Here at Untapped Cities, we’re big fans of New York City’s antiquated system of pneumatic tubes. That’s why we were beyond thrilled when artist Julia Wertz sent us a few pages of her book, Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City, which is being released today. Through charming black-and-white illustrations, the book reveals the interesting and often quirky story of our giant metropolis from the history of the New York City subway to a look at its oldest surviving bars.
Specifically, these three pages provide us with a short history of pneumatic tubes, which were famously used to hastily carry mail throughout the city. They include illustrated depictions of Manhattan’s extensive tube map, the mail canisters used for delivery and the canister transmitter/receiver machines. Within the rest of the book, Wertz also provides readers with “Then and Now” streetscapes and little-known tales, including the story of Staten Island’s secret abandoned boatyard and the “hair-raising” legend of Fifth Avenue’s infamous abortionist.
“Here is New York, as you’ve never seen it before,” Black Dog & Leventhal/Hachette, the publisher, writes about the book. “…In Tenements, Towers & Trash, Julia Wertz takes us behind the New York that you think you know. Not the tourist’s New York-the Statue of Liberty makes a brief appearance and the Empire State Building not at all-but the guts, the underbelly, of this city that never sleeps.
“Some sections are humorous comics about NYC history, some are more illustrated guides to weird and/or old things in the city,” says Wertz, who currently does monthly comics and illustrations for The New Yorker and Harper’s Magazine. She even tells us that she used Untapped Cities as inspiration for many of the pieces!
For those interested, Wertz will be hosting a series of events celebrating the launch of her new book. Head to her website for the upcoming lineup, and make sure to nab a copy of Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City (available in bookstores, and on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or IndieBound.)
Next, learn more about NYC’s Pneumatic Tube Mail Network and find 5 Remnants of NYC’s Pneumatic Tubes And Where to Find Them.