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THE OLD MERCHANTS OF NEW YORK CITY
By Walter Barrett, Clerk
In the last I spoke of Gulian Verplanck, the second president of the
Bank of New York in 1790, and who was a man of extraordinary ability. He was
born in this city, and received an education in Amsterdam. He came over to
this city to act as the agent of an old established Dutch house in
Amsterdam. Although extremely young for such a great responsibility, yet he
conducted their business to the perfect satisfaction of his former
employers. In after years he did a very heavy business with Holland. About
1792, he bought of Alexander Hamilton a house and lot in Wall street. He
tore down the house and erected a splendid mansion upon it, where the
Merchant's Bank now is. In his day it was No. 12 Wall st (now 33.) He was an
accomplished man and a good speaker, and was much esteemed. As early as
1788, when the Legislature met at Poughkeepsie, and we sent such men as
Richard Varick, Evert Banker, Nicholas Bayard, Nicholas Low, Comfort Sands,
to represent this city, Gulian Verplanck was among them. He continued to
represent this city until 1790. That year he was speaker of the assembly. He
was sent to the Legislature again in 1796, and was elected speaker again. He
died about 1800. His widow continued to reside in the old mansion until
THE GULIAN NAME
The name of Gulian has been before this city for eighty years. The
first was Gulian who was speaker at Albany in 1796. He died in 1800. He left
a worthy and even more distinguished representative of the name in the
person of his nephew (who was named after him,) Gulian C. Verplanck. A few
years later, in 1808, he took his place among the citizens as an
attorney-at-law, 50 Wall street, and residing in Partition (Fulton) street.
This Gulian C. was in the Legislature for some years, commencing in the
Assembly in 1821, and ending in 1823. Ten years later he was elected to the
twenty-second Congress from this city, and held it from 1831 to 1833. He was
in the Senate of this State from 1838 to 1841. He is now and has been for
many years one of the commissioners of emigration. He is a most remarkable
man. It would require a volume, instead of a part of one of my chapters to
give any idea of the varied occupations of Mr. Gulian C. Verplanck. They
have been almost as numerous as those of John Pintard. In former years, when
New York was younger, hardly any institution, Literary, Scientific,
Benevolent, Political or Religious, could get along without his name. I have
been forced to allude to him, in this sketch, in order to draw a line
between my good old merchant Gulian Verplanck, and the one who is yet
living, and who I hope will live many more years to be an honored "landmark"
in the progress of the city.
JOHN AND CHARLES WILKES
I mentioned as clerks of Gouverneur & Kemble, Samuel G. Ogden, and
John Wilkes, and Nic Ogden. I might have mentioned Staats Lawrence, W. H.
Jepson, N.G. Rutgers and George A. Bibby, who were clerks ten years later
(in 1804) than the former ones. John Wilkes, I think, was in the counting
room, but did not continue in commercial business. There were two brothers
came out to this country after the Revolutionary War,___Charles and John.
They were nephews of the celebrated Wilkes, who made such a figure in
English politics for a long period. He was the (North Briton) Wilkes, member
of Parliament___locked up on the tower, and a great public favorite.
Charles Wilkes had been a banker's clerk, I think in London. When the
Bank of New York was started in 1784, he went into it as principal teller.
He must have been somewhat experienced, for in 1794, he was made cashier. He
had among the directors who voted for him, Nicholas Gouverneur, Daniel
McCormick, and Gulian Verplanck, who was president of the bank that year.
John Wilkes, the brother of Charles, was a public notary in 1792. He lived
at No. 13 Wall street. He was the father of several sons: John, Edward,
Henry, and Charles. The last married Miss Renwick, a sister of Professor
Renwick. He is the celebrated "Commander" Wilkes, the hero of the capture of
Mason and Slidell. Here I must mention one of those curious coincidences
that are really laughable.
There was another John Slidell, a tailor, at No. 21 Duke (South
William.) His brother was a shoemaker, at No. 21 Broadway. Yet another
brother, Joshua, was a measurer of grain, and lived in Dutch street. These
last were distant relatives of the John Slidell of whom I shall speak. In
1794 he had his factory at No. 50 Broadway.
In 1795, the old man continued to live at the old soap factory, No. 50
Broadway; but he gave up the business to John Jr. (who had served an
apprenticeship to it,) and he became a soap and a candle maker at the old
stand. He lived at that time at 60 Broadway, where John Slidell, the future
ex-senator, Rebel Minister, and so forth, was born. The son of one neighbor
and First Warder, became the capturer of the son of another. These boys, old
boys they are now, both being over sixty-five, have played together in their
early years, neither dreaming of their future destiny, or how they would
afterwards meet. When John Slidell went on board the "San Jacinto" and met
Commodore Wilkes, what curious sensations they must both have felt! The old
First Ward times, when as boys they called each other "Jack" and
"Charley"___went to school together, played tag together, snowballed each
other: and when a little later, they became older, and experienced puppy
love for the first time, it was for a First Ward little girl!
If a London paper were to make such a statement as this, it would be
called "romancing". It would not be believed. New York journals would call
it a fabrication. Here it is different. There are a hundred, perhaps a
thousand people who will see this article, who will know that what is stated
is true. There are persons who have known them as boys.
In 1798, John Slidell Jr., took his brother Thomas into partnership,
and the business was then continued under the firm of "John Slidell, Jr., &
Co." The old John moved up into Winne (Mott) street, where he died in 1804,
and after that the firm was John Slidell & Co., and so it was continued at
the same old stand and manufactory, No. 50 Broadway, until 1817.
In 1804 there was a "General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen" in
the city of New York. This society had its President John Slidell; its first
and second vice-presidents, its secretary, its collector, its poor overseer,
and loaning committee. Jacob Sherred, William G. Miller, Andrew Morrill,
Jonathan Weedover, Anthony Steenback, and such other good names among them.
Mr. John Slidell, Jr., had belonged to it in other years, as early as 1798,
when James Tylee was president: Thomas Timpson, vice-president; Cornelius
Crygier, second vice-president; John Striker, treasurer; William Whitehead,
Abraham Labagh, Daniel Hitchcock and Samuel Delamater, were the "Poor
What possible connection there could have been between a benevolent
society and a bank, passes my comprehension, yet so it was. In 1810, the
Mechanics' Bank was chartered, and John Slidell, Jr., Anthony Steenback, Mr.
Miller, Jacob Sherred, and other names of the old society, "Poor Overseers"
were made directors of the new Bank of Mechanics, and John Slidell was made
the first president of the Mechanics' Bank. He kept that place as president
until 1817. Meantime his soap and tallow candle manufactory was moved up to
No. 189 Elizabeth street, near the cathedral, and the old gentleman moved
his residence to Bloomingdale. About 1825, he moved back into town, and his
house was at No. 624 Broadway. That year 1825, the Traders' Fire Insurance
Company was chartered, and Mr. John Slidell, Sr., was president. Previous to
this, however, in 1817, John Slidell, Jr. (Rebel now) had gone into
mercantile business at No. 52 South street, with James McCrea. The firm was
"McCrea & Slidell." This firm continued in business as late as 1820. The
store was at No. 41 South street in 1818, and afterwards John Slidell Jr.,
(Rebel) lived at No. 50 Broadway, and so did James McCrea. It was about this
time the concern failed. James McCrea married a daughter of Augustine H.
Lawrence. It was about this time that John Slidell, Jr. had a duel with
Stephen Price, the manager of the Park Theatre. They fought in the morning,
and Slidell shot his antagonist, giving him a bad wound. It was the failure
of his firm and the scandal of this duel that determined John Slidell, Jr.,
to go to a new State when there was an opening. He pitched upon New Orleans.
The old John lived up at No. 174 Grand street, where he died of the
cholera in 1832. He limped for many years, having had a leg amputated. One
of his daughters married Commander M. C. Perry, a brother of Oliver H.
Perry, of Lake Erie fame. M.C. was famed for his great Japan expedition, and
was a most excellent man. A daughter of Commander Perry married Augustus
Belmont, the celebrated banker___a most excellent man, now in Europe.
Thomas Slidell, the brother of John (Rebel) died a bachelor.
Another brother, Alexander Slidell, was placed in the Navy. He rose to
be a commander, but put to death two persons on board the U.S. brig
"Somers." One of the men happened to be a son of the Hon. John C. Spencer,
who was then the Secretary of War. A nice time was made in consequence.
Previous to this sad affair, Alexander Slidell had had his name changed by
act of the Legislature to Mackenzie. An old Scotch relative had left him a
large sum of money, on the condition that he would do so. He died many years
ago. I think he married a daughter of Morris Robinson, who was the
celebrated cashier of the United States Branch Bank in this city, until its
affairs were wound up in the days of General Jackson. Mr. Robinson left
In a former chapter I had a sketch of N.L. & G. Griswold, the
extensive East India merchants and ship owners. There were other Griswolds,
who were also ship owners. One was John Griswold, Junior, when he came to
this city in 1812.
I presume the father of this family was named John Griswold. Young
John opened at 68 South street, and lived at 52 Broadway. In 1815, about the
close of the war, John took into partnership Charles C. Griswold. He was a
brother. That firm lasted until 1818, when I think, Charles died. At any
rate the house was disolved, but john still continued the business under his
own name at 68 South street. He kept in that store until 1827, when he moved
next door to 69, corner of Pine street. About fifteen years later he moved
to 70 South street.
The history of Packet ships, and of those who started them, is very
attractive. Up to 1815 there were nothing but transient ships. Then was
first commenced that regular line of packets, such as the world had never
before seen. The merchants of the city of New York led off in this
undertaking. In 1815 a line of Liverpool packets was established. The ships
were to leave New York and Liverpool on the first day of every month. Isaac
Wright & Son and Francis Thompson were the proprietors of that line, and
they ran it with such success, that after seven years' trial they determined
to run a second line, starting from Liverpool and New York simultaneously on
the 16th of each month. Additional ships were added, and they were all of
the first class, in mercantile observation.
The great success of the Liverpool line led John Griswold to start a
London line of packets about 1823. At first they sailed on the 1st of each
month from London and from New York, touching at Cowes. Fish & Grinnell
became interested, and a second line was started, the ships to leave New
York, on the 16th of each month. They had eight of the finest ships that
sailed out of port. John Griswold's ships were the "Sovereign," "Cambria,"
"President," and " Hudson ." Those belonging to Fish & Grinnell were the
"Columbia," "Hannibal," "Corinthian," and "Ontario."
A few years later when the packet ships were in the height of their
glory (1837, just before steamer ships superseded them in part,) the London
line was increased to twelve magnificent ships, leaving New York on the 1st,
10th, and 20th of each month. With the exception of two of the former list,
all the rest were new, viz; "St. James," "Montreal," "Gladiator,"
"Mediator," "Quebec," "Wellington," "Philadelphia," "Samson," "Toronto,"
"Westminster," "President," and "Ontario." Such was the rivalry, and so
great was the fear of being outdone, the owner would not keep these fine
ships in the line for but three or four years. The London line touched at
Portsmouth, instead of Cowes as at first.
What popular fellows their captains were! Where now are the Delanos,
Champlins, Hebards, Morris, Morgans, Chadwicks, Sebors, Brittons, Griffins,
Griswolds, Sturges, and a host of the old fashioned packet ship captains of
For fifteen years after the London line was started, our packet ships
went everywhere. There was Havre, Belfast, Greenock, Hull, Carthagena,
Havana, Vera Cruz; and as for domestic packet lines, they ran all over___New
Orleans, Mobile, Charleston, Savannah. Old and new lines to each, in most
Mr. John Griswold, the founder of the London line, died within a very
few years. The line of packet ships continues still in existence.
GOODHUE & CO.
As I have said much about the rise of the house of Goodhue & Co. in
former numbers, giving a full account of its commencement as Goodhue & Swett
in 1808, and its changes to Goodhue & Co., and its partners, good old
Jonathan Goodhue, Pelatiah Perit, C. Durand, and others. I ought now to give
its closing chapter. The following appeared in the journals on the first day
of this year.
The co-partnership heretofore existing under the firm of Goodhue & Co.
is this day dissolved by mutual consent.
The outstanding concerns of this house will be adjusted by either of
the partners, who will use the signature of the firm in liquidation.
ROBERT C. GOODHUE
CHARLES C. GOODHUE
RICHARD WARREN WESTON
New York, December 1, 1861.
The undersigned have this day formed a co-partnership under the firm
of Weston & Gray, and will continue the business heretofore conducted by
Goodhue & Co.
RICHARD WARREN WESTON
New York, January 1, 1862.
For this country, a continued existence of one house fifty-four years,
is a long time. The above Robert and Charles Goodhue are sons of the old
gentleman who founded the house.
Source: The Old Merchants of New York City
Author: Walter Barrett, Clerk Second series
Publisher: Carleton, Publisher, 413 Broadway
Entered according to the Act of Congress 1863
Researched, Prepared and Contributed by Miriam Medina
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