The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for January 13th, 2010

Tales of Calvary 9- A Pale Enthusiast

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Amateurish and lazy explorations of Calvary Cemetery and the Greater Newtown Pentacle, with associated blog postings foisted upon an unsuspecting public and amplified by a never ending barrage of self promoting debasements of all that is true, have revealed many strange things to your humble narrator, and by extension- to you my gentle lords and ladies of Newtown. Today, the Doherty monument in First Calvary gets its turn. There is nothing “odd” about the monument, in fact the reason I call attention to the thing is the supernal beauty of its working. This is one uncanny bit of carving, and unfortunately these photos do not do it justice (still adjusting to the new camera).

Art school faculty, turtlenecked and smoking french cigarettes, would probably describe it as “Sophia, goddess of wisdom- in the form of a christian angel, sitting within a Roman structure, crowned by a cross- representing an agglutination of civilized democratic-christian progress advancing since the time of the Greeks and the Roman Republic and ultimately manifested as The United States. The angel casts her eye skyward, vigilant, with a sword in her hand. A pacific and expectant expression suggests the nearness of the second coming and resurrection of the dead.”

Such imperious and hyperbolic thinking was very much in vogue in the years between 1900 and the first World War.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eugene Doherty and his wife Mary J. Doherty are buried here. Their headstones have bas reliefs of palm fronds draped across them. The little flags are planted at the graves of military veterans in New York Cemeteries on national holidays to honor their service. I found no evidence of Doherty serving in the military, but that probably just means I didn’t know where to look.

After all- I’m just some ‘effed up lunatic who spends his spare time scuttling around trash dumps, toxic waste sites, and cemeteries who gets his kicks bad mouthing the past- Right?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Doherty, it seems, was a man of some reknown. He was a leading member of the Irish community on both sides of the Newtown Creek, and stood shoulder to shoulder in prestige alongside Battle-Ax Gleason in the eyes of his countrymen.

A manufacturer of rubber, Doherty specialized in the sort of material demanded by “turn of the 20th century” Dentists for the manufacture of dentures. His heavily advertised (see sample at bottom) Samson Rubber was a standard component for the manufacture of false teeth. The factory, incorporated as Eugene Doherty Rubber Works, Inc., was located at 110 and 112 Kent Avenue which is in Greenpoint (or Williamsburg, depending on whether or not you’re trying to hard sell a building).

rubber, from wikipedia

The major commercial source of natural rubber latex is the Para rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), a member of the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. This is largely because it responds to wounding by producing more latex.

Other plants containing latex include Gutta-Percha (Palaquium gutta),[1] rubber fig (Ficus elastica), Panama rubber tree (Castilla elastica), spurges (Euphorbia spp.), lettuce, common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Russian dandelion (Taraxacum kok-saghyz), Scorzonera (tau-saghyz), and Guayule (Parthenium argentatum). Although these have not been major sources of rubber, Germany attempted to use some of these during World War II when it was cut off from rubber supplies. These attempts were later supplanted by the development of synthetic rubbers. To distinguish the tree-obtained version of natural rubber from the synthetic version, the term gum rubber is sometimes used.

A neat image of the the Doherty Rubber Works building late in its heyday (1920) can be found at, if you can believe anything I say, and they have a great description of the whole scene in context here. I warn you though, you’re going to learn about the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal!

Also, in a completely unrelated coincidence, NAG is located at 110 Kent in modernity. Here’s the place on a google map, click “streetview” to compare to the 1920 shot above

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eugene Doherty died in 1906, his wife Mary in 1914. Luckily for Mary, the denture business was a lucrative one, and her years of mourning were spent in material comfort. At her death, she bequeathed the staggering sum of $621,148 to her heirs.

$621,148 in 1914, mind you, and federal income tax had just become a reality in 1913. That’s at least $10,000,000 in modern coine.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Life sized, if you’re a 5 foot tall woman, the statue itself is disarming and has weathered existence in the corrosive atmospheric miasmas extant about the nearby Newtown Creek for 94 years, only losing a thumb. The colour, oddly, doesn’t stain sanctified Calvary. Xanthian skill representative of true artistry went into the shaping of this stone, but I haven’t been able to find the name of the sculptor in public record.

If you see it, stand close and look into its eyes, then leave when the chills begin. Whatever you do, don’t look back over your shoulder at it afterwards, lest an adjusted hand hold on the sword, or the impression that the angle of its head has shifted might be seen. Remain an observer- in Calvary- ever the pale enthusiast- ever an Outsider.

Hey, you never know what you’re going to find at Calvary Cemetery.

Also, just as a note- today, January 13th, is Clark Ashton Smith’s birthday, and St. Knut’s Day as well.

Eugene Doherty Rubber Inc. - Late 19th/Early 20th century Advertising

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