During the night we drove at great speed past many cities and numerous large establishments noticeable by their electric lights that rushed like a flash past our compartment windows. When it became morning, we were driving alongside the Hudson river that we did not leave again until New York. Dense fog blocked the view on the opposite shore and only on our shore we saw many ships going up- and downriver.
At the station in New York and at Hotel Windsor numerous reporters were awaiting me whose efforts however proved in vain here too. I preferred to receive our ambassador and consul general Havemeyer during which the latter, one of the richest persons of New York, invited me to visit his farm the next day.
A closer inspection of our baggage showed the wretched condition caused by the rough treatment by the American railways. No less unpleasant was the fact that the mail due had not arrived, so that we had to give up hope to receive the with certainty expected mail before our just impending departure.
It would be impossible to consider it a true visit of New York as we could only intend to catch an overview on the fly, an instantaneous picture. To this purpose we steered first to the Pulitzer Building with its World’s Office near to City Hall Park in the center of the older part of the city. This was the office space of one of the largest newspapers that was born here every day in a print run of half a million copies. The palace-like building rises 94 m high into the air with 17 floors and is crowned by a mighty cupola. From here one gains an excellent overview of the city from the spot where in 1624 the Dutch West Indian Company had founded the first permanent settlement that has grown into the largest and richest community of the New World and is second only to London as a trading and finance center. Together with Brooklyn, Jersey as well as some suburbs it has 3.5 million inhabitants.
Like a plastic plan the complex of cities lies in front of us. First New York proper on Manhattan island that is enclosed by the North River or Hudson and the East River. To the East rises Brooklyn, to the West, Jersey City, in between extends the wide-ranging Upper Bay with the colossal Statue of Liberty, a gift of the like-minded French Republic, on Bedloe’s Island. In the distance one can see Staten Island and Coney Island that almost seemed to disappear in the mist. In the harbor and in both rivers ships of all sizes and nations were mingling, from the small sailing cutter and the five mast ship to the fast bowers and the Atlantic Ocean steamers.
While the lower and older part of the city has been built in an irregular pattern, the streets narrow and crooked, above 13th street, regularity with traffic veins crossing at right angles is celebrating its perfect triumph. Only Broadway, the old main street and artery of New York, extending from the South-east to the Northwest, and Central Park interrupt the monotony of the urban landscape. Nevertheless the city is imposing due to the greatness of its sobriety and the power of its dimensions — beautiful I can not call it.
Four elevated trains, tramways, buses and wagons of all kinds rushed through the streets and processed the enormous local traffic as did the numerous steamboats in the harbor and on the rivers. Flowing like dark streams, masses of humans creep into all directions of the extended city.
While we looked down from a vertigo inducing sky-high location upon the cities that prosper and grow, one experiences a sentiment of awe about the highest being that is living and ruling here — the almighty dollar!
The sketch of the city received from a bird’s eye view we managed to enlarge by forceful strokes by driving through some of the most important parts of the city. In an older settlement, the business life is united, here rules „business“ where millions are born. Broadway leads, like a funnel, these lovely children of the South to the upper regions of the city and society where the golden fruits are consumed in most convenient comfort, in princely splendor, in feastful luxury. The distance between production and consumption of the millions is only 8 km as that is the length from Broadway to Central Park around which boulevards continue.
In the lower part traffic rises to a level numbing the senses, a crazy chase in pursuit of happiness, of the dollar. The closer Broadway is to the uptown the more numerous, the more gleaming and the richer are the sales palaces and shops. This is the place of those who are wealthy enough to buy the treasures offered. Between 23th and 25th street, Broadway crosses Fifth Avenue, which at its Southern end also serves business purposes, that is the true center of the moneyed aristocracy, the millionaires and thus the heart of New York. Fifth Avenue has been spared up to from having an elevated railroad or a tramway. Stately private residences, proud palaces alternate here. It was also attempted to build artistically beautiful structures but without any success as the construction style is, generally speaking, the same and the brown sandstone used as building material does not manage to produce an effect.
As a speciality of the appearance of the streets were the numerous bars that offer the clients all kinds of more or less mixed drinks. „Hoffmann’s house“ is contributing by showing its clients images of European artists that would have merited a more dignified location.
In the United States, they love in a case of overestimation of their worth and self-love to postulate every work, every invention, every institution to be the best, the greatest of the world and the slogan „the first of the world“ one encounters everywhere even though that label is not always correct. Applied to the East River Bridge or Brooklyn Bridge, as it is also called, one can not deny the justification of such a superlative. We were in fact seeing the largest suspension bridge in the world. A masterwork of technology that connects New York and Brooklyn, is 1825 m long and 26 m wide. The bridge rises 41 m above the river level so that the ships could pass below it without having to take down their masts. In the middle, there is a pedestrian boardwalk flanked on both sides by railway tracks and two driving lanes. Driving at a trot, it took us nearly 13 minutes to get from one end of the bridge to the other.
The further journey completed the view of numerous noisy advertisements in flashy colors in all dimensions and forms that offered an impression of busy activity attaining its full capacity. The absence of gardens as well as green squares could not displace the feeling of sobriety that some statues could not undo, least of all that of Garibaldi.
Just after breakfast we visited Central Park, New York’s Prater, where the rich society shows up and meets in the afternoon. Proudly we were informed that the garden site, enclosed by a low stone wall, had been transformed out of a swampy and rocky terrain at a cost of 15 million dollars. The extended park appears to be a real refreshment of fresh green trees, among them namely numerous varieties of oaks, and lawns. The picturesquely arranged clumps of trees and clearances and multiple ponds, among the Croton Reservoirs, create much diversion.
The Mall, a broad lane enclosed by mighty elms and ornamented by a row of sculptures offers during the season the opportunity to show off in splendid drives in which the millionaires of New York present themselves. The rent carriages and equipages were pulled by remarkably beautiful horses — an observation that I could already notice during our tour of the city. I also saw that even the horses of the freight carriages were good specimens. The carriages themselves, however, that rolled past us in the park did deserve my applause only to a lesser degree. While they were built luxuriously, they lacked both in appearance and elegance of form. Also I was not particularly delighted by the numerous riders and Amazons who were dashing by towards uptown and downtown.
The dinner we ate at Delmonico’s on Madison Square, a restaurant of the undisputed first rank and famous in wide circles that offered us not only roast beef and lamb chops but exquisite products of French cuisine. Distinguished guests were crowded in the elegant rooms.
We ended the evening in the Koster and Bial’s variety theater, that was connected to a restaurant. We attended a show that is similar to what is offered in the Viennese Ronacher establishment and were quite pleased to see three female singers, apparently from Austria, perform the „Blue Danube“. Less inspired were we by a ballet shown at the end that had a party at the court of Louis XIV as a scheme. The decoration and performance was found as wanting as the female dancers most of whom had ended their youthful days quite some time ago.