Class and Leisureat America's First ResortNewport, Rhode Island1870-1914

Advertising Newport

In the late nineteenth century, upper-class Americans became the focal point of society columns in major newspapers. Photographs and illustrations of their homes and leisure activities were displayed in mass-market magazines.

Guidebooks, travel guides, newspaper advertisements, and society columns about upper-class Newport sparked the interest of middle-class and working-class Americans. The media encouraged them to dream of their own success by observing the successful upper class.

Newport's attractions received attention in numerous guidebooks published in the last half of the nineteenth century. These guidebooks—small, informational handbooks for travelers—offered maps, advertisements, and lists of points of interest, often with illustrations. [1]

Developed for a middle-class audience, many of them included advertisements for hotels and local businesses as well as prices and descriptions of attractions.

Travel Guides
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Fall River Line Ad
Travel guides were more extensive, offering histories of towns and regions of the United States, as well as prices for accommodations and transportation in each area.

Nineteenth-century travel guides included Bachelder's Popular Resorts and How to Reach Them and Baedecker's United States, written for both American and foreign travelers. [2]

The 1893 edition of Baedecker's United States listed Newport hotel and boarding house costs as follows: Ocean House, $4; Aquidneck House and Perry House, $3; Pelham Street and Church Street boarding houses, $10 a week, minimum.

Transportation costs were listed as well. For 10 cents, visitors could travel from Washington Street along Bellevue Avenue to Bailey's Beach. For 50 cents, visitors could travel around 10-mile Ocean Drive. Hack fees were negotiable, averaging about $1 per hour. For 5 cents, visitors could ride the electric trolley to Easton's Beach, where they could rent bathing cabins and costumes for 25 cents. [3]

Excursion Ad
Excursion Ad from
The New York World
Daily and Sunday newspapers regularly advertised travel to Newport. One advertisement in the New York World announced a Sunday excursion to Newport via the Long Island Railroad and the steamer, City of Worcester. For a round-trip cost of $2, summer travelers could enjoy a cruise on the Long Island Sound and two hours on their own in Newport. [4]

Sunday society columns offered a glimpse into the lives of Newport's smart set. The New York Times published a yearly "cottagers' list." Descriptions of Casino balls, society dinners, polo matches, and coaching parades gave those who did not live in Newport the vicarious experience of observing these activities.

Special-Interest Magazines
Special recreational magazines legitimating sports activities appeared in the nineteenth century. Articles in Outing, as well as in Munsey's and the Independent, discussed the leaders in lawn tennis and the "glorious sport of polo." Coverage of these upper-class sports ensured their emulation by the middle class and the spectatorship of the working class.

Kay Davis, University of Virginia, © 2001