tv American History TV CSPAN November 4, 2014 9:35pm-10:44pm EST
british experience in maleia and the french experience in nigeria, and i think what they find is the difficulty of coming to a consensus over what the term control means. and i think that's where you're getting at with whether the french held or controlled areas of indochina while they were still a colonial power. i think that's a key problem for the americans is despite the experiences of the french, it's difficult to find and assess how well you are controlling a portion of that political community especially when there is a shadow government that is parallel to the supposedly legitimate government and competing for not just resources, but the loyalty of the population and again, i don't think it's that piece of the definition of strategy control was ever fully determined by the americans.
>> i had to wait a long time for this. >> i was at basic training in fort jackson. the -- the -- obviously here easily, and and the cadre and the mess talking about the restraints that the personnel of bjl. and lbj and the restraints that he was under was the incremental buildup that johnson put him through and the administration and i don't think you spoke much about it and just an observation of my own that the only thing i saw later on that what really worked that scared the bejeaners was a linebacker one and two. that got them, you know, to the -- to negotiate with us.
>> that's an important point, i think, that clearly west moreland is dealing with the with the theory of graduated pressure which is -- which kind of takes hold in the national security establishment. this idea that we can determine how much pressure to ratchet up or ratchet back and eventually hanoi will realize that it can't win this long war because we have the ability to either ratchet up or ratchet back. unfortunately, we don't have that ability and we don't have the ability to so neatly determine the pace of the war, the pace of military operations or determine the pace of how quickly the local population is seeing the south vietnamese government as a legitimate entity and so what you see here,
i think, are some disconnects not only in modernization theories, but also this theory of graduated pressure as we talked about earlier in the evening there is a difference between articulating strategy and implementing it and this is a clear case of that. >> thank you. [ applause ] here are just a few of the comments we recently received from our viewers. >> i'm calling to comment on a debate that i saw between bruce stein and a man named john yu regarding the declaration of war and the war powers act. it was quite interesting to watch the legal debate and it also demonstrated some of the inept dued of the neocon
proposition from the beginning of any war the president is the ultimate hearsay ever the country's ability to go to war. >> i would like to commend c-span2 for airing the information from the writers on greece and the military it was excellent information that gave interaction and dynamic and you in nuances and the reality, for instance, that post-traumatic stress disorder and climb up and can be resolved if you continue to try various interventions.
>> i think american history tv on c-span is one of the best programs available. i wish we could do it more than once a week. >> and continue to let us know what you think about the programs you're watching. call us at 202-626-3400. email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a tweet. >> next on american history tv, author donald miller explores manhattan's transformation in the 1920s from the urban backwater to the urban capital of the united states. >> mr. miller is author of supreme city how jazz age manhattan gave birth to modern america. he describes ambitious individuals like walter chrysler who saw the skyscraper boom. and he ushered in the rise of broadway movie theaters and the the iconic symbols of new york city. this event was hosted by the new
york public library. it's about an hour and a half. great. thank you, lois. i want to thank deborah hirsch for organizing this event. can you hear me now? no? yes? okay. i'll speak loutly and well, it's great to be in the city and lecturing on the city that you wrote about and in the very place of the city that you wrote about, midtown, manhattan and a couple of preliminaries before we roll into this illustrated talk. i like that better than power point as a term. i'm not good at power point. it's not that i'm a ludite.
i'm not good at technology, i'm just a technological idiot. this is not the supreme city and not the book i originally set out to write and the original idea was to do the whole city, all five boroughs and stretch it out from world war ito world war ii, but without trying to be too cute, i took too big a bite out of the apple and i discovered as i was doing my research that i was really drawn to a really compelling story within the larger story i had intended to tell and it's an untold story and it's been told in bits and pieces, but it's never stitched together as a compelling historical narrative and that story is the rise of the sudden and spectacular rise, i should say of midtown manhattan in the
1920s which was an urban backwater before 1919, there wasn't a single sky scraper and by the end of the decade and the end of the 1920s almost half of new york skyscrapers were in midtown and it's one of the great building booms not only in the history of the united states and in the history of the world and this eruption almost that occurs in these years and i -- in the book i tack on the building of this midtown manhattan and i do its offshoot, as well because there's cultural spillage and there's tremendous revolution that accompanies this constructional revolution. it's a book with a lot of characters, a lot of incidents and i think some interesting stories and let me begin here with this.
for 300 years, downtown dominated new york city and it was only in 1919 following the war that midtown began to take off and it culminated in the building of this building which still stands and this is the french building on fifth avenue and it was the first terrifically tall building north of 42nd street and in this year, 1927 when the french building was completed, david sarnoff and david paley founded nbc and cbs and the radio went national and grand central station had been completed in 1913, but the period that i'm talking about when it reaches its takeoff phase was in 1927 and a loot of
the book centers on that year and this is 1927, the year lindberg, for example, returned from his solo flight from roosevelt field on long island to paris and he triumphantly returns to new york city where almost 4 million people crowded the streets to see it and it's also in 1927 that -- oops, i hit the wrong button and the tempo of the city changed dramatically, the parties were bigger in 1927, the liquor was cheaper and the jazz raced on under it's own power full of money. man, i wish i could have written that. and new york then is in this year and in this decade in the vanguard of cultural and technological transformations
that would make the 20th century and make new york the quintessential city of 20th century. what was happening here? i mentioned the rise the commercial radio and the first talking movie was made and shown in new york city in 1927. you have the invention of a very primitive form of television. you have the beginning of tabloid journalism with the new york daily news, the first american tabloid founded by the passerson family of chicago, the newspaper family. you have the spread through radio and phone graphic records and the pulsating new urban music called jazz and i featured dukelington in this group and you have the emergence with yankee stadium, example of mass spectator sports and enormously important boxing matches staged at madison square garden and yankee stadium and other venues.
ellington summed it up. he said new york was the capital of everything, very little happens in the country unless someone in new york presses the button and so it is. and it's a story, in other words, of an urban revolution, but i try to tell it. i'm interested in people and i try to tell this story through about three dozen characters and i have a cast of characters like a playbill at the beginning of the book and most of them as lois was saying are blazingly ambitious drivers from west of the hudson and east of the danube and it was e.b. wright of the new yorker who wrote about this phenomenon of outsiders coming in and transforming the place and i found the same thing in my book in chicago and exactly the same thing and jane adams coming in and thornton, and louise sullivan and the same sort of thing and wright writes
this in a beautiful little book called here is new york which a lot of you probably read and published in 1949. he said it's the person who was born elsewhere and came to new york in quest of something that accounts for new york's high-strung disposition. its poetical deportment and its dedication to the arts and its incomparable achievements and achievements they were. -- the most important inspiration for me was the frenchman who said every american is eaten up with a longing to rise and my characters like sarnoff arrived with that in mind. he came from a village that was so backward it was evil and couldn't speak a word of english and becomes the founder of modern mass communications and he does it and takes over rc and
he's 40 years old. you have text record on the right there, a saloon keeper. he built the modern madison square garden and taught boxing promoters that you can't have a good fight with a good audience. you can't have a spectacle and fight unless you build it around the story and i try to deal with that in the book and right next to tex is the meal ticket and the hard hitter from the western mine fefields of colorado. these two guys turned boxing into a million dollar business and they had nine million dollar gates and the next million dollar gate would happen with ali and frazier. and you have patterson coming in from chicago founding the daily news on a shoestring, really and by 1927 it barely survived, actually, but by 1927 it's the
largest selling newspaper in the world and sudden success and there he is. a truant from the baltimore docks, a place called pigtown and he transformed fundamentally as jack dempsey transformed boxing. he turned it from small ball, bunting it, hit-and-run, stealing, into long balls. like dempsey, he's a big hitter. new yorkers seemed to like the big hitters. the guys who could put them on the canvas and put the ball in the seats. and what i try to do in the book, just a second on that mythology, is i really try to tell the story, try to reimagine it, i should say, reimagine the city as it was back then, to go back there in my mind and describe the lives of my characters, not as i see them from the present, but as they lived them, to try to get behind their eyes. everyone tells me that it's
history, it gives you perspective because you have hindsight. but hindsight can be a killer. if you know the great depression's coming, you'll organize your books so it all leads to that. when nobody in the '20s knew it was coming. and that's the problem with that kind of history. as my buddy david mcauliffe said, the most active phrase in the english language is the foreseeable future. the future can never be foreseen. in '27, 1927, it was actually unimaginable to new yorkers that the greatest urban building boom in modern history would soon collapse in a matter of two years. and the collapse was shocking suddenness. and that, you know, this guy here, jimmy walker, who commanded new york in these years, a real spirit of new york, would be brought forth on charges of corruption and forced to resign. walker's one of the major characters in this book.
he's fun to write about. what i try to avoid that most articles on walker tend to substitute analysis for anecdote. and they don't get into him. he's really an interesting guy. heart in the right place. did a lot of important things for the city. but just didn't have the energy, and the moral courage to stand up to the old-fashioned county bosses. and got himself involved in a whole hell of a lot of corruption. they never put a single charge on him. they investigated him from his nose to his toes, and they couldn't put a charge on him that was triable in a court of law. but pressure from roosevelt who was going to run for president, governor of new york at the time, was forced eventually out of office. quick wit. brilliant guy. read four books in his life. read everything through his ears.
here's what you do, here's what you say, and he would go in and do it. good impromptu speaker, too. he would roll from polish weddings to irishfests, to jewish gala at nights. one he walks in the room and he has a yarmulke on. and someone yelled, circumcision next? and he said, no, i plan to wear it off. that's jimmy walker. parts of my book are about the great political era. i deal a lot with prohibition, night life, organized crime. as i said, i deal with boxing, i deal with baseball. but tonight i want to focus not on the whole book. i think if you try to summarize, you kill it. i just want to deal with the book's central drama.
the takeaway here is a century ago, a group of audacious drivers set out to build a modern downtown and they did it right. the story begins with grand central station. and completed in 1913. and this project, and this is the digging operation, and it is enormous, it's an operation, not quite on the scale of the panama canal, but pretty close to it. and it was decided to build it while the old terminal still operated. it's set in motion the whole movement to build. the worst train disaster at that time in new york's history, a commuter train was barreling through one of the stations and they failed to spot warning lights. and they slammed into the rear of another train that was waiting in the rail yard.
and the carnage was terrible. the new york central railroad was forced to electrify its trains. now, at that point in time, this guy, william willgus, really the founding father of midtown manhattan, he's the chief engineer. but with real vision. not only electrified the trains, but he buries the track. and he goes a step further. he convinces his superiors, mostly vanderbilts, to build a new state of the art terminal, a great people moving machine. and underground passageways that lead to subway stations, okay? transit stations. and there's a lot of smart shops along the passageways. and they were talking about reviving these in a big way.
so many of them still exist. you need to move the density, you need to move the people, otherwise you get paralysis. hence the color like roadway that runs around grand central. and the building beyond it. the grand central that you can first drive through building and history of the world. for half a century, this is what the area north of the strags looked like. all the way up to 56th street. from 42nd street, east 42nd street to east 56th street. it's a gigantic rail yard that fans out here from the station. the pedestrians had to cross it on those iron crossways there. over catwalks as they called them. braving smoke and dust and ash and things like that. and this is the vision willgus
had of the yard. there's no grid there. the manhattan grid is gone, okay? there's no streets there in manhattan. close to the river, there might be, you know, the -- the shaffer brewing company, but that was it, that was manhattan. this is what it became. willgus said what we will do is on the roof of these smokeless tunnels, we're goibuild on real estate that the railroad owns, we're going to build park avenue. straight as a sun beam, as ella fitzgerald wrote about it. her husband tried to steal the article and put it in his name, but it was really zelda's piece. it was flanked by tall apartments. a lot of common lines. these are the first skyscrapers built for permanent living. no people had lived this high
before. new york central does this by selling something we all know about today, but people didn't know about then, because it's new, and they sold their air rights to developers. and willgus said with revenue plucked from the air, we can create a veritable city. he called it terminal city, the city around the terminal. we can make money for the railroad and we can build a beautiful section of the city. now, while this is going on, there's big happenings on 5th avenue. this is 5th avenue before the war, when it was called vanderbilt alley. it's lined from 41st street all the way to central park, with vanderbilt mansions. some of them a block wide, a block, you know, block size mansions all the way down there. here it is on easter sunday. i think this is 1913. well, a lot of the commanding influences in the new york
central railroad, a lot of the older vand vanderbilts died by . some of them had the money to do it, but it's hard to hire irish maids. they were going into other occupations. they were there to be sold. so some young real estate agents, most of them garment workers from the lower east side, come in and buy these mansions, and the day after they bought them, they tear them down. and they tear every single one down except one, within a year. so by 1928, vanderbilt alley is scrubbed clean of all these mansions. what they do is bring in -- they sell the land to merchandising impresarios. like sachs, they transform fifth avenue into the greatest shopping emporium in the country. sachs moves from harold square to fifth avenue and stands tremendously, becoming sachs
fifth avenue. the entire stretch of the avenue looks something like this. this is the vanderbilt mansion, the largest vanderbilt mansion. alice vanderbilt lived there. that's right across from the park. this is sachs. 1923 when it went up. here's another shot of the alice vanderbilt mansion. and this is what replaced it. and edmond goodman, who was a garment worker from rochester, new york, who founded a little tailor shop with a guy named bergdof, who got out of the business because he was drinking too much, goodman took it over. they said you're close to -- you're in vanderbilt country on central park east. but he leases the property and eventually buys it and controls that whole property there. and he and his wife lived in a
penthouse on the top floor of the store. now, by new york law, custodians weren't permitted to live in a city industrial building. it's an industrial building, because women made dresses on the sixth floor which were sold in the building. but jimmy walker is a friend of edwin goodman, and walker gets the goodman listed in the city books as custodians. and i tell you, they had to be the richest janitors in the history of the world. it pays to know people. this is the regal stretch of fifth avenue as it's transformed in the '20s. and these two women that i'm going to be talking about had a lot to do with it. they formed the newest new york business. by 1935, the largest business in the country called the beauty business. cosmetics mostly. and it's founded by elizabeth ar den who is the daughter of a canadian farmer, a struggling canadian farmer, came to new
york on her own. it's also founded by helena rubenstine who was born in a ghetto. her father was a kerosene dealer. they built their shops close together on fifth avenue. and they were venomous rivals. they had their shops within two blocks of each other for 40 years and never spoke to each other. and rubenstine called arden the other one. and complained that she dyed her hair. well, look at that. and before they arrived in new york, you know, only actresses and fast-living young working girls wore makeup. but by the mid-'20s, powder and paint as it was called had become badges of independence. not only put it on in the powder room, but you put it on in public. that was a sign of real audacity. the beauty business becomes one of the largest industries in the
country. women were selling more on beauty products in 1927 than in all of america was spending on electric power. okay? and lots of opportunities for entrepreneurship, too. if you were an average woman working in the city in 1927, you made $17 a day. that's not a lot. translated to about $170 a week, excuse me, $170 a week today. if you were an experienced graduate of one of these beauty culture schools, you could, on your own, support not handsomely, but support a family of four. and there were lots of opportunities. they were plentiful. lots of opportunities for entrepreneurship. so, yeah, actually, one of the most enjoyable things about writing this book was getting to know these and other independent-minded women, among them successful pioneers in the
dress business. one changed her name to carnegie. also dealing with tough, gritty jewish and italian-american women in the garment industries, and dealing with great women writers, like zelda fitzgerald and dorothy parker and lillian helmand. and bright and beautiful lois long of the "new yorker," her columns on the new york fashion industry on and off the avenue. and new york's boiling nightclub life. a column called "lipstick." they really, more than any other columns, helped to launch the "new yorker" as america's most sophisticated, first really sophisticated cosmopolitan magazine. i recently prepared for internet publication a little feature on the striving women of new york, which i have up here. and you don't have to pay for it. okay?
i have to say here, though, just to pause, that while i appreciate the wonderful things the reviewer of "the new york times" wrote about my book, i was really shocked by her comment, that i quote, with few little exceptions like nightclub owner and elizabeth arden, the men appear in miller's book as showgirls and prostitutes. none of my characters are pliant show girls. and there isn't a single prostitute in the book. one wonders. anyway, while this is going on, while arden and goodman and these people are transforming fifth avenue, i don't have a slide on this, but ann vanderbilt and ann morgan, who's the daughter of jpmorgan, move over from this area of town, fifth avenue, and they move all the way across town to sutton
place. and they take a decrepit neighborhood and make it a community of women dedicated to philanthropy and civic causes. and then right down the way from there, fred french, you saw his skyscraper a little earlier, he builds a community -- affordable community, i should say, for in-town living. right around eaton place. it's still there. it's still there. as an overlooked model of in-town living. these are the skyscrapers of the area. it's a park life area. it used to have a golf course, and a golf professional and all that sort of stuff. fred french's papers are here at the new york public library, and they're very good. so this whole area then, the grand central area, fifth avenue, sutton place, all along the shore of the east river, from the queensboro bridge, all the way down past 42nd street,
is all transformed at the same time. that's a shot more representative of the park-like atmosphere they tried to create there. well, about this time, walter chrysler comes to town. now, we know a lot about the chrysler building. but one of the editors at simon and shuster said, there was a walter chrysler? yeah, there was a walter chrysler. like one of my students asked me where i was going, and i said normandy. and he said why? the rock group? that's not a joke. chrysler is one of the strivers. he's born on a kansas prairie. he's a son of a railroad mechanic. he becomes a railroad mechanic. then he gets in the auto business, takes over buick, and then forms his own company, the chrysler corporation and wants to establish its headquarters in new york. when he established his headquarters in new york, he wants to create at the capping
moment, he wants to create the tallest building in the world. this is four years after introducing his first car. it was called the chrysler 6. the only thing is, at the time he's throwing up this building at the beginning of 1927, '28, others have the same idea. with the building going on downtown at 40 wall street, that was the name of the site, and the owners there had the same aim in mind. so this instigates what the papers call a sky race. the publicized competition to see who's going to build the first building taller than the eiffel tower, the tallest building in the world. now, everyone thought that as both buildings were nearing completion, everyone figured that 40 wall had won the day. a
over the chrysler building. but in secret, he had a thing called a vertex. now, that's that steel needle on the top there. it's about 185 feet high. and it's built inside the tower. and then one october morning in 1929, they raised it up. nobody even noticed it. it wasn't even covered in the papers. chrysler makes an announcement that, gotcha! when they threw it up, the architect then, allen, stood four blocks away and watched it and he said -- he thought it would fall down and create all kinds of casualties and he would be arrested. it's raised, it's 77 stories high, at 1,046 feet tall, the highest structure ever built, but only for 11 months since the empire state building. i came across the british
designer, he said, it's very -- it is perhaps, he said, inconsistent that new yorkers who have such a love for celebrities, don't know the names of their most brilliant architects. well, the chrysler building, it was called hot jazz in stone and steel. i think is a near perfect representation of mid-manhattan style and speed and romantic excess. cities build their biographies in the buildings they create. some buildings in turn are biographical. they represent the ideas and aspirations of their builders. mon i cello was a classic example of that. allen used this lustrouse material for the trim. a lot of you have been inside the 3wu8ding and seen that terrific ceiling mural by edward trumble right across the street from the great ceiling mural in grand central station. and on that ceiling mural are
images, rare for the time, of the actual construction workers. the guys, you know, who sweated this thing out, and risked their lives laboring on the building. i think it's new york's commanding symbol, this trumble mural, to the workers who built the art deco skyscrapers. if you go diagonally across the street from the chrysler building, you're at the shannon building. and this is how this whole area is beginning to emerge by 1930. this is the shannon building. it's 56 stories high. it was built just before the chrysler building and it was the tallest building on 42nd street. who is william shannon. in 1919 shannon just got out of the army. he's broke. he's jobless. he's a son of immigrants from ukraine. he builds two small cottages in benson hurst. they make a little money. he and his brother move into
town, build a couple of theaters, the hotel lincoln. it's not called that anymore, but it's still here. ten years after 1919, as a very young man under 40, he's a multimillionaire builder. a master, really, of the midtown skyline. he's touted as fred french as one of the hundred wonder men. it's dedicated to the theme of new york at city of opportunity. with shannon's own life, he designed it, self-made architect, his own life as an example of this, as an ill l illoustrative opportunity. he wanted this building to shall part of the city. so he puts up 200 flood lights. and he installs them in one of the building's dramatic setbacks. they brilliantly illuminated the
tower at night. from new jersey, it looked like an island at night, floating in the sky. so -- and there's shannon himself. i was giving a lecture, and his daughter was in the audience. and his granddaughter. by 1930, they're calling 42nd street the valley of the giants. and it's in commedore vanderbilt's day in the 1860s, it was a street of small factories, smelly stock yards and by 1930, the only thing that's manufactured there, as the "new yorker" put it, is the quantity of tension. this is patterson's daily news building, of course, the chrysler building, shannon building, lincoln building, and so on. it's important to mention here
that these free-standing towers are not pure products of unrestrained capitalism. they're built to the specifications of zoning laws, designed to bring sunlight onto the city streets and prevent overcrowding of the land through these setbacks, as you know. and so working within these restraints, created by the zoning laws, raymond hood, who designed patterson's news building, and other style setters, create -- i don't know what you call it, but it's a distinct distinctly -- it doesn't have a name associated with wright, for example, it's distinctly a new york style architect, that's a style that was said a style born of necessity. we had to do it, and we did it, it was done well.
and there's hood himself, one of the great style setters in new york city. he lived up in rhode island, and commuted into the city. there you see the dramatic setbacks in the fred french building, which is, of course, on the corner of 45th. i mentioned 5th, but it's on the corner of 45th. and fifth avenue. a couple friends of mine worked in that building, but i never spent too much time in it. but i came across a novel called "underworld." these two characters go into the gleaming lobby and this woman and her daughter turn to each other and say, who on earth is fred french? there's a story there. fred french was a real estate visionary, and salesman extraordinaire. what he sold, and sold it with fervor, like a revivalist preacher, was stock, not for
big-time billionaires and millionaires, but stock for you and i. and he turned this stock company into a profitable real estate company as well. and sold that stock with tremendous fervor. he starts out, he's a lot like shannon. these guys come out of nowhere of the he starts out peddling real estate years before, out of a coal cellar in the bronx where he lived with his mom. but by 1927, ten years later, he's worth $10 million. and his skyscraper, like shannon's, is auto biographical. if you take the binoculars out -- my book has got a cool thing in it. it's got a map of new york, and you press on the button, and you get to the site of the fred french building, there's a picture of fred french and a picture of the building. if you go to my website, it's
active on the website, you can move it to your ipad and you can walk around new york and get 35 architectural spots. you know, just popping up on you. and it's free, too, okay? if you look on the slab construction, called the slab construction, and if you look there closely at the top, the symbol is the rising sun. that symbolizes renewal. that's what fred french is all about. this guy never stopped believing in himself, even when he failed. and he failed tremendously during the great depression. so many of these characters went down with the stock market crash. he died at 53 and had a net worth left of $10,000. i think -- and that's french. to me, some of these buildings -- i like the building right down the street here. hood's radiator building which is now a hotel.
and it's -- you'll recognize it from maybe a george o'keefe painting of it. it's only 21 stories tall. it's black brick. it's right here on west 40th street built in 1924. hood's first skyscraper. i like it because it's built to human scale. it's open to the sun. it's open to the air. it's got a nice park. bryant park across the street. and it's across the street from a neo classical library. and there it is at night. new york was a gigantic construction zone in the 1920s. the din of these rivet guns caused a stir. the city tried to get involved in trying to control it. but like the building of a
medieval cathedral, building a new york skyscraper was really a thrilling public speck tack al. it's a technological show that takes place right out in the open, right in the heart of town. like in france with the cathedral. some spectators would arrive with their binoculars, sky boys they called them in the '20s, and they were heroes in a lot of newspapers. manhattan in the '20s, it's always been this, a construction site, but it was active construction site. it's street theater, this sort of thing. you know, when you see guys doing this sort of stuff, these are the sky boys. and probably the most fascinating spectacle for people to watch, aloft, the spectacle, were these guys worked, by the way, notice without hard hats.
or without a safety harness. the riveting gangs. this is one of the guys there. there's four guys in a riveting gang. there's a heater, a catcher, a bucker up and a gun. here's how it works. these guys would have charcoal heaters like you have in your backyard, and they heat the rivets in there. the guy would go in with these -- until they got a real cherry red color. in this portable oven. then a guy would go in with long tongs and flick the rivets to a catcher. and that's a catcher. okay? and he would catch it in his glove as it were. which is nothing but an old bucket, okay? and then there is -- if the catcher misses it, by the way, it's a blazing rivet, it either hits him and scars him or falls below, the missile capable of driving a steaming hole in your
head, the catcher places the rivet between two beams, in the holes between the two beams. the bucker up holds it in place, while the gun guy, with a pneumatic hammer, puts a lot of pressure on it, on the stem of the rivet and he holds it there. his whole body's shaking until the rivet's smashed kind of like into a mushroom-like cap, flush right against the steel. and the entire operation putting one of these rivets in takes less than a minute. it's very dangerous work. ironworkers suffered one violent death on average for every 33 hours on the job. one guy told me, we don't die, we are killed. and mohawk indians from a reservation near montreal did a lot of work on the shannon building and chrysler building. they lived over in brooklyn. and they embraced the danger. it enhanced the men's self-esteem in a culture of women are the main decision makers.
they're still forbidden to touch their husbands or their sons' work belts or tools which are symbols of sexual potency, especially the belt that fit directly over the crotch. this is kind of racial, but they did this work because they're genetically coded to do it. blik blacks can jump higher, indians aren't afraid of heights, that stupid stuff. and the fearlessness came naturally to them. but when you talk to these guys, it was all a learned trade. it came about through years of experience and lots of falls. i just didn't want to deal with millionaires in this book, i deal with the dock workers, the stub edors, roughest job in new york in many ways. and guys like this. and the women in the garment factories. and this work gave these guys at least a sense of ownership. as one said to me, we're part of this town of man-made mountains.
we're mountain builders. so some of them lived across town in hell's kitchen. and where an area of poverty -- you know, down on the east side, poverty tended to be lower east side, especially with the jews. it tended to be a one-generation experience. hell's kitchen was like a catch basin for people who never made it. irish and german predominantly. you rarely got out of hell's kitchen. two ways you could get out, sports, and crime. and i'm not going to talk at length about this, but this is big bill dwyer who runs one of the biggest bootlegging organizations in new york. dwyer was a former chelsea longshoreman formed a syndicate
with this fellow here, nasty man, frank costello, later named the leader of the mafia, this is before then, when he hooked up with dwyer. he's an immigrant. and this other fella, madden, an irishman whose family had emigrated to the slums of the midland slums of england. prohibition gave these small town hoods the opportunity to become -- to create, i should say, a million-dollar industry with its own fleet of ocean-going vessels. they had an arsenal of lawyers. they even had an airplane. they arrested a guy, the first prohibition pilot. he would watch out for the coast guard. dwyer, said we won't worry about the coast guard anymore, we'll buy them off. they went down with women and women, and they bought them out. and they brought in coast guard boats eventually. and guess who would unload it. new york police, in full uniform.
dwyer also thanks to costello, if they unloaded it on montauk point, they paid all of long island's police force, and just to be sure they had five machine guns in the car. when they got to the new york border, they transferred the booze to larger trucks. the trucks, onto the running boards, they had running boards then, the trucks would pile the new york cops and they would take it to the factories where they'd cut the booze. okay? so one quart of vodka would be turned into five quarts of watered-down vodka. they were caught occasionally. there were federal agents -- madden had a brewery right in the middle of hell's kitchen, okay? and they could never nail him. because as soon as -- it was a fortress like structure, and
when the new york cops -- the new york cops would patrol the brewery, the federal prohibition agents would come into town and the cops would arrest them for loitering or things like that. when they broke through, this is where they slammed through the gates, the fortress-like structure, madden would open a switch, and all the -- all of the number one, the creamy lager, would go into the new york sewer system. he's protected by jimmy hin. or he couldn't have pulled off something like this. an occasional raid. but that's about it. and the outlets that madden controlled, one of the biggest ones was controlled by a woman, texas guyman, a real former texas born movie star, seven films. she said we never changed the scripts, we only changed the horses, one after the other. her club was in midtown.
and madden owned part of it. he would ride around in his long duesenberg, stop at the club, pick up part of his profits. she ran the club. she was pretty shrewd. she didn't drink herself. she was a devout catholic. she invested her money wisely. and she helped give the lie to the idea that all american women supported prohibition. and i think that did as much to bring down prohibition as anybody in the country. there she is in a drawing at her club. where jimmy walker was, of course. now, he would ride around in his big duesenberg with his friend raft. george raft played all those gangster films in the '30s. they were all modeled on tony. okay? and to move into a city like this -- i think it needs two things. density, diversity, yes, but
density and diversity can lead to congestion. so you need movement. and while all this is going on, and this was my problem with what was going on in -- you know, the debate in the last election, about what's going to happen to the east side of midtown. do you skyscraper it. people are saying, there's not enough public transportation to build skyscrapers 110 stories high. and there isn't. but while this skyscraper boom was under way, they did it right. they were building the sixth avenue subway. they were building the west side highway. most emphatically, they were building the holland tunnel and george washington bridge. here's the guy who built the holland tunnel. he died of stress during the construction. it's named after him. there's a little bust of him behind a toll stand on the new york side. catch it sometime. the tunnel was begun in 1919, because the harbor froze in 1919. you couldn't get goods into new
york. schools closed down. lights were out on broadway. no coal was brought in. riots were in the city. so they build the tunnel. it's completed in 1927. two months after ground was broken on the gw bridge, it's the first vehicular tunnel under the hudson, and for the first time it's a -- well, it's also the longest vehicular tunnel in the world. it's still longer than the lincoln tunnel. and digging it wasn't the challenge. okay? these are two guys, when the two sides met they started digging out of new jersey and started digging out of new york. they had dug tunnels under the railroad before. but cleaning out the poisonous exhaust fumes of cars and trucks, nobody had a problem like that before. they built a tunnel in pittsburgh, threw cars in there for three weeks and a couple of people died of carbon monoxide poisoning. holland does this. he creates four immense wind factories.
here they are. they still stand. industrial architecture. two at each end of the tunnel, one in the river, one on land. they capture the wind, like venetian blinds. they capture the wind and they have 80 or 90 gigantic winds and shoot it into the tunnel. not straight through the tunnel. because if you had a fire it would go like a cyclone through the tunnel. but pull it in gradually, at hubcap level, and the air comes in at your hubcap level, and the bad air is pushed out of the roof of the tunnel. any tunnel in the world that handles cars is built like this. without this groundbreaking ventilation system, the tunnel would be a poisonous gas chamber. and engineers played such a big part in the building of this city. by the way, they let pedestrians in here first. people would go out to the sign
of new york, new jersey, they would stop there and shake hands with manhattan people. how are you doing, mac. okay. this is one of my heroes, swiss born. he designed almost every modern bridge in new york city. and new york city hasn't built another bridge since his last bridge. the most daring feat about this bridge, and here it is in construction, is this. it's precariously thin deck. very slender. not many people thought it would hold the kind of traffic it had to hold. probably its most pleasing aesthetic feature to allow industrial archaeologists is this crisscrossing bracing. now, ayman wanted to cover that over. he thought that the steel should be sheathed in concrete and decorated. but the port authority that subsidized it didn't have the money to do it. it was 1932. so later, ayman kind of got this
accidental artwork he created. all of his later bridges are unsheathed like this. the french architect called it the most beautiful bridge in the world. and now, this bridge increases congestion, but also creates suburbs on bergen county. a lot of the cars poured into new york, across the tunnel and down the new west side highway into the hell's kitchen area before they cut a left and went into manhattan. now, at this point, death avenue, as it was called. if you've ever had the fortunate pilgrim, great novel, about growing up in hell's kitchen, who created the godfather, he had the character in there who rides a horse. like this kid here. and they're usually kids. cowboys they called them. broadway cowboys. he would carry a lantern or a flag to warn pedestrians that a train was coming down there.
because in a 50-year period, over 1,000 people were killed on 10th and 11th avenue which were collectively called death avenue. so jimmy walker pressed hard to the elevation of these tracks, so you can move cars, but most importantly save lives. and they forced the new york central railroad, which really controlled midtown manhattan at that time, they forced it to elevate their freight line, and take some of the freight right through buildings. of course, that's done in 1934. then it becomes obsolete. and we walk on it today. the highline, the new york highline. and just near there, and there it is, the construction effort when it's completed, okay? the west side improvement plan. not an improvement if you live under it. hell's kitchen usually got the worst of this sort of stuff.
i wanted to show you this. this is the -- what happens when you have these transformations taking place, just briefly, new york starts to become industrialized. the biggest industry by far, it doesn't have steel mills and stockyards like chicago, is, of course, garment making. but the fashion industry, high, expensive women's dresses continue to be made in manhattan, close to where buyers come, close to the big magazines, close to specialized stores, where you can -- you're not handling the mass produced product. so that part of the industry still remains on fashion avenue. macy's address, and o'ryelan's, wilkes-barre, places like that. now, this is -- this -- i should also say this. i should also say this.
another industry that stays in new york, and for the same reason -- i wasn't going to do this -- is publishing. this is horace liveright. he's one of the publishers in the 1920s. he and a whole group of mostly jewish publishers move into the city. richard simon, matt schuster, and a stockbroker from philadelphia. and they're challenging the old boston based anglosaxon, they wanted to have sky writers and things like that. sherwood anderson, i loved it. there it was on the roof of the subway, the poster for the book. he was a gambler. he gambled on hemingway when he was nothing, he gambled on faulkner, on great playrights.
here he is on west 38th street, right in the heart of the speak easy district. he drank a lot. he's a real publisher of principles. he fought censureship in new york. his lawyer was the representative on the state floor before, who he was mayor, pushed hard against censureship was none other than jimmy walker. he won the day with one simple line, no woman has ever been ruined by a book. [ laughter ] livewright is a producer also of dracula, and plays like that. he did a couple of the american tragedy and things like that. he's drawn to broadway, as a lot of people were. broadway itself finally the last district we're dealing with, broadway itself is transformed. this, of course, is the "times" building, and that does it all. it was built in 1934.
a subway station is built right under it. that's why he wanted to build it there. here it is, lit up at night. and this is actually 1907 when the first ball was dropped from times square. there's supposed to be a quarter of a million people according to the newspaper, but it sure as hell doesn't look like that on the picture. there had always been the great white light. that was broadway south of 42nd street. in the '20s, the light show is technicolor. you had multi-colored advertising lights being moved and they whirled and they spun. and bottles of beer appeared, and rivers of peanuts fell out of the sky. a french visitor said it is a conspiracy of commerce against the night. and in the '20s, what happens on times square, and on broadway, is this. the movies take over. and they push the legitimate theaters off broadway where they
still are today, on the side streets. you can only fill a theater with 1,100 people. in some of these theaters, you can pack 5,000 people and show five shows a day and have it open all night. so they're driving these people right out of business. now, new york's not making a lot of movies. they used to make them up in queens. but most of the big movies are made out in hollywood. zucker said, if broadway approves, the rest of the country will approve. the most spectacular of these theaters is, this is the only good shot we could get of it. we went to a lot of archives to look at this. this is the roxie. this is opening night. on west 50th street. he called it roxie, he was a self-promoter, the cathedral of the motion picture. they used to joke a lot about it. the papers did. it was enormous. one critic called it the largest theater since the fall of rome. it's five stories high.
it has 5,000, 6,000 seats. there's a new yorker cartoon with a kid standing in the middle of this rotunda holding his mom's hand, about 5 years old, and he looks up at his mom and says, mom, does god live here? a lot of people like to poke fun at the top of the core. but roxie wasn't out to please the critics. roxie is after the common crowd. for $1.50, a steam fitter and his wife could take a seat anywhere. no reserved seats. and enjoy a four-hour show. and get treated like rajas by these guys, a platoon of well-drilled proxy rushers. he used to be a drill sergeant, and these kids lived right in the building and trained by him. roxie's story, again, is a kind of a rags-to-riches story. simple looking guy. son of an immigrant shoemaker from germany.
lives in a lumber town in minneapolis. in minnesota. he arrived in new york in 1912, and he gets a job on the road selling magazines up in the pennsylvania coal region, where my family was born. and there he runs into a girl that he really likes behind the bar. and he loves hotdogs. they serve good hotdogs in this bar. he liked the girl better. so he stayed. now, her father didn't trust him. so he said, if you want to marry my daughter, you've got to stay here for a year in town and work as my bartender under my supervision. i'll give you the cold eye and see if you're worthy of her. he stuck it out. he said, you've got a skating rink back there. because they're not selling many -- wrigley hoped it would be a diner. let's turn it into a movie theater. he was fascinated with what he called flickers. he walked in the snow, from the little town he was in, forest hill, and he walks to scranton, pennsylvania, picks up
one-reelers, and shows them in the back there. puts the white sheet down, classic thing, rolls the projector. and makes the introduction, sells the tickets, hires a woman from the church choir to come in and sing, and play a piano. he gets seats from, like the kind of seats you're sitting on, from the funeral parlor across the street. so when there was a wake, there was no movie. during the pasadena rose festival, he has a picture of the rose parade. this is so -- he tied sponges together and dips them in the rose water, and he hangs them on two electric fans and called it smellavision. he's a wonderful character. he comes to new york, and, you know, they have the big theaters in new york but they can't produce enough movies to -- good movies to fill the theater. so what do you do? you create a thing called the
prologue, which lasts four hours. and that precedes the film. and to roxie it was more important. he takes over the biggest theater in new york, capital theater, brings in a 100-piece symphonic orchestra. a vaudeville act. dancers, elephants, lions, and the film. and before sound film is invented, in '27, you can't fill the place up. i think marcus lowe, one of the founders of the movie said, he pointed out what roxie was all about. he said we sell tickets to theaters, not to movies. but roxie starts -- he goes into radio. and he starts broadcasting these prologues with occasional commentary. people like the commentary. he puts together a variety show. made it the stars of the prologue. 1927, he moved to nbc. tsarnaev station. and tsarnaev, the biggest radio
personality in the country, and the biggest radio man in the country. tsarnaev starts in the communication industry, he worked for the marconey company, and that's giuliani mar coney right there. marconey would come to new york, he had a lot of girlfriends in new york, and tsarnaev would deliver flowers and candy to them, and got to know them well. when the marconey company creates a spin-off called rca, which turned the company from ship-to-shore communications, and to entertainment for the millions. tsarnaev said let's do this. how about creating a thing called an entertainment box. and out of it will come news and sports and all of that. and we'll put it in the living room. they felt, you're crazy. five years later they're doing it. in the mid-'20s, he moves rca's headquarters