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Subject: A 1939 article about a hobbyist who collects '90s (1890s) nostalgic items

Written By: yelimsexa on 08/10/10 at 7:59 am,4204504&dq=nineties+nostalgia&hl=en

Bill Hardy Makes Present Living By Living In The Past

By George Ross

NEW YORK, May 18- Bill Hardy, it seems, was born in the Gay Nineties and never got over it.

Throughout his life, during which he has been a professional dancer and has operated a chain of dance academies through the East, Hardy was impressed with the tales and traditions of those waning years of the last (19th) century.

His curiosity developed into a near-obsession and he began to collect Gay Nineties mementoes as a hobby. The hobby, in turn, gave way to commercial enterprise- for in the spring of 1931 he opened a club dedicated in spirit and song to the day before yesterday.

Originally, the Gay Nineties Club was known as the Silver Dollar, a name faithfully borne out by the silver dollars fastened to the barroom floor. Today it is simply Bill's Gay Nineties, boasting four floors that drip with nostalgia and display a continuous parade of song in both the bar and dining room. The walls, and even the ceilings, are buried beneath joyful reminders of a joyous yesterday.


A genial, voluble and energetic gentleman, Hardy devotes most of his spare time to unending pilgrimages to out-of-the-way curiosity and antique shops and public sales. His selection has reached such a proportions that he employs a curator, and now owns so many relics that he rents them to hotels, department stores, theaters, etc.

The best of his collection, of course, finds refuge at the Gay Nineties. The wandering, wondering eye may rest on scores of shaving mugs, mustache cups, framed theater programs, original song sheets, autographed pictures of bygone athletic, political, and theatrical luminaries, beer steins, bill posters, cigar box art, cuspidors, barroom nudes, and innumerable other classifications of relics of the gaslit era.

Hardy requires no coaxing to show the interested guest the gowns originally worn by Lillian Russell and Maggie Cline, the riding boots of Anna Held, the oil painting which once adorned Diamond Jim Brady's bar, Lew Dockstader's white, gem-studded cane, the gargoyle-like heads pilfered from the ticket-wagon of the first Barum and Bailey circus, and hundreds of more antiques with personal pedigrees. Orginal colored prints of another World's Fair- the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago- now grace one wall.


When Hardy is not examining bricabracs for his museum, he auditions talent for his night club entertainment. Forgotten performers of vaudville days struggle with tired voices and aging limbs for the chance at a possible comeback, and abundant are the old stars who have found new life through a singing engagement at the Gay Nineties.

Joe Howard, 75-year old minstrel and composer of hundreds of songs, has returned to a profitable career, thanks to HArdy, Eddie Leonard, of the "Roley Boley Eyes", secured other club and theater bookings through his reintroduction at the Gay Nineties. So, too, have John Steele, the former Ziegfeld star, Charles King, Yvette Rugel and Bert Swor. But sentiment alone does not win them a job with Hardy, who listens to a thousand old timers during the course of a year. The young timer, too, performs there. One former Gay Nineties discovery now sings with La Scala opera in Italy: another with the St. Louis Municipal Opera Company.

Basing his policy on the irrefutable theory that there's no song like an old song, Bill Hardy encourages audience participation in the lyrical excursions to the days of the past. Celebrities flock to the Gay Nineties, sipping their lager from old fashioned steins and vocally imbibing in such immortal tunes as "By the Sea", "On a Bicucle Built for Two", "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her New,", and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (acutally an early 1900's hit).

To me the 1890s are THE original retro/nostalgic decade; they came of nostalgic age by the Depression with the rise of radio/film where mass audiences could discover that era's charm. If you do a google News Archive search, you'll see a peak from the mid-1930s to the early 1940s, followed by a slow, steady decline to the point that three-quarters of a century after its "nostalgic heyday", it has only a small cult following, and is truly a 100% antique decade nowadays, with many antique stores no longer carrying items from that era; with many items today found in upscale homes and museums. It's a shame however that this era is mostly forgotten as to me it was the transition from Romanticism to Modernism: automobiles first appear, bicycle usage was at its peak, the first films, telephones and electricity continue to proliferate.

To some it is the best of both worlds as America in the 1890s was finally showing sure signs of becoming a superpower with all the industry and the West settled, while England/Western Europe was still the leader in culture and enjoying the end of the Victorian age and colonization of other continents was still ongoing; not unlike the 1990s where China finally showed signs of becoming a superpower with its boom with the US still a leader in culture/innovation.
I guess we should call the current decade the "Turbulent Tens 2.0?"; as I found a 1938 article as well where the Baltimore Sun contrasted the cinema to the 1890s to the 1910s?

Hopefully, World War III won't start in four years!

Subject: Re: A 1939 article about a hobbyist who collects '90s (1890s) nostalgic items

Written By: 80sfan on 08/10/10 at 6:42 pm

Wow, that guy really loves his 1890's! Kinda like how I love the 1980's!

Subject: Re: A 1939 article about a hobbyist who collects '90s (1890s) nostalgic items

Written By: Mat1991 on 10/15/10 at 7:28 pm

I can definitely relate, only my nostalgia is for the 1990s, a whole century later.  ::)

Subject: Re: A 1939 article about a hobbyist who collects '90s (1890s) nostalgic items

Written By: Fairee07 on 10/15/10 at 9:30 pm

I like reading history articles that are based on nostalgia; I find it an interesting perspective. For me I'm nostalgic for the 60s and 70s.

Subject: Re: A 1939 article about a hobbyist who collects '90s (1890s) nostalgic items

Written By: MrCleveland on 10/16/10 at 10:54 pm

I heard Otto Bettmann does the same thing.

Subject: Re: A 1939 article about a hobbyist who collects '90s (1890s) nostalgic items

Written By: youngerderek on 04/10/11 at 10:20 am

It's kind of funny 'Take Me Out To The Ball Game' used to be thought of as a hot hit.

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