PUSHCARTS
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Pushcart vendors sold ready-to-eat food and fruits and vegetables in densely populated neighborhoods. In Manhattan, the largest pushcart markets were on the Lower East Side. 25,000 pushcart vendors made their living selling food and dry goods, and the 1906 Pushcart Commission found the price and quality of the wares to be as good or better than those provided in stores. Regulations were recommended by the commission to alleviate traffic problems and eliminate police graft and an informal store "padrone" system of payoffs.

The 1905 Pushcart Commission follows, but as a preamble, we quote: "Dear Mayor McClellan," wrote Harry Plotkin, President of the East Side Pushcart Association in 1906, "please do not forget that we are poor people, that peddling is our only means of earning our bread, and that unless you will grant us this right to peddle, we will fall burden to the city and to the charitable institutions."

In 1886, 17 Jewish men bought land near the Van Siden, Lott, Williamson and Suydam farms in Brownsville, thinking country air would be good for their wives. 20 years later, one quarter million people lived there. Two hospitals were built to serve Brownsville; the second, Beth El Hospital, was built with a kosher kitchen. Brownsville food markets were pushcarts along Blake and Belmont Avenues, where customers could buy carrots, onions, cabbage and potato bagels. The aroma of a peddler's hand-grated horseradish hung in the air. (The original Lott farmhouse is currently being restored in the Marine Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.)

Hot Dogs
As a simple hot sausage on a roll, hot dogs have no real beginning, but their long association with New York has a few milestones in food history. One early claim for its introduction is at the Polo Grounds (157th St. and Harlem River, Manhattan) by the food concessionaire Harry M. Stevens.

In 1871, Charles Feltman may have introduced the hot dog from a pushcart, outfitted with a heated pot, that he wheeled along the shores of Coney Island.

See the "Fruit Auction" exhibit in the COMMODITIES section for an idea of how these individual vendors managed to buy produce on the big-retail marketplace.


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