Big scandal with a rocking chair

Nothing motivates the general public more than someone who is trying to charge for what was once free. And yet, this is exactly what entrepreneur Oscar F. Speight tried to make in New York's parks brilliant in the summer of 1901.

It all started in Central Park on June 22, 1901, when a group of people noticed rows of bright green rocking chairs along the park's shopping center, next to the casino. Usually there were rows of uncomfortable hard wooden benches in the same place, so the park was really very pleased to sit, swing and enjoy a wonderful summer day.

Suddenly, two broad-shouldered men approached those sitting on a rocking chair. They wore the same gray suits, and on their shoulders were black bags with straps. People in gray told the sitters that these are private chairs that can be rented, and that if they want to continue sitting, they must fork out five cents a day to get better seats, and three cents a day for places that weren’t preferential. standing in the park. Some people vacated their seats, but others paid. People who were not physically thrown away. When they asked why, the people in gray replied: "These are Mr. Chair's chairs."

This new phenomenon was widely and very repeatedly covered in the daily newspapers of New York the next day. And the man in the hot spot was the president of the Park Commission – one George S. Clausen.

It seemed that a few days earlier, Klausen had visited in his official office of the Park Commission a man named Oscar F. Speight. Speight seemed amiable enough, and he offered Clausen an offer that Clausen did not see in acceptance. It seems Spate said he wants to place comfortable rocking chairs in parks all over New York. And for this privilege, Speight offered the city a net amount of $ 500 a year.

“They do it in London and Paris,” said Speight to Klausen. “And that will undoubtedly be good for New York.”

Clausen had no problems with Speight's thinking, so he readily agreed; although without prior consultation with another member of the park commission. As a result, Clausen graced Spate with a five-year contract, allowing Spate to place his rocking chairs in all of New York's parks. With the ink on the contract still not dry, Speight immediately ordered 6,000 chairs worth about $ 1.50 each. If Speight's predictions are correct, these chairs will bring him approximately $ 250-300 a day.

A Spate employee who asked the journalist for anonymity said Spate had already invested $ 30,000 in his new venture. The reporter did the math, and he came up with rocking chairs that cost Spate just around $ 9,500. Tell me, please, where did the remaining $ 20,500 go?

Spate spokesman said nothing to enlighten the reporter.

“Well, there are always costs in such things,” he told the scribe.

The New York press knew the story when it hit them in the face, so they were able to track Data in its offices in the St. James building, on Broadway and 26th Street, near Madison Square Park. Answering journalists' questions, Speit was indignant.

“I will put as many chairs as they allow,” Speight told reporters. “The servants who charge are paid by me. They will be dressed in gray uniforms, and each will look after about fifty chairs from 10 to 22 hours. A five-cent ticket entitles the holder to sit at either five cents, or a chair for three cents in any park at any time during that day. But a chair holder for three cents can only sit in a chair for three cents. "

Speight also told reporters that he is doing a favor on the city, as paying for chairs will keep unwanted (read – poor) from parks, keeping parks clean and free of shoots that leave a mess in their path.

The outrage from the New York press and philanthropists became quick. Randolph Guggenheimer, President of the Municipal Council, said that "he sees no good reason to allow individuals to occupy the park and make money using such a scheme." The Central Federal Union of New York sent a press statement condemning both Data and Clausen for their "heinous acts." The New York Tribune wrote in an editorial: “This is just another example of the hopeless stupidity of the current Park Commission.” The New York Journal also wrote an editorial advocating for “the right of poor people to sit in a public park.” However, the New York Times did not see any problems in what Spate did if "prices were properly regulated."

Park ombudsman Klausen tried to defend his actions by telling the press that people always had enough free benches, except, of course, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. The New York Tribune indicated that these were the days with the greatest demand for park spots.

When this issue became monumental, Speight became more decisive. He ordered more chairs to be placed in Central Park, as well as in Madison Square, which was across the street from his office. Some people were paid for sitting, and those who did not were unceremoniously thrown out of the armchairs by the bandits in gray suits.

Things calmed down for several days, since few people protested, paying for places. Everything changed on Wednesday, January 26, 1901, when the air temperature in the city rose above 90 degrees. By Saturday, temperatures had risen to 94 degrees, and nineteen people had died in New York due to the unbearable heat. The temperature reached 97 degrees on Sunday, making this the hottest day in the history of the Weather Bureau since June 1871. On Sunday, another fifteen people died, and on Tuesday, when the temperature rose to 99 degrees, two hundred deaths were recorded. On Wednesday, there were 317 heat-related deaths between June 28 and July 4, resulting in 382 heat-related deaths in Manhattan alone, and 521 hospitalizations due to prostration. In just a seven-day period, there were 797 deaths and 891 heat in the New York metropolitan area, which included Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Richmond. Everything was so bad that on July 2, the drivers of the city ambulance hospital worked without a break for 24 hours.

Due to the heat in the city caused by the heat, beaten people rushed to the city parks, which were now ordered by the Parking Commission to stay open all night. When people arrived at the parks, they found that there were no more empty benches, and those that were still present in the parks were moved to the sun, which made them too hot to sit on them. However, the green Spate chairs sat in the shade, making them more attractive to people struggling with suffocating heat.

On Saturday, July 6, the situation reached a boiling point. The man was sitting in one of Speight's chairs in Madison Square Park, and he absolutely refused to pay the five cents demanded by Speight's man Thomas Talley. Finally, Tully pulled out a chair from under the man, and followed the bedlam. An angry crowd surrounded Tully and started shouting: “Lynch him! He is a man of Speight! ”

Tully made his way through the crowd and rushed across the street to a hotel on Fifth Avenue, where he rushed upstairs and locked himself in a room. The crowd gathered in the hotel lobby for about 30 minutes when the police arrived and escorted Tally from the hotel to where he called home.

Later that day, when the inhabitants of the park were still raging, another of the men of Speight evicted a boy who was sitting on one of Speith's chairs in Madison Square Park and refused to pay five cents. An angry mob attacked the man of Data, and when the policeman tried to intervene, he was thrown into the park's fountain. Spate's man fled from the park in fear, and after that enthusiastic people began to take turns sitting in Spate's chairs (without paying, of course). When evening came, a few people brought Space's chairs home with them as trophies to decorate their own living rooms.

The next day, Sunday, July 7, anxiety moved to Central Park, where a huge crowd gathered, challenging Data and its green rocking chairs. While two of Speight's men were guarding Speight's precious chairs, the crowd walked dangerously close to the chairs, repeating the tune “Sweet Annie Moore”:

We do not pay anymore!

We do not pay anymore!

No more we pay for the park

There are no more chairs!

Clausen took a break

One summer day.

And now he is not

The commissar is no more!

When the crowd gathered in chairs, people who had already paid for the right to sit, abandoned the chairs and fled from the park. One of the people in Spain quit his job on the spot, and he also escaped from the park. However, another of the men of Spait continued to try to collect fees for the chair. But he also quit his job after an angry old woman poked him in the back of the head with a hairpin.

On Monday, July 8, almost constant riots occurred in Madison Square Park. About a dozen boys walked from chair to chair, sitting for as long as they wished, accompanied by a restless crowd threatening to hang any of the men who tried to collect any fees. A brave and reckless Spate employee named Otto Berman hit one boy in the face. The crowd surrounded Berman, and his life was saved by six policemen who quickly threw Berman out of the park to a safe place. Everything got out of hand in Madison Square Park, police were called from a nearby police station on West Thirtieth Street.

At the end of the day, the two men took two of Chair's chairs and offered a thousand dollars to any of the people in Spain who could evict them from their chairs. Two of the men of Jump jumped up and tried to get a reward, but they were quickly beaten half to death by two men who turned out to be featherweight world champion Terry McGovern, a former fighter and then boxing ring. Announcer Joe Humphries. Police stormed the park and arrested six rioters who they cuffed to a police station on Thirtieth Street. A crowd of about 200 people followed the police and the arrested, marching within walking distance and chanting:

Spate! Spate!

Clausen and Speight!

Spate! Spate!

Clausen and Speight!

On Tuesday, July 9, riots continued in both Madison Square and Central Park. However, New York City police chose a different tactic when Police Commissioner Michael Murphy ordered them not to help any of the people in the Court trying to collect duties and not to arrest any rioters unless magistrates issued warrants to arrest individual rioters. At this point, several magistrates told the press that they would not issue any warrants, which gave the rebels (wink) a good intention to do what they liked with the Chair's chairs.

By this time, President of the Park Commission George S. Clausen was figuratively tearing his hair from his own head. Initially stating that he could do nothing with the situation without the permission of the rest of the members of the Park Commission, Klausen turned and said that since he was the one who confirmed the contract to Speight, he could also withdraw Speight. Treaty with New York. Spate quickly received a response, having received an injunction "restricting Mr. Clausen and the Park Commission from interfering with his current contract with New York."

In desperation, Speight ordered his people not to put their chairs on the ground, but to pile them in piles in Madison Square and Central Park and rent them out only if they paid for them in advance. However, as soon as someone rented one of Speight's chairs, the crowd grabbed a chair and smashed it into small pieces.

Soon the crowd, tired of Data and its chairs, began to bombard the Speed ​​men with stones and stones, when the Speed ​​men hid behind and under the piled chairs. Speight himself entered both parks to try to fulfill his contract, but both times he was forced to flee, as he was chased by stones and stones flying past his head.

Finally, on July 11, a hero named Max Radt, vice president of Jefferson State Bank, entered the State Supreme Court and received a restraining order forbidding Speed ​​and the Commission of the Park to force people to sit on the green pitch of Speed. chairs. Speight, realizing that he was beaten, quickly put all his chairs in storage. A few days later, Speight announced to the press that he was “abandoning his project.”

Oscar F. Speight disappeared from view and never saw or heard him again in New York.

A few weeks later, the Parks Commission issued a press release for New York newspapers stating that the President of the Parks Commission, George C. Clausen, had used his personal money to buy what was left of the green color of Data. rocking chairs. These chairs were to be housed in parks throughout New York. On each of these chairs, there was a stenciled inscription “For exclusive use by women and children.”

And right above the declaration, the word "FREE" was written in capital letters.

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