Lights and Shadows of New York Life - James Dabney Mccabe - ebook

On the morning of the 1st of May, 1607, there knelt at the chancel of the old church of St. Ethelburge, in Bishopsgate street, London, to receive the sacrament, a man of noble and commanding presence, with a broad intellectual forehead, short, close hair, and a countenance full of the dignity and courtly bearing of an honorable gentleman. His dress bespoke him a sailor, and such he was. Immediately upon receiving the sacrament, he hastened from the church to the Thames, where a boat was in waiting to convey him to a vessel lying in the stream. But little time was lost after his arrival on board, and soon the ship was gliding down the river. The man was an Englishman by birth and training, a seaman by education, and one of those daring explorers of the time who yearned to win fame by discovering the new route to India. His name was Henry Hudson, and he had been employed by “certain worshipful merchants of London” to go in search of a North-east passage to India, around the Arctic shores of Europe, between Lapland and Nova Zembla, and frozen Spitzbergen. These worthy gentlemen were convinced that since the effort to find a North-west passage had failed, nothing remained but to search for a North-east passage, and they were sure that if human skill or energy could find it, Hudson would succeed in his mission.

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James Dabney McCabe

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It is the desire of every American to see New York, the largest and most wonderful city in the Union.  To very many the city and its attractions are familiar, and the number of these persons is increased by thousands of new comers every year.  A still greater number, however, will know the Great City only by the stories that reach them through their friends and the newspapers.  They may never gaze upon its beauties, never enjoy its attractions in person.  For their benefit I have written these pages, and I have endeavored to present to them a faithful picture of the “Lights and Shadows” of the life of this City, and to describe its “Sights and Sensations” as they really exist.This Great City, so wonderful in its beauty, so strange to eyes accustomed only to the smaller towns of the land, is in all respects the most attractive sight in America, and one of the most remarkable places in the world, ranking next to London and Paris in the extent and variety of its attractions.  Its magnificence is remarkable, its squalor appalling.  Nowhere else in the New World are seen such lavish displays of wealth, and such hideous depths of poverty.  It is rich in historical associations and in treasures of art.  It presents a wonderful series of combinations as well as contrasts of individual and national characteristics.  It is richly worth studying by all classes, for it is totally different from any other city in the world.  It is always fresh, always new.  It is constantly changing, growing greater and more wonderful in its power and splendors, more worthy of admiration in its higher and nobler life, more generous in its charities, and more mysterious and appalling in its romance and its crimes.  It is indeed a wonderful city.  Coming fresh from plainer and more practical parts of the land, the visitor is plunged into the midst of so much beauty, magnificence, gayety, mystery, and a thousand other wonders, that he is fairly bewildered.  It is hoped that the reader of these pages will be by their perusal better prepared to enjoy the attractions, and to shun the dangers of New York.  It has been my effort to bring home to those who cannot see the city for themselves, its pleasures and its dangers, and to enable them to enjoy the former without either the fatigue or expense demanded of an active participant in them, and to appreciate the latter, without incurring the risks attending an exploration of the shadowy side of the Great City.To those who intend visiting New York, whether they come as strangers, or as persons familiar with it, the writer has a word to say, which he trusts may be heeded.  An honest effort has been made in this work to present the reader with a fair description of the dangers to which visitors and citizens are alike exposed.  For the purpose of performing this task, the writer made visits, in company with the police officials of the city, to a number of the places described in this work, and he is satisfied that no respectable person can with safety visit them, unless provided with a similar protection.  The curiosity of all persons concerning the darker side of city life can be fully satisfied by a perusal of the sketches presented in this volume.  It is not safe for a stranger to undertake to explore these places for himself.  No matter how clever he may consider himself, no respectable man is a match for the villains and sharpers of New York, and he voluntarily brings upon himself all the consequences that will follow his entrance into the haunts of the criminal and disreputable classes.  The city is full of danger.  The path of safety which is pointed out in these pages is the only one for either citizen or stranger—an absolute avoidance of the vicinity of sin.Those who have seen the city will, I am sure, confirm the statements contained herein, and will acknowledge the truthfulness of the picture I have drawn, whatever they may think of the manner in which the work is executed.J. D. McC., Jr.New York,March 21st, 1872


I.  HISTORICAL.On the morning of the 1st of May, 1607, there knelt at the chancel of the old church of St. Ethelburge, in Bishopsgate street, London, to receive the sacrament, a man of noble and commanding presence, with a broad intellectual forehead, short, close hair, and a countenance full of the dignity and courtly bearing of an honorable gentleman.  His dress bespoke him a sailor, and such he was.  Immediately upon receiving the sacrament, he hastened from the church to the Thames, where a boat was in waiting to convey him to a vessel lying in the stream.  But little time was lost after his arrival on board, and soon the ship was gliding down the river.  The man was an Englishman by birth and training, a seaman by education, and one of those daring explorers of the time who yearned to win fame by discovering the new route to India.  His name was Henry Hudson, and he had been employed by “certain worshipful merchants of London” to go in search of a North-east passage to India, around the Arctic shores of Europe, between Lapland and Nova Zembla, and frozen Spitzbergen.  These worthy gentlemen were convinced that since the effort to find a North-west passage had failed, nothing remained but to search for a North-east passage, and they were sure that if human skill or energy could find it, Hudson would succeed in his mission.  They were not mistaken in their man, for in two successive voyages he did all that mortal could do to penetrate the ice fields beyond the North Cape, but without success.  An impassable barrier of ice held him back, and he was forced to return to London to confess his failure.  With unconquerable hope, he suggested new means of overcoming the difficulties; but while his employers praised his zeal and skill, they declined to go to further expense in an undertaking which promised so little, and the “bold Englishman, the expert pilot, and the famous navigator” found himself out of employment.  Every effort to secure aid in England failed him, and, thoroughly disheartened, he passed over to Holland, whither his fame had preceded him.The Dutch, who were more enterprising, and more hopeful than his own countrymen, lent a ready ear to his statement of his plans, and the Dutch East India Company at once employed him, and placed him in command of a yacht of ninety tons, called the Half Moon, manned by a picked crew.  On the 25th of March, 1609, Hudson set sail in this vessel from Amsterdam, and steered directly for the coast of Nova Zembla.  He succeeded in reaching the meridian of Spitzbergen; but here the ice, the fogs, and the fierce tempests of the North drove him back, and turning to the westward, he sailed past the capes of Greenland, and on the 2nd of July was on the banks of Newfoundland.  He passed down the coast as far as Charleston Harbor, vainly hoping to find the North-west passage, and then in despair turned to the northward, discovering Delaware Bay on his voyage.  On the 3rd of September he arrived off a large bay to the north of the Delaware, and passing into it, dropped anchor “at two cables’ length from the shore,” within Sandy Hook.  Devoting some days to rest, and to the exploration of the bay, he passed through The Narrows on the 11th of September, and then the broad and beautiful “inner bay” burst upon him in all its splendor, and from the deck of his ship he watched the swift current of the mighty river rolling from the north to the sea.  He was full of hope now, and the next day continued his progress up the river, and at nightfall cast anchor at Yonkers.  During the night the current of the river turned his ship around, placing her head down stream; and this fact, coupled with the assurances of the natives who came out to the Half Moon in their canoes, that the river flowed from far beyond the mountains, convinced him that the stream flowed from ocean to ocean, and that by sailing on he would at length reach India—the golden land of his dreams.Thus encouraged, he pursued his way up the river, gazing with wondering delight upon its glorious scenery, and listening with gradually fading hope to the stories of the natives who flocked to the water to greet him.  The stream narrowed, and the water grew fresh, and long before he anchored below Albany, Hudson had abandoned the belief that he was in the Northwest passage.  From the anchorage, a boat’s crew continued the voyage to the mouth of the Mohawk.  Hudson was satisfied that he had made a great discovery—one that was worth fully as much as finding the new route to India.  He was in a region upon which the white man’s eye had never rested before, and which offered the richest returns to commercial ventures.  He hastened back to New York Bay, took possession of the country in the name of Holland, and then set sail for Europe.  He put into Dartmouth in England, on his way back, where he told the story of his discovery.  King James I. prevented his continuing his voyage, hoping to deprive the Dutch of its fruits; but Hudson took care to send his log-book and all the ship’s papers over to Holland, and thus placed his employers in full possession of the knowledge he had gained.  The English at length released the Half Moon, and she continued her voyage to the Texel.The discovery of Hudson was particularly acceptable to the Dutch, for the new country was rich in fur-bearing animals, and Russia offered a ready market for all the furs that could be sent there.  The East India Company, therefore, refitted the Half Moon after her return to Holland, and despatched her to the region discovered by Hudson on a fur trading expedition, which was highly successful.  Private persons also embarked in similar enterprises, and within two years a prosperous and important fur trade was established between Holland and the country along the Mauritius, as the great river discovered by Hudson had been named, in honor of the Stadtholder of Holland.  No government took any notice of the trade for a while, and all persons were free to engage in it.Among the adventurers employed in this trade was one Adrian Block, noted as one of the boldest navigators of his time.  He made a voyage to Manhattan Island in 1614, then the site of a Dutch trading post, and had secured a cargo of skins with which he was about to return to Holland, when a fire consumed both his vessel and her cargo, and obliged him to pass the winter with his crew on the island.  They built them log huts on the site of the present Beaver street, the first houses erected in New York, and during the winter constructed a yacht of sixteen tons, which Block called the Onrust—the “Restless.”  In this yacht Block made many voyages of discovery, exploring the coasts of Long Island Sound, and giving his name to the island near the eastern end of the sound.  He soon after went back to Europe.Meanwhile, a small settlement had clustered about the trading post and the huts built by Block’s shipwrecked crew, and had taken the name of New Amsterdam.  The inhabitants were well suited to become the ancestors of a great nation.  They were mainly Dutch citizens of a European Republic, “composed of seven free, sovereign States”—made so by a struggle with despotism for forty years, and occupying a territory which their ancestors had reclaimed from the ocean and morass by indomitable labor.  It was a republic where freedom of conscience, speech, and the press were complete and universal.  The effect of this freedom had been the internal development of social beauty and strength, and vast increment of substantial wealth and power by immigration.  Wars and despotisms in other parts of Europe sent thousands of intelligent exiles thither, and those free provinces were crowded with ingenious mechanics, and artists, and learned men, because conscience was there undisturbed, and the hand and brain were free to win and use the rewards of their industry and skill.  Beautiful cities, towns, and villages were strewn over the whole country, and nowhere in Europe did society present an aspect half as pleasing as that of Holland.  Every religious sect there found an asylum from persecution and encouragement to manly effort, by the kind respect of all.  And at the very time when the charter of the West India Company was under consideration, that band of English Puritans who afterward set up the ensign of free institutions on the shores of Massachusetts Bay, were being nurtured in the bosom of that republic, and instructed in those principles of civil liberty that became a salutary leaven in the bigotry which they brought with them. “Such were the people who laid the foundations of the Commonwealth of New York.  They were men of expanded views, liberal feelings, and never dreamed of questioning any man’s inalienable right to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ among them, whether he first inspired the common air in Holland, England, Abyssinia, or Kamtschatka.  And as the population increased and became heterogeneous, that very toleration became a reproach; and their Puritan neighbors on the east, and Churchmen and Romanists on the south, called New Amsterdam ‘a cage of unclean birds.’”The English, now awake to the importance of Hudson’s discoveries, warned the Dutch Government to refrain from making further settlements on “Hudson’s River,” as they called the Mauritius; but the latter, relying upon the justice of their claim, which was based upon Hudson’s discovery, paid no attention to these warnings, and in the spring of 1623 the Dutch West India Company sent over thirty families of Walloons, or 110 persons in all, to found a permanent colony at New Amsterdam, which, until now, had been inhabited only by fur traders.  These Walloons were Protestants, from the frontier between France and Flanders, and had fled to Amsterdam to escape religious persecution in France.  They were sound, healthy, vigorous, and pious people, and could be relied upon to make homes in the New World.  The majority of them settled in New Amsterdam.  Others went to Long Island, where Sarah de Rapelje, the first white child born in the province of New Netherlands, saw the light.In 1626, Peter Minuit, the first regular Governor, was sent over from Holland.  He brought with him a Koopman or general commissary, who was also secretary of the province, and a Schout, or sheriff, to assist him in his government.  The only laws to which he was subject were the instructions of the West India Company.  The colonists, on their part, were to regard his will as their law.  He set to work with great vigor to lay the foundations of the colony.  He called a council of the Indian chiefs, and purchased the Island of Manhattan from them for presents valued at about twenty dollars, United States coin.  He thus secured an equitable title to the island, and won the friendship of the Indians.  Under his vigorous administration, the colony prospered; houses were built, farms laid off; the population was largely increased by new arrivals from Europe; and New Amsterdam fairly entered upon its career as one of the most important places in America.  It was a happy settlement, as well; the rights of the people were respected, and they were as free as they had been in Holland.  Troubles with the Indians marked the close of Minuit’s administration.  The latter were provoked by the murder of some of their number by the whites, and by the aid rendered by the commander at Fort Orange (Albany) to the Mohegans, in one of their forays upon the Mohawks.  Many of the families at Fort Orange, and from the region between the Hudson and the Delaware, abandoned their settlements, and came to New Amsterdam for safety, thus adding to the population of that place.  Minuit was recalled in 1632, and he left the province in a highly prosperous condition.  During the last year of his government New Amsterdam sent over $60,000 worth of furs to Holland.His successor was the redoubtable Wouter Van Twiller, a clerk in the company’s warehouse at Amsterdam, who owed his appointment to his being the husband of the niece of Killian Van Rensselaer, the patroon of Albany.  Irving has given us the following admirable portrait of him: “He was exactly five feet six inches in height, and six feet five inches in circumference.  His head was a perfect sphere, and of such stupendous dimensions, that dame Nature, with all her sex’s ingenuity, would have been puzzled to construct a neck capable of supporting it; wherefore she wisely declined the attempt, and settled it firmly on the top of his back bone, just between the shoulders.  His body was oblong, and particularly capacious at bottom; which was wisely ordered by Providence, seeing that he was a man of sedentary habits, and very averse to the idle labor of walking.  His legs were very short, but sturdy in proportion to the weight they had to sustain: so that, when erect, he had not a little the appearance of a beer barrel on skids.  His face, that infallible index of the mind, presented a vast expanse, unfurrowed by any of those lines and angles which disfigure the human countenance with what is termed expression.  Two small gray eyes twinkled feebly in the midst, like two stars of lesser magnitude in a hazy firmament; and his full-fed cheeks, which seemed to have taken toll of everything that went into his mouth, were curiously mottled and streaked with dusky red, like a Spitzenberg apple.  His habits were as regular as his person.  He daily took his four stated meals, appropriating exactly an hour to each; he smoked and doubted eight hours, and he slept the remaining twelve of the four-and-twenty.”Van Twiller ruled the province seven years, and, in spite of his stupidity, it prospered.  In 1633, Adam Roelantsen, the first school-master, arrived—for the fruitful Walloons had opened the way by this time for his labors—and in the same year a wooden church was built in the present Bridge street, and placed in charge of the famous Dominie Everardus Bogardus.  In 1635, the fort, which marked the site of the present Bowling Green, and which had been begun in 1614, was finished, and in the same year the first English settlers at New Amsterdam came into the town.  The English in New England also began to give the Dutch trouble during this administration, and even sent a ship into “Hudson’s River” to trade with the Indians.  Influenced by De Vries, the commander of the fort, the Governor sent an expedition up the river after the audacious English vessel, seized her, brought her back to New York, and sent her to sea with a warning not to repeat her attempt.  The disputes between the English and the Dutch about the Connecticut settlements, also began to make trouble for New Amsterdam.  Van Twiller possessed no influence in the colony, was laughed at and snubbed on every side, and was at length recalled by the company in 1638.  The only memorial of Van Twiller left to us is the Isle of Nuts, which lies in the bay between New York and Brooklyn, and which he purchased as his private domain.  It is still called the “Governor’s Island.”Van Twiller’s successor in the government of the province was William Kieft.  He was as energetic as he was spiteful, and as spiteful as he was rapacious.  His chief pleasure lay in quarrelling.  He and his council made some useful reforms, but as a rule they greatly oppressed the people.  During this administration agriculture was encouraged, the growing of fruit was undertaken, and several other things done to increase the material prosperity of the town.  The fort was repaired and strengthened, new warehouses were built, and police ordinances were framed and strictly executed.  The old wooden church was made a barrack for troops, and a new and larger edifice of stone was constructed by Kuyter and Dam within the walls of the fort.  Within the little tower were hung the bells captured from the Spanish by the Dutch at Porto Rico.  The church cost $1000, and was considered a grand edifice.  In 1642 a stone tavern was built at the head of Coenties Slip, and in the same year, the first “city lots” with valid titles were granted to the settlers.The latter part of Kieft’s administration was marked by contests with the citizens, who compelled him, in 1641, to grant them a municipal council, composed of twelve of the most prominent residents of New Amsterdam, which council he arbitrarily dissolved at the first opportunity.  He also stirred up a war with the Indians, in which he was the principal aggressor.  This war brought great loss and suffering upon the province, and came near ruining it.  Kieft, alarmed at the results of his folly, appointed a new municipal council of eight members, and this council at once demanded of the States General of Holland the removal of Kieft.  Their demand was complied with, and in 1647, Peter Stuyvesant was made Governor of New Netherlands, and reached New Amsterdam in the same year.Stuyvesant was essentially a strong man.  A soldier by education and of long experience, he was accustomed to regard rigid discipline as the one thing needful in every relation of life, and he was not slow to introduce that system into his government of New Amsterdam.  He had served gallantly in the wars against the Portuguese, and had lost a leg in one of his numerous encounters with them.  He was as vain as a peacock, as fond of display as a child, and thoroughly imbued with the most aristocratic ideas—qualities not exactly the best for a Governor of New Amsterdam.  Yet, he was, with all his faults, an honest man, he had deeply at heart the interests of the colony, and his administration was mainly a prosperous one.He energetically opposed from the first all manifestations in favor of popular government.  His will was to be the law of the province.  “If any one,” said he, “during my administration shall appeal, I will make him a foot shorter, and send the pieces to Holland, and let him appeal in that way.”  He went to work with vigor to reform matters in the colony, extending his efforts to even the morals and domestic affairs of the people.  He soon brought about a reign of material prosperity greater than had ever been known before, and exerted himself to check the encroachments of the English, on the East, and the Swedes, on the South.  He inaugurated a policy of kindness and justice toward the Indians, and soon changed their enmity to sincere friendship.  One thing, however, he dared not do—he could not levy taxes upon the people without their consent, for fear of offending the States General of Holland.  This forced him to appoint a council of nine prominent citizens, and, although he endeavored to hedge round their powers by numerous conditions, the nine ever afterwards served as a salutary check upon the action of the Governor.  He succeeded, in the autumn of 1650, in settling the boundary disputes with the English in New England, and then turned his attention to the Swedes on the Delaware, whom he conquered in 1654.  His politic course towards them had the effect of converting them into warm friends of the Dutch.  During his absence on this expedition, the Indians ravaged the Jersey shore and Staten Island, and even made an attack on New Amsterdam itself.  They were defeated by the citizens, and Stuyvesant’s speedy return compelled them to make peace.  This was the last blow struck by the savages at the infant metropolis.In 1652, the States General, much to the disgust of Stuyvesant, granted to New Amsterdam a municipal government similar to that of the free cities of Holland.  A Schout, or Sheriff, two Burgomasters, and five Schepens, were to constitute a municipal court of justice.  The people, however, were denied the selection of these officers, who were appointed by the Governor.  In February, 1653, these officers were formally installed.  They were, Schout Van Tienhoven, Burgomasters Hattem and Kregier, and Schepens Van der Grist, Van Gheel, Anthony, Beeckman, and Couwenhoven, with Jacob Kip as clerk.During Stuyvesant’s administration, the colony received large accessions from the English in New England.  “Numbers, nay whole towns,” says De Laet, “to escape from the insupportable government of New England, removed to New Netherlands, to enjoy that liberty denied to them by their own countrymen.”  They settled in New Amsterdam, on Long Island, and in Westchester county.  Being admitted to the rights of citizenship, they exercised considerable influence in the affairs of the colony, and towards the close of his administration gave the Governor considerable trouble by their opposition to his despotic acts.In 1647, the streets of New Amsterdam were cleared of the shanties and pig-pens which obstructed them.  In 1648, every Monday was declared a market-day.  In 1650, Dirk Van Schellyne, the first lawyer, “put up his shingle” in New Amsterdam.  In 1652, a wall or palisade was erected along the upper boundary of the city, in apprehension of an invasion by the English.  This defence ran from river to river, and to it Wall street, which occupies its site east of Trinity Church, owes its name.  In 1656, the first survey of the city was made, and seventeen streets were laid down on the map; and, in the same year, the first census showed a “city” of 120 houses, and 1000 inhabitants.  In 1657, a terrible blow fell upon New Amsterdam—the public treasury being empty, the salary of the town drummer could not be paid.  In that year the average price of the best city lots was $50.  In 1658, the custom of “bundling” received its death blow by an edict of the Governor, which forbade men and women to live together until legally married.  In that year the streets were first paved with stone, and the first “night watch” was organized and duly provided with rattles.  A fire department, supplied with buckets and ladders, was also established, and the first public well was dug in Broadway.  In 1660, it was made the duty of the Sheriff to go round the city by night to assure himself of its peace and safety.  This worthy official complained that the dogs, having no respect for his august person, attacked him in his rounds, and that certain evil-minded individuals “frightened” him by calling out “Indians” in the darkness, and that even the boys cut Koeckies.  The city grew steadily, its suburbs began to smile with boweries, or farms, and in 1658 a palisaded village called New Harlem was founded at the eastern end of Manhattan Island for the purpose of “promoting agriculture, and affording a place of amusement for the citizens of New Amsterdam.”  “Homes, genuine, happy Dutch homes, in abundance, were found within and without the city, where uncultured minds and affectionate hearts enjoyed life in dreamy, quiet blissfulness, unknown in these bustling times.  The city people then rose at dawn, dined at eleven, and went to bed at sunset, except on extraordinary occasions, such as Christmas Eve, a tea party, or a wedding.  Then those who attended the fashionable soirées of the ‘upper ten’ assembled at three o’clock in the afternoon, and went away at six, so that daughter Maritchie might have the pewter plates and delf teapot cleaned and cupboarded in time for evening prayer at seven.  Knitting and spinning held the places of whist and flirting in these ‘degenerate days;’ and utility was as plainly stamped on all their pleasures as the maker’s name on our silver spoons.”But the period of Dutch supremacy on Manhattan was approaching its close.  Charles II. had just regained the English throne.  In 1664, with characteristic disregard of right and justice, he granted to his brother James, Duke of York and Albany, the whole territory of New Netherlands, including all of Long Island and a part of Connecticut—lands to which he had not the shadow of a claim.  In the same year, a force of four ships and 450 soldiers, under the command of Colonel Richard Nicholls, was sent to New Amsterdam to take possession of that city.  It arrived at the Narrows about the 29th of August, and on the 30th, Nicholls demanded the surrender of the town.  Stuyvesant, who had made preparations for defending the place, endeavored to resist the demand, but the people refused to sustain him, and he was obliged to submit.  On the 8th of September, 1664, he withdrew the Dutch garrison from the fort, and embarked at the foot of Beaver street for Holland.  The English at once took possession of the town and province, changing the name of both to New York, in honor of the new proprietor.The English set themselves to work to conciliate the Dutch residents, a task not very difficult, inasmuch as the English settlers already in the province had to a great degree prepared the way for the change.  In 1665, the year after the conquest, the city was given a Mayor, a Sheriff, and a board of Aldermen, who were charged with the administration of municipal affairs, and in the same year jury trials were formally established.  In July, 1673, the Dutch fleet recaptured the town, drove out the English, and named it New Orange.  The peace between Great Britain and Holland, which closed the war, restored the town to the English, November 10th, 1674, and the name of New York was resumed.  The Dutch Government was replaced by the English system under a liberal charter, and during the remainder of the seventeenth century the town grew rapidly in population and size.  In 1689 there was a brief disturbance known as Leislers’ Rebellion.  In 1700 New York contained 750 dwellings and 4500 white and 750 black inhabitants.  In 1693 William Bradford established the first printing press in the city.  In 1696 Trinity Church was begun, and in 1697, the streets were first lighted, a lamp being hung out upon a pole extending from the window of every seventh house.  In 1702 a terrible fever was brought from St. Thomas’, and carried off 600 persons, one-tenth of the whole population.  In 1711, a slave market was established.  In 1719 the first Presbyterian Church was built; in 1725 the New York Gazette, the fifth of the colonial newspapers, was established; and in 1730 stages ran to Philadelphia once a fortnight, and in 1732 to Boston, the latter journey occupying fourteen days.  In 1731 the first public library, the bequest of the Rev. Dr.  Wellington, of England, was opened in the city.  It contained 1622 volumes.  In 1734 a workhouse was erected in the present City Hall Park.  In 1735 the people made their first manifestation of hostility to Great Britain, which was drawn forth by the infamous prosecution by the officers of the crown, of Rip Van Dam, who had been the acting Governor of the town.  The winter of 1740-41 was memorable for its severity.  The Hudson was frozen over at New York, and the snow lay six feet on a level.  In 1741, a severe fire in the lower part of the city destroyed among other things the old Dutch Church and fort, and in the same year the yellow fever raged with great violence.  The principal event of the year, however, was the so-called negro plot for the destruction of the town.  Though the reality of the plot was never proved, the greatest alarm prevailed; the fire in the fort was declared to be the work of the negroes, many of whom were arrested; and upon the sole evidence of a servant girl a number of the poor wretches were convicted and hanged.  Several whites were charged with being the accomplices of the negroes.  One of these, John Ury, a Roman Catholic priest, and, as is now believed, an innocent man, was hanged, in August.  In the space of six months 154 negroes and twenty whites were arrested, twenty negroes were hanged, thirteen were burned at the stake, and seventy-eight were transported.  The rest were released.  In 1750 a theatre was opened, and in 1755 St. Paul’s Church was erected.  In 1754 the “Walton House,” in Pearl street (still standing), was built by William Walton, a merchant.  It was long known as the finest private residence in the city.  In 1755 the Staten Island ferry, served by means of row boats, was established, and in the same year Peck Slip was opened and paved.  In 1756 the first lottery ever seen in the city was opened in behalf of King’s (now Columbia) College.New York bore a prominent part in the resistance of the colonies to the aggressions of the mother country, and in spite of the efforts of her royalist Governor and the presence of a large number of Tories, responded cordially to the call of the colonies for men and money during the war.  On the 14th of April, 1776, the city was occupied by the American army, the British force stationed there being obliged to withdraw.  On the 26th of August, 1776, the battle of Long Island having been lost by the Americans, New York was occupied by the British, who held it until the close of the war.  It suffered very much at their hands.  Nearly all the churches, except the Episcopal, were used by them as prisons, riding schools, and stables; and the schools and colleges were closed.  On the 21st of September, 1776, a fire destroyed 493 houses, including Trinity Church—all the west side of Broadway from Whitehall to Barclay street, or about one-eighth of the city; and on the 7th of August 1778, about 300 buildings on East River were burned.  The winter of 1779-80 was very severe; there was a beaten track for sleighs and wagons across the Hudson; the ice in that river being strong enough to bear a horse and man as late as the 17th of March; eighty sleighs, with provisions, and a large body of troops, crossed on the ice from the city to Staten Island.  On the 25th of November, 1783, the British evacuated the city, which was at once occupied by the American army.In 1785 the first Federal Congress met in the City Hall, which stood at the corner of Wall and Nassau streets, and on the 30th of April, 1789, George Washington was inaugurated first President of the United States on the same spot.  By 1791 New York had spread to the lower end of the present City Hall Park, the site of the new Post Office, and was extending along the Boston road, or Bowery, and Broadway.  In 1799, the Manhattan Company for supplying the city with fresh water was chartered.  On the 20th of September, 1803, the cornerstone of the City Hall was laid.  The city fathers, sagely premising that New York would never pass this limit, ordered the rear wall of the edifice to be constructed of brown stone, to save the expense of marble.  Free schools were opened in 1805.  In the same year the yellow fever raged with violence, and had the effect of extending the city by driving the population up the island, where many of them located themselves permanently.  In 1807, Robert Fulton navigated the first steamboat from New York to Albany.The war of 1812-15 for a while stopped the growth of the city, but after the return of peace its progress was resumed.  In August, 1812, experimental gas lamps were placed in the City Hall Park, though the use of gas for purposes of lighting was not begun until 1825.  In 1822 the yellow fever again drove the population up the island, and caused a rapid growth of the city above Canal street.  In 1825 the Erie Canal was completed.  This great work, by placing the trade of the West in the hands of New York, gave a powerful impetus to the growth of the city, which was at that time spreading at the rate of from 1000 to 1500 houses per year.  In 1832 and 1834, the cholera raged severely, carrying off upwards of 4484 persons in the two years.  In 1835, the “great fire” occurred.  This terrible conflagration broke out on the 16th of December of that year, and swept the First Ward of the city east of Broadway and below Wall street.  It laid almost the entire business quarter in ashes, destroyed 648 houses, and inflicted upon the city a loss of over $18,000,000.  New York rose from this disaster with wonderful energy and rapidity, but only to meet, in 1837, the most terrible financial crisis that had ever burst upon the country.  Even this did not check the growth of the city, the population increasing 110,100 between 1830 and 1840.  In 1842 the Croton water was introduced.  In 1849 and 1854 the cholera again appeared, killing over 5400 persons.  In 1852, the first street railway was built.  In 1858, the Central Park was begun.The Civil War checked the growth and trade of the city, which languished during the entire struggle, but upon the return of peace New York resumed its onward progress.  The growth of the city since 1865 has been most marked, especially in the immediate vicinity of the Central Park.  Not less marked has been the improvement of the older portions.  The city is rapidly increasing in size, population, and magnificence, and is fully maintaining its position as the brilliant metropolis of the New World.II.  DESCRIPTIVE AND STATISTICAL.The city of New York, the largest and most important in the United States, is situated in New York County, on Manhattan Island, at the mouth of the Hudson River, eighteen miles from the Atlantic Ocean.  The city limits comprise the entire county of New York, embracing Manhattan Island, Randall’s, Ward’s, and Blackwell’s Islands, in the East River, and Governor’s, Bedloe’s, and Ellis’ Islands, in the bay.  The last three are occupied by the military posts of the United States Government.  Manhattan Island is bounded on the north by Spuyten Duyvel Creek and the Harlem River—practically the same stream; on the east by the East River, on the west by the Hudson, and on the south by New York Bay.  It is nine miles long on the east side, thirteen and a half miles long on the west side, and two and a half miles wide at its greatest breadth, the average breadth being a mile and a half.  It is but a few feet in width at its southern extremity, but spreads out like a fan as it stretches away to the northward.  The southern point is but a few inches above the level of the bay, but the island rises rapidly to the northward, its extreme northern portion being occupied by a series of bold, finely wooded heights, which terminate at the junction of the Hudson River and Spuyten Duyvel Creek, in a bold promontory, 130 feet high.  These hills, known as Washington Heights, are two or three miles in length.  The southern portion of the island is principally a sand-bed, but the remainder is very rocky.  The island covers an area of twenty-two square miles, or 14,000 acres.  It is built up compactly for about six miles, along the east side, and irregularly to Harlem, three miles farther.  Along the west side it is built up compactly to the Central Park, Fifty-ninth street, and irregularly to Manhattanville, One hundred and twenty-fifth street, from which point to Spuyten Duyvel Creek it is covered with country seats, gardens, etc.  Three wagon, and two railroad bridges over the Harlem River connect the island with the mainland, and numerous lines of ferries afford communication with Long and Staten Islands, and New Jersey.  The island attains its greatest width at Fourteenth and Eighty-seventh streets.The city is finely built, and presents an aspect of industry and liveliness unsurpassed by any place in the world.  Lying in full sight of the ocean, with its magnificent bay to the southward, and the East and Hudson Rivers washing its shores, the city of New York possesses a climate which renders it the most delightful residence in America.  In the winter the proximity of the sea moderates the severity of the cold, and in the summer the heat is tempered by the delightful sea breezes which sweep over the island.  Snow seldom lies in the streets for more than a few hours, and the intense “heated terms” of the summer are of very brief duration.  As a natural consequence, the city is healthy, and the death rate, considering the population, is small.The southern portion is densely built up.  Between the City Hall and Twenty-third street New York is more thickly populated than any city in America.  It is in this section that the “tenement houses,” or buildings containing from five to twenty families, are to be found.  The greatest mortality is in these over-crowded districts, which the severest police measures cannot keep clean and free from filth.  The southern portion of the city is devoted almost exclusively to trade, comparatively few persons residing below the City Hall.  Below Canal street the streets are narrow, crooked, and irregular.  Above Houston street they are broad and straight, and are laid out at regular intervals.  Above Houston street, the streets extending across the island are numbered.  The avenues begin in the vicinity of Third street, and extend, or will extend to the northern limit of the island, running parallel with the Hudson River.  There are twelve fine avenues at parallel distances apart of about 800 feet.  Second and Eighth are the longest, and Fifth, Madison and Lexington the most fashionable.  They commence with Avenue D, a short street, near the East River.  West of this, and parallel with it, are three avenues somewhat longer, called Avenues C, B, and A, the last being the most westerly.  Then begin the long avenues, which are numbered First, Second, and so on, as they increase to the westward.  There are two other avenues shorter than those with numbers, viz: Lexington, lying between Third and Fourth, and extending from Fourteenth street on the south to Sixty-ninth street on the north; and Madison, between Fourth and Fifth, and extending from Twenty-third street at Madison Square to Eighty-sixth street.  Madison and Lexington are each to be prolonged to the Harlem River.  These avenues are all 100 feet wide, except Lexington and Madison, which are seventy-five feet wide, and Fourth avenue, above Thirty-fourth street, which is 140 feet wide.  Third avenue is the main street on the east side above the Bowery, of which it is a continuation, and Eighth avenue is the principal highway on the west side.  Fifth and Madison avenues are the most fashionable, and are magnificently built up with private residences below the Park.  The cross streets connecting them are also handsomely built.The numerical streets are all sixty feet wide, except Fourteenth, Twenty-third, Thirty-fourth, Forty-second, and eleven others north of these, which are 100 feet wide.  The streets of the city are well laid off, and are paved with an excellent quality of stone.  The sidewalks generally consist of immense stone “flags.”  In the lower part of the city, in the poorer and business sections, the streets are dirty and always out of order.  In the upper part they are clean, and are generally kept so by private contributions.The avenues on the eastern and western extremities of the city are the abodes of poverty and want, and often of vice, hemming in the wealthy and cleanly sections on both sides.  Poverty and riches are close neighbors in New York.  Only a stone’s throw back of the most sumptuous parts of Broadway and Fifth avenue, want and suffering, vice and crime, hold their courts.  Fine ladies can look down from their high casements upon the squalid dens of their unfortunate sisters.Broadway is the principal thoroughfare.  It extends from the Battery to Spuyten Duyvel Creek, a distance of fifteen miles.  It is built up compactly for about five miles, is paved and graded for about seven miles, and is lighted with gas along its entire length.  There are over 420 miles of streets in the patrol districts, and eleven miles of piers along the water.  The sewerage is generally good, but defective in some places.  Nearly 400 miles of water-mains have been laid.  The streets are lighted by about 19,000 gas lamps, besides lamps set out by private parties.  They are paved with the Belgian and wooden pavements, cobble stones being almost a thing of the past.  For so large a city, New York is remarkably clean, except in those portions lying close to the river, or given up to paupers.The city is substantially built.  Frame houses are rare.  Many of the old quarters are built of brick, but this material is now used to a limited extent only.  Broadway and the principal business streets are lined with buildings of iron, marble, granite, brown, Portland, and Ohio stone, palatial in their appearance; and the sections devoted to the residences of the better classes are built up mainly with brown, Portland, and Ohio stone, and in some instances with marble.  Thus the city presents an appearance of grandeur and solidity most pleasing to the eye.  The public buildings will compare favorably with any in the world, and there is no city on the globe that can boast so many palatial warehouses and stores.  Broadway is one of the best built thoroughfares in the world.  The stores which line it are generally from five to six stories high above ground, with two cellars below the pavement, and vaults extending to near the middle of the street.  The adjacent streets in many instances rival Broadway in their splendors.  The stores of the city are famous for their elegance and convenience, and for the magnificence and variety of the goods displayed in them.  The streets occupied by private residences are broad, clean and well-paved, and are lined with miles of dwellings inferior to none in the world in convenience and substantial elegance.  The amount of wealth and taste concentrated in the dwellings of the better classes of the citizens of New York is very great.The population of New York, in 1870, according to the United States census of that year, was 942,337.  There can be no doubt that at the present time the island contains over 1,000,000 residents.  Thousands of persons doing business in New York reside in the vicinity, and enter and leave the city at morning and evening, and thousands of strangers, on business and pleasure, come and go daily.  It is estimated that the actual number of people in the city about the hour of noon is nearly, if not fully, one million and a half.  According to the census of 1870, the actual population consisted of 929,199 white and 13,153 colored persons.  The native population was 523,238, and the foreign population 419,094.  The nationality of the principal part of the foreign element was as follows:FromNumber of persons.Germany151222Ireland201999England24432Scotland7554France8267Belgium328Holland1237British America and Canada4338Cuba1293China115Denmark682Italy2790Mexico64Norway373Poland2392Portugal92Russia1139South America213Spain464Sweden1569Switzerland2169Turkey38Wales587West Indies487Besides those mentioned in this table, are representatives of every nationality under heaven, in greater or less strength.  It will be seen that the native population is in the excess.  The increase of natives between 1860 and 1870, was 93,246.  The Germans increased in the same period at the rate of 32,936; while the Irish population fell off 1701 in the same decade.  The foreign classes frequently herd together by themselves, in distinct parts of the city, which they seem to regard as their own.  In some sections are to be found whole streets where the inhabitants do not understand English, having no occasion to use it in their daily life.In 1869, there were 13,947 births, 8695 marriages, and 24,601 deaths reported by the city authorities.  The authorities stated that they were satisfied that the number of births was actually over 30,000; the number reported by them being very incomplete, owing to the difficulty of procuring such information.Its mixed population makes New York a thoroughly cosmopolitan city, yet at the same time it is eminently American.  The native element exercises a controlling influence upon all its acts, and when the proper exertion is made rarely fails to maintain its ascendancy.The number of buildings in the city is from 60,000 to 70,000.  In 1860, out of 161,000 families only 15,000 occupied entire houses.  Nine thousand one hundred and twenty dwellings contained two families each, and 6100 contained three families each.  After these come the tenement houses.  At present, the number of houses occupied by more than one family is even larger.It has been well said that “New York is the best place in the world to take the conceit out of a man.”  This is true.  No matter how great or flattering is the local reputation of an individual, he finds upon reaching New York that he is entirely unknown.  He must at once set to work to build up a reputation here, where he will be taken for just what he is worth, and no more.  The city is a good school for studying human nature, and its people are proficients in the art of discerning character.In point of morality, the people of New York, in spite of all that has been said of them, compare favorably with those of any other city.  If the darkest side of life is to be seen here, one may also witness the best.  The greatest scoundrels and the purest Christians are to be found here.  It is but natural that New York, being the great centre of wealth, should also be the great centre of all that is good and beautiful in life.  It is true that the Devil’s work is done here on a gigantic scale, but the will of the Lord is done on an equally great, if not a greater scale.In its charities, New York stands at the head of American communities—the great heart of the city throbs warmly for suffering humanity.  The municipal authorities expend annually about one million of dollars in public charities.  The various religious denominations spend annually about five millions more, and private benevolence disburses a sum of which no record is to be had—but it is large.  Besides this, the city is constantly sending out princely sums to relieve want and suffering in all parts of our broad land.  New York never turns a deaf ear to an appeal for aid.The people of New York are very liberal in matters of opinion.  Here, as a general rule, no man seeks to influence the belief of another, except so far as all men are privileged to do so.  Every religious faith, every shade of political opinion, is protected and finds full expression.  Men concern themselves with their own affairs only.  Indeed this feeding has been carried to such an extreme that it has engendered a decided indifference between man and man.  People live for years as next door neighbors without ever knowing each other by sight.  A gentleman once happened to notice the name of his next door neighbor on the door-plate.  To his surprise he found it the same as his own.  Accosting the owner of the door-plate one day, for the first time, he remarked that it was singular that two people bearing the same name should live side by side for years without knowing each other.  This remark led to mutual inquiries and statements, and to their surprise the two men found they were brothers—sons of the same parents.  They had not met for many years, and for fully twelve years had lived side by side as neighbors, without knowing each other.  This incident may be overdrawn, but it will illustrate a peculiar feature of New York life.Strangers coming to New York are struck with the fact that there are but two classes in the city—the poor and the rich.  The middle class, which is so numerous in other cities, hardly exists at all here.  The reason of this is plain to the initiated.  Living in New York is so expensive that persons of moderate means reside in the suburbs, some of them as far as forty miles in the country.  They come into the city, to their business, in crowds, between the hours of seven and nine in the morning, and literally pour out of it between four and seven in the evening.  In fair weather the inconvenience of such a life is trifling, but in the winter it is absolutely fearful.  A deep snow will sometimes obstruct the railroad tracks, and persons living outside of the city are either unable to leave New York or are forced to spend the night on the cars.  Again, the rivers will be so full of floating ice as to render it very dangerous, if not impossible, for the ferry boats to cross.  At such times the railroad depots and ferry houses are crowded with persons anxiously awaiting transportation to their homes.  The detention in New York, however, is not the greatest inconvenience caused by such mishaps.To persons of means, New York offers more advantages as a place of residence than any city in the land.  Its delightful climate, its cosmopolitan and metropolitan character, and the endless variety of its attractions and comforts, render it the most delightful home in America.  Its people are warmly attached to and proud of it, and even strangers feel drawn towards it as to no other city save their own homes.  Few persons care to leave it after a twelve-months’ residence within its limits, and those who are forced to go away generally find their way back at the earliest opportunity.


The bay and harbor of New York are noted the world over for their beauty.  When the discoverer, Henry Hudson, first gazed upon the glorious scene, he gave vent to the impulsive assertion that it was “a very good land to fall in with, and a pleasant land to see,” and there are few who will venture to differ from him.

To enjoy the wonderful beauty of the bay, one should enter it from the ocean; and it is from the blue water that we propose to begin our exploration.

Nineteen miles from the City of New York, on the western side of the bay, is a low, narrow, and crooked neck of sand, covered in some places with a dense growth of pine and other hardy trees.  This neck is called Sandy Hook, and its curve encloses a pretty little bay, known as the Cove.  On the extreme end of the point, which commands the main ship channel, the General Government is erecting a powerful fort, under the guns of which every vessel entering the bay must pass.  There is also a lighthouse near the fort, and within the last few years a railway depot has been built on the shore of the Cove.  Passengers from New York for Long Branch are transferred from the steamer to the cars at this place, the road running along the sea-shore to Long Branch.  To the westward of Sandy Hook, on the Jersey shore, are the finely wooded and picturesque Highlands of Nevesink, and at their feet the Shrewsbury River flows into the bay, while some miles to the eastward are the shining sands and white houses of Rockaway Beach and Fire Island.  Seven miles out at sea, tosses the Sandy Hook Light Ship, marking the point from which vessels must take their course in entering the bay.

Leaving Sandy Hook, our course is a little to the northwest.  The New Jersey shore is on our left, and we can see the dim outlines of Port Monmouth and Perth Amboy and South Amboy in the far distance, while to the right Coney Island and its hotels are in full sight.  Back of these lie the low shores of Long Island, dotted with pretty suburban villas and villages.  A few miles above Sandy Hook we pass the Quarantine station in the Lower Bay, with the fleet of detained vessels clustering about the hospital ships.

Straight ahead, on our left, is a bold headland, sloping away from east to west, towards the Jersey coast.  This is Staten Island, a favorite resort for New Yorkers, and taken up mainly with their handsome country seats.  The bay here narrows rapidly, and the shores of Staten and Long Islands are scarcely a mile apart.  This passage is famous the world over as The Narrows, and connects the Inner and Lower Bays.  The shores are high on either side, but the Staten Island side is a bold headland, the summit of which is over one hundred feet above the water.  These high shores constitute the protection which the Inner Bay enjoys from the storms that howl along the coast.  It is to them also that New York must look for protection in the event of a foreign war.  Here are the principal fortifications of the city, and whichever way we turn the shores bristle with guns.  On the Long Island shore is Fort Hamilton, an old but powerful work, begun in 1824, and completed in 1832, at a cost of $550,000.  The main work mounts eighty heavy guns; but since the Civil War, additional batteries, some of them armed with Rodman guns, have been erected.  A little above Fort Hamilton, and a few hundred yards from the shore, is Fort Lafayette, built on a shoal known as Hendricks’ Reef.  It was begun during the war of 1812, cost $350,000, and was armed with seventy-three guns.  It was used during the Civil War as a jail for political prisoners.  In December, 1868, it was destroyed by fire, and the Government is now rebuilding it upon a more formidable scale.  The Staten Island shore is lined with guns.  At the water’s edge is a powerful casemated battery, known as Fort Tompkins, mounting forty heavy guns.  The bluff above is crowned with a large and formidable looking work, also of granite, known as Fort Richmond, mounting one hundred and forty guns.  To the right and left of the fort, are Batteries Hudson, Morton, North Cliff, and South Cliff; mounting about eighty guns of heavy calibre.  It is stated that the new work on Sandy Hook will be armed with two hundred guns, which will make the defensive armament of the Lower Bay and Narrows over six hundred and thirteen guns, which, together with the fleet of war vessels that could be assembled for the protection of the city, would render the capture of New York by an enemy’s fleet a hazardous, if not impracticable, undertaking.

Passing through The Narrows, we enter the Inner Bay.  New York, Brooklyn and Jersey City are in full sight to the northward, with the Hudson stretching away in the distance.  The bay is crowded with shipping of all kinds, from the fussy little tug-boat to the large, grim-looking man-of-war.  As we sail on, the scene becomes more animated.  On the left are the picturesque heights of Staten Island, dotted thickly with country-seats, cottages, and pretty towns, and on the left the heavily-wooded shores of Long Island abound with handsome villas.

Soon Staten Island is passed, and we see the white lighthouse standing out in the water, which marks the entrance to the Kill Van Kull, or Staten Island Sound; and, far to the westward, we can faintly discern the shipping at Elizabethport.  We are now fairly in the harbor of New York, with the great city directly in front of us, Brooklyn on our right, and Jersey City on our left.  To the northward, the line of the Hudson melts away in the distant blue sky, and to the right the East River is lost in the shipping and houses of the two cities it separates.  The scene is gay and brilliant.  The breeze is fresh and delightful; the sky as clear and blue as that of Italy, and the bay as bright and beautiful as that of Naples, and even more majestic.  As far as the eye can reach on either side of the Hudson extend the long lines of shipping, while the East River is a perfect forest of masts.  Here are steamboats and steamships, sailing vessels, barges, and canal boats—every sort of craft known to navigation.  The harbor is gay with the flags of all nations.  Dozens of ferry boats are crossing and recrossing from New York to the opposite shores.  Ships are constantly entering and leaving port, and the whole scene bears the impress of the energy and activity that have made New York the metropolis of America.

At night the scene is indescribably beautiful.  The myriad stars in the sky above are reflected in the dark bosom of the harbor.  The dim outlines of the shores are made more distinct by the countless rows of lights that line them, and the many colored lamps of the ferry-boats, as they dart back and forth over the waters, give to the scene a sort of gala appearance.