July 10, 1832
10 July: On the tenth we undertook a walk to Castle Garden at the end of Broadway. Here, near the harbor, there was once a round fortress which has now been converted into a place for promenades, i.e., it has a stone rampart enclosing this circular area where, on certain days and at certain times, one finds music and fireworks and can get all kinds of refreshments. On the surrounding rampart, there is a broad walkway from which we had a splendid view of the extensive island and the water surrounding this magnificent harbor, where ships of all kinds were arriving and departing. To the south, between the islands and the coast, one sees the harbor entrance that the ships sailing to Europe must use. The Castle, moreover, is painted with many poor scenes. Here one also sees a model of the warship Constitution mounted above the gate. One pays a small admission at the entrance to the Castle Garden; a bridge, on which there are usually a large group of gentlemen fishing, leads across it. They use very elegant rods with reels on which the lines are wound. They use clams as bait, as on the Newfoundland Bank, but it is a different kind of bivalve mussel.M6Venus mercenaria
[In addition to] views of the harbor, New York offers several others where one can observe the large, imposing city with countless ships, especially on the two waterways, the North and East rivers, which enclose it on the north and east side. The latter is an ocean inlet, but the former is the Hudson River. The city is actually located on an island; later I shall be better able to describe its general appearance. I believe there [were] four
or five theaters in this city—now only three, one of which is located on the edge of the park. Occasionally the French troupe from New Orleans comes here to perform for a while.
The merchants appreciate these and similar entertainments; until now, however, very little has been done for the sciences. Several
public natural history collections were exhibited for a fee, but they are mixed with art objects of all kinds. The so-called American Museum, bordering the park, has a rather impressive collection of animals: elephants, lions, tigers, and many other large and small animals, as well as rare birds, but they are very poorly displayed. This has been accomplished better in Mr. Peale’s museum, where there are fewer animals, but these are far better mounted. Here a Bengal tiger is exhibited in absolute perfection; an especially fine specimen of Cervus virginianus with white and brown spots; a similar, even finer specimen, however, is found in the aforementioned museum, as well as a very large wild turkey.[Page 1:35]
There are also several dealers in natural history objects here, where, among other things, one also finds very nice conchylia. All the specimens are relatively too expensive. New York has several gardens with interesting plants. They are primarily dependent on the substantial seed firm of a man named Prince, who lives near the city. He carries on important business with other parts of the world, particularly Europe, but one can justly complain that he often acts arbitrarily, provides the wrong varieties, does not strictly abide by the orders, and is very expensive. Naturalists often find interesting animals in the very substantial fur businesses here. I saw the pelt of a white river otter; the feet and the lower parts of the tail had been adorned with colorful quills, as well as with other ornaments, by the Indians. This beautiful, rare piece should sell for 150 dollars, but it had been bought together with a white otter pelt, or several similar ones, for fifty or sixty dollars. I could buy black (American) bearskins for three dollars and a fine mountain lion skin for five dollars. Bearskins are often expensive; this year they were very inexpensive.
The most extensive fur trade is conducted by Mr. Astor. Originally from Mannheim on the Rhine, he had now left for Germany. He came to the United States as a poor man and is now said to be the richest person in the United States. The Northwest Company belongs to him. It was therefore very important for me to receive from young Astor, who lived in Göttingen when I did in 1811 and 1812, a letter of recommendation to a certain Mr. Abbott in Detroit, which is quite close to the border of civilization and near several Indian nations. Unfortunately, the state is now at war with part of the Indian population of those regions. I shall soon find out to what extent the newspapers were telling the truth. Since cholera has now also appeared in the military zone, the time is not favorable for traveling in those northern regions. I had another very advantageous recommendation to a certain Mr. Schwarz in Detroit; he, too, is a fur trader. At this time I did not get to see Mr. Astor’s fur warehouse, since he had to go abroad, but we did visit another storeroom where, however, most of the furs could not be seen but instead were packed away to protect them from moths, since it is summer. Here I saw American beaver skins of two different colors, some a light pale brown, the others blackish brown, almost black. The latter seemed to have broader tails. As a gift, the owner of this fur shop gave me a very nice otter fur, an Indian medicine bag, which is an interesting ethnographic cabinet piece.M7He showed us a complete Indian costume of the Mandan made of leather, which includes a necklace from the claws of the Ursus ferox, which was interesting. The longest of these very large, curved claws measured lengthwise along the curvature 5"3"'; another one, measured in the chord, from 'a' to 'a', 3"6"'.