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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.