Perhaps you have never heard of Katherine Lawes. Katherine was the wife of Lewis Lawes, warden at Sing Sing Prison from 1920-1941.
Sing Sing had the reputation of destroying wardens. The average warden’s tenure before Lewis Lawes was two years. “The easiest way to get out of Sing Sing,” he once quipped, “is to go in as warden.” In his 21 years he instituted numerous reforms – and an important part of his success was due to his wife Katherine. Continue reading
In the 19th century extremely violent conflicts took place between mostly Northern Irish Protestants (Orangemen) and Irish Catholics. The Orange Riot of 1870 began on July 12 (known as Marching Day in Northern Ireland), when a parade was held in Manhattan by Irish Protestants celebrating the victory at the Battle of the Boyne of William III, the King of England and Prince of Orange, over James II in 1690. Continue reading
In September of 1862, President Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation. It would take effect January 1, 1863, and free slaves in areas of the nation still in rebellion against the Union. Despite its limitations, free blacks, slaves, and abolitionists across the country hailed it as one of the most important actions toward full abolition.
To immigrant New Yorkers (principally Irish) the Emancipation Proclamation was confirmation of their worst fears – that they would be replaced in the labor market by recently emancipated blacks from the South. Continue reading
Not much has been written about this civil disturbance that occurred on the afternoon of August 12, 1862 when Irish and German stevedores protested against local dock bosses, demanding increased pay for their work, and preventing others from working however when police responded the rioters overpowered them and Chief Dullard and other members of the force injured.
Ultimately the police regained control of the situation with gunfire wounding two rioters and arresting the ring leaders. Continue reading
Unlike most of riots reviewed in this ongoing series, which pitted civilians against civilians and interventions by police or militia forces to restore order, a June 16, 1857 riot was a battle between the forces of the recently dissolved New York Municipal Police and the newly formed Metropolitan Police. Continue reading
This conflict occurred on May 10, 1849 at the Astor Opera House in Manhattan, New York City. When it was over an estimated lay 25 people lay dead and more than 120 injured when militiamen fired into an unruly crowd that had gathered in front of this theatre. Incredibly, the riot was triggered by the appearance at this venue of a famous British Shakespearean actor, William Charles Macready. It seems that he was as involved in a bitter rivalry with an American actor, Edwin Forrest, and each man was revered by a contingent of diehard fans. Continue reading
Generally speaking, riots tend to happen on hot summer days but the Flour Riot erupted on a cold winter night in February of 1837. The attack on warehouses was sparked by a fear that food was being hoarded by wealthy merchants in lower Manhattan and people in the lower classes might face starvation. In reality, the rumors which inflamed the crowd were greatly exaggerated, lasted about a day and the vandalism which resulted was fairly minor, especially when compared to such later disturbances such as the Astor Place Riot or the colossal Draft Riots. Nonetheless, the Flour Riot was a significant affair because it underscored a growing divide in the city between New York’s prosperous merchant class and a quickly growing lower class of newly arrived Irish immigrants. The riot was also memorable because new method of communication, the “penny press,” had helped to inflame tensions. These cheap newspapers, widely available to the poor, had spread dangerous rumors and provoked a mob to attack a warehouse where flour was stored. Continue reading
The origins of this civil disturbance began in early February of 1788 and broke out in mid April of that year. Actually the City’s doctors did not riot as the name implies. However, it had its origins in the illegal procurement of corpses of free blacks and slaves and poor whites by doctors and medical students at an unaccredited surgical training school in lower Manhattan led by Richard Bailey, a Connecticut-born doctor who had studied in London.
Apparently it was expensive and almost impossible for the school to provide corpses for its teaching purposes and the professors and students resorted to stealing them from nearby Trinity Church yard and other local cemeteries including the one for people of color then known the “Negro Burying Ground” Continue reading
This conflict also known as “The New York Conspiracy Riot” was an amazingly intricate and brutal affair that in addition to its local implications had an international twist as well.
In the context of the longstanding European conflicts, English colonists in New York City felt anxious about the French presence in Canada to the north and Spanish colonies in the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River Valley to the South and West. They also felt threatened by a recent influx of Irish immigrants, whose Catholicism might incline them to spy for France and Spain. Continue reading
One of the earliest documented riots in New York State that had a racial component or undertone was the so-called Negro Riot of 1712. It began in the area of a section of the New York City that later became be known as “Five Points” due to the convergence of three streets, Anthony, Cross, and Orange.
At that time the northern limits of British New York were present day Canal St. The population was about ten thousand, of which roughly one-fifth were African slaves. Continue reading