No. 424
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
May 23, 2019

Ararat: City of Refuge.

July 3, 2012
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English Franciscan John Forest was burned at Smithfield on this date in 1538 … the undercard to the simultaneous “execution” of a downthrown idol of Saint Derfel Gadarn. The latter had been ripped from its shrine at Llandderfel in Gwynedd, Wales: the place gets its name from Derfel himself and its devotion to its Celtic […]
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Executed Today - 5/22/2019

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Coming in May! Warps and Wefts is excited to announce the publication of “Dressing Miss Lizzie”, a collection of paper …

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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 4/23/2019

via Newspapers.com Phantom cats and a mysterious death. Who can ask for more in an old newspaper story? The "Brooklyn Daily Eagle," March 13, 1886: Ghost stories from the credulous and nervous gentlemen who draw salaries as guardians of the peace in the precinct covered from the Graham avenue station are becoming frequent. Last week they saw the ghost of an Italian. On Thursday night a
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Strange Company - 5/22/2019
Jeff and Joe Soapy Smith buries Joe Simmons The Illustrated Police News April 9, 1892 (Click image to enlarge) oe Simmons was a tall, slender gambler known to many as “Gambler Joe” Simmons, a member of the Soap Gang who managed Soapy Smith's Tivoli Club in Denver, 1890, and Soapy's Orleans Club in Creede, 1892. According to William Devere’s poem "Two Little Busted Shoes," Simmons
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 3/25/2019
In July 1890, a man came into the 126th Street Police Station in Harlem, New York City, to report a conversation he had overheard in an elevated train. A young man and woman sitting near him were talking about the mysterious disappearance of Miss Goodwin from the Storm King flats on East 126th Street. They believed that she had been foully dealt with by “professional malpractioners.” The woman
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Murder By Gaslight - 5/18/2019

I’m not the first old sign enthusiast who came across this beauty of a beer sign on the tenement at 317 East Fifth Street. Grieve wrote it up back in January, and I’m sure other fans walking along this quiet East Village block noticed the ancient signage, too. “S. Cort Wines & Lager Beer” the […]
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Ephemeral New York - 5/19/2019
[Editor’s note: Guest writer, Peter Dickson, lives in West Sussex, England and has been working with microfilm copies of The Duncan Campbell Papers from the State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia. The following are some of his analyses of what he has discovered from reading these papers. Dickson has contributed many transcriptions to the Jamaica Family […]
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Early American Crime - 2/7/2019
Female Tobacco Chewers. | Torturing a Lover.

Ararat: City of Refuge.

Noah

“Hear, O' Israel, The Lord is our God-The Lord is One.  ARARAT, a City of Refuge for the Jews, founded by Mordecai Manuel Noah, in the Month of Tizri, September 1825, and in the 50th year of American Independence"
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Extra Mordecai Manuel Noah
Mordecai Manuel Noah had been a major in the Pennsylvania Militia, U. S. Consul to the Kingdom of Tunis, Sheriff of New York, a playwright, a publisher, and a high-ranking Tammany Hall politician. In the 1820s Noah was easily the most well-known and politically powerful Jewish man in America.  He was also the kind of flamboyant eccentric that has always been popular in New York City.
 
Noah’s most audacious move was his attempt to establish a homeland, or at least a “City of Refuge” for Jews in America. The idea was at least five years in the planning, with the first practical steps taken in 1825 when Samuel Leggett, acting on Noah’s behalf, purchased 2,555 acres on Grand Island, in the Niagara River. Noah then published his intention to found the city of Ararat—named after the resting place of Noah’s Ark—as a Jewish homeland.
 
A 300 pound cornerstone was created for the new community and it was to be dedicated on Grand Island in September 1825. The organizers could not find enough boats to carry the expected crowd to the island, so the cornerstone was dedicated at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Buffalo. Noah was a Royal Arch Mason and it is believed that Episcopal cooperation was obtained through his masonic connections. On September 2,  Mordecai Noah, wearing a Richard III costume and gold medallion borrowed from New York’s Park Theatre, led a procession that included a military band, an assembly of Freemasons, and a number of city officials. Also atttending was the great Seneca Chief, Red Jacket. Noah believed – as the Mormons later would— that American Indians were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel.
 
The cornerstone was laid on the communion-table, and cups filled with wine, corn and oil were placed on top of it. The stone was consecrated using both Hebrew and Episcopal rites. Following the consecration, Noah delivered a speech proclaiming himself “by the Grace of God, Governor and Judge of Israel” and announcing a re-organization of the Jewish government. He offered Ararat as an asylum to Jews throughout the world and at the same time levied a tax of three Shekels (one dollar) in silver on every Jew throughout the world, to capitalize the new venture and aid in the settlement of emigrants to the new community.
 
Grand Island Grand Island, New York
In spite of its grandiose beginnings, Ararat was a profound failure for a number of reasons. Noah had not consulted with Jewish leaders and his ideas had very little support. In America the Jewish community feared the venture would prove disreputable. In Europe, where Noah hoped to get most of his settlers, the idea was ridiculed from all corners.  Adding to Noah’s woes, the “Morgan Affair” the following year—in which Freemasons were accused of kidnapping and killing William Morgan for revealing their secretes—led to fervent anti-Masonic sentiment in Western New York. The Freemasons’ very visible support of Ararat raised public suspicion of the project.
 
The cornerstone never made it to Grand Island and it is doubtful whether Noah ever did either. Since 1825 it has been a matter of debate whether Noah was sincerely trying to establish a Jewish homeland or if it had all been a real estate scheme.  Letters discovered later indicate that it was a little of both.  Mordecai Noah’s support of Zionism never faltered, but in 1825 he was well aware of the value of the property at the mouth of the Erie Canal which opened later that year, and he hoped to make a sizeable profit in land sales.

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