Friday, July 27, 2007

Forgotten History

A theater riot in 1849:

On 10 May, Forrest appeared in The Gladiator, but to a half-empty Broadway Theatre: his hardcore fans were busy elsewhere. The box office at Astor Place had been more successful at keeping tickets out of their hands this time, however, and despite some groups of catcallers Macready’s Macbeth ran all the way to the end of Act V, but by then the building was surrounded by a mob of 15,000 people. They were a volatile mixture of recent Irish immigrants furious with the English for their mismanagement of the potato famine, and diehard American nativists equally furious about the same mismanagement because it was flooding their city with Irish Catholic immigrants; but whatever their ethnic and gang loyalties all of them seem to have felt that the wealthy patrons of the opera house were unacceptably flouting the will of the people by giving Macready another hearing after the stormy verdict passed earlier in the week. They had been bombarding the building with paving-stones and trying to break through the hastily barricaded doors for some time when, pushed back against the walls so closely that there was no room to mount a bayonet charge, the troops assigned to its defence opened fire with rifles. At least 25 people were killed that night, and around a hundred injured; a small boy was crushed to death at the protest meeting in City Hall Park that followed the next day.

That was the Astor Place riot here.

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