The hottest concert draw in the city in 1850

Linsanity has nothing on Lind-mania, the word the press coined for the fervor surrounding Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind’s visit to New York City in September 1850.

A plain-looking 30-year-old who lived in London, Jenny and her beautiful voice wowed Europe in the late 1840s.

P.T. Barnum was visiting London when he heard about Jenny. He struck a deal with her to bring her to America for a 150-city tour.

Her first stop was New York. No one in the U.S. had heard her sing, but 30,000 people greeted her ship as it docked in New York Harbor.

Her first of six city concerts planned for Castle Garden, in Battery Park, was held on September 11. Tickets went for up to $650 a seat—quite a lot in 1850.

The Swedish Nightingale blew away the crowd. “Never in New York City had a singer so captured an audience as Jenny Lind did on that September evening,” writes Fran Capo, coauthor of It Happened in New York City.

“When the performance finally drew to a close, the applause was tumultuous. The audience did not want her to leave the stage. Jenny simply remained silent with her arms across her chest, bowing in acceptance for the admiration shown by the crowd of New Yorkers.”

Jenny and Barnum raked in profits. Jenny gave much of hers away.

“She donated her share of the proceeds from two of her concerts to twelve different New York City charitable organizations, with the lion’s share going to the New York City Fire Department to help support widows and orphans,” says Capo.

History recalls her as a gifted singer and giving woman. Too bad she died before her voice could be recorded.

[Top: Jenny sits for a Mathew Brady portrait; right: a Currier lithograph of her opening night at Castle Garden]

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One Response to “The hottest concert draw in the city in 1850”

  1. A little girl’s diary sheds light on the 1849 city | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Like all super-aware city kids, she knows all the leading attractions. She visits Vauxhall Gardens, mentions a wax figure at Barnum’s Museum, and remembers how moved her father was when he saw Jenny Lind sing at Castle Garden. […]

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