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Hy Mariampolski


It’s hard to believe that when the New York City Police Department (or the NYPD to those that love its t-shirts and woolen caps) consolidated in 1845, anyone had any idea of all the unique functions it would eventually come to encompass. The NYPD does highly sophisticated computer modeling nowadays and relies upon its proprietary analytics to allocate personnel to its important tasks like anticipating terror incidents and child endangerment. Nevertheless, despite its size and scope, the NYPD strives to maintain good relations at street level. The organization employs about 50,000 personnel – 35,000 of them in uniform. According to the official CompStat database, the NYPD responded to nearly 500,000 reports of crime and made over 200,000 arrests during 2019. In 2020, it had a budget of six-billion US dollars. New York City’s police continue to be roiled by conflicts and contradictions that have infected policing from the start. Whereas at one time the discussions involved anarchism, foreign wars and the absorption of immigrants, debates today have turned to the proper role of policing and the continuing disparities of race. Through this all, traditional conflicts over police corruption and moral turpitude have not abated. Nevertheless, looking at people’s feelings about the police over the nearly 200-year long run, despite ambiguity the public’s general attitude is respect, honor, gratitude, and concern. Examining nearly a century of New York City police postcards, important because they represent the nation’s oldest and largest police force, yields significant findings. The use of police postcards in advertising shows an emotional layer of attachment. Together with a young girl, for example, Greenfield’s Chocolate Sponge stops all kinds of Fifth Avenue traffic. The illustration of an unmounted police officer at Grant’s Tomb by Edward Penfield for Hart, Schaffner and Marx is thoroughly convincing about the clothing manufacturer’s style and superior quality. From the start, the highly collectable neighborhood Police stations are depicted as local and accessible. This Private Mailing Card lithograph by Rost shows Mulberry Street Police Headquarters. Several blocks away “The Old Tombs” is where the failures were sent, that is the county prison. Even though several successively larger buildings have occupied this location for the same purpose, it’s still known as “The Tombs.
As the City exploded, so did its police force. By 1871, the NYPD included a mounted division and were often referred to after 1875 as “The Finest.” In 1888 the system’s first policewoman was recruited and by the turn of the 20th century the city’s four-million citizens were being policed by a force of 6,400.
In 1909, a new Police Headquarters opened on Centre Street just outside of Lower Manhattan. The new HQ featured the latest in training and public amenities.
The details of police uniforms across time periods are always fascinating. Police staves, the 8-pointed badges and the gray helmets that recall the headgear worn by London’s Bobbies provoke nostalgia for an era that no longer exists. Even so, the outfits seem to look best when they appear in connection with award ceremonies and mounted marches. Even today, neighborhood celebrations or seasonal events like St. Patrick’s Day provoke the loudest cheers.
For collectors who appreciate imagery that is somewhat more contemporary, there is a beautiful set issued by the Pompadour Gallery, Fairview Parade, Mawney Road, Romford, Essex RM7 7HH. Each 4”x 6” card in the set illustrates a police officer during a distinct time frame. Card #4 below, for example, shows an NYPD officer on the 1929 day that the New York stock market crashed. The well-written annotation points out that many officers took voluntary leaves during that unfortunate era so as not to overtax the city’s budget. Card No. 6 shows the familiar uniform of the 1950s-60s, an era of good feeling about the police when, despite a ticket being written, we can recall the familiar refrain for, “Car 54, Where Are You? That was back when “A holdup in the Bronx” was the worst thing going on in New York.
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My Teaching of History was limited to the BRONX via Postcards

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The Greenfield’s card depicts an interesting cross-section of the era’s street transportation.

Hy, these are fabulous!! Its great to share your pulse of NYC history, once again.

A wonderful article! But, how naughty to show us only #4 and #6 of the beautiful Pompadour Gallery set!

Hi Hy, I really enjoyed these nostalgic cards! So sorry to hear you haven’t been not well though. Glad you are doing better!

Thank you so very much Hy for another GREAT presentation and what amazing NYPD postcards you have shared. Violet Walsh below thought it naughty of you to have only shown #4 and #6 in this set, and wouldn’t it be swell if there might be a “P.S. ” posted at the end of this article showing us those missing images? We will relax and wait and see if this is possible. BRAVO to you for what you did display. Good wishes to you

Hy — Love these! Glad you’re feeling better and back in the game. That last post card shows the 103rd — which was my old precinct in Jamaica (Queens). I also like liked the stuff about the Russian Tea Room, where a good friend of mine was the Maître d’ for years. Question: Is there a source for old restaurants in NYC? I’m specifically interested in the building One Hudson Street and ones that were located there. Built in 1915, the building no longer has a food establishment having been converted to co-ops but it used to have “1 Hudson”… Read more »

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American travel logs are laced with tales of tourist inns and destination hotels. Such places were found in the Catskills, Appalachians, Sierra Nevada, and Rocky Mountains. The whole family could play together or enjoy their individual interests. Green Park Inn at Blowing Rock, NC, was one of the best.

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