Police Dog Dies,
In Friendly Rivalry In 1885
Firemen Compete In 1885
In Friendly Rivalry In 1885
Get into a conversation with a long-time Queens resident and you’re likely to discover a subscriber of the Long Island Star-Journal, a daily paper that informed the community about local and world news until it folded in 1968. A banner across the Star-Journal masthead reminded readers that the newspaper’s name came from the merger of the Long Island Daily Star (1876) and the North Shore Daily Journal--The Flushing Journal (1841).
Welcome to September 1885!
There was sad news at the beginning of the month as the Star-Journal reported on the passing of a beloved Long Island City resident, Captain, the police dog "as well known as any member of the Force. He was a large, good-natured Newfoundland, not only the pet of the officers, but also the many children on the station house block. Over ten years ago, he was presented to Sergeant Darcy, and since that time has never allowed the Sergeant to leave the station house without him until old age compelled him to give up the beat, and then he would remain on duty under the desk."
"Captain," the obituary continued, "was a good judge of human nature, and would never think of disturbing a man asleep on his own stoop, but if a tramp or a drunken man was asleep in the street, Captain would take [him] by the collar and shake him into consciousness. He was property clerk in headquarters, and bundles of clothing or tools taken from prisoners were immediately thrown into the corner and Captain would stand guard and no one, not even an officer, could take them without Sgt. Darcy giving his consent so that Captain could hear it. Captain will be buried this afternoon in the yard in the rear of the station house."
In the same issue of the Star—Journal, Sept 4 1885, was a story that was clearly not aimed at animal lovers. The article was headlined "Fishing For Porpoises" but in fact it may have been dolphins or even beluga whales that were being hunted. 19th century hunters were more concerned with retail value than precise species identification. Readers were told that "Daily a fishing steamer cruises off Rockaway Beach and other points on the southern Long Island coast in search of porpoises, and the sight of netting a school of them forms a picture of decided interest."
"The enterprise is a comparatively new one, and was inaugurated by Captain Gardiner of Connecticut, who is meeting with gratifying success. The average value of a porpoise is about $25, and so far the capture has averaged six a day. The oil obtained from the porpoise brings a high price, and the meat is dried and sold in Philadelphia. The hide makes a fine quality of leather, and the bones are also utilized. The rendering factory is at Shelter Island." Ironically, Shelter Island today is famous as a wildlife sanctuary.
In 1885 the Rockaways were a popular destination for a day’s outing. Adventurous Manhattanites could take the Long Island Rail Road to Jamaica and rent a carriage and horses. As a vacation site, Far Rockaway, especially, was prospering, as the Star-Journal noted: "The growth of this place with [in] the past ten years is something wonderful. There are long streets and avenues closely built up with cottages, hotels, boarding houses, saloons, etc."
However, the neighborhood was severely censured for its complete lack of a fire department. "The only fire apparatus the town possesses is a bucket purchased some years ago by private subscription. As matters now stand, [If] a fire once starts among the cheap frame buildings there, with wind in the right quarter, Far Rockaway will get a house warming that will wipe out a goodly portion of the settlement."
The deficiency of Far Rockaway was a sharp contrast to other towns in Queens. Although paid fire departments were not yet the norm, there were many volunteer fire departments who were notable for their devotion to duty, smart turnouts and speed in getting to a fire. In the 1880s volunteers hitched hose-carriages to horses who trotted over cobbled streets to the fire. Often two or three volunteer fire companies would combine to fight a fire, but off-duty there was much friendly rivalry among the various outfits. On September 11, the Star-Journal reported that "the annual firemen’s parade and tournament of the members of the volunteer fire departments of Queens and Suffolk Counties, at Jamaica, [on September 9], was one of the most successful events that has taken place in this county for many years."
"The appearance of the different companies was very fine, but it was generally conceded that Steinway Hose Company with their handsome carriage carried off the palm in this respect, with Tiger Hose Company No. 8, Long Island City, second."
After the parade, various competitions took place. "The first struggle was between the different hose companies, who were to run 200 yards, stretch 300 feet of hose, break coupling, and attach the pipe." Despite losing a wheel that had to be hastily reattached to their carriage, the winner was Tiger Hose Company of Astoria, with a time of 24 seconds.
This outfit was named after its carriage, which bore the painted image of the Tammany Tiger, the symbol of Boss Tweed’s corrupt regime in 19th century Manhattan. Tweed began his career in public life by founding and acting as foreman of a volunteer fire company. It is likely that the Astoria fire outfit bought the carriage cheaply after Tweed’s arrest and public disgrace in 1871. At some point the carriage known as the "Big Six" passed into the possession of the Mohawk fire company of Long Island City, who used it for ceremonial parades, and later presented it to the Museum of the City of New York. This carriage is now in the collection of the New York City Fire Museum in Manhattan.
"In the hand engine contest the Protection Company of Jamaica sent a stream 167 feet, and was awarded the first prize—a pair of silver pipes--and Neptune No. 2, of the same village, second prize—a silver bucket-- for covering 155 feet."
The journey of the Steinway and Tiger Companies from Long Island City to Jamaica was something of a spectacle, apparently. "Steinway Hose Company had fifty-two men on the rope. They wore an exceedingly neat and attractive gray uniform with blue fatigue caps. Tiger Hose Company had thirty-one members in line. They wore black pants, blue fire shirts, and duty hats." The fire companies marched to the County Court House, were reviewed by Mayor George Petry (Long Island City had its own mayor until it became part of Greater New York in 1898), and took a special train from the LIRR depot to Jamaica.
Their return journey was even more of an event. "As soon as the official announcement was made by the judges that the first prize had been awarded to Tiger Hose Co., word was immediately conveyed to Long Island City, and preparations were made to give the boys a hearty welcome." The Star-Journal noted without comment that "bonfires were started in every direction, and fireworks seemed to blaze forth all over Hunter’s Point." Fortunately the celebratory arsonists don’t seem to have caused any extra work for the returning heroes!
"Cheer after cheer went up as the victorious company marched out of the depot with their prize." Both the Steinway and the Tiger companies proceeded to Stein’s hotel in the Steinway district, "where a capital chowder had been prepared for the arrival of the men. The companies soon afterwards separated with ‘three cheers and a tiger’ for one of the most memorable days in the history of the Fire Department in Long Island City."
That’s the way it was in September 1885.
Compiled by Clare Doyle, Librarian, Greater Astoria Historical Society.
For more information, contact the Society at 718-728-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.