Author Archive

Bill the Butcher: He died a true American, but not how you think.

Written by William Bryk on . Posted in Opinion and Column, Posts

My first "Old Smoke" column recounted the adventures of Hon. John Morrissey, Congressman and heavyweight boxing champion of the United States, who once, according to the Philadelphia Bulletin, told the House of Representatives that he "had reached the height of my ambition. I have been a wharf rat, chicken thief, prize fighter, gambler, and Member [&hellip
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Old Smoke: Pluck and Luck

Written by William Bryk on . Posted in Opinion and Column, Posts

In 1928, Herbert Asbury published Gangs of New York, his masterwork on 19th-century New York’s virile young ruffians, and Herbert R. Mayes published Alger: A Biography Without a Hero, the first biography of Horatio Alger Jr., author of countless moralizing books for boys whose works presented his own view of the same class at the [&hellip
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Old Smoke: The Drunkard and the Dancing Master, Part II

Written by William Bryk on . Posted in Opinion and Column, Posts

General Bushrod Johnson had anticipated a Union attempt to breach his lines through a frontal assault. Nothing had prepared him or his men for this. The earth shook for miles around. Then the ground burst like a volcano beneath the Confederate artillerists and infantrymen in the trenches in what Johnson’s official report called an upheaval [&hellip
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Old Smoke: The Drunkard and the Dancing Master, Part I

Written by William Bryk on . Posted in Opinion and Column, Posts

Even today, when people often change careers, Gen. Edward Ferrero’s resume might seem startling. The son of Italian political refugees, he was born in Granada, Spain, on Jan. 18, 1831, and arrived in New York while still an infant. Edward’s father taught dance. He opened a school at the northeast corner of 14th St. and [&hellip
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Even Animals Collect Things

Written by William Bryk on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts

I have, by temperament and by instinct, a need of the superfluous. My aesthetic education draws me irresistibly to the desire and the purchase of…bronzes, ivories, trinkets, all those useless and beautiful things for which I have a deep and ruinous passion. –Gabriel d’Annunzio, letter of April 6, 1886 Lately, I’ve meditated on my needs [&hellip
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The Draft Riots, Part II

Written by William Bryk on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts

Four Days in July, Part 2 Monday, July 13, 1863, the first day of the Draft Riots, had seen property torched, blacks lynched and nearly every police officer wounded while 70,000 rioters, many with guns, ruled the streets. Tuesday was no better. Rioters tore down telegraph poles to sabotage police communications (the police superintendent of [&hellip
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Audubon Terrace

Written by William Bryk on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts

Riverside Dr. divides at 155th St. Most northbound drivers roll on, oblivious to their road’s change of name from Riverside Dr. to Riverside Dr. West. Riverside Dr. proper branches off, like a Mississippi bayou, winding northeasterly between cliff-like art deco and beaux-arts apartment buildings until it strikes Edward M. Morgan Pl. and 158th St., where [&hellip
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Four Days in July: the Draft Riots, Pt. 1

Written by William Bryk on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts

On June 27, 1863, the Confederacy invaded the North. Four days later, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia would give battle to the Union’s Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, PA. Nearly every soldier in New York City went to the front, including 17 National Guard regiments. Thus, Major Gen. John Wool, commanding [&hellip
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