No. 583
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
November 30, 2022

New York Society Classified.

November 27, 2011
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Fifteen-year-old Jody Randall of Long Beach, California, was in most ways a typical suburban teenager.  The one thing that set her apart was a passion for antiques which was unusual for someone of her youth.  As a result of spending all her available free time (and her parents’ money) on her hobby, she eventually amassed some impressive pieces, including a doll collection noteworthy enough to
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Strange Company - 11/28/2022
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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
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 11/21/2022
Working as a domestic servant in 19th century New York City had plenty of challenges. Sure, servants received room and board in addition to their wages, and they usually had at least Sunday afternoon off. But living in another family’s home was isolating and lonely—particularly if you didn’t speak English or weren’t accustomed to urban […]
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Ephemeral New York - 11/28/2022
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 […]
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Executed Today - 11/14/2022
Museum of the City of New YorkWilliam Howe and Abraham Hummel were the most successful criminal lawyers in Gilded Age New York. With a combination of skill, showmanship, and unethical practices, they defended most of the city’s significant criminals and many of its murderers. Whether they won or lost, Howe and Hummel made every trial sensational. Here are a few of the many accused murderers
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Murder By Gaslight - 11/26/2022
Wishing you a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving Day! Lizzie is thankful for turkey and all the trimmings – and no mutton broth in sight!
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 11/22/2022
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: […]
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Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
The Astor Place Riot | Fight of the Century!

New York Society Classified.

New York Society
New York, New York, 1873 - In New York City there are many degrees or castes of society; probably in no other city in the world will we find so many phases of human life. Some of these, the most palpable, we would consider, and to that end refer them to those three great thoroughfares of trade and travel, the Bowery, Broadway, and Fifth Avenue.[more]
 
The Bowery

 The Bowery Boy is the personification of the New York “b’hoy” with a careless swagger and insolent leer. He cares “nothing for nobody,” but is bent on having a “general good time anyhow.” He is found hanging around porterhouses or corner groggeries in company with others of like proclivities. He is well known to the police, and well instructed in all ingenious dodges for the evasion of legal process. He is an object of aversion to the law-and-order-abiding citizen, of horror to the timid.

We see the Bowery girl with her gay turban and flowing head dress, yclept “waterfall,” aping, so far as her limited resources will permit, the style of her more fortunate sisters. She steps mincingly and stealthily along, casting from side to side covert glances through her semi-masque veil. She is cat-like in motion and demeanor. She works hard on the hoop-skirt or the sewing machine, and as day after day glides by without any special improvement in her social and pecuniary circumstances, she looks to marriage as the only relief from poverty, and often, trusting too implicitly the representations of a “friend,” she becomes the victim, and then sinks rapidly into a sad state of moral degradation.

Broadway

The Broadway swell is clean and fastidiously dressed, with hairs frizzed and mustache waxed and curled, a la militaire. He attends to some little matter which he dignifies by the name of business, but the greater portion of the day finds him lounging about a hotel or promenading the street cane in hand and staring at the lady pedestrians. He has much to do with sham-jewelry concerns, mock-auctions, and faro tables; is generally on the lookout for a green’un whose pocket he will adroitly lighten of his wallet. He believes in the “high life,” and he lives “fast.”

The Broadway belle is an object of much consideration. She saunters carelessly along, indifferent to everything but the admiration of others. She is far from indifferent to fashion, but consults contrast and conspicuity in her mode of dress. Does fashion prescribe a large bow to her bonnet strings, she is very likely to increase the size of said bow and permit long ends to flow gracefully down either side. She is a strange compound of simplicity and affectation, of naiveté and shrewdness, of intelligence and ignorance; at one time charming by her vivacity, at another repelling by her dullness or airy affectedness. She to a great extent controls her own fortune, and is not all the painted toy which many account her. She is the dashing, sprightly spaniel.

Fifth Avenue

The Fifth Avenue blood claims to be of all others, the very

“glass of fashion and the mold of form.”
He dresses exquisitely; his tailors and barbers are artistes, so that his fine (?) shape is displayed to the best advantage. With mustache and side whiskers of the Dundreary style, and eye-glass straining the orbicular muscles, he rides in his shining “dog cart,” or struts daintily along ogling the passers-by. He believes in aristocratic privileges and glories in castes; he is one of the “upper crust.” He is accounted a great catch by eligible young ladies and maneuvering mamas. He is a fair representation, on the principles of comparative physiognomy, of the furry-faced monkey, while the Broadway dandy is a good goat, and the rowdy an irascible bull-dog.

The Fifth Avenue flirt is a craft of a very different rig. She believes in “Full sail,” in crowding on “all the canvas.” Fashion is one of her chief gods, and they who can not come up to its requisitions re dropped out of her “set.” She sweeps grandly along with an air of assumption and importance that is as ludicrous as it is supercilious. She claims for herself aristocratic privileges, and she is not to be judged according to the “low, mean” standard of common people. Her portrait, as we give it, well portrays the purse-proud, stuck –up sentiments which reign within her mind. She may be likened to the indulged, capricious, and fickle poodle.

 


From: The Phrenological miscellany, or, The annuals of phrenology and physiognomy from 1865 to 1873. Rev. and combined in one volume. ed. New York: Fowler & Wells, 1882.