- The Public Parks
- A Walk Down Broadway
- The Business Quarter
- Five Points
- Fashionable Parties
- Western Traits
- Deference to Women
- Union League Clubs
- Women's Club
- Barber Saloons
- American Aristocracy
- Fires and Firemen
- Love of Travelling
- New York Hotels
- Hotel Kitchens
- Country Inns
- Boarding Houses
- Cost of Living
- The Public Parks
There are few American cities which do not possess extensive and beautiful parks, free to all the world. You never see anywhere those closed parks and grounds only to be entered by the neighbouring householders who have keys, which are found in London. The American parks are constructed and kept in order with lavish expense. Central Park, in New York, is perhaps the finest triumph of art in imitating and decorating nature to be found in the Union. It is full of fine carriage drives, of pretty winding artificial lakes, of rustic arbours and quaint grottoes, and lovely copses. It is adorned with statues and fountains, is supplied with restaurants and skating-rinks, racecourses and velocipede-paths.Mouseover Expands all Images
Boston Common is celebrated for its historical memories, and for the natural beauty of its situation. It has broad avenues shaded by stately and umbrageous trees, wide expanses of lawn, pretty hillocks, the famous "frog-pond," and ground set apart for military reviews and cricket or base-ball games.
Fairmount, in Philadelphia, and the Capitol and President's parks in Washington, are equally noted for their beauty, and the refreshing resort they afford both to rich and poor. These parks are mightily enjoyed by the people. There take place military reviews and out-door games; there you may see in the morning - much as you do in Hyde Park or St. James's - hundreds of maids tending "missus's" children, at the same time listening to the gallant speeches of their wooers; there are to be witnessed the endless and noisy torchlight processions which inevitably attend the political contests; there distinguished guests of the town are received and feted; there are set off the balloons and fireworks on Independence Day; there, in winter, you will see the boys whizzing on their sleds over the icy walks, and the sleighs, with their jingling bells and dapper ponies, shooting along the now white-crusted drives.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- A Walk Down Broadway
The prevailing impression upon the English visitor, in walking through the streets of an American city, would doubtless be the general appearance of brightness, newness, and feverish bustle. Broadway, the principal New York thoroughfare, is a typical American street.
Omnibuses, mixed up with carriages and wagons of every shape, size, and finish, bounce hither and thither, and you think every moment that the drivers on top must inevitably shoot off among the vehicles below. The shops are new, bright, clean, brilliant with their various wares; you observe that the Americans call them "stores" - a "shop" being the place where carpenters, tailors, and so on, do their work.
The buildings are all sorts of heights: there stands a huge marble palace - which you find to be a great dry-goods establishment; and next to it a little two-story building; then a brick edifice three storeys high; next a broad square hotel; the roofs, as you glance far up the street, rise and fall in an undulatory wave. Streams of people - mostly with anxious, careworn, hurried faces - float by you, to or from the business quarter; everybody seems to be in a hurry, from the delicate poorly-clad girl who flits by on her way to her dressmaking or type-setting, to the wrinkled, well-dressed man of wealth, hastening to throw his thousands upon the fortune-wheel of speculation. There is, you observe, an "up town" and a "down town." If caprice takes you down town, you soon find yourself in the very whirl and maelstrom of commerce and trade. What the City is to London, down town is to New York and Boston. Here you will wander out of Broadway into long and somewhat irregular streets - the buildings are older and mustier than in the main thoroughfare. At intervals you observe large square edifices which seem very hives of feverish industry, and by reading the glaring signs, - the business houses are fairly hidden by signs, - you learn that these are the great newspaper offices, the Herald, Times, Tribune. Very different affairs from the modest quarters with which the London press are mostly fain to be content - for these are palaces reared by the generosity of "public opinion."
Then here is a long, rather musty street - the Patemoster-Row of New York - where are exposed for sale all sorts of books, new and old; just beyond is the cramped looking Post-office; a little further you come upon a thoroughfare, which, if it is mid-day, seems to have gone fairly mad. Turn the corner and you are "on 'Change." These frantic fellows are stock- brokers and stock-gamblers - the "bulls" and "bears" of New York. Here is the thirst for gold concentrated and at its bitterest. What a caldron of human passion! They shout, and rush hither and thither, and write little notes with which clerks hurry up the street. Some gnash their teeth and wipe their feverish temples; others pass radiant and triumphant. Deeper still into the down town quarter, you reach great granite warehouses, long blocks of stores; strange labyrinths of streets choked with commerce, where want and beggary appear gaunt amid the money-makers. Everywhere you note how much more hurried and hot is the business fever than in London city. Enter one of the lunchrooms, you find the merchants seated in rows before the long counters, hastily swallowing their food, and meanwhile chattering loud and fast about the money-market and the last gold quotation.
Further still, you reach the wharves: here lie the ships of all nations; here you may buy and eat oysters at the little stands on every side - many of them presided over by grinning negresses with red and yellow handkerchiefs wound high around their woolly heads; here too are anchored the palatial steamboats, with their high palisaded decks and gilt and fancy figure-heads, ready to take you either southward to Philadelphia or Baltimore, or northward to Connecticut and Boston via Long-Island sound. There is a great confused mass of hogsheads and cotton bales, of boxes and rope-piles; and here too, as among the men of trade, are hurry and bustle and fever-heat. Finally you come to a curious round building, a sort of circular fort, standing at the water's edge upon a jutting point of land - Castle Garden. Here, likely enough, you see a little tug steaming up; it has just left that portly steamer which rests stolid in the distance; these poorly-clad, eager folk who flock off it on the landing are emigrants just from the Fatherland and the Emerald Isle. How anxiously they gaze on the new land where lies the secret of fortune, weal or woe! How nervously they look about to see if Hans or Pat, who have been over a year or two, and promised to meet them here, have kept their word. Meanwhile the Customs officers have begun to rummage in the miscellaneous pile of luggage; that Frenchman is sacrre-bleuing and chattering his native lingo because they are spoiling his shirts and have confiscated his cigars; this lady is waxing eloquent on the subject of Italian trinkets; hackmen are hanging about to secure their steamer fares.
American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- The Business Quarter
Regarding the main thoroughfare, we wend our way up the brilliant street, where the shops vie with Regent Street and Rue de Rivoli in the richness and variety of their wares, and enter one of the numerous ice-cream saloons. They have, in summer, ice cream of every flavour, and almost invariably good, on every square. You enter a long gaudily adorned saloon, where are sofas and fauteuils, (upholstered armchair) little square tables marble-topped, and waiters, male or female, hurrying with dishes to and fro. Here the ladies - plenty of them - who are shopping down town, have tarried for refreshment; loafers and young dandies are sipping the deliciously cool concoction. You order your ice-cream, of whatever flavour you prefer; it is brought to you in a little pyramid; sponge cake or pound cake accompanies it. Or, possibly, you prefer soda water. It is very different from English soda water. At the counter is a square marble "fountain," with numerous silvered taps and little cranks, over each the name of a syrup. Naming your flavour, the attendant turns one of the cranks, and out spurts a thick syrup into the long goblet he holds to it; he adds ice; then he turns another crank, and the soda water fizzes and sputters and foams into the syrup. Drink it quickly, and you will pronounce it delicious. But if in place of these refreshments you prefer a cooling drink of wine or liquor, you have but to patronise one of the thousand bar-rooms which greet your eyes as you pass up the street. Some of them are underground, some on a level with the street. There is a long counter opposite the door; behind it are shelves, on which are descried bottles of every shape and kind fancifully arranged, containing all the nectars and poisons for which man yearns. On the walls are fancy woodcuts, plain or daubed, representing prize fighters or dancing girls, racing matches or festive parties. There are loungers standing about, quaffing a variety of beverages, and talking in an easy familiar way. At little tables sit those who would be more at ease. Will you have "Tom and Jerry," or "sherry cobbler," or ''claret punch," or "brandy cocktail," or "eggnog," or "mint julep," or ''milk punch," or "gin sling" - the variety is endless. The barman is skilled in his art; he mixes the drinks with an artistic ease which surprises you. He is a man with painfully crisp and shiny hair, with a murderously black moustache, and a dazzling constellation of diamonds in his shirt bosom. He receives your order with a prompt "Yessir," and proceeds to his task. He has two long pewter goblets; having put in the ingredients, he dashes the concocted liquor from one goblet to the other, holding them at arm's length from each other, and making a finely calculated liquid rainbow of the beverage from one to the other. You are fain to confess, on sipping the liquid through the straw he supplies, that his labour has not been vain. At the sides of the bar-room are stalls, separated from each other by high partitions, where you may have "oysters served in every style;" and you observe, at one end of the bar, a pile of bivalves (any mollusk, as the oyster, clam, scallop, or mussel) in the shell, from which, when he has received an order for oysters, the barman takes a supply, deftly opens the oysters with a curious knife which he has by him, and laying them neatly on a plate, serves them up.
Along the thoroughfare you observe numerous stands - much as in London - where petty street trades of every sort are flourishing. There are "hot com" stands, "roast chestnut" stands, "hot potato" stands, quack medicine stands, fruit stands, peanut stands, newspaper stands, and toy stands. You are amazed at the energy of the news-boys - most of them diminutive, ragged, merry, impudent little Paddies - as they rush hither and thither with their arms full of wisdom, at a penny an installment. You wonder at the curious devices which greet you on the signs, which fairly hide the walls. You see, on the streets branching off on either hand, long iron tracks, whereon glide smoothly the "horse cars," crowded with passengers, on whose rear people are desperately hanging, dropping off here and there as they reach their destination. You hear all sorts of languages, and the familiar brogue of Erin often strikes upon your ears; for here the Irish are to be counted by the thousand, digging gutters and building houses and cleaning sewers, and taking on themselves the greater part of the drudgery to be done in town and country.
American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- Five Points
There is little or no beggary and want discoverable in these larger streets; to see that you must repair to the slums of the "Five Points." This is the ruffian quarter of New York - its Seven Dials and Billingsgate. Five streets meet in a little filthy square; hence the name. Five wretched, narrow, crowded, dirty, noisy streets; families by the dozen in each house; children by the score in all the gutters; oaths and obscenity echoing everywhere; fighting, drunkenness, crime, in perpetual carnival. But mark this of the Five Points and similar quarters in all the American cities, that nine-tenths of their population is foreign. You will not find one native American in ten among them. They are the trustful present which Europe sends to America; mostly the lowest Irish, French, and Germans - criminals and beggars, deserted from the old countries, banded together by want and natural love of lawlessness in the new. A large majority of the crimes committed in the United States are the work of foreigners; figures prove it. Five Points, and its likes elsewhere, are mostly foreign colonies, dominated by native roughs, who lead them in gangs, rouse them to riot, and use them to corrupt and control the ballot box.
Yet even Five Points is hardly so sadly fallen as the worst quarters of London and Paris, for this reason: that while in overcrowded Europe there is not work enough for the people, thousands of whom are therefore driven, as it were, by misery to crime; there is in America room enough for all; crime is not forced upon men; if they will, they can find work; and thus the criminal population is reduced to the naturally vicious or the exceptionally unfortunate. We are glad to get away from Five Points, with its reeking filth, its wretched humankind, its noisome smells, and hasten to the newest and brightest phase of the American city. As you proceed up town, quiet and insouciant ease takes the place of the bustle and hurry of the down town quarters.
American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- Down-Town Residences
Solemn, lofty mansions, some "swell-front," many built of beautiful brown stone, and even marble, growing more and more luxurious and stately as you progress, relieved by pretty parks full of trees, flowers, and lawns, and supplied with broad shady pavements, apprise you that you are among the upper ten thousand. Spacious squares and wide avenues are met at every turn: the luxuriance of wealth here apparently outstrips Grosvenor-square and Park-lane, and vies with the Champs Elysees. This is the region where dwells in ostentatious splendour the moneyed aristocracy of Gotham. The equipages in the streets have become uniformly showy and ornate. There is something in the tranquility which prevails that induces the wealth worshipper to walk softly, and to regard the high portals and the lofty windows with a sort of awe.
You stop to gaze at the ladies as they pass in and out, so like butterflies are they, with their brilliant and vari-coloured dresses, their glittering jewels, their air of sprightly and reckless extravagance. Gayest of the gay, the most dressy of women are the fashionable ladies of the American cities. You remark that in the midst of so much lavish ostentation decided taste in dress is displayed, rivaling the grandes dames of Paris itself; indeed, Paris is the fountain-head alike of New York dresses and of New York table fashions. Every New York lady of wealth has her French book of fashions, which is to her what the Peerage is to the British tuft-hunter, and the Imperial Code to the Parisian barrister; she boasts her French milliner, her French dame de la mode, her French cook, her French dancing-master for the children. French fashions seem to reach New York by ocean telegraph, so quickly do they appear there after they bloom in Paris.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- Up-Town Residences
The spacious squares and palatial mansions which you see up town have been mostly built by the successful merchants; they represent every trade and prosperous occupation. Comparatively few are inherited, for fortunes take wings and fly away in America almost as fast as they are built. You will find the owners to be lucky bankers and stock-brokers; large merchants and sugar-manufacturers; fortunate lawyers and fashionable doctors; enterprising editors and popular literati; traders in jewels and teas and Indian products; speculators in city lots and western lands; men who made sudden fortunes during the civil war by government contracts; purchasers of gold and silver mines and petroleum wells, which they have bought, then sold again at the nick of time. Many too, are the just reward of long years of patient and honest toil; an approach to wealth by slow and gradual steps; a constant resistance of the temptation to hazard hard-earned gains on the accidents of speculation. Every year these rich ostentatious streets and squares multiply and advance upon the sparsely settled quarters; for New York grows ever wealthier, and new enterprises, pushed by new men, spring up every day. Many of the wealthy merchants and professional men in the American cities are "self-made." They owe their fortunes and positions to their own spirit and persevering toil. Not the less self-made are those who have worked their way through college amid the obstacles of poverty, and have begun the world strife as educated men; but most of the self-made men have not had even this advantage. Many a nabob with his thousands began at the lowest round of the social ladder; many a man eminent in letters and politics rose from the humblest occupations. A. T. Stewart, the richest New York citizen, whose annual income is upwards of three millions of dollars, commenced life as a poor pedagogue; John Jacob Astor, the father of the second wealthiest citizen, had an equally humble beginning; James Gordon Bennett and Horace Greeley, editors and proprietors of the two leading American newspapers, and now very rich men, began, the one as a schoolmaster in the south, the other as a press-roller and bill-sticker for a Vermont country newspaper; Stephen A. Douglas and "Old Ben" Wade, both senators and prominent candidates for President, worked their way to the west from New England with but a few shillings in their pockets, laboured at hard drudgery for many years, and finally succeeded in becoming leaders of parties and legislators for the nation.
Buchanan and Jackson were sons of Irish emigrants; Abraham Lincoln was a rail-splitter; Andrew Johnson a country tailor, whose wife taught him how to read; and Ulysses Grant a western tanner. In no country are there so many opportunities for the humble to rise. Family eminence is generally little considered. The pushing self-made man is perhaps most of all honoured, respected, and aided; and few there are who do not refer with pride to their early days of hardship and indomitable perseverance. There is no governing caste which frowns upon individual effort, and shuts out the descendant of emigrants and farmers from their pale. Let a man once succeed, and his past, however humble, is either forgotten, or recalled to render him the greater honour. Doubtless in some cases this makes men proud of their ignorance and coarseness - renders them arrogant; gives the unintelligent a too great influence. Yet the best American society, refined and even critical as it is, is far from encouraging the ignorant and arrogant man of wealth, who is apt to find himself set down in the catalogue of irredeemable snobs. Probably society in the various American cities differs more widely than in those of any other country. Each city and town has its peculiar social type. New York society - where commerce is the prevailing occupation, and all are wrapt (sic) up in the pursuit and the display of wealth - the social type is that of a brilliant, ostentatious, sprightly, pleasure-seeking kind. The New Yorkers are hospitable, lavish, emulous of the fashionable European world. To out-do one's neighbours, to have the most brilliant equipages, drawing-rooms, opera box, dinners, is the ambition of the wealthy matrons of Gotham. Nowhere in America will you find so unceasing a round of glittering gaiety and dissipation. The society is very accessible, yet very exacting. You may easily procure an entrance to its most gorgeous saloons - only you must be rich enough to keep pace with their frequenters. You are not asked who your ancestors were; it is hardly a recommendation that you are university-bred; but the more a man or woman of the world you are, the more recherche your manners, the more chatty and piquant your conversation, the purer the breed of the horses you drive in Central Park, the more faultless your toilet, the more fashionable your taste and criticism of pictures and operas, the more familiar you are with the social events and gossip of the hour, the more you will be welcome. Go into the downtown streets and counting-rooms, you might think yourself in the City of London on a specially busy day; enter the uptown drawing-rooms in the evening, and you may persuade yourself that you are in Paris. This double character of New York, its London-like passion for business, its Parisian frenzy of gaiety and fashion, is very marked.
- A Fashionable Party
If you receive an invitation from one of the leaders of fashion, on the creamiest of paper, with the daintiest of monograms, and in the most fashionably chaste of handwritings, you will do ill not to go, for once at least, and witness the New York version of a Parisian rout. The invitation is for ten, but a kind friend whispers you that it means half-past. You array yourself much as you are wont to do in London, in broadcloth without a crease, white necktie without a wrinkle, gloves fresh from the shop, boots of the glossiest, hair emulative of "Hyperion's curls." You are wise to hire an elegant carriage from a fashionable stable, rather than an ordinary cab; and as you drive through the brilliantly lighted streets, you find yourself surrounded by many clattering vehicles, through whose windows you discern puffy masses of silk and satin, and fair heads graced with flowers and glistening with tiaras. You run up the broad steps, enter the dazzling hall - with its chandelier, its sculptures, its gilded cornicing. A spruce servant directs you up-stairs - two, three flights, where you at last, breathless, find a room where gentlemen are giving a final touch to their locks, and carefully disposing their cloaks and hats. You descend toward the drawing-rooms, jostled on the stairs by balloon-like dresses, now penned in by a midway conference of two or three dear female friends. Then seeing your chance and making headway through sudden openings, your name is announced at the drawing-room door, and you are in the midst of the gay and bewildering scene. Madame receives you warmly, so does her husband and daughters; a little chat on the weather or the opera, and you "circulate." Here is New York society in epitome. If I am not mistaken, you will say to yourself that the ladies are remarkably pretty and sprightly, coquettish, graceful, possessing delicate figures, and many stately and handsome; but accustomed as you are to the round physique and ruddy health of the English women, you will doubtless remark that the American ladies are somewhat frail and slight, with apparently little power of endurance - hardly fit for much physical exertion. Their conversation is quick and piquant; they are, perhaps, more like the French than the English. The dresses are extravagant, showy, various in material and colour; jewels flash everywhere; the hair is disposed in the latest fashionable extreme. As for the gentlemen, they are for the most part dressed in plain black; uniforms are rare. There are glossy-headed old nabobs with rubicund noses, bald foreheads, heavy white side whiskers, portly bodies, and great watch seals, types of prosperous sons of commerce; there are dapper little dandies, and ponderous big dandies, with the sprucest of hair and the most painfully proper of evening costumes; there are military men - these in uniform - whether regulars or militia, whether heroes of the Southern battle-fields or the neighbouring parade-ground, we cannot easily tell; some modest and prone to the comers, others fierce in Napoleonic moustache or Grant close-cut beard, with glossy blue coats and brass buttons, heavy epaulets and ornate swords - irresistible to the ladies; there are a few foreign consuls and European lions, arrayed in all the pomp of gold-laced chapeaux, embroidered coats, and striped trousers - objects of curiosity to the republican aristocracy, which, though eschewing monarchical pomp, does not object to gaze upon it; there are congressmen in an alcove, talking politics; there are finally, sleek and languid men of the world, discussing the last race, or retailing one of those masculine scandals which are neither so senseless nor so harmless as those of the gentler sex. An orchestra in an alcove strikes up one of Strauss's waltzes or the lancers; each guest is provided with a gilt-printed carte des dances; and now the young men hasten from one lady to another, having brief but earnest conferences, and jotting down names upon their lists. American dancing is not so very different from the English - perhaps more sprightly, but less so than the French. There is a succession of waltzes, polkas, cotillions, lancers, mazurkas, galops; a "German" is started, and continues long enough to weary the patience of the non-participants.
In the intervals between the dances, refreshments are passed about on dainty Sevres or Dresden services; lemonade, punch, wines, cakes. But the supper to which you are invited, towards one o'clock, is sumptuous. Every viand and fruit, native and exotic, seasonable and out of season, American devices and European importations, are set before you; champagne is universally sought, and found to be plenteous; ice creams, and oysters in every variety are favorites: the older folk prefer the turtle soup, the boned turkey, or the salmon salad; the table is adorned with all the art of French professorship; there are rich bouquets for every guest; mayhap there are silver fountains gushing wine or shooting sprays of cool and refreshing perfumes. Then dancing is resumed - the Americans are passionately fond of it, especially the New York fashionables - and the older people retire to whist or euchre in the contiguous cabinets, while those young fellows who prefer it go upstairs to billiards. You do not get away before four or five in the morning; and although you find the excitement of one such rout quite enough for the week, you learn that the young ladies dissipate in a similar way almost nightly the winter long. As much as elsewhere, society in America is the opportunity of anxious mamas with disposable daughters. It is for them the great marriage mart. There are not wanting old "campaigners" of the sort made famous by Thackeray, who lay ambushes for unsuspecting youths; who have Gorgon frowns for ineligibles, bland matronly smiles for prospective heirs. For them the season is a time of ambitious rivalry, a continuous siege. Money is lavished on the daughters; they are kept in a fever of dissipation; intrigues are set on foot to bring the young people together; flirtations are not looked on with an unkindly eye. Riches are the main object at which the maternal matchmaker aims. True, she will gladly secure, if possible, a foreign Count or a susceptible Senator, partly in lieu of fortune; but she craves for her child the same golden luxury to which she herself is used. Wealth is the great social power in Gotham; and many (though happily by no means all) fashionable ladies will ignore a famous name or ripe scholarship for the loaves and fishes. Partly from a genuine love of hospitality, and partly from a craving for a new excitement, American society is fond of "lionizing" notabilities. Ovations to people in every department of eminence are frequent and popular. To fete a victorious general, an orator who has electrified the land by his eloquence, an embassy from China or Japan, the officers of a Russian squadron, a foreign prince or a man of letters - even a great railroad director or a merchant millionaire - is a favourite pleasure alike with the large cities and the smaller towns. To this end money is lavishly spent, preparations are elaborately made, and days given up to gala holidays. Such events were the visits, several years ago, of the Japanese embassy, and of the Prince of Wales while yet in his teens; of the Russian fleet more recently; the occasional journeys of the Presidents to various parts of the country; the visits of Grant, Farragut, and other Union generals, to the north and west, after the war. These were invited to balls and receptions; were taken on steamboat excursions; were serenaded, illuminated and escorted in procession, to their hearts' content. Cyrus Field, on the completion of the Atlantic telegraph; Kossuth, when he came fresh from the Hungarian strife for freedom; Charles Dickens, on his second visit to America; George Peabody, on returning to his native country after a long residence abroad; Henry Clay, on retiring from the Senate; the heroes of the Pacific railroad were "ovated" and treated, and became each in his turn the subject of popular enthusiasm.
As much as New York society is noted for its extravagance, brilliancy, worship of wealth and fashion, is that of Boston known for its refined, intellectual, literary sphere; that of Philadelphia for its critical taste, and its liking for long pedigrees; that of Washington for its political and transient character; that of the western cities for its freedom, its unstinted scalability, and its unceremonious and hearty hospitality. Boston prides herself upon her poets, her professors, her literary women, her historians, her university-bred merchants, lawyers, and doctors, her intellectual clergy. Near by is Harvard University, the proudest and most aristocratic of American colleges; and Harvard has no small influence upon the tone of Boston society. Its professors are among the most eminent scholars and literati in the land, and are leaders in society as well as lecturers at the desk. Among them are Oliver Wendell Holmes, the "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table;" James Russell Lowell; Professors Agassiz, Wyman, and Child; and Longfellow, formerly himself a professor, is still resident at Cambridge, and one of the honoured university coterie. These, with such alumni of Harvard as Ralph Waldo Emerson, George S, Hillard, Charles Sumner, Charles Francis Adams, John Lothrop Motley, and George Ticknor, all of whom reside in or near Boston, are the social as well as the intellectual heads of the society of the New England capital A literary man, a university graduate, is more cordially received in Boston society than the young man of "expectations," or the wealthy man of the world. The young ladies are well educated, excellent talkers, often accomplished linguists and students of abstruse sciences. "Blue ladies" are in their most congenial sphere at Boston; here they may deliver Sunday lectures, discuss the Alabama claims or woman suffrage in the reviews and papers, and read poems at anniversaries, without running so much danger as other where of ridicule. The merchants of Boston, amid commercial cares, are prone to post themselves on religious, political, and moral questions; the learned professions are, perhaps, more highly regarded than in any other American town. Side by side, in Boston, with this literary refinement and sphere, you observe that peculiar trait strikingly developed, which is sometimes called "Yankee smartness" - a keen, sharp taste for making bargains; a shrewd farseeing business cunning; a dry crisp humour accompanying this propensity. It is especially the Yankee capital. "Yankee" is a term used by the rest of the nation to define New Englanders, and particularly those New Englanders who are keen and "cute." I have heard it pronounced in England, "Yan-kee;" the Americans say, short, "Yanky." The Confederate soldiers used to delight to call their Union opponents, "the Yanks." Boston is fond of literary reunions and "sociables;" of lectures and intellectual tea-parties; of conventions and political meetings; of religious and philosophical discussion; of learned societies and libraries. The society of Philadelphia - city of Penn and the Quakers, of Franklin and the revolutionary patriots, of the first Congress and the "republican court" of Washington - is staid, orderly, aristocratic. The town is built in painfully rectangular streets and squares, which, however, are clean, well shaded, and homelike. There are many Quakers; and to be a descendent of the older Quaker families is to command a high position in the social circles. The Philadelphians are fond of the arts - patronize the painters and prima donnas, the sculptors and histrionic artists. They are refined, less formal perhaps than the New Englanders, more so than the free-hearted people of the West. A large number of the citizens are of Dutch or German parentage or descent, and many of the most frequently mentioned names betray a Teutonic origin.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- Western Traits
In the West, the European who has been used to the ceremonies and formalities of the old-world society, is, very likely, shocked at the familiarity, the help yourself and make yourself at home air of the people. Total strangers talk to you on the railways, and are as intimate with you in an hour as if they had long been your most confidential friends. At the hotel tables your right hand neighbour vies with him on your left in a race to gain your confidence. You receive an unwonted number of invitations to tea or into the country, from persons whom you never saw before, and of whose names and social standing you haven't the least conception. You have only to travel in a sleeping-car with many a free-going Westerner, to to be accosted next morning by your Christian name, which he discovers before you know it. For all his familiarity, however, unless you are a confirmed cynic and inveterately distrustful of humanity, you will soon find out that he is an open-hearted, generous, hospitable fellow, not seldom concealing beneath his brusque bonhomie a clear head, bright sense and humour, and well-read intelligence. His failings, if failings they are, are kindly. This free familiar trait of the Westerner is readily accounted for. In the days when the West was but sparsely settled - when there were but a few log huts scattered here and there, and, at rare intervals, a little log village - it was a social necessity to the settlers to seize every possible occasion to talk to whomsoever they met. They lived the free careless life of the back woods; the rare traveller was always welcome to the solitary hewer of wood and cultivator of virgin fields. From this yearning to see and commune with their kind, there grew up the habit of unceremonious familiarity with all the world; everybody talked to everybody else, as if they were old friends, whether they had ever seen each other before or not. Thus, what was originally a necessity - an incident of back woods life, became the genial custom of the country. The free-and-easy way of the Westerner may be sometimes annoying, but if you will only enter into the spirit of the people there, put aside your formal notions of etiquette, you will not fail to make many warm and worthy friends, whose generosity, free hospitality, cordiality, will have a not trifling value, and be a pleasant reminiscence.
The Southerner - like the dwellers in hot and luxuriant climes everywhere - is indolent, generous, fiery tempered, proud, sentimental, careless. In the Southem cities, before the war - all Southern society is now changing and putting on new phases - pleasures in which too much physical exertion was not demanded, were most in vogue. Unenterprising, not so fond of hoarding money as the Northerner, often an extensive landed proprietor, the best type of the Southern gentleman loved to fill his house with guests, whom he entertained by balls, music, water excursions, negro performances, and a plentiful table. Southern society was exclusive; the slave aristocracy was the haughtiest of all American classes. The owner of vast cotton and sugar plantations was the social leader as well as the political autocrat. Life in the South was romantic and indolent and drowsy; it was like the luxurious lazy life depicted in Thomson's "Castle of Indolence." Prolific nature showered upon the Southerner unstinted bounties of fruit and vegetable products; he lived in lordly ease in the great house with its verandahs and hammocks and wide-open windows, while his troops of slaves toiled with little vigour under the hot broiling sum, in the wide expanse of his plantation. Passing through the streets of a Southern city on a summer's evening, you would see all the inhabitants, rich and poor, white and black, seated on their doorsteps or on the pavements before their houses, catching the soft cool breeze which came up from the sea after the oppressive heats of the long Southern day.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- American Deference to Women
It is impossible for an American, even when writing an account of the social features of his own country for readers of another nation, not to note one very creditable custom which prevails everywhere in the United States, and which is perhaps more conspicuous there than in most European countries. This is the universal deference and respect in which women are held. Every American admits, by his bearing towards the gentler sex, that she is socially the superior of man. Wherever you go, you will see the foremost place given up to the ladies. If a lady enters a horse-car, the seats of which are full, two or three gentlemen will at once rise and offer her their places, and stand during the rest of their journey. In the railway trains she is provided with the best carriages, is under the peculiar care of the conductor; and has every attention paid her by strangers as by friends. On all public occasions - when a procession passes through the streets, at the dedication of statues or edifices, in the galleries of Congress, at concerts, even in political meetings, she has the front seat on the balcony or at the window, the best and nearest galleries, the most convenient part of the platforms. The politeness to women is less demonstrative; more practically earnest, than that of the French. On the side-walk, the inside is invariably yielded to the ladies; even in the little trifle of beginning the popular games - the first move in chess, or throw in backgammon, or stroke at croquet, is conceded to the ladies as a matter of course.
No one will commence dinner until the ladies of the house are seated; at the public tables every one waits until the ladies have swept down in the elaborate toilets which often keep hungry masculine souls waiting. Women, old and young, rich and poor, walk the streets by day or night in safety, with champions to protect them from rudeness or insult, on every hand. They travel alone thousands of miles - pretty young damsels as well as shriveled matrons in spectacles - perfectly at ease, everybody around them anxious to make their journey comfortable, to assist in looking after luggage and calling cabs, to keep watch for the right station, and ever at their nod. The laws and judges are especially severe upon those who ill-treat women. The social dignity of the sex is one of the essential features of American civilization. This real and earnest deference is found as well in the brusque Westerner living on the confines of the vast plains and forests, and in the staid puritanic New Englander, as in the chivalrous Southerner or the lady-loving New York man of society. Wherever women go, they are protected and watched over: a cruel or unfaithful husband is a marked man. The best places are always found "reserved for the ladies." Whether they attend a trial at court, or are curious to hear political harangues, or to listen to Congressional debates, they are never, never can be anywhere in America, intruders. There is a delicacy toward the sex which will, in kindly eyes, atone for many of the social shortcomings which the old-world man of society thinks he discovers in the American character.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- Union League Clubs
Clubs - those indispensable resorts to the London man of the world - are in America few and far between. It is only in the larger cities and towns that you will find them. Perhaps the custom of having clubs is growing, for there are many more now than there were before the war. During that struggle, an association, devoted to keeping up the enthusiasm of the war-spirit in the north, called the Union League, was formed throughout the country; and the leaders of this league had the idea to establish clubs in the principal cities, which should be its head-quarters, where its members might meet and consult, and the league meetings and festivals be held.
The result was that noble edifices were erected to this end; the Union League clubs multiplied and became very popular; they were the centres of the active and practical patriotic spirit; and President Grant, on his accession to the White House testified his appreciation of the value of the services with which the Union League dubs aided at home his military success in the field, by choosing the President of the Philadelphia club as his Secretary of the Navy, and the President of the New York club as envoy to the court of Vienna. The Union League club houses in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston, were, and are, sumptuous affairs, fitted up with rare luxury and magnificence; supplied with all the comforts of spacious reading-rooms and news-bulletins, billiard and card saloons, smoking-rooms, and restaurants, replete with capital wines, choice viands, and artistic cookery. The example thus set has been to some extent followed; but the experiment seems to have proved that clubs are not entirely congenial to American tastes.
There are, of course, in the cities, literary and political clubs, but these seldom unite with their immediate purpose the sensual comforts of dining-rooms and restaurants, or the more frivolous accompaniments of billiards and card tables. Associations of all sorts are perhaps more numerous than in England; but purely social clubs are few, and seemingly not destined to be popular.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- Sorosis Women's Club
The extraordinary activity which has been infused of late into the "woman's rights" movement in America, by the exertions of a few radical statesmen and men of letters, and a coterie of remarkably able and energetic ladies, has resulted in the formation of a female club, which has been christened by the curious name of "the Sorosis." It is apparently flourishing; frequent meetings are held, at which precocious young women with short hair and bright eyes, elderly matrons in spectacles and severe costumes, eloquent ladies of fashion, and authoresses, indulge in spicy debates on the great subject which forms their bond of sympathy and union. Occasionally we hear of "Sorosis" dinners at Delmonico's (the fashionable New York restaurant), where "man" is toasted with a tinge of irony, coloured orators declaim against the brutalities of the sterner sex, and there are piquant running dialogues between the more bellicose of the fair members of the Sorosis.
Sorosis is the mother of women's clubs. The organization was considered a bold step. No club had ever existed, composed exclusively of women and officered by them. Nor had women taken any active part in business or public affairs.
Mrs. Croly, "Jennie June," and Mrs. James Parton, "Fannie Fern," were almost the only women doing journalistic work. "Why not have a woman's club?" said Mrs. Croly to Kate Field. "There is no reason why we should not," replied Miss Field. This suggestion of Mrs. Croly's was the seed from which Sorosis grew. Mrs. Croly had found in a botanical dictionary the word Sorosis. The general supposition is that Sorosis comes from the Greek word meaning sister. But it has a much more significant and broader meaning than that. It is the botanical name of a class known as aggregated fruits, of which the pineapple is an example - a collection of flowers, which mature into fruits, all joined together in one wholesome body.
This name seemed exactly the thing. It was new, it had a pleasant sound, and was, as Mrs. Croly said, "full of gracious meaning."
- American Markets
Covent Garden itself is not more interesting than some of the American markets. They betray the garden and agricultural resources of a country; and the variety of American products affords a showy exhibition to the markets. Fulton Market in New York, Quincy Market in Boston, and the long curious markets of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington - some of which are low wooden buildings running some distance through the middle of wide streets - will afford to English eyes a good idea of the fruits, flowers, vegetables, meats, and comestibles which American farms yield to the delectation of the city populations. The stalls are not unlike those of Covent Garden; but the market people are decidedly more anxious to sell, and announce their wares and their prices in loud voices as Paterfamilias wanders through the aisles laden with his huge provision basket. You will observe that much taste is used in disposing attractively the various products. The fruit is deftly piled in pyramids, the grapes are festooned in fantastic clusters.
Early in the morning the farmers' wagons may be seen wending their way from every direction to the market; these are backed up to the pavement, and their contents unloaded carefully and rapidly. America is rich in vegetables and fruits; in the season you see potatoes, Irish and sweet, tomatoes in great abundance, melons of half-a-dozen kinds, grapes - green, red, white, and purple - peaches, with their deep pink bloom, cherries, berries of every kind, rich yellow pears of every size, apples of every hue and taste, marrows and pumpkins, Indian com and the "oyster plant," pineapples, bananas, and oranges. Fulton Market, in New York, is a great oyster mart, to which thousands of bushels are brought every day, and where you may partake of them on the spot, or order your supply for the family dinner, as you please. There are dishes of all sorts, shell-fish, lobsters, crabs; but no shrimps nor white bait. The markets are full of life and busy trade; a much more bustling scene than Covent Garden at its busiest.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- Barber Saloons
The Englishman whose mirror warns him that the razor has become a necessity, and yet who is not skilled in wielding it himself, finds the barber's shop a resort of but indifferent comfort. He is forced to sit bolt upright in a stiff-backed chair, with no rest for the head; and during the operation his neck is strained, his face becomes parallel with the horizon, from which position, at the end, he recovers himself with a painful "stitch." He has next to hurry to the basin, and cleanse his face, the barber standing idly by. In America he would find the process of shaving a far more comfortable one. The American barber's "saloon" is a luxurious apartment, handsomely furnished, adorned with fancy prints, supplied with the newspapers, and having all the necessary appliances for the toilet; a glass-case in one corner exhibiting bottles of every perfume, hair-restorer, and whisker-compeller, known to fame, or concocted by the proprietor himself. He is invited to recline in a spacious, soft-cushioned chair, which swings back until it reaches exactly the comfortable angle; there he rests with perfect comfort until the operation is achieved. The barber performs the ablutions after the shaving is over; powders the chin; and one rises from the chair to find himself as spruce and neat as possible.
- American Aristocracy
The use of liveries and heraldic devices is rare in America, and when a family adopts them, they are looked upon as snobbish, and as imitators of a foreign aristocracy. The custom seems, however, to be increasing; for many families, suddenly enriched by the civil war and by speculation, and desirous of seeming thoroughly "aristocratic," foolishly think that mere external symbols will stamp them as such, and forthwith bedeck John the coachman and Timothy the footman in gorgeous scarlet or yellow, and emblazon family arms on the panels of their carriages. This custom is advancing to such an extent, that it has been proposed to lay a tax upon these symbols. It is regarded by substantial people, and what may be called the true American aristocracy (that of intelligence), as an indication of snobbery and coarseness; for the people who adopt it have usually no real grounds, excepting wealth, for setting themselves up as the leaders of society. The European model is sometimes varied by American imitators, by substituting for the scented and powdered footman with bulging calves, a fine "darkey" specimen imported from the South, or a "live" little Chinaman, wandered hither from the Orient, and clothed in all the glory of a wash-bowl hat, gaudy loose-hanging garments of many colours, turned up shoes, and long braided tails of hair hanging down his back.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- Fires and Firemen
The American fire-companies and firemen are well organised, and do effective service. The companies are made up of volunteers; the houses and engines are supplied by the cities; and the members feel a keen interest and pride in their humane task. There is a spirited emulation to see which company will reach the fire first and this is not only in the hope of getting the reward offered to the first comers, but arises from a sincere esprit de corps. Electric fire alarms extend everywhere through the cities: and latterly the engines have been driven by steam, which is found to be a substantial gain. When there is a fire, you may see the engines clattering along the streets, their pipes puffing steam, and the men, in red shirts, wearing peculiar hats with wide leather rims bent down behind and up before, their trousers stuffed in their boots, hastening excitedly and noisily after. Fires are more frequent in American than in English towns - partly, doubtless, because many of the buildings are wood; but a large majority are extinguished by the zeal of the firemen, who are bold in braving the dangers of the element, and often perform acts of veritable heroism in saving people from the burning houses. The boys of the more humble classes have an ambition to help "run the machine;" and are proud of the day when they have grown large enough to take their places at the ropes, to work the engines up and down with their quick creak and thud, and to rush up the long, slight ladders to the windows, whence the smoke is puffing in great fitful clouds. The firemen are in many towns supplied, either by the city or by private subscriptions, with libraries, reading-rooms, and lectures; and it is a sine quâ non (something that is absolutely needed) with the fire companies to have at least one merry ball every winter; while in summer picnics and steamboat excursions are frequently given by the members. The firemen parade with the military on every public occasion, accompanied by their engines and other paraphernalia, and with their unique uniforms, and highly ornamented and brightly burnished machines, make a really fine display; they have, too, gala days of their own, on which all the companies meet, and go in procession, escorted by brass bands, through the streets.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- American Love of Travelling
The Americans are essentially a travelling, circulating people. Everybody travels, and likes to travel. In what eager multitudes do they brave the dangers and, fully as formidable, the throes of seasickness of the Atlantic voyage, that they may see with their own eyes the wonders of the old world - of which they have read with such intense interest, and which to them seem as romantic and dreamlike as the visions of the Thousand and One Nights. It is quite impossible for the European to comprehend the feeling with which the American first visits the scenes hallowed by tradition, the monuments which speak of the remoter ages. America has little history; there are men yet living who can recall the days when the Republic was bom. Everything is new - the country, the houses, the temples, the laws. Accustomed only to that which is recent, yet imaginative, and having his mind stored with legends of European history, with the descriptions of the novelist, the poet, and the historian, the American longs to find himself wandering through the suggestive thoroughfares of London - telling us of King John and his Barons, of Henry VIII. and his wives, of Smithfield and its fires, of Prince Hal and his hoisterons cronies, of Cromwell and his "Ironsides," of Rochester and his sad pranks, of Addison and "Brooks's," of dear old America-hating Johnson and the Mitre, of the Prince Regent and the Carlton House. He is impatient to see Paris with its rare old memories and its modem splendour; to steam up the castle-capped Rhine; to sit among the broken columns of the Forum; to wander through the silent, speaking streets of sad PompeiL These are new, strange, awe-inspiring to him beyond European imagining. Americans come, then, by the thousand, yearly; they are now as ubiquitous as the traditional British shopkeeper himself. Paterfamilias deep in his ledger, is possibly somewhat loth; but mother and the girls are frantic, and will not be appeased. The Americans not only come abroad in troupes; they are indefatigable travellers at home. Curiosity is a great national trait. To "see things," and what they look like and how they work, is a passion. Your Yankee is anxious to see every nook and comer of "our great country, sir." To stand under the deafening cataract of Niagara, to grope, torch-bearing, through the vast damp Mammoth cave, to look down and be dizzy from the Natural Bridge, to frolic over the prairies, to slip through the mountain snows, to steam down the Mississippi, to swing into the dark deep mines, to hasten from one busy city to another, is often his delght. Business, too, calls on him, inexorably, to circulate. Tompkins must sell off his goods to the country customers; his clerks are sent out with samples, and scatter to the four points of the compass. Jobson is a railway superintendent; he wanders ceaselessly up and down the lines. The Honourable Nehemiah Spouter is seeking a reelection; he hastens hither and thither, stopping ever and anon to make eloquent appeals to his ''noble constituents." Farmers are carrying their products to distant markets; men are off for the West and South in the cause of trade, or to settle there; people are flocking to summer resorts or winter centres of fashion; reporters are running a race to reach some celebration, and to send news of it back first; office-seekers, stuffed with "recommendations," are crowded thick into the train for Washington, and scowl at each other from a too close proximity. For such an amount of travel there must be plenty of hotels, and those good ones. American enterprise is perhaps in nothing more strikingly exhibited than in the establishing of hotels, and the competition which exists among mine hosts. The very slang of the street hints this to us. It is said of a man whose cleverness in any respect is doubted, "he can't keep a hotel.'' Indeed, to keep a hotel successfrilly in America - so exacting are the guests - requires no common talents of a certain sort. American hotels are in many respects different from those found in Europe. They are peculiarly adapted to the people, but perhaps they are not so to him who has been accustomed to the hotels of Paris and London. In some respects, indeed, he would find them an improvement. It is a perpetual annoyance to the American abroad, that at every step he is called on to fee the servants. He sees in his bill a charge for "service," varying from a shilling to two shillings a day: this is foreign to his home experience, but he has heard of it, and pays it without murmuring, yielding to the custom of the country, and glad to be rid of it. He descends to depart; when, lo, on the staircase chambermaid confronts him, and hints that "a little something" would be agreeable; bootblack appears further on; then waiter, spruce and stiff, with itching palm; next, porter, bowing about and tipping his hat. There is none of this in America. You pay so much a day - say four or five dollars - and you are quit of room, board, service, everything. The servants do not throw themselves in your way as you leave; they rarely expect a pourboire (tip); the landlord counts on including in the fixed price every possible charge.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- New York Hotels
Every American city boasts its spacious, luxurious, liberally-managed hotels. Those of New York are naturally the largest and best. At frequent intervals, in Broadway, and in the up-town squares and avenues, you will come upon vast square edifices, many richly adorned; some of brick, others of sandstone, others of white marble, rising seven or eight stories from the street, oftener on corners, and not seldom taking up an entire square. Before the door are bustling groups of gentlemen, smoking and chatting, or hastening in and out. The "Fifth Avenue," the "Metropolitan," the "St. Nicholas," the "International," the "Brevoort," and the "Astor House," are perhaps the best in the metropolis. The Fifth Avenue is an immense square edifice of glistening white marble, situated in the midst of the most fashionable quarter, overlooking the tranquilly aristocratic Madison Square; it strikes the stranger as one of the most imposing edifices of the town. Entering, you will find yourself in a vast, high vestibule, adorned with pillars, and from which wide staircases ascend to the upper stories. The greater portion of this hall is an open space, where groups of people are talking, welcoming each other, or bidding adieus. Doors on either side lead into rooms devoted to various purposes: one conducts you to the hotel barber's saloon, fitted with every elegance and luxury; another leads to the bar-room, where you may have any wine or liquor or American concoction - soda-water or lemonade if you are temperately inclined - and choice Havana cigars at startling prices; a third door introduces you to the reading room, a long apartment, where there are many rows of slanting boards, or stands, level with your face, where are fastened all the principal newspapers of Europe and America; where you may read the leaders in the last London Times receved by steamer, or the Shipping Gazette as well as the Berlin Zeitung. the Paris Journal des Débats, the Illinois Gazette or the Texas Democrat. Here are tables supplied with paper, envelopes, blotter, pen and ink where you may write at leisure; here too, along the walls, are advertisements of steamers, hatters, clothing stores, and whatnot, fancifully framed, with, perhaps, portraits of General Washington or Grant above. A spacious closet leading from the vestibule discloses luxurious appliances for the toilet: a long row of marble washbasins, with taps; large mirrors; numerous brushes, combs, and towels; hooks for hats and cloaks. At the further end of the vestibule itself are long marble or elegantly carved desks, behind which are clerks in broadcloth, with an elaborate toilet and an excess of jewelry, mostly polite, sometimes rather pompons and short; the desk is supplied with expensive post-office boxes, which you may obtain at goodly prices for the depositing of your mails; and before you is a huge register, where, as soon as yon arrive, you are requested to enter your name and residence, opposite to which the number of your room is set. Behind the desks are unique contrivances for summoning the servants, and there is a board with hooks for the keys. You will find in the larger daily papers lists of the arrivals at the hotels: if you are a notability, you are honoured by a special paragraph among the "personals." Ascending to your room behind the porter, who is with difficulty struggling up under the burden of your luggage, you are apt to find yourself near the roof; for the hotel is always full, and, as the clerk tells you, only those who engage their rooms beforehand are likely to get a place within a reasonable distance from the street. There are, you are told, some five or six hundred rooms, many of them luxurious suites, composed of parlour, chamber, and dressing room. Domestic comforts you discover in the bath, hot water and cold, and closet conveniences. Water supplies on every floor, with pipe and hose attached, apprise you that provision is made to protect the guests from fire; "any room in the building can be flooded in five minutes," says waiter officiously. The spacious corridors through which you pass are beautifully frescoed and painted; the carpets yield soft as a lawn beneath your feet. At one side of the vestibule you observe the ponderous "elevator," which conveys the guests in a sort of balloon-like fashion from the first story to the very roof - a marvellous and costly piece of mechanism, without which no modern hotel proprietor would dare to build. The hotels are all alight with gas at night. In a new hotel in Boston, they tell us, there are some two miles of gas pipes running zigzag through the house, and sixteen miles of bell wire, thousandfold plague of the servants. Your room is neatly, simply furnished. The bedstead stands square on the floor; is not stilted and high, like those of Britain, neither does it have canopies or curtains supported by lofty posts; the linen is, however, of the finest, the feathers of the soltest, and therein lies its comfort. A pretty carpet, plain window cnrtains, very green blinds, a marble top washstand, a closet for clothes, an elegant mirror, - these are the garnishments. There are hardly less than a thousand guests under the same roof with you; these are every one well caredfor, promptly served. A feature to which you are not used in the old countries, is the drawing-rooms of the American hotels. On the second floor you discover a long, spacious suite of apartments, furnished as lavishly as Devonshire House, with great luxurious sofas and fauteuils (armchairs), high and numerous mirrors, paintings, gilded cornicings, rich carpets - these are the public hotel parlours. There are parlours for the gentlemen and for the ladies, where the guests of the house are free to sit the day long, receive their visitors, and assemble en grande toilette in the evening. No extra charge is made for the use of these elegant saloons. Often they are used for balls and parties, concerts and private theatricals. The scene which they afford in the evening - dazzlingly lighted by large glass chandeliers - is very brilliant. The ladies are there, arrayed in all their glory; a "parlour grand" is yielding a brisk galop or a Beethoven sonata in the corner; old gentlemen are struggling through the evening papers at the polished mahogany tables; here a little group are laughing and joking; there a young couple are whispering tender asides, watchful of the rest lest they should be noticed.
- Hotel Kitchens
Should you venture io wander through those mysterious labyrinths which lead from the upper world to the hot regions where the French master cook wins his triumphs, the kitchen of Christ Church, at Oxford, will no longer seem wonderful. Imagine a newly invented cooking range which is fifty feet long, entirely covers one side of the kitchen, and not only supplies the vast establishment with plenteous hot water, but at the same time cooks the dinners of a thousand hungry guests! Here are cooks by the dozen; the daily supply of meat rises in lordly piles on the broad kitchen tables; there are heaped baskets of vegetables, cooked by the bushel; there are luscious pyramids of fruits, and a row of fellows in white paper caps beating up sauces and moulding pastry into a score of forms. In the dining and breakfast rooms the Englishman finds some of the most striking differences from the establishments of his own land. Here, besides numberless small tables, capable of seating from two to half-a-dozen, are long tables extending in parallel rows completely across the spacious hall. Each will accommodate a hundred guests or more; and the people all sit democratically at table together. From a neat card which you find tacked to the door of your bedroom you learn that you may have breakfast at any time from six A.M. till noon; dinner from noon till six p.m.; tea or supper from six p.m. till midnight. Descending between any of these hours, you find the guests scattered along the common table, leisnrely eating, drinking, talking, or reading the papers. The hotel charges you so much a day, as has been remarked, which includes everything; at the fashionable first-class hotels the charge is four and a half or five dollars (18s. 6d. to 1l.) - this entitles you to room, lights, service, and your meals. When you are seated at the breakfast -table, a waiter promptly brings you a bewilderingly long and miscellaneous bill of fare, from which you choose, as the French say, à discretion, You may have what ypu like, and as much as you like; there is no limit. The beverages are tea, coffee, cocoa, or milk; you may have a beefsteak, a mutton chop, a plate of "fish-balls," ham and eggs, sausages, fowl, oysters raw or cooked in all fashions, eggs, veal cutlets, pig's feet, and many more meat dishes, and may have them all in succession if you choose to order them; hot rolls, cakes of a dozen sorts - buckwheat, or rice, or griddle, or corn; fried potatoes or "chips" - compose the other dishes from which you may choose. At dinner the same abundance is offered for your orders. The favourite dinner hours in the hotels are at two for men of business and departing travellers, and at six for the fashionables and stationary guests. I doubt if the English visitor will find at any house of public entertainment in Europe a more sumptuous feast than is daily offered to the guests of the Fifth Avenue in New York, the Continental in Philadelphia, or the St. James in Boston, Many of the. hotel proprietors themselves own extensive farms, gardens, conservatories, and dairies in the neighbourhood of the cities; and with the abundance of fruit and vegetables which. America yields, and which may be brought to the cities from all parts in a few hours, it is not strange that such repasts should be enjoyed in the large hotels In the summer season, especially, the guests may rergale themselves according to the widest variety of taste. Of vegetables there is a perplexing variety; game - especially venison, partridges, quails, "canvass-back" and other species of ducks, prairie hens, and grouse, are plenty, cheap, and well prepared for the table. Cookery is very various in American as in English or French hotels; most of the larger American hotels have French head- cooks. The American landlords are very enterprising, are especially careful in their cuisine, and easily adopt foreign customs and inventions in the art of cookery. The chambermaids of the hotels are, as I have said, almost invariably buxom Irish girls. The waiters at table also are mostly Irish. As you go southward, you will find it fashionable to have negro waiters. The "darkey," with his ludicrous pomposity, his quick instinct, his ostentatious cleanliness, is the best of possible waiters. He divines your wants in a moment; he is painfully neat in his apparel; he never upsets a plate, or blunders in fulfilling your order. He is fond of being praised, and, if you do not treat him too contemptuously, he will take great pains to please you. It is an amusing sight to see, in one of the large Philadelphia or Baltimore hotels, the rows of these sleek and stiff-backed negroes, arrayed in black broadcloth, with white neckties standing out starch, their woolly hair rolled in a unique pyramid on the top of the head, and projecting triangular over each ear, with soleiimly staid countenances, from whose sable surface shine out two dazzling white spots, their eyes and their much-prized pearly teeth. With what military precision does your darkey waiter deposit the dishes, with what a stately bend of the form does he stoop to hear your commands! In the southern hotels, too, negro cooks have no rivals; they are, beyond comparison, the best cooks in America, especially of the " Johnny cakes". "hoe cakes," "hominy," "com pones," which are peculiar to the south, and are favourite dishes. The typical negro cook is a tall, rotund, matronly, neatly dressed woman, some fifty or sixty years of age; her woolly head wrapt in a gaudily-coloured handkerchief disposed like a turban, whom everybody calls "mammy" or "aunty;" who is a perfect despot on her culinary domain, and is as independent and "set" as it is possible for mortal to be; who talks to her mistress with a familiarity all motherly, and is a famous friend - loved, and not the less dreaded - of the children. While the hotels in the cities are built of brick or stone, those of the smaller towns and in the rural districts are mostly substantial wooden buildings, often with porticos and verandahs, two or three stories high.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- Country Inns
The prices in these are of course not so dear. In some country towns one may have excellent accommodation for a dollar and a half a day. It is a custom in many of the rural hotels for the landlord and his family to occupy seats at the common tahle, and mingle in the conversation with the guests. The village landlord is indeed, one of the rustic aristocracy. He is not unlikely one of the foremost of the village politicians; he makes verbose speeches, is elected on the town committee, is perhaps sent to represent the village in the State legislature. The hotel is the emporium of news; there the village oracles flock to read their papers, discuss the affairs of the nation, and compare notes on the prospect of the crops. The landlord is often also the postmaster; a little box at one corner of his office serves for the slender mail which arrives by the stage coach once a-day from the nearest town. The farmers, driving in from their domains with their loads of hay or potatoes, "hitch up" under the long sheds which stand by the tavern, go into the primitive bar-room with its carpetless well-sanded floor and modest bar, indulge in a glass of grog and a clay pipe before proceeding to their business. The landlord's wife is not seldom the oracle of the village gossip. She confirms or rejects the rumour of the hour. She knows whether Tom Brown is going to marry Susan Smith; she tells you all about the fancy gentleman who has mysteriously arrived at the hotel; she knows exactly the price which Farmer Johnson got for his last load of hay. Better still, she puts before you a good, honest country meal, well though plainly cooked, and plenty of it. In many of the rustic taverns there are bright-eyed, brisk, native damsels waiting at table, the daughters of contiguous farmers, who think it no disgrace to "hire out," are on a perfect equality with guest and host, and can sing songs in the parlour in the evening, as well as help you to your roast beef and potatoes at dinner-time. Near all the railway stations where the trains stop for "twenty minutes' refreshment," there are hotels, where it is made a point to have dinner or supper in readiness for the travellers when they arrive. The passengers rush in, an eager multitude, precipitate themselves upon the chairs, and, amid amusing confusion, hasten to finish their repast. They are in constant expectation of hearing the monitory clang of the engine-bell, and are nervously mistrustful of the waiter's assurance that "There's lots of time, sir." The soup goes scalding down the hungry throats; there are loud and persistent calls for "Waiter!" on every side. Imprecations fall on the heads of the servants, and ''Where's that beef?" "When is that pudding coming?" await them every time they rush plate-laden up and down the table. Many of the American hotels in the cities are carried on by what is called the "European" system; that is, they let rooms, and have restaurants apart; so that you pay so much for your room, and then take your meals à la carte, paying only for what you have. They charge, perhaps a dollar and a half a day for a bedroom, and this price includes service, baths, use of drawing-rooms, and other conveniences. You may take your meals in the hotel restaurant or not, at discretion; if you do, a bill of fare, with the price of each dish marked, is presented to you, and you can make up a meal according to your purse or inclination. In some of the hotels, where a lump price is paid for both board and room, there are also restaurants, so that you can choose for yourself whether to live on the American or the European plan. The latter is the most popular with the foreigners who visit the United States; Europeans are seldom fond of dining in crowds, they prefer to have a table to themselves.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
Wines are, of course, not included in the bills of fare at the hotels; and the Englishman who is accustomed to his daily bottle of fine old crusted port, or the Frenchman who cannot exist without his Chanabertin or Château Margaux, finds it difficult to procure his favourite beverage; for good wine is rare, and even poor wine is, compared with European prices, exceedingly dear. The native "Catawba" and wild grape wines are perhaps the cheapest and best; and if one can only persuade himself that the California "hock" and "sparkling Catawba" are pute and genuine beverages, he will surely enjoy them. If, indeed, you prefer the grosser whisky, you may get it very nice at the principal hotels; but the beer is mostly poor, unless you procure some veritable lager, brewed by a German enthusiast who has transferred his art to ihe new world. Restaurants there are of all sorts and degrees. New York is hardly less cosmopolitan than Paris in providing eating-saloons for people of all nations. There you will find German restaurants where you may obtain sauer kraut and pretzels, lager beer, and vegetable messes; French restaurants, with frogs and champignons, vol au vent financière, and fricandeau à la sauce tomate; English restaurants, with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, beer, and ancient cheese; even Russian, Spanish, Italian restaurants. There are restaurants like Simpson's, where you must pay high prices, but are served in style; restaurants like those of Cheapside, which are noted for the excellence of special dishes, and where you will find the business men; and cheap restaurants, where may be obtained indifferent meals at small charges, and whither the poorly-off are fain to flock. But you never see the waiters anywhere; and you hardly ever see people eating cheese and bread after the substantial part of the meal is over - that is a purely European custom.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- Boarding Houses
I have already said that there are no lodging-houses, as understood in England; and that boarding-houses are mainly the resort of single folk, or of married folk who are temporarily harboured in them while casting about for a domestic haven. The American boarding-house is, however, a characteristic institution. It is a little world in itself. Not more ludicrously illustrative of certain phases of British character is the famous boarding-house described by Dickens in Martin Chuzzlewit, than is the American boarding-house of certain native traits. There are boarding-houses everywhere - in cities and villages, in quarters aristocratic and quarters squalid. There is every degree of price, from fifty dollars a week to three. There are "highly respectable" boarding-houses, kept by widows of clergymen and lawyers in distress, where the lady of the house refers you for the - hem, the terms, to the head chambermaid, and where the "guests" must make their complaints through the same subordinate medium. Madame appears at table in a fashionable toilet, comes in late, and is never outwardly seen to take any steps in the management of her house. Patrick, the waiter, does the carving, and madame helps to the roast beef as if she were Juno dispensing ambrosia to the lesser gods. All is quiet and highly respectable - not to say gloomy and cheerless - in the house. It is a temple of gossip, but the gossipers murmur low, and talk scandal with dignity and solemn faces. Then there are boarding-houses for bank and shop clerks, boarding-houses where none but staid old bachelors are ''taken in," boarding-houses which afford a home for shabby-genteel families, boarding-houses - descending to the lower social strata - for mechanics and labourers, for emigrants and the desperately poor. They are, after all, more sociable and enjoyable than the English lodging-houses. In the latter, the lodgers live by themselves, and may never even see each other from one year's end to the other. In the boarding-house, unless you are irredeemably shy and reserved, you must make acquaintances, and get to know everybody. You meet the people at the table, you pass them on the stairs, you sit with them in the parlour - for the boarding-houses usually have a common parlour - you are invited to their rooms for a smoke or a rubber at whist. In the country towns and villages, many of the good folk - even those in the best society - take boarders during the summer months, and provide really comfortable and home-like sojourning places. Boarding in the country is very cheap; one may live well, by the side of pretty lakes or picturesque rivers, in many parts of the country, for three or four dollars a week. Families who desire to enjoy the green fields and rural landscapes in the summer, and are not wealthy enough to have their own country seats, frequently shut up their city houses, and take board in the way I have described. They find a place where they may associate on equal terms with their hosts and their neighbours; where the daughters play the piano and sing, and the boys are at the academy or college; where they may do a little amateur dabbling in garden work, play croquet the day long on the little lawn before the house, and use the horse and carriage of the host as much and often as they like.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870
- The Cost of Living
The cost of living in America before the civil war was less than in England; since that event prices have risen at least one-third. The heavy taxes, the depreciation of the paper money, the general exhaustion of the country, have naturally produced this result. The expense is now probably not far from that in England, if the difference between gold and "greenbacks" is reckoned; while, for the labouring classes, wages have risen more than in proportion to the increased cost of living. A carpenter or mason gets three or four dollars a day for his work; it hardly costs him more than a dollar to live in respectability and comfort. The demand for labour - and labour, notwithstanding the migration of hundreds a week, is still scarce in America - enables the workman to keep pace with the augmenting prices. The cost of living in a fashionable style in a good quarter of New York, is from ten to twenty thousand dollars a year; but one may live in a good street, and with all the domestic comforts - not luxuries - on from four to six thousand. In the smaller towns, a family may live nicely for fifteen hundred; in the rural districts, from a thousand to twelve hundred. Provisions are dear in the cities, cheap enough in the villages; real estate is variable, especially in growing towns, and rents are capricious - much more so than in England, where the advance is slow and steady. Such items as coal and lights are higher; furniture is about the same price, but carpets are much cheaper in England. Of course clothing - that, at least, made of stuffs manufactured abroad - is very much dearer in America. Silks, woollens, alpacas, are more than double what they are in England. A gentleman's suit, which in England costs £5., would cost in America at least fifty dollars (£10.). An overcoat, obtained in England for £5., would cost in America sixty dollars (£12.). The hacks are much dearer - it costs at least a dollar for a course, no matter how short, in the cities. In New York the hackmen charge ridiculously exorbitant prices; and here let me say that hitherto the ''hansom" cab has been unknown in America. The first thing which strikes the American tourist queerly in the streets of Liverpool, is one of these odd little vehicles, with the driver perched up behind. They are now, however, to be introduced into New York, where they will certainly create "a sensation." The American hacks are usually larger and more airy than the English ones. The cost of travelling is about the same as in England. The theatres and concerts are somewhat cheaper.American Society, By George Makepeace Towle, Consul of the United States at Bradford, 1870