Today in 1939 W.H. Auden's poem, "September 1, 1939," contemplates the plight of the world from a "52nd Street dive," as the Second World War begins in Europe.
This Day in History
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In 1609 Robert Guet called the island "Mannahata," after Native American names for the area. Henry Hudson referred to Staten Eylandt after the States General—Netherlands' governing body. The Bronx is named after Jonas Bronck, who settled in the area in 1639. Brooklyn refers to Breukelen, the Dutch village in the Netherlands. Queens was named after Queen Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II of England (1630-1685).
It's the period from 1689-1691 named for New Yorker Jacob Leisler, an ardent Protestant who revolted against the colonial authority of English King James II after learning of the 1688 Glorious Revolution across the Atlantic. Leisler had expected good will from the new king, William of Orange, but instead found himself accused of unlawfully usurping power and was executed once the newly appointed governor arrived.
On June 15, 1904, the steamboat General Slocum caught fire while ferrying members of St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church up the East River to their annual outing. One thousand of its 1,300 passengers would perish, largely the consequence of disintegrating fire hoses and inaccessible lifeboats. It remained the deadliest day in recorded New York City history until September 11, 2001.
Located in the East River, Blackwell's Island was renamed Welfare Island in 1921 and Roosevelt Island in 1973. In the past, the city build a number of institutions on the island, including a prison, an insane asylum and hospitals. Some hospitals remain, but the island began to be developed for residential use in 1968, and now has a population of about 12,000.
Though there were a few free transfers at certain points, riders often had to pay another fare, usually five cents, to transfer to a different line. All subway lines were consolidated into one agency by 1940, but some transfer points were not free until the 1980s. Transfers between buses and trains were not free until the Metrocard.
At one time, city residents could buy almost anything on the street. Vendors sold soups, pickles, savory and sweet pies, coffee, candy, nuts, clams, oysters, and cold, fried soft-shell crabs. The advent of more affordable restaurants meant street food became increasingly more treat than necessity, with new offerings such as hot corn, watermelon, ice cream, baked sweet potatoes, roasted apples, and hot chestnuts.