Lehigh University
The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
Previous Issue Next Issue
Previous Page Next Page
0 matches

[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
tricked out with wreaths, head-dresses and rib-
bons.  As much stared at and more familiarly
known to the audience than the performers on the
stage, their countenances exhibit a perfect con-
sciousness of it, an affectation of free and easy in-
difference, blended with a tired, up-all-night look
inexpressibly dreary to witness.  One evidently
the belle of the place a girl in black velvet, with
bare shoulders and a profusion of curls, is deci-
dedly handsome; the most are common-place,
some ugly.  Nearly all exhibit an utter absence of
womanly grace, repose or modesty, and most of
them bear the indefinable but unmistakable stamp
belonging to their class.
  They are allowed to drink at the invitation and
expense of visitors, but standing, being pretty
sharply overlooked by one or both of the pro-
prietors at the bar.  They have, of course, acquaint-
ances among the audience, with whom they con-
verse familiarly, flippantly, drearily, vulgarly, in-
termittently, seldom for more than five minutes
together, for the Argus-eyes at the bar would for-
bid, that as an unprofitable expenditure of fascina-
tion.  When, waiter in hand, they make their de-
vious way between the close rows of seats and their
occupants to supply some distant order for  re-
freshment  a duty rendered difficult by exuberant
crinoline they are sometimes subjected to slight
practical familiarities on the part of the visitors;
but ordinarily little of this is perceptible in this
part of the house, the girls being perfectly capable 
of resenting such proceedings, and of putting their
displeasure into language more remarkable for its
idiomatic and adjective energy than for purity and
refinement of expression.  Yet it is evident that
they are on the most intimate terms with the
habitu s of the place (it has its habitu s perhaps
subscribers) when off duty.  Go round to the
private entrance of the Canterbury, in the appro-
priate locality of Mercer street, at midnight, when
the public performances terminate, you shall see
a score of men waiting the departure of these
girls to conduct them to the  Ladies  Supper
Rooms  of the locality, to their own equivocal
boarding-houses to any unmentionable localities
you please.  Ask any of them, when officiating
as waitress, her name and address, it will be ex-
ceptional if she refuses to give them.  In fact, the
place, for all its  legitimate attractions  is a 
portico to the brothel.
  Up stairs this fact is even more patent than be-
low.  Here, the gallery is fitted up with little, low
pew-like compartments, their backs padded with
red velvet, or cheaply painted of the same color.
Here, to, about the same number of girls as are
employed below, of commoner aspect and dress,

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
generally clad in accordance with the prevalent
hue, disport themselves more freely than down-
stairs, being removed from the vigilant circum-
spection of the bar-counter.
  In the parquette and promenade the appearance
is simply that of an average male audience.  To 
quote from a description of similar places of popu-
lar London entertainments (minus the odious
waiter-girl feature) in the last number of the Corn-
hill Magazine:  There are many gentlemen pre-
sent who have very much the air of being at home,
and as if they did that kind of thing every night
 and perhaps they do; many others who have
the appearance of having come from the country,
and who seem under the impression that they are
seeing life and no doubt they are seeing it, as far
as the smoke permits; and there are others who
from various outward symptoms, look as if they
had what is called in foreign origin and very like-
ly they have. 
  But for the waiter-girl feature the Canterbury
might claim to rank as a respectable place of
public amusement, the performances upon the
stage being of average merit, the singing endura-
ble, the negro business no drearier than usual, the
dancing pretty good, and in character not much
exceeding the usual license accorded to the ballet.
But the recognition of such accessories brands the
 Palace  as only a less offensively conducted nui-
sance than others of its class. It is understood
that these girls are paid four dollars a week and
upwards, according to their good looks and per-
sonal appearance.  Some of them must obtain as
much and more in gratuities from visitors.
  This place is located at 539 Broadway, between
Spring and Prince streets, and in the old Costar
mansion, once the shrine of wealth and fashion.
Like its predecessor and rival, it publishes a bill of
performances and exacts a price of admission 
namely, twenty-five cents for which a ticket en-
titling the visitor to a drink is given.  It consists
of a large room, or hall with the inevitable appur-
tenances of a bar and stage, respectively situated
at the near and further ends; small galleries on
either side, near the entrance; and over it four
private boxes, the temporary occupancy of which
(we are told, but cannot vouch for the accuracy
of the information, and the Melodeon bill does not
afford it) involves the expenditure of a dollar.
The hall has a sanded floor, is cheaply papered
and fitted up with long seats and occasional
tables of a plain, unornamental description.  In-
deed the general aspect of the place is dingier, 
more taverny, than that of the Canterbury.
  The girls here are more numerous, and allowed
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Eighteen: page one hundred and twenty-seven
Description:Newspaper clipping written by Gunn regarding various concert saloons in New York.
Subject:Brothels; Canterbury Hall (New York, N.Y.); Gunn, Thomas Butler; Journalism; Melodeon (New York, N.Y.); New York evening post.; Theater; Women
Coverage (City/State):[New York, New York]
Coverage (Street):539 Broadway; Mercer Street; Prince Street; Spring Street
Scan Date:2010-06-14


Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Eighteen
Description:Includes Gunn's descriptions of the scene in New York at the commencement of the Civil War, his visits to military camps in and around New York City as a reporter for ""The New York Evening Post,"" boarding house life, the shooting of Sergeant Davenport by Captain Fitz James O'Brien for insubordination, and Frank Bellew's marital troubles.
Subject:Boardinghouses; Bohemians; Civil War; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Journalism; Marriage; Military; Publishers and publishing; 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 2010 Missouri History Museum.
Source:Page images, transcriptions, and metadata of the Thomas Butler Gunn diaries have been provided by the Missouri History Museum.