United States and American History: 1870

About the history of the United States in 1870, population and statistics, first subway in New York City, first black senator, Boss Tweed resigns.


--U.S. population--38,558,371.

--Between 1870 and 1880, 3 million immigrants came to the U.S.

--Between 1870 and 1880, one million buffalo were slaughtered annually.

--A total of 300,000 nonfarm workers belonged to 33 labor unions.

--Approximately 72,000 church congregations were reported in existence.

--John D. Rockefeller and his associates founded the Standard Oil Company of Ohio. It was capitalized at $1 million.

Feb. The Beach pneumatic subway system was unveiled in New York City. The brainchild of Alfred Ely Beach, the tiny system consisted of a round tube, 9' in diameter and 312' long, running beneath the center of Broadway. Its only car carried 22 passengers and was powered by air--a giant blower propelled the vehicle to the end of the line, and then "drew" it back to the beginning when a wire, tripped by the car, reversed the huge fan. Top speed: about 10 mph.

Beach's idea was not just a whim. By 1870, New York City had become jammed with over 700,000 people. The surface streets were so choked with horse-drawn vehicles that traffic was brought to a standstill. Beach--even then well-known as the inventor of the pneumatic tube, the cable railway, and the hydraulic tunneling bore--actually proposed to extend his line from the initial station, near the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn Bridge, to Central Park, nearly 5 mi. away. He claimed his system would handle 20,000 passengers daily at speeds up to 60 mph, and could be built for $5 million.

The corrupt politicians at Tammany Hall had given Beach permission to build only a small pneumatic mail tube, to test his system's practicality for New York's needs. Knowing that his new system could break Boss Tweed's monopoly on surface transportation, Beach kept the work on his gigantic underground "mailing tube" a complete secret. Work went on stealthily, for 58 nights, with the dirt being hauled off in bags by wagons with wheels muffled to insure silence. His men came and went like thieves.

During the subway's debut, astonished New Yorkers visited a waiting room that was furnished with elegant paintings, frescoed walls, a grand piano, and a water fountain. Over 400,000 rode in its tiny car during the next 12 months, earning Beach well over $100,000. Although defeated eventually in his grandiose pneumatic scheme, Alfred Beach is given credit as the father of the present 726 mi. New York City subway system.

Feb. 25 Mississippi sent a new senator to the U.S. Congress. He was Senator Hiram R. Revels, the 1st black man ever to sit in the Senate. May 30 The 1st "Force Act" was passed by Congress in order to prevent violations of the 14th and 15th Amendments. It established Federal supervision of elections, proscribed State officials' employment of race as a discriminatory franchise test, and prohibited the use of force, bribery, or threat during Federal elections.

July 16

Look at me, I am poor and naked, but I am the Chief of the Nation. We do not want riches, we do not seek riches, but we want our children properly trained and brought up. Our riches will do us no good; we cannot take away into the other world anything we have.

--Red Cloud, chief of the largest tribe of the Teton Sioux nation

Dec. For the 1st time in U.S. history, a State governor was impeached and found guilty. The unpopular Gov. William W. Holden was found guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors by the North Carolina State legislature and removed from office.

Dec. 28 Boss Tweed was forced to resign as New York commissioner of public works. During his 20-year career in city and State politics, which included a stint as State senator and one as chairman of the New York board of supervisors, Tweed gained control of New York City Democratic politics and became chief of the Tammany Hall machine. He and his cronies embezzled possibly as much as $200 million from various public projects until their operations were exposed by Harper's Weekly. Tweed was charged with felonious misappropriation of public funds and brought to trial, but the jury failed to reach a verdict. After a 2nd trial, he was found guilty and imprisoned in the Ludlow Street jail in New York City. He served a one-year sentence, was released, and then was arrested once more on new charges. In December, 1875, he escaped to Cuba and took a steamer from there to Spain, where he was identified through a Thomas Nast caricature of him in an old Harper's magazine. He was extradited to the U.S., where he died in New York's Ludlow Street prison 2 years later.

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