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NEW YORK BY GASLIGHT by George G. Foster

1. Broadway at Evening

Foster’s New York by Gaslight reflects the city of New York and how it is defined as a walking city by being able to travel by foot and hoarse car easily by travel (Foster, 3). Foster reflects how the city buildings were used as convince for the city society. Foster express convince of buildings in chapter five when he explained houses were divided into small private apartments. Some of the rooms were made for private families and some provided rooms for people who could not afford hotels (Foster 107-108). Some of the places that was not considered top of the line did not provide much, some had plain food and counterfeit alcohol (Foster, 108). – Jasmine Williams

George Foster discusses what life is like on Broadway in New York in Chapter 1. He describes how prostitutes wait on the streets to “hook” their next target in order to steal from them (Foster 70). While Foster explains how many young men fall for the women’s advances because they think that they can save them, this idea is hardly ever true (Foster 71). He describes how often places that appear to be safe and moral, in at least some capacity, often have dual purposes. For example, Foster lists ice-cream saloons, picture galleries, and bowling alleys as places in which New Yorkers use for more moral purposes during the day, which become less moral as the gaslights along the streets are lit (Foster 72-74). ~Morgan Gilbert

2.The Model Artist Expeditions

In Chapter 2 of Gas-light, Foster talks about the model artist exhibitions. We enter into the “Walhalla”, a place for “model artists”. “Susannah in the Bath” is the program for tonight, where a woman and two “elders” are replicating a scene from the Bible, where the woman is naked except for a drape (pg.78). This is an example of “tableaux vivants”. “Model artists” in the US began with the Englishman Frimbley, who would wear flesh-colored tights and mimic in shape and attitude of such statues and pictures as “The Dying Gladiator” (79) A few years later, another Englishman, named Collyer, returned to the US with a troupe of “model artists”, both men and women. Foster says that they were neither “immodest nor exciting”, but “obscene and disgusting.” However, it was popular and “model artist” exhibitions popped up all over town (80-81). He goes on to talk about how this shows a hypocrisy and shifts in society, as those in the audience may be “model” men of virtue. Some of the women are prostitutes, while others are countrywomen who have to do this for food. Foster feels sorry for the later, but not the former, who he believes are beyond hope. He says that for all “model artists”, their life will then be depravity, disease, brother, the hospital, the penitentiary, and the grave. Woman, who should be “the guardian angel and consoler of men” go to the lowest of the low-the female prostitute (82-83.)-Francesca Maisano

In Chapter 2 of Gas-Light Foster when talking about the “model artists” looks at why some of these women choose to be involved with this behavior. For some women, they were protistutes but for some of the other women who were brought in on trial for this behavior he said were women from the country with out family or friends who just needed a way to support themselves which showed how single women struggled to support themselves on their own in the cities and the different means they used to do so. –Ellora Larsen To add: Some women felt very powerful in their professions as prostitutes, but others were only doing it as a means to an end because they had little or no other options to support themselves. - Devin Wright

3. Bowling and Billiard Saloons

In Chapter 3 of Gas-light, Foster mentions the rise in Bowling and Billiard Saloons. He said they are, “well worth a night's attention, as being frequented by a greater diversity of strongly-marked characters than almost any other class of public places of resort” (Foster, 85). These were the places to go if you wanted to have a night of fun and meet different people. Every one of these places had liquor. People could go after a busy work week, and let loose and have fun, which is still something many people do to this day, There is a difference between the two though, Bowling Saloons are low grade compared to the billiards saloons. The billiard-rooms were described to be one of the most elegant amusements on Earth. While the bowling saloons were described to have a different scent and have different types of people in attendance. Bowling-saloons were said to have flatly dressed who were more boisterous and profane, who drank and smoked tobacco, and were more likely to fight.

4. The Golden Gate of Hell

In chapter 4 of Gas-light, Foster says that prostitution leads and contributes to all other forms of vice. Women who turn to prostitution do so because of men and the world who betrayed them. We journey to an aristocratic brothel, a large, fancy house with good-looking women of varying dress who try and get a man to sit in a “gaudy” armchair so he’ll pay for champagne all round. We’re introduced to two women- “Princess Anna” and an anonymous one-who tell their stories of prostitution, with the former going into it after multiple men take advantage of her and the other joining because of being poor and getting out of being poor by woman who sold her to men. The chapter ends with Foster saying that female prostitution is because of men seducing and betraying the women, and because of a society who makes women have to be prostitutes to live. The cure for that, he says, it to ensure that women live comfortable lives and away from unvirtuous, womanizing men-Francesca Maisano

Princess Anna tells the story of how losing her virtue before marriage ruined her and her family's lives. She starts with describing losing her virginity to Cousin Tom and how he immediately was upset over “destroying her.” He eventually deserts her after vowing his everlasting fidelity to her because it wouldn't honor a man to marry a poor girl that he had ruined. She then describes how her minister takes advantage of her by making her “perform the same favors” she had with Tom in order to get his help. The news of what she had done killed her mother, and sent her father into a poor-house. That is how she arrived in the city as the demon she is to execute revenge on all mankind. -Gianna Banish

The latter of the two women tells of her poor childhood and what she had to do to help her family survive. Firstly, she was a beggar because pleading at a young age was more effective than at older ages. She would stand outside in the mornings and plead for any money. She described herself as quite good at her job. As she got older, begging was not as effective as it once was for her so her mother made her turning to stealing. While on the prowl, she met a women who would later hire her as an assistant and partner, but who would also sell her off to men. She was conditioned a young to sell herself and that is why she became a prostitute. In her saying, “ I feel as if I ought to be pretty well satisfied with the way I have managed to get on in the world,” it is obvious that she much prefers this lifestyle over that of her childhood and seems quite content (Foster, 103). -Gianna

7. The Points at Midnight

Foster knew of the technological changes happening in urban New York. “This existence of a single lamp has greatly improved the character of the whole location and increased the safety of going through the points at night.”(Foster, 121). Foster mentions the gas lamp throwing light around a wide distance, breaking up what criminal act that could have happened in the darkness. “In those days an officer , even with the best intentions, was often baffled at the very moment when he thought he had his victim most secure.” The gas lamp as he mentions, can provide the same security as a police officer taking his post.

12. Mose and Lize

Later in Gas-Light Foster really addresses how the class system changed in cities after industrialization. He says on page 177, “Some folks and some peoples – concluding with a fearful warning against the dangers of overstepping the barrier which separates persons of ‘positions in society’ from the mere common vulgar herd.” Since now there was more of a rigid class hierarchy post-industrialization, if you fell in class it was harder to raise your status back to where it was. – Ellora Larsen

Foster would go on to describe the working class “B'hoy” and “G'hal” that would find themselves the hard working fabric of the working class. Even though they are continually taken advantage of by the aristocracy that they work hard to make richer, they also have a fierce independence and a community in the working class.

Foster's depiction of the ideal American has significant racial aspects. He describes the middle class as Anglo-americans who are able to thrive in virtue because they are not oppressed by poverty or monarchy. He separates them from the rest of the urban population by race, domestic life, and work ethic, creating a seperate, suburban community apart from the evils of the inner city.

13. The Dog Watch

Zerubbabel Green was the son of a somewhat wealthy family from a more rural area within New York. He visited the city in hopes that he would make a “great man” of himself there as some others did from his town (Foster, 179). Upon arrival in the city, however, he was immediately approached by a stranger that guided him to the hotel and dinner. Green went along with it, no thinking that this man was just trying to be helpful to a newcomer to the city. After dinner, the stranger suggested that the pair have a fun night out, and naive Mr. Green was astonished to find the completely immoral “fun” of people living within the city. Before leaving, however, Mr. Green was introduced to another stranger who claimed to be the police chief, however, this was far from the truth as he was a friend of the stranger guiding Green around the city. The “police chief” accepted Green’s money under the guise that he would keep it safe and put it in the city treasury for Green to pick up the next day. In reality, both strangers were deciding Green and were only helping him lose his money. They stole all of the money Green gave them and then allowed him to lose his watch while gambling. The next morning Green woke up in public drunk cell of jail, but he was able to escape charges by telling the magistrate his sad first day in New York City. ~Morgan G.

15. The City at Day-Light

Foster describes what the typical day looks like in after the nightlife of the city has gone back underground. The policeman who had guarded the city at night is finally able to go to sleep as the jail cells have been filled with “human swine” who had “been rescued from the gutter” during the night (Foster, 194). The thief, having successfully completed his night's work, is able to safely return to his place of rest to sleep the day away. Cases begin to be heard by the magistrate for crimes and arrests that took place the day before as the new day begins. Newsboys begin their journey around the city delivering information to city-goers. As people begin to crowd the streets going to work, “the sons and daughters of luxury slumber off” the late nights that many had enjoying the festivities downtown (Foster, 196). The city restarts its cycle as a new day begins, and its inhabitants restart their daily tasks that will lead some into the less desirable nightlife of New York once more. ~Morgan G.

The Needlewomen

In the excerpt The Needlewomen, readers are given the opportunity to closely examine how arduous the lives of women really were. George Foster recognized the importance of arranging such a description stating that “The public are already in possession of abundance of statistics in the subject if female labor.” (Foster 287) – Theophilus Felder

foster_new_york_by_gas-light.txt · Last modified: 2019/02/01 15:36 by oprice