The building illustrated on this bandbox has served many purposes over the years. Built in 1808, it originally was used as a stronghold in New York Harbor for the War of 1812 and was first known as Southwest Battery and renamed Castle Clinton in 1817. In 1823 the Federal Government deeded the fort to New York City and the following summer, a new restaurant and entertainment center opened at the site, renamed Castle Garden. A roof was added in the 1840s, after which Castle Garden became an opera house and theater until 1854. Many new inventions were demonstrated there, including the telegraph, Colt revolving rifles, steam-powered fire engines, and underwater electronic explosives.
In 1855, Castle Garden became the major immigration port of entry into the United States. Over the next thirty-four years more than eight million people entered the United States through its doors. One of the most famous concerts of all time was the recital of Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind, who traveled to America in 1850, at the invitation of P.T. Barnum. At this time, she gave the first of ninety-three concerts at Castle Garden. Performing soprano roles in operas across Europe, Lind was one of the most highly regarded singers of the nineteenth century.
This bandbox and matching lid illustrate Castle Garden in this latter period. Figures can be seen promenading the gardens in front of the hall wearing their finest clothing. The image printed on the box was inspired by a lithograph by Alexander J. Davis and published, just prior to 1830, by Imbert & Company. The original intent for bandboxes was the storage and transport of men’s collar bands. They also became widely used as hat boxes and general carryalls. During the 1830s, many boxes were decorated with sporting scenes of historical events and technological innovations.
The Castle Garden information was gleaned from http://www.nps.gov/cacl/historyculture/index.htm