THE crowd began to form in the approaching dawn, hours before anyone was expected to show up. The weather was good. It was a mild October day in 1907, a little windy, but not especially so for this time of year.
The first excitement came around seven in the morning. Clanging horse-drawn fire engines pulled up in front of the stately Fifth Avenue entrance and platoons of firemen sprinted into the hotel. There was, in fact, no blaze. It was just a last fire drill before the hotel finally opened to the public.
An hour or so later, the crowd had swelled into the hundreds. Police were all about, but it was a cordial, mannerly throng. The people had not come to be offensive, but only to look so they could return home and say, “My God, you’ll ...