Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Driver - part III; Garrett describes Wall Street in the mid-1890's; Trinity Church; Rector Street;

Click here for part II of my review of The Driver.

Chapter II of The Driver ("The Funk Idol") contains a few notable passages as the plot gets seriously underway. On pages 32 and 33 (original edition) Garrett's main character arrives on Wall Street and describes his new surroundings as of the mid-1890's:

Wall street proper, - street with a small s, - is a thoroughfare. Wall Street in another way of speaking, - street with a big S, is a district, the money district, eight blocks deep by three blocks wide by anything from five to thirty stories high. It is bounded on the north by jewelry, on the northeast by leather, on the east by sugar and coffee, on the south by cotton, on the southwest by shipping and on the west by Greek lace, ship chandlery and Trinity churchyard. It grew that way. The Wall Street station of the elevated railroad is at Rector Street, and Rector Street is a hand-wide thoroughfare running uphill to Broadway under the south wall of Trinity graveyard. When you are half way up you begin to see over the top of the wall, rising to it gradually, and the first two things uou see are the tombstones of Robert Fulton and Alexander Hamilton. A few steps more and you are in Broadway. Rector street ends there.
Trinity church is on the west side of Broadway, thirty paces to your left. Standing with your back to Trinity church door you look straight down Wall street, with a little s. All of this is Wall Street with a big S. You are in the midst of it.

I won't try to recount the changes since the events described in The Driver (or any changes that might have taken place between the 1890's and 1922). I will leave that task to those who inhabit Wall Street today.

Trinity Church (near Equitable building under construction) @ 1914 - Library of Congress photo

Much of the plot takes place on Wall Street in the wake of the Panic of 1893. The main characters of The Driver found their own solutions, which solutions formed the basis of the plot. Many readers might enjoy the contrast between the "solutions" to which we are about to be subjected in 2009 and the actions of the characters of The Driver. As I mentioned previously, I won't reveal the plot.

recent photo of Hamilton grave [photo by Malcom Rutherford]

For those who might be tempted to wonder whether Garrett mistakenly incorporated any of 1922 Wall Street into his description of Wall Street of the mid 1890's, note that he omitted such landmarks as the Empire Building (not to be confused with the Empire State Building), which did not appear at the corner of Rector and Broadway until 1897.

Click here for part IV.

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At January 11, 2009 at 6:55 PM, Blogger Jeffrey Tucker said...

Fantastic. So glad you are doing this.


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