1853: Alexander Hill to F. Harry Granger

What Alexander Hill might have looked like

This letter was written by Alexander Hill (1828-18xx) who is believed to have been a native of Canada working in New York City when this letter was written. An Alexander Hill appears in the 1845 New York City Directory with an address at 183 W. 15th Street and an occupation of “stonecutter.” This same Alexander Hill does not appear in the 1859 directory, however. A canadian born “street paver” of the same age (born 1828) and same name is enumerated in the Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York census in 1860. In 1863, this same Alexander Hill appears as a farmer in Onondaga County.

Hill wrote the letter to his friend, F. Harry Granger. This may have been the same F. H. Granger (1830-1906) who resided in Lincoln, a town on Lake Ontario in the Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada which is not far from Toronto.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. F. H. Granger, to the care of Mrs. Flinks, Queen Street East, Corner of Parliament, Toronto, Canada West

New York [City]
September 1853

Friend Harry,

I suppose you think the same of me as you do of some others of your friends — out of sight, out of mind. I think I am a little better than some of them. I have wrote these few lines, better late than never. I received your letter 4 days after you wrote it. We was happy to hear that you got safe home and was injuring good health and had got started to work again. I received a letter from your grandmother two days after I left you at Albany and she told me that she was afraid you had got killed on the railroad and wanted me to look after your carkus and effects. The reason I did not answer it was that I thought you would be home the same day that she posted her letter so I was not far out of the way for you got home the day after and I was glad to hear it.

I must tell you about my getting home. When I left you I went on board of the steamboat and waited quite awhile. I asked a man if this was the right boat to the railroad.¹ He told me no and showed me another just coming across the river, so I went to it and went across the river and the cars was just starting so I jumped aboard of them [and] thought all was right. We got some fifty or sixty miles down when the conductor came for his fair. I handed him the ticket that I bought when I was with you in Albany and he laughed at me and told me that it was not worth one cent [and[ that I had took the wrong train of cars. So I asked him what I should do. He told me to hand him my fare which was two dollars and a half or get out of the car and go back to Albany again. So I forked over the two and a half dollars and got down to [New] York at 5 o’clock. So much for seeing the elephant in Albany.

Friend Harry, your old friend Hector Tolman has called two or three times at our house to see or hear if we had got any word from you. He called one day last week and told us that he had been downtown to see some of your old friends and they had been inquiring about you and wondering why you had not wrote to them. Hector sends you his respects to you and would like to hear from you. I told him that I was going to write to you. he said he would call soon and hear how you was getting along. I am happy to inform you that I have only lost 4 or 5 days since you left on account of sickness and I am enjoying very good health at present and so is all of the family.

Janet and all of the children send you and grandmother and aunt their love and hope this will find you all enjoying good health and plenty. I have no news to send you about the Crystal Palace ² as I have not been in it yet. I suppose you get all the particulars in your papers about it. Business is very good and has been all summer. Provisions is very high; flour is selling at 8 dollars per barrel. Good beef from 15 to 16 per pound. Butter from 25 to 30 per pound. And all other things in proportion.

I have no more at present but still remain yours, — Alexander Hill


¹ Alexander is referring to the Hudson River Railroad which connected Albany with New York City. The tracks ran on the east side of the Hudson River. It was chartered in May 1846 and fully opened in October 1851.

New York’s Crystal Palace in 1853

² “New York Crystal Palace was an exhibition building constructed for the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations in New York City in July 1853, which was under the presidency of Mayor Jacob Aaron Westervelt. The building stood in Reservoir Square.

New York’s 1853 Exhibition was held on a site behind the Croton Distributing Reservoir, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues on 42nd Street, in what is today Bryant Park in the borough of Manhattan. The New York Crystal Palace was designed by Georg Carstensen and German architect Charles Gildemeister, and was directly inspired by The Crystal Palace built in London’s Hyde Park to house The Great Exhibition of 1851. The New York Crystal Palace had the shape of a Greek cross, and was crowned by a dome 100 feet in diameter. Like the Crystal Palace of London, it was constructed from iron and glass. Construction was handled by engineer Christian Edward Detmold. Horatio Allen was the consulting engineer, and Edward Hurry the consulting architect.

The New York Crystal Palace itself was destroyed by fire on October 5, 1858. When it burned, the fair of the American Institute was being held there. The fire began in a lumber room on the side adjacent to 42nd Street. Within fifteen minutes its dome fell and in twenty-five minutes the entire structure had burned to the ground.” [Source: Wikipedia]


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