Thomas Bethune – the most famous man on earth at the turn of the century.

Having performed concerts on both sides of the Atlantic, invited by kings and queens to entertain in court, Thomas Bethune (aka Blind Tom) was more famous than President Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass.

More 19th century celebrities:

19th century celebrities in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery

, NY Historic Places Examiner

April 28, 2010 –

Green-Wood’s 19th century chapel (photo by Kat Long)

Green-Wood Cemetery, in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, encompasses 478 acres of rolling hills, winding trails, quiet ponds and the finest collection of 19th century monuments and mausoleums in America. Its thousands of permanent residents include famous politicians, clergymen, artists, military leaders, industrial tycoons, composers and journalists — as well as a motley group of 19th century celebrities, scoundrels and criminals.

When Green-Wood opened in 1838 as an English-style rural cemetery, New York’s leading citizens rushed to buy lots. Families competed to erect more costly and magnificent memorials to their dearly departed, while controversial characters like corrupt Tammany Hall honcho William Marcy “Boss” Tweed sought to burnish their legacy with plots in the best locations.

Grand memorials became magnets for mourners and sightseers. The New York Times noted in an 1868 article that the white marble Gothic Revival monument for Charlotte Canda, a 17-year-old girl killed in a tragic carriage accident in 1845, was the most-visited in the cemetery. By the late 19th century Green-Wood had become one of Brooklyn’s biggest tourist attractions, with dozens of ornate monuments representing the grandiosity of the Gilded Age.

Green-Wood is the final resting place of such 19th century celebrities as:

  • New York Tribune publisher Horace Greeley and his rival, New York Herald publisher James Gordon Bennett, Sr.
  • Prominent social reformer and preacher Henry Ward Beecher and his mistress Elizabeth Tilton, with whom he had an adulterous affair resulting in the scandal of the 19th century
  • William “Bill the Butcher” Poole, gang leader celebrated in Martin Scorsese’s film Gangs of New York
  • Lola Montez, notorious dancer and courtesan, whose tombstone reveals her real name (“Mrs. Eliza Gilbert, died Jan. 17, 1861”).

Green-Wood was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006. See why Green-Wood deserves that recognition with a two-hour narrated trolley tour of its 19th century architecture, natural environment and permanent residents. Green-Wood Historic Fund sponsors the tours, which leave every Wednesday from inside the main entrance at 25th Street and 5th Avenue. Check out the organization’s website for reservations, tickets ($15 per person) and more information.

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