The Shadow Of The Knickerbockers
( Originally Published 1918 )
BEFORE the writer, as he begins the pleasant task, is an old half-illegible map, or rather, fragment of a map. Nearby are three or four dull prints. They are of a hundred years ago, or thereabouts, and tell of a New York when President Monroe was in the White House, and Governor De Witt Clinton in the State Capitol, at Albany, and Mayor Colden in the City Hall. To pore' over them is to achieve a certain contentment of the soul. Probably it held itself to be turbulent in its day —that old New York. Without doubt it had its squabbles, its turmoils, its excitements. We smile at the old town—its limitations, its inconveniences, its naivetes. But perhaps, in these years of storm, and stress, and heartache, we envy more than a little. It is not merely the architectural story that the old maps, prints, diaries tell; in them we can find an age that is gone, catch fleeting glimpses of people long since dust to dust, look at past manners, fashions, pleasures and contrast them with our own.
But to begin with the old map. The lettering beneath conveys the information that it was prepared for the City in 1819-1820 by John Randel, Jr., and that it shows the farms superimposed upon the Commissioner's map of 1811. Through the centre of the map there is a line indicating Fifth Avenue north to Thirteenth Street. Here and there is a spot apparently intended to represent a farmhouse, but that is all; for in 1820, though Greenwich Village and Chelsea were, the city proper was far to the south. Some of the names on the old map are familiar and some are not.
Just above the bending lane that ran along the north side of Washington Square, then the Potter's Field, may be read " Trustees of Sailor's Snug Harbor." The land thus marked extends from what is now Waverly Place to what is now Ninth Street. In 1790 Captain Robert Richard Randall paid five thousand pounds sterling for twenty-one acres of good farming land. In 1801 he died, and his will directed that a " Snug Harbor " for old salts be built upon his farm, the produce of which, he believed, would forever furnish his pensioners with vegetables and cereal rations. Later Randall's trustees leased the farm in building lots and placed Snug Harbor " in Staten Island. Above the estate, in diagonal form, and at one point crossing Fifth Avenue to the west, was the large farm of Henry Brevoort. More limited holdings, in the names of Gideon Tucker, William Hamilton, and John Morse, separate, in the map, the Brevoort property from the estates of John Mann, Jr., and Mary Mann. The latter must have been a landowner of some importance in her day, for the fragment of a chart runs into the margin above the line of Thirteenth Street without indicating the beginning of any other ownership.
On the land to the west of the Avenue line may be read " Heirs of John Rogers," " William W. Gilbert," " Nicholson " (the Christian name lies somewhere beyond the map horizon), and " Heirs of Henry Spingler." Irrigation is indicated by a line, running in a general northwesterly direction, bearing the name " Manetta Water," while a thinner line, joining the first line from the northeast, is described as " East Branch of Manetta Water." Manetta Water was the English name. The Dutch had called it " Bestavaer's Rivulet." It was a sparkling stream, beloved of trout fishermen, rising in the high ground above Twenty-first Street, flowing southeasterly to Fifth Avenue at Ninth Street, then on to midway between the present Eighth Street and Waverly Place, where it swung southwesterly and emptied into the Hudson River near Charlton Street. It ran between sandhills, sometimes rising to the height of a hundred feet, and marked the course of a famous Indian hunting ground.
The joy of the Izaak Waltons of the past is occasionally the despair of the Fifth Avenue householders of the present. Flooded cellars and weakened foundations may be traced to the purling waters of the sparkling stream. But perhaps the trout were jumping. Then the last fisherman probably worried very little about the annoyances to which his descendants were to be subjected. In much the same spirit we are saying today, " What will it all matter a hundred years hence? "
Beginning at the Potter's Field, the line of what is now Fifth Avenue left the " Road over the Sandhills " or the " Zantberg " of the Dutch; later known as Art Street, long since gone from the map, and crossed the Robert Richard Randall Estate. Thence it ran through the Henry Brevoort farm, which originally extended from Ninth to Eighteenth Streets, and which had been bought in 1714 for four hundred pounds. Crossing the tributary stream at Twelfth Street, it passed a small pond between Thirteenth and Fourteenth Streets, and then ran on, over low and level ground, to Twenty-first Street, then called "Love's Lane." To the right was the swamp and marsh that afterwards became Union Square. Following the trail farther, the hardy voyager wandered over " hills and valleys, dales and fields," through a countryside where trout, mink, otter, and muskrat swam in the brooks and pools; brant, black duck, and yellow-leg splashed in the marshes and fox, rabbit, woodcock, and partridge found covert in the thicket. Here and there was a farm, but the , city, then numbering one hundred thousand persons, was far away. Then, in 1824, the first stretch of the Avenue, from Waverly Place to Thirteenth Street, was opened, and the northward march of the great thorough-fare began. Let us try to picture the old town of that day, the city that was still under the shadow of the Knickerbockers.
First, at the southern extremity of the island, was the Battery and Battery Park. When, in " The Story of a New York House," the late H. C. Bunner described the little square of green jutting into the waters of the upper bay, it was as it had been some years before the earliest venturesome pioneers builded in lower Fifth Avenue. From the pillared balcony of his house on State Street—the house may still be seen—Jacob Dolph caught a glimpse of the morning sun, that loved the Battery far better than Pine Street, where Dolph's office was. It was a poplar-studded Battery in those days, and the tale tells how the wind blew fresh off the bay, and the waves beat up against the sea-wall, and a large brig, with all sails set, loomed conspicuous to the view, and two or three fat little boats, cat-rigged, after the good old New York fashion, were beating down towards Staten Island, to hunt for the earliest bluefish. That was in 1808, and sixteen 'years later, the Battery, with its gravelled, shady paths, and its somewhat irregular plots of grass, was still the city's favourite breathing spot. There, of summer evenings, after the stately walk down Broadway, the crinolined ladies and the beaux with their bell-crowned hats gathered to watch the sun set behind the low Jersey hills, and perhaps to inspect the review of the Tompkins Blues, or the Pulaski Cadets. There was fierce rivalry between these two commands, one under Captain Vincent, and the other under Captain McArdle, and each corps had its admiring sympathizers. Both Blues and Cadets presented a fine, martial appearance as they swung across the Battery, marching like veterans who had faced fire and would not flinch. " Sure it was," a flippant chronicler has recorded, " both had an undisputed reputation for charging upon a well-loaded board with a will that left no tell-tale vestige." Very likely, in the throng, all were not of New York. There were doubtful strangers, too, looking with yearning eyes out over the dancing waters of the blue bay—swarthy, weather-beaten men with huge earrings. They called themselves " privateers-men." But there were those who smiled at the word, for romance had it that there were still buccaneers in the Spanish Main.
In many families that daily visit to the Battery was all the summer change. Mr. Dayton, in his " Last Days of Knickerbocker Life," informed us that neither belle nor gallant lost caste by declining to participate in the routine of watering place life, simple and inexperienced as it then was. Yet there were summer resorts, and they were patronized by the best and most prominent citizens of the country. The springs at Saratoga had already been discovered, and there were many New Yorkers who made the then long and arduous trip.
But nearer at hand was the " Beach at Rockaway," sung by the military poet, George P. Morris, and Coney Island. At the latter resort conditions were primitive. Unheard were the blaring of bands, and the raucous cry of the " Hot-Dog man," and the riot and roar of the rabble. Mr. Blinker, of O. Henry's " Brick Dust Row," could not then have seen his vision and found his light. For there was no mass of vulgarians wallowing in gross joys to be recognized as his brothers seeking the ideal. But he might have been as well pleased with the unpretentious hotel at the water's edge, where the urbanite could enjoy the cooling ocean breezes, and listen to the waves, and dine upon broiled chicken and succulent clams.
The press ,of the third decade of the last century was high-priced and vitriolic. Of the morning papers now known to New Yorkers there was none. The " Sun," the first to appear, began in 1833. But of the afternoon journals there was the " Evening Post," perhaps even then " making virtue odious," as a wit of many years later was to express it, and the " Commercial Advertiser," now the " Globe," the oldest of all metropolitan journals. Before the appearance of the " Sun," the morning papers had been the " Morning Courier and New York Enquirer," the " Standard," the "Democratic Chronicle," the " Journal of Commerce," the " New York Gazette and General Advertiser," and the " Mercantile Advertiser and New York Advocate." In the evening there were the " Star," and the " American," besides the " Post " and " Commercial Advertiser." These newspapers were mere appendages of party, " organs " in the narrowest and most restricted sense, espousing blindly certain interests or ideas, expounding in long editorials the views of small groups of politicians.
"Here's this morning's New York Sewer! Here's this morning's New York Stabber! Here's the New York Family Spy! Here's the New York Private Listener! Here's the New York Peeper! Here's the New York Plunderer! Here's the New York Keyhole Reporter! Here's the New York Rowdy Journal! Here's all the New York papers! Here's full particulars of the patriotic Locofoco movement yesterday, in which the Whigs were so chawed up ; and the last Alabama gouging case; and the interesting Arizona dooel with bowie knives; and all the political, commercial, and fashionable news. Here they are! Here they are! Here's the papers! Here's the papers ! Here's the Sewer! Here's the New York Sewer! Here's some of the twelve thousand of today's Sewer, with the best accounts of the markets, and four whole columns of country correspondence, and a full account of the ball at Mrs. White's last night, where all the beauty and fashion of New York was assembled; with the Sewer's own particulars of the private lives of all the ladies that were there. Here's the Sewer! Here's the Sewer's exposure of the Wall Street gang, and the Sewer's exposure of the Washington gang, and the Sewer's exclusive account of a flagrant act of dishonesty committed by the Secretary of State when he was eight years old; now communicated, at great expense, by his own nurse. Here's the Sewer! Here's the New York Sewer in its twelfth thousand, with a whole column of New Yorkers to be shown up, and all their names printed. Here's the Sewer's article upon the judge that tried him, day afore yesterday, for libel, and the Sewer's tribute to the independent jury that didn't convict him, and the Sewer's account of what might have happened if they had! Here's the Sewer, always on the look-out; the leading journal of the United States! "
Such were the cries, according to the veracious account of Charles Dickens, who had paid his first visit to us a short time before, that greeted the ears of Martin Chuzzlewit upon his arrival in the gate city of the western world. That amiable caricature reflects what the English novelist thought or pretended to think, of the New York journalism of the day. Exaggeration, of course: the bad manners of a young genius of the British lower middle classes. But quite good-naturedly today we concede that beneath bad manners and exaggeration there was a foundation of truth. Into the making of Colonel Diver, the editor of the " Rowdy Journal," may have gone a little of old Noah, of the " Star," or James Watson Webb, of the " Courier and Enquirer," or Colonel Stone, of the " Commercial." Can't you see those grim figures of an old world strutting down Broadway, glaring about belligerently and suspiciously? Almost every editor of that period had a theatre feud at one day or another. On the luckless mummer who had incurred his displeasure he poured out the vials of his wrath. He incited audiences to riot. Against his brother editors he hurled such epithets as " loathsome and leprous slanderer and libeller," " pestilential scoundrel," " polluted wretch," " foul jaws," " common bandit," " prince of darkness," " turkey buzzard," " ghoul." Somehow, in thinking of the old days, I find it hard to reconcile those men and women who lived under the Knickerbocker sway with their newspapers. It is pleasanter to dwell upon the old customs, to picture Mr. Manhattan leaving the scurrilous sheet behind him when he departed from his store or counting house, and repairing with clean hands to the wife of his bosom and his family, somewhere in Greenwich Village, or Richmond Hill, or Bond Street, or the beginnings of Fifth Avenue.
But to revert to the manners of the old town. First of all there was the business of getting married. It was with an idea of permanency then, and the Knickerbocker wedding was, in con-sequence, a ceremony. To it, the groom, his best-man, and the ushers went attired in blue coats, brass buttons, high white satin stocks, ruffled-bosomed shirts, figured satin waistcoats, silk stockings, and pumps. The New Yorker's tailor, if his pretensions to fashion were well-founded, was Elmendorf, or Brundage, or Wheeler, or Tryon and Derby; his hatter, St. John, and his boot-makers, Kimball and Rogers. For the wedding ceremony, the man's hair was tightly frizzed by Maniort, the leading hair-dresser of the day. He was the proprietor of the Knickerbocker Barber-Shop at Broadway and Wall Street, and the town gossip. Years later he was to enjoy the patronage of the Third Napoleon in Paris as a reward for favours extended to the Prince when the latter was an exile here. There, is little record of elaborate pre-nuptial bachelor dinners in the style of modern New York. What would have been the use? The gardens of the city's fashionable homes boasted no extensive circular fountains or artificial fishponds into which the best-man or the father of the bride-to-be could be flung as an artistic diversion. As has been said, it was some-thing of a slow old world, lacking in many of the modern comforts.
The robe of the bride was of white satin, tinged with yellow, the bodice cut low in the neck and shoulders, and ornamented with lace. Over her hair, built up by Martell, was flung the coronet of artificial orange blossoms held by the blonde lace veil. Then the satin boots and the six-button gloves. At the wedding-supper the bride's cake, rich, and of formidable proportions, was the piece de resistance. Also there was substantial fare; hams, turkeys, chicken, and game; besides fruits, candies, and creams. In place of the champagne of later days there were Madeira, Port, and Sherry. Round the table, illuminated by wax candles and astral lamps, young and old gathered; the women of a past generation in stiff brocades, powdered puffs, and tortoise-shell combs. From the first to last the Fifth Avenue wedding of those days reflected the patriarchal system that had not yet passed.
It was not a matter of denomination, but when the world was young, the pioneers of the Avenue did not smile on the way to worship. The Sabbath day still retained a good deal of the funereal aspect with which the New England Puritans had invested it. The city was silent save for the tolling of the church bells. At ten o'clock in the morning, at three in the afternoon, and again, at seven at night, the solemn processions of men, women, and children, clad in their Sunday best, issued from the homes, and slowly wended their way to church. When the congregation had gathered, and the service was about to begin, heavy iron chains were drawn tightly across the streets adjacent to the various places of worship. It was the hour for serious meditation. No distracting noise was to be allowed to fall upon those devout ears.
Abram C. Dayton, in his " Last Days of Knickerbocker Life," left a description of the service at the Dutch Reformed Church of that day. He told of the long-drawn-out extemporaneous prayers, the allusions to " benighted heathen "; to " whited sepulchres"; to " the lake which burns with fire and brimstone." Of instrumental accompaniment there was none, and free scope was both given and taken by the human voice divine. Then the sermon! Men were strong in those days ! Clergymen had not become affected with the throat troubles prevalent in later times. No hour-glass or warning clock was displayed in the bleak spare edifice. In the exuberance of zeal often the end of the discourse came only with utter physical exhaustion. Then the passing of the plate; an eight-stanza hymn, closing with the vehemently shouted Doxology; and the concluding Benediction. From that old-time Sabbath day the affairs of the world were rigidly excluded. It was a day of rest not only for the family but for the family's man-servant and maid-servant. Saturday had seen the preparation of the necessary food.
On the Sabbath only cold collations were served. Public opinion was a stern master. Woe betide the one rash enough to defy the established conventions ! The physician on his rounds, or the church-goer too aged or infirm to walk to the place of worship, were the only ones permitted to make use of a horse and carriage. Now and then one of the godless would slip away northward for a drive on some unfrequented road. Detection meant society's averted face and stern reprimand. For an indefinite period the sinner would be a subject of intercession at evening prayers.
The weekday life was in keeping with the Knickerbocker Sabbath. Home was the family castle, over which parental authority ruled with an iron hand. Hospitality was genuine and whole-hearted; but tempered by frugal moderation. Strict punctuality was demanded of every member of the household. The noon repast was the meal of the day. At the stroke of twelve old New York sat down to table. In the home there was variety and abundance, but the dinner was served as one course. Meats, poultry, vegetables, pies, puddings, fruits, and sweets were crowded together on the board. This adherence to the midday meal must have been the weak point in the armour in which the old order encased itself. For there the first breach was made. New Yorkers, returning from visits to Europe, hooted at the primitive noon repast of their youth. At first what were called the " foreign airs " of these would-be innovators were treated with derision. But they persisted, and by slow stages three o'clock became the extra fashionable hour for dinner. The old City Hotel was one of the first public places to fall into line.
The time was to come when a dining establishment, second to none of its day in social prestige and culinary excellence, was to stand on a corner of Fifth Avenue and Fourteenth Street. But when those who dwelt on lower Fifth Avenue were still pioneers, dining out in public places meant a long and venturesome journey to the southward. The restaurants of that time—they were more generally called " eating houses,"—were almost all established in the business portions of the city. The midday dinner was the meal on which they depended for their main support. Then masculine New York left its shop or its counting house, hurried a block to the right, or a block to the left, and fell greedily on the succulent oyster, the slice of rare roast beef, or the sizzling English mutton chop. Conspicuous among the refectories of this type were the Auction Hotel, on Water Street, near Wall; the dining room of Clark and Brown, on Maiden Lane, near Liberty Street, one of the first of the so-called English chop-houses; the United States Hotel, which stood, until a few years ago, at the corner of Water and Fulton Streets, and which was the chosen home of the captains of the whaling ships from New London, Nantucket, New Bedford, and Sag Harbor; Downing's, on Broad Street, famed for its Saddle Rocks and Blue Points, and its political patrons ; and the basement on Park Row, a few doors from the old Park Theatre, presided over by one Edward Windust. This last was a rendezvous for actors, artists, musicians, newspaper-men-in short, the Bohemian set of that day—and its walls were covered with old play-bills, newspaper clippings, and portraits of tragedians and comedians of the past.
But already a demand had been felt for viands of another nature ; hospitality of another sort. The womankind of the day was looking for an occasional chance to break away from the monotonous if wholesome and substantial table of the home. Those stiff Knickerbockers knew it not; but the modern dining-out New York was already in the making. At first the movement was ascribed to the European Continental element. In New York Delmonico and Guerin were the pioneers in the field. The former began in a little place of pine tables and rough wooden chairs on William Street, between Fulton and Ann. The original equipment consisted of a broad counter covered with white napkins, two-tine forks, buckhandled knives, and earthenware plates and cups. From such humble beginnings grew the establishments that have subsequently carried the name. Francis Guerin's first cafe was on Broad-way, between Pine and Cedar Streets, directly opposite the old City Hotel. Another resort of the same type was the Cafe des Mille Colonnes, kept by the Italian, Palmo, on the west side of Broadway, near Duane Street. It was apparently on a scale lavish for those days. Long mirrors on the walls reflected, in an endless vista, the gilded columns that supported the ceiling. The fortune accumulated by Palmo in the restaurant was lost in an attempt to introduce Italian opera into the United States. Palmo's Opera House, in Chamber Street, between Centre Street and Broadway, later became Burton's Theatre.
Until 1844, New York was guarded against 'crime by the old " Leather-heads." This force patrolled the city by night, or that part of it known as the lamp district. They were not watchmen by profession, but were recruited from the ranks of porters, cartmen, stevedores, and labourers. They were distinguished by a fireman's cap without front (hence the name " Leather-head "), an old camlet coat, and a lantern. They had a wholesome respect for their skins, and were inclined to keep out of harm's way, seldom visiting the darker quarters of the city. When they bawled the hour all rogues in the vicinity were made aware of their whereabouts. Above Fourteenth Street the whole city was a neglected region. It was beyond the lamp district and in the dark.
In no way, to the mind of the present scribe, can the contrast between the life of the modern city and of the town of the days when Fifth Avenue was in the making be better emphasized than by comparing the conditions of travel. It was in the year 1820 that John Stevens of Hoboken, who had become exasperated because people did not see the value of railroads as he did, resolved to prove, at his own expense, that the method of travel urged by him was not a madman's scheme. So on his own estate on the Hoboken hill he built a little railway of narrow gauge and a small locomotive. Long enough had he been sneered at and called maniac. He put the locomotive on the track with cars behind it, and ran it with himself as a passenger, to the amazement of those before whom the demonstration was made. So far as is known that was the first locomotive to be built or run on a track in America. But even with Stevens's successful ex-ample, years passed before steam travel assumed a practical form.
When the pioneer of Fifth Avenue wished to voyage far afield it was toward the stage-coach as a means of transportation that his mind turned, for the stage-coach was the only way by which a large portion of the population could accomplish overland journeys. To go to Boston, for example, the traveller from New York usually left by a steamboat that took him to Providence in about twenty-three hours, and travelled the remaining forty miles by coach. Five hours was needed for the overland journey, and was considered amazing speed. By the year 1832 the overland trip between New York and Boston had been reduced to forty-one hours. But the passengers were not allowed to break the journey at a tavern, even for four or five hours of sleep, as they had formerly done, but were carried forward night and 'day without intermission. A fare of eleven dollars was usually exacted for the trip.
Even to go to one of the towns of Connecticut, the shore towns of the Boston Post Road, was an undertaking that called for serious preliminary study. A New York paper, now before the writer, carries in its first column an advertisement of a new steamer, the " Fairfield," plying between New York and Norwalk. But in order to make use of its services, the traveller had to be at the pier at the foot of Market Street at six o'clock in the morning. Upon the arrival at Norwalk stages were at hand for the convenience of such of the passengers who wished to travel on to Saugatuck, Fairfield, Bridgeport, Stratford, Milford, and other points. The same column carried information for those who contemplated voyaging to Newport or Providence. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday the steamboats " Benjamin Franklin " (Capt. E. S. Bunker) and " President " (Capt. R. S. Bunker) left New York for those Rhode Island towns at five o'clock in the evening.
The Post Road to Boston of those days differed much from the Boston Post Road of the present; especially in its first stages going north-ward from New York. There was no spacious Pelham Parkway skirting the waters of the Long Island Sound. Before crossing the Harlem the road followed in a general way the Broadway trail. Beyond the river it zigzagged in a northeasterly direction through Eastchester. Not until the crossing of the Byram River transferred the road from New York to New England did it take on any resemblance to the trail of today, and even beyond, the town" of Greenwich seems to have been neglected entirely.
Yet, in comparison, the East was developed. It was the bold Sinbad turning his face resolutely and courageously towards the setting sun who experienced the real inconveniences and perils. Nor, at first, did that mean the adventurous journey into the lands that were beyond the great Appalachian range. The shining countenance of the unknown was nearer at hand. It is just a matter of turning the clock back a hundred years.
From the windows of the apartment houses looking down on the Riverside Drive the Delaware River is just beyond the Jersey hills. To journey there today does not even call for the study of time-tables. Mr. Manhattan rises at the usual hour and eats his usual leisurely breakfast. At, say, nine o'clock, he settles back behind the steering-wheel of his motor-car. Crossing the Hudson by the Forty-second Street Ferry, he climbs the Weehawken slope, and swings westward over one of the uninviting turnpikes that disfigure the marshy land between the Passaic and the Hackensack. Then he finds the real Jersey, the Jerseyman's Jersey, of rolling hills, and historic memories of Washington's Continental troops in ragged blue and buff.—Morristown, with its superb estates, the stiff climb of Schooley's Mountain, the descent along the wooded ravine, the road following the winding Musconetcong River through Washington, the clustered buildings of Lafayette College crowning the Pennsylvania shore, and in good time for luncheon Mr. Manhattan is over the bridge connecting Easton and Phillipsburg.
A few years ago there appeared a little book telling of the experiences of a family migrating from Connecticut to Ohio in 1811. In interesting contrast to the morning dash just outlined is the story of that journey of a little more than one hundred years ago. Before crossing the North River the voyagers solemnly discussed the perilous waters that confronted them. " Tomorrow we embark for the opposite shore : may Heaven preserve us from the raging, angry waves ! " The first night's stop was at Spring-field, where, within the living memory of the older members of the party, a skirmish between the American troops and the soldiers of King George had taken place.
Another day's travel carried the party as far as Chester. At that point the task of travel be-came arduous. Over miry roads, in places blocked by boulders, there was the painful, laborious ascent of the steep grade leading to the summit of what we now call Schooley's Mountain. There the party camped for the night, beginning the descent early the morning of the following day. The brisk three or four hours' run that gives the motorist of today just the edge of appetite needed for the full enjoyment of his midday meal was to those hardy adventurers of a century ago almost the journey of a week.
For transatlantic travel there was the Black Ball line, between New York and Liverpool, first of four ships, and later of twelve. That service had been founded in 1816 by New York merchants. The Red Star line followed in 1821, and soon after the Swallowtail line. The packets were ships of from six hundred to fifteen hundred tons burden, and made the eastward trip in about twenty-three days and the return trip in about forty days. The record was held by the " Canada," of the Black Ball line, which had made the outward run in fifteen days and eighteen hours. That time was reduced later by the " Amazon." The first steamer to cross the Atlantic was the American ship " Savannah." She made the trial trip from New York to Savannah in April, 1819, and in the following month her owners decided to send her overseas. The time of her passage was twenty-six days, eight under steam and eighteen under sail. Stephen Rogers, her navigator, in a letter to the New London " Gazette," wrote that the " Savannah " was first sighted from the telegraph station at Cape Clear, on the southern coast of Ireland, which reported her as being on fire, and a king's cutter was sent to her relief. " But great was their wonder at their inability to come up with a ship under bare poles. After several shots had been fired from the cutter the engine was stopped, and the surprise of the cutter's crew at the mistake they had made, as well as their curiosity to see the strange Yankee craft, can be easily imagined." From Liverpool the " Savannah " proceeded to St. Petersburg, stopping at Stockholm, and on her return she left St. Petersburg on October 10th, arriving at Savannah November 30th. But the prestige that the journey had won did not compensate for the heavy expense. Her boilers, engines, and paddles were removed, and she was placed on the Savannah route as a packet ship, being finally wrecked on the Long Island coast. The successful establishment of steam as a means of conveying a vessel across the Atlantic did not come until the spring of 1838, when, on the same day, April 23rd, two ships from England reached New York. They were the " Sirius," which had sailed from Cork, Ireland, April 4th, and the " Great Western," which had left Bristol April 8th. The following year marked the founding of the Cunard Line.
About the same time began the famous Clippers, which carried triumphantly the American flag to every corner of the Seven Seas. They were at first small, swift vessels of from six hundred to nine hundred tons, and designed for the China tea trade. Later came the " Challenge," of two thousand tons, and the " Invincible," of two thousand one hundred and fifty tons. " That clipper epoch," said a writer in " Harper's Magazine " for January, 1884, " was an epoch to be proud of; waters of the Connecticut River, in a boat that the Englishman described as so many fcet short, and so many feet narrow, with a cabin apparently for a certain celebrated dwarf of the period, yet somehow containing the ubiquitous American rocking chair. Going from Hartford to New Haven consumed three hours of train travel; and, rising early after a night's rest, Dickens went on board the Sound packet bound for New York. That and we were proud of it. The New York news-papers abounded in such headlines as these : ` Quickest Trip on Record," Shortest Passage to San Francisco,' ` Unparalleled Speed,' `Quickest Voyage Yet,' ` A Clipper as is a Clipper,' ` Extraordinary Dispatch,' ` The Quickest Voyage to China," The Contest of the Clippers," Great Passage from San Francisco,' ` Race Round the World.' " Runs of three hundred and even three hundred and thirty miles a day were not uncommon feats of those clipper ships, a rate of speed far surpassing the achievement of the steam-propelled vessels of the period.
When Charles Dickens first came to New York, in 1842, it was after a transatlantic journey that had landed him at Boston. There is extant a picture of the cabin that he occupied on the " Britannia " on the trip across that throws an interesting light on the limitations and inconveniences to which early Fifth Avenue was subjected when it visited the old world. Leaving Boston on a February afternoon, Dickens proceeded by rail to Worcester. The next morning another train carried him to Springfield. The next stop was Hartford, a distance of only twenty-five miles. But at that time of the year, Dickens records, the roads were so bad that the journey would probably have occupied ten or twelve hours. So progress was accomplished by means of the Dickens's transatlantic trip had consumed nineteen days. The " Canada, which carried Thackeray, made the crossing in thirteen. In New York Thackeray stayed at the Clarendon Hotel, on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Eighteenth Street; but his favourite haunt in the city was the third home of the Century, in Clinton Place. Though not in the least given to flattery or over-effusiveness in his comments on Americans and american institutions, Thackeray wrote and spoke of the Century as "the best and most comfortable club in the world.