1849, 1850, 1851.-WILLIAM F. HAVEMEYER, 1849;
CALEB S. WOODHULL, 1850; AND AMBROSE C. KINGSLAND, 1851,MAYORS
1849. THE California fever reached its height in this
"Argonaut year," and the name of "Fortyniners"
has become a familiar title of honor applied to the early emigrants to
that State. It would be hard to convey to younger readers an adequate notion
of the degree of popular excitement over the gold discoveries of the new
empire, and of the extent to which it spread throughout the older parts
of the country. Every seaport of consequence despatched vessels for San
Francisco; ninety nine of them, transporting 5719 passengers, left here
via Panama, Nicaragua, Darien, and other routes, and bearing such merchandise
as might be thought fit for a market, and many of the best as well as of
the worst of its young men, all eager in the search for wealth. Associations
of men in all sections of the country organized as "Mining companies,"
and rushed for San Francisco in every available manner. The Pacific Mail
Co. advanced the rate of passage by its steamers, and every machine shop
in the city was employed in the manufacture of quartzcrushers to be
transported to the mines. Of course New York was in the front of this enterprise,
and the scene of the most animated interest. The events of that time seem
yet like romance even to one who lived through them. Mercantile adventure
with California was then most uncertain, owing to the infrequent and slow
communication and consequent lack of sufficient information. With the whole
commercial world seeking the new market, and no advices as to stocks on
hand in San Francisco or on the way thither, shipments were in many cases
pure speculation; sometimes resulting in heavy loss and sometimes in enormous
profit. Merely by way of illustration I may relate the amusing tale of
one shipper who, from such calculation or guesswork as circumstances allowed,
concluded that some commodity- I believe it was flour-would be in demand
when his ship should reach San Francisco, and loaded for that port accordingly.
When loading, he happened to find obtainable a great quantity of damaged
dried beans, which he got for a trifle, or perhaps for nothing but the
cost of cartage, and used for dunnage of his cargo. On arrival at San Francisco
it was found that other shippers had made similar calculations and the
harbor was full of newly arrived flour, for which no price could be obtained.
But there were no beans to be had, with a keen demand for them, and our
friend threw away his cargo, and out of the dunnage realized a handsome
profit on the whole adventure. Such were the chances of California commerce
In January Burton's Theatre presented a dramatization
by Brougham of Thackeray's "Vanity Fair," which ran only for
a week, though Caroline Chapman as Becky Sharp was greatly admired.
In April a piece entitled "Socialism," in which Brougham, as
Fourier Grisly, made up in close imitation of Horace Greeley, attracted
amused houses for three weeks.
At the National Theatre in April, at Mrs. Isherwood's
benefit, Chanfrau played Mose for the three hundredth time.
February 1, the Collins Line steamers Atlantic and
Pacific were launched.
In March Mrs. Fanny Kemble Butler began her readings from
Shakspere, which became popular almost beyond belief at the present day.
The place where she read (the Stuyvesant Institution, in Broadway) was
thronged on every occasion, hours before the time set for the reading,
though Mrs. Butler's appearances were four times a week.
The defeat of the charter submitted in 1846 being generally
regretted, and the existing one being held insufficient in some important
provisions, it was decided to apply to the legislature for some amendments
to it, in preference to risking the submission of a new one, but on April
2 a charter was enacted to take effect on June 1; subject, however, to
the approval of the people, who at the ensuing election approved of it.
The day of municipal election was changed from April to November, the term
of offices to begin on the 1st January ensuing, and the term of office
of the mayor extended to two years, and the system of Departments-as the
Police, Finance, Almshouse, Law, Croton Aqueduct, Fire, Repairs and Supplies-was
established, the heads of which (save the head of the Croton Aqueduct Board)
were to be elected by the people.
April 15. From December 14 of the previous year to this
date, or a period of four months, one hundred and five steamers and sailing
vessels left this port for San Francisco, either via the Isthmus
or around Cape Horn.
Advices from abroad, via Liverpool, were borne
by the Cunard steamer, via Halifax and St. John, N. B., and from
thence by telegraph here.
May 7, Macready, the tragedian, began an engagement at
the Astor Place Opera House under Hackett & Niblo, with Macbeth.
Edwin Forrest, then playing at the Broadway Theatre, announced the
same part for the same evening. This did not tend to diminish the bitterness
of Forrest's partisans, who resented any rivalry of their favorite, and
whose feelings were inflamed by reports that during a recent visit to England
Forrest had been treated in an offensive manner through the envious influence
of Macready. They therefore organized a party to attend the Opera House
performance, raise a riot, and drive Macready from the stage. This was
successfully accomplished; so soon as the actor appeared abusive cries
rose from different parts of the house and a shower of unsavory missiles,
as rotten eggs and assafoetida, was cast upon the stage. There were groans,
hisses, cheers, yells, screams, "Off, off!" "Go on, go on,
go on!" and the display of a banner with "You have ever proved
a liar," "No apology, it is the truth," the singing of the
song of the witches, "Where's Macready?" and in the continuing
and increasing uproar the performance was suspended at the end of the third
act, and the audience dispersed.
Macready would have resigned his engagement, but was persuaded
to continue by the urgency of an "open letter" addressed to him
by some of our worthiest and prominent citizens, deploring the riot, and
praying him to remain, and give the better class of the community a chance
to manifest their approval of him and their detestation of the riotous
proceedings. He assented, and Thursday, May IO, was chosen for his reappearance.
Forrest posted the same play for the same night; his adherents issued notices,
organized meetings, published an exceptionally inflammatory card in the
Herald, and deputed persons to buy tickets and take possession of
the Opera House on the night of the performance. Counterpreparations
were made, however; the sale of tickets was refused to persons of suspicious
appearance, the house was guarded inside and out by three hundred police,
those offering to enter it were carefully scrutinized, and the doors and
windows were closed and barred after the audience had assembled. The house
was filled with an audience of an exceptionally high character, in general,
but a few of the disaffected had got in, and so soon as Macready had appeared
he was hooted by several persons, evidently and purposely located in different
parts of the auditorium, in order to give a general character to the manifestation.
This was followed by missiles, thrown at him on the stage. Fear and confusion
prevailed in the audience until the police arrested the ringleaders and
measurably succeeded in restoring confidence, when the performance was
permitted to proceed.
When the mob of some thousands, gathered in Astor Place,
learned what had occurred in the theatre, it made a general attack upon
the police, and overcoming them, endeavoring to storm the building by battering
in the doors and windows. At this juncture the Seventh Regiment, which
had been held in waiting, marched up at nine o'clock, preceded by cavalry,
cleared Eighth Street, and occupied Astor Place. The horse troop, however,
was repulsed by an attack from the mob, the horses becoming unmanageable
in the wild scene, and Colonel Duryee then ordered his men to load with
ball. The Riot Act was proclaimed by Recorder Tallmadge, but without effect.
Whereupon Sheriff John J. V. Westervelt, adopting the ineffective, cruel,
inexplicable, and unfortunate manner of proceeding so common in such cases,
ordered a volley over the heads of the people. This killed and injured
inoffensive men and women in adjacent windows, and both angered and encouraged
the mob, which replied with a fierce attack on the regiment. A wellaimed
volley followed, and the mob retreated. Astor Place was then picketed,
but the restoration of order was only temporary, for the mob shortly returned
from Third Avenue and attacked with pavingstones. A third volley scattered
them finally; killing seventeen and wounding twentysix.
In this affair one hundred and fortyone of the Seventh
and many of the police were wounded, thirtyfour of the mob and spectators
were killed in all, and a great, though unknown, number injured. Macready
escaped by a rear door of the Opera House and was secreted for two days
in Judge Emmet's house, whence he proceeded in disguise to Boston on the
day before the sailing of the steamer from that port on which he took passage
for England. Great praise was given to the Seventh Regiment for its selfcontrol
and gallant conduct under orders, although on the next day a meeting of
the baser sort was held in the Park, where inflammatory speeches contrary
to law and order were made. These, however, issued in no action; or at
least in nothing more than the nickname of "Massacre" Place Opera
An investigation of the matter revealed the fact that
tickets to the theatre were gratuitously distributed to persons who were
afterward engaged in the riot, by some of the parties who signed the card
calling upon Macready to fill his engagement.
E. Z. C. Judson, who had gained much notoriety as a writer
of sensational stories, known as "yellowcovered," over the
signature of "Ned Buntline," took a conspicuous part in this
riot, was arrested, convicted, sentenced to one year's imprisonment and
a fine of two hundred and fifty dollars.
The supporters of Forrest had been drawn to the scene
of the riot by the effect of handbills, in which statements were made designed
to excite them.
Hamblin appeared at the Bowery Theatre at this time, and
in the same character, to an exceptionally crowded house.
May 8, the New York Slave Vigilance Committee met in the
church, corner of Prince and Marion streets. The chairman reported that
fully two hundred runaway slaves had been provided for. Frederick Douglass
was then introduced, and he related his escape from slavery.
May 18, the steamboat Empire, hence to Albany,
in being directed across the bow of a schooner beating down the river,
was run into and sunk, with the loss of four of her passengers.
The administration of the Department of Charities and
Correction was so generally commented upon and censured that the legislature
transferred its direction to a board of ten governors.
The steamer United States built by Wm. H. Webb
for Chas. H. Marshall & Co's. line to Liverpool, entered upon service
in this year.
"The Trustees of the Astor Library" incorporated,
being the library founded by the will of John Jacob Astor as a public library,
for general use, accessible at all regular hours and free of expense to
persons resorting thereto; later Wm. B. Astor doubled the endowment of
his father, "On the understanding that it was the settled and unchangeable
basis of administering the library that its contents should remain in the
library rooms for use by readers, and should not be lent or allowed to
be taken from the rooms."
It received a third endowment from John Jacob Astor, grandson
of the founder, making the total amount two million dollars. The number
of volumes at this period (1894) is about two hundred and sixty thousand.
By the new postage law, the domestic postage on single
letters (halfounce) was, for less than three hundred miles, 5 cents;
over that, IO cents. Foreign (half ounce), 24 cents.
New York suffered in this year a severe visitation of
cholera, which appeared first in the Five Points on May 14, and spread
rapidly. The publicschool buildings were turned into hospitals, and
in them alone one thousand and twentyone deaths from cholera occurred;
the total mortality from the disease in this year being about five thousand.
August 13 died Albert Gallatin, aged eightyeight,
whose accomplishments and public services are too well known to require
The Bowery Theatre opened early in September, under Hamblin.
Lester Wallack made his first appearance here as Don Caesar de Bazan
a fortnight later. In November was produced the "The Three Guardsmen,"
adapted by him from Dumas, which obtained a very great success, holding
the stage for thirtyfour consecutive nights. J. W. Wallack, Jr., played
Athos; John Gilbert, Porthos, and Lester Wallack, D'Artagnan.
On Christmas Eve the sequel, called "The Four Musketeers, or Ten
Years After," dramatized by the same hand, ran for three weeks, and
on January 14 (1850), an adaptation of Eugene Sue's "Wandering Jew"
was played for a month.
September 25, the Hudson River Railroad obtained permission
to operate a road from Spuyten Duyvil to West and Canal streets, to run
a locomotive south as far as Thirtieth Street, and a "dummy engine"
between that and Chambers Street; but it was enjoined from running a stated
passenger train below Thirtysecond Street. This later station was
maintained until 1865, when it was transferred to Thirtieth Street.
September 17, the New York Harmonic Society was founded
by merging the Sacred Music Society, the Vocal Society, and perhaps one
or two other organizations.
October 10, the New York and Erie Railroad was opened
to Elmira, N.Y.
This year witnessed the disappearance of the Richmond
Hill Theatre. This house, on Varick Street, of which I have heretofore
given some history, being bought by John Jacob Astor, was converted into
a theatre and opened in November, 1831, with "The Road to Ruin,"
the prologue written by Halleck. It continued, as here related, with varying
fortunes and reputation-at one time the home of opera, as the New York
Opera House, until it was taken down in this year.
By this time the steady advance of the dinner hour had
progressed so far that on very formal occasions it was as late as the usual
family hour of today, seven o'clock.
Francis L. Waddell, a brother of William C. H. Waddell,
and known as " Frank," was a widely known character; he married
a daughter of the late Thomas H. Smith, who had been the leading tea importer
of the United States, and in this year visiting Washington, we renewed
what had been a schoolboy acquaintance. There was a sui generis
in his manner, and piquancy in his conversation, added to humor and
wit, that rendered him very agreeable company; so much so that, at the
United States Hotel at Saratoga, where he usually resorted in the summer
season, he was a welcome guest of the proprietor, who held that he gained
more by his company than the cost of it. He not only wrote good poetry,
but his Salus populi suprema lex, as an introduction to his eulogy
on Dr. Home, will never be forgotten by those who heard it.
In this year Mrs. A. J. Bloomer of Homer, N.Y. issued
a paper advocating woman suffrage, and also designed a costume for women,
the salient features of which were pantaloons of a light texture, the skirt
of the dress extending just below the knees, and a sombrero for the head.
The ensemble was known as the Bloomer dress; it was adopted for
a time and to a moderate extent, chiefly in rural districts, and excited
much comment both in this country and Europe. It chances that, as these
lines are written (January, 1895), we observe the news of Mrs. Bloomer's
recent death. She was a quiet, domestic, religious woman.
December 10, Ellen and Kate Bateman, aged four and six
years, made their first appearance in New York at the Broadway Theatre
in tragedy and comedy. The acting of these children displayed almost incredible
intelligence, and they were so different from the usual "infant wonder"
class that the judicious did not grieve to see their impersonations of
Shylock, Richard III., Richmond, Portia, Lady Macbeth, etc. They
were daughters of H. L. Bateman, then an actor.
1850. Even so late as this date the northern boundary
of New York could not be placed above Thirtyfourth Street, with many
open spaces below that line. Bloomingdale, Manhattanville, Yorkville, and
Harlem were still remote and isolated villages. But the city continued
its rapid growth, fully meeting in this regard the most sanguine expectations.
The prices of real estate, however, were very modest as compared with those
of today; thus, in January of this year Mr. Henry C. DeRham bought
from the heirs of Henry Brevoort the house and land, corner of Ninth Street
and Fifth Avenue, ninetytwo feet on the avenue and one hundred and
twentysix feet deep, for fiftyseven thousand dollars.
Nicholas Saltus ("Nick"), before referred to
in these Reminiscences, died on January 25, aged seventy years.
January 28. From the shipyard of Wm. H. Brown, foot
of Twelfth Street, East River, there were three steamers launched in succession:
first, the New World, of six hundred and fifty tons, designed and
constructed for service in California, completely fitted, and upon being
disengaged from her launching hawsers her engine was put in motion; second,
the Boston, of eight hundred tons, designed to ply between Boston
and Bangor; and lastly the Arctic, the third of the steamers of the New
York and Liverpool Steamship Co. (Collins Line).
An enormous crowd witnessed the launch of this, the largest
vessel that then had been built in this country, the Arctic having
a length on deck of two hundred and ninetyfive feet, and being of
three thousand five hundred tons burthen, with waterwheels thirtyfive
feet in diameter; for my readers must remember that ocean steamers then
were chiefly "sidewheelers," or paddle boats. The name of
this vessel is of mournful sound even until this day, for the Arctic
suffered a notable disaster by collision with the Vesta in 1854,
with great loss of life. Her consort, the Pacific, also, was lost
in some manner ever unknown, perhaps by collision with an iceberg while
racing the Cunarder Persia; she never was heard of, neither was
any trace of her ever discovered. These disasters availed, with other causes,
to end the once favorite Collins Line, in 1858.
In this year the Inman Line, or the Liverpool, New York,
and Philadephia Steamship Co., now known as the American Line, commenced
February 4, the 200horse power boiler in A. B. Taylor's
machine shop, at 5 and 7 Hague Street, exploded at about eight o'clock
in the morning, and the six story building containing it was shaken to
the ground. Sixtythree dead bodies were taken from the ruins during
a week's search.
In April the National Academy of Design opened its quarters
in Broadway opposite Bond Street, where stables had been transformed into
a home of art.
Henry Grinnell, a retired merchant, entertained the design
of an expedition to the North Sea, in search of Sir John Franklin, and
in pursuance of his purpose purchased two vessels which he named Advance
and Rescue; and proffered them to the Government, which early
in May accepted them, and appointed Lieutenant DeHaven, U. S. N., to command
the expedition. It departed from New York on May 22, and although it failed
to find Sir John, it proceeded so far north as to add to previous discoveries,
in a tract which was named Grinnell Land, and to verify the opinion that
existed as to the presence of a Polar Sea. The expedition arrived here
on its return September 30, 1851.
April 10, the New York and Virginia Steamship Co. was
chartered, and soon commenced service between this city and Norfolk, and
subsequently to Richmond. It was succeeded by the Old Dominion Steamship
Co. in 7868.
At this period Broadway was undergoing a rapid change
into a street of trade. The City Hotel, after its long existence, at last
disappeared, giving way to a row of shops. A. T. Stewart extended his own
building to the corner of Reade Street. All through Broadway, nearly to
Bleecker Street, residences were coming down to be replaced by structures
for business purposes.
June. Edwin Forrest, who was then in litigation with his
wife, was incensed with N. P. Willis on account of his action and expressions
in the case, and meeting him in Washington Square, he first knocked him
down and then lashed him very severely with a flexible cane. Willis was
reported as having called for help, and as the crowd attracted to the scene
was disposed to respond to the appeal, Forrest shouted, "Stand back,
all of you; this is a family matter!"
In July the Collins steamer Atlantic performed
the quickest passage then recorded between Liverpool and New York, in ten
days and fifteen hours. The highly successful result of this second voyage-the
first leaving here April 27-on the part of one of our countrymen to compete
with the Cunard Line, was hailed with enthusiasm, and Mr. E. K. Collins,
the projector and agent of the line, was presented by the merchants of
the city with a gold dinnerset. Not only were the vessels of the Cunard
Line beaten in speed, but the American line was superior in convenience
and elegance of equipment. Soon after the fleet was increased by the addition
of the Arctic and Baltic, and later the Adriatic.
July 24, took place the funeral observances, under care
of the city authorities, in honor of the President, General Zachary Taylor,
who had died a fortnight earlier. A military and civic procession five
miles long was witnessed by a crowd of spectators estimated to number a
quarter of a million. The whole proceeding was marked by most orderly,
becoming, and even solemn behavior.
September 3, the New York and Erie Railroad was opened
to the end of the Susquehanna Division at Hornellsville, N. Y.
September 24. The steamer Pacific of the New York
and Liverpool Steamship Co. (Collins Line) arrived from Liverpool in the
short time of ten days and four hours, from Rock Light to her berth at
Canal Street, beating the Cunard steamer. The Pacific was a sister
ship to the Atlantic. The Arctic and Baltic, which
followed, had greater power and were materially faster; beating the Cunarders
from two to four days.
During this summer the opera company from the Tacon Theatre
of Havana had been giving performances at Castle Garden at fifty cents'
admission, beginning early in July. This was by far the finest company
that had visited New York, and created a profound sensation here. Old citizens
will thank me for recalling the delight suggested by mention of the mere
names of the prime donne, Steffanone and Tedesco; the tenors Salvi
and Bettini; and the bassos Coletti and Marini. Maretzek engaged most of
these artists, end combining with them the best of his former company (Mme.
Bertucca, Signora Truffi, Beneventano, etc.), gave a subsequent season
at Castle Garden at the same prices of admission, but this speculation
resulted in pecuniary failure, in spite of the delight afforded by the
performances. Notwithstanding the charm of a company so excellent, set
in a place of such attraction in summer weather, surrounded by moonlighted
water and cooled by sea breezes,-altogether the most delicious place of
amusement New York ever knew,-the audiences attracted by this pleasurable
combination were often times very scanty.
Meantime a new musical excitement was close at hand. In
September, Jenny Lind, the famous Swedish singer, arrived in New York,
after a long preliminary course of heralding by her manager, Barnum, much
of it absurd, though all of it was effective with the public. When her
steamer (the Atlantic) appeared, the wharf was crowded with people
eager with welcome. Barnum offered two hundred dollars for the best song
to be sung by Mlle. Lind, for which no less than seven hundred competitors
appeared, the prize being adjudged to Bayard Taylor by a highly respectable
committee, headed by George Ripley. Her concerts were intended to be given
in Tripler Hall in Broadway (on the site afterward occupied by the Winter
Garden), but since the structure was not completed in time for this use,
Castle Garden was chosen, and here, after an excited competition for tickets,-the
choice of seats being sold by auction at prices previously unheard of;
the highest being bid by a hatter, who was thought to be the maddest of
his tribe, but, from the advertising point of view, was not half so mad
as he seemed,-the "Swedish Nightingale" made her first appearance
in America on the evening of the 11th. The scene on this occasion, and
the whole Jenny Lind excitement, will be remembered so long as any are
living who witnessed them. Mlle. Lind's original contract with Barnum,
of one thousand dollars for each performance, was widely advertised as
proof of her transcendent merit, and so was the alteration of it to onehalf
of the net profits, her share of which for the first performance was twelve
thousand six hundred dollars. This sum Mlle. Lind devoted to public charities
in New York, beginning with three thousand dollars for the Fire Department
Fund. Such conduct of course heightened the public furor, and all through
the land, in the newspapers and in households, many tales of her "
angelic " nature were current. In New York crowds followed her wherever
she went, so that, in order to secure some degree of privacy, she was obliged
to abandon her hotel (the Irving House) and find a refuge in more private
quarters. In campaign of puffing Barnum fairly exceeded his own fame as
master of the ways by which public reputations may be manufactured. In
Mile. Lind's case, however, there was no need of showman's tricks, save
from the Barnum or boxoffice point of view. Though her voice was of
no remarkable power or beauty, she was artist to the fingertips, and her
vocalization approached the utmost degree of perfection in refinement and
So great was the desire to see her that parties who failed
to obtain tickets for the Garden hired rowboats and rested in the
river outside of the Garden, during the performance.
Tripler Hall, having been completed, was opened in October
with a concert in which Jenny Lind appeared. Mlle. Lind sang in "The
Messiah" on November 9, when the Harmonic Society repeated its performance
of that work. Tripler Hall was also the scene of Mme. Anna Bishop's appearance
in concert in October.
Maretzek opened the Astor Place Opera House for a new
season in October, and on November 4 the great soprano, Teresa Parodi,
made her first appearance in the character of Norma.
Orphan Asylum, incorporated 1807; West Seventy-third Street
and Riverside Drive. A Protestant asylum for destitute orphans from eighteen
months to ten years of age, and for halforphans, when surviving parents
are either mentally or physically unable to support them.
The editor of a daily paper was cowhided in Broadway by
Mr. Graham, an unsuccessful candidate for district attorney in the election
then just concluded.
Brougham's Lyceum, in Broadway near Broome Street, which
afterward became Wallack's, and still later the Broadway Theatre, was built
during this year, and opened on December 23 with an "occasional rigmarole,"
introducing all the members of the company, and a farce in which John L.
Owens, afterward so well known, made his first bow in New York.
The Five Points Mission was now begun, under direction
of the Rev. Lewis Morris Pease.
Andrew J. Downing, in letters to the Horticulturist,
in the autumn of this year, pointed out the lack of open public spaces
and places for common recreation in New York, and urged the necessity of
providing for a great Park. This was the actual beginning of the Central
Park, the birth of the idea, and Downing should be forever remembered with
gratitude by our people, and his statue should be raised by them in the
place which they owe primarily to his foresight and trained intelligence.
In addition to the "gingerbread man," already
referred to, and the "limekiln man,"-who was known to sleep
on or about limekilns on the East side near Fourteenth Street, and
whose body was eventually found there,-the "blue man," at about
this date, was to be seen daily in the vicinity of the Herald building
on Broadway; he had evidently been so liberally dosed with nitrate of silver,
to correct epilepsy, that his face was strictly of a blue color.
John Hughes, who in 1825 was ordained a priest in the
Roman Catholic Church, and consecrated bishop in 1838, was made archbishop
in this year.
St. Luke's Hospital, incorporated, affords medical and
surgical aid and nursing to sick or disabled, suffering from acute, curable,
and noncontagious disease, without distinction of race or creed.
The various labor organizations existing at this time
were mainly engaged in essaying to attain a reduction in the hours of work
by National and State legislation; they entered very generally into local
politics, and many candidates were put in nomination by them for offices
and representatives. In 1840 the hours of labor in all the Navy Yards had
been fixed at ten hours daily by President Van Buren. In 1831 the first
Printers' Union was formed. In 1829 the Workingmen's Party, which had been
organized in the preceding year, first entered the political field and
nominated candidates for office and representation: at the general election
they succeeded in electing one member of the legislature. As early as 1825
the subject of greater wages, less hours of work, and legal protection
was put forth by labor organizations and political aspirants who sought
to avail themselves of the popular excitement.
1851. About the year 1831 "animal magnetism"
or "mesmerism" was brought into public notice in consequence
of a report on the subject made to the Royal Academy of Medicine in Paris,
evolving much literature, public and private discussion, and exhibitions
or seances, as they were termed. In 1837 a further report was made to the
French Academy, which it adopted, and which was of a nature to discourage
adherents to the doctrine, as the Academy offered a prize in money to any
"clairvoyant" who should perform certain feats asserted to be
of common occurrence; but although several contestants for the prize made
efforts during these years, they met only complete failures. Nevertheless,
in this year the subject was again revived with some variations in England,
under the designation of "hypnotism," under which it has remained
in discussion to this time, with results sufficiently familiar to my readers.
I may add, however, that the modern speculation about hypnotism has not
in any equal degree excited the popular interest in this country in the
debates elicited by animal magnetism, which a few years previously was
a theme of common talk among the people. The doctrine of clairvoyance,
and the like, became advanced by spiritualists and queer and eccentric
people generally, which probably tended to the decline of the movement
among the masses of our population.
The publisher of the City Directory for this year gave,
in addition to the names and residences of individuals, etc., an additional
book, in which the avenues and streets were alphabetically given with the
numbers, and opposite to these the names of the residents or occupants
of the building.
Canal Street was extended to Mulberry, and Walker Street
widened twentyfive feet on the north side from Mulberry to Division
Street, and extended to East Broadway. Dey Street, between Broadway and
Greenwich Street, was widened.
May 5, Mayor Kingsland submitted to the Common Council
a message in which he set forth the propriety and necessity of early action
in the matter of a new Park, according to the suggestion made by A. J.
Downing in the preceding year. The Common Council, approving the design,
voted to solicit the legislature for authority to acquire the land. It
may be more convenient if I fix here a summary of the further proceedings
instead of distributing the incidents under the various years of their
occurrence: In 1853, a committee of the Common Council recommended that
the park should be located on the property known as "Jones's Wood,"
on the East side, opposite Blackwell's Island; and in order to give an
opportunity to examine the location a steamboat was chartered and members
of the legislature and the Chamber of Commerce, and others were invited
to proceed to the locality; President Pierce being a guest of the party.
As a result of the observation, the opinion was generally entertained that
the location not only was not sufficiently central, but that one side of
it being bounded by a deep stream and rapid current, the facility with
which persons or bodies could be projected into it, might lead to commission
of crime. Therefore, in the same year, authority having been granted by
the legislature, commissioners of estimate and assessment for the land
now occupied by the Central Park were appointed by the Supreme Court in
the autumn. And on February 5, 1856, the court confirmed the report of
these commissioners, which awarded for damages, $5,169,369.69, and for
benefits $1l,657,590.00 and the Common Council immediately appropriated
the sum of more than five millions for the expenditure necessary at that
time, and on May 19 appointed a commission to take in charge the work of
construction. The commission was aided by a consulting committee, which
included Washington Irving, Wm. C. Bryant, and George Bancroft. This committee
first met on May 29, 1856. Action by the commission being held to be dilatory,
the legislature, in 1857, appointed a new board, which invited designs,
and in this year, on April 1, from thirtythree plans submitted, that
of Fredk. L. Olmsted and Calvert Vaux was approved, and the work was begun.
By the original design the northern boundary of the park was fixed at One
Hundred and Sixth Street, but in 1859 it was transferred to One Hundred
and Tenth Street.
May 14, 1851, the New York and Erie Railroad, having been
completed to its western terminus at Dunkirk, N. Y., was formally opened
with great ceremony, two trains conveying President Fillmore, Daniel Webster,
and a large company of distinguished men, making an excursion over the
entire line, from Piermont, N. Y., to Dunkirk. This was the first trunk
line from New York.
June 17, Barnum's "Lecture Room" was opened
for presentation of "moral domestic drama." It was really a theatre
(though a poor one), called Lecture Room to attract the public that avoided
theatres. Performances were here given continually, and while the stage
was a good place for beginners, children and visitors from the rural districts
were delighted in front.
The labors of Dr. John Dennis Russ in behalf of the reformation
of juveniles resulted this year in the incorporation of the New York Juvenile
Asylum, located at One Hundred and Seventysixth Street and Amsterdam
Avenue. It is held that the labors of Dr. Russ and the incorporation of
the asylum were the result of the Astor Place Riot.
Williams & Guion in this year incorporated the Black
Star Line of sailing packets to Liverpool.
The demand of the China and India trade for vessels of
greater speed than the type of the time (184344) admitted of, led
to the construction in 1844 of vessels of different proportions, having
greater length to beam, greater rise of floors, and finer ends; and they,
in consequence of their greater speed, were termed and known as "clippers."
The first of this class was the Rainbow, of 750 tons, and the Sea
Witch, of 907 tons, both built by Smith & Dimon for Howland &
Aspinwall; then the Helena of 650 tons, by Wm. H. Webb for N. L.
& G. Griswold; then the Samuel Russell of 940 tons, by Brown
& Bell, for A. A. Low & Brother. In succeeding years there followed
the Snow Squall, White Squall, Black Squall, Invincible, Sword Fish,
Flying Cloud, Trade Wind, Lightning, Comet, Red Jacket, and others.
When this class of vessels was first brought to the attention
of English shippers and builders, the customary dissent and ridicule of
"Yankee notions" were both entertained and proclaimed; but when
the Surprise, of A. A. Low & Brother, reached San Francisco
from this port in ninety days, with a cargo of 1800 tons, and discharging,
loading, and leaving for London via Canton, arrived there with the
first cargo of tea and freight at six pounds sterling per ton (while English
vessels were obtaining but from three to four pounds), netting her owners
fifty thousand dollars in excess of her cost and running expenses, our
English brothers, with their practical good sense, especially whenever
the opportunity is presented to them to reap an advantage, were not slow
to avail themselves of the example thus presented, and however distasteful
it was to them to be goaded on by "Yankees," yet they discarded
sentiment and built "clipper" ships.
In 1846 Captain Wm. Skiddy had built in Boston by Donald
McKay the ship New World, of 1400 tons, then the largest merchantman
in the world. He soon after sold a large share of her to Grinnell, Minturn
& Co. In 1851, the California trade requiring larger clippers, Wm.
H. Webb built for N. L. & G. Griswold the Challenge, of 2006
tons, and the Invincible, of 2150.
Of the great speed attained by these vessels I cite the
following in addition to that of the Surprise: New York to San Francisco,
the Sea Witch, in ninetyseven days; and the Flying Cloud,
1784 tons, in eightyfour, and on one day 4331/4 miles (knots).
The Samuel Russell on a voyage to Canton made 328 miles (knots)
in one day, and the Sovereign of the Seas, of 2421 tons, from San
Francisco, for twentytwo days averaged 283.9 miles (knots) per day,
and ran from New York to Liverpool in thirteen days and nineteen hours.
The Dreadnought, belonging to E. D. Morgan, Captain Samuels, and
others, beat the Canada steamer from Liverpool, though the Cunarder
had a day's start; the clipper reaching Sandy Hook before the steamer arrived
at Boston. The Comet sailed from here to San Francisco and back
in seven months and nine days, the return passage occupying only seventysix
days (the shortest on record).
Such were some of the triumphs of the golden days of American
shipbuilding, when the flag was seen in every port of the world, flying
over the most finished specimens of marine structure ever known. In those
days (184060) the shipyards extended along the East River from
Pike to Thirteenth Street, employing thousands of skilled workmen whose
intelligence and character were of the sturdiest foundations of our civil
government. This mighty industry has been destroyed by ignorant legislation.
By 1849, however, the success of the Cunard Line of steamers began to affect
not only the further building of our foreign packets, but to cause them
gradually to lapse from freight and passenger traffic to freight alone.
The yacht America, schooner of 170 tons (Custom
House measurement), the winner of the Queen's Cup, which was contended
for under the direction of the Royal Yacht Squadron of England off the
Isle of WIght, was designed by George Steers of James R. & George Steers,
shipbuilders of this city, and built by his firm for John C. and Edwin
A. Stevens, George 1. Schuyler, J. Beekman Finlay, and Hamilton Wilkes.
Leaving here in July, she arrived at Havre, where she was fitted with her
racing spars and sails, and in her passage to the Isle of Wight she encountered
the schooner Livonia, evidently detailed to test her speed, of which
the owner soon became so well cognizant that, upon Commodore Stevens posting
an offer in the Club House of a bet upon the result of the approaching
contest of from one guinea to five thousand. it was not taken. It is worthy
of notice that the Livonia had been waiting the coming of the America
for several days, and immediately upon her appearance joined company,
the purpose of which was so patent that for a moment the question was with
Commodore Stevens, and his companions, "Shall we compete with her,
or conceal our capacity?" The consideration was of brief duration;
it being chivalrously decided that notwithstanding the action of the Livonia's
owner was indelicate, and but a transfer of the "touting"
of a racecourse to the water, the yacht should continue her course
without any notice of the competition.
Soon after a pilot for the America had been engaged
Commodore Stevens received several anonymous letters, stating that the
pilot would sell him, etc.; but the commodore not only did not heed them,
but upon being questioned in relation to them, he replied: "The commodore
of the British club, in providing the man, said he would be responsible
for his faithfulness, and consequently I am fully satisfied, having the
word of a gentleman."
The rules of the race did not give any allowance for tonnage,
but Commodore Stevens declared he would not start in less than a sixknot
breeze. There were fifteen starters, ranging from 47 to 392 tons, and the
America not only won by some 25 minutes, but proved to be much the
faster vessel on all points of sailing. So marvellous was the performance
of the America held to be that there were many who believed there
was some propelling machinery on board of her. In illustration of this
opinion: Lord Yarborough visited her, and after looking all through between
decks, boldly asked the sailingmaster Brown, who was in charge, to
lift the hatch in the cockpit, in order that he might be fully advised
upon the question of the alleged existence of a propelling machine in her
The cup was open to the yachts of the clubs of all nations.
In the latter part of the race the wind fell, and although
the America had been many miles ahead of all her competitors, a
very small yacht by running close to the shore, thus avoiding the strength
of the adverse tide, was enabled to gain upon the America so
as to reduce her lead to twentyfive minutes.
July. The Common Council passed an ordinance to extend
the area of the Battery, which was vetoed by the Mayor.
July 15, Edwin Forrest sued N. P. Willis for twenty thousand
dollars alleged damages to his character, and he also commenced proceedings
to obtain a divorce from his wife Catharine N. Fisher, nee Sinclair.
Mme. D'Arusmont (D'Amsmont in the original), "Fanny"
(Frances) Wright, applied for a divorce from the man she had married while
engaged in lecturing and writing against marriage.
James Fenimore Cooper died on September 14, and on the
15th a memorial meeting was held at the City Hall under the presidency
of Washington Irving; and on February 24, 1852, a more formal meeting was
convened at Metropolitan Hall (once Tripler Hall, afterward the Winter
Garden, in Broadway, near Bond Street). On this occasion Daniel Webster
presided, supported by Irving, and Bryant delivered the address. Reproductions
from a sketch by the venerable artist, Mr. D. Huntington, of these three
men as they appeared on the occasion, are still treasured in New York families.
Booth's last appearance in New York was on September 19.
His last appearance on any stage was on November 19. of the next year (1852)
at the St. Charles Theatre, in New Orleans. Four days after that he died
on board a steamboat for Cincinnati.
On October 3, the Hudson River Railroad, chartered May
12, 1846, was opened to Albany.
December 5, Louis Kossuth, the Hungarian patriot, arrived
in New York on the United States war steamer Mississippi, which
had been sent by our Government to convey him hither as the nation's guest.
Here he was received with unbounded enthusiasm; crowds followed him in
the streets, hung upon his words, and noted his actions and his very attire.
Imitation, that "sincerest form of flattery," introduced into
common use the "Kossuth hat" in the place of the more formal
headgear previously worn. At Washington Kossuth had distinguished honors
paid to him. He visited most of the chief cities and addressed great meetings
with moving eloquence. His efforts, however, to raise funds for renewing
the struggle of Hungary with Austria were not very successful, especially
since the news of Louis Napoleon's coup d'etat shortly after Kossuth's
arrival, seemed to presage a considerable change in European politics.
Kossuth returned to Europe in July of the next year.
September 18, Henry J. Raymond, who in 1841 was engaged
as a reporter on the Tribune at ten dollars a week, organized and
founded the New York Times, which first was published at 113 Nassau
Street, and afterward at the corner of Nassau and Beekman streets, until
removed in 1857 to its present site.
The Nicaragua route to San Francisco was opened in this
Astor Place Opera House, at the end of the first "five
seasons' subscription," was given over to business and the occupancy
of the Mercantile Library; being remodelled for the purpose, and taking
the old name of Clinton Hall after the library's earlier home. Now even
the building has disappeared; its graceful proportions giving way to a
new structure, larger and more convenient, no doubt, but in point of architecture
showing a mournful decline of taste as compared with its predecessor.
December 3, Niblo's Garden was remarkable for the appearance
of Adelina Patti, whose voice and execution, though she was but a child
of eight years, excited very great admiration and astonishment. Mme. Patti
herself has lately said of this concert:
I sang on the stage from my seventh to my eleventh year,
and carried on my doll when I made my first appearance in public at the
former age, singing "Ah ! non giunge"-the finale of the third
act of " La Sonnambula "-in a concert at Niblo's Garden, December
3, 1851. I remember that occasion as well as though it were yesterday,
and can even recall the dress I wore-a white silk with little trimming.
December 29 first appeared Lola Montez, a danseuse of
considerable and various fame, who appealed rather to nature than to the
artistic sense. She attracted crowded houses for a short time, although
scarcely fulfilling public expectation. She had many travels and adventures
in this country, in which, I think, she passed the remainder of her career;
at any rate she died here about ten years later than this date, closing
a turbulent life in poverty and humility.
In this year ironical fate destroyed by fire the firealarm
bell on the tower at Sixth Avenue and Tenth Street.
Sixth Avenue Railroad opened and its operation commenced.
About this period there daily appeared on Nassau Street
a large and lugubrious man with a stentorian voice, who announced "twentyfive
selfsealing envelopes, all for four cents"-the four cents being
especially dwelt upon. He was a positive nuisance, not only to the neighbors,
but to passersby; but it was found to be impracticable to suppress
him, and he continued his vocation for some three years, when he was providentially
removed. So notorious was he that when one wished to express his disapproval
of a measure he deemed of insufficient character, he termed it a "fourcent
The "razorstrop man" on the corner of Pine
and Nassau streets was a like nuisance for many years, till he was in a
like manner removed.
In 1808 the city was divided into ten wards; in 1825,
the number was increased to twelve; in 1827 to fourteen; in 1832, by dividing
the Ninth Ward, to fifteen; in 1836 the Sixteenth Ward was made of a part
of the Twelfth; in 1837 the Seventeenth was made out of a part of the Eleventh;
in 1846 the Sixteenth was divided by the making of the Eighteenth; in 1850
the Nineteenth was made out of a part of the Twelfth, and in this year
the Twentieth was made out of a part of the Sixteenth.