Dec 25ths in NYC -
Deadly Christmas Riots,
First Outdoor Electric Christmas Tree,
First NYC Policeman falls in the line of duty,
First public Christmas Tree,
Bogey and Cab Born,
Billy Martin, Shubert, James Brown, and Eartha Kitt
Posted: Dec 24, 2012 | 10:56 PM
by Jared Goldstein
Merry Christmas! A new concept, invented here in NYC:
1806: Christmas riots claim a life. For a second day, riots break out during Christmas, with a mob harassing Catholic worshipers, and Irish Catholics banding to defend themselves on Christmas Day. The riots kill one: New York City's first policeman killed in the line of duty.
Part of the reason for Santa Claus' promotion in 1810 was to create a genteel shared tradition of calm quiet Christmases at home.
It is better to have Santa Claus breaking into your home to give presents to the well-behaved, than to be breaking into stores. It is better to have families quietly sharing presents that they bought, than to be in drunken, noisy, and violent mobs.
Santa Claus helps hearken back to a shared peaceful Christmas heritage and traditions that didn't actually exist in New York or Nieuw Amsterdam.
Santa helped bring peace to New York Christmases, ridding us of our actual shared heritage of Christmas riots.
So, now we can Have a Merry Christmas! It started here in NYC.
Ironically, there is a new subversive naughty Christmas days tradition, the drunken SantaCon pub crawl with bad Santas playing the nightmare before Christmas games.
1806: New York City's first policeman killed in the line of duty quelling a Christmas riot. He died of a stabbing. His name was either Christian Luswanger or Christopher Newfanger. The unrest was one of the worst riots in early American history, stretching over a quarter mile.
"Christopher Luswanger one of the watchmen chased an Irishman armed with a club overtook and knocked him down another Irishman immediately followed him and struck him a left hand blow with a sharp pointed weapon which penetrated below the right pap and from the semblance of this wound it appears to have been made by a stiletto. The man fell instantly and expired without a struggle. The body was taken up immediately and carried to the Alms house."
Mayor DeWitt Clinton offered a $250 reward for the capture of the murderer.
Two days later, the assailant tried to find an Irish Captain to take him from the country. Captain Menzies "took him to Mrs Sutton's tavern on South Street where he was amused until some watchmen were sent who seized him in the bar room and conveyed him to the police office."
See the previous entry for more about the Christmas riots.
Question: If a child is on a Santa Claus tour, how does one bring this up?
1899: Humphrey Bogart the great actor, born.
Bogart and wife Lauren Bacall, longtime Dakota resident.
1907: Cab Calloway, Bandleader of Harlem's Cotton Club and much more, born. Famous for Minnie the Moocher, he passed in 1994.
1912: Madison Square Park sponsors the first public community Christmas Tree Celebration to encourage unity among rich and poor. Below is the newspaper announcement.
1912: Madison Square Park's Christmas Tree reveals the first outdoor electric Christmas Tree.
1941: Bing Crosby performs Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" for the first time. The song's popularity percolated for a while. It was released in the summer of 1942 as one song in the film "Holiday Inn," which is a love story centered around Christmas. It struck a chord with our troops abroad and the song gained popularity until it became the best selling song int he history of music.
Berlin already knew he was onto something when he penned the song out west, and declared to his Secretary to: "Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I've ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!"
The song suggests the strangeness that New Yorkers feel when we see palm trees decorated in Christmas lights, or the homesickness of troops overseas, or of a father who lost his son on Christmas, which happened to the Jewish-born immigrant Berlin.
1953: Lee Shubert, the iconic Broadway theatre mogul died at 82. For fifty years the Shubert brothers had a Broadway theatre juggernaut.
The Shubert Organization is still the top Broadway show producer.
1958: New York Yankee great (1985-89) and Baseball Hall-of-Famer Rickey Henderson born.
1977: Film star, producer, comedian, United Artists founder Charlie Chaplin died at 88.
1984: Bernard King scores 60 points, a club record, 40 in the first half. Nonetheless, the Nets win 120-114 at MSG.
1989: Five time New York Yankees manager and all-time hard drinker, Billy Martin is killed in an automobile accident at 61. Martin was not driving.
Martin had a great career as a baseball player, and as manager he led the Yankees to winning the World Series in 1977.
He and his sometimes nemesis, sometimes boss, Yankee's owner George Steinbrenner appeared together endorsing Lite Beer, but they argued why: Tastes Great or Less Filling!
2006: Singer James Brown, the hardest working man in show biz, died at 73.
He stopped rioting from breaking out in 1968 after Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated.
His body was in state at the Apollo Theatre with throngs waiting to view the great. Brown's Live at the Apollo Theater from over twenty years before was a pioneer of that format for popular music.
I saw him play at the Apollo around 1987, where he played many times. That night he got on stage around 11 PM!
Billy Mitchell, the great Apollo Theater Tour Guide tells of James Brown having young Billy read to him to encourage
There are several other James Brown stories I like to share on Harlem walking tours.
2008: Eartha Kitt leaves this side of the earthly coil. She was born in 1927.