Friday, May 9, 2008

A Little Taste of History (12)

Topic: Important Men of NYC #1

Thomas Coxon Acton (1823-98). An American financier and administrator. He was born in New York City, and served as assistant deputy county clerk (1850-53) and as deputy register. He was a police commissioner of the New York metropolitan police in 1860-69, and during the last seven years was president of the board. His most valuable service while in that office was during the draft riots in 1863, when for a week he personally commanded the entire police force of the city.

Samuel Adler (1809-91). A German American rabbi and author, born at Worms, Germany. He studied at the universities of Bonn and Giessen, and from 1842 to 1857 was rabbi of congregations in Alzey and vicinity. From 1857 to 1874 he was rabbi of the congregation Emanu-El of New York City. He was a learned Talmudic scholar and an earnest progressionist. His works include Jewish Conference Papers (1880), Benedictions (1882), and Kobez 'al Yad (Collections, 1886).

Phineas Taylor Barnum (1810-91). An American showman, born at Bethel, Conn. His father was a tavern-keeper; and while attending the village school, Barnum traded with and played practical jokes upon his father's customers. At the age of 13 he was employed in a country store, and at 18 went largely into the lottery business. When only 19, he married clandestinely, and moved to Danbury, where he edited The Herald of Freedom, and was imprisoned sixty days for a libel. In 1834 he removed to New York, where, hearing of Joyce Heth, alleged nurse of Washington, he bought her for $1000, and with the aid of forged documents and puffing, exhibited her to considerable profit. Reduced again to poverty, he sold Bibles, exhibited negro dancers, and wrote for newspapers, until he bought the American Museum in New York, which he raised at once to prosperity by exhibiting a Japanese mermaid, made of a fish and a monkey, also a white negress, a woolly horse, and finally a noted dwarf, styled "General Tom Thumb," whom he exhibited also in Europe in 1844.

In 1847 he offered Jenny Lind $1000 a night for 150 nights. The tickets were sold at auction, a single ticket bringing, in one case, as much as $650; and his gross receipts for 95 concerts were over $700,000. He built a villa at Bridgeport, in imitation of the Brighton Pavilion, and engaged in various speculations, one of which---a clock factory---made him bankrupt. Settling with his creditors in 1857, he engaged anew in his career of audacious enterprises, and made another fortune. Two of his museums having been destroyed by fire in 1865 and 1868, he established in 1871 his Greatest Show on Earth," a traveling circus and menagerie, with many new features. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress in 1866, but was four times elected to the Connecticut Legislature. His Autobiography (1854, since greatly enlarged) has at least the merit of frankness. In 1865 he published The Humbugs of the World, and 1869 Struggles and Triumphs.

Ballington Booth (1859---) . The organizer and leader of the "Volunteers of America" (q.v.) He was born in London, the second son of William Booth (q.v.), founder of the Salvation Army. In 1887 he was sent to the United States with his wife, Maud (born near London, in 1865), and had charge of the work in this country till 1896, when disagreeing with his father's plan of operations in the United States and Canada, he withdrew from the Salvation Army and organized a similar body under the name of the Volunteers of America. In order to bring the work of the new organization into closer harmony with that of the various churches, he obtained ordination as a presbyter of the Evangelical Church in Chicago. Both he and his wife are fluent writers and eloquent speakers. He published From Ocean to Ocean (1890). (14)


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