Garibaldi in Dunkirk
By Douglas H. Shepard
The Fredonia Censor of 23 April 1850 had a long article about the Candle Manufactory of Messrs A.W. & H. Camp of Dunkirk. (It was built at the end of Elk Street, now Park Avenue, out over the water.) In the Censor of 7 June 1882 is a lengthy obituary for Garibaldi stating that “In 1850 . . . he came to New York and earned a living by making candles in a manufactory on Staten Island….While engaged in this business, he visited Dunkirk to see the extensive candle factory then successfully operated by Albert and Milo [sic] Camp . . . .”
As though in response to a question, the next issue of the Censor (14 June 1882) had an isolated paragraph “The Dunkirk Journal is authority for the following: ‘Garibaldi once made candles in Dunkirk, being employed in the old Camp factory years ago when poor and friendless he found a temporary asylum in this country.’” According to the Reed Library Bibliography of Newspapers, Dunkirk Free Library has the Dunkirk Weekly Journal (1863-1885) on microfilm. The Censor paragraph seems to mean “a recent issue of the Dunkirk Journal,” which was probably an obituary notice.
The Observer of 28 June 1904 repeated the story that he visited Dunkirk, but without giving any sources. The article said that while he was here, he was the guest of Harmon Camp. “He slept there the night he remained in Dunkirk,” which suggests this article did have a source that specified he was in Dunkirk only one day. The Observer of 5 August 1937 had a long article by Samuel C. Cellino headed “Garibaldi Once Visited Dunkirk.” It said that he came “about 1850” and got the candle-maker’s name wrong. A November 1960 article in the Observer had a story about the new stamp honoring Garibaldi and repeated the story about his visiting, but put the date in 1851 not 1850, and added that he stayed several weeks.
The Rev. Canon Leslie F. Chard, City Historian, wrote a piece about Dunkirk’s founding fathers in the Observer of 18 January 1966, which included details about Mrs. Lemira Camp and her sons, [Albert] Wilson and Harmon, their candle factory, and Garibaldi’s visit in 1850. “Thereafter he [Garibaldi] made a fortune in the soap and candle business.” The account is repeated in modified form in Chard’s Out of the Wilderness (1971), p.56. A Columbus Day article in the Observer of 8 October 1990 gave details of Garibaldi’s life and that he visited here in 1851, but that “after his return to New York he gave up candle making.”
Christopher Hibbert’s Garibaldi and his Enemies (p.121) said he arrived in New York City on 29 July 1850. The Fredonia Censor of 13 August 1850 quoted the Journal of Commerce that Garibaldi had [recently?] arrived in the United States. John Parris’s Lion of Caprera (p.116) said he left for South America on 28 April 1851. Therefore, if he visited Dunkirk, it had to be between 30 July 1850 and 27 April 1851. Although the Censor for one paid a lot of attention to Garibaldi throughout his career, it never mentioned such a visit. On the other hand, the Camps had invented an improved method of making candles around that time, which would have been an incentive for Garibaldi to visit. Denis Mack Smith’s Garibaldi (1956), p.51, said he spent nine months in the U.S. and had filed his first papers to become a citizen. He also received a passport. The dates of those transactions might be useful to know. It is possible the Journal of Commerce or other newspapers in New York City or on Staten Island at the time ran items about Garibaldi’s comings and goings.