History of New York City (1855–97)

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The history of New York City (1855–1897) started with the inauguration in 1855 of Fernando Wood as the first mayor from Tammany Hall, an institution that would dominate the city throughout this period. Reforms led to the New York City Police Riot of June 1857. There was chaos during the American Civil War, with major rioting in the New York Draft Riots. Later years saw the rise of the Gilded Age which saw prosperity for the city's upper classes amid the further growth of a poor immigrant working class, and an increasing consolidation, both economic and municipal, of what would become the five boroughs in 1898.

Ocean-going steamships and steam railroads, developed in earlier decades, grew to take over most long distance transport, bringing an ever-increasing stream of immigration and industrialization.[1]

Conservatory Water Conservatory Garden Harlem Meer Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir Great Lawn and Turtle Pond Bethesda Terrace The Ramble and Lake Sheep Meadow The Pond and Hallett Nature Sanctuary Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Metropolitan Museum of Art Metropolitan Museum of Art American Museum of Natural History Central Park Zoo Tavern on the Green
Map of Central Park. Clicking on a feature in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article.

Pre-Civil War[edit]

Second Avenue facing north from 42nd Street in 1861

Police, gangs and violence[edit]

The new Republican Party in the late 1850s attempted to cut the power of Mayor Fernando Wood and other pro-South Democrats by abolishing the New York City Municipal Police Department in favor of a Metropolitan Police District.[2] Resistance resulted in the New York City Police Riot of 1857. The police being busy with their feud, the Dead Rabbits Riot between two Irish gangs in Five Points occurred in July, lasting two days, killing about 100 people, and stopped only by intervention of the state militia. It was the worst riot up to that time.[3][4] Historian Tyler Anbinder says the "Dead Rabbit" name "so captured the imagination of New Yorkers that the press continued to use it despite the abundant evidence that no such club or gang existed." Andbinder notes that, "for more than a decade, 'Dead Rabbit' became the standard phrase by which city residents described any scandalously riotous individual or group." [5]

In wider perspective, historians such as Michael Kaplan and Elliott Gorn have argued that an intensifying highly masculine working-class male identity, fueled by saloon liquor, fostered gangs, brawling, and even homicide and rape. The emerging male code emphasized physical courage, defiance of authority, and class pride. Irish and German Immigrants brought European influences. Sexual harassment of women increased because women Were more visible outside the home, as many worked in factories And shops. Women were regarded as depersonalized objects of lewd talk, and gang rapes became an opportunity for male bonding.[6][7][8]

Central Park[edit]

Main article: Central Park
"Angel of the Waters", in Bethesda Fountain (sculpted 1873)

As the population grew explosively in lower Manhattan after 1820, middle-class residents were drawn to the few existing open spaces, mainly cemeteries, to get away from the noises, smells and chaotic life in the city. Landscape painter Asher B. Durand and writer William Cullen Bryant, recalling their rural upbringing and the strong impressions of the great parks of Europe, advocated the therapeutic value of nature In the overcrowded city.[9] Along with architect Andrew Jackson Downing they envisioned a great park. The state government in 1853 provided $5 million and eminent domain powers to buy out the land owners of what became Central Park. Egbert L. Viele (1825-1902) drew the original plans; Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) and Calvert Vaux (1824-95) made the final designs and have received the main credit.[10] Several American influences came together in the design. Landscaped cemeteries, such as Mount Auburn (in Cambridge, Massachusetts) and Green-Wood Cemetery (in Brooklyn) provided examples of idyllic, naturalistic landscapes. The most influential innovations in the Central Park design were the multiple circulation plans for pedestrians, horseback riders, and pleasure vehicles. The crossing routes for commercial traffic were entirely concealed in sunken roadways screened with densely planted shrub belts so as to maintain a rustic ambiance.[11] Olmstead, who minimized corruption while he was in charge of building the park, envisioned a utopian venture that would bring together the tenement dwellers and the rich, the Irish Catholics and Episcopalian Yankees, all under the watchful eye of uniformed park police who would enforce written guidelines of behavior. By 1866, there were nearly 8 million visits to the park, but only 110 arrests.[12] It was the nation's first urban park; Olmsted taught Americans a new sensibility in park environments and urban planning as an applied science with his radically naturalistic park design.[13][14]

Civil War[edit]

1860 map of New York City

Prior to the fighting, in 1861, Mayor Fernando Wood proposed New York City secession from the United States as a neutral sovereign city-state to be called Tri-Insula as a way to avoid the ravages of the war. Despite strong local Copperhead sympathies, the proposal was not well received.

The city provided a major source of troops, supplies, equipment and financing for the Union Army. Powerful New York politicians and newspaper editors helped shape public opinion toward the war effort and the policies of President Lincoln. The port of New York, a major entry point for immigrants, served as recruiting grounds for the Army.[15] In July, 1863 Irish Catholic enemies of conscription began five days of rioting. The 'Draft Riots', the worst in American history, targeted blacks and wealthy Republicans. It was suppressed by artillery units of the United States Army firing grapeshot that killed and wounded hundreds of rioters.[16] Meanwhile the upscale membership of the New York Union League Club recruited over 2000 Black men for the 20th Regiment, US Colored Troops to help fill the quotas and to make a major contribution to African American civil rights.[17][18] The neighboring city of Brooklyn in contrast was more pro-war.[19]

In 1865 the Metropolitan Fire District united the fire departments of New York and Brooklyn, and was more successful than the earlier Metropolitan Police District, eventually developing into the New York City Fire Department.[20]

Tourism and entertainment[edit]

New York increasingly became the national capital for tourism and entertainment. Grand hotels were built for the upscale visitors[21] New York's theater district gradually moved northward during this half century, from The Bowery up Broadway through Union Square and Madison Square, settling around Times Square at the end of the 19th century. Edwin Booth was among the stars of mid-century, and Lillian Russell at the end.[22] Prostitutes served a wide variety of clientele, from sailors on leave to flush playboys.[23]

Gilded Age[edit]

The Great East River Bridge To connect the cities of New York and Brooklyn, Currier & Ives, 1872

The post-war period was noted for the corruption and graft for which Tammany Hall has become proverbial, but equally for the foundation of New York's pre-eminent cultural institutions, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Opera, the American Museum of Natural History, while the Brooklyn Museum was a major institution of New York's independent sister city.

New York newspapers were read across the nation, particularly, the New York Tribune, edited by Horace Greeley, the voice of the new Republican Party.[24]

Immigration[edit]

The flood of immigration from Europe passed first through Castle Clinton (opened 1855) and then through Ellis Island (opened 1892) in New York Harbor, under the eye of the Statue of Liberty (opened 1886). Millions passed through Castle Garden (and later to Ellis Island) during this period. Most of the new arrivals headed to destinations across the North and West, but many Were headed to New York City.

The new European immigration brought further social upheaval, and old world criminal societies rapidly exploited the already corrupt municipal machine politics of Tammany Hall. Housing, especially in the southern tip of Manhattan, became enormously crowded With newly built tenements and flimsy shacks in the back.

Italians settled around Mulberry Street between the East Village and Lower Manhattan, in an area later to be known as "Little Italy." Many Yiddish-speaking East European Jews came to the Lower East Side.

In the Orange Riots of July 1871 and 1872, Catholic Irish attempted to stop Protestant Irish from celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. These resulted in more than 33 deaths and many wounded.[25][26] Pioneering photojournalist Jacob Riis documented the poor conditions of immigrant tenement dwellers in his 1890 How the Other Half Lives; he was befriended by Republican reformer Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt lost his mayoral race in 1886. Reformers did win in 1894, Roosevelt undertook a major reform of the New York City Police Department in 1895-1897 during his term as President of the Police Commissioners.[27]

Public health[edit]

Epidemics (typhus, cholera, diphtheria and tuberculosis) were rampant in the city's slums, hiding in the rookeries. Horse manure covered the streets. In winter, when all the grime froze, walking on the sidewalks was a challenge. Dead pigs and other carcasses remained on the street.[28] In 1894 Colonel George E. Waring, Jr. introduced sanitary reforms using a large street cleaning force.[29][30]

Politics[edit]

Tammany Hall[edit]

William Tweed, better known as Boss Tweed, had become the sole leader of Tammany Hall by 1867. From April 1870, with the passage of a city charter consolidating power in the hands of his political allies, Tweed and his cronies were able to defraud the city of some tens of millions of dollars over the next two years and eight months, most famously with the construction bill for a lavish courthouse. The efforts of reform-oriented Democratic politicians, especially Samuel J. Tilden, as well as aggressive newspaper editors, aided by the biting cartoons of Thomas Nast helped elect opposition candidates in 1871. Tweed was convicted of forgery and larceny in 1873. Tweed's fall put an end to the total immunity of corrupt local political leaders, and was a precursor to the rise of Progressive Era reforms in the city.[31]

Tammany did not take long to rebound from Tweed's fall. Reforms demanded a general housecleaning, and former county sheriff "Honest John" Kelly was selected as the new leader. Kelly was not implicated in the Tweed scandals, and was a religious Catholic related by marriage to Archbishop John McCloskey. He cleared Tammany of Tweed's people, and tightened the Grand Sachem's control over the hierarchy. His success at revitalizing the machine was such that in the election of 1874, the Tammany candidate, William H. Wickham, unseated the unpopular reformist incumbent, William F. Havemeyer, and Democrats generally won their races, delivering control of the city back to Tammany Hall.[32]

Economy[edit]

In 1874, nearly 61% of all U.S. exports passed through New York harbor. In 1884, nearly 70% of U.S. imports came through New York. The eventual rise of ports on the Gulf of Mexico and on the Pacific coast reduced New York's share of imports and exports to about 47% in 1910. The city's banking resources grew 250% between 1888 and 1908, compared to the national increase of 26%. Between 1860 and 1907, the assessed value of the land and buildings on Manhattan rose from $1.7 billion to $6.7 billion.

Department stores[edit]

In modern major cities, the department store made a dramatic appearance in the middle of the 19th century, and permanently reshaped shopping habits, and the definition of service and luxury. Similar developments were under way in Paris and London.[33] New York became a regional and national destination for upscale shoppers, thanks to its development of the modern Department store. London and Paris were developing department stores of same time, and the leaders quickly Adopted any innovations. In 1846, Alexander Turney Stewart established his "Marble Palace" on Broadway, between Chambers and Reade streets.[34] He offered Upscale retail merchandise at fixed prices. Though it was clad in white marble to look like a Renaissance palazzo, the building's cast iron construction permitted large plate glass windows that permitted major seasonal displays, especially in the Christmas shopping season. Increasingly the clientele were women from wealthy or upper-middle-class families.[35]

In 1862, Stewart built a new store on a full city block with eight floors and nineteen departments of dress goods and furnishing materials, carpets, glass and china, toys and sports equipment, ranged around a central glass-covered court. His innovations included buying from manufacturers for cash and in large quantities, keeping his markup small and prices low, truthful presentation of merchandise, the one-price policy (so there was no haggling), simple merchandise returns and cash refund policy, selling for cash and not credit, buyers who searched worldwide for quality merchandise, departmentalization, vertical and horizontal integration, volume sales, and free services for customers such as waiting rooms and free delivery of purchases. His innovations were quickly copied by other department stores.[36]

In 1858, Rowland Hussey Macy founded Macy's as a dry goods store. Benjamin Altman and Lord & Taylor soon competed with Stewart as New York's earliest department stores.

By the 1880s New York's retail center had moved uptown, forming a stretch of retail shopping from "Marble Palace" that was called the "Ladies' Mile". By 1894 the major stores competed in the Christmas season with elaborate Christmas window displays; in 1895 Macy's featured 13 tableaux, including scenes from Jack and the Beanstalk, Gulliver's Travels and other children's favorites.[37]

The department store was especially important for women. And middle-class families women took control of the purchasing, and the department stores catered to their tastes. Furthermore, ambitious young women from the middle class who wanted a career were welcomed into the clerical ranks, where they develop social skills to work with their upscale customers.[38][39]

Neighborhoods[edit]

Prewar steam ferries had already made Brooklyn Heights into a bedroom community for affluent professionals on Wall Street and other urban areas. Elevated railroads operated by the Manhattan Railway Company, and other new public transport expanded the commuter area of New York, allowing development of suburbs for commuters of more modest means in Upper West Side and other distant areas. Plans were made for subways to still more remote exurbs such as Harlem and the West Bronx.

In the late 19th century, the island's schist bedrock encouraged the early skyscrapers whose successors characterize its skyline today. The Great Blizzard of 1888 exposed the vulnerability of the urban infrastructure connecting those building, encouraging the undergrounding of electric and telephone lines, and plans for a future subway line.

Consolidation, economic and municipal[edit]

This 1877 Currier & Ives print of an unfinished Brooklyn Bridge showed a vision of greater urban integration.

In 1855, the City of Brooklyn annexed Williamsburg and Bushwick, forming what became the third-most-populous city in America. In 1870, Long Island City was formed in Queens. In 1874, New York City annexed what is today the West Bronx, west of the Bronx River. The Brooklyn Bridge completed in 1883 epitomized the heroic confidence of a generation and drew the two cities of Brooklyn and New York inexorably together. As Brooklyn annexed the remainder of Kings County in the decade from 1886 to 1896, the issue of consolidation grew more pressing.

The modern city of Greater New York — the five boroughs — was created in 1898, with the consolidation of the cities of New York (then Manhattan and the Bronx) and Brooklyn with the largely then-rural areas of Queens and Staten Island.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ For a visual overview of the era, see Eric Homberger, The historical atlas of New York City: A visual celebration of 400 years of New York City's history (Macmillan, 2005), pp 84-111
  2. ^ James F. Richardson, The New York Police, Colonial Times to 1901 (1970).
  3. ^ Christopher Adamson, "Tribute, turf, honor and the American street gang: patterns of continuity and change since 1820." Theoretical Criminology (1998) 2#1 pp: 57-84.
  4. ^ Nate Hendley, ed. (2009). American Gangsters, Then and Now: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 65–66. 
  5. ^ Tyler Anbinder, Five Points: the 19th-century New York City neighborhood that invented tap dance, stole elections, and became the world's most notorious slum (2001) pp 285-86.
  6. ^ Michael Kaplan, "New York city tavern violence and the creation of a working-class male identity," Journal of the Early Republic (1995) 15#4 pp 591-617 in JSTOR
  7. ^ Peter Adams, The Bowery Boys: Street Corner Radicals and the Politics of Rebellion (2005).
  8. ^ Elliott J. Gorn, "'Good-Bye Boys, I Die a True American': Homicide, Nativism, and Working-Class Culture in Antebellum New York City." journal of american history (1987): 388-410. in JSTOR; Online copy
  9. ^ Linda Fischer and Harrison Hunt, "Asher B. Durand, William Cullen Bryant, and the Origins of Central Park," New York Journal of American History (2007) 66#4 pp 93-100.
  10. ^ Burrows and Wallace, Gotham pp 790-95
  11. ^ Roy Rosenzweig and Elizabeth Blackmar, The Park and the People: A History of Central Park (1998)
  12. ^ Eric Homburgerger, The Historical Atlas of New York City (1994) pp 88-89
  13. ^ Andrew Menard, "The Enlarged Freedom of Frederick Law Olmsted," New England Quarterly (2010) 83#3 pp. 508-538 in JSTOR
  14. ^ Eugene P. Moehring, "Frederick Law Olmsted and the Central Park 'Revolution'" Halcyon: A Journal of the Humanities (1985) 7#1 pp 59-75.
  15. ^ Edward K. Spann, Gotham at War: New York City, 1860-1865 (2002)
  16. ^ Iver Bernstein, The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War (1990); Barnet Schecter, The Devil's Own Work: The Civil War Draft Riots and the Fight to Reconstruct America (2007); Adrian Cook, The Armies of the Streets: The New York City Draft Riots of 1863 (1982)
  17. ^ Thomas L. Jones, "The Union League Club and New York's First Black Regiments in the Civil War," New York History (2006) 87#3 pp 313-343
  18. ^ William Seraile, New York's Black Regiments During the Civil War (2015)
  19. ^ E. H. Livingston, President Lincoln's Third Largest City: Brooklyn and The Civil War (1994)
  20. ^ Jackson, Encyclopedia of New Your City (2010) p 452
  21. ^ Justin Kaplan, When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods and Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age (2006).
  22. ^ Lewis A. Erenberg, Steppin'Out: New York Nightlife and the Transformation of American Culture (1984)
  23. ^ Timothy J. Gilfoyle, City of eros: New York City, prostitution, and the commercialization of sex, 1790-1920 (1994).
  24. ^ Jeter Allen Isely, Horace Greeley and the Republican Party, 1853-1861: A Study of the New York Tribune (1947)
  25. ^ Michael Gordon, The Orange riots: Irish political violence in New York City, 1870 and 1871 (1993)
  26. ^ Access Genealogy Orange Riots
  27. ^ Jay Stuart Berman, Police administration and progressive reform: Theodore Roosevelt as police commissioner of New York (1987).
  28. ^ Maria Farland, "Decomposing City: Walt Whitman's new York and the Science of Life and Death," ELH (2007) 74#4 pp 799-827 in JSTOR
  29. ^ John Duffy, History of public health in New York City (2 vol. 1968, 1974)
  30. ^ Judith Walzer Leavitt, "Review: Writing Public Health History: The Need for a Social Scaffolding," Reviews in American History (1976) 4#2 pp. 150-157 in JSTOR
  31. ^ Oliver E. Allen, The Tiger: The Rise and Fall of Tammany Hall (1993) online edition
  32. ^ Burrows & Wallace, Gotham p. 1027
  33. ^ Gunther Barth, "The Department Store," in City People: The Rise of Modern City Culture in Nineteenth-Century America. (Oxford University Press, 1980) pp 110-47,
  34. ^ Harry E. Resseguie, "A.T. Stewart's Marble Palace—The Cradle of the Department Store." New York Historical Society Quarterly (1964) 48#2 ]]: 131-162.
  35. ^ Gunther Barth, City People: The Rise of Modern City Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (1982) pp 110-47
  36. ^ Harry E. Resseguie, "Alexander Turney Stewart and the Development of the Department Store, 1823-1876," Business History Review (1965) 39#3 pp. 301-322 in JSTOR
  37. ^ Laura Byrne Paquet (2003). The Urge to Splurge: A Social History of Shopping. ECW Press. p. 191. 
  38. ^ William R. Leach, "Transformations in a culture of consumption: women and department stores, 1890-1925." Journal of American History (1984): 319-342. in JSTOR
  39. ^ Susan Benson, Counter cultures: Saleswomen, managers, and customers in American department stores, 1890-1940 (1987).

Further reading[edit]

  • Anbinder, Tyler. "From Famine to Five Points: Lord Lansdowne's Irish Tenants Encounter North America's Most Notorious Slum." American Historical Review 107.2 (2002): 351-387. in JSTOR
  • Anbinder, Tyler. Five Points: the 19th-century New York City neighborhood that invented tap dance, stole elections, and became the world's most notorious slum (Simon and Schuster, 2001)
  • Burns, Ric, and James Sanders. New York: An Illustrated History (2003), large-scale book version of Burns PBS documentary, New York: A Documentary Film an eight part, 17½ hour hour documentary film directed by Ric Burns for PBS. It originally aired in 1999 with additional episodes airing in 2001 and 2003.
  • Burrows, Edwin G., and Mike Wallace. Gotham: a history of New York City to 1898 (Oxford University Press, 1998), The standard scholarly survey; 1390 pages
  • Bernstein, Iver. The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War (1990)
  • Callow, Alexander B. The Tweed Ring (1966).
  • Chernow, Ron. The house of Morgan: an American banking dynasty and the rise of modern finance (2001)
  • Chernow, Ron. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.(2007)
  • Ernst, Robert. Immigrant Life in New York City, 1825-1863 (Syracuse University Press, 1994)
  • Fitzgerald, Maureen. Habits of Compassion: Irish Catholic Nuns and the Origins of New York's Welfare System, 1830-1920 (University of Illinois Press, 2006)
  • Homberger, Eric. Mrs. Astor's New York: Money and Social Power in a Gilded Age (Yale University Press, 2004)
  • Homberger, Eric. The historical atlas of New York City: A visual celebration of 400 years of New York City's history (Macmillan, 2005)
  • Jackson, Kenneth D. Encyclopedia of New Your City (2nd ed. 2010); a massive compendium of authoritative short articles
  • Livingston, E. H. President Lincoln's Third Largest City: Brooklyn and The Civil War (1994)
  • McKay, Ernest A. The Civil War and New York City (Syracuse University Press, 1990)
  • Scherzer. Kenneth A. The unbounded community: Neighborhood life and social structure in New York City, 1830-1875 (Duke University Press, 1992)
  • Spann, Edward K. Gotham at War: New York City, 1860-1865 (2002)
  • Stern, Robert AM, Thomas Mellins, and David Fishman. New York 1880: Architecture and Urbanism in the Gilded Age (1999)
  • Voorsanger, Catherine Hoover, & Howat, John K., eds. (2000). Art and the empire city: New York, 1825-1861. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 9780870999574. 

Primary sources[edit]

  • Jackson, Kenneth T. and David S. Dunbar, eds. Empire City: New York Through the Centuries (2005), 1015 pages of excerpts excerpt
  • Still, Bayrd, ed. Mirror for Gotham: New York as Seen by Contemporaries from Dutch Days to the Present (New York University Press, 1956) online edition
  • Stokes, I.N. Phelps. The Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498-1909 compiled from original sources and illustrated by photo-intaglio reproductions of important maps plans views and documents in public and private collections (6 vols., 1915-28). A highly detailed, heavily illustrated chronology of Manhattan and New York City. see The Iconography of Manhattan Island All volumes are on line free at:

Older books[edit]