1Unfortunately no practical measures were at first instituted to
relieve the distresses of the working classes, and advantage was taken of
the opportunity by politicians and demagogues to inflame the passions of the
ignorant and the vicious. On the tenth of February, there appeared the
BREAD, MEAT, RENT, FUEL!! Their prices must come down!
The voice of the People will be heard, and must prevail.
The People will meet in the Park, rain or shine, at 4 o'clock Monday
afternoon, to inquire into the cause of the present unexampled distress and
to devise a suitable remedy. All friends of humanity, determined to resist
monopolists and extortionists, are invited to attend.
Daniel A. Robinson
Alexander Ming, Jr.
Elijah F. Crane
New York, Feb. 10, 1837
Pursuant to the call, fully six thousand persons assembled in front of the City Hall, and Moses Jacques was chosen chairman. There was no lack of
speakers: and the multitude was divided up into groups listening to the
different orators, the burden of each one's speech consisting chiefly of
denunciation of the rich, of land-lords, and of the dealers in provisions,
especially of flour. The chief offender in the eyes of the mob was the firm
of Eli Hart & Co.; and one of the speakers, having aroused his hearers to
the highest pitch, exclaimed:
"Fellow-citizens, Eli Hart & Company have now fifty-three thousand
barrels of flour in their store; let us go and offer them eight dollars a
barrel for it, and if they do not accept it____'
Here he was interrupted, as Patrick Henry had been in a much more famous speech, and concluded by saying in a significant tone, " If they will
not accept it, we will depart in peace."
The hint was sufficient, and the great crowd rushed down Broadway to Dey Street, increasing in numbers and excitement until they reached
Washington Street, when they became a roaring mob.
Hart's store was attacked and the barrels of flour were rolled into the street and broken open, until
some police arrived on the scene, when there was a momentary lull in the
operations. The police were soon mastered by the frenzied mob, and the work
of destruction went on until the appearance of the militia, who had been
hurriedly summoned by the mayor, at sight of whom the mob dispersed. An army
of women and boys appeared during the height of the destruction and gathered
up the spilled flour in pails, bags, and other vessels. Several other flour
stores in the vicinity were attacked during the excitement, and one thousand
bushels of wheat and six hundred barrels of flour were emptied into the
street. The usual result followed, flour became dearer than before, and the
ringleaders of the mob, the politicians and demagogues who had incited them
to riot, went unpunished, though some of their dupes went to prison.
2 The South Ferry
Riot of 1846
Many will recall the old depot at the South Ferry where the Long Island trains of cars entered the tunnel, drawn by the locomotives Jacob Frost, William B. Hunter, Wyandank, Yaphank, Fanny, etc. This was once the scene of a riot, which, in duration, exceeded any in the history of the city. It was a conflict between the Irish and the Germans, the former of
whom in the employ of Messrs. Voris Stranahan & Co., had struck for higher wages. On the 17th of April, 1846, a steamboat loaded with German laborers arrived at the South Ferry, but finding large numbers of the strikers standing on the shore, with stones and cudgels, steamed off again amid hoots and hurrahs. During the day a bystander, mistaken for a German, was shot in the back with slugs, and an Irishman was killed while attempting to interfere with the Germans.
At this time this vicinity was filled with shanties surrounded by hills. The military came and planted cannon on these lines, and remained on duty for nearly a week. They were the Union Blues, Captain Goodchild; the City Guard, Captain Olney; the Fusileer Guard, Captain Dillon; the Columbian Riflemen, Captain
Morrison, all spirited young men. During this time the strikers issued a notice, which read, "To the laborers of New York, two hundred and fifty of your fellow laborers, because they refused to work thirteen hours a day for sixty-five cents, appeal to you for assistance to resist this outrageous oppression."
A ball was given in aid of the strikers at Military Garden on Fulton Street. The Floor Committee consisted of Patrick O'Neill, William McDermott, John Phelan, Francis Masterson, John R. Carr, Martin McDonnell, John Dougherty and Andrew Ford. In the meanwhile the Germans continued to work unmolested while guarded by the military. The strikers next put posters on the fences, calling a meeting on Bergen Hill at 3 o'clock on Thursday, April 21, 1845, which read "to take into consideration the conduct of Carmichael, the contractor, in bringing German laborers in place of those who were willing to give ten hours work a day for seven shillings. The citizens of Brooklyn are requested to attend, as the character of the city will be disgraced by the riots which will follow a repetition of such conduct."
Three thousand persons assembled, and were addressed by the Rev. Mr.
O'Donnell, a Catholic
clergyman, who informed them that sixty cents a day was very little to support a wife and four or five children, but as they had a right to stop work. Had not the Germans a right to continue for fifty cents a day, nay, twenty-five if they chose? He besought them to keep the peace and retire quietly to their homes. Order was restored for a while, but unfortunately, on the evening of April 27, a party of Germans returning home were set upon
by men and woman with their aprons filled with stones. Several Germans ran through the ferry gate with the blood streaming down their faces. Another was taken into Quirk's drug store, on Atlantic avenue, badly bruised, where he was attended by Dr. Chapman, of State street, and Dr. Moriarty. Another was found in Anderson's stone yard, on Columbia street. Several Germans chased down Kelsey's alley were thought to have been drowned.