Central Park – A Winter Oasis of Sleighing and Skating in 1863
Central Park after the snow February 5, 1863. Woodcut from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper January 30, 1864.
New York City received its first significant snowfall this winter on January 7, 2016 with about 6 inches of snow covering Manhattan. That day and the next, Central Park had children sleighing down its various hills. Ice skating was available for all at Wollman Rink.
Would anyone today recognize Central Park 154 years ago with similar activity?
Reproduced here for the first time since it appeared in the January 30, 1864 edition of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, is this fantastic woodcut Illustration of Central Park. Unfortunately there is no artist attribution.
At first glance you would think this rural scene is not even in New York City, but the telltale signs are evident that this is indeed Central Park.
In the distant background, buildings can be seen. In the foreground is a proverbial one horse open sleigh. Other sleighs race past one another as their riders are covered in warm blankets and animal skins. One sleigh is named, the “Snow Bird.”
If you look carefully on the right you can see a familiar Central Park balustrade that onlookers are leaning against and taking in all the action. Skaters glide across the frozen lake which begs the question: if you did not own ice skates, where could you get them from?
There was a structure called the “skating tent” in the southern portion of Central Park that rented out skates. Continue reading
July 13, 1863 The Civil War Draft Riots Begin + Related Book Recommendations
“The Battle in Second Avenue” from John Shea’s 1886 book, The Story of a Great Nation
If you’ve watched Martin Scorcese’s 2002 film The Gangs of New York, you saw a vivid depiction of what the Civil War Draft Riots may have looked like. In reality the tumult was probably a lot worse than what was portrayed on the screen. It was the most violent civil disorder in 19th century American history.
Protesting the conscription act, mobs of citizens went on a multi-day rampage of killing and looting. The riots were quelled after four or five days. The estimated number of people killed was 105. The number of injuries was in the hundreds.
In a November 26, 1938 New Yorker story, journalist Meyer Berger wrote about combing through the original blotters at the West Forty-Seventh Street Police Station. Berger came across the station’s last riot related arrest which occurred on July 30, 1863. Fergus Brennan, 35 was charged with being a leader of the rioters. He was held on $2,000 bail by Justice Kelly.
There are several books which cover the draft riots in detail. Among the best are: July 1863 by Irving Werstein (Julian Messner, 1957); The New York City Draft Riots by Iver Bernstein (Oxford University Press, 1990); The Second Rebellion by James McCague (Dial Press, 1968); The Devil’s Own Work The Civil War Draft Riots of 1863 by Barnet Schecter (Walker & Co., 2006) and The Armies of the Streets: The New York City Draft Riots of 1863 by Adrian Cook (University of Kentucky, 1974).
19th Century Prostitution and a Sly Trick of the Trade
Every so often we will look back at the history of New York City.
Today’s entry is from “The Secrets of the Great City: A Work Descriptive of the Virtues and the Vices, the Mysteries, Miseries and Crimes of New York City” by Edward Winslow Martin published by Jones, Brothers & Co. 1868
Edward Winslow Martin was the pseudonym of James Dabney McCabe and he published this book or a slightly altered version of it many times beginning in 1868 under various titles and through different publishers until 1883 when he died. The illustrated book is a 600 plus page turner of practically every sleazy Continue reading