Part 5 out of 8
officials of the law do not and cannot embrace in the general term.
These are cheap hotels, where women hire rooms without meals, and
receive visitors, with whom they make appointments on the streets, or
in the places of amusement. Some really good houses have been ruined in
this way. By tolerating one or two women of this kind, they have drawn
to them others, and have finally become overrun with them to such an
extent that respectable people have avoided them. Even the first-class
hotels are kept busy in purging themselves of the evil.
The best houses are located in respectable, and a few in fashionable
neighborhoods. In various ways they soon acquire a notoriety amongst
persons having use for them. In the majority of them, the proprietress
resides alone. Her visitors are persons of all classes in society.
Married women meet their lovers here, and young girls pass in these
polluted chambers the hours their parents suppose them to be devoting
to healthful and innocent amusements. Hundreds of nominally virtuous
women visit these places one or more times each week. They come
sometimes in the day, but generally at night. A visit to the theatre,
opera, or concert, is too often followed by a visit to one of these
places, to which some women of high, social position possess pass-keys.
Some visit these places because they love other men better than their
husbands; others from mercenary motives. Married women, whose means are
limited, too often adopt such a course to enable them to dress
The rooms are hired from the proprietor at so much per hour, the price
being generally very high. If refreshments are desired, they are
furnished at an enormous rate.
In other houses, women rent rooms and take their meals outside. They
bring their male friends to their rooms at any hour, as they have pass-
keys to the house. These establishments pass in the neighborhood for
Men of "respectable" position frequently furnish houses for this
purpose, and either engage women to manage them, or rent them, out at
enormous sums. They live in style, and support their families on the
proceeds of these dens of infamy.
The city papers are full of advertisements of these places. They are
represented as "Rooms to let to quiet persons," or "Rooms in a strictly
private family, where boarders are not annoyed with impertinent
questions," or "A handsome room to let, with board for the lady only,"
or "Handsome apartments to gentlemen, by a widow lady living alone."
These advertisements are at once recognized by those in search of them.
Families from the country frequently stumble across these places by
accident. If the female members are young and handsome, they are
received, and the mistake is not found out, perhaps, until it is too
Respectable families are frequently victimized by having dwellings sold
or rented to them which have been formerly used as houses of this kind.
A Mexican Minister to the United States was once caught in this way
rather curiously. Being a stranger in the city, he saw in print the
notice of a splendid house, with the furniture for sale, in West
Twenty-seventh street. He went up and saw it, and was pleased with the
location, the house, the furniture, and even the price. He bought it,
and moved in with his family. He was not located there twenty-four
hours until he found that the house he had bought had been a notorious
house of assignation, and that he was sandwiched in between two equally
notorious houses. Many an oath came from his mouth, when a young or an
old grayheaded Hotspur rang the bell; and many an old patron of the
house has been astonished at being most abruptly told to go further
than the next door for what he wanted. The old Mexican managed to stand
it out six months, and a real estate agent, who had an eye to business,
knowing that he could be tempted to sell out, advertised for a house in
Twenty-seventh street, in the Spanish paper. The bait took--the
diplomatist was happy to sell it for the half of what it was worth;
thinking somebody would get burned, he was glad to get rid of it at any
price. In a few weeks afterward, the house was re-sold for double the
money paid for it, and converted back to its old purposes.
As soon as the sun sets over the Great City, Broadway, and the streets
running parallel with it, become infested with numbers of young girls
and women, who pass up and down the thoroughfares with a quick,
mysterious air, which rarely fails to draw attention to them. These are
known as street-walkers, and it would seem from outward indications
that their number is steadily increasing. The best looking and the best
dressed are seen on Broadway, and in parts of Fifth and Fourth Avenues.
The others correspond to the localities they frequent. They are chiefly
young girls, seventeen being the average age, but you will see children
of twelve and thirteen amongst them. Very few promenade Broadway below
Canal street. The neighborhoods of the hotels and places of amusement
are the most frequented. Some of the girls are pretty and modest, but
the majority are ugly and brazen. New faces are constantly appearing on
Broadway, to take the places of the old ones which have gone down to
The majority of the girls have some regular employment at which they
work in the day. Their regular earnings are small, and they take this
means of increasing them. Some, however, sleep all day, and ply their
infamous trade at night. There are cases in which the girls are driven
to such a life by their parents, who either wish to rid themselves of
their child's support, or to profit by her earnings. We have known
cases where the girls have voluntarily supported their parents by the
wages of their shame. We once heard of two sisters, well known on
Broadway, who devoted their earnings to paying off a heavy debt of
their father, which he was unable to meet. Sometimes these girls
deserve more pity than blame; but a very large proportion of them,
perhaps the majority, act as decoys for garroters and thieves. Hundreds
of strangers, coming to the city, follow them to their rooms only to
find themselves in the power of thieves, who compel them on pain of
instant death to surrender all their valuables. The room taken by the
decoy is vacated immediately after the robbery, the girl and her
confederate disappear, and it is impossible to find them.
The police do not allow these girls to stop and converse with men on
Broadway. If a girl succeeds in finding a companion, she beckons him
into one of the side streets, where the police will not interfere with
her. If he is willing to go with her, she conducts him to her room
which is in one of the numerous bed-houses of the city.
These bed-houses are simply large or small dwellings containing many
furnished rooms, which are let to street-walkers by the week, or which
are hired to applicants of any class by the night. They are very
profitable, and are frequently owned by men of good social position,
who rent them out to others, or who retain the ownership, and employ a
manager. The rent, whether weekly or nightly, is invariably paid in
advance, so that the landlord loses nothing.
[Illustration: Robbed by a Friend.]
The girl leads her companion to one of these houses, and if she has a
room already engaged, proceeds directly to it; if not, one is engaged
from a domestic on the spot, the price is paid, and the parties are
shown up stairs. The place is kept dark and quiet, in order to avoid
the attention of the police. The houses are more or less comfortable
and handsome, according to the class by which they are patronized. They
are sometimes preferred by guilty parties in high life, as the risk of
being seen and recognized is less there than in more aristocratic
houses. These houses have a constant run of visitors from, about eight
o'clock until long after midnight.
The various night lines of steamers running from New York city, are
literally overrun with abandoned women, seeking companions. The Albany
and the Boston lines are made intensely disagreeable by such persons. A
correspondent of one of the New Jersey papers, thus relates his
experience on board of one of the magnificent vessels of a Boston line.
The grand saloon is filled with a throng of travellers listening to
the sweet music discoursed by a band in the upper gallery, employed for
the season by the company. One cannot but remark, with mingled pain and
indignation, the large number of brazen-faced prostitutes and
professional gamblers who saunter up and down the saloon and galleries,
seeking their prey among the unsuspecting passengers.
* * * * *
If a gentleman is seated alone, along comes one of these painted
wretches, boldly addressing him, and to escape her horrible proffers,
he must seek some other part of the boat, or follow the example of
every respectable lady, by occupying his stateroom at an early hour in
the evening. It is really getting to be exceedingly unpleasant and
disagreeable for a lady to travel by this line, even if accompanied by
a gentleman; and let no one permit a female relative or friend to take
this route alone, if they have the slightest regard for the decencies
and proprieties of life. While the band was discoursing sweet strains
of music, shrill screams were heard proceeding from the forward saloon.
The passengers rushed to the scene. A young woman was being carried by
main force, exerted by the servants, below. She struggled fiercely,
biting, striking and cursing! What a horrible sight. One observer, at
least, earnestly trusts he may never behold such an one again. She was
one of the courtesans who had been parading up and down the saloons all
the evening. She had inveigled an unsophisticated countryman into a
stateroom and robbed him. He reported her to the captain, and
threatened public exposure of the transaction before he could procure
assistance! And now her screams can be plainly heard, resounding
through, the gilded saloons, above the run of the machinery and strains
of the musicians.
This method of robbery is closely connected with street-walking. The
girl in this case acts in concert with a confederate, who is generally
a man. She takes her victim to her room, and directs him to deposit his
clothing on a chair, which is placed but a few inches from the wall at
the end of the room. This wall is false, and generally of wood. It is
built some three or four feet from the real wall of the room, thus
forming a closet. As the whole room is papered and but dimly lighted, a
visitor cannot detect the fact that it is a sham. A panel, which slides
noiselessly and rapidly, is arranged in the false wall, and the chair
with the visitor's clothing upon it is placed just in front of it.
While the visitor's attention is engaged in another quarter, the girl's
confederate, who is concealed in the closet, slides back the panel, and
rifles the pockets of the clothes on the chair. The panel is then
noiselessly closed. When the visitor is about to depart, or sometimes
not until long after his departure, he discovers his loss. He is sure
the girl did not rob him, and he is completely bewildered in his
efforts to account for the robbery. Of course the police could tell him
how his money was taken, and could recover it, too, but in nine cases
out of ten the man is ashamed to seek their assistance, as he does not
wish his visit to such a place to be made public.
THE "HUSBAND GAME."
The street-walkers are adepts in deceit. Their chief object is to
procure money, and they do not hesitate to plunder their victims in
order to obtain it. One of their favorite "dodges" is called the
"husband game." This is played as follows. A man is picked up on the
street, after nine o'clock, and carried to the girl's room. He is asked
to pay his money in advance, which he does. The girl then turns the
lights down, and seems about to prepare to retire for the night, when a
loud knocking is heard. The girl, in alarm, informs him that she is a
married woman, and that her husband has returned. She begs him to
escape, or he will be killed. The visitor, terribly frightened, is glad
to get off through a side door. His money is not returned, but the
woman promises to meet him the next night, which engagement, of course,
is never kept. In ten minutes more she is on Broadway in search of a
There are seventy-five concert saloons in New York, which employ seven
hundred and forty-seven waiter girls. The brothels usually termed
dance-halls, are included in this estimate, but, as we design referring
especially to them in another chapter, we shall pass them by, for the
present, and devote this chapter to the concert saloons proper.
Eight years ago, a Philadelphia manager opened a concert mall which he
called the "Melodeon," at the old Chinese Assembly Rooms on Broadway.
This was the first institution of the kind ever seen in New York, and
imitations of it soon became common.
We find the following faithful description of one of these saloons in
one of the popular-prints of the day.
"On Broadway, near--street, we notice, just above the entrance to a
cellar, a flaming transparency, with the inscription, 'Madame X--'s
Arcade.' Going down a few steps, we find our view of the interior
obstructed by a large screen, painted white, with the almost nude
figure of a dancing Venus coarsely painted thereon. The screen is
placed across the entrance, a few feet from the door, obliging us to
flank it, _a la Sherman_, and enter the hall by going around it. We
find the floor handsomely covered with matting and oil cloth. On the
right-hand side, nearest the door, is the bar, over which presides a
genius of the male sex, whose chief attractions consists of a decided
red head, and an immense paste breastpin, stuck into the bosom of a
ruffled shirt. The bar is well furnished, and any drink called for,
from beer to champagne, can be instantly obtained. A significant
feature, and one that easily arrests the attention, is a formidable
Colt's revolver, a foot in length, suspended immediately over the
sideboard. This weapon, it may be observed, is not placed there as an
ornament; it is in itself a _monitor_, warning those inclined to be
disorderly, of the danger of carrying their boisterousness or
ruffianism too far. On the walls are black engravings of the French
school, fit ornaments for the place. But, while we are taking this
casual survey, one of the attendant nymphs, with great scantiness of
clothing, affording display for bare shoulders and not unhandsome
ankles, appears, and in a voice of affected sweetness wholly at
variance with her brazen countenance and impertinent air, requests us
to be seated, and asks what we'll have. We modestly ask for 'Two ales,'
which are soon placed before us, and paid for. While quietly sipping
the beverage, we will glance at our surroundings. Back of the hall--we
are sitting at a table near the centre of the apartment--on a raised
platform, is an asthmatic pianoforte, upon which an individual with
threadbare coat, colorless vest and faded nankeen pantaloons, is
thrumming away for dear life. Out of tune himself, he tortures the poor
instrument in a way that threatens its instant dissolution, rending its
heartstrings, and causing it to shriek with agony, wailing out the tune
that the old cow died to! This is the only piece of music the performer
is acquainted with, judging from the persistent manner in which he
clings to it. What he lacks in musical knowledge, however, he makes up
with intention, and _thumps_ away quite manfully, only stopping, now
and then to call for a drink, with which to recruit his exhausted
"But we have come to behold the chief attraction of the
establishment?--the 'pretty waiter girls.'"
THE WAITER GIRLS.
"Looking around, we see, perhaps, twenty females, in various styles of
dress--some in Turkish costume (supposed to be _houris_ no doubt);
others attired as Spanish peasants; and others still in plain evening
attire. The latter are for the most part far from possessing charms,
and, from their looks, have long since outlived their beauty; but what
they lack in this respect they make up in others. The girl that waited
upon us on our entrance, again approaches, and seeing our glasses
empty, takes them away to be replenished. She soon reappears, and in
response to our invitation, takes a seat beside us, while we enter into
conversation with her. She is a fair sample (excuse the mercantile
term) of her class, and her history is a history of a majority of her
associates. Not unprepossessing in appearance, by any means, Ellen--
that, she tells us, is her name--is twenty-two years of age; was born
in the village of Tarrytown; resided with her parents until she was
eighteen, when her father died. Leaving her mother with her youngest
brother, she came to New York to seek employment. On arriving in the
city, she obtained a situation in a millinery store. Remained there but
a short time; was out of work; had no friends, no money. Would not go
back to her mother, who was poor. Saw an advertisement of Madame--for
'Pretty waiter girls.' Answered it. Was engaged in the saloon; seduced
(partly by promises, and partly by threats), by one of the frequenters
of the establishment--and has since led the life of a prostitute! Ellen
told her story without the least emotion, and when asked about her
mother, carelessly replied, 'She supposed the old woman was dead by
"Such are the effects of vice, and a life of infamy, upon the noble
feelings and natural impulses of the female heart. With an exclamation
of, 'Oh, there's my man!' our attendant suddenly left us, and joined an
individual who had just entered the apartment, and we did not see her
"At a table nearly opposite to our own, are seated a couple, one, at
least, of whom, to even a casual observer, is a stranger to the place
and its surroundings; there is no doubt of it. Wholly enwrapped in the
beauty and grace of his female companion, he is totally oblivious to
all passing around. She is exerting all her arts to entice 'greeny'
into her net, and before long will be counting the amount of his cash--
while he, her dupe, will be, too late, reflecting upon the depravity of
pretty waiter girls. By this time the saloon is crowded with men and
women, of all degrees of social standing. Here is the man about-town,
the hanger-round of the hotels, in clothes of unexceptionable cut and
make, talking earnestly with a female, whose drawn veil conceals her
face--perhaps some unfortunate victim of his lust, or probably his
mistress, come to plead for justice, or for her week's allowance of
money. Yonder is a youth, of, as Sylvanus Cobb, Jr., would say, 'some
eighteen summers,' young in years, but old in sin, who supports on his
knee a _nymph du pave_, with whom he has entered from the street, and
upon whom he is spending his last quarter's salary, or the proceeds of
an investigation into the till of his employer. In that corner, is the
returned soldier, who has just been paid off, and who is now expending
the hard-earned pittance of the government upon some bepainted and
bedizened courtesan, while perhaps his wife and family are suffering
for want of the common necessaries of life. A cry of pain, followed by
a burst of brutal laughter, causes us to turn our eyes to the corner,
just in time to witness a woman fall to the ground, felled by a blow
from the clenched fist of the brute with whom she has been quarrelling.
A moment, there is silence in the hall; but only for a moment. The girl
is picked up by one of her companions--a few rough jokes at her
expense--and all goes on as before. Such scenes are of too frequent
occurrence to provoke comment. Observe that couple descending the
steps; a handsome, almost noble-looking man, but upon whose countenance
is stamped the mark of a dissolute life--upon his arm, a female, her
face hidden from view by a dark veil. They advance to the bar. The
gentleman whispers a word in the ear of one of the girls, a meaning
smile flickers over her face as she hands him a key, with which he
opens a door in the end of the room, and disappears with the female.
Reader, you have seen half a dozen similar couples arrive and vanish
through the same door. Do you know the why and wherefore of this
proceeding? This saloon is one of the most _notorious assignation
houses_ in New York. We might go on and notice more fully the various
personages and scenes, constantly varying, in this house; but we have
neither space or time at present--besides, the task is not an agreeable
one. So, let us leave the murky atmosphere of the 'crib,' and once more
breathe the pure air of heaven."
Bad as they are, the concert saloons of Broadway are the best in the
city. Those of the Bowery, and Chatham street, are mere brothels, in
which no man's life is safe.
Persons entering these places run a fearful risk. They voluntarily
place themselves in the midst of a number of abandoned wretches, who
are ready for any deed of violence or crime. They care for nothing but
money, and will rob or kill for it. Respectable people have no business
in such places. They are sure to have their pockets picked, and are in
danger of violence. Many men, who leave their happy homes in the
morning, visit these places, for amusement or through curiosity, at
night. They are drugged, robbed, murdered, and then the harbor police
may find their lifeless forms floating in the river at daybreak.
THESE houses differ from the saloons in two things--they are lower and
viler, and their guests assemble for the purpose of dancing as well as
drinking. They are owned chiefly by men, though there are some which
are the property of and are managed by women. They are located in the
worst quarters of the city, generally in the streets near the East and
North Rivers, in order to be easy of access to the sailors.
The buildings are greatly out of repair, and have a rickety, dirty
appearance. The main entrance leads to a long, narrow hall, the floor
of which is well sanded. The walls ornamented with flashy prints, and
the ceiling with colored tissue paper cut in various fantastic shapes.
There is a bar at the farther end of the room, which is well stocked
with the meanest liquors, and chairs and benches are scattered about.
From five to a dozen women, so bloated and horrible to look upon, that
a decent man shudders with disgust as he beholds them, are lounging
about the room. They have reached the last step in the downward career
of fallen women, and will never leave this place until they are carried
from it to their graves, which are not far distant. They are miserably
clad, and are nearly always half crazy with liquor. They are cursed and
kicked about by the brutal owner of the place, and suffer still greater
violence, at times, in the drunken brawls for which these houses are
famous. Their sleeping rooms are above. They are sought by sailors and
by the lowest and most degraded of the city population. They are the
slaves of their masters. They have no money of their own. He claims a
part of their infamous earnings, and demands the rest for board and
clothes. Few have the courage to fly from these hells, and if they make
the attempt, they are forced back by the proprietor, who is frequently
aided in this unholy act by the law of the land. They can not go into
the streets naked, and he claims the clothes on their backs as his
property. If they leave the premises with these clothes on, he charges
them with theft.
HOW THE LAW AIDS VICE.
In _Packard's Monthly,_ for September, 1868, the reader will find a
deeply interesting article on this subject, by Mr. Oliver Dyer, from
which we take the following illustration of our remarks.
There is, probably, not a police reporter in the city, of much
experience, who has not seen one of these girls arraigned at the Tombs,
or at some other police court, on a charge of theft; because in fleeing
from the intolerable servitude of some den of vice, she had had to wear
clothes belonging to the keeper--not having any of her own wherewith to
hide her nakedness.
"We will give a scene of this kind. Place, the Tombs, time, six o'clock
in the morning; present, police justice, officers of court, about
thirty prisoners, policemen attending as witnesses, and parties
preferring charges against prisoners. The name of the girl against whom
complaint has been made having been called, the following examination
"_Justice_.--'What is the charge against this girl?'
"_Policeman_.--'Felony-stealing wearing apparel.'
"_Justice_.--'Who is the complainant?'
"_Policeman_.--'This woman here,' pointing out the keeper of the den
from which the girl had fled--a most villainous old hag.
"_Justice_ (to the keeper).--'What did the girl steal?'
"_Keeper._--'Every rag she's got on; bad luck to her.'
"_Justice_ (to the girl).--'Mary, who owns that shawl you have on?'
"_Mary._--'_She_ does, sir;' pointing to the woman.
"_Justice._--'Who owns that hat and dress you have on?'
"_Justice._--'Havn't, you any thing of your own to wear?'
"_Justice._--'This woman owns them all--all the clothes you have on,
"_Justice._--'If they are hers you should not have taken them.'
"_Mary._--'Please, sir, I couldn't stay in her house any longer, and I
couldn't go naked into the street.'
"_Justice._--'It is a hard case, Mary, but stealing is stealing, and I
shall have to send you up for twenty days.'
"And so Mary is sent to the Penitentiary on Blackwell's Island for
twenty days (and sometimes for a longer period), wearing the 'stolen'
clothes; and the hag of a keeper goes back to her den and tells the
other girls of Mary's fate, satisfied to give the shabby garment, in
which the victim was attired, in exchange for the 'moral effect' of the
girl's conviction and imprisonment on those who are still in her
"Justice Dowling, we believe, never convicts a girl of theft under such
circumstances, but gives her accuser such a scoring down in open court
as sends her back to her den in rage and shame."
WHERE THE WOMEN COME FROM.
Let no one suppose that these women entered upon such wretched lives
voluntarily. Many were drugged and forced into them, but the majority
are lost women who have come regularly down the ladder to this depth.
You can find in these hells women who, but a few years ago, were
ornaments of society. No woman who enters upon a life of shame can hope
to avoid coming to these places in the end. As sure as she takes the
first step in sin, she will take this last one also, struggle against
it as she may. This is the last depth. It has but one bright ray in all
its darkness--it does not last over a few months, for death soon ends
it. But, oh! the horrors of such a death. No human being who has not
looked on such a death-bed can imagine the horrible form in which the
Great Destroyer comes. There is no hope. The poor wretch passes from
untold misery in this life to the doom which awaits those who die in
O, parents, look well to your children. Guard them as you have never
guarded them before. Make home happy and bright to them. Encircle them
with love and tenderness. Weigh well your every act and word, for you
may learn some day, when it is too late, that your criminal
carelessness has been the cause of your child entering the path which
leads inevitably down to hell.
The keepers of these dens use every means to decoy emigrant girls into
their dens. As we have shown in another chapter, they frequently
succeed. Mr. Oliver Dyer, in the article from which we have just
quoted, relates the following, which will show how this is done. We
merely remark that this is perhaps the only case in which the helpless
victim has been rescued:
"In the month of February, 1852, Isaac W. England, Esq., formerly the
city editor of the _New York Tribune_, subsequently the managing editor
of the _Chicago Republican_, afterwards editor-in-chief of the _Jersey
City Times_, and now the managing editor of the _New York Sun_, was
returning to this city from Liverpool in the emigrant packet ship _New
York_, in which he had taken a second cabin passage, for the purpose of
learning practically how emigrants fared in such vessels.
"Mr. England did this with a view to exposing the atrocities then
practiced upon emigrants, and which he afterwards did expose, in the
columns of the _Tribune_, with such effect as to be largely
instrumental in the fundamental regeneration of the whole emigrant
business, and the creation of the Castle Garden Commission.
"Among the passengers in the second cabin of the packet ship was a
handsome English girl, some nineteen years of age, from near Mr.
England's native town. The fact that the girl came from near his native
town led Mr. England to feel an interest in her, and he learned that
she was coming to America to join her brother, then living near
Pottsville, in Pennsylvania.
"On landing in New York, the girl went to a boarding-house in Greenwich
street, there to await her brother's arrival--it having been arranged
that he should come to New York for her.
"Mary (for that was her name) had not been at the boarding-house many
days when a German woman called there in search of a bar-maid, and
seeing Mary, she at once sought to induce her to accept the situation.
It is not uncommon for English girls, of the class to which Mary
belonged, to act as bar-maids in England, that being there a
"Deceived by the complaisant manners, and lured by the liberal promises
of the German woman, the unsuspecting English girl accepted her offer
and went with her to her saloon--basement in William street, near
"After one day's service as bar-maid, Mary was bluntly informed by her
employer that she had been brought thither to serve in a capacity which
we will, not name, and was ordered to make ready for at once entering
upon a life of shame.
"The horror-stricken girl, frantic with, terror, set about immediately
leaving the premises. But she was too valuable a prize to be allowed to
escape. The hag into whose clutches she had fallen locked her up in a
back basement room, extending under a grate in the yard, and open to
the inclemency of the weather, and there she kept her for two days and
two nights--the girl not daring to eat or drink any thing during all
that time, for fear of being drugged to insensibility and ruin.
"The only sustenance that passed that girl's lips for eight and forty
hours was the snow that she scraped from the area grating. Nor did she
dare to close her eyes in sleep for an instant.
"And while thus imprisoned, constant efforts were made to intimidate or
force her to the fate to which the keeper of the place was determined
to drive her. For this purpose man after man was sent to her prison.
With some of them a simple statement of the case was sufficient to turn
them from their purpose; but against others she had to fight as if for
life for that which was to her dearer than life.
"But lack of food and lack of sleep began to tell upon her. Her
strength failed, her mind weakened, and it seemed as though her doom
"On the third day of Mary's imprisonment Mr. England, who was about to
start for Rhode Island, bethought himself of his young countrywoman,
and determined to call at the boarding-house in Greenwich street, to
see what had become of her. He did so, and was informed that she had
engaged as bar-maid in the William street saloon.
"Having knowledge of such places, Mr. England was troubled at this
news, and though pressed for time, he determined to call at the saloon
and see what kind of hands Mary had fallen into. He went thither, and
the moment he entered the place he discovered its character.
"On inquiring of the landlady for Mary, he was told that she had gone
to Pennsylvania with her brother, who had come for her two days before.
Something in the woman's manner excited Mr. England's suspicions, and
he told her that he thought she was deceiving him, and that Mary was
still in the house.
"At this the woman flew into a passion, and swore volubly at Mr.
England in several languages. This strengthened his suspicions of foul
play, and he grew more peremptory in his manner of speech. While he was
contesting the matter with the landlady, one of the girls in waiting
passed near him, and muttered something which he understood to be a
statement that Mary was actually in the house.
"Upon this Mr. England took decided ground, and told the woman that
unless she immediately produced the girl, he would go for an officer
and have her arrested. This brought her to terms. She gave one of the
waitresses a key, and an order in German, in pursuance of which the
girl went and unlocked the room in which Mary was confined. As soon as
the door was opened Mary came rushing out, and seeing Mr. England, she
flew to him sobbing hysterically, and clinging to his arm--and cried:
"'Take me from this place, Mr. England; take me from this place!'
"After demanding Mary's trunk, which was delivered to him, with all her
things, Mr. England immediately took the rescued girl to a place of
"Mary's brother had died, as she soon learned, while she was on her
voyage to meet him. But a young New York lawyer saw her and loved her,
and wooed her, and won her, and married her, and she is now living,
happy and prosperous, in Brooklyn.
"But suppose there had been no Mr. England in the case. Or, suppose Mr.
England had gone to Rhode Island, without stopping to look after this
homeless young stranger!
"Why, then, she would have met her wretched doom in that William street
den, and been one of the class about, whom this article is written."
THE WICKEDEST MAN IN NEW YORK
In the July number of _Packard's Monthly_, an able and sprightly
magazine, published in this city, there appeared an article by Mr.
Oliver Dyer, entitled "The Wickedest Man in New York." It was a lengthy
and interesting account of a dance-house, carried on at No. 304 Water
street--one of the vilest sections of the city--by one John Allen, and
of the proprietor himself. As many of our readers may not have seen
this article, we give portions of it, referring them to the magazine
for the rest.
The Wickedest Man in New York goes by the name of John Allen. He lives
at No. 304 Water street. He keeps a dance-house there. He is about
forty-five years old. He is _reputed_ to be worth one hundred thousand
dollars, more or less, and is _known_ to be worth over seventy thousand
dollars. He has three brothers, who are clergymen--two of them being
Presbyterians, and the other a Baptist--and is reported to have once
been a minister of the Gospel himself. He is known formerly to have
been a school teacher, and is a man of education and fine natural
powers; was originally a good man; and is yet a 'good fellow' in many
respects. Were it not for his good qualities he never could have
attained unto the bad eminence of being the Wickedest Man in New York.
The best bad is always the worst.
Take him for all in all, our Wickedest Man is a phenomenon. He reads
the Bible to his dance-house girls, and his favorite papers are the New
York _Observer_ and the _Independent_. He takes them regularly, and
_reads_ them. We have repeatedly seen them lying on the counter of his
bar-room, amid decanters and glasses, along with the daily _Herald_ and
the _Sun_. We have also seen a dozen copies of the _Little Wanderer's
Friend_ at a time scattered about his place, for he takes an interest
in mission work, and 'goes in' generally for progress for other people.
This Wickedest Man is the only entity appertaining to the shady side
of New York life which we have been unable to fathom, analyze, and
account for. But he is too much for us. Why a human being of his
education, natural tastes, force of character, and wealth, should
continue to live in a Water street dance-house, and bring up his
children in a soul-destroying atmosphere of sin and degradation, is
more than we can comprehend.
For the Wickedest Man loves his children. His little five-year-old boy
is the apple of his eye, the core of his heart, and the chief object of
his worship. He never misses an opportunity to sound the child's
praises, and to show off his accomplishments. And all things
considered, the little fellow is truly a wonder. He is crammed full of
information on all manner of topics, and is ever ready to respond to
his doting father's attempts to make his smartness visible to the naked
We have never visited the Wickedest Man's dance-house without having
our attention called afresh to his little son's abilities, except once,
and then he took us round to the school which the child attends, to let
us see that he ranks with the best, and is a favorite with his teacher.
That was on the 28th day of May last, at about a quarter to twelve in
the day time, when we went to No. 304 Water street, to tell Mr. Allen
that the fated time had come for serving him up in a magazine article.
For be it known to the reader, we have had our pen couched at John
Allen for nearly two years. In the year 1865, the Sabbath after
President Lincoln was assassinated, we began an exploration and sub-
soiling of New York city, as to its crime, poverty, want, woe,
wretchedness, and degradation, which we have pursued ever since, as
other engagements would permit. Of course, it was not long before we
found out John Allen. We at once recognized his genius for wickedness,
and made him an especial study. But, as we have said, he baffles us. We
have told him so, and have frequently asked him to help us out of our
dilemma, but he always comes short of the complete thing.
We _think_ we know why this Wickedest Man persists in living in his
Water street den--that we have, in fact, penetrated his secret; but as
we are not absolutely certain as to the matter, we will not set our
suspicion down in print, lest we should do him injustice.
We have said that our Wickedest Man is a phenomenon. We meant this in
its application to the deepest springs of his character; but it is
also, and perhaps equally, applicable to the external manifestations of
those deepest springs.
Has the reader any notion of a Water street dance-house? Concretely
stated, it is a breathing hole of hell--trap-door of the bottomless
pit. You step from the street into a bar-room, wherein lousy loafers
lurk, and which is, in some cases, on a level with the sidewalk, and in
others far below it; and there you are in the general midst of things,
if it happens to be a dance-house of the very lowest class. But usually
there is a 'saloon' in the rear of the bar-room.
Passing out of the bar-room by a door opening in a partition across
its rear, you enter the dancing-saloon, which varies in size from a
room fifteen feet square to a room twenty-five to fifty feet in extent.
Along the wall of this room a bench extends, usually on three sides. In
the farther end of the room is an orchestra, proportioned in numbers
and skill to the prosperity of the establishment. The number of
musicians is sometimes as high as six, but the average is not more than
three. In one of the rear corners of the saloon there is a small bar,
where the girls can drink with their victims without exposing their
fascinations to the unthriftful gaze of a non-paying and censorious
Sitting upon the benches, or grouped upon the floor, or whirling in
the dance, are the girls, varying in number from four to twenty, but
averaging about ten.
These girls are not often comely to the fastidious eye. But to a
sailor, just from a long cruise where nothing lovelier than his
weather-beaten shipmates has for years been seen, they are not without
attractions. So, too, do certain landsmen, of a degraded type, pay
homage to their strenuous charms. But a decent man, in the full
possession and equipoise of his faculties, can only regard them with
sorrow unspeakable, and pity too deep for tears.
The only girl we ever saw in a dance-house, in whom we could detect
the slightest vestige of comeliness or refinement, had been there but a
few hours, and was reputed to be the daughter of a former Lieutenant-
Governor of a New England State.
The first time we entered John Alien's dance-house we found it in full
blast. The hour was eleven in the evening. There were thirteen girls in
the saloon, three musicians in the orchestra, and seven customers
submitting to the blandishments of an equal number of the ballet-
dressed syrens who pervaded the room. Our party consisted of the
policeman who accompanied us, three clergymen on the look out for the
"elephant," Mr. Albert C. Arnold, of the Howard Mission, and the
The Wickedest Man was in his glory. Things were moving briskly. He
gave us all a hearty welcome, ordered the orchestra to do their best,
and told the girls to 'break our hearts.' A vigorous dance followed,
after which the proprietor called out:
'Hartford, go up stairs and get my baby.' Hartford turned out to be
one of the girls, who immediately disappeared and soon returned,
bearing in her arms an undressed sleepy child, wrapped in a shawl. This
was the juvenile prodigy. His father took him in his arms, with a glow
of pride and affection.
'Now, gentlemen, you are writers, philosophers, and preachers; but
I'll show that my baby knows as much as any of you. He's hell on
reading, writing, praying and fighting.'
And without more ado, he stood the sleepy little fellow upon the floor
and began to catechize him in ancient history, both sacred and profane,
and then in modern history, geography, the political history of the
United States, etc., etc., with a result which astounded all. Suddenly
'Chester, give me a song.'
And Chester, for that is the child's name, gave us a song.
'Now, Chester, give us a break-down.' The orchestra played a 'break-
down,' and Chester danced it with precision and vigor, his mother
looking on with delight.
"'Now, Chester, give us a prayer."
And the child recited, first the Lord's Prayer, and then others in
succession mixed with which were so much ribaldry and profanity on the
father's part as cut us to the heart. And here it was that we got a
glimpse of the pre-eminent wickedness of the man-wickedness to him
unknown, and all the worse because of his unconsciousness of it;
wickedness which is leading him to train up that idolized boy in a way
and in an atmosphere which will yet make him an object of loathing,
even to his own heart.
For that dance-house child there seems to be no spiritual hope. The
sacred and the profane are so intermingled in his childish
understanding, that he will never be able to tell which is sacred and
which is profane; and his nature being dogged and combative, he will
grow up into the highest possible type of wickedness, if he grows up at
all. Of the thousand of painful cases wherewith we have met in this
city, that of little Chester Allen gives us about the keenest pang.
After the infant phenomenon had been sent back to bed, his father
asked our party if we wouldn't 'mix in' and have a dance with the
'It'll do you good,' said he, 'to trip it a little on the light
fantastic. Besides, I like to do the fair thing by distinguished
visitors. I'm fond of literary people, and especially of clergymen.
I've three brothers myself who adorn the sacred calling; and grit and
grace run through our family, like the Tigris and the Jordan through
the Holy Land. Go in, gentlemen; the girls shan't hurt you. I'll watch
over you like a hen over her chickens, and you shall leave my premises
as virtuous as--_you came in!_ Ha, ha! Come, what shall it be?'
On being assured that we would not 'trip it on the light fantastic,'
he asked us if _we_ (that is, our party) would not favor the girls with
a song, whereupon Mr. Arnold suggested that we should all sing
together, and asked the girls what they would like best. Several of
them immediately responded in favor of 'There is Rest for the Weary.'
'Do _you_ know _that?_ one of the clergymen asked.
'Yes;' answered at least half-a-dozen of the girls.
'Where did you learn it?' asked another of the clergymen.
"'At Sabbath-school," was the reply.
We all looked at one another. Here was a revelation. These girls had
been brought up to attend Sabbath-school! Perhaps they were the
daughters of Christian parents! But we had not time to pursue this
painful speculation, for the girls began to sing--
'In the Christian's home in Glory
There is a land of rest;
And my Saviour's gone before me,
To fulfil my soul's request.
'CHORUS: There is rest for the weary,
There is rest for you,
On the other side of Jordan,
In the sweet fields of Eden,
Where the Tree of Life is blooming,
There is rest for you.'
And oh, with what fervor and pathos they sang--especially the chorus--
which, at the end of each verse they sang three times over; some of
them, at last, weeping as they sang. What girlish memories, those
sweet, simple strains evoked! Memories, perhaps, of once happy homes,
and affectionate Sabbath-school teachers, and beloved companions, so
sweetly contrasting with their dance-house condition. And so, those
soul-weary creatures lingered fondly upon, and repeated over and over
again, the lines:
'On the other side of Jordan,
In the sweet fields of Eden,
Where the Tree of Life is blooming,
There is rest for you.'
Since that occasion we have repeatedly visited the abode of the
Wickedest Man in New York, for the purpose of 'studying him up,' and of
trying to hit upon some means of inducing him to abandon his course of
life, and of saving his boy. For in truth we not only feel an interest
in, but also rather like him, wicked as he is. And so does nearly
everybody whom we have taken to see him; and we have taken scores--most
of them clergymen.
But all our efforts to get any vital hold upon him have been in vain.
He is always cordial; always ready to let the girls 'have a spiritual
sing;' will even permit a little exhortation to them in his dancing
saloon; and is free with his _Observer_ and _Independent_. But he keeps
on his way with unyielding pertinacity.
On one occasion a party of us suggested that he should let us hold a
prayer-meeting in his saloon. After a little reflection, he replied:
'Well, no, gentlemen, I can't go _that_. You know that every man must
have regard to his profession and the opinion of his neighbors. What
with my _Observer_ and _Independent_, and you fellows coming here and
singing camp-meeting hymns, I am already looked upon in the
neighborhood as being rather loose and unsound; _and if, a-top of all
that, I should let you hold a prayer-meeting here, I should lose what
little character I've left.'_
But our friend Arnold, of the Howard Mission, was determined to
achieve the prayer-meeting. And during the fourth week in May last,
when there were many of his clerical friends in the city, Mr. Arnold
thought he'd bring a heavy spiritual cannonade to bear on Allen, and
see what would come of it. So, on Monday night, May 25th, after a
carefully conducted preliminary season of prayer, an assaulting party
was formed, including six clergymen from different parts of the
country, to march upon the citadel of the enemy. When we arrived, it
was half past twelve; the window-shutters were closed, and we feared we
were too late. But a light shone through the window over the door, and
on application we were admitted, and received a hearty welcome. Allen
was just then undergoing a shampooing process; for the purpose, as he
frankly stated, of enabling him to go to bed sober. He added:
'You see, gentlemen, it won't do for a business man to go to bed
drunk, nor for a literary man either. So now, you just take my advice,
and whenever you find yourself drunk about bedtime, you just take a
good shampoo, and you'll find the investment will pay a big dividend in
the morning. But walk into the saloon, gentlemen; walk in. The girls
are in there taking a rest and a smoke, after the arduous duties of the
evening. Walk in.'
We walked in, and found the girls smoking pipes, and sitting and
lounging about the room. In a few minutes Allen came in and proposed to
have the girls dance for us, but we declined.
'Well then, Arnold, let's have a song,' he exclaimed.
Mr. Arnold, as usual, asked the girls what they would like to hear,
and they at once asked for their favorite--'There is Rest for the
'Here, mother, give me my fiddle,' said Allen to his wife, 'and bring
out the books,' meaning the _Little Wanderer's Friend_, of which he
keeps a supply.
The books were got out by one of the girls, the fiddle was handed him
by his wife, and Allen led off on the treble, all hands joining in.
There were eleven girls in the room, and they sang in the chorus with
unusual fervor, even for them. As soon as this song was finished, a
couple of the girls, simultaneously, asked for 'There's a Light in the
Window for Thee, Brother,' which was sung with emphasis and feeling.
At the conclusion of the last-mentioned song, Mr. Arnold believed that
the appointed hour had come, and, tapping Allen on the shoulder, he
'Well, John, old boy, give us your hand: I feel just like praying here
Allen took the extended hand and gruffly said, 'What, _pray?_ Do you
mean pray? No, sir, never!'
'Well, John, responded Mr. Arnold, 'I am going to pray here, anyhow.
If I don't pray loud I'll pray soft. You shan't lose the prayer, at any
'Well, Arnold, mind, now, if you pray _I won't hear you;_ mind that. I
don't know any thing about it. I won't hear you.'
And backing slowly out of the room, and repeating, 'I won't hear you,'
over and over again, Allen went through the door leading to the bar,
and closed it after him.
Mr. Arnold then invited the girls to join in prayer with him, which
they did, some of them kneeling on the floor, as did the visitors, and
others bowing their heads upon their hands, while Allen peered through
the window of the partition door upon the singular scene.
Mr. Arnold's heart was almost too full for utterance, but his fervor
soon unloosed his tongue, and he poured out a simple, direct, and
heartfelt prayer, which told powerfully upon the hearers. Many of the
girls arose, sobbing, to their feet, and several of them crowded around
Mr. Arnold, and begged him, in the name of God, to take them from that
place. They would work their hands off, if honest work could be got for
them; they would submit to any hardship if they could only be restored
to opportunities for virtue and a Christian life.
Poor Arnold! He was the picture of despair. It came upon him, all at
once, that there is no help for such, this side the grave. He had at
last conquered his opportunity, and prayed with these children of sin
and shame, and now that they were calling upon him to answer his own
prayer--to give them a chance to eat the bread of life--he had to put
them off with the stone of evasion.
Take them from that place! Where could he take them? In all this
Christian land there is not a Christian home that would open its doors
to a repentant female sinner, except to turn her out of the house.
On calling upon Mr. Arnold the next day, we found him in the room at
the Mission, with his head bowed upon the table, as though in prayer.
Looking up at us with blazing eyes, exclaimed:
'Sir, what is to be done about this?'
'About what?' we asked.
'These poor girls,' he replied. 'I have been thinking and praying, and
praying and thinking over it all night, but I can see no light. Sir,
(pressing his head between his hands,) I shall go mad.'
There are about forty dance-houses in Mr. Allen's neighborhood; that
is to say, within a half mile square, of which No. 304 Water street is
the centre. The average number of girls in each of these houses, the
season through, is ten, making four hundred in them all. So that, to
feed this half mile square of infamy requires eighty fresh girls per
annum. To feed the entire city, requires an average of two thousand one
hundred and ninety-four a year, _which is a trifle over six a day,
Sunday included!_ Six fresh girls a day from the Sabbath-schools and
virtuous homes of the land, to feed the licentious maw of this
metropolis of the western world.
THE WATER STREET REVIVAL.
The result of the publication of Mr. Dyer's article, was to centre upon
John Allen an unusual share of public attention. Certain clergymen in
the city, thinking the occasion a proper one for endeavoring to create
a religious awakening amongst the worst classes of the city, determined
to endeavor to induce John Allen to abandon his wicked ways, and lead a
better life, hoping that his conversion would have a powerful influence
upon his class. They went to work. On the 30th of August, 1868, John
Allen's house was closed for the first time in seventeen years. A
handbill posted on the door, contained the following announcement:
THIS DANCE-HOUSE IS CLOSED.
"No gentlemen admitted unless accompanied by their wives, who wish to
employ Magdalenes as servants." On the next day it was announced that
Allen had abandoned his infamous vocation, never to resume it.
In order to do justice to all parties, we give the following, which
states the case of the originators of the revivals in their own words.
The paper is signed by J. M. Ward, M.D.; Rev. H. C. Fish, D.D.; Rev. W.
C. Van Meter; A. C. Arnold; Rev. W. H. Boole; Rev. F. Browne; Oliver
Dyer; Rev. Isaac M. Lee; Rev. Mr. Huntington.
The facts are as follows:
_First_.--At midnight on Saturday, the 29th day of August, 1868, JOHN
ALLEN closed his dance-house, No. 304 Water Street, where he had for
nearly seventeen years kept a rum shop and house of prostitution. As
soon after such closing of the dance-house as the rooms could be
arranged for the purpose, a prayer-meeting was held in the dancing
saloon, with the concurrence of Mr. ALLEN and his wife. This meeting
was begun at about half an hour after midnight, and continued until one
o'clock in the morning. It was conducted and participated in by Messrs.
ALBERT C. ARNOLD, Rev. H. C. BEACH and OLIVER DYER; and there were
present Mr. and Mrs. ALLEN, the girls of the establishment, and a
couple of ALLEN's neighbors, one of whom had been a liquor seller in
the Fourth Ward for twenty years.
_Second_.--On the next day, the Sabbath, Mr. ALLEN attended worship,
in the afternoon, at the Howard Mission, and then and there publicly
announced that he had closed his dance-house, never to open it again
for any evil purpose. On the evening of the same day, a public prayer-
meeting was for the first time held in ALLEN's house, hundreds of
persons of all classes crowding the premises, among whom were some of
the most abandoned characters of the neighborhood.
_Third_.--Since these meetings were begun, they have been continued
daily from noon till one o'clock, P. M., in Mr. ALLEN'S house; and on
Sabbath, there have been large outdoor meetings in front of the
premises. On the 11th of September, the house of THOMAS HADDEN, No. 374
Water street, kept as a low groggery and sailor's boarding-house, was
also opened for religious services, at the hour of 12 o'clock; the
rooms being filled to overflowing, multitudes being unable to enter. At
the same hour a prayer-meeting was in progress at Allen's, and another
upon the sidewalk opposite, to accommodate those who could not get
within the doors at either Allen's or Hadden's.
[Illustration: Noon-Day Prayer Meeting at "The Wickedest Man's" Dance-
_Fourth_.--These meetings have been attended and sustained by
Christians of all denominations, and have uniformly been characterized
by extraordinary fervency and power. The congregations have been, to a
considerable extent, composed of sailors and residents of the Ward,
(the Fourth,) which is known as the worst ward in the city. Some of the
most wretched outcasts of this infamous locality have been present, and
have, in several instances, requested prayer and private religious
instruction; some cases resulting, as it is hoped, in their permanent
reformation and conversion.
THE OTHER SIDE.
It is hardly possible that such religious demonstrations as the prayer-
meetings which were held in Water street in September, 1868, could fail
to do good to some one. The friends of the movement, however, made a
grave mistake in announcing and spreading the report of John Allen's
conversion, and even in allowing him to take part in their meetings,
when it was known to them that he was not even a repentant, much less a
converted man. The announcement of his conversion set on foot an
inquiry, on the part of the press of the city, the results of which are
thus stated by the _New York Times_, of September 19th.
The highly sensational stories concerning the 'wickedest man in New
York,' with which the eyes and ears of the public have been regaled of
late, have awakened an interest in John (Van) Allen such as has not
been felt since the ever memorable reformation of 'Awful' (Orville)
Gardner, the notorious pugilist and gambler, who, nearly eleven years
ago, suddenly forsook the prize ring and the card table, with their
vile associations, and began to live like an honest man, and a
respectable member of society. Gardner was for several years a
companion of Allen's in a line of open, shameless sinning, and was
classed with the very lowest strata of humanity. When his 'conversion'
was announced there were few that believed in the man's sincerity,
while fewer still had any faith in the thoroughness or probable
perpetuity of the reformation. Gardner deceived the masses of his
fellows, however, by adhering strictly to his solemn pledge to 'serve
God in the future as zealously as he had served Satan in the past,' and
to this day he has indorsed that oath with a life of the most
The same depth of popular interest that was born with the reformation
of the prize-fighter and gambler, in 1857, was brought forth recently,
when the community was startled with the strange news that the King of
Water street dance-house keepers had abandoned his wicked business,
and, like his associate of old, had promised to devote the remainder of
his days to serving the highest interests of mankind. That Gardner was
sincere and earnest, and that his motives were pure and unselfish, when
he promised to be a better man, time has fully vindicated; but that
Allen deserves the same commendation is, to say the least of it, very
questionable, as is shown by the inconsistencies of his brief
probationary career. To speak plainly, it is no more a matter of doubt
that the religious community has been grossly imposed upon, with
reference to the Water street 'revival,' as will be seen by glancing at
a few stubborn facts that cannot be reconciled to a more favorable
theory. Upon whose shoulders the guilt of this deception rests, may not
have been discovered, but, most assuredly, the righteous indignation of
the public will fall, unsparingly, upon whoever may deserve its
The facts, negatively stated, are briefly and plainly these: There is
not a religious revival in progress among the wretched dwellers in
Water street dance-halls, and sailors' boarding-houses, nor has there
been of late, as represented to the public. Neither Allen, Tommy
Hadden, Slocum, nor 'Kit' Burns are 'converted' or reformed men, all
accounts to the contrary notwithstanding. The whole movement originated
several months ago, in the efforts of the colporteurs of a certain
mission, to ameliorate the condition of sailors and fallen women of the
Fourth Ward. House-to-house visits were made by the missionaries for a
considerable length of time, but without accomplishing all that was
desired. At length it was decided that an unusual and sensational
method should be taken to arouse Water street, and Water street was
accordingly aroused. Allen was selected as the victim against whom the
shafts of religion should be specially levelled, and they were,
therefore, directed toward him. Two articles appeared in a certain
magazine, calling attention to Allen as the 'wickedest man in New York'
and in a short time he was the most notorious character in the country.
The aim of the article in question was evidently to shame John Allen
into a change of life, and thus to obtain a foothold among his vile
neighbors and companions in sin. The stroke was a bold one, but it
utterly failed in its purpose to soften John's heart. The result,
however, was that thousands of religious persons--clergymen and
others--thronged his house daily, either from a motive of curiosity, or
of inducing John to abandon his wicked life and become a religious man.
This he sternly refused to do, threatening to throw any preaching or
praying people, who might come there, out of doors. The rush of
visitors of the better classes to his house entirely destroyed his
business, and for weeks he did not make a dollar of profit in his usual
way. Finding that Allen could not be coerced into a reformation, and
fearing that the game would be lost, his religious shepherds made a
proposition to him to hire his house for one month, to October 1, for
daily prayer meetings, and such arrangement was, after some discussion,
perfected. For the use of the rooms it is known that a check for three
hundred and fifty dollars was passed to Allen, last week, by a party
controlling the movement, and the house is now in legal possession of
the drawer of the check. Allen's prayers, songs, and exhortations, with
which he interested the praying dupes who gathered to his house, were
assuredly bogus, and, after being continued for two or three days, they
were abandoned, and thereafter, in drunken obliviousness or cunning
reticence, the 'wickedest man' passed his time, avoiding visitors, and
talking only when compelled to do so. What he purposes to do hereafter
will be learned in the course of this article. So much for Alien's
falsely reputed conversion!
As for the other men's reformation, that is as absolutely a piece of
humbuggery as Allen's. Tommy Hadden is playing the pious with the hope
of being secured from trial before the Court of General Sessions for
having recently 'shanghaed' a Brooklynite, and also in consideration of
a handsome moneyed arrangement with his employers--similar to that with
Allen. 'Kit' Burn's rat-pit will also be opened for religious services
on Monday next; but the public need not be deceived in the matter of
his reformation. His motive, like that of the others, is to make money,
and, be it known, that he is to receive at the rate of one hundred and
fifty dollars per month, for the use of his pit an hour every day.
Slocum desired prayers at the Howard Mission, on Sunday last, but it is
understood that he is not to be lionized, because the missionaries are
not willing to pay him a high enough rental for his hall. As for the
general movement carried on in Water street, under the false pretence
that these men have voluntarily, and from purely religious motives,
offered their saloons for public worship, and have, themselves,
determined to reform, very little more need be said. The daily prayer-
meetings are nothing more than assemblages of religious people from
among the higher grades of society, in what were once low dance-halls.
There is an unusual amount of interest displayed at these meetings, and
much good has, doubtless, been accomplished thereby, but it is also a
fact, that there are but a few, and sometimes none, of the wretched
women, or ruffianly, vicious men, of that neighborhood, present. Those
classes are not reached at all, and it is false to say that a revival
is going on among them. The character of the audiences and the
exercises are similar to that of the noon meeting at the Fulton street
With a view of sounding Allen on various points of public interest,
connected with this exciting affair, the writer, on Thursday, paid a
visit to the devildom of which Allen is monarch, and there saw and
heard some things that are worth the reader's attention. The house, 304
Water street, was easily found. Opening the door that leads from the
Street into the apartment that once served as a bar-room, he (the
writer) asked if Mr. Allen was at home, and he was informed by a lad to
whom the inquiry was addressed, that he was not--he was across the
street talking to Slocum, (the proprietor of a neighboring dance-hall,)
and if the business upon which the visitor had called was important he
would be summoned. Allen was accordingly sent for, and with evident
reluctance he accompanied the lad to the room of which we have spoken.
The moment he entered, it was easily seen that he was grossly
intoxicated. His step was steady, but the wandering expression of his
bloodshot eyes, the silly grin that played about his lips, and the
unmistakable rum-odor of his breath, as he approached, made it certain
that he was a drunken man. He did not wait for the formalities of an
introduction, but at once opened with: 'Well, who are you? What's your
name? Where do you live? What's your business--salvation, sinners,
eh?'--all at a single breath, and with a rapidity that would defy the
pencil of the most skilful stenographer. There was an air of
imperiousness, too, in his tone of voice, that seemed to say, 'Come,
talk quickly now, and then go about your business; I have no time to
waste.' The inquiries, in the main, having been answered, Allen closed
the door of the saloon, dragged a small table and two chairs into the
middle of the floor, and, having done this, and dismissed the boy and a
hideous-looking girl, who was preparing to scrub the apartment, he bade
us be seated, and then resumed the conversation, which was carried on
in something like the following manner:
'Well, Mr. Allen, what do you desire to say to the public about this
'Don't know what to say about it--it's all right, I guess. You can
tell 'em that those prayin' "fellers" have broken all my cane chairs,
and I've had to get wooden ones--guess they can't break them. Broke my
glass there, too, smashed it in, and they smash everything they touch.
Somebody stole my coat, too--I'd like to catch him. I don't much like
them prayin' folks, anyhow,' he said.
'Why?' was the rejoinder, in evident surprise, 'the public has been
led to believe that you were "converted," John, and that you loved
Christian people--there will be great surprise when it is made known
that such is not the case.'
'Oh!' he returned, interrupting the visitor, 'I'm reformed, and I've
made up my mind to serve my great Redeemer as long as he lets me live.
I'll never go back on Him, true as you live. I'm just a goin' to let
the world know that I'm a second Apostle Paul--there ain't a goin' to
be anybody beat me in this line of business, sure's my name is John
'What do you mean by "a second Apostle Paul?"' we ventured to ask.
'What do I mean?' was the reply. 'Why, I mean just what I say; I'm
goin' to study for a preacher, and I'm goin' to sweep everything in
this street. If one church won't have me, another will; and I'll tell
these wicked sinners in the world that they'd better look out for
themselves, or they'll wake up some fine morning in hell fire.'
'You say that you are going to preach, John. Do you suppose that
people will hear you from the pulpit, unless you stop drinking rum?'
'Who told you I drank rum?' he asked, fiercely--and without waiting
for a reply, continued: 'I never was drunk in my life. I take a glass
now and again, when I feel the need of it; and lately I've been
tapering off. I am going to stop it, by-and-by, when I get ready.'
THE LAST OF THE WICKEDEST MAN.
The last appearance of the "wickedest man" in public, was a short while
ago, when he and his wife, and several of his girls, were arraigned
before Justice Dowling, at the Tombs Police Court, on the charge of
robbing a sailor of fifteen dollars. The trial, as reported in the
daily journals, was a severe commentary upon the revivals, and those
who had been conducting them. The following is the account of it:
John Allen and wife, and several girls, who have made that saintly
personage's house their home, were before Justice Dowling yesterday
morning, to answer a number of damaging charges--among them, keeping a
resort for thieves, gamblers, and prostitutes, and robbing Benjamin
Swan, a seaman. The story may be best told by the victim, who was
examined by Justice Dowling, as follows.
_Justice_.--'Tell me, Swan, how this robbery occurred.'
_Swan_.--'Well, your Honor, I was going along Water street, on Friday
night, and was picked up by the girl, and taken to a private room in
the house of Allen. I gave Mrs. Allen five dollars, to pay for drinks,
etc.; and during the night, my bedfellow, Margaret Ware, took from my
pantaloons pocket fifteen dollars, which she said she gave to Mrs.
Allen to keep. When I asked it back, they would not give it to me. I am
sure it was John Allen's house.'
The testimony of this witness having been taken, Captain Thorne made a
formal complaint against John Allen for keeping a disorderly house.
_Justice_.--'How do you know that he keeps a disorderly house,
_Captain_.--'I take it on the testimony of this man, who has been
_Justice_.--'Yes, but you must have stronger testimony than that. The
law says that it requires more than one act to constitute a disorderly
_Captain_.--'I have policemen here to prove that it is disorderly.'
_Justice_.--'Allen, what do you say to this charge?'
_Allen_.--'Your Honor, during the past six weeks I have done no
business. My house has been used all the time for prayer-meetings.'
_Justice_.---'What about the robbery of this man?'
_Allen_.--'I have nothing to say about it, for I was not at home last
night. I know very well that the captain does not want to have me
locked up. We have always been good friends, haven't we, captain?'
_Captain_.--'I have nothing to say about it.'
_Allen_.--'If no charge is made, I promise to have nothing to do with
_Justice_.--'Do you mean to say that politics had any thing to do with
_Allen_.--'I don't say anything at all about it, your Honor.'
_Justice_.--'Then why do you hint at it?'
_Allen_.--'I will promise not to interfere one way or the other, if I
am allowed to go.'
The court loungers, who know something of the peculiar politics of the
Fourth Ward, here laughed immoderately.
_Justice_.--'You go to the captain, and tell him all about it.'
_Allen_.--'I won't vote at all if I am let go. I always keep in with
the police.' (Laughter.)
_Allen_.--'Only for the kindness of the police, I never could have
kept my place so many years. They have always been my friends.'
_Justice_.--'How long is it since you have had any prayer meetings in
_Allen_.--'About eight days.'
_Justice_.--'You have got through with them, then, have you?'
_Allen_.--'Well, yes, they are not held in my house any more, but they
do be held at Jim Miller's, next door, all the same.'
_Justice_.--'I believe those praying fellows are the most disorderly
persons in Water street. Captain, if you would arrest them, some time,
and charge them with disorderly conduct, I think you would be doing
good service to the community, for their religious gatherings have been
Margaret Ware was committed for trial, and John Allen was held on
three hundred dollars bail to answer at the Special Sessions. Daniel
Creedon, lodging-house keeper, who represents ten thousand dollars in
real estate, became John Allen's bondsman. John says that Oliver Dyer
caused his arrest and that the whole thing was a 'put up job.'
We grant, without hesitation, that those who originated and carried on
the Water street revivals, were influenced by worthy motives; but,
having given both sides of the case, we maintain that the whole affair
was a grave mistake. There was no genuine conversion of the principal
characters, and this fact was soon made evident. The public became
disgusted with the sham. The class for whose benefit the movement was
designed, has been morally injured by it. Good people are made chary of
engaging in schemes for the conversion of bad characters, lest they
should be drawn into another "John Allen affair," and the wretches who
were to have been saved, having been quick to detect the deceit
practiced in the matter, denounce all the efforts and declarations of
the actors in this affair as hypocrisy and cant, and will for a long
time hold aloof from them. On the whole, therefore, we can but regard
the cause of religion as more injured than benefited by the mistaken
zeal of those who conducted the Water street revivals. The men
themselves are above reproach. Their motives, no candid person will
impugn, but their wisdom and good sense are open to the gravest
CHEAP LODGING HOUSES.
The Bowery and eastern section of the city are full of cheap lodging
houses, which form a peculiar feature of city life. "There is a very
large and increasing class of vagrants who live from hand to mouth, and
who, beneath the dignity of the lowest grade of boarding houses, find a
nightly abode in cheap lodgings. These establishments are planned so as
to afford the greatest accommodation in point of numbers with the least
in point of comfort. The halls or rather passages are narrow, and the
rooms are small, dark, dirty and infested with vermin. The bedding
consists of a straw pallet and coarse sheets, and a coverlet of a
quality too poor to be an object of luxury. In some houses no sheets or
coverlet are afforded, but even with the best of these accommodations
the lodger suffers from cold in the winter, while in the summer he is
devoured with bed-bugs. For such accommodations in a room which half a
dozen may share, the lodger pays ten cents, though it is said there is
a lower depth where they sleep on the floor and pay half the above-
mentioned price. The profit of this business may be inferred from the
fact that one hundred and fifty lodgings, and in some cases a much
larger number, are sold by each house, making a net receipt of $15 per
night, to which is to be added the profits of a bar, where the vilest
whiskey is retailed in 'dime nips.' The business of a lodging house
seldom commences before ten o'clock, and its greatest rush is just
after the closing of the theatres; but all through the night, till
three o'clock in the morning, they are receiving such of the outcast
population as can offer the price of a bed. To any one interested in
the misery of the city, the array presented on such an occasion is very
striking. One sees every variety of character, runaway boys, truant
apprentices, drunken mechanics and broken-down mankind generally. Among
these are men who have seen better days. They are decayed gentlemen who
appear regularly in Wall street, and eke out the day by such petty
business as they may get hold of, and are lucky if they can make enough
to carry them through the night. In all lodging houses the rule holds
good 'first come, first served,' and the last man in the room gets the
worst spot. Each one sleeps with his clothes on and his hat under his
head to keep it from being stolen. At eight o'clock in the morning all
oversleepers are awakened and the rooms got ready for the coming night.
No one is allowed to take anything away, and if the lodger has a parcel
he is required to leave it at the bar. This prevents the theft of bed-
clothes. As the expenses connected with lodging houses are very light,
they are generally profitable, and in some instances large fortunes
have been made at the business. The one recently burned was a correct
illustration of the vices and miseries of the poor; a lodging house up
stairs and in the basement a concert-saloon, so that the poverty
engendered by the one could be sheltered by the other."
The detectives are constantly at work in attempts, which are generally
successful, to protect persons of respectability from the clutches of
that unscrupulous class known as black-mailers. These individuals are
very numerous in the city, and are generally to be found amongst the
most desperate and wicked of the disreputable classes. Street-walkers
and fast women of all classes are most commonly engaged in it. The
woman is the visible actor, but she is generally sustained by a rough,
or professional thief, or pickpocket. They are not content with making
victims of those who have really committed indiscretions which have
come to their knowledge, but they fasten upon the innocent and really
virtuous, well knowing that nine persons out of ten, though really
guiltless of any fault, will rather comply with their demands than have
their names connected with a scandal. Such persons think that the
wretch will not dare to charge them with the offence, or endeavor to
extort money a second time, and do not regret the first outlay. They
ought never to yield, whether innocent or guilty, for the wretches are
sure to make repeated demands upon those who are weak enough to comply
with them. The law makes it a crime for any one to endeavor to extort
money in this way, and no one so threatened should hesitate for one
moment in applying to the police.
A MINISTER BLACK-MAILED.
A minister, who shall be nameless, was coming out of his robing-room
one Sabbath night, after service, and was passing down the aisle on his
way out of the building, when he was accosted by a well-dressed and
rather handsome woman, who asked him to allow her a few moments'
conversation with a him. He granted her request, and she said she had
come to ask him to go with her to see her sister, who was lying at the
point of death at a boarding-house in------street. She seemed very much
distressed, and declared she would "go deranged" if her sister should
die without seeing a clergyman. She added that her sister and herself
were both strangers in the city, and that as they had never been to any
other church but that in charge of the gentleman she was addressing,
they would prefer his ministrations to those of any other person. The
woman's story was so simple and straightforward that the minister did
not hesitate to believe her, and accompanied her to a plain but
respectable-looking house in------street. He noticed, while in the
cars--for they took this means of conveyance in order to save time--
that a number of persons looked at his companion and himself rather
strangely, but still he suspected nothing.
On reaching the house, the woman rang the bell, and they were admitted.
She asked him to wait a moment in the parlor. The room was flashy, and
the appearance of the men and women, who were grouped about in it, was
far from being respectable, though there was nothing improper in their
conduct. The minister's suspicions were aroused at once by the general
appearance of things, and were increased as he saw the whispered
conversation going on between the other occupants of the room, and of
which he was evidently the subject. In a few minutes his companion
returned, and asking him to follow her, led the way up to her room. He
went with her, still thinking that his suspicions might have been
misplaced. Several women passed him on the stairway each of whom
greeted him with an impudent laugh. Upon reaching the room, the
minister found that he had been deceived. There was no sick woman
present, and he was alone with his infamous companion. As she closed
the door, she came up to him, and put her arm around him. He threw her
"What does this mean," he asked.
"I wanted to have the pleasure of your society," said the woman,
laughing. "Now that you are here, you had better stay."
Without a word, the clergyman turned towards the door, but the woman
sprang before him.
"You don't leave me in this way," she said. "I want money, and I must
"I have none for you," said the minister. "Let me pass."
"Listen to me," said the woman: "I want two hundred dollars. Pay the
money, and I will never tell of your visit here. If you refuse me, I'll
tell the story all over town."
"Do so," was the reply. "I will tell how I was led here, how I was
deceived, and I will have you arrested."
"My tale's the best," said the woman, defiantly. "I can prove your
presence in the parlor by every girl in the house, and those who saw
you in the hall will swear you came to my room with me. They will swear
to no lie, either, and nine people out of ten will believe my story
against yours. To say the least," she added, "it will fasten such a
suspicion on you as will ruin you with your congregation; so you'd
better pay me my money."
The minister was silent for a moment. He felt that his presence in that
place would give rise to a terrible suspicion, and he knew that a man
in his position could not afford to be suspected. However innocent he
might be, the faintest breath of scandal would injure him greatly. He
thought over the matter rapidly, and at last said:
"The sum you name is a very large one to me, and I could not pay you
to-night, were I inclined to do so. Give me until to-morrow to think of
The woman's eyes sparkled, for she thought her victim would surely
"Where can I see you to-morrow?" she asked.
"At my residence, No.--W----street, at twelve o'clock," he said. "Send
in your name as Mrs. White, and I will see you at once."
"You had better do so," said the woman, emphatically. "Now you can go."
She led the minister down the stairs, and allowed him to leave the
house. Instead of going home, he went straight to the Police
Headquarters, and made his statement to the officer in charge, and was
advised as to the course he should pursue. Then he went home, and told
his wife of the whole affair, and of the course of action he had marked
The next day, precisely at noon, the so-called Mrs. White, accompanied
by a villainous-looking man, arrived at the minister's residence, and
the two were shown into his study. He received them calmly, and the
woman introduced the man, as "her friend, who had come to see fair
play." This announcement did not in the least disconcert the minister,
who proceeded to state in plain terms the events connected with the
affair of the previous night.
"You acknowledge this to be a true statement," he said to the woman.
"Yes, it is the truth," she said, "but your innocence will not keep
people from suspecting you."
"You demand the sum of two hundred dollars as the price of your silence
on the subject," he continued.
"That's my price."
"If I make it three hundred will you sign a paper acknowledging your
deceit and my innocence?" he asked, producing a roll of notes.
"Yes," she replied, after consulting with her companion.
"Then sign that," he said, handing her a written paper and a pen.
The man read it, and nodded his head, and she signed it.
"Now, gentlemen," said the minister, raising his voice, and drawing the
paper to him, "you can enter, and witness the signature."
As he spoke the door of an adjoining room opened, and a detective and
one of the wardens of the minister's church entered. They had been
concealed in the next room, and had heard and witnessed the whole
"Who are these men?" asked the woman, springing up.
"Why, don't you know me, Eliza?" asked the detective, coolly. "This
isn't the first time I've put a stop to your villainy. I guess you'll
go in for a few years this time."
"Give me my money, and let me go," said the woman, fiercely, turning
her back on the detective and facing the minister.
"Eliza," said the detective, "you'll not get one cent. This gentleman
wants the matter dropped here, and if you are not a fool you'll go
about your business. You have signed a paper clearing Mr.-----from all
suspicion, and you can't do him any further harm. The case is in my
hands. If you will leave New York for Boston or Philadelphia to-night,
I'll be quiet--I shall watch you, and if you're in town to-morrow,
you'll be in Sing Sing before two months are out. Now go home and pack
"I've been a fool," said the woman, bitterly.
"So you have, my dear," said the detective. "Now go home, and take this
interesting young man with you."
The guilty pair departed in silence, and the minister was not troubled
with them again. The courage and prudence of an innocent man enabled
him to defeat this deep laid scheme for his ruin. Had he yielded and
paid the money, the demand would have been renewed, and he would in the
end have been ruined and disgraced without ever having committed a
We recently heard of a case of an opposite character. A minister,
settled over a large and wealthy congregation, was approached by one of
these women, and charged with a crime of which he was entirely
innocent. The woman professed to have an abundance of proof against
him. He was a weak, vain man, proud of his reputation, and afraid of
the slightest whisper of scandal, and he was terrified by the woman's
bold assertions. In order to get rid of her, he paid her the sum she
demanded, and received her promise not to trouble him again. In a few
weeks she returned, and demanded a larger sum, which was paid. These
demands then became so frequent and heavy that the minister could
hardly support his family on what was left of his salary. He resigned
his charge, and accepted a call to a distant city, hoping to escape his
persecutors, for he could not doubt that the woman was urged on by
others; but they followed him to his new home, and so harassed and
plundered him that he was forced to ask the aid of the police, who
discovered and arrested his tormentors. This ended the demands upon his
purse, but he had been plundered of over eight thousand dollars, which
was entirely lost to him. Had he acted as a sensible man at first, he
would have been saved his losses and his sufferings.
A BRIDE IN THE TOILS.
Not long since a young lady of fashion, about to be married to a
wealthy gentleman of this city, was called on by a woman who was
unknown to her. The stranger stated her business without delay. She had
heard that the young lady, whom we will call Miss R----, was about to
marry Mr. F----.
"I have come to say," she added, "that I am in need of money. I want
five hundred dollars, which is a small sum to a woman as rich as you. I
intend to make this marriage the means of raising it. If you do not pay
me the money, I shall go to Mr. F----, and tell him that you are not a
virtuous woman. He will not believe me, at first, but I shall set a
rumor afloat which will soon be known amongst all your fashionable
"But, by your own story, there will be no truth in it," said Miss
R----, amazed at the woman's effrontery.
"That is true," said the woman, "but you know that a false rumor will
accomplish as much as a true one. I will take care that the rumor is
well spread, and if you refuse me the money, it will be said all over
New York that your virtue is a matter of doubt. Your character will be
stained, and your marriage will be broken off."
Miss R----was astounded at such cool villainy, but fortunately her
courage and self-possession did not desert her. Bidding the woman await
her return, she left the room, and went straight to her lover, who was
fortunately in the house at the time. She told him all that had
occurred, and they at once sought her father, and laid the matter
before him. The old gentleman advised them to go to the parlor and
confront the woman, and at the same time sent for the policeman on that
"beat." The woman seemed surprised, when she saw the lovers enter the
room, and she rose to her feet in alarm. "This is Mr. F----," said Miss
R----, calmly, "and I have just told him of your infamous proposition."
"You have beaten me," said the woman, "but I'll take care that you
suffer for it."
She was about to leave the room, when Mr. F----placed himself before
"You cannot leave this house," he said, sternly. "We have sent for a
policeman, and you must wait till he comes."
The woman sat down without a word, and in a few minutes the policeman
arrived. He recognized her as an old offender, and after congratulating
Miss R----upon her coolness and good sense, led the woman away. The
black-mailer was sent to prison, and the wedding proceeded without
The incidents already given, will show how this system is conducted. As
a general rule, the wretches are easily disposed of with the aid of the
police, but sometimes it requires all the ingenuity of the most
experienced detective to ferret out and foil the plot. These wretches
know that respectable people dread scandal, and they profit by this
knowledge. They are sometimes bold and unscrupulous in their way of
conducting their business, and at other times endeavor to palm
themselves off as injured innocents. They rarely meddle with women, for
the difficulties in their way are greater; but, as they know that
almost any story about a man will be believed, they fasten themselves
like leeches upon the male sex. Young men about to make rich marriages
are bled freely, for few will care to risk a scandal which might break
off the whole affair. If a young man refuses one of them on such
occasions, she goes boldly to the lady he is to marry, and declares
herself the innocent and wronged victim of the aforesaid young man.
This is her revenge, and the majority of young men, knowing them to be
capable of such a course, comply with their demands on the spot. There
is nothing these wretches will not do, no place they will not invade,
in order to extort money from their victims.
Persons from the country, stopping at the hotels of the city, are
frequently the objects of the attacks of the black-mailers. A man's
name is learned from the hotel register, and he is boldly approached
and charged with conduct he never dreamed of being guilty of. The
scoundrel professes to know him and his whole family, and names the
price of his silence. Too often the demand is complied with, and the
money paid. The proper course to pursue when accosted in such a manner,
is to call upon the nearest policeman for assistance in shaking off the
Chatham street begins at City Hall Place and ends at Chatham square. It
is not over a fourth of a mile in length, and is narrow and dirty. It
is taken up, principally, with Jews and low class foreigners. There are
also some cheap hotels and lodging houses, several pawnbroker's shops,
and half a dozen concert saloons in the street. The lowest class Jews
abound in this quarter, and vile, filthy wretches they are. They deal
in imitation jewelry, old clothes, and cheap clothing. There is little,
if any, honesty in the street, and any one buying an article within its
limits must expect to be cheated. The streets running off to the right
and left, lead to the Five Points and kindred districts, and it is this
wretched part of the city which furnishes the greatest number of
customers to Chatham street. The buildings are generally constructed in
the old style, a new house being a rarity in this locality, and are
foul and dingy. The shops are low and dark, and smell horribly. The men
and women who frequent them look like convicts, and as they sit in
their doorways watching for custom, they seem more like wild beasts
waiting for their prey, than like human beings. They have no
respectable customers, except the poor, who come into the neighborhood
hoping to save money in their purchases. They fall victims to the
sharpers who line the street, and the articles they buy are dear at
whatever price they may pay for them. It is said that stolen goods
frequently find their way to Chatham street, and that a very large part
of the traffic of that locality is carried on in violation of the law.
However this may be, we have but one simple warning for all persons
visiting the great city. _Buy nothing in Chatham street, and keep out
of it after dark_.
When business is dull in this locality, the "merchants" resort to many
artifices to fill their coffers. One of their manoeuvres is called a
"forced sale." A man walking along the street, will be seized and
dragged into a clothing shop. He may protest that he does not wish to
buy anything, but the "merchant" and his clerks will insist that he
does, and before he can well help himself, they will haul off his coat,
clap one of the store coats on his back, and declare it a "perfect
fit." The new coat will then be removed and replaced by the old one,
and the victim will be allowed to leave the shop. As he passes out of
the door, the new coat is thrust under his arm, and he is seized by the
proprietor and his assistants, who shout "stop thief!" and charge him
with stealing the coat. Their noise, and the dread of being arrested
upon a charge of theft, will frequently so confuse and frighten the
victim that he will comply with their demand, which is that he shall
buy the coat. This done, he is suffered to depart. A refusal to yield
would not injure him, for the scoundrels would seldom dare to call in
the police, for fear of getting themselves into trouble, as their
tricks are well known to the officers of the law.
Thieves are numerous in New York. As a general rule, they herd together
in the worst quarters of the city--in the Five Points and along East
River--where they can rapidly and easily communicate with each other,
and where they can hide from the police without fear of discovery.
There are many blunderers in the fraternity, but there are also many
experienced hands, who do a great deal of damage, and give a world of
trouble to the authorities. These are generally well known to the
THE THIEF LANGUAGE.
The thieves of the city have a language, or _argot_, peculiar to
themselves. Those who have been raised to the business use this _argot_
to such an extent, that a stranger finds it as impossible to understand
them as he would if they were speaking in a foreign tongue. _The
Detectives' Manual_ gives a glossary of this language, from which we
take the following specimens, to be found in that work, under the head
of the letter B.:
_Bag of nails_.--All in confusion.
_Bandog_.--A civil officer.
_Bill of sale_.--A widow's weeds.
_Bingo boy_.--A drunken man.
_Bingo mort_.--A drunken woman.
_Blue-billy_.--A strange handkerchief.
_Blue ruin_.--Bad gin.
_Bone box_.--The mouth.
_Bowsprit in parenthesis_.--A pulled nose.
_Brother of the blade_.--A soldier.
_Brother of the bolus_.--A doctor.
_Brush_.--To flatter, to humbug.
_Bull-traps_.--Rogues who personate officials to extort money.
We could multiply these examples, but the above are sufficient to
illustrate this branch of our subject.
The poor wretches who steal a few dollars' worth in open day, from
stores and stands, are not considered by professional thieves as
amongst the "fraternity," which embraces house-breakers, pick-pockets,
and burglars. These persons are carefully trained by "old hands," and
are by practice made as perfect as possible in their arts. Indeed, to
be an accomplished burglar requires a very great degree of
intelligence, courage, strength, and ingenuity. These men all have
certain distinct methods of performing their work, so that after they
have been operating a short while, a detective can, by examining the
traces, tell, with absolute certainty, the name of the burglar. Besides
this, the life which these persons lead stamps their countenances and
general bearing with marks which an experienced officer will recognize
at a glance. The sneak-thief, the pickpocket, and the burglar, have
certain habits, attitudes, haunts; they act in certain ways when placed
in certain positions, which reveal them and their occupations to a
practiced eye, with almost as much certainty as the form and aspect of
a blade of grass reveals its genus and species to the eye of a
practiced botanist. A skilled detective will stand at the corner of a
street, in a strange city, that he has never entered before, and will
pick out, almost unerringly, the passers-by who belong to this criminal
class. He will say, "This is a sneak-thief;" "This is a pickpocket;"
"This man has just been released from the State prison;" "This one is a
gambler, stool-pigeon," etc., etc.; being guided in his judgments by
certain indications which the criminal involuntarily displays by the
sheer force of habit.
A sneak-thief will pass along with that rapid, rolling glance of the
eyes which distinguishes the tribe; now he checks himself in his
career; it is but for an instant; no unprofessional eye directed
towards him would notice it; but the sudden pause would speak volumes
to an experienced police officer. He knows that the thief's eye has
caught the sight of silver lying exposed in the basement. In an hour
after he hears that the basement has been entered, and the silver in it
carried off. He knows who has taken it, as well as if he had seen the
man take it with his own eyes; but if the thief has had time to run to
the nearest receiver's den, the silver is already in the melting-pot,
beyond the reach of identification.
HOW FINE HOUSES ARE ROBBED.
Families living in the city cannot, of course, know who they are taking
into their midst as servants, and it frequently happens that these
girls are the confederates of burglars. They come for the purpose of
spying out the premises, and from time to time report the internal
arrangements to their "men." At the proper moment, the burglar, who has
thus acquired a sufficient familiarity with the house, is admitted by
the girl. He performs his work sometimes without detection, but
sometimes adds murder, or attempts at murder, to his crime. These men
are well known to the police, but as they are to be deemed innocent
until _proved_ guilty, it is hard, if not impossible, to prevent their
crimes. A servant girl is seen in the area, towards evening, with a
broom in her hand; by her side is a man who is conversing earnestly
with her. The policeman, as he passes along, recognizes him as a
notorious burglar. That night the house is broken open and robbed, and
perhaps some of the family murdered. The officer knows perfectly well
who did it, but this knowledge goes for nothing in law. The man must be
regularly tried, and proved guilty. Although the officer feels sure the
man and woman are planning a burglary, when he sees them in the area,
he cannot prevent it by arresting the man.
An incident in point has transpired of late, in illustration of this
familiar danger. A gentleman's house, situate on Fifth Avenue, near
Thirty-second street, was entered on the night of March 24th, by a
brace of burglars, who were, as subsequent investigation proved,
admitted at the basement, or servant's entrance, by one of the
The burglars succeeded in obtaining a considerable amount of plunder,
but were alarmed by the unexpected awakening of some of the inmates of
the house, and hastily departed. Suspicion fell upon the delinquent
maid, who was examined, confessed her guilt, stated that the principal
burglar was her sweetheart, and promised that if she was permitted to
escape the deserved public punishment of her crime, she would see that
the missing property was restored to its rightful owners. This
'arrangement' was accepted, the girl fulfilled her part of the
contract, and every article that had been stolen was promptly restored.
The chambermaid was dismissed, and any further prosecution of the
affair was summarily closed. In this particular instance, it will be
seen that matters terminated favorably, but it would be well if wealthy
citizens would be warned against the 'family' risk to which their
property is exposed, and led to adopt the most stringent precautions
against these dangers, especially when summer pleasures will entice the
majority of the votaries of gayety and fashion 'out of town,' leaving
their dwellings almost wholly to the 'care' of not always reliable
A HAIR THIEF.
During the summer of 1868, a young lady residing in a respectable part
of the city, was decoyed by an elderly woman, (under the pretence of
being able to introduce the young lady to a cheap dressmaker,) into a
low neighborhood, where she was seized by two men, dragged into a
hovel, and there held by the ruffians, while the old hag who had
decoyed her thither, with a pair of shears cut off the larger portion
of her luxuriant hair--to fill, as she coolly informed her victim, 'an
order from a wig-maker.' The screams and struggles of the poor dupe
were of no avail, and when finally thrust out of doors by her
tormentors, she was so frightened that she wandered mechanically along,
up and down streets, until she met a policeman, who, on hearing her
story, called a carriage and had her conveyed home, but was not able
from her incoherent and inaccurate description, either to identify the
place where the outrage was committed, nor the people by whom it was