Posts Tagged ‘History and Stories of the Best Bars in New York’

The century-old wishbones hanging in McSorley’s

December 5, 2011

So many incredible relics of old New York are taped to and hanging from the walls of McSorley’s Old Ale House, it’s hard to notice the row of dusty wishbones over the crowded bar.

But Sunday’s New York Post mentioned these artifacts and a fascinating story behind them. Were they really placed there by soldiers going off to World War I?

According to several city guidebooks, yes. “Those are the wishbones from going-away dinners of doughboys who never returned from the Great War,” writes Jef Klein in 2006’s The History and Stories of the Best Bars in New York.

“Never dusted, never touched, the wishbones ensure that a part of these soldiers’ lives will be remembered and their sacrifice appreciated, even while their bones may lie in forgotten graves.”

But Joseph Mitchell’s McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon, from 1940, doesn’t mention soldiers, just that the owner had a thing for wishbones:

“[Owner] Old John had a remarkable passion for memorabilia. For years he saved the wishbones of Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys and strung them on a rod connecting the pair of gas lamps over the bar, the dusty bones invariably the first thing a new customer gets inquisitive about.”

However they originated, the city health department made the current owner take them down and clean them off this past April.

[Above, Berenice Abbott’s 1937 photo of inside McSorley’s. The wishbones should be off to the left]