The better class restaurants lie along Broadway and Fifth avenue. The other longitudinal streets are well supplied with establishments of all kinds, and in the Bowery are to be found houses in which the fare is prepared and served entirely in accordance with German ideas. In other parts of the city are to be found Italian, French, and Spanish restaurants, and English chop houses.
The fashionable restaurants lie chiefly above Fourteenth, and entirely above Canal street. Delmonico's, at the northeast corner of Fourteenth street and the Fifth avenue, is the best known. It is a very extensive establishment, is fitted up in elegant style, and is equal to any eating-house in the world. The prices are very high. A modest dinner, without wine, for two persons, will cost here from four to five dollars. The fare is good, however. The house enjoys a large custom, and every visitor to New York who can afford it, takes a meal here before leaving the city. Delmonico is said to be very rich.
A young man, to whom the ways of the house were unknown, once took his sweetheart to lunch at this famous place. His purse was light, and when he came to scan the bill of fare, and note the large sums affixed to each item, his heart sank within him, and he waited in silent agony to hear his fair companion make her selection. After due consideration, she ordered a woodcock. Now woodcocks are expensive luxuries at Delmonico's, and the cost of one such bird represented more than the total contents of the lover's purse. He was in despair, but a lucky thought occurred to him. Turning to the lady, he asked with an air of profound astonishment:
"Do you think you can eat a whole woodcock?"
"How large is it?" asked the fair one, timidly.
"About as large as a full grown turkey" was the grave reply.
"O, I'll take an oyster stew," said the lady, quickly.
The fashionable restaurants make large profits on their sales. Their customers are chiefly ladies, and men who have nothing to do. Their busiest hours are the early afternoon, and during the evening. After the theatres are closed, they are thronged with parties of ladies and gentlemen who come in for supper.
Some of the best restaurants in the city are those in which a lady is never seen. It must not be supposed that they are disreputable places. They are entirely the opposite. They are located in the lower part of the city, often in some by-street of the heavy business section, and are patronized chiefly by merchants and clerks, who come here to get lunch and dinner. The fare is excellent, and the prices are reasonable. The eating houses of Henry Bode, in Water street, near Wall street, Rudolph in Broadway, near Courtlandt street, and Nash & Fuller (late Crook, Fox & Nash), in Park Row, are the best of this kind. In the last there is a department for ladies.
Between the hours of noon and three o'clock, the down-town restaurants are generally crowded with a hungry throng. In some of them every seat at the long counters and at the tables is filled, and the floor is crowded with men standing and eating from plates which they hold in their hands. The noise, the bustle, the clatter of knives and dishes, the slamming of doors, and the cries of the waiters as they shout out the orders of the guests, are deafening. The waiters move about with a celerity that is astonishing; food is served and eaten with a dispatch peculiar to these places. A constant stream of men is pouring out of the doors, and as steady a stream flowing in to take their places. At some of the largest of these establishments as many as fifteen hundred people are supplied with food during the course of the day. A well patronized restaurant is very profitable in New York, even if its prices are moderate, and the higher priced establishments make their proprietors rich in a comparatively short time. The proprietor of a Broadway oyster saloon made a fortune of $150,000 by his legitimate business in five years. A large part of the income of the restaurants is derived from the sale of liquors at the bar.
The principal up-town restaurants are largely patronized by disreputable people. Impure women go there to pick up custom, and men to find such companions. Women whose social position is good, do not hesitate to meet their lovers at such places, for there is a great deal of truth in the old adage which tells us that "there's no place so private as a crowded hall." A quiet but close observer will frequently see a nod, or a smile, or a meaning glance pass between the most respectable looking persons of opposite sexes, who are seemingly strangers to each other, and will sometimes see a note slyly sent by a waiter, or dropped adroitly into the hand of the woman as the man passes out, while her face wears the demurest and most rigidly virtuous expression. Such women frequent some of the best known up-town establishments to so great an extent that a lady entering one of them is apt to be insulted in this way by the male habitues of the place. These wretches hold all women to be alike, and act upon this belief.
XL. THE CHEAP LODGING-HOUSES.
The Bowery and the eastern section of the city are full of cheap lodging-houses, which are a grade lower than the lowest hotels, and several grades above the cellars. One or two of these are immense establishments, five and six stories in height. Some of them provide their lodgers with beds and covering, others supply pallets laid down on the floor of a cheerless room, and others again give merely the pallets and no sheets or coverings. The rooms, the beds, and the bedding in all these establishments are horribly dirty, and are badly ventilated. Bed bugs abound in the summer, and in the winter the lodger is nearly frozen, the covering, when furnished, being utterly inadequate to the task of keeping out the cold. From six to ten persons are put in a room together. The price varies from ten to twenty-five cents, according to the accommodations furnished. Each of these houses is provided with a bar, at which the vilest liquors are sold at ten cents a drink. The profits of the business are very great, not counting the receipts of the bar, which are in proportion. The expense of fitting up and conducting such an establishment is trifling. One of them accommodates nearly two hundred lodgers per night, which at ten cents per head, would be a net receipt of twenty dollars.
The persons who patronize these establishments are mainly vagrants, men who live from hand to mouth, and who will not be received by the humblest boarding-house. Some are doubtless unfortunate, but the majority are vagrants from choice. Some have irregular occupations, others get the price of their lodgings by begging.
The business of a lodging-house seldom commences before ten o'clock, and its greatest rush is just after the closing of the theatres; but all through the night, till three o'clock in the morning, they are receiving such of the outcast population as can offer the price of a bed. To any one interested in the misery of the city, the array presented on such an occasion is very striking. One sees every variety of character, runaway boys, truant apprentices, drunken mechanics, and broken-down mankind generally. Among these are men who have seen better days. They are decayed gentlemen who appear regularly in Wall street, and eke out the day by such petty business as they may get hold of; and are lucky if they can make enough to carry them through the night. In all lodging-houses the rule holds good, "First come, first served," and the last man in the room gets the worst spot. Each one sleeps with his clothes on, and his hat under his head, to keep it from being stolen. At eight o'clock in the morning all oversleepers are awakened, and the rooms got ready for the coming night. No one is allowed to take anything away, and if the lodger has a parcel, he is required to leave it at the bar. This prevents the theft of bedclothes.
XLI. THE LIBRARIES.
The Libraries of New York are large and well patronized. The various collections, including those of the institutions of learning, number over 500,000 volumes.
The oldest collection is the "Society Library," which is contained in a handsome brick edifice in University Place. In 1729, the Rev. John Wellington, Rector of Newington, in England, generously bequeathed his library, consisting of 1622 volumes, to the "Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts." To this was added a collection of books presented by the Rev. John Sharp, Chaplain to Lord Bellamont. The whole collection was sent to New York, and opened for public use in 1731, under the name of the "Corporation Library." The death of the librarian occurred soon after, and the library was suffered to fall into disuse. In 1754, a number of citizens of means and literary taste, founded the "Society Library," to which, with the consent of the city, they added the old "Corporation Library." In 1772, the Society received a charter from King George III. It is one of the wealthiest and most flourishing institutions in the city. The annual subscription is $10. The collection of books is very valuable and interesting, and comprises over 50,000 volumes.
The "Astor Library" is the best known outside of the city. The library building is a massive structure of brick with brown stone trimmings, situated in Lafayette Place, next door to the residence of William B. Astor, Esq. It was founded by John Jacob Astor, and enlarged by his son William. The books are contained in two large and elegant halls, occupying the entire building above the first floor. The collection numbers about 150,000 volumes, and was made by the late Dr. Coggeswell, the first Librarian, whose judgment, taste, and learning were highly appreciated by the elder Astor. The library is mainly one of reference, and is very complete in most of the subjects it comprises. In the departments of science, history, biography, and philology, it is especially fine. It also contains many rare and valuable illustrated works, a number of original editions of the earliest books, and some valuable manuscripts.
[Picture: LAFAYETTE PLACE.]
The collection is free to the public, and is open daily except on Sundays and holidays, and during the month of August, from 10 A.M. until 4 P.M. The books cannot be taken from the reading-room, nor are visitors allowed to use pen and ink in making notes from them. It is said that the classes Mr. Astor desired most to benefit by this library were the working people, who are unable to buy books of their own. If this be true, his wishes have been entirely defeated, as the hall is open only during the hours when it is impossible for working people to attend. In the facilities which it affords to those who wish to use it, the Astor is very much behind the great libraries of Europe, or even the Public Library of Boston.
The most popular, and the most thoroughly representative library of the city, is the Mercantile Library, located in Clinton Hall, in Astor Place. It owns this building, and its property is valued at $500,000. It was founded in 1820, by William Wood, a native of Boston, and a gentleman eminent for his efforts in behalf of the spread of education and liberal ideas. It began as a subscription library with a collection of 700 volumes, and was located in a small room at No. 49 Fulton street. The collection now numbers 120,000 volumes, and increases at the rate of 13,000 volumes a year. It is the fourth library in size in the Union. Those which are larger are the Library of Congress, the Public Library of Boston, and the Astor Library. The library is the property of the clerks of New York, and though it does not compare with the Astor in the solidity or value of its contents, is a creditable monument to the good sense and taste of the young men of our mercantile community. No one but a clerk can hold an office in it. The term "clerk" is made to include all men who live on a salary. These members pay an initiation fee of $1, and an annual subscription of $4. To all other persons the privileges of the library are offered at an annual subscription of $5. In April, 1870, the books of the institution showed a roll of 12,867 persons entitled to the use of the library and reading-room, the latter of which contains 400 newspapers and periodicals.
A large part of the collection consists of works of fiction. It is a lending library, and its books are sent to readers in Yonkers, Norwalk, Stamford, Elizabeth, and Jersey City, as well as in New York, in each of which it has branches. There are also branch offices in Yorkville and in Cedar street. Every morning a canvass bag, containing the books returned and applications for others wanted, is sent from each branch to the library, and is returned in the afternoon full. The directors offer to establish a branch in any of the suburban towns in which one hundred subscribers can be obtained in advance. The average daily delivery of books is 760, of which about three-quarters are taken from the library proper, the rest from the branches. On Saturday evening the demand for books is very great.
The system of delivery is as follows:
"Each member on joining the library has a folio assigned him in the ledger, and its number is written on the ticket which is given him as a certificate of membership. Let us suppose you have received one of these tickets, and have made your selection of the book you want. You fill up a blank application card, with the name of the book desired. You hand that to one of the attendants. When he has found a book for you, he hands it, with your application card, to the delivery clerk. This gentleman occupies a large desk at the central counter, and has before him two immense drawers, divided into partitions for the reception of the cards. Each member's name has a place in one or the other of these drawers, and the number of the folio shows where that place is. The clerk instantly turns to your name, and finds the card you handed in when you last borrowed a book. If the date, stamped at the time of delivery, shows that you have kept it longer than the rules allow, he levies a small fine, and you must pay it before you can borrow again. All formalities transacted, the old card is destroyed, the new one put in its place, and you are sent away in peace.
"The system of checking books, as we have described it, enables the librarian to ascertain in a moment just what any particular member has borrowed; but it does not show what has become of any particular book. Many attempts have been made to devise a system of double accounts, so that a check could be kept upon the members and the books at the same time, but without success. A partial record book, however, is now kept. Whenever a standard book is borrowed, the delivery clerk marks upon a little yellow ticket simply the folio number of the borrower. Every day the yellow tickets are examined, and if it appear, say, that folio 10,029 has had a book more than three weeks, the clerk turns to the drawer and finds out who folio 10,029 is, and what book is charged against him, and sends him a notice that his time is up. It is found impracticable to apply this system to novels, which form the greater part of the circulation of the library; but it is useful as far as it goes, and prevents the loss of many valuable books.
[Picture: CLINTON HALL.]
"Of late years a postal order scheme has been perfected, and for convenience and simplicity it could hardly be improved. Its design is to enable members to draw books without visiting the library. Blank forms are obtained from the Post-office Department, about the size and shape of a newspaper wrapper, bearing on one side a two-cent postage stamp, and the printed address, 'Mercantile Library, Astor Place, City,' and on the other a blank application, with a five-cent 'Mercantile Library delivery stamp,' and some printed directions. You fill up the application in the usual way, fold the wrapper like a note (it is already gummed), and drop it in the nearest Post-office box. In a few hours at furthest a messenger brings to your house the book you have asked for, and takes away the volume you want to return. The system is fast increasing in popularity. A horse and wagon are constantly employed in the collection and delivery, and the number of volumes sent out in this way is about 12,000 annually. The delivery blanks are sold at the rate of seven cents each—two cents representing the postage and five the cost of the delivery."
The other collections are the Library of the New York Historical Society, embracing over 30,000 volumes, besides many interesting manuscripts, papers, coins and antiquities; the Apprentices' Library, 18,000 volumes; the Library of the American Institute, 10,000 volumes; the City Library, 5000 volumes; the Law Institute Library, about 5000 volumes; the Library of the Young Men's Christian Association, about 15,000 volumes; the Library of the Protestant Episcopal General Theological Seminary, 18,000 volumes; the Library of the Union Theological Seminary, 26,000 volumes; the Library of the Cooper Institute; and the libraries of the various institutions of learning.
Mr. James Lenox, a wealthy and prominent citizen, is now erecting on the Fifth avenue, near Seventieth street, and immediately opposite the Central Park, a massive building of granite, which is to be one of the most imposing structures in the City. In this, at its completion, he intends placing his magnificent collection of books and works of art, which constitute the most superb private collection in America. The whole will be opened to the public under certain restrictions.
XLII. PROFESSIONAL MEN.
New York is full of professional men, that is, of men who earn their living by brain work. One class—the clergy—has already been mentioned.
The Bar is next in numbers. There are about three thousand lawyers practising at the New York bar. A few of these have large incomes, two or three making as much as fifty thousand dollars per annum; but the average income of the majority is limited. An income of ten or fifteen thousand dollars is considered large in the profession, and the number of those earning such a sum is small.
In most cities the members of the legal profession form a clique, and are very clannish. Each one knows everybody else, and if one member of the bar is assailed, the rest are prompt to defend him. In New York, however, there is no such thing as a legal "fraternity." Each man is wrapped in his own affairs, and knows little and cares less about other members of the profession. We have been surprised to find how little these men know about each other. Some have never even heard of others who are really prosperous and talented.
The courts of the city are very numerous; and each man, in entering upon his practice, makes a specialty of some one or more of them, and confines himself to them. His chances of success are better for doing this, than they would be by adopting a general practice. Indeed, it would be simply impossible for one man to practise in all.
Many of the best lawyers rarely go into the courts. They prefer chamber practice, and will not try a case in court if they can help it. The process in the courts is slow and vexatious, and consumes too much of their time. Their chamber practice is profitable to them, and beneficial to the community, as it prevents much tedious litigation.
Many lawyers with fair prospects and comfortable incomes, who are succeeding in their profession in other places, come to New York, expecting to rise to fame and fortune more rapidly here. They are mistaken. The most accomplished city barrister finds success a slow and uncertain thing. It requires some unusually fortunate circumstance to introduce a new lawyer favorably to a New York public.
The profession in this city can boast some of the most eminent names in the legal world, such men as Charles O'Connor, William M. Evarts, and others of a similar reputation.
The Medical Profession is also well represented. It is said that there are about as many physicians and surgeons as lawyers practising in the city. New York offers a fine field for a man of genuine skill. Its hospitals and medical establishments are the best conducted of any in the country, and afford ample opportunity for study and observation. The opportunity for studying human nature is all that one can desire. The most eminent medical men in the country either reside here or are constantly visiting the city.
Some of the city practitioners are very fortunate in a pecuniary sense. It is said that some of them receive very large sums every year. Dr. Willard Parker was once called out of town to see a patient, to whom he sent a bill of $300. The amount was objected to, and Dr. Parker proved by his books that his daily receipts were over that sum. He is said to be an exception to the general rule, however, which rule is that but very few of the best paid medical men receive over $20,000 per annum. Surgeons are paid much better than physicians. Dr. Carnochan is said to have received as much as $2000 for a single operation. As a rule, however, the city physicians do little more than pay expenses, especially if they have families. From $5000 to $10,000 is a good income, and a man of family has but little chance of saving out of this if he lives in any degree of comfort.
Literary men and women are even more numerous in the metropolis than lawyers or doctors. They are of all classes, from the great author of world-wide fame to the veriest scribbler. The supply is very largely in advance of the demand, and as a consequence, all have to exert themselves to get along. A writer in the World estimates the annual receipts of New York authors at about one million of dollars, and the number of writers at 2000, which would give an average income to each of about $500. As a matter of course, it is impossible to make any reliable estimate, and there can be little doubt that the writer referred to has been too generous in his average. Authorship in New York offers few inducements of a pecuniary nature. Men of undoubted genius often narrowly escape starvation, and to make a bare living by the pen requires, in the majority of instances, an amount of mental and manual labor and application which in any mercantile pursuit would ensure a fortune.
XLIII. PROFESSIONAL CRIMINALS.
I. THE THIEVES.
The criminal class of New York is very large, but it is not so large as is commonly supposed. In the spring of 1871, the Rev. Dr. Bellows stated that the City of New York contained 30,000 professional thieves, 20,000 lewd women and harlots, 3000 rum shops, and 2000 gambling houses, and this statement was accepted without question by a large portion of the newspapers of other parts of the country. New York is a very wicked place, but it is not as bad as the above statement would indicate. The personal character of the gentleman who made it compels the conviction that he believed in the truth of his figures; but a closer examination of the case makes it plain that he was singularly deceived by the sources from which he derived his information.
It is very hard to obtain accurate information as to the criminal statistics of this city. The reports and estimates of the Police Commissioners are notoriously incomplete and unreliable. They show a large number of arrests, but they deal mainly with the class known as "casuals," persons who merely dabble in crime, and who do not make it a profession, and the larger proportion of the arrests reported are for such trifling offences as drunkenness. Indeed many of the arrests reported ought not to be counted in the records of crime at all, as the persons apprehended are released upon the instant by the officer in charge of the station, the arrests being the result of the ignorant zeal or malice of the patrolmen, and the prisoners being guiltless of any offence.
The population of New York is unlike that of any other American city. It is made up of every nationality known to man. The majority of the people are very poor. Life with them is one long unbroken struggle, and to exist at all is simply to be wretched. They are packed together at a fearful rate in dirt and wretchedness, and they have every incentive to commit crimes which will bring them the means of supplying their wants. It is a common habit of some European governments to ship their criminals to this port, where they have a new field opened to them. The political system of the city teaches the lower class to disregard all rights, either of property or person, and, indeed, clothes some of the most infamous criminals with an amount of influence which is more than dangerous in their hands, and shields them from punishment when detected in the commission of crime. All these things considered, the wonder is not that the criminal class of the city is as large as it is; but that it is not larger and more dangerous.
The truth is, that the class generally known as Professional Criminals number about 3000. Besides these, there are about 5000 women of ill-fame, known as such, living in 600 houses of prostitution, and frequenting assignation and bed-houses, about 7000 rum shops, 92 faro banks, and about 500 other gambling houses, and lottery and policy offices, within the limits of the City of New York.
The professional criminals are those who live by thieving, and who occasionally vary their career by the commission of a murder or some other desperate crime. They rarely resort to violence, however, unless it becomes necessary to ensure their own safety. Then they make their work as simple and as brief as possible. They form a distinct community, frequent certain parts of the city, where they can easily and rapidly communicate with each other, and where they can also hide from the police without fear of detection. They have signs by which they may recognize each other, and a language, or argot, peculiar to themselves. Those who have been raised to the business use this argot to such an extent that to one not accustomed to it they speak in an unknown tongue. The following specimens, taken from the "Detective's Manual," under the head of the letter B, will illustrate this:
Bag of nails.—All in confusion.
Bandog.—A civil officer.
Bill of sale.—A widow's weeds.
Bingo boy.—A drunken man.
Bingo mort.—A drunken woman.
Blue-billy.—A strange handkerchief.
Blue ruin.—Bad gin.
Bone box.—The mouth.
Bowsprit in parenthesis.—A pulled nose.
Brother of the blade.—A soldier.
Brother of the bolus.—A doctor.
Brush.—To flatter, to humbug.
Bull-traps.—Rogues who personate officials to extort money.
As a rule, the professional thief of every grade is a very respectable looking individual outwardly. He dresses well, but flashily, and is generally plentifully supplied with money. In a "crib," or rendezvous, which he once visited in company with a detective, the writer could not select a single individual whose outward appearance indicated his calling. The New York thief generally has money, which he squanders with great recklessness. It comes to him easily, and it goes in the same way. There are many instances on record which go to show that the "members of the profession" are frequently most generous to each other in money matters. The thief is usually a man of steady habits. He rarely drinks to excess, for that would unfit him for his work, and he is not usually given to licentiousness, for a similar reason. If he be found living with a woman, she is generally a thief also, and plies her trade with equal activity.
[Picture: THE OCCASIONAL FATE OF NEW YORK THIEVES.]
Altogether, there are about three thousand thieves of various kinds, known to the officers of justice in New York, who live by the practice of their trade. They are divided into various classes, each known by a distinctive title, and to each of which its respective members cling tenaciously. These are known as Burglars, Bank Sneaks, Damper Sneaks, Safe-blowers, Safe-bursters, Safe-breakers, and Sneak Thieves. The last constitute the most numerous class.
The Burglar is the aristocrat of crime, and you cannot offend him more than by calling him a thief. He scorns the small game of the sneak thief, and conducts his operations on a large scale, in which the risk is very great, and the plunder in proportion. His peculiar "racket" is to break open some first-class business house, a bonded warehouse, or the vaults of a bank. The burglar class has three divisions, known to the police as Safe-blowers, Safe-bursters, and Safe-breakers. They are said to be less than 250 in number, those of the first and second class comprising about seventy-five members each. The safe-blowers are accounted the most skilful. They rarely force an entrance into a building, but admit themselves by means of false keys made from wax impressions of the genuine keys. Once inside, their mode of operation is rapid and systematic. They lower the windows from the top about an inch. This is usually sufficient to prevent the breaking of the glass by the concussion of the air in the room, and not enough to attract attention from without. The safe is then wrapped in wet blankets, to smother the noise of the explosion. Holes are then drilled in the door of the safe near the lock, these are filled with powder, which is fired by a fuse, and the safe is blown open. The securing of the contents requires but a few minutes, and the false keys enable the thieves to escape with ease. This method of robbery is very dangerous, as, in spite of the precautions taken, the explosion may produce sufficient noise to bring the watchman or the police to the spot. Experienced burglars only engage in it, and these never undertake it without being sure that the plunder to be secured will fully repay them for the danger to be encountered. This knowledge they acquire in various ways.
The Safe-bursters are the silent workers of the "profession." Like the class just mentioned, they enter buildings by means of false keys. They adopt a thoroughly systematic course, which requires the combined efforts of several persons, and consequently they operate in parties of three and four. They first make the safe so fast to the floor, by means of clamps, that it will resist any degree of pressure. Then they drill holes in the door, and into these fit jack-screws worked by means of levers. The tremendous force thus exerted soon cuts the safe literally to pieces, and its contents are at the mercy of the thieves. The whole process is noiseless and rapid, and so complete has been the destruction of some safes that even the most experienced detectives have been astounded at the sight of the wreck. Such an operation is never undertaken without a knowledge on the part of the thieves of the contents of the safe, and the chances of conducting the enterprise in safety. The Safe-blowers and bursters do nothing by chance, and their plans are so well arranged beforehand that they rarely fail.
The Safe-breakers, though really a part of the burglar class, are looked upon with contempt and disowned by their more scientific associates in crime. They do nothing by calculation, and trust everything to chance. They enter buildings by force, and trust to the same method to get into the safes. Their favorite instrument is a "jimmy," or short iron bar with a sharp end. With this they pry open the safe, and then knock it to pieces with a hammer. In order to deaden the sound of the blows, the hammer is wrapped with cloth. They are not as successful as the others in their operations, and are most frequently arrested. Indeed the arrests for burglary reported by the Police Commissioners occur almost exclusively in this class. A really first-class burglar in a prison cell would be a curiosity in New York.
Closely allied with the Safe-blowers and bursters is a class known as Bed-chamber Sneaks. These men are employed by the burglars to enter dwellings and obtain impressions in wax of keys of the places to be robbed. They adopt an infinite number of ways of effecting such an entrance, often operating through the servant girls. They never disturb or carry off anything, but confine their efforts to obtaining impressions in wax of the keys of the store or office to be robbed. The keys of business houses are mainly kept by the porters, into whose humble dwellings it is easy to enter. When they wish to obtain the keys of a dwelling, they come as visitors to the servant girls, and while they stand chatting with them manage to slip the key from the lock, take its impression in wax, and return it to the lock, unobserved by the girl. They are generally on the watch for chances for robberies, and report them promptly to their burglar confederates.
The Bank Sneak is better known as the Bond Robber. He is of necessity a man of intelligence and of great fertility of resource. He steals United States Bonds almost entirely, and prefers coupons to registered, as the former can always be disposed of without detection. He manages, by means best known to himself, to gain information of the places in which these bonds are kept by the banks, of the times at which it is easiest to gain access to them, and the hours at which the theft is most likely to be successful. All this requires an immense amount of patient study and of personal observation of the premises, which must be conducted in such a way as not to attract attention or excite suspicion. When everything is ready for the commission of the deed, the thief proceeds to the place where the bonds are kept, seizes them and makes off. If a package of bank notes is at hand, he adds that to his other plunder. Usually his operations are so well planned and conducted that he is not observed by the bank officers, and he escapes with his plunder. Once at large, he proceeds to sell the bonds, if they are coupons, or to use the bank notes, if he has secured any. Registered bonds require more care in their disposition. Generally the bank offers a reward for the arrest of the robber and the recovery of the goods, and calls in a detective to work up the case. The thief at once manages to communicate with the detective, and offers to compromise with the bank, that is, to restore a part of the plunder upon condition that he is allowed the rest and escape punishment. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred his offer is accepted, the bank preferring the recovery of a part of its loss to the punishment of the thief. In this way the thief secures a large part of the amount stolen, sometimes one-half. Should the thief be caught with his plunder upon him, and the bank be thus saved from loss, which is rare, the offender is turned over to the police, and the bank joins heartily in the effort to send him to the penitentiary.
The Damper Sneak confines his attentions to the safes of the business men of the city. Wall street has suffered heavily from this class. The thief enters a broker's office, in which the safe is generally left open during business hours, and asks permission to look at the directory, or to write a note. If this permission be accorded him, he manages to get inside the railing, in close proximity to the safe, if its doors are open. A confederate (or sometimes more) now enters and attracts the attention of the broker or the clerk, by making fictitious arrangements for the purchase of gold or some security. The thief who first entered watches his opportunity, and then, with the greatest rapidity, darts to the safe, abstracts whatever he can lay his bands on, and passes out, always thanking the broker for his courtesy. The confederates leave soon after, and then the robbery is discovered. The Damper Sneak has to steal at random, taking the first thing within his reach, but he often secures a rich prize. He takes his peculiar name from the safe, which, in the thief language, is called a "Damper." One of the boldest of these robberies occurred a year or more ago, in Wall street. A broker employing a number of clerks, and doing a heavy business, was standing one day in front of his safe, during business hours, talking to a gentleman. A man, without a hat, with a pen behind his ear, and a piece of paper in his hand, entered the office, passed around the counter to where the broker stood, and said to him quietly, "Will you please to move, sir, so that I can get at the safe?" Being very much interested in his conversation, the broker scarcely noticed the man, supposing from his general appearance and manner that he was one of the clerks, and accordingly stepped aside without giving him a second glance. The man went up to the safe, took out a package of United States Bonds, and coolly walked out of the office. The bonds amounted to one hundred thousand dollars. The loss was discovered in the afternoon but no trace of the thief or of his plunder was ever found. Strange as it may seem, the city is constantly suffering from similar robberies, and the rogues almost invariably escape.
The Sneak Thieves are the last and lowest on the list. As has been stated, they constitute the bulk of the light-fingered fraternity. These confine their attentions principally to private dwellings, are adroit and successful, but incur constant danger of detection and punishment. A sneak thief will pass along the street with that rapid, rolling glance of the eyes which distinguishes the tribe; now he checks himself in his career; it is but for an instant; no unprofessional eye directed towards him would notice it; but the sudden pause would speak volumes to an experienced police officer. He knows that the thief's eye has caught the sight of silver lying exposed in the basement. In an hour after he hears that the basement has been entered, and the silver in it carried off. He knows who has taken it, as well as if he had seen the man take it with his own eyes; but if the thief has had time to run to the nearest receiver's den, the silver is already in the melting-pot, beyond the reach of identification.
Sometimes the sneak thieves work in pairs. Upon discovering the basement door of a residence ajar, one of them takes position at it, while the other ascends the front steps and rings the bell. As soon as the servant has gone up from the basement to answer the bell, the thief at the lower door slips in, and gathers up the silver or such other articles as he can lay his hands upon. Again, selecting the dinner hour, which is usually between six and seven o'clock, and operating in the winter season when the streets are dark at that hour, one of the thieves will remain on the side-walk, on the lookout for the police, while the other climbs up a pillar of the stoop and reaches the level of the second story window. The window fastenings offer but a feeble resistance, and he is soon in the room. The family being all at dinner in the lower part of the house, the entire mansion is open to him. Securing his plunder, he leaves the house as he entered it, and makes off with his confederate. Some of the wealthiest mansions in the city have been robbed in this way, and heavy losses in jewelry, furs, and clothing have been entailed upon householders in all localities. Sometimes the thief has a confederate in the servant girl, but professionals do not often trust this class, who are always ready to betray them at the slightest indication of danger.
II. THE PICK-POCKETS.
The activity of the pick-pockets of New York is very great, and they oftentimes make large "hauls" in the practice of their trade. It is said that there are about 300 of them in the city, though the detectives state their belief that the number is really larger and increasing. Scarcely a day passes without the police authorities receiving numerous complaints from respectable persons of losses by pick-pockets.
On all the street cars, you will see the sign, "Beware of Pick-pockets!" posted conspicuously, for the purpose of warning passengers. These wretches work in gangs of two, or three or four. They make their way into crowded cars, and rarely leave them without bringing away something of value. An officer will recognize them at once. He sees a well-known pickpocket obstructing the car entrance; another pickpocket is abusing him in the sharpest terms for doing so, while, at the same time, he is eagerly assisting a respectable gentleman, or a well-dressed lady, to pass the obstruction. One or two other pick-pockets stand near. All this is as intelligible to a police officer as the letters on a street sign. He knows that the man, who is assisting the gentleman or lady, is picking his or her pocket; he knows that the man who obstructs the entrance is his confederate; he knows that the others, who are hanging about, will receive the contents of the pocket-book as soon as their principal has abstracted the same. He cannot arrest them, however, unless he, or some one else, sees the act committed; but they will not remain long after they see him—they will take the alarm, as they know his eye is on them, and leave the car as soon as possible.
A lady, riding in an omnibus, discovers that she has lost her purse, which she knows was in her possession when she entered the stage. A well-dressed gentleman sits by her, whose arms are quietly crossed before him, and his fingers, encased in spotless kid gloves, are entwined in his lap, in plain sight of all the passengers, who are sure that he has not moved them since he entered the stage. Several persons have entered and left the vehicle, and the lady, naturally supposing one of them to be the thief, gets out to consult a policeman as to her best course. The officer could tell her, after a glance at the faultless gentleman who was her neighbor, that the arms so conspicuously crossed in his lap, are false, his real arms all the time being free to operate under the folds of his talma. The officer would rightly point him out as the thief.
The ferry-boats which go and come crowded with passengers, the theatres, and even the churches, are all frequented by pickpockets, who reap rich harvests from them. Persons wearing prominent shirt pins or other articles of jewelry frequently lose them in this way, and these wretches will often boldly take a purse out of a lady's hand or a bracelet from her arm, and make off. If the robbery be done in the midst of a crowd, the chance of escape is all the better.
The street car conductors complain that they can do nothing to check the depredations of the pick-pockets. If they are put off the cars, they exert themselves to have the conductors discharged, and are generally possessed of influence enough to accomplish their ends. Strange as this may seem, it is true, for the pick-pocket is generally employed by the city politicians to manage the rougher class at the elections. In return for the influence which they thus exert the pick-pockets receive payment in money, and are shielded from punishment if unlucky enough to be arrested. Both parties are responsible for this infamous course, the party in power usually making the greatest use of these scoundrels. This is the cause of the confidence with which thieves of this kind carry on their trade. Those who desire the city's welfare will find food for reflection in this fact.
Many of the pick-pockets are women, whose lightness and delicacy of touch make them dangerous operators. Others are boys. These are usually termed "kids," and are very dangerous, as people are not inclined to suspect them. They work in gangs of three or four, and, pushing against their victim, seize what they can, and make off. Sometimes one of this gang is arrested, but as he has transferred the plunder to his confederates, who have escaped, there is no evidence against him.
III. THE FEMALE THIEVES.
In the collection of photographs at the Police Headquarters, to which the authorities have given the name of "The Rogues' Gallery," there are but seventy-three portraits of females. The best informed detectives, however, estimate the actual number of professional female thieves in the city at about 350.
Women do not often succeed in effecting large robberies, but the total of their stealings makes up a large sum each year. They are not as liable to suspicion as men, and most persons hesitate before accusing a woman of theft. Yet, if successful, the woman's chances of escaping arrest and punishment are better than those of a man. Her sex compels her to lead a quieter and more retired life, and she does not as a rule frequent places in which she is brought under a detective's observation.
Some of the female thieves are the children of thief parents, and are trained to their lives, others come to such a mode of existence by degrees. All, as a rule, are loose women, and were so before they became professional thieves. A few of them are well educated, and some of these state that they adopted thieving only when all other means failed them, and that they hoped it would keep them from sacrificing their virtue. This hope proved vain, and imperceptibly they glided into the latter sin. Some of these women live in handsomely furnished private rooms in such localities as Bleecker street. Others herd together in the lower quarters of the city. The female thief, even the most abandoned, generally has a husband, who is himself a thief or something worse. She takes great pride in being a married woman, and whenever she gets into trouble invariably seeks to establish a good character by producing her marriage certificate. Even the lowest panel thieves will do this.
The Female Thieves are divided into Pick-pockets, Shoplifters, and Panel Thieves.
"A short while ago a private detective happened to drop into a large dry-goods store in Grand street, and observed a handsome-looking girl, about eighteen years old, dressed with the best taste, pricing laces at a counter. An indefinable expression about her eyes was suspicious, and as she left the store without purchasing, the spectator followed her to the corner of Essex Market, where, walking beside her, he noticed something of a square form under her cloak. At once suspecting it to be a stolen card of lace, he jostled against her, and, as he suspected, the card of lace fell from under her arm to the sidewalk. She colored, and was walking away without picking it up when the detective stopped her, said he knew the lace was stolen, and that she must return to the shop. She begged of him not to arrest her but restore the lace, which he did. After thanking him for not taking her into custody, she invited him to call on her and learn the story of her life. She has two rooms in a very respectable locality, furnished in the best manner, several of Prang's chromos are hung on the walls, and a piano, on which she plays well, is in her sitting-room. She is very well educated, and was driven into her way of life by being left without friends or help, and one day stole a shawl without being discovered. Emboldened by the success of her first theft, she chose shop-lifting as her way of life, has followed it ever since, and was never in prison. Some few call her Sarah Wright; but those who know her best style her 'Anonyma,' as she dislikes the former title."
IV. THE RIVER THIEVES.
The Harbor Thieves constitute one of the most dangerous and active portions of the criminal class. There are only about fifty professional thieves of this class, but they give the police a vast amount of trouble, and inflict great loss in the aggregate upon the mercantile community. Twenty years ago the harbor was infested with a gang of pirates, who not only committed the most daring robberies, but also added nightly murders to their misdeeds. Their victims were thrown into the deep waters of the river or bay, and all trace of the foul work was removed. At length, however, the leaders of the gang, Saul and Howlett by name, mere lads both, were arrested, convicted, and executed, and for a while a stop was put to the robberies in the harbor; but in course of time the infamous trade was resumed, but without its old accompaniment of murder. It is at present carried on with great activity in spite of the efforts of the police to put a stop to it. The North River front of the city is troubled with but one gang of these ruffian's, which has its headquarters at the foot of Charlton street. This front is lined with piers which are well built, well lighted, and well guarded, being occupied chiefly by steamboats plying on the river, and by the foreign and coasting steamships. The East River is not so well guarded, the piers are dark, and the vessels, mostly sailing ships, are left to the protection of their crews. It is in this river, therefore, and in the harbor, that the principal depredations of the river thieves are carried on. "Slaughter House Point," the intersection of James and South streets, and so called by the police because of the many murders which have occurred there, is the principal rendezvous of the East River thieves. Hook Dock, at the foot of Cherry street, is also one of their favorite gathering places.
The life of a river thief is a very hard one, and his gains, as a rule, are small. He is subjected to a great deal of manual labor in the effort to secure his plunder, and is exposed to all sorts of weather. Night work in an open boat in New York harbor is not favorable to longevity, and in eight or ten years the most robust constitution will give way before the constant attacks of rheumatism and neuralgia. There would be some compensation to society in this but for the fact that the police, whose duty it is to watch the river thieves, suffer in a similar way.
The river thieves generally work in gangs of three and four. Each gang has its rowboat, which is constructed with reference to carrying off as much plunder as possible, and making the best attainable time when chased by the harbor police. The thieves will not go out on a moonlight or even a bright starlight night. Nights when the darkness is so thick that it hides everything, or when the harbor is covered with a dense fog, are most favorable to them. Then, emerging from their starting point, they pull to the middle of the stream, where they lie-to long enough to ascertain if they are observed or followed. Then they pull swiftly to the point where the vessel they mean to rob is lying. Their oars are muffled, and their boat glides along noiselessly through the darkness. Frequently they pause for a moment, and listen to catch the sound of the oars of the police-boats, if any are on their track. Upon reaching the vessel, they generally manage to board her by means of her chains, or some rope which is hanging down her side. The crew are asleep, and the watch is similarly overcome. The thieves are cautions and silent in their movements, and succeed in securing their spoil without awakening any one. They will steal anything they can get their hands on, but deal principally in articles which cannot be identified, such as sugar, coffee, tea, rice, cotton, etc. They go provided with their own bags, and fill these from the original bags, barrels, or cases in which these articles are found on the ship. They are very careful to take away with them nothing which has a distinctive mark by which it may be identified. Having filled their boat, they slip over the side of the ship into it, and pull back to a point on shore designated beforehand, and, landing, convey their plunder to the shop of a junkman with whom they have already arranged matters, where they dispose of it for ready money. They do not confine their operations to vessels lying at the East River piers of New York, but rob those discharging cargo at the Brooklyn stores, or lying at anchor in the East or North rivers, even going as far as to assail those lying at quarantine.
[Picture: THE RIVER THIEVES.]
In order to check their operations as far as possible, a force of about thirty policemen, under Captain James Todd, is assigned to duty in the harbor. The headquarters of this force are on a steamer, which boat was expected to accomplish wonders, but which is too large and clumsy to be of any real service. In consequence of this, Captain Todd is obliged to patrol the harbor with row-boats, of which there are several. These boats visit all the piers on the two rivers, and search for thieves or their boats. Sometimes the thieves are encountered just as they are approaching a pier with their boat filled with stolen property, and again the chase will be kept up clear across the harbor. If they once get sight of them, the police rarely fail to overhaul the thieves. Generally the latter submit without a struggle, but sometimes a fight ensues.
The thieves, however, prefer to submit where they have such goods as rice, sugar, coffee, or tea in their possession. They know that it will be impossible to convict them, and they prefer a slight detention to the consequences of a struggle with their captors. The merchant or master of the ship, from whom the goods are stolen, may feel sure in his own mind that the articles found in the possession of the thieves are his property, but he cannot swear that they are his, it being simply impossible to identify such goods. And so the magistrate, though satisfied of the theft, must discharge the prisoner and return him the stolen goods. The only charge against him is that he was found under suspicious circumstances with these articles in his possession. From three to four river thieves are arrested every week, but, for the reason given, few are punished. Sometimes, in order to secure their conviction, the police turn over the thieves to the United States authorities, by whom they are charged with smuggling, this charge being based upon their being found in possession of goods on which they can show no payment of duties. Sometimes they are prosecuted, not for larceny, but for violating the quarantine laws in boarding vessels detained at quarantine.
Several times the most daring of the river thieves have robbed the piers of the European steamship lines. In one instance, they passed under the pier of the Cunard steamers at Jersey City, cut out a portion of the flooring, and removed several valuable packages through the opening thus made. They then replaced the flooring, and secured it in its place by means of lifting-jacks, and decamped with their plunder. The next night they returned and removed other packages, and for several nights the performance was repeated. The company's agent, upon the discovery of the loss, exerted himself actively to discover the thieves, but without success. The watchmen on shore were positive that the warehouse, which is built on the pier, had not been entered from the land, and there were no signs to be discovered of its having been forced from the water side. Matters began to look bad for the watchmen, when, one night, the harbor police unexpectedly made a dash under the pier and caught the thieves at their work.
The North River gang are said to own a fine schooner, in which they cruise along the Hudson almost to Albany, and carry on a system of piracy at the river towns. Farmers and country merchants suffer greatly from their depredations. A year or so ago, it was rumored that they were commanded by a beautiful and dashing woman, but this story is now believed to be a mere fiction.
"Another gang is called the 'Daybreak Boys,' from the fact that none of them are a dozen years of age, and that they always select the hour of dawn for their depredations, which are exclusively confined to the small craft moored in the East River just below Hell Gate. They find the men on these vessels locked in the deep sleep of exhaustion, the result of their severe labors of the day; and as there are no watchmen, they meet little difficulty in rifling not only the vessels, but the persons of those on board. If there is any such thing as a watch or money, it is sure to disappear; and it has often happened that one of these vessels has been robbed of every portable article on board, including every article of clothing."
V. THE FENCES.
In the thief language, a person who buys stolen goods is called a "Fence." Without his fence, the thief could do nothing, for he could not dispose of his plunder without a serious risk of detection. The Fence, however, is not known as a thief, and can buy and sell with a freedom which renders it easy for him to dispose of all stolen property which comes into his hands. A noted thief once declared that a man in his business was powerless to accomplish anything unless he knew the names and characters of all the Fences in the city.
The professional Fences of New York are as well known to the police as they are to the thieves. Their stores are located in Chatham street, in the Bowery, and other public thoroughfares, and even Broadway itself has one or more of these establishments within its limits. Some of the Fences are dirty, wretched-looking creatures; but one at least—the Broadway dealer—is a fine-looking, well-dressed man, with the manners and bearing of a gentleman. All are alike in one respect, however. They all buy and sell that which has been stolen. They drive hard bargains with the thieves who offer them goods, paying them but a small portion of the actual value of the prize. If the article is advertised, and a reward sufficiently in excess of what he paid for it is offered, the Fence frequently returns it to its rightful owner, upon condition that no questions shall be asked, and claims the reward. Vigorous efforts have been made by the police authorities to bring the Fences to justice, but without success. The necessary legal evidence can rarely be obtained, and though numerous arrests have been made, scarcely a conviction has followed.
[Picture: A FENCE STORE IN CHATHAM STREET.]
The Fences are well skilled in the art of baffling justice. The study of the means of rapidly and effectually removing the marks by which the property in their hands can be identified, is the main business of their lives, and they acquire a degree of skill and dexterity in altering or effacing these marks which is truly surprising. A melting-pot is always over the fire, to which all silverware is consigned the instant it is received. The marks on linen, towels, and handkerchiefs are removed, sometimes by chemicals, sometimes by fine scissors made expressly for the purpose. Jewelry is at once removed from its settings, and the gold is either melted or the engraving is burnished out, so as in either case to make identification impossible. Rich velvet and silk garments are transmogrified by the removal and re-arrangement of the buttons and trimmings. Pointed edges are rounded, and rounded edges are pointed, entirely changing the whole aspect of the garment, with such celerity that the lady who had worn the dress in the morning would not have the slightest suspicion that it was the same in the evening. Cotton, wool, rags, and old ropes require no manipulation. When once thrown upon the heap, they defy the closest scrutiny of the owners. There is scarcely an article which can be the subject of theft, which the resources of these men do not enable them, in a very short time, to disguise beyond the power of recognition. Their premises are skilfully arranged for concealment. They are abundantly provided with secret doors and sliding panels, communicating with dark recesses. Apertures are cut in the partitions, so that a person coming in from the front can be distinctly seen before he enters the apartment. The Fence is as well skilled as any lawyer in the nature of evidence. He knows the difference between probability and proof as well as Sir William Hamilton himself. He does not trouble himself about any amount of probabilities that the detectives may accumulate against him; but the said detectives must be remarkably expert if they are ever able to get anything against him which will amount to strictly legal proof.
The Fences not only deal with thieves, but carry on a large business with clerks, salesmen, and porters, who steal goods from their employers, and bring them to the Fences for sale.
[Picture: THE ROUGH'S PARADISE.]
VI. THE ROUGHS.
Another class of those who live in open defiance of the law consists of the "Roughs." The New York Rough is simply a ruffian. He is usually of foreign parentage, though born in America, and in personal appearance is as near like a huge English bull-dog as it is possible for a human being to resemble a brute. Of the two, the dog is the nobler animal. The Rough is not usually a professional thief, though he will steal if he has a chance, and often does steal in order to procure the means of raising money. He is familiar with crime of all kinds, for he was born in the slums and has never known anything better. In some cases he can read, in others he cannot. Those who can read never make use of their talent for any purpose of improvement. Their staple literature consists of the flash papers and obscene books. They are thoroughly versed in the history of crime, and nothing pleases them so much as a sensational account of an execution, a prize fight, or a murder. They are the patrons and supporters of dog and rat pits, and every brutal sport. Their boon companions are the keepers of the low-class bar rooms and dance houses, prize fighters, thieves, and fallen women. There is scarcely a Rough in the city but has a mistress among the lost sisterhood. The redeeming feature of the lives of some of these women is the devotion with which they cling to their "man." The Rough, on his part, beats and robs the woman, but protects her from violence or wrong at the hands of others. A large majority of these scoundrels have no other means of support than the infamous earnings of their mistresses.
Unlike the brute, the Rough is insensible to kindness. Civility is thrown away upon him. Usually he resents it. His delight is to fall upon some unoffending and helpless person, and beat him to a jelly. Sometimes—indeed commonly—he adds robbery to these assaults. Often gangs of Roughs will enter the pleasure grounds in the upper part of the city, in which a pic-nic or social gathering is going on, for the sole purpose of breaking up the meeting. They fall upon the unoffending pleasure-seekers, beat the men unmercifully, maltreat, insult, and sometimes outrage the women, rob all parties who have valuables to be taken, and then make their escape. Pleasure parties of this kind are usually unprovided with the means of resistance, while their assailants are well armed. It sometimes happens, however, that the pleasure seekers are more than a match for the Roughs, who, in such cases, are driven out after very severe handling.
The Rough does not hesitate to commit murder, or to outrage a woman. He is capable of any crime. He is a sort of human hyena who lives only to prey upon the better portions of the community. Sometimes he degenerates into a burglar or common thief, sometimes he becomes the proprietor of a panel house or a policy office. Crime-stained and worthy of punishment as he is, he walks the streets with a sense of security equal to that of the most innocent man.
This feeling of security is caused by the conviction on his part that he will not be punished for his misdeeds. The reason is simple: He is a voter, and he has influence with others of his class. He is necessary to the performance of the dirty work of the city politicians, and as soon as he gets into trouble, the politicians exert themselves to secure his discharge. They are usually successful, and consequently but few Roughs are ever punished in New York, no matter how revolting their crime. This is not all, however. There are well authenticated instances in which men of this class have been carried by their fellows, oftentimes by ballot-box stuffing and fraudulent voting, into high and responsible offices under the city. The recent state of affairs under the Ring illustrates the results of this system.
In the year 1871, 179 persons were "found drowned" in the waters of the city. Of these, many are supposed, with good reason, to have been the victims of foul play at the hands of the Roughs. In the same year, 42 persons were murdered in New York, and one man was hanged by the officers of the law.
XLIV. THE PAWNBROKERS.
The sign of the Lombards is very common in the great city. In the Bowery, East Broadway, Chatham, Catharine, Division, Oliver, Canal, and Grand streets, the three gilt balls are thickest, but they may also be seen in every portion of the city in which there is poverty and suffering. The law recognizes the fact that in all large communities these dealers are a necessary evil, and, while tolerating them as such, endeavors to interpose a safeguard in behalf of the community, by requiring that none but persons of good character and integrity shall exercise the calling. They must have been dreamers who framed this law, or they must have known but little of the class who carry on this business. The truth is, that there is not a pawnbroker of "good character and integrity" in the city. In New York the Mayor alone has the power of licensing them, and revoking their licence, and none but those so licensed can conduct their business in the city. "But," says the Report of the New York Prison Association, "Mayors of all cliques and parties have exercised this power with, apparently, little sense of the responsibility which rests upon them. They have not, ordinarily at least, required clear proof of the integrity of the applicants; but have usually licensed every applicant possessed of political influence. There is scarcely an instance where they have revoked a licence thus granted, even when they have been furnished with proofs of the dishonesty of the holders."
The pawnbrokers are, with scarcely an exception, the most rascally set to be found in the city. They are not generally receivers of goods which they know to be stolen, for there is too much risk to them in carrying on such a business. Their shops are overhauled almost every week by the detectives in searching for stolen property, and the pawnbrokers, as a class, prefer to turn over this business entirely to the Fences. Some of the most reckless, however, will receive pledges which they know to have been stolen, and the police occasionally find stolen goods on their hands. Upon one occasion, a whole basket of watches was found in one of these establishments. Another was found in possession of a diamond which was identified by its owner. It had been stolen by a servant girl. It was worth over seven hundred dollars, and had been pawned for two dollars and a half.
The pawnbrokers, though not receivers of stolen goods, are not a whit better. They are the meanest of thieves and swindlers. Section eight of the statute, under which they hold their licences, requires that, "No pawnbroker shall ask, demand, or receive any greater rate of interest than twenty-five per cent. per annum upon any loan not exceeding the sum of twenty-five dollars, or than seven per cent. per annum upon any loan exceeding the sum of twenty-five dollars, under the penalty of one hundred dollars for every such offence." This law is invariably violated by the pawnbroker, who trades upon the ignorance of his customers. The rate habitually charged for loaning money is three per cent. a month, or any fractional part of a month, or thirty-six per cent. a year, regardless of the amount. Many laboring men and women pawn the same articles regularly on the first of the week, and redeem them on Saturday when their wages are paid them.
"The following is a schedule of charges made on articles irrespective of interest: On diamonds, watches, jewelry, silverware, opera-glasses, articles of vertu, ten per cent. on the amount loaned, over and above the interest, for what is called putting them away in the safes. On coats, vests, pants, dresses, cloaks, skirts, basques, from twenty cents to one dollar is charged for hanging up. On laces, silks, velvets, shawls, etc., from twenty-five cents to one dollar for putting away in bureau, wardrobe or drawer. For wrappers from fifteen to fifty cents is charged. Persons offering goods done up in papers are compelled to hire a wrapper, or the pawnbroker refuses to advance. The wrapper is simply a dirty piece of old muslin. The hire of one of these wrappers has been known to have amounted to over five dollars in one year. Upon trunks, valises, beds, pillows, carpets, tool-chests, musical instruments, sewing machines, clocks, pictures, etc., etc., in proportion to their bulk, from one dollar to five dollars is charged for storage. A still greater profit to the pawnbrokers is the penny fraud. They buy pennies, getting from 104 to 108 for one dollar. These they pay out, and on every $100 thus paid out an average gain of six dollars is made. This amounts to something with the prominent ones, who often pay out many hundred dollars in a day. Another source of profit is the surplus over the amount loaned which the pawnbroker receives from the sales of unredeemed pledges. This surplus, although belonging to the depositor, according to law, is never paid. In fact, not one in a thousand who have dealings with pawnbrokers is aware of his rights."
As a rule, these wretches grow rich very fast. They are principally Jews of the lowest class. They allow their wives and children to wear the jewelry, ornaments, and finer clothing placed in their keeping, and in this way save much of the ordinary expense of the head of a family. In the case of clothing, the articles are frequently worn out by their families. They are either returned in this condition when demanded, or the owner is told that they cannot be found. Payment for them is always refused. As has been stated, they refuse to pay to the owner the amount received in excess of the loan for an article which has been sold. This, added to their excessive rate of interest, is said to make their gains amount to nearly five hundred per cent. on the capital invested in their business—"the Jews' five per cent."
The principal customers are the poor. Persons of former respectability or wealth, widows and orphans, are always sure to carry with them into their poverty some of the trinkets that were theirs in the heyday of prosperity. These articles go one by one to buy bread. The pawnbroker advances not more than a twentieth part of their value, and haggles over that. He knows full well that the pledges will never be redeemed, that these unhappy creatures must grow less able every day to recover them. Jewelry, clothing, ornaments of all kinds, and even the wedding ring of the wife and mother, come to him one by one, never to be regained by their owners. He takes them at a mere pittance, and sells them at a profit of several hundred per cent.
You may see the poor pass into the doors of these shops every day. The saddest faces we ever saw were those of women coming away from them. Want leaves its victims no choice, but drives them mercilessly into the clutches of the pawnbroker.
The majority of the articles pawned are forced there by want, undoubtedly, but very many of them go to buy drink. Women are driven by brutal husbands to this course, and there are wretches who will absolutely steal the clothing from their shivering wives and little ones, and with them procure the means of buying gin.
Of late years another class of pawnbrokers, calling themselves "Diamond Brokers," has appeared in the city. They make advances on the jewels of persons—mostly women—in need of money. The extravagance of fashionable life brings them many customers. They drive as hard bargains as the others of their class, and their transactions being larger, they grow rich quicker. They are very discreet, and all dealings with them are carried on in the strictest secrecy, but, were they disposed, they could tell many a strange tale by which the peace of some "highly respectable families" in the Avenue would be rudely disturbed.
XLV. THE BEER-GARDENS.
In some respects, New York is as much German as American. A large part of it is a genuine reproduction of the Fatherland as regards the manners, customs, people, and language spoken. In the thickly settled sections east of the Bowery the Germans predominate, and one might live there for a year without ever hearing an English word spoken. The Germans of New York are a very steady, hard-working people, and withal very sociable. During the day they confine themselves closely to business, and at night they insist upon enjoying themselves. The huge Stadt Theatre draws several thousand within its walls whenever its doors are opened, and concerts and festivals of various kinds attract others. But the most popular of all places with this class of citizens is the beer-garden. Here one can sit and smoke, and drink beer by the gallon, listen to music, move about, meet his friends, and enjoy himself in his own way—all at a moderate cost.
From one end of the Bowery to the other, beer-gardens abound, and their brilliantly illuminated signs and transparencies form one of the most remarkable features of that curious street. Not all of them are reputable. In some there is a species of theatrical performance which is often broadly indecent. These are patronized by but few Germans, although they are mainly carried on by men of that nationality. The Rough and servant girl elements predominate in the audiences, and there is an unmistakably Irish stamp on most of the faces present.
The true beer-garden finds its highest development in the monster Atlantic Garden, which is located in the Bowery, next door to the Old Bowery Theatre. It is an immense room, with a lofty curved ceiling, handsomely frescoed, and lighted by numerous chandeliers and by brackets along the walls. It is lighted during the day from the roof. At one side is an open space planted with trees and flowers, the only mark of a garden visible. A large gallery rises above the floor at each end. That at the eastern or upper end is used as a restaurant for those who desire regular meals. The lower gallery is, like the rest of the place, for beer-drinkers only. Under the latter gallery is a shooting hall, which is usually filled with marksmen trying their skill. On the right hand side of the room is a huge orchestrion or monster music-box, and by its side is a raised platform, occupied by the orchestra employed at the place. The floor is sanded, and is lined with plain tables, six feet by two in size, to each of which is a couple of benches. The only ornaments of the immense hall are the frescoes and the chandeliers. Everything else is plain and substantial. Between the hall and the Bowery is the bar room, with its lunch counters. The fare provided at the latter is strictly German, but the former retails drinks of every description.
During the day the Atlantic does a good business through its bar and restaurant, many persons taking their meals here regularly. As night comes on, the great hall begins to fill up, and by eight o'clock the place is in its glory. From three to four thousand people, mainly Germans, may be seen here at one time, eating, drinking, smoking. Strong liquors are not sold, the drinks being beer and the lighter Rhine-wines. The German capacity for holding beer is immense. An amount sufficient to burst an American makes him only comfortable and good humored. The consumption of the article here nightly is tremendous, but there is no drunkenness. The audience is well behaved, and the noise is simply the hearty merriment of a large crowd. There is no disorder, no indecency. The place is thoroughly respectable, and the audience are interested in keeping it so. They come here with their families, spend a social, pleasant evening, meet their friends, hear the news, enjoy the music and the beer, and go home refreshed and happy. The Germans are very proud of this resort, and they would not tolerate the introduction of any feature that would make it an unfit place for their wives and daughters. It is a decided advantage to the people who frequent this place, whatever the Temperance advocates may say, that men have here a resort where they can enjoy themselves with their families, instead of seeking their pleasure away from the society of their wives and children.
[Picture: THE ATLANTIC GARDEN.]
The buzz and the hum of the conversation, and the laughter, are overpowering, and you wander through the vast crowd with your ears deafened by the sound. Suddenly the leader of the orchestra raps sharply on his desk, and there is a profound silence all over the hall. In an instant the orchestra breaks forth into some wonderful German melody, or some deep-voiced, strong-lunged singer sends his rich notes rolling through the hall. The auditors have suddenly lost their merriment, and are now listening pensively to the music, which is good. They sip their beer absently, and are thinking no doubt of the far-off Fatherland, for you see their features grow softer and their eyes glisten. Then, when it is all over, they burst into an enthusiastic encore, or resume their suspended conversations.
On the night of the reception of the news of Napoleon's capitulation at Sedan, the Atlantic Garden was a sight worth seeing. The orchestra was doubled, and the music and the songs were all patriotic. The hall was packed with excited people, and the huge building fairly rocked with the cheers which went up from it. The "German's Fatherland" and Luther's Hymn were sung by five thousand voices, hoarse or shrill with excitement. Oceans of beer were drunk, men and women shook hands and embraced, and the excitement was kept up until long after midnight. Yet nobody was drunk, save with the excitement of the moment.
The Central Park Garden, at the corner of Seventh avenue and Fifty-ninth street, is more of an American institution than the Atlantic. It consists of a handsome hall surrounded on three sides by a gallery, and opening at the back upon grounds a moderate size, tastefully laid out, and adorned with rustic stalls and arbors for the use of guests. At the Atlantic the admission is free. Here one pays fifty cents for the privilege of entering the grounds and building. During the summer months nightly concerts, with Saturday matinees, are given here by Theodore Thomas and his famous orchestra—the finest organization of its kind in America. The music is of a high order, and is rendered in a masterly manner. Many lovers of music come to New York in the summer simply to hear these concerts.
The place is the fashionable resort of the city in the summer. The audience is equal to anything to be seen in the city. One can meet here all the celebrities who happen to be in town, and as every one is free to do as he pleases, there is no restraint to hamper one's enjoyment. You may sit and smoke and drink, or stroll through the place the whole evening, merely greeting your acquaintances with a nod, or you may join them, and chat to your heart's content. Refreshments and liquors of all kinds are sold to guests; but the prices are high. The Central Park Garden, or, as it is called by strangers, "Thomas's Garden," is the most thoroughly enjoyable place in the city in the summer.
XLVI. JAMES FISK JR.
James Fisk, Jr., was born at Bennington, Vermont, on the 1st of April, 1834. His father was a pedlar, and the early life of the boy was passed in hard work. What little education he received was obtained at the public schools. At the age of seventeen he obtained his first employment, being engaged by Van Amburgh to clean out the cages of the animals in his menagerie and to assist in the erection of the tents. He made himself so useful to his employer that he was soon promoted to the position of ticket receiver. He remained with Van Amburgh for eight years, travelling with him through the United States, Canada, and Europe, and, at the age of twenty-five, left him to begin life for himself in the calling of his father. He went back to Vermont, and began peddling such small articles as steel pens and lead pencils through the towns of the State. He succeeded in acquiring and saving a small sum of money, and was able to borrow a little more. He then purchased a horse and wagon, and began a series of more extended operations as a pedlar of dry goods. He visited all the principal towns and villages of Vermont, and met with a ready sale for his goods. His energy and business tact were eminently successful, and his business soon grew to such an extent that his one-horse wagon was too small for it. He accordingly sold this vehicle, and purchased a handsome "four in hand," with which he travelled through Massachusetts and Connecticut, as well as Vermont. He was very popular with his customers, and established a reputation for fair dealing, selling good articles at a moderate profit.
His energy and success attracted the attention of the Boston wholesale house from which he bought his goods, and they thinking that he would prove a useful acquisition to them, offered him an interest in their business. Their offer was accepted; and, in 1860, he became a partner in the house of Jordan, Marsh & Co., of Boston. He was sent South by the firm, and though he succeeded in conducting for them several large and profitable transactions during the early part of the war, and though they remained his friends to the close of his life, the connection was not altogether satisfactory to them, and, in 1862, they purchased his interest in the business for the sum of $64,000.
About this time, some capitalists in Boston were desirous of purchasing the Stonington line of steamboats, then owned by Daniel Drew. Fisk became aware of their desire, and, coming to New York, in 1863, obtained an introduction to Daniel Drew, and so won the favor and confidence of that gentleman that he was employed by him to manage the negotiation for the sale of the steamers, which he did to Mr. Drew's entire satisfaction. From that time, Drew became his friend, and soon gained him a position in Wall street.
Upon entering the street, Fisk began a series of speculations on his own account, and, in the short space of two years, he lost all his money. It is said that he swore a mighty oath that as Wall street had ruined him, Wall street should pay for it. Daniel Drew now came to his aid, and, in 1865, helped him to form the firm of Fisk, Belden & Co., stock-brokers, and assisted the new house by employing them as his brokers in many of his heaviest transactions.
[Picture: JAMES FISK, JR.]
In 1867 occurred the great struggle between Drew and Vanderbilt for the possession of the Erie Railway. James Fisk and Jay Gould now made their appearance as Directors in the Erie Railway. The following is the New York Tribune's account of this affair:
"When the crisis came, on the eve of the election for Directors, in October, 1867, there were three contestants in the field. Fisk was serving under the Drew party, who wanted to be retained in office. Vanderbilt, master of Harlem, Hudson River, and Central, seemed to be on the point of securing Erie also. Eldridge was the leader of the Boston, Hartford, and Erie party, which wanted to get into the Erie Directory for the purpose of making that Company guarantee the bonds of their own worthless road. Eldridge was assisted by Gould. As a result of the compromise by which the three opposing interests coalesced, Fisk and Gould were both chosen Directors of Erie, and from the month of October, 1867, dates the memorable association of these two choice spirits since so famous in the money markets of the world. They were not the counterparts, but the complements of each other. Fisk was bold, unscrupulous, dashing, enterprising, ready in execution, powerful in his influence over the lower and more sensual order of men. Gould was artful, reticent, long-headed, clear of brain, fertile of invention, tenacious of purpose, and no more burdened with unnecessary scruples than his more noisy and flashy companion. They were not long in joining fortunes. At the time of the famous Erie corner, the next March, they were ostensibly working on opposite sides, Gould acting for Vanderbilt, and Fisk being the man to whom Drew intrusted 50,000 shares of new stock, secretly issued, to be used when Vanderbilt's brokers began to buy. The mysteries of that transaction are fully known only to a few of the principal actors. An injuction of Judge Barnard's had forbidden Drew or anybody connected with the road to manufacture any more stock by the issue of convertible bonds. But Drew was 'short' of Erie; the Vanderbilt pool threatened ruin; and stock must be had. The new certificates had already been made out in the name of James Fisk, jr., and were in the hands of the Secretary who was enjoined from issuing them. Mr. Fisk saw a way out of the difficulty. The Secretary gave the certificate books to an employe of the road, with directions to carry them carefully to the transfer office. The messenger returned in a moment empty-handed, and told the astonished Secretary that Mr. Fisk had met him at the door, taken the books, and 'run away with them!' On the same day the convertible bonds corresponding to these certificates were placed on the Secretary's desk, and as soon as Vanderbilt had forced up the price of Erie, Fisk's new shares were thrown upon the market, and bought by Vanderbilt's agents before their origin was suspected. Mr. Fisk unfortunately had not yet cultivated the intimate relations with Judge Barnard which he subsequently sustained. When the Drew party applied for an order from Judge Gilbert in Brooklyn, enjoining Barnard's injunctions, the petitioner who accused that ornament of the New York bench of a corrupt conspiracy to speculate in Erie stock, was none other than Fisk's partner, Mr. Belden. The next morning Barnard issued an order of arrest for contempt, and Fisk, with the whole Erie Directory, fled to Jersey City, carrying $7,000,000 of money and the books and papers of the Company. Among the most valuable of the assets transferred on that occasion to Taylor's Hotel was Miss Helen Josephine Mansfield. 'I went to Jersey,' testified this fair creature some weeks ago, in the suit which has just come to so tragical a termination, 'with the officers of the Erie Company, and the railroad paid all the expense.' Mr. Fisk could afford to amuse himself. He had made fifty or sixty thousand dollars by his day's work in Broad street, and he had the satisfaction of knowing that he had not only beaten Vanderbilt and Barnard, but outwitted even his particular friend and patron, Mr. Drew. He had now practically the greater share of the management on his shoulders, though in name he was only Controller. He softened public indignation by subsidizing a gang of ruffians, ostensibly in the Vanderbilt interest, to besiege 'Fort Taylor,' as if for the purpose of kidnapping the Directors, and organizing a band of railway hands to mount guard about the hotel. He dogged the steps of Mr. Drew, who was stealing over to New York by night to make a secret compromise for himself alone with Mr. Vanderbilt, and when Drew carried off the funds of the Company, Fisk compelled him to bring them back by putting an attachment on his money in bank. A bill was now introduced at Albany to legalize Drew's over-issue of stock. It was defeated. Mr. Gould visited the capital with half a million dollars, and came back without a cent, and the bill which three weeks before had been rejected by a vote of 83 to 32 was carried by a vote of 101 to 6. This was followed by a general suspension of hostilities. The scandalous network of injunctions had become so intricate that one general order was obtained sweeping it all away. Judge Barnard was placated in some manner not made public. Mr. Peter B. Sweeny, who, as the representative of Tammany, had been appointed 'Receiver' of the property of the railway company after it had been carried out of reach, was allowed $150,000 for his trouble of taking care of nothing; and the exiles returned to New York. In one of his characteristic fits of frankness, James Fisk afterward on the witness stand described the settlement which ensued as an 'almighty robbery.' The Directors of Erie took 50,000 shares of stock off Vanderbilt's shoulders at 70, and gave him $1,000,000 besides. Eldridge got $4,000,000 of Erie acceptances in exchange for $5,000,000 of Boston, Hartford, and Erie, which became bankrupt very soon afterward. Drew kept all he had made, but was to pay $540,000 into the Erie treasury and stand acquitted of all claims the corporation might have against him. Nearly half a million more was required to pay the lawyers and discontinue the suits. Fisk, getting nothing personally, stood out against the arrangement until the conspirators consented to give him—the Erie Railroad! Drew and some others were to resign, and Fisk and Gould to take possession of the property."
[Picture: JAY GOULD.]
Out of his first operations in Erie stock, Fisk is said to have made $1,300,000. The Legislature of New York legalized his acts, through the influence, it is said, of Mr. William M. Tweed. It is certain that this act was followed by the entrance of Tweed and Sweeny into the Board of Directors.
Once in possession of the Erie road, Fisk and his colleagues managed it in their own interests. It was commonly believed in the city that Fisk was but the executor of the designs which were conceived by an abler brain than his own.
He figured largely in the infamous Black Friday transactions of Wall street, and is credited by the public with being one of the originators of that vast conspiracy to destroy the business of the street. How near he came to success has already been shown.
Soon after coming into possession of the Erie road, he purchased Pike's Opera House for $1,000,000 in the name of the Erie Railway Company. The Directors, however, refused to approve the transaction, and he refunded to them the amount of the purchase, taking the building on his private account, and repaying the road in some of its stock owned by him. Subsequently he leased the front building to the road at an enormous rent, and opened for it a suite of the most gorgeous railway offices in the world. He subsequently bought the Fifth Avenue Theatre, and the Central Park Garden, and the Bristol line of steamers, and the steamers plying in connection with the Long Branch Railway. He made himself "Admiral" of this magnificent fleet, and dressed himself in a gorgeous naval uniform. When President Grant visited the Coliseum Concert at Boston, Fisk accompanied him in this dress, having previously played the part of host to the President during the voyage down the Sound on one of his boats. A year or two previous to his death, he was elected Colonel of the Ninth Regiment of the National Guard.
Previous to his purchase of the Grand Opera House, Mr. Fisk was an unknown man, but the ownership of this palatial establishment gave him an opportunity of enjoying the notoriety he coveted. His career in connection with this establishment, and his unscrupulous management of the Erie Railway, soon made him notorious in all parts of America and Europe. His monogram was placed on everything he owned or was connected with, and he literally lived in the gaze of the public. He can scarcely be said to have had any private life, for the whole town was talking of his theatres, his dashing four in hand, his railway and steamboats, his regiment, his toilettes, his magnificence, his reckless generosity, and his love affairs. He had little regard for morality or public sentiment, and hesitated at nothing necessary to the success of his schemes. His great passion was for notoriety, and he cared not what he did so it made people talk about him. He surrounded himself with a kind of barbaric splendor, which won him the name of the "Prince of Erie." Some of his acts were utterly ludicrous, and he had the wit to perceive it, but he cared not so it made James Fisk, jr., the talk of the day. His influence upon the community was bad. He had not only his admirers, but his imitators, and these sought to reproduce his bad qualities rather than his virtues.
In some respects he was a strange compound of good and evil. He was utterly unprincipled, yet he was generous to a fault. No one ever came to him in distress without meeting with assistance, and it adds to the virtue of these good deeds that he never proclaimed them to the world. Says one of his intimate friends: "His personal expenses were, at a liberal estimate, not one-fifth as large as the amount which he spent in providing for persons in whose affairs he took a kindly interest, who had seen misfortune in life, and whom he felt to be dependent upon him for assistance. He gave away constantly enormous amounts in still more direct charities, concerning which he rarely spoke to any one, and it was only by accident that even his most intimate friends found out what he was doing. He supported for some years an entire family of blind persons without ever saying a word about it to his nearest friends. He was particularly generous towards actors and actresses, who, whenever they suffered from misfortune, would always appeal to him; and one lady, herself an actress of considerable repute and of very generous nature, was in the habit of coming constantly to Mr. Fisk to appeal to him for assistance to aged or unfortunate members of their profession, assistance which he never refused. Very recently a lady, who was formerly a New York favorite, but who made an unhappy marriage, and to escape from a drunken husband had carried her child to England, where, after struggling in provincial theatres for more than a year, she came to almost her last penny and had hardly the means to return to this country, without a change of clothing and without being able to bring away her child, made her case known to the lady before-mentioned, who immediately, after helping to the extent of her own scanty means, sent her with a note to Mr. Fisk. Mr. Fisk listened to her story, advanced her $250 on the spot, procured her an engagement in a theatre at $75 a week, and interested the captain of one of our finest sea-going vessels in the case so far as to provide a free passage for the child to this country, the captain, in order to please Mr. Fisk, taking great pains to discover the whereabouts of the child and restore her to its mother. These are but incidental illustrations of what Mr. Fisk was daily doing, and always doing with the utmost privacy and with the greatest reluctance to allow it to become known. He would rarely subscribe to any public charity, because he disliked to make any pretence of liberality before the public."
In the fall of 1867, Fisk made the acquaintance of Mrs. Helen Josephine Mansfield, an actress, who had just been divorced from her husband, Frank Lawler. He became deeply enamored of her, and she became his mistress and lived with him several years, her main object being, it would seem, to obtain from him all the money he was willing to expend upon her. Fisk subsequently introduced one of his friends, Edward S. Stokes, to Mrs. Mansfield, and the woman was not long in transferring her affections from her protector to Stokes. This aroused Fisk's jealousy, and led to constant trouble between his mistress and himself. His quarrel with Stokes was complicated by business disputes, which were carried into the courts, where Fisk was all powerful. The matter went from bad to worse, until at length Stokes and Mrs. Mansfield instituted a libel suit against Fisk, which was commonly regarded in the city as simply an attempt on their part to extort money from him. The suit dragged its slow way through the court in which it was instituted, and every day diminished the chances of the success of the plaintiffs.