Category Archives: Blocks plates stones

Mr. Hall’s Store

South William Street today

James Hall (1810-1854) was an importer (born in Scotland, active in the United States) who met John James Audubon (1785-1851) while the artist was living in London during the last years of printing Birds of America. According to New York City tax records, Lot 48, 51 Stone Street (originally known by its Dutch name, Hoogh Straet) was sold to Hall in May 1835, just months before the Great Fire of December 16-17, 1835.

When everything on the block burned to the ground, Hall rebuilt a five story “through-the-block store and loft” giving the business two addresses, 49-51 Stone and 19 South William Streets. Hall’s considerable square footage was primarily used as storage and he worked from an office around the corner on Beaver Street, later shared by Audubon’s son John Woodhouse Audubon (1812-1862), after Hall’s sister Caroline (1811-1899) became John’s second wife in 1841.

Hall’s building was, for a time, the home to five tons of copper printing plates for Birds of America, stored there when the material came to New York City.

John and Caroline built a home on the Audubon estate near what is today 155th Street and James Hall also purchased a small section of land from Lucy Audubon where his family settled (more about that property).

After an equally devastating fire in the summer of 1845, again burning 100s of buildings in lower Manhattan, a storage vault was built on the Audubon property where the plates were moved.

J.J. Audubon died in 1851, James Hall died in 1854, Victor Audubon died in 1860, and John Woodhouse Audubon died in 1862. Lucy Audubon leased and then sold each of the homes on the estate until she finally vacated the property to live with relatives. This is when the copper plates also needed a new home, but that’s another story.

When Hall rebuilt his store, each of the buildings on Stone/South William looked exactly alike, with Greek revival columns along the street level. It wasn’t until the 20th century that things changed. Amos F. Eno purchased several buildings on the block, selling Hall’s to his nephew Amos R.E. Pinchot and his socialite wife Gertrude, active with Margaret Sanger. The most interesting facade is the one next door to Hall:

“Then on December 20, 1926 the property … was purchased by Block Hall, Inc, [a] newly-formed club composed of businessmen in the banking and marine insurance industries. The president, Gresham Innis, announced that the land “will be improved by the club with a seven-story clubhouse.” In deference to the historic site the club was named in honor of Adriaen Block and would be a private social, athletic and luncheon club. …At the time, downtown businessmen were increasingly inconvenienced as the residential neighborhoods moved further uptown, making traveling home for lunch difficult.  A private luncheon club resolved the problem and eliminated the only other option, which was scrambling for tables at the few acceptable restaurants in the area.” See more here.

Note, the scrambling was primarily for a seat at Delmonico’s restaurant, 2 South William Street, later Beaver and South William [below].No information available

Just Kids

Printing plates photoshopped and laterally reversed for easier reading.

 

Over eighty years before Patti Smith’s Just Kids hit the bookstores, Ad Carter (1895-1957) and his distribution firm King Features Syndicate were publishing the daily comic strip Just Kids in papers across the United States. From 1922 to 1947, Just Kids entertained the American public weekday mornings in black and white, and every Sunday in color.

These metal plates had to be snail-mailed from one city to the next for printing, so on any given day a different strip would appear in Baltimore papers from the one in Philadelphia papers. William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951), who owned the King Features syndicate, took a particular liking to Carter’s work and also published his strip Nicodemus O’Malley in Hearst papers.

The Just Kids Safety Club was formed in the spring of 1928 to promote safety for school age children walking to and from school. In exchange for a pledge to “always look up and down before crossing the street,” children received a membership button featuring one of the characters from the strip.

Comics historian Don Markstein described the Just Kids gang:

Mush Stebbins continued as part of an ensemble cast… Other regulars included Mush’s pals, Fatso Dolan and Pat Chan, the latter adding a touch of racial diversity back before diversity was cool. The group functioned as a kid gang operating in and around a small town called Barnsville, sort of like the later Archie and his pals, but younger, did in Riverdale… His specific source of inspiration was Reg’lar Fellers, by Gene Byrnes, of which Just Kids was a blatant copy. This was part of the same trend as Tillie Jones’s similarity to Winnie Winkle and Annie Rooney’s to that other Annie.

Thanks to the generous donation of Charles Rose, Class of 1950, P77, P80, the Graphic Arts Collection owns 1,429 zinc and aluminum printing plates for Just Kids and other comic strips syndicated to American newspapers from the 1920s to the 1950s. The plates originated with Abraham Meyers, whose American Melody Company or Meyers List (newspapers knew the firm as International Cartoons or Empire Features) was founded in 1898. For more on the gift, see: https://www.princeton.edu/~graphicarts/2012/06/cartoon_printing_plates.html

Particular thanks also to the many staff members who have moved these very heavy plates from one location to another over the last ten years of renovation.

Mush’s sister is hanging laundry on a clothesline and he says, “Gee Wendy, I wasn’t as lucky as you when it comes to matching up your stockings.”

 

See also:
The Adventures of Just Kids (1934).
Just Kids and Deep-Sea Dan (1940)