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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Script No. 458 NEW YEAR'S EVE BASH

It had been mid-summer back in 1828 when Scottish

traveler James Stuart first arrived in New York City.

His timing was such that he had missed the city’s New

Year’s Day celebrations by a good eight months.

Perhaps fortunately for him. He might have been

callithumped. There are a number of possible origins

of the obscure word ‘Callithumpian’. Whatever the

source, it’s described in “Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of 

Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words” as,

“a noisy demonstration”. The whole thing was a

British import, as described by historian Stephen 

Nissenbaum's The Battle for Christmas

“By beating on tin pans, blowing horns, groaning

and shouting catcalls, the music was performed as a

gesture of deliberate mockery . . . the callithumpians

 . . . directed their 'rough music' against those who

seemed to be claiming too much dignity or abusing 

their power."

On January 1, 1828, the entire cacophonous shivaree

got out of hand. It had begun up in the theater district

along the Bowery, when a contingent of middle-class

revelers, armed with all sorts of noisemakers and well

fortified with liquid refreshments started tossing

limes (don’t ask me where they found limes in early

Manhattan during the winter) through the windows of

one of the local bars. Then they made their boisterous

way over to the City Hotel on Broadway (where the

Stuarts would put up in the coming summer). After

roughing up attendees at a fancy ball there, they turned

next to a nearby African-American church, bursting

through the street door, smashing windows, breaking 

up the pews, and physically assaulting the congregation

who were gathered to see in the new year. Heading down 

Broadway they looted shops all the way down to the

Battery Park, where they tore down its iron fence and

tossed assorted missiles through windows surrounding

the park where the city’s elite had their town houses.

Then they presumably scattered, stumbling off to nearby

gutters to lie down and make their resolutions.

We don’t hear of repeat performances in the immediately

following years.

Certainly now, in 1830, the Stuarts apparently enjoyed a

much more sedate celebration, since he makes no mention

of any merrymaking at all. The sun rose on a quite mellow

January 1st; the Stuart party caught a steamboat out of 

Hoboken and headed off to Brooklyn Heights to watch

the various sailing packet boats headed for and returning

from Europe.

Stuart reports, “I never witnessed a more animating scene.

On our return  through New York we were surprised to

observe the streets more crowded than at any former

period . . . it is usual for people of all descriptions to call

at each other's houses, were it but for a moment, on

the first day of the year. Cold meat, cake , confectionaries,

and wines, are laid out upon a table, that all who call may

partake; and it seems the general  understanding,

that such a one's friends as do not call upon him on the

first day of the year are not very anxious to continue his


As we’ve seen repeatedly 19th century Americans really

liked to pack away the vittles. Local bakers outdid

themselves creating the ‘confectionaries’ Stuart mentions.

During the holidays they would each advertise their

grandest creations and visitors come around to gawk

at the grandest, before they’re cut.

One of the bakers would seem to have been going for a

Guinness record, had such things existed then.

His cake weighed in at 1500 pounds.

April 15, 2006

© 2006 David Minor / Eagles Byte

Monday, December 2, 2013


Wednesday, December 4
St. Margaret’s
49 Fulton St.

This will be our first meeting since the Howard Hughes Corp presented some plans
for the Seaport to Community Board 1.

Now that we know some of what’s planned for the Seaport, shouldn’t we know the rest? Do we have a choice other than to accept what’s being planned?

CB1 is planning a Town Hall Meeting for January. Let’s brainstorm what should be addressed.

C’mon down!

** * * * * *

Both of the South Street Seaport Museum‘s schooners returned home this weekend!

Pioneer returned Saturday afternoon from Tottenville on Staten Island, where she got some tender loving care at the shipyard.

Lettie G. Howard arrived home this morning from Portland, Maine and is now nestled comfortably alongside the Lightship Ambrose.

Please join us on Wednesday and help us make our voices heard !