In 1900 NYC, new citizens celebrated their right to vote. They wanted to look good at the polls and took turns WEARING THE SALOON OWNER'S COAT. (Women could not vote until 1920.)

While working as a music/drama therapist at the Manhattanville Nursing Care Center, I recorded residents' life histories and made their stories into radio plays they performed. They called their acting troop the MANHATTANVILLE HAMS. A 90-year-old lady told me about her immigrant parents who owned a saloon.

"When I was a little girl, nobody had any money. Work wasn't there all the time, and they all had 3, 4, or 5 children, so there were 7 mouths to feed. Most people didn't have good clothes. All the men came to the saloon. We knew them very well and everyone was very patriotic.

"When it was time to go vote, the men would come to the saloon and ask my father if they could use his coat. He said, 'What do you need it for, you goin' down town?' 

“And the man said, 'No, we want to go to vote.'

“And my father said, 'Well, I just came back, you came at a good time.' So, he took off his coat and said, 'Here it is.'

“And the fella said, 'Well, so-and-so wants to wear it after I finish, and when he comes out, another fella said to tell you that he's gonna want to put it on, and he'll bring it back to you.'

“So my father says, 'Okay, anytime.' He said, 'Even if you want to get married,' and they all had such a laugh over it.'  

"So they all borrowed the coat. That's how they went to vote. They wanted to make a good impression."

In 1900 NYC, new citizens celebrated their right to vote

In 1900 NYC, new citizens celebrated their right to vote