Winston Churchill’s New York Misadventure

In December 1931, Winston Churchill found himself on a lecture tour in New York, seeking to recoup his 1929 losses in the stock market crash. He was in the process of searching for his friend Bernard Baruch’s apartment when — looking the wrong way while crossing Fifth Avenue — he was struck by a truck and almost killed. Fifth Avenue is an extremely long thoroughfare, and the traffic is regulated by traffic lights, but Churchill had attempted to cross in the middle of the street, rather than at a crosswalk. Churchill’s mistake in crossing the busy roadway was instinctive: Forgetting that he was in the United States, where right-side driving is in effect, he turned his head sharply to the right instead of to the left. As a result, he never saw the truck that hit him until it was too late. He was lifted into a taxi and rushed to the hospital. After a little more than a week in the hospital and additional weeks of recuperation, he finally gave his Brooklyn lecture on Jan. 28, 1932.