As their train pulled into Pennsylvania Station on an early July morning in 1911, not even one of the deadliest heat waves in history could dampen Odd and Maybelle McIntyre’s excitement at finally arriving in New York City. While the fare on the other buses in the Fifth Avenue Coach Company line was a dime, it was worth paying twice as much to ride on the upper deck of the famed double-decker bus where, in addition to a slight breeze, Odd and Maybelle could enjoy the best possible view of their new hometown.
The excitement of that ride up the avenue of avenues atop a swaying green bus…they were lunching at the flower-boxed windows of the great Waldorf. Near the library I saw Caruso in an ensemble of green. In front of Delmonico’s a cavalier was helping Norma Bayes—no less—into a hansom. On the portico of the old Savoy I saw silver champagne buckets flashing at the tableside. Here I was on the top of the world.
The world was shifting from the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era, and Odd maintained the deep connection he felt with his home in Gallipolis, Ohio and small-town America, while he wrote about his glamorous life of urban sophistication in New York. He made his experiences seem relatable, especially for those who would never get to see cities like New York, Hollywood or Paris in person. With his daily column, “New York Day by Day,” and articles in magazines like Cosmopolitan, Life, McCall’s, and The Saturday Evening Post, Odd successfully bridged two conflicting cultures. In his own words, he “wrote from a country town angle of a city’s glamour,” and the metropolis never lost its thrill for Odd.
He also worked in a period of great transition and innovation in communication, transportation, politics, art, and entertainment. New technologies and methods of communication were being quickly adopted around the world, as were new ideas regarding journalism and the role of media in American politics and society. Odd was at the epicenter of communication during the birth of this new modern age.
Even today, Odd’s descriptions of the people he met, places he went, and things he experienced in New York provide us with a unique look at the city where modern entertainment, media, and business were born.
Despite the extroverted “man-about-town” image he projected to the world, for much of his adult life he struggled with what was likely pernicious anemia. The symptoms of the disorder, which is nearly nonexistent today, included impaired concentration, weakness, insomnia, severe depression, panic attacks, phobias, and obsessive compulsive tendencies—all of which Odd struggled with at one time or another. Eventually, he retreated to a reclusive life in the shadows, venturing out only at night to explore the city in his chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce.
Back in 1911, on that first evening in New York, Odd stepped out into the street to explore and buy a pack of cigarettes. As he stood on the corner taking in his new neighborhood, a well-dressed lady stopped and asked him for directions. Odd wrote, “I could not tell her, but she will never know how pleasing it was. She had taken me for a New Yorker.”
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