May Day Parade New York City 1935

Or What’s Wrong With This Photograph?

May Day Parade 1935 5 1

New York City used to have an annual May Day Parade where Socialists, Communists, unions and other pro-labor forces would march down a route and finally assemble around Union Square. Most of the time the assemblies have been peaceful. There were some exceptions during the Depression when work was in short supply and occasional violence would break out on May Day.

In recent years, May 1 in New York City has turned into the flavor of the moment, general protest or demonstration for a wide array of left-wing causes.

In 1935 there were two May Day Parades both held without incident. One was held by the Socialists whose route took them along Eighth Avenue from 15th Street to Columbus Circle and then up Central Park West to 72nd Street. The Communists held their own parade starting at Madison Square on Fifth Avenue up to 32nd Street, across to 7th Avenue and then down to 17th Street and back across to Union Square.

There is no description on this May 1, 1935 photograph which parade this was taken at, but the buildings in the background tell us this is Union Square looking east along 17th Street, so it is surely the Communist parade.

Everyone seems to be paying a lot of attention to the parade…except the one man in the white fedora reading a newspaper.

If this picture was taken in 2013 instead of 78 years ago, I’m sure conspiracy theorists would say there is something very suspicious underfoot here.

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