Thursday, September 9, 2010

Saratoga Springs

During his two-year journey through the Americas, Henri de Büren lived both opulence and misery. The contrast of being with the upper crust of American society at the beginning of his journey to struggling for the lives of his expedition mates in the Peruvian jungle in quite a contrast.

Saratoga Springs, New York. Currier & Ives Print

Grand Union Hotel, Saratoga Springs, NY, 1870s. © Library of Congress

Grand Union Hotel, Saratoga Springs, NY, 1870s. © Library of Congress

The following excerpt come from an early letter home to Switzerland in 1852. One must understand that Henri came from the upper crust himself, hence his rather stark rebuke of American cultural aspirations.

"After disembarking in Albany, we stayed there for two days, without noticing anything remarkable, only people walking tranquilly on the streets. While there we saw something even less interesting, a showing of Othello which gave me a sad perspective on the American taste in theater. It does not surprise me, given the fact that Yankees do not generally have any; they are too practical in life to appreciate taste or acquire it.

From Albany, we went to Saratoga, the American Baden-Baden, where we found many members of American high society. Men were dressed up, puffing themselves up to be as big as their safes. They had good looking wives accompanied by one or two other beautiful young women. In addition to the multitude of elegant people, there was German music, and a dinning room to serve a nine hundred to a thousand guests."

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