The disappearance of New York State Supreme court Associate Justice Joseph F. Crater has been highly publicized; but few realize that a predecessor in that office had vanished just as mysteriously as Crater, 100 years before.
John Lansing had fought in the American Revolution and served as a legislator, mayor of Albany, and state chancellor. From 1790 to 1801 he sat on the New York Supreme Court and was chief justice in 1798. For years he was part of the political group around the wealthy Clinton family, but he alienated them by refusing to run for governor as they desired. Instead, he remained as chancellor until his retirement in 1814, then became a regent of the state university and a business consultant to Columbia College. It was the second capacity that he was staying at a hotel in New York City on December 12, 1829. He went out that evening to mail some letters so that they would catch the night boat up the Hudson to Albany, and he was never seen again. The search was extensive, for Lansing had been one of the best-known figures in the public life of the state. Yet the 75-year-old man had disappeared into the winter night as completely as if he had never lived.