Tag Archives: 1850s

The Lighthouse Without A Light

 Sir John Barrow’s Unlit Lighthouse

Lighthouse or Memorial Sir John Barrow

Sir John Barrow Memorial Hoad Hill Ulverston Cumbria, UK

The “lighthouse” is in the town of Ulverston, a bucolic seaside town which hosts various festivals throughout the year. There’s an annual Dickens Festival each November in which many of the citizens dress in Victorian attire. Then there’s “Another Fine Fest” held in June. The title is a takeoff on the admonishing words “Well… that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!” Oliver Hardy says these words in countless films to his comedic partner Stan Laurel. Ulverston’s modern claim to fame is as the birthplace of comedian Stan Laurel, who lived here until he was six-years-old.

Levity aside, viewed from afar, the 100 tower off the northern English coast of Cumbria sure looks like a lighthouse. Continue reading

Book Review – The Finest Building In America The New York Crystal Palace

The New York Crystal Palace Gave Americans A Building To Be Proud Of

burrows finest building in americaOn the site of the future Bryant Park on 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues stood The New York Crystal Palace. It was only there for a little more than five years. Built of cast iron, timber and glass the building was unlike anything previously built in America.

Edwin G. Burrows book, “The Finest Building in America The New York Crystal Palace 1853-1858” Oxford; (2018), is a short, entertaining account of the impact the building and the wonders displayed inside, had on the city. Continue reading

The Shape Of Your Head Indicates Everything! 19th Century Quackery- Phrenology

Fowler & Wells, Phrenologists – The Art of Reading The Shape Of Your Head.

phrenologyWhat sort of foolishness did people believe in the 19th century? Phrenology, which might sound silly today, was studied and taken seriously by many people.

Phrenology is the “science” of reading character traits by the shape of your head. And of course there were plenty of experts – phrenologists – who could perform such accurate assessments.

Of course it is a pseudo-science, that is absurd, and yet there are still people today who believe in Phrenology. Continue reading

New York City Used To Kill Its Stray Dogs By Drowning Them

How A Merciless City Dealt With Its Unwanted Dogs

In 19th Century New York, You Had 24 Hours To Retrieve Your Lost Dog

Unclaimed Dogs Were Drowned In The East River

The dog catcher in New York City & the dogs fate- drowned in cages in the East River – illustration Harper’s Weekly

The Dog Dilemma

What happens today when animal shelters are filled to capacity? Sometimes cats and dogs are humanely euthanized, if there is such a thing as being humanely euthanized.

Canine population control in 19th century New York was much harsher. Beginning in 1855 a new and brutal method of putting down dogs was instituted – drowning.

Some editors and citizens actually attached the word “humane” to this new way of disposal.

Before that time, wandering dogs were considered pests and usually killed on the spot, in the street. The fear of rabies and mad dogs was used as a justification for the wanton killing.

The New York Times wrote, “One thing, however, is certain: dogs are useless animals in cities, and are a nuisance, independent of their habit of occasionally running mad; and the best dog law would be one that imposed so high a tax on the owners of curs that few people would care to keep them, and those who did would see to it that the animals did not run at large, muzzled or unmuzzled.” Continue reading

New York Hot Dogs In 1858

Before the Invention of the Frankfurter, Two New Yorker’s Come Up With Their Own Version of the Hot Dog

In 1906 the Pure Food and Drugs Act was passed by Congress prohibiting interstate commerce in adulterated and misbranded food and drugs. Living in 19th century New York you never knew where your meat might be coming from. Food, especially meat, was often processed in unsanitary conditions. Of course then, as even now, you might not even know what type of food you are actually eating.

This appetizing tidbit is from the January 22, 1858 New York Times: Continue reading

1,001 Ways To Die In New York City In 1855

 A Detailed Look At New York City Mortality For One Week In 1855

the new york city morgue Frank Leslies Illustrated Newspaper 1866

The New York City morgue

Maybe there weren’t 1001 ways to die, but in a typical week in New York’s death log 160 years ago there were at least 73 ways to enter into eternity. New York City was only the borough of Manhattan and the population was around 629,000.

355 people died during the week of September 22 – 29, 1855.

First looking at how people died we see things that are not predominant causes of death in the United States today.

The most common causes of death that week were: Consumption (38 dead); Infantile Marasmus (35 dead); Infantile Convulsions (31); Stillborn (25); Cholera (25) and Dysentery (20).

Consumption was the 19th century name for tuberculosis. What exactly is marasmus? It is severe malnutrition. Only 5 people died of cancer. Old age was listed only once as the cause of death.

Some other causes of death that week that are now relatively uncommon or in some cases all too common (i.e. shooting, suicide): Bleeding Bowels (1); Colic (1); Diarrhea (21); Dropsy of Head (9); Gravel (passing broken Kidney Stones) (1);  Hydrophobia (Rabies) (9); Scurvy (1); Suicide by arsenic (1); Killed or Murder by shooting (1); Casualty being run over (1); Drowned (1) and Teething (2). Teething?

Death came to both Continue reading