Black elite Old New York
OLD MEW YORK AND OLD HEW YORKERS. Innumerable Ilulne rndertaklnits Conducted Here by Our Fure-; Fure-; Fure-; father Frarlean Enterprise of the l Old Siberian Trading Company "Why Have These Bualneaaea Been Allowed to aVrUbf TAPER IV. Not Ions since I was lead to think upon the subject of which I now write by overhearing amongst a gathering of Afro-American Afro-American Afro-American New Yorkers a conversation in which it was asserted that we hereabouts , are now very largely entering upon business business careers. This remark was one very agreeable to hear and -unobjectionable -unobjectionable in every particular had it not been accompanied accompanied by other1 assertions, showing that lie speaker thought that now, for the first time, are we entering business. It simply showed that the company was composed of old New Yorkers and hud not a knowledge of conditions amongst us in the past. Again, while standing upon, the steps of St. Thilip's church recently, n friend remarked upon the fact that an old acquaintance acquaintance of ours, who kept a barber" shop in a certain city north of this, has lieen succeeded by a white man, who has very much enlarged and improved the place so that it bears evidence of much prosperity a tiling which had not occurred occurred during the more than thirty years' occupancy of the former proprietor. Now, nil of this would have been interesting to the readers of The Aue were it not that we both deplored the fact, since it seemed to be additional evidence pointing toward a seeming tendency of the race not to stick, not to build up and improve in business ventures. What I shall write. too. would seem to point the same way, for of the many business employments of our people which existed hereabouts many vears ago and wUiih we take pride in mentioning, we are nevertheless unable to think of more than one tliat remains to day, and that one is the drug business of Dr. I'eter W. Kay. There may ue more that have existed above half n century century as has his. but if so they have escaped escaped my observation. Many of us ore no doubt aware of the fact that the College College of Pharmacy presented the doctor a Sold medal several vears ago, his being the only pharmacy on the Brooklyn sidt-of sidt-of sidt-of the river that had ruu continuously for fifty years.' Perhaps this single exception may serve lis in denying the oft-repeated oft-repeated oft-repeated assertion that the Afro-American, Afro-American, Afro-American, or the Negro since that word is more generally used and applicable is characteristically not a builder, is devoid of the power of continuity. continuity. Hut let us record now, lest we forget, that while this pharmacy may be the only instance to which we may point in defence as the survival of individual business, we can nevertheless establish that the Negro possesses the usual decree decree among the races of men of continuity, continuity, by pointing out his ability to continue continue and to build up enterprises in associated, associated, orgnched form. Chief, possibly, hereabout we may mention the New York African Mutual Iklit-f Iklit-f Iklit-f Society, founded in the beginning of the l!tth century and to-day to-day to-day existent, one of the richest and strongest institutions among Negroes in America, carrying upon its roll book rery many of the names of t ho tirst and ablest of. our old New Yorkers. The creat church organizations. Methodist, Itaptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Con- Con- gregationol can all boast ipiite if not more than n century of existence in organized organized form. The Masonic fraternity and Odd Fellows, too, have a past his-. his-. his-. tory which we are proud to mention. Nevertheless. I must say that I should feel much relieved could I discover more evidence of the disposition, not questioning questioning the power, to build up our people hereabouts. Years ago its was a common thing for our people to engage in business. There existed no feeling in the community averse to trading with us, nor did anyone seem to be intimidated or have any reason reason to suspect that the general public would pass him in preference for another; another; the price and the goods, not the color of the merchant, being then, as now. the determining features in trade. Hut then again recurs the thought. Why didn't our people continue and build up? Why do we not now reod over some door, "Established "Established fifty years," or more, ns the case niny be.' We must leave the discussion discussion of those questions to some future, possibly concluding, papers. Writing now to a well-built well-built well-built and long-founded long-founded long-founded news-pa news-pa news-pa per ; very naturally suggests suggests ns first iu. order that I should mention mention what seviiis to have been the first colored newspaper in this city. Thr Colored Colored American, edited by Ib'V. Charles 15. Ray and Rev. Samuel K Cornish: and The Knmxhorn, edited by Thomas Van Renselner: and Thr Amjlo-Afntiin, Amjlo-Afntiin, Amjlo-Afntiin, liy Thomas and later on by Robert Hamilton. Hamilton. Copies of those papers existing to-day, to-day, to-day, stored nniong "ancient history." are well worth exhibition as showing the very marked ability of the editors and correspondents; of the eriod. Thr Com mercial Aarrrlimr, J'ont. Jiernlii, l iiir, ' and Trthunc are still m evidence, be cun and continued bv white men : but alas ! what has become of those colored newspapers? Let us hope, indeed, that a century hence THE .new iORK A(;e will be in evidence, a strong argument in our people's behalf. Of all the enterprises, thnt which creat ed the greatest excitement quite naif a century ago was the Liberia n Trading Company, wlien John 1. Jolinson, formerly formerly a barber, Joseph II. Turpin and Ir. Charles li. IMntiar. under the nrm name of Johnson. Turpin nnd 1 lunhar, vnt the bark Mendi. ireighted with tolmcco. flour, fish, brass kettles, furni ture and many articles suited to the African trade, to Monrovia, carrying also passengers distinguished hereabout, whose loss would have enst great gloom upon this community. ' Resides the gentlemen named there were interested in that ex pedition ns owners, storekeepers, etc.. I'eter Down inn. Dr. Clarence Howard and Cleve Lucas. Several other citizens were financially interested, but took no active part in the business, ilie bark sailed from a pier jon the Enst River some time in the year iKtiO. and her departure departure was the most marked event of a business charncter among the colored peo ple of that period. If we but note that the nark made several trips, tne last in 1802. in those troublous times during the War of the Reliellion, when the seas were alive with privateers chartered by the Southern Confederacy, and think what a sweet morsel a Negro trading vessel vessel would have been, say, to the famous Rebel shin Alabama, the reader can form some slight conception of the risk taken and anxiety by the many relatives and friends connected with the enterprise. At the time spoken of Liberia had attracted a large number of colored Americans: Americans: there was quite a colony already established at Monrovia, and another at Mammytown, up 'St. Paul's river. New York city was very largely represented there, as were also Philadelphia and Providence. R. I. Peter Downing and Dr. Lung had married sisters, the Misses Parker, of Providence, nnd had both settled settled in Monrovia with their wives. Downing Downing kept the store where were disposed the goods brought out by the Johnson, Turpin Turpin & Dunbar Company, while Dr. Lang practiced medicine. Saiijuel Ray, brother brother of Dr. P. W. Ray, was the architect who planned the House of Representatives Representatives at Monrovia. William Johnson of Newport, R. I., and the McGill brothers of New York were general merchants, and Augustus Washington was a photograph, er. A Mr. Outland. a Mr. Warren and Noah Fleet were all colored Americans doing business as merchants at Monrovia. Ellis Potter of New York was business at Cape I'almas. Gabriel Moore was a merchant at Mammytown on St. Paul's river. Spencer Anderson did business also on St. Paul's river. The aforementioned are a few only of the many who, with their wives nnd families, together witli Miss Annie Poulson, formerly formerly of Rrooklyn, formed a bright nnd comparatively wealthy social circle in Liberia's Liberia's capital. Samuel Ray and Doctor Doctor Dunbar died im that country. Peter Itowning is still very much in evidence now at his home in Rrooklyn, ns is also Dr. Clarence Howard, at Philadelphia. William Miller Duttou. nt present living in Rrooklyn. was not of the former colony, colony, but went (here later, in his capacity ns photographer, taking pictures for an American firm. All the others named have passed away. The bark Meudi made several successful trips lietween Monrovia Monrovia nnd New York nnd was succeeded after a venr or two bv the bark Edward. "Prince'1 Leo Lloyd, the "African Prince" so said to have been known wet) ns a very swell gentleman in Monrovia, came to New York and Ronton and Eastern Eastern cities nbout that lime, nnd siiccwdinl in gaining the confidence of quite a number number of our people in nn endeavor to keep alive the declining business of the old company: but nothing ot importance ever came tif his efforts. Nevertheless, there remains the fet that the colored lieopU of old New York were not slow or afraid nt' luree undertakings. Neither was the Johnson, Turpin nnd 1 (miliar Compniiv the first thnt colored men of the citv of New York Imd under taken. Yenrs Ix-fore Ix-fore Ix-fore their advent a col ored man bv the name of E. J. Roy trad ed between New York. Europe and Africa, loiter on we have had what was known ns the Rtishmore trading expedition to Litiena. Rushmore was a graduate ot the old Mulberry street school of "Char lie" Andrews' time, nnd was further educated educated at I Sou (loin College, where were graduated Dr. Peter W. Ray nnd Win Miller I Mitt on. Thnt undertaking can not be set down purely to Afro-American Afro-American Afro-American Afro-American enterprise, since Rushmore acted tin der the care and patronage of the Colonization Colonization societv. These trading expeditions were, however, however, but the legitimate fruit of the busi ness character of the isHiple here, who were from the earliest days used to trade and trntlic. The women kept pie shops and bakeries, nnd millinery, nnd thread nml needle stores, or stores of ready-made. ready-made. ready-made. home-made home-made home-made ladies underwear and children's children's aprons, etc. Cornelius Gomez. Dr. Ray's grand-aunt, grand-aunt, grand-aunt, baked pies for all the rich, the Goelets, Rhinelniiders nnd Liv ingstons. Her business descended to "Aunt" ICntie Ferguson, nnd she wns succeeded succeeded by a white man named Scliaedle. who removed the business to the corner of Rnrclny and Church streets. Henry Scott was a manufacturer of pickles at 217 Water street; J. L. La Mott manufactured manufactured stoves on Water street; Felix was a manufacturer of ami dealer In stoves nnd tinware on Church street Dandy Cox was n clothier ; Philip Reli had nn intelligence office in the Cnrlton house on Leonard street: Ed. Still wns tinsmith on Church street: Patrick Rea son an engraver; James-Itarnett James-Itarnett James-Itarnett n tin smith; nnd John L. Hudson n clothier. I lo.ons of oyster houses, chiefly those on Rroadwny and in Rroad street, mentioned Mi a termer letter: public places such ns lintels, salm ms nml barber shops, called by names well remembered by the older citizens, were kept by Tone peters, D-m'l D-m'l D-m'l Yarii-k. Yarii-k. Yarii-k. Garris. Chatters. Herbert Harris. Harris. Uoliert ("owes Ellis, "Rill" Wiggius and Dave Curry. Riindii k was a clothier, and J. J. Zuille a printer. There were musicians by the score, and also druggists, druggists, bont makers, wig makers, carpet weavers, chair makers and carpenters everywhere; painters, japanners, silversmiths, silversmiths, goldsmiths nnd watchmakers, bookbinders, lithographers, com pasi tors, school teachers, clerks, coachmen, caterers, caterers, janitors, hotel keeers. stewards, tailors tailors by the score, boat builders, caulkers, Isiiler makers, sailors, stevedores, wholesale wholesale dealers in oysters, dei-orators, dei-orators, dei-orators, kal-somiiiers, kal-somiiiers, and followers of about every kind of employment one could mention. There were bankers and brokers: only the moment any Afro-American Afro-American Afro-American entered that class he became white and was never known afterward in colored society; for particulars, inquire about one Hamilton nnd his white nnd black descendants. James Harnett's descendants bleached out after bis death, as is true of a good many more who were known ns colored men of business yenrs' ago. We have lost, that is. the race has lost, considerable credit for business capacity nnd instinct by this blenching-otit blenching-otit blenching-otit process. A man seems never to have been too black hereabout hereabout to pass for a Caucasian if he only had the money. The Caucasian can stand an nwful sight of Negro blood if it only has the ensh with it. In fact. I believe it would take a good deal less than John D. Rockefeller's pile to make the blackest Negro in Virginia n good enough white man for the Rev. Thomas Dixon. Jr., ns rabid as be is on the Negro question. The restaurateurs, such ns Thomas Downing of Rroad street, ns well ns of 215 Rrondway. ond George Downing, his son. at li'.H) Broadway: P.oston Crum-mell, Crum-mell, Crum-mell, also of Rroadwny : Watson, on Rroadwny near Prince street; Joseph i enevKe, on isrondway near Amity street : nnd Rergnlew, on Reaver street, seemed all to grow quite wealthy, and hnve left evidences of their prosperity. Of the purely merchant class, and at a somewhat somewhat recent date, there wns known very widely the wholesale nnd retnil drug business of Dr. Philip White nt the corner corner of Frankfort and Cliff street All of these, together with David Roselle of Rrooklyn. left evidences of fortune. The tamny that survived Dr. White seem abundantly nble nnd well provided for. I'lysses R. Vidal. the barber and haberdasher haberdasher of West street, left a family that has blenched out well provided for. but Knows not its colored brother nnv more. Those who remain of the Vandyke fam ily, seem very far removed from want and nnanciai cares. Watsons wen t h mi tained more than one in idleness and is still in evidence. Jere Rowers left a verv considerable and still growing capitoi. Mrs. Gloucester left much that has lon nnd is still pointed out with pride. Mrs. Fanny Rice left .sufficient to sustain two sons without their giving much, if nnv evidence of struggle to keep the wolf nwny. Thomns Downing's.ns well ns his son George's, efforts seem to hnve crystallized crystallized in that most valuable estate, the Sea Girt house nt Newport, R. I. David Roselle's and Peter Rav's estates were not onlv very large at their denths, but are to-day to-day to-day visibly nnd constantly increasing. increasing. We hnve nil henrd the historv of the fortune that was mnde and how finally finally its remnant found its way as a tribute to Tuskegee's great school bv the will of the late Mrs. Shaw. I might continue continue this story perhaps longer, but sufficient sufficient has been written to show that the old Afro-Amerieatt Afro-Amerieatt Afro-Amerieatt Now Yorker possessed possessed and practised the business instinct. But what became of these several businesses? businesses? Why were they not continued? If someone else doesn't answer that question question I shall hope to do so some day. SaMCEL R. ScOTTBOIf. Brooklyn, October 10, 1903.