Tom Hyer was born on January 1, 1819. His father was a prizefighter and Tom grew up to be a fine specimen of a man: 6 feet 2 and one-half inches, 190 pounds.
Looks like Hyer was in pretty good shape, assuming the reliability of this image.
In addition to his size, Hyer had the mentality and the heart for fighting. By the time he reached his early 20s, he was a bare-knuckle fighter. His first fight, in September of 1841, lasted 101 rounds and 2 hours and 55 minutes. Wow! That must have been quite exhausting. Hyer beat Country McCloskey that date and claimed the Heavyweight Championship of America.
This print of the Tom Hyer/Yankee Sullivan fight was published in the New York Illustrated Times of February 9, 1884
On February 7, 1849, Hyer was scheduled to fight Yankee Sullivan in Rock Point, Maryland. This was something of a return match; Hyer and Yankee Sullivan had fought it out just a year earlier in a New York City barroom. But prize-fighting was illegal at the time, so Hyer, Yankee Sullivan, and several hundred spectators fled ahead of the local authorities to Still Pond Creek, where a ring was quickly erected and, after 17 minutes and 18 seconds, Hyer bested his opponent. Here’s a print of the fight which I recently purchased for The Green-Wood Historic Fund’s Collections.
And this is the account of the end of the fight that appeared in The New York Herald:
“Fifteenth Round – Sullivan was rather slow in getting up at the call of time, and had barely reached the score when he was met by Hyer, who, with tremendous force, let fly both hands in rapid succession, both taking effect on Sullivan’s face. He then rushed in, seized Sullivan, forced him to the ropes, and after a struggle threw him heavily and fell on him, when he again injured him so much that, by the time Hyer was taken away, Sullivan was nearly suffocated; and, on being lifted to his feet, was so weak that he fell back against the ropes. His brother and another person then took him from the ring, claiming foul, and this, put an end to the fight. The referee, however, decided that Hyer had won the fight.
This Lorillard's Mechanics Delight Boxing Card dates from the 1880s.
The fight lasted about sixteen minutes, and was one of the fiercest and most desperate encounters ever witnessed. As soon as Sullivan left the ring, Hyer walked over to one of Sullivan’s seconds and struck him a blow on the head; but a revolver being presented to his head, he desisted from further aggression. The parties, as soon as possible, returned to their respective vessels, got on board, and made for the safest place to avoid arrest, all hands being apprehensive of the event.”
Though Hyer challenged several men who held the title of the Heavyweight Champion of England, he was never able to arrange to fight them. He retired from the ring in 1851 and relinquished his title. Hyer challenged John Morrissey to a fight in 1854, but Morrissey apparently was sloppy with his calendaring and forgot to show up. Hyer had a few barroom fights in the ensuing years, died in 1864, and was interred in his family lot at Green-Wood Cemetery.
We have an event planned for Green-Wood this Saturday, commemorating the Valentine’s Day of 1884, when, tragically, both Theodore Roosevelt’s wife, Alice (pictured above, with Theodore as a young man), and mother, Martha (shown here), died of disease. Roosevelt, a New York State Assemblyman at the time, was crushed. In fact, he wrote in his diary, “When my heart’s dearest died, the light went out of my life for ever.” Though he tried to carry on, he could not, and fled to the Dakotas to recover. This was a time that crucially shaped the man who would become, less than twenty years later, president of the United States.
President Roosevelt's father Theodore
On Saturday, author Patricia O’Toole wil speak about Roosevelt and then I will lead a trolley tour of Green-Wood, focusing on the Roosevelts, many of whom are interred at Green-Wood. Though President Theodore Roosevelt is interred in a cemetery in Oyster Bay on Long Island, near his summer White House, Sagamore Hill, his wife Alice, his mother Martha, his father Theodore (shown here), his uncle Robert, his grandfather Cornelius, and several other relatives, are all interred in the Roosevelt family lot at Green-Wood.
As I planned Saturday’s tour earlier this week, it had occurred to me that the snow on the ground would create a real problem for the group to walk around the lot. So, I had asked our superintendent of the grounds, Art Presson, if he might have his men do some shoveling there.
I’ve been out to that lot many times. But I wanted to go out again yesterday to refresh my recollection of what and who is there. Well, when I got out to the lot yesterday, I really was amazed: what a cleanup job! Here’s a photograph of the lot directly across the street from there.
Quite a covering of snow! And here’s the Roosevelt lot as it looked yesterday. Wouldn’t we all love to have these cemetery workers available to clean our walks and driveways? Beautifully done!
If you’d like to join us on Saturday, click here for more information about the day’s events.
Celebrating February birthdays are Green-Wood’s permanent residents:
February 3, 1811: Horace Greeley was the founder and editor of the New York Tribune which boasted the largest national circulation of any newspaper in the United States in the mid-19th-century. A political and social activist, he advocated many causes, including workers’ and women’s rights, manifest destiny and the abolition of slavery and capital punishment. Perhaps best known for the phrase “go west young, man,” the words were printed in a Tribune editorial on July 13, 1865. He served in Congress and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate and for president (resoundingly defeated by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872). He died in 1872.
February 12, 1791: Peter Cooper, born on Little Dock Street in New York City, was an inventor and philanthropist. He financed The Cooper Union in Manhattan, a unique free trade school for men and women offering courses in science, engineering, and art. He also designed and built the Tom Thumb, the first American-constructed locomotive that was able to handle the country’s rough terrain and made our railroads practical. He died in 1883.
February 15, 1812: Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of Tiffany & Company, came to New York in 1837 from Connecticut with $1,000 that he borrowed from his father. He established a “bric-a-brac” and stationery store on Broadway near City Hall. After a slow start – with only $4.98 in sales during his first three days in business – Tiffany & Company soon became synonymous with fashionable shopping for jewelry, silver, glass and porcelain. Tiffany’s remains, today, one of the greatest jewelry firms in America. He died in 1902.
February 18, 1848: Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, was an extraordinary American artist whose greatest and lasting legacy is his pioneering work in stained glass. He excelled in many fields: painting, interior design (he decorated the White House for President Chester A. Arthur); art glass, mosaics and jewelry. One of the first artists to use electric lights in his work, he is renowned for Tiffany lamps, whose shades were constructed with scraps of glass left over from Tiffany windows. He died in 1933.
Louis Comfort Tiffany
Charles Louis Tiffany
February 3, 1862: George Tilyou is best known as Coney Island’s master promoter and founder of Steeplechase Park. An entrepreneur at the ripe old age of 17, George published a newspaper to promote his real estate business and wrote, “If Paris is France, then Coney Island, between June and September, is the world.” Inspired by the 1892 Chicago World Exposition, Tilyou opened his first amusement place – the wildly popular Steeplechase Park – in 1897. It burned to the ground in 1907; was rebuilt in nine months; and remained in operation until 1964. He died on November 30, 1914.
February 15, 1797: Born in Germany, Henry Engelhard Steinway immigrated to New York City with his family in 1851. A skilled piano maker, he began his own piano manufacturing business and by the mid 1860’s Steinway & Company had become the leading piano manufacturer in America. The Steinway mausoleum, designed by John Moffitt and built in the 1870’s, is Green-Wood largest with room for 256 interments. Steinway died on February 7,1871.
February 17, 1821 or 1824: Lola Montez – one of the great personalities of the 19th-century – was born as Marie Delores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert in County Limerick, Ireland. Raised in Scotland and educated in Bath and Paris, she eloped at the age of 15 with a British army lieutenant to avoid an arranged marriage with a much older man. A year later, she left her husband and began dancing in Paris. Famous for her provocative and “immoral” Spider Dance, Montez’s affairs with Czar Nicholas I, Franz Liszt, Honore de Balzac and Alexandre Dumas (father and son) were legendary. Another paramour, Kind Ludwig of Bavaria, built a castle in her honor and anointed her a baroness. She served as the King’s chief political adviser until an armed revolt against her power and influence caused his abdication in 1848. After marrying yet another British Army officer while still married, she was prosecuted for bigamy. She fled to Spain, and then New York, where she ultimately turned to religion in 1856 and died in poverty in 1861.
Also of note are:
February 3, 1828: Charlotte Canda, daughter of Charles Canda, who fought as an officer in Napoleon’s army, was killed in a carriage accident on the corner of Waverly Place and Broadway on her seventeenth birthday in 1845. She died in the arms of her father.
February 3, 1926: Richard Yates, born in Yonkers, New York, was a novelist and author of “Revolutionary Road.” He died November 7, 1992 in Alabama.
February 25, 1809: During the early years of the Civil War, General George Washington Cullum was a brigadier general. He also served as chief of staff to General Henry Wager Halleck, General-in-Chief of the Armies. When Halleck died, Cullum married Halleck’s widow. Cullum retired from active service in 1874 and died in 1892.
February 21, 1812: George N. Sanders was a Confederate agent implicated in Lincoln’s assassination. He spread the story that Booth was a crazy man who acted on his own. He died in 1873.
Thanks to Colleen Roche and Kim Esp for their work on this.