Cancelled due to forthcoming storm; will be rescheduled —
The Martinez Academy of Arms will present dueling in Washington Square Park on Sunday, August 28th from 5-7 p.m. at the Holley Plaza (west of the Fountain). The Broome Street-based school, which teaches the European tradition of fencing arts, will hold a “demonstration of the art and science of fencing as it was practiced in New York City during two of its most important historical eras, the 18th and 19th centuries.”
In It Happened on Washington Square, Emily Kies Folpe documents dueling in Washington Square at the time it was a potter’s field:
The open space of the potter’s field was often a stage where large themes of American history played out in small dramas. In 1803, William Coleman, editor of the New York Evening Post, and Captain Thompson, harbormaster of the port of New York, fought a duel there. Although the immediate provocation was a personal insult, the animosity arose from the political convictions of the two men involved, each of whom adhered to a fundamental but opposing philosophy of government.
Coleman was first challenged to a duel by the editor of the American Citizen who accused him of slander. (Aaron Burr ran American Citizen and he battled Alexander Hamilton the following year in their famous duel in Weehawken, New Jersey in which Hamilton was killed.) The duel between the two editors was called off but Mr. Thompson (likely Thompson Street is named after him?) jumped in and stated that Coleman wasn’t up to a duel and “would readily turn the other cheek if attacked.” It was a different time and this caused Coleman to then challenge Thompson himself to a duel. Thompson died, admitting before hand that he had provoked the duel to happen.
Kies Folpe writes that duels continued for another twenty years or so “even as the area became more populated”; however, in 1828, dueling was prohibited by state law. (The Academy says duels were fought in Central Park as late as the 1920′s!)
Come witness this lost art on Sunday at the Park.
Photo: gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliotheque nationale de France