My project revolves around Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy’s sword and scabbard, made somewhere between 1852-62. During this era, New York City was being transformed due to economic fluctuations and the advancement of industry. The mid-1800s were marked by financial panics, but the times were not all bad. Expansion and greater demand for housing helped get rid of slums and create business centers. Commodore Levy was not only involved with the navy, he was also a pugnacious businessman who frequently bought stocks and real estate in New York. The degree of his financial successes astounded me. According to Melvin I. Urofsky in his book, The Levy Family and Monticello, three of Levy’s rooming houses brought him an income of $3,500 a month, when the average American earned only $600 a year. With this money, Levy was able to buy and restore Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, which was on the brink of ruin. Levy highly venerated Thomas Jefferson- once stating, “I consider Thomas Jefferson to be one of the greatest men in history- author of the Declaration of Independence and an absolute democrat. He serves as an inspiration to millions of Americans.” Another fact most people aren’t aware of is Commodore Levy’s efforts in abolishing whipping, otherwise known as flogging. He constantly urged Congress to prohibit such brutal practices, and he won his case with the Anti-Flogging Act of 1850.
Striving to uncover the scenes of New York during the mid-1800s has led me to discover a truly inspirational figure. It’s amazing that one man had done so much in shaping not only New York City, but our country as well. His sword was gifted to NYHS by Amelia Levy Mayhoff, as a memento to her nephew, Jefferson Levy, for continuing his uncle’s efforts in preserving Monticello aswell as estates in New York.