“Yikes! What a Way To Go...New York City's Travel Experience
By Miriam Medina


Part II
New York City's Travel Experience
1822-1853

Researched and Compiled by Miriam Medina
 

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On the 22d of April, 1822, the Messrs. Stevens made a trial trip of the first steamboat placed on the ferry since 1813. This was the "Hoboken." Thereafter it made trips "every hour by St. Paul's Church clock." On the 21st of July, 1823, they received permission to start the Canal street ferry and use steamboats thereon. (37)

BY 1825 NEW YORK CITY had a population of 200,000, while Brooklyn whose only method of transportation was connected by ferry across the East River, was a thriving village of 15,000. The wealthy people traveled by private carriage or coach while everyone else walked.. Picture of Ferry At Brooklyn    (click twice)

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A new steam ferry-boat named the "William Cutting," and of similar construction to the "Nassau," was put on the ferry in 1827. The detentions at the ferry, the poor construction of the boats, and the insufficient accommodations furnished, excited great dissatisfaction and animosity, which found expression in public meetings and by complaints in the newspapers. (37)

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A)  Abraham Brower a New Yorker launched a vehicle called the Accomodation. This vehicle was built especially for Brower by the firm of Wade & Leverich. It resembled a stagecoach. The Line ran from Wall street along Broadway to Bleeker Street, then traveled way uptown.
 

B) in 1829 Bower followed up with a new improved stage called the
"Sociable", which had a rear entrance , steps and handrail. As Brower's
innovations proved to be practicable and profitable, many others began
to enter this method of public transportation.

      (7)

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Stages were next started in Broadway. Four horses began to be attached to the city stages. Several ran from the Bowery to Yorkville, to  Harlem, &c. The four-horse stages pay a license of $20; the two-horse, $10.The fare throughout the city was 12 1/2 cents. To Yorkville was 18 3/4 cents; to Harlem and to Manhattanville, 25 cents. The number of persons, who take the omnibuses is believed to average not less than 25,000 per day. (2)

THE FIRST OF THE OMNIBUSES began to appear in 1830, which ran from Bowling Green via Broadway to Bleecker street. The omnibuses were drawn by four horses. The panels of the omnibuses were noted for their true work of art bearing the names of distinguished Americans upon their sides such as the Lady Washington, the George Washington, The Benjamin Franklin and the De Witt Clinton. Many of the omnibus drivers were beginning to develop an obnoxious reputation for their reckless behavior in the treatment of passengers. These dangerous drivers delighted in racing with wild abandon their vehicles down the street cracking their whips as they would plow through the crowded thoroughfare, running down sleepy pedestrians creeping across the road or any vehicle that stood in its path. The loud outcries, that were heard from time to time, against the drivers of these vehicles were ineffective. This destructive spirit that would possess these drivers would remain unchecked for decades. However, among these careless omnibus drivers there were those worthy of mention that were responsible and cautious, doing their duties as good citizens, equally careful of themselves and of others. They were considered to be" wonderful whips, steering vigilantly, avoiding accidents and dangerous collisions by a hair's breadth." By the time 1835 rolled around, there were in existence throughout the city of New York, at least 100 public omnibuses.

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A) "The New York and Harlem Railroad Company was incorporated in 1831, with a capital of $350,000, for the purpose of constructing a railroad from the central part of the City to Harlem. The total number of passengers carried was 89,094." (8)

B) In 1831, a competitor appeared which in the course of a generation was destined wholly to supersede the canal as a means of passenger transportation, and to a large extent in the moving of freight, although the lower freight tariff by water still
makes the influence of the canal felt. In 1831 the first railroad in New York, and one of the first in the United States, was opened between Albany and Schenectady.(29)

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The first streetcar, a horse-drawn vehicle called the John Mason, went into operation in New York City, on November 14,1832. The street railway were "coaches mounted on iron wheels drawn by horses over iron rails laid in the middle of the street. John Stephenson constructed the two cars for the street railway. Each car with seats for 30 passengers, were divided into three compartments each with its own entrance door. By the 1850s the Second, Third, Sixth and Eighth Avenue lines were established, and others were being built in Brooklyn." (7)

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"April 24, 1832, was chartered the first great trunk line, the Erie, designed to open communication between the city of New York and the Great Lakes through the southern counties of the State. (29)

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A) In 1834 stages started from Brooklyn Ferry, Fulton Street, every hour, for different parts of Long Island; also, from foot Cortlandt Street, hourly, for different parts of New Jersey. (3)

B) At this time (1834) the country road, the "King's Highway" of colonial times, ran crookedly up the hill from the "ferry slip" (now Fulton Ferry), past an old Dutch church set in the middle of the road, and on through Bedford and Jamaica to Montauk Point. (29)

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In 1835 the South Ferry was opened. (9)

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A) The Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad was opened, its first time-table taking effect on April 26 of that year. (10)

Fulton ferry boat Olive branch... Digital ID: 801616. New York Public Library

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The Fulton ferry boat "Olive branch," was built in 1836.

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On March 1, 1837, under the auspices of the Long island Railroad, it was opened through Queens County to Hicksville, and to its terminus in Greenport in 1844. (10)

DURING THE 1840S, New York City was already getting its fill of traffic congestion, vehicular confusion as well as having its pedestrians' lives endangered as they attempted to cross congested areas. Disgruntled and angry citizens appealed to the City council authorities to come up with some plan that would ease the traffic jams plaguing the city as well as making it safe for the pedestrians. The people complained about the presence and smell of horse manure in the streets, the never replaced stinking hay tossed on the car floors to soak up the mud and rain, poor maintenance of the vehicle, overcrowding conditions, and rudeness of the driver to which they were forced to subject to. Not to mention that the crowded cars were a great resort for pickpockets. Many valuable articles and much money were stolen by the light-fingered thieves in these vehicles.

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A) The Fourth Avenue Railroad Bridge was authorized in 1840, and the railroad bridge over Spuyten Duyvil Creek was authorized in 1846. These bridges were built for railroad purposes only. (20)

B) Houston street ferry to Grand Street, Williamsburg, was leased by the company in March, 1840. (37)

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The Long Island Railroad, chartered in 1834, first ran from Brooklyn to Greenport L.I. on July 27, 1844 and was formally opened for public use on August 9. (3)

AS EVIDENCE OF THE GROWING METROPOLIS became apparent, so did its transit needs, resulting in the extension of additional routes and increase of public transportation vehicles criss-crossing the city, as well as going still further beyond the city's limits.

    (11)

The greater part of the vehicular congestion was in the area of the waterfront leading to the ferries and along the downtown area of Broadway. The Broadway line which started at South Ferry, would proceed slowly through the bustling Wall street area confusion of curb traders conducting exchange business, pedestrians, and vehicles, thence-forth to Broadway. This was the most
traveled line. Nevertheless, it is said that over 300 American cities had horse cars by the year 1886.

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On July 4, 1848, the High Bridge at a cost of $950,000 was opened to pedestrian traffic for the first time. Although it was designated a landmark by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1970, the  High Bridge has fallen into neglect in recent decades. The bridge was closed to pedestrians in 1960, soon after the span had become a popular hangout for vandals and delinquent youth who tore out fences and dropped debris on cars and boats below.

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The idea of a surface car line on Broadway had its inception as early as 1850, and a company of thirty was incorporated for the purpose. This corporation, of which Jacob Sharp and John L. O'Sullivan were the prime movers, secured from the Common Council in December, 1852, a franchise "to lay a double track in Broadway and Whitehall or State Street from the South Ferry to Fifty-seventh Street; and also, hereafter to continue the same from time to time along the Bloomingdale Road to Manhattanville." (3)

Photo Credit: Traffic snarl (22)

         

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The Sixth Avenue Street Railway Company was organized and chartered in September, 1851. (34)                                 

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John Martino established the Roosevelt Ferry in 1852 and after various changes of ownership and a temporary discontinuance it was finally and permanently established in 1868. (9)

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A) The charter for the Second Avenue Railway was granted in 1853. The Second Avenue Railway was built and put in operation circa 1855. (34)

B) In 1853, the Roosevelt street ferry to Bridge street, Brooklyn, was established by F.C. Havemeyer and S.J. Tilden, and equipped with three good ferry-boats and ferry fixtures, at a cost of $170,000. In the same year, Jacob Sharpe and associates obtained a lease for ten years of a ferry from Wall street, New York, to Montague street, Brooklyn, supposing the Union Ferry Company would pay a bonus for the lease, but they declined to do so. (37)

C) Greenpoint ferry, from East Tenth street, New York, was established in 1853. Lease dated October 30th, 1853.

D) St. Patrick's Cathedral ferry, from East Twenty-third street to Calvary Cemetery landing, through Newton Creek, was established in 1853.(37)

Sources of Information Utilized

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Next: Part III New York City's Travel Experience 1854-1876

                                                                                              

 

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