Smart advice from an 1871 New York travel guide

RedfieldsinsideTourists have always been easy prey for the city’s criminals.

“A stranger who visits a metropolitan city for the first time naturally feels no little anxiety as to how he shall avoid being surrounded by the land-sharks who will beset him on his arrival and dog his footsteps in the city if he should manifest the least evidence of being a stranger,” explains Redfield’s Traveler’s Guide to the City of New York, published in 1871.

Which is why Redfield’s, put out by a Fulton Street publisher who also produced collections by Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman, laid out some warnings.

First, no playing cards for cash. Euchre, like faro and poker, was apparently a popular card game at illegal gambling dens as well as a type of dive bar known as a “free and easy.”


The pickpocket warning above came at the right time. The 19th century city was overrun by pickpockets, many working in gangs composed of women or kids and targeting tourists on crowded street cars.


Exchanging bills for checks or gold? That sounds like the unsophisticated 19th century version of the Nigerian email scam.


I’m surprised taxi drivers in the 1870s actually had licenses displayed in their carriages—the way today’s cabbies are supposed to have their ID and photo in the sleeve behind the driver’s seat.


Finally, don’t ask random street folks for information or directions—look for a cop instead, never mind that the 1870s was an especially corrupt time in New York City police history, with the department in the pocket of Tammany Hall.

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One Response to “Smart advice from an 1871 New York travel guide”

  1. Rich T Says:

    xi B, buy a memorandum book.

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