A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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“Coffee: because hating your job should be done with enthusiasm” (3/24)
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Entry from December 04, 2004
Rubberneck Row
"Rubberneck Row" was Forty-Fourth Street. Tourist buses used to visit that street around about 1900. Visitor would at attractions from one side of the street to the other. Their necks would be stretched ("rubberneck").

"Rubberneck Row" is an historical term, but "rubberneck" is still used -- for traffic jams.

2 July 1904, New York Times, pg. 7:
DON'T WANT CIRCUS
IN "RUBBERNECK ROW"
(...)
There is commotion in Rubberneck Row. THe swell clubmen who are around there much of the time, and residents in large apartment houses who live there all the time, are divided in their opinions about the big permanent hippodrome that is going up on the site of the old car stables in Sixth Avenue from Forty-third to Forty-fourth Street. Workmen began clearing the ground for it on Thursday.

Rubberneck Row, it should be explained, is Forty-fourth Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. New Yorkers do not know it by that name, but thousands of visitors from all parts of the world who ride around on the public observation coaches do. Ethel Barrymore says she asked a woman in London if she had seen the Brooklyn Bridge while visiting New York.

"No," was the reply, "but I saw Rubberneck Row."

The observation coaches turn from Fifth Avenue toward Sixth Avenue into Forty-fourth Street. "And now," says the festive guide, through his megaphone, "we are entering Rubberneck Row."

For the next four minutes the sightseers sway their heads from side to side looking at Delmonico's, Sherry's, the Harvard Club, the Yale Club, the Century Association, the New York Yacht Club, Mrs. Osborn's Theatre, (as it is still called,) the American Institute, the Mechanics' Institute, the Little Home of the Four Doctors, the Bar Association clubhouse, the City Club, and May Irwin's apartment house, the Royalton, and the Algonquin, which fill up both sides of the street for the entire block, except the plot 320 feet deep on the south side, which has been leased for the new hippodrome.

8 January 1905, New York Times, pg. SM2:
These supper palaces which keep open until nearly dawn are not strictly confined to Broadway. They stretch eastward to Fifth Avenue, taking in West Forty-fourth Street, which is called by the unregenerate "Rubberneck Row." This name was given to the street between Sixth and Fifth Avenues by the barkers in the sight-seeing coaches because of the frequency with which the passengers had to turn their heads from side to side in looking at the Yale and Harvard clubs, the Bar Association, and various other things of interest, including the two finest New York restaurants that are world-famous, while driving through it. The nickname has stuck.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
rubberneck
A. v. a. intr. To crane the neck in curiosity, to gape; also, to look around, to sight-see. b. trans. To stare at. Hence rubbernecking ppl. a. and vbl. n.

1896 ADE Artie iii. 23, I stood around there on one foot kind o' rubber-neckin to find an openin.

4 March 1892, Los Angeles Times, pg. 7:
John Haggan, known among his associates as Rubber Neck, was tried before Justice Knox ysterday for a revolting deed, found guilty and sentenced to six months in the County Jail.

27 November 1893, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 8:
They comprised the eleite of the newsboy crowd. Prominent among the boys present were "McGinty," had of the "Sleep-out Gang,"...and "Rubber Neck."

18 March 1894, Washington Post, pg. 19:
For instance, the expression "rubber neck," meaning a man in the habit of stretching his neck to learn other people's business, was in use by thieves five years before it became a cheap slang expression around race tracks and other places.

27 December 1894, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 7:
"Hear about the new suicide club?" asked Rubberneck Bill, carelessly hanging his leg over the corner of the editor's table.

13 April 1895, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 7
Rubber Neck.
(The name of a horse - ed.)

17 August 1896, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 12:
In addition to the political and bicycle buttons, the latter embracing about 400 different kinds, he has a large collection of buttons on which are printed all the slang phrases of the day, such as "Girl Wanted," "What 'Tis?" "If You Love Me Grin," "Just Tell THem That You Saw Me," "Nit," "And There Are Others," "Rubber Neck," and so to the end of the list.

4 April 1897, New York Times, pg. 22:
The Language of Crime.
(...)
A person who is always listening to other people's conversation is called a rubber-neck.

23 April 1899, Los Angeles Times, pg. 5:
ORIGIN OF "RUBBERNECK."

{San Francisco Bulletin:] The slang expression "rubberneck" was born in Vallejo, Cal., and it was used all over the slope for a number of years before it finally worked its way East. THe man from whom the expression was derived - or, rather, to whom it was first applied - is a COnstable in Vallejo. In former years he traveled with a one-night-stand circus as a man with a rubber skin. His looseness of pelt is still remarkable. When the show with which he traveled smashed up in Vallejo this man, after hanging around for a while, got a job as town Constable. He possessed a very inquisitive nature, and, armed with his new authority, he did a lot of nosing aroundand prying. A drunken marine from Mare Island, who knew of the Constable's man-with-a-rubber-skin history, first applied the title "rubberneck" to the Constable, and, although the marine got "pinched" for it, the Constable's new title stuck, and he has to stand for it down to the present time. The word worked its way down to San Francisco in time, and thence all oer the Coast, and some travelling men took it East two or three years ago.

17 October 1902, Los Angeles Times, pg. 5:
DUE TO "RUBBERNECKING."

According to Chicago Police Reports
Five Women a Day Are Hurt Because
They Stare at Other People

16 April 1905, Washington Post, pg. E12:
MERRY JIBES OF TOURISTS
ON THE RUBBER-NECK CAR

10 September 1905, Washington Post, pg. F8:
AS THE GROUCHY GUIDE SEES US

Many Residents Less Familiar with Washiongton Than Tour-
ists Who Dash Through It on the "Rubberneck Wagon."

Posted by Barry Popik
Streets • (0) Comments • Saturday, December 04, 2004 • Permalink