A Night on the Bowery

 

Drawn by T. DE Thuistrup

 

Harper's Weekly, dated September 19, 1891

 

The Bowery  is a street and neighborhood in southern portion of the New York City borough of Manhattan. 

 

By the time the Civil War, the mansions and shops of an earlier time, had given way to low-brow concert halls, brothels, German beer gardens, pawn shops, and flophouses, like the one No. 15 where the composer Stephen Foster lived in 1864. 

 

From 1878 to 1955 the Third Avenue El ran above the bowery, further darkening its streets, populated largely by men.  "It is filled with employment agencies, cheap clothing and knickknack stores, cheap moving-picture shows, cheap lodging-house, cheap eating-houses, cheap saloons", writers in The Century Magazine found it in 1919.  "Here, too, by thousands come sailors on shore leave, - notice the 'studios' of the tattoo artists, - and here most in evidence are the 'down and outs'.

 

 

 

THE BOWERY

 

From the Broadway Play

 

"A Trip to Chinatown" (1891)

 

(Percy Gaunt / Charles H. Hoyt)

 

Oh! The night that I struck New York

I went out for a quiet walk

Folks who are "on to" the city say

Better by far that I took Broadway

But I was out to enjoy the sights

There was the Bow'ry ablaze with lights

I had one of the devil's own nights

I'll never go there any more

 

The Bowery! the Bowery!

They say such things and they do strange things

On the Bowery! The Bowery!

I'll never go there any more

 

I had walked but a block or two

When up came a fellow and me he knew

Then a policeman came walking by

Chased him away and I asked him, "Why?"

"Wasn't he pulling your leg?" said he

Said I, "He never laid hands on me!"

"Get off the Bow'ry, you yep!" said he

I'll never go there any more

 

The Bowery! the Bowery!

They say such things and they do strange things

On the Bowery! The Bowery!

I'll never go there any more

 

I went into an auction store

I never saw any thieves before

First he sold me a pair of socks

Then said he, "How much for the box"?

Someone said,"two dollars," I said "Three"

He emptied the box and gave it to me

"I sold you the box, not the socks," said he

I'll never go there any more

 

The Bowery! the Bowery!

They say such things and they do strange things

On the Bowery! The Bowery!

I'll never go there any more

 

I went into a concert hall,

I didn't have a good time at all

Just the minute that I sat down

Girls began singing "New Coon in Town"

I got up mad and spoke out free

"Somebody put that man out," said she

A man called a bouncer attended to me

I'll never go there anymore

 

The Bowery! the Bowery!

They say such things and they do strange things

On the Bowery! The Bowery!

I'll never go there any more

 

I went into a barber shop

He talked till I thought he would never stop

I said, "Cut it short," he misunderstood

Clipped down my hair just as close as he could

He shaved with a razor that scratched like a pin

Took off my whiskers and most of my chin;

That was the worst scrape I ever got in

I'll never go there any more

 

The Bowery! the Bowery!

They say such things and they do strange things

On the Bowery! The Bowery!

I'll never go there any more

 

I struck a place that they called a "dive"

I was in luck to get out alive

When the policeman heard my woes

Saw my black eyes and my battered nose

"You've been held up!" said the copper fly!

"No, sir! But I've been knocked down!" said I

Then he laughed, tho' I couldn't see why!

I'll never go there any more

 

The Bowery! the Bowery!

They say such things and they do strange things

On the Bowery! The Bowery!

I'll never go there any more

 

Courtesy of Wayne Keyser


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