18910204 See an image of the original letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/mww8-tc17


No 3                                                                   S.S. “Philadelphia”


4th  Feby.  1891

My dear Mother,

My first letter was posted in N. York 24th Jany. My second, mailed 31st was broken off short owing to the sudden change in my day of sailing & I had only time to add a few words in pencil, while spending the evg. with Tom Wallace, & give the letter to Addie to post by the steamer leaving early next morning.

I think I had only managed to describe Black’s wedding & “Beau Brummel” & was about to tell you about Tom Wallace when the abrupt stop came, so I shall begin where I left off.[1] Wallace[2] received us in a very friendly way when we called at his office, made kind enquiries about you all, & asked us to dinner at the Manhattan Athletic Club for the following evg.[3] This Club is the finest of its kind in the world. In the basement they have a swimming bath with the water warmed to a pleasant temperature, further shooting galleries for rifle & pistol practice, shovel-board & first rate skittle alleys. On the ground-floor is the billiard-room with twelve tables, a luncheon room & café, & a reception room, besides the offices. On the first storey there is a large theatre for amateur theatricals, card-rooms, smoking room & library. In the centre of the building & reaching up through the next two floors is the magnificent gymnasium, said to be undoubtedly the finest & most complete in the world. In addition to the usual fittings in the way of bars, horses, clubs, & dumbells, they have the mast & tackle of a yacht to teach sailing, the sliding seats & model oars of an outrigger for oarsmen, suspended footballs for boxers to punch & dodge on the return, & all kinds of ingenious machines for exercising every muscle in the body. In a gallery round the wall there is a running course, floored with padded canvas & sloped at the corners, for those who wish to train for races. This gymnasium rises through the middle of the third floor, on one side of which is the dining room, where we sat down after inspecting the building. Wallace gave us a first rate dinner, beginning with a Manhattan cocktail (they do make them in nice in New York), blue-point oysters & chablis & turtle-soup, then crab farcie, terrapin, which is a kind of small land-turtle, & a great delicacy & special New York dish, & roast chicken, with Pommery sec frappé, coffee, Chartreuse, & a good cigar.[4] He did the thing really well & was very nice about it. After dinner we, – that is Wallace & I, played billiards, while Addie looked on. We played on a French table & Wallace beat me easily, which of course proves that he is a fist class player. He said to mention to Father that he had been practising the English game a little, & would not be afraid to meet him next time at the Reform Club, as he had made a break of seventy-odd the other day.

The following evening Addie had tickets for the Opera so we went to hear Lohengrin. I had not heard that Opera before, & I don’t think I found it much heavier than I expected to. Most of the singers were good, but the tenor was feeble. The orchestra was very fine. The Metropolitan Opera House is a tremendous building, but not a pretty one. There was an exhibition of diamonds in the boxes that I have never seen anything to equal; – they must have represented not a few hundreds of thousands of the almighty dollar.


6th Feby.  Addie had written to his friends the Chappells saying we would call the evening after that, & promptly received a reply that we were to go there for dinner. They live at the other end of Brooklyn from Addie, in a comfortably furnished house, & are very good friends of his. We met with a very cordial reception & had a quite a jolly evening. Mrs Chappell is a lively little woman, full of fun & always in good spirits; Mr C. is considerably older than his better half & more serious, though he became quite brisk over a game of whist after dinner. Millie, the only child, is a nice girl of thirteen or fourteen, more grown-up than I had expected & I was somewhat taken aback to see Addie kiss her in a fatherly manner.[5]

Some of their friends came in after dinner, – among them Mrs Simmelkiaer, the widow who offered to give Addie music lessons, – tall, thin, sprightly, & a little sentimental, but very nice withal.  She wanted us to spend an evening with her, even proposing to arrange a little dance, but we had none disengaged, so she kindly asked us to luncheon next day, inviting Mrs Chappell to meet us. Addie was busy in town but I accepted & was treated to nice little lunch, & allowed to smoke after it. In the afternoon the two ladies drove me over the famous Brooklyn Cemetery, Greenwood, an immense place with its beautifully undulating grounds covered that morning with snow & its many little lakes frozen over.[6] Our driver & guide pointed out all the famous tombs & rattled through the list heedless of interruption or query. In one place a noted “dance-shuse” was buried, in another an actor celebrated for his rendering of “Othelio”, he discoursed learnedly on symbols taken from the ancient “my-thology”, & on driving out quoted a stanza from Gray’s Elegy. When his back was turned Mrs Chappell wound him up with an imaginary handle, & I am afraid altogether we were not as solemn as we ought to have been.

Green Wood Cemetery in Broolyn, 1891. From King's Handbook of the United States
Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY, in 1891. From King’s Handbook of the United States, by M. F. Sweetser.

The monuments were mostly heavy & ostentatious, their greatest praise being that they had cost so many thousand dollars. I noticed only one quiet tasteful tombstone enclosing a white marble medallion with a young girl’s head exquisitely carved by some Italian sculptor.

The mention of the snow on the ground reminds me that I have not said anything about the great snow-storm of Saturday night & Sunday morning. There was a fall equivalent to nine inches of dry snow; it had been preceded by rain which made it adhere to the telephone & electric light wires causing a breakdown in these unequalled even during the famous blizzard of some years ago. [7]

Fortunately there were no lives lost, but there was great damage to houses & streets through the falling telegraph-poles, while for several days the wires lay tangled about in all directions, & for two nights many of the streets were in darkness as the electric current could not be turned on with safety.

Thursday evg. we spent at Addie’s lodgings, Mrs Bridge having invited two of her lady friends, & the other lodger, General Gates, her god-father & protector, for the occasion. We played some very bad whist & then some noisy euchre, winding up with sandwiches & beer in the small hours of the morning, having enjoyed ourselves well.

On Friday evg. we were again invited to dinner by Wallace, who was really very kind to us; he wd. not let us breakfast him or make him any return, saying we could do that in Belfast. I hope to have an opportunity of doing so some day. This time he gave us a table-d’hôte dinner at a nice restaurant up-town in the neighbourhood of the big hotels, very good indeed & less expensive I am glad to say than the order dinner at the Club. After dinner we had a game of billiards, during which I scrawled a pencil-note at the foot of my last letter to you & gave it to Addie to post.

La Carmencita, painted by John Singer Sargent in 1890
La Carmencita, painted by John Singer Sargent in 1890

Later in the evg. I went alone, as Addie did not care to accompany me, to a subscription ball, given in the Madison Square Hall, a huge place like the Hippodrome at Paris or the Tournament Hall at Islington, but with a splendid dancing floor. They say there were ten thousand people there; that may be an exaggeration, but there certainly were fully five thousand & the Hall was not crowded, though I have never been in a crush like that at the entrance. It was a Spanish ball given for the benefit of Carmencita, a danseuse who has taken New York by storm.[8] There was first a procession round the hall, Carmencita riding on a triumphal car, after which she danced some Spanish dances on a raised platform. The general dancing then began, to the alternate music of two large bands, & was kept up till a late hour in the morning. Mrs Bridge & some of her friends were there, & I also met a young fellow from Curaçao whom I knew very well.

Next morning I packed & took my things on board the “Philadelphia”, & in the afternoon we met, by appointment, Mrs Chappell, Millie, & Mrs Simmelkiaer & took them to a wax-works exhibition & concert, where we had to leave them in about an hour as the steamer was to sail at five.[9] Addie went round to his office to fetch Ruskin’s “Modern Painters”, which I had bought in a nice American edition, but did not turn up in time, for as soon as I was on board the steamer sailed out of the dock, though it was still ten minutes before the advertised hour, but the evg. was wet & foggy & the Captain wanted to go out of the harbour by day-light.

From the foregoing lengthy list, which I hope has not bored you, you will see that I had a jolly week in New York; Addie did all he could to make my stay pleasant, & would have taken me round all the theatres in the town, I believe, if I had let him. We had intended going to Staten Island to dine with the Finlays on Sunday, & had accepted an invitation to dine at a good Brooklyn Club with a Mr Perego, a business friend of Addie’s, on Tuesday, but these & other plans were upset by my sailing on Saturday 1st, instead of the following Wednesday.[10] On the whole I was glad of the change, for one week of New York gaiety is enough at a time & I was ready to go South to work.

O’Flaherty arrived on the Friday, luckily for us two days late, having had a bad passage.[11] Addie will now be hard at work with him.

In the theatre, at “Beau Brummel”, we saw Adam Jenkins who said he had been bobbing up & down for half an hour trying to catch my eye, but I looked everywhere except at him.[12] He arranged to call for us & take us to lunch next day, but apparently forgot the engagement, as he did not turn up & did not refer to the matter when we met him afterwards at Black’s wedding; – I did not see him since.

Of course we had many walks through the town, saw the New York beauties “mince along in fashion’s tide, adown Broadway on the proper side, when the golden sun was setting”, looked into the shops, strolled through Central Park, & generally did everything[13]. I got quite used to the Elevated Railroad (called the “El” by the speech sparing Americans) & to the trains pulled quickly & smoothly by endless cable over the great Brooklyn Suspension Bridge. The trams or street-cars are too slow for the great distances, & even the present “El” is not quick enough for the New Yorkers, with whom time is still more money than it is with us, & they are agitating for an accelerated express service of trains. A Yankee, asked why he preferred the “El” to the trams, replied that his insurance policy covered death through accident, but not death from old age.

Addie says perhaps he may take a run over in the Summer, but he is not at all certain yet; I hope he will be able to manage it. He says there is little or nothing doing in July-August.

The “Philadelphia” has had delightful weather from the day after sailing.[14] The first night we had to anchor twelve hours in the fog, but since then all has been fine & clear, & the third day out I put on tennis-flannels. There are only three other passengers, – two young Spaniards who have not left their bunks, nor, I believe, changed their clothes since we started this day week, & a very young lieutenant from the American Navy, called Welles[15], going to visit Venezuela & some of the neighbouring countries as Special Commissioner from the Government on behalf of the “World’s Fair” – the great exhibition which is to be held in Chicago in year or two.[16] I have read Westwards-Ho once more, & a couple of yellow-backs, & have spent the evenings playing whist, the Captain & Purser making up our four. We have played 35 rubbers, & I come out minus 2 points – a result not flattering to my vanity, considering that the two players just named know nothing of the game, & the other not very much. However the outcome was very even all round, Welles winning 13 points which the other three of us lost among us. We had good fun over it, & many a laugh at some of the Captain’s brilliant strokes, when an ace or a king would turn up in his hand in the most unexpected manner, with lots of joking about the call for trumps, constant penalties for leads out of turn. We always had an interval about 10.30 for sandwiches & beer & then resumed business until 12.


Curaçao 9th Feby.  Just landed.   I shall now close this letter which is long enough to try your patience, but those I shall write on shore won’t be as long. Best love to all








  1. A frivolous time in New York with Addie, JMcC’s next brother down (Ferdinand Adolph Loewenthal b 1865, named after his uncle, Julius’ brother, see Index to People). He was an unusual and rather unreliable character all his life. At the time of this letter Addie was aged 25 and JMcC nearly 27.  As to Addie’s work in NYC: I believe he was a “commission agent.”
  2. Tom Wallace sounds like a Belfast man, possibly a friend of Julius Sr. Probably Thomas Parker Wallace (b 8th June, 1846 Irvine, Ayrshire) who was married in Belfast to Jane Anderson (b 29th June, 1868). He arrived in the US in 1868 and worked as a Commission Merchant. He became a naturalized US citizen in 1874. Lived in Brooklyn in 1930 and died there in 1931. See Index to People.
  3. The Manhattan Athletic Club was an athletic club in Manhattan, New York City. It was founded in November 1877. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manhattan_Athletic_Club
  4. Pommery sec frappé = the practice of drinking it very cold (frappé) at the end of the meal.
  5. Mr & Mrs J.H. Chappell are noted in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (18th February 1891) as hosting a 25th wedding anniversary of friends at their house on Rockaway Avenue. See Index to People.
  6. Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn was founded in 1838 and is now a National Historic Landmark. Green-Wood was one of the first rural cemeteries in America. By the early 1860s, it had earned an international reputation for its magnificent beauty and became the prestigious place to be buried, attracting 500,000 visitors a year, second only to Niagara Falls as the nation’s greatest tourist attraction. Crowds flocked there to enjoy family outings, carriage rides, and sculpture viewing in the finest of first generation American landscapes. Green-Wood’s popularity helped inspire the creation of public parks, including New York City’s Central and Prospect Parks: https://www.green-wood.com/about-history/
  7. A four-day blizzard that hit late in the winter of 1888 threw New York City into chaos and killed more than 200 people. The March 11th-14th storm brought 21 inches of snow to the city and pummeled New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut as well. Accumulation and winds blowing more than 70 miles per hour stopped taxis and horse-drawn carriage operations and caused to a locomotive to derail, leaving passengers stranded on elevated tracks in freezing cars: https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/5-snowiest-blizzards-new-york-city-history-article-1.2507123
  8. Carmen Dauset Moreno, better known as Carmencita (b Almería 1868, d 1910 ) was a Spanish dancer living in the United States. She performed at Madison Square Gardens in New York at the end of January 1891, before some 8000 people, obtaining great success with her flamenco dance. She received so many job offers there that she decided to stay and live in the United States, acting non-stop, sometimes dressed as a man, and acting as a model for great painters and even for advertisements. During the following years, Carmencita performed in many large American cities. She appeared at the Music Hall in Koster and Bial in November and early December 1894 before selling her properties in the United States and returning to Europe, although she continued to tour. She performed at the Palace Theater in February 1895 and periodically at the Théâtre des Nouveautés in Paris. She is best known for her role in a short documentary of the same name and for having her portrait painted by such notable artists as John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, and James Beckworth.
  9. Mrs Simmelkiaer, the widow who offered to give Addie music lessons, is recorded in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (26th May 1915) as contributing to "an entertaining evening" at the Laurier Musical Club.
  10. Joseph O Perego of Brooklyn (b~1860)? Or (more likely) Arthur Wesley Perego, importer, who was on a passenger list arriving NYC on 26th April 1886 from Liverpool (b~1861, US citizen).
  11. JMcC says his own departure was brought forward to Saturday 1st – but the 1st February was a Sunday. There is a F. H. C. Flaherty (merchant, aged 48, “US citizen”) on the passenger list arriving NYC from Southampton on 30th January 1891 .
  12. See Index to People. Adam Jenkins. Likely Adam Primrose Jenkins (b 1865 in Belfast) who arrived in NYC on 17th January 1891 on the “Celtic," aged 25, from Ireland. Usher at James Black's wedding
  13. From "The Proud Miss MacBride" by John Godrey Sace (1816-1887): "O, TERRIBLY proud was Miss MacBride, The very personification of pride, As she minced along in fashion’s tide, Adown Broadway—on the proper side, When the golden sun was setting." More at https://www.bartleby.com/360/9/54.html
  14. Built and launched at Glasgow for the Inman Line in 1889, the Philadelphia was originally called the "City of Paris" and sailed the Liverpool - Queenstown - New York route. The ship weighed 10,500 tons, was 527 feet long and could carry 540 1st class passengers, 200 in 2nd class and 100 3rd class passengers. The ship changed name and ownership several more times before going aground off of Cornwall, England. She was refloated and repaired at Belfast and renamed the SS Philadelphia. From 1901 she operated the Southampton - Cherbourg - New York route. In 1914 she was transferred to the Liverpool - New York service: https://www.burgumfamily.co.uk/ref_sh_philadelphia.php
  15. Lieut. Roger Welles U.S.N. (See (Index to People)
  16. The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 was held in Chicago to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the New World: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World%27s_Columbian_Exposition


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John McCaldin Loewenthal: Letters Home from a Victorian Commercial Traveller, 1889 - 1895 Copyright © 2022 by Michelle Fink, Robert Boyd, Sarah Watkinson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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