New Year’s Day and the New York Times

Times_SquarePat here:

 Were you one of the billion people to stay up New Year’s Eve to watch the ball drop over Times Square? Do you know who started this idiocy? The New York Times, that’s who.

At the turn of the 20th century, the NYT bought property in what was then called Long Acre Square (after London’s carriage district). Originally, the square was a large open horse market with dreary tenements surrounding it. But once electricity and public transit were installed, the area became a hot market. In 1903, the New York Times started building the second largest tower in the city at the time. Once it was complete, it apparently took very little arm twisting for the newspaper to persuade the city to rename the square after itself, and Times Square came into existence. In celebration, in 1904, the Times threw a huge block party on New Year’s Eve, well, huge for back then, anyway. The theater district consisted of maybe one theater, but they celebrated with music and fireworks every New Year’s Eve—until the city banned fireworks in 1907. In their place, an engineer built a 700 lb wood and iron ball illuminated by a hundred lights to drop from a flagpTimes Square Ball Drop by Michelleyyy is licensed under CC BY 2.0ole at midnight. And the tradition began!

Within a decade, the Times outgrew its skyscraper. That towering, skinny NYT office building offered prime real estate for advertising, especially for the theaters crowding into the area. A giant news ticker went up in 1928, and ultimately, the huge sides of the building started the trend of Times Square flashing advertisements. Today the building is mostly empty but the party and the crystal ball drop have become world famous. Nothing like a good party for creating a tourist attraction!

Did you watch the ball drop? If not, how did you celebrate the new year?

Image: Bernt Rostad from Oslo, Norway


NewkidJo here, waffling on a bit about peerage titles. I'm sure I've done this before here, but a few things came together to inspire another go. Why is it that even people who should know better make silly errors in British titles?

Once a duke, always a duke.

I picked up a Regency and put it down again sharpish when in the first pages a duke was also called (Inventing here) Lord Pickingham. I think the author was aware that this was odd and trying to exDucalcoronetplain it by the duke also having the title of Lord Pickingham in his collection, but that's not how it works. It's quite possible that a ducal family could have aquired along the way four baronetcies, three viscountcies, two earldoms and a partridge in a pear tree, but none of them will be used except as titles for his heirs — or in the case of patridge and pear, for dinner. 

For more on that and other details about titles check out my easy guide to titles page. The image is a duke's coronet, worn with his scarlet and ermine robes.Up left we have Billy wearing a very inauthentic crown!

The Smithsonian should know better.

ChatsThen I clicked on a link to an on-line article from the Smithsonian where the writer said that Chatsworth House in Derbyshire was owned by the Duke and Duchess of Cavendish. This is a straight error, but a sloppy one arising from not understanding in the bones that a noble family's surname is rarely their title, and never at the ducal level. The family name is Cavendish. The title is Duke of Devonshire.

Hold on, you might be thinking, being sharp of eye and keen of wit. Didn't I say Chatsworth was in Derbyshire? I did. It is. The story I heard was that when a Cavendish was being raised to Earl of Devonshire in the early 17th century the king made a mistake. It should have been Earl of Derbyshire, but once the king had declared him Earl of Devonshire, no one dared correct it.

This is why the Earl of Devon — who lives just down the road in a manner of speaking, at Powderham Castle — is not the Earl of Devonshire.

So should the New York Times.

Yesterday there was a post on the Regency yahoo list about an article in the NYT called Splitsville For Lady Crawley. As someone pointed out, Lady Crawley doesn't exist. The article is satirical, but that loses bite when the headline is wrong. Splitsville for Lady Grantham would have worked just as well.

So should Downton Abbey?

Someone else pointed out that "Lady Violet Crawley" was impossible. True enough, but I don't remember the dowager ever being referred to as Lady Violet, so Lord Fellowes is exonerated, by me, at least.

I think she is referred to as Cousin Violet sometimes, but "cousin" is a convenient but vague term. In my upcoming book, Seduction In Silk, we have the hero, Perry Perriam, and a distant relative, Giles Perriam. The term "Cousin Giles" covers it without implying a close blood tie.

No one in Downton Abbey is Lady Crawley, because Crawley is the surname not the title. The daughters are Lady Firstname Crawley — the correct use of the surname. They are not, ever, Lady Crawley, not even the imperious elder one, Mary.

Let me try another way of looking at this. The title is not the name.

If Pat Macguire is the Mayor of Ballybridge would anyone call him Pat Ballybridge, or Mr. Ballybridge? Well, perhaps the latter if he was seen that way, but not formally. Nor would he be Mayor of Macguire.

Have any howlers to share?

So there are a few a just stumbled over in the past week. Have you come across any recently? Some authors really don't think it matters, and many readers don't care, but Getting Things Wrong Through Sheer Laziness should not be encouraged!

I'm clearly feeling my inner Violet.