A Royal Welcome For The Russian Navy

Flags flew and champagne flowed when the Czar’s ships anchored in New York Harbor. Fifty years later we learned the reason for their surprise visit

No delegation of Russian visitors, the Bolshoi dancers not excepted, ever has been welcomed to this country with anything like the enthusiasm that greeted the Czar’s Atlantic fleet when it dropped anchor in New York Harbor in 1863. The fleet’s arrival was completely unexpected—a point to which we will return—but the American reaction was immediate, spontaneous, and open-armed.

 
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New York’s Bloodiest Week

The draft riots of 1863 turned a great city into a living hell.

We shall have trouble before we are through,” George Templeton Strong, a wealthy New Yorker and staunch friend of Lincoln, warned in his diary one July morning in 1863. Yet the first nationwide military draft, authorized by Congress on March 3 to fill the critically depleted ranks of the Union Army, began in a festive mood.

Puccini In America

New York received the great composer like a god; he responded con brio to its shiny gadgets and beautiful women and produced an “American” opera.

On a cold December day in 1906, the tiny Italian village of Torre del Lago was filled with excitement. Virtually the entire population—120 men, women, and children—milled about its little railroad station to bid farewell to its most eminent citizen, leaving that day for New York. One neighbor, with a kind heart but an abysmal ignorance of geography, had brought along a sausage for delivery to an uncle in Argentina. Others had brought armfuls of flowers, and some had composed sentimental little poems especially for the occasion.

The Know-Nothing Uproar

Maria Monk’s lurid “disclosures” and Samuel Morse’s dire warnings launched a crusade of bigotry that almost won the White House

The congressional and state elections of 1854 and 1855 witnessed one of the most remarkable political upheavals in the nation’s history. Candidates whose names were not even on ballots were thrust into office; others who had been given no chance to win triumphed over long-established favorites; and a political party that had operated in such secrecy that few knew its name and still fewer its true purposes was catapulted into control in a half-dozen states, won a strong minority place in several others, and seemed destined to capture the White House in 1856.

The Honest Man

In a day of rampant money-making, gentle Peter Cooper was not only a reformer but successful, widely loved, and rich.

Around 1875, at the feverish height of the Gilded Age, when conventional citizens were in greedy pursuit of the dollar, when the executive branch was vying with the legislative and the judicial as to which would prove the most venal, when monstrous fortunes lay ripe for the hook or the crook, an elderly gentleman of benign aspect commenced to make some distressing remarks, right out loud and in public. “The dealers in money,” said he, “have always, since the days of Moses, been the dangerous class.”

When They Built The Big Bridge

John Roebling lost his life and his son lost his health, but after sixteen years the incredible Brooklyn Bridge was finished

People living in Brooklyn in the 1870’s were able to boast that their home town was the third largest, fastest growing city in the United States, but they had one major daily headache—getting to work in New York. For, they were dependent upon the terries; and the ferries, delightful though they could be, were in turn dependent upon the weather, fee, log, and wind played merry hob with their schedules, and exasperated commuters talked longingly of the time when completion of the Fast River Bridge would bring their troubles to an end.

 
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They Keep Tearing It Down

The other day they were tearing down the Irving House. It is too old; it has been built at least ten years… New York is notoriously the largest and least loved of any of our great cities. Why should it be loved as a city? It is never the same city for a dozen years together. A man born in New York forty years ago finds nothing, absolutely nothing, of the New York he knew. If he chance to stumble upon a few old houses not yet leveled, he is fortunate. But the landmarks, the objects which marked the city to him, as a city, are gone.

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The Old Fall River Line

Everyone from presidents to swindlers sailed the Sound on “Mammoth Palace Steamers” in the heyday of the sidewheelers

It all began fittingly enough with Robert Fulton, who planned to vanquish Long Island Sound as he had the Hudson, even though he died, at an untimely fifty, just before the attempt was to be made. And the slow funeral cannonade from the Battery had barely died on the wind when his steamboat, unblushingly named the Fulton , paddled up the East River into the dreaded waters of Hell Gate, the narrow passage where the tides rush in and out of the Sound. Read more »