On December 20, 1880, the stretch of Broadway between Union Square and Madison Square in New York City was illuminated by electric lights for the first time, becoming one of the first streets in the country to be lit up. It had been exactly one year since over in New Jersey, in Menlo Park, Thomas Edison had demonstrated his incandescent light. By the 1890s, the section of Broadway from 23rd Street to 34th Street had become so brightly illuminated by electrical advertising signs, that it was dubbed “The Great White Way.” Later, when the theater district moved uptown to the Times Square area, the name moved with it.
Broadway is the oldest north-south thoroughfare in New York City, dating back to the first New Amsterdam settlement. The name Broadway is an English translation of the Dutch breede weg, which means something like “street of hot pretzel vendors.” Although best known for the boulevard portion that runs through Manhattan, Broadway also runs through the Bronx and north for another 18 miles through Westchester County to Sleepy Hollow. There are countless landmarks along the route, but the one that first springs to mind this time of year is Macy’s Herald Square department store, between 34th and 35th Streets, where Christmas begins with Macy’s annual parade, and its windows spectacularly celebrate the season. (The store is also a costar of the classic movie Miracle on 34th Street.)
Continuing in the Christmas spirit, on December 20, 1989, Vice President Dan Quayle mailed out 30,000 Christmas cards with the inscription “May our nation continue to be the beakon of hope.”