19th Century


Although he spent as much time as possible away from it, the fact is Joseph Palmer Knapp was a true New Yorker. He was born, went to school, conducted his business from it and died there. His children started to grow up there also. Yet all the Knapps would head for the hills so to speak. So here is a look at some of the places he lived and worked in on Manhattan Island and a few more from his childhood home across the East River.



That is what is written on this photo in the archives of the New York Historical Society. But is it ? I'm finding all the Knapp's are proving to be very camera shy (which is a bit strange considering their first business was lithographs) and the fact is there may not be any of them in this photo, and then again there may be two. If Joseph Fairchild Knapp is in this photo with his partner Richard Major, he would have to be the bearded gentleman with his hat on, wearing a vest standing profile,next to last in the second row. He would be approx 47 years old here. I have had Dan May the Met Life historian look at it too and like me he cannot confirm if it is indeed Joseph F. Knapp. As for Joseph Palmer, I believe he went to work at this company in 1880 -81. He could of started (part time) earlier but he would only be about 15 years old. If he is in the photo, I would take him to be the guy in the far right, first row with his hat off. In any event it looked like quite a group, and they all (except Major most likely the other vested man dead center ) would be working for the young Joseph P. Knapp Co. in a few short years. And is that the company emblem the guy in the center is holding? Did they dislplay it like a flag?



Major & Knapp was located on this street, near Church St. (MetLife was on the corner then) This is looking west from Broadway. photo NY Historical Society


Wilson Street School. Just around the corner from the Knapp's home on Bedford. Most likely both Antoinette and her brother Joseph went to elementary school here.

photo: Brooklyn Historical Society

This was the 1870 Federal Census entry for The 4 Knapp's. "Netta" is 7 and attending school, her brother Joseph is 6. I believe they took in Charle's Warren who was related to Phoebe's Palmer / Worral / Foster / family. He stayed on as a border in the 1880's and wound up clerking at an insurance company. Most likely MetLife . Joseph who is one year away from becoming the president of MetLife lists his occupation as a printer. The $17,000 figure is what he is declaring his home is worth. Still being lit by candles, I wonder what he had it insured for? The three servants were Delia Maley, Johanah Masker? and Mary Males?


Brooklyn Polytech where J. P. went to prep school (high school) prior to Columbia.

photo: Brooklyn Eagle

And this was Columbia University where J. P. went for one "riotous" year. He said he quit because it was *"Too easy after going to Brooklyn Polytech". Needless to say, history proved he didn't need to be there.

* Fortune Magazine

Here is the 1880 Census. Netta has become Nettie and at 18 is in school somewhere. Sixteen year old Joseph is having a "riotous time" at Columbia . With the kids grown, Phoebe has reduced the household staff to two, new people Mary Clary,and Mary O'Mealia. Delia's gone as is Johana and Mary.


I do not know exactly when Joseph Palmer left the nest.That is whether or not he continued to live at home after he started working full time at Major & Knapp. If he did he would of commuted like his father most likely by steamer across the east river.

The Mineola steams off to Brooklyn, Long Island in the East River 1895.

photo Hulton- Getty Archives



According to the NY Herald Tribune. Joseph Palmer Knapp married Sylvia Kepner in 1886. That may of been when he moved from Brooklyn to New York. After his father died in 1891, the first residential address I have on him, is just off 5th Ave on 58th Street. His mother Phoebe would soon follow as she took up residence a very short distance away in the Savoy Hotel On 5th & 59th.


Greenwood Cemetary 1890's

The Savoy circa 1895 Hulton- Getty archives.


Claire was born in 1889 and Dodi would follow in 1892. Both would be little tykes when this item appeared in the Society Column of the New York Times. By this time, The Knapp's were living up town on the west side, at 322 West Seventy Second



322 West 72nd Street today. The third modern looking building now has that address. The buildings in the second photo were most likely there when Sylvia Knapp hosted her Yellow Dinner and Mme. Methot sang afterwards. That's the Hudson River in the background. One family trait that stays consistent; wherever any Knapp lives,water is close by,




Are Claire & Dodi Playing here today?


Central Park 1899. Hulton- Getty Archives