1845­I846.-JAMES HARPER, 1845; WILLIAM F.


1845-1846, AND ANDREW H. MICKLE, 1846, MAYORS

1845. IN January of this year the Middle Dutch Church, at Nassau, Cedar, and Liberty streets, was converted into the Post­office, and continued in that use until removal to the present Post­office structure in Broadway and Park Row. January 28, Broadway was widened from Twenty­fifth to Forty­fifth Street.

January 11, the Herald published a list of such of our citizens as were estimated to be worth $100,000, and above it, among whom I select the following: John J. Astor, $2,500,000; Wm. B. Astor, $5,000,000; Peter Goelet, $400,000; Cornelius Vanderbilt and John Q. Jones, each, $250,000; Spingler Estate, $200,000; and Philip Hone, $100,000. This last estimate is unquestionably low, and possibly the result of the virulence of Hone's utterances regarding the editor.

January 24, a meeting of citizens was held at Tammany Hall in favor of the annexation of Texas to the United States, which had been the chief matter of our politics for a considerable period and the subject of most excited debate, and was definitely settled in favor of the annexation during the last days of President Tyler's term.

February 5, the offices of the Tribune were totally destroyed by fire. A heavy snowstorm prevailed, the fire­engines were delayed by drifts in the streets, the hydrants were frozen, etc. Under these conditions it was with great difficulty that the neighboring Tammany Hall was preserved from burning.

March 24. A brilliant audience gathered at the Park Theatre for the first performance of Mrs. Anna Cora Mowatt's play, "Fashion," which ran for twenty nights.

This spring Alex. T. Stewart, having purchased the site of Washington Hall, at Broadway and Chambers Street, began the construction of his extensive store, which for a long time outrivalled all others. Stewart arrived here from Ireland in 1823, and was engaged as an assistant teacher in a public school. Fletcher Harper, of Harper & Bros., told me he had been a pupil of his. In 1824 he opened a small dry­goods store at 283, in 1827 at 262, and in 1830 at 257, Broadway. In 1828 he or one of his salesmen erroneously charged a lady customer with having secreted some articles from the counter, and as it was alleged that she was treated with much inconsideration the press took the matter up, and so general was the verdict against Mr. Stewart that it was very questionable if he would be able to sustain himself; but the matter lapsed, and was soon forgotten.

March 3, by Act of Congress the postage on single letters was reduced to five cents if sent under three hundred miles, and over that distance ten cents. To take effect on and after July 1.

The Branch Mint was established in this city in the building in Wall Street built and occupied by the Bank of the State of New York.

March Is, the Herald issued its first double sheet of eight pages.

April 4, a floating theatre was opened on the North River between Spring and Charlton streets, which had but a brief existence.

April 7, on her passage from Albany to this city, the steamboat Swallow under full speed ran upon Rock Island, broke in two, and sank. The loss of life was never ascertained, but it was held to be over fifty.

April 8. The Charter election of this year showed another turn of politics. Mr. Harper, the Native American candidate for a repeated term of office, lost Whig support in consequence of his party's course toward Clay in the preceding autumn, and was defeated; receiving but 17,485 votes, while the Democratic candidate, Mr. Havemeyer, had 24,307, and the " straight" Whig vote rose to 7032. In 1846, moreover, the Whig vote was 15,256, while the Native American fell away to 8372, the Democratic plurality remaining at about 7000.

April 10, Mrs. Polly Bodine, who was indicted for the murder of a Mrs. Housman and her daughter, and setting fire to their house on Staten Island in order that by the incineration of the bodies of her victims the murder would not be recognized, was tried in this city before Judge Edmonds. District­Attorney James R. Whiting, assisted by D. A. Clark of Staten Island, conducted the prosecution, and the defence was by David Graham and Clinton De Witt. The accused had previously been once tried on Staten Island, but in consequence of local and family interests, etc., the juries had failed to agree; hence a new trial was held here. It occupied the Court for twenty­one days, the judge's charge filled four and one­half columns of the herald. Bodine was declared to be guilty of murder; was again arraigned under a new trial in November before Judge Edmunds, and failing to obtain a jury, the case was transferred to a Court at Newburgh, where she was tried and the jury acquitted her.

April 25, the steamboat Empire, of the New York and Albany Line, on her passage to this city in a dense fog, ran into the pier, solid ballasted crib work, at the foot of Nineteenth Street, for the full length of twenty feet. A report of the occurrence was held to be so wholly at variance with the generally entertained opinion as to the practicability of such a result that many persons proceeded to the pier and measured the distance. The effect of such an impact upon like work is to this day a marvel, with many, not recognizing that the impact of even a light body et a high velocity may be superior to the static resistance of a denser one, as illustrated in the projection of an inch of tallow candle from an ordinary fowling­piece through a pine board one inch thick.

The Bowery Theatre was burned for the fourth time, at 6 P. M.; E. L. Davenport's benefit being advertised for that evening. It might seem from the frequency of such conjunctions that benefit announcements had some occult connection with fires in theatres.

May 13. The great horse race between Wm. Gibbons' "Fashion," entered by Samuel Laird, 8 years old and carrying 122 pounds, and R. Ten Broeck's "Peytona," 6 years, carrying 115 pounds, designated as that of the North against the South, for ten thousand dollars a side, was run at four­mile heats at the Union Course, L. I. So great was the interest in this race that it was attended by men from all parts of the Union, and the attendance on the day of the race was superior in numbers to that of the Eclipse and Sir Henry race in 1823. The Herald published an extra between the heats. Peytona, representing the South, won; first heat, 7 minutes seconds; second heat, 7 minutes 45­1/2 seconds.

In May died, very suddenly, Robert C. Cornell, President of the Farmers' Loan and Trust Company, a man very eminent for works of charity.

The Rev. Dr. Stephen H. Tyng accepted the call to St. George's Church, to succeed the Rev. Dr. Milnor.

Grace Church, at the corner of Broadway and Rector Street, was sold for sixty­five thousand dollars; the present structure at Tenth Street was then in progress.

May 28, another and a third contest between the North and the South for the supremacy of the turf, between William Gibbon's "Fashion," entered by Samuel Laird, and R. Ten Broeck's "Peytona " came off at four­mile heats for the Jockey Club purse at Union Course, L. I., which was won by the former in 7 minutes and 48 seconds, and 7 minutes and 57 seconds. The entire racing and sporting population of the country was again interested, and the attendance was very great.

In illustration of the publication and sale of daily papers at this time, the Herald gave a sworn statement of its publication for the month of June and an estimate of that of six other leading papers. Thus: daily average of Herald 11,501, and 13,266 for the others combined.

June 13, Mrs. Mowatt appeared for the first time on any stage, at the Park Theatre, as Pauline, in "The Lady of Lyons," with success as extraordinary as were the conditions under which it was achieved, for it was said that her appearance was but three weeks after she had resolved (for financial reasons) to go upon the stage; that she had but one rehearsal of her part; and never had been behind the scenes till the day before the production of her own play, "Fashion.".

Her last appearance on the stage was at Niblo's, June 3, 1854, on occasion of a­complimentary benefit arranged for her by some of the first citizens of New York. She then played Pauline. Her marriage to Mr. W. F. Ritchie of Richmond, Va., followed almost immediately. She died abroad, in 1870.

July 12, the passage from Boston here via Long Island Railroad was accomplished in 9­3/4 hours, which was so exceptional that it was noticed in the papers of the following day.

The organization of the New York Yacht Club being effected, the flag of the Club designed by Captain Robinson was adopted, and the house in Elysian Fields at Hoboken assigned as the headquarters. The course of the annual prize races for the Club was first from off the Elysian Fields to a buoy off Staten Island, then across to Owl's Head, L. I., and back to the point of starting.

Later, the courses extended to the southwest Spit; then from Quarantine, Staten Island, and from buoy off Hoffman Island around the Sandy Hook lightship.

July 17. The first regatta of the Club occurred this day; the contestants being the Gimcrack, John C. Stevens, Commodore; Spray, J. H. Wilkes, Vice­commodore; Cygnet, Wm. Edgar; Minna, Jas. Waterbury; La Coquille, John C. Jay; Syren, Wm. Miller; Sybil, Chas. Miller; Mist, Louis Depau; Dream, Geo. L. Schuyler; Lancet, Geo. Robbins; Adda, Captain Roberts; Northern Light, Wm. P. Winchester; Ianthe, Geo. Cadwallader; Newburgh, Captain Robinson. The tonnage of these vessels ranged from 17 to 45, one only exceeding that; the Newburgh being 72 tons. The Cygnet won the prize.

July 19, the great fire of 1845 began about daybreak in a warehouse on New Street. It was apparently well under control when a vast explosion occurred, by which several lives were lost; neighboring buildings were overthrown, and flames were communicated in every direction. In two hours 150 buildings were aflame, and before the devastation could be checked almost the whole district bounded by Broadway from below Stone Street to above Exchange Place, inclusive of a part of the west front above Morris Street, the fronts on Exchange Place to beyond Broad Street, the fronts on Broad Street down to Stone Street, and the fronts on Stone Street from there to Broadway were destroyed. The loss was computed at six million dollars, and this involved the failure of some of the most approved insurance companies. Nevertheless, rebuilding at once began; new buildings rising while yet the flames were playing among the mounds of ruin and the old materials to be cleared away were too hot to be taken in the bare hands of the workmen.

Telegraphic communication was established between New York and Philadelphia.

June 18, George W. Matsell was appointed Chief of the Police. The number of policemen at this time was fixed at eight hundred, and the question of the further nonlicensing of booths around the park for the evening and day of the Fourth was entertained by the Common Council, and negatived by a small majority.

August 10, arrived at the port the steamer Great Britain, called the "monster of the ocean," since she was 322 feet long, with a capacity of three thousand tons. The peculiar interest in her, however, was from the fact that she was a screw steamer, and built of iron.

Bowery Theatre rebuilt and opened.

Wm. C. H. Waddell in this year constructed a residence on Fifth Avenue, between Thirty­seventh and Thirty­eighth streets (where the "Brick Church," formerly located on Beekman Street and Park Row, now is), on the natural level of the ground, which was several feet above the city grade. While he was engaged in making the purchase of the plot of ground it is related that his wife, who accompanied him, rested under an apple tree by the wayside. He furnished his house with expensive elegance, and later (1846), as fancy­dress balls were essayed by several parties, Mrs. Waddell gave one which was followed by one of Mrs. Schermerhorn's; the guests being required to appear in the style of dress of the French Court of Louis XV.

The Almshouse at Bellevue, which was enlarged in 1818 by the purchase of adjoining land, was in this year removed to Blackwell's Island. The land that had been purchased by the Corporation for it was now sold; whereupon the owners of the land purchased by the Corporation claimed the money received by it for the sale, on the plea that the land had not been taken for public use, and consequently the Act of 1818, by which the land had been purchased, was unconstitutional. The Court decided adversely to the Claimants, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision.

The existing law regarding the pilots of our harbor having been abolished by Act of Legislature, the opportunity was open to any one who either had the capacity or temerity to undertake piloting, and, as a very natural result, the Chamber of Commerce drafted a law having in purpose the arrest of the evil, in which it was provided there were to be three Commissioners to be appointed, one each by the Chamber, the Board of Marine Underwriters, and the Pilots; which provision was so much opposed by the pilots that they submitted a draft of a law. This controversy was finally settled by the passage of a law alike to that of the Chamber of Commerce. Congress having authorized any pilots who were citizens of New Jersey to act as such via Sandy Hook, a fierce rivalry and contention arose between them and those from the city; but after many years of contest, the two associations joined fellowship.

September 5, John B. Gough, a reformed inebriate and notorious lecturer on temperance, disappeared from home and friends, and on the 12th was found in a house in Walker Street, where he had lain drunk for the entire week.

October. The Olympic opened. "Don Caesar de Bazan" was here produced for the first time in this country, a week earlier than at the Park. This was a very bright and varied season at the Olympic; burlesques and travesties, farces, comedies, and fairy pieces, were profusely offered until the house closed in May of the next year.

The population of the city in this month was ascertained to be 366,785.

September 15, the Massachusetts, built by the Messrs. Forbes of Massachusetts and one of the first sea­fitted merchantmen having a screw propeller, left for a southern voyage.

October. A Mr. Wm. L. Mackenzie published a book which elicited much attention and comment, as it gave private correspondence, said to be surreptitiously obtained, to which that of John Van Buren, Benj. Butler (of New York), Jesse Hoyt, and many other well­known and prominent Democrats and officials, was added.

An association of dry goods merchants decided to construct a block of stores in William Street, between John and Fulton streets, with a view to remove their business there, which they effected, though but for a few years.

Spofford, Tileston & Co. concluded the contracts for constructing a line of steamers to ply, in the early spring, hence to Charleston, S. C., and back.

Gramercy Park, a part of the Gramercy farm, was defined and presented by Samuel B. Ruggles to the owners of the lots fronting thereon.

The steamer Virginia, of four hundred tons' burthen, which had been fitted by Jas. P. Allaire with engines, boilers, and the vertical water­wheels of E. T. Aldrich, the blades of which were submerged below the bottom of the hull, was experimented with; the projector of the essay having an agreement with a seafaring party here that, if the application was successful, he would pay for her and put her upon the route hence to Liverpool. The conditions of the agreement were neither fulfilled nor demanded.

1846. William Street, from Maiden Lane to Chatham, was widened, and the widening of Broadway from Twenty­fifth to Forty­fifth Street was continued.

February 14. A great gale occurring, ten vessels were stranded on Squan Beach, and from one of them one of the oldest and most respected pilots, of the name of Freeborn, was drowned.

February. Grace Church, Broadway corner of Tenth Street, being about completed, some of its pews were sold in addition to a rent on the value of them; the prices ranging from twelve to fourteen hundred dollars, equal to from three to four dollars per Sunday.

February 24. In the previous year an association of gentlemen organized for the construction and operation of a racket court, and having obtained premises on Broadway, almost immediately above Niblo's Garden, constructed a court with the attendants' rooms and conveniences, and this day it was opened with a large and distinguished company of guests and their ladies. The entertainment was a dejeuner, music, and dancing.

On March 10 was laid the corner­stone of Calvary Church at Fourth Avenue and Twenty­first Street.

March 25. The public was surprised this day to learn that the magnificent packet ship Henry Clay, Captain Nye, of Grinnell, Minturn & Co.'s line of Liverpool packets, was ashore at Squan Beach, and particularly so, as neither weather nor the experience and uniform success of the captain seemed to justify the circumstance. On the 14th of the month following the vessel was floated, and brought up to the city, and in justice to her owners and builders it is cited that for twenty days, mostly in stormy weather, she lay "broadside to" on a beach, was hauled off, repaired, and refitted for efficient service.

So much for the ship, but as regards the captain, the case is different; and it is thus met: he had for a long period been in command of the same vessel, the Independence and he was so cognizant of her speed when looking over her side that he rarely "logged" her. When he assumed command of the Henry Clay, a much larger vessel, it did not occur to him that her deck was higher than that of his former vessel, and that an estimate of the speed of the one would not apply to the other, as the higher an observer is above the water the less the apparent velocity. As a consequence of this neglect of consideration on his part, his estimate of the speed of his vessel brought her up on the Jersey shore, when he thought she was off Long Island. The fact that such a vessel could be subjected to such a stress with but moderate damage is a striking proof of the excellent quality of ship­building work in our yards. And as for the speed of the ships: the Rainbow, belonging to Howland & Aspinwall, arrived at this port on April 17, completing thus two voyages to and from Canton within fourteen months.

At this date the Mexican war was imminent, and President Polk presently announced that a state of war actually existed, and called for men and money. Scarcely had Congress responded with the required grant when news was received of fighting, and of General Zachary Taylor's early victories. A new generation had come upon the stage of active life since we had been engaged in war, and all the intelligence from Mexico was received with breathless attention by our public.

The legislature ordered the assembling of a convention to submit to it a new charter for the city, to be voted upon at the State election in November, which, upon being submitted, was defeated by a very decisive vote.

May 21, being Ascension Day in this year, the new Trinity Church was consecrated with great solemnity. A long procession of bishops, clergy, and lay dignitaries of various degree marched to the church, where the consecration office was said by Bishop McCoskry, at that time in charge of the diocese. This scene is represented in a panel of one of the bronze doors opening from the south porch of the church. The first church on this site was ­begun in 1696, finished in 1697. The third (and present) building still remains, after half a century, the most harmoniously beautiful church in New York. See Chapter X for record of church.

June 1, the convention appointed to review and submit a new constitution for the State met, and when the Constitution was completed and submitted to the people, it was adopted by a large majority. Essential and much discussed provisions of it were the election of our judges, instead of their appointment by the Governor and Senate, and the abolishment of property qualifications for the voting of white persons.

The new store of A. T. Stewart was completed in this year.

In September died James Swords, aged eighty­two, the latest surviving partner of the oldest booksellers' and publishers' firm in New York; and in the next month Abraham Ogden, at the age of seventy­one, president of the Orient Insurance Co., and a highly respected citizen.

November 16, the steamboat Atlantic from New London, bound here, encountered a severe gale from the northwest, and in a heavy swell the steam-pipe from her boilers to her steam­chest was ruptured and her engine became useless. An anchor was cast, but it fouled, and a second, a light one, being absurdly insufficient to hold her, she drifted eastward, and stranded on the north side of Fisher's Island. Captain Dustan and thirty of her passengers and crew were lost.

She was the "show" steamboat of her time. Frantic efforts were made to transfer heavier anchors to her from sailing craft, but the weather was too heavy to permit the success of these endeavors. After the steamer struck Fisher's Island, she took a list, just so that all through the night, while so many lives were being dashed out of existence on the heaped bowlders of this point of the Island, her bell tolled regularly with each shock of the waves.

The faulty, if not criminal custom of equipping American steamers and steamboats with but one heavy (?) and one light anchor, and with short ranges of chain, was fatally illustrated in this case. But one heavy anchor, fouling or in bad holding­ground, is of no avail, and if it is insufficient, it is rarely that the second and lighter will meet the deficiency.

In Europe a steamer would not be held to be seaworthy without both bower anchors being of equal and sufficient weight, supplemented by a stream­anchor and kedges; the anchor attached to a range of chain nearly twice that usually, if not universally, carried by our steamers.

In this year St. Luke's Hospital was instituted through the zealous labors of the Rev. Dr. W. A. Muhlenberg. Also, all property qualifications in connection with the right of political suffrage were abolished.

The Prison Association of New York was incorporated. Its objects, the improvement of the penal system, amelioration of the condition of prisoners, and the aiding of reformed convicts after their discharge.