LVI. EDUCATIONAL ESTABLISHMENTS.
I. THE FREE SCHOOLS.
The provision made by the city and the people of New York for the education of the young is in keeping with their metropolitan character. The public and private schools are numerous, and are well supported.
The first in importance are the Public or Free Schools, which are acknowledged to be the best in the Union. The Free School system is under the control of a Board of Education, whose offices are located in a handsome brown stone building at the northwest corner of Grand and Elm streets. The Board consists of twelve Commissioners, who have the general supervision of the schools, the disbursement of the moneys appropriated for the cause of education, the purchase of sites and the erection of new buildings, the purchase and distribution of books, stationery, fuel, lights, and all supplies needed by the schools. There are also five Trustees for each ward, or 110 in all, who were, until recently, chosen by the people. Besides these, are twenty-one Inspectors of Schools, who were, until recently, appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the people. The charter of 1870, however, changed the whole system, and gave to the Mayor the power of appointing all the officers named above, taking the control of the school system entirely out of the hands of the people. It is needless to add this was the work of the Ring, and was done to secure to them additional power and plunder.
[Picture: A NEW YORK FREE SCHOOL.]
There are about one hundred buildings in the city used by the public schools. About eighty-five of these are owned by the city; the others are rented. The property under the charge of the Board of Education is valued at more than $10,000,000. The annual expenditure for the support of the schools averages $3,000,000. In 1869 it was $3,136,136. Of this sum, $1,759,634, represented teachers' salaries; $41,908, was for the support of the colored schools; and $164,717, was for the purchase of school apparatus, maps, globes, blackboards, books, etc. The teachers employed in the public schools number 2500, a large proportion being women, The average annual attendance of pupils is 225,000.
The school buildings are generally of brick, tastefully trimmed with brown stone, though some of those more recently erected are entirely of brown or Ohio stone. They are among the most handsome edifices in the city. They are generally four stories in height, with a frontage of 100 or 150 feet. All that were erected for the purpose are commodious and comfortable, though the more recent structures are the best arranged. They are provided with every convenience for teaching, and for the comfort of both teacher and pupil. Some of them cover two city lots, while others occupy as many as six of these lots. Some will accommodate as many as 2000 pupils, and these large buildings have been found to be more economical than small ones. Each is provided with several fire-proof stairways, and each is in charge of a janitor, who resides in the building. The entrances for pupils are at the sides of the building. Visitors enter through the large door in the centre.
The public schools are divided into Primary, Grammar, Evening, and Normal Schools. There are about 200 of these schools in the city, a Primary and a Grammar School often occupying the same building. Some of the Primaries are for boys or girls only, while in others both sexes are admitted. The course in the Primaries is very simple, as very young children are taught here. The pupils are divided, according to qualification, into six grades. The lowest grade receives the simplest instruction, such as conversational lessons about common objects, or "object teaching," which is designed to form habits of accurate observation; simple instruction in regard to morals and manners; reading and spelling easy words from the blackboard or chart; counting; and simple addition by the aid of the numerical frame. From this simple, but substantial basis, the pupil is advanced as rapidly as his capabilities will permit, from grade to grade; until the first, or highest, is reached. In this the instruction embraces the four ground rules of arithmetic, geography, writing, drawing on the slate, and advanced object lessons. When the pupil is proficient in these studies, he is transferred to the Grammar School.
The Grammar School takes up the course where it is dropped by the Primary, and gives to the pupil a sound and practical "common school education." It embraces in its various grades, such studies as English grammar, history, astronomy (in its simpler form), physical geography, composition, drawing, and book keeping, besides the simpler studies of the lower grades which were begun in the Primary School.
[Picture: THE FREE COLLEGE OF NEW YORK.]
Girls who are found proficient in the Grammar School course, are advanced to the Normal School, which is temporarily located at the corner of Broadway and Fourth street. Here they may enjoy the benefits of a course as thorough and extended as that afforded by the Free College.
Boys who have attended the Grammar Schools for a certain period, and are found proficient in the course taught there, are promoted to the Free College of the city of New York. This noble institution is located at the southeast corner of Lexington avenue and Twenty-third street. It is a handsome edifice of brick, stuccoed in imitation of brown stone, and was founded in 1848. The President is Horace Webster, LL.D., and the faculty includes some of the ablest men in the country. The course taught here is full and thorough, and is about the same as that of the best colleges in the land. The entire expense of the Female Normal School, and the Free College is borne by the city.
The whole public school system is free to all the children of the city, whose parents will avail themselves of it. Books, and everything needed, are furnished without charge. The pupil is put to no expense whatever, but is required to maintain habits of order and personal neatness. The cost to the city is gladly borne by the tax payers, for it saves the metropolis from an increase of the great army of ignorant and idle men and women, which are the curse of all great cities. The very poorest men or women can thus give to their children the priceless boon of knowledge, of which their youth was deprived. Profiting by the advantage thus acquired, these little ones, in after years, may rise to fame and fortune. Thus not only the metropolis but the whole country reaps the blessings of this magnificent system of free education. The poor, however, are not the only persons who secure the advantages of the free schools for their children. Many wealthy, or moderately comfortable parents send their children to these schools, because they are the best in the city.
Connected with the day schools, there are twenty-seven evening schools, with an average annual attendance of 20,000 pupils. These are designed for the instruction of those whose avocations or age prevent them from attending the day schools. Only simple studies are taught in these schools. The pupils consist of cash boys, clerks, porters, and laboring men and women. Many of them are foreigners, who come to learn the English language. The adults show as much eagerness to learn as the younger pupils. All are generally neat in person, though their clothing may be rough and worn. Sometime ago, a member of the Board of Education, in addressing one of these evening classes, dwelt especially upon the necessity of cultivating habits of personal neatness. It happened that there were several men present, whose appearance indicated that they had come directly from their work to the school. One of them arose, and offered the following excuse for their appearance. He said, "We don't always come to school in this way, but we were at work in the yard pretty late, and had no time to go home for supper even, as we didn't want to be late at school; and not expecting any visitors, we made up our minds to come as we were. The Principal knows us, and we knew he would excuse us for coming so."
An Evening High School, for males only, has been established, at which working men, and others unable to attend the day schools, may pursue a more extended course of study. English grammar, mathematics, natural science, drawing, navigation, municipal and constitutional law, phonography, declamation, book-keeping, Latin, French, German, and Spanish are embraced in the course. The students may pursue one or more studies, as they may desire.
The Mission Schools have been mentioned already.
II. THE COLLEGES.
The higher institutions of learning are numerous, but we can mention only the principal here.
The University of the City of New York was established in 1831, and is regarded as one of the best institutions of its kind in the country. It has a chancellor and a full corps of professors in its several schools. It includes a preparatory department, a grammar school, a school of art, a school of civil engineering, a school of analytical and practical chemistry, a school of medicine, and a school of law. The medical school has been especially famous, and has numbered among its professors, at various times, such men as Valentine Mott, John W. Draper, and William H. Van Buren.
The University building is a showy edifice of white marble, in the English collegiate style of architecture, and is situated on the east side of Washington Square, between Waverley and East Washington Places, fronting on University Place. It has a frontage of 200 feet and a depth of 100 feet. The principal entrance is by the central door. From this a flight of marble steps leads to the main floor. Besides the rooms used for the various purposes of the University, there is a handsome chapel, and a hall containing a valuable library. Many of the rooms of the building are occupied by physicians, artists, and various societies, and as chambers by single men.
[Picture: UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK.]
Columbia College, occupying the block bounded by Madison and Fourth avenues, and Forty-ninth and Fiftieth streets, is the oldest institution of learning in the State, and ranks among the leading institutions of the country. It was founded by George II., in 1754, under the title of King's College. The college was originally located in the lower part of the city, but, in 1849, the trustees purchased the present buildings, which were formerly used by the State Institution for Deaf Mutes. Attached to the college is a school of mines, in which full instruction is given in all the branches required to make a perfect scientific as well as a practical mining engineer. Large and extensive laboratories are attached to the school. There is also a law school, which forms a portion of the college, and which is located in Lafayette Place, opposite the Astor Library. The College of Physicians and Surgeons, at the corner of Twenty-third street and Fourth avenue, constitutes the medical school of Columbia College. The college is very wealthy, and its property is valued at several millions of dollars.
[Picture: COLUMBIA COLLEGE.]
The other colleges are, the College of St. Francis Xavier, in West Fifteenth street, the Union Theological Seminary, conducted by the Presbyterian Church, the College of Pharmacy, the New York Medical College for Women, the New York College of Veterinary Surgeons, the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, the Rutgers Female College, the New York Homoeopathic College, several other medical colleges, and several business colleges.
There are about 325 private and sectarian schools and academies in New York, with an average annual attendance of about 15,000 or 20,000 pupils, and employing more than 1500 teachers.
The Cooper Institute is an imposing edifice of brown stone, occupying the block bounded by Third and Fourth avenues, and Seventh and Eighth streets. It was erected at a cost of nearly half a million dollars, by Peter Cooper, Esq., an eminent merchant of New York. The basement is occupied by an immense lecture room, capable of seating several thousand persons. The street floor is taken up with stores. The floor above this contains a number of offices, and the remainder of the building is occupied by a free library and reading room, and halls for lectures and for study.
[Picture: THE COOPER INSTITUTE.]
The Institute is designed for the gratuitous instruction of the working classes in science, art, telegraphy, English, literature, and the foreign languages. One of its departments is a School of Design for women. The course is thorough and the standard of proficiency is high. The examinations are very searching, and it may be safely asserted, that the graduates of this institution are thoroughly grounded in the practical arts and sciences. The institution is a noble monument to the wisdom and benevolence of its founder, and is doing an immense amount of good to the class he designed to benefit. It is liberally endowed, and is managed by a Board of Directors. The stores and offices yield an annual income of nearly $30,000. The annual attendance upon the schools is about 1800.
LVII. JEROME PARK.
"The opening of the Central Park saved horseflesh in New York," said an old jockey. Few who know the truth will gainsay this assertion. The opening of Jerome Park did as much for "horseflesh" by rescuing the sport of horse racing from the blackguards and thieves, into whose hands it had fallen, and placing it upon a respectable footing.
The Jerome Park Race Course owes its existence to Mr. Leonard W. Jerome, after whom it was named. The way in which it came into existence at all, was as follows: "The trains of the New York and New Haven Railroad enter the Metropolis upon the Harlem track. Justified by highly satisfactory reasons, the management of the Company decided to secure a different means of ingress to the city, and a tacit agreement was made with Leonard W. Jerome to the effect that if he would secure the right of way from the proper terminus of the New Haven Road clear through to New York, they would change their route. The firm at once bought all the land they could find along a strip of nine miles through Westchester County, up what is known as the Saw-Mill River Valley. Some portion of their purchase cost them at the rate of $300 an acre. Meanwhile Commodore Vanderbilt got news of the movement, bought largely of the New Haven stock, and at the succeeding election of directors was able to make such changes in the board as effectually stopped the change of base from the Harlem Line. The contract on which Jerome had acted was not in such a form as admitted of litigation. He had acquired an immense amount of real estate with no prospect of immediate realizations. Then came the idea of the race-course. Not less than $100,000 was cleared as net profit from that expedient. Another portion of the land was sold as a cemetery. But Jerome has the greater part of the property still on his hands."
The race-course is the property of the American Jockey Club, and the Spring and Fall Meetings of that association are held there, and are attended by large and fashionable crowds. The Club House and Club Stand occupy the most retired and elevated portion of the grounds, but the best point of view is the Grand Stand, in front of which is the usual starting point and winning post. The price of admission is high, but the grounds are thronged with vehicles and persons on foot. As many as ten or fifteen thousand persons may be seen within the enclosure, while the favorable positions outside of the grounds are black with more economical spectators. The crowd is orderly and good-humored, and the occasion is rarely marred by any act of rowdyism or lawlessness.
A great deal of money changes hands at the races. Bets are freely offered and taken on the various horses. The pools sell rapidly, and the genial auctioneer finds his post no sinecure. The struggles of the noble animals are watched with the deepest interest. The greatest excitement prevails amongst the elite in the private stands, as well as throughout the common herd below. Every eye is strained to watch the swift coursers as they whirl down the track, and when the quarter stretch is gained the excitement is beyond control. The victor steed flashes with lightning speed by the winning post amidst a storm of cheers and yells of delight.
The course is still new, but the system which it has inaugurated is becoming more thorough every year. The management is in the hands of gentlemen of character, who are seeking to make at least one place in the country where the blackguards and reckless gamblers who disgrace the American turf shall be powerless to control affairs. The benefits of this management will be very great. The stock of the State will be vastly improved, and the metropolis, especially, will be able to boast some of the finest blooded racers in the world.
LVIII. COMMODORE VANDERBILT.
Visitors to the Central Park on pleasant afternoons, rarely fail to notice a light buggy, generally with a single occupant, drawn by a pair of fine horses, whose whole appearance is indicative of their high breeding and great speed. The animals would command attention anywhere, and the driver would excite equal notice, for all are physically among the finest specimens of their kind to be met with in the country. The man is almost seventy-eight years of age, but he looks twenty years younger. He is large of frame, tall, erect, and with a face as handsome and as cold as a statue. He is one of the best known men in the country, and he is called Cornelius Vanderbilt.
He was born on Staten Island, May 27th, 1794. His father was a boatman, who had acquired money enough by attention to his business to purchase and stock a farm, on which the subject of this sketch passed his boyhood. Many interesting stories are told of Vanderbilt's boyhood, showing an early development of the vigorous traits which have marked his maturer life. His passion for horses seems to have been born with him. In his seventeenth year he became a boatman in New York harbor, devoting himself to the task of rowing passengers about or across the harbor in his own boat. He displayed great energy and determination, and not a little genius, in this calling, and earned money rapidly and steadily. At the age of nineteen he married. In 1815, having saved money enough, he built a fine schooner, and in the winter embarked in the coasting trade, going as far south as Charleston, S.C., but continuing to ply his boat in the harbor during the summer. By the time he was twenty-four years old, he had saved nine thousand dollars, and had built several small vessels.
In 1818, he suddenly abandoned his flourishing business, and accepted the command of a steamboat, with a salary of one thousand dollars. His friends were greatly astonished at this step, and remonstrated with him warmly, but without shaking his resolution. He had the sagacity to perceive that the steamboats were about to revolutionize the whole system of water transportation, and he meant to secure a foothold in the new order of affairs without delay. The result vindicated his wisdom.
The steamer which he commanded was one of a line plying between New York and New Brunswick—the old route to Philadelphia. This line was conducted by Mr. Thomas Gibbons, and was warmly opposed by the representatives of Fulton and Livingston, who claimed a monopoly of the right to navigate the waters of New York by steam. Gibbons was effectively supported by Vanderbilt, who ran his boat regularly in spite of all efforts made to stop him, until the courts sustained him in his rights. Then Vanderbilt was allowed to control the line in his own way, and conducted it with such success that it paid Gibbons an annual profit of forty thousand dollars.
In 1829, at the age of thirty-five, he left the service of Mr. Gibbons, and for the second time began life on his own account. He built a small steamer, called the "Caroline," and commanded her himself. In a few years he was the owner of several small steamers plying between New York and the neighboring towns. Thus began his remarkable career as a steamboat owner, which was one unbroken round of prosperity. He eventually became the most important man in the steamboat interest of the country. He has owned or has had an interest in one hundred steam vessels—hence his title of Commodore—and has been instrumental in a greater degree than any other man, in bringing down the tariff of steamboat fares. He has never lost a vessel by fire, by explosion, or a wreck. His "North Star" and "Vanderbilt" were famous steamships in their day, and in the latter he made an extended tour to the various ports of Europe.
[Picture: CORNELIUS VANDERBILT.]
A year or two before the Civil War, Mr. Vanderbilt began to invest largely in railroad stocks and iron works. He at length secured the control of the Hudson River, Harlem and New York Central Roads, and their dependencies, which made him as important a personage in this branch of our industry as he had been in the steamboat interest. His control of these roads also gave him a commanding influence in the stock market of Wall street, and brought within his reach numerous opportunities for enriching himself by speculations, of which he was not slow to avail himself. Wall street is full of stories concerning him, and it is evident from many of these that he has dealt the dealers there too many hard blows to be popular amongst them.
Mr. Vanderbilt resides in a handsome old-fashioned brick mansion in East Washington Place. His business office is in Fourth street, near Broadway. His wealth is very great, and is generally estimated in the city at over forty millions of dollars. He is said to have a greater command of large sums of ready money than almost any other American capitalist.
Mr. Vanderbilt has been twice married, and is the father of thirteen children—nine daughters and four sons, all the children of his first wife. His grandchildren are numerous.
LIX. THE BUMMERS.
The Bummer is simply one who detests work, and who manages to live in some degree of comfort without earning the means of doing so. There are many such in the city. The genuine Bummer is more of a beggar than a thief, though he will steal if he has an opportunity. Nothing will induce him to go to work, not even the prospect of starvation. He has a sublime confidence in his ability to get through life easily and lazily, and his greatest horror is the probability of falling into the hands of the police, and being sent to Blackwell's Island as a vagrant. All that he desires is money enough to gratify a few actual wants, food enough to eat, clothing to cover his nakedness, and a place where he can enjoy the warmth of a fire in the winter. He has great faith in the charitableness of New York, and thinks that any of the necessities of life may be had here for the asking, and he does not hesitate to ask for them. You would wound him deeply by calling him a beggar. He never begs, he only asks. He asks bread of the baker, or from the housekeepers of the city, and obtains his clothing in the same way. If he wants a little pocket money, he does not hesitate to ask for it from the passers-by on the streets. He never spends money on food. Such a use of "the needful" is a deadly sin in his eyes. Money was made to furnish him with cheap whiskey and bad tobacco. It is too easy to obtain food by asking for it to think of buying it. If he does not receive enough to satisfy his hunger at one house, he goes to another, and repeats his efforts until he is satisfied. One hates to refuse food to any human being who claims to have need of it, and the Bummer knows this. Some of these people keep lists of various householders, with a memorandum attached to each name, showing the best hours for calling, and the nature of the articles that will probably be given. They assist each other by information as to the charitably disposed, and should any householder display any degree of liberality toward them, he is sure to be overrun by a host of seedy and hungry Bummers.
A few years ago, the City Hall Park, which was then shaded by noble old trees, and the Battery, were the favorite resorts of this class in fair weather. They would sit on the benches of the park, and doze, or, when very sleepy, would lie at full length upon them, until aroused by a blow from a policeman's club upon the soles of their shoes. They were not allowed to sleep in the park, and when caught in the act were compelled to join the throng of promenaders in Broadway, and "move on." At the Battery they were rarely disturbed. That locality was then a mere receptacle for trash, and the Bummer was at home there. The dirt heaps were softer than the stones, and the breeze that came in from the bay was highly favorable to slumber. Now, all has been changed. The massive edifice of the New Post-office covers the old resort of the Bummer, and the Battery has been made so spruce and trim that it needs not the gruff voice of the gray-coated guardian of the place to make the Bummer feel that it is lost to him forever.
During the day, the Bummer roams about the city, resting where he can, and occasionally dropping into a bar-room to fill himself with five-cent whiskey. He is not averse to receiving a treat, and it should be mentioned to his credit that he is always ready to treat his friends to his favorite drink when he is in funds. When hungry, he "asks" for food. He is fond of visiting the second-rate theatres at the expense of somebody else, and hangs around them, hoping some one will give him a check before the performance is over. In mild weather, he will sleep almost anywhere, in or around a market house, or in an empty wagon. The hay-barges in North River afford comfortable beds, and many Bummers occupy them. In wet or cold weather, the Bummer patronizes the cheap lodging-houses, or the cellars, and as a last resort applies for shelter at the station house. He is diffident about asking assistance at the last place, however, for he has a vague idea that the police would be only too glad to get him safely lodged on the Island. One of his favorite amusements is attendance upon the police courts. This affords him a few hours of rest in a comfortable place, and furnishes him with material for thought.
In begging, the Bummer never asks boldly for aid. He always prefaces his request with a pitiful story of misfortune, and expresses his sense of shame at being an able-bodied man and yet compelled to "ask" for assistance. He is an adept at deceiving good-hearted people, and very clever at assuming the air of innocent misfortune. Thus he supplies his wants.
In his confidential moments, he readily admits that "Bumming" is a hard life, but he is confident that it is better than working for a living. You cannot induce him to accept any species of employment, however light. Vagrancy has a strange fascination for him, and he will be nothing but what he is until five-cent whiskey sinks him to a grade still lower. Sometimes he sees his doom afar off, and anticipates it by seeking the cold waters of the East River. At the best, suicide is the happiest end he can hope for, and it does not require much exertion to drown oneself. Should he allow events to take their natural course, there is but one prospect before him—a pauper's death and the dissecting-table.
Some of these men have had fair starts in life. Some of them are well educated, and could have risen to eminence in some useful calling. A fondness for liquor and a disinclination to work have been their ruin.
LX. TENEMENT HOUSE LIFE.
The peculiar formation of the island of Manhattan renders it impossible for the city to expand save in one direction. On the south, east, and west its growth is checked by the waters of the rivers and bay, so that it can increase only to the northward. The lower part of the island is being occupied for business purposes more and more exclusively every year, and the people are being forced higher up town. Those who remain in the extreme lower portion for purposes of residence are simply the very poor. Those who can afford to do so, seek locations removed as far as is convenient to them from the business section. The laboring class, by which I mean all who are forced to pursue some regular occupation for their support, are not able to go far from their work, and are obliged to remain in locations which will enable them to reach their places of business with as little delay as possible.
Consequently the bulk of the population is packed into that portion of the city which lies between the City Hall and Fourteenth street. By the United States Census of 1870, the population of the wards in this district was reported as follows:
Wards Natives Foreigners Total
4 10456 13292 23748 5 9245 7905 17150 6 9444 11709 21153 7 24130 20688 41818 8 20285 14628 34913 9 33020 14589 47609 10 18851 22580 41431 11 34805 29425 64230 13 19288 14076 33364 14 13379 13057 26436 15 16821 10766 27587 17 46033 49332 95365
Total 255757 222047 477804
[Picture: A NEW YORK TENEMENT HOUSE.]
By the same census, the total population of the city in 1870 was 942,292. The district included in the above wards is about two miles square, which would give for this portion of New York an average population of 238,902 to the mile square. The Seventeenth ward covers less than one-fortieth of the whole area of the island, and contains more than one-tenth of the whole population.
The total area of the city is twenty-two square miles, and we find that one-half of its population is cramped within an area of about four square miles. It is evident, therefore, that they must be housed in a very small number of buildings, and such indeed is the case.
The section of the city embraced in the wards we have named is filled with a class of buildings called tenement houses. The law classes all dwellings containing three or more families as tenement houses, but the true tenement house is an institution peculiar to New York. There are about 70,000 buildings in the city used for purposes of business and as dwellings, and of these, 20,000 are tenement houses, containing about 160,000 families, or about 500,000 people. This would give an average population of eight families or twenty persons to each tenement house in the city. In 1867 the number of tenement houses was 18,582. The following table will show their distribution among the wards at that time, and their sanitary condition:
No. of Tenement In bad sanitary condition from Wards. Houses. any cause.
1 275 175 2 - - 3 40 24 4 500 300 5 300 180 6 600 360 7 1847 890 8 850 546 9 60 434 10 430 196 11 2400 1200 12 208 104 13 550 275 14 550 346 15 200 132 16 1300 433 17 2305 1138 18 & 21 2276 1516 19 761 380 20 1250 417 22 1200 800
Total 18582 9846
The reader will no doubt suppose that the inmates of these houses are compelled to remain in them because of extreme poverty. This is not the case. The tenement houses are occupied mainly by the honest laboring population of New York, who receive fair wages for their work. They herd here because the rents of single houses are either out of proportion to, or beyond their means, and because they are convenient to their work. They are not paupers, but they cannot afford the fearful cost of a separate home, and they are forced to resort to this mode of life in order to live with any degree of comfort. Many of the most skilled mechanics, many of the best paid operatives of both sexes, who are earning comfortable wages, are forced to live in these vast barracks, simply because the bare rent of an empty house in a moderately decent neighborhood, is from $1000 upward. Did the city possess some means of rapid transit between its upper and lower extremities, which would prevent the loss of the time now wasted in traversing the length of the island, there can be no doubt that the tenement sections would soon be thinned out.
There are two classes of tenement houses in the city. Those occupied by the well-to-do working people, and those which are simply the homes of the poor. The first are immense, but spruce looking structures, and are kept cleaner than the latter, but all suffer from the evils incident to and inseparable from such close packing. Those of the second class are simply dens of vice and misery. In the older quarters of the city, many of the old time residences are now occupied as tenement houses. The old Walton mansion in Pearl street, opposite the vast establishment of Harper & Brothers, was once the most elegant and hospitable mansion in New York. It is now one of the most wretched tenement houses in the city. The tenement houses of the upper wards, however, were constructed for the uses to which they are put. As pecuniary investments they pay well, the rents sometimes yielding as much as thirty per cent. on the investment. One of them shall serve as a description of the average tenement house. The building stands on a lot with a front of 50 feet, and a depth of 250 feet. It has an alley running the whole depth on each side of it. These alley-ways are excavated to the depth of the cellars, arched over, and covered with flag stones, in which, at intervals, are open gratings to give light below; the whole length of which space is occupied by water closets, without doors, and under which are open drains communicating with the street sewers. The building is five stories high, and has a flat roof. The only ventilation is by a window, which opens against a dead wall eight feet distant, and to which rises the vapor from the vault below. There is water on each floor, and gas pipes are laid through the building, so that those who desire it can use gas. The building contains 126 families, or about 700 inhabitants. Each family has a narrow sitting-room, which is used also for working and eating, and a closet called a bed room. But few of the rooms are properly ventilated. The sun never shines in at the windows, and if the sky is overcast the rooms are so dark as to need artificial light. The whole house is dirty, and is filled with the mingled odors from the cooking-stoves and the sinks. In the winter the rooms are kept too close by the stoves, and in the summer the natural heat is made tenfold greater by the fires for cooking and washing. Pass these houses on a hot night, and you will see the streets in front of them filled with the occupants, and every window choked up with human heads, all panting and praying for relief and fresh air. Sometimes the families living in the close rooms we have described, take "boarders," who pay a part of the expenses of the "establishment." Formerly the occupants of these buildings emptied their filth and refuse matter into the public streets, which in these quarters were simply horrible to behold; but of late years, the police, by compelling a rigid observance of the sanitary laws, have greatly improved the condition of the houses and streets, and consequently the health of the people. During the past winter, however, many of the East side streets have become horribly filthy.
[Picture: THE INSIDE VIEW OF A TENEMENT HOUSE.]
The reader must not suppose that the house just described is an exceptional establishment. In the Eleventh and Seventeenth wards whole streets, for many blocks, are lined with similar houses. There are many single blocks of dwellings containing twice the number of families residing on Fifth avenue, on both sides of that street, from Washington Square to the Park, or than a continuous row of dwellings similar to those on Fifth avenue, three or four miles in length. The Fourth ward, covering an area of 83 acres, contains 23,748 inhabitants. The city of Springfield (Massachusetts), contains 26,703 inhabitants. The Eleventh ward, comprising 196 acres, contains more people than the cities of Mobile (Alabama), and Salem (Massachusetts), combined. The Seventh ward, covering 110 acres, contains more inhabitants than the city of Syracuse (New York). The Seventeenth ward, covering 331 acres, contains more inhabitants than the city of Cleveland (Ohio), which is the fifteenth city in the Union in respect of population.
The best of the tenement houses are uncomfortable. Where so large a number of people are gathered under the same roof to live as they please, it is impossible to keep the premises clean. A very large portion of them are in bad repair and in equally bad sanitary condition. In 1867 these houses made up fifty-two per cent. of the whole number, and there is no reason to believe that there has been any improvement since then. Many of them are simply appalling. They become more wretched and squalid as the East River and Five Points sections are reached. Cherry, Water, and the neighboring streets, are little better than charnel houses.
About three months ago one of the most wretched rookeries in the city was cleared out and cleansed by order of the Board of Health. This was known as "Sweeney's," and stood in Gotham Court. The immediate cause of its overhauling was the discovery of its actual condition made by Detective Finn and Mr. Edward Crapsey of the New York Times, during a visit to it. Mr. Crapsey gives the following interesting account of his visit:
"As we stopped in Cherry street at the entrance to Gotham Court, and Detective Finn dug a tunnel of light with his bullseye lantern into the foulness and blackness of that smirch on civilization, a score or more of boys who had been congregated at the edge of the court suddenly plunged back into the obscurity, and we heard the splash of their feet in the foul collections of the pavements.
"'This bullseye is an old acquaintance here,' said the detective, 'and as its coming most always means "somebody wanted," you see how they hide. Though why they should object to go to jail is more than I know; I'd rather stay in the worst dungeon in town than here. Come this way and I'll show you why.'
"Carefully keeping in the little track of light cut into the darkness by the lantern, I followed the speaker, who turned into the first door on the right, and I found myself in an entry about four feet by six, with steep, rough, rickety stairs leading upward in the foreground, and their counterparts at the rear giving access to as successful a manufactory of disease and death as any city on earth can show. Coming to the first of these stairs, I was peremptorily halted by the foul stenches rising from below; but Finn, who had reached the bottom, threw back the relentless light upon the descending way and urged me on. Every step oozed with moisture and was covered sole deep with unmentionable filth; but I ventured on, and reaching my conductor, stood in a vault some twelve feet wide and two hundred long, which extended under the whole of West Gotham Court. The walls of rough stone dripped with slimy exudations, while the pavements yielded to the slightest pressure of the feet a suffocating odor compounded of bilge-water and sulphuretted hydrogen. Upon one side of this elongated cave of horrors were ranged a hundred closets, every one of which reeked with this filth, mixed with that slimy moisture which was everywhere as a proof that the waters of the neighboring East River penetrated, and lingered here to foul instead of purify.
"'What do you think of this?' said Finn, throwing the light of his lantern hither and thither so that every horror might be dragged from the darkness that all seemed to covet. 'All the thousands living in the barracks must come here, and just think of all the young ones above that never did any harm having to take in this stuff;' and the detective struck out spitefully at the noxious air. As he did so, the gurgling of water at the Cherry street end of the vault caught his ear, and penetrating thither, he peered curiously about.
"'I say, Tom,' he called back to his companion, who had remained with me in the darkness, 'here's a big break in the Croton main.' But a moment later, in an affrighted voice: 'No, it ain't. Its the sewer! I never knew of this opening into it before. Paugh! how it smells. That's nothing up where you are. I'll bet on the undertaker having more jobs in the house than ever.'
"By this time I began to feel sick and faint in that tainted air, and would have rushed up the stairs if I could have seen them. But Finn was exploring that sewer horror with his lantern. As I came down I had seen a pool of stagnant, green-coated water somewhere near the foot of the stairs, and, being afraid to stir in the thick darkness, was forced to call my guide, and, frankly state the urgent necessity for an immediate return above. The matter-of-fact policeman came up, and cast the liberating light upon the stairs, but rebuked me as I eagerly took in the comparatively purer atmosphere from above. 'You can't stand it five minutes; how do you suppose they do, year in and year out?' 'Even they don't stand it many years, I should think,' was my involuntary reply.
"As we stepped out into the court again, the glare of the bullseye dragged a strange face out of the darkness. It was that of a youth of eighteen or twenty years, ruddy, puffed, with the corners of the mouth grotesquely twisted. The detective greeted the person owning this face with the fervor of old acquaintanceship: 'Eh, Buster! What's up?' 'Hello, Jimmy Finn! What yez doin' here?' 'Never mind, Buster. What's up?' 'Why, Jimmy, didn't yez know I lodges here now?' 'No, I didn't. Where? Who with?' 'Beyant, wid the Pensioner.' 'Go on. Show me where you lodge.' 'Sure, Jimmy, it isn't me as would lie to yez.'
"But I had expressed a desire to penetrate into some of these kennels for crushed humanity; and Finn, with the happy acumen of his tribe, seizing the first plausible pretext, was relentless, and insisted on doubting the word of the Buster. That unfortunate with the puffy face, who seemed to know his man too well to protract resistance, puffed ahead of us up the black, oozy court, with myriads of windows made ghastly by the pale flicker of kerosene lamps in tiers above us, until he came to the last door but one upon the left side of the court, over which the letter S was sprawled upon the coping stone. The bullseye had been darkened, and when the Buster plunged through the doorway he was lost to sight in the impenetrable darkness beyond. We heard him though, stumbling against stairs that creaked dismally, and the slide being drawn back, the friendly light made clear the way for him and us. There was an entry precisely like the one we had entered before, with a flight of narrow, almost perpendicular stairs, with so sharp a twist in them that we could see only half up. The banisters in sight had precisely three uprights, and looked as if the whole thing would crumble at a touch; while the stairs were so smooth and thin with the treading of innumerable feet that they almost refused a foothold. Following the Buster, who grappled with the steep and dangerous ascent with the daring born of habit, I somehow got up stairs, wondering how any one ever got down in the dark without breaking his neck. Thinking it possible there might be a light sometimes to guide the pauper hosts from their hazardous heights to the stability of the street, I inquired as to the fact, only to meet the contempt of the Buster for the gross ignorance that could dictate such a question. 'A light for the stairs! Who'd give it? Sweeney? Not much! Or the tenants? Skasely! Them's too poor!' While he muttered, the Buster had pawed his way up stairs with surprising agility, until he reached a door on the third landing. Turning triumphantly to the detective, he announced: 'Here's where I lodges, Jimmy! You knows I wouldn't lie to yez.'
"'We'll see whether you would or no,' said Finn, tapping on the door. Being told to come in, he opened it; and on this trivial but dexterous pretext we invaded the sanctity of a home.
"No tale is so good as one plainly told, and I tell precisely what I saw. This home was composed, in the parlance of the place, of a 'room and bedroom.' The room was about twelve feet square, and eight feet from floor to ceiling. It had two windows opening upon the court, and a large fireplace filled with a cooking stove. In the way of additional furniture, it had a common deal table, three broken wooden chairs, a few dishes and cooking utensils, and two 'shakedowns,' as the piles of straw stuffed into bed-ticks are called; but it had nothing whatever beyond these articles. There was not even the remnant of a bedstead; not a cheap print, so common in the hovels of the poor, to relieve the blankness of the rough, whitewashed walls. The bedroom, which was little more than half the size of the other, was that outrage of capital upon poverty known as a 'dark room,' by which is meant that it had no window opening to the outer air; and this closet had no furniture whatever except two 'shakedowns.'
"In the contracted space of these two rooms, and supplied with these scanty appliances for comfort, nine human beings were stowed. First there was the 'Pensioner,' a man of about thirty-five years, next his wife, then their three children, a woman lodger with two children, and the 'Buster,' the latter paying fifteen cents per night for his shelter; but I did not learn the amount paid by the woman for the accommodation of herself and children. The Buster, having been indignant at my inquiry as to the light upon the stairs, was now made merry by Finn supposing he had a regular bed and bedstead for the money. 'Indade, he has not, but a "shakedown" like the rest of us,' said the woman; but the Buster rebuked this assumption of an impossible prosperity by promptly exclaiming, 'Whist! ye knows I stretch on the boords without any shakedown whatsumdever.'
"Finn was of opinion the bed was hard but healthy, and fixing his eyes on the Buster's flabby face thought it possible he had any desirable number of 'square meals' per day; but that individual limited his acquirements in that way for the day then closed to four. Finn then touching on the number of drinks, the Buster, being driven into conjecture and a corner by the problem, was thrust out of the foreground of our investigations.
"By various wily tricks of his trade, Detective Finn managed to get a deal of information out of the Pensioner without seeming to be either inquisitive or intrusive, or even without rubbing the coat of his poverty the wrong way. From this source I learned that five dollars per month was paid as rent for these two third-floor rooms, and that everybody concerned deemed them dirt cheap at the price. Light was obtained from kerosene lamps at the expense of the tenant, and water had to be carried from the court below, while all refuse matter not emptied into the court itself, had to be taken to the foul vaults beneath it. The rooms, having all these drawbacks, and being destitute of the commonest appliances for comfort or decency, did not appear to be in the highest degree eligible; yet the Pensioner considered himself fortunate in having secured them. His experience in living must have been very doleful, for he declared that he had seen worse places. In itself, and so far as the landlord was concerned, I doubted him; but I had myself seen fouler places than these two rooms, which had been made so by the tenants. All that cleanliness could do to make the kennel of the Pensioner habitable had been done, and I looked with more respect upon the uncouth woman who had scoured the rough floor white, than I ever had upon a gaudily attired dame sweeping Broadway with her silken trail. The thrift that had so little for its nourishment had not been expended wholly upon the floor, for I noticed that the two children asleep on the shakedown were clean, while the little fellow four years of age, who was apparently prepared for bed as he was entirely naked, but sat as yet upon one of the three chairs, had no speck of dirt upon his fair white skin. A painter should have seen him as he gazed wonderingly upon us, and my respect deepened for the woman who could, spite the hard lines of her rugged life, bring forth and preserve so much of childish symmetry and beauty.
"Having absorbed these general facts, I turned to the master of this household. He was a man of small stature but rugged frame, and his left shirt sleeve dangled empty at his side. That adroit Finn, noticing my inquiring look, blurted out: 'That arm went in a street accident, I suppose?'
"'No, sir; it wint at the battle of Spottsylvania.'
"Here was a hero! The narrow limits of his humble home expanded to embrace the brown and kneaded Virginian glades as I saw them just seven years ago, pictured with the lurid pageantry of that stubborn fight when Sedgwick fell. This man, crammed with his family into twelve feet square at the top of Sweeney's Shambles, was once part of that glorious scene. In answer to my test questions he said he belonged to the Thirty-ninth New York, which was attached to the Second Corps, and that he received a pension of $15 per month from the grateful country he had served as payment in full for an arm. It was enough to keep body and soul together, and he could not complain. Nor could I; but I could and did signify to my guide by a nod that I had seen and heard enough, and we went down again into the slimy, reeking court."
There is a square on the East side bounded by Houston, Stanton, Pitt, and Willett streets. It contains a group of three front and seven rear houses, and is known as "Rag-pickers' Row." These ten houses contain a total of 106 families, or 452 persons. All these persons are rag-pickers, or more properly chiffonniers, for their business is to pick up every thing saleable they can find in the streets. Formerly they brought their gatherings to this place and assorted them here before taking them to the junk stores to sell them. Now, however, they assort them elsewhere, and their wretched dwellings are as clean as it is possible to keep them. They are generally peaceable and quiet, and their quarrels are commonly referred to the agent in charge of the row, who decides them to their satisfaction. They are very industrious in their callings, and some of them have money in the Savings banks. Nearly all who have children send them to the Mission Schools.
The Board of Health, in one of their recent publications, express themselves as follows:
"The worst class of tenement houses was those where a landlord had accommodations for ten families, and these buildings comprise more than half of the tenement houses of the city, and accommodate fully two-thirds of the entire tenement-house population. When the number of families living under one owner exceeded ten, it was found that such owner was engaged in the keeping of a tenement-house as a business, and generally as a speculator. It is among this class of owners that nearly all the evils of the tenement-house system are found. The little colony exhibit in their rooms, and in the little areas around their dwellings, extreme want of care. The street in front of the place was reeking with slops and garbage; the alleys and passage ways were foul with excrements; the court was imperfectly paved, wet, and covered with domestic refuse; the privies, located in a close court between the rear and front houses, were dilapidated, and gave out volumes of noisome odors, which filled the whole area, and were diffused through all the rooms opening upon it; and the halls and apartments of the wretched occupants were close, unventilated, and unclean. The complaint was universal among the tenants that they are entirely uncared for, and that the only answer to their request to have the place put in order, by repairs and necessary improvements, was, that they must pay their rent or leave. Inquiry often disclosed the fact that the owner of the property was a wealthy gentleman or lady, either living in an aristocratic part of the city or in a neighboring city, or, as was occasionally found to be the case, in Europe. The property is usually managed entirely by an agent, whose instructions are simple, but emphatic, viz., 'collect the rent in advance, or, failing, eject the occupants.' The profits on this sort of property, so administered, are rarely less than fifteen per cent., and more generally thirty per cent. upon the investment."
The evils of the tenement house system are almost incalculable. It is the experience of all nations that barrack life is demoralizing, and the tenement house is but a barrack without the rigid discipline of a military establishment. Its inmates know no such thing as privacy. Home is but a word with them. They have habitations, but not homes. Within the same walls are gathered the virtuous and the depraved, the honest laborer and the thief. There can be no such thing as shielding the young from improper outside influences. They have every opportunity to become thoroughly corrupted without leaving the house. Decency is impossible. Families exist in the greatest amount of personal discomfort, and the children take every opportunity to escape from the house into the streets. The tenement houses every year send many girls into the ranks of the street walkers, and a greater number of young men into the ranks of the roughs and thieves.
Drunkenness is very common among the inhabitants of these houses. Men and women are literally driven into intemperance by the discomfort in which they live. Nearly all the domestic murders occurring in the city are perpetrated in the tenement houses. Immorality is very common. Indeed, the latter crime is the logical result of such dense packing of the sexes. It is a terrible thing to contemplate, but it is a fact that one half of the population of this great city is subjected to the demoralizing influences of these vast barracks. The laboring class, who should constitute the backbone and sinew of the community, are thus degraded to a level with paupers, forced to herd among them, and to adopt a mode of life which is utterly destructive of the characteristics which should distinguish them. It is no wonder that crime is so common in the Metropolis. The real wonder is that it does not defy all restraint.
The tenement houses are afflicted with a terrible mortality. Says Dr. Harris, "Consumption and all the inflammatory diseases of the lungs vie with the infectious and other zymotic disorders, in wasting the health and destroying the life of the tenement population." Of late years a new disease, the relapsing fever, which, though rarely fatal, destroys the health and vigor of its victims, has made havoc among the tenement population. The mortality among children is very great, and perhaps this is fortunate for them, for it would seem that death in their first flush of innocence is far better than a life of wretchedness and perhaps of infamy. Small pox and all the contagious and infectious diseases would make short work with the tenement-house population, were any of them to become epidemic in the city. There would be nothing to check them, and the unfortunate people living in these sections would find no means of escaping from them.
LXI. CHATHAM STREET.
The oldest inhabitant cannot remember when Chatham street did not exist. It still contains many half decayed houses which bear witness to its antiquity. It begins at City Hall Place, and ends at Chatham Square. It is not over a quarter of a mile in length, and is narrow and dirty. The inhabitants are principally Jews and low class foreigners. Near the lower end are one or two good restaurants, and several cheap hotels, but the remainder of the street is taken up with establishments into which respectable buyers do not care to venture. Cheap lodging houses abound, pawnbrokers are numerous, several fence stores are to be found here, and some twenty or twenty-five cellars are occupied as dance houses and concert saloons. These are among the lowest and vilest of their kind in New York.
Chatham street is the paradise of dealers in mock jewelry and old clothes. Some of the shops sell new clothing of an inferior quality, but old clothes do most abound. Here you may find the cast-off finery of the wife of a millionaire—the most of it stolen—or the discarded rags of a pauper. It seems as if all New York had placed its cast-off clothing here for sale, and that the stock had accumulated for generations. Who the dealers sell to is a mystery. You see them constantly inviting trade, but you rarely see a customer within their doors.
[Picture: CHATHAM SQUARE.]
Honesty is a stranger in Chatham street, and any one making a purchase here must expect to be cheated. The streets running off to the right and left lead to the Five Points and similar sections, and it is this wretched portion of the city that supports trade in Chatham street. The horse car lines of the east side pass through the entire length of the street, and the heaviest portion of the city travel flows through it, but respectable people rarely leave the cars in this dirty thoroughfare, and are heartily glad when they are well out of it. The buildings are generally old and dilapidated. The shops are low and dark. They are rank with foul odors, and are suggestive of disease. The men and women who conduct them look like convicts, and as they sit in their doorways watching for custom, they seem more like wild beasts waiting for their prey, than like human beings. Even the children have a keener, more disreputable appearance here than elsewhere. The lowest class Jews abound in this vile quarter, and filthy creatures they are.
The Chatham street merchants are shrewd dealers, and never suffer an opportunity to make a penny to pass by unimproved. They are not particular as to the character of the transaction. They know they are never expected to sell honestly, and they make it a rule not to disappoint their customers. One of their favorite expedients to create trade in dull times is called a "forced sale." They practise this only on those whom they recognize as strangers, for long experience has enabled them to tell a city man at a glance. A stranger walking along the street will be accosted by the proprietor of a shop and his clerks with offers of "sheap" clothing. If he pauses to listen, he is lost. He is seized by the harpies, who pretend to assist him, and is literally forced into the shop. He may protest that he does not wish to buy anything, but the "merchant" and his clerks will insist that he does, and before he can well help himself, they will haul off his coat, clap one of the store coats on his back, and declare it a "perfect fit." The new coat will then be removed and replaced by the old one, and the victim will be allowed to leave the shop. As he passes out of the door, the new coat is thrust under his arm, and he is seized by the proprietor and his assistants, who shout "stop thief!" and charge him with stealing the coat. Their noise, and the dread of being arrested upon a charge of theft, will frequently so confuse and frighten the victim that he will comply with their demand, which is that he shall buy the coat. This done he is suffered to depart. A refusal to yield would not injure him, for the scoundrels would seldom dare to call in the police, for fear of getting themselves into trouble with the officials. They have reckoned with certainty, however, upon the stranger's timidity and bewilderment, and know they are safe.
LXII. JAMES GORDON BENNETT.
James Gordon Bennett was born at New Mill, Keith, in Banffshire, on the northeastern coast of Scotland, about the year 1800. His relatives were Roman Catholics, and he was destined for the priesthood of that church. He entered the Roman Catholic Seminary at Aberdeen, in 1814, and remained there two years, acquiring the basis of an excellent education. Chance having thrown in his way a copy of Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, he was so much impressed by it that he abandoned all thought of a clerical life, and resolved to emigrate to America, which he did in 1819, arriving in Halifax in May of that year, being then nearly twenty years old. He had not an acquaintance on this side of the Atlantic, had no profession save that of a bookkeeper, and had but twenty-five dollars in his pocket.
He began by giving lessons in bookkeeping, in Halifax, but his success was so poor that he came to the United States, landing at Portland, where he took passage for Boston. Arriving in Boston he found great difficulty in procuring employment, and was reduced to the verge of starvation, but at length obtained a place as a proof-reader. He held this position for two years, and, having lost it by the failure of his employers, came to New York in 1822. Soon after this, he accepted an engagement on the Charleston (S.C.) Courier, but held it for a short time only. Returning to New York he attempted to organize a Commercial School, but was unsuccessful. He next tried lecturing, with equally bad luck, and was obliged to renew his connection with the press. He held various positions on the New York newspapers, in each and all of which he proved himself a journalist of large ideas and great originality and power. In 1828, he became the Washington correspondent of the New York Enquirer, and in this position inaugurated the style of newspaper correspondence which is now adopted by all the leading journals of the country. He was poorly paid for his services, and was obliged to do an immense amount of miscellaneous literary work in order to earn a bare support. In the autumn of 1829 he became assistant editor of the Courier and Enquirer, with James Watson Webb as his chief. In this position he did great service, and really made the success of the paper. He found his position unpleasant, however, and abandoned it in 1832.
He tried several other expedients, all of which were unsuccessful, and even tried to induce Horace Greeley, then a struggling printer, to join him in the establishment of a newspaper. Horace refused, but recommended him to another printer who accepted his proposition. His next step was to rent a cellar in Wall street, and in this cellar, on the 6th of May, 1835, the New York Herald was born. The coal vaults of the present Herald office are an improvement upon the original office, which was sanctum and counting-house all in one. Mr. Bennett performed all the work on the paper, except setting it up and printing it. He collected the news, wrote the contents, sold the paper, and received advertisements. He worked manfully, but his difficulties were enormous. He made his little journal spicy, attractive, and even impudent—though not indecent, as some have wrongly asserted—in the hope of making it popular. He worked from sixteen to eighteen hours a day, but in spite of all his efforts he lost money until the end of the third month, after which he contrived to pay the actual expense of publication for some time longer. Then a fire destroyed the printing office, and his partners refused to continue their connection with the paper. By almost superhuman efforts he succeeded in securing the means of going on with the Herald, and in a short while the "great fire" occurred just in time to save him. It was the most terrible catastrophe that had ever occurred in America, and Bennett resolved to profit by it. He went himself among the ruins, note-book in hand, and the result of his labors was a series of graphic and accurate reports in the Herald of the disaster, that at once created a large demand for the paper. This demand did not fall off, but it was not sufficient to place the Herald on a successful footing. At this time, Mr. Bennett was fortunate enough to secure a large contract from Dr. Brandreth for advertising his pills in the Herald. The sum received was very large, and was conscientiously expended in the purchase of news, and in improving and increasing the attractions of the paper. At the end of the fifteenth month of its career, Mr. Bennett ventured to increase the size of the Herald, and to raise its price from one to two cents. Since then the paper has prospered steadily, and is now one of the wealthiest and most powerful journals in the land, and the best purveyor of news in the world. Its success is due almost exclusively to the proprietor. Mr. Bennett has not only built up his own paper, but has revolutionized the press of the world. This is his chief claim to distinction.
He rarely writes for the paper now, though he maintains a close supervision over all parts of it, as well as over the mechanical department of his enterprise.
[Picture: JAMES GORDON BENNETT.]
He is married, and has two children, a son, James Gordon Bennett, jr., who will succeed his father in the ownership of the Herald, and a daughter. He resides on the Fifth avenue. He is said to be a courtly and agreeable host, and his long and extensive experience as a journalist has made him one of the best informed men of the day.
In person he is tall and firmly built, and walks with a dignified carriage. His head is large and his features are prominent and irregular. He is cross-eyed, and has a thoroughly Scotch face. His expression is firm and somewhat cold—that of a man who has had a hard fight with fortune, and has conquered it. He is reserved in his manner to strangers, but is always courteous and approachable.
During the year 1869, there were 15,918 men, and 8105 women arrested for intoxication, and 5222 men and 3466 women for intoxication and disorderly conduct, making a total of 21,140 men and 11,571 women, or 32,711 persons in all arrested for drunkenness. Now if to this we add the 21,734 men and women arrested during the same year for assault and battery, and for disorderly conduct, and regard these offences as caused, as they undoubtedly were, by liquor, we shall have a total of 54,445 persons brought to grief by the use of intoxicating liquors.
But it does not require this estimate to convince a New Yorker that drunkenness is very common in the city. One has but to walk through the streets, and especially those in the poorer sections, and notice the liquor shops of various kinds, from the Broadway rum palace to the "Gin Mill" of the Bowery, or the "Bucket Shop" of the Five Points. There are 7071 licensed places for the sale of liquor in the city, and they all enjoy a greater or less degree of prosperity. Very few liquor sellers, confining themselves to their legitimate business, fail in this city. The majority grow rich, and their children not unfrequently take their places in the fashionable society of the city. The liquors sold at these places are simply abominable. Whiskey commands the largest sale, and it is in the majority of instances a vile compound. About three years ago, the New York World published a list of the principal bar-rooms of the city, with a report of chemical analyses of the liquors obtained at each, and proved conclusively that pure liquors were not sold over the bar at any establishment in the city. A few months ago a World reporter published the following estimate of the business of the bar-rooms in the vicinity of Wall street, patronized principally by the brokers:
Hot Hot Whiskeys Brandies. Wines. Mixed Ales, Bottles spiced whiskeys. straight. liquors. beers, Champagne. rums. etc.
L. Dardy 56 59 62 15 23 30 105 6 Mike's 65 110 70 20 28 23 90 10 V.B. 43 62 112 30 35 27 110 5 Carpenter Young 35 40 52 10 12 15 65 2 P. Murphy 34 49 63 12 15 25 45 2 Schedler 51 48 112 35 52 45 315 18 Delmonico 213 205 315 90 135 180 210 35 Riley 105 123 180 25 30 62 80 6 Sammis & 23 31 30 8 10 15 35 1 Sharp Van Riper 27 22 19 10 13 18 40 1 Ed. 18 29 38 12 15 20 60 2 Schultze Delatour's 15 20 45 27 30 12 25 2 Gault's 28 32 125 23 35 28 85 5
Total 713 830 1223 317 433 500 1265 94
"This makes a total of 5281 drinks and 94 bottles of champagne consumed in thirteen of the largest saloons, supported by the brokers; and including the dozen or more of small places, the number of drinks taken in and about Wall street per day is over 7500, while over 125 bottles of champagne are disposed of. The amount of money expended for fuel to feed the flagging energies of the speculators is, therefore, over $2000 per day, and it is not at all strange that the brokers occasionally cut up queer antics in the boards, and stocks take twists and turns that unsettle the street for weeks."
The brokers, however, are not the only generous patrons of the bar-rooms. The vice of drunkenness pervades all classes. Every day men are being ruined by it, and the most promising careers totally destroyed. Day after day, you see men and women reeling along the streets, or falling helpless. The police soon secure them, and at night they are kept quite busy attending to them. But the arrests, numerous as they are, do not represent the sum total of the drunkenness of the city. The drinking in private life, which oftentimes does not result in actual intoxication, but which kills by slowly poisoning body and mind, is very great, but there is no means of estimating it.
[Picture: A FEMALE DRINKER.]
Respectable men patronize the better class bar-rooms, and respectable women the ladies' restaurants. At the latter places a very large amount of money is spent by women for drink. Wives and mothers, and even young girls, who are ashamed to drink at home, go to these fashionable restaurants for their liquor. Some will drink it openly, others will disguise it as much as possible. Absinthe has been introduced at these places of late years, and it is said to be very popular with the gentler sex. Those who know its effects will shudder at this. We have seen many drunken women in New York, and the majority have been well dressed and of respectable appearance. Not long since, a lady making purchases in a city store, fell helpless to the floor. The salesman, thinking she had fainted, hastened to her assistance, and found her dead drunk.
We have already written of the Bucket Shops. They represent the lowest grade of this vice. They sell nothing but poisons.
Is it strange then that crime flourishes? Is it a wonder that Saturday night and Sunday, the chosen periods for drinking heavily, are productive of more murders and assaults than any other portion of the week?
LXIV. WHAT IT COSTS TO LIVE IN NEW YORK.
The question is very frequently asked, "Is living in New York very expensive?" An emphatic affirmative may be safely returned to every such interrogatory. Let one's idea of comfort be what it may, it is impossible to live cheaply in this city with any degree of decency. One can go to a cellar lodging-house, and live for from twenty to forty cents a day, but he will find himself overcharged for the accommodation given him. He may live in a tenement house, and his expenses will still be disproportioned to the return received. The discomforts of life in New York, however, fall chiefly upon educated and refined people of moderate means. The very rich have an abundance for their wants, and are able to make their arrangements to suit themselves. The very poor expect nothing but misery.
To begin at the beginning, the expenses of a family in fashionable life are something appalling. Fifty thousand dollars per annum may be set down as the average outlay of a family of five or six persons residing in a fashionable street, and owning their residence. Some persons spend more, some less, but this amount may be taken as a fair average, and it will not admit of much of what would be called extravagance in such a station.
For those who own their houses, keep a carriage, and do not "live fashionably," or give many entertainments, the average is from fifteen to twenty thousand dollars.
For those who aspire to live in comfort and in a respectable neighborhood, and to occupy a whole house, the average is from five to six thousand dollars. With six thousand dollars a year, a family of five persons, living in a rented house, will be compelled to economise. Those who have smaller incomes are obliged to board, to occupy a part of a house, or to leave the city.
The average rent of a moderate sized house in New York is $1800 per annum. This amount may or may not include the use of the gas fixtures, and the house may or may not have a furnace in it. There will be a dining-room and kitchen, with hall or passage in the basement. The first floor will contain two parlors and the front hall. The second floor will contain a bath-room, water closet, and two, or perhaps three, chambers. The third floor usually contains two large and two small rooms, and several closets. The chambers in the more modern houses contain marble basins, with hot and cold water laid on. Where the tenant is unknown to the landlord, he is required to pay his rent monthly, in advance, or to give security for its quarterly payment. Such a house will require the services of at least two women, and if there be children to be cared for, a nurse is necessary. The wages of these, per month, are as follows: cook, $16 to $20; chambermaid, $12 to $15; nurse, $12 to $16. In many of the wealthier families a higher rate of wages is paid. At the rate given, however, from $480 to $582 is the annual outlay for servants, to which must be added a considerable sum for "changing help." Instances are known to the writer in which this "changing help," in the case of discharging an old cook and securing a new one, has cost a housekeeper as much as $30 in a single change. This will be easily understood when I state that ladies who go to look after "girls," in the places from which they advertise for situations, are obliged to go to the expense of hiring a carriage, it being unsafe for them to venture into these sections on foot. Without counting the changes, however, and taking the lower estimate of wages, we have a total of $2280 for house rent and servants' hire. This leaves, from $6000, the sum of $3720 for food, clothing, sickness, education, and all the incidentals of a family. The General Government secures a large slice of this through its iniquitous income tax, and State and county taxes take up several hundred more. Those who have had experience in keeping house in any portion of the country can easily understand how the rest goes, when one has to pay fifty cents per pound for butter, fifty cents a dozen for eggs, sixteen cents a pound for crushed sugar, twenty-five cents a pound for fowls, and thirty-five cents a pound for the choice cuts of beef. All this, too, with the certainty of getting light weights from your butcher and grocer.
Many persons seek refuge in boarding. Those who have no children, or but one or two, may live cheaper in this way, but not in the same degree of comfort that their outlay would bring them in their own homes. A couple with two or three children and a nurse, cannot live in any respectable boarding-house in New York, except in instances so rare that they do not deserve to be mentioned, for less than sixty dollars per week for board and lodging alone. Such persons must pay extra for washing, and there are many "incidentals" which add to the landlady's receipts.
For such a family, giving them two chambers and a parlor, the Fifth Avenue Hotel charges $30 per day, or $10,950 per annum. The figures are high, but "the Fifth Avenue" gives a fair return for the money. The charges of the other hotels are in proportion. None of them will receive such a family for less than $6000 or $7000 per annum.
Of late years, a new style of living has been introduced. The city now contains a number of houses located in unexceptionable neighborhoods, and built in first-class style, which are rented in flats, or suites of apartments, as in the Parisian houses. The largest of these are the monster "Stevens House," on Twenty-seventh street, fronting on Broadway and Fifth avenue, Dr. Haight's House, on the corner of Fifth avenue and Fifteenth street, and Mr. Stuyvesant's House, in East Eighteenth street, the last of which was the pioneer house of its kind in this city. The "Stevens House" was built and is owned by Paran Stevens, Esq., and is one of the largest buildings in the city. It is constructed of red brick, with marble and light stone trimmings, and is eight stories in height above the street, with a large cellar below the sidewalk. The cost of this edifice is to be one million of dollars. "The woodwork of the interior is of black walnut; the walls are finely frescoed and harmoniously tinted. There are, in all, eight floors, including the servants' attics. Five stores occupy the lower tier. There are eighteen suites of rooms, to which access is had by a steam elevator. The building is heated upon the principle of indirect radiation, by forcing steam-heated air through pipes into the different rooms. The main staircase is of iron, with marble steps, and the main halls to each story are tiled. The chief suites comprise parlor, dining-room, boudoir, dressing-rooms, and butler's pantry; each principal suite comprehending five commodious chambers on the first floor, and two at the top of the house. Each kitchen is furnished with improved ranges. The roof is supplied with water tanks, and, as a further protection against fire, the second floor is supported by iron arched beams, filled in with concrete."
The Haight House is said to be the most thoroughly comfortable establishment of the kind in New York. "It consists of five floors, having twenty suites of apartments for families, and fifteen for bachelors, at a yearly rental of from three thousand to two thousand dollars for the former, and from one thousand four hundred to six hundred and fifty dollars for the latter. These suites are entered from the hallways, each suite having a separate entrance of its own, and at the entrance to the principal suites there is a small antechamber, from which a servant may announce the names of visitors. The family suites embrace a commodious parlor, a large dining-room, with butler's pantry attached, a kitchen, three bed rooms, and a bath room. Each suite has its own dumb-waiter; a dump for coal and refuse, and the proper provision for ventilation; while the suites intended for single occupants are furnished with every appliance necessary to the securing of perfect comfort and ease. Although every accommodation is furnished by the house, some of the tenants have chosen to go to the expense of decorating their own apartments, and have had their rooms elegantly frescoed and painted by some of the first artists in the city. The mantels are either of walnut or the finest marble, of elegant design and workmanship. The supposition is that a majority of the guests will cook for themselves, but arrangements may be effected by which the cooking may be done in a general kitchen for the purpose. There is a steam elevator, and a general system of kitchens, sculleries, pantries, store and ice rooms, with the engines, and a well-devised workshop for the engineer. There is a steam laundry, capable of washing one thousand pieces per day, where guests may have their washing done at a cheaper rate than could be possible under any of the ordinary methods; and also a drying room—all of the principal work of the establishment being effected by steam. Each apartment has its bell and whistle, communicating with the basement. A janitor, or porter, has a lodge in the main hall, within which there is also a 'post-office.' In the basement is another porter's lodge for the facilitation of business with the butcher, the baker, and the expressman."
These houses, however, are accessible only to people of ample means. The apartments rent for sums which will secure comfortable dwellings, and the other expenses are about the same one would incur in his own house. The great need of the city is a system of such houses in respectable neighborhoods, in which apartments may be had at moderate rents.
I. FARO BANKS.
In spite of the fact that games of chance for money are prohibited by the laws of the State of New York, there is no city in the Union in which they are carried on to a greater extent than in the Metropolis. There are about 200 gambling houses proper in the city, and from 350 to 400 lottery offices, policy shops, and places where gambling is carried on with more or less regularity. About 2500 persons are known to the police as professional gamblers. Some of the establishments are conducted with great secrecy. Others are carried on with perfect openness, and are as well known as any place of legitimate business in the city. The police, for reasons best known to themselves, decline to execute the laws against them, and they continue their career from year to year without molestation. There are about twenty of these houses in Broadway, occupying locations which make them conspicuous to every passer-by. In the cross streets, within a block of Broadway, there are from twenty-five to thirty more, and the Bowery and East side streets are full of them.
Ninety-five of the gambling houses of the city are classed as "Faro Banks." Faro is the principal game, but there are appliances for others. Faro is emphatically an American game, and is preferred by amateurs because of its supposed fairness. An experienced gambler, however, does not need to be told that the game offers as many chances for cheating as any others that are played. It has attained its highest development in New York.
The gambling houses of New York are usually divided into three classes: First and Second Class, and Day Houses. The First-Class Houses are few in number. There are probably not more than half a dozen in all, if as many. In these houses the playing is fair—that is, cheating is never resorted to. The Bank relies upon the chances in its favor, the "splits," and the superior skill and experience of the dealer. The first-class houses are located in fashionable side streets leading from Broadway, and are easy of access. Outwardly they differ in nothing from the elegant mansions on either side of them, except that the blinds are closed all day long, and the house has a silent, deserted air. In its internal arrangements the house is magnificent. The furniture, carpets, and all its appointments are superb. Choice paintings and works of art are scattered through the rooms in truly regal profusion. All that money can do to make the place attractive and luxurious has been done, and as money can always command taste, the work has been well done.
The servants attached to the place are generally negroes of the better class. They are well trained, many of them having been brought up as the valets, or butlers of the Southern gentry, and answer better for such places than whites, inasmuch as they are quiet, uncommunicative, attentive and respectful. One of these men is always in charge of the front door, and visitors are admitted with caution, it being highly desirable to admit only the nominally respectable. The best known houses are those of Morrissey, in Twenty-fourth street, and Ransom's and Chamberlain's, in Twenty-fifth street. Chamberlain's is, perhaps, the most palatial and the best conducted establishment in the country.
[Picture: A FIRST-CLASS GAMBLING HOUSE.]
The house is a magnificent brown-stone mansion, not far from Broadway. Ascending the broad stone steps, and ringing the bell, the visitor is ushered into the hall by the man in charge of the door, who is selected with great care. An attentive colored servant takes his hat and overcoat, and throws open the door of the drawing rooms. These apartments are furnished with taste as well as with magnificence. The carpet is of velvet, and the foot sinks noiselessly into it. The walls are tinted with delicate shades of lavender, and the ceiling is exquisitely frescoed. The furniture is of a beautiful design, and is upholstered in colors which harmonize with the prevailing tint of the walls and ceiling. The mantels are of Vermont marble, and over each is a large wall mirror. At each end of the room is a long pier glass, placed between richly curtained windows. Fine bronzes are scattered about the room, and in the front parlor are large and well-executed copies of Dora's "Dante and Virgil in the Frozen Regions of Hell," and "Jephthah's Daughter." The front parlor is entirely devoted to the reception and entertainment of guests. The gaming is carried on in the back parlor.
In the rear of the back parlor is the supper room, one of the richest and most tasteful apartments in the city. A long table, capable of seating fifty guests, is spread every evening with the finest of linen, plate, and table-ware. The best the market can afford is spread here every night. The steward of the establishment is an accomplished member of his profession, and is invaluable to his employer, who gives him free scope for the exercise of his talents. There is not a better table in all New York. The wines and cigars are of the finest brands, and are served in the greatest profusion. Chamberlain well understands that a good table is an important adjunct to his business, and he makes the attraction as strong as possible. There is no charge for the supper, or for liquors or cigars, but the guests are men above the petty meanness of enjoying all these luxuries without making some return for them. This return is made through the medium of the card table.
The proprietor of the house, John Chamberlain, is one of the handsomest men in the city. He is of middle height, compactly built, with a fine head, with black hair and eyes, and small features. His expression is pleasant and winning, and he is said to be invariably good natured, even under the most trying circumstances. In manner he is a thorough-bred gentleman, and exceedingly attractive. He is of middle age, and is finely educated. His self-possession is remarkable, and never deserts him, and he has the quality of putting his guests thoroughly at their ease. In short, he is a man fitted to adorn any position in life, and capable of reaching a very high one, but who has chosen to place himself in a position which both the law and popular sentiment have branded as infamous. Indeed, his very attractions and amiable qualities make him a very dangerous member of the community. He draws to the card table many who would be repelled from it by the ordinary gambler, and the fairness with which he conducts his house renders it all the more dangerous to society.
The guests consist of the most distinguished men in the city and country. Chamberlain says frankly that he does not care to receive visitors who are possessed of limited incomes and to whom losses would bring misfortune. He says it hurts him more to win the money of a man on a salary, especially if he has a family, than to lose his own, and as he does not care to be a loser he keeps these people away as far as possible. In plain English, he wishes to demoralize only the higher classes of society. His visitors are chiefly men who are wealthy and who can afford to lose, or whose high social or political stations make them welcome guests. You may see at his table Governors, Senators, members of Congress and of Legislatures, generals, judges, lawyers, bankers, merchants, great operators in Wall street, famous actors and authors, journalists, artists—in short, all grades of men who have attained eminence or won wealth in their callings. Consequently, the company is brilliant, and the conversations are such as are seldom heard in the most aristocratic private mansions of the city. The early part of the evening is almost exclusively devoted to social enjoyment, and there is very little gambling until after supper, which is served about half-past eleven, after the theatres have closed.
Then the back parlor is the centre of attraction. There is a roulette table on the eastern side of this apartment, said to be the handsomest piece of furniture in the Union. At the opposite side is a large side-board bountifully provided with liquor and cigars. The faro table stands across the room at the southern end, and is the most popular resort of the guests, though some of the other games find their votaries in other parts of the room.
"The table upon which faro is played is not unlike an ordinary dining-table with rounded corners. At the middle of one side, the place generally occupied by the head of a family, the dealer sits in a space of about three square feet, which has been fashioned in from the table. The surface is covered with tightly drawn green ladies' cloth. The thirteen suit cards of a whist pack are inlaid upon the surface in two rows, with the odd card placed as at the round of the letter U. The dealer has a full pack, which he shuffles, then inserts in a silver box with an open face. This box is laid upon the table directly to his front.
"The cards are confined within it by a stiff spring, and the top card is visible to all, save a narrow strip running about its edge, which is necessarily covered by the rim of the box to hold it securely in position.
"The game now begins. The dealer pushes out the top card, and the second card acted upon by the spring rises and fills its place. The second card is pushed off likewise laterally through the narrow slit constructed for the exit of all the cards. This pair thus drawn out constitutes a 'turn,' the first one being the winning and the second the losing card; so that the first, third, fifth, and in the same progression throughout the fifty-two are winning cards, and the second, fourth and sixth, etc., are the losing cards. The betting is done this way: The player buys ivory checks and never uses money openly. The checks are white, red, blue, and purple. The white checks are one dollar each, the red five dollars, the blue twenty-five and the purple one hundred dollars.
"Having provided himself with the number of checks (which in size resemble an old-fashioned cent), he lays down any amount to suit his fancy on any one card upon the table—one of the thirteen described. Suppose the deal is about to begin. He puts $100 in checks on the ace. The dealer throws off the cards till finally an ace appears. If it be the third, fifth, seventh, etc., card the player wins, and the dealer pays him $100 in checks—the 'bank's' loss. If, however, it were the second, fourth, sixth, etc., card the dealer takes the checks and the bank is $100 winner. Should a player desire to bet on a card to lose, he expresses this intention by putting a 'copper' in his checks, and then if the card is thrown off from the pack by the dealer as a losing card the player wins. This is practically all there is in faro.
"It should be remembered that the losing cards fall on one pile and the winning cards on another. When only four cards remain in the box there is generally lively betting as to how the three under cards will come out in precise order, the top one being visible. In this instance alone the player can treble his stake if fortunate in his prediction. This evolution is a 'call.'
"A tally board is kept, showing what cards remain in the box after each turn. This provision is to guard the player. Of course four of each kind are thrown from the box—four aces, etc.
"Some one will inquire how does the bank make it pay while taking such even chances? In this way. If two of a kind should come out in one 'turn,' as, for instance, two aces, half of the money bet on the ace, either to win or lose, goes to the bank. This is known as a 'split. They are very frequent, and large sums pass to the dealer through this channel. That is where the bank makes the money.
"Chamberlain says that if men were to study and labor ten thousand years they could never beat the bank, or rather the game. It is something which no one understands. When only one of a kind remains in the box, as an ace, for instance, to bet then that the card will come to win or to lose is just like throwing up a copper and awaiting the result, head or tail. So it will be seen that the bank is in a position where it has everything to risk.
"The playing is conducted largely by means of checks on the National banks of the city, men seldom carrying money about their persons. Here Mr. Chamberlain has to use his wits. A check given for gaming purposes is not valid in law. Therefore it is necessary to know his man—to be sure of his wealth, to be certain of his credit. It requires instantaneous decision. If the check is refused the drawer is mortally offended. But a few evenings since a city millionaire offered his check; it was declined. This was Chamberlain's mistake. It is said that if a merchant repudiates his gambling check at the bank it will destroy his credit in commercial circles. This is the only safeguard upon which the faro bank relies. It shows, however, to what a dangerous extent gambling has laid hold of the mercantile community, how rottenness is at this hour the inward germ of apparent soundness, and how heads of heavy concerns fritter away their capital at faro.