Martha J. (Martha Joanna) Lamb.

History of the city of New York: its origin, rise, and progress / by Martha J. Lamb online

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Online LibraryMartha J. (Martha Joanna) LambHistory of the city of New York: its origin, rise, and progress / by Martha J. Lamb → online text (page 4 of 10)
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Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon hand

Glows world-wide welcome ; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin-cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries .-he
With silent lips. " Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free;
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, -
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door! "

The piers and docks on the East Eiver are the special resort of sailing
vessels, though steamers also are frequently to be seen there ; they have
many warehouses near by, and enjoy such convenience of access to
ports on Long Island Sound as makes them of great value always. By
using the Harlem Eiver as a highway for traffic between the Sound and
the localities on the Xorth River above Spuyten Buyvil, twenty-five
miles of crowded navigation around the Battery are saved, and the perils
of disturbing titles and currents there are escaped ; the Harlem itselfj
however, with all of its actual and possible advantages for many and
great uses, has a narrow channel, and is already spanned by so many
drawbridges as not to be available for larger craft. Of the water front
of Xew York the most important portion is to be found on the Xorth
Eiver, where, with a width of more than three thousand feet between'
pier-head lines, with a current less rapid and more regular than in the
East Eiver, with abundant depth, a straight course, and an unobstructed
connection with the Lower Bay, ample room and opportunity are
afforded for vessels of every class and size. Foreign commerce is now
chiefly conducted with steamships controlled and navigated by great
corporations or other associated capitalists, who have severally great fleets,
with regular and frequent days for sailing. The prosperity of Xew York



depends, first (if all, upon foreign commerce ; and to provide the best
possible facilities for steamers is the leading idea in the new
system of dorks. Methods of construction have been necessarily deter-
mined by the physical conditions. At the Battery, rock is found at
about fifty feet below mean high water, but along a considerable part
of the line to Fifty-ninth Street it is as much as two hundred feet deep
at the pier-heads. Over that rock is a great mud deposit, having, practi-
cally, no carrying capacity, and so yielding as to allow any weight rest-
ing upon it to sink. The wharves and piers to be there constructed
were necessarily to be adapted, therefore, to what has been called " mud
llotation;'' the problem was not only unusual, but of great difficulty;

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Buik Head Plan of Construction.

(From the Engineer's Drawings.)

and the solution proposed, and thus far carried out with great success,
by (leorge S. Greene, Jr., who since 1875 has been the engineer-in-chief,
acting under the commissioners governing the Department of Docks,
lias received the highest commendation of the most competent critics.
His work, by the use of piles with a filling of stones between, surrounded
by rip-raps, and carrying platforms of heavy timbers which support large
concrete Idocks that serve as foundations for the masonry on which rest
the structures above the water level. 1-as been pronounced by engineers of
the first rank to he not only entirely satisfactory in results, but remarka-
ble for originality. There is said to be no known better form of construe-


tion, which promises sufficient permanence ( ,|' fitness for the purposes it

may be required to meet to justify a resm-t to it with larger cost; ami
not the least of the merits of the method now employed by the Dock
Department is found in the fact thai, for the rapid increase in length
of the ocean steamers of these laiter days, it allows, without unreason-
able cost, for an extension of piers which easily accommodate the longest
ships now afloat. These structures are among the most notable of the
public improvements that charartn-i/.e our time. There is a length of
several miles from the Battery northward specially adapted to piers for
great ocean-going craft; not all of it belongs to the city as yet, but less
than fifteen per cent of that space is m>\\ rei|imvd for (he special uses it
seems particularly intended for; and means can readily be found to
divert to other localities the occupants of nr.'.ch of the remainder, so
that we have every probability of provision in the future for an en-
larged demand for accommodation of the traffic on which New York,
as a competitor with other Atlantic ports for the world's commerce,
is based.

The docks and piers of all great maritime cities are inl ."resting to the
observer; those of New r York, though lacking in sonic of the solidity
and striking effect upon the eye elsewhere to be found, are supremely
endowed with the characteristics of animation, variety, and color con-
ferred bv the types of many nations continually in motion upon them.
The United States Bureau of Immigration, now occupying quarters at
Ellis Island, a little way from the shore of the Battery, receives all in-
tending citizens of the Xew World who come in the steerage into New
York Harbor, carefully inspects them, provides for the ailing or dis-
tressed, and establishes communication with their friends, but passes
them only when assured they meet the provisions of the law excluding
convicts, paupers, lunatics, idiots, those suffering from loathsome diseases
or likely to come upon the public for their charge, also polygamists and
contract laborers.

During the ten years from 1880 to 1800 inclusive, the total number
of immigrants arrived in the United States, not including arrivals from
Me dco and the British American Possessions, was 5,246,1)13, or about one-
third of the total immigration into this count rv for (he seven decades since


1820. During the twelve years from 1881 to 1802 inclusive, the total

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immigration to the United States was i'/.4.0.016, or 38.71 per cent of
the total immigration for the seventy-two -years from 1821 to 1392,
which was 16, Gil, 060. The year of the larg immigration was 1882,
when the number of arrivals reached 788,902. In the calendar year
1895. 229,370 alien immigrants arrived at the port of New York. One of



the noticeable characteristics of the westward tide of late years has been
the increasing number <>i' miners from Southeastern Europe and from the
Mediterranean region of Asia; an interesting addition of that kind to our
population is a colony of Arnn'iiians, some hundreds of whom are estab-
lished in and near Greenwich Street, where they have a church and clergy
of their own; the newly arrived may frequently be seen on the streets in
Oriental costume; the leaders among them are merchants importing and
dealing in fabrics of the East, familiar with a remarkable assortment of

Immigrants Landing.

languages, but using Arabic chiefly in their contracts and correspondence
with each other.

Among the leading nationalities of Europe, Germany has led numeri-
cally in the aggregate of arriving immigrants : followed, in the order here
given, by Ireland, England, Norway and Sweden, Italy, Russia and
Poland, Austria-Hungary, Scotland, China, Switzerland, Denmark, and
"all other countries.' In late vears, with Germany still at the head, the

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order of the list has shifted to llussia, Italy, Sweden and Norway, and


Ireland. A large proportion of the entire immigration is made up of
unskilled laborers, and a larger proportion consists of those having " no
definite occupation. " The professional class claims a very inconsiderable
share of these numbers. The largest amount of money brought into the
country, in thrifty provision for their new life, has been by immigrants
from France, Switzerland, Wales, and Germany following in the order
given ; those from Hungary, Italy, or Poland have brought the lowest
average amount, Russians have revealed the widest variations in finan-
cial conditions. Some of these have been Hebrews once prosperous in
affairs ; driven from home by persecution, after converting their property
and estates into such money as they could be sold for, several among
them have brought as much as 825,000 each ; but the vast majority sailed
to America on tickets furnished by the Baron de Hirsch Fund, and with
only such small sums in pocket as that fund supplied to them. The
exodus of these unfortunate Jews to the United States greatly increased
in IS'Jo ; but the stream of their immigration is now turning toward the
late Baron de Hirsch's colony in Argentina, South America. It is com-
plained in California that the Chinese spend in the country little or
nothing of their wages. By Italian bankers in Xew York as much as
825,000,000 to 830,000, 000 in an average year is sent back to Italy, of
money earned here by rarely overpaid Italian laborers and remitted to
their friends at home. A like drain upon us is established by the influx
of natives of the Dominion Provinces and Newfoundland ; of these "birds
of passage "as many as 100,000 persons come into the United States
annually in search of work, and 50 per cent of them return as regularly
to their homes when the open season has ended, carrying for expenditure
there the savings of their gains from our soil. It is interesting to note
that of this mass of alien people who swarm at our landing-place for
immigrants in Xew York, those most desired by employers throughout
the country are British, German, Swiss, and Scandanavians, who soon
become thrifty citizens ; the Poles, Huns, and the Latin races are not
commonly offered as high wages, and are not in demand except for
special occupations, or in some of our Southern States where climate is
in their favor. But wherever the immigrants may be desired, it is cer-
tain that those from the cities of the old world prefer to remain in Xew
York, which the rapacious among them justly regard as the best field for
money-gathering at the expense of hapless citizens. Among domestic
servants this class is particularly in evidence, with a result disastrous to
the peace of many homes, and gravely threatening to the future conduct
of household life in our metropolis.

Viewed, however, from the standpoint of one who observes the pic-


turesque, when the newly arrived immigrants are landed upon the lower
ykirts of our city, the medley of color, thu babble of various tongues,
the admixture of races, can be equalled nowhere in the world. They
come from Europe, Asia, South America, the West Indies, Africa,
islands of the Atlantic and Pacific, many in their native garb, often
carrying up Broadway queer outlandish luggage which tells a story of
squalor in haunts of a life far away and otherwise unknown to us.
One may see there bands of Russian Jews hairy and haggard, clothed
in archaic garments of woollen stuffs once white, 1 'lending with a troop
of light-hearted Portuguese from the Azores, beribboned, wearing pointed
hats, carrying guitars and cages of canary birds, followed by an uncouth
procession of sturdy folk from Iceland, clad in sheep-skins much the
worse for wear; and in a little while these melt away to be succeeded
by others, who in turn are absorbed into the vast population distributed
on the great bosom of our broad and fruitful land, that has room and
maintenance and opportunity to spare for all.

Of this great throng, those who remain in the city of New York are
not of one mind a- to becoming American citizens ; there are here to-day
as many as fifty thousand adult male inhabitants, of foreign birth but
entitled to be naturalized upon application, who have never renounced their
allegiance of birth to assume the character and privileges of citizen-
ship. l>ut the fact that native Americans, born of parents each of whom
was also a native, are in the minority not only of citizens entitled to
vote but of those who actually do vote at any of our elections, shows
what a rendezvous this is for the nations of the world, and reveals the
necessity for the vast expenditures we shall have occasion presently to
refer to, of public moneys raised by taxation every year to support and
extend our common-school system. To maintain and develop our
republican institutions, based upon the wide foundation of universal suf-
frage, the first requisite and guaranty is education of the masses to
equip them for an intelligent exercise of the franchise which selects the
representatives and determines the policies of a great democracy. It is
in our common schools that the immigrants of tender age, and the
children of those who have already attained to years of maturity when
they arrive, are fitted for the duties and responsibilities of participation
in affairs of government dependent upon the free ballot of all ; and upon
the equal opportunity here afforded for comfort and prosperity insured
by the sufficient rewards of industry bestowed with intelligence we
must rely for escape from the terrors elsewhere attendant upon what has
been aptly called a " cultured proletariat,"

The proposed renovation or rebuilding of piers, the promise of roof-



gardens on top of some of them, the Aquarium at the Battery already
so nearly complete, and the additional parks to be provided along the
rivers, inspire the hope that what is now lacking in external finish of < mi-
water front will be supplied in the near future.

The passenger traffic of our mercantile marine, for others than the
hordes of immigrants we have been speaking of, increases enormously.
The " first-class " accommodation of the Atlantic liners, great and small,
knows no diminution of patronage, is more in demand in each succeed-



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Proposed New Piers and Arriving Steamers.

ing year. Belonging to the thirty companies in active operation, there
are between eighty and ninety steamships now on the ocean ferry in
constant service. So even is their general average of time made and
speed sustained, of comfort, of care for passengers, that the winter voy-
age is no longer dreaded by timid travellers, and in many cases is
selected by those experienced at sea. To Americans whose business or
pleasure calls them abroad it is no uncommon thing to make the cross
ing several times in the year; and among families it is now a common
method of seeking a summer holiday to " go to Europe.' The nev
arrange merits of the " North German Llovd " and "Hamburg American"


companies, for regular steamers sailing direct between New York and
Mediterranean ports, have met with signal success. The excursions
made by some of their boats, going from and returning to New York
within three months, have been much frequented ; the appointments of
these steamers include many of the privileges of luxurious yachts, and
at a reasonable rate of charge.

But, in these days of dependence upon foreign shipping for such ser-
vice, the event most notable to New Yorkers, in the late history of pas-
senger ships crossing the Atlantic, is the establishment of the new
" American Line" in 1S93, when the Stars and Stripes were hoisted upon
the steamers " New York " and " Paris." Southampton is their English port.
On the 22d of February of that year President Harrison, several mem-
bers of his Cabinet, and an assemblage of well-known citizens, attended,
by invitation of the International Navigation Company, on board the
" New York," when those two leviathans of the deep were formally trans-
ferred from the British flag. Since that time, two new American-built
ships of proportions quite equal to theirs, the "St. Paul" and the "St.
Louis," have been added to their fleet.

Other favorite lines of swift passenger steamers of to-day are the
" White Star," with the " Teutonic " and " Majestic," for England ; the
" Cunard," with the " Lucania " and " Campagnia," for England ;
the " Hamburg-American," with the " Fuerst Bismarck " and " Augusta
Victoria," for England and Germany ; the " North German Lloyd," for
England and Germany ; and the " Compagnie Generale Transatlantique,"
for France. Still other lines for European ports there are, abundantly
supplying the necessary comforts and security for passengers, though
of a somewhat slower rate of speed. But in June and July, when the
exodus of holiday seekers sets out from New York, it is hard to secure
so much as a single vacant berth on any of them, if arrangements have
not been made weeks before.

The telephone system of New York is the largest and most complete
of its kind. In the first quarter of this year 1896 it consists of 15,000
subscribers' stations; 12 central offices, the most important of them in
fire-proof buildings specially constructed for the purpose ; 38,000 miles
of underground wires in the streets; and about 3,500 miles of overhead
wires in the regions not yet closely built up. The entire system belongs
to and is operated by the Metropolitan Telephone and Telegraph Com-
pany, organized in 1880 to take over the earlier systems established by
two rival corporations claiming under patentees engaged in litigations
ended only by the consolidation of interests. At that time the a<wreo-ate

** ** <~V""> i*i


number of telephone subscribers was only 2,800; all the wires were
overhead in the streets, supported by cross-arms upon huge and un-
sightly wooden posts, of great height, set in the soil at the curbstones of
the pavements, where the posts were sometimes as much as two feet in
diameter at the street level, obstructing not only the view along but the
uses of the highways ; and the service was in many respects unsatis-
factory. In the winter of 1881 the entire system of wires was wrecked
by a sleet storm; again in 1888, 1889, and 1801, severe damage was
wrought by like disturbances. To-day the wires, elsewhere than in the
suburbs, are in subways under the streets. In changing from overhead
and grounded circuit working to underground and metallic circuit
working, the plant and system have been entirely reconstructed by an
investment of additional capital, and with great improvement in general
efficiency. The equipment of every kind is of the best ; the great
switch-boards, for example, in the central offices, are marvels of inven-
tive and mechanical genius ; and all subscribers may have " long dis-
tance " connections, enabling them to converse with callers even in
Chicago or farther West. The daily connections number 150,000, and
are handled with an average delay, from subscriber's call to subscriber's
answer, of less than 40 seconds, though seven-tenths of the connections
pass through two central offices. Such a service is nowhere equalled ;
nowhere in Europe are the customers so exacting, or the telephone
administrations so alert in adopting improvements in appliances or
methods. The New York Company has nearly 1,300 employees; about
1,100 of them always at work in construction, maintenance, and opera-
tion of the system, the others engaged in the executive and general
offices. The total yearly traffic handled is 36,000,000 of messages, and
is rapidly increasing because of the impetus received from the adoption
of what are known as " message rates " in force since June, 1894,
rates offering a schedule, not of uniform tariff for all subscribers alike
(whether one uses his telephone frequently or not) as heretofore, but of
charges rising from a minimum for 600 messages per annum, in accord-
ance with one's actual use of the service.

Not less remarkable is what has been accomplished by the three ex-
istinT New York svstems of electric lighting. The Mount Morris

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Electric Light Company, with two stations, reaches from One Hundred
and Eighty-fifth Street, on the west side, to Fourteenth Street, and
pervades the entire area of the city south of there ; it supplies a high
tension direct current to 1,200 arc lights and an alternating current to
25,000 incandescent lamps, but is now engaged in greatly increasing


the capacity. The United Electric Light and Power Company employs
the Westinghouse methods, and furnishes both lighting and power ; it
has four stations, with a capacity of 120,000 lights, having now installed
75,000 incandescent lamps and 2,000 arc lights. The Edison system
is on a much larger scale. The old Pearl Street station, where Edison
was said to work twenty-five hours out of twenty-four, sleeping only
during odd hours and on piles of tubing, whilst developing his ideas
for lighting and his underground system of conductors, is now no
more ; instead of it we have the huge building of The Edison Electric
Illuminating Company on Duane and Pearl streets, one block east from
Broadway, where the main station and general offices are found. 1

It has come to pass in the last sixteen years that our dwellings may
be equipped throughout with devices for availing ourselves of electricity
as the most versatile and useful of domestic servants. The bells that
announce a visitor are rung by an electric button at the front door;
the rooms and halls are lighted by electricity ; seated comfortably at
home we talk to our friends, the country over, by the electric telephone,
and recognize their voices, as they do ours, at distances of a few feet
away or of more than a thousand miles ; if we need a messenger, a
policeman, or the Fire Department, the summons is given by a touch that
sounds an electrical signal in a central office, whence a response is

1 This is the largest electric lighting company, and this building the largest electric supply
station, anywhere to be found. It has room for 28,000 horse power in steam machinery, -
one-third already installed. In the operating room on the ground floor are the huge generat-
ing units, the largest of their kind, each a great 2,500 horse power engine with a dynamo re-
volving at either end of the shaft. Two stories above is the boiler room, extending from one
street to the other ; and still above, nearly a hundred feet in the air, are the coal bunkers,
containing two thousand tons or more of coal, elevated mechanically from the street, where it
is first automatically weighed ; from the bunkers the coal is delivered by gravity through
weighing chutes in front of the boilers below. The company's offices occupy the upper floors ;
and this building, which dates only from 1891, is not only interesting within for its mechani-
cal and electrical appliances, but striking without for architectural features, all the orna-
mentation appearing in forms that speak of electricity in the arts, lamps, armatures, etc.,
instead of ordinary decorative devices. A newer station on Twelfth Street, east of Fourth
Avenue, shows even more novel details, including turbo-generators (with French steam tur-
bines) of 300 horse power, and a large storage battery plant. And there are other stations in
Twenty-sixth Street, near Sixth Avenue ; in Thirty-ninth Street, near Broadway ; and else-
where. All feed into one common network underneath the streets, intended to supply a great
part of New York with electric current for light, power, heating, and other purposes. This
underground .system includes more than 200 miles of Edison tubing or 600 miles of copper con-
ductors, supplying continuously at present about 6,000 customers with more than 225,000
incandescent lamps, about 3,000 arc lamps, and more than 13,000 horse power in motors, not
counting some sixty or seventy large buildings to which current is furnished during a part of
the time only. This is the equivalent of more than 460,000 ordinary incandescent lamps.
The next largest electric installation is at Chicago, with an equivalent of about 325,000 ; and
then comes Berlin with an equivalent of 250,000.


promptly made by sending him we have called for ; the coal bins may be
left empty, the cooking can be done and the house may !>e warmed
by electricity ; if an invalid requires a passenger elevator fur reaching
another floor of the premises, electricity will supply the motive power-
revolving electric fans furnish a eooling breeze in the most sultry
weather, for whatever part of the house desired, and at any hour, day

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Online LibraryMartha J. (Martha Joanna) LambHistory of the city of New York: its origin, rise, and progress / by Martha J. Lamb → online text (page 4 of 10)