Vintage subway car at the New York Transit Museum with fabric “straphangers”. Photo courtesy New York Transit Museum.
The term straphangers may be confusing to modern day riders, after all, there are no straps on the subway. However, the first standing subway car riders held onto canvas straps to stabilize themselves. Over time, the canvas straps were replaced by metal “grab holds” and eventually replaced entirely by plain metal bars.
No solution keeps the spread of germs away, but individual straps at least eliminate the awkwardness of accidentally touching a stranger’s hand, or having to fight for a spot on a pole to hold onto. Those who want to relive the strap-hanging experience can check out the entire level of vintage subway trains at the New York Transit Museum, ride on a nostalgia train, or purchase metal subway grab holds from the Transit Museum store.