Copyright by the editor, Hal Morris, Secaucus, NJ 1997. Permission is granted to copy, but not for sale, nor in multiple copies, except by permission.
Jacksonian Miscellanies is a weekly email newsletter which presents short documents from the United States' Jackson Era, with a minimum of commentary. Anyone can receive it for free by sending to firstname.lastname@example.org a message with
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The following comes entirely from chapters 12 and 13 of
Reminiscences of New York by an Octogenarian (1816 - 1860)
published and copyrighted 1896 by Harper & Brothers
I am in the process of putting the whole book online, having completed about half of it, including the illustrations for only the first 4 chapters.
The writing, is disconnected, but full of gems, including nearly the whole stock in trade of historians' colorful stories for happennings in New York City between 1828-1831.
At this time (early 1828) the nomination of General Andrew Jackson for the Presidency at the coming convention was so well assured that unusual interest was manifested in the customary annual dinner at Tammany Hall, on the 8th of January, in commemoration of the battle of New Orleans.
A faction of the Democratic party who were in the habit of meeting at
the "Pewter Mug" in Frankfort Street, combined with the Administration
or Adams men and some antiMasons,
defeated some of the Tammany candidates for office. Hence the term "Pewter
A.M. Bailey in Hudson Street advertised a grate, designed for the combustion
of anthracite coal, which was the first construction of one suited for
this new fuel, then gradually being introduced into domestic use.
Roasted chestnuts were first sold in the streets by a Frenchman who
made his appearance in or about this year, and established himself on the
sidewalk, corner of Duane Street and Broadway, selling at first only the
large chestnuts of the Spanish or French variety. He became so well identified
as the originator of this street industry that, upon his death, which occurred
not many years since, it was noticed in several of the daily papers.
Asa Hall extended his enterprise of one stage, from Exchange Coffee
House, site of the Duncan building, corner Pine and Nassau streets, to
Greenwich, corner of Hudson and Amos streets, to a line of stages, of the
omnibus type, 121/2 cents.
May 15 occupants of the State Prison in Greenwich Street were removed to the newly constructed building at Sing Sing, the construction of which had been commenced in 1825
The city stages (omnibuses) had so increased at this time (twenty in
number) that there were five routes in operation, viz.: Greenwich, Broadway,
Manhattanville, Grand, and Dry Dock (via Water and Cherry streets, etc.
September 18 a traveller from Cincinnati
reached here in the unprecedented time of seven days; so remarkable was
this considered that it was noticed and commented upon in the papers.
... The daily issue of all the papers published in the city was given
as fifteen thousand.
In the canvass for the Presidency in this year (John
Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson),
party lines were very stringently drawn. The party in power, the whilom
Federalists, recognized the popularity of General Jackson, and in view
to weaken it, every act of his, public or private, that could be brought
to his disadvantage, was published and disseminated; notably his duel with
[* His duel was so exceptional in condition and result that it is worthy
of notice: pistols at eight paces. and toss for fire. Dickinson won it,
his ball wounding Jackson in the breast, from which he never fully recovered,
but he did not flinch, as he was unwilling that his adversary should know
he was wounded; whereupon Dickinson exclaimed, "Great God have I missed
him?" Jackson then fired and wounded him so that he died soon after.]
James K. Paulding,
a popular author, published "The New Pilgrim's Progress," a burlesque
on the guidebooks and writings of English travellers, and a satire
on fashionable life in this city. ...
... there were at this time, of my personal knowledge, ten shipyards
where vessels of all descriptions were built ... added to which there were
several shipcarpenters without yards, that repaired vessels; as Henry
Steers, Cornelius Poillon, etc., etc.
Early in this year a steam locomotive, built in England by the celebrated George Stephenson, was exhibited in the ironyard of E. Dunscomb in Water near Frankfort Street.
... Two mask and fancy balls given at the Park Theatre were so fully
and fashionably attended that proprietors of other theatres and halls essayed
similar enterprises; and as the patronage under less stringent requirements
and observances, and in different locations, became less and less select,
these affairs grew offensive to propriety, and the Press, in behalf of
the citizens, asked of the Legislature an Act designed to suppress the
It was enacted that all like assemblies should be subject to a fine
of one thousand dollars, onehalf to be paid to the informer of the
violation of law.
The Sabbatarians of the period, having obtained a great number of petitions to (Congress asking for the arrest of the running and delivery of the mails on Sundays, a public meeting was called by the merchants, and others, to protest against such action by the National Legislature.
There were two lines, the Despatch and Union, of steamboats and stages
combined, running between this city and Philadelphia.
On the 25th of [May] the Morning Courier and New York Enquirer, edited by James Watson Webb and M. M. Noah, appeared.
The first operating locomotive introduced into this country was one which had been procured in England by Horatio Allen, and it was put in operation at the West Point Foundry Shop in Beach Street, in this month. Its power was estimated at nine horses, pressure of steam sixty pounds per square inch, and its capacity five miles per hour with a train of from sixty to eighty tons.
In June James G. Bennett, an associate editor of the late New York Enquirer, issued a proposal for a paper to be called the New York State Enquirer.
August 1 the fare of foot passengers over the Hoboken ferries was reduced
from 121/2 to 61/4 cents.
Henry Placide of the Park Theatre was without an equal as a general
actor of this period; always correct and often brilliant; a universal favorite,
whether as Sir Peter Teazle, Baron Pompolino, or the schoolboy with an
apron eating gingerbread, on the stage, or as a genial gentleman off it.
September 5 James G. Bennett
announced his editorial connection with the Morning
Courier and New York Enquirer, and that he would support strict Republican
(Democratic) usages and principles.
This autumn the Park Theatre occupied the field virtually alone. The
Lafayette had been burned, and the Chatham was given over to negro burlettas
and the like, before vulgar audiences. ...
This was the year of the "burking" excitement, beginning with reports that several persons had disappeared unaccountably. The public mind was already full of the atrocious murders committed in Edinburgh by Burke and Hare and their accomplices, who decoyed poor people and stragglers into secluded places and there murdered them, merely to get bodies to sell to the anatomists; thus making, as Sir Walter Scott said, "an end of the Cantabit vacuus*"
[* "Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator." JUVENAL]
the last prerogative of beggary, which entitled him to laugh at the risk of robbery." With Burke's deeds fresh in memory,
... Women and children never ventured forth alone after nightfall, and
citizens generally were armed during their evening walks, though only with
About this date the wooden picketfence that had inclosed St. John's Park, at Hudson, Laight, Varick, and Beach streets, was replaced with iron. This property was held in common by the abutting owners, and was availed of solely by them, each being in possession of a key wherewith to enter it. For many years the neighborhood was one of the very highly aristocratic portions of the city. In 1869 this Park was purchased by Captain Vanderbilt in behalf of the New York Central & Hudson River R.R., and on it were erected storehouses for a freight station and depot.
In January the Chatham Garden Theatre was revived as Blanchard's Amphitheatre Under this style very good equestrian performances, with ropedancing and the like, were offered.
May 2, James Watson Webb of the
Courier and Enquirer
feeling aggrieved at some action of Duff Green,
editor of a paper in Washington, went there for the purpose of resenting
the charge against him by punishing Green, who, upon the appearance of
Webb in a threatening manner, drew from his breast a pistol and presented
it at Webb, who immediately ceased all hostile demonstration, and on his
return to New York published an article over his name, relating the meeting
with Green on the steps of the Capitol, and that the pistol was of a given
length with a mahogany stock. The article was held to be very injudicious
and humiliating to his friends. Bennett, upon his publication of the Herald
in 1838, took advantage of it; and for a long while after when he referred
to Webb, it was "mahogany stock," "barrel and all,"
A new line to Philadelphia was established in the spring: running time (by steamboats and coaches), twelve hours mirable dictu!
About this period Indiarubber overshoes first appeared; the exact
date I cannot give. They were wholly made of pure rubber, and were very
rough and unsightly in fashion. Prior to this, provident elderly persons
wore overshoes of leather, men and boys greased their boots or shoes in
winter, or suffered with wet feet.
The popular letters of Major Jack Downing first appeared in the New York Advertiser. They assumed to be from the pen of an Eastern pedler, who having been intimate with General Jackson, the President, they jointly occupied a bed, and he addressed him in that strain. They were written by Charles Augustus Davis of this city.
Note 2: For easy access to a couple of Davis' Jack Downing sketches,
satirizing the controversy over the Jackson's dismantling of the 2nd Bank
of the United States, see The
Annals of America, vol 6, selection 10 (p41)]
September 1, Charles Kean made his first appearance at the Park Theatre in "Richard III.," before a great audience. Booth was playing tragedy at the "Bowery" Theatre at this time, and the rival performances were very interesting to the public. Kean may be said to have laid here the foundation of his great reputation. He returned to England in 1833, when his countrymen acceded to the American opinion of him.
September 10, John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York, died at Auburn,
N. Y., and on the 16th occurred his funeral, a very solemn and impressive
sight. The procession is said to have contained five thousand persons,
and the streets were thronged through which it passed. The funeral service
was performed in Trinity Church. Bishop Hobart was a great man and born
ruler, and a very eminent citizen of New York. He at one time became engaged
in a polemical discussion with Dr. Mason, who was termed the Goliath of
Calvinism, and of Hobart's defence the lines of Sir
Walter Scott in his "Lady of the Lake" were aptly quoted:
"While less expert, though stronger far
The Gael maintain'd unequal war."
The Book of Mormon of Joseph Smith, alleged by him to have been found, was first published in this year. It is claimed, however, that the book was written by a clergyman at Mormon Hill in 1819; being essentially a plagiarism of a romance, which was clandestinely taken or copied by a printer, and adopted as the Bible of the "Latter Day Saints," as Smith and his proselytes termed themselves.
November 26 witnessed a great civil and military display. ... in honor of the dethronement of Charles X. of France [and to celebrate Evacuation Day; the anniversary of the British ending their occupation of New York] ExPresident Monroe presided the celebration. ...
... [There was] a party of persons who had been actors in some of the scenes of the Revolution: Alexander Whaley, of the "Boston Tea Party"; ...
... David Williams, one of the captors of Major Andre; John Van Arsdale,
who hauled down the British flag on the Battery on the evacuation of the
city ... During the progress of the march a section of a steam boiler was
rivetted, and an armchair was manufactured and presented to the presiding
officer. The route was at least two and a half miles long.
There were ... several public or roadside houses, which were daily frequented by the gentlemen who kept horses and wagons. These were that of John Snediker on the Jamaica Road, celebrated for his asparagus dinners; "Nick" Vandyne's, on the hill at Flatbush, where the widow dispensed liquors and gossip; it was at Cato's that the horsemen of the day convened, notably Captain Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Pearsalls, Richard T. Carman, Edward Minturn, John and Gerard Coster, and a host of others; Widow Bradshaw's, corner of One Hundred and Twentyfifth Street and Third Avenue, whose chicken fricassees were universally acknowledged to be a marvel and an "institution"; they were as well known as Mrs. Dominy's "chunk apple" and clam potpies at Fire Island.
In an earlier chapter I have adverted to the primitive methods employed
in striking a light. About this period, however, there was introduced a
brimstone match, which was so universally used that children sold them
in the streets, with as much persistency of application as they now practice
in vending newspapers. These matches were made of narrow pinewood
shavings, planed off in a manner so as to form a spiral, cut in lengths
of about five inches, and their ends dipped in melted sulphur.
The Manhattan Gas Light Company was incorporated with a capital of five
hundred thousand dollars to supply the upper part of the island.
Thomas M. Jackson, colored, opened in this year an oystercellar
and restaurant at 47 Howard Street, west of Broadway; it was a favorite
and very popular resort, and deservedly so, as he kept good articles and
was very civil and attentive to his customers. He also was popular as a
caterer for public and private festivities.
The first locomotive in this country, before referred to, was forwarded
from this city and operated on a road in South Carolina.
The Christian Intelligencer was established in this year as the newspaper
of the Dutch Reformed Church.
In this year, and for several years after, the formation and operation
of boat clubs became very popular with our young men; our boatbuilders
were taxed to fill the demands for long, narrow, and highly finished boats,
usually for eight oars; the "Barge," the property of a club of
young men of our extreme ton, was doublebanked and eightoared.
The absence of ferryboats, barges, tows, and towboats, compared with those of a later day, rendered rowing in the evening safely practicable, and New Brighton, Thatched House at Paulus Hook*, Hoboken, Elysian Fields, Bull's Ferry, and Fort Lee were visited.
[*Paulus Hook later became Jersey City]
In March, at the "Bowery" Theatre, George Jones, later known
as the Count Joannes, first appeared on the stage, as the Prince of Wales
in King Henry IV. Jones had some dramatic capacity, though less than he
In this year the first street railway in the world, the New York and
Harlem, was incorporated with a capital of three hundred and fifty thousand
dollars. Upon the notice of the commissioners to receive bids for shares
of the stock, there was a furor among our citizens to obtain them, to be
likened only to that of the "South Sea Bubble" ...
The University of New York was incorporated in this year, the following
officers being elected: James M. Matthews, D. D., Chancellor; Albert Gallatin,
President of the Council; Morgan Lewis, VicePresident; John Delafield,
Secretary; Samuel Ward, Treasurer.
March 18 the Bachelors' Fancy Ball, which had been the subject of great
interest in the fashionable circle, took place at the City Hotel. In brilliancy
and general success it met all expectation.
April 20, William C. Bryant, editor of the Evening Post, and William L. Stone, of the Commereial Advertiser, met in Broadway near Park Place, and a personal rencontre occurred, Bryant striking Stone with a cowhide, whereupon they closed and were parted by the bystanders. Stone prevailed, to the extent of carrying off the whip with which he had been attacked.
June 7, the boiler of the steamer General Jackson, while she was lying
at Grassy Point on the North River, burst, and several persons were killed.
In July there were three extensive conflagrations of buildings, viz.:
on the 2d, the block bounded by Fourth, Mercer, Amity, and Greene streets;
on the 4th, forty houses and stores in Varick, Charleton, and Vandam streets;
and on the 18th, in Eldridge Street, nineteen houses. In the lastnamed
fire three persons were burned.
On the Fourth of July ExPresident James Monroe died in the house
of his soninlaw, Samuel L. Gouverneur, in this city. Of four
exPresidents who then had died, Mr. Monroe was the third to depart
on the national anniversary, a coincidence heightened in effect by the
simultaneous deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on July 4, 1826.
The Mohawk and Hudson Railroad began operations in this year, exciting
astonishment and fear by attaining a speed of twenty miles an hour.
The river route hence to Peekskill, having for many years been run by Captain Vanderbilt, and the price of passage being such as the citizens of Putnam and Westchester counties, headed by Daniel Drew and James Smith, held to be exorbitant, a number of them associated in a company and built a steamer which forced Vanderbilt to reduce his fare to twelve and onehalf cents. In 1832, however, Drew and Smith sold out to Vanderbilt without the knowledge or consent of their associates.
The summer of 1831 witnessed the success at the Chatham Garden Theatre
of George Handel Hill ("Yankee Hill"), who, in his Yankee delineations,
made for himself a wide reputation. ...
Late in September, Forrest was first seen in "The Gladiators,"
the wellknown play written for him by Dr. Bird of Philadelphia.
A Mr. Anderson, an English actor, on his arrival here was charged by
a fellowpassenger, an American, with having made some very unjust
and illnatured remarks during the passage regarding Americans. Upon
the announcement of his engagement at the Park Theatre the charges were
publicly reported, and as a result, the house on the evening of his appearance,
October 13, was filled with some of our indignant citizens who had individually
assembled, without any previous association, and upon the entrance of Anderson
on the stage he was greeted with hisses, missiles, etc., so persistently
maintained that the performance was arrested.
Nevertheless, Anderson was announced for the evening of October 15, in the same part (Henry Bertram, in the opera "Guy Mannering.") On this occasion the theatre was filled to overflowing with men only, who were determined to prevent Anderson's performance.
When it was attempted to read his apology, a riot broke out which was
not the least diminished by announcement that the actor's engagement had
been cancelled and that the play would be changed. As usual in such cases,
the riot spread far beyond the designs of its originators and became the
causeless, silly, or malicious outbreak of evildisposed persons. It
continued during the next day (Sunday). And in the evening of that day
an attack was made on the theatre, the doors and windows being battered
in. "Old Hays" and his men after a time restored comparative
order, and on Monday the mob was appeased by sight of the front of the
theatre covered with American flags, patriotic transparencies, etc., and
no further violence occurred.
November, I shot a ruffed grouse (vulgo partridge) at Breakneck Hill
on the estate of Madame Jumel, One Hundred and Fortyfourth Street
and Ninth Avenue, and it was believed by sportsmen to be the last one to
suffer a like fate on the Island.
November, the Richmond Hill Theatre was opened with the "Road to
Ruin," a favorite opening play of that epoch, and not always inappropriate.
... The little theatre enjoyed liberal favor from the public during the
summer, until the cholera epidemic of 1832 ended this with all other forms
December 26, the East River was closed (jammed) by ice so that several
hundred persons crossed on foot between New York and Brooklyn.
The estate of Bishop Moore, which was part of that of Captain Thomas Clarke, and known as Chelsea, was inherited by his son Clement C., before mentioned herein, who occupied the house and grounds bounded by Nineteenth and Twentyfourth streets, Ninth Avenue and the river.
In this year he commenced opening streets through the property.
Wells & Patterson opened at No. 277 Broadway, next to the corner
of Chambers Street, a store for the furnishing and sale of men's hosiery,
gloves, shirts, etc., etc., a manmillinery, as it was then termed-and
this was for several years the only store of the kind, as well as the first
that was opened in this city.
The population of the city in this year was ascertained to be 202,589.
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