Life In New York City: Random Gossip 1885 #3

Some Non Theatrical Gossip From Across the River
ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR GIRLS in New York society, who is asked everywhere and who moves among the best people, is so shockingly negligent, untidy and careless in her dress, the arrangement of her hair, the care of her hands and so on that her reputation is fast becoming more than local. She is tall, very thin, and might be considered gawky if it were not for her extraordinary manner. No matter where she is she has a look of absolute serenity and contentment, and when she arrives at the theater at nine o'clock and forces ten people to stand while she goes to her seat, she stares at them with such a wearied air that nine out of the ten feel like apologizing for being in the theater at all, and the tenth one wishes he were dead. She is about thirty-two years of age, writes poems and occasional short stories, composes waltzes and is a bright talker. People remember the things that she says and in the absence of a wit in New York society, since William R. Travers has taken to burying himself in athletic clubs, she has become the one noted and quoted oracle. The number of clever people who keep in the swim in society is very small, and she practically has the field to herself. A noticeable thing about her, however, is not her wit, but her appearance. It is incredible that an unmarried woman, and one who constantly moves among people who are fastidious and fashionable in attire, should be distinguished by habits entirely the reverse of all that is cleanly and presentable. Many a beauty has had fewer chances of marrying well than this awkwardly formed but clever woman. For ten years she has been besieged. She has a little money, but not enough to tempt fortune hunters of the higher rank, and the proposals she has had are perhaps entirely due to the charm of her manner, for they certainly would never be brought about by her personal appearance.

THERE CAN BE NO QUESTION OF THE DULLNESS OF THE TIMES. Nobody seems to be spending money in New York, the theaters are but scantily patronized and trades people of all kinds complain bitterly. The streets are filled with professional mendicants and men in the big business buildings down town complain that their offices are frequented by men of all ages and descriptions, begging for a day's work of any sort. First class bookkeepers, accountants, salesmen and clerks who earned salaries running from $2,000 to $3,500, a few years ago are advertising for positions at any terms. In Friday's paper the announcement of three big failures, one for $4,000,000, another for $3,500,000 and a third for considerably more than $2,000,000, attracted little attention. The men in the Stock Exchange are struggling along, scalping, shearing and throat cutting and praying, as formerly, for the return of better times. Wall street has felt the blow very heavily and the brokers are by no means the howling swells they were a few years ago, when to be a member of the Board meant twenty to thirty thousand a year, at least. Members of the Board in those days made Rome howl with a vengeance, but now they are living in boarding houses, complain of their poverty and are the most careful of men financially.

THE YOUNG MAN whom I wrote about in the Eagle some months since under the name of "Jibblets" has achieved further notoriety this week__first, by an escapade in an uptown hotel and then through the publication in the papers of a card signed by his mother, who announced that neither she nor any member of the family would pay her son's debts and warned all people not to trust him. In the sensational articles which appeared in all the papers after the mother had Published her advertisement the adventures of this precocious youngster were set forth at great length and considerable sickening gush was indulged in concerning the feelings of his mother, etc. The fact is the family long since cast him out. They have no respect for him, and it is solely to prevent tradesmen from being swindled that they published the card. There is no necessity of giving the youth's name, which has already become widely enough known. He commenced five years ago by stealing his mother's diamonds, selling them for several thousand dollars and running away to Europe with the money. He is the most desperate little beggar alive, and yet he has a face that is in every sense childlike and bland. He is small in figure, has a high color, mild blue eyes and the face of a stupid boy of 16. When he has money he lights his cigars with ten dollar bills, and when he hasn't he begs, borrows or steals. If he begins the week with $20, the chances are that it will all go for one dinner, and the next day he goes hungry until he can raise the wind again. There is a gang of these young adventurers in New York. They may be seen together any fair day on the avenue, at the restaurants, or on the occasion of first nights at the opera or theater.

I COULD RUN OVER A LIST OF FIVE OR SIX NAMES  of men, or rather boys for none of them are over twenty-four or five, who form a knot of juvenile adventurers. If they have a redeeming trait, it is generosity. If any of them has a windfall and gets hold of any money, it is divided with the others with prodigal generosity. It is the creed of their lives to gamble desperately when the opportunity offers, and, as a desperate gambler is occasionally a winner, when they strike it at all they "strike it rich," If "Jibblets" or any of his friends manage to raise a hundred dollars they will put it on one card, one turn of the wheel or one flyer in oil. Of course they lose many times, but when the luck comes their way at last it lands them a thousand or two ahead. Then the little crowd is joyous until the money disappears. The only difference between them and the bootblacks, who form the east side gangs, is in the refinement of their vices and the cut of their clothes. There is one man who posed as the mentor and guide of this little gang of Swindlers, borrowers, cheats and spendthrifts until he went a little too far, even for their cognizance, and is now out in the cold. He is the most extraordinary instance of absolute contentment under adverse circumstances that I have ever seen. As near as I can judge, the man has not had a penny that he could rightfully call his own in two years. It is said that he is an American by birth, but he has caught the English twang so aptly that even Englishmen take him for one of their countrymen. He has recently grown rather stout, but when he arrived here two years ago he was a capital figure and he had half a dozen suits of clothes which had been made by Poole, of London. All he has left now is one dress and one frock suit, together with a high hat and a silver knobbed cane. He had a ruddy color and a haughty way with him, and the week after he arrived he was the pet of the set of Anglomaniacs who make the Knickerbocker Club and the Brunswick cafe their headquarters. Every day he might have been seen on the avenue, in a stylish mail phaeton or dogcart, beside an aspiring millionaire, and he was invited to a succession of dinners and parties. The fact was eventually disclosed that the man didn't have a penny of his own, and as his acquaintances began to lose things in their rooms and clubs in the most mysterious way, beside being called upon frequently to loan the adventurer money, he was dropped on all side. He is a man of perhaps forty years of age, his hair has become quite gray, but he has a distinguished manner and the air of a thorough-bred man of the world. He has gradually gone down strata by strata until he has arrived at the very foot of the ladder. Only a few nights ago I was hurrying down Sixth avenue from the Racquet Club, and I ran plump into him. He was coming out of a coffee and cake saloon which is frequented by negroes and tramps. He had evidently been eating there. As is always the case after six o'clock, he was clad in evening dress and he looked quite as elegant, prosperous and contented as ever. "Most extraordinary coffee in that place," he remarked, after finding that his cigar case was empty and expressing his delight that mine was not, "that you can find in New York.

IT REMINDED ME OF THE BLACK STUFF I USED TO DRINK in Petersburg several years ago. The Russians affect it there, you know. I don't know what it's made of, but it certainly does not taste like any coffee I ever had except in Russia, and I often come over here on the quiet just to get a sip of it. Try it some time," he said airily, as he waved his hand toward the place and sauntered off," it will prove a revelation to you." If men of this character are so numerous in social life, how much more so are they in a business way. A number of them who live and do business entirely on what is known as cheek is extraordinary. The stories which merchants and particularly men in the dry goods and importing trades tell of the swindlers who start in and make sums ranging all the way from two to ten thousand dollars a year, are astounding. The scheme seems to be anything to avoid honesty, and they apparently find it easy to live by their wits, or they wouldn't stick to it so long. Once in a great while these men are brought up with a sharp turn, as that brilliant young rounder, Allen, was, who spent fifteen thousand a year for several years on a salary of two thousand, without exciting the attention of his employers. Now he is in jail with seven distinct indictments against him. They can be easily proven and his conviction is a certain result, with a term of imprisonment anywhere from five to twenty years. A man who is interested in the case professionally, told me a day or two ago that Allen was told if he would plead guilty he would get off with a very light sentence, as the dry goods firm which he systematically robbed is not anxious to prosecute him. But the prisoner has grown stubborn. He refuses determinedly and decidedly to admit his guilt, although he has privately confessed it and will bring the case to trial merely as a matter of vengeance. He is willing to serve a few more years, he says, if he can expose the methods by which the great dry goods houses do business. I have no idea what these secrets may be, but I am told that they are of pertentous significance, and that they will shake the dry goods trade to the very center of its foundations. It is time we had a rip snorting scandal in some other branch of business than Wall street. The bankers and brokers have had more than their share of failures, swindles, forgeries and the like, and it will be diverting, to say the least.


Website: The History
Article Name: Life In New York City: Random Gossip 1885 #3
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 18,1885
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