Fiorella La Guardia

Organ Grinders

QUESTION:  Fiorello La Guardia held what position prior to being elected Mayor of New York City in 1934?
A)  President of the Nabisco Cracker Company
B)  Congressman in the United States House of Representatives
C)  President of the United States
D)  Mayor of Ithaca, New York

In yesterday's blog, we began a discussion about the amazing street organ. First mention of these hand-cranked machines is from literature written in the late-eighteenth century. Originally found in mainland Europe, they spread to England and the United States not long after. Some people loved them and happily gave money to the grinders, but others saw them as no more than a public nuisance. One American who fell into the latter category was Fiorello La Guardia, the Mayor of New York City from 1934 through 1945. He grew up on the streets of Manhattan and, as mayor, vowed to clean them up. Citing street grinders for causing traffic congestion and condemning them as beggars, La Guardia outlawed street organs in 1935.

They were not extremely popular in England, as well. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is where our larger-than-life A Tale of Two Cities comes into play.  Charles Dickens famously wrote novels and short stories that described the poor and disadvantaged members of the working class as they struggled against corrupt bureaucrats. And yet, he found himself increasingly unsympathetic to the plight of street grinders. He wrote:
     I am "daily interrupted, harassed, worried, wearied, driven nearly mad, by street musicians… No sooner does it become known to the producers of horrible sounds that any of your correspondents have particular need of quiet in their own houses, than the said houses are beleaguered by discordant hosts seeking to be bought off."

So, Charles Dickens was not a fan of the street organ.  It's sad, but then he never had the chance to hear the Gebruder Bruder street organ on display at the American Treasure Tour!  Make a reservation for a guided tour, and you can experience first hand just how amazing ours sounds!

ANSWER:  B) Congressman in the United States House of Representatives