Celebrating High Bridge

High Bridge puzzle, published by E. G. Selchow & Co., circa 1867-1880

High Bridge puzzle, published by E. G. Selchow & Co., circa 1867-1880

High Bridge is one of the greatest feats of early American engineering and New York City’s oldest standing bridge. A key part of what we now call the Old Croton Aqueduct, the bridge once carried water across the Harlem River into Manhattan. Although it was built to support large water pipes, it was open to pedestrians and soon after completion in 1848 the bridge became a hugely popular public promenade—thronged by visitors enjoying the views—and a favorite subject for artists and photographers.

After more than 20 years of planning and fundraising by a diverse coalition of organizations High Bridge has been reopened.

To celebrate we’ve assembled a group of images including one of John B. Jervis’s original engineering drawings, 19th century prints and stereoviews, works of art inspired by the bridge, a children’s puzzle and more.

You can learn more about this historic landmark—and plan a visit—here.

Click the images below to enlarge them.

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.

Croton Aqueduct Puzzles

Puzzle Dam_150px

Click on the images to enlarge them.

Puzzle Bridge_150px

November 1877 ad

November 1877 ad

These two nineteenth century puzzles, showing the Old Croton Dam and High Bridge, were part of a set called Sliced Objects, published by E. G. Selchow & Co., circa 1867 to 1880. The puzzles came in a box (shown below) along with puzzles of other New York landmarks—the Bethesda Fountain, St. Paul’s Church, the statue of Washington in Union Square—and puzzles for coach, yacht, engine and other words.

Selchow was one of the major game and puzzle companies of the Victorian era and sold several “sliced” puzzle sets, including Sliced Animals and Sliced Birds. The series was popular enough that it was copied by another company, resulting in an 1883 trademark infringement lawsuit (Selchow v. Baker), which Selchow won.

In 1880 John Righter became a partner and the company name was changed to Selchow & Righter. The firm remained a top game and puzzle company into the twentieth century, remembered by aficionados for Parcheesi, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit.

Many thanks to Etsy seller paintedpony99 for permission to use the box image.