Girl-Watching on Fifth Avenue

I couldn’t resist this charming poem and accompanying illustrations, apparently given as a contribution to a scrapbook in the early 1860s. (Sadly, I have only this page, not the rest of the scrapbook.)

In case you have difficulty reading the poem, here’s a transcription:

I’ve been requested in this book
To write lines old or new
By one I gained a knowledge of
On the 5th Avenue.

(The street where Harry Alxxn (?) walks
On pleasant afternoons
With sundry showy specimens
Of young female Balloons.)

‘Tis thought the ladies seldom love
A specimen of “Mose”,
But some an interest take I fear
In “Metamora Hose.”

For fear someone the hose carthouse
To find would have to search
It stands directly opposte
The Twenty-First Street Church

And in the window o’er the door
Young men on the alert
Look out, I think, with longing eyes
To get a chance to flirt.

‘Twas in this walk of flirts and fops
We two exceptions met,
And though our acquaintance there began
We do not feel regret.

No, though our old friend Mrs. Green
May smile and call me flat,
If another chance I should have
I’d wave and touch my hat.

“Mose,” in case you were wondering (I certainly was) refers to “Mose the Fireboy,” a legendary character associated with the “B’hoy” culture of the Bowery. He was the hero of several plays and novels; the illustration below, from the Harvard Theater Collection via Wikipedia, shows him as played by actor Frank Chanfrau. The “Metamora Hose” was a volunteer fire squad located at the corner of 21st Street and Fifth Avenue.

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