March 25, 2000
Threats, counterthreats and inducements continue flying across the Atlantic
and leaping across the English-French Channel, as 1810 rolls along. The
Macon Act, the Milan Decree, The Trianon Decree, another non-intercourse
act for next year. While the international quarreling gets increasingly
out of hand, George III prepares to celebrate fifty years on the throne,
even as he begins losing his grip on reality. Back in his former colony,
York Staters look forward instead of back.
Robert Fulton certainly smells opportunity in the air for some of his projects.
In September he shows a model of his improved torpedo boat (what we today
would call a mine-laying boat) in New York's City Hotel. On the 24th and
25th bad weather postpones the demonstration of his floating mine, and on
the 28th an experiment with a ship's cable-cutting knife flops. Undeterred.
three days later he makes it work.
Entrepreneur John Scudder buys the 1791 Tammany Museum and reopens it as
the American Museum. 26 years later, after a number of address changes,
it will be sold to a young super hustler by the name of Barnum. Another
young-man-on-the-rise named Cornelius Vanderbilt establishes ferry service
between Manhattan and Staten Island, charging 18¢ a person, as Fulton's
steam-driven ferries begin appearing in the harbor.
Halfway up the Hudson, Amos Eaton, whom we've met before, and will again,
begins lecturing at the Catskill Botanical School, and publishes a small
textbook on the subject. His interests will one day intersect with those
of young politician De Witt Clinton, who this year crosses the state, searching
out a possible canal route between the Hudson and Lake Erie. Clinton doesn't
pause long enough at the falls of the Genesee to consider the commercial
possibilities but another visitor does. 21 year-old Francis Brown of Rome,
New York, truly fits the term accidental tourist. In more ways than one.
Currently living in Detroit with an uncle, he decides to return east for
a visit. Traveling by way of lakes Erie and Ontario, his boat is wrecked
near the mouth of the Niagara River. He barely makes it ashore before collapsing.
When he recovers sufficiently, he seeks out some locals and buys a canoe,
continuing on his journey. Running into another storm near the mouth of
the Genesee River, he once again finds himself beached. While waiting for
the storm to subside he decides to go for a short, exploratory walk inland.
A walk that takes him the six or seven miles to the river's falls and a
failing grist mill owned by Charles Harford. Francis is sure he can make
a go of the mill and convinces his brother Matthew, a Rome physician, to
form a partnership with Thomas Mumford and John McKay, and buy it. The Brown
brothers will succeed where Harford failed and Rochester is on its way to
becoming a mill town. This same year, back on Lake Erie, the village of
Buffalo is incorporated. Three years later it will suffer a near-death experience.
For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor
© 2000 David Minor / Eagles Byte
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