Monday, November 29, 2010

Now & Then: 1896 Shopping Mob Scene in Manhattan

This image is of the crowd outside the opening of the Siegel-Cooper store in Manhattan on September 13, 1896  (Marcuse 288-289.)  View location information here on Google Maps.

This store opening would rival any Black Friday doorbuster today.  According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle,

"The formal opening of the Siegel-Cooper company store at Sixth avenue and Nineteenth street, New York, took place this morning, and because the doors were not opened until 9 o'clock there was a jam of several thousand persons in front of the place who were squeezed in a manner which they never experienced before" (Jam 4.)
The article is titled "Jam at Siegel-Cooper's: Caused by a Reported Sale of Cheap Bicycles: Traffic Bocked on Sixth Avenue and the Police Reserves from the Tenderloin Precinct Called Out" and goes on to say,

"The jam was so fast that the captain himself and Policeman O'Malley and McKenna of the City Hall station were wedged in so between the crowd and the building that the captain nearly had his arm broken and McKenna was taken to the hospital with a rib crushed in. O'Malley had his foot badly crushed" (Jam 4.)
The mob scene or "jam" was apparently caused by a false rumor that bicycles would be sold for "pin-money".  Pin money is defined in the 1896 edition of Webster's Dictionary as "an allowance of money, as that made by a husband to his wife, for personal and private expenditures" (Pin money 618.)

Maxwell F. Marcuse, the founder of LIM College, wrote about Siegel-Cooper in his book entitled This Was New York.  He says,
"Siegel-Cooper opened on Sunday, September 13, 1896.  The impressive, block-long six-story building with its imposing tower, extended on the east side of Sixth Avenue from 18th to 19th Streets for a total frontage of 187 feet, and reached from Sixth Avenue toward Fifth Avenue for a distance of 485 feet."..."The main entrance was, of course, on Sixth Avenue and was situated at the midway point between 18th and 19th Streets" (Marcuse 287.)
This Was New York,  is available in the LIM College Library (search in LIMCat on the LIM College Intranet) and the LIM College Archives in LibraryThing.  Outside of LIM College, the book can be found at a library by searching Worldcat. An album of of the pages about Siegel-Cooper are located on Flickr.


"Jam at Siegel-Cooper's." Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 13 Sept. 1896. Brooklyn Daily News Online Archive. Web. 29 Nov. 2010.

"Pin money" Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Mass.: G&C Merriam & Co., 1896. Google Books. Web. 29 Nov. 2010.

Marcuse, Maxwell F. This Was New York.  New York: Carlton Press, 1965. Print.