A Sharp and Palpable Difference

Ad from the Ladies’ Home Journal, December, 1917

Ad from the Ladies’ Home Journal, December, 1917

In a previous post we displayed two ads from 1917 for Goodyear Cord Tires, featuring detailed pen-and-ink drawings of Nikko Inn. These clever bits of Jazz Age cross-promotion appeared in magazines ranging from the Atlantic Monthly and The New Country Life to Travel and Forest & Stream.

Tiny detail from the Ladies’ Home Journal ad.

Tiny detail from the Ladies’ Home Journal ad.

Now we’ve discovered a much more elegant ad from the same campaign, which ran in the December, 1917 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal. The art was created by Myron Perley, an illustrator and art director who is remembered today for his work for the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company.

Unfortunately the image of the Nikko is hard to discern in the background. We suspect that the art was done in full-color and published here in black-and-white to save money. Maybe another version will turn up and we’ll get to see the Nikko in full-color glory.

Until then we can try to imagine what an exotic and alluring destination the Nikko Inn must have been in those days—and the “sharp and palpable difference” we would have “felt in the riding quality” of our car “shod with Goodyear Cord Tires.”

For more on the Nikko, the Mikado and Harmon’s rich history, see these previous posts.

Goodyear-Nikko-Ad-1917_72dpi

Mikado Inn “Real Photo” Postcard, circa 1920

Mikado Inn, Harmon-on-Hudson, N.Y. [No publisher, but likely the Mikado Inn]. Circa 1920.

Mikado Inn, Harmon-on-Hudson, N.Y. [No publisher, but likely the Mikado Inn]. Circa 1920.
Click the image to enlarge it.

Come take a stroll in the beautiful Japanese gardens of the Mikado Inn, in Harmon-on-Hudson. Enjoy a dinner of exotic oriental dishes (or, if you prefer something more familiar, try the $5.00 Porterhouse Steak for two). After dinner you can listen to that clever young man, Oscar Levant, play “Yes, We Have No Bananas” on the upright piano.

The Mikado Inn was built around 1920 by “Admiral” George T. Moto (a.k.a. “Data Moto” and “Toshiyuki Moto”), a disgruntled employee of Clifford Harmon. Moto had managed the Nikko Inn and after a disagreement bought land across the street and built the Mikado. Both establishments, along with the Tumble Inn on the other side of town, were speakeasys during Prohibition—though in 1921 the Admiral was acquitted in what newspaper accounts at the time called the first case to be tried in Westchester County for alleged violation of the New York State liquor law.1

This postcard is what’s called a “real photo postcard” because the image is an actual photograph made from a negative, not a halftone reproduction. The process was invented in 1903 by Kodak with the introduction of the No. 3A Folding Pocket Kodak. The camera, designed for postcard-size film, allowed the general public to take photographs and have them printed on postcard backs, usually in the same dimensions (3-1/2 x 5-1/2 inches) as standard postcards. The process was perfect for small establishments and this card was likely produced and sold by the Mikado Inn.

This crisp enlargement is possible because the postcard is an actual photographic print.

This crisp enlargement is possible because the postcard is an actual photographic print.

Want to know more about the Mikado? See these previous posts:

  • Oscar Levant Plays the Mikado
    Oscar Levant, the quick-witted pianist, composer, actor, author and quiz-show panelist performed there as a teenager, sharing “sleeping quarters with twenty or thirty Japanese waiters in the cellar.”
  • What’s Cookin’ at the Mikado?
    A tasty bit of Harmon history—a Mikado Inn menu featuring two Spring Lamb Chops for $1.50, Filet Mignon Mikado for $3.00 and a Porterhouse Steak for two for $5.00.
  • The Motorist’s Playground
    An ad for the Mikado and two other Croton-area “road houses” from the June 12, 1921 issue of the New-York Tribune. The “Japanese gardens” highlighted in the ad are shown in the postcard above.

  1. New York Evening Telegram, July 12, 1921.
This simple stamp on the back is typical of real photo postcards.

This simple stamp on the back is typical of real photo postcards.

Rum-running Submarines off Croton Point?

An aerial photograph, taken by a Manhattan map-making firm June 11, 1924, near Croton Point, purports to document two submarines (possibly rumrunners), each about 250 feet long and 600 feet apart, below the surface.

An aerial photograph, taken by a Manhattan map-making firm June 11, 1924, near Croton Point, purports to document two submarines (possibly rumrunners), each about 250 feet long and 600 feet apart, below the surface.

A recently published book, Smugglers, Bootleggers and Scofflaws: Prohibition and New York City by Ellen NicKenzie Lawson, contains an amazing 1924 aerial photo, purporting to show rum-smuggling submarines in the Hudson River near Croton Point. The photo appears in the chapter “Rum Row”—the name of the smuggling area of the Atlantic coast from Nantucket to New York City and New Jersey. Lawson writes,

“News of a submarine being used on Rum Row appears to have some substance to it. One smuggler testified in court that he saw a submarine emerge on the Row with a German captain and a French crew. Newspapers in 1924 reported that submarines were smuggling liquor to New Jersey and Cape Cod. An aerial photo, taken by a commercial Manhattan map-making firm that same year, suggested submarines were thirty miles up the Hudson River near Croton Point. (German submarines were kept out of the river during World War I by a steel net strung low across the bottom of the Narrows.) The photo purported to document two submarines below the surface of the Hudson River, each 250 feet long and 600 feet apart. The aerial firm sent the photograph to the U.S. Navy, which had no submarines in the area, and the startling image was given to Coast Guard Intelligence and filed away.”

Here’s a link to the book on Amazon, which includes the Rum Row chapter.

Thanks to the New York History Blog, which alerted us to this book with their recent review.

Our Multi-Talented Federal Prohibition Agents

On June 17, 1922 the New York Times published an article on several raids conducted by Federal prohibition agents. The Central Brewing Company in New York City was indicted for selling beer with more than 4% alcohol content. The Feds also seized a Rabbi’s wine, a widow’s whiskey still and further upstate some multi-talented agents raided the Nikko Inn.

The Nikko Inn at Harmon-on-Hudson [was] raided yesterday by Federal Prohibition Agents William McKay, Peter Reager and Leonard Gallante.

At the Nikko Inn the agents represented themselves as actors. Charles Hase, the owner of the place, asked them to “do a turn” for him. McKay fiddled, Reager sang and Gallante danced. The innkeeper was satisfied with their work and was about to hire them, when the agents, after having been served with drinks, as they alleged, at $1.50 a drink, arrested Hase and a waiter, Hero Gotow, on a charge of violating the Volstead act. They gave $1,000 bail each for appearance Monday before a United States Commissioner.

Roy Kojima, Busted and Boastful

nikko-in-ad

Advertisement from Automobile Blue Book, 1917

“Nikko Inn, in Harmon-on-Hudson, Must Close for Two Months,” read the headline of a short article in the New York Times, on May 20, 1925. “Ten restaurants, saloons and speakeasies were ordered closed yesterday by Judge John C. Knox in the Federal Padlock Court. The Nikko Inn, a Japanese roadhouse and tea room in Harmon-on-Hudson, was padlocked for two months. Roy Kojima is the proprietor, and the inn is the first place run by Japanese to be closed in padlock proceedings. The musical program at the inn has been broadcast by radio stations. Federal agents testified they bought highballs for $1 each.”

Covering the same story, the Mount Vernon Daily Argus noted that “Kojima protested, denying that any liquor was sold in his place.”

Both local legend and contemporary newspaper accounts leave no doubt that despite Mr. Kojima’s denial, the Nikko Inn was, in fact, a “speakeasy” during Prohibition.

It must have been quite a romantic and exotic place in those days—a rustic Japanese tea house, perched over a beautiful river, accessible only to locals or adventurous New Yorkers.

Luckily, one of those New Yorkers was Karl Kingsley Kitchen, a journalist who wrote for the New York World, Photoplay Magazine, New York Sun and other papers. He was a bon vivant, famous enough in his day that there is a cocktail named after him in the classic Savoy Cocktail Book (in the section titled “Cocktails Suitable for a Prohibition Country”).

karl kitchen drink in savoy book-619px

In 1931 Kitchen stopped by the Nikko for some “skiyaki” and Roy Kojima was still in charge. The two started to chat and Kitchen wrote about it in his October 6 column in the New York Sun.

So let’s mix ourselves a “Karl K. Kitchen”, savor our illegal drinks, and enjoy this vignette of Harmon history, published 81 years ago.

“When I stopped at Nikko Inn, near Harmon-on-the-Hudson, last Sunday for a dish of skiyaki Roy Kojima, its Japanese proprietor, surprised me by telling me that he was the real author of “The Million-Dollar Baby,” one of the popular song hits of the day.

“Yes, I wrote it five or six years ago,” the stocky little Japanese restaurateur confided, producing a well-worn scrapbook filled with clippings of his poems. And sure enough there was a clipping from a local newspaper published in 1926 with the stanzas and with “Prince” Roy’s name above them.

While the words of the song reveal a considerable variation from these stanzas, the idea of meeting the million-dollar baby in the five-and-ten-cent store is decidedly similar.

“Perhaps two great minds have the same great thought,” said Roy when he replaced his scrapbook with a much more interesting dish of skiyaki, which, if you don’t know, is the national dish of Japan—a melange of meats and fresh vegetables cooked over a charcoal fire. “Then again, perhaps some song writer from New York heard my Million-Dollar-Baby song here. My three-piece orchestra play and sing it many times. Anyhow, Million-Dollar Baby is my idea.”

“Why don’t you sue the music publishers?” I suggested after I had tasted the delectable dish—the best skiyaki I had ever tasted, by the way.

“No, no time to sue anybody,” he replied. “I’m very busy and very happy here. But as a fellow literary man I thought you would be interested. Besides I can write many more and many better songs than ‘Million-Dollar Baby’.”

However, our conversation soon drifted from popular songs to the origin of skiyaki, which Roy, who hails from Tokio [sic], admitted was invented in the rival city of Kyoto many hundreds of years ago, perhaps even 900, he conceded.

“In old Japan it was made with fish or game mixed with vegetables, for there was no beef,” he went on. “Skiyaki made with pheasant or wild boar meat was a great delicacy. Now we make with beef or chicken.”

The porch of the Nikko Inn.

The porch of the Nikko Inn.

“You know all these popular jazz songs have same rhythm as geisha girl song,” he said, coming back to his favorite theme. “Million-Dollar Baby just like old geisha girl song I heard in Japan many years ago. Geisha girls very fond of skiyaki. I hope you like it.”

For my benefit Roy turned on an artificial moon, which shed its rays over the beautiful little lake below his Japanese “tea” house. “I like because it reminds me of Nikko,” he said, perhaps dreaming of his far-off Nippon.

“You mean it looks like Nikko might look if it didn’t look the way it did,” I corrected. But I added that the skiyaki did a lot to create the illusion.

As a matter of fact this little lake with its Japanese teahouse has the most “Japaneseey” outlook and atmosphere of any spot around New York.

Coming next: Some multi-talented Federal prohibition agents use a clever ruse to bust the Nikko Inn in 1922.