The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

future freedom

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It’s Revolution and Youth Day, in the nation of Tunisia. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another day in Calvary, another dead New York City Irishman who changed the world.

During the period between the Civil and First World Wars, the well fed Upper Classes began to comment on the physical degeneracy of the Working Class. Back then, it was expected for an employee to labor 16 hours a day for six days a week. Sunday morning was for Church, but Sunday afternoons saw huge numbers filing into saloons and bars and getting hammered on Liquor. Government wise, it’s the reason why the so called “blue laws” were passed – banning the sale of alcohol on Sundays, but there’s always a way to find a drink (or Heroin, in the modern sense). The working class exhibited horrible levels of physical fitness back then – I guess something about having been a starving peasant who survived a transatlantic journey in steerage and now working sixteen hour shifts in some hellish fertilizer mill or sugar plant, being exposed to every conceivable industrial poison and darting amongst dangerous machines with zero safeguard… it wears you down. The tenement life, with its disease, crowding, poor quality food and water probably didn’t help either.

Across the industrial world, team sports and “physical culture” were created and encouraged, and modern day sports like Baseball and “track and field” promulgated to the unwashed. All roads lead to Calvary, of course, but the general idea was that by getting a bit of exercise – the road to the grave could be lengthened. The creation of the modern Olympic Games were a part of this physical culture movement. You couldn’t work in a factory if you could barely stand up, after all, so the famously sober Captains of Industry supported this burgeoning movement. After all – a well muscled employee can probably do the work of two and spare you a payroll expense.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Amateur Athletic Associations were formed, with the goal of toughening up the working class and getting them to lower the shot glass in the name of hurling a javelin, or sprinting a hundred yards, or tossing a ball around. Knowing that the fathers of America’s working class were already ruined, the organizers of this new physical culture movement decided to focus in on the sons. The fathers mainly became interested in “athletics” when they realized a new excuse to bet and gamble had appeared that wasn’t as “fixable” or rigged by the Upper Classes (like betting on the horses), but there you go.

In New York City, the Public Schools Athletic Committee was formed, and was headed by a fellow named James E. Sullivan.

Native to New York City, James E. Sullivan lived his entire life in what would be considered southern Harlem today, and his last address was found on 114th street. He was the assistant director of the American team sent to the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, and Secretary for the American team at the 1904-1912 games in St. Louis, London, and Stockholm. Sullivan was everywhere in the 19th century United States that an athletics competition was underway, and served NYC’s “Metropolitan Association of the Amateur Athletic Union” in various functions on its board of directors for thirty four years. Sullivan’s professional life was in the publishing field, and he was the founder and publisher of “The Athletic News.”

James E. Sullivan wasn’t just successful in life, he was adored by all the right people. He was honored by and appointed to various National roles by Presidents McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, and Taft. The Kings of Greece and Sweden both decorated him, and honored him with feudal associations in Europe (specifically the Golden Cross of the Knights of the Saviour).

That’s his grave in LIC’s Calvary Cemetery above, and when his funeral cortège was moving from there (Roman Catholic Church of St. Aloyslus, at 132d Street and Seventh Avenue) to here at Calvary, the road was lined with 60,000 schoolboys mourning his passing – according to the NY Times.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

James E. Sullivan died on a surgeons table in Manhattan’s Mt. Sinai Hospital at 11 a.m., on the 16th of September in 1914. He was being treated for an intestinal condition. Sullivan had been ill since surviving a train wreck in 1911, over in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Inscribed with a white bronze plaque, the monument is dedicated to “James Edward Sullivan, born Nov. 18, 1862 and passed on Sept. 16, 1914. A second carving lists Margaret Eugenia Sullivan, born July 26, 1856 and died July 16, 1923.”

The plaque’s inscription reads “A tribute from the Metropolitan Association of the Amateur Athletic Union.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

– photo via Wikipedia, click it for their page on James E. Sullivan. 

You never know who, or what you’re going to find at Calvary Cemetery in LIC’s Blissville neighborhood. It’s a history book written in marble and bronze, found along the banks of the lamentable Newtown Creek in the borough of Queens.

Tomorrow, something completely different – at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 18, 2017 at 11:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. I just love these Mitch Waxman’s Tales of the Crypt. Seriously, I learn something every time. Thank you, Mitch.

    georgetheatheist . . . momento mori

    January 18, 2017 at 2:33 pm

  2. These profiles have been really making my week. Keep up the good work.

    Eric Marc Cohen

    January 18, 2017 at 4:24 pm


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