thirteen men of the requisite nerve

The number thirteen fills some people with superstitious fear while others believe it is lucky. And then there are those who are determined to overlook other dates that crop up in their lives and concentrate on just this one

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“Captain William Fowler died yesterday of apoplexy. He had apparently been in splendid health when he retired on Monday evening but when called in the morning he was found to be unconscious and died shortly thereafter.

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His death recalls the old Thirteen Club and its strange rites and ceremonies. The number thirteen was interwoven with Captain Fowler’s life and his good fortune made him regard it as a mascot rather than as a numeral of ill omen.

He graduated from Public School No. 13 when he was thirteen years old and became a printer’s apprentice but soon left that employment to become a builder in partnership with architect John Trimble. The firm erected thirteen buildings including several theatres and Barnum’s Museum.

Barnum’s Museum found here

When Captain Fowler was twice thirteen years of age he was chosen to command the Twelfth Regiment of the NYSM and was at the head of this company until 13 April 1861. During his time as a soldier he was in thirteen battles. He resigned his commission on 13 August 1863 and on the thirteenth of the following month he took possession of a house he christened Knickerbocker Cottage. For nearly 20 years he kept the cottage and then on 13 April 1883 it was sold.

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Captain Fowler belonged to thirteen secret and social organisations and was a thirty second degree Mason. He was also thirteenth on the membership roll of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. In 1880, Captain Fowler threw down the gauntlet to fate and set about organising the Thirteen Club.

Shriners found here

Thirteen men of the requisite nerve agreed to meet on 13 September 1881  for the first banquet of the club. It was held at Mills Hotel No. 1 because there were thirteen letters in the name. Twelve of the men arrived early. The hall was arranged to defy superstition with items on the table in a series of thirteen. Spilled salt was everywhere and to enter they had to pass under crossed ladders.

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Long the twelve waited for the missing member. When the hour grew late and it seemed the banquet would be a failure, a happy idea struck the captain. One of the coloured waiters, the whites of whose eyes were already showing, was drafted. Trembling like a leaf, he was dragged to the table and told he should become a member. Despite his howls he was put through the first rites of initiation and was just being shoved through the ladders when the missing guest arrived. 

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The meal cost thirteen cents and consisted of thirteen courses, the final of which was stewed prunes. 

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Published in: on February 6, 2012 at 7:12 am  Comments (49)  
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