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Walt Whitman to the Editors of The Daily Crescent, 7 January 1849

The weather here still continues excessively cold—the earth being covered with snow and ice, from an inch to six inches thick. Day and night we are saluted by merry sleigh-bells, all along the streets. The omnibuses vie with each other in the gayety and flitter of their turn-outs, and it is one of the sights worth looking at, to stand on the side-walk and see them pass along. Not even the private vehicles, sleigh-fashion, rich as some of their caparisonings are, can compete with those same omnibuses. With their superb white horses—the rims of the dash-boards arching over like the necks of serpents—and from twenty to a hundred ladies and gents "inside"—you may imagine what a show they present!

Just after dark sets in, Broadway presents the appearance of an illuminated carnival—even the fancy dresses are made up by the grotesque look of many of the sleighs. Outredom seems ransacked to furnish patterns for the "fancy" to put on runners. I have noticed several sea-serpents, a mer-maid or two and dolphins are quite common.

We are much concerned at the sad accounts from New Orleans respecting the cholera.1 It is, however, the confident supposition that before this date, this disease must have subsided, if not left you entirely. Thousands of anxious hearts listen here with eager interest to each successive instalment of the news on this melancholy matter.

In our neighborhood—the Quarantine station at Staten Island—no cases of the cholera occurred during Thursday and Friday last, and the Health Officer has ceased making any reports. Not the least alarm is felt here on the subject. Next summer I fear it will be a different affair; but let next summer take care of itself.

Ice begins to make its appearance in the East river, floating along in "pretty considerable" masses, too, at times. Some of the weather-wise predict a continuation of the severe cold, and, as a natural consequence, a hard winter. Heaven knows, if the weather lasts like it has been for the past week, the coal-yards and the provision-dealers will haul in lots of money. All work for out-of-door mechanics has completely stopped; immense rows of buildings in the "burnt district"2 of Brooklyn having been embargoed in the suddenest manner possible. And oh! what noses you may see, early in the morning, at the street corners!



  • 1. Cholera is a bacterial infection of the small intestine that is spread through contaminated water. Cholera causes severe dehydration and diarrhea. [back]
  • 2. On Saturday, September 9, 1848, at night, a fire broke out in a furniture store on Fulton Street in New York. The fire spread quickly to the wooden buildings nearby, all of which were dry as the result of a long drought. It was six hours before the fire could be stopped. During that time, the fire burned approximately eight city blocks and destroyed about two hundred buildings in the densely populated area in the vicinity of Fulton and Nassau Streets ("The Doings of a Night," The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 11, 1848, 2). [back]
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