Saturday, March 7, 2009


The past few weeks have been rife with landmarks for the 1917 food riots, so I thought I would post a rough timeline that I have been working off of.

Sunday 2/18
  • Protest in Claremont Park (Bronx)
Monday 2/19
  • Williamsburg: 2,000 women pledge to enforce boycott
  • Five women place announcement in the Forward for the next morning (1,000 gather at Rutger's Square the next morning)
Tues 2/20
  • Altercation on Orchard Street (woman vs. onion peddler); spreads to Rivington
  • 50 women congregate at the Forward building; they later move to Rutgers Sq. to make speeches
  • The crowd grows to 1,000 women; someone suggest marching to City Hall; the women are led by Mrs. Ida Harris & Marie Ganz.
  • 300 to 400 women arrive at City Hall, shouting “We want food! Give us bread! Feed our children!” in Yiddish and English
  • Marie Ganz is arrested for shouting and inciting the crowd to “Stay here until you’re heard!”; 200 women storm the police station and secure her release
  • Mrs. Harris holds mass meeting at P.S. 62 (across from Seward Park)
  • 2,000 to 5,000 people (mostly female) crowd into the Forward’s Hall at ameeting called by the Socialist party; by 7PM, room is packed, 2 hrs. pass before individual speeches can be heard.
  • Jacob Panken, Socialist lawyer, allowed to speak; asks that violence not be used, that food not be destroyed since there are low levels of it, calls for mass demonstration of half a million women and children the following Saturday.
  • Mother’s Anti-High Price League (MAHPL) is formed
Wed 2/21
  • Women ban sale of all vegetables
Thurs 2/22
  • Chicken & fish added to boycott; newspapers report no customers for vendors
Sat 2/24
  • Midafternoon, approx. 5,000 march to Madison Square; crowd is approx. 90% foreign-born and 80% female with many children & baby carriages
  • Socialist speaker Bella Zilberman asks rhetorically how many listeners would march to the Waldof-Astoria where Gov. Whitman was rumored to be to “show them that you are hungry,” more than 1,000 women and children go to the hotel, causing a riot.
  • Committee of MAHPL Socialist separately go to where Governor actually is, the St. Regis Hotel
  • Reports also of 5,000 to 10,000 people joining here in mass meeting
Sun 2/25
  • MAHPL holds mass coalition meeting in P.S. 62 off Rutgers Sq.
Mon 2/26
  • Wholesalers cut prices, retail prices plummet for next two weeks
  • Mayor’s Food Supply Committe distributes copies of a circular extolling the nutrutional virtues of rice to 800,000 schoolchildren; women respond with anti-rice protest, “We American Can Not Live on Rice”
Tues 2/27
  • MAHPL sends delegates to Albany to request relief measures; bombard officials with letters demanding state-managed food sales; they also go to NYC’s aldermen.
Wed 3/1
  • 100 women arrested in the Bronx
  • Shipments of 20,000 lbs. of Pacific Coast smelts arrived in city by emergencyorder to be sold at “minimal cost”
Tues 3/7
  • Potatoes and other vegetables reappear on pushcarts
Wed 3/8
  • Brazilian beans and hominy are also sold; pamphlets distributed about their value (in reality, these are rare foods being used to avoid direct competition with trade)
Sat 3/11
  • Potatoes return to pre-boycott price ($0.06/lb)
Mon 3/13
  • MAHPL again sends delegates to Albany
Second week in March
  • Onions go from $0.18/lb to $0.11 & $0.12/lb.; potatoes from $0.10 to $0.07
  • Chickens go from $0.32 to $0.22
  • Eventually prices rose again, sharp climb again in 1918

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Christmas Dinner

Thank you to The Food Timeline and their page of Historic American Christmas Dinner Menus.

This is from 1917, just a few months before the food riots started. Perhaps some people living in the (now Lower) East Side might have read this menu as posted in the NYTimes.

"Christmas Dinner, Park Avenue Hotel:
Blue Points, Cenery, Olives, Cream of Tomato, Roast Vermont Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Celery Dressing, Hashed Cream Potatoes, Mashed Turnips, Romaine Salad, Plum Pudding, Brandy Sauce or Ice Cream Cake, Demi-tasse."
---"No Meat Christmas in the Big Hotels," The New York Times, December 16, 1917 (p. XX8)

I also like this menu from a few years prior. Very exotic!

"Christmas Dinner
: Oysters, Mangoes, Celery, Stuffed Olives, Tomato Soup, Roast Turkey, Cranberry Jelly, Roast Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Turnips, Brussels Sprouts, Orange and Celery Salad, Vanilla Blanc-mange, English Plum Pudding, Fruit, Coffee."
---A Calendar of Dinners with 615 Recipes, Marion Harris Neil [Procter & Gamble:Cincinnati] 1913 (p. 229)