Selfie: “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”  -Oxford English Dictionary

William Davis Hassler selfie, 1913. (MCNY)

William Davis Hassler selfie, 1913. (MCNY)

In 2013 the Oxford English Dictionary officially recognized the word “selfie”, but as early as 1913 Inwood photographer William Davis Hassler was perfecting the technique.

William Davis Hassler self portrait, 1917.  (MCNY)

William Davis Hassler self portrait, 1917. (MCNY)

Hassler, a skilled photographer best known for his panoramic views of New York City, lived and worked out of 150 Vermilyea, #44.

Hassler's studio inside 150 Vermilyea Avenue, Apartment #44 in 1915. (MCNY)

Hassler’s studio inside 150 Vermilyea Avenue, Apartment #44 in 1915. (MCNY)

From this small studio, really just a nook carved from his living quarters, the prolific shutterbug prepared for photographic forays around the city with his employer, real estate titan Joseph P. Day.

150 Vermilyea Avenue.  William Davis Hassler lived in apartment #44.

150 Vermilyea Avenue. William Davis Hassler lived in apartment #44.

During a period spanning 1910 through his death in 1921 Hassler captured life across the five boroughs.

High-angle shot of the Manhattan tower of the Manhattan Bridge, Manhattan, and the piers along the East River, August 25, 1914. Shot from the Brooklyn tower of the Manhattan Bridge. (NYHS)

High-angle shot of the Manhattan tower of the Manhattan Bridge, Manhattan, and the piers along the East River, August 25, 1914. Shot from the Brooklyn tower of the Manhattan Bridge. (NYHS)

From the dizzying heights of bridges and skyscrapers, saddled with heavy photographic equipment, the fearless Hassler documented a New York that might have been forgotten, if not for his thousands of surviving slides.

Photographic Review- A Journal Devoted to Photography, Volume 24, Issue 3, 1918.

Photographic Review- A Journal Devoted to Photography, Volume 24, Issue 3, 1918.

Using a Kodak No. 8 Cirkut Outfit camera, Hassler was able to take huge panoramic photographs.  Attached to a swivel, the No. 8 could shoot four-foot long images showing more than 180 degrees.

William Davis Hassler in 1915 photograph. (MCNY)

William Davis Hassler in 1915 photograph. (MCNY)

The New York Historical Society today maintains more than 3,000 of Hassler’s images.

Let’s take a look at some photographs taken in Inwood—the place the Hassler called home.

Hassler’s Apartment: 150 Vermilyea Avenue, #44

Hassler friends and relatives at dinner in 150 Vermilyea Avenue, Apartment 44, New York City- Mr. and Mrs. Lee, Gray, Hedda, William Gray Hassler, Harriet E. Hassler, Ethel Gray Magaw Hassler and Reddy, cat, undated.  (NYHS)

Hassler friends and relatives at dinner in 150 Vermilyea Avenue, Apartment 44, New York City- Mr. and Mrs. Lee, Gray, Hedda, William Gray Hassler, Harriet E. Hassler, Ethel Gray Magaw Hassler and Reddy, cat, undated. (NYHS)

Interior view of 150 Vermilyea Avenue, Apartment 44, New York City, undated. Dining table with fishbowl and children's toys on floor.

Interior view of 150 Vermilyea Avenue, Apartment 44, New York City, undated. Dining table with fishbowl and children’s toys on floor. (NYHS)

Ethel Gray Magaw Hassler, William Gray Hassler (little boy), Harriet E. Hassler and Reddy (cat) in the dining area of 150 Vermilyea Avenue, Apartment 44, New York City, undated. Harriet Hassler operating a sewing machine.

Ethel Gray Magaw Hassler, William Gray Hassler (little boy), Harriet E. Hassler and Reddy (cat) in the dining area of 150 Vermilyea Avenue, Apartment 44, New York City, undated. Harriet Hassler operating a sewing machine. (NYHS)

Emma ironing in the Hassler apartment at 150 Vermilyea Avenue, New York City, July 3, 1913.

Emma ironing in the Hassler apartment at 150 Vermilyea Avenue, New York City, July 3, 1913. (NYHS)

Inwood Hill Park & Isham Park

Larry Casey and John Connolly posed in their winter uniforms in the snow, Isham Park, Inwood, New York City, March 7, 1915. Closeup

Larry Casey and John Connolly posed in their winter uniforms in the snow, Isham Park, Inwood, New York City, March 7, 1915. (NYHS)

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Niagra Falls Gazette, March 26, 1925.

Niagra Falls Gazette, March 26, 1925.

In warm weather the Dyckman Strip is a lively scene replete with music, the clink of cocktail glasses, laughter and animated conversation.  As brunch winds down, the crowd migrates west to the marina, on the banks of the Hudson River, to marvel at the view—a nearly unblemished vista that has changed little since Henry Hudson and his Half Moon sailed past Tubby Hook and the Spuyten Duyvil some four hundred years ago.

But skip back in time some 15,000 years and the vibrant locale is a very different place.   Gone are the trendy new bars and cafes, replaced by the salt meadows that proliferated after the retreat of the glaciers thousands of years before.

Baby Mastodon roaming down Dyckman Street.

Baby Mastodon roaming down Dyckman Street.

Lumbering down what will, one day, be Dyckman Street, near Seaman Avenue, appears what would be an astonishing sight to modern city inhabitants—a baby mastodon, brunching on the tall grass and enjoying his day in the sun.

“Bones!”

On March 25, 1925 construction workers toiled 22 feet below ground, digging out the foundation for #2 Seaman Avenue.  The extension of the subway system, today’s A line, would arrive in Inwood within the year and West of Broadway was being hurriedly developed.

Deep in the pit, worker Mangillo Domenico’s shovel struck an object in the soft, wet clay.   According to a news report,  “when his shovel cut through chunks which resembled rotten planks.  He examined them and shouted ‘Bones!’” (New York Times, March 26, 1925).

The commotion attracted Domenico’s boss, contractor Ambrose Conforti, who also took a look at the curious discovery. Soon a small crowd had gathered around the find.

According to the Times, “The men picked up the chunks, which resembled the fragments of ship timbers and crumbled between thumb and finger.”

“They must be elephant bones,” said Conforti.  “We’ll have to give them to the museum.

Mastodon Found on Dyckman Street, The Sun, March 25, 1925.

Mastodon Found on Dyckman Street, The Sun, March 25, 1925.

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The Indian Caves of Inwood Hill Park

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On the northern tip of Manhattan, a twenty-minute walk from the subway,  is an historical site so rare and unexpected that it warrants a detour on any tourist’s itinerary. The majestic “Indian caves” of Inwood Hill Park were once used as a seasonal camp by the Lenape people who lived in the region before the […]

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1916: Illustrated Inwood

Inwood 1916 Dyckman House

In 1916 popular newspaper illustrator Herb Roth visited the Inwood region.  While there he sketched the Dyckman farmhouse and other familiar landmarks. Below are the sketches from Roth’s visit as well as the accompanying text. The Pittsburgh Press The Sunday Illustrated Magazine July 2, 1916 Manhattan As It WAS—and Still IS “How many, even native […]

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New York Velodrome

Orlando Piani

On 225th Street near the Harlem River, roughly where the Target department store sits today, once stood one of the great Gotham sporting venues of the 1920′s, the New York Velodrome. When the Velodrome opened May 30th, 1922 the quarter-million-dollar bike track, built to hold 16,000 fan, was packed. The rabid fans were out in […]

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Inwood in Aviation History

Pilot Glenn Curtiss

“I was near Inwood-on-the-Hudson when I noticed a tiny speck in the air far up the Hudson. It was coming like the Twentieth Century Limited, and I knew right away that it was Curtiss. On it came, all the time getting bigger and bigger, and off Riverdale I begun to hear the whirring of propellers. […]

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“The Acapulco Divers of the Spuyten Duyvil” : An Oral History with Former Inwood Resident Mike Boland

Columbia C on Spuyten Duyvil

Former Inwood resident Mike Boland recalls cliff diving into the Spuyten Duyvil:

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Things to do in Inwood

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Inwood, the northernmost neighborhood in Manhattan, has so much to offer—especially as the weather warms up. Two subway lines (1 and A) service Inwood, so getting there couldn’t be easier. Come and explore the neighborhood everyone is talking about. You’ll be glad you did. Below is a short list of things to do: 1)  Take […]

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