18211822 CADWALLADER D. COLDEN, 1821; STEPHEN
ALLEN, 1821-1822, MAYORS
1821. IN this year John Randall, Jr., completed his maps
of the avenues and streets of the city as approved by the Commissioners
In January a fire destroyed a great number of wooden buildings
occupying the premises on Fulton, Front, and South streets, and Fulton
Market was erected thereon, to replace the Fly Market at Maiden Lane, which
was insufficient in area and inconvenient in its location. During that
month snow was so deep in the streets that the chief engineer of the Fire
Department issued an order permitting the members of two fireengine
companies to operate but one, in order that they should be better enabled
to draw one engine through the streets. The cold was intense. On the 21st
of January the North River from the Battery up was so wholly frozen over
that many thousand persons crossed from the foot of Cortlandt Street to
Paulus Hook (Jersey City). On the 25th foot passengers crossed the East
River to Brooklyn and to Governor's Island; on the 26th a boat was brought
up from Staten Island on the ice, and persons walked to Staten Island from
Long Island. Anthracite coal was first introduced in furnaces this winter-an
February 12 the Mercantile Library of the City of New
York opened at 49 Liberty Street, being removed, in 1826,
to Cliff Street. In this year the Black Ball Line,
hence to Liverpool (see p. 45), added four vessels to its fleet. The ship
Sea Fox, hence to Charleston, was capsized off Sandy Hook, and the
crew of a passing vessel, several days afterward, visited the wreck as
it lay bottom up, and becoming aware of the existence of persons in the
forecastle, they cut a hole in the bottom and drew out four seamen.
Public feeling on the lottery question was made evident
by an Act of the Legislature providing that new lotteries were not to be
granted after the engagements of those then in existence had been fulfilled.
The North River Bank was chartered, with the condition
that it gave Robert, John, and Samuel Swartwout assistance to develop their
scheme, originating in 1819,
to convert into arable land the meadows
on the east side of the Hackensack River, north of Snake Hill, and it compromised
with them for the sum of fifty thousand dollars. The Swartwouts prosecuted
this enterprise with great diligence and persistence, employing in it all
the capital they owned or could borrow. They constructed many miles of
embankment and ditches, reclaiming about fifteen hundred acres, but the
enterprise failed, and its projectors lost all. Other efforts of similar
character have since proved to be unfruitful; notably an elaborate attempt
made by Pike, the Cincinnati distiller, somewhere in the sixties.
The large double house, No. 39 Broadway, built in 1786
by General Alexander Macomb and occupied by Washington as President, was
occupied in this year by Mr. C. Bunker as a hotel and known as the Mansion
The Bloomingdale Asylum, begun in 1818, was opened on
May 7 in this year. The Deaf and Dumb Asylum, incorporated 1817, was located
on Madison Avenue and Fiftieth Street, the present site of Columbia College
(1895), first occupied by Columbia in 1857. It was the first asylum for
mutes in the United States.
Twelve lots of ground in Greenwich Street, at the Albany
Basin, foot of Liberty Street, sold for $47,800.
In consequence of an issue between the Grocers and Auctioneers
of the city, 234 of the former signed an agreement not to purchase any
other than damaged or perishable goods at auction for a period of six months
from the 1st of January.
Vauxhall Garden was at this time a place of very general
resort for residents of the upper portion of the city. It occupied a considerable
space between the Bowery and Broadway, Fourth and Art streets (Astor Place),
surrounded by a board fence, with the main entrance at about the middle,
on the Bowery (Fourth Avenue) side. The fence was lined within with boxes,
or rather stalls, each containing a narrow table with seats for two persons
at each side, at which tables light refreshments were served. The garden
contained walks, trees, shrubs, flowers, etc., and in the centre was a
large building in which theatrical performances were given, with interludes
of songs, dances, etc. The Astor Library now occupies part of this site.
The beginning of Vauxhall was, so early as 1799, under the enterprise of
a Frenchman named Delacroix, but I learn it was in 1807 that it assumed
the condition of garden and theatre according to the description here given.
At a later date it became a favorite place of public meetings, etc., and
finally disappeared about 1848 or 1849, soon after the Astor Place riot.
In May Henry Wallack first appeared in New York, at
the Anthony Street Theatre (the Park being in ruins). He was in high
favor with our public for years, as a most effective actor in allround
parts. He was at one time stage manager of the National Theatre under his
brother James W. His last appearance was in the autumn of 1858,
as Falstaff. His wife, a person of singular
loveliness, first appeared also in May of this year as a dancer, but soon
adopted the drama, and remained attached to the Park Theatre for some ten
September 1. The
New Park Theatre was opened; the poetical address on the occasion was written
by Charles Sprague, the wellknown Boston banker and man of letters.
The new house had room for an audience of twentyfour hundred;
the stage measured forty-five by seventy feet.
September 25 Peter
Richings appeared here for the first time on any stage, as Henry Bertram
in "Guy Mannering." He proved to be an effective actor.
Julius Brutus Booth arrived in this country at Norfolk,
Va., and made his first appearance at Richmond. October 5 he first presented
himself in New York, as Richard III. He returned to England, but
came here again early in 1824, and
was at the Park, and afterward at the Chatham (,Garden Theatre and at the
New York (Bowery), where he became a great favorite. In 1843 he played
his last engagement at the Park; his last performance in New York, however,
was so late as the autumn of 1851. He died in November, 1852.
At theatres at this period, and for some years afterward,
it was customary for some of the actors to favor the audience with a song,
and on the occasion of a benefit to Miss Johnson, who was a favorite with
the public, eight songs and one duet were given, together with a Scotch
and Turkish dance. In this season a summer garden, with an improvised theatre
for the patronage of colored persons, was opened, where "Richard III.,"
"Othello," and like pieces were presented by a colored company.
Hoboken at this date, and for many years after, certainly
as lately as 1840, was of a summer day the favored resort of our own citizens
seeking fresh air, green fields, and shady walks; and when I reflect upon
the character of the company that visited the grounds bordering upon the
river, and the perfect impunity with which young ladies could visit them,
the conviction is forced upon me that, however much we have advanced in
science, manufactures, learning, and wealth, the character, tone, manners,
and morals of our general society have most signally and regretfully depreciated.
April 10 the British Consul removed the remains of Major
Andre from Tappan to England, pursuant to a request made by the British
Government and the permission which of course was given by the authority
of this country.
In May William Niblo, proprietor of the wellknown
publichouse at 45 Pine Street (southwest corner of Pine and William
streets), which he opened in 1814, opened what was known as the Mount Vernon
residence, about Seventieth Street, east of Third Avenue, as a hotel and
grounds, and termed it "Kensington." It became a very popular
resort for many years.
June 24 there was caught at the tail of the dam at Fire
Place, L. I. (Carmen's), by Mr. Samuel Carman, a trout or a salmon-it was
never decided which it was- that measured three feet in length, seventeen
inches around, and weighed thirteen pounds eight ounces.
In consequence of the growing frequency of Sunday excursions
in steamboats, the clergy of the city entered upon a crusade against them.
At a meeting by them at the City Hall, for the purpose of expressing the
sense of the community, it was declared there were fully five thousand
persons present, and upon the clergy essaying an organization, they were
voted down; General Robert Bogardus was elected chairman and William T.
McCoun (late Vicechancellor) secretary. The meeting then expressed
its disapprobation of the interference of the clergy.
The speed of steamboats of the day was very low, ranging
from six to nine miles per hour. The smaller boats, to ports on Long Island
Sound, could not always stem an adverse tide in Hell Gate, and,
as illustrative of the tediousness of the passage, I note that the owners
of a number of steamboats furnished two thousand volumes of books
for the library of their boats.
In August of this year Frances
("Fanny") Wright first opened her views on social conditions;
and about the same time John C. Symmes first published his theory of the
existence of a passage at the North Pole leading to the centre of the earth.
The views of Symmes were very severely and also jocosely referred to by
all the public prints, and the alleged opening was termed Symmes's Hole.
September 3 a very severe gale occurred along the entire
seacoast, which from its severity and the destruction of vessels and property
was for many years remembered and referred to as "the September gale."
The intensity of it occurred at low water, otherwise the destruction in
this city would have been much greater. In some instances small vessels,
as brigantines and schooners, were left high and dry on the piers, instead
of alongside of them.
On the 8th there were some isolated cases of yellow fever.
The shottower of Mr. Youle at the foot of East Fifty-fourth
Street was constructed in this year. On the 8th of October, when
nearly completed, it fell to the ground, but was rebuilt.
On the I2th Mrs. Holman, who afterward became Mrs. Majorgeneral
Sandford, first appeared at the theatre. October 30 Mr. Cowell, a comedian
from England, made his first appearance at the Park, and old NewYorkers
will thank me for reminding them of the pleasure they have enjoyed in witnessing
his inimitable performances.
In November Beekman Street was extended from Pearl Street
to the river, and the pier at its foot was known as Crane wharf, and on
the 20th of this month Fulton Market was opened for business. In the same
month one of the Brooklyn Ferry sailboats was capsized by collision
and a passenger drowned.
In the absence of railroads, and with the few steamboat
routes, the travel of the period continued to be principally by stagecoaches,
and the accidents involving life and limb were so frequent that injuries
to travellers, when their number at that day is compared with that of the
present, was far in excess of injuries by railroads and steamboats. In
November the mail stage hence to Philadelphia was overturned near New Brunswick,
and Mr. James W. Wallack received a comminuted fracture of one of his legs.
So severe was the condition of it that amputation was saved only by his
positive resistance to the operation. It was necessary, however, to encase
it in a tin envelope. Valentine Mott, the eminent surgeon of the time,
December 31. The
iron railing for the Park arrived from England, and in order to avoid a
duty on the manufacture it was complete only in parts. Four marble pillars
to the gateways at its southern terminus were erected and surmounted with
scroll iron work supporting lanterns, and also made the depository of coins,
etc. Samuel L. Mitchell, M. D., delivered an address on the occasion.
At this time, and for many years after, there were but
few places of evening amusement for young men and boys. There were not,
as at a later period, horse, dog, and flower shows, pugilistic exhibitions,
anatomical and dime museums, billiard and pool rooms, or "freeandeasies,"
but one theatre, a circus, only three billiardrooms, and but one bowling
alley west of the Bowery, while even Scudder's Museum would not bear repeated
attendances; there was such a void of amusements that young men and boys
were glad to avail themselves even of an evening book auction, and, as
a result, there were many of these, and they were well attended. One in
Fulton Street near Broadway was continuously in operation throughout the
year. The absence of public libraries induced circulating libraries, of
which there were several, where books could be obtained by quarterly, halfyearly,
and yearly subscriptions. A leading one of these was the Minerva, on Broadway,
between Warren and Chambers streets.
The Red Star Line, hence to Liverpool on the 20th of each
month, was established by Byrnes, Trimble & Co.
David Dunham, a merchant, had the steamship Robert
Fulton built, intended to ply hence to New Orleans. After some service
she was sold to the Brazilian Government, her machinery removed, and then
she was fitted and equipped as a secondclass frigate.
December. "The Spy," by James Fenimore Cooper,
appeared in this month This was Cooper's second work, the first being a
somewhat conventional and crude representation of English society. But
in "The Spy" Cooper took up new ground, laying his scene in his
own country and among the events of the Revolution. This resulted in the
beginning of his great popular success (not yet wholly abated), and really
in the beginning also of fictitious literature in America. Properly to
understand the exceeding interest which "The Spy" excited at
the time of its production, modern readers must remember that the close
of the Revolutionary War was then little further removed than is now the
beginning of the late War of the Rebellion. Much speculation was indulged
concerning the original of the character of Harvey Birch, the patriotic
spy. Captain H. L. Barnum wrote a volume entitled, "The Spy Unmasked"
(J. & J. Harper, 1828; reprinted by the Fishkill Weekly Times, 1886),
dedicated to Cooper, in which Birch was identified with Enoch Crosby, a
resident of the present Putnam County, on the border of Westchester-the
"neutral ground" of the Revolution. In consequence of this, Crosby
was warmly received on his appearance in some public places in New York,
and acknowledged these attentions in a letter published in the Journal
of Commerce of December 27, 1827. Crosby died June 26, 1835, in his
eightysixth year. It must be added that Cooper, in the preface to
an edition of "The Spy" published in 1849, referred to "
several accounts of different persons who are supposed to have been in
the author's mind" as the original of Harvey Birch, and declared that
he never knew the identity of the person by him reproduced under that character,
although some of the chief incidents connected with the character in the
tale were undoubtedly historic.
So well was "The Spy" received that it was soon
followed by others; notably, "The Pioneer" and others of the
"Leather Stocking" series. When the "Red Rover" appeared,
I succeeded, on a Saturday evening, in obtaining a copy at the circulating
library I patronized, and when the church bells on the following morning
rang for nine o'clock, as they did at that time, I had just finished the
Market, at the foot of William Street (Old Slip), was erected and opened.
Hogs were permitted still to run at large in the streets,
although the practice was objected to by most of the citizens, and the
frequent mortifying references thereto of Boston and Philadelphia editors
added to the opposition; yet the common opinion that the hogs were the
best scavengers supported, for many years after, the indifference to the
practice shown by the Common Council. In support of this inaction it is
to be considered that at this period all garbage and refuse matter from
dwellings was thrown into the street. Some years after (1825),
an ordinance of the Common Council authorized
the furnishing and equipment of a cart and operators to arrest swine in
the streets. The advent of the cart and the endeavor to arrest the swine
were attended with such forcible opposition by men and boys that the ordinance
necessarily became a dead letter, until the amour propre of our
citizens, despite the unpopularity of the cart, was aroused, the enormity
of the practice was realized, and swine were removed from the streets.
Piracy in the West Indies still continued, and our Navy
was taxed to fit and equip a sufficient number of small cruisers to suppress
it. In this service the late Commodore Lawrence Kearney, then a lieutenant,
distinguished himself, having captured 17 piratical vessels and
In February the merchants of the city convened for .the
purpose of asking for a floating light off Sandy Hook, also for the formation
of an association to construct a Merchants' Exchange.
In March a line of sailing vessels was established hence
April 22 the packet ship Albion hence to Liverpool was
lost off Tuskar Island, with her captain, Williams and fortyfour others,
being the greater part of her passengers and crew. As this was the first
disaster of the kind, and as the population of the city was small, the
occurrence was a leading topic
of conversation among all classes, and a subject of natural reference for
some years afterward. I add here that the packet ship Liverpool, Captain
William Lee, Jr., hence to Liverpool, was lost in the ice on July 25 of
this year, on her first voyage. The loss of life occasioned by the stranding
of the AIbion led many persons to design lifepreservers, the
first that was submitted to the public being en adaptation of an ordinary
mattress, patented by a vender of beds and bedding, a Mr. Jackson in Pearl
Street, who was long and well known as "Moccasin" Jackson, an
eccentric character. He it was who first took a trotting horse to England
from this part of the country. Mr. Stackpole of Boston had taken his horse,
"Boston Blue," as early as 1818.
A drama based on Cooper's novel of "The Spy"
was produced this year at the Park, from the pen of an intimate acquaintance
and a wellknown citizen, Mr. Charles P. Clinch. It was an excellent
production and met with deserved acceptance from the public.
May 10. James
Wallack appeared at the Park Theatre as Captain Bertram in "Fraternal
Discord," a part that did not involve his standing, since he had not
yet recovered from the effects of the fracture of his leg. Mr. Richings
had then become a favorite stock actor at the Park Theatre, and he continued
as such for many years afterward. Old New York will recur to him with pleasure.
In June was opened the Chatham Garden, on Chatham Street, between Duane
and Pearl, running through to Augustus Street (City Hall Place). It became
very popular. At first it contained a saloon designed only for concerts
and light dramatic works, but this was converted into a regular theatre
in May ensuing. In July the City Theatre, Warren Street, near Broadway,
was opened, under the auspices of Mrs. Battersby, a sister of Mrs. Barnes.
This house was closed at the end of August on account of the existence
of yellow fever, but was reopened in November.
Tammany Hall, then at the corner of Park Row and Frankfort
Street (see p. 33), was advertised by its proprietor as a very salutary
location, being on high and open ground, and airy. The country house and
grounds heretofore mentioned as Richmond Hill now became known as the Richmond
Hill Garden, a place of public resort.
The State of Connecticut enacted a law regarding steamboats
of a foreign state, the details of which I do not know, which prevented
the Connecticut from trading hence to New Haven, and as a consequence
she was put on the route hence to Newport and Providence; the time of travel,
from New York to Boston, twentyfive hours. So enterprising and so
hazardous an undertaking was this considered that a log of the boat's passages
was published in full in the papers of the day. A line of packets hence
to Havre was established in the summer, one to sail every two months, agents,
Fox & Livingston, and also Crassous & Boyd.
In May the steamboat Hoboken was put upon the ferry
to Hoboken, when the newspapers heralded her as a very fast boat, announcing
that she would make the round trip every two hours.
In the early part of this year, at 86 Maiden Lane, Clark
& Browne opened an eatinghouse, which for many years, alike to
its predecessor, the Auction Hotel, was well known for the excellence of
its cuisine and the moderate price of the viands. At that time the Spanish
eighth of a dollar (121/2 cents) was in circulation and was the price
of a plate of meat. On one occasion a diner offered Mr. Clark a dime and
two cents, which he refused, with the remark that the half cent kept his
The wooden picket fence around the City Hall Park
having been replaced with one of iron imported from England, our iron
manufactures not being then sufficiently advanced to compete with that
country, trees were set out within the enclosure, and two wellmeaning
and liberal ladies provided rosebushes, which were planted within
the railing, and resisted frosts, the ruthless hand of time, and the wantonness
of boys for more than a year. Boys were better behaved then than now.
A treadmill was constructed and operated in the penitentiary
by order of the Common Council. It was six feet in diameter and twentyfive
feet in length; and by a connection with one end of the shaft, its power
was utilized to grind corn. The custom of burying in Trinity churchyard
was discontinued. St. Thomas's Church was built at the corner of Broadway
and Houston Street (see p. 198). It was in this year that Congress ceded
Castle Clinton (Castle Garden) to the city.
The great Northern mail was despatched and received but
triweekly. The cost of transporting merchandise hence to Pittsburgh
was $9.50 per
hundredweight, the transit being wholly by teams.
The new Constitution of the State was adopted in February
of this year, whereby there were several important changes. Slavery was
abolished after July 4, 1827, though minors were not to be freed until
1830; the right of voting was given to negroes owning real estate to the
value of $250. Imprisonment for debt was abolished also, to take effect
in May, 1832; military officers were to be elected instead of appointed
by the Governor; and changes in the election laws were effected. The Sheriff,
Register, Coroner, etc., were this year for the first time elected, under
the provisions of the new Constitution. The election of military officers
by their subordinates was a very popular provision and helped toward a
great revival of the military spirit. It was not until 1843
that State arms were issued to the National
June 22. The Albion was established, a colonial
and foreign weekly, published and edited by Dr. J. S. Bartlett at 37
The month of August remains memorable for an outbreak
of yellow fever and the extraordinary panic caused thereby, which depopulated
the city. For more than a century the disease had been from time to time
epidemic in New York (as might have been expected of a town wherein droves
of swine fed upon garbage in the streets), notably in 1795, 1798, and frequently
through the earlier years of this century, so that the inhabitants had
acquired a habit of summer flitting to Greenwich Village and other like
places then considered rural, distant, and safe from contagion, though
now and long since involved in the city proper. The outbreak of this year,
however, was of unusual proportions, and created unwonted terror among
the citizens. Enough has been already written to preserve in memory the
scenes and incidents of that disturbed and even awful time, and I shall
not indulge in great freedom of reminiscence, though I cannot leave the
June 17. A case of yellow fever appeared in Lumber, near
Rector Street, and the disease spread so rapidly that by the 26th the occupants
of quarters below Wall Street were in headlong flight to Greenwich and
other country districts. The public offices, the banks, insurance offices,
and newspapers all shifted to what was then the upper part of Broadway
or to Greenwich, which place became the scene of hurried building operations
on a large scale. Mr. Devoe, in his admirable book before mentioned, quotes
the Rev. Mr. Marcellus as telling him that "he saw corn growing on
the present corner of Hammond (West Eleventh) and Fourth streets on a Saturday
morning, and on the following Monday Niblo and Sykes had a house erected
capable of accommodating three hundred boarders." Stores of rough
boards were constructed in a day. What then was known as New York was almost
wholly deserted, being fenced off at Wall, then at Liberty, and
then at Fulton Street. The ferries from Brooklyn, Jersey City, and Hoboken
transferred their landings to Greenwich. Three hundred and eightyeight
persons died from the infection, from which the city was not free until
the last of October. Such, in prescientific days, were some of the
effects of a strictly preventible disease.
The Park Theatre Company opened its autumn season at the
Broadway Circus, near Grand Street, as being at a safe distance from the
yellow fever in the city, and remained there until early in November, when
the epidemic had ceased. November 7 Charles Mathews the comedian first
appeared here, at the Park, with great success. His second engagement on
his return in 1833 was less fortunate.
He appeared for the last time in New York at the Park, in February, 1835,
On November 21 a match was made between the owner of the
celebrated racehorse, "American Eclipse," owned by Mr. Van
Ranst of this city, and "Sir Charles," owned by Colonel Johnson
of the South, for twenty thousand dollars, to be run at Washington, D.C.,
on the appointed day. Colonel Johnson paid forfeit. So great was the interest
in this race that it was arranged that by a series of express riders the
result was to be borne to Paulus Hook, and, upon its reaching there, a
white flag was to be displayed in the event of the Northern horse being
victorious. In a race between them a few days afterward, "Sir Charles"
"Paisley Place," between Sixth and Seventh avenues
and Sixteenth and Seventeenth streets, consisted of a number of wooden
houses, which were principally occupied by Scotch weavers, who operated
handweaving. This row, which was erected during the yellow fever excitement,
still remains, a visible relic of the agitated period of the summer of
In this year a wellknown elderly gentleman, a resident
of Broadway, jilted the sister of a man who was absent at the time, but
who, upon his return, awaited the offender in Broadway, corner of Duane
Street, and a little after high noon, when the street was well filled with
pedestrians, gave him a very severe cowhiding.
The authorship of the Waverley novels was at this time
frequently discussed; the general opinion, however, was in favor of Sir
Walter Scott. I may remind my readers that it was not until the Theatrical
Fund dinner of February 23, 1827, at Edinburgh, that Sir Walter, in reply
to Lord Meadowbank's toast, openly avowed his authorship of these works,
and up to that time the subject was surrounded with such mystery as very
naturally to pique public curiosity.
The silt dredged from the slips was warped out in scows
to an anchor in the river opposite to point of operation and there dumped
in a manner for which someone has since claimed an invention.
The depth of the channels was held to be sufficient to
admit of shallowing, it not being entertained that the volume of the sweepings
of the streets, and that from the excavation of cellars, opening of streets;,
etc., would ever reach an excess of that required to fill our river fronts
out to the bulkhead line, unmindful of the fact that the wash of the light
material was borne away to be deposited on the shoals of our bays, and
thus, by reducing the area and depth of water, reducing the tidal flow
over the bar at Sandy Hook.