More people use mass transit in New York than in any other American city. But no other city is so dependent on taxis. From 1952 to 1986, Checker Motors in Kalamazoo, Mich., manufactured the A8/Marathon. Thousands of the bulky cabs clogged New York’s streets. They came in all colors until 1967, when city officials required that taxis be painted yellow. During the Depression, when drivers outnumbered passengers, many owners could not afford to renew their medallions for $10. Last year, when taxis made about 500,000 trips daily and carried 240 million passengers in total, a medallion traded for more than $1 million.
The Greek Coffee Cup
Before Starbucks and other national chains, takeout coffee was invariably delivered in a blue and white paper cup featuring a Greek vase — as many as 500 million were sold annually as recently as two decades ago. The Anthora, as the cup was called, was created in the early 1960s especially for the New York market and its ubiquitous Greek diners and delicatessens by Leslie Buck, a Holocaust survivor who was sales manager of the Sherri Cup Company in Connecticut. Demand for the distinctive design — as characteristic of New York as yellow cabs — declined as newer immigrants, including Koreans and Bangladeshis, succeeded Greek restaurateurs who moved to the suburbs.Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
The Automat Machine, 1912
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As a magnet for blue- and white-collar commuters, industrial New York all but invented the quick lunch to replace dinner, the old leisurely midday meal. No innovation hastened that transformation more than the Automat, the nickel-nourished, chrome-and-brass vending emporiums that arrived in New York in 1912 (the vending machines survive, mostly in antique stores). The establishments were cheap and egalitarian (open seating, no tipping). The average man, an Australian observer wrote, became a “manipulator of destiny” in the Automat, suddenly finding himself “before Ali Baba’s cave. He whispers ‘Open sesame!’ and lo! a ham sandwich or a peach dumpling is his for the taking, also for a nickel.”Neal Boenzi/The New York Times