Saturday, November 20, 2010


In the early 1860s, my great-grandfather, Louis Windmuller, bought seven acres of rural property and on them built a comfortable home in which to raise his growing family. The location was a neighborhood in Newtown, Queens, called Woodside.[1]

Newtown came into existence in 1665 while the Dutch still ruled in New Amsterdam. Occupying an area where hostile Indians and predatory wolf packs had posed threats to European settlers, the new inhabitants of Newtown set out to buy out the former and kill off the latter. Accomplishing both objectives, their farms — worked by enslaved Africans — prospered. By 1689 the town contained 183 free white inhabitants and 93 mostly black slaves and by 1711 these numbers had risen to 839 and 164. During the 17th and most of the 18th centuries, the town extended over most of the area which later became known as Queens County.[2] It was not until 1764 that the county's boundaries were set and before then Newtown was simply part of Nassau, the name given to Long Island in those years.[3] Thereafter the town's extent diminished as Flushing, Jamaica, and Long Island City came into existence on its borders. All the while, the Village of Newtown lay near the town's center, surrounded by other hamlets of similar size. In time these satellites would come to include Laurel Hill, Dutch Kills, Charlottville, Corona, Maspeth, and, finally, the one where Louis Windmuller settled, Woodside.

When Louis Windmuller purchased the land in the 1860s, Woodside had only recently came into existence, having received its name from a journalist whose family estate bore that name and who wrote a series of "Letters from Woodside" for a Brooklyn newspaper.[4] The name comes from the woodlands in and near the property, but, though it suggests verdant parkland — much like a neighboring section called Sunnyside — the area was not uniformly bucolic. Along with prosperous farms and extensive commercial gardens, the area was dotted with pestilential swamps and the forests themselves did not have entirely pleasant associations.[5]

The land he bought belonged to man who shows up on a property map of 1852 as "R. Bragaw." This was undoubtedly Richard Bragaw, member of a large family by that name which had thrived in Woodside and its environs back when the land was still being contested between Dutch settlers and the local Indian tribes. They were a colorful lot, said to be large in body and spirit. Able and energetic, they were quick to take up arms in an area that, throughout most of the Revolutionary War, was occupied by the British.[6]

Unlike their neighbors, the Bragaws were originally neither Dutch nor English, but French. Like most old families, they found that the spelling of their name evolved as it passed over national boundaries. Huguenots from La Rochelle, they had moved to Manheim and then to first Manhattan, then Brooklyn, and finally, in 1675, they set themselves up on land in what was then Mespath, later to be Newtown, and, still later, the Village of Woodside in the Town of Newtown.

An ancestor writes of the archetypical Bragaw, named Bourgon Broucard, that he arrived in Maspeth in 1692 and a year later was there farming 40 acres of a property called "Mill Land".[7] In 1721, Isaac, a son of Bourgon, helped build a school house on his nearby property along the track that led from Hallett's Cove to the west (on the shore of the East River) through to Newtown Village on the east. This building, probably the first school in that part of Long Island, was still standing in 1892. In 1805, Richard Bragaw, father to the man who sold Windmuller his land, deeded the school house and its property for the use of his neighbors.[8]

When Louis Windmuller bought his land from Richard the Bragaw properties extended along much of the old Hallett's Cove track, now called Middleburg Avenue. For a long time this road had been known simply as the causeway. It lay upon high ground connecting school and mill, and on it the population would frequently meet one another in passing to and fro.[9]

I wonder, when Louis Windmuller, moved there, did he know how many of his wife's ancestors lived in the vicinity. William Thorne, the first of her predecessors to land in America, quarrelled with the Puritans of New England and followed Lady Deborah Moody to land held by the Dutch in Gravesend, Nassau, Long Island. He and most of his family eventually farmed in and around Hempstead, but some, notably one of his Mott descendants, bought land in Newtown, and one, Jacob Mott, became a progressive farmer in on land next to Richard Bragaw's farm, down the road from Windmuller's property.[10]

Via his wife, Windmuller was also distantly related to other neighbors.[11] This is not really surprising. There were four dominant faiths: Anglican, Independent, Reformed Dutch, and Quaker. The families who settled in western Long Island in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were not that numerous, they did not move around very much, and they naturally tended to marry within their own churches. This meant that a reasonably small number of family names recur in most genealogies of these folks. Within Annie Windmuller's line, the names Thorne, Lenington, Kissam, Mott, and Van Wyck are common and some of them intermarried with the settled residents of Newtown, including the Townsends, Brinckerhoffs, Burroughses, and Dentons.[12]

At the time of the War of Independence, Bragaws aligned themselves on both sides of the conflict. While Richard, father of the man who sold Windmuller some land, was an ardent Patriot, his cousin Andrew adhered to the Loyalist cause. At the close of the war many Loyalists, now called Tories or worse, fled to Canada. Gradually, some of the exiles returned and it's recorded that Richard and Andrew were thereafter amicable neighbors.[13]

There's much more to be learned about the Bragaws as you can see from the list of sources I've included below. William O'Gorman's quaint historical sketches are a good place to start. The Bragaw section of these sketches has been copied into Francis Skillman's Skillmans of New York (1892 -- in pdf format). The most interesting part of them is really about the British occupation of the Morrell estate during the rebellion. O'Gorman describes the many thousands of troops camped just across the way from the property Windmuller bought: "Ten thousand British troops defiled through the Morrell gate, at that time west of the house, around which, winding and passing north of the barn through the orchard, the steel river of bayonets still flowed, rippling from the inequalities of the ground, until the heights of Shursdorf being ascended each regiment ‘was told off by ‘the steady British sergeant for miles through the woods, to remain for the night." The Sussdorf property was right next to Windmuller's estate and O'Gorman's "heights of Shursdorf" undoubtedly is meant to cover both pieces of land and somewhat more. O'Gorman continues: "The Morrell farm often surrenders to the plow relics of the former camp; Mr. Susdorff [this is closer to the modern spelling of the name] a few years since, rooted up the remains of a broken musket, doubtless buried by some soldier of the occupation. Near the juncture of Betts avenue and the Newtown road, immediately opposite the Kelly mansion, is still to be seen a singular mound of ring form, to which tradition assigns a date coeval ‘with Captain Kidd, but in the absence of positive information we may theorize that a guard may have been stationed there on the junction of the two roads, always an important position to military men. Traces of embankments are said still to be found in those woods." Since the Sussdorf and Windmuller properties were mostly woods and the rest of the area was either swamp or farmland, it's likely O'Gorman's phrase "those woods" refers to the two estates.


This is the house of Richard Bragaw who sold Windmuller the property which he made into his suburban estate. The photo comes from a 1903 article on the destruction of this and other old houses during an expansion of the Long Island Railroad.

{source: "Historic Houses Being Razed to Make Way for the March of Improvement," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 2, 1903}

As it says, this house on Middleburgh Avenue was purchased by William Gosman from John Bragaw. Bragaw had moved into it in the middle of the 18th century and it was, as the 1903 caption indicates, old even then. The photo is also from the same newspaper article as its neighbor above.

{source: "Historic Houses Being Razed to Make Way for the March of Improvement," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 2, 1903}

Woodside received its name and began its transformation from rural community to New York suburb in the 1850s and '60s when an innovative housing development sprung up and when the Long Island Rail Road Co. built its Flushing Line, making the place a station stop on the way from the western terminus at the 34th St. ferry dock out to Flushing. This early photo shows the LIRR going out island.

{source: Old Queens, N.Y., in early photographs (Courier Dover Publications, 1991)}

Although this photo was taken in 1899 in neighboring Winfield, it conveys a rough idea of the farming countryside that surrounded the Windmuller property when he bought it. Although Woodside was accused of having some "snake-infested swamps and wolf-ridden woodlands," much of the area would actually have looked like this back in the 1860s. Its farmers were proud of the flowers they grew as well as the quality of their fruits and vegetables, dairy produce, and pork which they brought to market.

This photo, taken nearby in 1900, gives an idea of the appearance of much of Windmuller's hillside propery.

{Maurice Woods, 1900. Old Queens in Early Photographs, Seyfried, Asadorian; my source is a forgotten-ny blog post by Christina Wilkinson on St. Saviour’s Church.}



This map from Kelly's Historic Queens shows Newtown's roads of the 17th and 18th centuries. I've marked Richard Bragaw's home and the seven acres he sold to Louis Windmuller. The old road connecting the two was then called the causeway and, in Windmuller's time, Middleburgh Ave.


This map shows Woodside as it was in 1852, before it got the name. I've marked it to show the Windmuller property and that of his nearest neighbor, Adolf Sussdorf, and also marked the home that John Bragaw sold to William Gosman in the 18th century and the home of Richard Bragaw with his school house close at hand. The large area marked "Kelly" is the old Kelly estate which was the first to be "developed" into small lots for suburbanites. The Great Chestnut Tree was a local landmark which died before the end of the 19th century.

{source: Woodside: A Historical Perspective 1652-1994 by Catherine Gregory (Woodside On the Move, 1994), found and (Woodside, by Chrisina Wilkinson)}

This shows Manhattan and Long Island in 1639. Note that west is on top, not north, and thus Long Island is below Manhattan. I've marked the spot where Woodside would eventually come into being and Gravesend where Annie Windmuller's Thorne relatives settled first, after leaving Lynn, Massachusetts — before they moved on to Hempstead.

{Caption: Anonymous, Manhattan on the North River, 1639. Detail showing Dutch settlements on Manhattan and Native longhouse in Brooklyn; source: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division}

This detail comes from a British map made in 1776. I've shown Manhattan, Newtown, Gravesend, and Hempstead.

{Map of the progress of His Majesty's armies in New York during the late campaign, 1776; source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

I've marked this satellite view to show the Windmuller property.

{source: Google}


Some sources:

Woodside, Queens County, New York: a historical perspective, 1652-1994, by Catherine Gregory (New York, Woodside on the Move, 1994)

Long Island on the New York Parks web site

Maspeth/ Middleburgh/Hastings/Newtown on the New York Parks web site. Excerpt:
1. New Amsterdam
Maspeth/ Middleburgh/Hastings/Newtown

The European settlement of what is today the borough of Queens did not begin auspiciously. Its leader was an English firebrand minister named Francis Doughty, whose preaching — in particular his belief that the descendants of Abraham were entitled to Baptism — became too radical for the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay colony. When Doughty showed up on the streets of New Amsterdam, director-general Willem Kieft, who was searching desperately for settlers, offered him the chance to start an English town on Long Island, under Dutch protection. Kieft promised Doughty that he would also be free to preach his chosen gospel. In 1642 Doughty brought several families to his new community, called Maspeth.

Kieft was rather generous, granting a "certain parcel of land situate on Long Island…containing…six thousand six hundred and sixty-six Dutch acres or thereabouts, comprehended within four right lines…"-more or less the entire western half of the borough of Queens. But the newcomers had just begun their settlement in earnest when an Indian attack leveled the place in 1643. The survivors limped back to Manhattan, and Rev. Doughty established himself for a time as minister to the English residents of New Amsterdam. Thus ended the original community of Maspeth.

Nine years later, however, another group of English who had moved south from New England tried again on the same land. This time they named the place Middleburgh. With the English takeover of the province of New Netherland in 1664, the name was changed to Hastings. Apparently, however, the residents had long called the place Newtown, as if to make a clear distinction from the earlier, abortive settlement, and so the community was called well into the nineteenth century. If you are looking for Newtown today, however, you won't find it, beyond such references as Newtown Avenue and Newtown Creek (the East River tributary that forms the boundary between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens). Confusingly enough, however, Maspeth later resurfaced as a name for part of the area within Rev. Doughty's original patent. In 1725, a Judge Sackett built his house in Maspeth, and by the time of the Revolution Maspeth was an industrial center.
The Founding Families of Woodside, Queens, New York on

HISTORY TOPICS: NAMES OF LONG ISLAND CITY. Excerpt: "Woodside Avenue, earlier Hurl Gate Road, earlier Road to Narrow Passage.
Either an Indian trail or one of the first roads built, this was the main road from western Queens to the Village of Newtown. A tongue of dry land between the swamps of "Long Trains Meadow" (towards Jackson Heights), "Wolf Swamp" (towards Maspeth) and Burger's Sluice (along Northern Boulevard.) Strategic point garrisoned by Hessians during the Revolution. The slight hump in the terrain at Woodside Ave. and Northern Blvd. may have been a beaver dam."

Register in alphabetical order, of the early settlers of Kings County, Long Island, N.Y. by Teunis G. Bergen( New York, S. W. Green's sons, printer, 1881). Excerpt: "Broucard, Broulaet, Bourgon, or Bragaw, Broucard, a French Huguenot who emigrated to this country from Manheim in the Palatinate of the Rhine with his w. Catharine Le Febre in 1675. In 1664 he bought and resided on a farm in Bushwick, which he sold in 1688 and removed to Newtown. Previous to this he appears to have resided at Bedford, as per Do. Van Zuuren's lists of R. D. ch. mem. of 1677, on which he is entered as removed from Bedford to Flatbush. Issue: — Maria, m. Myndert Wiltse; Jane, m. Hans Coevert; Catalina; Isaac, baptised Aug. 7, 1676, m. Heyltie; —— John, m. Sarah ——, and settled at Three Mile Run, N. J.; Jacob, settled on the Raritan; Peter, m. Catharine and settled on the Raritan; and Abraham, m. Marytie or Maria, and settled on the Raritan. The N. J. branch of the family write their surname Broka or Brockaer. Made his mark to documents."

Long Island Unveiled: Early Colonial Maps

HISTORY OF QUEENS COUNTY with illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals (New York: W.W. Munsell & Co.; 1882)


Prominent Families of New York (BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2009)

History of Green Point Transcribed for the Bklyn Pages by Mimi Stevens

Historical guide to the city of New York, City History Club of New York, Frank Bergen Kelly (F. A. Stokes company, 1909)

Ancestors of Walter Edgar Fry

Up The Creek - October 22, 2000 by Frank J. Dmuchowski


A History of the Bragaw Family

Bragaw Genealogy (pdf)

The annals of Newtown, in Queens County, New York; containing its history from its first settlement, together with many interesting facts concerning the adjacent towns by James Riker(New York, D. Fanshaw, 1852). Excerpt: "Several of the citizens of Newtown, namely, Richard Bragaw, George Brinckerhoff, Abraham Devine, and Ludlam Haire, all of whom had been with Gen. Woodhull, driving stock, were also surprised and captured at Hinchman's tavern, Jamaica, and taken from thence to a British prison-ship, where they were urged to enlist, but, by bribing a friend to government, were released."

The Skillmans of New York (pdf) compiled by Francis Skillman, 1892

Sketches of Ancient Newtown; The Bragaws. (pdf); from the Long Island City Star of April 25, 1879; also published in 1886 in the Newtown Register as "OLD NEWTOWN. Selections from the Town Scrap Book, Originally Written by William O'Gorman."

Religion in New Amsterdam by Donna Speer Ristenbatt

The Baptists in New York

Rev. John Moore of Newtown, Long Island, and some of his descendants by James W. Moore (Easton, Pa., Printed for the publisher by the Chemical Publishing Co., 1903)

The New York genealogical and biographical record, Volume 83 (New York, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 1870)

Documents and letters intended to illustrate the revolutionary incidents of Queens county: with connecting narratives, explanatory notes, and additions by Henry Onderdonk (Leavitt, Trow and company, 1846)

Proceedings of the annual meeting, Volume 23 (New York State Agricultural Society, 1864)

Newtown Register, Thursday, March 1, 1877 -- "E. T. Bragaw. Esq., of Woodside. is President of the New Stock Exchange recently organized by New York Brokers."

The Jones family of Long Island; descendants of Major Thomas Jones (1665-1726) and allied families (New York, T. A. Wright, 1907)

Descendants of William Thorne & Susannah Booth

The History of the Sackett/Kelly/Howell Estate

Pioneers of Woodside; Story of the Early Residents Of the Lately Famous Long Island Village. Marks of German Influence — Story of the Freedle Family from the Time of the Napoleonic Wars — The Rikers, Kellys, and Howells on the Old Farm. New York Times, August 1, 1897.

Present Day Neighborhood of Woodside

Woodside - The Peopling of New York City

The Kelly Family, in The Founding Families of Woodside, Queens, New York, by Owen Clough

The family of Joris Dircksen Brinckerhoff, 1638 by Roeliff Brinkerhoff and T. Van Wyck Brinkerhoff (R. Brinkerhoff, 1887)

“Woodside of Long Ago," The Woodsider, March 1983



[1] The area of his property may been a bit more than seven acres. Some old sources show that number and others show ten. A good starting point for investigating Woodside is a blog post on forgotten-ny: by Christina Wilkinson.

[2] Early settlers enslaved American Indians, but there were never many and their numbers dwindled as African slavery proved to be more profitable. To learn more about the early history of Newtown, go to James Riker's book: The annals of Newtown, in Queens County, New York; containing its history from its first settlement, together with many interesting facts concerning the adjacent towns by James Riker(New York, D. Fanshaw, 1852) Riker explains that slaves were bought and sold as chattels, but had some rights nonetheless. "They were protected by law. In infancy they were baptized, and at a suitable age were allowed to marry. "

[3] Queens would not become part of New York City until 1870 and until then was in, first, Nassau, and then Long Island.

[4] The journalist was John A. Kelly who wrote "Letters from Woodside" about his experience, growing up on his parents estate in a series of reminiscences written for The Independent Press, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (See: The Kelly Family, in The Founding Families of Woodside, Queens, New York, by Owen Clough, and The History of the Sackett/Kelly/Howell Estate.)

[5] The woodlands came to be called "Suicide's Paradise" from a custom, it was said, for people to take their own lives in an area called "Snake Woods" (source: an article in the Woodsider, March 1983). One source says the area "was largely comprised of snake-infested swamps and wolf-ridden woodlands."

[6] As for example: "During the Revolutionary War the house was a rendezvous for patriots when hard pressed by the British. Once Richard Bragaw, its owner, was captured by the British and sent to the prison ship Jersey. Later by bribing one of the sentinels he escaped and went back to the aid of the patriots. After the British took possession of that part of Long Island the house was searched almost daily by bands of soldiers in search of rebels or plunder." -- The Sun, Sunday, December 28, 1902: "Old Homesteads Doomed Must Make Way for the Tunnel in Long Island City The Bragaw House On of Them — Built by Descendants of a Huguenot Two Centuries Ago — Its Revolutionary Record — Other Interesting Houses to Go." And also:
The Bragaws! The Bragaws of Dutch Kills; like Ajax of Homer the name by a natural onomatopoeia resounds their physical build and mental stature. Plucky sons of action; in war they will not be neutrals; without demonstration they obey the call to arms and retire from the conflict at its conclusion. Well fitted to endure hardship, this Huguenot race can abandon home without a pang, sustain the hardships of military life, and return without emotion. Daniel T. Bragaw, sergeant 4th N. Y. Cavalry; Townsend Bragaw, 4th N. Y. Calvary; George McAlister Gosman, 15th N. Y. Engineers; E. T. Bragaw, John Goldsmith Bragaw, Edward G. Burnett and John G. Bragaw and brother, sons of Richard P. Bragaw, close an imperfect list of men, all immediate cousins from one family engaged in our great rebellion. -- (Sketches of Ancient Newtown; The Bragaws; From the Long Island City Star of April 25, 1879.)
[7] From a Bragaw descendent:
The Dutch in America had a difficult time handling the French name of Broucard. It is found in more than twenty different variant spellings including, among others, Bergaw, Borcaart, Bragan, Brega, Brocca, Brokaerd, and Burgau. The Christian name Bourgon also gave the scribes trouble, being found as Bergoon, Bergun, Bregu, Brogun, etc. His descendants in New Jersey finally adopted the spelling Brokaw, while those on Long Island called themselves Bragaw.

Bourgon Broucard settled in Brooklyn where he was assessed in 1676 as owning about 11 morgens (about 23 acres) of land and valley and two cows. The following year he was in Midwout, at which time his wife was, transferred from the Dutch Reformed Church of Brooklyn to the French Church in Manhattan by certificate, but her name does not appear in the early French Church records. In 1684, he moved to Cripplebush in Bushwick, L.I., where he bought a farm, and four years later to Dutch Kills, now a part of Long Island City. Here, in 1692, he bought a large estate, which he sold in 1702. In a deed, dated June 21, 1690, he and Hans Tunis Couert "of Bedford in Kings Co.," yeomen, bought land in Maspeth Kills, Newtown, and on July 16, 1693, he bought 19 morgens and 400 rods of land there, called the Mill Land (Queens Co. Deeds, B 2, pp-352-53). On Oct. 30, 1700, a bill was brought before the Assembly for the quieting of title to the lands of "ancient freeholders," including those of "Bergoon Bragan," who were "inhabitants of Hellgate Neck, within the bounds of Newtown, on Long Island." -- The Story As I See It by Dennis Brokaw
[8] See "The Bragaws, Sketches of Ancient Newtown," in Skillmans of New York by Francis Skillman (Jones, 1892) and Bragaw Genealogy (pdf)
William O'Gorman, the Town Clerk of Newtown during the 1880s, wrote a series of historical sketches which he said were taken from Newtown Scrap Books. Three of them relate to the Bragaws. In one he writes:
Richard Bragaw granted the site of the old Dutch Kills School House by deed bearing date 20th December, 1805. An extract can hardly be refused:
Know all men by these presents that I, Richard Bragaw of Newtown, Dutch Kills, in consideration of the good will and affection I have and bear to my neighbors, namely Francis Duryea,. Charles Debevoise. John Debevoise. Johannes De-Witt, Derick Brinckerhoff, Abraham Polhemus. William Payntar, Joseph Goslice, David Miller, James Blackwell, George Van Alst, Isaac Van Alst, James McDonough. William Parcels, John Debevoise, James; Larremore, Richard Bragaw, Abraham Rapelye, Isaac Rapelye, Andrew Bragaw, Daniel Townsend, William March and William Payntar, and also for other divers and good causes and considerations, me, the said Richard Bragaw, hereunto moving, have given, granted and confirmed, and hereby give, grant, and confirm, unto my said neighbors that certain piece of ground on which the School House now stands, to have, hold and enjoy with an addition of three feet on each side of said School House unto my said neighbors, their executors, administrators, and assigns, forever to be applied to the use of a School House, and for no other purpose whatever, with the proviso that I, the said Richard Bragaw, my heirs, administrators, and assigns, am to receive the ashes which shall from time to time be made in said house or in whatever School House may be erected on said ground, etc. In witness whereof, etc.. Richard Bragaw. Elizabeth Bragaw. Signed in the presence of William Gray.
-- Sketches of Ancient Newtown; The Bragaws. (pdf); from the Long Island City Star of April 25, 1879; also published in 1886 in the Newtown Register as "OLD NEWTOWN. Selections from the Town Scrap Book, Originally Written by William O'Gorman."
[9] From William O'Gorman:
The causeway — let us people it again with its neighbors down later generations, even to the times of Richard Bragaw on their wagons going to the mill. Great conversations and profound disquisitions were held thereon. Romantic courtship also has diffused its charms over the Ravine Road, for a comely young widow owned the mill, the cottage and the farm; she too was wayward like her maiden sisterhood of the Kills in preferring strangers whilst she was the widow Polhemus.... But before this period, say May 12, 1776, Richard Bragaw had developed an extraordinary thirst for education under the eye of Professor Gilbert, who kept school precisely where No. 2 now stands. Here he also lived and educated his daughter. The old causeway was not unfaithful, and the two were married. She departed pending the Revolution, leaving her widowed spouse to cross over to the opposite corner and seek consolation from the sympathizing soul of the bright-eyed Catherine Payntar. And still the old mill dam was faithful to the trust reposed in it by young hearts: the pair were married January 21, 1786.... Mindful of the ravine where in childhood he played, and full of the emotional recollections we have touched on, Richard Bragaw granted the site of the old Dutch Kills School House by deed bearing date 20th December, 1805.... The old School House itself was cremated a few years since. Whether or not the heirs of Richard were entitled under the terms of the deed to its ashes the [author] will not aver. W. Gray, the witness, was the teacher. The foundation stones still mark the spot a few yards down the ravine from its brick successor, No. 2. -- Newtown Register, June, 1886; "Old Newtown, Selections from the Town Scrap Book, Originally Written by the Town Clerk." The Town Clerk was William O'Gorman, who served in the 1880s and wrote historical sketches which appeared in the Long Island city Star as well as the Newtown Register.
[10] Jacob Mott 1715-1805 was a grandson of Adam Mott. Born in Essex, England, in a family whose roots can be traced to 1375, he arrived in Boston in 1636. In 1646 he settled in Mespath Kill, which would, much later, beome the Woodside section of Newtown. In 1655 however he was in Hempstead. His first wife was Jane Hulet of Buckingham England. Jane and Adam had eight children, including Joseph. Joseph had a son Jacob. Adam also had a son Richbell by his second wife, Elizabeth Richbell, and Richbell married Elizabeth Thorne in 1696. Elizabeth was daughter of William Thorne, second of that name. This William Thorne was a grandparent, quite a few generations back, of Annie, wife of Louis Windmuller. Jacob Mott was also connnected to Annie Windmuller's Thorne relatives via her Kissam ancestors. It was his Aunt Elizabeth who married John Kissam and he, John, was son of John and Susannah (Thorne) Kissam. Windmuller and Jacob Mott were thus distant cousins in two family lines. Jacob Mott himself became prominent in NY politics and was an alderman, 1804-10, president of the Board when De Witt Clinton was Mayor, and at one time an acting Deputy Mayor. Mott Street in Greenwich Village perpetuates his name in the map of the city. -- Prominent Families of New York (BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2009). Jacob Mott won awards for his skill at farming. (Proceedings of the annual meeting, Volume 23, New York State Agricultural Society, 1864).

[11] Windmuller's neighbors included Samuel B. Townsend, George Brinckerhoff, Jacob J. Burroughs, Joseph Burroughs, Theodore Burroughs, and B. Denton. Samuel B. Townsend was, like Jacob Mott, connected to Annie Windmuller via the Kissams. Anna Mott first married Daniel Kissam II then Jotham Townsend. Samuel B. was very likely a descendant of Jotham. George Brinckerhoff was connected to Annie via Magretia Brinckerhoff who married Theodorus Van Wyck in 1693. Their daughter, Altje Van Wyck married Richard Thorne from whom Annie was directly descended. Jacob, Joseph, and Theodore Burroughs were sons of John Burroughs (m. Sarah Debevoise), himself son of James Burroughs (m. Gessie/Grace Colyer), son of Jeremiah (m. Hannah Way). Jeremiah had a sister Abigail who married Thomas Thorne in 1759. B. Denton there is a likely connection with Phoebe Denton, wife of Richard Thorne (m. 1699). -- I have this from my genealogical research into the Windmuller family.

[12] See Windmuller Family Genealogy

[13] O'Gorman writes: "Richard Bragaw, an uncompromising patriot, at once took sides with his country by joining General Woodhull's Cavalry. He was taken prisoner at Hinchman's Tavern, Jamaica, at the time Woodhull was killed, and sent aboard the "Jersey" prison ship; but his strong constitution baffled the horrors of that floating pandemonium, and he finally made his escape to find his horses and farm stock confiscated and his other property pillaged. His Tory relative, Andrew Bragaw, was suspected of unfriendly feelings, but probably without foundation, for we find both parties on very friendly terms after the proclamation of peace. One fellow named Titus, however, narrowly escaped a bullet from Richard, who encountered this over active Tory near Newtown village." -- "OLD NEWTOWN. Selections from the Town Scrap Book, Originally Written by William O'Gorman," a series of articles published in the Newtown Register in 1886.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Madagascar No. 21

Yesterday I wrote that Louis Windmuller & Roelker received a letter in 1895 about substances called "Madagascar No. 21," "Gambia No. 35," and "Mozamiques." I then had no clue what the substances might be but think I've been able to find out.

Louis Windmuller & Co. was a commission house that did not specialize in specific products, but rather dealt in general merchandise. Yesterday's post lists a few of the many different items they imported for their customers during the half century beginning in 1865.

The only image of the letter which I was able to locate is indistinct and quite a few words are hard to make out. Here's my guess as to its contents:

Singer, Witthaus & Co.
[illeg. cable addresses]
24 & 25 Fenchurch Street E.C.
London, 17 April 1895

Messrs Louis Windmuller & Roelker
New York

Dear Sirs
        We confirm our response of 11th inst. & are in receipt of your favor of 5th inst.
        We have succeeded in getting the little lot of Madagascar No21 for you @ 11/0 / sig HNC 22 bags / and are trying to get it off by the ss "Mohawk" sailing tomorrow.
        We wired to you yesterday &mdash—
     We have bought for you as demanded No21 1/6 We
     think we can buy @ 1/½ No34.
Madagascar is scarce & very little lots that comes in are sold for high prices; there is nothing more to be had in the region of 1/0 [?]
        The cheapest Mozambiques are we think No34 @ 1/1 perhaps 1/½, and No48 @ 1/2
        Geuquela Ileggoes [?] ... can probably still be had at 1/9 per ... [?] & ... ... @ 1/7
        We sold a few sample cases of "..." Guinea @ 1/½, but the bulk of No53 is still to be had. Some ... ... of not very good quality sold @ 1/6½

Gambia No35 can probably
be had @ 1/6 & ...
No... @ 1/8 perhaps @ 1/7½.
The Madagascar No87 sold at 1/6½.
Yours truly
Singer Witthaus & Co.

Here is an enlarged and enhanced image of the letter. Click to view full size.

My source was "sabob," a dealer in old documents. The sabob web page gives an image of the other side of the sheet containing the address and canceled stamp.


The document dealer describes the letter as coming from "Singer, Whitthaus & Co. London." A little searching shows that W. Singer and H.G. Witthaus (not Whitthaus) were in business at the address given on the letter: 24 & 25 Fenchurch Street, E.C. London directories list the building at that address as containing a variety of shipping offices.[1] It's certain Singer and Witthaus were among them because their names appear at that address as subscribers to a book of London history that was published in 1891.[2] Whatever the substances might be, it's apparent Louis Windmuller & Roelker were importing them via London.

It's clear from the letter itself that the document dealer meant "Mozambiques," not "Mozamiques." Searching the three African place names reveals little at first but a little digging gives some clues. At the time the letter was written, a type of resin used in making high quality furniture polishes, turpentines, and varnishes, was imported to the US from tropical countries.[3] Some of the best came from Madagascar while lesser grades were obtained from Mozambique and Gambia. This isn't conclusive evidence that this resin was the subject of the letter, but I've failed to find alternatives and am pretty sure the evidence is good enough.

The resin is called copal. A full description of the many kinds and sources of copal is given in The Manufacture of Varnishes and Kindred Industries: Varnish materials and oil varnish making by John Geddes McIntosh, Achille Livache (Scott, Greenwood & son, 1908). The best copal was also the most rare. It was a fossilized product, dug from the earth in the vicinity of trees having the live resin beneath their bark layer.

The fossilized substance resembles amber and its hardness is a measure of its quality. A numeric system is used to designate the hardness/quality of a copal sample. The lower the number, the harder the sample. Thus Madagascar No. 21 would be harder and more expensive than No. 34, No. 48, No. 53, or No. 87, the numbers given in the letter from Singer & Witthaus.


Fossil copal

{Specimen of Copal, Fossil Resin, containing a swarm of tiny flies and other insect (30 BC to 20 BC Zanzibar). This source says: "Many old master paintings were originally varnished with lacquers produced from ground copal and amber. Copal is a sub-fossil resin of several thousand years old. Amber is several million years old. Put close to a flame amber will soften and blacken whereas copal will melt and liquefy. The oldest copal deposit from Mizunami in Japan is approximately 33’000 years old and was formed by tropical legume trees. Most copal occurs in the tropics often in very wet temperate areas where the tree species are still extant, such as East and Western Africa, the Dominican Republic, and South America where the Araucarians, a genus of conifer trees is indigenous. On the North Island of New Zealand copal is obtained from huge Kauri trees. The resin oozes from under the bark and accumulates on the forest floor. Buried for thousands of years by needles and twigs the subterranean kauri gum is sometimes found where kauri forests no longer exist."}

The McIntosh book contains a drawing of the branch and fruit of the tree from which the Madagascar copal was obtained.


Some sources:

The Manufacture of Varnishes and Kindred Industries: Varnish materials and oil varnish making by John Geddes McIntosh, Achille Livache (Scott, Greenwood & son, 1908)

Tariff information surveys on the articles in paragraph 1- of the Tariff Act of 1913 and related articles in other paragraphs, United States Tariff Commission (Government Printing Office, 1921)
The term copal is applied rather indiscriminately to nearly all hard fossil or recent resins used in the manufacture of oil varnishes. These resins are used chiefly in the manufacture of varnishes, both oil and spirit, but principally the former. They are also used in the manufacture of enamel paints, and some of the lower grades in the manufacture of linoleum.

The term copal was applied to the first resin imported into Europe from East Africa for the manufacture of oil varnishes. As other new resins were discovered which were suitable for the manufacture of oil varnishes, they were also termed copal, with a prefix which was usually the port of shipment or some other indicative term, for example, Manila copal. The term, therefore, has been applied indiscriminately to all hard fossil resins (amber excepted) capable of being used in the manufacture of oil varnishes, and would therefore include dammar and kauri, which are mentioned along with copal in paragraph 500 of the act of 1913. Copal is, then, a generic or class name which may be applied to all varnish gum-resins.

The copals may be classified according to age as fossil, and as recent, or raw. The fossil is usually of the most value for varnish manufacture. Copals are obtained in round tears, nodules, or flat pieces. Their hardness often varies inversely with the size, the smaller pieces being the harder, while the larger lumps are the softer. The hard copals are seldom as large as a man's fist, but the soft copals sometimes weigh between 60 and 120 pounds. Most of the copals have an agreeable fragrant odor. Hardness is one of the most important properties which a copal must possess to be suitable for the manufacture of high-grade varnishes.

The commercial copals may be classified, according to their hardness, as: (1) the hard copals, including the true copals of the east coast of Africa, typical of which is Zanzibar—also termed Bombay and Calcutta copal—Mozambique and Madagascar copal; (2) the medium or semihard copals, which include West African copals; (3) soft copals, including Kauri copal, Manila copal, and Borneo copal. Of these, those in group 1 are the true copals, derived from species of Trachylobium; those in groups 2 and 3 are those commercially termed copals because used for the same purpose as the original copals.
Copal, article in wikipedia
Copal was also grown in East Africa, (the common species there being Hymenaea verrucosa) initially feeding an Indian Ocean demand for incense. By the 18th Century, Europeans found it to be a valuable ingredient in making a good wood varnish. It became widely used in the manufacture of furniture and carriages. By the late 19th and early 20th century varnish manufacturers in England and America were using it on train carriages, greatly swelling its demand. ... In 1859 Americans consumed 68 percent of the East African trade, which was controlled through the Sultan of Zanzibar, with Germany receiving 24 percent. The American Civil War and the creation of the Suez Canal led to Germany, India and Hong Kong taking the majority by the end of that century. ... East Africa apparently had a higher amount of subfossil copal, which is found one or two meters below living copal trees from roots of trees that may have lived thousands of years earlier. This subfossil copal produces a harder varnish. Subfossil copal is also well-known from New Zealand, Japan, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Madagascar. It often has inclusions and is sometimes sold as "young amber". Recent scientific datings demonstrated that the subfossil copal from Colombia and Madagascar is usually not older than about 200 years. Subfossil copal can be easily distinguished from genuine amber by its lighter citrine colour and its surface getting tacky with a drop of acetone or chloroform.
Analysis of resins, balsams and gum-resins by Karl Dieterich (Scott, Greenwood & co., 1901)
East African copal. — Zanzibar (best and hardest kind, m.p. over 400° C.), Mozambique, Madagascar.

West African. — Young copal, from Sierra Leone; flint copal; Gaboon, Loango, Angola, Benguela, and Congo copal. [Gambian copal is West African of course.]

The East African copals are fossil, those from West Africa semi-fossil, the Kauri copals semi-fossil, the South American kinds recent; but nothing definite in this respect is known of the Indian copals.

The copals are distinguished in commerce according to colour—white, pale, or dark red; condition—natural, halfshelled, or shelled; and other peculiarities.
Varnishes, lacquers, printing inks and sealing-waxes by William Theodore Brannt (H. C. Baird & co., 1893).
Copal, — The name copal is given to a number of resins which, in many respects, resemble amber, but differ much from one another. Some varieties of copal are mined like amber, but their properties show that they belong to a more recent period, and are, therefore, called recent fossil resins. Other varieties are directly obtained from the plants.

Copal is found in commerce in very varying qualities. Usually a distinction is made between the copal from the East and West Indies, though a large number of the varieties are named after the locality from which they have been brought into market. Differing from all other resins in this respect, all varieties of copal are rough and very hard, melt only at a very high temperature, and can only be dissolved with great difficulty in the solvents ordinarily used for resins.

Copal is the most important of all resins used for the fabrication of fat varnishes, and for this reason it is considered necessary to describe more fully the principal varieties. Generally, copal is divided into two classes, namely, hard and soft copal.

Hard copal, East India copal, Zanzibar copal.—This copal is dug out of the ground, and comes from the east coast of Africa. It forms mostly flat, discoid pieces, from the size of a pea up to that of the hand. These pieces are either entirely colorless or yellow to a dark reddish-brown, and are transparent. The surface of this copal is peculiarly crusty, and it is so hard that it can be ground. Zanzibar copal has a specific gravity of 1.068. It resembles amber in so far that it only swells up, without actual solution, in alcohol, ether, and chloroform; it is, however, completely soluble in cajeput oil. When chewed between the teeth it forms a powder that does not cake together.
Rubber, resins, paints and varnishes by Robert Selby Morrell (D. Van Nostrand Co., 1920)
The supplies of fossil copals are limited and sooner or later the softer copals obtained from living trees will have to be utilized. It is stated that the supply of kauri copal will last for forty years at the present rate of output (U.S. "Commerce Report," No. 281, 1915). The resin is fossil from Dammara australis (a species of New Zealand pine). The gum obtained from living trees is known as young kauri and is softer and almost colourless. Young trees, when tapped, yield the resin, and it is not uncommon to find deposits of resin in old trees. For fresh sources of copals it is probable that the belt of country extending from Madagascar to Sierra Leone and possibly the Gambia will be the most promising. The fossil East African copals (Zanzibar, Madagascar, Mozambique, Lindi) are highly prized.
Spons' encyclopaedia of the industrial arts, manufactures, and commercial products by Edward Spon et al (London, New York, E. & F. N. Spon, 1879)
Copal Resin. Copal is the concrete exudated juice of various trees. It is obtained either directly from the trees or as a fossil resin buried in the earth in their neighbourhood. Fossil copal is a highly-prized variety. Copal comes from the East Indies, South America, New Zealand, and both the east and west coasts of Africa. Some copals are soft; these are obtained from Sumatra, Java, Molucca, the Philippines, and Australia, and they are soluble in ether. The hard copals, which do not dissolve in ether until they have undergone a chemical change, come by way of Calcutta from Zanzibar and the African coast, and by way of Bombay from Madagascar, Mauritius, and Bourbon. Hard copal varies in properties somewhat with the origin of the different resins which are known by that name; but generally it is of a light-yellow or brown colour, without taste or smell, and has always been prized for varnishes.
A Dictionary of applied chemistry, Vol. 4, by Thomas Edward Thorpe (Longmans, Green and Co., 1913)
The commerce in E. African copal is extensive. Zanzibar exports some 800,000-1,200,000 lb. annually. ... The exports of copal in British ships from the E. coast of Madagascar in 1872 were valued at 3466£. On the W. coast of Africa, which is still richer in copal than the S.E. coast, this resin is dug over a coast length exceeding 700 geogr. miles.


[1] For example, Lloyd's register of shipping (1901), The Export merchant shippers of London (1882), and THE MERCHANT SHIPPERS OF LONDON (1868).

[2] London city: its history--streets--traffic--buildings--people by William John Loftie (The Leadenhall press, 1891)

[3] Tariff information surveys on the articles in paragraph 1- of the Tariff Act of 1913 and related articles in other paragraphs, United States Tariff Commission (Government Printing Office, 1921)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

commission merchant

My great-grandfather, Louis Windmuller, emigrated from Germany to New York in 1853.[1] During his first few years he tried to earn his living as factory worker, door-to-door salesman, errand boy, and grocery store clerk, but found none of these suited his temperament and ambition. In 1855, with the help of his cousin Henry Lefman,[2] he began what became an extremely successful career as merchant, first as purveyor of "woodware," then selling "segars," and finally, and most successfully, as commission merchant.[3]

I'm pretty sure Lefman's help was extensive because Windmuller was then a mere 20 years old and there was much to learn. Commission merchants brought into the country goods that were ordered by wholesalers, retailers, or even individual consumers. To achieve success, these men had to establish a reputation for good contacts with overseas sources, with ship owners, and with the banks who advanced the money they needed to cover purchase and transport costs. They had to know export and import tariffs, monetary exchange rates, the fluctuating value of gold. They had to be able to predict the sales potential for goods being ordered (because if the market failed the customer would not be able to pay). They had to insure against hazards of ocean shipping, including pirates.[4] They had to know each country's laws of export and import and their rules for quarantine and the like. In a time when each bank issued its own currency, they had to know which banks were solvent and likely to remain so.[5] And, in addition to all else, they had to have extensive knowledge of bills of exchange and other credit instruments.

There were many men in New York who set themselves up in this business, but relatively few who did well in it. Back in the early 1840s, Lefman himself had had to struggle out of bankruptcy.[6] Working at first mainly with sellers and shippers in Germany and later throughout Europe, Windmuller did better than most. He began work as a commission agent in 1855 and within a couple of years, at age 22, he started to achieve success.[7] by the time he was 25, he had married Lefman's daughter, mourned his mentor's death, and joined with a fellow German immigrant, Alfred Roelker, to form Louis Windmuller & Roelker with office at 20 Reade Street.[8]

As commission merchant, Windmuller dealt in "general merchandise," meaning just about anything that could be obtained in Europe for buyers in America. Over the half century he was in this business, records show him to have brought in the following (among many other) items:

1861 - Swords for use by the Union armies of the Civil War.
{Mike McWatters in Manufacturers of Regulation Model Enlisted Swords During the US Civil War reports that Windmuller had contracts for 6,685 sabers as well as musician, NCO, and light artillery swords. Harold Leslie in The American Sword 1775-1945 reports that he "contracted in 1861 with the Federal Government for 2,363 cavalry sabers, 200 noncommissioned officers' swords, 45 field officers' swords, and 57 foot officers' swords."}

1869 - Woolen goods
{Bulletin of the National Association of Wool Manufacturers (National Association of Wool Manufacturers, 1869)}

1876 - Linen goods
{New York as it was and as it is, giving an account of the city from its settlement to the present time : forming a complete guide to the great metropolis of the nation, including the city of Brooklyn and the surrounding cities and villages : together with a classified business directory by John Disturnell (D. Van Nostrand, 1876)[9]}

1876 - Vegetable Fibre— Unmanufactured.
{Treasury decisions under customs and other laws, Volume 9, United States. Dept. of the Treasury, United States. Customs Court (U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1877)[10]}

1876 - More swords and sword fittings
{Treasury decisions under customs and other laws, United States. Dept. of the Treasury, United States. Customs Court (U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1877)[11]}

1885 - Old iron rails from Russia
{OF IMPORTANCE TO BUSINESS MEN, New York Times, June 9, 1885.[12]}

1885 - Book binders' leather

ca. 1885 - Carpet wools
{Windmuller, Louis, & Roelker, 20 Reade St.: carpet wools, commission merchants; also silk. -- Official American textile directory; containing reports of all the textile manufacturing establishments in the United States and Canada}

1889 - Fish bladders

1891 - Barium, etc.
{Bulletin of Pharmacy, Vol. 7, (George S. Davis Medical Publisher, 1893)[14]}

1895 - "Madagascar No. 21" (I don't know what this is.)
{Letter addressed to Messrs. Louis Windmuller & Roelker from Singer, Whitthaus & Co. London; a single page letter, folded with the address information, postage and cancels to the reverse.[15]}

1896 - Hock wines
{An ad in the Evening Post, Saturday, June 6, 1896[16]}

1897 - More hock wines
{The Illustrated American (The Illustrated American Publishing Company, 1897)[17]}

1898 - Walnut stocks for rifles to be used by American forces in the Spanish-American War.

1905 - Materials needed for printing books, ordered by the US Government Printing Office, including Morocco leather for bindings, monotype metal for Lanston Monotype Machines, Electrotype metal, and glue.
{Congressional serial set , Volume 5068 Senate Documents, 59th Congress, 2nd Session (G.P.O., 1907)}

1913 - Grain leather
{Treasury decisions under customs and other laws, United States. Dept. of the Treasury (U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1913)}

1916 - Quinine, opium, and other drugs


This envelope, addressed to the firm, is dated 1876.

This image from a city directory of 1859 shows Windmuller's business and its address. 242 Washington Street was the address of Henry Lefman's business.

This image from an ad placed in 1912 is evidence that Windmuller was a self-employed merchant in 1855.

{American exporter's export trade directory (The Johnston Export Publishing Co., 1912)}

By 1877, he was doing business as Louis Windmuller & Roelker at 20 Reade Street

{Goulding's New York City directory (L.G. Goulding, 1877)}

Here is a letterhead for the company.

And their memo form.

I haven't found any old photos of 242 Washington where Windmuller started out as an independent merchant. This 1863 print shows nearby Greenwich Street in 1861.

{Greenwich Street below Thames Street, 1861 (1863); source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

This modern photo shows a location on Washington Street a little closer to 242 Washington. The building on the left is a 19th century structure which, like 242 Washington, is on the corner.

{The building at center has an interesting history. "Now an Irish pub, the building began as the home of Dutch immigrant Ryneer Suydam and his family in 1799. It was originally constructed in the Federal style, a nondescript testament to the standard housing style at the time (red Flemish bonded brick, 3.5 stories, a pitched roof and dormer windows). By 1852 it operated as an immigrant boarding house and a police report in 1859 described 103 Washington as a 'German dance-house.' According to Irving Lewis Allen in The City in Slang, dance houses were notorious places that particularly catered to seamen; patrons were required to order drinks for themselves and their dance partners after each dance. Some of the women were candidly prostitutes and made business arrangements while waltzing." -- 103 WASHINGTON ST: Heaven, Hell & Purgatory; photo © Untapped New York by Christoffer Delsinger and text by Untapped New York.}

This sketch from Harper's Weekly shows another aspect of Washington Street in 1916. The building with the clothesline most resembles what no. 242 probably looked like.

{Washington Street is the larder of New York, 1916; ; source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

This photo is as close as I can come to showing the building at 20 Reade Street. It was taken in 1926 and shows 19th century buildings a block away, on Reade between Broadway and Church St.

{Reade Street #55-61 - Broadway - Church Street, 4/21/1926; source: NYPL Digital Gallery


Some maps

This detail from Will Taylor's excellent panoramic map of 1879 shows 242 Washington and 20 Reade.
{The city of New York. Will L. Taylor, chief draughtsman (New York, Galt & Hoy, 1879); you can download a full-size copy of this map here; source: Library of Congress}

Insurance map of 20 Reade St. in 1857

Here is the full sheet.

Maps of the City of New York by William Perris Civil Engineer and Surveyor Third Edition 1857.

Here, according to Google Street View, is what the block looks like these days.

View Larger Map


Some sources:

An Age of Creative Destruction

Google Books



[1] I've written about Louis Windmuller quite a few times. To see them, slick the link called "family history" in the list of Labels at right.

[2] Two posts of mine about Henry Lefman can be found here and here.

[3] Woodware means simply articles made of wood. Regarding segars, Webster's of 1817 preferred "cigar" to "segar," see A dictionary of the English language (George Goodwin, 1817). But dictionaries allowed both spelling throughout the century, e.g.,
Ci-gar'. A roll of tobacco-leaves for smoking. It has a pointed mouth-end and a square-butted lighting end. The word is derived from Spanish cigarro, a kind of tobacco grown in Cuba. Also spelt segar. The cheroot is the cigar of the Manillas, and has a regular taper, but both ends are squarely cut off, one of course is smaller than the other.
-- Knight's American mechanical dictionary (Hurd and Houghton, 1876)
cigar, segar: Eng. fr. Sp. cigarro: a tight roll of tobacco arranged so that it can be held in the mouth and smoked. Webster says the word was originally applied to a kind of Cuban tobacco.
1730 These gentlemen gave us some seegars to smoke... These are leaves of tobacco rolled up in such a manner, that they serve both for a pipe and tobacco itself: Quoted in Notes & Queries, 3rd Ser., viii. July 8, 1865, p. 26/2. 1775 Our hostess...smoked a segar with me: Twiss, Trav. Spain. [T.] 1797 if they are ever found with a pipe or cigar in any part of the ship excepting that in which smoking is allowed, they will be most rigorously punished : Wellington, Suppl. Desp., Vol. 1. p. 21 (1858). 1823 Give me a cigar: Byron, Island, 11. xix. 1826 he had a segar in his mouth: Capt. Head, Pampas, p.77. 1840 Cold fowl and cigars, Pickled onions in jars: Barham, Ingolds. Leg., p. 178 (1865). 1842 Sir John has been caught coming to bed particularly merry and redolent of cigar-smoke... The fact is that the cigar is a rival to the ladies, and their conqueror, too: Thackeray, Fitz-Boodle Papers, Miscellanies, p. 4. — the fatal cigar-box: ib., p. 17. 1845 But whether at bull fight or theatre...the Spaniard solaces himself with a cigar: Ford, Handbk. Spain, Pt. 1. p. 193.
-- The Stanford dictionary of anglicised words and phrases by John Frederick Stanford (University Press, 1892)
[4] In 1876, a reporter for the New York Times listed some of these uncertainties:

{Profits in Trade. Interesting Facts for Buyers. A Review of Various Branches of Trade — Profits of the Manufacturers, Wholesalers, and Retailers — the Cost of Articles of Common Consumption — What is Made. New York Times, April 30, 1876.}

[5] This comes from a warning given in a commercial dictionary in 1877:
The Banks of New York (309 in 1863) were almost all organised on the security system; that is, they were obliged to deposit security in the hands of a Government officer, proportioned to the amount of the notes they were empowered to issue. At first sight this plan appears to be well-fitted to prevent over-issue and abuse: but such is not really the case, and nowhere in the Union has the abuse of banking been carried to a greater extent or been more injurious than in this city. Some salutary regulations as to the inspection and audit of the books of these banks have lately been introduced under a new system. This, however, is a subject that has been fully discussed in its proper place in this work. (See Banks in the United States, art. Banking.)
-- A dictionary ... of commerce and commercial navigation ... by John Ramsay McCulloch (London, Longmans, 1877)
[6] See the Evening Post, Thursday, Feb. 3, 1841.

[7] This period of his life was summarized in a biographic sketch which appeared in 1893 in The University Magazine. It reads in part:
Louis Windmuller born in Westphalia, received his education in the Catholic College of Munster. To his regret, circumstances compelled him to abandon his favorite studies for the mercantile career, and he resolved to emigrate, at the age of seventeen. He always had a predilection for his country. At the age of 12 he wrote at school an essay "Why America Finally must Become the Principal Stage of the World's History." He believes to this day that it will, with New York as it commercial centre. Landing here in 1853, he served as clerk in various branches of trade, his first situation being in a dry goods establishment, where he earned $4, while he paid $3 a week for his board. Shortly before the panic of 1857, he began trading for his own account, first in a small way, and after his marriage in 1859, on a larger scale. He commenced soon to import goods on commission, and continues to do so ever since. He often had to work early and late; by his application to business and the promptitude with which he met engagements, he soon established a good reputation, and weathered all the financial storms through which this country has passed. He formed a copartnership with A. Roelker in 1865, under the firm which exists now.

Between that year and 1886 he made numerous trips to Europe. He visited not alone the large markets for goods but the principal centres of art and science as well. His leisure moments were spent in the galleries of Florence and Dresden, Rome, and St. Petersburg, in the studios of the artists of Paris and Dusseldorf, in the bookshops on London and Leipzig. He collected several hundred examples of American and foreign artists, and a library of thousands of volumes of choice works on art, history, and science. In Athens, he met Schliemann, who explained how he found through Homer and in Hissarlick the spot where he subsequently discovered the traces of the Siege of Troy.

Ever since his means have allowed it Mr. Windmuller has devoted a portion of his time to public affairs. Some twenty years ago he be-came member of the Chamber of Commerce, where he is Chairman of the Committee on internal trade. As such he made reports on improved roads, postal facilities, equitable rates of storage; he also served on several committees of charity of the Chamber.

-- The University Magazine, New York, (published by the University Magazine, 70 South St., NY), Volume 9, 1893, p. 547
[8] Alfred subsequently became Louis Windmuller's brother-in-law. I've written about Alfred's brother, Hugo, here.


{New York as it was and as it is, giving an account of the city from its settlement to the present time : forming a complete guide to the great metropolis of the nation, including the city of Brooklyn and the surrounding cities and villages : together with a classified business directory by John Disturnell (D. Van Nostrand, 1876)}

[10] Here's the text:
Treasury Department, May 4, 1876.

Sir: Your letter of the 29th ultimo is received, transmitting the appeal (96 e) dated February 15, 1876, of Louis Windmuller & Roelker from your decision assessing duty at the rate of 20 per centum ad valorem on certain vegetable fibre, imported per " Minerva," January 25, 1876.

It appears upon an inspection of samples, and from the special report of the appraiser, that the said vegetable fibre has not undergone any process of manufacture, and that it is similar to the article which, by Department's decision of the 22d ultimo, was held to be dutiable at the rate of 10 per cent. ad valorem under the provision in- section 2516 of the Revised Statutes for "all raw or unmanufactured articles not herein otherwise provided for."

You are therefore hereby directed to reliquidate the entry accordingly, and to forward a certified statement for a refund of the duties exacted in excess.


By order: 0. F. BUBNAM,

Assistant Secretary. Collector Of Customs, New York.

Treasury decisions under customs and other laws, Volume 9, United States. Dept. of the Treasury, United States. Customs Court (U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1877)
[11] Here's the text:
Swords and Sword Fittings.

Treasury Department, June 29,1876.

Sir : Your letter of the 27th of April last is received, transmitting the appeal (43 e) of L. Windmuller & Roelker from your decision assessing duty at the rate of 45 per cent. ad valorem on certain so-called scabbards, grips, &c., imported per "Mosel," November 16,1875, which the importers claim to be dutiable at the rate of 35 per cent. ad valorem, as manufactures of iron.

It appears from the special report of the appraiser that the merchandise in question consists of swords complete—blades, grips, and scabbards requiring only to be fastened together to be complete swords—and foils; all of which are dutiable at the rate of 45 per cent. ad valorem, under the provisions in Schedule E for " swords," and "manufactures of steel or of which steel is a component part." Your decision is therefore affirmed.


By order: C. F. BUKNAM,

Collector Of Customs, New York.

Assistant Secretary.

Treasury decisions under customs and other laws, United States. Dept. of the Treasury, United States. Customs Court (U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1877)
[12] Here is the text:

A decision was recently rendered by the Supreme Court, General Term, affirming the judgment of courts below in the breach of contract suit of Windmuller Roelker against Thomas J. Pope Brothers.

See also:
Newtown Register, Thursday, December 15, 1885.

[13] Here is the listing:

[14] Here is the directory entry:

[15] 1895, Singer, Whitthaus & Co. London, letterhead: A single page letter, folded with the address information, postage and cancels to the reverse. The letter is addressed to Messrs. Louis Windmuller & Roelker. The letter concerns a shipment of goods, a lot of Madagascar No. 21, that they were trying to get aboard the "Mohawk". Also that Madagascar was hard to come by and they could get Mozamiques, and Gambia No. 35 for less.




{The Illustrated American (The Illustrated American Publishing Company, 1897)}

[18] See the Krag Rifle Story by Mallory & Olsen. On page 98, Mallory mentions that Windmueller & Roelker were the company that supplied the stocks for the Springfield manufacturing company. There was a shortage of American walnut, for what ever reason, Springfield would have approved a substitute wood. -- 1898 Krag Rifle


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

19 w. 46th, again

This the second post about 19 W. 46th Street in Manhattan. The first is here. My great-grandfather, Louis Windmuller, leased an apartment at this address for some 40 years.[1] Over those decades his growing family lived on the estate he had built in what was then the open countryside at Woodside in Queens and he used the city place occasionally as need be. During the winter months, when his long commute to Queens from his office at 20 Reade Street became unpleasant, he would remain in Manhattan and at any time of year he might entertain city friends there and, at least on one memorable occasion, he hosted a major celebration in the apartment.

A famous pedestrian, he walked to and from the Reade Street office for more than four decades. When his start or end point was Woodside, he would probably use the ferry at James Slip, limiting distance on foot to only a few miles, but he wouldn't mind using the 34th Street ferry to extend the walk to nearly nine miles, and the ferry at 34th would normally have been his means of getting back and forth between the apartment and his home in Queens.[2]

Despite its tiny width, the building had a normal three-room depth and contained more-than-pocket-sized rentable spaces on each of its four floors. There was a storefront at ground level, a "parlor floor" above it, and apartments on the two upper floors.[3]

These days a popular Turkish restaurant is at street level and there are one or two salons on the second floor. In earlier days, the ground floor's tenants included a bartending school (see the Herald Statesman, Yonkers, N. Y., for Thursday, May 26, 1949) and, in the Prohibition Era, a speakeasy (see the New York Sun for January 8, 1929: "Police Axmen Raid Speakeasies").[4]

During Windmuller's time as many women as men appear to have resided in the building and most residents appear to have been physicians, including one woman who was also a physician. Non-medical men who lived there included a lawyer, Hugh Reginald Willson — one of the city's assistant district attorneys and son of a well-known transit advocate[5] — and an aspiring musician.[6]

One of the more interesting residents was a granddaughter of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt whom the Times called "one of the old original Staten Island colony."[7] Windmuller probably wouldn't have known that he was obscurely related to this woman via his wife's Thorn family connections.[8]

Apart the destruction of speakeasy by "police axmen," the most notable event to occur at 19 W. 46th Street seems to have been the sudden death of a the woman who served as cook to the lady physician.[9]


This detail from a map of Queens in 1872 shows Windmuller's office and two residences. I've also marked the ferry slips. The East River bridges (apart from the Brooklyn Bridge, which was not useful to him) were constructed too late in his life to make the ferries unnecessary.[10]

{Map of Kings County, with parts of Westchester, Queens, New York & Richmond Counties. Showing Farm Lines, Soundings &c. (New York, M. Dripps, 1872); source: Library of Congress}


Here are some photos of the area; I couldn't find any old images of the building itself. All come from the NYPL Digital Gallery.

1. From about 1885 this shows 5th Ave at the corner of 46th. No. 19 is around the corner.

{Manhattan: 5th Avenue - 46th Street, 1885?}

2. This shows the same intersection in 1890.

{Manhattan: 5th Avenue - 46th Street, Loeffler, A. (August) -- Photographer, 1890}

3. This shows the same intersection in 1899. I suspect it records the razing of buildings to construct the Windsor Arcade.

{Manhattan: 5th Avenue - 46th Street, 1899}

4. Taken in 1904, down the block on west 46th, this appears to show a funeral.

{Manhattan: 46th Street (West) - 6th Avenue (1904)}

4. A photo of the Windsor Arcade at 5th Avenue and 46th St., which has shown up in another blog post of mine.

{Manhattan: 5th Avenue - 46th Street, Windsor Arcade, Wurts Brothers -- Photographer, 1907?}

5. Windmuller died in 1913; this photo, taken ca. 1922, shows the continued revamping of the block. All the tearing down and rebuilding somehow left 19 W. 46th unchanged.

{Manhattan: 46th Street (West) - 5th Avenue (1922?)}


Here are records concerning some of the building's occupants from a quick internet search.

1875 - The Catalogue of Columbia College lists Hugh Reginald Willson as resident of 19 W. 46th St. Willson was an assistant district attorney and son of an expert on monetary policy and "originator of the undertaking known as the Underground Railway" in New York (meaning the subway system, not the abolitionist cause).[X]

1877 - Goulding's New York City directory lists "Hugh R. Wilson" (sic) as a lawyer having his home at 19 w. 46th

1881 - The Evening Telegram tells its readers that Mrs. F.H. Howell of No. 19 West Forty-sixth street, will receive on Tuesdays in February. (The World of Society. What Is Going On in Circles of Fashion. Receptions, Dinners and Other Entertainments. LATEST FASHIONABLE INTELLIGENCE. New York. Monday. January 28, 1881).

1887 - A book, Descendants of Constant Southworth, 1614-1685 records that Dr. George Champlin Shepard Southworth then resided at 19 W. 46th St. His entry sums his vitae tersely: "Yale 1883. College of Physicians and Surgeons NY 1887. St. Luke's Hospital, NY 1888. Chambers St. Hospital NY 1889. Certificates in Gynecology and Obstetrics, Rotunda Lying-in Hospital, Dublin 1890."

1887 - The Newtown Register for Thursday, September 16, reports: "Mrs. Telford Groesbeck, of Cincinnati, has been visiting at her old home in this village, having come to attend the marriage of her sister Miss Helen M. Cox to Dr. J. T. O'Connor, a prominent physician of New York. The marriage took place very quietly at St. Agnes Church, New York, on Sep. 3, only the immediate family being present. The newly married couple immediately took up their abode at their residence, 19 West 46th street, New York.

1889 - The Annual report of the Executive Committee of the Indian Rights Association lists as a member "Southworth, Dr. TS," residing at 19 W. 46th St.

1891 - The New York Times notes the marriage of Dr. Albert H. Ely of New York to Miss Maud L. Merchant of Rochester, "couple to reside at 19 W. 46th St."

1893 - Dr. TS Southworth is again listed as member of the Indian Rights Association, and will be in subsequent volumes of the publication.

1893 - Club Men of New York lists Ely, Albert H. M.D. of 19 W.46th St. as member of the New York and Yale Athletic clubs. (Republic Press, 1893).

1894 - A directory, Officers and Graduates of Columbia College, lists Albert Heman Ely, A.B. as resident of 19 W. 46th. His vitae in brief: "Yale Coll. 1885. Asst. Surg. Roosevelt Hosp., Instr. Gynaecology N. Y. Polyclinic."

1895 - The Transactions of the Medical Society of the State of New York lists "Albert Heman Ely, 19 W. 46th St."

1899 - The Harvard Graduates' Magazine reports that "Francis Rogers has issued a circular announcing his entering into the musical profession. His address is 19 W. 46th St., New York city. On Dec. 6 he gave a concert in Boston Association Hall." (Volume 7 - Page 465).

1899 - The Real Estate reports in the Evening Post for Tuesday, January 24, lists Dr. Mary L. Edwards as leasing a apartment at No. 19 West Forty-sixth Street, for three years from the McVickar & Co.

1899 - The New York Times, gives a report of a "Servant Found Dead In Bed" at the home of Dr. Mary L. Edwards (Tuesday, December 26, 1899).

1899 - The New York Times for October 8 reported the marriage of Dr. Ely. "JOINED HANDS IN WEDLOCK.; SOCIETY AT ROCHESTER AND AUBURN WITNESS BRILLIANT EVENTS. New York Times, October 8, 1891, Wednesday, Page 2. ROCHESTER, N.Y., Oct. 7. -- The marriage this evening of Dr. Albert H. Ely of New York and Miss Maud L. Merchant of this city was a very brilliant affair. The doors of old St. Paul's were thrown open at 5 P.M., and for nearly two hours people poured into the edifice, filling the church from chancel to vestibule with the most brilliant assemblage ever gathered at a wedding in this city. -- couple to reside at 19 W. 46th St."

1900 - The Catalogue of Officers and Graduates of Columbia University lists Barnard graduate Grace Mary Shaw as residing at 19 W. 46th St.

1900 - The Catalogue of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity lists A.H. Ely of 19 W. 46th St. as member. His name also appears in 1894 and 1895.

1901 - The Transactions of the ... session of the American Institute of Homoeopathy lists Mary L. Edwards residing at 19 W. 46th St. and working at the New York Medical College and Hospital for Women (Volume 56 - Page 715).

1901 - The Annual Report of the Executive Committee of the Indian Rights Association continues to list Dr. T.S. Southworth as member living at 19 W. 46th St.

1901 - On May 22, Dr. and Mrs. Ely sailed to Liverpool on the SS Oceanic which had been built in 1899 and was eclipsed that year as "the largest ship in the world." In January she had collided with and sank the "Kincora", at loss of 7 lives."

1902 - The Standard Medical Directory of North America, lists Mary L. Edwards at 19 W. 46th St.

1902 - On February 11, the society pages of the New York Times declare that Dr. and Mrs. Ely attended a dance:

1904 - The New York Times for Friday, February 26, has this obit: "Mrs. Anna Van Buzer [i.e., Duzer] Root, wife of George V. Root, eighty-one years old, died at her residence, 19 West Forty-sixth Street, Wednesday of gastritis. She was a niece [i.e., granddaughter] of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, and was one of the old original Staten Island colony. Only a few months ago the golden wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Root was celebrated. The funeral will be held today. The Interment will be In the Moravian Cemetery."

1906 - Club Women of New York lists Miss May Josephine Wirthan at 19 W. 46th, a member of the Vassar Aid club of NY.

1909 - The Trow (formerly Wilson's) Copartnership And Corporation Directory of New York lists Grace (T.N. [i.e., Trade Name]) (Anne & Elizabeth Grace) at 19 W. 46th.

1911 - The New York Times for August 18 reports the following: "THE REAL ESTATE FIELD; Royal Scott Gulden has leased the dwelling 19 West Forty-Sixth Street for the estate of H.C. Willson -- William E. Gaillard, trustee -- to M.J. Piper. The McVickar, Gaillard Realty Company represented the owners. Mr. Gulden has also leased the parlor floor in the same building to Miss M.Gerity, for millinery purposes.

1913 - The New York Times for August 28 reports that a milliner has leased space at 19 W. 46th.

1913 - The New York Sun for November 29 lists: "BUSINESS PROPERTY LEASES. Royal Scott Gulden has leased the building at 19 West Forty-sixth street to the Frank Oilman Company, manufacturers of women's skirts. The tenant will alter the premises into stores and apartments. The McVickard, Gaillard Realty Company represented the owner.)"

1914 - The New York Times for January 14 reports that a dressmaker has leased space at 19 W. 46th.

1916 - The Catalogue of Officers and Graduates of Columbia University lists Grace Mary Shaw as a Barnard graduate of 1911 living at 19 W. 46th.

1916 - The New York Times for Saturday, October 28, has an ad for "SALESMEN. — Opening for two or three younger men of good appearance; must be extremely well connected socially; high-class custom shirt business; commission. Frank Oilman Co. 19 West 46th St."

1917 - From the New York Times, July 26th: "46TH, 19 WEST. — Parlor store, 10 feet above sidewalk; fine window space; can give tenant trade from our shop; rent reasonable. Frank Oilman Co."

1921 - The New York Times for January 16 has a real estate ad for "Choice Selection, APARTMENTS AND H0USES, MISS BERKELET, 19 WEST 46TH. BRYANT 8618."

1930 - An obituary in the New York Times of September 4, 1930, reports Dr. Mary L. Edwards is Dead: "Dr. Mary L. Edwards, a homeopathic physician who retired from practice in 1910, died yesterday in the Braker Home for Incurables, Third Avenue and 132d Street, at the age of 70. She was graduated from the Women's Medical College in 1890. She formerly lived at 19 West Forty-sixth Street."

1949 - The Herald Statesman, Yonkers, N. Y., for Thursday, May 26, answers a reader's question: "Question: To settle an argument will you please state whether or not there are any schools for bartenders? My wife won't believe that there are. - A Reader. Answer: There is the Bartenders School Inc., 201 West 49th Street. New York City, and the International Bartenders School Inc. 19 West 46th Street, New York City.


Some sources:

The Skinniest Building in Midtown

LEGOizing NY

A MOC of 19W 46th St New York, NY

Narrow Buildings in Japan and Around the World

New York, New York 46th St in AAAG's America at a Glance


List of ferries across the East River

James Slip Ferry, where you can "Search Over 13,501,000 Old New York State Historical Newspaper Pages" archival searches

Library of Congress map collections

Google Books

The Trow (formerly Wilson's) copartnership and corporation directory of New York City (Trow, 1909 - New York (N.Y.))



[1] He moved into the building right after it was built ca. 1865. I'm not sure but he may have kept it up to the day of his death in 1913. Notice in the timeline given above that the building was leased to a clothing manufacturer in November of that year. This map, published in 1867 from data previously collected, shows the vacant lot.

{Plan of New York City from the Battery to Spuyten Duyvil Creek : showing every lot and building thereon : old farm lines, street numbers at the corners of blocks, railroads, steamboat landings, bulkhead and pier lines, etc., etc., etc. Dripps, M (1867); source: Library of Congress}

[2] On February 7, 1913, the New York Times wrote up a proposal for a new club: NOTED CITIZENS OUT FOR WALKING RECORD; Gaynor, Choate, Hornblower, Parsons, and Windmuller Form the Pedestrians Club. Here's an extract from the article:

[3] The two upper floors currently have two apartments of two bedrooms each, see: The Skinniest Building in Midtown. For the building's "Parlor Floor" see the New York Times for August 18, 1911, quoted above.

[4] Here's the text:
Police Axmen Raid Speakeasies

The Village Gets a Visit.

Detectives of the staff of Inspector Quinn were busy in Greenwich Village. Provided with a warrant issued by United States Commissioner Cotter the detectives entered an alleged speakeasy at l Charles street, a place operated, the police said, by a man whose establishment had been closed in a raid on Wednesday night.

The detectives drove about twenty patrons to the street, then proceeded to demolish the place. They smashed the mirrors, the bar and the furniture and destroyed barrels of beer and liquor not needed for evidence. When they left the floor was a sea of liquor and beer foam. Joseph Burns was placed under arrest on a charge of possession.

Inspector Quinn said the place was known as "Julius's new place." Julius's "old place," he said, was closed in a raid on Wednesday night. It was located a few doors from where he had opened up again.

Among the other places raided during the night were 19 West Forty-sixth street, said to be operated by a former policeman who was dismissed from, the force some time ago.
[5] Hugh R. Willson was son of Hugh B. Willson. The father was a well-known advocate of subway transit, styled "the originator of the undertaking known as the Underground Railway" in New York. See Annual report of the Board of Railroad Commissioners (Massachusetts. Board of Railroad Commissioners, Wright & Potter, State Printers, 1891), The Popular science monthly, Volume 21 (D. Appleton, 1882), "Memoir of the Author" in Currency: or, The fundamental principles of monetary science postulated (Putnam's sons, 1882), Mr. Hugh B. Willson and the Underground Railroad (NYT, March 26, 1866) and Pioneer Plans for a Subway in Fifty Years of Rapid Transit (Walker, 1918).

[6] This information appears in notes for the class of 1899 in the Harvard Graduates' Magazine: "Francis Rogers has issued a circular announcing his entering into the musical profession. His address is 19 W. 46th St., New York city. On Dec. 6 he gave a concert in Boston Association Hall."

[7] This obituary notice appears in the New York Times for February 26, 1904.

Here are some sources of information about Anna.

Anna Hand Van Duzer Root on rootsweb

This is an entry for her in Genealogies of New Jersey Families by Joseph R. Klett (Genealogical Publishing Com, 1996).

This source also gives the following story that Mrs. Root told about her relative Mrs. Johnson.

[8] Anna Hand Van Duzer Root had Vanderbilt cousins who were also distant cousins of Windmuller's wife, Annie: Emily Thorn Vanderbilt and William Knapp Thorne were related to Annie on the Thorne and Kissam branches of her family tree. Here's a short relationship table for Emily Thorn Vanderbilt, from wikipedia. I've previously written about her.

[9] The report says,
Dr. Mary L. Edwards of 19 West Forty-sixth Street notified the Coroner's Office by telephone last night that her cook, Rose Fitzgerald, forty years old, a widow, had been found dead in her room.

The woman had retired at 10 o'clock, and half an hour later she was found dead by Annie Murphy, a servant. Dr. Edwards and Dr. Irving Townsend of 67 West Forty-sixth Street, who were called in, agreed that the cause of death had probably been heart disease.

Dr. Edwards knew, however, that the woman had been using chloroform and laudanum for a toothache, and feared she might have taken an overdose. An autopsy will be held. The police made a careful search for any indication of suicide, but found none.
[10] It's interesting that Woodside was so large an estate and the building at 19 W. 46th so small. Windmuller was a close friend of William Steinway, who made the famous pianos just to the north of the Woodside estate in a town that was then called Steinway. It's curious, but of no real significance that the Windmuller property resembles a grand piano seen from above. This link will take you to LC site where you can access the 1872 map full size: Map of Kings County : with parts of Westchester, Queens, New York & Richmond: showing farm lines, soundings, etc.