Middle Class Civility
“A Holiday in Central Park,” 28 June 1879, NYPL
While the upper classes enjoyed Central Park promenades, these prints demonstrate middle-class moral ideals as visualized within the park. Reformers valued social order and civic virtue, despite their acceptance of the city’s burgeoning commercial wealth. In the prints to the left and beneath, we find a calm mother figure watching over clean, well-dressed young girls skipping around the Terrace; meanwhile, families and couples gather on the steps and boat on the Lake together. Not only are these visitors enjoying the park’s architecture, but they delight in the simple pleasures of an outing in this atmosphere of civilized nature. These scenes communicate the ideal that Central Park is a place for respectable family amusements, far away from the grime of poverty and immorality in the back alleys and saloons of Lower Manhattan.
“The Terrace, Central Park, New York,”
“The Terrace, Central Park, N.Y.,”
Fresh Air and Good Exercise
“Central - Park, Winter. The Skating Pond,” 1864, NYPL
Another well-promoted feature of Central Park was the opportunity for visitors to get fresh air and outdoor exercise. Amidst the growing concern for health and physical well-being, especially in urban environments, the park’s open paths and lakes provided spaces for New Yorkers to stretch their legs and expand their lungs, working towards a stronger and more fit urban citizenry.
"The Arbors of the Road Crossings Hang Heavy with
Wisteria - Cyclists in Central Park," 1895, NYPL
“Out-door Summer Amusements - the Swings in
Central Park,” 1871, NYPL