We’re well accustomed to oddities throughout history. There have been many bizarre instances that, on reflection, make us look back and think “what the heck.” There was of course the tragically comical events that resulted in the dumbest battle in history, and the dim witted business decisions, such as Xcite brutally rejecting an offer to buy Google. As you can see, history is full of peculiarities. Now it’s time for the dumbest riot in history, the riot over straw hats in New York.
Riots can be caused by any number of things. There are the ones that rise due to social unrest, for example due to unjust laws or political unrest. Then there are the stupid riots, such as the idiots who cause massive disruptions and violence from a poor sports result. But even though social disorder from a sports or entertainment event is pretty idiotic, nothing compares to the straw hat riots in New York in 1922.
Around the end of the nineteenth century, early twentieth century, there was an unwritten law in New York that said you couldn’t wear a straw hat after September 15. The date earlier in the century often fluctuated between dates, but for quite some time it had settled on September 15. Leading up to the date the city newspapers would warn people of the approaching curfew. If you dared to break the unwritten law you faced having your hat taken from your head and stomped on in front of you. It’s not exactly the harshest treatment, but then again it’s not exactly the sanest law, unwritten or not. But believe it or not, this punishment proved to be the trigger for a three day straw hat riot in New York City.
How did the New York City straw hat riot begin?
The hostilities began on the 13th September, 1922, two days prior to the usual start date of the embargo. A handful of youth decided that it would be a good idea to begin the tradition a couple of days early. Unfortunately they decided to target the wrong people, dock workers. Instead of allowing the youth to crush their hats, they fought back. The riot had just begun.
The fight between the dock works and youth reached a point where traffic on the Manhattan bridge was brought to a stand still. Police had to be brought in to stop the fight. Even though the police stopped this initial fight, it proved to be the first domino to fall which would trigger a mass riot.
The initial success in stopping the fight proved to be fruitless. Before long fights were breaking out all over the city. There were gangs if up to 1000 people, mainly teenagers, who were roaming the streets looking for people with hats to beat to a pulp. They were even patrolling with large sticks, some even had nails protruding from them.
Order was eventually restored, but not before a few people sustained some serious injuries. And just think. It all began because some people wanted to stomp on some hats.