Horace Greeley, Nineteenth-Century Crusader

By Glyndon G. Van Deusen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
Interlude

LIFE IN NEW YORK ROARED INTO FULL TIDE WITH the 1850's. The census at the beginning of the decade put the city's population at 515,000, to which almost exactly 300,000 were added during the next ten years despite Greeley's repeated adjurations to "go forth into the fields!" 1 Indeed, the city's increase in size was much greater than the official figures indicated. Counting the New Yorkers who sprawled up and down the North and East Rivers, along the Jersey and Long Island coasts of the bay, beside the Harlem and far up into Westchester County, the total population in or near the city by 1860 had reached some 1,500,000 souls. At least, so thought the Tribune.

The great metropolis was filled with the hum and bustle of business activity. Banks, insurance companies, commercial warehouses, factories and stores, and nearly all the depots for the products of the interior well-nigh monopolized the lower wards. Millions of dollars' worth of business were transacted in those wards with amazing speed and dispatch. Even at the beginning of the decade, the masses of products floating into this district every hour from the Erie Canal covered acres in space, and the trains rolling in on the Erie Railroad every day could be measured by miles in length. Broadway, main artery of the city's life, was alive with activity from five in the morning to after midnight, as laborers, clerks, businessmen, shoppers, and theatre crowds milled along its sidewalks. Even in the deepest hours of the night, shadowy figures moved up and down its length as the street cleaners wielded their birch brooms in the flickering gaslight. 2

The city's dynamic manifested itself also in a host of changes and improvements. Cab fares diminished and the huge, clumsy omnibuses were halved in number as five-cent-fare transportation came in with the horsecars on the avenues. There was an underground sewage system by 1854, even though many houses were still not

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