George Downing, abolitionist and activist

George T. Downing (1819-1903) was an abolitionist and activist for African-American civil rights. From the 1830s until the end of slavery, Downing was active in the abolitionist movement and in the Underground Railroad, with his restaurant serving as a rest house. During the American Civil War, Downing helped recruit African American soldiers. Downing’s grandparents were former slaves. He attended one of the first free African schools in New York City and went on to Hamilton College. In 1842, Downing started a catering business in Manhattan. His work brought him in touch with many of the elites of the city, including the… Read More

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Jonathan H. Green, inventor, writer, reformer

Jonathan Harrington Green (1813–1887) was an American gambler, inventor, writer and later reformer of illegal gambling. In his youth, he was a skilled card player who left gambling in 1842, he became an active crusader against illegal gambling. He was responsible for enacting anti-gambling laws in several states. Green was born in Ohio, but traveled the country, including Mississippi river boats, gambling in his younger days. After leaving gambling, he became a general executive agent of the New York Association for the Suppression of Gambling and, between 1850–51, conducted an exhaustive investigation on illegal gambling operations in New York City. He presented his findings astonishing report… Read More

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Franz Sigel, military commander

Franz Sigel (November 18, 1824 – August 21, 1902) was a military officer, revolutionist and German immigrant to the United States who was a teacher, newspaperman, politician, and served as a Union major general in the Civil War. He was able recruit German-speaking immigrants to the Union armies, greatly appreciated by President Abraham Lincoln. Sigel served in the German military for many years, he became Secretary of War and commander-in-chief of the revolutionary republican government of Baden and was wounded during battle. He immigrated to New York in 1852 along with many others from his corp. He taught in the New York Public schools, but eventually moved to St. Louis to… Read More

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Eliphalet Williams Bliss, manufacturer, inventor

Eliphalet Williams Bliss (April 12, 1836 – July 21, 1903) was a manufacturer and inventor who established the E. W. Bliss Company of Brooklyn. His company supplied the US Navy with Whitehead and Bliss-Leavitt torpedoes, as well as projectiles for its naval guns during the Spanish–American War, World War I and World War II. He was born in NY and attended public school. Eventually he moved to Connecticut to work at a gun factory. After fighting in the Civil War, he married and moved back to Brooklyn where he worked for a printing company. In 1867, Bliss founded the machine… Read More

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Sydney Howard Gay, attorney, journalist and abolitionist

Sydney Howard Gay (1814–1888) was an American attorney, journalist and abolitionist who was active in New York City. Beginning in 1843, he was editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard for 14 years. His offices became a stop of the Underground Railroad, and he became very active in collaborating with others to help fugitive slaves reach freedom. Gay worked closely with free black Louis Napoleon, and for about two years kept a detailed record of the approximately 200 men he and Napoleon aided in what is known as the Record of Fugitives. Later records discovered put the number of people assisted… Read More

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Joseph Howard Jr. – “journalist”, forger

Joseph Howard Jr. (June 3, 1833 – March 31, 1908) was an American journalist, war correspondent, publicist and newspaperman. He was one of the top reporters for The New York Times, city editor of the Brooklyn Eagle and longtime president of the New York Press Club. During the Civil War, Mr. Howard forged a conscription document saying President Lincoln was calling up an additional 400,000 men. That eventually caused the temporary artificial inflation of the gold market in NYC, allowing him to make a huge profit on his holdings in a very short period of time. He was arrested for… Read More

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