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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Postcard Thursday: Pushcarts

This postcard of Mulberry Street ca. 1900 has become one of the most enduring images of Little Italy. (In fact, it was in the running to be the cover image of Footprints in New York but too many other people had already used it.)

Lining the center of the photo are pushcarts where food vendors could sell their wares without the overhead of a traditional storefront. (Compare this to our earlier postcard of cheese vendors, who sold from baskets.) As you might imagine, there were often turf wars between the brick-and-mortar stores and pushcart vendors, who were seen by some shop owners as bad for business. Under pressure, the city enacted a law that said that pushcart vendors could not sell from the same spot for more than 30 minutes at a time, though this proved hard to enforce.

During the Depression, Mayor La Guardia attempted to ban street vending altogether, claiming it was a safety hazard to have the streets clogged with carts. To accommodate the displaced vendors, the city constructed indoor markets, like the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side and the Arthur Avenue Retail Market in the Bronx, and while these both still exist, they were never popular with the pushcart sellers.

This is just one topic we'll be covering on our Sunday tour of Italian New York City. Read all about it at and sign up!

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