In which we find the last pushcart in Manhattan
I have a friend thinking of going into the pushcart vendor business, and since my main purpose in life is to be other peoples' muse, I've gone into high investigative mode.
I went to Manhattan to visit my daughter Hannah one last time before she moves to California and, knowing her mother very well, she did quite a bit of research when I asked her "please find me a real pushcart I can look at and photograph."
I really didn't think it would be that hard. I read The Pushcart War to my kids when they were little, and figured since there used to be 1,000s of pushcarts, surely there should be hundreds left.
Not so. As Hannah described her search:
I like this project. Pushcarts are in my genes. So I thought tracking one down would be easy...In response to her plea (the post was entitled Who's got a pushcart?...Museum of the City of New York: "Nope, no pushcarts - try the Tenement Museum."
Tenement Museum: "We have a replica in our gift shop, we keep books on it, but no, we don't have any originals."
New York Historical Society: "No, we don't have one. They're ... yeah, they're kind of big to keep around, you know?"
Ellis Island Museum: "Nope."
Oh my goodness! In our zeal for progress, could it really be? Did we manage to throw out all the pushcarts?
Kate Stober of the Tenement Museum wrote in to say:Re the pushcarts: the Lower East Side Business Improvement District has at least one or two. You should also talk to Jeffrey the Butcher in the Essex Street Market - he has a crazy story about learning to sell stuff from the last pushcart vendor on the Lower East Side.
I called the Lower East Side Business Improvement District.
"We've got a pushcart," they said. "We don't use it much, but we bring it out for special events."
"Where is it now?" I asked. "Is it in storage?"
"Oh no," they said. "It would take up way too much space in storage. It's in a parking lot on Broome Street."
Aha! We walked over to the parking lot, and there it was. Just a wooden pushcart. They were using it to store garbage cans. We took pictures, to the disbelief of the parking attendant.
And so I present the photos I took, for the benefit of anybody else who'd like to revive this fine profession.
For more about Jeffrey the butcher, see the next post...