New York City history from the year you were born
In 2019, Time Out surveyed nearly 34,000 people from dozens of cities and verified what New Yorkers have always known: New York City is the greatest city in the world. Specifically, New York was named the most diverse and inclusive city in the world, dubbed the city with the best culture, and ranked second and third for its food and drink scenes, respectively. Many agree that these results aren’t all that surprising when you stop to consider New York’s origins.
One of the oldest cities in the United States, New York City can trace its history back to 1626 when the Dutch New Indian Company “purchased” an island from the Manhattan Native American tribe and established a trading outpost called New Amsterdam. After passing into English hands some 50 years later and earning its independence 100 years after that, New York City established itself as America’s immigrant city at the outset of the 19th century. Millions of newcomers arrived and settled in the Big Apple during this time period and even well into the 20th century, when the census counted 20% or more of the city’s population each decade as newly arrived immigrants.
Today’s city is a melting pot—or, perhaps more accurately, a patchwork quilt or salad bowl—of generations of different cultures, ideas, cuisines, and traditions. Its unique origins lend themselves to a rich history, filled with notable events, remarkable happenings, and more than a few tragedies. Using news outlets and historical sources, Stacker compiled a list of some of the biggest moments in New York City’s story, from 1921 to 2020. From influential politicians to riots, Broadway shows, and buildings, this list covers all aspects of life in the Big Apple. Read on to find out what was going on in New York City the year you were born.
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1921: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is established
Although New York and New Jersey border each other and share major waterways, there was very little cooperation between the two states for the first 100-plus years of their existence. That all changed in 1921 when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was established by the signing of a political compact that established jurisdiction and development rights over the Hudson River. Today, the Port Authority oversees much of the transportation infrastructure—including bridges, tunnels, trains, and ferries—between the two states.
1922: The Straw Hat Riots
Ever the trendy city, New York has always frowned on a fashion faux pas, but fashion policing took a deadly turn in 1922. During that time, wearing a straw boater hat after Sept. 15 was a major no-no, and it was common practice for passersby to knock the offending hats off others’ heads come mid-September. However, in ’22, a group of rowdy teenagers began knocking hats off of heads a few days early, which prompted the attacked to fight back, and, eventually, a full-blown Straw Hat Riot began.
1923: The Yankees win their first World Series
The 1923 Major League Baseball season was a memorable one for the New York Yankees. The year began with Babe Ruth hitting a home run over the wall of the team’s new Bronx stadium, and ended with the Yankees taking home their first World Series pennant. The Yankees beat the New York Giants 4-2.
1924: The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
One of New York City’s most beloved traditions, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, began almost 100 years ago in 1924. The inaugural march was actually spun as a Christmas parade, with employees unveiling the department store’s holiday windows in a big moment at the end of the event. Only 250,000 people attended that first parade, a far cry from the 3.5 million that now show up each year.
1925: The New Yorker begins publication
Journalist and editor Harold Ross and his wife Jane Grant began publishing The New Yorker to create what they called a “15-cent comic paper” that was centered around the small island of Manhattan and all its goings-on. Today, the weekly magazine is widely considered to be one of the best in the world, thanks to its in-depth reporting, notable fiction tales, and cultural commentary.
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1926: NYC Cabaret Law is enacted
Modern-day New York City may have a reputation as being one of the nightlife capitals of the world, but in 1926, it was quite the opposite. In the midst of Prohibition, the city passed the Cabaret Law, which banned dancing, music, and other forms of entertainment from any establishment where food and drink were served. The law was the city’s way of tamping down on speak-easies, and while it wasn’t actually enforced after 2001, it wasn’t completely struck down until 2017.
1927: The Coney Island Cyclone opens
On June 26, 1927, the rickety wooden tracks of New York’s Coney Island Cyclone carried 24 passengers around its curves and drops for the first time. The second-steepest wooden roller coaster in the world, the Cyclone has become one of the most recognizable sights on the Coney Island boardwalk and a “must do” for all tourists and newcomers.
1928: Times Square subway crash
The New York City subway was still in its relative infancy in August 1928 when a broken rail caused a crash at the Time Square station. After the train smashed into a wall, 16 people were killed instantly and 100 others suffered various degrees of injury. As bad as it was, the crash wasn’t the deadliest in subway history—that distinction stands with the 1908 Malbone Street Wreck in Brooklyn that killed more than 100 people.
1929: Wall Street crash
In October 1929, the stock market underwent several days of extreme drops, losing as much as 12.8% value in a single day. This caused frantic investors to sell off shares at a rapid pace and eventually plummeted the country into the Great Depression. In New York City, hundreds of residents on Oct. 24 began flocking to the New York Stock Exchange, the day after the Wall Street crash began, desperate for answers and reassurance.
1930: Chrysler Building is completed
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, New York City developers and millionaires were in the midst of a “race for the sky.” Walter P. Chrysler, the founder of the Chrysler Corporation, was one of these wealthy individuals who sought notoriety as the owner of the world’s tallest tower. In 1930, his skyscraper, which he dubbed the Chrysler Building, was complete in all its art deco glory. Still one of the most recognizable buildings in the city, the Chrysler Building was only able to hold on to its title for a single year.
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