18341835.-GIDEON LEE, 1834, AND CORNELIUS W.
LAWRENCE, 1834 AND
1834. THE first steam motor of the Harlem
Railroad from terminus to Fourteenth Street was now employed, and later
in the year the road was opened to Yorkville. February 11, Platt Street
was opened, Pine Street was again widened, from Broadway to Nassau Street;
Beaver, from William to Broad Street; Fulton, from Broadway to Ryder's
Alley; and Gold from Frankfort to Fulton Street, were widened. In this
year Augustus Street was renamed City Hall Place.
In April of the previous year Wooster Street (University Place) was
opened from Eighth Street to Fourteenth Street.
I recollect but one florist, and that was a Thomas Hogg, who had a store
on Bowery Hill in 1828, in 1832 at 388 Broadway, and in this year in Broadway
near Twentythird Street. The custom of funeral wreaths, flowers in
the churches at Easter, bouquets at dinners, weddings, or balls,
and boutonnieres, was unknown.
In this year there were but thirteen markets in the city. About this
period was constructed, in Thirteenth Street near Fourth Avenue, a tank
designed to furnish water for extinguishing fires; it was in elevation
at its surface 104 feet above tidewater,
with a capacity of 233,000 gallons, and was supplied from a point where
the Jefferson Market and Court House now stand; the water being drawn up
from a well supplied from several conducting galleries radiating therefrom,
and forced by steamengine of 12horse power. (See ante, p.
A very large bell was placed on the City Hall to give alarms of fire;
the city being divided into six areas, radiating from the belfry, numbered
one to six; and on the occasion of a fire in one of them, it was designated
by a like number of strokes of the bell. It gave a sombre, ominous tone,
appropriate to the message it conveyed. Many New Yorkers still in active
life will remember the thrilling deep note of "the Hall Bell."
Excitement over the removal of deposits from the United States Bank
continued, and meetings of both parties were convened. In January a meeting
at the Exchange appointed delegates to convey a memorial to Congress, and
in February a large openair gathering in the Park was the scene of
considerable disturbance. On February 7, another meeting in the Exchange
and the neighboring part of Wall Street assembled to receive the report
of the delegates in charge of the memorial. These things greatly intensified
interest in the coming municipal election, which became almost purely political
in its nature and was held to bear chiefly on " the Bank question.
In January the old line of Liverpool packets was sold out, and Goodhue
& Co. became the agents. This winter there was long delay in westward
passages from Europe, and at one time out of fortysix regular packet
ships engaged in European trade from New York but two were in this port,
and they on the eve of sailing hence. The latest advices from Liverpool
at that date were seventyone days old.
February 5. The long and embarrassing controversy' between this State
and New Jersey regarding the boundary line, which was finally defined by
the Commissioners, was ratified by our Legislature and by that of New Jersey,
and sanctioned by Congress.
The principal lines defined were: The middle of the North River, from
a point on the 41st degree of latitude;
the middle of the flay; of the Strait (Kill von Kull) between Staten
Island and New Jersey, and of Raritan Bay to the sea, excepting jurisdiction
by New York over Bedlow's, Ellis', and all other islands in those waters
then subject to its jurisdiction. A qualified jurisdiction,.as it was termed,
was retained by New York in the waters of the Hudson River, and the Bay
west of New York Island, south of Spuyten Duyvil Creek, and over the lands
covered by such waters to low water mark on the Jersey side. New York to
have exclusive jurisdiction in relation to quarantine laws and passengers,
of and over the waters of Kill von Kull to the west side of Shooter's Island,
and also over the waters of the Sound from the west side of Shooter's Island
to Woodbridge creek.
April 8 occurred the charter election, the first election of the Mayor
by popular vote under the new law. The candidates were Cornelius W. Lawrence,
I Democrat, and ( Gulian C. Verplanck, Whig, the latter a firm " Bank
Man," the former, "antiBank." The interest in the election
may be estimated from the fact that many stores were closed at noon to
allow working at the polls, and from the great vote that was cast- exceeding
thirtyfive thousand-and the closeness of the result. The days of election
at this period were three, beginning on Tuesday, with a single pollingplace
in each ward. So close was the result, that it was not until late on Friday
that the result of 203 Democratic majority was known; and in the interval
of the prolonged canvass the excitement consequent thereon was such as
never was witnessed before or since. Wall Street was crowded from morning
until evening, and returns from the different wards were proclaimed from
the steps of the Merchants' Exchange.
During the progress of this election, and the canvassing of the tickets,
there was some rioting, which but for the zealous and effective action
of a large number of the citizens, subsequently supported by a military
force, would have been attended with serious results. At the poll in the
Sixth Ward, the Whig quarters had been invaded by a party of Democrats,
and the ballot distributors were driven out. A body of special police was
then formed, led by James Watson Webb, editor of the Courier and Enquirer,
and the quarters were restored and defended, though at the cost of
much fighting and many bodily injuries. Soon after, both parties became
highly excited. Wall Street in front of the Merchants' Exchange was thronged.
Webb and others addressed the crowd, and it being declared that the arsenal
in Elm Street was about being stormed, the Whigs rushed there and took
possession of it. Simeon Draper, who was a wellknown partisan in the
Whig camp, took an active and conspicuous part, and Colonel Arcularius,
who was in charge of the arsenal, in his report referred to his action
as that of "a man with a claretcolored coat," which designation
was jocularly given to Draper for several years after. A body of Democrats,
exasperated by the offensive partisanship of Mr. Webb, proposed to attack
the office of the Courier and Enquirer, but Webb had very considerately
provided an armed force within it, and had borne a great number of pavingstones
upon the roof to be projected upon the attacking party below. His precautions
were not only very well designed, but effective.
April 8. Fulton Street from Broadway to Ryder's Alley widened.
The installation and assumption of office by the first Mayor elected
by the people were held to be deserving of more than the usual and restricted
ceremony of merely calling and shaking hands. Mr. Lawrence having provided
some refreshments, the attendance was so large that it became turbulent
and even destructive, rendering necessary the presence of police officers
to disperse it.
Though the Democratic Mayor was elected, a Whig Common Council was chosen,
and the Whigs deemed it a triumph, which they celebrated by a banquet at
Castle Garden, where a double row of tables ran around the interior, inclosing
a pavilion wherein were three pipes of wine and forty barrels of beer,
which were dispensed to the crowd. After the banquet a portion of the company
was addressed by Daniel Webster from a window of Mrs. Edgar's house in
It was during the Mayoralty election of this year that the term "Silk
Stocking" party was applied by the Democrats to their opponents, arising
from the circumstance that the excitement of the campaign was such as to
draw many retired and hitherto nonpartisans into it in opposition
to the Democrats.
June 25 took place a memorial observance of the death of Lafayette,
which had occurred on May 20. A procession, in which the military made
an exceptionally fine display, marched from City Hall Park to Castle Garden,
where an address was delivered by Frederick A. Tallmadge. The whole proceedings
of the day, under direction of the city authorities, were tasteful and
becoming as New York's last tribute to the last MajorGeneral of the
July 9, a riot occurred at the Chatham Street Chapel, in consequence
of the claim of a musical society to be entitled to the occupancy of the
chapel on an evening when some negroes wanted it to hear a preacher of
their race. Upon being refused admittance, they burst in, and were eventually
removed and quieted by a body of police. On the following evening, a crowd
broke into the room and organized a meeting, during which it was insidiously
announced by some person that an actor of the New York " Bowery"
Theatre, Mr. Fallen, was an Englishman, and that he had expressed himself
in an offensive manner regarding this country, and that he was antislavery;
where upon the party proceeded to the theatre, invaded the house in all
parts, and hissed and hooted Hamblin the manager, despite an American flag
which he employed as a buckler against the missiles projected at him. Forrest
was called for, and Fallen made his escape. The were finally driven out
by the police, but being elated with their success at the theatre, they
then proceeded to Lewis Tappan's house at 40 Rose Street and sacked it.
On the following and succeeding evening a mob sacked the house of the Rev.
Dr. Ludlow on Thompson Street; the African Chapel, corner of Church and
Leonard streets; St. Philip's Church in Centre Street, and stoned Dr. Cox's
church, corner of Varick and Laight streets. A greater part of the rioting
and sacking I witnessed.
This might be termed "riot year." In August happened. the
"Stonecutters' riot," organized against employment of convicts
from Sing Sing in preparing marble for New York buildings, especially the
University Building then in progress (the one between Washington Place
and Waverly Place, just now removed, 1894). This riot was dispersed only
by the Twentyseventh (now the Seventh) Regiment, which lay under arms
in Washington Parade Grounds for four days and nights.
The talk of a new water supply took definite form in the Croton Aqueduct
project, for which the beginnings of surveys and estimates were made in
September 29 James Sheridan Knowles was seen at the Park for the first
time in America, assuming the part of Master Walter
in his own " Hunchback." Knowles was but a mediocre
actor. He returned to England at the close of the season.
The political canvass of this fall was very animated, New York being
the "pivotal State," the vote of which would determine approval
of President Jackson, and settle the "Bank question," the probable
succession to the Presidency of Martin Van Buren, etc. The result was a
sweeping defeat of the Whigs
The Murray House, on a tract of land bordered by the Old Boston Road,
which gave name to Murray Hill, was destroyed by fire in this year.
Fernando Wood, who was a cigar manufacturer at 133 Washington Street,
discontinued the work, and was employed by Francis Secor & Son, ship
carpenters and proprietors of a marine railway, 103 Washington Street.
At that time West Street was not continued out so far north, and Washington
at that point was open to the river.
John J. Boyd, assistant alderman of the First Ward, introduced in his
board a resolution designed to effect the passage of an ordinance requiring
houses of prostitution to be licensed and maintained under surveillance
The community at large were so wholly unprepared for such an acknowledgment
of the existence of these houses, and displayed so much puerility and mawkish
sentiment, that his essay was ignored, and socially he suffered for it.
In the fall of this year, and soon after the general election in this
State, in which the Democratic party was exceptionally successful, Tyrone
Power was performing at the Park Theatre, and Ritchings in his character
in the afterpiece, referring to a wig, was required to say "Wigs are
out of date," which expression was at once seized upon by a notorious
political partisan from the Seventh Ward, who, with some friends, was present
in the pit, and he and they applauded vociferously. Thereupon such of the
adverse faction as were present hissed, and for a long period the uproar
continued, and was quieted only by Ritchings coming forward and disavowing
any purpose of allusion to a political party.
November, Mme. Celeste reappeared at the "Bowery" Theatre
after some years of absence, and repeated her former triumphs, her engagement
lasting (though not continuously) till the next May.
Perhaps I have not sufficiently displayed one theatrical characteristic
of this and a somewhat earlier period, which consisted in the dramatization
of Scott's and Cooper's novels. It may be safely said that almost all the
popular works of those authors were thus presented from time to time, and
some of them most successfully. They were given not only as plays, but
sometimes in operatic form.
Commodore Vanderbilt, designing to build another steamboat, expressed
his views in the presence of a steward of one of his boats, who immediately
"I can, furnish eight thousand dollars." The surprise of the
commodore can be appreciated, when it is related that this man had come
into his employ but a few years previous. This man was subsequently part
owner and captain of a steamboat on the Albany line, touching at the State
Prison wharf, foot of Christopher Street. It was customary with him to
visit the dining cabin before meals, to check any sumptuousness in the
furnishing of the table. On one occasion, upon seeing two potatoes on one
plate, he exclaimed: "two potatoes on one plate ! Cut them in
four pieces and string them along." Occasionally he ventured upon
an address to the occupants of the breakfast table. "Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very sorry, but my steward did not reach the wharf in time with the
breakfast provisions, and as they were all left you must excuse me this
time." At the same time the steward was standing aside of him dressed
as a waiter. The captain continued in employ, and in a few years after
was the principal owner of one of our largest Sound steamers. I was a passenger
on the boat on one occasion, and learned of the scene in the cabin from
a steamboat man, an intimate acquaintance.
In this year Morris Canal stock was bought up much below par by a party
of operators, who "unloaded" it at a great advance. Webb of the
Courier and Enquirer, for a long while after, was frequently
reported by Bennett of the Herald as ejaculating "curses
July following this a "corner" was operated in stock of the
New York and Harlem road, when a settlement was effected by which a profit
of over sixty per cent. was realized.
About this period there was edited and published a
notoriously vile and scurrilous paper termed The Hawk and Buzzard.
The burden of its articles was of a villanous character, in keeping
with its title. No one of any prominence was safe from its innuendoes;
and although not designated by name, his residence
or place of business would be pointed out as being not a thousand miles
from some locality or building near his house or office, and in a manner
that exposed the party as clearly as if his name had been given. Like a
hawk it pounced upon every one inferior in its own manner of warfare, and
like a buzzard revelled in offensive and noxious matter. Finally, it became
so offensive to society in general that it was held disgraceful to be seen
with it, and its publication ceased.
At the political headquarters and pollingplace in each ward-for
it is to be borne in mind that there was but one such place in each-it
was usual to erect a very high spar, surmounted with a gilded cap of liberty,
termed a Liberty Pole. In consequence of the enthusiasm of the Whigs about
this period, they erected these poles at their ward headquarters. Such
erections have since ceased, and unless one had witnessed the rearing of
one, he would doubt that the occasion could have been made one of such
preparation and consummation-a platoon of mounted horsemen decked with
ribbons, a band of music, grand marshal and his aids, flags, emblems, citizens
in carriages and on foot, speeches, fireworks, etc. In fact, it was a display"
more honored in the breach than in the observance."
In this year M. M. Noah founded the Evening Star. It supported
Harrison in 1840. In 1841 it was merged with the Commercial Advertiser.
1835. In this year the following streets were widened: Wall Street,
at Pearl; Chatham, from Pearl to Mott; Liberty, from Nassau to William;
New, from Wall to Beaver; William, from Wall to Maiden Lane; and Centre
both widened and extended from Grand to Chatham. Coenties Slip was partly
January 12. The question of the relative merits of the New York and
Philadelphia fireengines being constantly discussed, the Common Council
deputed a committee from its members to proceed to Philadelphia and procure
one of its " gallery" or "doubledecked engines,"
which it did, and subsequently a second was obtained. They had much greater
capacity, but were too cumbersome for a light company of men.
February 28, the St. Nicholas Society was organized, Peter G. Stuyvesant
elected president and Hamilton Fish, secretary. A preliminary meeting had
been held on the 14th, of which Washington Irving was secretary. The first
annual meeting was held and celebrated on December 30.
May 6. The first number of the Morning Herald, subsequently the
New York Herald, edited and published by James G. Bennett &
Co., from the basement of No. 20 Wall Street, appeared this day in four
pages of four columns 101/4 by 141/2 inches, price one cent;
the second number on the eleventh. On the 31st of August it appeared as
the Herald, by James Gordon Bennett, and subsequent to this as the
Morning Herald and again as the Herald The ultimate success
of this essay was held to be very questionable; but the tone of the articles,
aided by some interesting letters with the nom de plume of "Hector"
from Washington, furnished by a resident who had held office there for
many years, until displaced by a change in the administration, was such
as to please and interest the public, and its success was assured.
Randall's Island was purchased by the city for fifty thousand dollars.
In May, Mary Gannon, so long familiar at Wallack's in after years, made
her first appearance, as a child of six, at this house. Fanny Kemble's
Journal, now exciting attention, having compared reporters to "bugs,"
an amusing burlesque entitled "The Bugs," in which some of Miss
Kemble's peculiarities were satirized, was produced amid much laughter
at the " Bowery " in July.
May 11, Tompkins Street was ordered to be opened from Thirteenth Street
to Twenty third Street. Subsequently, rescinded.
Franklin Market at Old Slip was destroyed by fire; and rebuilt in 1836.
The University Building on Wooster Street (now University Place), begun
in 1833, was finished.
This year saw the printing of newspapers by steam for the first time,
under the auspices of Robert M. Hoe, the Sun being
the first paper thus printed. The average daily circulation of the six
leading newspapers was computed not to exceed seventeen hundred.
Up to this period there were no real estate brokers; the business, when
an outside party was employed, being confined to James Bleecker & Son,
Greenwich Market, located in 1813 in Christopher Street, from Greenwich
to Washington Street, was on ground vested in the city by the vestry of
Trinity Church, with the provision that when it ceased to be used as a
market it should revert to the church. In this year, in consequence of
the diversion of its tenants to the Spring Street and other markets, it
was taken down, and the area by ordinance was retained and appropriated
for market purposes in order to prevent the church from taking possession.
A wellknown citizen and enterprising builder, who designed and
constructed the Colonade Row of houses in Lafayette Place, was in the habit
of visiting an oyster cellar in Broadway near Lispenard Street in the evening,
which had a double door of entrance, or, that when they are very narrow
are termed two halfdoors. Through the opening of one he passed when
entering the cellar, but upon departing it was related that the second
fold was necessarily opened to admit of his passing out. This was not an
invidious charge, it was a fact, and one I have witnessed, and of which
operation it may aptly be quoted, Facilis descensus Averni est, sed
revocare gradum, superasque evadere ad auras, hoc opus, hic labor est.
Samuel F. P.. Morse, in his essays to convince the people of the practicability
and consequent utility of generating and controlling an electric current,
caused to be laid a metallic wire around the inner circle of Castle Garden,
and publicly exhibited the passage of an electric current through the wire.
He had conceived the idea in 1832.
Grant Thorburn, a grocer in 1797 at No. 22 Nassau, a seedsman and florist
in 1806 at No. 22 Liberty Street, from his eccentricity, loquacity, quakerclothes,
and crippled gait, etc., was a wellknown character. He told me once
he had "wrought with Tom Paine." When the morus multicaulis
fever broke out he, with many others, was seized with it-so virulently
that he planted mulberry trees on an extensive scale-and while others withdrew
at the proper time, or in the language of the day, "sold out,"
he, from the force of a fervid imagination, retained faith in the success
of the enterprise, and when it failed signally he was financially ruined.
Thorburn was well known as "Laurie Todd," a name which he appended
to his frequent newspaper contributions.
The New York and Erie Railroad, a preliminary survey for which had been
made in 1825, through the southern tier of counties, was not approved of,
but in 1832 the company was incorporated, in 1833 organized, and in this
year a final survey was made, and on the 7th of November the construction
of the roadway commenced. The company applied to the legislature for State
aid to the amount of two million dollars, but the application was refused.
This was a season of very great apparent business prosperity in New
York, with inflated prices for every sort of commodity. City real estate,
in particular, showed unheard of values, some considerable transfers being
made at prices four times as high as were paid for the same property but
few years earlier.
The Book Club, founded by the Rev. Dr. Wainwright, was one of the favorite
institutions of this time, holding fortnightly meetings at the Washington
Hotel. In spite of its name, the Club was rather convivial than literary,
though the meetings were much attended by men of literary tastes, as Halleck,
Ogden Hoffman, Dr. Francis, etc.
The Croton Aqueduct project, being submitted to popular vote at the
spring election, was adopted by a large majority.
In June of this year our native citizens became excited upon a call
issued in one of the newspapers for attendance at a meeting with a view
to organize an O'Connell Guard. On the 21st of that month an encounter
took place between two parties in Grand near Crosby Street in which Dr.
McCaffrey was killed. The riot extended to Pearl Street, when it was arrested,
and the crowd partially dispersed. On the 22d, a mob proceeded to a restaurant
in the Bowery, near Broome Street, known as the Green Dragon, broke in,
and destroyed tables, chairs, etc., before it could be checked. This was
known as "the Five Points Riot."
June 16, Wall Street widened on south side from Broad to Pearl Street.
In or about 1832 a party of young gentlemen of the city organized a
boat club, elected Charles Fenno Hoffman captain, and had a very commodious
barge constructed. The example was soon followed by others, and in this
year the number of boat clubs was at its height. There was an annual regatta
at which prizes were competed for. July 21st there was a boat race for
one thousand dollars between the boats Eagle and Wave, which
was won by the latter.
August 12th, a fire broke out at 115 Fulton Street, that involved almost
the whole printing and publishing neighborhood. Before it could be checked
it had burned both sides of Fulton Street for nearly a block, both sides
of Ann Street to Nassau (including the Roman Catholic church, which originally
was Episcopal, and owned by the Rev. Mr. Selden), and a dozen buildings
in Nassau Street. Five lives were lost, and as the buildings burned were
chiefly new, the pecuniary loss also was great.
August 27, a public meeting of citizens, for the purpose of expressing
their opinion in relation to the action of the Abolitionists, was called
to meet in the City Hall Park. On assembling, the Mayor was called on to
preside, and the attendance was not only large, but in the character of
those who took an active part in the proceedings it was far in advance
of any public assemblage I ever witnessed.
In the fall of this year the Street Department commenced a test of the
fitness of wooden block pavement; the point selected was in Broadway between
Chambers and Warren streets. Hemlock blocks were well bedded on a foundation
somewhat alike to a "Telford." For some months vehicles ran over
the surface so smoothly and noiselessly that the public were in raptures,
and Mr. Brower then the proprietor of the largest line of Broadway omnibuses,
remarked in my presence that he would give one hundred dollars per year
for each of his stages if Broadway were paved in like manner throughout.
How long this desirable condition of the pavement lasted I do not recollect,
but I do know that within a year that which remained of it was positively
ludicrous in its condition- irregularly worn, depressed in spots, risen
in others, and the voids patched and plastered with cobblestones and
The difficulty was, the bedding was not sufficiently stable for the
blocks, and they were too soft for the travel in Broadway at that point.
September. It was alleged that parties in New Orleans, Mobile, Savannah,
Charleston, and Norfolk had contributed the sum of one hundred thousand
dollars to be expended in the abduction of either Arthur or Lewis Tappan,
two zealous Abolitionists, and that it was designed to avail of a favorable
opportunity to seize and carry them to a vessel awaiting off Sandy Hook.
Later, it was further alleged that the Committee of Vigilance of East
Feliciana, La., offered a premium of fifty thousand dollars to any one
who would kill Arthur Tappan, then the head of the antislavery movement;
both of which offers were very generally disapproved of, both at the North
and the South.
October 4, a party of young Englishmen, the guests of the Marquis of
Waterford, who had lately arrived here in his yacht, consisting of Lords
John Beresford and Jocelyn and Colonel Dundas, indulged in a night spree
in the streets, amusing themselves, to the inconvenience of all others,
until they were arrested by watchmen, kept in the watchhouse all night,
and arraigned before Justice Hopson in the morning.
October 21, the steamboat Champlain, of the New York and Albany
Line, made the run from Albany in eight hours and seventeen minutes, exclusive
of stoppages at different landings.
Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the City of New York organized. The
headquarters of this Society is in Paris; its objects are the practice
of Christian life; the visiting and succoring of the poor, etc.*
* In 1874, a similar Institution, The United Hebrew Charities of the
City of New York, was organized, its objects being to relieve distress
: among the Hebrew poor and to prevent pauperism.
At this time there was a very serious dissension in the Democratic party,
incited in a great measure by Mr. William Leggett, the editor of the Evening
Post, one of the ablest political writers of the period. Logical,
caustic, and wholly regardless of the favor of any one, he was an acknowledged
power. Levi D. Slamm and Alex. Ming, Jr., a printer, were converts to his
views, and they led a numerous band of partisans. On the occasion of a
County meeting at Tammany Hall on October 25, the room was filled by the
partisans of the Regular Democracy and the discontented; the latter being
led by Slamm and Ming, who anticipated that the regulars would resort to
an act that had been practiced with success on a previous occasion, viz.:
submitting resolutions, declaring them carried, and then, by previous arrangement,
and at a signal, having the gas turned off; thus terminating the meeting.
But the opponents were well supplied with candles and friction matches,
then universally termed loco foco, and so soon as the gas was turned
off, as actually happened, they lighted their candles, organized, and proceeded
with their business. This action gave rise to the sobriquet of Loco
Foco party, and the Democratic party was thus designated for many years
afterward. Ex nomine cujus venit verbum vernaculum.
The object of the opposition at this meeting was to defeat the
nomination of Gideon Lee for Congress. This year the Native American party
nominated a Congressional candidate in New York. The opposition papers,
in referring to the party in this city, termed it that of "Slamm,
Bang, Ming & Co."
Booth the tragedian sometimes suffered the affliction under which the
great George Frederick Cooke *
(whose monument is to be seen in St. Paul's Churchyard) frequently suffered.
On an occasion of his appearing as Iago at the " Bowery "
Theatre, he abruptly left the stage, made an exit through a back door,
and was not found for some days. When found, however, and brought to the
theatre, he signed an apology to the public for his unconscious act, caused
" by mental inquietude, etc." or words to that effect, whereupon
he was again engaged and for a time performed acceptably.
The United States frigate Constitution arrived here from Boston,
where, with the exception of a piece of her keel, she had been wholly reconstructed
upon her original lines. Ordinarily, the ornamented heads of our vessels
of war were simple "billet heads," as they were termed; but in
this case, in compliment to General Jackson, then President, who had interposed
to prevent the said vessel from being wholly destroyed and her name erased
from the roll of the Navy, a full figure of him was substituted. At this
period political partisanship (Whigs and Democrats) was being conducted
with a vigor and asperity more alike to that of the early days of the Republic
than any exhibition of it that has since occurred, and it par took also
of especial animosity to General Jackson. On a stormy night when the Constitution
was at anchor off the Navy Yard, the head of the figure was sawn off,
and said to have been taken to Philadelphia, where at a dinner it was brought
in on a salver. In the mean time the vessel was ordered to New York, where
a head by the shipcarvers, Messrs. Dodge, was restored.
The man who was said to have committed the act, so generally applauded
by Whigs and equally condemned by the Democrats, was reported to have died
a few months since (1894). I knew him, and in manner and sentiment and
figure, he was just such as one would select for such a hazardous enterprise.
The mission of the Constitution was to proceed to France, and
if the Indemnity Bill, awarding the claims of our countrymen for spoliation
during the late war of France with England, had not passed, she was to
bear the American Minister to the United States, but, if it had passed,
she was to proceed to the Mediterranean. She proceeded.
The attention of real estate speculators having become directed from
Second Avenue and St. Mark's Place to Brooklyn property, especially the
waterfront, farms at Gowanus, Red Hook, etc.-land which could have
been bought for one hundred dollars per acre a very few years previous-were
sold for five and six hundred dollars. It was an ephemeral valuation, and
when reaction came, as it did in 1837, the prices decreased as rapidly
as they had risen, and to an extent that induced not only foreclosures,
but voluntary abandonments of the purchases with the loss of the amount
paid. An amusing account was current of an enterprise of a tradesman, a
shopkeeper in a small way in William Street, a Mr. Pepoo; who, becoming
interested in the daily recitals of fortunes being realized in a brief
period by purchasing real estate in Brooklyn, visited the Exchange on the
occasion of a great sale of lots at Gowanus, described as having a valuable
waterfront. In the progress of the sale he became seized with the spirit
of speculation, and successfully bid for some lots with a waterfront,
paid the percentage for deposit, and so selfsatisfied was he with
his action that he felt justified in treating himself to a dinner at Delmonico's.
The next day he proceeded to visit his newly acquired property, and upon
arriving in the locality, and describing his lots on the auctioneer's map,
a boatman rowed him some distance from the shore and pointing down one
of his oars and his arm also, exultingly said: "This is about the
corner of your lots." Mr. Pepoo returned home a sadder but a wiser
An Englishman, an editor of The
Adams Locke, who for some weeks had been engaged on a concerted scheme
to bring the paper into notoriety, ingeniously conceived the recital of
an alleged late success in the construction of a telescope by Sir
J. F. W. Herschel, affirming that the article had been copied from
a philosophical journal of Edinburgh. He declared that by the new telescope
the surface of the moon was as clearly shown as if it was but a few miles
distant; so near, was it stated, that the existence and even the conformation
of inhabitants was shown, and they were bats, evidently, from his description,
of the ordo cheiroptera; and so graphically was the whole portrayed
that editors of many newspapers and the general public were deceived. Clergymen
recognized the alleged developments, and pronounced them a work of
the Supreme, and although many persons declared that they did not credit
the account, it was very widely believed; and some papers published the
main features of Locke's article, asserting that it was copied by them
from the designated Edinburgh journal. A professor in a Southern college,
on reading the description of the instrument, observed that such a construction
was wholly impracticable, and he immediately declared the account a deliberate
hoax. It was ever after known as the "Moon Hoax." So frequently
does it occur that the plots of many of the most noted criminals and perpetrators
of crimes have been discovered by the omission of some little factor or
detail of the defence. So great was the public interest in this matter
that an extravaganza was produced at the "Bowery" Theatre,
entitled "Moonshine, or Lunar Discoveries." (Web link on "Moon
Note: the first article in the series was 8/25/1835)
On the evening of the 16th of
December, the great fire, as it was then and since has been termed, broke
out between eight and nine o'clock at No. 25 Merchant Street, now Hanover
Street. The area covered by it was computed at fifty acres, being bounded
by South Street, Coenties Slip, Broad and Wall streets, including twenty
blocks of buildings, the Merchants' Exchange, the Postoffice, and
two churches. The fire spread very rapidly, and soon became unmanageable.
In the efforts to save property, horses and carts were purchased at prices
that seemed fabulous, and forthwith employed in the removal of goods. In
many instances goods that were transported to an apparent place of safety
were there burned, and in some instances others were removed a second and
a third time. The thermometer indicated a temperature of ten degrees below
zero, the fire hydrants in most cases were frozen, and where they were
not, the water from them froze in the hose. Moreover, the water in the
slips was so low, from long prevalence of a strong northwest wind,
that it could not be reached from wharves with the suctionpipes. The
engines froze tight when they were not worked constantly, and many became
inactive from this cause.
Concerning the removal of goods: An intimate friend of mine, a partner
in a very prominent house, came to me and in a very satisfied manner and
tone of voice told me that he was safe, the fire would not reach him. "
Safe! " I replied. "Remove your goods immediately, and don't
stop short of the Battery." "Do you think so?" he replied."
Yes, and do you be quick too." He proceeded to remove his goods near
to Coenties' Slip, at two hundred dollars per hour for carts. Soon after
he again removed what was left of them to the Battery. I have stated that
in many cases horses and carts were bought for exorbitant sums. Such enterprise
was not manifested, however, until after it became evident that all policies
for insurance were of no value.
The arrest of the fire in its lines of progress was essayed by blowing
up adjoining buildings, but except in one case, near Coenties' Slip, the
operation was a failure. In Exchange Street, the second store from one
that was burning was selected for destruction; a keg of powder was put
by me in the centre of the cellar, and a board fitted from the top of it
to the under side of the floor beams above; I then unrolled a roll of textile
fabric and led it over an inclined board from the keg to the floor and
out into the street. Removing the head of another barrel, powder taken
from it was led in a train over the fabric to straw taken from a champagne
basket and ignited. The explosion occurred, and the effect was so general
upon the entire building that, falling down in a mass, the exposed rafters,
floor, beams, and woodwork rapidly ignited, and the effect upon the adjoining
store was more destructive than the fire would have been in its natural
progress. It happened that the double warehouse of Pentz & Co. was
blown up against the owners' will, they thinking the building to be fireproof.
They therefore refused to give up the keys, and the doors were forced by
the authorities. Pentz & Co. afterward recovered more than two hundred
thousand dollars damages from the city for the property thus forcibly taken
and destroyed, though it would have been burned in the course of the conflagation
had it remained.
The fire raged for two nights, not ceasing till the third day. It was
reported to have been seen in New Haven and in Philadelphia. On the second
day a body of four hundred Philadelphia firemen came to relieve their exhausted
fellowfiremen of New York. The railway was not at this time entirely
complete, and the Philadelphians had to drag their engines across a gap
of six miles, over sandhills. The loss was estimated at fifteen millions
of dollars; a similar destruction at the present time would involve a loss
of two hundred millions. The insurance companies were all (or very nearly
all) made bankrupt. At a meeting of citizens, called by the Mayor on the
19th a committee of one hundred and twentyfive was appointed to pursue
various measures of relief; in consequence of which the Legislature authorized
a city loan of six millions for advances on the securities held by insurance
companies, in order that cash for payment of losses, so far as the assets
would allow, might be speedily forthcoming. A great meeting in Philadelphia
passed resolutions calling on the General Government for financial aid
to New York. Yet such were the enterprise, the courage, and elastic temper
of the city that, only in the next February, twenty lots in the burned
district were sold by auction for more than they would have brought before
the fire, when occupied by valuable buildings. A statue of Alexander Hamilton
by Ball Hughes, placed in the Rotunda of the Merchants' Exchange, was destroyed
in the great fire. Of this fire I can truly add: Omnium quorum vide
et quorum pars fui
Soon after the fire a meeting of merchants and insurance men was held,
at which committees were appointed to apply to Congress for an extension
of the time of payment of duties, in order to enable the people to meet
the costs of the regulation of the streets within the area of the burned
district, the erection of new buildings, etc.
Up to this time the Episcopal Church had maintained but one diocese
in the entire State, but shortly afterward (1838) the diocese of Western
New York was created, to be followed by further division at different dates
into the present five dioceses within the State. This Church has enjoyed
extraordinary growth. In 1835 it counted 214 parishes, 194 clergy, and
9738 communicants in the whole State; the returns of 1894 show, within
the same area, 850 parishes, 875 clergy, and 140, 000 communicants.
December 22, died Dr. David Hosack, perhaps the foremost physician of
his day, a man of varied culture. He had an extensive family connection
among New York society, and was one of the best known personages in the
city at that time.
Referring to the files of a city paper of this and some preceding years,
to verify a date, I noticed that the list of members of our State Legislature,
in ant] about the year 1829, presented the names of solid citizens, members
of a legal trade or a profession, having a stake in the interests of the
people, whether in enacting safeguards for the protection of their property,
penal laws, the granting of aid to eleemosynary institutions, or authorizing
facilities to meet the increased demands of an increasing population, and
without looking to any pecuniary remuneration or "boodle,"
as it now is so generally and vulgarly termed, viz.: Representatives in
Congress were Gulian C. Verplanck, Campbell P. White, Elisha W. King, Churchill
C. Cambreleng, and Pierre C. Van Wyck; and Aldermen Campbell P. White,
Samuel Gilford, Richard S. Williams, Lambert Suydam, William Gracie, Evert
A. Bancker, Pierre C. Van Wyck, Jonathan I. Coddington, Philip Brasher,
Richard L. Schieffelin, Egbert Benson, and many rather of like stamp.
Neither did the candidates for election expend to exceed twelve thousand
dollars to attain it, as a Senator vauntingly declared in my presence;
who had withdrawn from a lucrative trade to become a politician of the
type designated machine, joining the dominant party even at the reversal
of his fealty to his faction: neither did they bow to the dicta of
a Tweed or the counsel of a Connolly- one who had at his entrance into
political and public life deservedly acquired the sobriquet of "Slippery
Dick," the fitness of the term being steadfastly and uniformly maintained
in all his acts and promises; neither were there any among them who were
the proprietors of premises which were a medley of brothel, gambling house,
rum and policy shops, or their locale, where "knockout
drops" on fitting occasions were administered to a casual patron,
or were known in the locality and designated to the passerby by the
inelegant but indicative designation of "The Burned Rag" and
like appellations; Nor did an aspirant for a nomination to an elective
office, State or civil, seek for support among the denizens of "Mackerelville,"
"Hell's Kitchen," or prefer a claim for pecuniary credit because
he had just been elected an alderman, and at a period when there was not
any salary attached to the office.
Later, there was a powerful association, the location of which was principally
in the lower part of the Bowery, and known as "The Dead Rabbits,"
which not only controlled nominations or defeated candidates for office
and sent members to the Common Council, but in one case a Representative
to Congress. The origin of the designation was the result of a defiance
between two factions of a fraternity of rowdies and loungers, one of whom,
in passing the room where a number of the adverse party had assembled,
threw a dead rabbit at them through the window. Le vrai n'est pas toujours
In referring to my proofsheets I observe that I have omitted some
relations worthy of record, and I now give them.
When President Jackson directed the United States deposits to be removed
from the custody of the United States Bank and its branches (see p. 279),
the measure was not only condemned by his political opponents, but it was
derisively represented by the issue of a great number of copper tokens,
representing the President as within an iron chest, holding a sword in
one hand and a bag of money in the other, and quoting, "I take the
responsibility," and on the obverse, a jackass as typical of the "Roman
firmness" he was credited with, and the legend, "The Constitution
as I understand it."
Although the issue of these tokens was not confined to this city, yet
as they were designed and made here, anti in view of the pivotal political
status of both the State and city, they were more generally circulated
here than elsewhere, replacing the "head and tail" of the cent
as an instrument ofdecision by "Jackson or jackass." Tompkins
Street was opened to Rivington Street in 1826. Anthony Street extended
to Orange Street in 1832.