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

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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 8 of 11)
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the other day, scraping the mud from Jiis

boots — " still holds her own. She had, as far

back as I can remember, the reputation of



being the dirtiest city in the Union ; and she
maintains it still. I have been recently in
Boston, Philadelphia, BaUimore, and several
other cities ; but I have seen nothing in the
way of foul streets, to compare vrith New

A preeminence in dirt ! This was more
than we had looked for , more certainly than
we desired to claim. A superiority in many
other respects we would have contended for —
nay insisted upon, were it with our last
breath. In commerce we would have chal-
lenged comparison with all the other cities in
the Union, in a lump. In wealth, in popula-
tion, in theatres, in churches, in magazines,
in newspapers, and in twenty other things, we
would have asserted and maintained, vi et ar-
mis, our decided superiority. Even in the
matter of streets, we would have claimed the
longest, the broadest, and the handsomest.
But for preeminence in dirt, it came not into
our head, that our beloved city, our darling
New York, had any thing wonderful to boast.

True, in former times, we knew wherea-


bouts she stood, on that score. We knew
that she was as deep in the mud as any other
city could be in the mire. The newspapers
were full of the uncleanliness of her ways.
Children were said to have been buried ahve
in her miry depths.*'

* The following appeared in a New York paper of 1829 :


Mother, [wilh a stick poking in the mud.] Ah, me ! I'm
sure he's here aboutssome where, the dear cratur, and if I
ounly had a longer stick, so that I could poke down a little
grain deeper, I should find the darling !

Walker. What have you lost, gpod woman ? llending
the aid of his cane to assist in the search."]

M. Och, bless your kind soul ! it's my swate little child,
my darling Jemmy, that's lost in the mud.

W. A child lost in the mud, in the city of New York ?
impossible ! The woman's crazy.

M. Ah, I'm sure he must be here — jist here abouts,
where I saw him trying to cross a minute ago — Och, the
darling ! Jemmy ! Jemmy ! [^elevating her voice.] Jemmy !
my darling, if you're under the mud, spake ! ^putting
doion her ear to listen.]

W. How old was your boy ?

M. Och, indeed, he was but five years ould jist, come
next Michaelmas, that is to be.


But this should hardly be taken for gospel.
Some allowance should be made for the dis-

W. And do you think a child five years old could be
lost in the mud here ?

M. Ah, what is there to hinder, sure? And if you'll jist
stick your cane down here, won't you light upon him ?
Aisy, aisy, bless your heart, or may be you'll hurt the darl-

Voice. \^From below ^ somewhat smothered andindistinct.'\
A little lower — there — there — sl- grain lower, and I can
reach it.

M. Och, the darUng ! there he is, sure enough. Don't
try to talk, Jemmy, or may be you'll git your swate Uttle
mouth full o' mud.

V. {^Like one talking with a mouthful of mush. '\ There,
now, I've got hold of it — pull, now ! pull !

M. Yes, bless your kind heart, do pull !

V. Uts ! my hand has slipped — a little lower — there, I
guess I can hold on with both hands. Now pull !

M: Ay, now pull !

V. Aisy ! Aisy !

M. Hold fast, Jemmy ! Och, my darUng, there he
comes ! Spet the mud out o' your mouth, Jemmy, and then
thank the jontleman for hilping ye out. Lord love your
swate soul, Mister, whoever you are, for saving my child.
And Jemmy, my dear Jemmy, listen to your mother, and
never try again to cross the streets of this blessed city, till
you're big enough to hilp yourself out o' the mud, jist, my


position of editors to exaggerate — to run into
the forbidden fields of romance. But after
all, it must be owned, that, until within a
few years, New York was shamefully dirty.
Even as late as*- the year '32, she had not
greatly improved. The first thorough clean-
sing she ever had, was in the summer of that
year ; and for this cleansing the cholera is to
be thanked.

Walter Bowne, the mayor of that year,
having, while the cholera was on its way from
Canada, issued his proclamation, forbidding
its entrance into his domains : and the
cholera, in its victorious march, having paid
no regard to this paper prohibition ; the fathers
of the city began to bethink themselves of
abating the fury and shortening the stay of
that dread enemy, as much as possible, by di-
vesting the city of that foul aliment on which
the pestilence delights to feed.

They resolved to clean the streets; and

the streets were cleaned. For the first time,

within the memory of living man, the stones

of the pavements every where showed their



heads. The rain had occasionally washed
them bare, where its operations were assisted
by a goodly descent towards the rivers on
either side. But, in the more level streets,
the stones, after having once been fixed by
the pavior, rarely had shown themselves again
to mortal eyes. In 1832, after the arrival of
the cholera, they were first scraped and swept
clean ; and the filth carted away.

Formerly there were no street scavangers.
There was a law requiring each householder
as often, we believe, as once a week to sweep
beft)re his own door ; not only the side-walk,
but also halfway across the street, where his
opposite neighbor was to meet him. The dirt,
swept in heaps, was to be carried away by
the carts. What was the penalty for non-
sweeping or non-carrying away, we do not re-
collect. But we well remember that the
householders swept as often as they pleased ;
and for the matter of being carried away, the
dirt often remained in heaps for several days ;
or rather the heaps were trodden and scatter-
ed about again ; and required to be swept


and collected anew. The result was as we
have seen : the streets were never once per-
fectly cleansed.

How surprised, then, were the citizens of
New York, in the summer of '32, to behold
the tidiness of their streets. " Where in
the world did all these stones come from .^"
said an old lady who had lived all her life in
the city ; *' I never knew that the streets were
covered with stones before. How very
droll !"

But the cleanliness of New York, during that
cholera summer, it must be confessed, was in
part ascribable to the want of business and the
scarcity of inhabitants : the first having al-
most entirely disappeared, and the latter in
great numbers, by reason of the pestilence.
Seventy-five thousand human beings, and
several thousand horses, carts, and other vehi-
cles, make a very considerable difference in the
generation of street-dirt. Having been once,
therefore, thoroughly swept and cleansed, it
was comparatively easy to keep the streets


clean, until the return of the inhabitants and
the revival of business.

" It is an ill wind that blows nobody good ;"
a character which certainly cannot be fasten-
ed on the wind, which brought the cholera
hither. Though New York had to lament
the removal of 3,500 of her inhabitants,
she had also to rejoice at the removal of many
thousand loads of filth, which, but for the
sweeping pestilence, might have remained to
this day.

New York has never entirely 'relapsed into
those abominably dirty habits, for which she
was so long notorious. Her system of street
management is improved. Regular scaven-
gers are now employed ; and they may be
seen, sometimes, busily engaged with their
hoes and their brooms. It cannot strictly be
said, therefore, in the language quoted at the
beginning of this chapter, that " New York
still holds her own" in the way of dirt — if
this " own" refer to her possession of that ar-
ticle previous to the year 1832. She is, at
least fifty per cent more tidy than she was
previous to that date.


But she is still quite too much of a slattern.
She ought to add another fifty per cent to her
cleanliness, to render her anywise decent, and
fit to receive strangers. When the Bostoni-
ans and the Philadelphians visit us, they should
have no occasion to turn up their noses at our
city while they stay, and " shake off the dust
from their feet, as a testimony against us,"
when they depart. They should not even
have it in their power, in the language of
honest Dogberry, to make " odorous compa-
risons" between their cities and ours.

As we are a great city : as we take the
lead in commerce, gaiety, fashion, bustle, and
the earliest foreign news : so we ought also
to set the example of cleanliness and proprie-
ty, in all matters appertaining to the streets.
Instead of its being said of any place, by way
of opprobrium, " it is as filthy as New York,"
we ought to give occasion to all respectable
places to say, by way of self-commendation,
" we are as clean as New York." But if we
cannot set the example of cleanliness to
other cities, we ought not to be above taking
it from them.


The fault of New-York lies not so much,
at present, we believe, in the mode, as in the
means, of keeping the streets in order. The
fault is not so much in the street inspectors,
as in those under whose orders they act.
However attentive to their duties, however
desirous to make clean their ways, they cannot
do what they would, if money be wanting.
The scavengers and the carters must be paid ;
and the means must be provided by the com-
mon council. We cannot ask them to forego
their annual two-thousand dollar dinner ; we
cannot deprive them of the pleasure of an oc-
casional lunch at the alms house ; for these are
the only solid fruits of all their official toils
and exertions. But we would just ask them
to appropriate money enough to do, thorough-
ly, what they undertake to do ; and what the
world shames them for not doing : that is, keep
the streets clean — habitually clean — and tho-
roughly clean



Why in quest
Of foreign vintage, insincere, audmixt,
Traverse th' extreraest world ?


Or water all the quorum ten miles round.


The story is well known of, that unfortu-
nate Hibernian, who, being afflicted with a
fever, "lay six weeks in the long month of
August, spacheless, crying continually, * wa-
ther ! wather ! wather !' "

The cry of the citizens of New- York for
water — " pure and wholesome water" — has
been equally unceasing; but it has differ-
ed in several respects from that of the poor
Irishman. Instead of being speechless they
have cried aloud. And instead of confining


their cry to the month of August, or any other |
month, they have been clamoring for the whole
year round, and for many years in succession^
There is not perhaps in the Union a city more
destitute of the blessing of good water than
New- York.

The present supply, such as it is, comes
from three sources, to wit : the town pumps,
the Manhattan Company, and Knapp's spring.
To this we should add a fourth source, namely,
the clouds ; from which the chief supply for
washing is obtained.

The town pumps are conveniently situated
at the corners of the streets, every where
throughout the city; so that no person who is
athirst, need perish for want of water, if he
will take the trouble of walking the length of
a square. If he stand in need of physic at the j
same time, the pump will furnish that also —
without money and without price. Besides
the virtue derived from the neighboring sinks,
the pump-water is also impregnated with cer-
tain saline properties, which render it peculi-
arly efficacious in certain compldints.



Little less so is that — if we may judge from
lis peculiar hue and taste— which comes from
the Collect ; and is called Manhattan water.
This is ready pumped up to the people's hands,
by the Manhattan Banking Company, which
was chartered many years ago, for the purpose
of supplying the city with '' pure and whole-
some water." Not that the people get it
gratis, as they do the town pump beverage.
But they can have it brought to their houses in
pipes, on application to the Manhattan Com-
pany, and paying the regular price. The
pumping up of this water from the depths of
the Collect, is an expensive affair. It requires
the constant employment of a powerful steam
engine, and the constant operation of a still
more powerful banking company; which com-
pany is provided with a perpetual charter to
issue bank bills and discount notes. By per-
petual, meaning of course, as long as they
shall keep the great steam pump in operation.
With such an inducement to keep their stream
of " pure and wholesome water" constantly
running, it is not likely that this source will


soon fail. But *' pure and wholesome" as it
is, by the express terms of the charter, the
people generally prefer that from the town
pumps, except for the purposes of washing;
and for that, most people use rain water.

The third source, namely Knapp's Spring,
furnishes the only tolerable water in the cit3%
This is conveyed about the streets in hogs-
heads, and sold, we believe, at a penny a gal-
Jon. Small as this price seems, their supply
of spring water, we are informed, costs some
of the larger hotels more than ^300 each, per
annum. The hotels, boarding houses, and
respectable private families make use of this
water for tea, coffee, and ordinary drink.
The poor all resort to the street pumps.

Such is, such has been, and such is likely
to be for some years to come, the condition of
New York, in regard to the indispensable ar-
ticle of water.* The great difficulty in sup-

* What we have said above, of the New York supply of
water, relates only to that for the domestic and ordinary
uses of our citizens. The supply for the extinguishing of
fires is derived chiefly from the Reservoir, at the comer of


plying the city properly — that is, plentifully
and with a good article — is the very great dis-
tance from which it must be brought. Various
projects have from time to time been started,
examined, discussed, debated, and finally
thrown aside as impracticable ; until very re-
cently, when it was resolved, after a scientific
survey of the river and the ground, and duly
calculating the expense, to bring hither the
waters of the Croton. For this purpose an
act has been obtained of the legislature ; and
if money can be raised, the water will pro-
bably be forthcoming, sometime within the
life-lease of the present generation.

That part of the Croton river from whence
the water is to be taken, is about forty-four
miles, in a northerly direction, from the City
Hall. The water is to be conveyed by a
covered aqueduct of strong mason work, to

Thirteenth street and the Bowery. This water is forced
up by steam, and distributed to the various parts of the
city ; where hydrants are erected at eveiy corner. This
scheme of a supply against fires is of very recent date ;
and is found of immense use : for which we give our wor-
thy corporation aU due praise.


a rise of land on the island, called Murray
Hill ; from whence, by the force of its own
gravity, it will distribute itself through all the
streets and avenues of the city — as by the
force of the same gravity, it is to be brought
from the high ground of its fountain head to
the great reservoir on Murray Hill. The
length of pipe, required for the distribution,
is estimated at 167 miles.

The amount of water, which the Croton
will furnish, is set down at 30,000,000 gallons
daily, in the driest times ; and 50,000,000
daily, in times of ordinary plenty. In the
former case, the supply for each inhabitant,
old and young, of our present population,
would be 100 gallons a day ; in the latter,
166§ gallons for the same time : a supply al-
together sufficient, it is believed, to satisfy
the desires of the most laborious water-drinker
the city can afford ; besides leaving a surplus
for all the convenient purposes of making tea,
cofiee, cleansing the outer man, and ex*
tinguishing fires.


The Croton water is found, by chemical
analysis, to be exceedingly pure, and such as
will prove highly agreeable to the tastes of
all hydro-epicures — or such persons as value
themselves on their connoisseurship in the ar-
ticle of " Adam's ale." Being pure, it can-
not fail, also, of being soft — because hard
water owes all its hardness to the foreign mat-
ters it contains ; especially those which have a
hankering after alkali, and rob the soap of
that ingredient — leaving on your hands those
unctuous collections which are far more diffi-
cult of removal than the original soil itself.
Thus free from impurities, the Croton water
will be a great inducement to personal clean-
liness. Having it, as they will, running pure
into their very bedrooms, the citizens will find
it an agreeable pastime, instead of a disgusting
labor, to wash themselves of a morning. The
Philadelphians, who visit New York, shall
not then have occasion to make the invidious
comparison, they now do, between their de-


lightful Schuylkill water and the vile slops
wherewith our bedrooms are furnished.*

All this, and more, we expect from the
Croton water, when it gets to New York.
But that when, we fear is a considerable way
off. The expense will be enormous — no less,
by estimate, than $5,500,000. The labor
will be immense. And large bodies, like our
corporation, proverbialy, move slow. Some
years therefore, must elapse, before we shall
be able to quench our thirst and lave our
limbs in the pure waters of the Croton.

This delay is to be regretted on many ac-
counts ; and very particularly, as it will afford
an excuse to many persons for continuing the
excessive use of strong drink. The water is

* The best water for washing, in New York, is that
which comes from the clouds. And, indeed, nothing
could be better, if you could catch it pure, as it falls. But
in passing over the roofs of the houses, from whence it is
conveyed to the cisterns, it contracts so much foulness
from the coal-ashes and soot on the roofs, that its appear-
ance is nearly as dark as ink, and its smell any thing but
agreeable, as it comes in contact with your nose, in the
operation of washing your face.


now SO bad, they plead, that it is absolutely
necessary to qualify it with a drop of ardent
spirits, to render it potable. But a single
drop will not suffice ; and many drops, even
to a full stream, are added to the cup.

To give the greater foundation for the ex-
cuse, and at the same time to render it more
available, the principal topers get their quali-
fying drops at those cheap resorts where
rum, brandy, gin, and whiskey may be had

for three cents per glass ; and where the wa-
ter is usually derived from the town-pumps.

What is the entire number of dram-shops

in New York, we know not.* But they may

be found at almost every corner throughout

* It will probably not be too high to estimate the whole
number in the city at 2000. That will give on an aver-
age one shop to every 150 inhabitants. Deducting four
fifths of these, for women and children, and there is just one
shop to every 30 men. But with all this plentiful supply
of drunkeries, there is nothing like the glorious times for
the toper, which Smollett describes as existing in London in
the days of George II. " At many houses," says that his-
torian, '' boards were set up to give pubUe notice, that a
person might get drunk for a penny, dead drunk for two
pence, and be furnished with straw for nothing."


the city, and at almost every door of the build-
ings bordering on the North and East rivers*
Besides those places devoted to the mere sale
and swilling of liquors ; almost every grocery
is likewise a dram-shop. Not only tea, cof-
fee, sugar, molasses, butter and cheese are
sold at these establishments ; but likewise ar-
dent spirits of all sorts, by the gallon and the
glass. And the trade in these latter articles is
thought to be the most lucrative of the two.
But if the bad water is an excuse for drink-
ing ardent spirits, the bad quality of the spirits
should be a still stronger excuse for letting
them alone.* The world, perhaps, does not

* Whether it is owing to the bad water, or the bad Hquors,
in New- York, that this city is so much more unhealthy than
London, we are not able to say. But, if we may rely on the
statement of Mr. Grant, the mortality in that metropolis is
not so great, in proportion to the number of the inhabitants,
by more than one third, as in the city of New-York. After
pronouncing London to be " by far the healthiest metropo-
lis in the world," he says, "the annual number of deaths in
London is, in round numbers, 30,000." This, allowing
its population to be what he states, namely, 2,000,000,
gives only 1 death to about 6Q inhabitants. The number


afford, nor has the brain of man conceived,
more villanous mixtures than are constantly
sold at the groceries and dram-shops of this
city. Nay, for the matter of that, the ho-
tels themselves are not much better. They
purchase the liquors of the grocers — it may
be the more respectable ones. But it is a part
of the modern grocer's business to adulterate
his liquors : and what he sellsunder the name
of Cogniac, Jamaica, or Port, has as small a
mixture of either of those liquors as can well
be imagined.

The drinker pours into his stomach a vile
compound, which, with its deleterious proper-
ties, tends to hasten the legitimate effect of
alcohol, when taken to excess — namely,
death ! He has not, in his last agonies, even
the poor consolation of having got gloriously
drunk, and lived and died glorious, on " good
liquor." Such vile compounds, as are usually

of deaths in New York, during the year 1836, was 8009.
Th© year before it was 7092. The average of these tw©
years gives about 7550 : or 1 death to about 40 inhabitants.


to be found, both at table and bar, no man of
sound sense or good taste will ever drink.

The temperance society has effected some-
thing, in this city, in the way of banishing
ardent spirits. But this is mostly in private
families ; where wine, as well as spirits, has
been turned out of doors. In these families,
neither was lised to excess ; and therefore its
present banishment has effected no change of
very great importance. It possibly may have
prevented some temperate drinkers from be-
coming intemperate ones ; and if so, then has
the effect been beneficial. But it can scarce-
ly be considered a rational deed, for one man
to abstain entirely from any comfort or enjoy-
ment, merely because another man abuses it.
Else should A abstain from the use of speech,
because B is a blackguard, L a liar, and P a
profane fellow.

Some individuals, as well as families,
have been cured of the sin of moderate drink-
ing. They have " signed off," and therefore
are bound, under their hand, not to drink ; or
they are religiously scrupulous on the subject,


and therefore abstain from drink, as a matter
of conscience ; or they have come to the re-
solution to let it alone, because they know it
to be injurious to their pocket, and believe it
may prove detrimental to their health, and
perhaps to life itself. But some of this class
have carried their reformation so far as to
eschew, in like manner, tea, coffee, chocolate,
fine wheat bread, butter, cheese, roast beef,
mutton chop, and all kinds of animal food.
Some of these last remarkable abstinents—
who supposed they had discovered the elixir
vitae—the secret of perpetual youth and
health— and of living when all their friends
were dead— have since, poor fellows ! become

food /or worms : and their system of living

commonly called Grahamism, from the Rev.
Sylvester Graham, who first taught it here,
five or six years ago— is now, we believe, very
much fallen into disrepute.

The cure of immoderate drinkers, here,
as elsewhere, has seldom been achieved ; and
in the reformation of moderate drinkers far
less has been effected than in country towns.

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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 8 of 11)