george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Tue Oct 1 21:50:18 UTC 2002
What is the present state of play regarding the origin of "23 skidoo"? It appears that the story is buried in the pre-1999 archives, at the moment unavailable. Does anyone remember? Well, Barry does, of course.
There is a 100th anniversary display on the Flatiron building currently up at the N-Y Historical Society, and this has prompted an article in yesterday's NY Times (September 30), which included the following:
"The building of the Flatiron was such a prolonged affair that historians still debate exactly when it opened. For doubters, Ms. Berman has a picture of the Flatiron sporting two signs announcing the building ready for occupancy Oct. 1, 1902.
"There is also all that lore about the phrase "23 skiddoo," attributed to the fierce Flatiron winds that raised skirts and attracted the interest of passing gentlemen. Police officers there kept the gawkers moving along by saying "23 skiddoo," the equivalent of "scram."
"Evidence to support this windy legend includes Library of Congress film footage from 1903 that shows Flatiron gusts, billowing skirts, male sidewalk superintendents and a flatfoot on the Flatiron beat."
The Ms. Berman quoted is the author of a recent history of Madison Square and perhaps the curator of the N-YHS's exhibit.
George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African
Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998.
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