When the Straw Hat Riots rocked 1920s New York

Senseless riots have always broken out in the city: Astor Place, the Draft Riots, Tompkins Square.

But a riot that started over a silly male fashion rule about not wearing straw hats past September 15? It’s probably the most pointless of all.

It began on September 13, 1922, two days before the end of straw-hat season. Donning straw after this date made you the target of street kids, who would steal your hat and stomp on it.

Eager kids living near Mulberry Bend decided to get a jump on this weird tradition, grabbing hats off factory workers’ heads and smashing them.

Some men fought back, and brawls began by the Manhattan Bridge. Police broke them up, but only temporarily. For the next few nights, mobs of youths across the city roamed the streets, stealing hats and beating victims.

“A favorite practice of the gangsters was to arm themselves with sticks, some with nails at the tip, and compel men wearing straw hats to run a gauntlet,” states The History Box.

“Sometimes the hoodlums would hide in doorways and dash out, 10 or 12 strong, to attack one or two men. Along Christopher Street, on the Lower West Side, the attackers lined up along the surface car tracks and yanked straw hats off the heads of passengers as the cars passed.”

A mob a thousand roamed Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side, reported The New York Times, while more gangs came out on the Lower East Side and East Harlem.

Incredibly, no one was killed—though riots broke out again over the next few years that did claim at least one victim.

[Above photo: Men in straw hats on William Street, about a decade before the 1922 riots.]

Tags: , , , , , , ,

9 Responses to “When the Straw Hat Riots rocked 1920s New York”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    That must have been a hell of a time for rowdy kids. I recall a time in the 1980s when walking up 5th Ave I had my Russian hat snatched of me head and a group of tough teens ran laughing and screaming down the street. I didn’t really mind, it was a cheap imitation of a Russian Sable Hat, I think I paid $15 and not the 4, 500 they were expecting. Crap really, haha!

  2. Sallan Foundation Says:

    Photo w/Federal Building & Washington Statue on the right look like Wall Street, not William Street

  3. Elsewhere « Visualingual Says:

    […] When the Straw Hat Riots Rocked 1920s New York: in 1922, a riot broke over a fashion rule forbidding the wearing of straw hats past September 15. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  4. jessiemartinovic Says:

    fantastic

  5. Listening to the orchestra play in Central Park | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] The men in these crowds look like sitting ducks for the Straw Hat Riot instigators! […]

  6. Sunny skies and a boardwalk stroll at Coney Island | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] This one dates to 1925; considering how few bathers on on the sand all the men in suits on the boardwalk, I’m guessing it’s early in the season. But not too early, since they’re decked out in straw hats. […]

  7. Strolling the Coney Island boardwalk in 1925 | Real Estate Marketplace Says:

    […] This one dates to 1925; considering how few bathers on on the sand all the men in suits on the boardwalk, I’m guessing it’s early in the season. But not too early, since they’re decked out in straw hats. […]

  8. Strolling the Coney Island boardwalk in 1925 | News for New Yorkers Says:

    […] This one dates to 1925; considering how few bathers on on the sand all the men in suits on the boardwalk, I’m guessing it’s early in the season. But not too early, since they’re decked out in straw hats. […]

  9. Zoé Says:

    Amazing photo. I never realised everyone wore them at once (which seems obvious now). There’s a man in the center wearing a tall felt bowler who looks so incongruous. I wonder if some occupation necessitated his hat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: