"Was it not a rum disaster, after all, at Spuyten Duyvil?"

February 4, 1882

Thomas Nast

"Was it not a rum disaster, after all, at Spuyten Duyvil?"

Alcohol; Business, Railroads; New York City, Transportation; Public Safety; Transportation, Railroads;

No 'People' indexed for this cartoon.

New York City;

No caption

This cartoon by Thomas Nast pinpoints the use of alcohol by passengers aboard the Hudson River Railway as the cause of a fatal train wreck at Spuyten Duyvil in New York City.

The train originated in Albany, New York, and included several state legislators and other state government officials.  Testimony by the conductor and others alleged that there was much drinking and revelry by the passengers.  It was suggested that one of the inebriated passengers had pulled the air-brake, forcing the train to stop and causing another train to crash into it. 

Through the cartoon's imagery and caption, artist Nast seems to place the blame squarely on the passengers' excessive use of alcohol. On the other hand, Harper's Weekly editor George William Curtis agreed with the coroner's jury that the Hudson River Railroad Company and its employees were negligent.  In a February 4 editorial, Curtis labeled the train wreck as a "massacre" and "slaughter" with unnecessary loss of life.  He condemned the railroad company for allowing the air-brake cord to be "accessible, like the bell cord, to every passenger," and for failing to establish a "proper system of precaution."  As he had been doing for almost twenty years, Curtis pleaded with the state legislature to enact sensible safety regulations for public transportation. 

Robert C. Kennedy

"Was it not a rum disaster, after all, at Spuyten Duyvil?"
June 17, 2024

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