May 25, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

A Historical Loop, Stuck on Repeat

2 min read
No Smoking in New York
No Smoking in New York

In my daily search for an “On This Day in History” post, I ran across something rather interesting. On all of the normal sites that I peruse through in hopes to find something unique, I ran across an event. This event did not seem special, not to me anyways.

1904: New York City. A woman is arrested for smoking a cigarette in an automobile. “You can’t do that on Fifth Avenue,” the arresting officer says.


And there it is. On this day (Sept 28th), in 1904, a woman was arrested for “smoking a cigarette in an automobile.” Just out of curiosity I decided to look further into this seemingly historically significant event.

To make it on everyone’s On This Day in History, it must be, right? 

I don’t know, you tell me. I spent the better part of an hour searching online to find ANYTHING out about this mysterious woman. All I could find was: “1904: New York City. A woman is arrested for smoking a cigarette in an automobile. “You can’t do that on Fifth Avenue,” the arresting officer says.” Over and over, site after site. It wasn’t just as if she was arrested and that was that. There is a direct quote from the arresting officer. So my question is this….

Missing Piece of History Assuming that I haven’t lost my mind and just can’t find the story or a reference to a primary source on this–which is possible–why is this on everyone’s list? Here is an item that I cannot prove, but I am writing about it. Is this just an urban legend or a myth? I would be grateful if someone could give me some information regarding this mysterious arrest.

Now that my 2:00 a.m. sleep-deprived rant is over, we can get on with the real point.

Over one-hundred years ago, a woman was arrested for smoking on a particular street. (Also in 1904, a woman in New York was sentenced to serve thirty days in jail for smoking around her kids.) Fifty years later, however,  the same woman–well probably not the same woman…cause she would be old–would have been sexy and widely accepted for lighting up a cigarette in public. Fast-forward another fifty years and smoking is again all but banned. How did this happen? This is one of those backwards history moments that spits in George Santayana’s philosophy. In fact, repeating this particular event might keep the human race from becoming annihilated, or in Santayana’s words “condemned.”

I wonder how often this happens?

People are always quick to throw up phrases like ‘foreshadowing events’ and ‘hindsight is 20/20,’ but are there any particular words to exclaim when repeating history is good?

Let me know what you think. Can you think of an examples in history where we repeated a lifestyle or choice that was once abolished or deemed unnecessary?

3 thoughts on “A Historical Loop, Stuck on Repeat

  1. Will do! I hate to regret that my next post will be a trashing of this one. I was passed some information by a reader (what appears to be a reliable primary source of this event), which basically makes every statement of this post one lie after the next. I have to double check it, but if it is legit, then there is a HUGE misunderstanding of the events of this story. So tomorrows post ought to be interesting. Prohibition has always interested me, so I will definitely want to give Ness a looking into.

  2. Hi, Grant,

    I write a weekly crime blog and also saw that entry in my research for Sept. 28 but needed a name before I could include it in my blog. The only data I could find that comes close is this on when I plugged in “Smoking laws 1904”: “In 1904 a woman named Jennie Lasher was sentenced to thirty days in jail for putting her children’s morals at risk by smoking in their presence.” Could Jennie be the woman in the car on 5th Avenue? But there’s no mention of the exact date, her being in a car, or the police jurisdiction, so my entry will stay: “1904–NYPD arrested a woman for smoking a cigarette in a car on Fifth Avenue.”

    btw, did you notice all the assassinations that happened on Sept. 28? King Ptolemy had General Pompey assassinated as soon as he stepped foot in Egypt to curry favor with Caesar (it didn’t work), Boleslaus the Cruel of Bohemia assassinated his big brother Wenceslas (of the Christmas carol) to gain the dukedom, then 60 years later Boleslaus’s son killed a bunch of people of a rival dynasty for their land.
    Lots of crime for this day.

    Love your site!
    Flo Stanton

Comments are closed.