Nothing incites the general public more than someone trying to charge for something that was once free. Yet that’s exactly what entrepreneur Oscar F. Spate tried to do in the New York City parks in the blistering summer of 1901. It all started in Central Park on June 22, 1901, when a group of people spotted rows of bright green rocking chairs along the park’s mall, near the casino. Usually in this same spot, stood rows of uncomfortable wooden hard benches, so it was a pleasure indeed for the park-goes to sit and rock and enjoy the wondrous summer day.
Finally, on July 11, a hero named Max Radt, the vice-president of the Jefferson State Bank, went into state Supreme Court and got an injunction forbidding Spate and the Park Commission from charging people to sit in Spate’s green rocking chairs. Spate, realizing he was a beaten man, promptly put all his chairs in storage. A few days later, Spate announced to the press he was ”abandoning his project.”
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A church chair is secondly a chair that is in compliance with any and all legal requirements that are in force in the particular jurisdiction where your church is located. We find that many churches are unaware that when a room reaches a specific number of people occupying it (you will have to contact your local officials to determine this limit for your area) rules can go into effect for your seating. For example, in some areas your chairs may be required to be ”affixed” the floor. In other areas, the ability to effectively connect your chairs to each other may be non-negotiable. The fire-retardant requirements for the fabric and foam that make up a part your chairs may be stricter in some localities than others. The simple truth is that your chairs should be in compliance with those codes in force in your location. Please know again that this truth is not related to the appearance of your church chair. Instead it has everything to do with honoring authority.
This new phenomenon was covered extensively and very contentiously, in the following day’s daily New York City newspapers. And the man on the hot seat was the president of the Park Commission – one George C. Clausen. It seemed that a few days earlier, Clausen had been visited in his official Park Commission office by a man named Oscar F. Spate. Spate seemed amiable enough, and he offered Clausen a proposition Clausen saw no difficulty in accepting. It seemed that Spate said he wanted to place comfortable rocking chairs in the parks throughout New York City. And for the privilege of doing so, Spate offered the city the tidy sum of $500 a year.
Things quieted down for a few days, as few people protested paying for the seats. That all changed on Wednesday 26, 1901, when the city’s outside temperature rose above 90 degrees. By Saturday the temperature had risen to 94 degrees and nineteen people had perished in New York City due to the insufferable heat conditions. The temperature reached 97 degrees on Sunday, making it the hottest day on record with the Weather Bureau since June of 1871. On Sunday, fifteen more people died, and on Tuesday, with the temperature rising to 99 degrees, two hundred deaths were reported. There were 317 heat-related deaths on Wednesday, which made, in the time period from June 28th to July 4th, a total of 382 heat-related deaths in Manhattan alone, along with 521 hospitalizations for heat prostration. Altogether, in a seven-day period in the metropolitan district of New York City, which included Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Richmond County, there were 797 deaths and 891 heat prostrations. Things were so bad, that on July 2nd, the city’s hospital ambulance drivers worked 24 hours straight with no relief.