Sawing off of Manhattan Island
The sawing off of Manhattan Island is an old New York City story that is largely unverified. It describes a practical joke allegedly perpetrated in 1824 by a retired ship carpenter named Lozier. According to the story, in the 1820s a rumor began circulating among city merchants that southern Manhattan Island was sinking near the Battery due to the weight of the urban district. It was believed that by cutting the island, towing it out, rotating it 180 degrees, and putting it back in place that Manhattan would be stabilized, and that the thin part of the island could be condemned. Surprisingly the main concern was not the futility of the idea but of Long Island being in the way. Lozier finally assembled a large workforce and logistical support. At a massive groundbreaking ceremony, Lozier did not show up but hid in Brooklyn and did not return for months.
The story did not appear in any known newspapers (although the press supposedly did not report on such pranks in that era) and no records have been found to confirm the existence of the individuals involved. This has led to speculation that the incident never occurred and that the original report of the hoax was itself a hoax, which is the conclusion suggested by Joel Rose in his 2001 book New York Sawed in Half. The hoax was first documented in Thomas F. De Voe's (1811-1892) 1862 volume The Market Book, as conveyed by his uncle who was Lozier's supposed associate, and was told again in Herbert Asbury's 1934 title All Around The Town. Another condensed retelling occurs in the 1960s Reader's Digest book, Scoundrels and Scallywags.
- Asbury, Herbert. Sawing Off Of Manhattan, The Gazette (Montreal), April 3, 1956
- De Voe, Thomas Farrington, Feeding America, retrieved October 14, 2010
- I Saw New York, Snopes.com, version last updated February 10, 2006 (reviewing literature and concluding that original claimed event likely did not occur, and the story of the hoax is a hoax itself)
- Rose, Joel. New York Sawed in Half: An Urban Historical, (Bloomsbury Publishing 2001) (ISBN 1-58234-098-6)
- De Voe, Thomas F. The Market Book, p. 462-64 (1862)
- Joel Rose (2001). New York Sawed in Half: An Urban Historical. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 1-58234-098-6
- Thomas F. De Voe (1862). The Market Book (full text online)
- The Day They Almost Sawed Off Manhattan
- Just a little spin of the land and our problem will be solved
- Mikkelson, Barbara & David P. "I Saw New York" at Snopes.com: Urban Legends Reference Pages.