Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Before Jaywalking: In 1914 Street Crossings Belonged to Pedestrians

Over at the Willamette Heritage Center blog, they're doing a daily read of the papers in 1914 as a way of talking about the century of World War I.

On the entry for the 6th, there was some interesting transportation history.

July 6th, 1914 editorial
The daily editorial addresses the problem of "crossing the street":
Judge Sulzberger, of Pennsylvania, has profoundly formulated and wisely applied the legal dictum that street crossings belong to pedestrians...pedestrians have the right of way at the street crossings; that when the crossing is not clear it is the business of the motor vehicles to stop...
As we have seen before, the concept of "jaywalking" arose suddenly right around 1920, and this editorial clip from 1914 shows no awareness of the notion.

Jaywalk is a neologism and can be dated precisely!
In fact, it shows rather the opposite: That those operating motor vehicles must yield to people who rightly expect to be able to cross. The automobile, not the person on foot, is the interloper.

The inversion, with those on foot as the interloper, and a further expectation of unimpeded progress for those in cars - the "city of tomorrow" - was a cultural product, the result of cultural labor, and indeed massive propaganda by the car and oil industries. It didn't happen accidentally or naturally!

1937 propaganda - via NYRB
Also on the same editorial page is a very brief note with the old use of "parking" for the planted curb strip rather than for car storage.

another clip from July 6th

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