29 June 2013

New York Game Man and His Fowl Fortune

Anonymous. September 19, 1867. A game man. How a fowl fortune was made. Memphis Daily Appeal 17(351): 2. From the New York Gazette.

One of the places in this city where the people, en masse, surge and tide through is Fulton market, and in the midst of that labyrinthian maze of stalls, stands and tables, the famous Mr. A. Robbins keeps a chicken stall. It is a very easy matter to find his place of business — direct your steps towards the center of the market, stumble over a mass of unsavory pickle tubs, pass by a sound as of scraping tripe, mediate between long rows of fresh slaughtered sheep and calves, turn a corner by some golden cheeses as large as the new moon, smell the aroma of the country and the spring time in the rolls of yellow butter at your left hand, and, the moment any game comes in sight, ask for Mr. Robbins, and, although he deals in robins, yet out of pity, or for some other reason, he calls them pigeons.

Mr. Robbins is a much younger looking man than one expects to find, when he has been told that he has made a couple million dollars selling chickens! He is the famous chicken millionaire, and though so very rich he attends to his own business. He has been in the poultry business thirty-five years, thirty-one of which have been beneath the lucky roof of Fulton market. His stall is not a large one, and yet he sells upon an average 2000 chickens a day the year through, which would equal 730,000 a year. His business amounts to several hundred thousand dollars a year. There is a very cosy little office in one corner of his stall, ornamented with full length portraits of some of the wild game in which he deals, which literally is not large enough to swing a cat in. On the marble-topped counters of Mr. Robbins' chicken arrangement may be found ducks, geese, turkeys, English snipe, woodcocks, prairie hens, English pheasants, black grouse, wild pigeons, venison, roasting pigs, sweet breads, etc. Everything which has wings, that man is fond of eating, can here be found, with from twelve to twenty men to wait on customers, and attend to the business. Besides supplying he public, he has orders for hotels, ships, restaurants, etc., and is in fact the largest chicken dealer in the United States.

All parts of the country are laid under contribution to supply his stalls with game. Partridges come Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Long Island and the west; the best canvasbacks come from Havre de Grace, Sandusky, Ohio, and Mississippi; the mallard ducks and wood ducks — the only ducks that light on trees — are caught at the great lakes while the black ducks and broad bills come from the sea shore. In winter the canvas-back ducks are the favorite game with the people; just now woodcocks, chickens, and partridges are the best and most popular.

Bridget is not always sent to market to do the buying for the family. Many American ladies attend to their own household duties. Mrs. H.W. Beecher can often be seen in Fulton market, with her basket upon her arm, purchasing chickens and wild geese of Mr. Robbins, the face of Mrs. G.S. Robbins, who took so prominent a part in the soldier's hospital during the war, is another of those familiar to the denizens of Fulton market.

Although Mr. Robbins has accumulated such a vast fortune that we might suppose he could afford to retire, yet he prefers, and does, personally attend to his own business. He has an elegant brown stone residence on Rem_an street in Brooklyn, which is valued at $150,000, and the furniture inside of it is said to have cost a fabulous sum. Going up a broad flight of stone steps, you pass between an arched doorway into a vestibule where some elaborately carved marble vases, standing almost as high as your head, attract attention. The halls and drawing rooms of the house are large and lofty, beautifully carved overhead in panels, and frescoed. Mr. Robbins does not stop to take his breakfast at home, but leaves his home for the market every morning between the hours of four and five o'clock. Some of his men get there as early as two o'clock. He is an expert salesman, and can pick out a chicken "to a dot" let you call for whatever size you will. In personal appearance he is a medium sized man, rather stoutly built, with a full face and black hair, slightly sprinkled with silver. He has deep hazel eyes and wears black chin whiskers. He leaves the market at 12 o'clock, and the rest of the day enjoys life, riding out with his family or a few friends. He makes the most of each day as it passes, and leaves the morrow to care for itself.