This rather distinguished and eye-catching memorial belongs to Francis B. Spinola (1821-1891). Spinola is best known as the first Italian-American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
But really, that doesn’t even begin to sum up the life and career that Spinola enjoyed. Born near Stony Brook, Long Island, Spinola grew up in a wealthy, influential family. After a swanky private education, he set up practice as a lawyer in Brooklyn.
In the 1850s he was part of the “Secret Police” that helped to keep peace on the gang-ridden streets of New York. He was an alderman several times, a member of the NY State Assembly, a NY State Senator, and also the Commissioner of the New York Harbor–all before the age of 40.
During the Civil War, Spinola enlisted and was commissioned as a Union Brigadier General. At one point he recruited and organized his own bridge of 4 regiments referred to as “Spinola’s Empire Brigade.”
After the Civil War he served as alderman again, and eventually landed a position in the U.S. House of Representatives.
This one caught my eye because of the copper banjo and tambourine on top. And even though it’s not all that exciting of a monument, Al Reeves was a pretty interesting character.
Al Reeves’ (1864-1940) largely self-appointed title was “The King of the Burlesque.” He also referred to himself as “The World’s Pal” and “The World’s Greatest Banjoist and Comedian,” so maybe take that whole “King of Burlesque” title with a grain of salt.
I couldn’t find out too much about Reeves’ upbringing or family. One of the things he is best known for is encouraging Al Jolsen to pursue a career in vaudeville. At the turn of the century, he was quite well known for having a huge burlesque company–his “Big Beauty Show” was tremendously popular and toured to sold-out houses for over 20 years. So maybe he was “The King of the Burlesque,” what the hell do I know?
Here are a couple of clippings from that time–including one with a rare photo of Al:
Variety, June 9, 1922
PIttsburgh Press, August 4, 1918
Brooklyn Daily Eagle September 30, 1900
For a famous entertainer who didn’t die until 1940, it’s odd how few photos I could find of him online. I did, however, find an ancient cylinder recording of him playing his banjo, which is pretty cool. You can hear his signature catch-phrase at the end of the performance: “Give me credit, boys!”
It sounds like Al was a real character. From Second Nights: People and Ideas of the Theatre To-day, by Arthur Brown Ruhl:
“One catches a glimpses of him, now and then, bowling down Broadway in his pale-green limousine, his name on a brass plate on each door…and in the back seat Mr. Reeves, himself a ruddy orchid, smoking a fat cigar.”
Onstage, his gimmick was to abuse the members of his company, often threatening to throw them out or not pay them. To quote Second Nights again:
“I have seen Mr. Reeves grab one of his singers by the throat and give a lifelike imitation of choking her until she gurgled, ‘Hey, let up! I’ve got a sore throat.'”
BPOE, No 22
On a side note, there are two symbols, one on either side of his mausoleum: The first is for the Shriners, and the second is marked “B.P.O.E. No. 22” with an Elks head. Obviously, that is the Elks Club symbol (“Benevolent Protective Order of Elks”)–but I had to look up the No. 22. Turns out that was Lodge #22, which was located at 144 South Oxford St. here in Brooklyn–near to what is now Atlantic Center. Looks like it’s home to a nursing home now–but it is listed as a notable historic building in the AIA’s guide to New York. Here’s a picture from Google Maps:
This was the headstone that gave me the idea to start writing this blog in the first place. I took this picture in February of 2013, when I first started exploring Green-Wood. As usual, I was wandering around aimlessly, and didn’t bother to keep track of where I had been. As a result, I have not been able to find this headstone again (of course). I’ll find you again one of these days, Edgar C. Dean!
Edgar C. Dean, 26 years old, sailed on the Steamship Pacific on January 23, 1856 from Liverpool. That much we can gather from the stone. I did some digging, but there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot I could find out about young Edgar or his family.
An 1855 census lists him as living with his father, two sisters and an Irish servant in downtown Manhattan. His occupation is listed as “seaman”.
His father, William E. Dean, was a printer. His business was located at 72 Frankfort Street, just down the block from Tammany Hall. As far as I can tell, the Dean family home was nearby on Church Street.
The ship that Edgar was lost on–the Steamship Pacific–was built in 1849. This ship was large, luxurious, and fast: in 1850 she broke the record for fastest transatlantic crossing.
She spanned 281 feet and was powered by two precision side-lever engines, each with a 95 inch cylinder traversing a massive 9 foot stroke. At full bore, she delivered 13 knots with all four boilers in service and consumed up to 85 tons of coal a day. The passenger compartments were just as impressive. They were spacious, finely trimmed and furnished with steam heat, an innovation of the day. The ship had many amenities to suit the passenger’s needs including bathrooms, smoking rooms, a barber shop and even a french chef in the kitchen. The reason for the elaborate extras was to compete with Britain’s Cunard line. The SS Pacific and her three sister ships, Atlantic, Arctic and Baltic, were financed by the US government and specifically built to win back America dominance in transatlantic traffic. Together they made up the new Collins Line – a small group of larger, faster, and more comfortable passenger vessels.
Here’s where it gets interesting: On January 23, 1856 the SS Pacific and all 189 people on board vanished without a trace. Most assumed that she had hit icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland due to the fact that it had been a particularly cold and iceberg-filled winter. However, five years later, a beachcomber walking on the shore of Hebrides Island in Ulst (Scotland) found a message in a bottle from a British sea captain who was a passenger on the ship.
The note inside read:
On board the Pacific, from L’pool to N. York. Ship going down. (Great) confusion on board. Icebergs around us on every side. I know I cannot escape. I write the cause of our loss, that friends may not live in suspense. The finder of this will please get it published,
A message in a bottle. Six years later. Well how do you like that.
Visitors to Green-Wood will often walk through the gates and up the hill on Battle Avenue to see the Civil War Memorial and the statue of Minerva–and of course the amazing view from the top of Battle Hill. At the top of the hill is a placard explaining that Battle Hill is the highest natural point in Brooklyn, and that Washington’s troops watched the harbor from up there for the British to arrive prior to the Battle of Brooklyn. And there’s this picture:
This charming engraving is by James Smillie (1807-1885). James Smillie was from a whole family of artists and engravers–so many that I had a hard time telling them apart (it doesn’t help that they all have maddeningly similar names).
Here is the Smillie family plot, which I found–as usual–by wandering around and taking photos of anything that looked mildly interesting.
James Smillie, a native of Scotland, ended up in New York City in 1829, at the age of 22. His father was a jeweler in Quebec, and he sent young James to London and Edinburgh to learn silver engraving so that he could work in the family business. James’ talents were clearly more along the lines of drawing and etching, so he left Quebec after only a few years and struck out on his own in New York City. Within three years of his arrival, he was an admitted into the prestigious National Academy of Design.
James Smillie created the illustrations for the first written history of Green-Wood, Green-Wood Illustrated, which was published in 1846. According to historian Jeff Richman’s blog on the Green-Wood web site, he may have used the money from these illustrations to buy this large family plot.
Later in his life, James Smillie devoted himself to designing and engraving bank notes. In fact, from what I’ve read, almost every male member of the Smillie family worked as a bank note engraver at one time or another.
Check it out, I found one of his bank notes online at a stamp auction. $18,000!
James and Catherine Smillie had four children. Two of their sons, George Henry (1840-1921) and James David (1833-1909) were also well-known artists/engravers.
James David Smillie was trained by his father in the art of engraving starting at around age 4. They worked together on many projects, and he spent much of his professional life working as a bank-note engraver. His true passion, though, seemed to be drawing and painting landscapes.
His work is beautiful and meticulous:
He liked painting landscapes and traveled a lot in California and Colorado, painting mountain scenes.
James D. Smillie was also one of the founding members of the American Watercolor Society, and served as one of its first presidents. He taught for over 30 years at the National Academy of Design. His work is in the collections of many museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
He married in 1881 in his late 40s, and had 2 sons. Here’s a picture of him:
James’ brother George Henry Smillie was an equally successful artist. He studied with famed Hudson River School artist James McDougal Hart, who is also buried in Green-Wood. (OK, now I have to find him as well). Unlike his brother, George stuck mostly to the East Coast, painting quiet country landscapes and coastal scenes.
Here’s a picture of George working in his studio. This photo is hilarious–after all, who doesn’t like to paint while wearing a 3-piece suit?
George’s wife Helen “Nellie” Sheldon Jacobs (1854-1926) was also a painter–they shared a studio on East 36th Street in Manhattan. He met her when she was one of his brother James’ private pupils. Here’s a picture of her from 1887:
This one took a little digging, but I managed to get quite a bit of information. I’m glad I did.
I’ve been looking at the headstone for Joseph Quadri (1896-1918) ever since I moved to this neighborhood. It is right up the hill from my building. I see it every time I walk out the front door.
It is a profoundly sad monument. A weeping willow tree is draped over the top of the stone, and a mourning female figure is bent over the portrait of a young man in a World War I “Doughboy” uniform.
Joseph Quadri, Brooklyn native and first generation Italian-American, died October 9, 1918, during the Second Battle of the Somme. He was 22.
I am no World War I expert, but I have been doing some reading about it lately. The main thing I’ve learned was that World War I was pretty much hell on earth for everyone involved. And The Battle of the Somme was one of the most horrible, never-ending battles of the past several centuries.
By the time Joseph Quadri was sent to Germany to fight in the second Battle of the Somme, French and British troops had managed to halt the aggressive German offensive, pushing them back into German territory. Quadri’s division—the 27th—was absorbed into the 106th Infantry Regiment, which was sent to help reinforce dwindling British troops. Everyone involved in this battle–on both sides– suffered enormous casualties.
Here’s a picture of the 106th Infantry’s Farewell Parade on August 30th, 1917–according to the caption, this is the 27th Division:
At the commencement of active fighting, the 106th had a total effective strength of 3,003 officers and men… During its service in World War I, the 106th sustained 1,955 casualties including 1,496 wounded, 376 killed, and 83 who later died of their wounds.
Joseph was born in 1896 to Victor and Antonia Quadri, both Italian immigrants. Victor was a stonecutter, which may account for why Joseph has such a beautiful memorial. Antonia is listed on census records as doing “housework”. Victor and Antonia had 4 children: Elizabeth, Joseph, Andrew, and Victor, Jr., all of whom were just a few years apart in age. The 1915 census lists 18 year-old Joseph’s occupation as “machinist’s apprentice”. They lived here in Brooklyn, at 716 42nd street right by Sunset Park.
Joseph enlisted on April 3rd 1917. He died October 9th, 1918. On October 21st 1918, his entire division was relieved. If only he could have hung in there another couple of weeks.
Here’s his military card that shows his service, and record of death:
And here is the only picture of him that I could find. This is from “A Short History and Illustrated Roster of the 106th Infantry United States”:
Happy Mother’s Day! Let’s celebrate by being confused about a dead child and her dead mother. Hooray!
Couldn’t find out too much about this one. I can’t seem to find anything about this family on the Internet. I also am not even really sure which family this monument belongs to–there are several stones nearby, most of which are for the Mead and Shute families. I couldn’t find out anything about them online, either. Internet! What good are you?
It looks like Rosa and her mother were both named Rosa–it’s difficult to read, but the badly decayed back-side of the stone lists “Rosa Marion” and “Rosa Virginia.” Sadly, that was about all I could make out.
I also didn’t recognize the expression across the bottom, “Even so father”. Turns out the full phrase is, “Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in your sight” and it’s from the Old Testament (Matthew 11:26). From the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:
26. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good—the emphatic and chosen term for expressing any object of divine complacency; whether Christ Himself, or God’s gracious eternal arrangements.
Still doesn’t make sense to me, but ah well.
I wander around Green-Wood Cemetery. I take pictures. I Google stuff.