Old New York In Photos #140 – July 4, 1860

Independence Day In New York Watching The Regatta 1860

July 4, 1860 regatta at The Battery. photo: Anthony

Patriotism, Parades and Pyrotechnics

In 1860 a year before the nation was split into two warring factions, New Yorkers celebrated the 84th anniversary of Independence Day in glorious fashion.

The day proliferated with excursions, theatricals, balloon ascensions, salutes, military parades, fireworks and – a regatta.

Regatta derives from Venetian, meaning a contention for mastery or contest. The New York regatta held on July 4 was a series of rowed and sailed boat races held near Castle Clinton at The Battery in New York bay.

All of the photographs seen here were taken by the firm of E. & H.T. Anthony as stereoviews.

View from Castle Garden July 4, 1860 regatta before the start. photo: Anthony

Upwards of 20,000 people showed up for the races starting at noon.

Many people watched from boats that clogged the harbor. Others situated themselves on two large barges in the bay. But most people observed from the harbor shore and piers.

While there was plenty to drink, one complaint was that there was not enough food available for purchase. Many people left hungry after watching the festivities.

The Races

Newspapers offered conflicting statements about the length of the course. The boats were to go to a buoyed stake in the water, circle it and return; a total distance of either three or four miles depending upon whose account is correct. Every race had about eight boats competing.

The first race on the program was to be a sail race. It did not happen owing to a lack of wind.

The next race on the schedule became the first race. This was for six-oared row boats with amateur oarsmen. The winner of the first race was the humorously named What Is It? with a winning time of 30 minutes and 10 seconds.

The second race was for seventeen foot working boats rowed with two pairs of sculls. The victor in this race was The Jack McDonnell in 32 minutes and 30 seconds. The first prize was $75.

The third race was for boats of any length to be rowed by four men with four oars. As the race was starting a downpour began and slowed the boaters down. Confusion ensued as the marker the boats were to pass in the water was shifted either accidentally or on purpose.

Tinted stereoview July 4, 1860 regatta. photo Anthony

The deluge of rain had those on the shore scatter to find shelter. Where thousands were once standing, now scarcely a hundred people remained.

Did anyone complete or win the third race? The judges put off an official verdict until they could come to a decision. Later that evening the judges awarded the victory to The Unexpected.

Once the storm passed the Battery sprang to life again and onlookers returned in force.

The fourth race was for the championship one man scull. One man, two oars and a boat of any length. The race was won by The Oscar Teed (or Leed) manned by Joshua Ward who completed the course in 37 minutes and 10 seconds winning the $100 prize.

The following year the Civil War curtailed festivities in New York. Though a regatta was not held in New York, the city of Boston did have their annual regatta.

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