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1838; EARLY in January it was learned that the Pennsylvania
packetship had made a passage hence to Liverpool in
April 22, the steamer Sirius, Captain Roberts,
R. N., arrived from Liverpool, being the second steamer
to cross the ocean; the following day the Great Western, Captain
Hosken, Lieutenant R. N., arrived, having made the passage in
12 days and 18 hours. Of course these arrivals caused great excitement
here; especially was the Great Western a centre of interest
from her proportions, then termed "stupendous"; being
234 feet in length, and 1604 tons registry, with engines of 450
horsepower. On April 2 7, the city authorities, with a large
company of gentlemen, visited the vessel in a procession of barges
under command of Captain Stringham, U. S. N., and were shown the
wonders on board and refreshed by a collation, at which I was
present. The departure of the Great Western on May 7, was
the occasion of a great popular demonstration on land and water.
February 18, the Bowery Theatre was burned for the
third time. The fire, which broke out before day, was said to
have been set alight in the carpenter's shop in the third story
of the building.
In this year the building known as the Tombs, in
Centre Street, was erected; the stone taken from the old Jail,
with granite from Maine.
The tonnage of vessels constructed at the seven shipyards
in the previous year amounted to 11,789 tons.
The House of Refuge, which stood upon ground now
part of Madison Square (see page 166), was destroyed by fire;
and soon after the necessary new structure was finished and walled
in, on the block of ground bounded by First Avenue, Twentythird
and Twentyfourth streets, and the river.
Wm. L. Rushton, who opened a drugstore at 81 William
Street in 1828, associated with him in 1830 Wm. L. Aspinwall.
They also opened a store at 110 Broadway, and in this year they
embarked deeply in the morus multicaulis enterprise, in
which they realized a large profit, but continuing their connection
with it, suffered deeply when it collapsed, alike to the South
Sea Bubble and the Tulip craze, which, both in inception, progress,
and result it much resembled. Mr. Hegeman, the druggist, was a
About this year there was published in an evening
newspaper, in the list of deaths, that of Professor James Renwick,
LL.D., who bore his painful illness with "more than Christian
fortitude," and on the following morning the professor was
surprised and amused at the reading of his own obituary and of
his "exceptional fortitude"; but some of his friends,
in arriving at his home to attend his funeral, were the more surprised
at his reception of them.
The resumption of specie payments had now been accomplished.
An adjourned meeting of bank representatives, convened on April
11 in New York, had resolved to resume on January 1, 1839, but
the New York banks resumed on May 10 of this year, and all the
others were compelled by public opinion to follow this example
July 1. The Bank of Commerce was founded this year.
The two works of Jas. Fenimore Cooper, at this time
lately published, "Homeward Bound" and "Home as
Found," were the subject of reprobation in the press and
privately, the author being supposed to show an unpatriotic temper
in them. Presentday readers of these books will understand
the ground of this supposition, but they will perhaps conclude
that a travelled American might write them without treason against
Art Street (now Stuyvesant) was widened in this year.
Richard Riker, residing in Fulton Street between
Broadway and Nassau Street, had filled the office of Recorder
of the City and County for periods since 1812, aggregating twenty
years. He was universally respected as a clearheaded and
upright judge. When the question of introducing water into the
city was discussed, he dissented from the general opinion as to
the necessity of such action, and cited in support of the goodness
and sufficiency of the Manhattan water, then in use insome
streets, that he drank a tumbler of it every morning. For this
he was criticised, caricatured, and lampooned for many years after.
In sentencing culprits he was apt to remark, they
"must suffer some," and the frequent repetition of this
was taken up by the people and it became a byword. Some time previous
to this, in consequence of a controversy arising from a duel that
had occurred between De Witt Clinton and John Swartwout, Robert
Swartwout challenged Riker, and they fought on the duellingground
where Hamilton fell soon after. Riker was wounded.
May. In this month "La Petite Augusta"
(Williams) first appeared at the age of twelve in "La Bayadere."
This was an astonishing child, the most remarkable of juvenile
dancers, who was compared on even terms with her fullgrown
February 19, Mary C. Taylor first appeared
in a named part at the "Bowery." In 1840 she was at
the Olympic, where she remained (chiefly) for nine years. She
was the Lize of "A Glance at New York," and
became one of the greatest favorites ever seen on our stage; in
fact, "our Mary," as she was called, was a popular idol,
and well deserved her favor for the excellence she showed in her
saucy parts, and the virtue of her private character, which made
her thoroughly respected. Miss Taylor married and retired from
the stage in 1852; she died in 1866.
September 17, Charles Matthews (the younger) and
Mme. Vestris (Mrs. Matthews) first appeared at the Park Theatre.
Much was expected of them, and our public experienced a proportionate
disappointment. Neither were the artists pleased with the outcome
of their adventure, and they returned to England much dissatisfied.
In November a very heavy deficiency was discovered
in the accounts of Samuel Swartwout, the late collector of the
port, who had engaged the public money in speculations during
the "flush times." So widespread was the indignation
at the treachery of Swartwout, that to steal, rob, or default,
was for many years after expressed as "Swartwouting."
December. The city was surprised in reading of the
sudden departure for Liverpool of Wm. M. Price, the United States
District Attorney. He had been a zealous and effective partisan
of the administration of General Jackson, and an ardent supporter
of Mr. Van Buren. His remark upon rising to address a meeting
in Tammany Hall, during the first canvass for mayoralty, was for
a long period referred to, and frequently quoted. The Whigs, elated
by their success in the previous campaign, were confident, and
the Democrats were correspondingly discouraged. It was a dark,
stormy night, the rain falling in torrents; and when Price, who
was seated on the platform, arose, and his greeting subsided,
he opened with: "My friends, we have seen a darker night
than this." The effect was electrical; it was received as
a presage of victory; darker nights had been seen, the worst had
passed, and Mr. Lawrence was elected.
1839. The arsenal in Madison Square was destroyed
The Society for Founding an Institution for the Blind,
which Dr. Samuel Akerly had essayed to organize, from 1831, completed
the buildings on Ninth Avenue, between Thirtythird and thirtyfourth
Iceboxes or refrigerators were for the first
time introduced in the markets.
February 4, Wm. E. Burton first appeared in New York
at the National Theatre. He was destined to have an important
share in the dramatic affairs of the city.
At this time plays founded on the works of Dickens
were coming in favor, before the dramatizations of Scott and Cooper
had well begun to disappear. February 7, a stage version of "Oliver
Twist" was produced at the Park, in which Charlotte Cushman
offered her remarkable delineation of Nancy.
April 30, occurred the semicentennial celebration
of Washington's inauguration; the exercises under the care of
the New York Historical Society. There was an ode by Wm. C. Bryant,
and exPresident John Quincy Adams delivered an oration.
The literary exercises were followed by a great dinner at the
In May arrived at this port from England, under canvas,
a small iron steamer, the Robert F. Stockton, of thirty
tons burthen. The Great Western completed on June 1 the
shortest western passage then known, thirteen days. July 20, the
British Queen arrived on her first voyage. She was then
the largest steamer ever built; length over all, 275 feet; 2016
tons; 500 horsepower.
In July, President Van Buren visited New York and
was received with a great military parade, which escorted him
to Castle Garden, where he heard and replied to an address.
Trinity Church was demolished in this year, to make
way for the present structure.
The New York and Harlem Railroad Company completed
its double track from Harlem to the City Hall.
The entertainments of the Common Council in the "tea
room" were very much enlarged from those of earlier days
both in direction and scope, and early shad, strawberries and
cream, and like delicacies could be found there in advance of
their appearance at the tables of private citizens; on this point
I write from experience. In more recent times, as from 1840, the
status or standard of the representatives of the people
deteriorated both in dignity of person and integrity of character,
and the injudicious admission of "friends," supporters,
contractors, lobbyists, etc., induced not only a laxity of decorum,
but the introduction of wines, liquors, and segars, and very soon
the weekly meetings in the "tea room" partook so much
of the character of orgies that public opinion became aroused,
and upon the election of Mr. Harper, he proceeded forthwith to
suppress them, and succeeded not only in saving such an expense
to the city, but in arresting a practice which occasionally partook
more of the character of a debauch than an assemblage of representatives
of the people, to whom their civic rights were confided.
May 6, the Bowery Theatre, rebuilt by Hamblin, was
opened. Mrs. Shaw then appeared first at this house, where she
continued long to be a favorite. June 13, John Gilbert was first
seen in New York here, as Sir Edward Mortimer.
May 21, the dancers M. and Mme. Paul Taglioni were
brought out at the Park. The former was a brother to the famous
danseuse Marie Taglioni. His wife was esteemed inferior
to none but Elssler. Nevertheless, they did not attract great
May 30. A portion of the estate of the late Henry
Eckford was sold at auction this day. Mr. Eckford purchased the
property, consisting of a large country house, stables, shed,
etc., fronting on Seventh and Eighth avenues, Twentyfirst
to Twentyfourth streets, in November, 1824, from Clement
C. Moore, for sixteen thousand dollars, 22.6 acres. At that time
the surface of the ground was low and a great portion of it wet,
so much so that the location as a residence was unhealthy. So
wild was this purchase considered that friends of Eckford would
jocosely ask him about his cow pasture, and if he intended to
raise frogs, etc.
It was here that his daughter died, and his son John,
who had just returned from travel abroad, lost his life in essaying
to save her. She was ill with fever, and at night a spark from
the fireplace before which she was reclining ignited her clothing;
she rushed into her brother's room and he burned his hands, in
endeavoring to quench the flames, to the extent that he died from
This sale gave an average of a little in excess of
fifty dollars per city lot.
Henry Clay visited the city in August, being escorted
down Broadway from the steamboat landing at Hammond Street to
the City Hall Park, where he was welcomed, and delivered an answering
speech. On the next day he held a reception in the Governor's
room of the City Hall. Mr. Clay was at this time a favorite candidate
for the pending nomination of the Whigs for the Presidency, which
was given by the Harrisburg Convention, in December, to General
William Henry Harrison.
August. In the latter part of this month it was reported
by the captain of an arriving vessel that a long, low, wellmanned,
suspicious schooner was seen by him off the New Jersey coast,
and as the report in detail and authority warranted action on
the part of the commandant of the naval station here, Commodore
Ridgely ordered the steam frigate Fulton, Captain M. C.
Perry, forthwith to proceed to sea in search of the reported craft.
The Fulton, after running down the New Jersey
coast as far as Shark River, returned and anchored off the Hook,
awaiting daylight, and when it appeared, she went seaward in a
southeast course, and returned late in the evening to the Navy
This manner of proceeding on the part of Captain
Perry was wholly at variance with the views of his officers (among
whom I was one), who argued that if the vessel was of the character
supposed, her captain would avoid the vicinity of Sandy Hook as
being too near the presence of a revenue cutter or a naval cruiser;
but would proceed to the south coast of Long Island to intercept
an European vessel.
A few days after (the 3Ist) Lieutenant Gedney, in
command of a United States Coast Survey schooner in Long Island
Sound, captured the unresisting vessel near Montauk Point, where
she had been run in to procure water. Upon investigation it appeared
that her name was the Amistead, and that she had left Havana
for a neighboring port with a number of slaves who had been just
landed there, and that the slaves rose upon the crew, murdered
some, and took possession of the vessel, sparing the two passengers,
one of whom had been in command of a vessel and could navigate.
He was ordered to take the schooner to Africa, but he deceived
them and directed her here.
Upon the authorities in Connecticut taking possession
of the vessel, Lieutenant Gedney having delivered her there, a
body of fanatics, not satisfied with the emancipation of the slaves,
conspired to arrest the two passengers who had purchased the slaves
and succeeded in throwing them into prison, the result of which,
added to what was to be done with the freed negroes, the vessel,
etc., engendered a complication of questions of rights and duties,
that seriously involved the amicable relations of the United States
In illustration of the difference in the frequency
and convenience of the method of travel compared with that of
a later day: I in 1835 was required to visit Rahway, N. J., and
taking the most expeditious route, I left in a steamboat from
the foot of Battery Place, and after reaching Elizabethtown (now
Elizabeth) I took stage to Rahway, and on my return, as the steamboat
had returned to New York, I was compelled to take a private conveyance
to Newark and from there I reached the city by stage.
September 7, Charles Kean appeared at the National
as Hamlet, after a long absence. On the afternoon of the
23d, while the stage was set for his Richard, the house
was burned. The fire involved the adjoining French Episcopal Church
(du Saint Esprit), the African Methodist Church opposite, and
a Dutch Reformed Church in Franklin, near Church Street. The French
Church, built in 1822, was a handsome marble structure. Wallack
transferred his company to Niblo's, beginning there on October
T. when Vandenhoff, as Hamlet, appeared for the first time
since his return from Europe.
Unfavorable business conditions prevailing in this
year were heightened in October by the suspension of the Bank
of the United States in Philadelphia, and of all the Philadelphia
banks on the succeeding day.
November 27, died Samuel Ward, head of the great
bankinghouse of Prime, Ward, King & Co. Mr. Ward's death,
at the early age of fiftyfive, was deeply felt in business
and social life.
September 11, the New Chatham Theatre, built for
Flynn & Willard on the southeast side of Chatham Street
between James and Roosevelt streets, was opened.
October 5, fire, aided by a fresh wind, destroyed
the block between Pearl and Water streets south of Fulton, besides
fourteen buildings in Front Street, some in Water Street below
Burling Slip, and even some in Fletcher Street.
In December the daguerreotype was first introduced
in New York, exciting great interest and wonder.
December 14, died Robert Lenox, of Scotch parentage
and birth, a successful merchant and a shrewd investor in land
in the upper portion of the city. In the War of the Revolution
his uncle* ((* David Sprout)) was the keeper of the dreaded prisonship
at the Wallabout, Brooklyn, and Robert was an individual assistant
to his father, enjoying the highly remunerative position of supplying
the prisoners with such articles as were not included in their
meagre and illserved rations.
Thaddeus Phelps, who lived at 109 Liberty Street,
was connected with Fish & Grinnell in their line of Liverpool
packets, and was well known as a citizen and a merchant. He usually
expressed his views very decidedly and with emphasis. On one occasion
of his riding in an omnibus on Broadway, an entering passenger
trod on his foot, whereupon he used an expression not to be found
in Lord Chesterfield's letters; and another wellknown citizen,
who was seated opposite to him, remarked, "Tush, tush, don't
swear, friend Phelps;" to which the latter replied, "Never
mind that; you pray and I swear, but neither of us means anything."
St. George's Society of New York, which was organized
in 1786, was incorporated in this year. It assists needy English
residents of this city or vicinity. Special attention given to
destitute and helpless women and children.
The old or Boston Post Road from the corner of Twentythird
Street and Broadway to Harlem Bridge was closed in this year.
Captain John Ericsson arrived here, and in 1842 he
designed the steam machinery and propeller for the United States
steamer Princeton which was being constructed at the Navy
Yard at Philadelphia, under the general direction of Captain R.
F. Stockton, United States Navy.
December 9, Mitchell leased the Olympic, and opened
it as a lowpriced house for amusing entertainments. The
house became the fashion, and a steady prosperity followed it
for ten years. The bills for that time compose a marvel of variety.
In April of the next year Mitchell brought out his "La Mosquito,"
a most amusing travesty of Fanny Elssler's "Tarantula,"
and an almost equally funny burlesque of her "Cracovienne";
these were very famous for a time.
December, 1839. New Chatham Theatre was reconstructed
and opened as Purdy's National Theatre.
1840. The tunnel of the New York & Harlem Railroad
at Yorkville was completed in this year.
Business was greatly depressed during the earlier
portion of the year, and the growing political excitement in the
famous "Singing Campaign," of "Tippecanoe and Tyler,
too" prevented much revival. In March, the house and lot
No. 11 Broadway-the lot thirtynine feet front, by twentyseven
feet rear on Greenwich Street, and nearly two hundred feet deep-was
sold by auction for only fifteen thousand dollars. Nevertheless
as will be seen, the life of the town went on with much of its
January. Captain. Waite of the packet ship England,
arrived here by the Northern route from Liverpool, by which
he claimed to have shortened his passage from ten to fifteen days,
and he showed his previous passages and his last to be as follows:
1837, thirtyfive days; 1838, thirtynine days, and
the last, twentysix.
January 13, the steamboat Lexington on Long
Island Sound, hence to New London, at halfpast seven in
the evening took fire from sparks from the furnaces of her boiler,
projected by the fan blower upon cotton bales stowed in a gangway.
She burned and sank at three in the morning, and out of one hundred
and fifty passengers and a crew of twentyfive, but four
were saved. She carried also sixty thousand dollars in specie.
The indignation of the public in consequence of the
neglectful manner in which the cotton was stowed, the insufficiency
of lifesaving instruments, and the great loss of life, was
increased by the publication of the fact that a schooner commanded
Terrell was within a few miles of the disaster, and in no wise
essayed to approach and aid, although the wind was blowing so
fresh that he could have readily arrived at the scene of the disaster
in time to be of service.
January 27, the public stores and a dozen others
in Front and South streets, near Dover, were burned, the loss
on the public stores alone amounting to a million and a half.
January 30, died Stephen Price, who for many years
was a joint lessee of the Park Theatre, first in 1807 with Thomas
Cooper, the tragedian, and late with Edmund Simpson. Price and
Cooper built and resided in the two elegant houses corner of Broadway
and Leonard Street, afterward occupied as the Carlton House; then
taken down and replaced by the stores of E. S. Jaffray & Co.
Price at one time was lessee of the Drury Lane Theatre
in London. The association was Simpson & Price, the former
being manager of the Park Theatre here, and the latter engaging
actors and performers abroad. William M. Price, referred to on
page 189, was a brilliant criminal lawyer, and subsequently district
attorney here under General Jackson. He had a brother Benjamin,
who one evening, in company with his wife at the theatre, took
offence at the conduct of a British officer seated in an adjoining
box; whereupon he entered the box where the officer was seated
and wrung his nose, and upon the officer's declaring that he did
not intend to offend the lady, Price in effect replied that he
meant no offence either, and thus the matter rested for a while;
but the absurdity of the officer's action becoming known at Montreal,
where he was stationed, he was informed by his mess that he must
challenge Price or suffer being put in Coventry. He then commenced
the practice of pistolshooting, and soon after returned here,
challenged Price, and shot him through the head at the first fire.
He then took a boat and boarded a vessel leaving for Europe.
Some years after this, the captain who had been active
in causing the return of the officer to challenge Price visited
here, and Stephen Price learning of it, called and addressed him:
"I have come to insult you. Is it necessary for me to knock
you down?" "Not at all," was the reply. They and
their seconds left the Navy Yard in company in one boat, proceeded
to Bedlow's Island, and Price killed the captain at the first
Later Price, taking offence at the attention of a
lieutenant in the Navy to his wife, challenged him; they met at
Weehawken, and Price was wounded in the leg. This lieutenant was
the son of a gentleman who had been, a wellknown soap manufacturer.
Cooper, the former partner of Price, had married the sister of
one of the brightest women of the day, who from that connection
with Price was inimically disposed to the lieutenant, and when
he, upon an occasion when she was present, was referring to his
late cruise in the Mediterranean, and the pleasure he took in
a land excursion there, she remarked, "You must have felt
quite at home in Greece."
This same lady, in company one evening when a gentleman
whose father had been a saddler gave a recital of the misdeeds
of an actor, and erroneously charged them to her brotherinlaw
Cooper, remarked, "You have put the saddle on the wrong horse"
I knew her intimately, and enjoyed her friendship.
January 31, a party of roughs on the East Side entered
private houses and a German restaurant, 101 Elizabeth Street,
when they broke tables, etc., and were fired upon by the keeper
and his friends; killing one and wounding four others; the excitement
consequent upon which led to a repetition of rioting for several
February 24, Mr. and Mrs. Brevoort, at their house
on Fifth Avenue, entertained their friends and some acquaintances
at a fancy ball; it was the social event of the period, had been
for a long while in preparation, and was pronounced a great success.
A reporter of the Herald (Attree), on the application of
the editor, was permitted to be present, appearing in costume.
This spring the first registry law for the City of
New York came into force. The property qualification for voters
was abolished under it, and with enlarged suffrage the quality
of candidates for public office suffered a decline. Up to this
period the men who took an active and prominent part in politics
were of a very different class from those who came later. The
Democrats having a place of meeting, Tammany Hall, and a chartered
organization meeting monthly, their principal men were brought
more into public notice than their opponents. Their party was
supported by many wellknown citizens, as Saul Alley, Stephen
Allen, Gideon Lee, Walter Bowne, George Douglass, Campbell P.
White, Chas. Graham, Cornelius W. Lawrence, Daniel Jackson; while
a prominent representative of their opponents was Philip Hone.
Gradually, from this time, the elder men withdrew
from active participation, and younger and, more ambitious men
supplanted them, and finally, in the race for the emoluments of
office, consideration of either the avowed principles of the party
or the claims of its defenders was set aside.
While the registry law was pending in the Legislature,
the Whigs held a meeting (March 27) in Masonic Hall to express
their approbation, but members of the adverse party were there
and interrupted the proceedings by their opposition. Being once
expelled they returned in greater force, and a considerable disturbance
By this time the "log cabin" and "hard
cider" political watchwords were in full cry. Some persons
having reproached the Whigs with selecting for Presidential candidate
a rude man who lived in a log cabin and drank only hard cider
(though in fact General Harrison was of an old Virginian family
used to the graces of good breeding), the Whigs had made good
use of the averment, turning it to their own uses, and contrasting
their candidate's plain living with the alleged luxury of Van
Buren in the White House in a manner that wrought greatly upon
the popular mind. In June they built a great log cabin in Broadway
near Prince Street, which was dedicated to campaign purposes by
a great meeting, and cider was provided in barrels; whence the
campaign was universally known as the " Log Cabin and Hard
May 2, 1840, associated with Thomas McElrath, H.
Greeley & Co. issued The Log Cabin simultaneously in
this city and Albany, twenty thousand copies of which were disposed
of in one day; then editions summing eight thousand were printed
and the type distributed, reset, and another edition of ten thousand
printed, all of which were sold. It was published at 30
May 3, Fanny Elssler, a famous opera danseuse
arrived in the Great Western, and appeared at the Park
Theatre before an enormous audience on May 14, The grace of her
movements was positively fascinating. Her debut was in
La Cracovienne; the pit arose en masse and cheered
her. A gentleman at my side, within two minutes after her appearance,
remarked: "I have got my dollar's worth already." Her
engagement continued for fifteen nights, and the house was crowded
for the entire period. A plain account of the attention and interest
aroused by Elssler, not only in New York but throughout the country,
would scarcely be credited at this day. She remained for little
more than a year in this country, and upon her return to Germany
married and left the stage.
Late in June the Richmond Hill Theatre was reopened,
transformed into a spacious saloon with concert stage, a change
handsomely effected. The place was now named the Tivoli Gardens.
The concerts did not attract the public, and after a short time
vaudeville, at reduced prices, replaced them with better success.
In May a daguerreotype portrait was shown to me;
it was one of the very first that had been taken here by the representative
or agent of Mr. Daguerre; it was on a copper plate, silvered and
polished, which having been bathed with the required chemical,
the reflected rays from the sitter were received upon it. When
finished and placed in a position proper to receive the light,
some faint lines could be discovered, provided your eyesight was
good; but in consequence of the sitter being necessitated to face
a bright light for several minutes, the stress upon the eyes was
such that a proper delineation of the features was impracticable.
This was the operation in its primitive form, and in view of the
successful development of it, it may be truly said, nihil simul
est inventum aut perfectum
John C. Stevens had built at Cape's shipyard, Williamsburgh
(now Brooklyn, E. D.), the schooner yacht Onkahye
c from the design of his brother Robert L. Her futtocks were Ushaped,
thus forming a deep but wide keel, operating like a long but shallow
centreboard; being in fact an approach to a "fin keel"
of the present time (1895). In 1842 she was purchased by the United
States Government and employed in the Coast Survey.
In June the first Cunarder arrived at Boston by way
of Halifax. It was supposed that making Boston the terminus would
seriously interfere with the passenger business of New York, and
Boston itself went wild with joy over the prospect of such rivalry;
but as it turned out, some natural law, like that which makes
great rivers run by great cities, brought the ships here, after
Cunard Line. As the steamers of this line were the
first to bear a regular and Government Mail between England and
this country, a detail of its early operation is of interest,
and worthy of record for future reference and comparison with
capacities and speed.
In this year Samuel Cunard of Halifax, associated
with Messrs. Burns & McIver of Glasgow, organized the British
and North American.Royal Mail Steam Packet Co., under a contract
with the British Government for a bimonthly mail between Liverpool,
Halifax, and Boston, with four steamers, for eighty thousand pounds
sterling per annum. The steamers were the Britannia, Acadia,
Caledonia, and Columbia; the first leaving Liverpool
on Friday, the 4th of July, and arriving at Boston in fourteen
days and eight hours, to the great delight of the Bostonians and
their anticipation of commercial advancement in consequence, she
having attained an average speed of eight and onehalf knots
per hour, with an expenditure of thirtyeight tons of coal
per day. Whenever any question arose as to the present or future
prospects of the cities of Boston and New York, we were uniformly
met with, "We have a line of Liverpool steamers," which
was held to settle the question of commercial superiority.
A great public meeting of the Whigs convened on September
28, in Wall Street, by the Merchants' Exchange, where Daniel Webster
delivered an elaborate oration lasting more than two hours and
a half. This was a notable event in New York political history,
Webster being at or near his very best in this oration, and the
mass of his auditory befog enormous for the time; it was carefully
computed at 15,000 persons, the city's population being but 312,000
At the same hour a Democratic meeting was held in the Park, which
also was very largely attended, so that "overflow" gatherings
were organized and the crowd was addressed by four orators at
once. At the distance of more than half a century, this campaign
of 1840 remains distinctly preeminent for height and breadth of
popular interest. At the New York election on November 4, in one
city election district, with a registry of 670,664 votes were
polled. Yet even under such circumstances, the total vote of the
city amounted only to 43,000.
The general election continued through several days
in the different States, which fact, together with the exceeding
closeness of the vote in some quarters, delayed news of the final
result and intensified the public excitement to a point almost
unbearable. Considerable rioting and disorder occurred in New
York, and it is almost literally true to say that, so long as
the event was in doubt, nothing else was in men's minds; so that
for several days business and pleasure were alike suspended, and
no subject but the election was seriously mentioned.
The Marquis of Waterford, on a second visit to the
country in this year, became notorious for his riotous proceedings
at night; his several appearances before Police Justice Hopson
were so frequent, and of such a character were the proceedings,
that the public became much interested in them. His lordship's
fame in nocturnal riots, in all the cities he visited, was notorious;
and strange as it may appear, in all his conflicts with watchmen,
he never received an injury but on one occasion, and that in Norway,
and then, instead of being the aggressor, he was defending a woman
when he was attacked by watchmen and wounded by them with their
peculiar instrument of defence and attack, a billhook at
the end of a pole.
August, Charlotte Cushman made her last appearance,
and was much missed after her departure. August 31, Tyrone Power
reappeared on his second visit. September 18, Mrs. Wood was heard
again (in "Sonnambula") after four years' absence. She
was greeted with enthusiasm and calls for "Wood," in
spite of the untoward experience of that gentleman in former years.
Under this encouragement he appeared onOctober 1, and was
September 30, Hackett, who had been known only as
a comic actor, appeared as Lear.
December 21, John Graham, the English vocalist, who
had come here with a great reputation, but with voice old and
worn, made his first theatrical appearance at the Park in the
"Siege of Belgrade." After which the theatre was closed
for a brief interval. Within a week it reopened in a new guise,
with the stage and pit connected; making a large apartment, in
which promenade concerts were given, at twentyfive cents
The Bowery, at this period, had become perhaps the
most interesting street in the city, and so it remains, though
with characteristics much altered from those of 1840. That date
is about the midperiod of its peculiar notoriety as a native
product, before the vast incursion of foreigners had given it
its present cosmopolitan distinction. The "Bowery boy "
(or b'hoy) and "Bowery gal" were at the height of their
development as represented on the theatrical stage, with not overmuch
exaggeration, by Chanfrau in the well remembered types of Mose,
Sikesy, and Lize. The "Bowery boy" flourished
in his own proper time, and departed, never to return. He was
the outcome of conditions that will not exist again, being primarily
a product of the volunteer fire department system, and appearing
in an age when the comparative smallness of the city allowed marked
social peculiarities to become prominent, which would be lost
amid the mass of people and the whirl of things in which all forms
of singularity now appear and pass, with but a moment's notice
and comment. "Bowery boys" were not wholly admirable
beings, but they had some qualities that were admirable, and were
much to be preferred to any later varieties of the genus "rough."
In their combats they were content with nature's weapons, avoiding
murderous implements; they were mostly men of regular occupations
and industry, the Boweryism being only their form of amusement
in leisure hours; they were comparatively sober, and cultivated
certain traits of manliness, especially a respect for women, which
was traditional with them; and they were intensely American. Even
the more strictly professional "bruisers," or prizefighters,-"Bill"
Harrington, a man of mark in his time, "Tom" Hyer, and
John Morrissey, "Bill" Poole, at a somewhat later day,
and others of their class,-had points of comparative respectability.
The Bowery remains, and remains an absorbing study;
but the Bowery of old remains no more than the Old Bowery Theatre,
long since changed to the Thalia, and now become a Jewish theatre,
with its front covered by bills of the play in Hebrew. It remains
no more like the Bowery of 1840 than that was like the eighteenthcentury
country road. Traces of that condition my curious readers may
find in the old milestones still remaining, one nearly opposite
RivingtonStreet, another between Sixteenth and Seventeenth streets
(in Third Avenue); the third appears to have been destroyed, but
the fourth is in Third Avenue just above Fiftyseventh Street.
These are all on the west side of the way-stout stones, deeply
incised with advice to the travellers of the distance "to
City Hall, New York." They are commonly plastered over with
handbills, which should be forbidden; and surely every care should
be taken to preserve in place, unharmed, these memorials of the
For years I passed through this street almost daily,
and maintained the habit of visiting it occasionally at night,
by way of a novel amusement. It would be enough perhaps to stroll
there for an hour or two of an evening; watching the thronging
East Side engaged in so many modes of moneygetting, and
such diverse diversions; wondering what manner of lives they are
which these things nurture or destroy, and guessing at the "subtle
ways" such people "keep, and pass, and turn again."
An observer might be content thus to study the Bowery by bits
on sidewalks or in shops; but it would be unwise for him to omit
the theatres, where the population is massed for his leisurely
regard. Formerly it was of course the Old Bowery Theatre where
the quintessence of East Side character was concentrated. Its
conversion, and the growing specialization among audiences, have
left no place like in all points to the famous old house; still
any Bowery gallery may contain an audience of the same general
description as that which filled the upper tier of the Old Bowery
on my last visit to it, a generation ago.
It was on a Saturday night, chosen because Saturday
is a "gala night" in the vast quarter for which the
Bowery is the chief avenue of traffic and pleasure; a night when
wages, being just paid, are to be spent, and the long rest before
Monday's work shall begin invites to multiform and deep indulgence.
Passing through still and deserted Broadway in the early evening,
and then along Canal Street, in company with a friend, we came
to the turbulent Bowery. The contrast was forcible. The Bowery
seemed just waking up, its day-the real day-was beginning. Already
the sidewalks seemed full, and as hasty suppers were despatched,
more and more came to jostle along the ways. The shops were all
alight and full of chaffering buyers; the many shows had illuminated
their signs of glass and gas; the doors of the great Atlantic
Garden swung to and fro incessantly. The front of the Old Bowery
Theatre flared brightly amid a grove of flags as the evening's
audience began to climb the wellworn steps, studied the
broad displays of posters, besieged the cavernous entrance to
the fourth tier, or simply loafed in everybody's way. Up
and down the street flamed strongsmelling lamps of turpentine,
lighting the contents of the cheap stands, each one a centre of
vociferous and eager trade. After a few minutes spent in the theatre
to secure places where we could see the house to good advantage,
we found, when we came out, that the roar of the street was perceptibly
increased. The crowd had thickened, and the motion and confusion
were greater. As we stood on the theatre steps regarding the liveliness
of the scene, half a dozen fireengines came by with the
usual fierce clamor and headlong rush. If any thing were needed
to complete the picture it was precisely this strong "effect"
of the engines dashing through the crowded, gleaming street, amid
the screams of women and the hoarse shouts of boys.
We strolled up the street, past pungent odors, past
fruit stalls and stands of the roastchestnut men, past shining
shows of cutlery and spreads of trichinosial bologna carved to
slabs of mottled salmonpink, past drinking shops innumerable
(now saloons-Credat Judaeus Apella), "Cheap Johns"
and policyshops, pawnbrokers and cigar shops, displays of
Bowery millinery and faded dry goods; until we came to a "Cheap
John" of unusual glare and pretension. "walk in, gentlemen,"
he cried, with swift and easy hospitality; "walk in and see
the only truly American and great Cheap John, the benefactor of
his country, the George Peabody of New York." This could
not be resisted, so we walked in. The Cheap John cried his wares
in a large high room hung about with an incongruous miscellany
of goods, filled up across one end with much appearance of merchandise
in bulk, with shelving along one side, in front of which was a
counter enclosing a high platform upon which the Cheap John walked
up and down, incessantly declaiming to a dense crowd. He was a
short, stout fellow, unmistakably "truly American";
as unmistakably of the "bummer" class; with a great
quantity of studied stock expressions, some vulgar, but all droll;
besides not a little ready wit of the flash sort. It was give
and take between him and his audience, the crowd commonly getting
the worst of it. "Now, gentlemen," said the new Peabody,
"the sacrifice will proceed. Who gives two dollars for a
superb eightbladed pocketknife, the handle made of
true fatherofpearl, with ends of solid silver an inch
long? Show me the man who gives it, and I will show you a fool.
Why, we only ask a dollar and a half- examine the finish closely"-here
he made a feint to throw the opened knife among the crowd, whereupon
some dodged. "Why, you needn't dodge," he said; "these
knives are regular lifepreservers, couldn't kill a man with
one of them in the most savage and bloodthirsty fury; no chance
of cutting your fingers with these knives-nice reliable family
article-who'll buy? Who'll buy a knife with all the merits of
a knife and none of the failin's, such as accidentally cuttin'
people. How much?"
I offered fifty cents. "Sold again!" cried
the Cheap John with dire emphasis, and everybody laughed.
An invoice of wonderful stockings followed, "made
in England for the Emperor of Siam, and stolen from his caravan
at great risk," by agents of the Cheap John. They were started
at two dollars for four pairs, and sold in great quantities at
the rate of four pairs for fifty cents. Then came a sale of "changeable
tarpaulin"; there seemed to me to be genius in the idea of
a changeable tarpaulin. Some Germans coming in, and engaging in
the talk in an innocent fashion, were badgered in bad German by
the salesman, and roundly abused in English, of which they knew
scarce any thing. "You wonder how we can sell so low,"
said the Cheap John. "Why, exceptin' rent, nothin' costs
us any thin' besides paper. Paper costs enormous, 'cause that's
cash, and we use up lots of it for wrappers. But the things we
wrap up, them we never buy on less than four months, and when
the four months have passed, so have we-we have passed on. That's
how we can sell so low, and save your money-be your best benefactors-'do
good by stealth,' as the poet says. Don't go, gentlemen, going
to have a free lunch at halfpast ten [it was then about
halfpast seven]; just brought in another dog for the soup.
Look out for your watches, and pass your money right in here for
safekeepin'. There's a pickpocket just come in."
So there was, sure enough, and a policeman led him
away. When we left-not with a policeman-the orator was just assuring
his public that his was "a great charitable enterprise, the
entire proceeds to be given to the poor." I have made selections
from the Cheap John's eloquence; to report him at length would
be to display his wit to greater advantage; but a report at length
would involve corresponding increase of another dimension, and
become too broad for family reading.
Coming down, the Bowery, which had become a very
Babel, we went into the Atlantic Garden, a vast beerhall, crowded
as we entered, though it was yet early, with a company of all
ages and both sexes. Some had made family parties and were enjoying
meals of that sort that only German digestion can assimilate;
some sat moody over solitary mugs, and there were many couples
of men and women, and knots of men. Few Americans were in the
company, which was nearly pure German. There were dense clouds
of tobaccosmoke, and hurry of waiters, and banging of glasses,
and calling for beer, but no rowdyism; rarely are there rows at
the German places of resort, so they are less interesting than
they might be to the student of humanity.
It was well past the time of beginning when we returned
to the Old Bowery Theatre, and crossing the worn and broken tiles
of the vestibule passed within the "warm precincts"
of the auditorium, captured a fugacious usher, and were conducted
to our allotted quarter. The action of the play already had begun
to involve its characters in mysteries inexplicable by the unassisted
intellect. Issuing forth in quest of a housebill, I was
informed that they were all distributed. Enquiring then what was
the title and drift of the drama, the humorous usher replied that
he was blest if he knew. By dint of close application and much
analogy, we determined that we were witnessing a version of the
stock Irish play, in which a virtuous peasantgirl, and a
highminded patriot with kneebreeches and a brogue
and an illicit whiskeystill, utterly expose and confound a number
of designing dukes, lords, etc., who were assisted by a numerous
family of murderers.
One feature of the play was the worn device of confounding
the real action with imaginary action; the first act being of
real life, and inducing the dream, which thereupon carried forward
the story through complications and woful horrors until a happy
waking in the last scene of the fourth act rewarded the virtue
that had never been tempted, and utterly blasted the plotting
vice that never had existed. The incidents were many and exciting.
The scene where the midnight murderers prepared a grave for their
coming victim (an afflicted lady who is to be deserted by her
husband at this spot), and are affrighted at their noisome task
by anguishing groans of the patriot, mourning the lady's unfaithfulness
to him, as he distils unlawful potheen among the rocks overhead,
was chilling in its awful gloom; while nothing could be finer
than the manner in which the patriot, disinterestedly suffering
his pots to boil over, came flying to the rescue of innocence
over frightful pasteboard precipices and down deep descents of
lumber, engaging the whole band of felons at once. "The combat
deepens," thwack go the stuffed clubs, plunge the impossible
daggers; the wounded ruffians reel and fall and struggle up again
kneehigh, discharging dreadful cuts at the legs of the deliverer.
Those yet unhurt close in upon him, but only rip his machinesewed
shirt, receiving in return such fierce and telling blows that
life departs from each in turn, till triumphant virtue takes one
shuddering glance at success and faints in an agony of perspiration
across the longsinceswooning body of the destined
Summary of six corpses and quasicorpses in
painful attitudes-sudden effect of limelight, and apparition
of constabulary and redcoats (too late, as usual), as "the
great green curtain fell on all," amid deafening shouts of
"Hi!" " That's too thin!" and "Cheese
it!" from pit to fourth tier.
We missed many of the points of this great drama,
for the house was a study more interesting than the stage. We
idled about somewhat, behind the seats of the balcony, with audible
steps among thickstrewn peanutshells. In the front lobby
we met a man whom some body had just "gone through,"
the checktaker and usher calmly comparing guesses concerning
the offender. Clambering to the mephitic fourth tier, we watched,
as long as untrained lungs could last in that atmosphere, the
crowd of rough youth there compacted. Plenty of native sharpness
was noticeable in speech and looks among those skyward seats,
which doubtless contained also much native good, some of which
would work itself clear in time and do something of account in
the world; but the main expression of that crowd was of
nursing vulgarity and vice, with an indescribable air of sordid
ignorance and brutal, fierce impatience of all lovely, graceful,
Though a promenade was worth making, the house could
be best studied from our box. The whole effect was more interesting
than any detached portions, and this was all before us-the pit
and first tier below; the second tier meeting the box exactly
at our level; overhead, the third tier, its thronging faces full
in the flame of the gas; and, darkly above, the true Olympus of
the gallery gods. There were no vacant seats. Steadily sloping
upward from the footlights was lifted, row above row, the closepacked,
stamping, shrieking, catcalling, true Bowery crowd. The
house contained a good number of women, roughclad but of
decent looks, some mothers of families with the families small
and great together, and a few " children in arms," which
the Bowery rules did not forbid. I saw but two gloved women in
the audience; they, by force of their attire I suppose, felt a
certain application of the saying, noblesse oblige, since
they went much out of their way to be agreeable to us, and were
very courteous and hospitably minded indeed.
Besides the proper and prevailing peanut, the spectators
refreshed themselves with a great variety of bodily nutriment.
Ham sandwich and sausage seemed to have precedence, being both
portable and nourishing, but pork chops also were prominent, receiving
the undivided attention of a large family party in the second
tier, the members of which consumed chops with a noble persistence
through all the intermissions; holding the small end of the bone
in the hand and working downward from the meaty portion. The denuded
bones were most of them playfully shied at the heads of acquaintances
in the pit; if you never have seen it done, you can hardly fancy
how well you can telegraph with porkbones when the aim is
sure; and if you hit the wrong man, you have only to look innocent
The Bowery audience was by no means content with
inarticulate noise; besides the timehonored, technical modes
of encouraging the players, there was full and free communication
in speech, sometimes a set colloquy with the actors-which the
audience counted on, and waited for with great expectancy. This
the actors well understood, and when the Irish patriot had a line
of particularly overpowering moral import, his sure way to make
a point with it was to come down to the front, declaim it vociferously,
and end by saying "Is that so, boys?" or "Don't
you, boys?" or something of the kind, and then the acclaim
and outcry were so loud and long that all babies in the house
cried out the moment they could get a chance to be heard, which
caused another terrible din, with uncomplimentary remarks about
the infants, and "Cheese it!" again-always this cry,
which, though it be, as I have learned, a highly plastic expression,
yet, from the variety of its frequent application during the evening,
must have come in sometimes with great irrelevance.
The second play was a burlesque of "Don Giovanni,"
with Leporello's part given to the clown, an amusing fellow
and clever acrobat. The chief part of the story was preserved,
though there were many cuts and not a few additions. The players
earned their money. The orchestra never ceased its swift, lilting
measures, as though for some endless, preternaturally quick quadrille,
and the action of the stage was allowed no restingplace
until the whole was done; so, notwithstanding great lack of appliances
by way of machinery for transformations and the like, the thing
went well by virtue of constant action and the utmost possible
rapidity. Shipwreck gave the clown opportunity for an extravagant
swimming scene, and when the Don kicked him out of a twostory
window, his descent, clinging to the top of a ladder, and describing
a great arc that landed him down by the footlights, was very
skilfully made. The cream of the play was thought to be in the
banquetingscene, where the clown and an absurd old Irishwoman
wrangled over a washbowl full of macaroni. The byplay
of this scene is not to be here reported, though it pleased the
audience greatly. Scarce any of the humor was more relished by
most of the spectators than the exquisite device of throwing the
macaroni at the orchestraplayers, and finally at the "paypeople"
in the pit. It cannot be pleasant to be wiped across the face
with a string of wet macaroni, and probably those who were thus
distinguished did not enjoy it, but all the others did, and the
upper tiers howled approbation like a great company of demoniacs.
The statue came for the Don at last, and the clown was too well
frightened to throw macaroni then, so the hero went for his waiting
ginandwater, with profuse accompaniment of red devils
and penny fireworks. When we came away at a quarter before
twelve, the third piece, "The Babes in the Wood," was
beginning, and the ridiculous heavy villains were just warming
to their fiendish work.
Since that evening young men have grown old, but
still I have a clear image of the old theatre; the crowd, the
air, the crackling peanuts underfoot, the strayed reveller with
empty pocket, the chops and sandwiches, the courteous gloved young
women, the raging fourth tier, and eager, bent looks of the rough
faces; the ceaseless lilt and drone of the music sounds in my
ears (a dab of macaroni on the neck of the contrabass). I hear
the swish of the Don's rapier and the thump of the clown's posteriors
on the stage; the amusing strifes and murders take place again,
and the "very tragical mirth." Indeed the single sensation
of strangeness that comes from the absence of all familiar faces
from among so many of one's own townspeople, was alone almost
Tryon Row, subsequently closed, ran in front of the
Staats Zeitung Building from Chatham to Cross (now Park)
Street. Two fireengines and a hookandladder
company were located upon it.
Captain Schinley, R. A., who was in service at Waterloo,
and was held to be over fifty years of age, with the connivance
of the mistress of a young ladies' boardingschool in this
city, married one of the pupils, not exceeding sixteen years of
age, an heiress from Pittsburgh and of great wealth. The relative
ages of the parties, the action of the schoolmistress, the great
wealth of the bride, and the furtive manner in which the marriage
was solemnized (if the word is applicable) by a police officer,
with very restricted magisterial duties, contrived to arouse the
animadvertence of the relatives of the bride and the entire community.
Bennett of the
Herald for a long time
after frequently asked "Who married Captain Schinley?"
until the delinquent was goaded into responsive action and the
The premises on Fifth Avenue between Twentythird
and Twentyfourth streets were occupied by Corporal Thompson
as a wellknown and popular wayside house of entertainment,
who continued there for several years; the location being subsequently
occupied by Franconi's Hippodrome (see 1853) and in 1858 by the
Fifth Avenue Hotel. This was the stopping place of pedestrians
or loungers. Gramercy Park, although designed several years earlier,
was not laid out nor improved before this year. This pretty place
owes its existence to the munificence of the late Samuel B. Ruggles.