No. 582
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
November 26, 2022

The Astor Place Riot

August 15, 2011
...
...

Tag: Pennsylvania

A Jealous Husband’s Mistake.

How a Reading, PA., merchant, broke open his wife’s charmer and discovered a supposed lover to be a harmless female cousin.

2/19/2018

Faxskh Gbapoh

Macrobid 100mg Can I Purchase No Prior Script <a href=http://abuyplaquenilcv.com/>Plaquenil</a> PubMed Montorsi F Maga T Strambi LF Salonia A Barbieri L Scattoni V. Abwyfn

7/10/2017

A Square Meal.

A wolf in search of a square meal helps himself to a baby; Clintonville, PA.

3/21/2016

She Swallowed Her Teeth.

Mrs. Dunsford, of Reading, Pa., meets with a mishap in a theatre.

2/15/2016

Pugilistic Females.

Two Lebanon, Pa., girls live the same young man and biff each other on the street.

1/4/2016

Fatal Soda Fountain Explosion.

5/13/2014

Robbed of Her Tresses.

1/14/2014

Hallow Eve Sports.

The cool reception that some frolicsome young Doylestown girls gave to a verdant beau who was not posted as to the manners and customs of the Pennsylvania Dutch

10/27/2013

The “Prisoners’ March.”

Pennsylvania - Scene in the Schuylkill County Prison at Pottsville - The "Prisoners' March" for exercise in the corridor.

9/17/2013

Attacked by a Maddened Cat.

4/9/2013

A One Legged Baseball Club.

9/11/2012

Steam Powered Reformation.

8/14/2012

Steam Powered Reformation.

8/14/2012

Killed By Cowardly Anarchists.

4/3/2012

Pretty Female Billiardists

1/3/2012

Fbqjwd Atjzxw

Kfarit It quoted Poul Nielson the European Unions EU development commissioner as asking What will this fund do better than what we are doing now. <a href=http://abuyplaquenilcv.com/>hydroxychloroquine for sale</a>

9/5/2011
 "The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan MandijnThings are a bit hectic around here.  The Strange Company HQ staffers are busy dealing with Thanksgiving leftovers.Wikipedia strikes again!Gustave, serial-killer crocodile.A living room becomes a family history art project.Pro tip: If you want it to look like suicide, don't shoot your victim six times.How you can communicate with your cats.  Not that
More...
Strange Company - 11/25/2022
`
Thanksgiving in early 20th century New York City wasn’t just celebrated in private homes and expensive hotel restaurants. Institutions of all kinds across Gotham also honored the holiday with their own commemorative dinners. Hospitals, facilities for the poor, sick, and aged, and even city prisons served up a special Thanksgiving meal—usually along with speeches by […]
More...
Ephemeral New York - 11/21/2022
Wishing you a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving Day! Lizzie is thankful for turkey and all the trimmings – and no mutton broth in sight!
More...
Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 11/22/2022
On this date in 2002, Pakistani Mir Aimal Kansi, Kasi, or Qazi was executed by lethal injection in Virginia, U.S.A. “Real angry with the policy of the U.S. government in the Middle East, particularly toward the Palestinian people,”* Qazi on January 25, 1993 revenged himself on Central Intelligence Agency commuters queued for a left turn […]
More...
Executed Today - 11/14/2022
Mary Barrows, of Kittery Maine, told the coroner that her husband, Thomas, had committed suicide. The coroner was faced with two immediate mysteries; if Thomas Barrows had committed suicide, why did he wound himself five times before firing the shot to the head that killed him? And how had he shot himself six times with the five-barrel revolver found near the body? Mary Barrows and her son-in-law
More...
Murder By Gaslight - 11/19/2022
Shell and Pea Game on the Trail"Sketched from life by M. W. Newberry"San Francisco ChronicleApril 10, 1898(Click image to enlarge)    UNKO MEN AND THEIR TRICKS      A wonderfully detailed description of the modus operandi of Soapy Smith's three shell and pea manipulators along the Chilkoot and White Pass trails. Witnessed and reported by Joseph D. Barry, and published in the San Francisco
More...
Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 11/21/2022
An article I recently wrote for the British online magazine, New Politic, is now available online. The article, “The Criminal Origins of the United States of America,” is about British convict transportation to America, which took place between the years 1718 and 1775, and is the subject of my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: […]
More...
Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
The Sawdust Game | New York Society Classified.

The Astor Place Riot

Astor Palace Riot

New York, New York, May 10, 1849 - The night of May 10, 1849, New York City experienced the largest public disturbance it had seen to date. The Astor Place Riot left at least 25 people dead and 120 more injured. What was the burning issue that led to this night of carnage? It was the question of, who was the better Shakespearean actor: England’s William Charles Macready, or America’s Edwin Forrest.

Edwin-Forrest-Macbeth

Edwin Forrest as Macbeth

Americans had always had a strong affinity for Shakespeare.  Settlers travelling west always took a King James Bible; if they had a second book it was, more often than not, the works of Shakespeare. Though the theatre was a much rowdier place than today—alcohol and prostitutions a given—when Americans went to the theatre, they wanted Shakespeare.  When Pennsylvania born, Edwin Forrest, emerged as talented Shakespearean actor, American theatregoers were ecstatic.  Here was an actor who not only played Shakespeare, but looked and acted like an American.  Strong, handsome, and athletic, Forest played the familiar roles, with a forceful style that resonated with American audiences wherever he went. Edwin Forrest was the first American star

macready

William Charles Macready as Macbeth

On his first trip to England, Forrest’s acting style was well received there too. While in England, Forrest met and became friends with William Charles Macready, that country’s foremost Shakespearean actor. While the two men developed a warm friendship, privately, neither had anything positive about the other’s acting.

When Macready came to America, Forrest followed him from city to city, performing the same play, inviting comparison. Forrest thought of it as friendly rivalry, but Macready did not take it that way.  When Forrest toured England again, he was not as well received and he blamed Macready’s influence. In London, Forrest went to see Macready perform Hamlet, and, allegedly, hissed him loudly from the first row.

In 1849, Macready opened another American tour by performing Macbeth at New York’s Astor Place Opera House, while Forrest was playing the same role a few blocks away at the Broadway Theater. This caught the attention of the gangs of New York who, in 1849, had more power than respectable people were willing to admit.

The gangs in the Bowery and Five Points neighborhoods were involved in theft in all its forms, prostitution, blackmail, extortion; and they provided muscle for various political factions. But more than anything else, the gangs loved to fight. Under normal circumstances, the Irish gangs would fight each other—e.g. The Dead Rabbits would fight the Plug Uglies, who would fight the Roach Guards, etc. But when challenged by their arch enemies, the nativist—anti-immigrant—Bowery Boys, all of the Irish gangs would fight together. On rare occasions, when the conflict was downtown versus aristocratic uptown, or England versus America, all of the gangs would fight together. Macready’s performance provided just such an occasion.

During Macready’s first performance at the Astor Place, the gangs bought up hundreds of tickets and filled the theatre with rude boys (pronounced b’hoys.)  When Macready stepped on stage, they booed and hissed, pelting him with eggs, rotten fruit, and other garbage, until Macready left the stage. He decided to cancel his tour, then and there, and return to England, but New York’s literary elite, including Washington Irving, persuaded him to perform again.

6a00e398244402883300e5538383a58833-800wi

This riled the gangs even more. They were now led by the instigation of nativist journalist and dime novel author Ned Buntline, and Tammany Hall boss, Isaiah Rynders, who was anxious to embarrass the newly elected Whig mayor, Caleb S. Woodhull. They covered the city with fliers calling on workingmen to oppose English rule in New York City.

Three nights after the first performance, the theatre was again filled with gang members, threatening to disrupt the performance, but it was also filled with policemen who managed to quell the rowdies enough for Macready to finish the show. However, outside the theatre, a crowd of 10,000 people had amassed and were hurling bricks and rocks at the building. It was too much for the police, the mayor sent for the state militia –two companies of infantry, a light artillery troop, and forty cavalry men.

The troops fired above the crowd and when that produced no results, they fired into the crowd. When the smoke cleared hours later, 25 men were dead and more than a 120 wounded. Macready, barely escaping with his life, managed to board a train to Boston.

Both Forrest and Macready continued acting but their paths never crossed again. Neither man was ever again able to generate the passionate response of that night in 1849.

 

 


Sources:

  • Cliff, Nigel. The Shakespeare riots: revenge, drama, and death in nineteenth-century America. New York: Random House, 2007
  • Duke, Thomas S.. Celebrated criminal cases of America . San Francisco, Cal.: J.H. Barry, 1910..