Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Occupations on Parade

The November, 1830, New York City festivities move on to their conclusion.

© 2006 David Minor / Eagles Byte

The parade up Broadway continues moving past James Stuart, with all of the city’s trades well represented. Following the printers, hundreds of mounted tailors, bakers, coopers and butchers, all wearing tri-colored cockades to celebrate the recent French regime change, trot up the broad avenue, filling it from one side to the other. The butchers have gone all out, their steeds pulling four wagon-floats. The lead carries an life-sized ox, “so admirably stuffed and set up, that I was for some time in doubt whether it was a living or a dead animal.” The second wagon carries a band following blacks dressed in oriental costumes; the third a pair of live lambs; the fourth meats being turned into sausages before the spectators’ eyes.

Troops of hatters, masons, carpenters and blacksmiths parade past our Scots visitor. Next come the smiths’ vocational descendants, the makers of boilers and the latest steam engines. Their movable display features a miniaturized steamboat, “furnished with all its equipments, and thoroughly manned with officers and crew, cables, anchors, steering-wheel, bell and fuel, surmounted by flags, ornamented with a portrait of Louis-Philip, with the names inscribed of Fulton, Livingston and Allaire.” The last named was James P. Allaire, a partner of the other two, who would turn out the vessels designed by Fulton and financed by Livingston.

Next Stuart ticks off cabinet makers (with examples of their furniture art), carvers, gilders, coach makers, saddlers, bricklayers, plasterers and tobacconists. Free cigars and snuff, assembled on the back of a wagon, are liberally distributed to the throngs lining the street. Over a thousand firemen follow with 44 engines pulled by everything from the firemen themselves to horses, and blacks in Moorish costumes. The maritime profession is represented by horse-drawn miniature French warships and pilot-boats under full sail.

Another wagon carries a chair-manufacturing shop, crawling with furniture makers producing a maple cane seat chair, the completed object to be presented at the Washington Square ceremonies to former U. S. president James Monroe. On and on the city’s professions are displayed to the delight of the crowd - comb-makers, book binders, Hibernian Benevolent Society members, ropemakers, cobblers, tanners, mule skinners, and many etceteras. Stuart makes his way to the parade ground ceremonies at the end of the route, listens to a prayer and undoubtedly florid and profuse oratory. Then, the mobs break apart and it’s off to dinners in various public establishments, “the evening spent in festivity.”

Looking back on the occasion Stuart has a few observations. He notes the orderliness of the entire proceeding, unaware of a single accident or incident disturbing the public decorum. The windows and doorways were filled with only women and children, the entire male population of the city apparently participating in the procession. He also notes the vast sums spent on the event, calculating that every man involved has laid out an average of three dollars of their own hard-earned money.

We’ll leave James Stuart with his reminiscences until a future time. Next week we’ll see what he missed.

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