Confederates in the Subway

Times Square subway station; Moses Josiah, seated; Confederate battle flag mosaic, upper right

As Patrick and I waited for Jennifer and Sarah inside the entrance to the Times Square subway station, I thought I heard “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” being played below us.  Sure that it was an acoustical distortion–when I had scouted the station a week earlier, a Peruvian band was playing zampoñas (panpipes)–I focused on the shot list.

But, strange synchronicity that pervades New York:  the sound track for my shoot (for Civil War Times magazine) of the life of the station and the unnoticed mosaics resembling Confederate battle flags on the walls in main vestibule and throughout the corridors leading to the 1, 2 and 3 trains, included the “Battle Hymn” and “Dixie”–played on a saw by renowned (and amazing) musician Moses Josiah.

Adolph S. Ochs, born in Ohio but raised in Knoxville, TN,  bought and became the publisher of the Chattanooga Times in 1877 (when he was 20) and acquired The New York Times in 1896, saving it from bankruptcy.  In 1904 the new home of the Times, a skyscraper (with a subway station to be constructed  beneath it), was completed and the neighborhood previously known as Long Acre began its rapid transformation.

When Cornell-educated architect Squire J. Vickers began building the Times Square subway station in 1917, he was familiar with the use of symbols in stations designed by Heins & LeFarge, such as beavers–the foundation of John Jacob Astors’ wealth–at Astor Place.   He was also aware Ochs’ deep affection for his Southern roots.

Bertha Levi Ochs, the publisher’s firebrand mother, left Ohio for Memphis when the Civil War began and smuggled spies and quinine across the lines.  His father, Julius Ochs, remained loyal to the Union and became a well-respected officer with an Ohio regiment (and saved his wife from prison when she was caught by Northern forces).  Despite their wildly disparate sympathies, the Ochs’ marriage thrived and after the war they returned to their home in Tennessee, endlessly devoted to their contrary convictions–perhaps an even an odder couple than James Carville and Mary Matalin.

Here’s Dr. David J. Jackowe’s remarkable article, “Times Square Confederate,” from the current issue of Weider Publications’ Civil War Times (and a different selection of my images than those which appear in the magazine):

Times Square subway station

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2 Responses to Confederates in the Subway

  1. Wow, Robin, a Confederate flag in the tiles of the Times Square subway station? I’m amazed. Kinda horrified.

  2. Pingback: Is That a Confederate Flag in a New York City Subway Station? | Occupy The Bronx

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