The short item below appeared in the April 18, 1889 issue of The Christian Recorder.
The Christian Recorder embodied secular as well as religious material, and included good coverage of the black regiments together with the major incidents of the Civil War. The four-page weekly contained such departments as Religious Intelligence, Domestic News, General Items, Foreign News, Obituaries, Marriages, Notices and Advertisements. This newspaper is included in our African American Newspapers collection and all personal subscribers have access to this material.
While America’s modern food industry has gone high tech and produce is sourced globally, remnants of the system described here lingered on well into the 20th century. The image above was taken in 1960.
The number of market wagons that come over from New Jersey and Long Island during the evening is exceedingly large. In order to get an idea of their traffic one has only to think of the enormous amount of vegetables, fruit, eggs and garden produce that is used every day to feed a great city like New York.
At midnight or before a start is made from the outskirts of the neighboring towns on either shore, and from that time until a few hours of daybreak the ferry boats and ferry houses are alive with wagons and carts . The horses know their duties so well that driving is scarcely necessary, and it is not an uncommon sight to see a horse pulling a cart on which is seated some old farmer quite fast asleep.
As soon as they get into town they steer for the various markets along the North River and sit on their wagons wrapped up in blankets until dawn, or until purchasers come along to buy their wares. There is considerable competition among the farmers for favorable places in which to stand their carts , and late arrivals are not so fortunate in their sales as are those who get into town earlier.
The life of a Long Island or New Jersey farmer is not altogether a happy one. He works in the field all day, and has to depend for whatever sleep he can get during the interval of his arrival in the city and 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening.
Source: The Christian Recorder, April 18, 1889
Photo: Produce vendor with his horse-drawn cart at Washington Market, New York City, 1960