a case study of the changing city. Built in 1853 by renowned architect James Renwick Jr., it was the first building in New York to feature terracotta sculpted exterior decoration. At that time, the neighborhood was a fashionable shopping district, and the St. Denis was a grand hotel which drew many notable guests: Abraham Lincoln, P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, and Sarah Bernhardt among them. The gentleman’s parlor on the second floor saw Alexander Graham Bell’s first public demonstration of the telephone in New York.

By 1917, the neighborhood had fallen out of fashion. The building was sold and converted to office space with ground floor retail. The renovations removed Renwick’s terracotta detailing, rendering it ineligible for historic preservation a century later.

St. Denis’ office tenants were just as notable as its hotel guests. From the 1920s to the 1950s, many of its tenants were leftist newspapers and workers’ organizations: The Workers Party of America, the American Negro Labor Congress, and the W.E.B. Du Bois-chaired Peace Information Center were among the many groups headquartered there. The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, the last holdout of this generation of tenants, appears on our Directory board (Room 341). Marcel Duchamp kept a secret, unlisted studio in Room 403, and his deliberately posthumous final work, Étant Donnés, was installed there.

In 2016, the St. Denis was sold to developers with plans to demolish the building. The last tenants left in 2018, but remain listed on the historic Directory on view at the Reliquary. The variety and number of businesses listed are a prime example of Jane Jacobs’ maxim that new ideas need old buildings. The comparatively cheap rents, older fixtures, and smaller office spaces in the St. Denis allowed many solo therapeutic practitioners to see low-income patients and small businesses to get an affordable start.

The current plans for the St. Denis space are for a 12-story glass wall office building with a stacked box design. It is one of a cluster of new commercial developments in the neighborhood seeking to expand Flatiron’s “Silicon Alley” further down Broadway.

The St. Denis directory came to the City Reliquary as the generous donation of Richard Signorelli, a 15-year tenant of the building and one of the last to depart.

We highly recommend this excellent article about the history and vibrant life of the St. Denis by Jeremiah Moss in the New York Review of Books.

What’s New in our Making A Museum Exhibit? The 1939 World’s Fair Collection of Virginia McClellan Moskowitz

A major part of the City Reliquary’s mission is to elevate everyday objects and the stories of everyday New Yorkers. We love and celebrate the passion and curatorial skill of amateur collectors. With this collection of 1939 World’s Fair memorabilia, we showcase the work of an amateur collector who became a professional: Virginia McClellan Moskowitz.

In 1939, Virginia, a nurse from Mount Vernon, NY, attended the World’s Fair in New York City. The experiences and sights she witnessed stayed with her her entire life, and inspired her to collect many different types of souvenirs reflecting her fond memories.

After retiring from the nursing profession, Virginia’s love of collections led her to become Mount Vernon’s town historian. Her enthusiasm, and the local history she passed on, is fondly remembered by those she met, and her legacy is inspiring a new generation of local historians today.

New Community Collection: Jennifer Rice’s Vintage Confetti

Now On View:
Vintage Confetti
Through Winter 2019

The City Reliquary is proud to present the vintage confetti and confetti-related ephemera collection of Jennifer Rice. She was first inspired to start collecting when she learned that workers renovating NYC’s famed Rainbow Room found confetti from the 1940s beneath the rotating dance floor. Her collection includes packaged confetti from all over the world and items depicting confetti’s history, manufacture, cultural significance, and influence in design and branding.

Modern confetti has its roots in ancient civilizations and the act of throwing plant-based materials (i.e. seeds, nuts, twigs) to celebrate life, death, unions, or sacrificial offerings. The word ‘confetti‘ hails from the Latin conficere meaning “to prepare or to make ready.” This evolved to the French confit or confiture translating as preserved meats and fruits. After the colonization of the Americas these terms came to be more closely associated with preserving in sugar eventually evolving into 18th century Italian confetti (little sweets) or the English confectionary.
In 18th century France and Italy, Carnevale, an indulgent celebration before the start of Lent, confetti in the form of candied fruits and nuts were thrown. As sugar was a luxury item at the time, by the 1830s plaster of Paris replaced candied sweets. Written accounts and illustrations from the time, as pictured on postcards in this collection, show the need for masks also known as par a bonbons to protect the face especially during batailles de confetticonfetti battles.
Wearing masks to avoid the harm of thrown candied sweets and plaster evolved to non-harmful variations of confetti. In 1875 Italy, Enrico Mangili used the refuse of paper holes punched in paper to aid hatching silkworms to introduce the first variation of paper confetti. By 1892, plaster confetti was banned in Paris and in 1894 French poster artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was commissioned by London paper manufacturer J. E. Bella to advertise their “injury-free” paper confetti.
Meanwhile, in New York City, confetti in the form of candy and paper was used throughout the late 19th century, but a unique to New York variation of confetti was first used in 1886 during a parade to celebrate the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. Ticker tape, a 1 inch wide piece of paper that recorded stock quotes, came to be known for its dramatic effect when dropped from a height. Ticker tape parades were so prevalent during the first half of the 20th century and so tied to New York’s cultural identity that the Alliance for New York embedded granite markers commemorating each significant parade along the historic stretch of Broadway known as the “Canyon of Heroes.” Another NYC confetti tradition continues today with the Times Square ball drop confetti shower at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Making A Museum: Behind the Scenes at the City Reliquary

The City Reliquary is taking visitors inside our processes of acquisition, research, and preservation of our collection. As we redesign our permanent collection and bring out some of our rarely exhibited holdings, we’re also adding new objects, studying their history, and creating new informative text panels. Our exhibition hall has become a workshop and creative laboratory as well as a display space, and every week we’ll be working on new additions. We invite you to journey with us as we learn new stories of the city and craft ways to share them.

Vintage Confetti On View & Meet The Confetti King!

The City Reliquary’s Community Collections showcase provides a place for ordinary New Yorkers to display the carefully curated objects of their devotion, be they quirky, everyday, strange, or sublime. Our current exhibitor, Jennifer Rice, collects vintage confetti and related ephemera from all over the world. She was first inspired to start collecting when she learned that workers renovating NYC’s famed Rainbow Room found confetti from the 1940s beneath the rotating dance floor.

Confetti celebrations have a special place in New York City history. The first ever ticker-tape parade happened on Broadway in 1886 when NY Stock Exchange traders watching the parade celebrating the dedication of the Statue of Liberty spontaneously tossed ticker tape from their offices onto the crowd below.

And of course, the biggest confetti event in the country is New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Did you know that all the confetti is tossed by hand? The man who makes it all happen is Treb Heining, whose company has handled confetti drops at major events like the Super Bowl, Olympics, and Academy Awards. He’ll be in New York to run theconfetti operation at Times Square for the 27th consecutive year, and will make an appearance at the City Reliquary to talk about his work!

Join us on Friday, December 28, at 7:00 p.m. to learn what it takes to be the Confetti King! Entry is included with Museum admission, and is of course free for members. We’ll have the Museum open special late-night hours with plenty of time to see all our festive exhibits.

Community Collections: The Rock Collection Collection

Now On View:
Rock Collection Collection
April 6, 2018 – April 29, 2018

The City Reliquary proudly presents the Community Collections display of Ben Sisto’s Rock Collection Collection. Sisto’s collection began around 1988 when his parents gave him his first set from a spot in New England. He was largely unaware of how many of these kits had been produced by hobbyists, educators, state departments and so on. Around 2016 he was gifted a second box which prompted him research and grow his collection further, which is currently at 45 rock collections. They are prized for their homemade/DIY aesthetic.