The 1842 Croton Water Celebration Medal

Croton Water Celebration medal by Robert Lovett, Sr. Courtesy of John Kraljevich Americana.

Croton Water Celebration medal by Robert Lovett, Sr. Courtesy of John Kraljevich Americana.

Here’s a fine example of the medal produced for the Croton Water Celebration, when what we now call the Old Croton Aqueduct opened to public use on October 14, 1842. This is currently being offered by John Kraljevich, a leading expert in American historical medals, coins, paper money and related Americana, who has graciously allowed us to share his images.

The Croton Water Celebration medal was designed by Robert Lovett, Sr., the patriarch of a family of famous engravers. He was born on March 19, 1796, and grew up in a quiet New York City neighborhood in an area now covered by the western end of the Brooklyn Bridge. After a brief military service during the War of 1812 he apprenticed in the shop of master stone seal engraver Thomas Brown.

Advertisement from Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, [Philadelphia], January 15, 1818.

Advertisement from Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser,
[Philadelphia], January 15, 1818.

By 1816 he had married and moved to Philadelphia to set up his own engraving business, specializing in dies and seals. His early work can’t be identified because it was unsigned, but one significant commission has been discovered by Lovett expert and collector David Baldwin. “Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Cooper in 1819 identify Robert Sr. as the creator of the official seal for the University of Virginia.”1

By 1824 Lovett was back in New York City, where he set up shop at 249 Broadway. “His shop location moved several times over the years,” according to Baldwin, “but he stayed in New York City until his death on December 31, 1874, just six hours after the passing of his wife of 60 years.”

Lovett’s Croton Aqueduct Medal was produced in silver, bronze and white metal. The silver examples were individually engraved for the 17 New York City Alderman in office at the time of the celebration and various dignitaries, including poet George Pope Morris, author of the celebration’s “Croton Ode.” The example shown here is white metal.

One side of Lovett’s exquisite medal is shown above and the other is below. If you want to enlarge the images to see the details click here to go to John Kraljevich Americana.

Croton Water Celebration medal by Robert Lovett, Sr. Courtesy of John Kraljevich Americana.

Croton Water Celebration medal by Robert Lovett, Sr. Courtesy of John Kraljevich Americana.


  1. See this letter by Lovett to Thomas Jefferson and The Croton Aqueduct Completion Medal by Dave Baldwin. Token and Medal Society Journal, September/October 2013, vol. 53, no. 5.

The Twentieth Century Limited at Harmon

The Twentieth Century Limited engine at the Harmon yards. Photograph by Robert Yarnall Richie.

The Twentieth Century Limited engine at the Harmon yards. Photograph by Robert Yarnall Richie.

Here’s a wonderful photograph of the famous Twentieth Century Limited engine at the Harmon yards on May 12, 1938. The image is part of a group of photographs of the engine taken by Robert Yarnall Richie, who worked as a free-lance commercial and industrial photographer for many large corporations. Richie’s work is significant for its artistic qualities as well as documentary information. See more of the photos in the Robert Yarnall Richie Photograph Collection, part of the digital archives of Southern Methodist Unversity.

John Quincy Adams Sends His Regrets

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams

On October 11, 1842 former President John Quincy Adams realized he had neglected to respond—several times—to an invitation to be an honored guest at the Croton Water Celebration. In his diary he wrote,

“. . . on turning over my letters recently received, to endorse and file them, I found one which I had totally forgotten, from . . . New York . . . inviting me to a festival to be held on the 14th of this month, in celebration of the introduction of the Croton water into the city. There was on the note a twice-repeated request for an answer, which I had overlooked till now. I answered the letter, declining the invitation, and sent [my reply] . . . so that it may reach New York on Thursday, the day before the feast.”1

Many important dignitaries were invited to the great Croton Water Celebration, but contrary to some books and a number of online sources (including—perhaps not surprisingly—Wikipedia2), former Presidents John Quincy Adams and Martin van Buren, then-President John Tyler, and Governor of New York William H. Seward did not attend. [UPDATE: We have corrected the error on Wikipedia. Depending on whether our changes are accepted the error may or may not still be present.]

It’s difficult to determine how this error crept into the historical record.

The contemporary newspaper accounts of the event exhaustively list every participating fire department, trade organization, temperance society, and civic official but say nothing of the President of the United States, two former Presidents and the Governor of New York. It seems unlikely—though not impossible—that newspapers published within days of the celebration would have missed these historic figures.

A year later Charles King even published the letters of regret from all four men in his book, A memoir of the construction, cost, and capacity of the Croton Aqueduct . . . together with an account of the civic celebration of the fourteenth October, 1842 . . .3

The President of the United States sends his regrets.

The President of the United States sends his regrets.

King has a long section of replies to invitations to the Croton Water Celebration. One of the most interesting appears long after the letters from officials like the Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller and Attorney General of the State of New York; after letters from diplomats like the Counsels of Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Greece—even after the letters from the mayors of cities like Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Troy.

Writing from Peekskill on October 8, 1842, Pierre Van Cortlandt, Jr. replied,

”I have this day received your polite invitation from the Common Council of the city of New York, to join with them on the 14th instant, to celebrate the introduction of the Croton water into the City of New York. With pleasure I accept your invitation, and will be in New York at the time appointed.”4

If anyone at that time had a plausible claim to the water from the Croton River it was Pierre Van Cortlandt, Jr. Indeed, the Van Cortlandt family had engaged in extended litigation against the Croton Water Commissioners over the diversion of water.5 Even if he had come to accept New York City’s diversion there was the matter of the Great Freshet of 1841, when part of the Croton Dam gave way. The torrent of water and debris destroyed bridges and businesses, silted out the mouth of the Croton River and is said to have come within 8 feet of destroying Van Cortlandt Manor.6

The Old Croton Dam after reconstruction.

The Old Croton Dam after reconstruction.

Did Van Cortlandt actually attend? What did he really think of the great event? Unfortunately his published correspondence contains just three letters from 1842 and none of them mention the Croton Water Celebration.


  1. Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, Comprising Portions of His Diary from 1795 to 1848, compiled by Charles Francis Adams. Philadelphia: J. P. Lippincott & Co., 1876. Volume 11.
  2. The current Wikipedia article for the Croton Aqueduct states “Among those present were then-President of the United States John Tyler, former presidents John Quincy Adams and Martin van Buren, and Governor of New York William H. Seward.” See here.
  3. A memoir of the construction, cost, and capacity of the Croton Aqueduct . . . together with an account of the civic celebration of the fourteenth October, 1842, on occasion of the completion of the great work . . . by Charles King. New York, Printed by C. King, 1843.
  4. Ibid.
  5. See Correspondence of the Van Cortlandt Family of Cortlandt Manor, 1815-1848, compiled and edited by Jacob Judd. Volume IV, pages 291-292.
  6. For more on the Great Freshet of 1841 see here.

October 14, 1842 – “Thousands to celebrate the Croton Dam and fresh water for NYC”

mcheshire:

A first-person account of the Croton Water Celebration from the diary of Julia Lawrence Hasbrouck. “It was a happy day for New.York, as now she stands a “queen city” with her beautifull Fountains, and pure transparent water, her delighted sons and daughters have reason to be proud of her now.”

Originally posted on :

061_Page 59Friday 14. tenth. October. 1842.

A beautifull day for the celebration of the Croton croton-water-sheet-music_detail3water Works.

Every one was in commotion to.day, the whole city were on the move; and thousands of country people came flocking to see the procession. The stores were closed, bells ringing, soldiers marching, societys forming, and every one putting on their best faces to witness the novel scene.
At eleven Garret, the children, Bridget and myself went up to Mrs Anelli’s. They received us very politely, giveing us their small bed-room to ourselves. We had a fine view of the parade and were not exposed to the air. The procession, equalled my expectations, and was a handsome affair; every thing was so bright and neat, the very houses shone like silver.
The fire companies were very conspicuous for taste in their decorations. It was supposed the number of persons in procession, were about 20.000.croton
The streets…

View original 227 more words

Croton’s Waves in All Their Glory

Today is the 172nd anniversary of the Croton Water Celebration, when what we now call the Old Croton Aqueduct opened to public use on October 14, 1842. The day-long celebration included a massive seven-mile-long parade, songs written and performed for the occasion, and culminated in jets of pure, sparkling water rising fifty feet in the air from the Croton Fountain in City Hall Park.1

To celebrate the anniversary we’ve assembled a group of artifacts produced to commemorate that great day. Some have appeared in previous posts and others are featured here for the first time.

Click the first image to start the slideshow (and don’t miss the list of previous posts about the Croton Water Celebration at the bottom of the page).

Previous posts about the Croton Water Celebration:

If you’re interested in seeing the sheet music shown in the slideshow here are links:


  1. The title of this post is from the official song, written by George Pope Morris. It’s one of the few good lines from an otherwise unmemorable work.

Harmon, the New City

Surveyors working along the tracks at the Harmon Shops, circa 1906. Courtesy of Carl Oechsner.

Surveyors working along the tracks at the Harmon Shops, circa 1906.
Courtesy of Carl Oechsner. Click the image to enlarge it.

Sometimes what’s most interesting about an old photograph is a tiny detail, not necessarily the main image itself. This photo is a perfect example.

In the foreground we see two surveyors, working along the tracks at the Harmon Shops, circa 1906.

Behind them—hard to make out because of the damage to the print—are some workmen leaning nonchalantly on a wooden railing.

Harmon-Sign-Detail-Men

But in the background, on the hill, if you look closely you can see what master salesman Clifford B. Harmon wanted everyone riding the Hudson River line to see—his sign for “Harmon, the New City” which he modestly called “the most important and extensive suburban development in the history of New York.”

Harmon Sign Detail

Below are links to some previous posts about Harmon’s innovative marketing campaign, but before we get to that there’s another significant detail in the photo.

Sand dune at the Harmon Shops construction site, circa 1906.

Sand dune at the Harmon Shops construction site, circa 1906.

Behind the bridge on the left you can clearly see an exposed sand dune in the area where the upper parking lot is today. Although it looks like an isolated feature it’s not. The flat land for the entire Harmon Shops facility was created over a period of almost a century by removing a massive amount of sand and gravel which once formed the “neck” of Croton Point.

For another view of what was still left of the “neck” take a look at the first photo in this post. See the sand dune behind the Harmon Shops? Most of that land is gone today.

Here are the links to previous posts about marketing Harmon. Many thanks to Carl Oechsner for sharing this rare photograph.

Harmon Shops of the New York Central Railroad

Harmon Shops looking southeast, 1914.

Harmon Shops looking southeast, 1914.

Here are some photos of the “Harmon Shops” in 1907, when they were brand new, and in 1914, when they became the terminus of the innovative “electric system” from New York City—one of the main selling points for Clifford Harmon’s real estate development.

Harmon Shops looking south, 1907.

Harmon Shops looking south, 1907.

The photos come from articles in two industry publications—the Street Railway Journal and the Electric Railway Journal—which describe the facility in great detail and include maps, schematic drawings, and additional photos. Click the links below to read them. You can also click the photos to enlarge them.

Interior view of the machine shop, 1914.

Interior view of the machine shop, 1914.

  • “The Electrical Maintenance Plants of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company,” Street Railway Journal, vol. XXIX, June 8, 1907.
  • “Harmon Shops of the New York Central Railroad,” Electric Railway Journal, vol. XLIII, June 6, 1914.
Harmon Shops looking north, with the inspection shed in the foreground, 1907.

Harmon Shops looking north, with the inspection shed in the foreground, 1907.

Harmon Yards car shop, 1907.

Harmon car shop, 1907.