Mystery Solved. The Reindeer on the Roosevelt Island Tram


The photo of the reindeer on the Roosevelt Island Tram always intrigued me. But I can’t even recall how I got it. I can’t even say which was more puzzling – the calm and steady reindeer or the woman concentrating on her knitting as the Tram drifted over the East River. But with some help from historian Judith Berdy, the mystery is solved.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Dail News

The photograph, it turns out, is from 1977, one year after Roosevelt Island welcomed its first residents.

Berdy saw the photo in our morning Roosevelt Island Daily News email. In the email, I wondered about the origin of the picture. A reindeer on the Roosevelt Island Tram? Now, there’s gotta be a story.

In fact, there is. Sort of…

“Here is the answer,” Berdy wrote. And she attached a link from a story in the New York Times from December 14th, 1977.

“I think the photo was taken by Chester Higgins, Jr. NYTimes photographer who lived on the island,” added. That we confirmed with attribution in the story.

Titled Only in America in New York, it read “A reindeer on a tram? What’s so strange about that? One New Yorker thought nothing of it as she traveled, undisturbed and unimpressed, to Roosevelt Island on the Manhattan tramway. Her fellow passenger was going to the island to be the star attraction at a Christmas party for children.”

Couldn’t we have just a little more of that whimsy, these days?

Now o to the other mystery… Like how did they get that reindeer on the tram?


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