One of the legendary hoaxes of New York City is the tale of the man who formed a business in order to saw the city in half. The story goes that sometime around the summer of 1824 there was a group of tradesmen who used to meet every afternoon on the corner of Mulberry and Spring Streets to talk about the news of the day. One day they began discussing a rumor that the island of Manhattan was tipping into the ocean, due to the weight of all the new buildings being constructed. One of this group, a man named Lozier, proposed a solution: cut the island in half at Kingsbridge, tow the sinking half out to sea, turn it around, tow it back and then reconnect it to the secure half.
Lozier took his proposal one step further when he began organizing a workforce to undertake this massive engineering project. Eventually so many workmen were anticipating employment in the project that Lozier felt obliged to set a date when the "sawing off" of the island would begin. He told half the men to meet on the appointed date at the "forks of the Broadway and Bowery" and the other half to meet at No.1 Bowery, corner of Spring Street.
When the day arrived, a large crowd of men presented themselves at the agreed locations, ready for work. Lozier himself, however, was nowhere to be found. He had gone into hiding rather than face the mob of angry workers. Many of the men who had been duped swore that if they ever got hold of Lozier they would "saw him off."
It is doubtful this event ever took place. When the author Joel Rose recently investigated the tale, he found that it was never mentioned in a book, newspaper, or diary until almost forty years later when the first recorded account of it appeared in a history of New York City's markets written by Thomas De Voe. Rose theorized that a minor prank might have occurred during the 1820s, not worth recording at the time, and that decades later a highly embellished account of the prank was told to De Voe. Once in the history book, the story became a permanent part of New York City folklore.
Links and References
- Rose, Joel. (2001). New York Sawed in Half. Bloomsbury.
- De Voe, Thomas F. (1862). The Market Book, Containing a Historical Account of the Public Markets in the Cities of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn with a brief description of every Article of Human Food sold therein, the introduction of cattle in America, and notices of many remarkable specimens. Burt Franklin, New York. 462-64.