ARTHUR BARTLETT MAURICE
Author of "New York in Fiction," "The New York of the Novelists," "Bottled up in Belgium," etc.
Drawings by Allan G. Cram
New York Dodd, Mead and Company
In the making of this book the author has drawn from many sources. First, for many suggestions, he is indebted to Mr. Guy Nichols, the librarian of the Players Club, whose knowledge of the city is so profound that his friends occasionally refer to him as "the man who invented New York." The author is indebted to the Fifth Avenue Association and to the invariable courtesy of those persons in the New York Public Library with whom he has come in contact.
Among the books that have been consulted are, first of all, the admirable monographs, "Fifth Avenue," and "Fifth Avenue Events," issued by the Fifth Avenue Bank. From these he has drawn freely. Among other volumes are "The Diary of Philip Hone," Ward McAllister's "Society as I Have Found It," George Cary Eggleston's "Recollections of a Varied Life," Matthew Hale Smith's "Sunshine and Shadow in New York" (1869), Seymour Dunbar's "A History of Travel in America," Miss Henderson's "A Loiterer in New York," William Allen Butler's "A Retrospect of Forty Years," Fremont Rider's "New York City," Francis Gerry Fairfield's "The Clubs of New York," Anna Alice Chapin's "Greenwich Village," Theodore Wolff's "Literary Haunts and Homes," Rupert Hughes's "The Real New York," James Grant Wilson's "Thackeray in the United States," Mrs. Burton Harrison's "Recollections, Grave and Gay," Abram C. Dayton's "Last Days of Knickerbocker Life in New York," and Martha J. Lamb's "History of the City of New York." Also various articles in the magazines and newspapers.
I THE SHADOW OF THE KNICKERBOCKERS 1
II THE STRETCH OF TRADITION 29
III A KNICKERBOCKER PEPYS 41
IV GLIMPSES OF THE SIXTIES 60
V FOURTEENTH TO MADISON SQUARE 78
VI SOME GREAT DAYS ON THE AVENUE 100
VII SOME AVENUE CLUBS IN THE EARLY DAYS 125
VIII LITERARY LANDMARKS AND FIGURES 150
IX FIFTH AVENUE IN FICTION 165
X TRAILS OF BOHEMIA 183
XI THE SLOPE OF MURRAY HILL 199
XII CONFESSIONS OF AN EXILED BUS 211
XIII A POST-KNICKERBOCKER PETRONIUS 226
XIV THE CREST OF MURRAY HILL 244
XV GIANT STRIDES OF COMMERCE 255
XVI BEYOND MURRAY HILL 266
XVII APPROACHING THE PLAZA 285
XVIII STRETCHES OF THE AVENUE 297
XIX MINE HOST ON THE AVENUE 312
"Massive and splendidly Gothic is St. Thomas's. The church dates from 1825. In 1867 the present site was secured, and the brown-stone edifice of the early seventies was for nearly two generations the ultra-fashionable Episcopal church of the city" Frontispiece
The Washington Arch. A splendid sentinel guarding the approach to the Avenue. Beyond, houses dating from the thirties of the last century, that mark the beginning of the Stretch of Tradition 14
At the northeast corner of the Avenue and Tenth Street is the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, built in 1840, and consecrated November 5, 1841. It belongs to a part of the Avenue, from the Square to Twelfth Street, which has changed little since 1845 32
Madison Square. Yesterday it was the home of the Flora McFlimsies of the William Allen Butler poem "Nothing to Wear." Today, in the eyes of the Manhattanite, it is the centre of the Universe 68
"The Tower of the Metropolitan Building. Whatever artists may think of it the tower is, structurally, one of the wonders of the world. Exactly halfway between sidewalk and point of spire is the great clock with the immense dials" 86
In the bright sunlight the Avenue glitters with the pavillions of patriotism. Old Glory may be counted by the tens of thousands; England's Union Jack, and the Tricolour of France by the thousands. To forestall the Kaiser the Avenue is "coming across" 112
Where the Avenue and Thirty-fourth Street cross stands the building popularly known as the Knickerbocker Trust Company. Here, in the middle of the last century, "Sarsaparilla" Townsend built in brown-stone, and A.T. Stewart later built in white marble 136
"At the northwest corner of Fifty-fourth Street is the University Club, to the mind of Arnold Bennett ('Your United States'), the finest of all the fine structures that line the Avenue" 172
"The site of the old Lenox Library is now occupied by the house of Mr. Henry C. Frick, one of the great show residences of the Avenue and the City. A broad garden separates the house, which is eighteenth century English, from the sidewalk" 218
The terrace of the Public Library. Today the spot is the scene of the activities of those engaged in the work of speeding America's Answer. Once it was far uptown, and on the eastern side of the Avenue were the residences known as "Spanish Row," or "The House of Mansions". 248
Commerce, with giant stride, is marching up the stately Avenue. The story of a business house that began in the neighbourhood of Cherry Hill, migrated to Grand Street, thence to Broadway and Union Square, and again to the slope of Murray Hill, is, in epitome, the story of the city itself. 260
"On the site of the old Croton Reservoir the cornerstone of the Public Library was laid November 10, 1902, and the building opened to the public May 23, 1911. To it were carried the treasures of the Astor Library and the Lenox Library" 268
Entrance to the Public Library. The Library, 590 feet long and 270 deep, was built by the City at a cost of about nine million dollars. The material is largely Vermont marble, and the style that of the modern renaissance 274
"O beautiful, long, loved Avenue, So faithless to truth and yet so true."—JOAQUIN MILLER 280
South of where "St. Gaudens's hero, gaunt and grim, rides on with Victory leading him," may be seen the Fountain of Abundance, and, in the background, the new Plaza Hotel 290
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, on the site of what was once the Deer Park, had its origin in a meeting of the Art Committee of the Union League Club in November, 1869 304
The Shadow of the Knickerbockers
The Shadow of the Knickerbockers—An Old-time Map—The Beginnings of the Avenue—Watering Place Life—The Beach at Rockaway—Coney Island—Newspapers in the Thirties—Early Day Marriages—The Knickerbocker Sabbath—Home Customs—Restaurants and Hotels—The Leather-heads—Conditions of Travel—Stage-coaches and Steamers—The Clipper Ships—When Dickens First Came.
Boughton, had you bid me chant Hymns to Peter Stuyvesant. Had you bid me sing of Wouter. (He! the Onion-head! the Doubter!) But to rhyme of this one-mocker, Who shall rhyme to Knickerbocker? —Austin Dobson.
Before the writer, as he begins the pleasant task, is an old half-illegible map, or rather, fragment of a map. Near-by are three or four dull prints. They are of a hundred years ago, or thereabouts, and tell of a New York when President Monroe was in the White House, and Governor De Witt Clinton in the State Capitol, at Albany, and Mayor Colden in the City Hall. To pore over them is to achieve a certain contentment of the soul. Probably it held itself to be turbulent in its day—that old New York. Without doubt it had its squabbles, its turmoils, its excitements. We smile at the old town—its limitations, its inconveniences, its naivetes. But perhaps, in these years of storm, and stress, and heartache, we envy more than a little. It is not merely the architectural story that the old maps, prints, diaries tell; in them we can find an age that is gone, catch fleeting glimpses of people long since dust to dust, look at past manners, fashions, pleasures and contrast them with our own.
But to begin with the old map. The lettering beneath conveys the information that it was prepared for the City in 1819-1820 by John Randel, Jr., and that it shows the farms superimposed upon the Commissioner's map of 1811. Through the centre of the map there is a line indicating Fifth Avenue north to Thirteenth Street. Here and there is a spot apparently intended to represent a farmhouse, but that is all; for in 1820, though Greenwich Village and Chelsea were, the city proper was far to the south. Some of the names on the old map are familiar and some are not.
Just above the bending lane that ran along the north side of Washington Square, then the Potter's Field, may be read "Trustees of Sailor's Snug Harbor." The land thus marked extends from what is now Waverly Place to what is now Ninth Street. In 1790 Captain Robert Richard Randall paid five thousand pounds sterling for twenty-one acres of good farming land. In 1801 he died, and his will directed that a "Snug Harbor" for old salts be built upon his farm, the produce of which, he believed, would forever furnish his pensioners with vegetables and cereal rations. Later Randall's trustees leased the farm in building lots and placed "Snug Harbor" in Staten Island. Above the estate, in diagonal form, and at one point crossing Fifth Avenue to the west, was the large farm of Henry Brevoort. More limited holdings, in the names of Gideon Tucker, William Hamilton, and John Morse, separate, in the map, the Brevoort property from the estates of John Mann, Jr., and Mary Mann. The latter must have been a landowner of some importance in her day, for the fragment of a chart runs into the margin above the line of Thirteenth Street without indicating the beginning of any other ownership.
On the land to the west of the Avenue line may be read "Heirs of John Rogers," "William W. Gilbert," "Nicholson" (the Christian name lies somewhere beyond the map horizon), and "Heirs of Henry Spingler." Irrigation is indicated by a line, running in a general northwesterly direction, bearing the name "Manetta Water," while a thinner line, joining the first line from the northeast, is described as "East Branch of Manetta Water." Manetta Water was the English name. The Dutch had called it "Bestavaer's Rivulet." It was a sparkling stream, beloved of trout fishermen, rising in the high ground above Twenty-first Street, flowing southeasterly to Fifth Avenue at Ninth Street, then on to midway between the present Eighth Street and Waverly Place, where it swung southwesterly and emptied into the Hudson River near Charlton Street. It ran between sandhills, sometimes rising to the height of a hundred feet, and marked the course of a famous Indian hunting ground.
The joy of the Izaak Waltons of the past is occasionally the despair of the Fifth Avenue householders of the present. Flooded cellars and weakened foundations may be traced to the purling waters of the sparkling stream. But perhaps the trout were jumping. Then the last fisherman probably worried very little about the annoyances to which his descendants were to be subjected. In much the same spirit we are saying today, "What will it all matter a hundred years hence?"
Beginning at the Potter's Field, the line of what is now Fifth Avenue left the "Road over the Sandhills" or the "Zantberg" of the Dutch, later known as Art Street, long since gone from the map, and crossed the Robert Richard Randall Estate. Thence it ran through the Henry Brevoort farm, which originally extended from Ninth to Eighteenth Streets, and which had been bought in 1714 for four hundred pounds. Crossing the tributary stream at Twelfth Street, it passed a small pond between Thirteenth and Fourteenth Streets, and then ran on, over low and level ground, to Twenty-first Street, then called "Love's Lane." To the right was the swamp and marsh that afterwards became Union Square. Following the trail farther, the hardy voyager wandered over "hills and valleys, dales and fields," through a countryside where trout, mink, otter, and muskrat swam in the brooks and pools; brant, black duck, and yellow-leg splashed in the marshes and fox, rabbit, woodcock, and partridge found covert in the thicket. Here and there was a farm, but the city, then numbering one hundred thousand persons, was far away. Then, in 1824, the first stretch of the Avenue, from Waverly Place to Thirteenth Street, was opened, and the northward march of the great thoroughfare began. Let us try to picture the old town of that day, the city that was still under the shadow of the Knickerbockers.
First, at the southern extremity of the island, was the Battery and Battery Park. When, in "The Story of a New York House," the late H.C. Bunner described the little square of green jutting into the waters of the upper bay, it was as it had been some years before the earliest venturesome pioneers builded in lower Fifth Avenue. From the pillared balcony of his house on State Street—the house may still be seen—Jacob Dolph caught a glimpse of the morning sun, that loved the Battery far better than Pine Street, where Dolph's office was. It was a poplar-studded Battery in those days, and the tale tells how the wind blew fresh off the bay, and the waves beat up against the sea-wall, and a large brig, with all sails set, loomed conspicuous to the view, and two or three fat little boats, cat-rigged, after the good old New York fashion, were beating down towards Staten Island, to hunt for the earliest bluefish. That was in 1808, and sixteen years later, the Battery, with its gravelled, shady paths, and its somewhat irregular plots of grass, was still the city's favourite breathing spot. There, of summer evenings, after the stately walk down Broadway, the crinolined ladies and the beaux with their bell-crowned hats gathered to watch the sun set behind the low Jersey hills, and perhaps to inspect the review of the Tompkins Blues, or the Pulaski Cadets. There was fierce rivalry between these two commands, one under Captain Vincent, and the other under Captain McArdle, and each corps had its admiring sympathizers. Both Blues and Cadets presented a fine, martial appearance as they swung across the Battery, marching like veterans who had faced fire and would not flinch. "Sure it was," a flippant chronicler has recorded, "both had an undisputed reputation for charging upon a well-loaded board with a will that left no tell-tale vestige." Very likely, in the throng, all were not of New York. There were doubtful strangers, too, looking with yearning eyes out over the dancing waters of the blue bay—swarthy, weather-beaten men with huge earrings. They called themselves "privateers-men." But there were those who smiled at the word, for romance had it that there were still buccaneers in the Spanish Main.
In many families that daily visit to the Battery was all the summer change. Mr. Dayton, in his "Last Days of Knickerbocker Life," informed us that neither belle nor gallant lost caste by declining to participate in the routine of watering place life, simple and inexperienced as it then was. Yet there were summer resorts, and they were patronized by the best and most prominent citizens of the country. The springs at Saratoga had already been discovered, and there were many New Yorkers who made the then long and arduous trip.
But nearer at hand was the "Beach at Rockaway," sung by the military poet, George P. Morris, and Coney Island. At the latter resort conditions were primitive. Unheard were the blaring of bands, and the raucous cry of the "Hot-Dog man," and the riot and roar of the rabble. Mr. Blinker, of O. Henry's "Brick Dust Row," could not then have seen his vision and found his light. For there was no mass of vulgarians wallowing in gross joys to be recognized as his brothers seeking the ideal. But he might have been as well pleased with the unpretentious hotel at the water's edge, where the urbanite could enjoy the cooling ocean breezes, and listen to the waves, and dine upon broiled chicken and succulent clams.
The press of the third decade of the last century was high-priced and vitriolic. Of the morning papers now known to New Yorkers there was none. The "Sun," the first to appear, began in 1833. But of the afternoon journals there was the "Evening Post," perhaps even then "making virtue odious," as a wit of many years later was to express it, and the "Commercial Advertiser," now the "Globe," the oldest of all metropolitan journals. Before the appearance of the "Sun," the morning papers had been the "Morning Courier and New York Enquirer," the "Standard," the "Democratic Chronicle," the "Journal of Commerce," the "New York Gazette and General Advertiser," and the "Mercantile Advertiser and New York Advocate." In the evening there were the "Star," and the "American," besides the "Post" and "Commercial Advertiser." These newspapers were mere appendages of party, "organs" in the narrowest and most restricted sense, espousing blindly certain interests or ideas, expounding in long editorials the views of small groups of politicians.
"Here's this morning's New York Sewer! Here's this morning's New York Stabber! Here's the New York Family Spy! Here's the New York Private Listener! Here's the New York Peeper! Here's the New York Plunderer! Here's the New York Keyhole Reporter! Here's the New York Rowdy Journal! Here's all the New York papers! Here's full particulars of the patriotic Locofoco movement yesterday, in which the Whigs were so chawed up; and the last Alabama gouging case; and the interesting Arizona dooel with bowie knives; and all the political, commercial, and fashionable news. Here they are! Here they are! Here's the papers! Here's the papers! Here's the Sewer! Here's the New York Sewer! Here's some of the twelve thousand of today's Sewer, with the best accounts of the markets, and four whole columns of country correspondence, and a full account of the ball at Mrs. White's last night, where all the beauty and fashion of New York was assembled; with the Sewer's own particulars of the private lives of all the ladies that were there. Here's the Sewer! Here's the Sewer's exposure of the Wall Street gang, and the Sewer's exposure of the Washington gang, and the Sewer's exclusive account of a flagrant act of dishonesty committed by the Secretary of State when he was eight years old; now communicated, at great expense, by his own nurse. Here's the Sewer! Here's the New York Sewer in its twelfth thousand, with a whole column of New Yorkers to be shown up, and all their names printed. Here's the Sewer's article upon the judge that tried him, day afore yesterday, for libel, and the Sewer's tribute to the independent jury that didn't convict him, and the Sewer's account of what might have happened if they had! Here's the Sewer, always on the lookout; the leading journal of the United States!"
Such were the cries, according to the veracious account of Charles Dickens, who had paid his first visit to us a short time before, that greeted the ears of Martin Chuzzlewit upon his arrival in the gate city of the western world. That amiable caricature reflects what the English novelist thought or pretended to think, of the New York journalism of the day. Exaggeration, of course: the bad manners of a young genius of the British lower middle classes. But quite good-naturedly today we concede that beneath bad manners and exaggeration there was a foundation of truth. Into the making of Colonel Diver, the editor of the "Rowdy Journal," may have gone a little of old Noah, of the "Star," or James Watson Webb, of the "Courier and Enquirer," or Colonel Stone, of the "Commercial." Can't you see those grim figures of an old world strutting down Broadway, glaring about belligerently and suspiciously? Almost every editor of that period had a theatre feud at one day or another. On the luckless mummer who had incurred his displeasure he poured out the vials of his wrath. He incited audiences to riot. Against his brother editors he hurled such epithets as "loathsome and leprous slanderer and libeller," "pestilential scoundrel," "polluted wretch," "foul jaws," "common bandit," "prince of darkness," "turkey buzzard," "ghoul." Somehow, in thinking of the old days, I find it hard to reconcile those men and women who lived under the Knickerbocker sway with their newspapers. It is pleasanter to dwell upon the old customs, to picture Mr. Manhattan leaving the scurrilous sheet behind him when he departed from his store or counting house, and repairing with clean hands to the wife of his bosom and his family, somewhere in Greenwich Village, or Richmond Hill, or Bond Street, or the beginnings of Fifth Avenue.
But to revert to the manners of the old town. First of all there was the business of getting married. It was with an idea of permanency then, and the Knickerbocker wedding was, in consequence, a ceremony. To it, the groom, his best-man, and the ushers went attired in blue coats, brass buttons, high white satin stocks, ruffled-bosomed shirts, figured satin waistcoats, silk stockings, and pumps. The New Yorker's tailor, if his pretensions to fashion were well-founded, was Elmendorf, or Brundage, or Wheeler, or Tryon and Derby; his hatter, St. John, and his bootmakers, Kimball and Rogers. For the wedding ceremony, the man's hair was tightly frizzed by Maniort, the leading hair-dresser of the day. He was the proprietor of the Knickerbocker Barber-Shop at Broadway and Wall Street, and the town gossip. Years later he was to enjoy the patronage of the Third Napoleon in Paris as a reward for favours extended to the Prince when the latter was an exile here. There is little record of elaborate pre-nuptial bachelor dinners in the style of modern New York. What would have been the use? The gardens of the city's fashionable homes boasted no extensive circular fountains or artificial fishponds into which the best-man or the father of the bride-to-be could be flung as an artistic diversion. As has been said, it was something of a slow old world, lacking in many of the modern comforts.
The robe of the bride was of white satin, tinged with yellow, the bodice cut low in the neck and shoulders, and ornamented with lace. Over her hair, built up by Martell, was flung the coronet of artificial orange blossoms held by the blonde lace veil. Then the satin boots and the six-button gloves. At the wedding-supper the bride's cake, rich, and of formidable proportions, was the piece de resistance. Also there was substantial fare; hams, turkeys, chicken, and game; besides fruits, candies, and creams. In place of the champagne of later days there were Madeira, Port, and Sherry. Round the table, illuminated by wax candles and astral lamps, young and old gathered; the women of a past generation in stiff brocades, powdered puffs, and tortoise-shell combs. From the first to last the Fifth Avenue wedding of those days reflected the patriarchal system that had not yet passed.
It was not a matter of denomination, but when the world was young, the pioneers of the Avenue did not smile on the way to worship. The Sabbath day still retained a good deal of the funereal aspect with which the New England Puritans had invested it. The city was silent save for the tolling of the church bells. At ten o'clock in the morning, at three in the afternoon, and again, at seven at night, the solemn processions of men, women, and children, clad in their Sunday best, issued from the homes, and slowly wended their way to church. When the congregation had gathered, and the service was about to begin, heavy iron chains were drawn tightly across the streets adjacent to the various places of worship. It was the hour for serious meditation. No distracting noise was to be allowed to fall upon those devout ears.
Abram C. Dayton, in his "Last Days of Knickerbocker Life," left a description of the service at the Dutch Reformed Church of that day. He told of the long-drawn-out extemporaneous prayers, the allusions to "benighted heathen"; to "whited sepulchres"; to "the lake which burns with fire and brimstone." Of instrumental accompaniment there was none, and free scope was both given and taken by the human voice divine. Then the sermon! Men were strong in those days! Clergymen had not become affected with the throat troubles prevalent in later times. No hour-glass or warning clock was displayed in the bleak spare edifice. In the exuberance of zeal often the end of the discourse came only with utter physical exhaustion. Then the passing of the plate; an eight-stanza hymn, closing with the vehemently shouted Doxology; and the concluding Benediction. From that old-time Sabbath day the affairs of the world were rigidly excluded. It was a day of rest not only for the family but for the family's man-servant and maid-servant. Saturday had seen the preparation of the necessary food.
On the Sabbath only cold collations were served. Public opinion was a stern master. Woe betide the one rash enough to defy the established conventions! The physician on his rounds, or the church-goer too aged or infirm to walk to the place of worship, were the only ones permitted to make use of a horse and carriage. Now and then one of the godless would slip away northward for a drive on some unfrequented road. Detection meant society's averted face and stern reprimand. For an indefinite period the sinner would be a subject of intercession at evening prayers.
The weekday life was in keeping with the Knickerbocker Sabbath. Home was the family castle, over which parental authority ruled with an iron hand. Hospitality was genuine and whole-hearted; but tempered by frugal moderation. Strict punctuality was demanded of every member of the household. The noon repast was the meal of the day. At the stroke of twelve old New York sat down to table. In the home there was variety and abundance, but the dinner was served as one course. Meats, poultry, vegetables, pies, puddings, fruits, and sweets were crowded together on the board. This adherence to the midday meal must have been the weak point in the armour in which the old order encased itself. For there the first breach was made. New Yorkers, returning from visits to Europe, hooted at the primitive noon repast of their youth. At first what were called the "foreign airs" of these would-be innovators were treated with derision. But they persisted, and by slow stages three o'clock became the extra fashionable hour for dinner. The old City Hotel was one of the first public places to fall into line.
The time was to come when a dining establishment, second to none of its day in social prestige and culinary excellence, was to stand on a corner of Fifth Avenue and Fourteenth Street. But when those who dwelt on lower Fifth Avenue were still pioneers, dining out in public places meant a long and venturesome journey to the southward. The restaurants of that time—they were more generally called "eating houses,"—were almost all established in the business portions of the city. The midday dinner was the meal on which they depended for their main support. Then masculine New York left its shop or its counting house, hurried a block to the right, or a block to the left, and fell greedily on the succulent oyster, the slice of rare roast beef, or the sizzling English mutton chop. Conspicuous among the refectories of this type were the Auction Hotel, on Water Street, near Wall; the dining room of Clark and Brown, on Maiden Lane, near Liberty Street, one of the first of the so-called English chop-houses; the United States Hotel, which stood, until a few years ago, at the corner of Water and Fulton Streets, and which was the chosen home of the captains of the whaling ships from New London, Nantucket, New Bedford, and Sag Harbor; Downing's, on Broad Street, famed for its Saddle Rocks and Blue Points, and its political patrons; and the basement on Park Row, a few doors from the old Park Theatre, presided over by one Edward Windust. This last was a rendezvous for actors, artists, musicians, newspaper-men—in short, the Bohemian set of that day—and its walls were covered with old play-bills, newspaper clippings, and portraits of tragedians and comedians of the past.
But already a demand had been felt for viands of another nature; hospitality of another sort. The womankind of the day was looking for an occasional chance to break away from the monotonous if wholesome and substantial table of the home. Those stiff Knickerbockers knew it not; but the modern dining-out New York was already in the making. At first the movement was ascribed to the European Continental element. In New York Delmonico and Guerin were the pioneers in the field. The former began in a little place of pine tables and rough wooden chairs on William Street, between Fulton and Ann. The original equipment consisted of a broad counter covered with white napkins, two-tine forks, buck-handled knives, and earthenware plates and cups. From such humble beginnings grew the establishments that have subsequently carried the name. Francis Guerin's first cafe was on Broadway, between Pine and Cedar Streets, directly opposite the old City Hotel. Another resort of the same type was the Cafe des Mille Colonnes, kept by the Italian, Palmo, on the west side of Broadway, near Duane Street. It was apparently on a scale lavish for those days. Long mirrors on the walls reflected, in an endless vista, the gilded columns that supported the ceiling. The fortune accumulated by Palmo in the restaurant was lost in an attempt to introduce Italian opera into the United States. Palmo's Opera House, in Chamber Street, between Centre Street and Broadway, later became Burton's Theatre.
Until 1844, New York was guarded against crime by the old "Leather-heads." This force patrolled the city by night, or that part of it known as the lamp district. They were not watchmen by profession, but were recruited from the ranks of porters, cartmen, stevedores, and labourers. They were distinguished by a fireman's cap without front (hence the name "Leather-head"), an old camlet coat, and a lantern. They had a wholesome respect for their skins, and were inclined to keep out of harm's way, seldom visiting the darker quarters of the city. When they bawled the hour all rogues in the vicinity were made aware of their whereabouts. Above Fourteenth Street the whole city was a neglected region. It was beyond the lamp district and in the dark.
In no way, to the mind of the present scribe, can the contrast between the life of the modern city and of the town of the days when Fifth Avenue was in the making be better emphasized than by comparing the conditions of travel. It was in the year 1820 that John Stevens of Hoboken, who had become exasperated because people did not see the value of railroads as he did, resolved to prove, at his own expense, that the method of travel urged by him was not a madman's scheme. So on his own estate on the Hoboken hill he built a little railway of narrow gauge and a small locomotive. Long enough had he been sneered at and called maniac. He put the locomotive on the track with cars behind it, and ran it with himself as a passenger, to the amazement of those before whom the demonstration was made. So far as is known that was the first locomotive to be built or run on a track in America. But even with Stevens's successful example, years passed before steam travel assumed a practical form.
When the pioneer of Fifth Avenue wished to voyage far afield it was toward the stage-coach as a means of transportation that his mind turned, for the stage-coach was the only way by which a large portion of the population could accomplish overland journeys. To go to Boston, for example, the traveller from New York usually left by a steamboat that took him to Providence in about twenty-three hours, and travelled the remaining forty miles by coach. Five hours was needed for the overland journey, and was considered amazing speed. By the year 1832 the overland trip between New York and Boston had been reduced to forty-one hours. But the passengers were not allowed to break the journey at a tavern, even for four or five hours of sleep, as they had formerly done, but were carried forward night and day without intermission. A fare of eleven dollars was usually exacted for the trip.
Even to go to one of the towns of Connecticut, the shore towns of the Boston Post Road, was an undertaking that called for serious preliminary study. A New York paper, now before the writer, carries in its first column an advertisement of a new steamer, the "Fairfield," plying between New York and Norwalk. But in order to make use of its services, the traveller had to be at the pier at the foot of Market Street at six o'clock in the morning. Upon the arrival at Norwalk stages were at hand for the convenience of such of the passengers who wished to travel on to Saugatuck, Fairfield, Bridgeport, Stratford, Milford, and other points. The same column carried information for those who contemplated voyaging to Newport or Providence. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday the steamboats "Benjamin Franklin" (Capt. E.S. Bunker) and "President" (Capt. R.S. Bunker) left New York for those Rhode Island towns at five o'clock in the evening.
The Post Road to Boston of those days differed much from the Boston Post Road of the present; especially in its first stages going northward from New York. There was no spacious Pelham Parkway skirting the waters of the Long Island Sound. Before crossing the Harlem the road followed in a general way the Broadway trail. Beyond the river it zigzagged in a northeasterly direction through Eastchester. Not until the crossing of the Byram River transferred the road from New York to New England did it take on any resemblance to the trail of today, and even beyond, the town of Greenwich seems to have been neglected entirely.
Yet, in comparison, the East was developed. It was the bold Sinbad turning his face resolutely and courageously towards the setting sun who experienced the real inconveniences and perils. Nor, at first, did that mean the adventurous journey into the lands that were beyond the great Appalachian range. The shining countenance of the unknown was nearer at hand. It is just a matter of turning the clock back a hundred years.
From the windows of the apartment houses looking down on the Riverside Drive the Delaware River is just beyond the Jersey hills. To journey there today does not even call for the study of time-tables. Mr. Manhattan rises at the usual hour and eats his usual leisurely breakfast. At, say, nine o'clock, he settles back behind the steering-wheel of his motor-car. Crossing the Hudson by the Forty-second Street Ferry, he climbs the Weehawken slope, and swings westward over one of the uninviting turnpikes that disfigure the marshy land between the Passaic and the Hackensack. Then he finds the real Jersey, the Jerseyman's Jersey, of rolling hills, and historic memories of Washington's Continental troops in ragged blue and buff.—Morristown, with its superb estates, the stiff climb of Schooley's Mountain, the descent along the wooded ravine, the road following the winding Musconetcong River through Washington, the clustered buildings of Lafayette College crowning the Pennsylvania shore, and in good time for luncheon Mr. Manhattan is over the bridge connecting Easton and Phillipsburg.
A few years ago there appeared a little book telling of the experiences of a family migrating from Connecticut to Ohio in 1811. In interesting contrast to the morning dash just outlined is the story of that journey of a little more than one hundred years ago. Before crossing the North River the voyagers solemnly discussed the perilous waters that confronted them. "Tomorrow we embark for the opposite shore: may Heaven preserve us from the raging, angry waves!" The first night's stop was at Springfield, where, within the living memory of the older members of the party, a skirmish between the American troops and the soldiers of King George had taken place.
Another day's travel carried the party as far as Chester. At that point the task of travel became arduous. Over miry roads, in places blocked by boulders, there was the painful, laborious ascent of the steep grade leading to the summit of what we now call Schooley's Mountain. There the party camped for the night, beginning the descent early the morning of the following day. The brisk three or four hours' run that gives the motorist of today just the edge of appetite needed for the full enjoyment of his midday meal was to those hardy adventurers of a century ago almost the journey of a week.
For transatlantic travel there was the Black Ball line, between New York and Liverpool, first of four ships, and later of twelve. That service had been founded in 1816 by New York merchants. The Red Star line followed in 1821, and soon after the Swallowtail line. The packets were ships of from six hundred to fifteen hundred tons burden, and made the eastward trip in about twenty-three days and the return trip in about forty days. The record was held by the "Canada," of the Black Ball line, which had made the outward run in fifteen days and eighteen hours. That time was reduced later by the "Amazon." The first steamer to cross the Atlantic was the American ship "Savannah." She made the trial trip from New York to Savannah in April, 1819, and in the following month her owners decided to send her overseas. The time of her passage was twenty-six days, eight under steam and eighteen under sail. Stephen Rogers, her navigator, in a letter to the New London "Gazette," wrote that the "Savannah" was first sighted from the telegraph station at Cape Clear, on the southern coast of Ireland, which reported her as being on fire, and a king's cutter was sent to her relief. "But great was their wonder at their inability to come up with a ship under bare poles. After several shots had been fired from the cutter the engine was stopped, and the surprise of the cutter's crew at the mistake they had made, as well as their curiosity to see the strange Yankee craft, can be easily imagined." From Liverpool the "Savannah" proceeded to St. Petersburg, stopping at Stockholm, and on her return she left St. Petersburg on October 10th, arriving at Savannah November 30th. But the prestige that the journey had won did not compensate for the heavy expense. Her boilers, engines, and paddles were removed, and she was placed on the Savannah route as a packet ship, being finally wrecked on the Long Island coast. The successful establishment of steam as a means of conveying a vessel across the Atlantic did not come until the spring of 1838, when, on the same day, April 23rd, two ships from England reached New York. They were the "Sirius," which had sailed from Cork, Ireland, April 4th, and the "Great Western," which had left Bristol April 8th. The following year marked the founding of the Cunard Line.
About the same time began the famous Clippers, which carried triumphantly the American flag to every corner of the Seven Seas. They were at first small, swift vessels of from six hundred to nine hundred tons, and designed for the China tea trade. Later came the "Challenge," of two thousand tons, and the "Invincible," of two thousand one hundred and fifty tons. "That clipper epoch," said a writer in "Harper's Magazine" for January, 1884, "was an epoch to be proud of; and we were proud of it. The New York newspapers abounded in such headlines as these: 'Quickest Trip on Record,' 'Shortest Passage to San Francisco,' 'Unparalleled Speed,' 'Quickest Voyage Yet,' 'A Clipper as is a Clipper,' 'Extraordinary Dispatch,' 'The Quickest Voyage to China,' 'The Contest of the Clippers,' 'Great Passage from San Francisco,' 'Race Round the World.'" Runs of three hundred and even three hundred and thirty miles a day were not uncommon feats of those clipper ships, a rate of speed far surpassing the achievement of the steam-propelled vessels of the period.
When Charles Dickens first came to New York, in 1842, it was after a transatlantic journey that had landed him at Boston. There is extant a picture of the cabin that he occupied on the "Britannia" on the trip across that throws an interesting light on the limitations and inconveniences to which early Fifth Avenue was subjected when it visited the old world. Leaving Boston on a February afternoon, Dickens proceeded by rail to Worcester. The next morning another train carried him to Springfield. The next stop was Hartford, a distance of only twenty-five miles. But at that time of the year, Dickens records, the roads were so bad that the journey would probably have occupied ten or twelve hours. So progress was accomplished by means of the waters of the Connecticut River, in a boat that the Englishman described as so many feet short, and so many feet narrow, with a cabin apparently for a certain celebrated dwarf of the period, yet somehow containing the ubiquitous American rocking chair. Going from Hartford to New Haven consumed three hours of train travel; and, rising early after a night's rest, Dickens went on board the Sound packet bound for New York. That was the first American steamboat of any size that he had seen, and he wrote that, to an Englishman, it was less like a steamboat than a huge floating bath, and that its cabin, to his unaccustomed eyes, seemed about as long as the Burlington Arcade. From the deck of this packet he first viewed Hell's Gate, the Hog's Back, the Frying Pan, and other notorious localities attractive to readers of the Diedrich Knickerbocker History. When, later, Dickens left New York for Philadelphia, he wrote of the journey as being made by railroad and two ferries, and occupying between five and six hours.
The ten years that separated the first visit of Dickens and the first visit of Thackeray had wrought many changes. Thackeray, too, came to New York from Boston, but in his case it was the matter of one unbroken train journey, in the course of which he reread the "Shabby Genteel Story" of a dozen years before. Dickens's transatlantic trip had consumed nineteen days. The "Canada," which carried Thackeray, made the crossing in thirteen. In New York Thackeray stayed at the Clarendon Hotel, on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Eighteenth Street; but his favourite haunt in the city was the third home of the Century, in Clinton Place. Though not in the least given to flattery or over-effusiveness in his comments on Americans and American institutions, Thackeray wrote and spoke of the Century as "the best and most comfortable club in the world."
The Stretch of Tradition
Stretches of the Avenue—The Stretch of Tradition—Washington Arch—Old Homes and Gardens—The Mews and MacDougal Alley—In the Fourth Decade—A Genial Ruffian of the Olden Time—Sailor's Snug Harbor—The Miss Green School—Andrew H. Green, John Fiske, John Bigelow, Elihu Root, and Others as Teachers—The Brevoort Farm—The First Hotel of the Avenue—A Romance of 1840—"Both Sides of the Avenue."
A snug little farm was the old Brevoort Where cabbages grew of the choicest sort; Full-headed, and generous, ample and fat, In a queenly way on their stems they sat, And there was boast of their genuine breed, For from old Utrecht had come their seed. —Gideon Tucker, "The Old Brevoort Farm."
Passing under the Washington Arch, the march up the Avenue properly begins. To commemorate the centenary of the inauguration of the nation's first President a temporary arch was erected in the spring of 1889. The original structure reached from corner to corner across Fifth Avenue, opposite the Park, and the expense was borne by Mr. William Rhinelander Stewart and other residents of Washington Square. It added so much to the beauty of the entrance to the Avenue that steps were taken to make it permanent, and the present Arch was the result of popular subscription. One hundred and twenty-eight thousand dollars was the cost of the structure, which was designed by Stanford White. Comparatively recent additions to the Arch are the two sculptured groups on northern facade, to the right and left of the span. They are the work of H.A. MacNeil.
Of all the blocks in the stretch of tradition that carries the Avenue up to Fourteenth Street, the richest in interest is, naturally, that which lies immediately north of the Square. Dividing this block in two, and running respectively east and west, are Washington Mews and MacDougall Alley. When Fifth Avenue was young and addicted to stately horse-drawn turnouts, it was in these half streets that were stabled the steeds and the carriages. Of comparatively recent date is the remodelling that has converted the old stables into quaint, if somewhat garish artist studios.
From the top of a north-bound bus as it leaves the Square may be seen the beautiful gardens that have always been a feature of these first houses. Mrs. Emily Johnston de Forest, in her life of her grandfather, John Johnston, has described these gardens as they were from 1833 to 1842. "The houses in the 'Row,' as this part of Washington Square was called, all had beautiful gardens in the rear about ninety feet deep, surrounded by white, grape-covered trellises, with rounded arches at intervals, and lovely borders full of old-fashioned flowers." Although some of the "Row" had cisterns, all the residents went for their washing water to "the pump with a long handle" that stood in the Square. Of that pump Mrs. de Forest tells the following tale. One of her grandfather's neighbours told his coachman to fetch a couple of pails of water for Mary, the laundress. The coachman said that this was not his business, and upon being asked what his business was, replied: "To harness the horses and drive them." Thereupon he was told to bring the carriage to the door. His employer then invited the laundress with her two pails to step in and bade the coachman to drive her to the pump. There was no further trouble with the coachman.
As has been told elsewhere, before the Avenue was ever dreamed of, this land belonged to the Randall estate. The founder of the family was one Captain Thomas Randall, described as a freebooter of the seas, who commanded the "Fox," and sailed for years in and out of New Orleans, where he sold the proceeds of his voyages and captures. To this genial old ruffian was born a son, Robert Richard, after which event the father settled down and became a respectable merchant in Hanover Street, New York. He was coxswain of the barge crew of thirteen ship's captains who rowed General Washington from Elizabethtown Point to New York, on the way to the first inauguration. When Robert Richard came to die, in 1801, he dictated, propped up in bed, his last will. After the bequests to relatives and servants, he whispered to his lawyer: "My father was a mariner, his fortune was made at sea. There is no snug harbour for worn-out sailors. I would like to do something for them." Incidentally, the lawyer who drew up the will was Alexander Hamilton.
So the Sailor's Snug Harbor Estate came into being, later to be transferred to its present home on Staten Island. As I survey it from the Richmond Terrace, which it faces, I like to recall its origin. That origin does not in the least seem to interfere with the comfort of the old salts in blue puffing away at their short pipes before the gate or strolling across the broad lawn. Never mind the source of Captain Tom's money. It is not for them to worry about the "Fox," or the "De Lancey," a brigantine with fourteen guns, which the "financier" took out in 1757, and with which he made some sensational captures, or the "Saucy Sally." Eventually the "De Lancey" was taken by the Dutch and the "Saucy Sally" by the English. But before these misfortunes befell him Captain Tom had amassed a fat property. Ostensibly he plied a coastwise trade mostly between New York and New Orleans. But the same chronicler to whom we owe the significant expression: "In those days a man was looked upon as highly unfortunate if he had not a vessel which he could put to profitable use," summed the matter up when he said: "The Captain went wherever the Spanish flag covered the largest amount of gold."
At the northeast corner of Washington Square and Fifth Avenue is the James Boorman house, now, I believe, the residence of Mr. Eugene Delano. Helen W. Henderson, in "A Loiterer in New York," alludes to certain letters about old New York written by Mr. Boorman's niece. "She writes," says Miss Henderson, "of her sister having been sent to boarding school at Miss Green's, No. 1 Fifth Avenue, and of how she used to comfort herself, in her home-sickness for the family, at Scarborough-on-the-Hudson, by looking out of the side windows of her prison at her uncle, 'walking in his flower-garden in the rear of his house on Washington Square!'" When James Boorman built his house, it was all open country behind it. Mr. Boorman built also the houses Nos. 1 and 3 Fifth Avenue and the stables that were the nucleus of the Washington Mews of the present day. In the houses was opened, in 1835, a select school for young ladies, presided over at first by Mr. Boorman's only sister, Mrs. Esther Smith.
Soon, from Worcester, Massachusetts, came a Miss Green, a girl of eighteen, to teach in the school. Another sister followed and in the course of a few years the establishment became the Misses Green School, which, for a long period, before and after the Civil War, was one of the most distinguished institutions of its kind in the city. Later it was carried on by the Misses Graham. There were educated the daughters of the commercial and social leaders of New York. Among the pupils were Fanny and Jenny Jerome, the latter afterwards to become Lady Randolph Churchill, and the mother of Winston Churchill. A brother of Lucy and Mary Green was Andrew H. Green, the "Father of Greater New York." He had for a time a share in the direction of the establishment, and in 1844, taught a class in American history. Some of the younger teachers came from the Union Theological Seminary in Washington Square. Among the men later to become distinguished, who lectured at the school, were Felix Foresti, professor at the University, and at Columbia College, Clarence Cook, Lyman Abbott, John Fiske, John Bigelow, teaching botany and charming the young ladies because he was "so handsome," and Elihu Root, then a youth fresh from college. To quote from Miss Henderson: "Miss Boorman has often told me of the amusement that the shy theological students and other young teachers afforded the girls in their classes, and how delighted these used to be to see instructors fall into a trap which was unconsciously prepared for them. The room in which the lectures were given had two doors, side by side, and exactly alike, one leading into the hall and the other into a closet. The young men having concluded their remarks, and feeling some relief at the successful termination of the ordeal, would tuck their books under their arms, bow gravely to the class, open the door, and walk briskly into the closet. Even Miss Green's discipline had its limits, and when the lecturer turned to find the proper exit he had to face a class of grinning schoolgirls not much younger than himself, to his endless mortification. Elihu Root recently met at a dinner a lady who asked him if he remembered her as a member of his class at Miss Green's school. 'Do I remember you?' the former secretary of State replied. 'You are one of the girls who used to laugh at me when I had to walk into the closet.'"
It was in 1835, when the new avenue was in the first flush of its lusty infancy, that a hotel was opened at the northeast corner of Eighth Street. They call it the Lafayette today: tomorrow it may have still another name. But to one with any feeling for old New York it will always be remembered by its appellation of yesterday, which it drew from the old proprietors of the land on which it stands, that family that is descended from Hendrick Brevoort who had served Haarlem as constable and overseer, and later emigrated to New York, where he was an alderman from 1702 to 1713. The Brevoort farm adjoined the Randall farm and ran northeasterly to about Fourth Avenue and Fourteenth Street. Among the descendants of the Dutch burgher was one Henry Brevoort, to whose obstinacy of disposition is owed a curious inconsistency of the city of today. His farmhouse was on the west side of Fourth Avenue and on his land were certain favourite trees. When the Commissioners were replanning the town in 1807 there was a projected Eleventh Street. But the trees were in the way of the improvement, so old Brevoort stood in the doorway, blunderbuss in hand, and defied the invaders to such purpose that to this day Eleventh Street has never been cut through. Instead, Grace Church, its garden and rectory cover the site of the old homestead. Later the vestry of Grace Church was to play old Brevoort's game. "Boss" Tweed determined to cut through or make the church pay handsomely for immunity. The vestry defied him. Tweed never acted.
There was another Henry Brevoort in the family. He it was who built the house that now stands at the northwest corner of the Avenue and Ninth Street. That Henry was the grandfather of James Renwick, Jr., the architect who built Grace Church and St. Patrick's Cathedral. His house was one of the great houses of the early days. Now known as the De Rham house—Brevoort sold it in 1857 to Henry De Rham for fifty-seven thousand dollars,—it still strikes the passer-by on account of its individuality of appearance. But long before the De Rhams entered in possession it had its romance. There, the evening of February 24, 1840, was held the first masked ball ever given in New York. It was, to quote Mr. George S. Hellman, "the most splendid social affair of the first half of the nineteenth century." But it was also the last masked ball held in the town for many years.
The name of the British Consul to New York at the time was Anthony Barclay, and he had a daughter. Her name was Matilda; she is described as having been a belle of great charm and beauty, and as having had a number of suitors. Of course, after the fashion of all love stories, the suitor favoured by her was the one of whom her parents most disapproved. He was a young South Carolinian named Burgwyne. Opposition served only to fan the flame, and the lovers met by stealth, and the gay Southerner wooed the fair Briton in the good old school poetical manner. In soft communion of fancy they wandered together to far lands; to:
"that delightful Province of the Sun, The first of Persian lands he shines upon, Where all the loveliest children of his beam, Flow'rets and fruits, blush over every stream, And, fairest of all streams, the Murga roves Among Merou's bright palaces and groves."
It was "Tom" Moore's "Lalla Rookh" that was dearest to their hearts. Then came the great masked ball, to which practically all "society" was invited.
Matilda and Burgwyne agreed to go in the guise of their romantic favourites; she as Lalla Rookh, and he as Feramorz, the young Prince. She wore "floating gauzes, bracelets, a small coronet of jewels, and a rose-coloured bridal veil." His dress was "simple, yet not without marks of costliness, with a high Tartarian cap, and strings of pearls hanging from his flowered girdle of Kaskan." Till four o'clock in the morning they danced. Then, still wearing the costumes of the romantic poem, they slipped away from the ball and were married before breakfast. It seems quite harmless, and natural, and as it should have been, when we regard it after all the years. But it caused a great uproar and scandal at the time, and brought masked balls into such odium that there was, a bit later, a fine of one thousand dollars imposed on anyone who should give one,—one-half to be deducted in case you told on yourself.
There is a little magazine published in New York designed to entertain and instruct those who view from the top of a bus of one of the various lines that are the outgrowth of the old Fifth Avenue stage line. The magazine is called "From a Fifth Avenue Bus," and a feature from month to month is the department known as "Both Sides of Fifth Avenue." In the stretch between the Square and Eleventh Street, it points out as residences of particular interest those of Paul Dana, No. 1, George T. Bestle, No. 3, F. Spencer Witherbee, No. 4, and Lispenard Stewart, No. 6; all below Eighth Street. Then, between Eighth and Ninth, Pierre Mali, No. 8, John C. Eames, No. 12, Miss Abigail Burt, No. 14, Dr. J. Milton Mabbott, No. 17, Dr. Edward L. Partridge, No. 19, and Dr. Robert J. Kahn (former Mark Twain home), No. 21. Between Ninth and Tenth, Charles De Rham, No. 24, Mrs. George Ethridge, No. 27, Mrs. Peter F. Collier, No. 29, and Edwin W. Coggeshall, No. 30. On the next block, Frank B. Wiborg, No. 40, Gen. Rush Hawkins, No. 42, Miss Elsie Borg, No. 43, Howard Carter Dickinson, No. 45, Mrs. J.P. Cassidy, No. 49, and William W. Thompkins, No. 68. Besides the private residences are mentioned the Hotel Brevoort (the traditional name is used), the Berkeley at No. 20, and the Church of the Ascension, at Tenth Street, one of the very first of the Fifth Avenue churches, and the scene, on June 26, 1844, of the marriage of President John Tyler and Miss Julia Gardiner, the first marriage of a President of the United States during his term of office. The church a block farther north, on the same side of the Avenue is the First Presbyterian, dating from 1845, when the congregation moved uptown from the earlier edifice on Wall Street, just east of New Street.
A Knickerbocker Pepys
A Knickerbocker Pepys—The Span of a Life—A Man of Many Responsibilities—Storm and Stress—Political Protestations—Hone and the Journalists—Contemporary Impressions of Bryant and Bennett—Hone and the Men of Letters—The Ways of British Lions.
There is one kind of immortality that is not so much a matter of amount and quality of achievement as of the particular period of achievement. That, for example, of Samuel Pepys.
Pepys, living in the turbulent, densely populated London of our time, and recording day by day the events coming under his observation, would probably have his audience of posterity limited to a little circle of venerating descendants who would certainly bore the neighbours. It is quite easy to picture the members of that circle in the year 1998, or 2024. "Listen to what Grandpapa's Diary says of the awful Zeppelin raids of February, 1917," or, "But Great-grandpapa, who had just finished his walk in the Park, and was passing Downing Street when the news came, etc." "Il est fatiguant," whispered Mr. St. John of General Webb at one of the dinners in "Henry Esmond," "avec sa trompette de Wynandael." That persistent blowing of the "trompette" of grandpapa would likewise be voted "fatiguant." "Grandpapa! A plague upon their grandpapa!"
It needed the smaller town, the more limited age, the greater intimacy of life, to make Pepys's Diary the vivid human narrative that it has been for so many years.
And as with the Pepys of seventeenth century London, so with the chronicler of events day by day in the New York of the first half of the nineteenth century. If there was a Knickerbocker Pepys it was Philip Hone, who in the span of his life saw his city expand from twenty-five thousand to half a million, and whose diary has been described as one of the most fascinating personal documents ever penned.
There is a little thoroughfare far downtown called Dutch Street. It runs from Fulton to John Street. There Philip Hone was born on the 25th of October, 1780, and there he passed his boyhood in a wooden house at the corner of John and Dutch Streets which his father bought in 1784. After a common school education, he became, at seventeen years of age, a clerk for an older brother whose business as an auctioneer consisted mainly in selling the cargoes brought to New York by American merchantmen. Two years as a clerk, and then Philip was made a partner. The firm prospered, and by 1820, the future diarist, though only forty years old, had become a rich man. With the best years of his mature life before him, with a wish to see the world and a desire for self-improvement, he retired from business, and in 1821, made his first journey to Europe, sailing from New York on the "James Monroe." When he returned, he bought a house on Broadway, near Park Place, on the exact spot now occupied by the Woolworth Building, for which he paid twenty-five thousand dollars. There is extant an old print of the house, showing also the American Hotel on the corner, and another residence, the ground floor of which was occupied by Peabody's Book Shop. On the block below, where the Astor House was built later, were the homes of John G. Coster, David Lydig, and J.J. Astor. It was one of the most magnificent dwellings of the town, and there Hone entertained not only the distinguished men of New York, but also such Americans of country-wide fame as Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and Harrison Gray Otis; and such old-world visitors as Charles Dickens, Lord Morpeth, Captain Marryat, John Galt, and Fanny Kemble. He had children growing up—his marriage to Catherine Dunscomb had taken place in 1801, when he was in his twenty-second year—and for the benefit of the young people his was practically open house. Public and private honours were thrust upon him. An assistant alderman from 1824 to 1826, in the latter year he was appointed Mayor. (The Mayor was not elected until 1834.) William Paulding had preceded him in the office, and William Paulding succeeded him in 1827. But the Hone administration was long remembered on account of its civic excellence and its social dignity. For more than thirty years he served gratuitously the city's first Bank of Savings, which was established in 1816, and in 1841 he became its president. Governor of the New York Hospital, trustee of the Bloomingdale Asylum, founder of the Clinton Hall Association, and of the Mercantile Library, trustee of Columbia College, of the New York Life Insurance and Trust Company, president of the American Exchange Bank, and of the Glenham Manufacturing Company, vice-president of the Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, of the American Seamen's Fund Society, of the New York Historical Society, of the Fuel Saving Society, a director in the Matteawan Cotton and Machine Company, the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, the Eagle Fire Insurance Company, the National Insurance Company, a member of the Chamber of Commerce, a manager of the Literary and Philosophical Society, of the Mechanic and Scientific Association, a founder and a governor of the Union Club, and a vestryman of Trinity Church—the wonder is that he found time to write in his Diary at all. According to Bayard Tuckerman, who edited the Diary and wrote the Introduction to it, an ordinary day's work for Hone was "to ride out on horseback to the Bloomingdale Asylum, to return and pass the afternoon at the Bank for Savings, thence to attend a meeting of the Trinity Vestry, or to preside over the Mercantile Library Association." "He was never," said Mr. Tuckerman, "voluntarily absent from a meeting where the interest of others demanded his presence, and many were the good dinners he lost in consequence." Again: "He had personal gifts which extended the influence due to his character. Tall and spare, his bearing was distinguished, his face handsome and refined; his manners were courtly, of what is known as the 'old school'; his tact was great—he had a faculty for saying the right thing. In his own house his hospitality was enhanced by a graceful urbanity and a ready wit."
The story of Philip Hone's life is substantially the story of the town from 1780 till 1851. When he first saw the light in Dutch Street, there were but twenty thousand persons for the occupying British troopers to keep in order. When, after his return from Europe in the early '20s he bought on Broadway in the neighbourhood of City Hall Park, that was the centre of fashionable residence.
But by 1837 trade was claiming the section, and Hone sold out and built himself a new home, this time at the corner of Broadway and Great Jones Street. He saw the residence portion of the city go beyond that point, saw it grope up Fifth Avenue as far as Twentieth Street. The first entry in the Diary bears the date of May 18, 1828; the last of April 30, 1851, just four days before his death. That last entry shows that he felt that the end was near at hand. "Has the time come?" he asks, and then quotes seven stanzas from James Montgomery's "What is Prayer?", adding four stanzas of his own.
Just eleven months to a day before the last entry, under date of May 30, 1850, Hone commented on the swiftly changing aspect of the city. To him the renovation of Broadway seemed to be an annual occurrence. If the houses were not pulled down they fell of their own accord. He wrote: "The large, three-story house, corner of Broadway and Fourth Street, occupied for several years by Mrs. Seton as a boarding-house, fell today at two o'clock, with a crash so astounding that the girls, with whom I was sitting in the library, imagined for a moment that it was caused by an earthquake. Fortunately the workmen had notice to make their escape. No lives were lost and no personal injury was sustained.
"The mania for converting Broadway into a street of shops is greater than ever. There is scarcely a block in the whole extent of this fine street of which some part is not in a state of transmutation. The City Hotel has given place to a row of splendid stores.
"Stewart is extending his stores to take in the whole front from Chambers to Reade Street; this is already the most magnificent dry-goods establishment in the world. I certainly do not remember anything to equal it in London or Paris; with the addition now in progress this edifice will be one of the 'wonders' of the Western world. Three or four good brick houses on the corner of Broadway and Spring Street have been levelled, I know not for what purpose—shops, no doubt. The houses—fine, costly edifices, opposite to me extending from Driggs's corner down to a point opposite to Bond Street—are to make way for a grand concert and exhibition establishment."
It is far from being all mellowness and amiability, that Diary. Hone had his prejudices and dislikes and strong political opinions. In the portraits that have been preserved there is the suggestion of intolerance and smug self-satisfaction. Also life did not turn out quite so rosy as it promised in 1828, when he retired from business with a handsome competence. In 1836, during the commercial depression, he met with financial reverses which forced him to return to the game of money-getting. He became president of the American Mutual Insurance Company, which was ruined by the great fire of July 19, 1845.
"A fire has occurred," he recorded in the entry of that date, "the loss of which is probably $5,000,000; several of the insurance companies are ruined, and all are crippled. My office, I fear, is in the former category. We have lost between three and four hundred thousand dollars, which is more than we can pay.
"This is a hard stroke for me. I was pleasantly situated with a moderate support for my declining years, and now, 'Othello's occupation's gone.'"
But he met his reverses in a courageous manner, and in 1849 President Taylor appointed him Naval Officer of the Port of New York, a place which he held until his death.
As became his day, Hone was a good trencherman. In the index to the Diary there are one hundred and sixteen pages marked as containing reference of some kind to dinner parties. The old New York names appear again and again. H. Brevoort, Chancellor and Mrs. Kent, Mr. and Mrs. W.B. Astor, Bishop Hobart, C. Brugiere and Miss Brugiere, Robert Maitland, Dr. Wainwright, Mr. and Mrs. Anthon, Judge Spencer, Judge Irving, Dr. Hosack, Peter Jay, P. Schemerhorn. And only the formal dinner parties are indexed. Aside from them there are scores of allusions to where the diarist dined and who dined with him. Small wonder that the passing of a cook of unusual abilities was an event to be recorded. An early entry, that of February 17, 1829, reads: "Died this morning, Simon, the celebrated cook. He was a respectable man, who has for many years been the fashionable cook in New York, and his loss will be felt on all occasions of large dinner and evening parties, unless it should be found that some suitable shoulders should be ready to receive the mantle of this distinguished cuisinier." When Hone was not entertaining at his own home or being entertained at somebody else's, he was trying out the fare at some one of the public hostelries. Date of December 18, 1830, there is reference to a familiar name. "Moore, Giraud, and I went yesterday to dine at Delmonico's, a French restaurateur, in William Street, which I had heard was on the Parisian plan, and very good. We satisfied our curiosity, but not our appetites."
We are prone to regard the Civil War as an affair of the sixties. Hone was one of those who perceived the threat of it thirty years before. Always a bitter political opponent of Jackson, there was one occasion when he was loud in his applause. The South Carolina Convention had passed a number of resolutions regarded by Hone as rank treason, and the beginning of rebellion. The President had dealt with the matter in a proclamation, of which the diarist wrote December 12, 1832: "Very much to the surprise of some, and to the satisfaction of all our citizens, we have a long proclamation of President Jackson, which was published in Washington on the 12th. inst., and is in all our papers this day. It is a document addressed to the nullifiers of South Carolina, occasioned by the late treasonable proceedings of their convention. The whole subject is discussed in a spirit of conciliation, but with firmness and decision, and a determination to put down the wicked attempt to resist the laws. On the constitutionality of the laws which the nullifiers object to, and their right to recede from the Union, this able State paper is full and conclusive. The language of the President is that of a father addressing his wayward children, but determined to punish with the utmost severity the first open act of insubordination. As a composition it is splendid, and will take its place in the archives of our country, and will dwell in the memories of our citizens alongside of the farewell address of the 'Father of his Country.' It is not known which of the members of the cabinet is entitled to the honour of being the author; it is attributed to Mr. Livingston, the Secretary of State, and to Governor Cass, the Secretary of War. Nobody, of course, supposes it was written by him whose name is subscribed to it. But whoever shall prove to be the author has raised to himself an imperishable monument of glory. The sentiments, at least, are approved by the President, and he should have the credit of it, as he would have the blame if it were bad; and, possessing these sentiments, we have reason to believe that he has firmness enough to do his duty.
"I say, Hurrah for Jackson, and so I am willing to say at all times when he does his duty. The only difference between the thorough-going Jackson man and me is, that I will not 'hurrah' for him right or wrong. And I think that Jackson's election may save the Union."
If he disliked Jackson on account of his policies, he seemed to dislike journalists regardless of their political creeds. To his eyes they were a pestilential crew. Here is the first glimpse of Bryant, the great William Cullen Bryant, who as a mere boy had penned the beautiful "Thanatopsis." It is of the date of April 20, 1831. "While I was shaving this morning at eight o'clock, I witnessed from the front window an encounter in the street nearly opposite, between William C. Bryant and William L. Stone, the former one of the editors of the Evening Post, and the latter the editor of the Commercial Advertiser. The former commenced the attack by striking Stone over the head with a cow-skin; after a few blows the men closed, and the whip was wrested away from Bryant and carried off by Stone." Here and there are flung expressions of admiration for Bryant's verse, but the tone is of one speaking of the cleverness of a trained lizard. Thirteen years intervened between the first and the last Bryant entry. In February, 1844, Nicholas Biddle, the great financier, died. Something that Bryant wrote roused Hone's wrath. Here is his comment of February 28: "Bryant, the editor of the Evening Post, in an article of his day, virulent and malignant as are usually the streams which flow from that polluted source, says that Mr. Biddle 'died at his country-seat, where he passed the last of his days in elegant retirement, which, if justice had taken place, would have been spent in the penitentiary.' This is the first instance I have known of the vampire of party-spirit seizing the lifeless body of its victim before its interment, and exhibiting its bloody claws to the view of mourning relatives and sympathizing friends. How such a black-hearted misanthrope as Bryant should possess an imagination teeming with beautiful poetical images astonishes me; one would as soon expect to extract drops of honey from the fangs of the rattlesnake."
But this was kindly tolerance compared to his attitude towards the elder Bennett. The latter apparently came under Hone's notice in January, 1836, and the first mention in the Diary reads: "There is an ill-looking, squinting man called Bennett, formerly connected with Webb in the publication of his paper, who is now editor of the Herald, one of the penny papers which are hawked about the streets by a gang of troublesome, ragged boys, and in which scandal is retailed to all who delight in it, at that moderate price. This man and Webb are now bitter enemies, and it was nuts for Bennett to be the organ of Mr. Lynch's late vituperative attack upon Webb, which Bennett introduced in his paper with evident marks of savage exultation." To that famous masked ball given by the Brevoorts on the evening of February 24, 1840, in their house at Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue Hone went attired as Cardinal Wolsey. He forgot to tell of the romance of the night, the elopement of Miss Barclay and young Burgwyne, devoting his space to the expression of his resentment over the presence at the affair of an emissary of Bennett. "Whether the notice they" (the guests) "took of him" (the "Herald" reporter), "and that which they extend to Bennett when he shows his ugly face in Wall Street, may be considered approbatory of the dirty slanders and unblushing impudence of the paper they conduct, or is intended to purchase their forbearance towards themselves, the effect is equally mischievous." Again, date of June 2, 1840: "The punishment of the law adds to the fellow's notoriety, and personal chastisement is pollution to him who undertakes it. Write him down, make respectable people withdraw their support from the vile sheet, so that it will be considered disgraceful to read it, and the serpent will be rendered harmless." In the entry of February 14, 1842, Bennett is: "The impudent disturber of the public peace, whose infamous paper, the Herald, is more scurrilous, and of course more generally read, than any other." September 2, 1843, Hone records that: "Bennett, the editor of the Herald, is on a tour through Great Britain, whence he furnishes lies and scandal for the infamous paper which has contributed so much to corrupt the morals and degrade the taste of the people of New York." In one of the last entries of the Diary, a few months before Hone's death, allusion is made to a personal attack on the editor by the defeated candidate of the Locofoco party for the District-Attorneyship. "I should be well pleased to hear of this fellow being punished in this way, and once a week for the remainder of his life, so that new wounds might be inflicted before the old ones were healed, or until the fellow left off lying; but I fear that the editorial miscreant in this case will be more benefited than injured by this attack."
A man of literary tastes, or at least a man who wished to be regarded as one of bookish inclinations, Hone seems never to have had any great liking for men of letters as such. All of the gifted and unhappy Poe's life in New York came within the period of the Diary, but in it is to be found not a single mention of his name. There was no place at the Hone table for the shabby, impossible genius. There was an impassable gulf between the well-ordered household facing the City Hall Park, or at the Broadway and Great Jones Street corner, and the humble Carmine Street lodging, or the Fordham Cottage. Early references to Fenimore Cooper, whom Hone first met at an American dinner to Lafayette in Paris in 1831, are gracious enough, for the creator of Leather-Stocking was a personage, and it suited Hone to stand well with personages. But when, seven years later, Cooper returned to the United States after his long stay abroad, and incurred the displeasure of his fellow-countrymen, Hone was quite ready to join in the hue and cry.
With Washington Irving it was another matter. But who could have failed to feel genial towards the quiet, scholarly, altogether charming gentleman of Sunnyside? Also the legs of Irving fitted well and often under the Hone mahogany, and the part of the author that was perceptible above the table gave a flavour and dignity to the board. Somehow we see Hone's cheeks puffed out with pride as he chronicles: "My old friend, Washington Irving, who visits his native country after an absence of seventeen years. I passed half an hour with him very pleasantly." "I have devoted nearly the whole day to Washington Irving." "Irving and I left them and came to town to meet friends whom I had engaged to dine with me." "Washington Irving acquainted me with a circumstance, etc." "We next visited Washington Irving, who lives with his sister and nieces on the bank of the river." Any one who reads the Diary can see that Hone thoroughly approved of Irving. But just what, in his heart of hearts, did Irving think of Hone?
The Diary gives some significant glimpses of Charles Dickens in America. In 1842 New York welcomed the Englishman riotously. Washington laughed at New York for doing too much and went to the other extreme. John Quincy Adams gave the Dickenses a dinner at which Hone was a guest. "Some clever people were invited to meet them" is the way the ingenuous Hone puts it. "They" (Dickens and Mrs. Dickens) "came, he in a frock-coat, and she in her bonnet. They sat at table until four o'clock, when he said: 'Dear, it is time for us to go home and dress for dinner.' They were engaged to dine with Robert Greenhow at the fashionable hour of half-past five! A most particularly funny idea to leave the table of John Quincy Adams to dress for a dinner at Robert Greenhow's!" Hone referred to the visitors as "The Boz and Bozess," and described the author of "Pickwick" as "a small, bright-eyed, intelligent-looking young fellow, thirty years of age, somewhat of a dandy in his dress, with 'rings and things and fine array,' brisk in his manner, and of a lively conversation"; and Mrs. Dickens as "a little, fat, English-looking woman, of an agreeable countenance, and, I should think, 'a nice person.'"
Dickens was not the only British author of those days to kindle the flames of American resentment. Almost all who came to our shores seemed to possess the faculty of "getting a rise" out of Yankee sensibilities. Captain Marryat was one of the offenders. At a dinner in Toronto he gave an injudicious toast. Thereupon the town of Lewistown, Maine, built a huge bonfire on the shore directly opposite Queenstown and destroyed all the "Midshipman Easys," "Peter Simples," "Japhets," and "Jacob Faithfuls" that could be obtained. Hone commented sensibly on the affair in his Diary for May 5, 1838. "Captain Marryat, I dare say, made a fool of himself (not a very difficult task, I should judge, from what I have seen of him); but the Lewistownians have beaten him all to smash, as the Kentuckians say. How mortified he must have been to hear that his books had been burned after they were paid for!" A year before Marryat had dined at the Hone house in New York and the host wrote: "The lion, Captain Marryat, is no great things of a lion, after all. In truth, the author of 'Peter Simple' and 'Jacob Faithful' is a very every-day sort of a man. He carries about him in his manner and conversation more of the sailor than the author, has nothing student-like in his appearance, and savours more of the binnacle lamp than of the study." And again, six months after the Lewistown flare-up: "It would have been better for both parties if the sailor author had been known on this side of the Atlantic only by his writings ... he has evidently not enjoyed the benefits of refined society, or intercourse with people of literary talents."
The Knickerbocker Pepys grew mellower as he advanced in years. There is a marked change in the tone of the Diary dating from the very time when he himself suffered financial reverses. It was the test of the man that misfortune did not embitter him, but made him more kindly in his judgments of those about him. The smug self-satisfaction belonged to the early days. In the closing years of his useful life there was but one thing that disturbed him greatly. He foresaw the Deluge that was to come. December 12, 1850, was his last Thanksgiving. He wrote: "The annual time-honoured Thanksgiving-day throughout the state. No nation, ancient or modern, ever had more causes for thanksgiving, and reasons to praise the Author of all good, than the people of the United States. Yet there are many, at the present time, ignorant and unworthy of the blessings they enjoy, who would throw all things into confusion, break up the blessed Union which binds the States, and should bind the individuals forming their population; who would destroy the harmony, and condemn the obligations, of Constitution and law. Factionists, traitors, madmen—the Lord preserve us from the unholy influence of such principles!"