In 1928, A Black Santa Robbed Coal From the Rich and Gave to the Poor

Marvin Gaye as Santa, Jet Magazine, Dec. 30, 1976
This year's dumbest controversy has been over whether Santa Claus, who is 100 percent real, is permitted to be any color or ethnicity other than the whitest white. But a spin through the archives of the New York Times reveals that Santa has been intermittently black for more than 100 years. Someone cover Megyn Kelly's eyes, we're going on a history lesson! Sit tight; at the end, there'll be a robbery.

The earliest examples the paper has of black Santas are also the most offensive by modern standards; a 1906 story reports that a white man named Lew Dockstader, who sold fake, foldable Christmas trees while dressed as Santa, always wore blackface while in character.

"He has the hardihood to declare that Santa is a negro," the paper reported. "When any one asks why, he merely shakes his head and says he knows it."

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The History of the Televised Yule Log, Which Was Invented in New York City

Categories: Historical Shit

Gather 'round, children, and I will tell you a holiday story, the story of the WPIX Yule Log. The yule log, the ceremonial incineration of a whole tree, has been a Christmas tradition for centuries. But television's Yule Log, a loop of blazing fireplace flickering to a soundtrack of the Boston Pops, Nat King Cole, and Percy Faith, was invented in New York City in 1966.

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A Look Back at Michael Bloomberg's Tremendously Awkward First Campaign

Video still via New York City Campaign Finance Board
A 2001 Bloomberg, being gestured at by Democratic opponent Mark Green.
After twelve years, it is, at long last, almost the end of Michael Bloomberg's time as mayor. Bill de Blasio will be inaugurated at noon on January 1, in a ceremony he's promised will be "one of the most open and accessible swearing-in events in New York City history," with tickets available to the general public and tours of Gracie Mansion on January 5.

On an icy January morning in 2002, Michael Bloomberg stood on the same City Hall steps de Blasio will occupy next month and made a series of more modest promises. Four months after the September 11 attacks, he paid tribute to those who died on that day, promised to cut the size of government and asked businesses to please, please not leave town.

It was a quiet, modest start to what would become, like it or not, one of the most influential mayoral tenures in the city's history. But as we look back at Bloomberg's ascent to the mayor's office, it's still a bit surprising he made it to those steps at all, given that his first campaign was so uphill it was basically a vertical climb up a glacier with the aid of a pickaxe. To review:

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The Prototype for Citi Bike Was Invented By Monk Eastman, A Pigeon-Loving Gangster From Williamsburg

Image via Wikipedia
Monk Eastman, circa 1910-1920
Earlier this month, Citi Bike announced that its bike renters had taken over 5 million rides. And while they're certainly the biggest name in the bike rental game today, if they were operating 100 years ago, they'd have some stiff competition from Monk Eastman, an eccentric Brooklyn-born gangster who ran one of the earliest, most successful bike shares in the city's history, when he wasn't busy hoarding animals, beating people up, or smoking copious amounts of opium.

Eastman was reputedly born Edward Osterman in Williamsburg, Brooklyn around 1873 (although some accounts contend he was born in Corlear's Hook, now a park area on the Lower East Side). He loved cats and pigeons, so much so that his father, a Jewish restaurant owner, helped set him up with his own pet shop.

But the pet store game failed to excite him, and he left in the mid-1890s to become a bouncer (or "sheriff", as they were then known) at the mammoth New Irving Dance Hall. Eastman sounds like he was a real looker in his prime, according to a description of him in Low Life, Luc Sante's classic book about the seedy underbelly of turn-of-the-century New York:

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There is a Long and Storied Tradition of Selling Drugs Out of Ice Cream Trucks in New York

Flickr/Steven Depolo
My favorite flavor is chocolate-meth swirl.
Yesterday the Observer and NBC New York reported that 20-year-old Mina Gatas was arrested in Bay Ridge for using an ice cream truck as a front for his drug-dealing business in what police called "Operation Snowcone." Runnin' Scared thought the simplicity of Gatas's scheme was genius. It was so simple that we were surprised no one had thought of it before.

In fact, someone had thought of it before. Many someones. Turns out, New York has a deep history of drug-pushers leading double lives as ice cream men, in all boroughs and even on Long Island. Here are four of our favorites, culled from across the Internet.

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The Emancipation Proclamation (Or What's Left of It) Is In Harlem Right Now!


In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln was torn: with the War Between the States raging, the clarion call to free the slaves was louder than ever. However, to do so, Lincoln feared a backlash from his own Union forces, who were more concentrated on the rebels then the abolitionists. In the end, the 16th President of the United States of America decided to take the higher moral ground, turning the crisis into a true war for liberty, and this culminated in what is now known as the Emancipation Proclamation.

Fast forward 150 years. Although the original printed document was burnt to ashes in the Great Chicago Fire decades ago, its historical prominence and pride lives on. And so does preliminary versions of the Proclamation. So, for its century-and-a-half birthday, you can go check out the piece of paper that freed millions from bondage until Monday in Harlem.

At the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on Malcolm X Boulevard, the last remaining copy of the Proclamation hand-written by Lincoln himself will be on display, alongside a preliminary copy of the document that justifies the Constitutional foundation of the decree. In the words of Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the Center's Director, "In 150 years, these documents have not sat next to each other since they were in the presence of President Lincoln."

You can almost hear the buzzing of history nerds from here. Don't worry - we're as excited as you are.

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The Anti-Vaccine Movement: A Brief History

A few days ago, we wrote about the U.S. whooping cough outbreak -- which is the worst in 50 years.

Pertussis can prove deadly to infants and toddlers, but healthy adults aren't likely to succumb to this illness. (However, it's still a good idea to get a booster shot! Details here.)

Whooping cough cases have outright ballooned in Washington; state health authorities actually declared epidemic status earlier this year, there has been a 13-fold increase in diagnoses since 2011.

Washington -- though home to a lot of highly-educated, tech savvy people -- is also the epicenter of the U.S. anti-vaccination movement. Over the last few decades, more and more parents there have opted out of inoculating their kids against preventable illnesses. As some 90 percent of any population must be inoculated for vaccines to work -- AKA "herd immunity" -- many are blaming Washington's anti-vax camp for spurring the disease's spread.

Of course, this brings up some questions: What the hell is the anti-vax movement, anyway? Where does it come from and, perhaps most importantly, why don't people want to protect their kids?

To answer your queries, we've prepped a brief history...

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Hundreds of Years of New York City History Now Online in Massive Photo Archive

Eugene de Salignac, Department of Bridges/Plant & Structures
From October 7, 1914. Brooklyn Bridge showing painters on suspenders.
Hundreds of thousands of photos that offer snapshots of more than a century of New York City history are now publicly available online for the first time ever.

Together, they offer a close-up, gritty picture of the city's history and development, from detective photos of gruesome crime scenes to Depression-era shots of everyday life to the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.

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Billy's Antiques And Props Tent Laid To Rest

Rebecca Nathanson
Back in December Runnin' Scared wrote that Billy's Antiques an Props "is one of the last remnants of the 'old Bowery.'" Now that remnant has become a relic as the green tent housing Billy's has been laid to rest. Saturday morning, the tent was taken down, the New York Times reported. In the afternoon, mourners came out to mark the event with song, eulogy and procession. The tent was placed in a coffin, which then was paraded around the surrounding area.

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Slave Plantation Hawks "Day of Pure Chocolate Indulgence At Monticello," Proudly Extolls "Chocolate Was a Favorite of Jefferson's"

Straight from the files of "Historical Shit That Can't Be Made Up," we woke up this morning to a pretty unbelievable email from the Thomas Jefferson Foundation with the subject line, "Taste: Chocolate at Monticello."

Oh my, we thought, before opening it. Surely someone in TJ's PR office might be sensitive to and knowledgeable enough of, er, certain Jefferson proclivities to be wary of harping about his "taste" for chocolate!?

Apparently not.

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