Subway Trains Collide During April 1924 Snowstorm
Subway Trains Collide
During April 1924 Snowstorm
Get into a conversation with a long-time Queens resident and you're likely to discover a subscriber of the Long Island StarJournal, a daily paper that informed the community about local and world news until it folded in 1968. A banner across the Star-Journal masthead reminded readers that the newspaper's name came from the merger of the Long Island Daily Star (1876) and the North Shore Daily Journal-The Flushing Journal (1841).
The New York State Assembly and Senate were near passage of a law which extended licensing for automobile drivers statewide. Before only automobilists (drivers) in first class cities were required to take a licensing test before operating their cars. The law contained an additional provision that extended even to already licensed drivers in Queens: a license could be revoked or suspended by a magistrate or other official without a court trial. Some of the offenses that would lead to loss of a license were driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, physical or mental disability and conviction of a felony.
The second annual auto show opened in Astoria on April 1. Due to a snowstorm, crowds didn't show up until the next evening, when more than 500 people passed through the gates. The show was not only for viewing but also for buying cars. When the show closed after five days, 50 autos valued at $75,000 had been sold.
On April 1, at around 5 p.m., during the snowstorm, an IRT train of six wooden cars crashed into a BMT train of four wooden cars. One man, Thomas F. Quinn, a fireman from Whitestone who was riding one of the trains, was killed and 13 others injured. The IRT train plowed into the BMT train, which was stopped in the Rawson (33rd Street) station of the Corona El (now the No. 7 train) line. The crash caused a general riot when passengers rushed off the trains and platforms into the street. Several women were trampled, clothing was torn and strewn about the station and children were separated from their parents. A hook and ladder company was summoned and used pick axes and acetylene torches to remove the injured from a partially telescoped car whose sides had collapsed.
The engineers' report alleged that the incident was due to negligence. Consequently, William Dietz, the motorman of the IRT train, was arrested in St. John's Hospital, where he was being treated for abrasions and lacerations.
The accident had occurred in a blinding snowstorm. On this stretch of El there were no signals, and a motorman drove his train based on his view of the train in front of him. Such a view was obscured this day, but the motorman of the IRT train kept driving as if his vision had been clear.
Agrand jury was convened to investigate the incident. On April 30, its report failed to indict any single person for negligence. But it did note that wooden cars should be eliminated, the window of the motorman's cab should have an effective cleaner and that automatic trip stop devices should be installed
As a result of a rash of robberies in Queens, more than 2,500 permits to carry revolvers had been issued since January 1. It was also reported that newspaper and candy stands and small lunch counters at Bridge Plaza were being robbed with regularity. These were particularly easy targets. Some establishments had been burglarized by boys.
In Astoria, a group of 52 two-family homes was being built. The houses featured hidden ground and aerial wiring for radio reception. The houses were on Potter Avenue (23rd Avenue) and Wolcott Avenue (21st Avenue) between Sixth Avenue (35th Street) and Ninth Avenue (38th Street).
The Manhattan Silk Company of College Point experienced a sharp drop in orders for silk ribbons. Formerly, girls had worn yards of ribbon in their hair and men's derbies had silk bands. Both of these fashions were decreasing in popularity to the point that it was estimated that the silk ribbon industry was producing only one-fourth of its previous output.
The U. S. Commerce Department released a report which estimated that the total wealth of the country was $320,803,862,000 in 1922, an increase of 72.2 percent over 1917.
On April 26, Fort Totten was attacked by five raiding planes in a mock battle. The raiders were repelled by antiaircraft troops stationed at the fort. More than 500 civilians witnessed the "battle", which celebrated Anti-Aircraft Day. Visitors were also taken on a tour of the fort and watched troop inspection.
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that American men talked to men most about business, sports and other men (in that order), and that women talked most to women about men, then clothes and other women. Amusement was the favorite topic of mixed conversations, but after that men liked to talk to women about business, money and themselves, while women liked to tell men about their clothes, about other men and about themselves. New York women also seemed twice as interested in the male sex as the women of Columbus, Ohio.
The Star interviewed famous sculptor Herman Atkins MacNeil in his College Point studio. MacNeil was noted for his American Indian sculptures and monumental works such as a large memorial arch for President William McKinley in Columbus, Ohio, and the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial at Albany. He had picked College Point, where he had worked since 1900, for his studio because of its quiet. (Today, he is best known as the designer of the Standing Liberty quarter, which was minted from 1916 to 1930, and carries his initial to the right of the date.)
In Astoria, the motion picture studio of the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation took on an international flair as four movies were being shot there. On one stage, Peking (now written Beijing), China was the backdrop for "Unguarded Women", starring Mary Astor and Richard Dix, among others. Madame Pompadour's boudoir in the days of Louis XV was the set for Rudolph Valentino in "Monsieur Beaucaire". Gloria Swanson moved through the mazes of a Bronx boarding house in "Manhandled", and a contemporary Paris apartment was the scene for "Montebank" starring Ernest Torrence and Anna Q. Nilsson.
Playing at the movies were "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" starring Lon Chaney, "A Society Sensation" starring Rudolph Valentino, and "North of Hudson Bay" starring Tom Mix.
That's the way it was in April 1924!
The Greater Astoria Historical Society exhibition space is open to the public on Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. at Quinn's Gallery, 4th Floor, 35-20 Broadway, Long Island City. For more information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-7280700 or visit www.astorialic.org.