Sunday, July 9, 2017

(UPDATE) NEWARK - May You Eat Interesting Food, or, What's on at Moy Jim Kee's?

Yeah, yeah, I know this post is about Newark, but Rev. Moy Jim Kee got his start in the City. And I'm feeling like a sinophile with a nostalgia for interesting times.

Pardon my poor translation.
"jau ceoi si kei zoi wut"

"That versatile and Christianized Chinaman, Moy Jim Kee, whose evangelizing efforts in New York and Newark have been duly chronicled, last week opened the first Chinese hotel and restaurant for the convenience of his fellow countrymen in Newark ever established in New Jersey. It is modeled after the famous Wo Kee hotel, in New York. A reporter received an invitation to be present at a repast..."* And here is what he had to say about what he saw: 

1.) "Among the esteemed choicest of luxuries were 'infant's eyes,' called in Chinese 'Ha Pan Lan,' declared by the partakers to make the most delicious stew." 

These were said to be the eyes of a fish having extraordinarily large eyes.  Maybe some kind of shrimp?  Ha, (haa) means shrimp.  But pan (paa) could be a loquat...who knows what it actually was.

2.) "The repast included also the 'Maaguee," another fish, rather like a flounder, having its white meat dried and salted. 

3.) "Another strange-looking dried fish was the 'Low-Wee." 

4.) "Another singular-looking article of Chinese food shown was the 'Haer-mai,' which looked like a handful of desiccated maggots or meal-worms....'They are stewed in milk,' exclaimed Mr. Kee*, 'and make a beautiful soup.'" 

haa mai (蝦米 ) dried small shrimp 
*Mr. Kee was actually probably Mr. Moy, according to Chinese naming standards.

5.) "Then there were disclosed various quantities of 'Tong-Ken' --preserved ginger..." 
saang goeng (生薑) fresh ginger? 

6.) "'Sune Tsue'--very fine vermicelli made of rice..." 
Maybe some kind of sour noodle dish?  Sune (syun) means sour.  Tsue (ceoi) means brittle.  I can't make much out of this.

7.) "'Foo-Sok'--something of the nature of maccaroni [sic]..."  The only similar thing I can find is dou soek min, or hand shaved noodles. 

8.) "Bok-Mai,' or rice..." 
baak mai (白米) white rice

9.) "'Crun-Quoit,'--or small green berries, candied..." 
gam gwat (金橘) kumquat 

10.) "'Tu-Pocuee,'--a little fish smelling like sardines and put similarly in oil..." 

11.) "The 'Lap-Chong,' or Chinese sausage..." was made of a meat much sweeter than horse meat, which Mr. Kee had just extolled, it was made of cat meat. "Now, have you ever noticed that you can not find a cat around a Chinese laundry?" Kee asked. 

laap coeng (臘腸) Cantonese pork sausage 

12.) "There was also seen the 'La-Chee," a singularly formed and really delicious tasting nut..." 
lai zi (荔枝) lychee 

13.) "Yin-Wa" 
jin wo (燕窩) edible swallow's nest 

14.) "Suee-Chee" ??

* The Topeka Daily Capital, February 6, 1885.  This article ran in several papers until 1886.


The earliest mention I can find of Mr. Moy (Moy was his last name, and Jim Kee his given name. According to New York's Chinatown: An Historical Presentation of Its People and Places, by Louis Joseph Beck, he had a brother, Dr. Jin Fuey Moy who used Moy as his surname.) is in the Weekly Star of Wilmington, North Carolina, March 28, 1879:

From Burk's New York's Chinatown
"The curious spectacle of a Chinaman addressing a Sunday school was witnessed in New York on Sunday last.  Moy Jim Kee, a Christianized Chinaman, was the speaker."

According to the Beck book, Moy established the Chinese Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church at 14 Mott Street in 1878.

By May 1879, Moy was in prison for theft.  "The worst part of it is that the Mongolian preacher was found in possession of the stolen goods."  (The Cincinnati Daily Star, May 19, 1879 and The Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel, May 24, 1879)  I can not find anything publicizing his guilt or innocence.

The next mention of Moy is the abovementioned article in which he opened a hotel for Chinese.

The following is the final article I can find on Moy.

Click image to enlarge
The Akron Daily Democrat, March 9, 1901

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

MANHATTAN - 1896 Death of a Colorado Politician Near a Harlem Casino

Found "in a lot of weeds, on the west side of Eighth Avenue, between 152nd and 153rd streets at 2:45 o'clock [November 19, 1896]," Frank P. Arbuckle, Chairman of the Democratic Committee of the State of Colorado.  Last seen alive at Maj. George W. Sauer's Atlanta Casino, which stood on the southwest corner of Eighth Avenue and 155th Street. His death was of natural causes, his body had been robbed.

The Buffalo Commercial, November 19, 1896, page 1
The Tammany Times, December 1, 1896, page 6

The casino burned down February 11, 1898.

I might mention here that the St. Nicholas Park Hotel was also owned by Germans; Edward and Martin Grassmuck.   

There was a period of time, perhaps from 1850 to 1900, that Harlem was in deed dominated by Germans.  There were German churches (like St. Joseph's, on 125th Street, also mentioned previously in this blog) and German shops like H. C. F. Koch & Co. on West 125th Street.  They left with the arrival of the blacks.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

BROOKLYN - The Garret Bergen Home, Third Avenue Between 33rd and 34th Streets

According to The American Magazine, Volume 40, pages 235-236, the vanished Bergen Homestead is haunted.

The Battle of Long Island was fought on August 27, 1776.  

The date of 1564 mentioned in the article is incorrect.  The house was built in 1662 by a widow named Mary Thomas.  It was sold by a William Thomas to Teunis Bergen (1730-1807) in 1763.  The Bergens were early settlers of New Amsterdam.  The Teunis G. Bergen mentioned in the article was a politician and a United States Representative from New York.  

Friday, June 9, 2017

STATEN ISLAND - The Alice Austen House

According to The American Magazine, Volume 40, pages 235-236, the Austen Mansion, now known as the Alice Austen House, is haunted.

Official museum website:

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

MANHATTAN - Pre-1865 Fire Department Company Names and Locations

I'm not sure if any of these buildings still stand apart from the one at 20 Eldridge Street.

From The New York City Register, Compiled by H. Wilson, 1859

Saturday, May 27, 2017

MANHATTAN - Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum... Garrit Storm

Like a miniature church,
the Mausoleum of Garrit Storm, Esq.
An Old Citizen Gone.--Garret [sic] Storm, an old and well-known citizen, for many years a resident of the Second Ward, died on Thursday, aged seventy-four.
The New-York Tribune, August 2, 1851, page 5

Garrit Storm was many things.  Merchant, Democratic Republican, jury member of the People v. Levi Weeks trial, which featured Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and Henry Brockholst Livingston as attorneys for the defendant. Storm bought the "bad lands" at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue for $15,000--an amount which, owing to inflation, is only worth about $438,000 today.  He appears to have been a very shrewd businessman, and left his two daughters a magnificent inheritance.  

He was also probably a bit of an Ebenezer Scrooge.  

Garrit Storm, we believe, was never guilty of the impropriety of paying his clerks large salaries.  Had any of them, like Oliver Twist, in their innocency, "asked for more," Garrit would have certainly collapsed.
The Old Merchants of New York City, Volume 4, page 325, by Joseph Alfred Scoville 

An Interesting Coincidence

The May 15, 1847 edition of the Poughkeepsie Journal includes a long (rather too long) ballad called "The Robbery of Garret Storm."  Fifteen stanzas of... well, here's a sample:

His aged limbs, they now entwine,
Drag round and round his fam'ly shrine,
More cruel tortures yet await
That blind man's dire portentous fate;
His cup's run full, and swimming o'er,
His locks are stain'd with crimson gore.

This poem is about Storm's grandfather, a Dutchman also named Garrit Storm.  

For the last thirty years of [my grandfather's] life he was entirely blind, having lost his sight by the careless pitching of a sheaf of wheat into the barn before he was ready to receive it. He was very irascible in his temper and would swear roundly if his meals were not brough(t) to him when hungry and alone in midnight darkness. He was the greatest chewer of tobacco I ever knew; in fact, it was the only comfort remaining to him after his misfortune. He was a staunch whig and friend of his country. In the war of independence a party termed "Cowboys" from below attacked his house and hung him up to force him to disclose his money; the neighbours, however, heard the alarm and rushed in to the rescue of the family in time' to cut him down.
Garrit Storm's Narrative 
 Grandfather Storm sounds charming.

As for the interesting coincidence,  Grandson Storm was robbed as well.

In the (Wall Street) house belonging to Mr. Storm, the villains broke the looking glasses, the cabinet ware, and all the china they could lay their hands on.  
The Evening Post, September 6, 1822, page 2 

Adding insult to injury causes me to think that the thieves really detested Garrit Storm, Esq., or his class of people in general.  Come to think of it, from the sound of him, I probably would've loathed the man too.  What I can gather of his story brings to the imagination a rich man getting richer off the backs of poor men.  But isn't that just part of the story of New York?!   

* The Narrative of Garrit Storm unique family information
Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery

Friday, May 26, 2017

MANHATTAN - Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum... and Magic

Click to enlarge any image
Trinity Church Cemetery facing Amsterdam Avenue
What secrets does it hold?
Schoenlein headstone with magic paraphenalia
The grave pictured above belongs to Konrad Schoenlein (1833-1867), his wife Elisabeth (1831-1910), and their children Margaretha (1857-1858), Konrad (1858-186[1]), and Karl (1861-186[5]).  I can't find anything in the newspapers or census records about this family.  All that is known is that they were German and they had three children who died very young.  Perhaps Frederick Schoenlein (1862-1930), buried elsewhere in this cemetery, is also a child of Konrad and Elisabeth.

Base of Schoenlein headstone
Near Schoenlein headstone

As for the strange mess at the base of the headstone, what kind of mess is it?  It most likely has to do with one of the Afro-Caribbean religions; Santeria and Dominican Vudu have many believers in the neighborhood.*  

Black candles are used in work with the dead as well as in curses.  Coconuts are given as offerings to spirits and used as ingredients in various magic spells.  Why was the Schoenleins' burial spot chosen for this activity?  It's a mystery to all but the practitioner and the entity who led them here.

I do wonder why these people believe that the spirits of bygone German- and British-Americans (for those groups make up the majority of those buried here) will be willing to assist them in their endeavors.  Assuming that the dead retain the personalities they possessed in life (which is the belief within the African diaspora religions), it seems unlikely that anyone interred here would be willing to cooperate with "island heathens" and "dreaded Nanigos."

Have no fear, whatever this is all about, I knew better than to touch it!

*This section of Washington Heights has been nicknamed Little Dominican Republic.

Headstone of Peter Snyder, father and Henry Snyder (1846-1867), son.
It is doubtful that the Snyders have a living relative to burn a candle for them (see foot of monument).
Why was this site chosen?  Perhaps unrelated, the carcass of a medium-sized bird was laying on top
of the monument, being feasted upon by flies. 
Something in a black bag tied up in red thread
This is probably a love spell, tied up tightly in red, the color of love.  Some woman probably has a man who is a bit of a rover and she wants to "tie him up" so he won't leave her.  But as this was deposited in a cemetery, she might be trying to "kill his nature" so that he can't have sex with another woman.  Or she could be cursing him to be hers or die.

It's a little creepy to find a spot that looks recently dug in a section where no one's been buried for a hundred years or so.
Maybe a tree was removed.  Yeah, that's the ticket.
Apparently Mary Augusta Warren (née Harvey)'s spirit requested the following...
...some pocket change, a plastic chamomile container with brown water in it, some kind of bread, a boiled tuber, a smelly fish, a white candle and a stogie.  Because these were favorites of hers, apparently.
This is a picture of Mary Warren, that I found on Find a Grave.  If her spirit still hovered near her grave, do you think she'd be amused or disgusted?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

MANHATTAN - Jackie Robinson Park (Formerly Colonial Park)

Lots of past violence and death in the vicinity of Jackie Robinson Park.  Here is but a smattering.

  • 24-year-old Rosa Raubenbuehler, a servant, was burned to death in the fire that destroyed the St. Nicholas Park Hotel on November 25, 1892.  The two-story frame hotel and dancing pavillion stood on the corner of Bradhurst Avenue and 155th Street.
  • Athelton Cornforth, former clergyman who had become a London stockbroker, living in Manhattan for a year under the assumed name of Arthur Hall, committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth under a tree in a lonely part of Colonial Park at Bradhurst Avenue and West 153rd Street.  It was discovered that he was in financial distress.  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 20, 1910, page 1,  The New York Times, July 21, 1910, page 14, The New York Times, July 22, 1910, page 2, The Post Standard (Syracuse), July 22, 1910, page 2.
  • A 13-year-old altar boy of the Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection named Percival Mabee/Maybe attempted to hang himself inside the park between 152nd and 153rd Streets. The newspapers report that he went to the spot where Athelton Cornforth killed himself the week previous. The New York Times, July 27, 1910, page 1, The Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, NY), July 27, 1910, page 1. 
  • Kate Ferrone, an Italian woman of Philadelphia, was slashed to death with a razor October 24, 1911 inside the park at Bradhurst Avenue and West 146th Street.  She and her husband were quarreling when her husband, Joseph Ferrone, cut her throat.  At trial, Ferrone told the court that she committed suicide, but no one bought that story and he was executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing on August 12, 1912. The New-York Tribune, October 25, 1911, page 1, The Sun, August 13, 1912, page 4.  
  • Anna Aumueller was murdered in an apartment at 68 Bradhurst Avenue by former priest Hans Schmidt.  Click this link to see my blog about them. 
  • An automobile sped through the railing of the Viaduct at West 155th Street  and plunged 100 feet downwards near the benches at the north end of the park.  The body of Samuel Rattner, the driver, was "driven into the ground."  Mr. Rattner was a married man living in the Bronx.  He worked as a furrier with his father at 148 West 25th Street.  The article remarks that a similar accident happened at the Viaduct a year ago.  The New York Times, June 5, 1920, page 1.
  • Five children and four adults, including a family of six, died in a fire at 307 West 146th Street, northeast corner of Bradhurst Avenue and across from the park on November 20, 1920.  The fire was believed to have been started in a "cluster of baby carriages under the ground floor stairway."  The Evening World, November 20, 1920, page 1.  
Victims of the fire at 307 West 146th Street
  • July 10, 1944 - A 15-year-old boy named John Jacob Moore of 57 West 135th Street was shot to death when a fight between rival gangs, the Chancellors and the Copinas broke out.  Four other youths were injured and a police man was seriously wounded.  The fight took place at the park on Bradhurst Avenue at West 148th Street.  Not long after this, a young man named Fred Carter of the Sabers gang was arrested along with four fellow gang members near the park on West 154th Street for violating the Sullivan Act.  Other Harlem gang names mentioned in these articles, but not connected specifically to the park, are the Marquettes and the Saints.  The New York Age, July 15, 1944, page 1, The New York Age, July 29, 1944, page 1.  The young men were referred to as hoodlums and gang members.
From The New York Age, July 23, 1949.
The Age was  a black newspaper produced from 1887 to 1953.
Interestingly, it was once acceptable to call a thug a thug.
If you ever see a ghost in Jackie Robinson Park, now you know why.

Friday, May 12, 2017

MANHATTAN - The Church of St. Joseph of the Holy Family

The Church of St. Joseph of the Holy Family at 405 W 125th Street
Built in 1860 and once known as the Church of St. Joseph (German)
Amazing to think this was once a German neighborhood....
On the night of September 2, 1913, a priest named Hans Schmidt, an assistant at St. Joseph of the Holy Family in Harlem, murdered his lover, Anna Aumueller, in her sleep, dismembered her body and threw the pieces into the Hudson River.

Schmidt was arrested and confessed to murder on September 14, 1913.  Among other things, he told Detective Faurot 
  • that he was ordained at St. Augustine's Seminary in Mainz, Germany on December 23, 1904
  • that he had previously been assigned to parishes in Louisville, Kentucky and Trenton, New Jersey 
  • that he had been an assistant to Father Braun, rector of St. Boniface at Second Avenue and Forty-seventh Street, where he met the victim
  • that he left St. Boniface in November 1912 and became an assistant to Father Gerard H. Huntmann at St. Joseph's on 125th Street
  • that he killed Aumueller because he loved her.  "I loved her, and sacrifices should be consecrated in blood."
Father Luke J. Evers, chaplain of the Tombs prison in lower Manhattan, visited with Father Schmidt that same day and received contradictory information.  He was told
Anna Aumuller
  • that Schmidt was not ordained in Mainz and that the bishop there didn't like him
  • but that he received his ordination from St. Elizabeth of Hungary herself on December 24, 1906
  • that the bishop of Mainz had him arrested and imprisoned in Munich, with the reader's understanding that he had impersonated a priest
  • that he was ordained at the age of 18, which Father Evers knew was impossible--and which contradicted his own 1906 date as he was born in 1881
  • that he and Aumueller had been issued a marriage license and that he officiated at a marriage ceremony for himself and the victim
  • that St. Elizabeth told him to sacrifice Aumueller

Although Father Evers believed that Schmidt may have studied for the priesthood, he did not believe that Schmidt had ever been ordained.

This may come as a disappointment to all of those who sensationally label Schmidt a killer priest (Sorry, Mark Gado, see right), but  Schmidt was a Killer Former Priest.  Almost not a priest at all ever.

Only days after the murderer was caught, Bishop A. McFaul of the Diocese of Trenton made public a letter from himself to  Schmidt. This is his response to Schmidt having performed a marriage ceremony without the proper diocesan dispensation in Trenton: 
"You are hereby notified to leave this diocese immediately. It is evident that you are wanting in common sense and, therefore, I do not desire to have anything more to do with you."

It was noted that the diocesan authorities at Trenton suspected that Schmidt's credentials had been forged.

Arriving around the same time was a cable to Vicar General Moody of the Diocese of New York from the Bishop of Mainz stated that

"J. Schmidt, born at Aschaffenburg, priest of Diocese of Mainz, ordained 1907.  Ran away from Mainz because of attempted frauds and arrest by police.  Declared insane by court and discharged. Suspended by Bishop for acts and presenting falsified document regarding studies he pretended to have made.  Then left the diocese." 

Schmidt hung the jury in his first trial, but on February 5, 1913, he was found guilty of murder in the first degree.  

At 5:52 a.m. on February 18, 1916, a conspicuously calm Schmidt went to the electric chair, his last words being "I send a hearty goodbye to my mother, especially.  My last thought is of her.  Goodbye, all friends."

Murder room on 3rd floor of 68 Bradhurst Avenue
Building no longer there
We will never know why Schmidt did any of the things he did.  There is a possibility that he killed a little girl in Louisville named Alma Kellner in 1909.  He was a counterfeiter.  He posed as a physician under various names.

It is possible that he attempted to perform an abortion on Anna Aumueller that ended in her death. While in the death house up at Sing Sing, Schmidt wrote to District Attorney Whitman, "I should have told the truth in the first place...Anna died from the results of a criminal operation, which was instigated by me.  I did not murder her and am not guilty of murder in the first degree."


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 15, 1913
The New York Times, September 15, 1913
The Sun, September 15, 1913
The New York Times, September 16, 1913
The New York Times, February 6, 1914
The Ithaca Journal, February 12, 1914
The Evening World, April 24, 1914

Thursday, May 4, 2017

MANHATTAN - 28 West 130th Street

28 West 130th Street
Walking down pretty Astor Row the other day, I encountered a few sad looking houses.  Believing that houses possess a kind of soul and that their exteriors betray the nature of that soul and the personalities of those who have lived there, I was certain that something bad had to have happened at 28 West 130th Street.  

Looking to the papers, I wasn't disappointed.

A 58-year-old woman named Sally Jones murdered her former lover and his new woman there in 1932.  She threw away the pistol and laid low for three years until the police caught up with her.
The New York Age, November 23, 1935

The house is/was recently owned by some person named Nina Justiniano of Queens who allowed it to slide into further disrepair.  I'm sure the neighbors in Astor Row are thrilled to share their block with Ms. Justiniano's junk heap.    

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

MANHATTAN - 351 Lenox Avenue

351 Lenox Avenue
The unassuming shop front of this address hides an interesting history.  One of the numbers racket, gangsters, faux Indian yogis and hoodoo.

Mob operations at 351 Lenox Avenue began in 1932 and continued, supposedly with the knowledge of every cop in Harlem, until 1937.  The Dutch Schultz syndicate headquarters were described as being one flight up in a cut down apartment with a show window facing the street featuring the sign of Louis Katz, bondsman.  (The front of the building has been remodeled since then.)  Frequent visitors were such thugs as Abe "Misfit" "The Killer" Landau, J. Richard "Dixie" Davis, the "Lid Mouthpiece" of the Schultz gang, "Big Joe" Ison, alias "Spasm," George Weinberg, John Cooney, and Dutch Schultz himself.

District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey put an end to all of that.

By August 26, 1938, a new sign in the window read "FIRST CHURCH OF CHRIST HOLINESS All Are Welcome."

Whoever wrote the script for the film Hoodlums did their research.  They mention this address!

The Mount Carmel Item (Pennsylvania), August 17, 1938
The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre), August 18, 1938
The New York Post, August 19, 1938
The Evening Times (Sayre, Pennsylvania), August 22, 1938
The Daily Herald (Provo, Utah), August 26, 1938

351 Lenox Avenue in August 1938.  
Photo by Weegee
c. 1950

No longer the HQ of the numbers game racket, 351 Lenox Avenue later housed a dealer in, among other items related to hoodoo, dream books.  These dream books listed lucky numbers to be played in the lotteries based upon common (and not so common!) dreams.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

By all accounts, Professor Phillips was neither a professor nor a yogi.

Items for Sale inside 351 Lenox Avenue.  Several of these titles are still in print.
Photo by Weegee
c. 1950
The black community's interest in folk magic has waned over the years and herb and candle shops like Yogi & Professor Philip's have been replaced in Harlem by Hispanic botanicas.  One can purchase dream books such as Rajah Rabo's, Professor Konje's and Madame Fu Futtam's at some of these.  I've also seen them at some newspaper stands. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

WESTFIELD - The "Watcher" House

I just finished reading a short article on the BBC's website about a New Jersey couple and their mysterious stalker, The Watcher, who claims to be "in control" of their house.  I won't waste time regurgitating what I just read.  You can read it by clicking this link.

Naturally (if you've been following my blog, this will be clear to you), I just had to look into the history of the house.

It's very normal.  Apart from this:

On February 2, 1919, a man named Sidney Aaron, of Hoboken, was knocked down on Broad Street by a car driven by a young man named William B. Elliot Jr. in a hit-and-run accident.  Another man, Robert K. Davies, of 657 Boulevard (the "Watcher" house) was in the car when it happened; he was called as a witness.  Elliot denied that he had struck anyone with his car, and further stated that he wasn't even driving when the incident happened.  He and Davies did admit to having a few drinks that night before driving, but Elliot said that he was completely sober before he got behind the wheel. Elliot was convicted of manslaughter in the Essex County Court.  He was sentenced to a year in the Essex County Penitentiary and fined $1,000.00, but he obtained a complete pardon from the Court of Pardons and did not serve a day in prison.  
(The Courier News (Bridgewater, New Jersey), February 3, 20, 16, and 26, 1919 and August 27, 1920)

None of this explains why a series of deranged people should be surveilling all of the families that have lived at 657 Boulevard since the 1920s.  If anything, it shows why a mentally unstable descendant of Sidney Aaron might want to spy on the people at 256 West Dudley Avenue (Elliot's address).  Or could this descendant with a grudge have his addresses confused?

Or is this just a big hoax?

I'm inclined to think the latter.

If you like this blog... may like my newest blog, Strange Miscellany From a Harlem Walk-up.  It puts my mind for minutiae to further use.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

MANHATTAN - Chinatown: People, Places and Things


Note: Most of the Chinese names in this article seem to be nicknames or titles rather than actual given names and surnames. One common southern Chinese method of creating nicknames is prefixing "Ah" (阿) to the surname or the second character of the given name.  We'll never know the full names of these people.

The First Chinese in New York?--
Ah Ken 
(阿肯--according to Wikipedia in Chinese)
ah 阿 = prefix used to express familiarity, sometimes translated "Mr."
ken 肯 = to be eager, to consent
Name possibly also rendered as Ah Kam or Ah Kim in records.
b. ?
d. between 1870-1896
Qing Chinese men enjoying a meal
Late 19th, early 20th century

Cantonese merchant, said to be the first Chinese in New York City. Lived on Mott Street and opened a cigar stand on Chatham Square in 1858. Later founded a cigar store on Park Row.  Known as "Ah Ken the Wise" among fellow Chinese. "He stuck to his native dress and encouraged other Chinamen to be strictly Chinese."  (The Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester], September 27, 1896)  

  • There are several mentions of Chinese in New York before 1858. "FANNING HIMSELF.--We noticed a chinaman perambulating Broadway yesterday on the sunny side, and fanning himself as quietly as a Mexican senorita in her parlor.  His pig-tail was coiled like a rattle snake on top of his head, and his breeches, which looked like two balloons, caused quite a sensation among the crowd of men and boys following him.  Not a smile or turn of the head wrinkled his celestial visage, but he must have fancied himself a rare show.  The stolidity of the Chinese is equal to that of our Indians, and it is only when they come to "chop sticks" and birds nest dinners, that they betray the five senses in full."  (The Brooklyn Evening Star, July 24, 1847)   
  • A man named Ching-Ching was rescued from drowning in the East River at Pier 17.  He was one of Barnum's Chinese Family and had just returned from the World's Fair.  (The Brooklyn Evening Star, December 29, 1851)
  • From an article titled "People on the Streets": "Here lounges a queer, flat-faced, brown-skinned poor fellow, from whose long, narrow eyes either sorrow or home-sickness looks sadly out.  He is clad in loose blue garments, and comes from the Flowery Land.  To look at his listless attitude, one would scarce believe that he was the chief tumbler in the Tong Hook Company, who lately performed in this City, and were suddenly arrested by pecuniary difficulties.  One looks with interest at this poor Chinaman.  He may have tumbled before the Brother of the Sun and the Cousin of the Moon...."  (The New York Times, July 19, 1853)   
  • "IDOL WORSHIP IN NEW YORK.--A gentleman in this city, while visiting Cherry street for an Industrial school, went into a room where were a little company of Chinese offering sacrifice to an idol. A Chinaman was kneeling in front of the idol, burning some sweet smelling substance, floating in water in a little cup.  The gentleman apologized for the intrusion, but they did not seem much troubled buy it."  (The Buffalo Commercial, April 29, 1854
  • "John Cronan, an Irishman, and Wm. Thompson, a Chinaman, got into a fracas in Oak-street, on Saturday last...."  (The New York Times, December 4, 1855)  Note the Chinese man's American sounding name.  It is possible that he was the son of an Irish mother.
  • Most of the Chinamen in town are the remains of the Tong Hook Dramatic Company, originally numbering about 30, which came to this city from San Francisco about three or four years ago under the charge of Beach & Co., for giving exhibitions."  Upon arriving, they couldn't pay the $5,000.00 fare for getting here, and through some twists and turns were stranded.  (The New York Times, April 15, 1856)   Many of the Chinese at this time became beggars.
(There is more to read.  This is just a page break.)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

NEW YORK FOOD HISTORY - Ruby Foo's Den, Original Chop Suey and the Chowmeiniacs

Best Chinese food on the Dawn Patrol!

Ruby Foo's Den opened at 240 West 52nd Street in October 1936.  It's name was lent to it by Ruby Foo Wong, one of the first female Chinese-American restauranteurs.  In its time, this place was a big deal.  Much bigger than the recently opened (and closed) Ruby Foo's Dim Sum and Sushi Palace, which had two locations, one at 2182 Broadway at 77th Street and the other on the corner of Broadway and 49th Street.

How about some recipes?  Or facts?  Oh, how about both?  In that order?  OK.  


Ruby Foo's recipes from The Brooklyn Eagle,
September 13, 1938

Peanut butter?
The Times Record (Troy), August 14, 1947
This and the following two Ruby Foo's recipes are from The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 28, 1938


  • "Ruby Foo's Den washes all dishes with strictly kosher powder."  Showing that the Jewish love of Chinese food goes way back. :)  Orthodox people would be turned off by the shrimp and ham served on those dishes, however....(The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 22, 1937)
  • "A squat, gold Buddha is the only concession to the occult arts at Ruby Foo's Den.  The story goes that whoever kisses the feet of the idol will marry within a year.  So far it has accomodated two hat-check girls and a waiter.  Patrons prefer to work out their destinies on a less rigid schedule."  (The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 22, 1939
  • According to Ruby Foo, chop suey means "mixed together."  (The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 5, 1940) Chop suey is actually an old romanization of 杂碎 (Cantonese zaap coi), meaning "mixed vegetables/food."
Chop suey: Tea Leaf Chicken
But probably an ancient Chinese secret that will stay secret.
(Another thought origin is with a Chinese dish washer in San Francisco.)

  • Patrons of Ruby Foo's referred to by the funny name "chowmeiniacs." 1941
  • The 2,000,000 dish of chow mein was served at Ruby Foo's on July 30, 1942 (Brooklyn Daily Eagle)
  • "General Hsiung Shi Fei, Chief of the Chinese Military Mission, dropped into Ruby Foo's Den for some native delicacies the other night and ordered --ham and eggs."  (The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 7, 1942)
  • "A Ruby Foo waiter has seen [the film] "Spellbound" 63 times and now offers free psycho advice to his co-workers."  (The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 19, 1946)
  • It was noted with curiosity in 1947 that the younger waiters were becoming Americanized, prefering forks to chopsticks and coffee to tea.
  • Head waiter Billy Gwan introduced patrons to ginseng tea with lemon.  (The Post-Standard [Syracuse], January 1, 1949)