Continued from Crooked Lake Review blog
Script No. 418, July 2, 2005
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 this 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.
© 2005 David Minor / Eagles Byte