They threw nuts and sultanas, fried eggs and bananas


During 2005, while Nigel Cliff was writing his wonderful book about the Astor Place riot, I too visited a couple of the archives he consulted, namely the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and the New York Historical Society. Long fascinated by the events of 10 May 1849, I couldn’t leave Manhattan without making a pilgrimage to Astor Place. But I could find no memorial to the 26 people killed in one of New York’s bloodiest episodes; nor was there any mention of the two actors, the American Edwin Forrest and the Englishman William Charles Macready, whose long-smouldering rivalry as to whose was the greatest Macbeth of the age had culminated in clashes between a 15,000-strong mob and a detachment of the National Guard. Nowadays the neighbourhood hardly looks like the front line in New York City’s class war. Instead of a volatile confluence of uptown socialites and Bowery gang members, the place was thronged with New York University students and well-heeled shoppers, and their single largest gathering was not around a provocatively sited opera house but a vegetarian café called Karen’s.

more from the LRB here.