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Truman Capote’s Tribute to the Best of Brooklyn

Best Brooklyn Walking Tour Brooklyn Heights Brooklyn Bridge

Best Brooklyn Walking Tour Brooklyn Heights Brooklyn BridgeOn the Brooklyn Revolution walking tour, highlighting some of the best that Brooklyn has to offer, one of the most popular sites is the former home of Truman Capote, where he worked on two of his greatest works: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “In Cold Blood.”  The house is on 70 Willow Street.  From 1955-1965, Capote rented space on the basement level from Oliver Smith, the famed Tony Award-winning Broadway scenic designer.  George Plimpton, who was a visitor, wrote that “when friends came to call, [Capote] often took them on a tour of the entire house (when Smith was not at home) and said it was his house, all his, and that he had restored and decorated every room.”  In February 1959, Capote penned “Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir” for “Holiday” travel magazine in which he begins:

I live in Brooklyn. By choice. Those ignorant of its allures are entitled to wonder why.

The entire article and photos taken at the time by David Attie of Capote, the house and the neighborhood are available in the book: “Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir, with the Lost Photographs of David Attie.”

Locks of George Washington’s Hair for $35,000!

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Best Revolutionary War Tour New York

In George Washington’s era, a lock of hair was an ultimate keepsake.  Washington’s hair seems to be in a lot of places, even three Topps baseball trading card packs!  Recently, it was found in a 1793 book that belonged to Phillip Schuyler, Alexander Hamilton’s father-in-law.  Even more recently, in a Leland’s auction, 5.31-inch locks of his hair were attached to a March 20, 1871 letter from Secretary of State, James Alexander Hamilton (Alexander Hamilton’s third son) to Eleanor G. Collins, in “respect and regard.”  The locks were given to James by his mother, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton.  The starting bid was $2,500, and the locks fetched $35,763.60 when the auction was completed.

George Washington: Charmed by Bullets

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Best Hamilton Walking Tour WashingtonIn  1754, after the Battle of the Great Meadows in the French & Indian War, a 22-year-old George Washington wrote to his younger brother John Augustine a letter and added this quote at the end:

“I fortunately escaped without a wound, tho’ the right Wing where I stood was exposed to & received all the Enemy’s fire and was the part where the man was killed & the rest wounded. I can with truth assure you, I heard Bulletts whistle and believe me there was something charming in the sound.”

Walking Tour Through Brooklyn’s Great History

Brooklyn Walking Tour

Brooklyn Walking Tour

On the Brooklyn walking tour, you will see the great Plymouth Church originally lead by the “most famous man in the world” Henry Ward Beecher.  In 1860, Beecher, and ardent abolitionist (whose sister was Harriet Beecher Stowe, was the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”) invited the relatively unknown Abraham Lincoln to speak at the church.  Lincoln accepted the $200 invitation and attended services there, but because of the large demand, gave his “Right Makes Might” speech in the Cooper Union in (what is now) the East Village instead.  The pew in which Lincoln sat in the Plymouth Church is marked with a plaque which is in the photo here.

Central Park’s Secret – A Loaded Revolutionary War Cannon

Secrets of Central Park Tour

Secrets of Central Park TourWhile exploring the Revolutionary War/War of 1812 forts on the Secret Places of Central Park tour you’ll come upon a fortification which includes a genuine British cannon from the Revolutionary War.  Salvaged from the H.M.S. Hussar after shipwrecking off the East River in 1780, it was eventually donated to Central Park.  After being put into storage for a number of years, the Central Park Conservancy, in their plans to restore the Revolutionary War/War of 1812 fortifications, planned to put the artillery piece back on display.  While restoring it in 2013, they found a cannonball, wadding, and frighteningly enough, over a pound of gunpowder, making this, in theory, a still-loaded cannon since 1780.  The Bomb Squad were called to remove the explosive material, and eventually, it was put back on display for you to see!

The Great Woman Behind the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Brooklyn Bridge Park Walking Tour

Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Brooklyn Bridge Park Walking TourTruly, much of the credit for the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge under the stewardship of Washington Roebling, goes to his wife Emily Roebling.  After his illness caused by “caisson disease” or what we now know as the bends or decompression sickness and his inability to visit the bridge, Emily learned all that she needed about bridge construction and engineering to serve as Washington’s liaison with the assistant engineers on-site.  She explained Washington’s often complex directives and answered questions that they had.  In 1882, the year before the bridge was completed, Emily successfully defended her husband to the board of directors and politicians who wanted to strip him of his title as Chief Engineer.

There is a plaque on the Brooklyn tower of the Brooklyn Bridge dedicated to the memory of Emily Roebling “whose faith and courage helped her stricken husband…complete the construction of this bridge…Back of every great work we can find the self-sacrificing devotion of a woman”

Washington Roebling wrote: I thought I would succumb, but I had a strong tower to lean upon, my wife, a woman of infinite tact and wisest counsel.

Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, RI

George Washington at Frick Collection

 

George Washington at Frick CollectionAugust 21, 1790

While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

George Washington

Alexander Hamilton’s “Sorceress”

Hamilton Walking Tour, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton's wife

Alexander Hamilton, aide-de-camp to George Washington, met up with the eligible Elizabeth Schuyler in Morristown, NJ in 1780 in the midst of the turbulent Revolutionary War.  Hamilton’s love affliction and impatience with their separation manifests itself in this very personal August 8, 1780 letter.  He would go on to marry her on December 14, 1780 in Albany.

 

Immediately after dinner, I stole from a crowd of company to a solitary walk to be at leisure to think of you, and I have just returned to tell you by an express this moment going off that I have been doing so. You are certainly a little sorceress and have bewitched me, for you have made me disrelish every thing that used to please me, and have rendered me as restless and unsatisfied with all about me, as if I was the inhabitant of another world, and had nothing in common with this. I must in spite of myself become an inconstant to detach myself from you, for as it now stands I love you more than I ought—more than is consistent with my peace. A new mistress is supposed to be the best cure for an excessive attachment to an old— if I was convinced of the success of the scheme, I would be tempted to try it— for though it is the pride of my heart to love you it is the torment of it to love you so much, separated as we now are. But I am afraid, I should only go in quest of disquiet, that would make me return to you with redoubled tenderness. You gain by every comparison I make and the more I contrast you with others the more amiable you appear. But why do you not write to me oftener? It is again an age since I have heard from you. I write you at least three letters for your one, though I am immersed in public business and you have nothing to do but to think of me. When I come to Albany, I shall find means to take satisfaction for your neglect. You recollect the mode I threatened to punish you in for all your delinquencies.

I wrote you a long letter by your father. I suppose you will wait his return before you write. If you do I shall chide you severely and if you do not write me a very long and fond one by him, I shall not forgive you at all. I have written you a short letter since that.
We are now at Dobbes ferry.

I would go on but the General summons me to ride.

Adieu My Dear lovely amiable girl. Heaven preserve you and shower its choicest blessings upon you. Love me I conjure you.

 

Featured painting of Elizabeth Schulyer Hamilton by Ralph Earl, 1787

Alexander Hamilton’s Pamphlet on John Adams, October 24, 1800

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Best Alexander Hamilton Walking TourBefore the presidential election of 1800, Alexander Hamilton wrote an essay (or what was known as a “pamphlet”) about John Adams, the leader of Hamilton’s Federalist party and the President of the United States called Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq. President of the United States that took a disparaging view of his tenure and character.  It was sent out to many prominent Federalists.   As it goes, the competing Democratic-Republican acquired a copy and publicly published it thereby affecting Adams chance of winning reelection in 1800 and affecting the Federalist Party’s (and Hamilton’s) prominence in the political scene.  This led to the Jefferson presidency and Aaron Burr vice-presidency.   Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the pamphlet:

Letter from Alexander Hamilton, Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq. President of the United States

Sir,

Some of the warm personal friends of Mr. Adams are taking unwearied pains to disparage the motives of those Federalists, who advocate the equal support of Gen. Pinckney, at the approaching election of President and Vice-President. They are exhibited under a variety of aspects equally derogatory. Sometimes they are versatile, factious spirits, who cannot be long satisfied with any chief, however meritorious:—Sometimes they are ambitious spirits, who can be contented with no man that will not submit to be governed by them:—Sometimes they are intriguing partisans of Great-Britain, who, devoted to the advancement of her views, are incensed against Mr. Adams for the independent impartiality of his conduct.

In addition to a full share of the obloquy vented against this description of persons collectively, peculiar accusations have been devised, to swell the catalogue of my demerits. Among these, the resentment of disappointed ambition, forms a prominent feature. It is pretended, that had the President, upon the demise of General Washington, appointed me Commander in Chief, he would have been, in my estimation, all that is wise, and good and great.

It is necessary, for the public cause, to repel these slanders; by stating the real views of the persons who are calumniated, and the reasons of their conduct.

In executing this task, with particular reference to myself, I ought to premise, that the ground upon which I stand, is different from that of most of those who are confounded with me as in pursuit of the same plan. While our object is common, our motives are variously dissimilar. A part, well affected to Mr. Adams, have no other wish than to take a double chance against Mr. Jefferson. Another part, feeling a diminution of confidence in him, still hope that the general tenor of his conduct will be essentially right. Few go as far in their objections as I do. Not denying to Mr. Adams patriotism and integrity, and even talents of a certain kind, I should be deficient in candor, were I to conceal the conviction, that he does not possess the talents adapted to the Administration of Government, and that there are great and intrinsic defects in his character, which unfit him for the office of Chief Magistrate.

To give a correct idea of the circumstances which have gradually produced this conviction, it may be useful to retrospect to an early period.

I was one of that numerous class who had conceived a high veneration for Mr. Adams, on account of the part he acted in the first stages of our revolution. My imagination had exalted him to a high eminence, as a man of patriotic, bold, profound, and comprehensive mind. But in the progress of the war, opinions were ascribed to him, which brought into question, with me, the solidity of his understanding. He was represented to be of the number of those who favored the enlistment of our troops annually, or for short periods, rather than for the term of the war; a blind and infatuated policy, directly contrary to the urgent recommendation of General Washington and which had nearly proved the ruin of our cause. He was also said to have advocated the project of appointing yearly a new Commander of the Army; a project which, in any service, is likely to be attended with more evils than benefits; but which, in ours, at the period in question, was chimerical, from the want of persons qualified to succeed, and pernicious, from the peculiar fitness of the officer first appointed, to strengthen, by personal influence, the too feeble cords which bound to the service, an ill-paid, ill-clothed, and undisciplined soldiery.

It is impossible for me to assert, at this distant day, that these suggestions were brought home to Mr. Adams in such a manner as to ascertain their genuineness; but I distinctly remember their existence, and my conclusion from them; which was, that, if true, they proved this gentleman to be infected with some visionary notions, and that he was far less able in the practice, than in the theory, of politics. I remember also, that they had the effect of inducing me to qualify the admiration which I had once entertained for him, and to reserve for opportunities of future scrutiny, a definitive opinion of the true standard of his character.

In this disposition I was, when just before the close of the war, I became a member of Congress.

The situation in which I found myself there, was far from being inauspicious to a favorable estimate of Mr. Adams.

Upon my first going into Congress, I discovered symptoms of a party already formed, too well disposed to subject the interests of the United States to the management of France. Though I felt, in common with those who had participated in our Revolution, a lively sentiment of good will towards a power, whose co-operation, however it was and ought to have been dictated by its own interest, had been extremely useful to us, and had been afforded in a liberal and handsome manner; yet, tenacious of the real independence of our country, and dreading the preponderance of foreign influence, as the natural disease of popular government, I was struck with disgust at the appearance, in the very cradle of our Republic, of a party actuated by an undue complaisance to foreign power; and I resolved at once to resist this bias in our affairs: a resolution, which has been the chief cause of the persecution I have endured in the subsequent stages of my political life.

Among the fruits of the bias I have mentioned, were the celebrated instructions to our Commissioners, for treating of peace with Great-Britain;which, not only as to final measures, but also as to preliminary and intermediate negotiations, placed them in a state of dependence on the French ministry, humiliating to themselves, and unsafe for the interests of the country. This was the more exceptionable, as there was cause to suspect, that in regard to the two cardinal points of the fisheries and the navigation of the Mississippi, the policy of the cabinet of Versailles did not accord with the wishes of the United States.

The Commissioners, of whom Mr. Adams was one, had the fortitude to break through the fetters which were laid upon them by those instructions; and there is reason to believe, that by doing it, they both accelerated the peace with Great-Britain, and improved the terms, while they preserved our faith with France.

Yet a serious attempt was made to obtain from Congress a formal censure of their conduct. The attempt failed, and instead of censure, the praise was bestowed which was justly due to the accomplishment of a treaty advantageous to this country, beyond the most sanguine expectation. In this result, my efforts were heartily united.

The principal merit of the negotiation with Great-Britain, in some quarters, has been bestowed upon Mr. Adams; but it is certainly the right of Mr. Jay, who took a lead in the several steps of the transaction, no less honorable to his talents than to his firmness. The merit, nevertheless, of a full and decisive co-operation, is justly due to Mr. Adams.

It will readily be seen, that such a course of things was calculated to impress me with a disposition friendly to Mr. Adams. I certainly felt it, and gave him much of my consideration and esteem.

But this did not hinder me from making careful observations upon his several communications and endeavoring to derive from them an accurate idea of his talents and character. This scrutiny enhanced my esteem in the main for his moral qualifications but lessened my respect for his intellectual endowments. I then adopted an opinion, which all my subsequent experience has confirmed, that he is a man of an imagination sublimated and eccentric; propitious neither to the regular display of sound judgment, nor to steady perseverance in a systematic plan of conduct; and I began to perceive what has been since too manifest, that to this defect are added the unfortunate foibles of a vanity without bounds, and a jealousy capable of discoloring every object.

Strong evidence of some traits of this character, is to be found in a Journal of Mr. Adams, which was sent by the then Secretary of Foreign Affair to Congress. The reading of this Journal, extremely embarrassed his friends, especially the delegates of Massachusetts; who, more than once, interrupted it, and at last, succeeded in putting a stop to it, on the suggestion that it bore the marks of a private and confidential paper, which, by some mistake, had gotten into its present situation, and never could have been designed as a public document for the inspection of Congress. The good humor of that body yielded to the suggestion…

 

Central Park’s Vanderbilt Gate

Best Central Park Walking Tours - Secrets Central Park

Best Central Park Walking Tours - Secrets Central ParkAt the Fifth Avenue entrance to Central Park’s Conservatory Gardens near the top of Central Park, is a magnificent gate.  The wrought iron gate was not built for the gardens but was a gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney to New York City and originally stood in front of Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s mansion at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street–where Bergdorf-Goodman is today.  Designed by the great architect George B. Post, of New York Stock Exchange fame, along with Richard Morris Hunt, the house first opened in 1883.  The gate, designed by Post and produced in Paris in 1894, is a spectacular way to enter the center Italian Garden of the Conservatory Gardens.  See the gate on the Secret Places of Central Park walking tour.

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