Most modern cities were created over centuries. Beginning with shacks and dusty footpaths, they have evolved into masses of concrete, steel, and glass. In the complex transformations, buildings are torn down and streets torn up, only to be replaced by newer versions. There is a constant process of decay and renewal. As it changes, the city invariably leaves part of its past in the earth. Layer upon layer, the city builds upon the past and in the process occasionally discovers its historic origins.
In 1918, construction crews, made up mostly of Italian immigrants, began gouging out the tunnel for the Seventh Avenue line of New York’s subway system south of Times Square. By 1918 the line was in operation and trains were running from South Ferry, the line’s southern terminus at the tip of Manhattan, to the Bronx, some thirteen miles to the north.
But in May, 1916, the workers had only reached the site of the present-day Cortlandt Street station, less than a mile from the tip of Manhattan, when their pickaxes struck something more solid than the usually soft earth. As they hastily shoveled the soil away, they could see the partial outline of an ancient ship. The dim yellow light in the damp tunnel revealed the ship’s bow, keel, and ribs protruding, waist high, from the western wall of the tunnel. A broadhead ax blade lay embedded in the badly charred oak; a cannonball, a clay pipe, and some shattered bits of blue and white pottery rested on nearby timbers.
The discovery marked the beginning of a search that surfaced sporadically during the next half century and only ended in 1967. It was a search for a key to New York City’s beginnings, of which few signs remain. Except for the explorations in 1524 of Giovanni da Verrazano, the first European to enter New York Harbor, and those of Henry Hudson seventy-five years later, little is known about the activities of the early explorers here.
The foreman of the 1916 construction crew was James A. Kelly, a short, dapper Irishman with quick, darting eyes. Like other subway construction foremen of those days, he wore a three-piece suit with a watch chain across his vest when be was working in the tunnel. A vaudeville singer in his spare time, Kelly frequently belted out tunes to his crew, who referred to him as the “singing subway man.” “They’re going to dig a subway to Ireland” was the refrain of one of his favorite songs.
Intrigued by finding an old ship eighteen feet below what was then the intersection of Greenwich and Dey Streets, Kelly asked historians from various museums to examine it, hoping they would attempt to excavate it. Some of them speculated that the charred timbers might be the remains of a seventeenth-century Dutch ship, the Tijger, but they were not interested in excavating it. Kelly then tried to save the timbers himself. He lined up his crew along the ten-foot section of tunnel wall and ordered them to pull the timbers out. But the timbers did not budge. He then hitched several mules to the one-foot-square keel; they strained but could not move it. The failure suggested that a considerable length of the ship was still buried.
Then, as today, contracting firms placed a high priority on maintaining construction schedules and on keeping costs as low as possible. Stymied by the immovable timbers and pressured by the construction firm, Kelly decided to cut off the keel and bow at the point where it disappeared into the tunnel wall. This section, with three ribs attached, was taken to the nearby New York Aquarium and placed in the seal tank, where it became a favorite obstacle for the seals. Immersion helped preserve the find, for if the wood had been permitted to dry out, it would have soon flaked away.
When the concrete walls of the subway tunnel ended any hope of excavating the rest of the ship, Kelly seemingly lost interest in the matter. Shortly thereafter, he gave up subway construction and went into politics, where his activity led to his appointment as Deputy Clerk of Kings County. In 1943 Kelly learned that the New York Aquarium was being razed. To rescue the ship’s section he had first salvaged in 1916, Kelly crawled through a window of the deserted and partially demolished building. The seal tank had been destroyed, but the falling beams and walls had just missed the still-wet timbers. How Kelly got them out of the building is not clear, but one version of the story has it that he dragged the heavy wood down the dirty and empty halls and loaded them into a rented truck. Whatever the case, the timbers were presented to the Parks Department, which gave them to the Museum of the City of New York, where they can be seen today.
Perhaps this second near loss of the timbers jogged Kelly into realizing how vulnerable they were in the face of progress. Acquaintances of Kelly recall that after this rescue he expressed a great desire to have the remaining part of the ship excavated. Proud of his discovery, he grew extremely irritated if anyone belittled its significance.
It was not until 1955, however, that Kelly and the Museum of the City of New York took steps that they hoped might lead to the complete excavation of the ship. In that year, the authenticity of the timbers was confirmed when Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory dated the wood as being between 320 and 360 years old. The Bethlehem Steel Research Laboratory examined an iron bolt from the ship and concluded that, because of its high carbon and low manganese content, it was probably made by a smelting process used in Europe about 1600.
The dating of the wood and the iron bolt and the location and condition of the timbers strongly suggested that the ship’s remains were those of the Tijger, one of the first European vessels to anchor in New York Harbor.
[pagebreak]Between 1611 and 1614 about a dozen Dutch ships had sailed to the New World to exploit the abundant furs reported by Henry Hudson after his trip in 1609 up the river later named for him. On this voyage Hudson was searching for a northwest passage to the Orient. But instead of a route to the riches of the east, he found Indians who were eager to exchange beaver and otter pelts for necklaces, knives, and other small items.
Throughout the shadowy accounts of Dutch trade and voyages of the early seventeenth century, the names Adriaen Block and Hendrick Christiaensen occur frequently. Both men were traders and ship captains employed by the Van Tweenhuysen Company of Amsterdam, which dealt in pearls, wine, tar, and textiles. Sailing for the company in 1611, Christiaensen is thought to have been the first to follow Hudson to what is now Manhattan.
In the fall of 1613, the Van Tweenhuysen Company sent two ships to purchase furs—the Fortuyn under Christiaensen and the Tijger under Block. At the same time, a competing Amsterdam trading firm sent the Nachtagael, under Thijs Mossel, also to purchase furs. The Tijger was small compared to other Dutch ships of the time (it was 80 feet long and weighed some 130 tons), but typical in many ways. Square rigged, she had a broad bow, called an “apple bow,” which, although not conducive to speed, gave her stability in heavy ocean swells. From her long bowsprit, her lines curved gradually back to the great beam amidships and a square stern dominated by a high poop deck. In addition to a crew of about eighteen men, she carried six or possibly eight 1,500- to 1,600-pound cannons loaned by the Admiralty of Amsterdam. Although there is no record of other ships being so armed, Block probably carried the cannons for protection against pirates and French and English privateers.
Throughout the last months of 1613 and into 1614, Block and his men bought furs from the Indians on Manhattan, gradually filling the roomy holds of the Tijger. The southern end of the island bustled with activity, as Indians and Europeans haggled over prices. Every day more Indians arrived, having paddled or walked for miles carrying their furs for Block and his men to view. As Block ran his eye over each skin and felt it to test its quality, his men stood by in case an Indian should feel cheated by the exchange of cheap trinkets for a prime beaver pelt.
By the end of January, 1614, the Tijger was fully loaded and ready to depart for Holland. Just as she was about to weigh anchor, a fire started on board, sweeping through the ship in minutes. Her crew scrambled to safety in dinghies before the ship burned to the waterline and sank
From the city’s appearance today, it is difficult to visualize Manhattan’s buildings resting on actual earth and rock. With few exceptions, such as Central and Inwood parks, most of Manhattan has been graded, leveled, and covered with asphalt, concrete, and steel. But in the early seventeenth century, it was open fields, with some scattered forests, especially in its northern section. South of what is now Times Square, many swampy areas were drained by streams that flowed into the Hudson and East rivers, while toward the southern tip of the island, there were ravines and steep ridges.
From the scant evidence available, archeologists have learned that the Indians inhabited the northern part of Manhattan, where they cultivated maize, potatoes, and other vegetables. During the summers they lived in temporary camps along the shores of the rivers, where they netted fish and gathered clams and oysters.
Stranded after the burning of the Tijger in January, Block and his crew were befriended by the Indians, who helped them build shelters and provided them with game. Certain historical accounts state that after the traders had settled into their new life-style, they built a small boat, the Onrust, to enable them to explore the surrounding area. Some New York historians believe the Onrust was the first seagoing vessel built in New York Harbor from native timber. But if the fire on the Tijger was as sudden as the records indicate, there was probably not enough time to get vital shipbuilding equipment off the burning ship. The few axes that the crew might have been able to save would hardly have been sufficient to build a new ship from scratch.
The remains of the Tijger, however, may have been used to form part of a new vessel. Block and his men could have saved themselves a great deal of labor if they had been able to beach the charred hull and use some of it for the Onrust’s frame. Since a stream used to empty into the Hudson at the location where the subway construction crew found the Tijger’s bow, the stream’s mouth may have formed a shallow inlet in which the crew could have worked on the new boat.
It is known that during the winter of 1614, some of Block’s crew became disgruntled. In March, eight men seized the Nachtagael while Mossel and his crew were ashore purchasing furs. When Block realized what had happened, he and Mossel and the remaining loyal crew members ran up and down the shore firing their muskets at the raiders on the ship.
Block sent word of the ship’s seizure up the river to Christiaensen, captain of the Fortuyn, who returned just after the raiders set sail and headed out to the Atlantic. Christiaensen gave chase but was impeded by large chunks of floating ice. When he finally got within firing range, his crew refused to fire on their fellow mates, and he was forced to turn back.
Free of pursuers, the Nachtagael headed for the West Indies to join the pirate fleets that were preying upon Spanish ships returning from Mexico and South America with gold and silver and on the British ships sailing to Jamestown. According to one of the crew members, who had been impressed into sailing on the Nachtagael, the ship sailed the Caribbean for several months. Then it returned to Manhattan, where the crew spent three weeks on repairs before setting sail for Spain. When the ship inadvertently arrived in the waters off Ireland, then a haven for pirates, the impressed seaman escaped and made his way to Amsterdam, and the ship’s eventual fate is unknown.
Block and his remaining crew members are believed to have sailed the Onrust north to what is now Boston, then back toward the tip of Cape Cod. Meeting the Fortuyn on her return trip to Holland, Block abandoned the Onrust and joined his old friend Christiaensen.
In the years following the burning of the Tijger, relations between the increasing numbers of Dutch traders and the Indians deteriorated. The Dutch constructed a fort at the southern tip of the island and built wharves in both the Hudson and East rivers. The Indians, weakened, eventually retreated.
The settlers, unconcerned about preserving the environment, dumped trash wherever there was unused space, and one of the greatest expanses of unused space was the edge of the river. Modern construction sites in lower Manhattan are often full of old bottles, pottery shards, shoes, cow bones, lumber, and other miscellany, which were dumped along the shore in the seventeenth century, gradually filling it in and pushing it out.
In the latter half of the eighteenth century, however, the Hudson shoreline was given an even greater thrust outward by a landfill project, which involved dumping, in addition to earth and rocks, a great many stumps, boards, and old pilings. Today the shore of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson is some 200 to 300 yards west of where it was when the Tijger sank. But in 1916, it was the seventeenth-century shoreline the workers were gouging out when they came across the Tijger. Their discovery of the timbers proves that the Tijger was buried in silt while the remains lay either on the shore or in the shallows. But what of the remains of the remains, the approximately seventy feet of keel, ribs, and planking that were left in the tunnel wall?
On the strength of the historical accounts of the Tijger’s fate and the supportive analyses dating the ship’s wood and iron, James Kelly and representatives of the Museum of the City of New York in 1959 tried to interest the city’s political powers in a project to excavate the rest of the ship. The enthusiasm of Manhattan Borough President Hulan E. Jack paved the way for interviews and presentations before Mayor Robert F. Wagner. The museum’s business manager, Lawrence Beattie, investigated the extent of the required excavation and compiled a cost estimate of $44,288. The museum and Kelly then petitioned the city Board of Estimate for this amount, but the Board refused the petition, stating that the amount was excessive and that traffic in busy Globe Square, at the intersection of Dey and Greenwich Streets, would he disrupted by the excavation shaft.
If the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had not constructed the World Trade Center, perhaps nothing more would have been known about the remains of the Tijger. In 1966 construction began on the complex that now occupies ten city blocks. The first phase involved the excavation of a seventy-foot-deep cellar hole just opposite the spot where Kelly had cut off the Tijger’s bow. Those who were aware of the ship’s existence believed that, with proper care, its timbers would turn up somewhere in the more than one million cubic yards of earth to be excavated. The nascent South Street Seaport Museum sought the support of the Port Authority, and professors Ralph Solecki of Columbia University and Bert Salwen of New York University, two archeologists with a great interest in the city’s past, agreed to direct the search under the aegis of the Seaport Museum.
Construction people are, at best, leery of archeologists. Once archeologists turn up an artifact at a construction site, they not only turn construction schedules topsy-turvy but they are also enormous insurance risks. A contracting firm can lose thousands of dollars in wasted time as workmen sift through every shovelful of dirt in hopes of turning up a coin or a piece of jewelry.
To an archeologist, the essence of a discovery is not the object itself, but what surrounds the object, particularly what lies under and over it. By examining artifacts as they lie in the ground, by making sketches and taking photographs, some perspective can be gained about time sequences, usage, and the habits of the people under study. The time-consuming process of relating one artifact to another, however, makes contractors turn pale. They envision archeologists, with their brushes and sifting screens, measuring tapes and sketch pads, as having no concern for a construction firm’s desire to keep costs as low as possible.
The Port Authority, however, agreed to support the initiative of the South Street Seaport Museum in the search. Finding the ship that represented New York’s earliest international trade directly beneath the building housing the country’s most sophisticated international trade organization would certainly be a tremendous kickoff for the World Trade Center.
This was the moment that James Kelly, then seventy-eight years old, had been waiting for. Ever since the Board of Estimate had turned down his petition seven years earlier, Kelly had complained that no one was interested in finding the rest of the Tijger. The discovery and rescue of the ship’s bow more than half a century earlier had won Kelly a certain amount of fame and recognition. In the past he had not consistently pressed for an excavation attempt, but now he frequently mentioned that he hoped that the main bulk of the keel and ribs would be recovered before he died.
In the spring of 1967 the Port Authority summoned him to the construction site, and guided by an old subway map, he marked a large yellow X near the top of the newly laid foundation wall of the World Trade Center. Construction for the complex began with the digging of a ditch, three feet wide and sixty to eighty feet deep, which followed the perimeter of the area to be excavated for the cellar hole. This ditch was first filled with hundreds of tons of cement and steel mesh, then the cellar hole was dug, creating a huge basin.
During the excavation of the spot where the Tijger was thought to lie, the jaws of the heavy machinery could have bitten off a three-foot-long section of the timbers without anyone noticing. The foundation wall of the cellar hole was ten feet west of the IRT subway wall, and since the area between the two walls was never excavated, ten feet of the Tijger’s timbers could have remained buried there. This section was now gone forever without any effort to excavate it, but it was assumed that at least sixty additional feet of the ship lay just on the inner side of the foundation wall.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey made good on its offer to support the search by allocating $20,000 for a large shaft to be dug by hand under the spot Kelly had marked on the wall. If the timbers were there, shovels would not damage them as much as bulldozers. As the workmen shoveled dirt out of the deepening hole, there were high expectations that they would strike wood at a depth of twenty feet, the approximate level at which the bow had been found.
As expected, at the twenty-foot mark, the workmen turned up pieces of wood. One piece was between six and eight feet long, according to Jim Hastie, a superintendent who was working in and around the shaft. Other pieces were broken and twisted; none of them looked as if they had ever been part of a ship. Of course, not every ship’s timber looks like a ship’s timber, especially if it has been buried for 350 years. Thinking that the wood was probably part of an old wharf, the workmen threw the pieces into a dump truck and hauled them away.
The shaft was dug without the advice of Solecki, Salwen, or George Demmy, the Seaport Museum’s staff archeologist. Henry Druding, then the Port Authority’s senior resident engineer, who supervised the excavation, claims that nothing was found in the hand-dug hole except a goat horn and an oyster shell.
Druding’s avocation is collecting bits of information about New York City’s past. He sees himself as someone who collects “useless nuggets of information—it takes away the burden of seriousness from what you’re doing.” As a result of his penchant for collecting, Druding rescued many artifacts at the World Trade Center site from the jaws of a steam shovel or the blade of a bulldozer. These were mostly old bottles, shoes, pottery shards, and animal bones, but some cannonballs and parts of cannons were found as well. Druding was also responsible for finding almost in the center of the cellar hole an anchor with a tenfoot shank and a ship’s rudder more than six feet high in perfect condition. The anchor is now rusting away in the bowels of one tower of the World Trade Center while the rudder is flaking away on the seventy-third floor of the other tower. No effort has been made to preserve either.
Druding was responsible for the proper laying of the foundations of the world’s tallest buildings. Despite his interest in the evidence of the past that was turned up in the cellar hole, he was too busy to examine every object that was dug up, especially nondescript pieces of wood, a not unusual find. Although the wood in the hand-dog shaft did not appear to have been part of a ship, it was found where the Tijger was thought to lie, a strong recommendation for investigation. Yet it was discarded without inquiry. The archeologists who were supposed to have directed the excavation project were never consulted. Informed only a short time ago about the find, Soleeki disappointedly remarked that for a cost of $110 the wood could have been analyzed and dated.
The pieces of wood found in the shaft in the cellar hole were inconclusive: mere hints of the presence of the Tijger’s remains. But a few months later, hopes were raised by a discovery about 100 yards to the south of the shaft. As the bulldozers scraped away a twenty-foot-thick layer of landfill and silt, they hit a bed of sand that had probably been a beach in the early Dutch period. Lying in and on the sand were a number of ships’ ribs and other timbers. The heavy machinery exposed more and more of the sand bed that Adriaen Block might have walked upon in 1614. Then a keel was uncovered. Using shovels, workmen scraped away the earth and discovered ribs attached to the heavy timbers, followed by some charred planking attached to the ribs by trunnels.
The workmen unearthed about twenty-five feet of the remains of a ship. At first, there was speculation that at last the Tijger had been found, but as they shoveled away the earth, it became evident that the keel was only eight inches square, smaller than that of the timbers uncovered in the subway tunnel. The discovery of the remains of a bow attached to the keel proved that the timbers were not those of the Tijger. Thus James Kelly’s last wish never came true before his death in 1972.
Since the planking at the bow formed an “apple bow,” characteristic of seventeenth-century Dutch ships, the approximate date of the ship could have been determined. Yet none of the archeologists involved in the project saw the remains, although they were exposed for two weeks. Druding says the timbers were without sufficient archeological value. “It [the remains] didn’t appear to have any value. I didn’t call Solecki because I presumed he would stop by sometime, but he didn’t, so he never saw it.”
The only person who took any interest in the discovery was Prof. Leo Hershkowitz, a historian and archeologist at Queens College, who acknowledges that he did not push hard enough to save the timbers. He believed they “were too large to move.” Yet they were not too large for the crane that eventually snatched them up and deposited them in the back of a truck, which hauled them off as landfill for Battery City Park.
While the cellar hole of the World Trade Center was being excavated, the possibility of finding the Tijger was the only archeological subject of interest. With all efforts directed toward finding the Tijger, other artifacts were ignored, even by professional archeologists. Substantial remains of another ship of the same vintage as the Tijger were found and abandoned.
The conflict between saving the city’s past and driving a bulldozer over it is not a new one. In the landfill that forms most of Manhattan’s tip, artifacts turn up in virtually every cellar hole excavation. Small artifacts sometimes end up in private collections or in workmen’s homes; large ones are discarded and usually dumped.
The city government is perhaps the only institution that could oversee the preservation of the city past. An archeologist hired by the city to examine construction sites for archeological evidence would have the influence, as well as the inclination, to understand and save the bits and pieces of the past, so that something of the city’s beginnings could be understood. Even now, as bulldozers and steam shovels smash and tear at the city’s roots, the past, together with some understanding of the present, is being carted away forever.
POSTSCRIPT (excerpted from “Journey of a Seventeenth-Century Cannon,” by Christopher L. Hallowell, Natural History, April 1976)
A decade after the completion of the cellar hole excavation, another artifact has turned up, which, although not substantiating the site of the World Trade Center as the final resting place of the Tijger, strongly points in that direction.
The discovery also reveals the fate of many of the bits and pieces of the past that are dug up in construction sites. The finding of artifacts in such places is as much a reward to workmen as it is a curse to their employers. As workers waste thousands of dollars of company time sifting through debris in search of coins, bottles, and unusual bric-a-brac, their superiors see costs rising and construction schedules falling behind. But if artifacts are present, the workmen usually find them; regulations to prevent searching are almost impossible to enforce.
A market always exists for well-preserved artifacts and a number of workmen at the World Trade Center boosted their salaries by several hundred dollars a week by selling their finds to collectors. This is true for other construction sites as well, and those artifacts that are not sold often end up decorating workmen’s homes. Whether sold or used for decoration, such artifacts are rarely publicly displayed or subjected to scientific analysis. They merely disappear, and as far as enhancing our knowledge of history is concerned, they might as well have never been found.
But occasionally, such artifacts reappear. Their emergence from homes and private collections, where they can be appreciated by only a few people, is usually due to the concern of individuals well grounded in a knowledge of antiquities and with a desire to see artifacts made more accessible to the public.
During the excavations, work crews were always on the lookout for ancient cannons. Ships of that time usually carried some weapons, and the Tijger was reported to have carried six or eight large cannons. She may have also carried some smaller ones, which were not mentioned in the ship’s records. The workmen were frequently inspired in their search by the discovery of cannonballs. But no cannons appeared at the World Trade Center site until the summer of 1967, when backhoes and bulldozers working in different areas of the cellar hole dug up three. Two were in perfect condition, except for ancient marine incrustations and some corrosion; the third had a chipped muzzle. All of them were small, about four feet in length, and weighed several hundred pounds apiece, according to Jim Hastie, a superintendent on the site when the cannons were unearthed.
The first two found were taken to the field office of West Street Associates, the consortium of five construction firms responsible for building the World Trade Center. They remained there for a time, then quietly disappeared. No one knows what happened to them, although several workmen remember seeing them in the midst of equipment that accumulated in the office.
Hastie clearly remembers the last cannon found because of its unusual design and well-preserved state. Its barrel was not one solid piece; instead, the top half of the breech had an opening into which a cylinder with a handle locked in place. Several workmen carried the weapon away from the immediate excavation area and laid it next to one wall of the cellar hole. Hattie recalls the piece was to be taken to the field office when the workers had a spare moment.
When the construction crews returned to work the next morning, however, the cannon was gone. And according to Hastie, one of the workers who had carried it to the cellar hole wall the day before did not report for work that day or ever again. Hastie believes that this person, a temporary employee, was responsible for the theft, but it was not of sufficient concern to anyone to have the man traced. The excavations proceeded and the matter was forgotten.
If the cannon had not turned up in the barn of an antique arms dealer eight years after it disappeared, only a handful of people would ever have been aware of its existence. Since being stolen, it had passed through the hands of three people, all of whom collect various kinds of antiques for personal pleasure and profit. Had it not been for the trained eye of an antique arms expert, the weapon might easily have continued along this route, known only to a select group of people.
One of the responsibilities of Harold L. Peterson, a curator for the National Park Service, is to locate antique arms and weapons suitable for historic monuments administered by his agency. The job entails sporadic visits to antique arms dealers to look over their collections. Last fall, Peterson, while driving through Connecticut on business, decided to stop in the small village of New Milford to view the collection of Norman Flayderman, an antique arms dealer with one of the largest collections in the country. Stored in a renovated barn, Flayderman’s collection includes cannons, rifles, and pistols, as well as halberds, swords, crossbows, and other martial paraphernalia, strewn about the floors and hanging from the walls of the building.
Amid this awesome collection of weaponry gathering dust on the floor of one of Flayderman’s back rooms, a small bronze cannon with a handled cylinder that fit into the breech caught Peterson’s eye. Although this type of cannon is now rare, Peterson realized the uniqueness of the piece by the insignia of the Dutch East India Company etched into the breech chamber.
Known as a sling piece or a port piece or sometimes as a murderer, this type of cannon was common in Europe on both land and sea from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. In this country also, settlers used such cannons at Plymouth and Jamestown. Mounted on a fulcrum and easily rotated by one person, they were valued for rapid firing and close-range effectiveness.
Their partially hollow cylinders—called breech chambers—could be filled with gunpowder and used in any cannon of appropriate size and design. A number of these chambers could be loaded and stored in readiness. The process of firing these weapons was simple and quick: a ball placed in the breech was followed by a chamber that was locked into place; when the powder was ignited and the cannon fired, the used chamber was removed, and replaced with another ball and another loaded chamber.
Peterson was not interested in buying the cannon for the park service, but mentioned his find to Joseph Noble, director of the Museum of the City of New York. In October 1975, the museum purchased the weapon for $4,500; it is now being prepared for public display.
Flayderman deals in antique weapons as much for his interest in their history as to make a profit on their sale. Having established a reputation for his extensive collection in the early 1950s, Flayderman, a fast-talking and sharp businessman, can afford to pay high prices for unusual artifacts. And because he carries a large inventory and is in the antique arms business partly for pleasure, he can also afford to wait until the price is right before selling a piece.
In 1973, Flayderman bought the cannon from Stanley Lambert, a Long Island antiques dealer. Flayderman will not say how much he paid for it, only that he “turned quite a profit on it” when he sold it to the museum. Stanley Lambert, who owns Lambert Antiques and Collectables in Huntington, Long Island, does not have a reputation to match Flayderman’s. He deals mostly in antique furniture and sculpture, but when two of his friends in the Long Island Antique Gun Club offered to sell him the cannon early in 1973, he bought it on a gamble, hoping that he could turn it around and make a large profit. It was the Dutch East India Company insignia that encouraged him to take the chance.
Lambert’s clientele, however, was not primarily interested in antique arms and apparently did not respond to the new acquisition displayed in his small store. Only a month after he purchased the piece, Lambert loaded it into the back of his car and drove to New Milford, where he sold it to Flayderman. Despite the quick turnover, he says he made several hundred dollars on the sale.
Obeying an informal agreement among antiques dealers that the immediate origins of some merchandise remain confidential, Lambert will not divulge the names of his Long Island Antique Gun Club friends from whom he bought the cannon. He did say, however, that these two people had purchased the weapon through a classified advertisement in the New York Times that offered the cannon for sale. According to what Lambert’s friends told him, the advertisement had been placed, and the cannon sold, by a man who said he had found it in the cellar hole of the World Trade Center.
Although the cannon does not confirm the existence of the Tijger’s remains, its insignia marks it as being one of the earliest signs of European activity in this country. For this reason alone, it should be highly valued. Yet, had it not been for the discerning eye of Harold L. Peterson, the cannon might still be in the hands of collectors or dealers, where its value and significance would be lost to the public. Unfortunately, until archeologists are able to watch closely over construction sites that might yield historical evidence, this will be the fate of most artifacts unearthed in the debris of cellar hole excavations.