The Dangers And Lures Of New York City In 1957

Stay Out of the Parks At Night!

From the New York City Guide And Almanac 1957 – 1958

This vintage book is a great snapshot of New York City in the late 1950’s. I wish they would have printed this annually, but it was published for only one year by New York University Press in conjunction with The Daily News. It is 378 pages chock-full of fascinating facts and figures. The paperback version was originally 85 cents, while the hardcover version would set you back $2.75.  There are a few copies of this out of print gem for sale on ranging from$8.00 – $14.00. A veritable bargain.

Here is a snippet on crime from pages 197 – 198:

Traps for the Unwary

New York City is full of traps for the unwary visitor. It is doubtful if there are proportionately more crooks and criminals in New York than any other large city, but the metropolis is so large that the total is impressive. The bait generally used is greed, and the victims are most often people who regard themselves as sophisticated. Most effective traps for the unwary:

Auctioneers: Dishonest “auction stores” especially in the mid-town sections, where salesmen pretend to auction off “amazing” bargains, which often are samples of “flash goods” turned out for the carnival trade. Articles of genuine value are knocked down to stooges in the crowd, who later return them to be used again. The stranger who obtains a “bargain” is likely to find that a cheap duplicate was substituted during the process of wrapping up his purchase. He usually discovers that he has actually bought a garish gold-washed watch that will not run or an impressive pipe set made of celluloid. These shops should not be confused with operations of reputable auctioneers who preside over genuine sales which are usually advertised in honest fashion.

Confidence Men: Most of these offer money-making machines or counterfeit currency. They also offer to share rewards for well-filled pocketbooks lying on the pavement and “found” by the con man and the victim simultaneously.

Fur Salesmen: These operate out of expensive looking “delivery trucks” resembling those used by New York’s expensive business houses. The purchaser later discovers the “luxurious” fur piece is a fake.

Gamblers: There are big, floating gambling games in New York, where professional gamblers risk large sums of money. Anybody who offers to guide you to such a game is probably trying to lead you into a sucker trap.

Pickpockets: These operate wherever crowds gather.They often work in trios. One jostles you, and while you are squabbling with the jostler, the actual pickpocket lifts your wallet. He hastily passes it on to a third person who vanishes as quickly as possible. If anybody pushes you in a crowd, reach for your purse at once, and if you are lucky enough to find a hand seizing it, grab the hand and yell for the police. The whole gang will run.

Subway Stations: Thugs, muggers, purse snatchers, and drunk-rollers frequently operate in dark corners of isolated subway stations,especially at night. Avoid the ends of the station platforms; a safe place to stand is by the token booth.

Thugs: Dangerous criminals may be encountered after nightfall in the city’s largest parks. They may resort to robbery, mugging, rape, or mayhem. Stay out of parks at night.

The traps may have changed slightly in the past 55 years but the dangers for suckers remain. Be wary!

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2 thoughts on “The Dangers And Lures Of New York City In 1957

  1. JS

    While reading the more recent post about the Times Building I found myself wondering in which era of NYC’s history I would most like to have lived. I actually thought that the late 50s-early 60s would have been best, but I think the spectre of “mayhem” in the parks after dark may have changed my mind. Such mayhem must have spawned the Riffs, Warriors and Baseball Furies…


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