Asa Greene.

A glance at New York: embracing the city government, theatres, hotels, churches, mobs, monopolies, learned professions, newspapers, rogues, dandies, fires and firemen, water and other liquids, & c., & c. .. online

. (page 11 of 11)
Online LibraryAsa GreeneA glance at New York: embracing the city government, theatres, hotels, churches, mobs, monopolies, learned professions, newspapers, rogues, dandies, fires and firemen, water and other liquids, & c., & c. .. → online text (page 11 of 11)
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dissection ; by which appearances it was in-
ferred that she was not above half as old as
she had been represented : a conclusion to
21



242 HOAXES.

which the public — at least a part of it — had
arrived, sometime before her death. And as
the number of doubters was every day increas-
ing, it is probable the poor old creature did
not die any too soon, for her own quiet, or the
peace, the interest, and the security of her
exhibitor : for though the people are wonder-
fully fond of being gulled, they are apt to be
greatly enraged, if they find out the decep-
tion ; and will sometimes proceed to take
summary vengeance on their deceivers.

It now remains for us to say something of
the other great hoax, for which the summer
of '35 was remarkable. Perhaps we ought
to beg pardon of the ingenious author of the
" Moon Story," for placing it in the same
chapter with the above villanous deception.
There is no resemblance between them, ex-
cept in name — the one as well as the other —
the innocent fiction of the discoveries in the
moon, as well the pickpocket deception of
the withered old negress, having been charac-
terized as a hoax.

The account of the great lunar discoveries.



HOAXES. 243

written by Richard Adams Locke— now
editor of the New Era — first appeared in the
Sun. It purported to be taken from an
English periodical, to which it had been
communicated by a friend of Sir John F. W.
Herschell, the great astromoner, by whom the
discoveries were represented to have been
made, at the Cape of Good Hope. And
herein consisted the hoax. Without the use
of a veritable name, and that of a man well
known as a distinguished astronomer, the de-
ception could not have succeeded to any
remarkable extent ; and those, who at first
believed the account, could not justly say, on
finding out their mistake, that they had been
hoaxed.

The diameter of Sir John's telescope ap-
peared to the reader surprisingly large. But
then they recollected how great was the size
of the telescope of Dr. William Herschell,
even in the last century. They remembered
how George HI., a stout man, was said to
have travelled through that instrument, from
one end to the other. They bore in mind the



244 HOAXES.

wonderful changes and improvements, since
the last century. If a very great king — it
v^'as naturally argued — could walk, with very
little stooping, through the telescope of Dr.
William Herschell, in the 18th century : it
was not at all surprising that the telescope of
Sir John Herschell, in the nineteenth, should
be of sufficient diameter for six tall men to
stand up in it, erect, upon one another's
heads.

Another thing, which also appeared quite
surprising, was the minuteness with which the
animals, the plants, and even the quality of
the minerals, was described. But when they
recollected the wonderful magnitude and
power of Sir John's telescope, all difficulties
in regard to minuteness of discovery van-
ished.

The most startling thing of the whole was
the winged people. Nothing like them had
been seen on the earth. But that, they
argued, was no rule for the moon. Mankind
might as well be provided with wings uj) there^
as birds, and bats, and insects, with wings



HOAXES. 245

down here' The moon, said they, was a sep-
arate government — independent in its modes
of life and its fashions of things — and was no
more obliged to resemble this ball of earth,
in the make of its inhabitants, than this ball
of earth was to resemble the moon in the
same point.

The winged people, therefore, being swal-
lowed, there remained no obstacle to the be-
lief of the entire discoveries. The credulity
was general. All New York rang with the won-
derful discoveries of Sir John Herschell.
Every body read the Sun, and every body
commented on its surprising contents. There
were, indeed, a few sceptics ; but to venture
to express a doubt of the genuineness of the
great lunar discoveries, was considered almost
as heinous a sin as to question the truth of
revelation.

Nor Was it only among the populace in

general, that the moon story was believed.

Certain of the sixpenny editors also gave into

it, and copied the account, with flaming no-

21*



246 HOAXES.

tices of the very wonderful and important dis-
cov^eries of Sir John Herschell, at the Cape
of Good Hope. The papers in this city,
which were thus caught, were the Daily Ad-
vertiser and the Mercantile Advertiser.
The Daily Advertiser of Newark, and the
Daily Gazette of Albany, were also among
the ready believers of the great discoveries.
How many papers, in other places, swallowed
the hoax, we do not know. Most of the edi-
tors, we believe, prudently kept their minds
suspended as to the truth or falsehood of the
account ; though most of them copied it, as a
capital story, whether it should turn out true
or false.

The sensation, among the people of New
York, during the publication of the great lu-
nar discoveries — which occupied something
like a week — was wonderful. They not only
bought the papers, read them, and treasured
up their contents, but they likewise readily
paid twenty-five cents for a wood-cut, repre-
senting the winged people, and other striking
objects in the moon.



HOAXES. 247

This hoax, as we have said, could hardly
have succeeded to any extent, had it not been
backed with the name of Sir John Herschell,
accompanied with the known circumstance of
his location at the Cape of Good Hope. But
it must be confessed that the story is managed
with remarkable skill ; and told with a gravity
of countenance and a versimilitude, worthy of
Dean Swift himself.

Many persons upon discovering that they
had been deceived, were outrageously angry
with the author and the publisher of the story.
Such a villanous hoax, they said, ought to be
severely punished ; the Sun office ought to be
mobbed ; the moon story burnt by the com-
mon hangman ; and the wicked deceivers
suspended on the gibbet of everlasting indig-
nation. But men of more sense and taste
enjoyed the story with great relish ; and con-
sidered it the very best romance they had read
for many a year. Some persons, however,
continued a long time to believe in the truth
of the discoveries ; and even to this day have
not, so far as we know, .entirely abandoned
their faith.



CHAPTER XXIL

HACKS AND OMNIBUSES.

Take this at least, this last advice, my son :
Keep a stiff rein, and move but gently on.

Translation of Ovid.

Smack went the whip, round went the wheels. — Cowper.

Who it was, that first invented wheel car-
riages, we do not recollect ever having read ;
or if we have, we have forgotten. Phoebus,
we learn, in very early times was a famous
whip. He drove the chariot of the sun, and
we suppose is driving it still. His son Phae-
ton, emulous of his father's glory, insisted
upon trying his hand at the reins. He pre-
tended, indeed, to doubt, whether he was his
father's own son ; and would not be con-
vinced unless Phcebus, as a proof of his father-
ly affection, would promise to grant him what-
ever he should ask. Phoebus made the pro-



HACKS AND OMNIBUSES. 249

mise, and, to render it more binding, swore
by Sfyx — a terrible oath, which the gods them-
selves dare not violate. But as soon as his
son informed him of the nature of his request,
Phoebus repented of his lash promise. He
tried to persuade him to ask something less
dangerous than driving his horses. He told
him that even Jove himself could'nt managfe
such a team. But the youth persisted ; and
the unhappy father, by reason of his oath,
was obliged to comply.

He undertook, in the best manner he could,
to instruct his son in the proper management
of his team. He pointed out to him the
proper road. It was on that occasion, if we
may believe master Ovid, that he made that
prudent, non-committal speech, so often
quoted :

medio tutissimus ibis ;

Which, with the context, is thus translated by
Addison :

The horses hoofs a beaten track will show:
But neither mount too high, nor sink too low.



250 HACKS AND OMNIBUSES.

That no new fjres or heaven or earth infest,
Keep the mid way : the middle way is best.

Thus instructed, the youth mounted the
chariot, seized the reins, and dashed away.
At first he thought it fine sport to drive his
father's horses. But in a little time he had
occasion to repent of his undertaking. It was
not so easy an affair as he had supposed. He
soon began to get into difficulty. He forgot
his parent's instructions, and drove any where
but in the " middle way." Now he went too
high ; then again too low. By the first mis-
take he played the mischief with the stars : by
the second he set fire to the earth : by which,
among other direful effects, he burnt all the
people of Africa black ; which color they
have retained ever since.

Jupiter, seeing the earth all in a blaze, seized
a thunderbolt, and hurling itatthe unfortunate
Phaeton, struck him from his chariot, and
laid him dead on the spot : a solemn warning
to all ambitious young men, to beware of peri-
lous enterprises ; and above all not to under-



HACKS AND OMNIBUSES. 251

take to drive a spirited team of horses, until
they have first learned how.

Jehu the son of Nimshi, who made himself
king of Israel, was a famous coachman. At
least he drove furiously, and, so far as we know,
without upsetting. Achilles, the Grecian hero,
was also a remarkable whip ; of which he
gave a most unworthy proof, when he drag-
ged at his chariot, the body of poor Hector, in
sight of his own father and mother :

Proud on his car the insulting victor stood,
And bore aloft his arms distilling blood.
He smites the steeds ; the rapid chariot flies ;
The sudden clouds of circling dust arise.

Other great men, who have succeeded
wonderfully in leading, driving, and govern-
ing men, have felt a strong desire to try their
hand at managing a team of horses. Such
was the ambition of Oliver Cromwell ; and
such that of Napoleon. Each, as their bio-
graphers inform us, undertook to drive, four
in hand ; and each, upsetting his carriage and
being thrown from the box, came very near
losing his life. Which proves, that managing



252 HACKS AND OMNIBUSES.

horses, and managing men, are two things ;
and that a very skilful general may make a very
awkward coachman.

How ill soever some of these have succeed-
ed, that must surely be an honorable employ-
ment, in which generals, kings, and gods have
delighted to try their hands. Ladies have
also been emulous — and some of them are
still emulous — of the glorious deeds of your
renowned whips. They are fond of lifting
the lash, of shaking the reins, and of manag-
ing their own steeds. And it must be con-
fessed, they have succeeded quite as well as
either Cromwell or Napoleon.

The use of hackney coaches is compara-
tively, of recent date. So late as the time
of Dr. Johnson, who died in 1784, there
"were in London as he somewhere states,
not above ten of these carriages. Now, ac-
cording to a recent work, it appears that
there are about 600.

The first hack, started in New York, as we
are informed, was in the year 1792, by Ga-



HACKS AND OMNIBUSES. 253

briel W. Alston. Whereabouts he kept his
stand, or how many coaches he had, we do
not know.

The number of hackney coaches in New
York, at the present time, is upwards of 200 :
a number twice as great, in proportion to the
population, as that of London. These coaches
are taxed $5 each for their yearly license,
besides a dollar for the coachman. The
prices for carrying passengers, as fixed by law,
are : for any distance, not exceeding a mile,
37^ cents ; and for each additional passeno-er
25 cents. For any distance over one mile
and not exceeding two the fare is 50 cents; and
for each additional passenger 25 cents. For
children between two and fourteen years of
age, the price is 50 per cent less. For a car-
riage to Harlem, and back, with the privilege
of remaining three hours, the price is $4 ; to
King's Bridge, remaining all day, $5. The
price per day for a hack, driven in any direc-
tion, is $5. In each of these last cases, the
fare is the same, whether there be a single
passenger, or whether the coach be full. -For
22



254 HACKS AND OMNIBUSES.

attending a funeral within the lamp and watch
district, the price is $2 ; to Potter's Field, $3,

The above include the principal rates of
fare, as fixed by law ; though there are some
others for different distances, not here named ;
but which the reader may find, with other
useful information in the Strangei's City Guide,
published by Disturnell, price three shillings.

It is common enough to say of such and
such a person, " he is an honest man, well
looUd after:' So it may be said, in general,
of the hackney coachmen, they are honest
fellows, as the world goes ; but they require
close— very close— looking after. Not that
they will pick your pocket, or steal your bag-
gage. They will only charge you twice or
thrice as much fare as the law allows. For
carrying you a mile, price three shillings, they
will only charge you a dollar ; and possibly,
in a clear, dull day, content themselves with
seventy five cents. And so on, for greater

distances.

If you undertake to make a bargain with
them; they are almost sure to ask you more



HACKS AND OMNIBUSES. 255

than the legal price ; taking it for granted, of
course, that you are ignorant of the rates.
The better way, if you want a carriage, is to
jump into the best looking one — attached to
the best horses — with the soberest driver you
can conveniently find. Bid him drive where-
ever you wish to go ; and, when you alight,
say nothing about the fare, but merely offer
him what the law allows. If he will not take
it, concern yourself no further about him.
But if it is not convenient for you to tender
him the precise fee, and he gives you the
wrong change, take the number of his carriage
and go at once to the Police Office, where
justice will be speedily done you.

The penalty for a hackney coachman de-
manding more than the legal rates, is the for-
feiture of his whole fare, and a fine of $10.
The fine is the same for refusing — when he is
not otherwise engaged — to carry a passenger
any where on the island of New York — the
legal fee being tendered.

Every passenger is entitled to have carried
with him, free of expense, one trunk, valise,



256 HACKS AND OMNIBUSES.

carpet-bag, portmanteau, box, basket, or
bundle ; but, for every additional article of
the like kind, he must pay sixpence, if not
exceeding a mile ; and a shilling, if over that
distance.

Rainy days are the harvest times for the
hackmen. They eye the clouds with as
much anxiety as so many ducks ; and rejoice,
like them, in a long and copious shower.
Nothing is so dull — nothing so discouraging
to them — as a melancholy time of fair weather.
No class of persons in this city — not even
those who are paid for it in the pulpit — it is
believed, pray so often and so devoutly for
rain as the hackney coachmen.*

It is remarked by English journalists, that

* We ought perhaps to except the Umbrella makers ;
whose gains are still more dependent on falling weather,
than those of the hackmen. We copy, from a city news^
paper, the following :

UMBRELLA MAKERS' PRAYER.

O thou, who mak'st all trades thy care,

And guard'st them every hour,
Come, listen to our humble prayer,

And grant the frequent shower.



HACKS AND OMNIBUSES. 257

our hacks and horses are much superior to
those in London. The coaches are well
enough ; and, indeed, for the most part
handsome, and in excellent repair. The
horses are also, in general, very fair, for hacks.
They are much improved within a few years.
They are handsomer, more spirited, and bet-
ter fed. Not longer ago than 1830, it used
to be waggishly said of the hack horses, that
they were "fed on flour barrels, and the

We ask no golden streams to cast

Their riches on our shore ;
Mere drops of water — faUing fast —

Are all that we implore.

Oft as the gloomy shades of night

O'erspread our closing eyes,
We pray, that with the dawning light,

Far other shades may rise.

Our moderate wishes would not grow

To crave one blessing more,
Than we may ask or thou bestow

From thy unfailing store.

We would not of our lot complain,

Nor discontent betray;
We only beg thee, let it rain

But every other day.

22*



258 HACKS AND OMNIBUSES.

hoops showed through the skin." At present
they are not, by many degrees, so ostenta-
tiously ribbed.

From hacks we must ascend to omnibuses.
We say ascend, because, although fewer steps
are required to get into them, they are never-
theless, for the most part, superior in magni-
tude and in the number of steeds, to the hack-
ney coaches. This kind of vehicle first got
the name of omnibus in London, and that not
much more than a dozen years since. It is a
Latin word, signifying to all or with all : and
was doubtless given to one of these lumbering
coaches, because they are open to all, carry
all, and are crowded withal.

The first New York stage we hear any ac-
count of, was started in the year 1732, to run
between this city and Boston. It left each of
these places only once a month, and took
fovrteen days to perform the journey. Such
was the rapidity of travelling a hundred and
five years ago !

The first stage, that ran merely on the
island, was started, in the year 1798, by Bar-



HACKS AND OMNIBUSES. 259

nard de Klyne. He ran from Wall street to
Greenwich — or " the village" — which was
then separate from the settlements on the
south part of the island.

Klyne, so far as we can learn, had but a
single carriage, which, in beauty and lightness,
very much resembled the stages, or mail wag-
gons, which now run irom this city to Long
Island. He ran at no particular hour, or
hours ; but started whenever he could §et
passengers.

To Klyne, previous to the year 1826, suc-
ceeded a large number of other owners.
From these frequent changes, we conclude
the concern was not so profitable as could be
desired. In the latter year succeeded Asa
Hall, who made an improvement in his car-
riages, by changing the entrance, from the
front or side, to the back part.

Stages were next started in Broadway; the
owners of which made improvements over the
Greenwich lines, in the size and beauty of
their carriages, and in the number of horses.
It was not until about the year '30, or '31,



260 HACKS AND OMNIBUSES.

that four horses began to be attached to the
city stages.

These conveniences now run to the Bow-
ery, to the Dry Dock, and to several other
parts of the city. There are, in all the lines
that run to and from Wall street, upwards of
120 carriages. Besides these, several run
from the Bowery to Yorkville, to Harlem, &c.
The number of omnibuses in London, is
about 400 ; which is a less number than ours
in proportion to the population, by about 50 per
cent. But then there are, in London, about
1200 cabriolets — or cabs, as they are usually
called — to which we have nothing answering
on this side the Atlantic.

The four-horse stages pay a licence of $20 ;
the two- horse, $10. The fare generally
throughout the city is 12 J cents. To Yorkville
it is 181 cents; to Harlem and to Manhattan-
ville, 25 cents. A deduction of one third is
made from these prices, where a dozen, or
even half a dozen tickets are purchased at
once. The number of persons, who take the
benefit of the omnibuses, is believed to aver-



HACKS AND OMNIBUSES. 261

age not less than 25,000 per day, Sundays ex-
cepted, when the horses are allowed to rest.

As these carriages run on certain fixed
routes, there is never any occasion for dispute
about the price. You give the attendant lad,
or the driver, your shilling or your ticket,
"and there an end." These stages are of
very great convenience — nay, almost of ne-
cessity. Accustomed, as people are, to jump
into an omnibus whenever they have half a
mile, or more, of locomotion to perform, and
wish to do it speedily, they would hardly know
how to get along, without them. They are par-
ticularly convenient for merchants and others
doing business in the lower part of the city,
and living in the upper part. After staying
till three o'clock to settle their money affairs
in Wall street, they would be late to dinner,
were they obliged to foot it a mile or two ;
and most of them would not like to pay from
three to four shillings for coach hire.

The dining hour being from twelve to three,
it is between those two periods that the stages
*— the homeward bound ones— are most apt



262 HACKS AND OMNIBUSES.

to be crowded. Indeed, during the whole
space of those three important hours, it is ex-
ceedingly difficult to get a seat. You may
sometimes stand at the corner of a street,
beckoning to all the stages that pass for half
an hour, and not one of them has a seat to
give you. The best way, on such occasions,
is to march leisurely, but steadily on ; and
you will probably arrive at your journey's end
much sooner than you can get a stage to carry
you there, and save your shilling into the
bargain.



CHAPTER XXIIL

CONCLUSION.
'Tis done .' — Thomson.

Dr. Johnson heads his last chapter of Rasselas
with " The conclusion, in which nothing* is con-
cluded." Now, however strong the tempta-
tion to imitate the example of so great a man,
we have concluded, that our conclusion shall
not be altogether so inconclusive.

The conclusion, naturally to be drawn from
the foregoing pages, is, that New York is a
very great city ; a very populous city ; a very
expensive city; a very scarce-of- hotels city; a
remarkably religious city ; a sadly overrun-
with-law-and-physic city ; a surprisingly news-
paperial city ; a rather queerly governed city;
an uncommon badly watered city ; a very
considerable of a rum city; a very full-of-fires
city ; a pretty tolerably well-hoaxed city :



264 CONCLUSION.

and, moreover, a city moderately abounding ini
foul streets, rogues, dandies, mobs, and several]
other things, concerning which it is not ne-
cessary to come to any specific conclusion.



END



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Online LibraryAsa GreeneA glance at New York: embracing the city government, theatres, hotels, churches, mobs, monopolies, learned professions, newspapers, rogues, dandies, fires and firemen, water and other liquids, & c., & c. .. → online text (page 11 of 11)