Both Jourdan and Kelso were agreed that this theory of the commission of the crime was correct, and this led to the inevitable conclusion that the murder was the work of an "outsider," that is, of some one not properly belonging to the criminal class. The weapon with which the murder had been committed was one which the Detectives had never before encountered in the annals of crime, and its appearance indicated long use in its legitimate sphere. No burglar or professional thief would have used it, and none of the inmates of the house recognized it as belonging to the mansion. Again, the professional thief would have despatched his victim with more speed and less brutality. There was not the slightest sign of the thief having forced an entrance into the mansion, and the most rigid search failed to reveal the mark of a burglar's tool on any of the doors or windows. This fact warranted the conclusion that the murderer had secreted himself in the house during the day. From the first Jourdan was convinced that the assassin was one of a class who pursue an honest trade during the day, and seek to fill their pockets more rapidly by committing robberies at night. From this conviction he never wavered.
As he stood by the side of the murdered man, Jourdan recognized the difficulty of the task of finding the assassin. The "dog" bewildered him. Had the weapon been any kind of a burglar's tool, or anything that any description of thief had ever been known to use, he would have been able to trace it to some one in the city; but the facts of the case plainly indicated that the assassin was an "outsider," and even Jourdan and Kelso were at a loss to know how to proceed to find him.
At the time of the murder, the only inmates of the house were Washington and Frederick Nathan, sons of the dead man, and Mrs. Kelly, the housekeeper, and her grown son, William Kelly. Had the murder been committed by any of these they must of necessity have stolen the missing articles, and as they had not left the house, must have destroyed or concealed them on the premises. Without the knowledge of these persons, Jourdan caused a rigid and thorough search of the house and lot to be made from cellar to garret. Every crack and crevice, every nook and corner was rigidly and minutely searched by experienced persons. Even the furniture and carpets were examined, the flooring of the stable was taken up, the water-tank was emptied, the basins, closets, and waste-pipes of the house were flushed, and the street-sewers were examined for a long distance from the house, but no trace of the missing articles could be found; nor could any mark of the "dog" be discovered anywhere save on the body of the victim. One by one, the inmates of the house were subjected to the most searching cross-examination, and within six hours after the discovery of the deed, Captain Jourdan was satisfied that the inmates of the mansion were entirely innocent of the crime. The evidence drawn out by the inquest subsequently confirmed the innocence of these parties.
The only clew left by the assassin was the "dog." At the inquest, the policeman on the beat swore that when he passed the house on his rounds at half-past four A.M., he tried both front doors, and that they were fastened, and that when he passed again a little before six o'clock, he noticed that the hall-door was closed. Another witness testified that about five o'clock, a man in a laborer's dress, carrying a dinner-pail, ascended the steps of the Nathan mansion, picked up a paper from the topmost step, and passed on down the street. The introduction of this man in the laborer's dress but deepened the mystery and increased the labors of the Detectives.
The entire police force of the city was set to work watching the pawn-shops and jewelry stores where the thief might try to dispose of the stolen property. Every ship-yard and boat-yard was searched for the identification of the "dog," but without success, and almost every mechanical establishment in the city where the instrument could have been used, was subjected to the same inspection, but without discovering anything. A list of the missing property, and the marks by which it could be identified, was given to the public and telegraphed all over the Union. Captain Jourdan declared that it was well to have as many people as possible looking for these articles. Every known or suspected criminal in the city was waited on by the police, and required to give an account of himself on the night of the murder, and it is said that there was a general exodus of the professional thieves from New York. The ten days immediately succeeding the murder were singularly free from crime, so close was the espionage exercised over the criminals by the police.
It is safe to assert that the police never made such exertions in all their history, to secure a criminal, as in this case. Every sensible suggestion was acted upon, no matter by whom tendered. Neither labor nor expense was spared, and all with the same result. Captain Jourdan literally sank under his extraordinary exertions, his death, which occurred on the 10th of October, 1870, being the result of his severe and exhausting labors in this case. His successor, Superintendent Kelso, has been equally energetic, but thus far—nearly two years after the commission of the deed—no more is known concerning it than was presented to Jourdan and Kelso as they stood in the chamber of death, and nothing has occurred to destroy or shake their original theory respecting the murderer and his mode of committing the deed. The mystery which enshrouded it on that sad July morning still hangs over it unbroken.
II. PRIVATE DETECTIVES.
The Detectives, whose ways we have been considering, are sworn officers of the law, and it is their prime duty to secure the arrest and imprisonment of offenders. There is another class of men in the city who are sometimes confounded with the regular force, but who really make it their business to screen criminals from punishment. These men are called Private Detectives. Their task consists in tracing and recovering stolen property, watching suspected persons when hired to do so, and manufacturing such evidence in suits and private cases as they may be employed to furnish.
There are several "Private Detective Agencies" in the city, all of which are conducted on very much the same principles and plan, and for the same purpose—to make money for the proprietors. Mr. Edward Crapsey, to whom I am indebted for much of the information contained in this chapter, thus describes a well-known Agency of this kind:
"The visitor going up the broad stairs, finds himself in a large room, which is plainly the main office of the concern. There is a desk with the authoritative hedge of an iron railing, behind which sits a furrowed man, who looks an animated cork-screw, and who, the inquiring visitor soon discovers, can't speak above a whisper, or at least don't. This mysterious person is always mistaken for the chief of the establishment, but, in fact, he is nothing but the 'Secretary,' and holds his place by reason of a marvellous capacity for drawing people out of themselves. A mystery, he is surrounded with mysteries. The doors upon his right and left—one of which is occasionally opened just far enough to permit a very diminutive call-boy to be squeezed through—seem to lead to unexplored regions. But stranger than even the clerk, or the undefined but yet perfectly tangible weirdness of the doors is the tinkling of a sepulchral bell, and the responsive tramp of a heavy-heeled boot. And strangest of all is a huge black board whereon are marked the figures from one to twenty, over some of which the word 'Out' is written; and the visitor notices with ever-increasing wonder that the tinkling of the bell and the heavy-heeled tramp are usually followed by the mysterious secretary's scrawling 'Out' over another number, being apparently incited thereto by a whisper of the ghostly call-boy who is squeezed through a crack in the door for that purpose. The door which the call-boy abjures is always slightly ajar, and at the aperture there is generally a wolfish eye glaring so steadily and rapaciously into the office as to raise a suspicion that beasts of prey are crouching behind that forbidding door.
"Nor is the resulting alarm entirely groundless, for that is the room where the ferrets of the house who assume the name of Detectives, but are more significantly called 'shadows,' are hidden from the prying eyes of the world. A 'shadow' here is a mere numeral—No. 1, or something higher—and obeys cabalistic calls conveyed by bells or speaking-tubes, by which devices the stranger patron is convinced of the potency of the Detective Agency which moves in such mysterious ways to perform its wonders. If any doubt were left by all this paraphernalia of marvel, it would be dispelled from the average mind when it came in contact with the chief conjuror, who is seated in the dim seclusion of a retired room, fortified by bell-pulls, speaking-tubes, and an owlish expression intended to be considered as the mirror of taciturn wisdom. From his retreat he moves the outside puppets of secretary, shadows, and call-boys, as the requirements of his patrons, who are admitted singly to his presence, may demand. It is he whose hoarse whispers sound sepulchrally through the tubes, who rings the mysterious bell, and by such complex means despatches his 'shadows' upon their errands. It is he who permits the mildewed men in the other ante-room to be known only by numbers, and who guards them so carefully from the general view.
"By these assumptions of mystery the chief awes the patrons of his peculiar calling, of whom there are pretty sure to be several in waiting during the morning hours. These applicants for detective assistance always sit stolidly silent until their separate summons comes to join the chief, eyeing each other suspiciously and surveying their surroundings with unconcealed and fitting awe. One is of bluff and hearty appearance, but his full face is overcast for the moment with an expression half sad, half whimsical; it is plain that a conjunction of untoward circumstances has raised doubts in his mind of the integrity of a business associate, and he has reluctantly determined to clear or confirm them by means of a 'shadow.' Next to him is a fidgety furrowed man, bristling with suspicion in every line of his face, and showing by his air of indifference to his surroundings that he is a frequenter of the place. He is in fact one of the best customers of the establishment, as he is constantly invoking its aid in the petty concerns of his corroded life. Sometimes it is a wife, daughter, sister, niece, or a mere female acquaintance he wishes watched; sometimes it is a business partner or a rival in trade he desires dogged; and he is never so miserable as when the reports of the agency show his suspicions, whatever they may have been, to be groundless. It is but just, however, to the sagacity of the detectives to remark that he is seldom subjected to such disappointment. Whatever other foolishness they may commit, these adroit operators never kill the goose that lays their golden eggs. Beside this animated monument of distrust is a portly gentleman, his bearing in every way suggestive of plethoric pockets. Paper and pencil in hand, he is nervously figuring. He makes no secret of his figures because of his absorption, and a glance shows that he is correcting the numbers of bonds and making sure of the amounts they represent.
"It is plain that this last is a victim of a sneak robbery, and, the unerring scent of the chief selecting him as the most profitable customer of the morning, he is the first visitor called to an audience. Large affairs are quickly despatched, and it is soon arranged how a part of the property can be recovered and justice cheated of its due. Very soon a handbill will be publicly distributed, offering a reward for the return of the bonds, and it will be signed by the Agency. The thief will know exactly what that means, and the affair being closed to mutual satisfaction, the thief will be at liberty to repeat the operation, which resulted in reasonable profit and was attended with no risk.
"There is also in the room a sallow, vinegary woman of uncertain years, and it seems so natural that a man should run away from her, we are not surprised that, being voluble in her grief, she declares her business to be the discovery of an absconding husband. But near her is another and truer type of outraged womanhood, a wasted young wife, beautiful as ruins are beautiful, whom a rascal spendthrift has made a martyr to his selfishness until, patience and hope being exhausted, she is driven to the last extremity, and seeks by a means at which her nature revolts for a proof of but one of those numerous violations of the marriage vow which she feels certain he has committed. It is a cruel resort, but the law which permits a man to outrage a woman in almost every other way frowns upon that one, and she is driven to it as the sole method of release from an intolerable and degrading bondage. In such cases as this might perhaps be found some justification for the existence of private detectives; but they themselves do not appear to know that they stand in need of extenuation, and so neglect the opportunity thus presented to vindicate their necessity by conducting this class of their business with, even for them, remarkable lack of conscience. Anxious always to furnish exactly what is desired, their reports are often lies, manufactured to suit the occasion, and once furnished they are stoutly adhered to, even to the last extremity. Frequently the same Agency is ready to and does serve both parties to a case with impartial wickedness, and earns its wages by giving to both precisely the sort of evidence each requires. Sometimes it is made to order, with no other foundation than previous experience in like affairs; but sometimes it has a more solid basis in fact. Two men from the same office are often detailed to 'shadow,' one the husband and the other the wife, and it occasionally happens that they have mastered the spirit of their calling so thoroughly that they do a little business on private account by 'giving away' each other. That is to say, the husband's man informs the wife she is watched, and gives her a minute description of her 'shadow,' for which information he of course gets an adequate reward, which the wife's man likewise earns and receives by doing the same kindly office for the husband. In such cases there are generally mutual recriminations between the watched, which end in a discovery of the double dealing of the Agency, and not unfrequently in a reconciliation of the estranged couple. But this rare result, which is not intended by the directing power, is the sole good purpose these agencies were ever known to serve. Lord Mansfield, it must be admitted, once seemed to justify the use of private detectives in divorce suits, but he was careful to cumber the faint praise with which he damned them by making honesty in the discharge of these delicate duties a first essential. Had he lived to see the iniquitous perfection the business has now attained, he would undoubtedly have withheld even that quasi-endorsement of a system naturally at war with the fundamental principles of justice.
"The waiters in the reception-room are never allowed to state their wants, or certainly not to leave the place, without being astonished by the charges made by the detective for attention to their business. Whatever differences there may be in minor matters, all these establishments are invariably true to the great purpose of their existence, and prepare the way for an exorbitant bill by a doleful explanation of the expenses and risks to be incurred in the special affair presented, dilating especially upon the rarity and cost of competent 'shadows.' Now the principal agencies estimate for them at $10 a day, whereas these disreputable fellows are found in multitudes, and are rarely paid more than $3 a day as wages; their expenses, paid in advance by the patron, are allowed them when assigned to duties, as they frequently are, involving outlay. The general truth is that these agencies, being conducted for the avowed purpose of making money, get as much as possible for doing work, and pay as little as possible for having it done. In their general business of espionage they may make perhaps only a moderate profit on each affair they take in hand; but in the more delicate branches of compounding felonies and manufacturing witnesses fancy prices obtain, and the profits are not computable. It is plain, knowing of these patrons and prices, that reasonable profit attends upon the practice of the convenient science of getting without giving, which, notwithstanding its prosperity and antiquity, is yet an infant in the perfection it has attained. Awkward, flimsy, transparent as they ever were, are yet the tricks and devices of the knaves who never want for a dollar, never earn an honest one, but never render themselves amenable to any statute 'in such case made and provided.' To say that the master-workmen in roguery who do this sort of thing are awkward and transparent seems to involve a paradox; but whoever so believes has not been fully informed as to the amazing gullibility of mankind. The average man of business now, as always before, seems to live only to be swindled by the same specious artifices that gulled his ancestors, and which will answer to pluck him again almost before the smart of his first depletion has ceased. Only by a thorough knowledge of this singular adaptation of the masses to the purposes of the birds of prey, can we intelligently account for the vast bevies of the latter which exist, and are outwardly so sleek as to give evidence of a prosperous condition. When we know that the 'pocket-book dropper' yet decoys the money even of the city-bred by his stale device; that the 'gift-enterprises,' 'envelope-game,' and similar thread-bare tricks yet serve to attain the ends of the sharpers, although the public has been warned scores and scores of times through the public press, and the swindlers thoroughly exposed, so that the veriest fool can understand the deception, we need not be amazed at the success which attends the practice of these arts. The truth is, that a large proportion of the victims are perfectly aware that fleecing is intended when they flutter round the bait of the rogues; but they are allured by the glitter of sudden fortune which it offers, and bite eagerly with the hope that may be supposed to sustain any gudgeon of moderate experience of snapping the bait and escaping the barbed hook. Human greed is the reliance of the general sharper, and it has served him to excellent purpose for many years. But some of these operators must depend on actuating motives far different from the desire of gain in money; and chief among them are these private detectives, who draw their sustenance from meaner and equally unfailing fountains.
"It is not upon record who bestowed a name which is more apt than designations usually are. The word detective, taken by itself, implies one who must descend to questionable shifts to attain justifiable ends; but with the prefix of private, it means one using a machine permitted to the exigencies of justice for the purpose of surreptitious personal gain. Thus used, this agency, which even in honest hands and for lawful ends is one of doubtful propriety, becomes essentially dangerous and demoralizing. Originally an individual enterprise, the last resort of plausible rascals driven to desperation to evade honest labor, it has come to be one of associated effort, employing much capital in its establishment and some capacity in its direction. All the large commercial cities are now liberally provided with 'Detective Agencies,' as they are called, each thoroughly organized, and some of them employing a large number of 'shadows' to do the business, which in large part they must first create before it can be done. The system being perfected and worked to its utmost capacity, the details of the tasks assumed and the method of accomplishment are astonishing and alarming to the reflecting citizen, who has the good name and well-being of the community at heart. Employed in the mercantile world as supposed guards against loss by unfaithful associates or employes, and in social life as searchers for domestic laxness, these two items make up the bulk of the business which the private detectives profess to do, and through these their pernicious influence is felt in all the relations of life. Were they however only the instruments of rapacious and unreasoning distrust, they might be suffered to pass without rebuke as evils affecting only those who choose to meddle with them; but as they go further, and the community fares worse because they are ever ready to turn a dishonest penny by recovering stolen property, which they can only do by compounding the crime by which it had been acquired, it is evident that they are a peril to society in general no less than a pest to particular classes."
XXII. WILLIAM B. ASTOR.
MR. WILLIAM B. ASTOR would be unknown to fame were it not for two things. First, he is "the son of his father," the famous John Jacob Astor. Second, he is the richest citizen of the United States. In other respects, he is a plain, unpretending man, who attends closely to his own business, and cares nothing for notoriety.
Mr. Astor is the second son of John Jacob Astor, and is about seventy-three years old. He was born in New York, in an old-fashioned brick house which stood on the southern corner of Broadway and Vesey street, a site at present covered by the Astor House. He received a careful education, and upon leaving college was sent by his father to travel through Europe. Upon his return he went into business with his father, and it is said was even more thrifty and energetic in the management of their affairs than the old gentleman himself. The severe affliction of his elder brother made him the principal heir of his father's vast estate, but he lost no opportunity of bettering his own condition, and at the death of the elder Astor, he was worth about $6,000,000 of his own. About $500,000 of this he had inherited from his uncle Henry Astor, a wealthy butcher of New York. His father left him the bulk of his fortune, which made him the richest man in America, and since then he has devoted himself with great success to increasing the amount of his possessions. His wealth is variously estimated at from $60,000,000, to $100,000,000. No one but the fortunate possessor can tell the exact amount. The greater part of this is invested in real estate, much of which is very profitable. A large part, however, is unimproved, and brings in no immediate return. Mr. Astor, however, can afford to wait, and as there is no better judge of the prospective value of real estate in New York, he rarely makes a mistake in his purchases. He invests cautiously, allows others to improve the neighborhoods in which his property lies, and reaps the benefit of their labors.
In person Mr. Astor is tall and heavily built, with a decided German look, a dull, unintellectual face, and a cold, reserved manner. He is unlike his father in many of his personal traits. He lives very simply. His residence is a plain, but substantial-looking brick mansion in Lafayette Place, adjoining the Astor Library. He is not very sociable, but the entertainments given at his house are said to be among the pleasantest and most elaborate to be met with in the city. Those who know the family, however, give the credit of this to Mrs. Astor, an amiable and accomplished lady, and one eminent for her good deeds.
Mr. Astor attends to his own business. His office is in Prince street, just out of Broadway. It is a plain one-story building, very different from the offices of most of the rich men of the metropolis. At ten o'clock Mr. Astor makes his appearance here. It is no slight task to manage so vast an estate, and to direct all its affairs so that they shall be continually increasing the capital of the owner. There is scarcely a laborer in the city who works harder than the master of this office. He transacts all business connected with his estate, and is as cold and curt in his manner as can well be imagined. He wastes neither words nor time, and few persons find him an agreeable man to deal with. He is perfectly informed respecting every detail of his vast business, and it is impossible to deceive him. No tenant can make the slightest improvement, change, or repair in his property without Mr. Astor's consent, except at his own expense. He is accessible to all who have business with him, but he sees no one else during his working hours. At four o'clock he leaves his office, and sets out for home on foot. He rarely rides, this walk being his principal exercise. He is hale and hearty in constitution, looks much younger than he really is, and will doubtless live to be fully as old as his father was at the time of his death.
Mr. Astor is not regarded as a liberal man by his fellow-citizens, but this reputation is not altogether deserved. His friends say that he gives liberally when he gives at all. They add that he has a horror of subscription lists and solicitors of donations, and that he turns a deaf ear to common beggars. He makes it a rule never to give anything during business hours. If a case interests him, he investigates it thoroughly, and if it is found worthy of aid, he gives generously, but quietly. The truth is, that like all rich men, he is beset by a host of beggars of every class and description. Were he to grant every appeal addressed to him, his vast fortune would melt away in a few years. He must discriminate, and he has his own way of doing it.
Mr. Astor married a daughter of General Armstrong, the Secretary of War in Mr. Madison's cabinet. He has two sons, who are themselves fathers of families. They are John Jacob and William B. Astor, Jr. He has also several daughters, all married. The sons reside on Fifth avenue. They are in active business for themselves. John Jacob, the elder, is a large-framed, heavy-boned man, and resembles his father. William B. Astor, Jr., is a small, slim man, and resembles his mother. They are much more sociable than their father, inheriting much of the genial vivacity of their grandfather, who was very fond of the pleasures of society. They are shrewd, energetic business men, and it is said are very wealthy, independent of their father. Mr. John Jacob Astor entered the United States Army during the civil war, and saw considerable active service on the staff of General McClellan.
XXIII. FASHIONABLE SHOPPING.
The fashionable retail stores of New York lie chiefly along Broadway, between the St. Nicholas Hotel and Thirty-fourth street. A few are to be found in the cross streets leading from the great thoroughfare, and some are in the Sixth avenue, but Broadway almost monopolizes the fashionable retail trade of the city. All the large stores are conducted on the same general plan, the main object of which is to secure the greatest convenience and comfort for the purchaser, and the greatest dispatch and promptness on the part of the employes. The leading stores of the city have an established reputation with the citizens. They furnish a better class of goods than can be found elsewhere, and are the most reasonable in their prices. Furthermore, the purchaser may rely upon the assurances of the salesman concerning the goods. The salesmen in such houses are not allowed to represent anything as better than it really is. This certainty is worth a great deal to the purchaser, who is often incapable of judging intelligently of his purchase. The writer can assert, from actual experience, that for the same amount of money one can buy at the first-class stores a better article than is offered in the so-called "cheap stores."
[Picture: A FEMALE SHOPLIFTER.]
Upon entering a first-class dry-goods store in New York, a stranger is impressed with the order and system which prevail throughout the whole establishment. The heavy plate glass door is opened for him by a small boy in entering and departing. If the weather be stormy and the visitor has a wet umbrella, he may leave it in charge of the aforesaid boy, who gives him a check for it. He can reclaim it at any time by presenting this check. As he enters he is met at the door by a well-dressed gentleman of easy address, who politely inquires what he wishes to purchase. Upon stating his business, he is promptly shown to the department in which the desired articles are kept, and the eye of the conductor is never removed from him until he has attracted the attention of the clerk from whom he makes his purchase. All this is done, however, without allowing him to see that he is watched. This espionage is necessary to guard against robbery. The city merchants are greatly annoyed, and are often subjected to heavy loss, by professional shoplifters, who throng their stores. The shoplifters do not constitute the only thieves, however. Women of respectable position, led on by their mad passion for dress, have been detected in taking small but costly articles, such as laces, handkerchiefs, etc., from some of the principal houses. Such matters have usually been "hushed up" through the influence of the friends of the offender. The opportunities for theft are very great in the city stores. Hundreds of small articles, many of them of considerable value, lie within easy reach of the customers, and all the employes are obliged to exert the greatest watchfulness. Private detectives are employed by the principal houses, and as soon as a professional shoplifter enters, he or she is warned off the premises by the detective, whose experience enables him to recognize such persons at a glance. A refusal to profit by this warning is followed by a summary arrest.
The salesmen are not allowed to receive the pay for their sales. They take the purchaser's money, make a memorandum in duplicate of the sale, and hand both the papers and the money to a small boy who takes it to the cashier. If any change is due the purchaser, the boy brings it back. The articles are also remeasured by the clerks who do them up in parcels, to see if the quantity is correct. The purchase is then delivered to the buyer, or sent to his residence. Thus the house is furnished with a check on all dishonest salesmen, and at the same time acquires accurate knowledge of their labors in their respective departments.
The small boys referred to are called "cash boys," and are now a necessity in a well regulated establishment. Good, steady cash boys are almost always in demand. Intelligence commands a premium in this department, and a bright, well recommended lad will generally be taken on trial. He starts out with a salary of $3 per week. If he shows capacity, he is promoted as rapidly as possible. The highest salary paid to a cash boy is $8 per week, but one who earns this amount does not stay long in this position. He is soon made a salesman, and may then go as high in the house as his abilities will carry him. These boys generally have a bright and lively appearance. Besides acting as cash boys, they are sometimes sent on errands, they attend the doors, and do sundry other useful acts. They are strictly watched, and any improper conduct is punished with an instantaneous dismissal. They generally belong to respectable families, and live at home with their parents. Many of them attend the night schools after business hours, and thus prepare for the great life struggle which is before them. Such boys are apt to do well in the world. Many, however, after being released from the stores, imitate the ways of the clerks and salesmen. They affect a fastness which is painful to see in boys so young. They sport an abundance of flashy jewelry, patronize the cheap places of amusement, and are seen in the low concert saloons, and other vile dens of the city. It is not difficult to predict the future of these boys.
The principal retail dry goods stores of New York are those of A. T. Stewart & Co., Lord & Taylor, Arnold, Constable & Co., and James McCreery & Co.
The house of A. T. Stewart & Co. is the best known to persons visiting the city. Indeed there are very few Americans who have not heard of and longed to visit "Stewart's." It is, besides, the largest and most complete establishment of its kind in the world. It occupies the entire block bounded by Broadway, Fourth avenue, Ninth and Tenth streets. The principal front is on Broadway, and the public entrances are on that street and on the Fourth avenue. The Ninth street entrances are reserved exclusively for the employes of the house. Many persons speak of the edifice as a "marble palace," but this is incorrect. It is constructed of iron, in the style of arcade upon arcade, and its fronts are so thickly studded with windows that they may be said to consist almost entirely of glass. It is five stories in height above the street, and above the fifth story there is an interior attic not visible from the sidewalk. Below the street there is a basement and a sub-cellar, so that the monster building is really eight stories in height. There is no attempt at outward display, the fine effect of the edifice being due to its vast size and its symmetry. The interior is as simple. The floors are uncarpeted, the shelves are plain, as are the counters and the customers' seats. The centre of the building is occupied by a large rotunda extending from the ground floor to the roof. All the upper floors are open around this rotunda. Two flights of massive stairs lead to the upper floors, and there are three handsome elevators for the use of customers who do not care to make the journey on foot. Three other elevators on the Ninth street side are used for carrying goods. Each of the floors covers an area of about two acres, so that the whole establishment, including the cellar, occupies sixteen acres of space.
The cellar contains coal bins with a capacity of 500 tons. Close by are eight Harrison boilers of fifty horse power each, used for operating the steam engines and warming the building with steam. There are in all ten steam engines located in this immense cellar. These are used for running the elevators, for working seven steam pumps, for feeding the boilers, and for forcing water up to the top floor, which is used as a laundry. In a certain part of the cellar is located the electrical battery, by means of which the gas jets in the building are lighted. Here are also rooms for the storage of goods.
The basement is occupied by the Carpet-making and Parcel departments. It is the largest room in the world, and is unbroken save by the light pillars which support the floors above. The Carpet-making department is interesting. The house deals largely in carpets, and one is surprised at the smallness of the force employed down here. The carpets purchased are cut, and the pieces matched as they lie on the floor by women. Then they are placed on a wide table, forty feet long, and are sewn together by a machine worked by steam. This machine moves along the edge of the table, and the man operating it rides on it. His only care is to hold the parts to be sewn perfectly even, and the machine sews a seam of forty feet in from three to five minutes.
In the centre of the basement floor is a space about thirty feet square, enclosed by counters. This is the Parcel department. All purchases to be sent to the buyer pass through this department, and these make up about ninety per cent. of the day's business. The purchases are sent here by the salesmen with a ticket affixed to each, stating the quantity and quality of the article bought, the amount paid, and the address of the buyer. The goods are then remeasured, and if an error has been made either in favor of or against the house, it is rectified. The goods are then made up in secure parcels, each of which is plainly marked with the address of the purchaser. These parcels are then turned over to the drivers of the wagons used by the house for delivering purchases. The drivers are furnished with bills for the amounts to be collected on the parcels, and they are held to a rigid accountability for the delivery of every parcel entrusted to them, and the collection of all moneys due on them.
The ground floor is the principal salesroom. It is a simple, but elegant apartment, and its chief ornaments are the goods for sale, which are displayed in the most attractive and tasteful manner. The room is 300 by 200 feet in size. It contains 100 counters, with an aggregate length of 5000 feet. Behind these counters are low shelves on which the goods are kept. In the centre is the immense rotunda, and at various points are the little wooden pens enclosed with lattice work used by the cashiers. Each article for sale has its separate department, and there are thirty ushers on duty to direct purchasers where to find the articles they seek. The display of goods is magnificent, and includes everything used for the clothing of ladies and children, either in the piece or ready made. There is also a department in which ladies and children may have all their clothing of every description made to order.
The second floor is used for the sale of ready-made clothing, suits, upholstery, etc., and the third floor is the carpet salesroom. The other floors are closed to visitors, and are used as workshops, laundries, etc.
The convenience of having all these things, and in such great variety, under one roof is very great, and saves purchasers many a weary walk through the city. The immense capital employed by Mr. Stewart, and his great facilities of all kinds, enable him to control the markets in which he makes his purchases and to buy on terms which render it easy for him to undersell all his competitors. The smaller houses complain bitterly of this, and declare that he is ruining them. In spite of its immense trade, "Stewart's" is not the most popular place in the city with resident purchasers. The salesmen have the reputation of being rude and often insolent. There can be no doubt that, were specific complaints made, Mr. Stewart would administer the necessary punishment to the offender without delay; but as the offences complained of are chiefly a lack of civility, few care to complain.
The throng of visitors and purchasers is immense. They have been known to reach the enormous number of 50,000 in a single day; but the average is 15,000. Looking down from one of the upper floors, through the rotunda, one can witness as busy and interesting a scene as New York affords. All kinds of people come here, from the poor woman whose scanty garb tells too plainly the story of her poverty, to the wife of the millionaire whose purchases amount to a small fortune, and all classes can be suited.
The sales of the house average about $60,000 per day, and have been known to reach $87,000. The bulk of the purchases is made between noon and five o'clock. The average daily sales of the principal articles are as follows: Silks $15,000; dress goods, $6000; muslins, $3000; laces, $2000; shawls, $2500; suits, $1000; calicoes, $1500; velvets, $2000; gloves, $1000; furs, $1000; hosiery, $600; boys' clothing, $700; Yankee notions, $600; embroideries, $1000; carpets, $5500.
[Picture: A. T. STEWART'S RETAIL STORE.]
As may be supposed, the business of this great house requires an army of employes. The force consists of 1 general superintendent, 19 superintendents of departments, 9 cashiers, 25 book-keepers, 30 ushers, 55 porters, 200 cash boys, 900 seamstresses, working-women, laundresses, etc., 320 salesmen and saleswomen, and 150 salesmen and others in the carpet department, making a total of 1709 persons. There are other persons employed about the establishment in various capacities, and these, with the extra help often employed, make the aggregate frequently as much as 2200 persons. The business of the house opens at seven A.M., and closes at seven P.M. All the employes have thirty minutes allowed them for dinner. One half of all are alternately dismissed at six o'clock each evening. All the employes, when leaving, must pass through a private door on Ninth street. On each side of this door is a detective of great experience, whose business it is to see that none of the employes carry away with them any of the property of the house. The discipline of the establishment is very rigid, and is enforced by a system of fines and other penalties.
The general management of the house is entrusted to Mr. Tellur, the General Superintendent, but Mr. Stewart gives it his personal supervision as well. He comes to the store every morning at ten o'clock precisely, and consults with Mr. Tellur about the business of the previous day, and the wants of that just opening. He goes through the entire establishment, and personally acquaints himself with the exact condition of the business. He knows everything connected with the retail store, and every detail of its management receives his constant supervision, and is conducted in accordance with his instructions. He remains here about an hour and a half in the morning, and returns at five o'clock in the afternoon, and spends half an hour more. The rest of his working day is passed at his lower store.
[Picture: LORD AND TAYLOR'S DRY GOODS STORE.]
Lord & Taylor rank next to Stewart, and are a more popular firm with residents than the latter. They occupy a magnificent iron building at the corner of Broadway and Twentieth street. It is one of the finest and most picturesque edifices in the city, and is filled with a stock of goods equal in costliness and superior in taste to anything that can be bought at Stewart's. On "opening days," or days when the merchants set out their finest goods for the inspection of the public, Lord & Taylor generally carry off the palm, for the handsomest and most tasteful display. The show windows of this house are among the sights of Broadway.
Two blocks below, on the same side of Broadway, is a row of magnificent white marble stores. The upper end, comprising about one-third of the entire block, is occupied by Messrs. Arnold, Constable & Co., a popular and wealthy house. They are noted for the taste and general excellence of their goods.
James McCreery & Co., at the corner of Broadway and Eleventh street, occupy a part of the ground floor of the magnificent edifice of the Methodist Book Concern. They do not make as extensive a display as their competitors, but are well known in the city for their rich and elegant goods. The ball and wedding dresses imported and made by this house are among the richest ever seen in New York.
XXIV. BLEECKER STREET.
Perhaps very few people out of the great city know Bleecker Street at all; perhaps they have passed it a dozen times or more without noticing it, or if they have marked it at all have regarded it only as a passably good-looking street going to decay. But he who does not know Bleecker street does not know New York. It is of all the localities of the metropolis one of the best worth studying.
It was once the abode of wealth and fashion, as its fine old time mansions testify. Then Broadway north of it was the very centre of the aristocracy of the island, and Bond street was a primitive Fifth avenue. Going west from the Bowery, nearly to Sixth avenue, you will find rows of stately mansions on either hand, which speak eloquently of greatness gone, and as eloquently of hard times present. They have a strange aspect too, and one may read their story at a glance. Twenty-five years ago they were homes of wealth and refinement. The most sumptuous hospitality was dispensed here, and the stately drawing rooms often welcomed brilliant assemblages. Now a profusion of signs announce that hospitality is to be had at a stated price, and the old mansions are put to the viler uses of third-rate boarding houses and restaurants.
In many respects Bleecker street is more characteristic of Paris than of New York. It reminds one strongly of the Latin Quarter, and one instinctively turns to look for the Closerie des Lilas. It is the headquarters of Bohemianism, and Mrs. Grundy now shivers with holy horror when she thinks it was once her home. The street has not entirely lost its reputation. No one is prepared to say it is a vile neighborhood; no one would care to class it with Houston, Mercer, Greene, or Water streets; but people shake their heads, look mysterious, and sigh ominously when you ask them about it. It is a suspicious neighborhood, to say the least, and he who frequents it must be prepared for the gossip and surmises of his friends. No one but its denizens, whose discretion can be absolutely trusted, knows anything with certainty about its doings or mode of life, but every one has his own opinion. Walk down it at almost any hour of the day or night, and you will see many things that are new to you. Strange characters meet you at every step; even the shops have a Bohemian aspect, for trade is nowhere so much the victim of chance as here. You see no breach of the public peace, no indecorous act offends you; but the people you meet have a certain air of independence, of scorn, of conventionality, a certain carelessness which mark them as very different from the throng you have just left on Broadway. They puzzle you, and set you to conjecturing who they are and what they are, and you find yourself weaving a romance about nearly every man or woman you meet.
That long-haired, queerly dressed young man, with a parcel under his arm, who passed you just then, is an artist, and his home is in the attic of that tall house from which you saw him pass out. It is a cheerless place, indeed, and hardly the home for a devotee of the Muse; but the artist is a philosopher, and he flatters himself that if the world has not given him a share of its good things, it has at least freed him from its restraints, and so long as he has the necessaries of life and a lot of jolly good fellows to smoke and drink and chat with him in that lofty dwelling place of his, he is content to take life as he finds it.
If you look up to the second floor, you may see a pretty, but not over fresh looking young woman, gazing down into the street. She meets your glance with composure, and with an expression which is a half invitation to "come up." She is used to looking at men, and to having them look at her, and she is not averse to their admiration. Her dress is a little flashy, and the traces of rouge are rather too strong on her face, but it is not a bad face. You may see her to-night at the —- Theatre, where she is the favorite. Not much of an actress, really, but very clever at winning over the dramatic critics of the great dailies who are but men, and not proof against feminine arts. This is her home, and an honest home, too. To be sure it would be better had she a mother or a brother, or husband—some recognized protector, who could save her from the "misfortune of living alone;" but this is Bleecker street, and she may live here according to her own fancy, "and no questions asked."
On the floor above her dwells Betty Mulligan, a pretty little butterfly well known to the lovers of the ballet as Mademoiselle Alexandrine. No one pretends to know her history. She pays her room rent, has hosts of friends, but beyond this no one knows anything. Surmises there are by the score, and people wonder how mademoiselle can live so well on her little salary; but no charges are made. People shrug their shoulders, and hint that ballet girls have resources unknown to the uninitiated. The rule here is that every one must look after himself, and it requires such an effort to do this that there is no time left to watch a neighbor's shortcomings.
In the same house is a fine-looking woman, not young, but not old. Her "husband" has taken lodgings here for her, but he comes to see her only at intervals, and he is not counted in the landlady's bill. Business keeps him away, and he comes when he can. Bleecker street never asks madame for her marriage certificate, nor does it seek to know why her numerous friends are all gentlemen, or why they come only when the "husband" is away.
Honest, hard-working men come here with their families. Their earnings are regular, but small, and they prefer the life of this street to the misery of the tenement house. Others there are who live in the street, and occupy whole dwellings with their families, who stay here from force of habit. They are "slow" people, dull of comprehension, and to them the mysteries of their neighborhood are a sealed book. Yet all are regarded as persons whose characters are "not proven," by the dwellers outside the street.
Money is a power in Bleecker street. It will purchase anything. Much is spent by those who do not dwell here, but come here to hide their secrets. Women come here to meet other men besides their husbands, and men bring women here who are not their wives. Bleecker street asks no questions, but it has come to suspect the men and women who are seen in it.
Indeed, so long as its tenants do not violate the written law of the land to an extent sufficient to warrant the interference of the police, they may do as they please. Thus it has come to pass that the various personages who are a law unto themselves have gradually drifted into Bleecker street, unless they can afford better quarters, and even then the freedom of the locality has for them a fascination hard to be resisted. No one loses caste here for any irregularity. You may dress as you please, live as you please, do as you please in all things, and no comments will be made. There is no "society" here to worry your life with its claims and laws. You are a law unto yourself. Your acts are exclusively your own business. No complaints will be made against you. You are absolutely your own master or mistress here. Life here is based on principles which differ from those which prevail in other parts of the city.
Yet, as I have said, no one dare call the street "bad." Let us say it is "irregular," "free," "above scandal," or "superior to criticism;" but let us not venture to term it "bad," as its neighbors Greene and Mercer are "bad." I cannot say it would be shocked by such a charge, for Bleecker street is never shocked at anything. It would, no doubt, laugh in our faces, and scornfully ask for our proofs of its badness, and proofs of this sort are hard to bring to light in this thoroughfare.
The most beautiful cemetery of the city of New York, and the place where its people most long to sleep when "life's fitful fever" is over, is Greenwood. It is situated on Gowanus Heights, within the limits of the City of Brooklyn, and covers an area of 413 acres of land. It is two and a half miles distant from the South Ferry, and three from the Fulton Ferry, with lines of street cars from both ferries. A portion of the grounds is historic, for along the edge of the heights occurred the hardest fighting in the battle of Long Island, in 1776.
The cemetery is beautifully laid out. The heights have been graded at immense expense, and the grounds are provided with carriage roads built of stone, covered with gravel, and with foot-paths of concrete. The carriage drives are seventeen miles, and the foot-paths fifteen miles in extent. The sewerage is perfect, and the greatest care is exercised in keeping the grounds free from dirt and weeds. The cemetery was laid out under the supervision of a corps of accomplished landscape gardeners, and it abounds in the most exquisite scenery. From the higher portions the bay and the cities which border it, with the blue ocean in the distance, may all be seen. Everything that art could do to add to the attractions of a naturally beautiful spot has been done, and the place has come to be, next to the Central and Prospect Parks, one of the favorite resorts of the people of New York and Brooklyn. The entrances are all adorned with magnificent gateways of stone. The northern gateway is adorned with sculptures representing the burial of the Saviour, and the raising of the widow's son and of Lazarus. Above these are bas-relief figures, representing Faith, Hope, Memory, and Love.
The cemetery was opened for burials about twenty-seven years ago. At the close of the year 1870 the interments had reached 150,000. From fifteen to twenty interments are made here every day. The deep-toned bell of the great gateway is forever tolling its knell, and some mournful train is forever wending its slow way under the beautiful trees. Yet the sunlight falls brightly, the birds sing their sweetest over the new-made graves, the wind sighs its dirge through the tall trees, and the "sad sea waves" blend with it all their solemn undertone from afar.
The tombs and monuments to be seen at Greenwood are very beautiful. Some of them are noted as works of art. Many of them have cost from $10,000 to $100,000. About 2000 of these tombs are scattered through the grounds. In beauty of design and costliness they surpass any similar collection in the New World, but in one respect they are like all others, for they speak nothing but good of the dead. Indeed, were one to believe their inscriptions, the conclusion would be inevitable that none but saints are buried in Greenwood. All classes come here, but the cemetery is characteristic of the living city beyond. Wealth governs everything here as there.
II. CYPRESS HILLS.
North of the Brooklyn and Jamaica Turnpike, is an elevated ridge known as the "backbone of Long Island," and on this ridge, partly in Kings and partly in Queens counties, about five miles from the Catharine Street Ferry, is the Cemetery of Cypress Hills. It comprises an area of 400 acres, one-half of which is still covered with the native forest trees. The other portion is handsomely adorned with shrubbery, and laid off tastefully. The entrance consists of a brick arch, surmounted by a statue of Faith. It rests on two beautiful lodges occupied by the gate-keeper and superintendent of the cemetery.
From the cemetery one may command an extensive view, embracing all the surrounding country, the cities of Brooklyn, New York, Jersey City, and Flushing, the Hudson as far as the Palisades, Long Island Sound, the distant hills of Connecticut, and the Atlantic.
Since the opening of the grounds, in 1848, upwards of 85,000 interments have been made here. Of these 4060 were officers and soldiers of the United States army, who were killed or who died during the Civil War. They are buried in a section set apart for them. The Sons of Temperance, the Odd-Fellows, the Masons, and the Police Forces of New York and Brooklyn have sections of their own here. When the old grave-yards of New York and Brooklyn were broken up, about 35,000 bodies were removed from them to these grounds.
WOODLAWN CEMETERY lies in Westchester County, eight miles north of Harlem Bridge, and along the line of the New York, Harlem and Albany Railway. It is easily reached by means of this road. It was incorporated in 1863, and laid out in 1865. It comprises about 325 acres, and is naturally one of the most beautiful cemeteries used by the city. It is easier of access than Greenwood, there being no ferry to cross, and the Harlem Railway Company having instituted a system of funeral trains which convey funeral corteges to the entrance to the grounds. This, together with its natural beauty, is making it a favorite place of burial with the New Yorkers. The grounds are being rapidly improved, and, it is believed, will eventually rival Greenwood. Since its opening, in 1865, there have been nearly 9000 interments in Woodlawn. Admiral Farragut was buried here in 1871. The main avenue or boulevard from the Central Park to White Plains will pass through these grounds, and afford a broad and magnificent drive from the city to the cemetery.
IV. CALVARY, AND THE EVERGREENS.
CALVARY CEMETERY is the property of the Roman Catholic Church, and contains only the graves of those who have died in that faith. It is situated in the town of Newtown, Long Island, about four miles from New York. It comprises about seventy-five acres, and was opened in August, 1848, since which time about 84,000 bodies have been buried in it.
The Cemetery of the Evergreens is situated about three miles and a half to the eastward of Williamsburg. It lies on the western end of a range of hills, and is one of the largest and most picturesque of all the cemeteries of New York. It is being steadily improved, and is growing in favor with the people of the great cities at its feet.
Another burial ground once used by the people of New York, but now abandoned by them, is the New York Bay Cemetery, situated on the shore of the bay in the State of New Jersey, about two and a half miles from the Courtlandt Street Ferry. It comprises about fifty acres of ground, and contains 50,000 graves.
No burials are now permitted on Manhattan Island, except in the Cemetery of Trinity Church, which lies at the intersection of Tenth avenue and One-hundred-and-fifty-fifth street. From Tenth avenue the grounds extend to the river. The new public drive passes through the cemetery, and has greatly injured it. The grounds comprise an area of thirty-six acres, are beautifully laid off, and are shaded by fine trees. Among the persons buried here are Philip Livingston, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Bishops Wainright and Onderdonk, Madame Jumel, the last wife of Aaron Burr, Audubon, and John Jacob Astor. President Monroe was buried here, but his remains were removed to Richmond, Virginia, in 1859.
XXVI. THE CLUBS.
With respect to the number and attractiveness of its clubs, New York bids fair to rival London. They embrace associations for almost every purpose, and are more or less successful according to their means and the object in view. Those for social enjoyment and intercourse are the most popular, and the best known. They are composed principally of men of fashion and wealth, and occupy some of the most elegant mansions in the city.
The best known are the Century, No. 109 East Fifteenth street; Manhattan, corner of Fifth avenue and Fifteenth street; Union League, corner of Madison avenue and Twenty-sixth street; Union, corner of Twenty-first street and Fifth avenue; Travellers', No. 222 Fifth avenue; Eclectic, corner of Twenty-sixth street and Fifth avenue; City, No. 31 East Seventeenth street; Harmonie, Forty-second street, west of Fifth avenue; Allemania, No. 18 East Sixteenth street; American Jockey Club, corner of Madison avenue and Twenty-seventh street; and New York Yacht Club, club-house on Staten Island.
The location of these clubs is very desirable. They are all in the most fashionable quarter of the city, and their houses are in keeping with their surroundings. They are elegantly furnished, and often contain valuable and beautiful works of art. Some are owned by the associations occupying them; others are rented at prices varying from $8000 to $20,000 per annum. The initiation fees range from $50 to $150, and the annual dues from $50 to $100. The number of members varies from 300 to 800, but in the best organizations the object is to avoid a large membership. Great care is taken in the investigation of the history of applicants for membership, and none but persons of good reputation are admitted. In the most exclusive, one adverse ballot in ten is sufficient to negative an application for membership.
By the payment of the sums named above, members have all the benefits of an elegant private hotel at a moderate cost, and are sure of enjoying the privacy which is so agreeable to cultivated tastes. They have constant opportunities of meeting with friends, and besides have a pleasant lounging place in which to pass their leisure hours.
The Century Club stands at the head of the list. It is considered the most desirable association in the city, and numerous applications for places made vacant in it, are always on file. It occupies a handsome red brick mansion just out of Union Square, on East Fifteenth street. It was organized more than thirty years ago, and was originally a sketch club, and its membership was rigidly confined to literary men and artists. Of late years, however, it has been thrown open to any gentleman who may be accepted by the members. Its President is William Cullen Bryant. Its roll of members includes men of all professions among them: Bayard Taylor, William Allan Butler, George William Curtis, and Parke Goodwin, authors; Rev. Dr. Bellows and Dr. Osgood, clergymen; John Brougham, Lester Wallack, and Edwin Booth, actors; Bierstadt, Gignoux, Cropsey, Church, and Kensett, artists; William H. Appleton, publisher; and A. T. Stewart, John Jacob Astor, and August Belmont, capitalists. This club has no restaurant, and is conducted inexpensively. Its Saturday night gatherings bring together the most talented men in the city, and its receptions are among the events of the season.
The Manhattan Club is a political as well as a social organization. It is the head-quarters of Democrats of the better class. It numbers 600 members, about 100 of these residing out of the city. It includes the leading Democratic politicians of the city and State, and when similar celebrities from other States are in the city they are generally entertained by the club, and have the freedom of the house. The club-house is a splendid brown stone edifice, built originally for a private residence by a man named Parker. It stands on leased ground, and the building only is owned by the club, which paid $110,000 for it. The annual dues are $50. Members are supplied with meals at cost prices. Wines are furnished at similar charges. The restaurant has for its chief cook a Frenchman, who is said to be the most accomplished "artist" in New York. He receives an annual salary of $1800. The house is palatial, but a trifle flashy in its appointments, and a more luxurious resort is not to be found on the island.
The Union League Club is domiciled in a magnificent brick and marble mansion. It is also a political organization, and is not so exclusive as the Manhattan as regards its membership. It is the headquarters of the Republican leaders, and has perhaps the largest membership of any of the city clubs. It possesses a fine restaurant, conducted on club principles, a collection of works of art, a private theatre, and lodging rooms which may be used by the members upon certain conditions.
The Union Club is emphatically a rich man's association. Its members are all men of great wealth, and its windows are always lined with idlers who seem to have nothing to do but to stare ladies passing by out of countenance. The club house is one of the handsomest buildings in the city, and its furniture and decorations are of the most costly description.
The Travellers' Club was originally designed for affording its members an opportunity of meeting with distinguished travellers visiting the city. This object is still kept in view, but the club is becoming more of a social organization than formerly. Travellers of note are invited to partake of its hospitalities upon arriving in the city, and frequently lecture before the club.
Many club members never see the interior of the club houses more than once or twice a year. They pay their dues, and remain on the rolls, but prefer their homes to the clubs. Others again pass a large part of their time in these elegant apartments in the society of congenial friends. Club life is not favorable to a fondness for home, and it is not surprising that the ladies are among the bitterest opponents of the system.
The ladies themselves, however, have their clubs. The most noted of these is the Sorosis, the object of which seems to be to bring together the strong-minded of the sex to enjoy a lunch at Delmonico's. Some of the most talented female writers of the country are members of the organization. It was stated in several of the city newspapers, about a year ago, that at one of the meetings of Sorosis the members became involved in a fierce dispute over some question concerning the management of the club, and that when the excitement became too intense for words, they relieved their overcharged feelings by "a good cry all around."
It is said that there is another club in the city, made up of females of nominal respectability, married and single, whose meetings have but one object—"to have a good time." It is said that the good time embraces not a little hard drinking, and a still greater amount of scandal-monging, and that many of the "leading ladies" of the club make a habit of getting "gloriously drunk" at these meetings. A faithfully written account of the transactions of this club would no doubt furnish a fine article for the Day's Doings.
The Yacht Club consists of a number of wealthy gentlemen who are devoted to salt-water sports. The club house is on Staten Island. The yachts of the members constitute one of the finest fleets of the kind in existence, and their annual regattas, which are held in the lower bay, are sights worth seeing.
XXVII. THE FIVE POINTS.
I. LIFE IN THE SHADOW.
Just back of the City Hall, towards the East River, and within full sight of Broadway, is the terrible and wretched district known as the Five Points. You may stand in the open space at the intersection of Park and Worth streets, the true Five Points, in the midst of a wide sea of sin and suffering, and gaze right into Broadway with its marble palaces of trade, its busy, well-dressed throng, and its roar and bustle so indicative of wealth and prosperity. It is almost within pistol shot, but what a wide gulf lies between the two thoroughfares, a gulf that the wretched, shabby, dirty creatures who go slouching by you may never cross. There everything is bright and cheerful. Here every surrounding is dark and wretched. The streets are narrow and dirty, the dwellings are foul and gloomy, and the very air seems heavy with misery and crime. For many a block the scene is the same. This is the realm of Poverty. Here want and suffering, and vice hold their courts. It is a strange land to you who have known nothing but the upper and better quarters of the great city. It is a very terrible place to those who are forced to dwell in it. For many blocks to the north and south of where we stand in Worth street, and from Elm street back to East River, the Five Points presents a succession of similar scenes of wretchedness.
[Picture: A FIVE POINTS RUM SHOP.]
Yet, bad as it is, it was worse a few years ago. There was not more suffering, it is true, but crime was more frequent here. A respectably dressed man could not pass through this section twelve years ago without risking his safety or his life. Murders, robberies, and crimes of all kinds were numerous. Fugitives from justice found a sure refuge here, and the officers of the law frequently did not dare to seek them in their hiding places. Now, thanks to the march of trade up the island, the work of the missionaries, and the vigilance of the new police, the Five Points quarter is safe enough during the day. But still, there are some sections of it in which it is not prudent to venture at night. The criminal class no longer herd here, but have scattered themselves over the island, so that the quarter now contains really more suffering than crime.
Twenty years ago there stood in Park street, near Worth, a large dilapidated building known as the "Old Brewery." It was almost in ruins, but it was the most densely populated building in the city. It is said to have contained at one time as many as 1200 people. Its passages were long and dark, and it abounded in rooms of all sizes and descriptions, in many of which were secure hiding places for men and stolen goods. The occupants were chiefly the most desperate characters in New York, and the "Old Brewery" was everywhere recognized as the headquarters of crime in the metropolis. The narrow thoroughfare extending around it was known as "Murderers' Alley" and "The Den of Thieves." No respectable person ever ventured near it, and even the officers of the law avoided it except when their duty compelled them to enter it. It was a terrible place.
Nor was the neighborhood in which this building was located any better. The ground was damp and marshy, the old Collect Pond having originally covered the site, and the streets were filthy beyond description. It is said that there were underground passages extending under the streets from some of the houses to others in different blocks, which were kept secret from all but professional criminals. These were used for facilitating the commission of crimes and the escape of criminals. Brothels and rum shops abounded, and from morning until night brawls were going on in a dozen or more of them at once.
The locality is better now. In 1852, the Old Brewery was purchased by the Ladies' Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was pulled down. Its site is now occupied by the neat and comfortable buildings of the Five Points Mission. Just across Worth street is the Five Points House of Industry, and business is creeping in slowly to change the character of this immediate locality forever.
In speaking of the Five Points, I include the Fourth and Sixth Wards, which are generally regarded as constituting that section—probably because they are the most wretched and criminal of all in the city. This description will apply with almost equal force to a large part of the First Ward, lying along the North River side of the island. The Fourth and Sixth Wards are also among the most densely populated, being the smallest wards in extent in the city.
The streets in this section are generally narrow and crooked. The gutters and the roadway are lined with filth, and from the dark, dingy houses comes up the most sickening stench. Every house is packed to its utmost capacity. In some are simply the poor, in others are those whose reputations make the policemen careful in entering them. Some of these buildings are simply dens of thieves. All the streets are wretched enough, but Baxter street has of late years succeeded to the reputation formerly enjoyed by its neighbor, Park street. It is a narrow, crooked thoroughfare. The sidewalk is almost gone in many places, and the street is full of holes. Some of the buildings are of brick, and are lofty enough for a modern Tower of Babel. Others are one and two story wooden shanties. All are hideously dirty. From Canal to Chatham street there is not the slightest sign of cleanliness or comfort. From Franklin to Chatham street there is scarcely a house without a bucket shop or "distillery," as the signs over the door read, on the ground floor. Here the vilest and most poisonous compounds are sold as whiskey, gin, rum, and brandy. Their effects are visible on every hand. Some of these houses are brothels of the lowest description, and, ah, such terrible faces as look out upon you as you pass them by! Surely no more hopeless, crime-stained visages are to be seen this side of the home of the damned. The filth that is thrown into the street lies there and decays until the kindly heavens pour down a drenching shower and wash it away. As a natural consequence, the neighborhood is sickly, and sometimes the infection amounts almost to a plague.
Between Fourteenth street and the Battery, half a million of people are crowded into about one-fifth of the island of Manhattan. Within this section there are about 13,000 tenement houses, fully one-half of which are in bad condition, dirty and unhealthy. One small block of the Five Points district is said to contain 382 families. The most wretched tenement houses are to be found in the Five Points. The stairways are rickety and groan and tremble beneath your tread. The entries are dark and foul. Some of these buildings have secret passages connecting them with others of a similar character. These passages are known only to criminals, and are used by them for their vile purposes. Offenders may safely hide from the police in these wretched abodes. Every room is crowded with people. Sometimes as many as a dozen are packed into a single apartment. Decency and morality soon fade away here. Drunkenness is the general rule. Some of the dwellers here never leave their abodes, but remain in them the year round stupefied with liquor, to procure which their wives, husbands or children will beg or steal. Thousands of children are born here every year, and thousands happily die in the first few months of infancy. Those who survive rarely see the sun until they are able to crawl out into the streets. Both old and young die at a fearful rate. They inhale disease with every breath.
The exact number of vagrant and destitute children to be found in the Five Points is not known. There are thousands, however. Some have placed the estimate as high as 15,000, and some higher. They are chiefly of foreign parentage. They do not attend the public schools, for they are too dirty and ragged. The poor little wretches have no friends but the attaches of the missions. The missionaries do much for them, but they cannot aid all. Indeed, they frequently have great difficulty in inducing the parents of the children to allow them to attend their schools. The parents are mostly of the Roman Catholic faith, and the clergy of that Church have from the first exerted their entire influence to destroy the missions, and put a stop to their work. They feared the effect of these establishments upon the minds of the children, and, strange as it may seem, preferred to let them starve in the street, or come to worse ending, rather than risk the effects of education and Protestant influence. To those who know what a great and blessed work these missions have done, this statement will no doubt be astounding. Yet it is true.
In spite of the missions, however, the lot of the majority of the Five Points children is very sad. Their parents are always poor, and unable to keep them in comfort. Too frequently they are drunken brutes, and then the life of the little one is simply miserable. In the morning the child is thrust out of its terrible home to pick rags, bones, cinders, or anything that can be used or sold, or to beg or steal, for many are carefully trained in dishonesty. They are disgustingly dirty, and all but the missionaries shrink from contact with them. The majority are old looking and ugly, but a few have bright, intelligent faces. From the time they are capable of receiving impressions, they are thrown into constant contact with vice and crime. They grow up to acquire surely and steadily the ways of their elders. The boys recruit the ranks of the pickpockets, thieves, and murderers of the city; the girls become waiters in the concert halls, or street walkers, and thence go down to ruin, greater misery and death.
In winter and summer suffering is the lot of the Five Points. In the summer the heat is intense, and the inmates of the houses pour out into the filthy streets to seek relief from the torture to which they are subjected indoors. In winter they are half frozen with cold. The missionaries and the police tell some dreary stories of this quarter. A writer in a city journal thus describes a visit made in company with the missionary of the Five Points House of Industry to one of these homes of sorrow:
"The next place visited was a perfect hovel. Mr. Shultz, in passing along a narrow dark hall leading towards the head of the stairs, knocked at an old door, through which the faintest ray of light was struggling. 'Come in,' said a voice on the opposite side of the room. The door being opened, a most sickening scene appeared. The room was larger than the last one, and filthier. The thin outside walls were patched with pieces of pasteboard, the floor was covered with dirt, and what straggling pieces of furniture they had were lying about as if they had been shaken up by an earthquake. There was a miserable fire, and the storm outside howled and rattled away at the old roof, threatening to carry it off in every succeeding gust. The tenants were a man, his wife, a boy, and a girl. They had sold their table to pay their rent, and their wretched meal of bones and crusts was set on an old packing box which was drawn close up to the stove. When the visitors entered the man and woman were standing, leaning over the stove. The girl, aged about ten years, and a very bright looking child, having just been off on some errand, had got both feet wet, and now had her stockings off, holding them close to the coals to dry them. The boy seemed to be overgrown for his age, and half idiotic. He sat at one corner of the stove, his back to the visitors, and his legs stretched out under the hearth. His big coat collar was turned up around his neck, and his chin sunk down, so that his face could not be seen. His long, straight hair covered his ears and the sides of his face. He did not look up until he was directly questioned by Mr. Shultz, and then he simply raised his chin far enough to grunt. The girl, when spoken to, looked up slyly and laughed.
"The man, on being asked if he was unable to work, said he would be glad to work if he could get anything to do. He was a painter, and belonged to a painters' protective union. But there were so many out of employment, that it was useless trying to get any help. He pointed to an old basket filled with coke, and said he had just sold their last chair to buy it. He had worked eighteen years at the Metropolitan Hotel, but got out of work, and has been out ever since. Mr. Shultz offered to take the little girl into the House of Industry, and give her board, clothes, and education. He asked the father if he would let her go, saying the place was only a few steps from them, and they could see her often. The man replied that he did not like a separation from his child. The missionary assured him that it would be no separation, and then asked the mother the same question. She stood speechless for several moments, as if thinking over the matter, and when the missionary, after using his best arguments, again asked her whether she would allow him to take care of her child, she simply replied, 'No.' She said they would all hang together as long as they could, and, if necessary, all would starve together.
"This family had evidently seen better times. The man had an honest face, and talked as if he had once been able to earn a respectable living. The woman had some features that would be called noble if they were worn in connection with costlier apparel. The girl was unmistakably smart, and the only thing to mar their appearance as a family, so far as personal looks were concerned, was the thick-lipped, slovenly boy."
II. THE CELLARS.
If the people of whom I have written are sufferers, they at least exist upon the surface of the earth. But what shall we say of those who pass their lives in the cellars of the wretched buildings I have described?
A few of these cellars are dry, but all are dirty. Some are occupied as dwelling-places, and some are divided into a sort of store or groggery and living and sleeping rooms. Others still are kept as lodging-houses, where the poorest of the poor find shelter for the night.
In writing of these cellars, I wish it to be understood that I do not refer to the rooms partly above and partly below the level of the side-walk, with some chance of ventilation, and known to the Health Officers as "basements," but to the cellars pure and simple, all of which are sunk below the level of the street, and all of which are infinitely wretched. There were in April, 1869, about 12,000 of these cellars known to the Board of Health, and containing from 96,000 to 100,000 persons. With the exception of 211, all of these were such as were utterly forbidden, under the health ordinances of the city, to be used or rented as tenements. The Board of Health have frequently considered the advisability of removing this population, and have been prevented only by the magnitude of the task, and the certainty of rendering this large number of persons homeless for a time at least.
The larger portion of these cellars have but one entrance, and that furnishes the only means of ventilation. They have no outlet to the rear, and frequently the filth of the streets comes washing down the walls into the room within. In the brightest day they are dark and gloomy. The air is always foul. The drains of the houses above pass within a few feet of the floor, and as they are generally in bad condition the filth frequently comes oozing up and poisons the air with its foul odors. In some cases there has been found a direct opening from the drain into the cellar, affording a free passage for all the sewer gas into the room. The Board of Health do all they can to remedy this, but the owners and occupants of the cellars are hard to manage, and throw every obstacle in the way of the execution of the health ordinances.
The rents paid for these wretched abodes are exorbitant. Dr. Harris, the Superintendent of the Board of Health, states that as much as twenty dollars per month is often demanded of the occupants by the owners. Half of that sum would secure a clean and decent room in some of the up-town tenements. The poor creatures, in sheer despair, make no effort to better their condition, and live on here in misery, and often in vice, until death comes to their relief.
[Picture: A FIVE POINTS LODGING CELLAR.]
Many of the cellars are used as lodging-houses. These are known to the police as "Bed Houses." In company with Captain Allaire and Detective Finn, the writer once made a tour of inspection through these establishments. One of them shall serve as a specimen. Descending through a rickety door-way, we passed into a room about sixteen feet square and eight feet high. At one end was a stove in which a fire burned feebly, and close by a small kerosene lamp on a table dimly lighted the room. An old hag, who had lost the greater part of her nose, and whose face was half hidden by the huge frill of the cap she wore, sat rocking herself in a rickety chair by the table. The room was more than half in the shadow, and the air was so dense and foul that I could scarcely breathe. By the dim light I could see that a number of filthy straw mattresses were ranged on the floor along the wall. Above these were wooden bunks, like those of a barracks, filled with dirty beds and screened by curtains. The room was capable of accommodating at least twenty persons, and I was told that the hag in the chair, who was the proprietress, was "a good hand at packing her lodgers well together." It was early, but several of the beds were occupied. The curtains were drawn in some cases, and we could not see the occupants. In one, however, was a child, but little more than a baby, as plump and ruddy, and as fair-skinned and pretty as though it had been the child of a lady of wealth. The little one was sleeping soundly, and, by a common instinct, we gathered about its bed, and watched it in silence.
"It is too pretty a child for such a place," said one of the party.
I glanced at Detective Finn. His face wore a troubled expression.
"A man becomes hardened to the sights I see," he said in answer to my glance, "but I can scarcely keep the tears from my eyes when I see a child like this in such a place; for, you see, I know what a life it is growing up to."
This wretched place Mr. Finn told us was one of the best of all the bed houses. He proved his assertion by conducting us to one out of which we beat a hasty retreat. The night air never seemed so pure to me as it did as I came out of the vile den into the clear starlight. I could scarcely breathe in the fearful hole we had just been in, and yet it was rapidly filling up with people who were to pass the night there. There were men, women and children, but they were all huddled together in one room. There was no such thing as privacy. Some of the lodgers were simply unfortunate, some were vagrants, and others were criminals.
I do not believe that all the sanitary measures in the world could ever make these places clean or healthy. The atmosphere is always too foul and dense to be breathed by any but lungs accustomed to it. When the cellars are crowded with lodgers, and the heat of the stove adds to the poison, it must be appalling. The poor wretches who seek shelter here are more than half stupefied by it, and pass the night in this condition instead of in a healthful sleep. They pay from ten to twenty-five cents for their lodgings, and if they desire a supper or breakfast, are given a cup of coffee and a piece of bread, or a bowl of soup for a similar sum.
As a matter of course only vagrants and those who have gone down into the depths of poverty come here. They must choose between the cellars and the streets, and the beds offered them here are warmer and softer than the stones of the street.
"Have we seen the worst?" I asked Mr. Finn, as we came out of the last place.
"No," he replied, "there are worse places yet. But I'll not take you there."
The reader will readily credit this assertion, after reading the following account of a visit of the Health Officers to one of a number of similar cellars in Washington Street, on the west side of the city:
"The place next visited was No. 27 Washington street. This building is also owned by 'Butcher Burke,' and is one of the most filthy and horrible places in the city. We passed under an old tumble-down doorway that seemed to have no earthly excuse for standing there, and into a dismal, dark entry, with a zig-zag wall covered with a leprous slime, our conductor crying out all the time: 'Steady, gentlemen, steady, keep to your left; place is full of holes.'