If you want to know what NYC looked like in earlier eras, there are countless photos you can find online and elsewhere of the city in the 19th and 20th century. You can see pictures of workers building the subways and the city's famous buildings, you can see the old-fashioned streets and lamp posts and street cars, you can see the old storefront signs and billboards, you can see famous New Yorkers of the past like Fiorello LaGuardia or Robert Moses, you can even watch old TV shows set in NYC like the original Tonight Show. When it comes to NYC's past, its visual legacy is secure.
But what about the sounds? Old pictures can show was what the city looked like but what did it sound like?
Well, WNYC has the answer. You can check out its amazing vault of radio broadcasts from the 1920s to today. You can hear famous New Yorkers giving speeches, getting interviewed, debating, and so much more. Listen to William F. Buckley debate Ramsay Clark. Listen to Ed Koch host a forum on drugs in 1969, long before he was mayor. Listen to a broadcast from January 1, 1950, where people wonder what the next 50 years of the 20th century will be like. Listen to a pastor bemoan the tawdry state of Times Square.
It's all here at the WNYC Municipal Archives website. Listen to the past, then contemplate our future.