"I regard the size of some American cities and especially the nature of their inhabitants as a real danger threatening the future of the democratic republics of the New World, and I should not hesitate to predict that it is through them that they will perish, unless their government succeeds in creating an armed force which, while remaining subject to the wishes of the national majority, is independent of the peoples of the towns and capable of suppressing their excesses."

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 

 

New York City is the gateway to the Grand Tour in its capacity as a center of transportation. In its capacity as a center of fashion it is an attraction in its own right. The City imparts immediately a sense of anticipation and excitement: approaching from the water the tourist feels herself swept up by the aspect it presents.

"Oh, it's delightful to travel, Maria! We had such a delightful sail in the steam boat, though we were all sick; and such a delightful party, if they only had been well. Only think of sailing without sails, and not caring which way the wind blows; and going eight miles an hour let what would happen. It was quite charming; but for all this I was glad when it was over, and we came into still water. Coming into the Narrows, as they are called, was like entering a Paradise. On one side is Long Island, with its high bluff, crowned by the telegraph and signal poles; and beyond the great fort there put me in mind of the old castles which Stephen talks about. We kept close to the Long Island shore, along which we glided, before wind and tide with the swiftness of wings. Every moment some new beauty opened to our view. The little islands of the bay crowned with castles; the river beyond terminated by the lofty ledge of perpendicular rocks, called the palisades; and lastly, the queen of the west, the beautiful city, with its Battery and hundred spires, all coming one after the other in succession, and at last all combined in one beautiful whole, throw one almost into raptures, and entirely cured my sea sickness. . . Thank heaven I had not been abroad to spoil my relish."

Lucia Culpeper, Letter to a Friend  

Theodore Dwight locates New York City's capacity to excite in the potential it holds for further experiences to be had.

Another great reason why there is so much excitement about New-York is, that the principle vehicles for travelling are seen by so large a portion of the population. Little impression was produced on the public in former days, when the stage-coaches took off most of the travellers by night or at irregular hours: but what can be more animating than to witness the departure or arrival of the steam-boats?

Theodore Dwight, Notes of a Traveller  


Broadway

The City itself provides a wealth of amusement in the form of eating, theatre, parties and shopping. James Kirke Paulding advises the tourist to "take the field in Broadway" from one o'clock to three o'clock, following which promenade he should return to his lodgings to dress for dinner. Dinner and the theatre follow in succession; there is yet more to come.

After sitting or sleeping out these elegant spectacles, it is reasonable to suppose our traveller will be hungry, and being hungry, it is reasonable that he should eat. Wherefore it is our serious advice that he adjourn forthwith to the Goose and Gridiron, where after partaking of a good supper, he may go anywhere he pleases, except home, it being proper that a rational and enlightened traveller should make the most of his time.

James Kirke Paulding, The New Mirror for Travellers  

Female tourists enjoy especially the opportunity afforded by New York City to pursue fashion.

To the young female tourist, whose time and papa's money are an incumbrance, New-York affords inexhaustible resources. . . the following list of "Resources" is confidently recommended to our female travelling readers.
Lying in bed till ten
Dressing for breakfast. N.B. If there is nobody in the hotel worth dressing for, anything will do--or better take breakfast in bed, and another nap.
Breakfast till 11.
12 to 1. Dress for shopping. N.B. The female tourist must put on her best, it being the fashion in New York, for ladies and their maids to dress for walking as if they were going to church or a ball. Care must be taken to guard against damp pavements by putting on prunelle shoes. If the weather is dry, white satin is preferable.
1 till 3. Sauntering up and down Broadway, and diversifying the pleasure by a little miscellaneous shopping--looking in at the milliners, the jewelers, &c. N.B. No lady should hesitate to buy anything because she don't want it, since this dealing in superfluities is the very essence of every thing genteel. Above all, never return home but with an empty purse.
At 3, the brokers who set the fashion in New York, go home to their canvass backs, and Bingham wine, and it becomes vulgar to be seen in Broadway.
Dinner at 4, the earliest hour permitted among people of pretensions. Owing to the barbarous practice of banishing ladies from all particular in the learned discussion of wines, the period between dinner, and dressing for the evening party, is the most trying portion of female existence. If they walk in Broadway, they will see nobody worth seeing: of course, there is no use in walking. A nap, or a Waverley, or perhaps both, is the only resource.
It will be expedient to wake up at 8, for the purpose of dressing for a party, else there is no earthly reason why you may not sleep till half past 10 or 11, when it is time to think of going. Or you may possibly miss some of the refreshments. N.B. a lady may eat as much as she pleases at a ball, or a conversatione.
Should there be no party for the evening, the theatres are a never failing resource of intellectual enjoyment.

James Kirke Paulding, The New Mirror for Travellers  

The latest fashions transform the tourist into a visible proof that she is not, in New York City, who she is at home.

"My head is now full of finery, and all my senses in a whirl. I wish you could see me. My hat is so large that there is no bandbox on the face of the earth, big enough to accommodate it; and yet you will be surprised to hear that it is neither fit for summer or winter, rain of sunshine. . . Every puff of wind nearly oversets me. There are 42 yards of trimmings, and 60 feathers to it."

Lucia Culpeper, Letter to Friend  

Not everyone is entranced by the City and its amusements; its unfamiliarity may prompt in the tourist longings for what he left behind.

"In the midst of all this display, I sighed for bacon and greens and merry faces."

Col. Culpeper  

When the attraction of New York City grows stale, the Grand Tour moves on.

Having seen everything worth seeing, and eaten of everything worth eating, in New York, the traveller may begin to prepare for the ineffable delights of the springs.

James Kirke Paulding, New Mirror for Travellers  

 

Next in Tour  |  Back to Itinerary  |   Main Page