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CHAPTER XX

1843­1844.-ROBERT H. MORRIS, 1843 AND 1844; AND

JAMES HARPER, 1844, MAYORS

JANUARY 2, the secretary of the New York Life and Trust Co., Nicoll was discovered to have been speculating heavily in lottery tickets and stocks, since December, 1841; he resigned, and his account was deficient two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

January 5, the historic walls of the Park Theatre were desecrated by the conversion of the pit for the accommodation of Welsh's Olympic Circus and its appearance there, which was not only numerously but fashionably attended until its closing on March 6.

January 8, at "The Broadway Cottage," opposite the Hospital, which was then termed a "groggery," "rumshop," or "gin­mill," and now known as saloons (why, I have not as yet been satisfactorily replied to), a young woman in the daytime was allured in and violently assaulted; the perpetrator, a man named Dingler, was arrested. Jas. R. Whiting was District Attorney at the time, and his arraignment and invective, in his opening of the case and his charge to the jury, were exceptional essays, and so effective that the jury were absent less than five minutes, and the prisoner was sentenced to ten years' hard labor in the State Prison.

In illustration of the enterprise of the journalists of the time in the absence of express trains on railroads, electric telegraphy, etc., upon the assembling of the Legislature in this year, the Governor's message was expressed to the city by rival journals, on different sides of the Hudson River. The riders of the expresses were to start upon the delivery of the message at 12 M.; that of the Tribune reached Wall Street at 9 P. M. Probably it left somewhat before the appointed time. The riders were three, with the necessary relays of horses.

Foreign steamers were boarded at Halifax, and the news borne by them was expressed to Boston and New York.

Very stringent business conditions continued through most of this year, some improvement being manifested at its close.

February 14 died Commodore Hull, U. S. N., and on February 21 died Peter Augustus Jay; an eminent citizen, highly esteemed by all classes.

Early in this year the movement to nominate Mr. Clay for the Presidency took form, and the "Clay balls," which were a notable feature of the campaign of 1844, began to be given.

March 21. In the evening of this day a Mr. Corlies, who was proprietor of a billiard room in Broadway near Franklin Street, was called out by a woman, and when they reached Benson Place in Leonard Street, he was shot and killed by a man on the opposite side of the street. The only party to whom an incentive for such a crime existed was soon after arrested in his room; subsequently both he and his wife were indicted, tried, and acquitted for want of direct testimony.

Samuel F. B. Morse, who had conceived his idea of electric telegraphy in 1832, had publicly exhibited a telegraph in the University of New York in 1837. After long delays a Congressional appropriation was made March 3, 1843, for building a trial line from Baltimore to Washington, which was completed in 1844. I was present at the receipt of the first message, and soon after transmitted one to a friend in Baltimore. Submarine telegraphy began in New York harbor in the autumn of 1842. In January, 1846, the telegraph was opened between New York and Philadelphia, and was continued to Washington in the course of that summer. My younger readers can scarcely realize how the telegraph revolutionized methods of domestic, as the ocean cables did the methods of foreign, business.

April 29, Jesse Hoyt, Collector of the Port, was found to be a defaulter to the Government in an amount exceeding two hundred thousand dollars.

In May Peter Lorillard died, at the age of seventy-nine, having outlived his brothers George and Jacob, who had been associated with him in business and the founding of one of the great New York fortunes.

The "Lady of Lyons" was first played in America, in May, 1841, at the Park Theatre, with an admirable cast, Charlotte Cushman as Widow Melnotte.

In June President Tyler visited New York on his way to the ceremonies attending the dedication of Bunker Hill Monument. A great display marked his reception here.

In the same month occurred the death of Christian Bergh, at the age of eighty­one. Mr. Bergh may be called the founder of our shipbuilding, which under his care and that of his followers became an enterprise of great magnitude, and produced ships that were unrivalled by those of any other nation. The crushing out of the world­famous American shipbuilding is one of the most grievous errors of modern legislation.

July 4. The residents occupying houses fronting the Bowling Green had erected within the enclosed park a prismoidal structure of rough rock, over the sides of which flowed a stream of water from a Croton pipe. The design was generally held to have been a signal failure; a rather severe criticism in view of the restricted space and the supply of water. On the occasion of a French gentleman visiting one of the contributors to the structure, his attention was invited to it, and after a brief interval he asked, "What is the name of the architect?" Upon being, replied to, that it was Mr. Renwick, he simply remarked, "Mr. Ronwig! I shall remember that name." An American or Englishman would have expressed his dissent from the design in less considerate words.

About this period there were two contending parties interested in the adoption by the Government of their peculiar designs and constructions for the raising of vessels, incorrectly and persistently termed "dock," viz.: The Gilbert or "Balance," by which a vessel could be raised either in an open or enclosed space, but in both cases on a connected and continuous support or bearing; the other the Dakin or "Sectional," the bearing being constructed in sections, by which it was argued that they could by their independent action be adapted to the line of the keel of a vessel, if any curvature therein required such support. This was a very plausible position to advance, although it was an untenable one, and it succeeded with members of Congress, some of whom had never seen a ship, and even with shipmasters and constructors who were not well up in the operation of hydraulic machinery. The result, after one of the severest contests that were ever presented to Congress or the Navy Department, other than one of general public interest, was a compromise, by authorizing the construction by one party at Philadelphia and the other at Pensacola. My official position at the time was one that subjected me to the recitals and arguments of both parties.

In operation both designs were introduced here, and both had their supporters.

July 18 Mrs. J. M. Davenport, formerly "the infant wonder," who had first appeared in June at the National Theatre with great success (at eleven years of age), was seen at the Park, where she attracted great attention. After a long absence she appeared at the Astor Place Opera House, in the autumn of 1849, in the pride of young womanhood.

August 31, there was a buffalo hunt in an enclosure at Hoboken, N. J., which was witnessed by fully thirty thousand people from this city, and in the progress of the hunt a number of the confined animals broke loose, to the dismay and damage of the spectators.

September, the Chatham Theatre, in new hands, opened. A very notable attachment to the company was the " Virginia Minstrels " (Whitlock, T. G. Booth, H. Mestayer, and Barney Williams), for this was the beginning of "Negro minstrels."

The Park Theatre was very much embellished this summer, even to the building of a new front to the house, and was opened in September, with a return to the old prices.

September 30, at the Episcopal Convention held in St. Paul's Chapel, an exciting contest occurred in the consideration of a vote on a resolution involving the sanction of the forms (?) of the Rev. Dr. Pusey of England. The final vote was on a question adverse to "Puseyism," and the result was, Ayes, clergy 18; laity 37 =55; Noes, clergy 97; laity 47=144; a result that was hailed with great glee by the Bishop.

October. On the completion of the United States auxiliary steamer Princeton, having a novel design of engines of Captain Ericsson, and one of his screw propellers, Commodore Stockton had given notice that upon the day of departure of the British mail steamer Great Western, he purposed a trial of speed, and on the 19th as the Great Western rounded the Fort off Governor's Island, the Princeton headed for her, and they raced to Sandy Hook bar.

The Great Western was the fastest sea steamer out of England, and her captain, J. Hosken, accepted the contest, and his vessel was as well prepared as a merchant steamer loaded with freight and fuel, leaving port, could be. On the other hand the Princeton was deep, as the competition was not solely to pass over a certain distance in the least time, but to test the sea­going capacity of the vessel.

Captain Hosken, in a letter regarding the contest, claims to have made nine and one­half knots per hour, and acknowledges to have been beaten from one­half to three­quarters of a knot per hour.

During this fall, General Count Bertrand, of Napoleon's army, and companion of the Emperor in exile, divided attention with Macready, being honored with extraordinary civilities, public and private. A public dinner was given him by the French residents.

November, Colonel John Trumbull, the artist and Revolutionary soldier, died, aged eighty­seven.

December, a controversy, not yet forgotten, began between the Rev. Dr. Wainwright and Dr. Potts, a Presbyterian clergyman, originated by Dr. Wainwright's declaring in a letter that "there could not be a Church without a Bishop."

The building for the Leake and Watts Orphan Home, the corner­stone of which had been laid in 1838, was in this year completed and occupied. This was the structure still standing (1895) in the Cathedral grounds, on the line of One hundred and Twelfth Street, near Tenth Avenue, having been but lately vacated on completion of the new Home on the bank of the Hudson, just across the line of the city's northern boundary.

1844. February 7. Although the fine for giving a masked ball (deducting one­half the fine to the giver who informed on himself) was, as has been before stated, one thousand dollars, yet one was given this evening in the upper East side, which the Herald in its illustrated report of it, termed it " Grand Fourierite *

*Charles Fourier designed a condition of society he termed "Social Unity." Soon after this a call for a meeting of all who desired to form an American society was issued for April, to which were subscribed the names of some dozen well­known citizens. Horace Greeley is reported by the Herald to have been intimately connected with the society, and an advocate of its doctrines.

Free and Easy, and Joint­Stock Fancy Ball," from which the character of both participants and their actions may be inferred.

February, F. Palmo, the proprietor of the popular Cafe de Mille Colonnes, an enthusiastic lover of his native music, secured the building 39 and 41 Chambers Street, previously Stoppani's baths, and at his own charges converted it into a charming little house for the production of Italian Opera, and it afterward was converted into Burton's Theatre. The over­confident Palmo lost in this enterprise all the money he had accumulated in his proper business, and was forced to "tend bar" for a living.

It must be noted here that the Harlem Railroad advertised that after the opera "a large car, well lighted and warmed," would be run "from the corner of Chambers and Centre streets as far as Forty second Street."

On St. Valentine's Day was given at the Astor House the "Bachelors' Ball," which had been long expected by our society and was long remembered for its brilliancy. In the latter part of the month the city was suddenly depressed by news of the disaster on board the Princeton.

February 28. It was on board of this vessel that the twelve­inch cast­iron gun known as the "Peacemaker" burst, when the vessel was bearing the President, his Cabinet, officers of the Army and Navy, and members of Congress, and many other gentlemen with ladies, on an excursion in the River Potomac, killing Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, Secretary of the Navy William C Gilmer, the Chief of the Bureau of Construction, Captain Beverly Kennon, Virgil Maxcy and David Gardiner, of Gardiner's Island, N. Y., and wounding Captain Stockton, Lieutenant Hunt, and a seaman. The gun was cast at the West Point foundry, Cold Spring, N. Y., in 1843, and was satisfactorily proved by Commodore Stockton, I assisting him, and subsequently at Sandy Hook.

March 3, from an investigation by the Grand Jury, it submitted to the Court that the New York Life and Trust Co., with a capital of $20,750,000, had assets amounting to only $2,000,000.

This was the exciting year of the Clay campaign for the Presidency, A considerable revival of business began, in spite of the distractions of the canvass.

In this year Captain Ericsson was created by the King of Sweden a Knight of the Order of Vasa, and naturalized as a citizen of the United States.

April 6, the New York Courier and Enquirer, referring to the advent of the annual elections for Wardens and Vestrymen of the Protestant Episcopal Church, affirmed that the Bishop and many of the clergy were essaying to elect "Puseyites," and that the master was of great interest to the Church, and that after the Bishop (Benj. T. Onderdonk) had addressed the Episcopal Convention in support of "Puseyism," as it was termed, Mr. John Duer presented a paper signed by several clerical and lay delegates, respectfully dissenting from certain remarks in the Bishop's address (Benj. T. Onderdonk), and requesting that their dissent might be placed in the minutes, whereupon he was interrupted by the Bishop, who violently declared he would not allow the paper to be made a subject for discussion or be put upon the minutes. Mr. Duer arose to appeal from the decision of the Bishop, who, in a very excited and peremptory manner, replied, "Sit down, sir; take your seat," and declared that, if the clergy and laity did not sustain him, he would "resist, even unto death, such an invasion of his rights!"

April 7, General Morgan Lewis died, eighty­nine years old. Son of Francis Lewis, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, he was himself eminent for service in the Revolutionary War. After the peace he became Attorney­general, Justice and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State, Governor, and Senator. In the war of 1812 he served as Quartermaster­general of the United States Army. At the time of his death General Lewis was Grand Master of Masons and President of the Society of the Cincinnati. His funeral in St. Paul's Chapel was a great public event. It was attended by the aged Major William Popham, then ninety­two years of age, Vice­president of the Cincinnati and then the sole surviving original member of the society.

April 7, Washington Hall and its site were purchased from the heirs of John G. Coster by Alex. T. Stewart, who purposed to erect a dry­goods store thereon. Mr. Hone writes that the corner­stone of the Hall was laid on the 4th of July, 1809, and on the 5th of July of this year it was burned.

The Roman Catholics in 1841 had opposed the application of the public­school fund in the established manner; they wanted a portion of it for their sectarian schools, and organized in support of their claim. In this not only did they signally fail, but their action gave additional organization and vitality to the Native Americans, whose action in the mayoralty election of this year was of exceptional interest, as there were three parties in the field, their candidates, Jonathan I. Coddington representing the Democrats, Morris Franklin the Whigs, and James Harper the Native Americans, who was elected; he receiving 24,510 votes against 20,538 cast for Coddington, and 5297 for Franklin. This party was in the majority in the Common Council for some years, but the illiberality of its tenets, added to the return of many of its members to their original parties, when Native Americans were in nomination, so reduced the new party that in a few years it dwindled out of existence. Mayor Harper signalized administration by active service in the improvement of Madison Square, and in improving the organization of the Police Department.

His administration partook of the purity of that of his early predecessors in the office, but without the savoir faire and pratiques of some of the local politicians who succeeded him.

At this period the police officers of the city were few in number, without effective organization, and ununiformed. Mr. Harper, recognizing their deficiency when combined action was required, proceeded to remedy this, and succeeded in effecting an organization that became initiatory to the present one. He also succeeded, despite the opposition to the measure, in establishing a uniform for the members.

April 4, the Fourierites held a great convention in Clinton Hall, at which Horace Greeley presided as one of the Vice­presidents; and on the 8th, the anniversary of the birth of Fourier, there was a grand festival at Apollo Hall, at which Parke Godwin and Horace Greeley addressed the company.

The Tribune at this time was the organ of the Fourierites and published their creed.

April 13, Moses Y. Beach, in his paper The Sun, essayed to perpetrate a hoax upon the public with an announcement of the arrival of a balloon and its navigator at Charleston, S. C., from England.

April 11, the first Paas festival of the St. Nicholas Society was celebrated.

April 12, the Herald having published a very severe article on Henry Wikoff, regarding his business relations with Mlle. Elssler, he replied in the columns of the Enquirer, making charges, and alleging circumstances altogether of too personal a nature to be given here.

May 2. At Apollo Hall there was presented the performance of the "Congo Minstrels," later known as the "Negro Minstrels."

June 27. In evidence of the advance or improvement in the capacity of both trotting and running horses, the breeding and training of them: in 1818 " Boston Blue" of Boston, Mass., at Jamaica, L. I., trotted a mile in harness in the then unprecedented recorded time of 3 minutes; in 1824, "Albany Pony," also in harness, a mile in 2 minutes and 40 seconds; and in this year "Americus," driven by George Spicer, trotted three miles on a racecourse on Long Island in 7 minutes and 52.2 seconds, equal to an average of 2 minutes and 37.5 seconds; and in 1859, at Kalamazoo, Mich., "Flora Temple," in harness, one mile in 2 minutes and 19.75 seconds. In running horses like improvement had been attained. "Sir Henry" in 1823 ran, as before stated, four miles in 7 minutes 37 seconds; and in 1876 "Ten Broeck" in 7 minutes and 15.75 seconds.

July 1, the Cunard steamer from Boston for Liverpool had sixty­six passengers, and at the same time from this city, the Oxford for Havre, Liverpool, the Oneida for Havre, and the Victoria for London had collectively but eighty four passengers.

May 9, at an annual meeting of the Abolitionists, their actions were of an exceptional and fanatical character. They were wrought up to frenzy, in the passage of a resolution expressing a determination to dissolve the Union. Garrison presided, assisted by Wendell Phillips.

At a meeting of the Board of Aldermen it was advanced that in consequence of the frequent and fatal accidents on the New York and Harlem Railroad, the rails should be removed from the streets; and a report from a select committee was submitted by it, which, after being laid aside, was not concurred in.

May. It was about this period that the area known as the Fishing Banks was discovered to be a feeding bottom for sea bass, porgies, etc., and Henry E. Neil chartered the first steamboat for the service of fishing and excursion parties.

It was not permitted to sell goods on a Sunday, or to encumber a sidewalk. The fine for the non­observance of the laws was two dollars for each of the offences, and it was demanded and paid.

The proposed annexation of Texas, advanced and advocated at the South and by the Northern Democrats, was violently opposed by partisans of the Whig party, who were opposed to any extension of Southern influence and negro slavery. Meetings for the purpose of expressing dissent were held at various times, and the Administration and "Loco­focos," as the Democrats were termed, denounced. On April 24 a public meeting of all, "without reference to party," assembled at the Tabernacle to protest against the annexation; the call being signed by the leading merchants, bankers, and citizens of the time. The meeting was presided over by Albert Gallatin, and it was interrupted by an adverse party, who hurrahed for Texas etc. Conspicuously the Whigs outnumbered the Democrats.

The Chatham Theatre opened in the middle of July, with J. W. Wallack as Hamlet to the Ophelia of Mrs. Flynn. This performance was notable for the appearance of F. S. Chanfrau as Laertes. He had worked up from the ranks, afterward becoming famous as Mose in "A Glance at New York" at the Olympic. He travelled thereafter extensively through the Union; a handsome man and versatile actor of enduring popularity.

July 29, the Long Island Railroad was opened to its terminus at Greenport, with an excursion over the line to Boston in the following year; and the last train to the South Ferry was run September 30, 1861. Much was expected of this enterprise as affording a main route of travel to the East (by steamboats from Greenport), but it did not fulfil expectation.

April 13. Edward Curtis, a prominent and active Whig who had been appointed Collector of the Port by President Harrison, was this day removed by President Tyler, who was charged with aspiring to be the nominee at the approaching convention, and in view of it he sought to put his partisans in power, and Chas. G. Ferris, a Democrat, was appointed to the vacancy. Both removal and appointment were much criticised.

July 30, the New York Yacht Club was organized by the presence and act of nine gentlemen on board the yacht Gimcrack of Mr. John C. Stevens, who was elected commodore. On its first cruise there were nine yachts. Many years prior to this, Commodore Stevens and his brother, Robert L., had built a small sloop, the Trouble, and in 1833 they built at Hoboken the schooner Wave.

Mr. Korponay, a Pole, who had lately arrived here for the purpose of teaching us the polka, went to Saratoga, where he was received by the young with much eclat and after a very successful course of teaching, he visited Newport and Washington for a like purpose, and successfully.

In August died John G. Coster, at eighty­one, a much esteemed citizen; and also William L. Stone, who had honorably conducted the Commercial Advertiser for a quarter of a century.

I think it was in the fall of this year that the Bowery Theatre brought out a patriotic drama entitled "Putnam, or the Iron Son of '76," which had extraordinary attraction for the public, and ran for nearly eighty consecutive nights. Its cast of characters included Washington, Greene, Cornwallis, Rawdon, etc., and appealed strongly to a public the elders of which could remember the Revolutionary War.

As the Presidential election drew near, it became the chief topic of thought and conversation. The passionate devotion of the Whigs to the person of Mr. Clay gave a peculiar ardor to their feelings and acts in this campaign, which never since has been matched in point of enthusiasm. On October 30, a great Whig demonstration occurred in New York, followed on November I by an equally long procession of the Democrats. In numbers, insignia, and equipments these were superior to any preceding or succeeding display I have witnessed, and I have seen very many. In the election the Whigs "traded" their Congressional and State candidates for Clay votes, thus giving a sweeping success to the Native American party; but that party did not return the compliment in full, and as the Abolitionists voted directly or indirectly against Clay, he lost the State of New York by a small majority, and with it the election.

The first returns favored Clay's prospects, and the Broadway House, on the north­east corner of Broadway and Grand Street, the Whig head­quarters, was a centre of rejoicing over the early news. A procession marched to congratulate Frelinghuysen, the candidate for Vice president, who was visiting in Washington Place, and he replied in a speech. The Whigs were intoxicated with triumph, but the morning showed New York and the election lost. The Broadway House, after this campaign, lost prestige and declined.

John C. Stevens leased a portion of the grounds of Columbia College, fronting on College Place, and erected a house thereon, somewhat in the Colonial style. In excavating for the foundation, there were exposed and reclaimed two pieces of English field artillery, which had evidently been captured and secreted.

Thomas Ludlow Ogden died in December of this year, aged seventy­one. He was a highly respected member of the bar, of a family connection which is still extensive and of high repute. For many years he had been clerk of Trinity corporation and Warden of the parish. He was grandfather of Thomas Ludlow Ogden, but now dead (1894), almost precisely fifty years later, also in the office of a vestryman of Trinity.

In this year Joseph Francis perfected his life­boat, the precursor of the varieties that have followed.

Houston Street was extended from Lewis Street to the East River.

The last services were held in the Middle Dutch Church, prior to its removal. The old church became the Post­office. It was removed in 1882 to make way for the Mutual Life Insurance Company's building.

August 11,. The Herald evidently availed itself of every opportunity that was presented to notice what it held to be vagaries or idiosyncrasies of Horace Greeley, the acts or sayings of James Watson Webb, the letters of Henry Wikoff, or to refer to Thurlow Weed (whom, from his political and editorial influence at Albany, it termed the State Barber), or the presence and salutatory displays of the "Bouquet man" at all public meetings of societies, etc.; and on the occasion of the delivery by Horace Greeley of a lecture in Philadelphia, the Herald announced to its readers that "This eccentric genius delivered an address before some literary society at Hamilton College the other day, and a pretty mess it appears he made of it. It was partly literary, philanthropist, Clay, and Fourierite. Horace had better stay at home and look after his paper; he evidently was in a dangerous state of exaltation."

August. Captain James Hosken (Lieutenant R. N.), who had commanded the steamer Great Western, arrived here for the purpose of enlisting some of our capitalists in organizing a company to construct and operate a line of steamers hence to Liverpool and return; the practicability of which he supported by furnishing detailed exhibits of the receipts and expenditures of the Great Western and of the British Queen. He failed in his mission and returned home.

September 26. There was a great meeting held at Tammany Hall this evening to endorse the measure before Congress relating to the acquisition of Texas, and at it George Bancroft, the historian, made his debut both as a political and a Democratic speaker. His reception by the meeting was of an exceptionally enthusiastic nature.

On the south­west corner of Trinity churchyard was the grave of Captain James Lawrence, U. S. N., who was killed on board the United States frigate Chesapeake in her engagement with H. B. M. frigate Shannon. There was erected a shaft with a broken or imperfect capital, as typical of his life, but as the city had provided a new monument, the shaft was removed and the new one (August 22) fronted on Broadway.

In evidence of the commercial position of the city at this period, there were 218 sea­going vessels in port and in service, and in this year there were 50 vessels built here.

In the fall of this year the Democratic party divided in two factions; one being designated by the other as "Barnburners," referring to the story of the man who burned his barn to destroy the rats that ate his grain; later they were termed "soft shells," and the other faction "old hunkers," or "hard shells."

Washington Market was extended out to the bulkhead line, and known as the Exterior or Country Market.

The boundaries of Madison Square were fixed at Twenty­third and Twenty­sixth streets, and Fifth and Madison avenues, the area being 6.82 acres, a reduction of 73.48 acres from the original design of 1814.

In Broadway at 412, near Lispenard Street, there was the Apollo Ballroom, a very popular resort for a grade of politicians who were opposed to Tammany Hall. In later days it was the headquarters of the Apollo Hall or Wood democracy.

In this year the American Musical Institute was founded, under Mr. Henry C. Timm, and Thomas Clyde established a line of steamers between this port and Philadelphia, with the steamer McKim; not only the second commercial one, but the first with twin screws-a type now being adopted after a lapse of very nearly half a century.

December 1, the New York Hotel opened by Billings & Monnot.