By this time, the president of the Park Commission George C. Clausen was figuratively tearing the hair from his own head. Having first said he could do nothing about the situation without the permission of the rest of the Park Commission, Clausen then reversed himself and said since he was the one who had confirmed Spate’s contract, he could also revoke Spate’s contract with New York City. Spate quickly answered by by getting a court injunction ”restraining Mr. Clausen and the Park Commission from interfering with his valid contract with the City of New York.”
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.
Suddenly, two broad-shouldered men approached the rocking-chair sitters. They wore identical gray suits and they carried black satchels with straps over their shoulders. The men in gray told the sitters that these were private chairs for rent, and that if they wanted to continue sitting they had to fork over five cents a day for the better seats, and three cents a day for seats that were not in as preferential a position in the park. Some people vacated their seats, but others paid. People who did neither were physically ejected from the seats. When they asked why, the men in gray said, ”Them’s Mr. Spate’s chairs.”
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