Monday, April 25, 2016

The Death of Stephen Foster

The Death of Stephen Foster

"Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More," published in early 1855, was both a reflection of recent events in his personal life and a portent of things to come. He and Jane separated for a time in 1853 and his close friend, Charles Shiras, died during that same period. During 1855, both his parents died. His song output diminished -- only four new songs in that year -- and his debts increased. He was forced to draw advances from his publishers, then found himself unable to supply the new new songs he had promised them.

As the Civil War approached, Foster's once-promising song writing career seemed to be doomed. His contracts with his publisher had ended, and he had sold all future rights to his songs to pay his debts. Possibly in an effort to revive his popularity, Foster reverted to writing plantation melodies. Of the four he wrote in 1860, one is among his most memorable (and infamous) compositions -- "Old Black Joe." Belying the racial condescension its title epitomizes in the Civil Rights era, "Old Black Joe" comes closest of Foster's famous songs to the African-American spiritual, and it approaches that tradition with sympathy and respect. It is like a secular hymn, praising the noble spirit of the laborer at the end of his life.

Sometime during 1860, Stephen finally left Pittsburgh and moved his family to New York. About one year later, Jane took their son Marion back to Pennsylvania, and Stephen spent the remaining few years of his life in New York, living alone in lodging houses and theater district hotels. His trunk of manuscripts and letters was lost somewhere in these moves. Because of the uncertain economy of war time, he no longer could get a publishing contract, and like all other songwriters was forced to sell his compositions outright to publishers with no prospect of future earnings. Instead of writing his own lyrics, as he had done so successfully in the past, he began collaborating with a young poet, George Cooper, probably late in 1862 or early in 1863."

* * *
"[O]n January 13, 1864, he died at age 37 with 38 cents in his pocket and a penciled scrap of paper that read, "dear friends and gentle hearts." His brother Henry described the accident in the New York theater-district hotel (1) that led to his death: confined to bed for days by a persistent fever, Stephen tried to call a chambermaid, but collapsed, falling against the washbasin next to his bed and shattering it, which gouged his head. It took three hours to get him to the hospital, and in that era before transfusions and antibiotics, he succumbed after three days." (2)

Telegram from Stephen Foster's friend and writing partner, George Cooper, to Foster's older brother Morrison, tersely communicating Stephen Foster's death and asking him to come at once.

 Footnotes on What Became of the American Hotel:

(1) "In January 1864, while at the American Hotel, he was taken with ague and fever. After two or three days he arose, and while washing himself fainted and fell across the wash basin, which broke and cut a gash in his neck and face. He lay there insensible and bleeding until discovered by the chambermaid who was bringing the towel he had asked for to the room. She called for assistance and he was placed in bed again. On recovering his senses he asked that he be sent to a hospital. Accordingly he was taken to Bellevue Hospital. He was so much weakened by fever and loss of blood that he did not rally. On 13th of January he died peacefully and quietly."  Foster, Morrison.  My Brother Stephen (1932 reprint).

Note: While Foster biographer Deane Root states that Foster died in a hotel in the Theater District, in 1864 that district was centered on a long stretch of the Bowery, between Chatham Square and Astor Place.  Henderson, Mary C. The City and the Theatre: New York Playhouses from Bowling Green to Times Square (1973).  The American Hotel, itself, in 1876 was located at 15 Bowery.  New York City Directory (1876), p. 36.  Fifteen (15) Bowery lies on the east side of the street at almost the very foot of Bowery, between Bayard and Pell Streets, a block and a half north of Chatham Square.   By 1921, it was known as the Lanier Hotel.  By that time, of course, the Theater District had long since departed uptown to Times Square.
The Lanier Hotel (f/k/a the American Hotel), located at 15 Bowery, July 7, 1921.  
Photo from the George Grantham Bain Collection.

In 1853, when Foster moved to New York for the first time (his wife, Jane, followed in 1854 and the couple then moved to Hoboken, N.J. for a few months, before both returned to Pittsburgh) this area of the Bowery was still the center of the Theater District.  The newly rebuilt Bowery Theater, across the avenue at 30 Bowery, attracted an upscale patronage with spectacular melodramas.  The rebuilt theater seated 4,000 and with a stage 126 feet square, secured its place as one of the largest playhouses in the world.  

By 1860, however, when Foster had returned to New York determined to make a living as a composer there, the Theater District was moving uptown to the blocks between Houston and Union Square and the lower Bowery was no longer seen as a place for middle class citizens.  His wife and young son moved with him, but left by the following year because of Stephen's drinking.

While the Bowery Theater was torn down in 1929, it is likely that the American Hotel, along with most of the other buildings on the east (odd-numbered) side of the Bowery between Division Street (Chatham Square) and Bayard Street survived into the late 1960's or early 1970's.  

1949 Hagstrom's map, showing - just to the left of the red hand-drawn circle - 
the three blocks north of Division Street, east of the Bowery and 
 south of the Manhattan Bridge, which existed until 1973.

The northernmost of these three blocks, just off the SE corner of Bowery and Canal was a public park called "Manhattan Bridge Park."  In the late 1960's, the City begin to contemplate clearing the area for new, affordable housing for the Chinatown community.  In 1968, apparently, the Department of Parks gave up the parkland to the south for what was [later] built as Confucius Plaza.  Christopher Gray "Streetscapes" column, NY Times, June 23, 1996. 1968 came and went, however, and Confucius Plaza was still a dream.  Community residents in the neighborhood apparently were able to maintain the former park for another five years as a community garden called "the Chinese Garden" which had 39 trees and with wide, stone steps.  Wright, Charles, "Death of a Garden, or Confucius Plaza Rises," The Village Voice, September 13, 1973, p. 57.  All three of these blocks, five acres in all including the park/garden and several century-old structures, were demolished in 1973-74 for the construction of the massive Confucius Plaza housing complex.  Ferrara, Eric.  The Bowery: A History of Grit, Graft and Grandeur.  2011, p. 46. 

Empty lot of the former "Chinese Garden" just west of the Manhattan arch of the 
Manhattan Bridge, looking southeast towards the intersection of Division 
Street and the Bowery, 1973.  The brutalist, cube-like One Police Plaza,
 which opened the same year, is visible in the center right of the photo. 
Image by Sarah Longacre.
 Site of 15 Bowery, 2016 Google Map.  The entire five acre site, which
used to be divided by Bayard going west to Forsyth Street, and 
Chrystie resuming is southward path south of Bayard to 
Division Street, is now the Confucius Plaza housing complex.

Two years later, in 1975-76, Confucius Plaza opened.

(2) This biography of Stephen Foster was written by Dr. Deane Root, Professor of Music at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the Center for American Music, as part of the Center's Web site on Stephen Foster.

Friday, May 3, 2013

"Fallowed" Ground: the History of 37-41 Chambers Street

For years, in my dual capacity as an attorney and a historian, I have walked by a parking lot on the corner of Chambers & Elk (formerly, Elm) Streets in Lower Manhattan, and have wondered two things: (a) what used to be there? and (b) why hasn't the site been developed.  The lot is 75' wide and is through-block, from Chambers to Duane.  It sits between two landmarked and historically important buildings, the Surrogates Court (23 Chambers) and the Emigrant Savings Bank (49-51 Chambers).

The answer to the first question, in part, answers the second.  The parking lot occupies what had been, until 1971, the former American News Company building, which was erected in 1877-78 per plans by the prominent 19th century architect Griffith Thomas (former Astor Library, now the Public Theater; former Arnold Constable Building at 881-887 Broadway).  American News Company was a magazine, newspaper, book, (and comic book) distribution company which dominated the distribution market in the 1940s and 1950s.  Tthe company had over 300 branches and employed several thousand employees. During the middle of the last century, it stood as the largest book wholesaler in the world, dominating the industry.  In the mid-1950's, as the result of a legal losses in an antitrust suit and changes in the publishing market, the company - which by then was headquartered in New Jersey - liquidated its assets.  It was out of business by 1957.  The building was acquired by the City of New York in 1965, and was demolished in 1971 as part of an ill-fated urban renewal plan.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

What Remains of the Five Points

"The Five Points" by George Caitlin (c. 1827)

Anyone who has seen Martin Scorcese's "Gangs of New York" is familiar with the notorious 19th century neighborhood in Lower Manhattan known as "The Five Points."  Because most physical traces of that world no longer exist, Scorcese couldn't film on location.   Instead, together with production designer Dante Ferretti, Scorcese recreated the Five Points of the 1860’s (along with other sets comprising over a mile of mid-nineteenth century Manhattan) at Cinecittà Studios in Rome.  This decision, itself, was a tremendous gift to the actors, who otherwise would have had to have devoted a great deal of their creative energies to conjuring up that world while acting against a green screen.

Where, exactly, was the Five Points?  It is today’s lower Chinatown (on the east) and the Courthouse district (on the west).  Between these two very different neighborhoods is today the oddly shaped Columbus Park, formerly known as "Mulberry Bend Park."  For those of you unfamiliar with the history of this area of New York City , here is a link to Dan Kowalski’s nine minute video about the Collect Pond in which I am featured.

Map of the Five Points (salmon overlay) with
contemporary streets & buildings in outline.
Only one of the five points (#2) still exists, along 
with a sliver of the former Paradise Square.

It’s hard for most people to conjure up the older world, since the streets and buildings depicted in the movie have been almost entirely altered since then.  Some streets (e.g., Little Water, most of Cross) have been demapped, others (Orange, Anthony) have been renamed and some streets (Anthony then, now Worth) have been extended.  Finally, the most notorious block of the Five Points neighborhood of the Sixth Ward, bounded by Orange (now Baxter) on the west, Cross (now Mosco) on the south, Mulberry on the east and Bayard on the north, is now a public park. The block was oddly shaped, since both Mulberry and Orange bent at a twenty degree angle to follow the lines of a stream that had drained the Collect Pond to the north, towards the flats below Mt. Bayard.  

Mulberry Bend, on Mulberry Street, c. 1902.  The alley 
known as "Bandit's Roost" opened off to the left, 
 between two buildings just north of the bend.

Because of the bend, the block was unusually deep and long.  This, and the common 19th century practice of jamming buildings into the rear yards of such neighborhoods, meant that there were two, and sometimes three, buildings set back from the street in the intereior of the block.  The character of the block can best be discerned from the names give the  alleys and byways that led deep into its interior: "Bandit's Roost," "Ragpickers' Alley," and "Bottle Alley."  All of the housing on this "superblock" was demolished in the middle of the 19-teens to create Mulberry Bend Park such that, together with the demolition of the Paradise Square area, almost all traces of the Five Points have been obliterated.
"Bandit's Roost" alley, c. 1890.  William Henry McCarty, Jr.  
(a/k/a William H. Bonney) better known as "Billy the Kid,"
 was born less than a mile away, on Allen Street, in 1859

The reason that most all of the courthouses in Manhattan are gathered here is a direct result of its earlier status as the Five Points.  When, in the early 1800’s, the decision was made to replace the aging Revolutionary War era Bridewell Prison (“theBridewell”), it was decided that a new jail and court complex needed to be built.  Nominally called “the Hall of Justice” (but more colloquially referred to as “The Tombs” because of its Egyptian style architecture) the decision was made to locate it in the center of the old Sixth Ward (and, by coincidence, at the center of the former Collect Pond) since, by the late 1820’s, the then new and (briefly) middle-class neighborhood in the Sixth Ward was already deteriorating into what would soon become known as the Five Points and it was thought that locating the jail there would “send a message” to the Irish and black riff-raff to keep them in line.  It did not.

The first Tombs (Hall of Justice), built in the 1830's in the center
of the Sixth Ward and the center of the former Collect Pond.

What most people do not know is that the Five Points, as depicted in that movie, persisted well into the first two decades of the 20th century and that, even today, traces of the Five Points remain.  There are places where one can go down into a subterranean tunnel on one block and emerge, back up into the daylight, one or two blocks over.  I give tours of it for friends.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lawlor, Blake and the Origins of the Most Famous Song about New York City

Notwithstanding the (deserved) popularity of Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" (made popular by Alicia Keys) and the (much less deserved) earlier popularity of Kander and Ebbs' "New York, New York" (made popular by Sinatra), arguably the most popular (and certainly the most recorded) song about New York City remains the turn of the (last) century tune from by James , "The Sidewalks of New York." 

Written in

Friday, March 15, 2013

Aaron Burr and the 19th Century Water Scandal at the Heart of the Founding of Chase Manhattan Bank

In 1800 the Manhattan Company (now The Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A.) sank a well at Reade and Centre Streets, pumped water into a reservoir on Chambers Street and distributed it through wooden mains to a (wealthy) portion of the community.  The ostensible purpose of the company, according to its charter, was to bring "fresh and dependable water" to a city that had been wracked by outbreaks of typhus, cholera and malaria.  However, the real purpose of the company was to engage in banking, and its founder, Aaron Burr (yes, he who fought a duel with pistols and killed Alexander Hamilton) made sure its charter stated that the proposed institution would possess the right to use its surplus capital to engage in various financial transactions. The water only served the upper class and they were badly served by a company that only cared to maintain the illusion of a public water service while protecting its banking operations.

Burr was a lawyer and a State legislator in the the New York Assembly in the 1790's, and he drafted a bill to create the Manhattan Company.  Work began immediately on the new system, but, instead of tapping water from clean wells miles away, Burr's company sank wells to the aquifer at the edge of Collect Pond. Deep wells were dug on Reade Street between Broadway and Centre Street, and the Company announced its presence by erecting a handsome structure on Chambers Street (approximately across the street from today’s Tweed Courthouse, where 49-51 Chambers is now) that included a colonnade plus a statue of Oceanus standing guard. Behind it, on Reade Street down the block from his law office, was a mini-reservoir and nearby (across Reade Street) was the tank shown in the picture, whose function was presumably to maintain pressure in the wooden water mains (made of hollowed-out logs) that gradually fanned out to reach nearby houses and neighborhood pumps.

At the age of 55, Burr re-opened his NYC law offices in June 1812. His offices on Reade Street just east of Broadway were where A.T. Stewart's Marble Palace building (later, the "Sun Newspaper" building, and now the HQ for the NYC Department of Buildings) still stands. A later Burr law office was located by the Collect Pond, at 11 Reade Street just west of Centre Street, right across from the main water pump of his Manhattan Company (NE corner of Reade and Lafayette). Over this well, at the corner of Reade and Center Streets, a tank of iron plates was constructed and a building was erected to disguise it from the street.  The tank remained thus enclosed until the building was demolished by the Manhattan Company in 1914.

That system indeed fared poorly. The wooden mains kept breaking, and residents complained that the Manhattan Company refused to use its water to flush gutters and failed to repair the streets it dug up.  The Manhattan Company served only 2,000 homes through 25 miles of piping, but, at $10 a month sufficient revenue was generated to finance a healthy bank.

In 1830 a tank for fire protection was constructed by the City at 13th Street and Broadway as was filled from a well. The water was distributed through 12-inch cast iron pipes. As the population of the City increased, the well water became polluted and supply was insufficient. The supply was supplemented by cisterns and water drawn from a few springs in upper Manhattan.  About 1836 the system was extended north along Broadway as far as Bleecker Street.  Ultimately, in 1842, the makeshift system of wells, cisterns and wooden pipes was supplanted by clean water from the Croton Aqueduct.

As a water provider, the Manhattan Company was a dismal failure. Instead of channeling a mainland river, the company built a meager waterworks - well, pump, and small reservoir - on suburban Chambers Street and laid a haphazard network of yellow pine pipe down to the town. Under the terms of its original charter, the Manhattan Company had to maintain its ability to pump water, even after its half hearted piss-poor wooden log system was supplanted by clean water from the Croton Aqueduct in 1842, which it did well into the early 20th century by maintaining its large water tank enclosed by this building at the corner of Reade and Lafayette (formerly Centre) Streets.  The building was finally torn down in 1914, and the present structure was erected.  However, beneath the building there apparently still remains the original well sunk by the Manhattan Company 213 years ago and, according to a 1914 article in the New York Times, as of that date, Chase Bank still owned the land and all rights accruing to it, including the well.

Monday, July 2, 2012

American Names

American Names
-- by Stephen Vincent Benét

I have fallen in love with American names,
The sharp names that never get fat,
The snakeskin-titles of mining-claims,
The plumed war-bonnet of Medicine Hat,[i]
Tucson and Deadwood and Lost Mule Flat.[ii]

Seine and Piave[iii] are silver spoons,
But the spoonbowl-metal is thin and worn,
There are English counties like hunting-tunes
Played on the keys of a postboy’s horn,
But I will remember where I was born.

I will remember Carquinez Straits,[iv]
Little French Lick[v] and Lundy’s Lane,[vi]
The Yankee ships and the Yankee dates
And the bullet-towns of Calamity Jane.[vii]
I will remember Skunktown Plain.[viii]

I will fall in love with a Salem tree
And a rawhide quirt from Santa Cruz,
I will get me a bottle of Boston sea
And a blue-gum nigger to sing me blues.
I am tired of loving a foreign muse.

Rue des Martyrs[ix] and Bleeding-Heart-Yard,[x]
Senlis[xi], Pisa[xii], and Blindman’s Oast,[xiii]
It is a magic ghost you guard
But I am sick for a newer ghost,
Harrisburg, Spartanburg, [xiv] Painted Post.[xv]

Henry and John[xvi] were never so
And Henry and John were always right?
Granted, but when it was time to go
And the tea and the laurels had stood all night,
Did they never watch for Nantucket Light?[xvii]

I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.[xviii]
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.[xix]
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,[xx]
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.[xxi]
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.[xxii]

[i] Medicine Hat is a city of 61,097people located in the southeastern part of the province of Alberta, Canada.  The name "Medicine Hat" is the English translation of 'Saamis' (SA-MUS) – the Blackfoot word for the eagle tail feather headdress worn by medicine men – or 'Medicine Hat'.  Several legends are associated with the name from a mythical mer-man river serpent named 'Soy-yee-daa-bee' – the Creator – who appeared to a hunter and instructed him to sacrifice his wife to get mystical powers, which were manifest in a special hat. Another legend tells of a battle long ago between the Blackfoot and the Cree in which a retreating Cree "Medicine Man" lost his headdress in the South Saskatchewan River.

[ii] Lost Mule Flat was presumably a settlement in Arizona, of a kind not dissimilar to Tuscon and Deadwood, and on the stage route between Albequerque, NM and Phoenix, AZ, along Lost Mule Creek.

[iii] The Seine is a river, which rises in Dijon, France, flows through Paris and empties into the English Channel.  For much of its length it is navigable. After the burning at the stake of Joan of Arc in 1431, her ashes were thrown into the Seine from the medieval stone Mathilde Bridge.  The Piave is is a river in north Italy which forms in the Alps and flows into the Adriatic Sea.  In Benet’s day is was famous at the time of World War One as being the site of the last major Austro-Hungarian attack on the Italian Front, the Battle of the Piave, which was the decisive battle of World War I on the Italian Front which failed after costing Austria-Hungary nearly 200,000 casualties…

[iv] The Carquinez Strait is a narrow tidal strait in northern California, part of the tidal estuary of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin rivers as they drain into the San Francisco Bay.  In the mid-19th century it was the gateway to the gold fields of the Sierra Nevada for prospectors (and, later, merchants) arriving from the East Coast or the Orient.  I used to drive over it regularly when I was in school at UC Davis and my parents lived in Walnut Creek.

[v] French Lick is a town in south central Indiana, founded as a French trading post near a salt lick.  A spa was later developed there, exploiting the curative properties of the sulfur springs found there.

[vi] Lundy’s Lane was (and is) an 18th century path near Niagara, Canada that was the site of the Battle of Lundy's Lane (a/k/a the Battle of Niagara Falls), which took place on 25 July 1814, in present-day Niagara Falls, Ontario. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the War of 1812 and one of the deadliest battles ever fought on Canadian soil.

[vii] The “bullet towns of Calamity Jane” refer to the lawless (hence, “bullet towns”) boomtowns of Montana and Wyoming (then, part of the Greater Dakota Territory) where Martha “Calamity Jane” Cannary (1852 -1903) grew up, principal among these being Virginia City, Montana where gold was discovered in 1863.

[viii] Skunktown (formerly Skunktown Plain) is a small settlement in Lander County, Nevada.

[ix] Rue des Martyrs (“Street of Martyrs”) is a north-south avenue in the Montmarte neighborhood of Paris, in the 18th arrondissement.   It’s name commemorates the martyrdom of Saint Denis in the fifth century for preaching the Christian Gospel. According to legend, Saint Denis miraculously picked up his head after he was beheaded and walked for miles before dying. During the Renaissance, the site of his beheading, on what is now the Rue Yvonne Le Tac, became a place of pilgrimage.

[x] Bleeding Heart Yard is a cobbled courtyard off Greville Street in the Farringdon area of the City of London. The courtyard is probably named after a 16th century inn sign dating back to the Reformation that was displayed on a pub called the Bleeding Heart in nearby Charles Street. The sign showed the heart of the Virgin Mary pierced by five swords.

[xi] Senlis is a French commune and a medieval town located in the Oise department near Paris. It has a long and rich heritage, having traversed centuries of history. The monarchs of the early French dynasties lived here, attracted by the proximity of the Chantilly forest.

[xii] Pisa is a city in Tuscany, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Ancient Roman authors referred to Pisa as an old city.  Virgil, in his Aeneid, states that Pisa was already a great center by the times described.  Owing to the complexity of its river system it was much more easily defended against invasions than most other Italian coastal cities.

[xiii] An oast (or oast house) is a building designed for kilning (drying) hops as part of the brewing process. They can be found in most hop-growing (and former hop-growing) areas. 

[xiv] Harrisburg and Spartanburg are two cities significant in the American Civil War.  Harrisburg, of course, is the capital of the State of Pennsylvania and many Union Army training grounds were established there.  Spartanburg, South Carolina, suffered the fourth highest deaths-per-thousand rate in the Civil War. 

[xv] Painted Post is a village in Steuben County, in south central New York.  It’s name commemorates Andrew Montour (a/k/a  Captain Montour, Sattelihu, and Eghnisara) an important métis interpreter and negotiator in the Virginia and Pennsylvania backcountry in the 1750’s and 1760’s.  His mother was Madame Montour, a well-known, influential interpreter of French and Native ancestry who spoke several languages and often served as an interpreter between Europeans and Native Americans.  His father was Carondawanna, an Oneida war chief. In the summer of 1779, a party of Tories and Indians, under the command of a loyalist named McDonald, returned from an incursion into the Susquehanna settlements, bringing with them many of their number wounded.  At the confluence of Tioga and Conhocton Rivers, Captain Montour, a Seneca chief of great promise, died of his wounds at the age of 52. His comrades buried him by the riverside, and planted above his grave a post on which were painted various symbols and rude devices. This monument was known throughout the Genesee Forests as 'The Painted Post.' It was a landmark well known to all the Six Nations, and was often visited by their braves and chieftains.

[xvi] Henry Brooks Adams (1838 –1918; normally called Henry Adams) and John Quincy Adams II (1833 –1894) were brothers, born in Boston, Massachusetts, the sons of Charles Francis Adams Sr. and Abigail Brooks, the grandsons of John Quincy Adams, and great grandsons of President John Adams.  John was an American lawyer and politician, the grandson and namesake of president John Quincy Adams and the great-grandson of President John Adams.  Henry was an American journalist, historian, academic and novelist, best known for his autobiography, “The Education of Henry Adams,” which was commercially published posthumously a year after his death in 1918, and was awarded the Pulitizer Prize.   Both brothers were anglophiles.

[xvii] Nantucket Light, a/k/a Great Point Light Great is a lighthouse located on the northernmost point of Nantucket Island. First built in 1784, it sits on a thin spit of beach where the currents of the Atlantic Ocean and Nantucket Sound meet, and is visible across the Sound from Boston.

[xviii] Montparnasse is an area of Paris on the left bank of the Seine, centered at the crossroads of the Blvd du Montparnasse and the Rue de Rennes.  Beneath the ground are tunnels of the Catacombs of Paris.  The name Montparnasse stems from the nickname "Mount Parnassus" (In Greek mythology, home to the nine Greek goddesses – the Muses – of the arts and sciences) given to the hilly neighbourhood in the 17th century by students from the nearby universities who came there to recite poetry.

[xix] Winchelsea is a small village in East Sussex, England. During the mid 13th Century, incursions by the sea destroyed much of the town until a massive flood completely destroyed it in 1287.

[xx] Sussex is an historic county on the south coast of England corresponding roughly in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex.  Sussex has been a key site of major invasions, including the Roman invasion of Britain and the Battle of Hastings.  It is dotted with battlefields and ancient cemetaries.

[xxi] “Champ” is a French word for field, a defined space and open plot of cultivated land or land reserved for a specific activity. Example:  the Champs de Mars, a large public garden in the 7th arrondissement, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, which was established as a parade and drilling, ground for the military.

[xxii] Wounded Knee (in Lakota: Čaŋkpé Opí) is a small village in Shannon County, southwestern South Dakota.  The town is named for the Wounded Knee Creek, which runs through the region. The bones and heart of the Sioux chief Crazy Horse were reputedly buried along this creek by his family following his death in 1877.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Compagnie Royal de Luxe

One of the most magical street theater companies performing anywhere in the world today, Jean Luc Courcoult's Compagnie Royal de Luxe performs scripted "dream plays" using large (15 meters high) mechanical puppets operated by a bevy of Lilliputian handlers dressed as major domos right out of a Jules Verne novel (Courcoult has, in fact, acknowledged the influence of Verne's work upon his own corps d'un travail créatif.  Royal de Luxe has toured in France, Belgium, England, Germany, Iceland, Chile, Australia and Mexico.  Seydou Barry has been trying to bring them to the States for a few years now, either to Los Angeles or New York.  Their aesthetic is steampunk.  Their work is magical.  
Two of the best video clips: