Reminiscences of New York by an Octogenarian (1816 - 1860)

By Charles H. Haswell

Active in NY's civic and cultural life a half-century, Haswell's meticulous notes on it were published in 1896, the same year Correction emerged as a separate agency. A century later Jackson Era devotee Hal Morris posted them on his Tales of the Early Republic web site, from where these passages have been excerpted with permission.
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Chapter IX: 1826 - Philip Hone, William Paulding, Mayors

This year was one of much commercial distress, the result of the failure of several spurious banks chartered by the State of New Jersey. Subsequently, by the failure of several insurance companies, was revealed an amount of venality that affected the commercial character of the city at home and abroad, and also that of a number of persons of character and respectability; resulting in the conviction of some by a court of justice; some of them being sent to the Penitentiary, while others appealed to the Court of Errors, and escaped by the casting vote of the Lieutenant­governor.

Jacob Barker, who has been already mentioned (1822), in consequence of his connection with the Exchange Bank at a previous date, and the Washington and Warren at a very late period, was very seriously and generally censured in the public prints, and some years after this he became a citizen of New Orleans.
Book cover reads: Morgan's Freemasonry, Exposed and Explained. Showing the Origin, History and Nature of Masonry, Its Effect on the Government and the Christian Religion, and Containing a Key to All the Degrees of Freemasonry. Giving a Clear and Correct View of the Manner of Conferring the Different Degrees, as Practised in All Lodges Throughout the Globe; Together with the Means to be Used by Such as Are Not Masons to Gain Admission Therein, With the Verdict of the Jury in relation to the Abduction and Murder of the Author. The Whole Intended as a Guide to the Craft and a Light to the Unenlightened. By Captain William Morgan. New York: L. Fitzgerald, Publisher.
Worth checking out: David Minor's Eagle Byte radio script on the possible discovery of the missing William Morgan.
He resided at 34 Beekman Street, a neighborhood which at that time was the residence of many of our well­known and distinguished citizens; he enjoyed not an enviable reputation for his shrewdness in business matters and responsibilities. . . At this time, which was some years prior to his leaving for New Orleans, a number of brokers publicly advertised or proposed to raise the amount of three hundred dollars, to give him as an inducement to leave the city. . . .

On March 20 the Common Council required hacks to have lighted lamps at night.

March 30. One Hewlett, a colored representative of "Shakespeare's proud heroes," as he himself termed it, gave illustrations of his talent at 11 Spruce Street. . . .

June 24, St. John's Day, was laid the corner­stone of Masonic Hall, on the site of 314 and 316 Broadway, a Gothic structure of imposing appearance among buildings of the time.

It contained a fine saloon 100 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 25 feet high, richly decorated. Here the first fair of the American Institute was held. After the alleged murder of Morgan and the organization of the Anti­masonic party, it was named Gothic Hall.

Before this building was completed, William Morgan published his book purporting to reveal the secrets of Masonry, and then occurred his hidden and unexplained disappearance.

As it was alleged that he had been murdered by Masons and his body secreted, the charge was availed of by some politicians in the State, and an Anti­masonic party was organized, which not only pervaded this State, but extended to contiguous States, and continued active for some time.

Thurlow Weed, of Albany, took a leading part in availing himself of the excitement against Masons, with a view to the organization of an opposition to the Democrats.

Upon being told that the body of a drowned man had been found in Niagara River and that some declared it to be that of Morgan, while others who had seen it denied that it was his, Weed is reported to have said: "It is a good enough Morgan until after the election."

In 1830 Francis Granger received one hundred and twenty­eight thousand votes as Anti­masonic candidate for Governor of New York.
Indiana University-Purdue University's instructive and interesting web presentation of selections from its Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives of Rare and Beautiful books includes a number related to the William Morgan Anti-Masonic controversy. The book covers of two are shown on this page. The book cover above reads:

Confession of the Murder of William Morgan, Abducted and Murdered, A.D. 1826, for revealing the Secrets of Freemasonry. W. J. Shuey, Publisher, Datton, Ohio. Price of a single copy, mailed, post paid, 20 centers or six copies for $1.00.

In 1832 William Wirt was Anti­masonic candidate for President of the United States, and obtained the electoral votes of Vermont, a State which was for several years wholly under Anti­masonic rule.

During this excitement Masons were held to be so obnoxious to propriety and good citizenship that the order was measurably paralyzed; so much so that some lodges closed and others met but rarely,-in one case I know of, the lodge withdrew and donated its funds, exceeding six thousand dollars, to a charitable institution,-but in time the opposition lapsed and Masonry lifted its head, and was soon restored to popularity and usefulness. In the meanwhile the name of the hall was changed to Gothic Hall. . . .

July 18 the project of cutting a canal from One Hundred and Eighth Street at the Harlem River to Spuyten Duyvil Creek, was first entertained and discussed.

September 11 the Williamsburgh Ferry Co. petitioned the Common Council to allow them to replace their horse­boat with a steamboat, as a steamboat was not provided for in their grant.

September 19 a family from the South arriving here with several slaves as servants, a party of resident Negroes assembled soon after and endeavored to incite a mob for the purpose of freeing the slaves, but the general populace and the Courts resisted the design.

Lewis Tappan had a major role arranging the defense of the African slaves who captured the Amistad and was a leading financial backer for several anti-slavery newspapers. In 1831, with his brother, Arthur, Lewis Tappan helped found in New York America's first Anti-Slavery Society.

The firm of Arthur Tappan & Co. was the largest silk house in the city. Arthur and Lewis Tappan were the principal originators of the abolition of slavery movement. Arthur was a zealous bigot of a pronounced type. He issued to the clerks of the house, and submitted to all applicants for employment, the following requirements and rules for their government and manner of living: "Total abstinence; not to visit certain proscribed places nor remain out after ten o'clock at night; to visit a theatre, and to make the acquaintance of an actor precluded forgiveness; to attend Divine service twice on Sundays, and on every Monday morning to report church attendance, name of the clergyman, and texts; prayer­meeting twice a week, and must belong to an anti­slavery society and essay to make converts to the cause." . . . .

September 27 Henry Eckford, George W. Browne, Mark Spencer, and Jacob Barker, who had been indicted for a conspiracy upon the allegation of irregular transactions in the operation of certain banks and financial companies, were arraigned in the Court of Oyer and Terminer held by Judge Edwards; they were prosecuted by Hugh Maxwell and Peter Augustus Jay, and defended by Thomas Addis Emmet, William M. Price, Murray Hoffman, David C. Colden, and William R. Williams; Mr. Barker defending his own case. The Court forbade the publication of the current testimony. Stenography was not practiced then. On the 23d of the following month the jury was discharged, having failed to agree upon a verdict; their decision was reported to be seven to five for a verdict of guilty, against all; and eight to four for all but Henry Eckford. . . .

The first of the stone buildings of the General Theological Seminary in Chelsea Square (Ninth and Tenth avenues, Twentieth and Twenty­first streets) was completed in this year, the cornerstone having been laid by Bishop White, July 28, 1825. This was the one afterward termed the East Building, removed in 1892 to make way for new houses for the professors. The present Dean of the Seminary, the Very Rev. Dr. E. A. Hoffman, writes in a recent article published in the Trinity Record:
Clement Clarke Moore, son of Protestant Episcopal Bishop Benjamin Moore, taught Oriental and Greek literature at the General Theological Seminary and published biblical and historical studies. His A Visit from Saint Nicholas was written en route to his Chelsea home Dec. 23, 1822, as a Christmas gift for his six children. The poem circulated among friends, one of whom sent it to the Troy Sentinel that gave the verses their first publication Dec. 23, 1823. Moore was a New York Institution for the Blind board member.Thomas Nast's famous Santa Claus drawings were based on Moore's poem.

"The site was then far removed from the city and extended down to the banks of the Hudson, being surrounded on the other sides by green fields, enclosed by post­and­rail fences. The grounds, which now stand above the street, were then an apple orchard, which was situated near the corner of what is now Ninth Avenue and Twenty­first Street. Professor Clement C. Moore's country residence -- extending from Nineteenth to Twenty-fourth Street and from Eighth Avenue to the river, and known as Chelsea -- was the only house in the vicinity; and with this exception, save a few straggling houses in the village of Greenwich, there was scarcely a good brick house to be found between it and Canal Street. The only approach to the grounds was through a narrow road, called Love Lane, running easterly to the Bloomingdale Road, now Broadway; while the water was at times so deep immediately around the new building as to make it inaccessible during a great portion of the winter, except on horseback or in a carriage."

This fine property had been given to the Seminary by Clement C. Moore, immortalized among children by his verses, "'Twas the Night before Christmas"; being a part of his patrimony, formerly attached to the country­house of his father, the Rt. Rev. Benjamin Moore, Bishop of New York. . . .

In December of this year it was first thought necessary to pave the sidewalk in Canal Street, and then only on one side. Waltzing was first introduced this season as an element of evening entertainment, this occurred at the house in Franklin Street of a member of a leading French shipping firm. I was present. . . .

Lithography was first introduced. . . Lafayette Place was opened on the 4th of July in this year, one hundred feet in width and through Vauxhall Garden. Bancker, which was a street notorious for the objectionable character of its dwellers, and a bye­word, was changed to Madison Street.

The State prison at Christopher Street was purchased of the State by the Corporation for one hundred thousand dollars. . . .

In consequence of a rupture in the relations of the Professors and Trustees of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, a second college was organized, termed the Rutgers Medical College, which was located in Duane near to Church Street.

Antoine Malapar, who in 1825 had been a bar­tender at Castle Garden, associated with George I. Pride and others, advertised the formation of the Marble Manufacturing Co., assumed the province of a Bank of Deposit, and issued notes. The enterprise was viewed with such general suspicion that it existed but for a brief period, failing within the year, and in its failure the Franklin Bank, the Jefferson Insurance Co., and a bank in New Jersey in some manner were involved, and they also failed. Malapar had descended upon the public in great force, and for a time was a noted figure in Wall Street, standing prominently on the steps of banks and the Exchange, displaying a gold pencil­case wherewith to note his operations-gold pencils were scarce in those days. For a year or more his local renown was nearly equal to that of the leading speculators of the day. He, however, gradually disappeared from the public gaze and was quite forgotten until, a few years afterward, it was learned that he had died in the Almshouse.

The Almshouse at Bellevue which had been commenced in 1823 was completed in this year, and were it not that it would awaken mournful recollections among families and friends of unfortunates, I could recite a number of instances of meeting, in my official visits to Bellevue and the "Islands," schoolmates, youthful companions, bright intellects and promising men, that were there awaiting that early dissolution ever attendant upon debauched dissipation. . . .

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