1858. THE cornerstone of St. Patrick's Cathedral
on Fifth Avenue, between Fiftieth and Fiftyfirst streets,
was laid. The entire plot of land extending to Madison Avenue
was bought of Francis Cooper in 1829, by the Roman Catholics,
for the sum of $5850.4
A great enlargement of the Astor Library was made
by Mr. William B. Astor.
The vast religious revival then in progress became
more widely extended, and increased in fervor.
January 17, the first practical test of two new steam
fireengines occurred, both of these newly acquired machines
being employed at a fire. Chief Harry Howard made a report regarding
them to the Common Council, the substance of which was that he
"was free to say" that he did not think much of them.
Niblo's Theatre was occupied by Dan Rice's Circus
until late in March, when the Ravels followed for two months.
Mary Devlin at Burton's New Theatre made her debut
in New York, playing Juliette to Miss Cushman's Romeo.
Miss Devlin was much admired on our stage; she married Edwin
Booth in July, 1860, retiring soon after to private life. She
died in February, 1863. Placide, Blake, and Brougham were all
in the cast of "London Assurance."
February 3. The steamer Baltic left Liverpool
on the last voyage of the famous Collins Line of steamers to Liverpool,
it finally succumbing under pressure of the loss of the Arctic
and Pacific and adverse conditions.
March 1. At Laura Keene's Theatre, Miss Polly Marshall
made her first appearance on that stage.
April 2, Central Park extended to One hundred and
tenth Street and on 17th Madison Avenue extended.
May 11, three Sisters and nine patients moved into
St. Luke's Hospital, and the regular work of that noble charity
was thus begun.
In June, and again in July, accidents befell the
new Atlantic cable, but on August 6 all the long effort expended
on this essay issued in success. My readers who have grown up
in a world of cables can scarce imagine the enthusiasm-or I might
say the transport -which this extraordinary event created. Queen
Victoria congratulated the President in a despatch across the
ocean, and Mr. Buchanan replied to the Queen. The "Cable
Celebration" in New York will be long remembered; the city
was illuminated, Te Deum was sung in Trinity Church, a banquet
was given to Cyrus W. Field, whose energy had accomplished the
great work. The whole land broke out into celebration. Nevertheless,
the cable, that had cost so much labor and money, and was the
cause of so much rejoicing, shortly broke down entirely and again
there was silence between the continents, to the bitter disappointment
of projectors and people alike.
During the illuminations in New York, the cupola
of the City Hall caught fire and the upper story suffered considerable
damage, which was not for a long time repaired.
Purdy's National, which had been busy since the fall
with a variety of performances, in which the leading attractions
were G. L. Fox, F. S. Chanfrau, Lawrence Barrett, H. A. Perry,
"Yankee" Locke, Fanny Herring, and Emily Mestayer, was
closed on August 30.
September 20, Marietta Piccolomini made her first
appearance in America at Burton's in " La Traviata,"
as Violetta, a part written for her by the composer. The
effect produced by this artist upon our susceptible youth may
be inferred from Artemus Ward's tribute to her, which may be found
in the collected works of that social philosopher, and a summary
of which is contained in his single sentence to the effect that
"Fassinatin peple is her best holt."
October 3, Burton with his company, under Eddy's
management, succeeded the Ravels at Niblo's. At his benefit, on
the day and evening of the 15th, the house was besieged by tremendous
audiences, and Burton, in the parts of Timothy Toodle, Ebenezer
Sudden, Toby Tramp, and Mr. Micawber, was received
with overwhelming applause. This proved to be his last appearance
in New York. After a little travel in the provinces he returned
here, where he died February 9, 1860, at the age of fiftysix,
leaving a handsome fortune and a remarkable dramatic and literary
The receipt by me this morning of the third pricelist
or catalogue within a week, of wines, liquors, etc., from different
firms of the city, in which the champagnes of many producers are
included, further reminds me of the difference in social customs
of the day and those of fifty years past. A schoolmate of mine,
whose family resided on Broadway and maintained a carriage, gave
dinners, evening parties, etc., told me some time about 1830 that,
until he was nineteen years of age he had never to his knowledge
seen a bottle of champagne, and then only at the house of a French
gentleman on the occasion of a great festivity.
The Fifth Avenue Hotel, which had been commenced
in 1856, was completed and leased by Paran Stevens for a term
Up to this time the street cars of the Harlem Railroad
ran from opposite the Hall of Records to Fortysecond Street;
after this they ran through Madison Avenue to Seventyninth
The peculiar observance of the first day of January
or "New Year's" as it was termed, originating with the
primitive Dutch inhabitants, was maintained up to this time, when
it rapidly lessened, until now (1895) the ancient custom of visiting
on New Year's Day has wholly passed away. In order the better
to explain how and to what extent this custom was observed, I
give my experience in the year 1833. In company with a friend,
each fortified with his list of parties, or where to call, we
began at nine in the morning, and at five in the afternoon we
ceased, having visited sixtyseven houses. In some cases,
in consequence of the great number of " callers " in
a house, we merely walked in and said "Happy New Year,"
or "Compliments of the Season," "Thank you, we
dare not indulge," "Goodmorning." At other
houses, when the young ladies were especially interesting, a few
minuses' conversation and a sip of cherry bounce or coffee, "Goodmorning,"
and off to another house. Such was the routine of the young men,
while the elder, having fewer visits to make, remained longer
at their calls and indulged in the table, lavishly spread with
crullers, doughnuts, cookies (New Year's cakes), pickled and stewed
oysters, chicken, turkey, mincepies, jellies, etc., and
with wines and liqueurs.
No. 102 Fifth Avenue, 36 by 80 feet, was sold in
this year for $31,000.
October 15, Tom Taylor's play, "Our American
Cousin," was produced at Laura Keene's Theatre, and had a
run that extended beyond anything before known on our stage. Mr.
Joseph Jefferson, in his "Autobiography," remarks that
"the success of the play proved the turningpoint in
the career of three persons," Miss Keene, E. A. Sothern,
and himself. Meantime at Wallack's was put on for counter attraction
"The Veteran," composed by J. Lester Wallack, a spectacular
melodrama; which also had a great (though less) success. The necessary
sacrifice of Lester Wallack's whiskers to the similitude of a
French officer in this part excited general lamentation among
the young womanhood of the city. The elder Wallack played Colonel
Delmar, and Brougham was Oflan Agan, an Irish convert
to Mohammedanism, who had not altogether laid aside some of the
natural O'Flanagan tastes, as for drink and the like. Some of
his scenes with Mrs. Vernon as Mrs. McShake were very amusing,
and the piece contained many military effects, picturesquely presented.
October 18, the city, as well as the whole country,
was excited by news of John Brown's raid into Virginia to free
The House of the Good Shepherd opened at foot of
Ninetieth Street and East River. Objects, the reformation of inebriates
and fallen women who wish to reform; the care of those who may
be in danger of falling, and of the girls committed to it by the
city magistrates. No involuntary detention or regard to creed
November 9, the bust of Schiller, in its secluded
nook of the Ramble in Central Park, was unveiled.
The Dreadnaught, Captain S. Samuels, the clipper
which once had arrived here from Liverpool the same day the Cunard
steamer Canada reached Boston, that had left Liverpool
the day before, in this year made the run hence to Rock Light,
Liverpool, in thirteen days and eight hours.
Depau Row in Bleecker Street, between Thompson and
Sullivan, constructed in 1846, was once in distinguished occupancy,
but the unforeseen and rapid translation of our residents beyond
this, soon left it in the background, and its occupation and surroundings,
from about 1870, have so materially changed, that it would be
difficult for a passerby of the period to credit its former
purpose and occupation. It is questionable if a single native
occupies any part of it. Passing it on a late occasion, its condition
reminded me of the Heu! quantum mutatus ab illo!
1859. In addition to the customs of the early period
of these "Reminiscences," before recited: A late visit
to a public horse stable, erroneously termed "livery,"
reminds me of the difference of some of the day and those of the
time of my first observation of them. Thus:
A furnished office, matting, prints, fireplace,
washstand, harness and clothes closets, gas light, etc., as opposed
to a very common and roughbuilt wooden structure, for there
was not a brick or stone one for this use in the city, rarely
an office proper; the horses led to the nearest street pump for
water. and not a blanket for them, however cold the weather, these
not being in general use even in private stables; but as some
amelioration of their condition, horses' tails were seldom "docked";
occasionally "pricked" and, in the teams of a few young
men, their ears were sometimes clipped, but that cruel device,
a "Kemble Jackson" rein, was unknown.
The manner in which our street lamps are lighted
is so very different from that practiced even for a very long
period after oil was replaced by gas, that I hold it worthy of
being recited. Thus:
A street gas lamp can now be lighted in 24/10
seconds, and the lighting of the oil lamps involved the use of
a ladder, a vessel of spirits of turpentine, a lantern and a torch,
and if by the severity of the weather the torch was extinguished,
the relighting of it, before friction or loco foco matches were
known, was a dilatory matter. On the following morning the ladder
was again required, the lamp refilled, and the wick trimmed.
In addition to the lamps being far apart, and the
light they gave very insufficient, they were not required to be
lighted on moonlight nights, but the contractor for the lighting
held and practiced that moonlight nights were designated by the
Calendar, and not by the accident of an obscured sky.
This is Easter Sunday, and the style of women's bonnets
awakens remembrances of those of the early period of these "Reminiscences";
and I am of the conviction that if a woman had then appeared upon
the streets with one of the straggling constructions of the day
which a sailor would term a "hurrah's nest," she would
have been held to be a second Ophelia, and would have risked
arrest as a wandering lunatic.
In this connection one is reminded of Pope's
" In words and fashions, the same rule will hold,
Alike fantastic, be they new or old:
Be not the first, by whom the new are tried,
Or yet the last to lay the old aside."
As the public notices of the meetings of the Tammany
Society have been discontinued of late years, and as they were
of an unusual form, I think it well to preserve a record of them.
They were published at the head of the inside page of a Democratic
paper, and after notifying the members of the meeting and when
it was to occur, they would close in accordance with the season
and the year:
In this year and month of October, thus: Season of
Fruits, Tenth Moon, Year of Discovery 367th, of Independence 84th,
and of the Society 73d.
October 13, Frances A., a daughter of axLieutenant
W. A. Bartlett of the U. S. Navy, and a shipmate of mine in 183738,
was married in St. Patrick's Church by Archbishop Hughes to a
very rich gentleman from Cuba, Don Estaban Santa Cruz de Oviedo,
and in consequence of the value of the diamonds and pearls, estimated
at one hundred thousand dollars, he gave his bride, this marriage
was attended with more eclat than any that ever preceded
or followed it here. The ceremony was termed and universally known
as the " Diamond Wedding," and as it was the first of
such a character, a description of all the parties concerned and
a recital of all that occurred in connection with it were themes,
not only for our city papers but for those of the country at large
and even abroad. Mr. Stedman's poem, "The Diamond Wedding,"
refers to this.
The curiosity to witness the wedding was so general
that, for the first time in this city, cards of admission to the
church were issued, and the services of a squad of policemen were
necessary to control the crowd of vulgar people who essayed to
see the bride and groom.
Oviedo died soon after and, being without a direct
heir, his wife under the Spanish laws was not entitled to a right
of dower, and all the property that he had given her, which was
held to be heirlooms, was taken away from her. She married
again an Austrian baron, but so unfortunately that she now is
in embarrassed circumstances.
Female cashiers, with the exception of one in Delmonico
Brothers' Restaurant, when they opened it in 1831, in William
Street, were wholly unknown here until within a few years. So
novel was the practice that this place was patronized in some
instances in order to verify the assertion that there was a woman
John Ordronaux, a sugar refiner at 2830 Leonard
Street, surprised all by the employment of his wife as bookkeeper
These, however, were not really instances, as the
present profuse employment of women is an instance, of social
manners of our own civilization; they were merely French importations.
Pigeonshooting, like horseracing, has
become afflicted with Anglomania. Retaining the gun below the
elbow until the trap is sprung, and a restriction to a discharge
from but one barrel, is changed, not only to holding it above
the elbow before the trap "ground" is opened, but sighting
with the gun and the privilege of a second discharge.
Prior to this year the Board of Aldermen constituted
also the Board of Supervisors, and on January 4 a Board of twelve
Supervisors that had been elected by the provisions of an Act
of the Legislature of the 15th of April of the preceding year,
convened and organized.
Ninth Avenue Railroad was opened and operated in
In this year the Legislature repealed the restrictive
Excise Law, alike to the "Maine Law," it had enacted
in 1855. It was very strictly enforced. Under its provisions all
dispensing of liquors was disallowed save for mechanical, chemical,
or medicinal purposes (or wine for the Sacrament), save by citizens
under severe bonds, with two sureties (householders), and the
keeping of books with all particulars of sales open to public
examination. Severe penalties provided imprisonment for first
offence against two sections of the Act, and for second offence
against one section.
Restrictions on transportation of liquors conformed
to other requirements of the Act. Liquors kept in violation of
the Act were declared to be a public nuisance.