loafer; loafer's hall

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Sat May 1 01:42:42 UTC 2010

OED has 1830 & 1835 for "loafer", lacks "loafer's hall"; HDAS has the same for "loafer", 1860 for "loafer's hall", in the sense of "jail".

        An independent loafer can be accommodated with a bonk [sic] or rat hole to crawl in for eight pence -- a loafer of some distinction, one for six pence -- a Barney of little quality four pence -- a real spirit head soaker, six pence, with rot gut bitters in the morning, and sore eyed negroes at different prices.
        [A lodging house, "a receptacle in Front-street, four doors from Catharine"] built on a new plan; there are 62 berths on the lower floor, five tiers high, which are filled every night with all the rag tag and bob-tail scouring of our wharves.
        Ely's New York and Brooklyn Hawk & Buzzard, June 21, 1834, p. 1, col. 1

        There is a tenement in Water street, near Catharine Market, kept by a man named Sturgis, called "Lofer's [sic] Hall," which is nightly filled with vagrants, who are classed according to their rank and fortune, some having to pay three cents, some six, and those of the most respectable description, are charged as high as nine cents for their lodgings.  ***
        NY Times, November 5, 1834, p. 2, col. 5, from C&E  (not the present-day NYTimes; "C&E" = N-Y Courier & Enquirer)

        A visit was made on Sunday night by the Alderman of the Ward and several Police officers, to a house in Front street, called Loafer's Hall, where all the vagabonds and paupers of the neighborhood nightly lodged for one, two and three cents per night.  Below stairs was a bar of blue ruin; up stairs, wooden bunks or berths, two or three layers high, were arranged around the room, in which the vagrants of every hue and shape sought the sweet repose of the senses.  A number contrived to escape before the officers could enter, but 23 were safely secured and sent to the Penitentiary for different lengths of time.
        Ev Star, November 11, 1834, p. 2, col. 3


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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