1829, Part 8
New York City / State Timeline
from Eagles Byte by David Minor
Year-by-year tracing the growth of the early days of the Republic
Well, we've spent over six months visiting 1829 New York. I know; it doesn't seem possible; surely it hasn't been a minute over 5 3/4 months. How time does fly! Anyway, before we move on to other times and climes we'll spend two final weeks on a few ends and odds we've missed along the way; sort of a potpourri, or, if you will, Simon, a Salmagundy.
We'll start here in Buffalo and work our way backwards to our New York City starting point. A branch of the Bank of the United States is established here in Buffalo in September. When bank president Nicholas Biddle visits the area he takes a side trip to Niagara Falls and is impressed enough to pay for a circular staircase into the gorge. The structure will remain a popular adjunct to Mother Nature for close to hundred years. Monsieur Louis Stephen LeCouteulx de Chaumont, a French gentleman, arrived here twenty-five years ago, the area's first permanent Roman Catholic. This year he is donating land for a combination church and school —St. Louis.
Buffalo is not the only community opening banks and military schools this year: Batavia's Bank of the Genesee (later M&T), beat out the U. S Bank by a few months, becoming the first bank west of the Genesee River. And back at the beginning of the year Whitesboro's Scientific and Military Academy of Western District was accredited by the state's Board of Regents. East coast architects Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis open a branch in Buffalo, the village's first architectural office. They must have chosen their location well; there's no menton of them losing it during the November fire that did $25,000 worth of damage to the west side of Main Street.
To the east of Batavia the village of Le Roy is host to one of the high-profile social events of the season in December, when Caroline Le Roy, daughter of New York City financier Jacob Le Roy, is married to politician/widower Daniel Webster at the family's upstate home. Presumably he smiled more than he does in his portraits. James Stuart had run into some of the early prototypes of the health spa during his visit last year to Saratoga Springs. Not to be outdone by the Hudson Valley, the Genesee Valley welcomed Dr. Derrick Knickerbocker of Rochester, when he builds the two-and-a-half story Knickerbocker Hall spa in Avon. Knickerbocker wasn't the first person in Avon to make money off the local waters. In 1792 a local inhabitant had come down with what was probably the infamous Genesee Fever. When he recovered he was left with a skin infection which he bathed in local waters. The condition cleared up almost immediately. Three years later a case of rheumatism yielded to Avon's soothing waters. A Richard Wadsworth built a bathhouse in 1821, which he enlarged in 1823. Now two other entrepreneurs are erecting hotels to rival Knickerbocker's. The village's main springs, the Upper and Lower, will each gain their adherents.
Transportation into the central part of the state from the south will become easier in a few years as the state legislature in April approves construction of a Chemung Canal, linking Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes to Elmira, sitting on the Chemung River, down near the Pennsylvania border. The Chemung connects to the west branch of the Susquehanna and eventually Chesapeake Bay. The state's canals are erasing barriers.
We'll finish up in Manhattan next time.
We'll begin our final 1829 visit to the New York City area over in Brooklyn. There was some talk in town of building a bridge back to Manhattan this year, but the talk was decades ahead of the technology and nothing came of the idea. A less ambitious plan did throw a causeway over the creek that separated an island noted for its rabbits, or conies, from the mainland. The men behind the plan added a small hotel, the Coney Island House, for wealthy visitors, but it would be many years yet before the average New York worker could head to Coney for a day's outing.
And the workers were getting antsy. A recent recession set large companies looking for ways to improve profits, one of the most popular being to increase the work day from ten hours to eleven. With no increase in pay, of course. A Committee of Fifty was formed to deal with this and other issues. By autumn some members of Tammany had joined reformers like Frances Wright and Thomas Skidmore, and given birth to the Workingmen's Party. Out of a protest meeting came a call to elect "men who, from their own sufferings, know how to feel for ours, and who, from consanguinity of feeling, will be disposed to do all they can to afford a remedy." Also under attack was inherited wealth, chartered monopolies and debtors' prisons. On November 7th carpenter Ebenezer Ford, president of the carpenter's union was the first labor leader voted into public office when he was elected to the New York State Assembly. The following month brought forth a proclamation, The Working Men's Declaration of Independence, with a rather familiar-sounding message: "When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one class of a community to assert their natural and unalienable rights in opposition to other classes of their fellow men..." Several decades later other, female, activists would start their own declaration in a similar fashion. Lines were being drawn.
Speaking of women, one select group was leaving town. Progress had been made on the new Sing Sing prison up the Hudson, so it was now feasible to house women there as well as men. The final population of Newgate Prison was shipped "up the river" and the land in the future Greenwich Village neighborhood was sold off, opening the future neighborhood to development.
If you weren't protesting, changing cells, or watching the 1829 version of beach bunnies out at Coney, you could still find ways to occupy your time. Several residents were moving from one stage of life to the next. Young Herman Melville entered Columbia Grammar School, to learn his letters (he'll perform well, we think). And Nathan Beers opened his home to wedding guests as he hosted his niece Charity Hallett's wedding to 19-year-old shopkeeper Phineas Barnum.
Young painters Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand had help found the National Academy of Design back in 1826 and this year they teamed up with editor/poet William Cullen Bryant (who had lectured at the Academy) to form The Sketch Club. Out of these modest beginnings would come the Hudson River School of painting. Meetings of the club weren't always on new methods of applying paint to canvas though. Satirical debates were a popular form of entertainment at the time. On March 13th Cole emceed a solemn discussion. On the combustibility of peanut shells. On that note - Goodbye, 1829.
© 2008, David Minor