1841.-ISAAC L. VARIAN AND ROBERT H. MORRIS, MAYORS
JANUARY 30, there was given at the City Hotel a ball which
was known as the "Young Men's," from the circumstance that fathers
of families were not permitted to subscribe to its cost. It was, in fact,
a renewal of the "City Assemblies" held at the same place in
previous years, which were not only well and fashionably patronized but
were the delight of all who were enabled to attend.
February 23, the ordinance regulating the fares of cabs,
which had but lately been introduced, for one-horse cabs, twoseated,
with a door in the rear, was enacted and approved. For one passenger one
mile, twentyfive cents; for two, an addition of twelve and one-half
cents; for one hour with privilege of two persons stopping at shops, etc.,
fifty cents for the first hour, and thirtyone and onehalf cents
after that. To Kingsbridge and back, all day, $3.50.
March 1, Power's last engagement. He last appeared March
9, and sailed on the 10th by the luckless steamer President, never
reaching any earthly port.
March 11, the Messrs. Glover of this city constructed,
under the design of Captain Ericsson, an auxiliary screw propeller bark,
the Clarion, and upon a trial of her speed she attained seven and
onehalf miles per hour; which Commodore R. F. Stockton held to be
such a success that he addressed the Secretary of the Navy, recommending
the introduction of such a class of vessels in the Navy; which recommendation,
coupled with the record here given, led to the construction of the steamer
Princeton by the department.
April 3, Horace Greeley issued The Log Cabin as
a weekly paper from No. 30 Ann Street, which had been extensively circulated
for six months as a campaign paper in the previous year.
As an editor, Horace Greeley was more generally known
than any other; not only in this city, but throughout the United States.
He was a powerful writer, bold and influential. His views on national politics
were too deep and expansive to be restricted by a party and its expediencies.
Thus, previous to 1860, he published and maintained that,
"We have repeatedly said, and we once more insist, 'that the great
principle embodied by Jefferson, that Governments derive their power from
the consent of the governed, is sound and just; and that, if the Slave
States, or the Gulf States only, choose to form an independent nation,
they have a clear moral right to do so.' We have never said, nor intimated,
that this is a right to be claimed in a freak or a pet. We do not believe-we
have never maintained-that a State might break out of the Union like a
bull from a pasture-that one State, or ten States may; but we have said,
and still maintain, that, provided the Cotton States have fully and definitively
made up their minds to go by themselves, there is no need of fighting about
it. Whenever it shall be clear that the great body of the Southern people
have become conclusively alienated from the Union, and anxious to escape
from it, we will do our best to forward their views." In a spirit
of vaticination he wrote: "One thing has been settled by the experience
of the last twenty years, and that is the moral impossibility of good municipal
rule under the sway of any political party. Either the citizens who mainly
pay the taxes must come together and resolve to unite, without distinction
of party, in support of the honest, capable men, for responsible places
in the municipality, or they must submit to be ruled by peculators and
sharpers leagued with miscreants and ruffians. There is just this choice
open to them."
In the interim, and with the assistance of a loan of money
from a friend, the publishing of the New York Tribune progressed;
the paper appeared on the 10th of April, at one cent per copy, and with
the following introduction:
"The Tribune, as its name imports, will labor
to advance the interests of the People, and to promote their Moral, Social,
and Political wellbeing. The immoral and degrading Police Reports,
Advertisements, and other matter which have been allowed to disgrace the
columns of our leading Penny (cent) Papers will be carefully excluded from
this, and no exertion spared to render it worthy of the hearty approval
of the virtuous and refined, and a welcome visitant at the family fireside."
It had an edition of five thousand copies, and Greeley reported, "We
found some difficulty in giving them away."
Chas. A. Dana and Henry J. Raymond were employed by the
Tribune, the former at fourteen dollars and the latter at eight dollars
A steam fireengine for the city was constructed by
Paul Hodge & Co., but from an unwillingness on the part of the members
of the Fire Department to adopt it, and from its not being a very decided
success, it was not utilized.
Much financial distress was felt during this year; confidence
being undermined by renewed suspension of the banks in Philadelphia, Baltimore,
etc. A further decline occurred in most of the favorite securities, the
market value of which in this year was in many instances seventy per cent.
less than the prices of 1838.
In March the axPresident, Martin Van Buren, displaced
by the inauguration of General Harrison, visited New York on his way to
retirement, being received by a large company of citizens, and welcomed
in a public address. On April 5, news was received of the death after very
brief illness of General Harrison, the first President who had died in
office. On receipt of this intelligence the city displayed all the signs
of mourning, and observed with great solemnity the day of the funeral at
Washington, business being suspended at noon.
April 7, Mme. Restell, who later acquired a very unsavory
reputation, was arraigned for the first time in Court under a charge of
April 10 commemorative exercises were performed under
direction of the city authorities, most of whom had been political opponents
of the deceased President. Business was totally suspended on this day,
the whole city was draped in black, and to the sound of minuteguns
and tolling bells a vast procession (estimated to contain thirty thousand
persons) moved through a storm of snow and rain from the City Hall Park
by way of East Broadway, Grand Street, and the Bowery to Union Square,
and then down Broadway to the Park again. The streets were thronged throughout
the route, in spite of the weather, and the demonstration was the most
impressive the city had ever witnessed.
April 13, Wm. E. Burton, the comedian, assumed management
of the National Theatre, opening with the spectacle of the "Naiad
Queen." Miss Josephine Shaw, afterward Mrs. John Hoey, long leading
lady at Wallack's, was of Burton's company at this time. Later, she was
attached to Burton's Theatre, but retired from the stage upon her marriage
in 1851 Early in 1854, however, she reappeared at Wallack's.
May, Booth appeared at the National for three nights;
on the 28th the house was burned, with all its contents. An incendiary
fire was discovered at 5 P. M., and, as it was believed, was extinguished.
After the evening performance Burton and others made a search of the house
for the sake of security, discovering nothing amiss; yet, toward seven
in the morning, fire again broke out and almost at once grew beyond control.
29, a vote was taken in the Board of Aldermen on the resolution of a committee
to abolish the permits for the erection of booths around City Hall Park
on the afternoon preceding the Fourth of July, which was negatived, and
the erection of booths continued for a few years afterward. The existence
of them, the peculiar character of their proprietors, and of the refreshments
furnished, with the crowds that visited them, elicited the general remark
upon their cessation, "The Fourth of July passed away when the booths
around City Hall Park were taken away."
This anniversary was very differently observed at this
period from the custom of a few years later. Thus, our youthful citizens
availed themselves of every opportunity to leave the city, and every countryman
within a practicable distance of reaching it came with his family to enjoy
the sights at the booths and the feu de joie of the military in the Park,
drink egg flip or spruce beer and suck oranges.
Fanny Elssler, the danseuse, returned to the Park
Theatre in June, during a brief summer season, where she repeated her former
success, though by this time some of the newspapers had adopted a rebuking
tone toward the ballet and its supporters. We add here the fact that Elssler
during her stay in America gave a considerable sum out of her receipts
in aid of the Bunker Hill Monument enterprise, which had languished since
1825, and with her aid the Bostonians completed the structure, which was
dedicated in 1843. Hence it was said that she "danced the top stone
on to Bunker Hill Monument. " It is easy to fancy that boxoffice
considerations prompted her action, but Elssler was probably as free from
the advertising taint as is possible in the case of any public performer.
June 3 the cornerstone of the new Trinity Church
July, a general bankrupt law was enacted by Congress.
By this time remarkable increase in foreign immigration had occurred; the
influx being only 80,077 in the period of 182029, but amounting for
the years 183039 to 343,517, including 158,672 of Irish. One result
of this was the rise of the NativeAmerican party, which in 1841 nominated
its first candidate for Mayor in the person of S. F. B. Morse, who received,
however, but 77 votes.
This year was also the date of a very considerable manifestation
on the part of the teetotallers, or complete abstainers from intoxicating
July 12, Dr. William James Macneven, a wellknown
citizen, died. In August died Mr. Henry Brevoort, aged ninetyfour.
Broadway runs through the "farm" on which he lived, and which
he bought for less than the present value of a single front foot of any
lot now contained within its bounds.
August 28, August Belmont and Mr. Heyward of South Carolina,
who had had an altercation at Niblo's Garden a few nights previous, met
at Elkhorn, Md., and the former was seriously wounded.
August 31, a meeting of citizens in favor of a repeal
of the Bankrupt Law was called, at which Samuel J. Tilden and Nelson J.
Waterbury were secretaries, and the names of such men as Stephen Allen,
Campbell P. White, David Bryson, and John T. Brady were appended to the
August 21, died Gideon Lee, Mayor of the city in 183334.
September 5, the favorite actor Barnes, who died at Halifax
on 20th ultimo, was buried, amid a great company of sympathizing spectators.
October 11, "London Assurance" was given for the first time in
America, Placide playing Sir Harcourt Courtly, and Charlotte Cushman,
Lady Gay Spanker, in which part she made a great hit. November 29,
Mrs. Barnes retired from the stage after twentyfive years of service.
In September the New York and Erie Railroad was opened
from its original terminus at Piermont on the Hudson River to Goshen, Orange
County, and a great company made an excursion over the line.
September 19, a vessel bound for New Orleans was unexpectedly
delayed after receiving the bulk of her cargo, and before the final closing
of the hatches the mate became aware of noisome effluvia in the vicinity
of a box, which arousing his suspicion, he opened it, exposing detached
portions of a human body, which was subsequently ascertained to be that
of Samuel Adams. It had been dismembered, salted, boxed, addressed, and
shipped to a fictitious address in St. Louis via New Orleans.
In the investigation instituted by the police it was learned
that an occupant of an office adjoining that of Samuel Colt in Broadway
became suspicious of Colt, and looking through the keyhole of the door
between their offices, saw him wiping blood from the floor; which fact
being communicated to the police, Colt was arrested, tried, convicted,
The Board of Assistant Aldermen passed a resolution that
a roadway, twentyfive feet in width, should be opened in Ninth Avenue
from Fortysecond Street to its junction with Bloomingdale Road (Broadway
and Sixtyfourth Street) at a cost not to exceed two thousand dollars,
which the Mayor declared to be quite unnecessary, as Eighth and Tenth avenues
were opened. By being opened, the reader is informed that they were country
A Miss Lucretia Mott, who was a very popular lecturer
on woman's rights, announced that women were capable and worthy of occupying
the same situations as men.
There was much complaint at this time regarding the delivery
of the mails, and there was published in a Buffalo paper a request by the
editor that any passenger, by stage or railroad, who had any newspapers
with him and had no further use for them for two or three days, would please
to send them to its office in order that it might be enabled to give the
news to the public.
October 29 a meeting of Roman Catholics was held under
the chairmanship of Bishop Hughes, the object of which was to obtain a
portion of the public school fund for the benefit of their church; the
attendants at the meeting being urged to vote only for candidates pledged
to that course. This much increased the general feeling of alarm among
our citizens which had been excited by former movements in the same direction.
The progress of the uptown movement appears in the consecration
in November of the present Church of the Ascension, at Fifth Avenue and
Tenth Street; the former church of this congregation having been in Canal
In November the new Merchants' Exchange (the present Custom
House) was opened, the cost of building and ground being about two millions.
November 26, the Prince de Joinville having arrived here
on the 15th of September in command of the frigate La Belle Poule, and
being at this time a visitor in New York, a ball was given in his honor
by Dr. and Mrs. Valentine Mott, whose fine house was filled with the best
of our society. A dinner was given to the Prince at the Astor House by
the City authorities on the next day.
It was held to be an exceptional one, inasmuch as the
great number of dignitaries, officers of the Army and Navy, etc., invited,
filled the capacity of the hall; and as there was not any space left for
the usual hangerson of our City Fathers, the entertainment was hailed
as one worthy of the guests and the occasion.
The building at the "Five Points," as the locality
was termed, formed by the junction of Anthony, Baxter, and Park streets,
built when its location was far in the country and known as the "Old
Brewery," was a residence for outlaws, degraded and vicious whites
and blacks of various nations. Its history was associated with such crimes
and murders that few persons ventured into its locality at night unless
escorted by a police officer. Charles Dickens visited it, and essayed to
describe it. The Five Points Mission now occupies this site. (See page
There were other notorious locations within the boundaries of the "Five Points" and "Mulberry Bend," as Maloney's and "Bottle Alley," both of which were an "Alsatia" *
((* In the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, Whitefriars,
adjacent to the Temple, London, was known as Alsatia, and it had the privilege
of a sanctuary, except against a writ of the Lord Chief Justice or of the
Lords of the Privy Council; and as a result it was the refuge of the perpetrators
of every grade of crime, debauchery, and offence against the laws. The
execution of a warrant there, if at any time practicable, was attended
with great danger, as all united in a maintenance in common of the immunity
of the place.))
or harbor for human derelicts, criminals of the lowest
grade, and tramps. The former place was held to have been the scene of
many murders, and regarding the latter, in the rear of the former with
a connecting passageway, the Herald gave the details of no less
than seven known murders.
In this year the New York Society Library removed to its
new building at the corner of Broadway and Leonard Street, and the New
York Historical Society removed to the New York University building.
In March, 1856, "The Ladies' Home Missionary Society"
of the "Methodist Episcopal Church" was chartered; its object
being to labor among the poor, especially at the "Five Points,"
provide fuel, clothing, etc., for them, to educate their children, and
to maintain a school there.
November 18. Colt was to be hanged this day; he was marrired
in his cell to Caroline Henshaw by the Rev. Henry Anthon. At 4 P. M., on
his cell being entered, he was found to have committed suicide by stabbing
himself with a dirk knife. Simultaneously with this discovery a fire broke
out in the Tombs. The coincidence of the day of expiation and the fire
induced the opinion with many that the fire was not accidental, and that,
in the confusion consequent upon its occurrence, some of the prisoners,
aided by friends, might have escaped.
It has been further alleged that with the connivance of
the coroner, and with a jury not one of whom was cognizant of Colt, a body
other than his was shown to them and that Colt was allowed to pass unobserved
out of the Tombs, and that he has been recognized since in California.
The interest manifested in this case was without precedent,
and efforts to save Colt were made by the Rev. Henry Anthon, David Graham,
Robert Emmett and his brother, and many others.
November 21, an official return for a large part of the
vote at the late election in the State, and an estimate for the balance,
gave to the Abolition party but six thousand votes.
Dionysius Lardner, LL.D., the eminent English writer on
physics, who in a public lecture had advanced the impracticability of oceanic
navigation by steam, arrived here for the purpose of giving a series of
lectures in the principal cities of the Union. As he was not as familiar
with the construction of the American marine engines as he desired, he
was pleased to address and visit me, and I aided him. He was an exceptionally
lucid lecturer, was ill received and only fairly patronized here, but both
well received and patronized in other cities The impression left upon me
from my association with him was not such as to lead me to cultivate any
November 15, Alderman Abraham Hatfield introduced to the
Board of Aldermen a resolution suggesting the expediency of revising the
market laws so as to permit butchers to sell fresh and salt meat in any
part of the city; as under existing laws no one but an occupant of a stall
in one of the public markets was allowed such privilege.
Until the claim of the market butchers of having the exclusive
privilege of selling meats, and that only in the public markets for which
they paid a tax, was disputed by the "shop butchers," as they
were termed, and supported by the general public, meats and vegetables
could only be obtained in the public markets. The claim of the market butchers
was defended by them for a long while, as instanced in the case of a Mr.
Salter, a butcher, who in December was indicted and convicted of selling
meat in a shop, and fined one hundred dollars and costs. It availed not,
for the public supported the shops and the market men gave up the contest.
In evidence of the necessity of such a change, I, at a
distance of exactly one and onetenth of a mile from the nearest public
market, now purchase meats, vegetables, and fruits near to my residence.
Well might it be quoted, Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis.
There is another feature in our business relations worthy
of notice. Corner stores, wherever they existed, were as a practice occupied
by the Irish as groceries, where a bar was maintained. Upon the
advent of the Germans the Irish were gradually but uniformly displaced
by them, and the Irish in turn replaced them with liquor stores, erroneously
and absurdly termed "saloons," in which enterprise they were,
upon the introduction of lager beer, joined by the Germans.
After the election in November it was ascertained that
a number of Whig partisans had hired in Philadelphia and transported here
a great number of men, ostensibly plumbers and pipelayers; but for
the sole purpose of voting for Whig candidates in wards where their votes
would "do the most good." The names of several well known citizens
were given as connected with the enterprise. The Democratic papers dwelt
upon the act and termed the perpetrators "pipelayers"; which
term was for a long while applied to them and to the party, and is still
in current use to denote concealed and indirect methods of political or
James B. Glentworth was held to be the instrument by which
the scheme was operated, and on the 27th of January of the following year
he was indicted under seven separate complaints for misdemeanor in furnishing
money wherewith to pay cost of transportation and maintenance of the parties
he obtained. In consequence of some alleged informality in the indictments
six of them were demurred to, and a court annulled them. Upon the remaining
one he was arraigned and tried, and on the 30th of May the jury failing
to agree (five to seven) it was discharged, and on June 2 he was surrendered
by his bail; but obtaining other, and after a second trial had been ordered
and much argument made, the further prosecution on October 10 was ultimately
dropped, and on November 24 he was discharged. December a, he issued an
address to the public in which he exposed the operation, acknowledged himself
to have been the agent, but indignantly transferred the onus of the
transaction to those who had suggested the work and furnished the money.
In this year a commission of registry of three members
was first appointed, who received the applications of persons desirous
of voting at the next election; and, if they were decided to be qualified
their names were duly registered.