The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz

Date: September 12, 1850

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The New York Tribune September 12, 1850

P. T. Barnum Presents Jenny Lind


[New York Tribune, September 12, 1850]

Jenny Lind’s first concert is over, and all doubts are at an end. She is the greatest singer we have ever heard, and her success is all that was anticipated from her genius and her fame. As this is something of an era in our history of Art, we give a detailed account of all that took place on the occasion.

All the preparatory arrangements for the Concert were made with great care, and from the admirable system observed, none of the usual disagreeable features of such an event were experienced. Outside of the gate there was a double row of Policemen extending up the main avenue to the Battery grounds. Carriages only were permitted to drive up to the gate from the Whitehall side, and pass off into Battery-place. At one time the line of carriages extended to Whitehall and up State street into Broadway. The order specified in yesterday’s Tribune was observed, by which means everything was accomplished in a quiet and orderly manner. The Chief of Police, with about 60 men, came on the ground at 5 o’clock and maintained the most complete order to the end.

Mr. Barnum, according to promise, had put up a substantial frame-work, and thrown an immense awning over the bridge, which is some 200 feet in length. This was brilliantly lighted, and had almost the appearance of a triumphal avenue on entering the gate.

There was an immense crowd on the Battery clustering around the gates during the whole evening, but no acts of disorder occurred. When Jenny Lind’s carriage came, but very few persons knew it, and no great excitement followed. The principal annoyance was occasioned by a noisy crowd of boys in boats, who gathered around the outer wall of the Castle, and being by their position secure from the Police, tried to disturb those within by a hideous clamor of shouts and yells, accompanied by a discordant din of drums and fifes. There must have been more than 200 boats and a thousand persons on the water. They caused some annoyance to that portion of the audience in the back seats of the balcony, but the nuisance was felt by none in the parquette. By 10 o’clock they had either become tired or ashamed of the contemptible outrage they were attempting, and dispersed. We may here remark that if the River Police asked for by Chief Matsell had been in existence, this attempt could not have been made.

On entering the Castle a company of ushers distinguished by their badges were in readiness to direct the visitors to that part of the hall where their seats were located. Colored lamps and hangings suspended to the pillars indicated at a glance the different divisions, and the task of seating the whole audience of near seven thousand persons was thus accomplished without the least inconvenience. The hall was brilliantly lighted, though from its vast extent the stage looked somewhat dim. The wooden partition which was built up in place of the drop curtain, is covered with a painting representing the combined standards of America and Sweden, below which are arabesque ornaments in white and gold. Considering the short time allowed for these improvements, the change was remarkable. The only instance of bad taste which we noticed was a large motto, worked in flowers, suspended over the pillars of the balcony directly in front of the stage. "Welcome, Sweet Warbler" (so ran the words) was not only tame and commonplace, but decidedly out of place.

The sight of the grand hall, with its gay decorations, its glittering lamps, and its vast throng of expectant auditors, was in itself almost worth a $5 ticket. We were surprised to notice that not more than one-eighth of the audience were ladies. They must stay at home, it seems, when the tickets are high, but the gentleman go, nevertheless. For its size the audience was one of the most quiet, refined and appreciative we ever saw assembled in this city. Not more than one-third were seated before 7 o’clock, and when the eventful hour arrived, they were still coming in. A few of the seats were not taken when the orchestra had assembled and Mr. Benedict, who was greeted with loud cheers on his appearance, gave the first flourish of his baton.

Now came a moment of breathless expectation. A moment more, and JENNY LIND dad in a white dress which well became the frank sincerity of her face, came forward through the orchestra. It is impossible to describe the spontaneous burst of welcome which greeted her. The vast assembly rose as one man and for some minutes nothing could be seen but the waving of hands and handkerchiefs, nothing heard but a storm of tumultuous cheers. The enthusiasm of the moment, for a time beyond all bounds, was at last subdued, after prolonging itself by its own fruitless efforts to subdue itself, and the divine songstress, with that perfect bearing, that air of all dignity and sweetness, blending a childlike simplicity and half-trembling womanly modesty with the beautiful confidence of Genius and serene wisdom of Art, addressed herself to song, as the orchestra symphony prepared the way for the voice in Casta Diva. A better test piece could not have been selected for her debut. Every soprano lady has sung it to us; but nearly every one has seemed only trying to make something of it, while Jenny Lind was the very music of it for the time being. We would say no less than that; for the wisest and honestest part of criticism on such a first hearing of a thing so perfect, was to give itself purely up to it, without question, and attempt no analysis of what too truly fills one to have yet begun to be an object of thought.

If it were possible we would describe the quality of that voice, so pure, so sweet, so fine, so whole and all-pervading, in its lowest breathings and minutest fioriture as well as in its strongest volume. We never heard tones which in their sweetness went so far. They brought the most distant and ill-seated auditor close to her. They were tones, every one of them, and the whole air had to take the law of their vibrations. The voice and the delivery had in them all the good qualities of all the good singers. Song in her has that integral beauty which at once proclaims it as a type for all, and is most naturally worshipped as much by the multitude.

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Chicago: The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed April 14, 2024,

MLA: . The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 14 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: , The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz. cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 14 April 2024, from