The burning of the American Museum was headline news in New York City. This article appeared in the New York Times the day following the conflagration. It lamented the irreplaceable loss of the American Museum and provided a detailed listing of its contents, presumably based on information in one of the many guidebooks available for sale at the museum.
Many newspaper articles from the nineteenth century contain archaic words, unfamiliar spellings of words still in use today, and the inevitable spelling errors caused by individual typesetters. Where possible, we have provided definitions for unfamiliar words and corrected obvious typesetting errors; otherwise we have marked all anomalies with the designation [sic].
Total Destruction of Barnum’s American Museum.
Nine Other Buildings Burned to the Ground.
LOSS ESTIMATED AT $1,000,000.
A History of the Museum and Brief Sketch of its Curiosities.
Scenes Exciting, Serious, and Comic at the Fire.
The Police Prompt and Vigilant---The Firemen Earnest and Active.
GREAT EXCITEMENT IN THE CITY.
Thirty Thousand People in the Streets — Pickpockets in the Crowd — Accidents and Incidents.
The fire which yesterday destroyed BARNUM’S American Museum, while greatly injuring and materially impoverishing its enterprising and public-spirited proprietor, did a damage to this and the adjacent communities, which neither time nor money can replace. Granting the innumerable sensations with which the intelligent public were disgusted and the innocent public deluded, and the ever patent humbuggery with which the adroit manager still deserved and honorable place in the front rank of the rare and curious collections of the world.
Beside it, there was none in this country worthy of the name. Boston and Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, and some one of the western cities have building called "museum," but their features are rather the theatrical attractions than the curiosities on their shelves. A better geological cabinet than the one which Mr. BARNUM had, by patient and consecutive exertion gathered, we have never seen; so far as the peculiarities of this continent are concerned, a faithful and singularly detailed representation was made, while from every quarter of the earth his agents had sent or brought the material interesting, to the amateur and most valuable to the cultured man of science. Collectors in the interest of colleges, men monomaniacally inclined in specialities dreaded the competition of the museum at auction or private sales, for wherever and whenever money could secure the curious or the rare, there and then they were certain of defeat. We believe we are correct in stating that no public institution in the country pretended even to rival geological collection of the museum either in extent or value.
The conchological and ornithological departments were likewise extended in range, infinite in variety, and full of interest. These of our citizens who thronged the lecture-room of the Museum, to the neglect of the well-filled shelves in the many rooms, knew nothing of the capacities of the place for instruction and genuine edification. Birds of rarest plumage, fish of most exquisite tint, animals peculiar to every section, minerals characteristic of every region, and peculiarities of all portions of the earth, costly, beautiful, curious and strange were crowded on the dusty shelves of room after room, where they attracted the earnest attention and studious regard of the scholar and the connoisseur.
All this has gone.
Almost in the twinkling of an eye, the dirty, ill-shaped structure, filled with specimens so full of suggestion and of merit, passed from our gaze, and its like cannot soon be seen again. Considering that for many years the Museum has been a landmark of the city; has afforded us in childhood fullest vision of the wonderful and miraculous; has opened to us the secrets of the earth, and revealed to us the mysteries of the past; has preserved intact relies of days and ages long since gone, and carefully saved from the ravages of time and the gnawing tooth of decay the garments and utensils of men of note long since mouldered, and afforded men of learning and of science opportunities for investigation and research, which their limited means and cramped resources relentlessly refused them, we deem it but right to the public, but meagre justice to the hard-earned success of Mr. BARNUM, that we place on record a
CATALOGUE OF THE CONTENTS
of the building when at noon of yesterday the fierce tooth of fire pierced and destroyed it. In the basement was an immense tank, used at times for the accommodation of whales or hippopotami, around which stood huge cages for the tenement of wild beasts. Machinery, gas-works and water butts filled the rest of the room, above which was the ground floor, on which the visitor first entered from the street. Here were the several offices of the ticket-sellers and sub-cashier; in the rear being a series of round holes, looking through which, one could be taken into the very heart of King’s palaces, or sail on the Venetian canals, or fight with the grand army of the Emperor, or share with him his icy drive from Moscow, or stand with bloody feat upon the frozen plains of New-Jersey in company with the patriots of the Revolution, or, if he preferred it, embark homeward-bound with the tarnal[damned] red-coats when the game was up.
Passing up stairs, broad and easy of ascent, the
was reached. Gazing placidly down upon the coming visitor, stood the largest elephant that the civilization of the nineteenth century has yet known. A refreshment stand unnoticed us to the mammoth barrel-organ, whose volumes of harmony greatly pleased the youngsters, and mystified many who were older. A fortune-teller, who knew much less than she pretended to tell, occupied a little room just beyond, and a one-armed, one-legged soldier from the Army of the Potomac offered his scales at the low price of whatever you pleased to give him. In the centre of the room was an immense tank, full twenty-five feet in diameter, whose spacious area could be filled with Croton from the regular pipes, or with dirty salt water from the North River, through ducts, laid at great expense by Mr. BARNUM for the purpose. In this tank were "two whales, imported, at a cost of $7,000, from the coast of Labrador," whose sportive plunges and animated contests of affection afforded constant amusement to hundreds of spectators, and a pregnant contrast to the fearful death by roasting which they so soon thereafter met.
Across the further end of the room was a narrow platform on which sat a wonderful and fearfully made fat girl, (adiposean[sic] legend does not recall her beat,) she was verily a big thing, but not on ice. She has for long time been a perspiratory attraction to young men and maidens from the country and we are pleased to learn that she is alive and well, although terribly tried by the heat. The lightning calculator and the phrenologist also occupied this platform, at one end of which was placed a large arm chair for the Nova Scotian Giantess Miss SWAN, an exceedingly tall and graceful specimen of longitude, whose movements in and about the place were such as would be noticeable in an eight-foot pair of dividers. ZERUBBY, a beautiful Circassian girl, with a head of hair frizzled by nature as no barbarous iron could do it, generally stood at the side of the lengthy curiosity, and shared with her the admiration of the crowd. In an adjoining room were the glassworks, beautiful and ingenious specimens of human handiwork and genius. A steam-engine, working, made entirely of glass, was on exhibition there, and deserved attracted a great deal of attention. But of all the atrocities in the Museum, perhaps the waxen figures of our nineteenth century notables were the greatest. There was NAPOLEON, with a squint-eye; VICTORIA, with a wry neck; TOM THUMB and wife, with a baby; KENNEDY, the hotel burner, in his "own clothes;" JEFF. DAVIS, in petticoats; and the Siamese Twins, in unisonic, ligaturistic existence. On the other side of the room, in a glass case, were Christ and his Disciples, and a collection of moving figures representing a dying chief, with a rattling, wheezing breast, surrounded by a host of weeping, head-moving sympathizers.
Mr. BARNUM’S private office was on this floor, as were those of Mr. HURD, the assistant manager, the cashier and clerks.
Leading from the large hall of this floor, on the north side, was a long room, mainly devoted to
We have seen the aquarial collection in London, which is stupid; the second collection in Kensington Gardens, which is worse; in Paris, which is simply ridiculous; and in Dublin, which is the best of them; but altogether, they do not begin to equal that which yesterday fell in the grand crash. There were at least forty large cases, neatly constructed of marble, iron and glass, in which fish from every ocean, river and lake were kept. These were not only interesting to the ordinary observer but to the curious in this specialty; and, from the little stickleback’s nest to the chameleon tints of the angel fish, we were never tired of studying the peculiarities and admiring the beauties of these wonderful creatures of the Omnipotent. An electric eel, six feet long, divided the attention of the juveniles with an alligator, who ate ducks and yearned for babies. Turtles, too, of infinite variety, stretched their mud-accustomed heads far up above their tortoised shells, and doubtless wondered if it would never rain again.
Ranged around the walls were several hundred poor pictures, but good portraits of eminent men of former generations. Entirely valueless as mere works of art, they possessed a merit peculiarly their own in the eyes of school teachers and historians. They were nearly all originals, and from the pencil of that eccentric but worthy man. REMBRANDT PEALE. They embraced portraits of Generals, Admirals, Governors, pirates, and other noted people, and were so concisely and conspicuously labeled that no casual glancer, though a fool, could mistake the one for the other. There were also on this floor a large frame inclosing several scores of colonial coins, interesting to us all. The "learned seal" Ned, occupied a conspicuous position on this floor. He was greatly admired, and is, we believe, the only living relic from the great collection. He could eat more small fishes in a short space of time than any seal we ever saw. Unlike the scriptural seals of which we read, he was never closed, but invariably open, ready for a fish or a cracker. His performances on the hand-organ were, doubtless, painful to him, but to the flippant crowd they were amusing and pleasant. At the side of his home, where he found combined the conveniences of a bath and the comforts of a sand-bank, was one of the best arranged cases of birds in the country. The labor involved in its preparation was immense, and its pecuniary value very great. Various contortionary glasses descended from the walls. Some made one’s face bread and puffy, others lank and ghostly. Some red and mercurial, others pale and uncomfortable. On the
was the entrance to the parquet of the famous Lecture-Room. This Lecture-Room was one of the greatest cards over played by the shrewd and subtle BARNUM. Moral people all over the country exist who won’t go to the theatre. We have rarely met a person, moral or immoral, who had never been to BARNUM’S Lecture-room, and we never met one who objected to going. A large and well-appointed theatre was this place-nothing more and nothing less. Plays and players were there, actors and actresses, dancers and pantomimists, scenery and footlights, music and paint. Everything that any other theatre had, had this. The plays presented, were generally well selected, fairly put on the stage, and well given. The place was always full, two regular performances being given daily, and on holidays and extra occasions every hour had its display. Some notable productions have been made on that stage, prominent among which were "The Drunkard", with Mr. C.W. CLARKE as Middleton, and "Uncle Tom’s Cabin," with the HOWARD family in the principal roles, little CORDELIA doing the gentle Eva. The machinery, stage-rooms, appointments, dressing-room, &c., were likewise on this floor. The famous drop curtain, with its sui generistic advertisements was a feature of the theatre, and caused many a hearty laugh, while quite likely it afforded much valuable information. The audience in the parquet was generally composed of country people and those who are fond of such, while the boxes above were occupied by more flash and dressy people, who swarm at every place where money is to be made from the foolish and inexperienced. Scattered through them all were scores and hundreds of ordinary citizens, who visited the place for the sake of their children, or to revive the memories of their youth and warm the cockles of their hearts by a glance at the things which amused them in their youth.
On this floor was the
representing a horse, about whose body wound a boa constrictor who was striking at the arm of the rider. The vital energy of the pose was remarkable, and the spirit of the group singularly effective. It was doubtful in the minds of many, for reasons needless to enumerate here, whether or no the group was not manufactured by the cunning hand of a stone-cutter, but we know of an eminent geologist and naturalist who was so impressed with its genuiness that he begged permission of Mr. BARNUM to copy it and send the sketch to Berlin. Around the walls were cases of butterflies, of various insects, of curious cuttings in wood and carvings in ivory, of Chinese balls and American whistles made of pigs tails, of puzzles for young people and curiosities for older ones, of spears and clubs from the islands of the sea, of sharks’ teeth and whales jaws, skeletons of snakes, of monkeys and of reptiles, scraps of cloth from coats of Revolutionary heroes, shirts taken from the dead bodies of notable soldiers, continental currency and American paper money, buttons from the vest of dying Wolfe, and the shirt pierced by the murdering bullet of a Ledgard. Relics of the Revolution which money cannot replace are gone forever. Valuable mementos of Washington, Putnam, Greene, Marion, Andre, Cornwallis, Howe, Burr, Clinton, Jefferson, Adams, and other eminent men which should have been carefully stored in a fire-proof vault, yesterday smouldered[sic] in the heat which tried the fat of a Labrador whale, and stirred the snakes from the forests of South America.
Who can be forget, be he man or boy, the startling effect produced upon him when first he came upon the
THREE MEN OF EGYPT,
whose blackened skulls and grinning, ghastly faces stuck offensively out from the top of the funeral wrappings? These dead men, or women, as the case may have been-dead any reasonable number of thousands of years-whose gay and festive lives were spent perhaps in the halls of a royal Pharaoh, or who, perchance, did their best to make bricks without straw, in the day of the fat and lean kine[sic]; about whose necks the fond caressings of love were hung, or, perchance, the noose of infancy; at whose death bitter tears of regret were shed; whose bodies were wrapped and swaddled in cloth, and dipped in tar, and stuffed with preservatives and laid away securely for the great day of days; and whose spirits have since roamed the paths of an eternal world, knowing the secrets of the Infinite. We can imagine the tender regard with which the sensitive spirits observed the mournings of their mundane relatives, and the satisfaction with which they noticed the good places selected for their long sleep. We can likewise see in our mind’s eye the awful indignation experienced when the vandal hand of intrusive Yankees pilled from the dust-covered shelves the entombed mummific remains, and rudely tore off the covering from the face, playfully pulled the lock or two of hair on the top of the cracking skull, and finally shipped them off to BARNUM. With what agony of soul this spirits, of just men made perfect, or perchance of wicked and unhappily located sinners, have watched the exposure of the feebled and scarred articles; how they have groaned, as old ladies have said, "Oh, law," and young boys have expressed a desire to furnish them with spit-ball eyes, and how they have often wondered whether they would be able at the day of universal resurrection to find their friends in Egypt at a moment’s notice. Poor Perturbed spirits; perhaps they had settled all these points and were resting secure in the promise or some etherial express company, only to be rudely awakened from their ease by the startling cry of "fire!" They are gone, and though they may have walked with Moses, or danced with Miriam, or feasted with Pharaoh, or supped with the earliest descendants of prosecuted Ham, they are no longer preserved but powdered mummies, and the sacred dust of Egypt now mingles with the dirt of Broadway and the cinder of Barnum’s. The inhabitants of the oldest country in the world is crushed by the heated falling bricks of the curiosity shop of the earth’s latest infant.
Monkeys in all imaginable attitudes, stuffed and waxed and furnished with curiously wrought glass eyes, sacred white cows filled with hay, monstrous turtles varnished and stuffed, snakes of enormous length, and camels with humps, zebras with the traditional three hundred and sixty-five strips, lions with shaggy manes, and tigers with beautiful skins, all sorts and kinds of African, Asiatic, European, and American animals-these stuffed and nicely-arranged filled the cases around the walls, while little birds with pretty plumage, and others with long bills, and others again with crest and fanlike tails, each occupies its place.
THE FOURTH FLOOR,
was just as full of curiosities as either of the others. A comedy lady sewed perpetually at one of the latest made machines; a lay figure, dressed in a full suit of revolutionary costume, stared visitors out of countenance; a pair of scales afforded opportunity for galantry, and some thirty large cases were filled with minerals and geological specimens generally. There was also there a very large collection of Indian curiosities-bows, arrows, stone-heads, poisoned shafts, &c., besides one of the twenty clubs with which Capt. Cook was possibly killed. On the door above was
THE HAPPY FAMILY,
a collection of "sassy" monkeys, subdued dogs, meek rats, fat cats, plump pigeons, sleepy owls, prickly porcupines, gay guinea pigs, crowing cocks, hungry hounds, big monkeys, little monkeys, monkeys of every degree of tail, old, grave, gray monkeys, young, rascally, mischievous monkeys, middle-aged, scheming monkeys, and a great many miserable, mangy monkeys. These animals and other creatures may have been happy, but they did’nt smell nicely; they doubtless lived respectable, but their antics were not pleasant to look at, and, to tell the truth, they frequently fought fiercely, and were badly beaten for it. However, they are gone; all burned to death, roasted whole, with stuffing au naturel, and in view of their lamentable end we may well say, "Peace to their ashes."
In a corner of the room was a pretty little kangaroo, but he too has gone, he can-go-round no more. A case of curious shoes and fancy patterns and fashions known since the sandals worn at the table of shewbread[sic] to the round toed absurdities of 1865, stood near the door, and was of great interest. Besides these there were sundry iron cubes supposed to have fallen in Massachusetts during a hail storm, several pairs of handcuffs used on the slaver Echo, pistols and knives of celebrated murderers, and a
CASE OF SNAKES.
Huge boa constrictors, thirty feet long and proportionably thick, very fond of rabbits and sheep, lay upon the floor of the cage. Smaller, but equally unpleasant snakes, hung about the perches, and a whole family of little fellows swarmed and wiggled about the warm stovepipe in the centre. These could not have been saved in any way; their mortal coils were heated quickly, their cages burned and their way before them; but it is probably a correct supposition that the hot breath of flame suffocated them before they could reach the ground and join the other reptiles on the lower tier.
Out of this vast collection nothing of value was saved. A few stuffed birds are in the hands of fellows who fancied them, but we hear of nothing else. The wax figures ran down on to the lower floor, but of course their fat was all in the fire, and they but added to the fury of the flames. All is gone and nothing saved.
ORIGIN OF THE FIRE.
The fire originated in a defective furnace in the cellar under GROOD’S restaurant, beneath the office of the MUSEUM, at No.8 Ann-street, and was first discovered by an employe of the Museum, at precisely thirty-five minutes past noon. The alarm was instantly given to the police and firemen and to the inmates of the Museum, of which latter, happily, there were few. An hour earlier an alarm of fire might have produced a panic among the audience in the lecture-room and many lives might have been lost. As it was, however, the
SCENE WITHIN THE MUSEUM,
from the moment of the discovery down to the time when, at about 1 o’clock, the last venturesome fireman was driven from his ladder, was one of painful interest; for scarcely had the alarm been sounded in the street when the flames from the furnace below belched into the lower halls of the great edifice and rendered it manifest that the conflagration, so fares the Museum was concerned, had passed human control. Then there was flying to and from among the attaches of the theatrical department, who vainly strove to save their wardrobe and other valuables; the straggling country-men who had wandered among the microcosm of curiosities rushed hither and thither, seeking egress from the building; presently the police field in, to guard property and save life, and at length the firemen came clambering up the walls, and howling into the lecture-room, dashing their axes through the floors and swinging their trumpets, as if to menace the multitude; and to the three or four spectators who preserved sufficient coolness to take sober note of the spectacle, it seemed wonderful that there was not enormous loss of life.
This scene of terror was not without its
Which we here give in the language of one of the few enterprising reporters who ventured into the fiery furnace and came forth unscathed. Mr. W. B. HARRISON, the extemporaneous and comic singer, had some very funny adventures in his attempts at escape. He reports that while in his dressing-room he heard considerable noise in Broadway, and thinking it to be merely a firemen’s diversion, he went up stairs to look out of the window. When he reached the stage the auditorium was filled with a dense mass of smoke, but he was informed that the fire was in the engine room, and that it would probably soon be out. Going back for his wardrobe, Mr. HARRISON found great difficulty in reaching his room, so dense was the smoke beneath the stage. At length, succeeding in securing his character wigs and a cash-box, (with something over $100 in it,) he determined upon leaving the building. On reaching the main salon, where the wax figures stood, he found great confusion existing. A man was endeavoring to save a Swiss animated landscape, while others tried to get out various other articles, including the wax figures, which they sought to take through the billiard-room; but the proprietor of that institution entered a protest against the crowd of rescuers making a thoroughfare of his premises for the passage of curiosities, as he did not comprehend the extent of the fire at that time. Foiled in thus escaping with their respective burdens, the crowd rushed for the front windows, and speedily emptied their arms of the grimcrack[sic] articles, throwing them indiscriminately into the street. Mr. HARRISON says that one man had JEFF.DAVIS’ effigy in his arms and fought vigorously to preserve the worthless thing, as though it were a gem of rare value. On reaching the balcony the man, perceiving that either the inanimate Jeff. Or himself must go by the board, hurled the scarecrow to the iconoclasts in the street. As Jeff. made his perilous descent, his petticoats again played him false, and as the wind blew them about, the imposture of the figure was exposed. The fight of dummy Jeff. was the cause of great merriment among the multitude, who saluted the queer-looking thing with cheers and uncontrollable laughter.
The figure was instantly seized, and bundled off to a lamp-post in Fulton-street, near St. Paul’s Church-yard, and there formally hanged, the actors in this mock-tragedy shouting the threadbare refrain, commencing the "sour apple" tree.
The whales were, of course, burned alive. At an early stage of conflagration, the large panes of glass in the great "whale tank" were broken to allow the heavy mass of water to flow upon the floor of the main saloon, and the leviathan natives of Labrador, when last seen, were floundering in mortal agony, to the inexpressible delight of the unfeeling boys, who demanded a share of the blubber.
The large cage, in which were confined the anacondas, pythons, and other gigantic specimens of the ophidian tribe, was capsized, and the tenants thereof were suffered to wander whither their fancy led. Naturally enough, they took advantage of their new-found liberty, and soon were traveling down stairs, to the infinite astonishment and alarm of the multitude.
The "Man-Eater" also suffered a cruel death amid the burning pile. This representative of the saurian species remained passive and quiescent during the progress of the fire, as far as witnessed by mortal eye. True to his taciturn habits, the alligator failed to make the slightest attempt at escape.
While the fire was at his height, a grotesquely-shaped substance sprang from the roof of the building, and landed in Vesey-street. That’s the kangaroo, shouted the multitude, and a rush was made for the place where the object alighted. But it was not the kangaroo; it was a pair of leggins formerly worn by Big Thunder, and aboriginal Indian, during his sojourn at the Museum. The crowd felt much disappointed at finding no kangaroo, and a general exclamation of "sold" was uttered by the spectators.
The firemen, in their endeavors to save the property, exhibited a penchant for curiosities. One fireman was seen emerging from the building with a stuffed owl in his hands. Another fastened on one of the wax figures, and it is said that Mr. And Mrs. TOM THUMB and baby are among the things that were. Also that several other curiosities have been saved, and will doubtless be restored to Mr. BARNUM. The fat woman and the giant and giantess made their way out without difficulty, but hastened to conceal themselves from public exhibition, in their hotel.
At 1:30 o’clock a cry burst from the concourse which stood in the square at Fulton and Vesey streets, that a woman was being saved from the fire. Curiosity was on tip toe to discover that lady, and behold the operation by which she was saved from a terrible death. The crowd did not have to wait long to witness the coveted scene of sacrifice and gallantry for a lady, attired in a pink dress, was handed down from story to story by parties inside. The form-waved to and fro, as if in a faint and the assemblage became more and more interested in her fate. As it was lowered, loud cheers arose from the multitude, who rushed, despite the efforts of the police, to see the woman. They were, however, doomed to disappointment, for the woman proved to be one of the valuable wax figures which stood near the well-known form of Daniel Lambert the giant, and the somewhat baby face of Lord Byron. The involuntary deception created great merriment among the people.
At about this time some person shouted: "The snakes are loose," and at the same moment a terrible explosion was heard, the horror-stricken throng falling back in
A FEARFUL PANIC.
The real cause of this panic was the whistling of a steam fire engine on the corner of Vesey-street and Broadway. We have heard whistles of all powers, from the sickly effort of a school-girl to the mammoth fog-signal at sea — these Tritons’ horns which warn sailors of danger; but this diabolical thing is a monstrosity quite indescribable. The whistle, or, rather, scream, of this engine is a capital counterfeit of the shriek of an elephant, when in fear or danger, and the similarity caused some thoughtless person to cry out, "The elephant is coming." That, added to the snake alarm, was enough. With one impulse, the compact mass faced about and ran in any direction most available. We stood in the doorway of a small store in the Astor house, Vesey-street side, and in a twinkling we saw and felt something very like a whirlwind — a surging sea of heads, of pale faces, staring eyes, outstretched arms, and the sound of inarticulate cries of anguish. In two minutes it was over, and in that time a hundred people were more or less injured — but we believe none were killed. The bow window at our elbow was crushed like an egg shell, and in less time than the reader takes in perusing five of these lines, about fifteen persons were jammed through the window into the store — several of them badly cut with glass or bruised by the tremendous crash. Not a few men made their way over the eight-foot iron fence into St. Paul’s Churchyard, while many hundreds sped down the street nearly to the river before they dared to look behind them. The loss of hats, cones, coats and watches, the rolhug[sic] in the mud and reckless trampling over each other, would have been most ludicrous but for the perilous danger. When all was over, the inventory of smashed hats and bare heads was enough to raise a laugh even from Knox, whose fine hat-store was in imminent danger of the fate which afterward befel it.
PROGRESS OF THE CONFLAGRATION.
At 1 o’clock the Museum was a mass of fire, and the flames had burst into the adjoining buildings in Fulton-street, Broadway and Ann-street, while the roofs and walls of the buildings in the neighborhood and the eastern front of St. Paul’s were menaced, and it seemed as though the entire block through to Nassau-street must be consumed. But the firemen, who had now arrived in force, poured cataracts of Croton upon the buildings in the centre of the block, and upon the roofs opposite; and one engine company stood in the scorching heat at the head of Vesey-street, and flooding in the eastern front of St. Paul’s, saved the venerable pile from ruin.
From the Museum the flames first crept through the adjoining houses and into the upper story of KNOX’s hat-store, No.212 Broadway. Tell-tale smoke playing about the heavy cornice first notified the spectators in the street below that this building was doomed. In a few minutes the flames flashed out of the upper story windows on Fulton-street, and then belched forth from those on Broadway.
The heat had now become intense and unendurable. The crowd that thronged Park-row, Broadway and the Park were compelled to fall back. The throng that stood in Ann street were driven halfway to Nassau. The buildings on Park-row gave signs of yielding to the heat when the firemen began to play upon them, and for a long time were successful in preventing them from taking fire. The steam from the heated buildings and the dense smoke darkened the air. The roof of the Museum had now fallen, and the interior of the building was like the crater of a volcano. A stream of heated air issued from the top, and was borne eastward by the breeze directly over the block carrying with it light articles, pieces of burning wood, shingles, &c. One man on Ann-street, not far from Nassau, was struck on the head by a shingle and knocked down. Others were in much danger by the pieces of burning material falling on their heads and clothing. This served to clear the street, so that the firemen were left masters of the situation.
At 1:30 came a crash resounding like the explosion of a powder magazine. The whole wall on the Ann-street side had fallen. A cloud of dust and smoke filled the air, making it dark as twilight, and rendering it impossible to descry objects at short distance.
At 1:45 o’clock the Broadway front of the Museum fell in three different sections, one after the other. The first to fall was the part parallel with Broadway, which went over in one mass, falling flat on the pavement of the street, and then - and not till then – breaking up into innumerable fragments. Another section was left in the shape of an elongated triangle, and not unlike the steeple of a church. In a few moments this sunk slowly down, the point still remaining upright and in position until the whole section disappeared. It did not appear to fall, but apparently sunk into the earth. This was exactly analagous[sic] to the fall or sinking of the spire of Chichester Cathedral in England a few years ago.
The section of the front wall facing on park-row, and at a slight deviation from the parallel of Broadway, still remained, and all eyes were turned in its direction. It was a very large, high portion, reaching to the uppermost story. About five minutes later this great facade careened gracefully over and slowly fell – not in among the burning ruins – but out on Broadway. It fell as a trap-door on a hinge and remained intact until it was smashed upon the pavement, sending up a frightful spray of bricks and mortar, and a vast cloud of smoke. This finished the old Museum.
ARRIVAL OF THE METROPOLITAN POLICE.
At about 1 o’clock Capt. MORRIS DECAMP, of the Second Precinct, on learning that the Museum would probably be destroyed, telegraphed to Inspector CARPENTER. The latter officer immediately repaired to the scene, and ascertaining the magnitude of the conflagration, telegraphed to the Eighth, Tenth, Twenty-eighth, Thirteenth and Fifteenth Precincts for platoons of men. The telegram was promptly obeyed, and the men were on the ground at 2 o’clock. Inspector CARPENTER took position on the southeast corner of Nassau and Fulton streets, and directed the movements of the police. The latter occupied the triangle formed by John, Nassau and Beckman streets and Broadway, and they soon thrust back the populace, thus giving the firemen full scope.
THE FLAMES EXTENDING.
The shock caused by the fall of the Museum front seemed to give a fresh impetus to the flames here, which belched forth streaming almost across Fulton-street, and endangering the opposite buildings on the south side. Thence the fire crept east to adjoining houses on the north side of Fulton-street, leaving for a while the lower stories of the Knox building comparatively intact. The fire, which had now extended through the rear, into the shops and warehouses on Fulton and Ann street, burst forth in the upper stories of several buildings, and raged with ungovernable fury, and the huge sparks – many of them as large as a man’s hand – which were borne on the breeze over the housetops and lodged far down through the commercial districts of which the Post-office is the centre[sic], threatened to extend the disaster indefinitely. But the occupants of buildings whereon these firebrands fell poured Croton on their roofs, and little damage was caused by the sparks beyond the burning of a number of signs and awnings in Fulton and Nassau streets.
CLOSING OF SHOPS.
The panic among the merchants, shop-keepers, and saloon keepers on Fulton-street, extended from Broadway to Cold-street, and in several instances for several doors below toward Pearl-street. The excitement and the alarm manifested by the occupants of premises on Fulton-street, was scarcely less than that manifested by the many persons who own or transact business on Ann-street, between Broadway and Nassau. Business was out of the question; for the streets everywhere were choked, the stages had been driven far out of their accustomed routes of travel, the cars came no further down than Church-street and Vesey on the west and to park-row on the east side, and those tradesmen who were not busy packing up to be ready for any event, closed their doors and went to the scene of destruction.
THE FIRE CHECKED.
Onward through the devoted block sped the volumes of fire until after 2 o’clock, when the firemen succeeded in partially checking the flames as they dashed against the solid walls of the sixth building from Broadway, and nothing remained to be done but to save surrounding property. At 3 o’clock the fire was wholly under, and the following-numbered buildings had been totally destroyed, the walls of only three being left standing:
On Broadway – Nos. 212, 214, 216, 218, 220 and 222.
On Ann-street – Nos. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16.
On Fulton-street – Nos. 147, 149, 151, 153 and 155.
There were several minor panics during the fire. The sound of an explosion was heard about 1:30 o’clock, and immediately at least a thousand people scampered out of the way. A great number of men fell down, and at least a hundred hats were lost. Boys were even going around with half a dozen hats on their hands, and more hapless men were hatless.
A report was started at one time that an escaped lion from the museum wsa rushing down Broadway, and the result was the sudden flight of a few nervous people, who, imparting their terror to others, brought about quite a stampede.
During the progress of the fire two men dressed as soldier were seen coming out of the shoe-store in Ann-street, each with five or six pairs of shoes under their coats. They were immediately arrested.
One man stepped into the clothing store of ROGERS & RAYMOND, off Broadway, and coolly putting on a linen wrapper was about leaving the store, when a clerk stopped him. Another man took off his coat, put a fine frock coat, and putting his own over it, attempted to escape. He was arrested by a policeman. A portion of KNOX’s stock of hats was taken out of the store. The crowd seized a large number of Panama hats, with which they escaped.
One thief, who was arrested by Policeman MCGUIRE, of the Third Ward, had taken a lead consisting of two entire pieces of flannel, a piece of broadcloth, two valises, and more than a dozen hats, with which he was escaping down Vesey-street at the tome of the capture. The police Captains of the Second and Third Precincts supply the following report of arrests, which they made during the progress of fire.
Henry Jackson, George Douglass, James Smith, Godfrey Mish, Henry Murskin, James Clancy and James Leonard, were arrested by Officers MCGLORN, MCGUIRE, and DWYER, of the Third Precinct, and Officer DOWDELL, of the Tombs Police Court, for picking pockets and stealing from the store while the fire was burning. The prisoners were confined in the Third Precinct Station-house, and this morning will be examined before Justice HOGAN at the Tombs.
Officer KINNEY, of the Twenty-sixth Precinct, arrested ROBERT and JAMES H. WALSH, brothers, for stealing a gold watch from the pocket of JOHN W.SHERMAN, living at No.196 Fulton-avenue, Brooklyn, while the latter was looking at the conflagrarion[sic]. The watch was recovered, and the prisoners were detained by Capt. BRACKETT for examination.
The Second Precinct Police arrested JOHN FOX, HENRY SCHOFF, JAMES MCDONALD and ANDREW S. GILSO, for stealing boots from the store No.6 Ann-street. FRANK DOVER was arrested while taking away a case of wines. He was locked up. JAMES CONOVAN, THOMAS NEWTON, GEORGE THOMPSON, JAMES MCCORD and JOHN ULFOSSER, were arrested, accused of stealing boots which they had in their possession. JAMES KIRBY, JOHN SPENCER, JOHN SULLIVAN and JAMES WALSH, said to be pickpockets, were locked up to keep them out of temptation.
Mr. DAVID STEWARD, of Johnstown, Fulton County, N.Y., had a gold watch stolen while standing in front of the Museum.
The only curiosities reported to have been saved beside the fat woman, (who was taken in charge by a policeman,) were the live seal and a case of rare coins. The pillars of St. Paul’s Church are slightly flaked by the intense heat, but no further damage has been done to this venerable and historical church edifice. Owing to the rapid progress of fire, great haste was required in removing anything. Accordingly portions of dramatic wardrobes, which had been used in "Camille," and the various melo-dramas and farces which were acted daily in the Lecture Room, were thrown from windows to the street.
In many instances the specific character of the stage attire and the roles in which it was used was noticed, and received appropriate comment. Men in every part of the square before and near the Museum in Park-row, were seen carrying off all kinds of articles which had been saved, to deposit them in various places for safe keeping.
The burdens taken away ware many and various. Birds, pictures, glass-machines, heavy trunks, stuffed foreign fowl, and other articles were seen for a few minutes at all points, near the Museum, in the hands of those who had just left it.
The concourse, which passed to and fro[sic], recognized several of the actors engaged by Mr. BARNUM, some of whom are well-known to the public. These gentlemen were eagerly surrounded by their more intimate friends, who inquired of them the origin of the fire. In answer, they stated that it originated in the steam-room. One of them declared he lost three valuable swords and a wardrobe by the flames.
Officer DODGE, of the Broadway Police, succeeded in saving both the Greek slave and the fat woman, the one he carried into an Ann-street, and the other into a store in Fulton street.
PHOENIX BRIGGS, a paver[sic], had both legs fractured by the falling of a wall, and is not expected to recover.
THOMAS STAPLELIN, a member of Hook and Ladder Company No.4, had his skull fractured by the falling of a cornice of the museum. In addition to the above, two firemen, whose names could not be ascertained, received injuries at the fire.
While the fire was at its heighth[sic] an explosion occurred in the museum, and a metallic substance, resembling a percussian[sic] cap in appearance, was forced into Broadway. Coming in contact with a boy it knocked him down and severely injured him. A fireman was badly hurt by being struck on the head by a block of wood, thrown from the roof on the northeast corner of Ann-street and Park-row.
PERSONS THROWN OUT OF EMPLOYMENT.
We learn from Mr. TIFFANY, the Treasurer of the Museum, that over a hundred persons were employed about the establishment, including those on exhibition. Mr. BARNUM has been thinking for some time of removing his establishment further up town, above Canal-street.
LOSS OF CURIOSITIES.
He will now, doubtless, do this, though many years will be required to get together another such rare collection as has now been suddenly swept away. This vast accumulation, upon which Mr. BARNUM has expended more than $1,000,000, cannot be replaced except at a vast outlay, hardly short of $300,000, and this sum may be said to represent Mr. BARNUM’s loss.
ASSISTANCE OF FIREMEN.
Assistance was sent for from the upper districts and at about 2 o’clock several powerful steamers arrived at the conflagration, and were set to work on the burning premises, in addition to the steamers already employed. This aided the firemen materially to obtain control of the flames.
The Brooklyn Fire Department sent over several powerful steamers, and these were made serviceable.
Hoboken, also, sent over two fire engines and these hose carriages, namely, Hoboken Engine No.1, under Mr. Fireman OSENDORF; Excelsior Engine No.2, under Mr. Fireman JOHN KENNEDY; and Oceanus Hose No.1, Washington Hose No.1, and Excelsior Hose No.1. These companies, who were stationed at the Barclay-street dock, rendered service for which they have the thanks of New-York.
Mr. EDWARD F. BARRY, of No.11 Park-row, and Mr. CARNEBY, a clerk in the Post-office are entitled to the credit of saving the old Windust corner. For over two-hours, they unremittingly poured water upon the roofs adjoining the building, and in the discharge of their labors both were quite severely burned about the neck and face. At times the heat and flames were almost unbearable, but they never flinched from their post. Both of them are quite young men, and are deserving of much credit for the manner in which they conducted themselves.
THE SUFFERERS AND THE LOSSES.
We cannot undertake thus early to publiish[sic] an accurate list of the losers, losses, and insurances[sic], as in the confusion attending a fire of such magnitude, involving upward of a round million, many men are unable to collect their senses and make their figures with commercial precision. Mr. BARNUM’s loss may be set down in round numbers at $300,000. He has $62,000 insurance on stock, in sums of $2,500 each in several city offices.
Mr. WILLIAM B. ASTOR, owned the Museum building, and had $28,000 insurance thereon, in sums of $2,500 each in various city offices.
Mr. C. K. KNOX, whose stock was valued at $80,000, had only $30,000 insurance, in city offices, and the building in which he transacted business, on the north-east corner of Broadway and Fulton-street, was owned by the LORRILLARD heirs and insured for $20,000 in city offices.
Messrs. P. L. ROGERS’ SONS, at 214 Broadway, dealers in clothing, valued their stock at $55,000. The bulk of it has been saved. They are insured as follows:
Atlantic, of Brooklyn………$2,500 Montauk……………………………………$1,500
Home, of New Haven……………..2,500 New England………………………..3,000
Lenox………………………………………………….3,500 Yonkers, of New York….2,000
FRENCH & WHEAT, printers, No. 18 Ann-street; insured for $15,000. Damaged by water.
DICK & FITZGERALD, No. 18 Ann-street, publishers; insured for $30,000. Damaged by water.
JOHN T. BYRNE, tailor, No. 16 Ann-street; stock destroyed.
C. BELLMAN, wood engraver, No. 16 Ann-street; stock destroyed.
Mr. ANDERHUB, manufacturer of pocket books, No. 16 Ann-street; stock destroyed.
Mr. FORBES, engraver, No. 16 Ann-street; stock destroyed.
JOHN ROSS, dealer in liquors and segars[sic], No.16 Ann-street; stock destroyed.
J. JEANDBAREUS, dealer in cigars, No. 16 Ann-street; stock destroyed.
JONES & KENWOOD, dealers in boots and shoes; partly insured;
J. KENNEDY, locksmith; S. SHAFFER & Co.; partly insured; WILLIAM C. ROBERTSON, lithographer, insured; THOMAS BARTOW, printer, insured; G. SWIFT, bookbinder insured; B.BEARMAN, insured – all of Nos. 10 and 12 Ann-street, destroyed.
No. 8 Ann-street – GROOT’s restaurant; Mr. GLOVER, dealer in trusses; loss total; insurance unknown.
Nos. 2 and 4 Ann-street – Mr. NOLAN, dealer in liquors; Mr. Marsh, dealer in trusses; losses and insurances[sic] unknown.
No. 220 Broadway – Mr. SUBRING, dealer in cigars, loss and insurance unknown.
No. 216 Broadway – GEORGE W. WHITE, hatter; loss and insurance unknown.
No. 216 Broadway – VAN NAME’s restaurant; loss $10,000.
No. 214 Broadway – C.HYNES, restaurant; loss and insurance unknown; also,
REEVES’ billiard saloon, on second story ; loss $10,000.
No. 212 Broadway – BRANCH’s restaurant; loss $10,000; also, a gaming saloon above KNOX’s hat store.
No. 155 Fulton-street – WILLET & SKIDMORE, gentlemen’s furnishing goods;
HOME, optician; losses and insurances[sic] unknown.
B. H. HORN, manufacturer of opera glasses; the American Artisan office, and
BROWN, COMBS & CO., solicitors of patents, occupied the upper floors of No. 212 Broadway.
No. 147 Fulton-street – AUSTIN & MAGILL, dealers in blank books.
No. 147 Fulton-street was occupied as follows:
HARVEY & FORD, dealers in blank books; SLATER & RILY, printers; S. BRADFORD, printer; JAMES B. THOMPSON, tailor; P. HAMILTON, tailor; STERNS & BEALE, stationers.
No. 153 Fulton-street, was occupied by THOMAS H. BRAISTED, manufacturer of Gaylord’s patent hose and engine couplings.
No. 151 Fulton-street was occupied on the first floor by METZINGER’s liquor-store, and W. RICHARDSON, dealer in spectacles, on the second floor.
No. 149 Fulton-street, occupied on the first floor as BASSFORD’s billiard factory, which extended through to Ann-street, and BROSNAN & DUANE, liquor dealers, and on the second floor by J. WRIGHT, hair cutter, and J. D. PHILLIPS, tailor.
Between 12 and 1 o’clock this morning the flames burst forth anew in Ann-street, but there seemed no danger of an extensive spread of the fire when the TIMES went to press.
History of the Museum.
Probably no building in New-York was better known, inside and out, to our citizens than the ill-looking ungainly, rambling structure on the corner of Broadway and Ann-streets, known as the American Museum, where for more than twenty years Mr. BARNUM has furnished the public with a wonderful variety of amusements. The contents of the building, and the arrangement of the various departments, are elsewhere fully described. Here he has exhibited all the remarkable curiosities which money and enterprise could procure, or ingenuity invent. A model of Niagara Falls operated by a steam-engine; the Feejee mermaid, made up of the head and body of a monkey and the tail of a fish; the diorama of the removal of the remains of NAPOLEON I. From St. Helena to Paris; the happy Family, the "What Is it?" the Lightning Calculator, ths[sic] hippopotamus, whales, alligators, baby shows, dog shows, prize poultry, and ten thousand other objects of curiosity, formed at various times the objects of popular attraction, and achieved for Mr. BARNUM a success which probably exceeded even his most sanguine expectations.
The American Museum was a product of slow and gradual growth. Mr. BARNUM commenced his varied and extensive career as a showman in 1835, when he exhibited JOYCE HETH, the reputed nurse of Gen. WASHINGTON. It was slender and precarious capital; but even at the beginning of his career, Mr. BARNUM showed himself a master of his profession. He advertised far and wide, in city and country papers, and people flocked from all quarters to have a glimpse of the homely old black woman. The fortunate showman soon made enough out of this speculation to organize a traveling show. But his ambition reached to greater heights. He had long cherished the design of establishing in New-York a museum which should be worthy of a metropolis, grow with its growth, and become in time, one of its chief ornaments, and unique among places of popular resort.
The sale of Scudder’s Museum in 1841 gave the enterprising showman the opportunity he had looked for. He bought the collection, made it popular, drew people into it in crowds, and paid for it within a year. About the same time he succeeded in securing the contents of Peale’s Museum. The two collections combined formed the nucleus of the American Museum, to which he has added new features year by year, up to the very day of its destruction by fire. With all his enterprise and good fortune, Mr. BARNUM was obliged to struggle hard against adverse circumstances and the disadvantages entailed by poverty. As an instance of this, it may be stated that the negotiations for renting the Museum were at one time in danger of falling through, from the inability of the energetic young showman to offer the owner of the premises the necessary sureties and references. In this emergency, he applied to Mr. MOSES Y. BEACH, who was at that time proprietor of the Sun, and that gentleman went security for him, and thus enabled him to establish his business on a secure basis.
From this time onward, Mr. BARNUM’s life as a showman was one of unbroken and unprecedented success. The ill-advised speculation in the Connecticut clock manufactory cost him a colossal fortune, which he succeeded in retrieving at his old profession. The halls of his museum were always crowded, from the hour of opening to the hour of closing, by throngs not always select, but always curious and interested. The collections of animals, living or stuffed, of curiosities from far-off and strange countries, from ages older than the flood, were the special delight of inquisitive youths. The "Lecture-room" was one of its most attractive features. Here the "moral drama" was daily exhibited, to the great edification of a certain class whose tender consciences shrunk from the contaminations[sic] of a regular theatre, and whose lamentations over its destruction will be sincere and deep. Here Tom Thumb began his eventful public career, and here Miss LAVINIA WARREN, now his wife, Miss MINNIE WARREN and Commodore NUTT, made their first appearance before the world.
Until his engagement with JENNY LIND gave him a European notoriety, Mr. BARNUM’s fame was confined to the United States. That episode in his career, taken in connection with a tour through Europe with Tom Thumb, made his name familiar on both sides of the Atlantic as the Prince of Showmen, and added greatly to the prestige of his museum. The Swedish Nightingale honored the place with her presence – not as a performer, but as a spectator – and the Prince of Wales did not think it beneath him to submit the curiously crowded halls to the favor of his royal inspection. He pronounced the Museum a "big thing,’ and doubtless enjoyed his stroll there vastly better than the tour of the institutions.
Mr. BARNUM constantly labored to keep his museum up to the times, adding daily to the collections of curiosities, and varying and increasing the other attractions; and his efforts were rewarded by a constantly increasing popularity. People knew that there was a good deal of humbug about the place; but this they good-naturedly accepted and laughed at, while the intrinsic value of the museum, as a whole, was generally acknowledged. There was no other place in the city where an equal amount of rational amusement would be obtained at a price which was within the reach of the poorest, and its destruction has occasioned almost universal regret.
New York, Thursday, July 13.
The Manager of Barnum’s Museum takes this method of returning his sincere thanks to the Fire Department of New-York, and also to the citizens who labored so energetically to save the effects at the fire this day.
S. H. HURD, Manager
The Police and the Firemen.
To the Editor of the New-York Times :
SIR – One of your evening cotemporaries[sic], inadvertently I feel sure, speaks of the firemen as having been "dilatory in getting to work" at the fire to-day. As an old hand who worked hard at the great fire in this city in 1835, allow me to say that any tardiness on the part of the firemen, if such there was, is to be ascribed to a cause over which they had no control, viz., the impossibility of keeping the crowd back, for it was a full half hour after the fire broke out before a cordon of policemen had cleared the way for them. I do not wish to imply blame to the police, but unmerited blame should not rest on our firemen.
I am, Sir, truly yours, W. D. R.