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INSIDE THIS ISSUE
Reading Through the Generations
Retire in Style Boxing’s Greatest Battle
Pesto Chicken With Blistered Tomatoes March Madness Fun for the Whole Family
New York City’s Chaotic Annual Tradition
SMASHED MIRRORS, MAIMED SOFAS, AND MISSING BED-SCREWS THE DAY EVERYONE IN NEW YORK CITY MOVED
Moving is the worst. The costs of hiring a moving company and the sheer amount of time it takes to physically move everything make the whole affair an aggravating mess. And if you thought moving just one house on your street was terrible, imagine the chaos that would ensue if everyone in your whole city moved on the same day. That’s exactly what happened in New York City for nearly two centuries. From Colonial times until the end of WorldWar II, May 1 was Moving Day in New York. On that day, every lease in the city ended, and pandemonium reigned in the streets as everyone scurried to their new homes. Eyewitness accounts of Moving Day describe the tradition as sheer mayhem. An English writer said Moving Day looked like “a population
flying from the plague,” and frontiersman Davy Crockett called it an “awful calamity” when he discovered the event in 1834. Still, some people loved Moving Day. Long Island farmers took their carts into the city on May 1 and charged as much as a week’s wages to move desperate tenants’ belongings to their new homes, which was a tidy sum in those days. Children were also fond of Moving Day because they got the day off school to help their families navigate the tumultuous time. A few prominent theories have emerged about the origins of this tradition. Some posit that May 1 coincided with the English celebration of May Day. Others say it morphed out of an event where servants would look for new employers. The most well-known explanation, however, is the May 1 move
commemorated the day Dutch colonizers “moved” to Manhattan in the first place.
The Moving Day tradition began vanishing in the early 20th century because many cartmen and housing builders were drafted during WorldWar I, leaving fewer movers and less available housing. Additionally, the construction of the New York City subway gave other tenants rapid access to more housing options outside Manhattan. Finally, after many cartmen were again drafted in WWII, the tradition officially ended in 1945.
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