HOME

 

 “General” Peter Tracy (1843 – 1919) of Liscolman Co. Wicklow and Memphis Tennessee

 

“General” Peter Tracy, printer, performer, promoter and larger than life personality.

 

11 February  1877 Memphis daily appeal., .jpg

11 February 1877 Memphis daily appeal

 

9 February 1878 Public ledger., .jpg

9 February 1878 Public ledger

 

9 June 1882 Public ledger .jpg

9 June 1882 Public ledger

“General” Peter Tracy, was a charismatic Irishman and was described one of the wittiest, homeliest and most-discussed characters Memphis had produced. His was a rare, a unique character, and he filled an unwonted space in the panorama of the city of Memphis.

 

He was born in Ireland and came to this country when five years old. He settled first in New York, then moved to Cincinnati, later coming to Memphis. He arrived in Memphis during the latter years of the Civil war. His sensitive nature received its first shock, one morning after a raid, on seeing dead horses and dead men lying on the street in the vicinity of the old post office building, which was on the way to his boarding house, and this tragic picture was never effaced from his memory.

 

After the war, Memphis society, as well as commerce, was disorganized, and in the work of reconstruction his talents found ample room for exercise. Intuitively grasping the proprieties and elegancies, he gave them force and being by his originality and artistic genius, and at one time, by common consent, he was acclaimed the Pretonius and arbiter elegantiarum of the city. Unless directed by him, no social function was considered quite as good as it might be. For years he acted as the official town crier for pending noteworthy events, announcing the arrival of some notable or the occurrence of something expected and important, by the firing of bombs. Because of his activities his friends gave him the military title which remained with him through life. In civic affairs he was equally active. Physically above the average size, he was a plexus of nervous energy that never knew fatigue, and it was often said of him that he "put Memphis on the map". His public services were handsomely recognized by the Chamber of Commerce by electing him an honorary member for life, an honor bestowed upon but two other distinguished citizens of Memphis. In the days of his prosperity he gave with prodigal liberality to all charities and in later days, when for tune's smiles were turned away from him, he gave as liberally of his time and activity to any cause which could make life more agreeable for his fellows, and he sought nothing for himself out of this.

 

He owned the Tracy Printing Company and seems to have been connecting from the printing trade in Memphis from as early as 1866. In the ‘Public Ledger’ of July 17, 1866, he is the agent for a new type of printing rollers, whom they state that they have “known him for a number of years, we will vouch for his faithful performance of any contract”. He is still using their address in 1868.  In the 1870 Census, he is living with E. Whitemore, publisher, and J.J. Dubose, editor, of the ‘Public Ledger’. He was a delegate representing Memphsis at the United Typothetae of America conventions 1891, 1893 and 1897.

 

His organised lectures for George Francis Train in 1868, whose address in public notices was given as Burton House Cincinnatti. In 1871 he supported him as an independent presidential candidate.

 

The first reference to his nickname was in 1874, where he is described as Field Marshal General Peter Tracey, author of the ‘Tracy Fling’. The "Tracy Fling," is described as a double waltz, a la "Boston Dip," but preserving the steps and as simulating the movements of the "High land Fling" It is a difficult waltz, but is destined to become popular' in Memphis and elsewhere. Although there were other nicknames, ‘general’ became the standard due to his pyrotechnic displays. His first display was on the 4th July 1878 when some thirty thousand people lined Front Street to watch Peter Tracy's fireworks. They became an attraction

 

In 1875 he was the manager of the Memphis Theater, which he used for many of his charity functions.

 

In 1877, he was offering balloon rides to the public.

 

In 1882, he became the agent for Oscar Wilde’s tour in the southern states. He offered large box-office guarantees to Wilde, who was eager to visit the cradle of secession. Wilde entered Tennessee after delivering his Decorative Arts speech at the Grand Opera House in Cincinnati, Ohio, the night before. It was probably significant that in Memphis Peter Tracy replaced Morse temporarily as Wilde's manager.

 

In 1884, he portioned the Memphis Town Council for the use of the Chickasaw Bluff for a roller coaster and in 1886 a crowd exceeding 6,000 attended the opening of General Peter Tracy's "Toboggan," a 19th-century amusement park ride that simulated a downhill toboggan ride.

 

During Gov. Rye's incumbency Gen. Tracy was local coal oil inspector. 

 

After a long and an active life, filled with good deeds and good cheer, he died on the 27th February 1919 following complications of a stroke. His only known immediate relatives are his sisters residing in New York.  No services were held in Memphis, but requiem high mass was celebrated in Cincinnati. He was buried in the family plot beside the body of his mother.

 

 

 

 

Examples of his printing works

 

United Confederate Veterans 11th Annual Reunion Chromolithograph, Memphis 1901.jpg

United Confederate Veterans 11th Annual Reunion Chromolithograph, Memphis 1901

 

03796v.jpg

16 to 1 ... the speech that won the nomination ... at the National Democratic Convention at Chicago, 1896

 

 

 

 

 

Family Notices

 

1870 Census - 4 Ward Memphis Shelby Tennessee

E Whitmore           M            36           Tennessee, printer & publisher

Bettie Whitmore    F             30           Tennessee

Peter Tracey           M            28           Ireland, presseur?

Jas Crampton         M            22           Mississippi, printer

J J Dubese              M            30           Tennessee, editor "Ledger"

 

Peter Tracy married Mrs Mary Young 2 Dec 1876 Shelby Tennessee Bond/Witness: Peter Tracy & James Doyle [their marks]

 

1880 Census - 95 Vance Street, Memphis, Shelby, Tennessee

Peter Tracy            Self         M            37           Ireland, father Ireland Mother England, Retail Grocer

Mary Tracy            Wife       F             33           Cleveland OH

Frankie Tracy         daughter                M            0             TN

John Tracy             Son         M            6             TN

 

1900 Census - 20 Madison Street, Memphis city Ward 3, Shelby, Tennessee

Peter Tracy, head, 57, single, b. Jul 1843 Ireland, parents born Ireland, unknown emigration, owner of printing office

 

Peter Tracy, died 27 Feb 1919 Memphis Shelby Tennessee, Single, 76 years, b. 1843 Ireland, Burial Cincinnati Ohio

 

Peter Tracey

Birth:      1842

Death:     Feb. 27, 1919

Burial: Saint Joseph New Cemetery, Cincinnati, Hamilton County,  Ohio, USA

https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=129227326

 

Michael Tracy/Tracey & Anne Moran of Liscolman

Michl Tracy b. 4 Nov 1838 Sp John & Sally Donolanc? Clonmore Parish

Pat Tracy b. 2 Feb 1840 Sp Pat Moran & Anne Kehoe Clonmore Parish

Peter Tracy b. 18 Jul 1841 Sp Michl & Mary Tracy Clonmore Parish

Anna Tracey b. 4 Jun 1843 Sp Thomas Tracey & Mary Tracy Clonmore Parish

Thomas Tracy b. 1 Sep 1844 Sp Patt Tracy & Bridget Kehoe Clonmore Parish

Ellen Tracy b. 11 Mar 1847 Sp Arthur & Bridget Smith Clonmore Parish

Sara Tracy b. 6 May 1849 Sp Patt Smith & Mary Brennan Clonmore Parish

 

Mickl. Tracey, age 41, Farmer, Ireland to USA, Liverpool: West Point 11/04/1851

Ann Tracey, age 35, Immigrant, Ireland to USA, Liverpool: West Point 11/04/1851

Mickl. Tracey, age 13, Immigrant, Ireland to USA, Liverpool: West Point 11/04/1851

Pat Tracey, age 11, Immigrant, Ireland to USA, Liverpool: West Point 11/04/1851

Peter Tracey, age 09, Child, Ireland to USA, Liverpool: West Point 11/04/1851

Ann Tracey, age 07, Child, Ireland to USA, Liverpool: West Point 11/04/1851

Thomas Tracey, age 05, Child, Ireland to USA, Liverpool: West Point 11/04/1851

Sarah Tracey, age 02, Child, Ireland to USA, Liverpool: West Point 11/04/1851

 

1860 Census - 15th Ward Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio

Michael Tracy                M         55        Irl, labourer

Ann Tracy                      F          51        Irl

Michael Tracy                M         21        Irl, school teacher

Patrick Tracy                 M         19        Irl

Peter Tracy                    M         17        Irl

Ann Tracy                      F          16        Irl

Sarah Tracy                    F          11        Irl

Ellen Tracy                    F          7          Ohio

 

1874 Williams' Cincinnati Directory

Tracey Miss S, seamtress, sds 336 W 9th

Tracy Anna, seamtress, sds 336 W 9th

Tracy Michael, lab h 336 W 9th

 

1880 Census - 339 Ninth (9) Street Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio

Michael Tracy    Self      M         71        IRE, retired grocer

Annie Tracy       Daughter         F          32        OH

Sarah Tracy        Daughter         F          28        OH, dressmaker

Ella Tracy          Daughter         F          25        OH, dressmaker

 

Patrick Tracey married Kate Welch 5 Oct 1871 Hamilton Ohio United States, by catholic priest

 

1880 Census - Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio

Patrick Tracey    Self      M         38        IRELAND, printer

Catherine Tracey           Wife    F          33        IRELAND

Florence Tracey             Daughter         F          0 6/12  OH

Catherine Flood             Other   F          14        OH, servant

 

1900 Census - Precinct B Cincinnati City Ward 29, Hamilton, Ohio

Patrick Tracey    Head   M         58        b. Feb 1842 Ireland, emigrated 1851, 49 years Ohio Na, printer

Kate Tracey       Wife    F          51        b. Dec 1849 Ireland, 28 years married, 6 child 1 alive, emigrated 1859, 41 years Ohio

Florence P Tracey          Daughter         F          20        Oh

 

Sara Tracy died 20 Jun 1930 Silverton Hamilton Ohio, age 82, Single, b. 01 May 1848 Ireland (d. of Michael Tracy & Anna Moran both born Ireland) buried 21 Jun 1930

 

Ella Tracy, died  7 Apr 1933 Silverton Hamilton Ohio, age 81, single,  b. 8 Mar 1852 Cincinnati O., (d. of Micahael & Anne both born Ireland) buried 10 Apr 1933 St. Joseph New cemetery

 

Florence Tracey died 5 Nov 1936 923 Grand Ave. Cincinnati Hamilton Ohio, 54 years, single, office work, b. 1882 Cincinnati Ohio (d. of Patrick Tracey & Kate Welsh born NY), buried 9 Nov 1936 St. Joseph (new) Cemetery

 

Jesuit Archives Tracy, M. 6.021

TRACY Mich., n 1,11,1839 Liscolman (Wicklow); i 24,7,1863 Miss; gr 15,8,1876. + 21,9,1884 Cincinnati.

 

Burial: Saint Joseph New Cemetery, Cincinnati Hamilton County, Ohio, USA

 

Michael Tracy

Birth:     unknown [1806]

Death:    Sep. 7, 1898

From cemetery index: aged 92 years; Son of Michael Tracy

Plot: section 1; lot 28; part S; Division C

 

Michael Tracy

Birth:     unknown

Death:    Dec. 6, 1886

Plot: section 1; lot 29; division C

 

Patrick Tracy

Birth:     unknown [1842]

Death:    Feb. 1, 1908

Per online cemetery index: aged 66 years; Son of Michael & Ann Tracy

Plot: section 1; lot 29; division C

 

Sara Tracy

Birth:     unknown [1848]

Death:    Jun. 20, 1930

Per online cemetery index: aged 82 years; Daughter of Michael & Anna; Buried June 23, 1930

Plot: section 1; lot 29; division C

 

 

 

Newspaper References

 

April 24, 1875 Memphis daily appeal

Memphis Theater...Peter Tracy Manager

 

May 02, 1875 Memphis daily appeal

The Orphans Benefit.

Letters of Thanks to Mr. Peter Tracy - A Fair Division, and the Orphans Well Pleased Handsome Card from Tracy, Who Declines a Benefit.

 

May 05, 1880 Public ledger.

Pyrotechnics for Nashville. General Peter Tracy has made arrangements to give a grand pyrotechnic display at Nashville on the night of the 20th of May (Thursday), the same date as the unveiling of Jack son's statue. Thousands of people will visit the city on that occasion, and it will be one of the best days of the centennial exposition. General Tracy gave a similar exhibition of fireworks here on the Fourth of July, 1878, which was witnessed by an immense crowd, estimated at from 35,000 to 40,000 people, and all were surprised and delighted. We can assure the people of Nashville that he will give the grandest display ever witnessed in the south

 

June 9 1882 Public ledger.

Mr. Rance Anderson a younger brother of Fred T., has executed the picture of Oscar Wilde and his Southern manager, Peter Tracy, and it is now on exhibition in McCarthy's window. It is a neat job.

 

April 10, 1883 Public ledger

Sisters of the Good Sheppard

We, the undersigned, do heartily approve of the having the concert, [benefit to build an orphanage] and earnestly request Mr. Peter Tracy to undertake the management of it..

 

June 02, 1883 The Milan exchange.

It is rumoured that the next military event will be a big drill at Memphis, under the auspices of General Peter Tracy first prize, $20,000.Nashville American.

 

April 15, 1884 Times Picayune

Peter Tracy on the Bluff.

Mr. Peter Tracy petitioned the Council yesterday for the use of the Chickasaw Bluff for a "roller coaster." He says: "Your petitioner, Peter Tracy, a citizen of the Taxing district of Shelby county, respectfully asks leave to erect on that part of the unoccupied bluff facing the river, between Monroe street on the north and Union street on the south, what is called and known as a 'roller coaster,' for the period of one year, such as is now in use in New Orleans for some weeks, to the great delight of the inhabitants thereof, especially the youth of that city; and he prays to be exempted from license, and to also have the use of so much of said bluffs as he may need for the said purpose on Sundays from 3 P. M. to 9 P. M., or any other hours after church services, on that day the council may consent to. The roller coaster is a very simple method of amusement, from which persons of all ages derive benefit and enjoyment, and cannot fail to be indorsed by the people here, as has so heartly been by those of New Orleans, La., Jacksonville, Fa., Nashville, Tenn., and Toledo, O., and now also in course of erection at Cincinnati, O."--Memphis Avalanche.

 

July 6, 1884 Memphis Daily Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

The right to erect a roller coaster at Hot Springs, Garland county, was sold by Mr. Tracy yesterday to C. A. Leffingwell, an old Memphian. This is a bonanza for Hot Springs.

 

1886, Memphis – a crowd exceeding 6,000 attended the opening of General Peter Tracy's "Toboggan," a 19th-century amusement park ride that simulated a downhill toboggan ride.

 

1888-1890 The New York Dramatic Mirror

Memphis...Peter Tracy, of the Tracy Printing Company, has been named as manager of the New Grand Opera House to be opened next year.

 

February 27, 1919  The news scimitar.

Gen. Peter Tracy At Death's Door

Gen. peter Tracy, ages old, known throughout this section of the country as one of the wittiest, homeliest and most-discussed characters Memphis has produced in half a century, Is near death's door at the Presbyterian hospital. Ho suffered a stroke of paralysis some time ago, for which he was first treated at St. Joseph's hospital. Since Wednesday he has been unconscious. Gen Tracy was born in Ireland and came to this country when five years old. He settled first in New York, then moved to Cincinnati, later coming to Memphis. For years he conducted the Tracy Printing company. He never told his age. His friends say he is 85. As an impromptu speaker at banquets in his early days, Gen. Tracy was much sought after, and his witticism made him more or less famous. For years he acted as the official town crier for pending noteworthy events, announcing the arrival of some not able or the occurrence of something expected and important, by the firing of bombs. In the days of his prosperity he gave with prodigal liberality to all charities and in later days, when for tune's smiles were turned away from him, he gave as liberally of his time and activity to any cause which could make life more agreeable for his fellows, and he sought nothing for himself out of this. During Gov. Rye's incumbency Gen. Tracy was local coal oil inspector.  His only known Immediate relatives are two sisters residing in New York. 

 

February 28, 1919  The news scimitar

Tracy Funeral To Be Held Saturday

Body Will Lie in State Prior to Being Taken to Former Home in Cincinnati. Thousands of Memphiana who knew and loved the late "General" Peter Tracy, whose death occurred at the Presbyterian Hospital at 2:45 o clock Thursday afternoon, will he given their last opportunity of paying respects to his memory Friday afternoon while the body lies in slate at the McDowell at Monteverde undertaking iiariors. The body will remain there until 7 o'clock and will be sent to Cincinnati, his former home, at 8:10 o'clock for burial there. No services will be held in Memphis, but requiem high mass will be celebrated In Cincinnati at the funeral services, which will be held Saturday. Burial will be In the family plot beside the body of his mother. while "General" Tracy, was 76 years of age, numbered his friends In Memphis by the thousands, he leaves no relative here, three sisters, residing In New York city, being the only immediate survivors.

 

 

1 March 1919 The news scimitar.jpg

March 01, 1919  The news scimitar

 

March 01, 1919  The news scimitar

Peter Tracy

After waiting until hundreds of his companions. intimates and friends had preceded him into the shadows and silences. Peter Tracy yielded up his life at the ripe ape of 76 yielded it gracefully and with a smile, as though he were handing a flower to a little girl. Thus closes inc of the most interesting human chapters in the history of Memphis. His was a rare, a unique character, and he filled an unwonted space in the panorama of the city. Coming to this city during the latter years , of the Civil war, his sensitive nature received its first shock, one morning after a raid, on seeing dead horses and dead men lying on the street in the vicinity of the old post office building, which was on the way to his boarding house, and this tragic picture was never effaced from his memory. Young, ardent, ebullient and genial, he soon made the leading men and women of the city his fast friends. After the war, Memphis society, as well as commerce, was disorganized, and in the work of reconstruction his talents found ample room for exercise. Intuitively grasping the proprieties and elegancies, he gave them force and being by his originality and artistic genius, and at one time, by common consent, he was acclaimed the Pretonius and arbiter elegantiarum of the city. Unless directed by him, no social function was considered quite as good as it might be. Because of his activities his friends gave him the military title which remained with him through life.

In civic affairs he was equally active. Physically above the average size, he was a plexus of nervous energy that never knew fatigue, and it was often said of him that he "put Memphis on the map" by doing, as an individual, what the commercial bodies are doing now. His public services were handsomely recognized by the Chamber of Commerce by electing him an honorary member for life, an honor bestowed upon but two other distinguished citizens of Memphis.

Of late years, when the infirmities of age began to weigh on him, he took a less active part in public affairs, but he was always ready to assist with a bright and valuable suggestion.

Tracy always enjoyed a modest income, but never amassed wealth as he might have done. He never had a dollar that he felt should remain in his pocket; 'it must go forth to pleasure or assist someone else. He respected wealth and pitied poverty, and he taught the one how 'to properly demean itself, and the other how to mitigate its miseries and improve its condition.

He enjoyed no immunity from errors or imprudences, but he was constitutionally , incapable of anything questionable, vicious or mean.

To catalog his virtues and good deeds would require a large volume. The sick were always visited and cheered by him, and made the recipients of some gracious kindness.

Personally he was companionable and a constant fountain of effervescing wit and humor; and in a clash of wits he seldom came out second best. He was always optimistic and hopeful, and radiated cheer on all those around him. He was for long one of the characters of Memphis, and these are becoming very few and scarce, because in the crowding and contact the angularities are being worn off and smoothed, making one man very much like another.

After a long and an active life, filled with good deeds and good cheer, he has been called hence, and many will miss and mourn him. Had he been given more time he would have done more good. His spirit was right.

 

 

 

1919 The Inland Printer - Volume 63

Peter Tracy. In the passing of Peter Tracy the printing industry has lost one of its pioneer workers and the city of Memphis, Tennessee, one of its oldest and best-known citizens. “General”' Tracy, as he was affectionately known to all, was born

 

Ref:

 

Two Alabama Historians Write Alabama History: Honoring Robert David Ward. 2008

Tennessee Historical Quarterly. 2004

Roy Morris, Jr. (2013) Declaring His Genius: Oscar Wilde in North America

David M. Friedman (2014) Wilde in America: Oscar Wilde and the Invention of Modern Celebrity

Southern Studies 2003

Jeanette Keith (2012) Fever Season: The Story of a Terrifying Epidemic and the People Who ...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last update: 20 July 2017