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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
were unanimously satisfied that it was a waste of
time and patience to make any more efforts in this
matter, and they were loth to be insulted any more
by the saucy waiters.  The only articles to be ob-
tained were wine and ice cream, poor substitutes for
a good dinner to a hungry man, whose appetite had
been sharpened by the sea air.
  Along the bulwarks of the upper deck, between
the companionways, were people reclining upon an
apology for a mattress, covered by their coats and
shawls, which they fortunately had brought with
them.  To those who have been to California, via
the Isthmus, the scene presented to our view was a
perfect similitude of a crowded California steamship
in the tropics.  Some of the excursionists were heard
to say, that notwithstanding they were lying upon
two of these mattresses, alias  donkeys  break-
fasts,  they could realize that they were only on the
 soft side of the planks.   In some of these out-
stretched groups complaints rose up loud and long,
while in others cheerful songs beguiled the fleeting
hour.  As the clouded moon rose high up in the 
heavens, so the swell increased, and sundry collisions
occurred among those who were promenading the
decks, but no serious damage accrued to either party,
and they endeavored to get their  sea legs  on as
soon as possible.
	            INCIDENTS INSIDE.
  The swell of the sea had imparted a slight rolling
motion to the ship, and it was not long before it was
transferred to the peristaltic organs of a hundred
stomachs; a palor overspread other countenances,
and they had inward misgivings such as they had
never had before.  In vain they sought for sympa-
thy, for if their emotions choked their utterance they
were immediately made the laughing-stock for their
neighbors.  In vain they sought for a hiding-place
from the rude gaze of a man, but these emotions came
bubbling up, not like the limpid stream, but the
troubled waters of an undamned frog pond.  They
had trespassed upon the domains of old Neptune,
and as he has from time immemorial demanded trib-
ute from such, it was useless to endeavor to escape his
just and time-honored levy.  The majority, however,
were proof to the sad and unpleasant feelings herein
described, and enjoyed themselves hugely.  Only a few
of the hundreds of opera glasses and telescopes which
had been leveled at every object of interest, were
peering into the darkness of the night.  Occasionally
a party would look through the engine-room sky-
lights, but the heat arising therefrom was so unpleas-
ant as to render their stay a very brief one.
  Loud calls were not made for the band,
but some of its members informed us that
the leader was troubled with a complaint prev-
alent during the summer season, and they them-
selves were  played out.   As it was evident
of many that any more humbug woud be followed
by still greater imposition, they determined that a
remedy should be immediately given to the leader,
and that the members should be  played in,  they,
assisted by some of the officers of the ship, resuscita-
ted both leader and band.
  In a few minutes sweet music was being dis-
coursed, and the light fantastic toe was being tripped
upon the after part of the quarter-deck.  During the
intervals of the dancing several  scrub  races took

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
place in which at least fifty entries were made, the
prize was the old mattress which was held by some
of the parties participating in said race.  The per-
formance brought out peals of laughter, and was
highly enjoyed by all, except those over whom the
racers ran.  Negro, sentimental, sailor, and even
staid old church songs, were sung by different groups.
The sailors forward were relenting  tales of the sea, 
and  spinning long yarns  to a crowd of credulous
people who were gathered around, and occasionally
of the grandeur of the spectacle around him, ever
and anon peering into the night haze with his glass,
and descrying each vessel as she passed.
  As the hour of midnight drew nigh we took a tour
of the ship.  First visiting the paddle engine-room,
we found that there was a pressure on the boilers of
about twenty pounds of steam, and that the huge
wheels were revolving twelve times per minute, and
with an ease and grace which one would have been
delighted to look upon for hours, but the close atmos-
phere of the place rendered it not only impracticable,
but impossible.  Passing through the tunnel we were
soon in the screw engine-room.  The steam gauge
indicated the same pressure on the boilers, and the
screw propeller was turning around thirty times in a 
minute, the combined efforts of both these motive
powers giving a speed of about thirteen knots
per hour to the ship.  At the steering apparatus,
six stalwart seamen keeping the ship s head a
couple of points to the westward of south.
  The search was in vain; every chair, table, lounge
under them, around them and wheresoever you might
turn your eye, each place was filled, men were sleep-
ing in every conceivable posture, bolt upright, at
angles of from a horizontal line to forty-five degrees,
limbs up, limbs down, arms folded, arms outstretched,
hats on, hats off, some with night caps and more
without them, some snoring, others with mouth
opened wide and in short, in all the awkward and
ungainly postures that can possibly be imagined.
  Not a sail was in sight, and dark, lowering
clouds rolled lazily up the sky; the stars were shut
in, and through the hazy mantle with which nature
had overspread the heavens the moon feeble shone.
Most of the excursionists had sank to rest, and no
noise was heard save the pattering of the paddles as
they untiringly turned around.  A heavy dew was
falling, and the cinders from the funnels were fast
putting the deck in pitiable plight.
  At  four bells  two o clock we against made a
tour of the ship, and found no material change in
the aspect of affairs; the engines were working beau-
tifully, and most of the passengers were sleeping
quietly.  The long and tedious hours were whiled
away in sundry cruises about the decks and saloons.
At four o clock a red streak in the eastern horizon
foretold the dawn of day.
	           HEAVING THE LEAD.
  The engines were topped, and the  deep sea
lead  was hove to find the depth of water, and as-
certain the character of the bottom of the sea at this
point.  Twenty-four fathoms of line ran out; and
bottom was reached; and when the lead was
passed up, the  arming  was covered with mud.
The engines were started, and the ship headed into
the westward; and as she swung around, the big
ship rolled slowly and gracefully to the ground swell
that was undulating the bosom of the mighty deep.
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Thirteen: page one hundred and twenty-six
Description:Newspaper clipping from ''The New York World'' describing an excursion aboard the Great Eastern.
Subject:Food; Great Eastern (Ship); Gunn, Thomas Butler; Music; New York world.; Ocean travel; Travel
Coverage (City/State):[New York, New York]
Scan Date:2011-01-29


Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Thirteen
Description:Includes descriptions of boarding house living, his freelance writing and drawing work, antics of New York literary Bohemians, Frank Cahill fleeing for England after spending money that was meant for ''The New York Picayune,'' visits to the Edwards family, the state of Charles Damoreau's marriage, a sailing excursion to Nyack with the Edwards family and other friends on the Fourth of July, a fight between Fitz James O'Brien and House at Pfaff's, witnessing a fire at Washington Market, the execution of pirate Albert Hicks on Bedloe's Island, an excursion aboard the ship Great Eastern, a vacation at Grafton with the Edwards family, his growing friendship with Sally Edwards, Lotty Granville's behavior with Brentnall and Hill at his boarding house, Frank Bellew's return to England, and visits to dance houses in the Fourth Ward with friends for an article.
Subject:Boardinghouses; Bohemians; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Journalism; Marriage; Publishers and publishing; Women
Coverage (City/State):New York, New York; Grafton, New York
Note:Thomas Butler Gunn was born February 15, 1826, in Banbury, England, and came to New York in 1849. During the Civil War he worked as a correspondent for the New York Tribune and the New York Evening Post. He returned to England in 1863, and died in Birmingham in April 1903. The collection includes twenty-one volumes of his diaries, including newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, sketches, and various other items inserted by Gunn. Diary entries date from July 7, 1849, to April 7, 1863, and include his experiences with the New York publishing and literary world, his descriptions of boarding houses, his travels throughout the United States, and his experiences traveling with the Federal army as a Civil War correspondent.
Publisher:Missouri History Museum
Rights:Copyright 2011 Missouri History Museum.
Source:Page images, transcriptions, and metadata of the Thomas Butler Gunn diaries have been provided by the Missouri History Museum.