Life on Broadway

By William H. Rideing, 1878

“I look down into all that wasp-nest or bee-hive, and witness their wax-laying and honey-making and poison-brewing and choking by sulphur. I see it all. Couriers arrive bestrapped and bebooted, bearing Joy and Sorrow bagged up in pouches of leather; there, top-laden and with four swift horses, rolls in the country baron and his household; here, on timber-leg, the lame soldier hops patiently along, begging alms: a thousand carriages and wains and cars come tumbling in with food, with young Rusticity, and other raw produce, inanimate or animate, and go tumbling out again with produce manufactured. That living flood, of all ages and qualities, knowest thou whence it is coming, whither it is going? From Eternity, onward to Eternity.” — Sartor Resartus.1

Scene on Upper Broadway

Scene on Upper Broadway

Life on Broadway is pretty nearly every thing. It is the broadest farce, the heaviest tragedy, and the most delicate comedy; it is tender, severe, sad, and joyous — an available text for the satirist, the moralist, the humorist, the preacher, and the man of the world. No ambition, passion, or creed may not be studied in its magnificent parade, which puts together things that by nature are widely apart, and effects a grand ensemble of vividly dramatic contrasts.

Topographically, as well us by the selection of traffic, the street is the main artery of the city. The best way of finding out the inside of an orange is by cutting it through the middle; and if, in a sort of geographical vivisection, a scalpel should be drawn down the middle of New York, it would fall into the channel formed by Broadway. The effluence is at the southern extremity of the city, and the affluence is on the borders of Central Park, the street coursing ulmost due north and south for a little less than four miles.

On account of its centrality and directness, it is touched by nearly every moving inhabitant of the city in his daily walks: if he is going from north to south, he pre-

Page 1

Books & articles appearing here are modified adaptations
from a private collection of vintage books & magazines.
Reproduction of these pages is prohibited without written permission. © Laurel O'Donnell, 1996-2006.