James Hamlet Williamsburg resident first victim of the Fugitive Slave Law

The Fugitive Slave Law or Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern slave-holding interests and Northern Free-Soilers.

This was one of the most controversial elements of the 1850 compromise and heightened Northern fears of a “slave power conspiracy”. It required that all escaped slaves were, upon capture, to be returned to their masters and that officials and citizens of free states had to cooperate in this law. Abolitionists nicknamed it the “Bloodhound Law” for the dogs that were used to track down runaway slaves.
Williamsburg resident James Hamlet became the first kidnapping victim after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. He was working as a porter in Manhattan when Maryland businessman Gustavas Brown saw him and claimed that he was a runaway from his mother’s home in Maryland. Hamlet, who lived here on 3rd Street with his wife and three children, was arrested and sent to Baltimore.

Maryland resident Mary Brown exercised the law that historian James McPherson described as having given the federal government more power than any law yet sanctioned by congress – the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Brown authorized a federal official to claim one James Hamlet and return him to her Baltimore home. Despite the differences in her testimony, and Hamlet’s pleadings and protests of being born a free man, the federal authorities – obligated due to Congress’ legislation – robbed a husband of his wife, two children and freedom.

Hamlet’s testimony was not permitted by the Fugitive Slave Law: a law that abolitionist Lewis Tappan believed was but “an experiment on the part of the Slave Power to see how much the Free States will bear.”

James Hamlet was forced into the Baltimore Slave Market owned by Hope H. Slatter, a man described by slave-trader expert Frederic Bancroft as being a model for successful slave marketing. After establishing his worth as a slave, Slatter sold Hamlet. Surprisingly, his local community of Williamsburgh, in the borough of Brooklyn bought him – having raised the necessary funds of eight hundred dollars. One hundred dollars alone came from one member of the local church.

A week later, he returned home to Brooklyn. Pamphlets telling his story were printed and circulated, and the incident was used as a rallying cry against the Fugitive Slave Law and slavery in general.

Abolitionists hearing of these events then sent a call out for the citizens of the Free States to ignore the law and let the fugitive into one’s home as if it were an asylum. As abolitionist William Harned declared, “the heart of every anti-slavery individual will deeply sympathize with the panting fugitive.”


Tammany Hall’s Power Explained in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"


Tammany Hall was a powerful, but corrupt political machine that ran New York for decades.

It was the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in controlling New York City and New York State politics and helping immigrants, most notably the Irish, rise up in American politics from the 1790s to the 1960s. It controlled Democratic Party nominations and political patronage in Manhattan from the mayoral victory of Fernando Wood in 1854 through the election of John P. O’Brien in 1932. Frequently its leadership was identical to the Executive Committee of the local Democratic party, and it was a major or controlling faction in the party in 1821-1872 and 1905-1932.

Key Tammany bosses through the years included William M. Tweed, Richard F. Croker, and Charles F. Murray. Tweed was convicted for stealing an amount estimated by an aldermen’s committee in 1877 at between $25 million and $45 million from New York City taxpayers through political corruption, although later estimates ranged as high as $200 million. Tammany Grand Sachems often left office as millionaires.
In 1931 the Hoffstadter Commission investigated Tammmany Corruption. Tammany’s man in Greenpoint, John McQuaid, had a half million dollars in a bank account that he could not explain in a time when the average worker might bring home fifty dollars a week.

North Brooklyn had two anti- Tammany candidates: Greenpoint’s Pete McGuinness and Willaimsburg’s Patrick McCarran.

How did the machine attract votes for so many generations when people knew how corrupt it was? Betty Smith depicts a conversation in her novel that shows why men voted for Tammany. Her protagonist, Francie Nolan, a child recalled election night. She got in line with her hands on the shoulders of the child in front of her and they snake danced through the streets singing

“ Tammany, Tammany,
Big Chief sits in his teepee,
Cheering braves to victory,
Tamma-nee, Tamma, nee. “

Smith described a typical conversation Brooklyn voters would have had about Tammany. Francie’s father Johnny was an Irish American Brooklyn Democrat who debated Tammany with his skeptical wife. She still could not vote at the turn of the century.

Johnny said” By and large the party does a lot of good for the people. ” All they want is a vote from the man of the family and look what they give him in exchange.” His wife asked what skeptically and he replied.” Well you need advice on a legal matter. You don’t go to a lawyer. Just ask your assemblyman. ‘

He added. “ They may be dumb in many ways, but they know the city’s statutes backwards and forwards.“

” Take Civil Service. They know when the examination for cops, firemen or letter carriers are coming up. They’ll always put a voter wise if interested.” The mother protested that one of the neighbors took the test without getting a job. Johnnie answered. “Ah That’s because he is a Republican. If he was a Democrat, they’d make his name and put it at the top of the list. I heard about a teacher who wanted to be transferred to another school. Tammany fixed it up.”

Johnny continued,. “Look at all the jobs they get for Voters.” You know how they get them, don’t you? They inspect a factory and overlook the fact that they’re violating the factory laws. Naturally, the boos pays back by letting them know when they need men and Tammany gets the credit for finding the jobs.”

Her father continued,” A man has relatives in the old country but he can’t get them over here on account of a lot of red tape. Well Tammany can fix that up.” “ Sure they get them foreigners here and see to it that they start in on their citizenship papers and then tell them that they must vote the democratic ticket or go back where they came from.”

Johnny finished up explaining how Tammany helped the poor.” No matter what you say Tammany is good to the poor people. Say a man’s been sick and can’t pay his rent. Do you think the organization would let the landlord dispossess him? No sir. Not if he is a Democrat.”

His wife replied” For what Tammany gives to the people it takes from them double. You wait until us women vote. You don’t believe we will. The day will come, mark my words. We’ll put all those crooked politicians where they belong- behind iron bars. “

The Dodger Sym-PHONY Band

It is hard for people like me who did not live in Brooklyn when the Dodgers played here to understand how Brooklynites loved them.The Dodgers left Brooklyn in 1957 and broke Brooklyn’s hearts. I met numerous people who told me that they could never follow any baseball team again, so hurt were they by the Dodgers’ departure.
The Dodgers were for many years little better than an average team, but Brooklyn loved them with a passion that is hard to describe. When the Dodgers played the players were not millionaires. Many of them had to work in the off season to make ends meet. The players lived in the community, shopping and praying in Brooklyn just like everyone else. I think part of the love that people in the community had for them was their ordinariness.

We bought our house from Vic La Magna who grew up in Greenpoint and worshipped the Dodgers. He explained to me as kids a large group of Greenpoint kids would ride their bikes to Ebbets field in Crown Heights to watch the Dodgers, but the thrill was waiting until after the game to see the Dodgers appear. The Dodgers in those years felt that it was a privilege to be paid to play a kids’ game and they had to give back to the community. Vic told me that the Dodgers would not only sign autographs, but would talk to the kids, offering them suggestions on how to master the finer points of the game. They might stay a half hour to forty five minutes, never letting a young fan not get an autograph.

A group of young men from Greenpoint and Williamsburg added to the unbelievable ambiance of the Dodgers. They were the SymPHONY
(Accent on the latter syllables) They were local musicians who were started a memorable band.

Old Dodger fans recall that Ebbets Field had a unique character, packed every day with the most enthusiastic and loyal fans a team could have. One of the standard sights and sounds in those games was the Dodger Sym-phony Band.

According to Lou Dallojacono, one of the band’s members, the band appeared at Ebbets fields every day from 1939 until the Dodgers left in ’57.

“The first year they wouldn’t let us in with our instruments, but we found ways of getting around it,” said Lou. “The first guy would pay and go in. He’d then throw down some twine and hoist the instruments one at a time up into the stands.

“When Branch Rickey took over, he saw how popular we were and began to let us in for free. He gave us our own row in section 8 (affectionately known as the “loco section”). There about 10 of us in the band and we’d rotate depending on the time of the game and who worked nights or days. We had a bass drum, cymbals, trumpet, sax, sometimes a trombone. The crowd loved us.

“We’d do what we could to rattle up the other team and have some fun. We’d play our little ditties, start-up chants or make some funny sounds with those instruments. We had a whole repertoire of songs too. We’d start with Take me out to the ball game. When our pitcher was taken out we’d play Who’s Sorry Now or Somebody Else is Taking My Place. When one of our guys got a base on balls, we’d break into Would you like to take a walk.

“We had a whole bunch of songs and routines, but I think we’re best known for the song we always played for the umps, Three Blind Mice.”
I think everyone knows that Dodger Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Maybe they do not know that his wife loved the Dodger Sym-Phony.

From a New York Times article
RACHEL ROBINSON heard from a familiar face on Sunday.

Earl Wilson/The New York Times
Rachel Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s widow, at KeySpan Park on Sunday.
“I remember him,” said Mrs. Robinson, pointing to Danny Wilson, whose 85-year-old eyes were peeking over a bouncing trumpet at KeySpan Park in Brooklyn minutes before the hometown Cyclones took the field.

Mr. Wilson is the longest-tenured active member of the Dodgers Sym-Phony — as in phony symphony — which has played on, and on, and on since first arriving at Ebbets Field in 1939 to lead a famously off-key chorus of cheers for its beloved Brooklyn Dodgers, who left New York for Los Angeles after the 1957 baseball season.

Mrs. Robinson, the 85-year-old widow of Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodger great, smiled as she watched Mr. Wilson play “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with a bunch of old friends: Arnie Mig, 85, on cymbals; Lou Mento, 82, on bass drum; Rex Sita, 77, on saxophone; and Nick Fiore 77, on trombone. Mr. Wilson drove the band to Sunday’s gig in his own van.

“That first year, Dodgers management did not want us at the ballpark,” Mr. Wilson recalled. “They felt we were a nuisance, but the players and the fans loved us, so we had to sneak into the ballpark. One guy paid the admission fee and lowered a rope over the side of the stadium, and we tied our instruments to the rope and had them hoisted up. Then we ran into the stands and started playing.”

Mr. Wilson, who now lives in Lynbrook, N.Y. — “that’s Brooklyn backwards,” he noted — is one of two living links to the original Sym-Phony. He was recruited as a 17-year-old fill-in by the band in 1939, serenading umpires with tunes like “Three Blind Mice” alongside original band members — all dead except for JoJo Delio, 87, who lives in a nursing home in Massapequa, N.Y.

“Over the years, as the original guys disappeared, we took their places,” said Mr. Fiore, who joined the Sym-Phony 30 years ago. “Danny and the rest of us are all trained musicians who performed with big bands, but we’re still proud to keep this great tradition alive.”

The band members, who now perform at gigs like old-timers’ stickball games and the grand openings of retail stores, were in Coney Island on Sunday to help celebrate two anniversaries: It has been 50 years since the Dodgers packed their duffel bags and left town, and 34 years since the creation of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which provides four-year college scholarships and mentoring to minority students.

“The Sym-Phony was one of the things people loved about Ebbets Field,” Mrs. Robinson said. “They provided a kind a special character and loving warmth that few other ballparks had, so I’d recognize them anywhere.”

James McCune Smith and Williamsburg

Few people know the story of James McCune Smith or of how he ended up in Williamsburg. Smith remains a surprisingly little-known pioneer in the struggle for professional and social equality for African Americans.
James McCune Smith was the first African American to earn a medical degree and practice medicine in the United States. He was also the first to own and operate a pharmacy, in New York City. Smith was born on April 18, 1813 in New York City to parents who were former slaves. New York’s Emancipation Act freed his father and his mother worked her way out of bondage. Smith began his education at the African Free School in New York City, but soon found he could go no further in U.S. education due to racial discrimination.

So Smith crossed the Atlantic and studied instead at the University of Glasgow, in Scotland, where racial prejudice was less oppressive. There, he received a bachelor’s degree in 1835, a master’s degree in 1836, and his medical degree in 1837.

When he returned to the United States, Smith received a hero’s welcome from New York’s black community. He told the gathering, “I have striven to obtain education, at every sacrifice and every hazard, and to apply such education to the good of our common country.” Soon after that, he gave a speech at the annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society, where he described abolitionist activities in Europe.

He began a medical practice in New York and opened a pharmacy on West Broadway. It is said to be the first African American owned and operated pharmacy in the United States.

He did not forget the plight of his people. Smith was involved in many charitable endeavors and his intelligence, integrity, and lifelong commitment to abolitionism brought him state and national recognition. As a member of the Committee of Thirteen, he helped organize local resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

Smith favored integration but understood the practical and symbolic importance of separate Black institutions, organizations, and initiatives. He called for an independent Black press and worked with Frederick Douglass in the 1850’s to establish the first permanent Black organization, The National Council of the Colored People. His writings on colonization and Black emigration in the 1840’s and 1850’s and on Reconstruction in the 1860’s were insightful observations on racial identity and the future of African Americans.

Some of Smith’s published essays include, A Lecture on the Haitian Revolution, 1841 and The Destiny of the People of Color, 1843. His sophistication and community leadership often resulted is his name being brought up as a benchmark for Black intellect and achievement.

Unfortunately Smith experienced one of the ugliest incidents in the history of New York City. The Draft Riots of 1863. Initially, the riots were directed against the government draft of men into the union army, but they quickly devolved into an ugly series of anti-African American pogroms. Dozens of African Americans were lynched. During the riots, landlords had driven blacks from their residences, as they feared their buildings being destroyed. The Colored Orphanage of which Smith was Chief Physician was burned. Smith in fear and disgust came to Williamsburg where the then heavily German population protected African Americans.

He established a home at 162 South 3rd Street, between Roebling and Havemeyer Streets. He also helped found at 270 Union Avenue
a school for African American students, which was led by the black community itself. The school, the African Free School in Williamsburg, later renamed Colored School No. 3, opened in 1841, is the only one of three pre-civil war colored schools still standing.

James Smith died on November 17, 1865.

James Forten African American Revolutionary War Patriot and Successful Entrepreneur

The biography of James Forten is one of my favorites. Forten was an amazing man who defies stereotyping. His unusual, but wonderful story should be better known.

Few People know that the largest loss of life in the American Revolution was not in battle. It was in the prisons of New York city where between ten thousand to eleven thousand American patriots lost their lives. The British could have set up prison camps in Brooklyn. Instead they chose to bring over ships that were no longer seaworthy and use them as floating prisons.
The worst of these prison ships was the H.M.S. Jersey.Like the other prison ships she was moored off shore in Wallabout Bay, which would later become the home of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

A dozen British ships were used as floating prisons. Meserole was on the most notorious ship, the Jersey, an old unseaworthy ship originally brought to America as a hospital ship, but was subsequently used as a prison and quickly became infamous for the harsh conditions on board, with thousands of men crammed below decks where there was no natural light, little fresh air and few provisions for the sick and hungry. Conditions were ideal for the spread of contagious disease and eight prisoners died each day on average, with the numbers becoming higher in winter when the prisoners were exposed to the extreme cold weather. It is estimated some 11,000 prisoners died aboard the prison ships over the course of the war, many from disease or malnutrition, but no one knows the exact number. The Jersey earned the nickname “Hell” for its inhumane conditions and the obscenely high death rate of its prisoners. Far fewer patriots would have died had the British built their jails on land. There was ample land right next to the ships, but the ships were harder to escape from, so thousands perished needlessly. The imprisonment of the Americans was considered a British war crime and two American Loyalists who commanded the prison ships were hanged in retribution after the revolution.

One of the prisoners described the conditions he first encountered on the Jersey.” Men, who, shrunken and decayed as they stood around him, had been, but a short time before, as strong, as healthful and as vigorous as himself. Men, who had breathed the pure breezes of the ocean, or danced lightly in the flower-scented air of the meadow and the hill; and had from thence been hurried into the pent-up air of a crowded prison-ship, pregnant with putrid fever, foul with deadly contagion; here to linger out the tedious and weary day, the disturbed and anxious night; to count over the days and weeks and months of a wearying and degrading captivity, unvaried but by new scenes of painful suffering, and new inflictions of remorseless cruelty: their brightest hope and their daily prayer, that death would not long delay to release them from their torments.”

One of the prisoners on the ship was an extraordinary African-American teenager James Forten. James Forten was born free in 1766 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of two children of Thomas and Margaret Forten (or Fortune). Thomas Forten was the grandson of a slave who had “freed himself.” After his father died young, James Forten started working at age seven to help out his mother and sister, first as a chimney sweep and then as a grocery-store clerk. He also attended the African School, run by Quaker abolitionist Anthony Benezet, which was founded to educate for free black children. His mother insisted that he continue in school. By age nine, Forten left school to work full-time. His early years of work became a measure for progress in his life and career.

At the age of 14, during the Revolutionary War, Forten served on the privateer Royal Louis, commanded by Captain Stephen Decatur, Sr. The ship was captured by British forces and he was at risk of being enslaved. As Captain John Beazley, who had taken the privateer, was impressed with the boy, he secured his being treated as a regular prisoner of war. Beazley offered to send Forten to England to be educated provided that he swear loyalty to the Crown. Forten amazingly refused. ( If I were a teenage African-American I do not know if I would pass up such an offer) Forten told the captain that he was a loyal American.

Forten was fortunate as he was exchanged after seven months’ imprisonment, and released on parole and his promise not to fight in the war. He walked from Brooklyn to Philadelphia to return to his mother and sister. He signed up on a merchant ship, which sailed to England. He lived and worked there for more than a year in a London shipyard.

When James Forten returned to Philadelphia in 1786, he became apprenticed to sail-maker Robert Bridges, his father’s former employer and a family friend. Forten learned quickly in the sail loft. This was where the large ship sails were cut and sewn. Before long, the young man was promoted to foreman. At Bridges’ retirement in 1798, Forten bought the loft. By developing a tool to help maneuver the large sails, by 1810 Forten had built up one of the most successful sail lofts in Philadelphia. He created the conditions he worked for in society, employing both black and white workers. Because of his business acumen, Forten became one of the wealthiest Philadelphians in the city, black or white.

Having become well established, in his 40s Forten devoted both time and money to working for the national abolition of slavery and gaining civil rights for blacks. They were severely discriminated against in Pennsylvania and the North, and generally could not vote or serve on juries. He felt a sense of obligation to work on these issues of his community. “…in 1801, he was among the signers of a petition to the U.S. Congress calling for the abolition of the slave trade and the modification of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793.”

In 1813 he wrote a pamphlet called “Letters From A Man of Colour,” published anonymously. He denounced a bill under consideration in the Pennsylvania legislature that required all black emigrants to Pennsylvania to be registered with the state, and protested treating free blacks any differently than whites. Some legislators worried about the number of free blacks who migrated into the state, competing with white laborers. In addition, they knew fugitive slaves often used Pennsylvania as a destination or byway to other free areas, as it was bordered by slave states to the south.

Forten believed the bill was a step backward for black Pennsylvanians. In his “Letters,” Forten argued that the bill would violate the rights of any free blacks entering the state and set the people apart as somehow not equal to whites. Forten wanted the many respectable citizens of the black community to be recognized and valued. In the end, the bill was not passed, and James Forten became known for his succinct and passionate pamphlet

Forten had supported Paul Cuffee, a Boston shipbuilder, who in 1815 transported 38 free blacks to Sierra Leone, with the idea they could make a better life where not impeded by white racism. He was well aware of continuing problems due to harsh discrimination against blacks in the United States.

To address community concerns and discuss the potential for colonization, James Forten worked with Bishop Richard Allen of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first independent black denomination in the United States; Absalom Jones, and James Gloucester to organize a meeting on Resettlement in Philadelphia. The meeting in January 1817 a drew 3,000 attendees from Philadelphia. Hearing the strong views of this public forced a dramatic turning point for these leaders. By this time, most free blacks and slaves had been born in the United States and claimed it as their own.

At the meeting, Forten called for a vote, asking who favored colonization. Not one man said yes. When he asked who was against it, the crowd resounded with “No!” that made the hall ring with cheers. All claimed the US as their own, and wanted to gain their full civil rights there as citizens. After that meeting, Forten and the ministers strongly opposed the African colonization and Forten later converted William Lloyd Garrison, a younger white abolitionist from Boston, against the colonization schemes. Following the January meeting, Forten helped draft a Resolution of the sense of the public, which he and other leaders sent to the Pennsylvania congressional delegation. In August they published a longer “Address to the Inhabitants of the City and County of Philadelphia,” which attacked colonization.

He absorbed his community’s arguments and noted that most American blacks had been in the United States for many generations and had claim to it as their land. Although the ACS advertised Liberia as a place of opportunity for free blacks, the colony struggled to survive and many colonists died of disease. There were risks of re-enslavement by illegal slave traders and relations with native Africans were hostile. Forten helped William Lloyd Garrison start up his newspaper, The Liberator, in 1831, supporting it financially. He frequently published letters in it, as “A Colored Man of Philadelphia.” Garrison also wrote articles against colonization, describing the poor living conditions in Liberia.


Streetcars were once the means Greenpointers used to travel to the other parts of Brooklyn. The lady who owned our house before us was a young first generation Italian-AMerican girl whose mother was illiterate. The mother asked her daughter to help her make out the letters on the Lorimer Street Line, which she took to shop downtown
The Greenpoint and Lorimer Street Railroad was incorporated on November 6, 188 to operate along the New Williamsburgh and Flatbush Railroad (Nostrand Avenue Line) from the Broadway Ferry in Williamsburg southeast to Lorimer Street, and then north on Lorimer Street, east on Driggs Avenue, north on Manhattan Avenue, west on Meserole Avenue, north on Franklin Street, and west on Greenpoint Avenue to the Greenpoint Ferry; southbound cars would use Nassau Avenue to Lorimer Street. In addition to the NW&F, this route used the tracks of several other companies: the Brooklyn Crosstown Railroad’s Crosstown Line on Driggs Avenue and Manhattan Avenue, the Brooklyn City Rail Road’s Greenpoint Line on Franklin Street, and the Bushwick Railroad’s Bushwick Avenue Line on Greenpoint Avenue. The NW&F soon leased the G&LS, and Lorimer Street cars were sent south on the Nostrand Avenue Line to Prospect Park. In July 1889 the Brooklyn City Rail Road leased them both and rerouted all cars but one per day (to preserve the charter) from Meserole Avenue to Greenpoint Avenue.

Beginning May 30, 1896, the Lorimer Street Line was extended southeast from Prospect Park along the Flatbush Avenue Line and new Bergen Beach Line to Bergen Beach during the summer season.[6][7] At some point, the line was extended to Park Circle via Ocean Avenue and Parkside Avenue.
At the end of World War II street cars were considered outdated and people were meant to travel by cars. The lines were hearing their death knell. When the Franklin Avenue Line was discontinued on October 28, 1945, Lorimer Street cars were rerouted to cut west on the Flushing Avenue Line and south on Franklin Avenue to Prospect Park. The north end was rerouted to absorb the Nassau Avenue Line east of Manhattan Avenue, ending near Newtown Creek, when that line was discontinued the same day.[citation needed] Buses replaced streetcars on December 14, 1947,

There is now a proposition to bring back the cars,but to run them along the poorly served waterfront streets. I think it makes perfect sense for waterfront areas like Greenpoint.


McAllister Tug Boat Company


One of the major tug boat companies on the East Coast is the McAllister Tug Boat firm founded in Greenpoint.
The story began in 1864 when James McAllister left Cushendall, County Antrim, to come to New York, then the largest Irish city in the world. His brothers Daniel and William soon joined him. Along with many other Irish families, such as the Morans, they found their calling in the water traffic of New York Harbor. Indeed there were so many tug boats in New York Harbor, they were known collectively as the Irish Navy. James began with a single-sail lighter (a vessel that moves cargo between pier and ship) and called it Greenpoint Lighterage Company after the Brooklyn neighborhood where he had settled. Expanding into towing, McAllister’s first tug boat began operating in 1876 while the Brooklyn Bridge was being built.

James had four sons and six daughters in his first marriage and all the sons grew up working in the business, along with an assortment of cousins and other relatives. One day in 1899, his oldest son, James P. (known as Captain Jim) stormed out of Greenpoint Lighterage to go into business for himself around the corner from his father and uncles, but the family soon reunited to form McAllister Brothers and move to new offices at South Street along Manhattan’s East River waterfront. In 1909 they acquired the Starin fleet of excursion steamboats with regular runs to Coney Island, the Statue of Liberty and Bear Mountain. When James died in 1916 he left the towing and lighter business to his sons from his first marriage and the steamboat business to his two brothers. After James’s first wife died, he remarried and had three more children, though none of them became involved in the business.

Captain Jim, who was Brian’s grandfather, was always finding ways to promote the company and in 1914 offered the tug JP McAllister to Harry Houdini. The famous escape artist had himself handcuffed and sealed into a packing case and tossed into the harbor near the Battery. Miraculously, a few minutes later, he surfaced, free of the packing crate and his handcuffs.

During World War I, Captain Jim fitted out tugs for crossing the Atlantic during the war and was put in charge of the United States Army’s floating equipment. ( During World War II, McAllister transported all the Army’s explosives through New York Harbor.)