Isn’t this weather perfect out today? It’s a beautiful day for a picnic!
Residents of the… less green… parts of the city, including the Lower East Side, often didn’t and still don’t have a good deal of grass and trees around, so in the mid-nineteenth century, city planners began working on a huge park that could host wholesome events for all New Yorkers.
These guys improvised a Lower East Side picnic in 1987. Photo by Matt Weber.
New Yorkers could get as close to nature as possible in Central Park, which first opened for public use in 1859. However, the wealthiest New Yorkers who promenaded and paraded around the grounds wanted to keep the “undesirable” Irish and German populations of the Lower East Side out of the park, and pressured the city into limiting access to the park. This included a ban on large group picnics! Imagine a past with no al fresco dining – that’s no past I’d like to be a part of.
Who could ban these ladies?
Thankfully the ban on picnics was soon lifted and in the 1880’s, working class New Yorkers successfully campaigned for free Sunday concerts in the Park (Sundays being the one day off that most working class people had). Now that’s much better!
So don’t be stuck inside reading all day – enjoy a nice basket of Lower East Side treats and these pictures of historic picnics. These folks are way more dressed up than I am for my picnics!
A Coney Island picnic? Daring move - watch out for that sand!
These ladies are lunching in Prospect Park, the Central Park of Brooklyn, in 1899. Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Historical Society.
A group of boys in a sketching class in Central Park circa 1900. Photo courtesy New York State Archives.