February 7, 1998


In its article on the word eponymous, that which gives a name to anything, the Encyclopedia Britannica refers to cases where "a country or a city has been named after a real personage." In 1789 it was fairly obvious that Nathaniel Rochester was not interested in becoming an eponym. The Hagerstown buisnessman was involved in constructing a mansion-Mount Prospect-in Maryland. He may have needed larger quarters, because on January 29th, Sophie Rochester gave birth to a son, William. The infant would grow up to become a politician and a judge. One day he would literally vanish from history, but that's another story.

Most of the young nation focused its attention on downstate New York this year, where it's government was being forged. On February 4th George Washington was elected as the first President of the United States, with John Adams the first Vice-President. One month later the First Constitutional Congress met in New York City. Though lacking a quorum, they decared the U. S. Constitution to be in effect. The House achieved a quorum on April 1st, and elected Frederick Augustus Muhlenburg as speaker. The Senate officially assembled on the 6th, counted election results and notified the two leaders of their election. Adams arrived fifteen days later, took his oath and began presiding over the Senate. Washington arrived on the 23rd and was sworn in a week later, standing on the front steps of Federal Hall. His statue stands there today, looking over the New York Stock Exchange, like the good businessman he was.

There were federal departments to create, shipping and customs to regulate, revenues to raise, an inaugural ball to plan. Appointments had to be made-Henry Knox at the War Department, Alexander Hamilton at Treasury, Edmund Randolph to become Attorney General. Thomas Jefferson, the new Secretary of State, had to be brought home from the tinderbox of France.

The rest of the city went about city business. While state Attorny General Richard Varick was becoming mayor, the siren song of power prompted new alliances. A Republican political club, the Society of St. Tammany, was formed. John Jacob Astor bought his first piece of real estate, on the Bowery Road. And an English textile worker named Samuel Slater arrived in the city. In his head Slater carried the closely-guarded mechanical secrets of British textile mills. He would move on to New England and found the U. S. cotton industry.

North of Albany, Gideon Putnam settled the area soon to be Saratoga Springs. Settlements were also founded at Corning and Ithaca. And further west, Oliver Phelps opened the first U. S. land office, in Canandaigua. Sales got under way.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.


© 1998 David Minor / Eagles Byte