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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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24. Thursday.  With Dunciere the policeman, (and my next room neighbor)
to New York, and the Tombs, where by influence of his star and another
policeman we gained entry. Divers police and legal myrmidons, men with
turn-key faces about, and visitors to those within about the wicket.   [On?] off a
small open plot of ground, (on the morrow to witness the death-struggle of two
men they in health and strength   condemned murderers,)  and ascending a
dirty stone staircase, emerged on three galleries, from which, in the thickness
of the wall were continuous cells, with small ponderous iron doors; inside
stone benches and a barred window, wider than high.  From each balcony you
could command a view from floor to room.   Many occupants were lolling, sitting
striding about, ill-looking gaol-bird visages had they, crime having marked
their visages as belonging to the great subterranean structure of society, who wage
continual war with it.   Here was a burly, scowling varlet, with forehead
villanous low, rising and preparing to shave, then a thin wiry, dark
haired youth with restless bad eye and reckless look.  Ill clad & foul looking
crew were they.            Ascending to the summit of the prison we had a good
view of the whole, originally the place on which it stands was a pestiferous swamp
Acknowledged our policemans [unclear word] by treating him to imbibition, then
parted, and I, with Dunciere to Brooklyn.  A rough, sailor fellow,
[words crossed out],  curses a great deal and says he shall get $700
per year as policeman.     To the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where we first
saw a vessel in course of building, a man-of-war, under a large shed,
surrounded by scaffoldings, plunkings, ropes, crosses & the like.  Men busy,
everywhere, the noise of hammers echoing ceaselessly   a fine night.  Then,
in a boat, in company with divers tall young fellows affixed in loose blue
shirts and pouts to match, we were propelled some hundred yards a
twain by means of two fellows who repeatedly pushed us on by a rope which
stretched from the shore to the side of the vessel which was our destination.
Page
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Two: page one hundred and forty-two
Description:Discusses visiting the Tombs prison with a policeman who lives in his boarding house.
Date:1851-07-24
Subject:Dunsier; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Police; Prisoners; Prisons
Coverage (City/State):Brooklyn, [New York]; [New York, New York]
Scan Date:2011-02-07

 

Volume
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Two
Description:Includes descriptions of Gunn's attempts to find drawing work among New York publishers, brief employment in an architectural office, visits to his soldier friend William Barth on Governors Island, boarding house living, drawing at actor Edwin Forrest's home at Fonthill Castle, and sailing and walking trips taken with friends.
Subject:Boardinghouses; Books and reading; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Military; Publishers and publishing; Religion; Travel; Women
Coverage (City/State):New York, 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.