“Boost New York!” (E51)

  • Originally printed: The New Yorker, August 24, 1929
  • First reprinted in:  Chips Off the Old Benchley (1949)
  • Original Byline:  Robert Benchley



Here, RB examines the deranged reasoning processes which afflict the Chamber of Commerce set. Arguing that his burg has more than enough to contend with, without an uptick in plenty-crazed pilgrims peregrinating in from the provinces, Benchley takes exception to the very concept of civic boosterism. But, he argues, if the thing has got to be done, is this really the way to do it? The “this” in question is a stat-stuffed pamphlet put forth earlier that year by the New York Merchants’ Association. To hear the author tell it, this stirring call to farms relies heavily on a barrage of factoids concerning the city’s gross consumption rates, reproductive figures, working animal population, and telephony network. Certainly, as the saying goes, there is strength in numbers. But is there tourist appeal?

Benchley comes down squarely on the negative side of that question – indeed, he is banking on a lack of method in the merchants’ madness to keep the throngs off the sidewalks that fall. As ill fortune would have it, the imminent Wall Street Crash and its attendant dislocations probably made the whole project a moot point, at least for a little while, and one shudders to consider its effect on the city’s egg consumption.   

Favourite Moment:

It is hard to imagine a man who has never been out of Des Moines picking up his newspaper and saying to his wife: ‘Marion, get out your good clothes – we’re going to New York. It says here that people there eat three and a half million tons of food a year.’ Or his wife saying: ‘But how many eggs a day do they eat?’ and, on hearing that it is seven million, replying: ‘Good! That’s all I want to know. We’re off!’

Reprint Notes:

  • Reprinted in full, with no amendments.

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