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.

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.

The Greatest Jubilee That New York . . . Has Ever Boasted

The front page of the Dollar Weekly, October 22, 1842. Click image to enlarge.

The front page of the Dollar Weekly, October 22, 1842. Click image to enlarge.

This month is the 171st anniversary of the “greatest jubilee that New York or America has ever boasted—a jubilee in commemoration of the greatest blessing that a city like New York could receive—the introduction of an abundant supply of pure and wholesome water.” 1

The jubilee took place on October 14, 1842 and the quote is from the coverage a week later in the October 22 issue of the Dollar Weekly, a short-lived newspaper that the publishers, Herrick & Ropes, modestly proclaimed was “The cheapest paper ever published! The miracle of the age! One dollar a year, with two hundred original engravings!”

In a way they were right to call their paper “the miracle of the age” because they published the kind of engravings that made Harper’s Weekly famous when it was started fifteen year later. The highlight of this issue is the 16-inch wide engraving across the front page that illustrates the “great procession celebrating the introduction of the Croton water into the city of New York.” Photography was not in widespread use in 1842 so there are very few images depicting the jubilee parade and none of them are quite like this wonderful panorama.

If they left us nothing else, we could remember Herrick & Ropes as innovative publishers who paved the way for the great illustrated weekly newspapers. But at the same time they were publishing two other papers—another weekly, The Atlas, and a daily paper, The Aurora. On March 28, 1842 Herrick & Ropes announced in the Aurora that they had “secured the services” of a “bold, energetic and original writer as their leading editor” who would “carry out their original design of establishing a sound, fearless and independent daily paper.” His name was Walter Whitman, but we know him today as the poet, Walt Whitman. 2

Click the images below to see all the Aqueduct-related images published in the October 22 issue.


  1. Dollar Weekly, October 22, 1842.
  2. Whitman’s relationship with the publishers did not end well. By May 1842 he was no longer associated with the paper, which referred to him as “the laziest fellow who ever undertook to edit a city paper.” That summer Whitman used his new position at a different newspaper to exact revenge. “There is in this city,” he wrote, “a trashy, scurrilous, and obscene daily paper, under the charge of two dirty fellows, as ever were able by the force of brass, ignorance of their own ignorance, and a coarse manner of familiarity, to push themselves among gentlemen.” For more see Walt Whitman’s America by David S. Reynolds.

The Ultimate Bird’s Eye View of Manhattan

Colton's 1836 map of the sparsely populated area around Central Park. The satellite image in the middle shows the location of what was the Croton Aqueduct Receiving Reservoir (the six yellow dots—probably baseball fields). The large building in the lower right of the satellite image is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Click to enlarge.

Colton’s 1836 map of the sparsely populated area around Central Park. The satellite image in the middle shows the location of what was the Croton Aqueduct Receiving Reservoir (the six yellow dots—probably baseball fields). The large building in the lower right of the satellite image is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Click to enlarge.

Here’s the perfect follow-up to our recent post on bird’s eye view maps of the Croton Aqueduct—an interactive mashup of an 1836 map of Manhattan, georeferenced with satellite images of the city today.1

Using a “spyglass” map viewer you can switch back and forth between the two maps and explore 177 years of growth and change from the tip of the island to Spuyten Duyvil.

The interactive map is a collaboration between the David Rumsey Map Collection (one of the greatest resources of the internet), ESRI's story maps, and the online Smithsonian Magazine. The three organizations have partnered to create “urban history time viewers showing changes in the growth of six American cities.”

Swapping the images we see Manhattan 177 years later, with Colton's 1836 map in the middle.

Swapping the images we see Manhattan 177 years later, with Colton’s 1836 map in the middle Click to enlarge.

Here’s the link to the New York City map:

The Distributing Reservoir at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, now the site of the New York Public Library.

The Distributing Reservoir at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, now the site
of the New York Public Library. Click to enlarge.

Here are links to the other interactive maps:


  1. For information on georeferencing, see this Wikipedia article.

Bird’s Eye Views of the Croton Aqueduct, 1879-1887

Here are two priceless “bird’s eye” views of the Croton Aqueduct, made eight years apart during the period when New York City was rapidly outgrowing the capacity of what we now call the Old Croton Aqueduct. One map looks north, showing the burgeoning metropolis in 1879—straining the water supply system with its unrelenting growth. The other looks south—to the future—showing both the path of the New Croton Aqueduct tunnel and the then-planned location (later abandoned) of “the most massive structure of its kind in the world,” the Quaker Bridge Dam.

The City of New York. Will L. Taylor, chief draughtsman. New York, Galt & Hoy, 1879. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Click to enlarge.

The City of New York. Will L. Taylor, chief draughtsman. New York, Galt & Hoy, 1879.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Click to enlarge.

Taylor’s 1879 New York City Map

In a fascinating article about three-dimensional maps of New York City, the website Codex 99 calls this map “the first true attempt at a perspective map of the city . . . [The] four-sheet engraving, published by Galt & Hoy, attempted to label all roads and piers and depict buildings to (at least a more appropriate) scale using a vanishing perspective. It was a stunning achievement for the time.” 1 The map is so detailed that it shows all three major components of the Old Croton Aqueduct in New York City:

  • High Bridge and the High Bridge Water Tower
  • The Receiving Reservoir in Central Park
  • The Distributing Reservoir at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, now the site of the New York Public Library

High Bridge and the High Bridge Water Tower. Click to enlarge.

High Bridge and the High Bridge Water Tower. Click to enlarge.


The Receiving Reservoir in Central Park. Click to enlarge.

The Receiving Reservoir in Central Park. Click to enlarge.


The Distributing Reservoir at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Click to enlarge.

The Distributing Reservoir at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Click to enlarge.

Scientific American, 1887

The cover of the June 4, 1887 issue of Scientific American featured a bird’s eye view map looking south, from the Putnam County border to New York City and beyond. The accompanying article said the map “clearly presents the course of the Croton River, the location of Muscoot, Croton, and the proposed Quaker Bridge dams, and in the dotted line shows the line of the old aqueduct and in the full black line shows the course of the new aqueduct.”

The Old and New Croton Aqueduct System, looking south from Putnam County. Scientific American, 1887. Click to enlarge.

The Old and New Croton Aqueduct System, looking south from Putnam County.
Scientific American, 1887. Click to enlarge.

When this map was published the New Croton Aqueduct tunnel was three years away from completion and the dam was still in the planning stages.2

The narrow part of the Croton, where today’s Quaker Bridge crosses the river, was one of several areas subjected to extensive planning—including test borings, cost estimates and structural plans. The site was eventually abandoned in favor of one further up-river, but in 1887 Quaker Bridge was the favored location. For Crotonites the detail showing the bridge is particularly interesting because it depicts a covered wooden bridge. The current metal Quaker Bridge—one of the oldest bridges in Westchester County—wasn’t built until 1894.

Detail of the area from the Old Croton Dam to the Hudson River. Scientific American, 1887. Click to enlarge.

Detail of the area from the Old Croton Dam to the Hudson River. Scientific American, 1887. Click to enlarge.

For a before-and-after bird’s eye view of the flooding of the Croton River Valley after construction of the New Croton Dam see this previous post.


  1. A high resolution image of the Taylor map is available at the Library of Congress website.
  2. The tunnel was opened in 1890 and construction of the New Croton Dam began in 1892.

Croton Reservoir, 1879

Crotonreservoir

The Croton Reservoir was opened in 1842 as the distribution reservoir for the Croton water system. The reservoir covered four acres and could hold 20,000,000 gallons of water. It was constructed in an Egyptian style which, in common with other civic buildings, made explicit reference to great civilizations of the past and suggested that New York stood in their lineage.

A walkway around the perimeter of the 44 foot high walls became a fashionable destination for strolling on Sunday afternoons. The reservoir remained in use until the 1890s when the first of the large water tunnels took over its functions. It was later dismantled to make way for the New York Public Library.

Croton Reservoir, 1855

Latting_view

“New York from Latting Observatory” by William Wellstood, 1855.

This spectacular view of lower Manhattan in 1855 shows the Croton Reservoir and Crystal Palace on what is now the site of the New York Public Library and Bryant Park. Across the street from the reservoir was Croton Cottage, a tavern that served ice cream and refreshments while providing billiards and a few hotel rooms. It was a popular spot with people who came to walk around the top of the Croton Reservoir. The building was burned down during the draft riots in 1863.

The Latting Observatory was a wooden tower, built as part of the 1853 Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, adjoining the New York Crystal Palace. It was located on the north side of 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues across the street from the site of present-day Bryant Park. The tallest building in the United States during its brief existence, and described afterwards as “New York’s first skyscraper”, the building’s base featured shops, while steam elevators allowed visitors to access the three landings, where telescopes allowed tourists to peer over their surroundings.

The Wellstood print is for sale at Graham Arader Galleries.

473px-latting_observatory
Crotoncottage