THE TRUTH ABOUT AMERICA
BY EDWARD MONEY
"TEA—CULTIVATION AND MANUFACTURE IN INDIA," "TWELVE MONTHS WITH THE BASHI-BAZOUKS," " WOMAN'S FORTITUDE," "WE'LL SEE ABOUT IT"
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLE, & RIVINGTON CROWN BUILDINGS, 188, FLEET STREET
[All rights reserved]
LONDON: PRINTED BY GILBERT AND RIVINGTON, LIMITED, ST. JOHN'S SQUARE
More or less introductory—Americans and Yankees not synonymous—Want of courtesy in the States—The Press—Voyage out—New York climate 1
New York—National types—American currency—The States as a cheap domicile 19
Why I went to America—Agents in London and the Eden promised—New York to New Orleans—Railroads in the States—American scenery—Ranch life—Deserts in the States—Antelope Valley 42
San Francisco—Army and Navy—International Court—Pacific coast—Californian ranch—Social customs—Good-bye, California! 94
Nevada—Utah—Wyoming—Denver—A restless night—Seeking for a ranch—Ranch work—Colorado Springs, the Sanitarium of Western America 133
Ranch again—Tea—American press—Celebrities victimized—Last journey—Chicago—Beauty—Niagara missed—New York—Atlantic—Home 195
THE TRUTH ABOUT AMERICA.
More or less introductory—Americans and Yankees not synonymous—Want of courtesy in the States—The Press—Voyage out—New York climate.
Apart from the object with which most authors write, viz. to make money, I purpose this little book to serve three objects.
Firstly, to make the United States of America, and the Americans, better known than they are at present to the mass of the English public.
Secondly, to put a certain class of emigrants on their guard against the machinations of a few agents in London, who victimize them not a little.
Thirdly, to let the many who suffer from pulmonary diseases in Europe know that across the Atlantic is a cure-place excelling, owing to its peculiar climate, any in the Eastern hemisphere.
That my own knowledge of the United States is a superficial one, I admit in stating I was there not quite five months. If I have a talent for anything, it is the power of absorbing facts and describing them later. I kept no journal in America, but I made copious notes of all I saw and heard while the impressions were fresh. As I view all these in a bundle on the table before me, I feel that I must describe succinctly, to bring all I have to say into a "little book," and there are weighty reasons, with me at least, why it should be no more.
As my book will be truthfully written, and my intentions are good, success will not elevate me much, blame will not depress me. If the book is a fair picture, as far as it goes, of a vast and wonderful tract on the earth's surface, if it shows clearly the prevailing characteristics of the Americans, what there is for us (the English) to copy, what to avoid, if it prove of use to the ever-increasing class of emigrants, and if it is readable and amusing withal, I shall be more than satisfied.
I affirm that the United States and its denizens are not more than superficially known to English men and women. I beg the question. Why is it? There are doubtless many books of American travel, politics, descriptions, and what not. I had read many of these, but surprised as I was on much I encountered after arrival, I was far more surprised how little what I had read had prepared me to find. The following may in some degree explain this. By far the larger number who go to the States are of two classes. 1. The rich, who go for travel, pleasure, and change. 2. The emigrant, who is poor, and who stays there. The first, naturally, see the best side of everything, and if they describe their experiences, the pictures drawn are scarcely fair ones. The second class, as a rule, it goes without saying, are not strong with their pens, and were it otherwise, having to win the bread of life, they have no leisure. There are of course exceptions. The political aspect of America has been well depicted, the features of that huge continent aptly described in several books by good authors, but of true social pictures there are few. Among these there are no better than what Dickens wrote in "Martin Chuzzlewit," for the types there discussed are truly painted with great humour, the only fear is the reader thereof may conceive they are national, instead of what they truly are, characteristic of a large class.
The Americans know us far better than we know them. While, including emigrants, more pass from Great Britain to the States than America sends eastward, the proportion in visitors is certainly American. They come in shoals to England and Europe, returning generally the same year. Not strange, therefore, that their knowledge of our habits and customs exceeds ours of theirs. That the Americans know this is so, is shown by the style of conversation held with a "Britisher," when by chance (if he does not show it otherwise) his nationality is discovered. In England if A, an Englishman, meets B, an American, A does not discuss England with B as if it was necessarily all new to him. B is supposed to have probably been here before, possibly to know England as well as A does, and often it is so. But on the other side of the Atlantic A (and generally truly) is supposed to know nothing of the country. This was one of the salient features that first struck me. Quite true, in my case at least, I did know nothing!
When, in England, a conversation, say on a rail carriage, is held between an Englishman and an American, the chances are against the latter being asked how he likes England. The Englishman should feel, if he does not, that it is begging a favourable answer, anyhow that the reply, politeness considered, cannot be worth much. Under the same circumstances, in the States (unless the American has visited Europe), the chances are three to one the query will be put in the first half-hour. The form varies. Sometimes it is put diffidently, and in the nicest words. Sometimes just the other way. "Does not your mind expand when you consider the institutions of this great country, when you see how like a clock the machinery works, &c.?" Or, more shortly, "And how do you like our glorious country?" This last is a very favourite form. It was asked me many times in exactly the above words. My general reply (a safe and true one) was, "Well, I don't like it as well as England, though I see much we might copy with advantage, &c." The American, perhaps, then adds, "Ah, that's natural, but I'm glad you can discriminate, which few Britishers can, for believe me" (here he gives you a painful dig in the side), "they are prejudiced right away in favour of that little insignificant island." I cannot say the words are exact, but their drift is. The expression, "How do you like our glorious country?" I'll swear to.
Let it not be supposed that the above is characteristic of the Americans. It is so of the Yankee class alone. It is a significant word that "Yankee," I do not like it altogether, for it has more or less of depreciation in it. Still no one writing of America can help using it occasionally. What does it mean? In Latham's Dictionary it is defined, "Term applied in England to the Americans of the United States generally." This may have been so, it is certainly not the case now. Why, I know not, but the term has acquired a low meaning. In speaking to a subject of the United States, you might ask him, "Are you an American?" You could certainly not, without transgressing good taste and most certainly offending him, ask if he is a Yankee. In what sense, then, may the word rightly be used? Sometimes it is employed to designate the inhabitants of the Northern States, but this again is wrong, simply, if for no other reason, that they do not relish it. By "Yankee" I understand, and shall use it to mean, a denizen of the Northern States, but one of a low type. The North American gentleman or lady can vie in that way with any nationality (in intelligence they are perhaps ahead of their compeers), but the Yankee, "the cute Yankee," is a very prononce type, peculiar to America, and there are, alas, many of them. They hail principally from the North, but I have seen some in the South, and when met with there they grate against you more in proportion because civility and courtesy are generally the rule in the latter States.
We have all heard that servants in America are named "helps." This alone signifies a great deal. They object to serve you, they do not mind, "if you make it worth their while," helping you. The same feeling pervades all but the well-educated and intellectual classes in the States. Even where, as in New York, contact with Europeans has rubbed off some of this peculiarity, it exists. The shopman serving you seems to do so under protest. The conductor on the rail treats you as his equal. The hotel official picks his teeth, and expectorates in dangerous proximity to your boots, while entering your name. You need not, 'tis true, shake hands with the shopkeeper, even if he recognizes you, simply because there is no time in New York for such courtesies, but you have to do it out West.
The first thing that strikes you on landing in America is the want of deference and courtesy among all classes. Not only from the inferior to the superior, but vice versa also. The maxim noblesse oblige has no sway there. In England, speaking to an equal or a social inferior, "Kindly do this," or "Please give me that," is general. In America the "kindly" and "please" are carefully omitted, and the servant or "help" retaliates by the substance and tone of the answer. But I am wrong, perhaps, to use the word retaliates, for I never found that civility in asking produced any other effect.
The maxim in America seems to be that every man is as good as his neighbour, or better, at least every man seems to think so, and why, thinking so, they should address anybody as "Sir," beats their comprehension, and they simply don't do it.
It seemed to me, among the class I write of, that the feeling is "Civility argues inferiority, ergo, the less given the better." It can only be some feeling of the kind, deeply implanted, that accounts for the fact that the Yankee (mind I use the word as I have defined it above) is the most uncourteous being in creation.
The press in all countries reflects public opinion more than it leads it. Suppose a paper—I say not in London, but in Manchester, then the comparison is perfect—were to write of the Empress Eugenie as some American papers write of our Royal Family. Were she spoken of as simply "Eugenie," and even lauded as such, would not the paper so speaking of her be certainly damned? But "Wales" I have seen in several Northern States papers, do duty for our Queen's eldest son and future king. Nay more, in such papers woman's sex is no defence. Her Royal Highness, Princess Beatrice, is written of by her Christian name only, and her husband is alluded to as "Battenberg." Even worse, I have an article (I care not to sully this page with even an extract) about him, which was headed "Beatrice's Mash," the last being a slang word used in the States for lover!
There are, of course, papers and papers in America, and many would not be guilty of the solecisms above alluded to; still, such are the exceptions. I do not care to name the two in which the above appeared, but as they were the leading journals in the capital of a western state, it is evident that this kind of thing goes down, for they, and many like them, flourish.
But to other subjects. I went out to New York in that magnificent Anchor Line steamer, the City of Rome, which, after the Great Eastern, is the largest vessel afloat. The Atlantic was exceptionally kind, like a mill-pond, all the way between Liverpool and Sandy Hook, and the passage was nice in every way. We crossed in something less than eight days. The society on board was extensive and good—Americans, French, Germans, English, and others, there was no lack of choice. I studied the Americans most, for they were to me a new study, and I was very much pleased with the result. When I left the ship, I did so with the impression that, nation for nation, as regards intelligence, wide views, and general knowledge, the women certainly, if not the men, were ahead of us English. I had not many opportunities in America of mixing with the upper classes, but my limited experience there strengthened the above belief. Of course, all I met on the City of Rome were more or less travelled Americans (in no country, perhaps, does travel make a greater change than among our transatlantic cousins), but I was particularly struck by the intelligence, and the broad and charitable views of the ladies. Speaking generally of both nations, the English woman who holds matured and decided opinions on politics, theology, or social questions, hesitates to give them vent. Not so the American. And, as regards the failings of her own sex, commend me to the ladies over the water, who are far more Christian-minded than we are in that way.
It was also a real pleasure to converse with many of the American gentlemen on board. As I have nothing to say, except in his favour, one of them will perhaps forgive my naming him. Mr. D'Almar is a well-known man in the States. He is a great writer on political economy and currency, and I believe an authority in the States on those and other heads. But I wish to speak of him here as a companion. Highly gifted with thinking power, and possessing an amount of knowledge which is extraordinary, so diversified are the subjects, he literally bristled all over with information. The above, joined to a modest demeanour and pleasant manner, made him one in many. All on board liked him, and that alone speaks much in a man's favour; for ten days on a vessel betrays more of character than months elsewhere. If children like a man, I always think I shall do the same. We had a large nursery on board; the little ones liked Mr D'Almar, and so did I.
The City of Rome is a luxurious boat, and, given calm water and a set of passengers such as we had, what nicer than the Atlantic under such conditions? I do not like the sea, and am often sea-sick. The last thing I would do is to keep a yacht. So, enjoying the trip as I did, speaks volumes for the comfort and pleasure which was attainable. But then the City of Rome is not an ordinary ship. The sweep of deck for a walk, the superb saloon made gay with flowers, the cuisine, which tempted you to eat more than is well on board, the spacious smoking-room, the comfortable cabins, the absence of vibration from the screw, all and everything about the ship was simply perfect, and I felt almost sorry when we arrived, for though I have travelled much I have never ploughed the deep in this wise.
New York—I am not going to add one more to the many descriptions extant. As to the city, the many beautiful churches, the grand museums, perfect picture-galleries, magnificent opera-house, luxurious clubs, and numerous theatres, are they not all described, and far better than I could do it, in Murray's hand-book and many others. Still I will say a few words. First, as to climate. I was there twice, once in the height of summer, once late in the autumn. The temperature was as nice the last time as it was disagreeable the first. I have spent years in the tropics, but I never suffered more from heat than I did in New York last July. The nights were very nearly as hot as they are in Calcutta the same month, and while in the capital of Bengal to sleep except under a punkah is thought impossible, in New York, punkahs or any cooling appliances being unknown, you really suffer more. Still there is a difference. In Calcutta, at that time of the year, you simply cannot walk out in the day time, the sun would knock you down. In New York you can, but any time towards the middle of the day it is very disagreeable to do so. Calcutta is in latitude 22 deg., New York 40 deg. This accounts for the less powerful sun in the latter place; but why the nights there are so cruelly hot, I know not. The sea, as is well known, lessens extremes of temperature, but it does not seem to have that effect in New York, though it is virtually on the sea, for the winters there are as cold as the summers are hot. Twice in the year is the climate exquisite, viz. spring and autumn, but both summer and winter are intensely disagreeable. We have no idea here in England of extremes of temperature, for we never experience them. Were we visited with the heat and cold of New York, 100 deg. Fahr. in summer, 20 deg. to 25 deg. below zero in winter, as maximums and minimums, we should feel new sensations, and be thankful for the temperate climate we have, instead of abusing it as so many of us do.
I cannot, I doubt if many can, sympathize with the sailor who, returning from a Pacific station, and entering the Channel one typical English day, thick with fog and sleet, buttoned his overcoat around him, and looking up aloft, exclaimed, "Ah! this is the sort of thing. None of your d—d blue skies here." If the story is not true, it is well invented. Poor Jack was sick of blue skies and hot suns, but why he should have selected for commendation perhaps the main point in which the English climate is deficient, makes it very humorous. As I said, I cannot go as far as he did, and while I admit the English climate is far from perfect, that it is a climate of changes, the only rule being that no day shall be like its predecessor or its successor, that the winter is dark and dismal, that rain and slush, fog and mist, easterly winds and such like are the rule, and bright, balmy days the exceptions, still, in the immunity we possess from extremes of temperature, I think we have a blessing that balances all these drawbacks. Who, except those who have so suffered, can realize the lassitude, the intense discomfort of great heat, the acute physical suffering produced by extreme cold. I have been in many climes, but I know of one only I would, if I could, substitute for the English climate. I found that one in America, at San Francisco, on the Pacific coast, but of this farther on.
The entrance to New York is very beautiful, and a great contrast to the dingy approach to London by the Thames. On a bright day, and bright days there are the rule, excepting perhaps the Bosphorus as you near Constantinople, I have seen nothing to equal it. Shortly before arrival the Brooklyn suspension bridge, the finest structure of its kind on earth, comes in view. But of this wonderful bridge presently. We left the good ship City of Rome some three or four miles down-stream, and after being transferred and closely packed in an inland boat, we steamed up the Hudson river to New York.
It is only two and a half centuries (1609) since the first European entered the New York Bay, and yet the coup d'oeil from the water of the vast city and its surroundings argues many centuries of existence. America is wonderful in much, but in nothing more than its growth. I felt this first then, and my after life daily increased my wonder.
But here we are at the custom-house. My first experience of the scarcity of labour in the States came that day. There were no porters of any kind in the searching-room to move the luggage (it is "baggage" in America), and I had to carry all mine myself. It was brought in and thrown down anywhere. The examination took place at the far end of the building, but each and every one had to carry his own things there. With this exception it was plain sailing, for the officers did the work quickly, and were not painfully suspicious.
New York—National types—American currency—The States as a cheap domicile.
As London is the capital of Great Britain, I suppose New York may be called the first city in the United States, and yet I doubt its right to be so named. Commercially and in size it may be so, but scarcely in appearance. As regards buildings, cleanliness, commodious high-ways, the tout-ensemble which one looks for in a capital, San Francisco, on the Pacific coast, takes by much the precedence, and I am not sure that Chicago does not in a measure do the same, though not in a like degree. As regards the climatic advantages of New York and the capital of California, there cannot be two opinions. New York is certainly not a nice climate, while I believe there is none on this earth to equal in excellence that of San Francisco. Still, the inhabitants of a city are not answerable for the climate!
There is not a decently paved street in New York. The asphalte and wooden pavements of London and Paris are unknown there. I was told both had been tried, but that the climate was against them. I could understand this as regards the latter but not the former. Anyhow they proved failures. Blocks of stone, when of one size and height, and laid in the best way, make a jolting, noisy road, but it is not even thus in New York. Take Broadway, the principal thoroughfare, the stones are not the same size, and a large proportion of them are one to two inches higher than their neighbours, while every here and there are depressions. This being so, I imagine, accounts for the scarcity of wheeled vehicles except tram-cars. These latter, generally drawn by horses, seemed to me to run in every street and road in the city. Of course on rails they travel smoothly, but they and the rails greatly increase the difficulty for cabs and carriages. The traffic in a New York street in no way resembles that in a London one. Where there is one tram-car in London there are fifty in New York, and fifty cabs here to one there. The same as to carriages. Nearly the whole of the passenger traffic is done in the tram-cars and elevated railroads, and no wonder it is so, for to traverse the streets on wheels in any other way is very painful.
The foot-pavements are not much better than the roadways. The paving-stones are not evenly laid, and every here and there a thin iron ridge runs across an inch or so higher than the foot-way, apparently ingeniously placed with a view to cause accidents.
In two words, I have never seen a city with such bad roads and pavements as New York.
The tram-cars are much better than ours. They are better designed, far more roomy, and commodious. The fares, too, are moderate, generally five cents = 2 1/2d. for any distance. Another advantage: when you want to get out, you pull a rope, and the driver stops. How much better this than poking the conductor with an umbrella, the general plan in London!
The few cabs there are resemble ours, four-wheelers and Hansoms. But woe to the visitor who hires one. I was told, and believe, there is a tariff of fares, but in no way is it acted up to. For a short distance, say one mile, the least demanded is one dollar = 4s. 2d., and if you object there's a row. I asked several Americans why the tariff is not enforced. "Few, only rich people, use cabs," they replied, "and it's not worth their while." Anyhow the cabbies have it their own way. I was warned on this head before I arrived, but I was obliged once to take one. I paid about six times the London fare. However, as you can go almost anywhere in a tram-car with comfort, it does not much matter, especially as you escape the woful jolting a cab entails.
The names of streets in America are not put up on the corners as with us. They are painted on the nearest lamp-glass. This is well for the night, but inconvenient for the day. The name is only on one lamp, and so small you must go close to read it. You have thus generally to cross the road, and where four streets meet it is not easily found. I did not like the plan. But London is also far from perfect in this way, and might take a lesson from Paris. There, as a rule, the name of the street is at every corner.
The elevated railways are a feature in New York. Like our underground lines they lessen much the street traffic. They run about the height of the second floor windows, and must be an awful nuisance to the inhabitants of those rooms. The rails are supported on a timber frame which rests on stout wooden piles. These latter are possibly twenty feet high, they are very rough, and greatly disfigure the thoroughfare. Another disfigurement in the streets of New York are the telegraph-poles. We run our wires over the house-tops or underground. They do not. The wires are probably more numerous than ours, but all are supported on poles.
I went one trip on the elevated railroad. As you cross the open streets, you get good views of the city, but only then; at all other times the houses on either side shut out every thing. I thought the service, the punctuality, the carriages quite equal to, if not better than, our underground lines.
Among other things I went to one of the principal Fire Brigade Stations. We all know, or ought to know, the Americans are an inventive race. Much I saw showed great ingenuity, and not only that but high powers of organization. I may mention one instance. The horses for service stand ready harnessed except their collars (the harness is peculiarly simple). The said collars are suspended in front of the fire-engine, as far from it as when on the horses. The collars open at bottom, and hang thus something like the capital letter V inverted. A telegraph-bell rings when a fire breaks out anywhere. The horses are taught, when they hear this bell, to go at once in front of the engine, and put their heads and necks through the collars till they are in their places. The collars close with a spring, and the engine is ready to start! If I remember right, two minutes is the time allowed for the engine, with horses harnessed, firemen on it, and everything complete, to leave the yard. The firemen on duty are always ready dressed in the loft of the building where the fire-engines and horses stand, and it is significant of the value attached to time, that they do not come down stairs as this would take too long. There is a square opening in the floor of their room, and through this a polished, round iron pillar ascends. When the bell rings, they slide down in quick succession.
The horses were noble beasts, and gentle as lambs. A lady and her child were with me, and the fireman, a most obliging fellow, put the child on the backs of the pair in succession. Upwards of sixteen hands high, the girl, nine years old, looked a very mite when so elevated. It may be that my lady friend petting the horses, won the fireman's heart. Anyhow he offered to show us how quick all could be got ready. He asked us to stand on one side, and giving notice above, to prevent the men descending, he rang the bell. Both horses immediately rushed forward and put their heads and necks through the collars. He fastened the traces in a moment—some quick way, I forget how—and all was ready. I timed the operation: all was done under the minute!
The said fireman showed us many other things, and having found out we were "Britishers," was much pleased at our encomiums. He said that Captain Shaw, the head of the London Fire Brigade, visited New York in 1884, and adopted much that was shown him. "In fact," he said, "the London Brigade has to thank us for much of its excellence." I smiled when he so spoke, the remark was so American; but I doubt not we have in this department, as in so many, profited by their inventive faculty, though I ventured to suggest it was not likely the obligation was all on one side.
The Brooklyn Suspension Bridge is, I think, the sight of New York. It connects New York with Brooklyn. It is the longest suspension bridge in the world, and I believe the best in every way. It took eight years, I think, to build. It is one mile 720 feet long between the entrances, and 85 feet wide. From either entrance to the large supporting towers is 2200 feet, which leaves a clear length of 1600 feet for the main span. The said towers, constructed of huge blocks of granite, are 268 feet high. The bridge is 135 feet above high-water mark. It cost $17,000,000, i.e. about three and a half million sterling. There are three roads, or ways, below and one above. The centre lower way is for carriages, the other two for single lines of rails, trains crossing both ways. The upper road or way is for foot-passengers, and thus as you cross the bridge you see the carriages and trains below. The peculiarity of this wonderful and beautiful structure is the enormous span between the supporting towers, and the apparent extreme lightness of the whole bridge. It would take more engineering knowledge than I possess, and pages of space, to describe the manner the roadways, i.e. the whole bridge, is supported. But the idea conveyed is that the supporting-rods, and the ties of every kind, are far more numerous and lighter than in other suspension bridges. The mesh of a spider's web, but with threads running in every direction, is the only thing I can compare it to. I know not who the engineer was, but his name should go down to all posterity. I have travelled in many lands, but I never saw any human achievement that impressed me so much as this Brooklyn Bridge. In vastness, in beauty, in ingenuity, there is no edifice, I believe, reared by man to equal it.
New York is divided into three parts. The larger is New York proper. The other two are Jersey City and Brooklyn. The Hudson river runs between New York proper and Jersey City. This is not bridged, being about two miles wide, but I doubt not the go-ahead Americans will do it some day. The East river divides Brooklyn from New York, and is crossed by the bridge described above. The termini of the great rail lines, running North, South, and West, are in Jersey City, so when leaving New York you cross the Hudson river. There are six lines of ferries across. The boats are of enormous size, with separate compartments for wheeled vehicles and passengers. The horses pull the vehicles on board, and off at the other side. The saloons for the passengers are pictures of ornament, elegance, and comfort. In all such things the Americans are far ahead of us. Look at the steamboats running up and down the Thames, what miserable craft they are. You could put six or eight of them on board one of the American steam-ferries described, not to descant on the absence of all decent accommodation. I like to be fair and give the Americans their due. There is much I must decry. Will it make my praise appreciated on the other side of the Atlantic? I doubt it; but it will, I feel sure, make my English readers believe I write fairly, and do not hesitate to point out the many things in which the Americans are ahead of the "Britisher." Do you, if English, mind the word? I do not, but it is very American.
It has always struck me that nationalities, judging of each other, do not act fairly. Each individual, be he or she English, American or of any Continental country, is apt to regard the question at issue solely from the nationalistic point of view, and does not attempt to place himself or herself on the other side, and try to realize how it would look there. There are no people on earth more apt to do this than the English, though the Americans do it likewise to quite as great an extent. There is nothing, I think, to choose between them in this respect, and for national egotism these two nations head the list. There are not many more disagreeable beings than the egotistical, untravelled young Englishman (age generally modifies his views), who reviles everything foreign, and thinks nothing really good is found out of Great Britain! The class are well known on the Continent, and naturally avoided, for they exhibit little or no delicacy in propounding their views. The young Englishman in question, often of the upper classes, and also often rich, is disagreeable in other ways also. He adores wealth and despises poverty. He is a very slave to what is most foolish in our social customs, ignoring entirely those that are commendable. He would not carry a parcel through the street if any amount of money would induce some one else to do it for him. He scoffs at religion of every kind. He scarcely believes in the existence of right and wrong. He is shallow to an extent, and fast it goes without saying. Yet is he not all bad. He has a code, loose as it is, and acts up to it. It is real pain to him to be backward with a debt of honour (though I write it, how foolish the expression: as if all debts were not equally incumbent), but any tradesman may wait for years. He does not lie, except to save a woman's reputation (query—Is it then justifiable? I really don't know), but he exaggerates fearfully. Animal courage he has, but nothing of the moral attribute. Except as regards his egotism, personal and national, he is not offensive in manner or language. To ladies he is courteous, but his opinion of woman is of the lowest. I have said enough to show such a one does not commend himself to foreigners.
There is an American of the same type, but he differs. Far more intellectual than his English brother, he has much wider views. He is equally puffed up with conceit as to his own "glorious country" (odd how often you hear this expression in the States), but he recognizes it is a new country, and may thus have some shortcomings. Still, that it is on the high road to eclipse all others is part of his creed. He does not, like the other described, look up to a rich man because he is rich, but because he must have been "cute" to attain the position. Social customs of all kinds he ignores, and if with the Englishman aforesaid would willingly carry his parcel for him! He too is a free-thinker in theology, but he is more tolerant of creed and dogma in others. I cannot call him "fast" as compared with other Americans, for they are all fast in a sense. The word, as we understand it, somehow does not apply to them. So much for his best side. As regards any code of honour, or appreciation of the virtue of truth, it is not in him. As regards physical courage I would back the Englishman, moral courage the American. He (the latter) is often offensive both in manner and language. Courtesy to any one he does not practise, for he thinks it argues his own inferiority. I know not what he thinks of women, for I never cared to discuss the subject with him.
Such are, in my opinion, the general characteristics of two similar types of young men in England and America. Both, after travel and as they advance in years, improve. But, as painted, they are, of course, neither of them desirable companions, and I do not think there is much to choose between them.
I care not here to continue the subject, and try to depict the opposing national characteristics of the Americans and English (of course, what is written above applies to neither, only to the particular type of each country as set forth). I have already done it more or less in the foregoing pages, and would rather it peeped out in the same way as my book proceeds.
But all this is not New York, which I am bound to finish in this chapter. Before we go further I had better, for the benefit of those who know it not, state the American currency and its equivalent value in English money, for it will save repetition. The "almighty dollar" is the unit of currency in the States. Why the coin is thus lauded in American phraseology is a puzzle, for it certainly procures less as regards its nominal value than any coin I know. The dollar is divided into 100 cents, and is worth itself 4s. 2d. Thus each cent represents one halfpenny; twenty-five cents, roughly one shilling; and the English sovereign is generally worth $4.85, generally written $4^85, and read four dollars eighty-five cents. This decimal system is most convenient for all calculations. I may give one example. Suppose the exchange to be as above, L1 = $4.85, and I want to send the equivalent of L210 to America; I simply multiply 485 by 210 and divide the product by 100; practically cut off the two last figures in the said product. Thus—
485 x 210=101850.
The two last figures, the five and the cypher, are cut off, and they indicate the cents, the figures reading $1018^50, which is the true amount I shall get at the above rate of exchange.
Again, in casting up columns of English money figures, we have to divide the total of the pence by 12, the total of the shillings by 20, and only set down the remainder, carrying over the quotient. With the American currency the dollars are set down in one column, the cents in another, but the whole are added up together, then the two right-hand figures of the product struck off. These are the cents, all the rest are dollars. There are other ways in which this decimal system is convenient, but I have exemplified it sufficiently. Shall we ever have as good a system?
The silver coins are ten cents, quarter, half, and whole dollars. The gold, five, ten, and twenty dollars, which are roughly worth a little over one, two, and four pounds sterling. The last is a very handsome gold piece, a trifle smaller in diameter than an English crown, but, I think, thicker. The bank-notes, called "Bills," begin at fifty cents, and run up to one thousand dollars. There may be higher, but I have not seen them. There is nothing to be said in their favour. They are of many patterns and devices, and most of them dilapidated and dreadfully dirty; so dirty that they stick to one another, and so greasy and discoloured by usage that I always fancied they gave off an unpleasant odour. They are not nice things to put in your pocket! I speak of those of moderate value, say 100 dollars. I believe those of higher denominations, not so much in use, are better. Accustomed to our clean and crisp notes, I was surprised that the go-ahead Americans had such paper money, for bad as it is in some parts of the continent, I have never seen such offensive notes as the American. I believe, here in England, all paper money paid into the bank is destroyed, and new issued in its stead, and that this accounts for our clean, crisp, and undilapidated notes. I wish the same plan held over the water.
I had forgotten the copper coins. These are one cent, two cents, and five cent pieces. The last is covered over with some nickel composition, so that it looks like silver. Side by side with the ten cent silver piece, the five cent nickel bit looks the more valuable, and it takes time to realize it is only worth half the other. The five cent piece is often called "a nickel," the ten cent piece "a dime."
Out far west the copper coinage is not current under five cents. When at "San Francisco," I found that nothing was sold under that amount, which is, of course, 2 1/2d. The poor there take two or three of any cheap thing to make up the sum. Not only did the storekeepers there not think it inconvenient, they regretted the time in the gold fever days when ten cents was the lowest tender, and if I remember right, when that splendid city was in its first infancy (i.e. gold in California was first discovered) nothing could be bought under 25 cents, or one shilling!
It is a great mistake to suppose America is a cheap country. It may be, nay often is, a good country to make money in for the very reason that things are not cheap, but it is, a very dear country to live in, and, take it all in all, the dearest I have ever visited. It is well that this all-important fact should be known, for numbers of emigrants go out, deceived by agents in London, with quite a contrary opinion. But still the broad fact requires qualification. Some few things are cheaper than in England or the continent, but most are far dearer. Food of some sorts is cheaper—notably meat—in many places less than half the price it is here. Bread, beer, and liquors much the same. Preserved provisions are a little dearer. Vegetables, perhaps, are cheaper. But all other necessaries of life are two or three times their cost here. Clothing is very dear. Furniture more reasonable. Crockery, three times the home price, and everything else that is wanted in a house exceeds by much what it would cost here. Travelling is far more expensive, but more on this head farther on. The truth is as follows:—If a man or family live in the States in an out-of-the-way place, and are content so to live without the comforts of life, nothing but the bare necessaries, they can then, after once setting themselves up, live cheaper than in England. But only in this case can it be done. To live otherwise, that is to allow yourself and family things on the ordinary scale we have them in England, costs far more.
The reason why things are dear in the States is simply because labour is scarce and expensive. For an ordinary day's work, a man there gets one to one and a half dollars besides his food. This is certainly equal to three times the ordinary English wage. The consequence is, that, in spite of the heavy import dues on foreign manufactured goods, the Americans, in many cases, find it cheaper to import than to manufacture them. Take crockery for instance. By far the greater part in use comes from England. They have as good clay in the States as there is here. I need not say that the Americans, ingenious and au fait at all machinery as they are, could make it, still they do not, to any extent, simply because, so made, it would be dearer than what they import. English crockery will be found all over America; it has borne sea freight, import dues, rail charges for perhaps fifteen hundred miles, what wonder then that when you buy such it costs three or four times what it does here?
It is the same with many other things. In fact, the purchasing power of a dollar in inner America is not, for all such articles, much more than one shilling in England! It goes without saying, that English emigrants of the lower class, settling in America, can, by selling their labour, as they do, at such a high price, and with the cheap common food available, more than make up for the high cost of such things as I have described. But people who have been accustomed to comforts in England should avoid the States, unless they are prepared to forego society, and live the sort of life one leads on a cattle ranch, where nothing in the way of appearance is necessary.
One word more as to the poor emigrant class. It is not all couleur de rose for them. True, labour is in demand and its cost high, but the man, or the family, have often a hard fight before they can take advantage of these conditions, and during the interval they have necessarily to spend far more than they would in England. I do not say that the said poor class, who cannot find work here, should not emigrate to America, but I do say they are unwise to do so, unless some assured favourable locality, some kind of probable opening, is assured to them. America needs population, but the need is America's, and she should give the inducements.
Back to New York. There are many very good hotels there; among them may be named the Fifth Avenue Hotel, the Windsor, Brunswick, and Astor House, but all these are expensive, five to six dollars per day per head, which is a good deal more than the best hotels in London. There are also many good hotels in which the charges are not more than half the above, but in most of the latter breakfast only lasts from 7 to 9, and dinner is at 1 o'clock—hours many will object to. You can have baths in all these houses, but the comfort of a sponge bath in your bedroom is not usual, and if you insist on it, you pay for your obstinacy. I went to Earl's Hotel: it is quite as good as any of the second-class houses; the waiters there are all negroes, they are attentive and serve well. It was the height of summer when I landed, and the heat was awful. The nights were suffocating; I could have fancied myself in the tropics, for the high temperature lasted till early morning. Sleep and great heat, in my case at least, are antagonistic, and, as I tossed on my bed, I longed for the waving punkah we have under such circumstances in India.
I was not sorry to leave the place, and advise any one visiting it, to do so either in the Spring or the Autumn, at those times the climate is delightful, but avoid both Summer and Winter, the extremes of temperature, heat and cold, at those seasons, are such as we in England wot not of, for above 100 deg. in summer and 20 deg. to 25 deg. below zero (Fahr.) in winter are extremes.
 In vastness and ingenuity it has certainly no rival on earth. In beauty, the Palais de Justice at Brussels may be a rival.
Why I went to America—Agents in London and the Eden promised—New York to New Orleans—Railroads in the States—American scenery—Ranch life—Deserts in the States—Antelope Valley.
I left New York for California, which is right on the other side of the huge continent, but why I did so I must explain, for thereby hangs an important tale.
My object in going to America was to buy an estate and settle on it with my two sons, whom I had sent out there some eighteen months before. They went to learn farm and cattle ranch work, and had been so employed. Before leaving London I inquired much as to the best part of America to go to, but, as is so often the case, I found that nearly all the advice I received was prompted by self-interest, i.e. that among the class I applied to, mostly agents connected in some way or other with America, each vaunted the excellence of the State and locality he worked for. In short, the result of all my inquiries was that a great many different States were the best in the Union!
While in doubt what to do, and with the determination not to be "done" by an agent, I read a very tempting advertisement, and eventually, like many more, was done very completely by the advertiser and his representations! The said advertisement set out that 160 acres in California would be granted free of cost by the Government to any one, above twenty-one years of age, and that any further area could be bought on very reasonable terms. The locality was said to possess a charming climate and many advantages, all of which would be detailed on application, &c., &c. I have not the advertisement, unfortunately, or would set it out. This I thought looked tempting. My two sons and I could take up 480 acres, and I could buy any more I wanted. I went to the advertiser (I found out later that he was an American, but he had been long in England and did not betray it), and what I saw of him I liked. He said the locality was in California, and that it was known as the "Antelope Valley" (a taking name!), and possessed a very perfect climate. The winters were very mild, the summers not hot, and bright sunny days were the rule. That he was there in June, and wore with comfort the same clothes he did in England. That the rainfall was scanty, but the deficiency was supplied by artesian wells, which could be sunk at a small cost anywhere in the valley, and with certain results. That California was known to be a great fruit country, and that the valley in question was pre-eminently fitted for all kinds of fruit. That settlers had only begun to go there a few months before, and were increasing in number at a great pace. That a railroad ran through the valley, and that all the land in its vicinity was taken up, but that, if I went out soon, I could probably get land two or three miles from it. That crops of most kinds, besides fruit of all kinds, could be grown there, and that the rail connecting at either end with San Francisco and Los Angelos (the former the capital of California and on the sea, the latter a large town and seaport), there was an unlimited market for all produce. The scenery, too, he said, was beautiful, the valley being surrounded by picturesque hills, &c., &c., &c. All these statements he supported by a map of the valley, showing the lands taken up, by a pamphlet he had written, in which the glories of this Eden were highly painted, and to which were added letters from the settlers, thanking him for having brought such a paradise to their notice. But this was not all. Specimens of the crops and fruits grown in the valley, some dried, some imitations in wax, heavy bunches of grapes, peaches wonderful as to size, Brobdingnag strawberries, and what not! The only wonder was why so desirable a tract had only lately become known, and I asked as much. The answer was, "Want of population. California is roughly 800 miles long, with perhaps an average width of 200 miles. In this large tract, twice as big as England and Wales together, there are about a million inhabitants."
And I, like a fool, was more or less satisfied, for I found the areas and population mentioned were right.
Now in all the above, truth and fiction were so closely blended, that, to discriminate which was which, I should have to travel over the whole ground again, and this is not the place to do it. Wait till we get there. But I would ask the reader to note this page, and compare it later on with the facts.
Suffice it here to state that the said agent, who sent me and many others there, knew that not one in twenty would remain, and that numbers in fair positions here in England, who, influenced by him, sold up all they had and went out, some with wives and families, to this El Dorado, crossed the Atlantic on the high road to ruin!
But what was his object? Did he own lands there and want to sell them? Not an acre, I believe! He got a commission on the passengers he sent over a particular line of rail, and thus managed to send all his victims the same way that I went.
Now the oddest part of the whole affair is that he did manage to do this. If any one looks at a map of the States, he will see that the direct and consequently the shortest route from New York to California is via the Central Pacific Railway to San Francisco. The distance thus is about 3000 miles. By the route he sent me, and all the aspirants to become land-holders in the Antelope Valley, viz. via New Orleans and the Southern Pacific railroad, the distance is, say, 4500 miles. Thus, 1500 miles out of the way! I did not realize when he offered me tickets by that southern line how much longer it was. Still a glance at the map showed me it was longer, and I objected. "Yes, it is longer," he replied, "but I can get you tickets cheaper that way, and you will be far more comfortable." I assented. But I am surprised he succeeded with the others, as I am now that he did so with me—that none of the many, more suspicious than I am, did not fathom his object. But so it was. All who went to the happy valley travelled over that route, 1500 miles out of the way!
Besides the extra distance, and consequent extra expense, there was another very serious disadvantage in summer (the time I did the journey) to the line he recommended. It is much farther south, and in consequence a great deal hotter. I suffered not a little therefrom. Others did the same, and as they dropped in by twos and threes, exhausted by the heat, and joined the exasperated and despairing prior arrivals in the valley, they cursed, in no measured terms, the man who had so deceived them. In two words, the Antelope Valley is a howling desert. Not a blade of grass, not a green tree, no trees at all. In this it is a perfect contrast to the swampy "Eden," so well described by Dickens in "Martin Chuzzlewit," but as regards the impossibility of making it a home, the two are alike. More on this head when we get there.
I am not one of those to whom "money is no object;" quite the reverse, and more especially had I to study economy when I left for America. I therefore took second-class tickets from the said agent for the whole line from New York to San Francisco. The Antelope Valley is, by the route I was to travel, some 300 miles nearer, but I thought it better to go to the capital of California first, and get what I might want. He assured me I should have every comfort in the said second class, and the amount I paid him for the tickets, considering the enormous distance (I forget the sum), was not great. He told me I should not get a regular bed as in a Pullman car, but that if I took a small mattress and blankets, I should find room to lie down and sleep. The tickets he gave me were to be exchanged at New York for a rail-book, with coupons in it to carry me over the different lines.
When leaving New York I went to the office to have this done, but only on the morning of the day I was to leave. I then found to my astonishment there was no second class, only first and emigrant class, and that my tickets were really only good for the latter. On further inquiry, I ascertained that between New York and New Orleans (the first part of the journey, taking about two days and nights), no sleeping space whatever was provided in the emigrant cars, and consequently that I should have to sit up on the seat the whole of the forty-eight hours, but that from New Orleans to San Francisco, the said emigrant cars were built on an improved plan, the seats pulling out and forming bed-spaces, and that therefore the hardship on that, by far the longer part of the journey, four days and five nights, would not be so great. "But," I said, "I paid for second-class tickets, and emigrant class is third." "Very sorry," replied the rail official, "but there is no second, and you will see that the sum paid and marked on your London paper indicates emigrant rates." This was true, and I had no redress. I then observed, which I had not before, that on the tickets I purchased in London, "Second Class" was only written in ink on the side. I felt I had been deceived, but that no other course now lay open except to accept the said emigrant tickets, or pay the difference and go first. I decided eventually to do the latter as far as New Orleans, and after that, as there would then be sleeping space, to travel in the emigrant cars. I therefore paid the difference (it was considerable), and left the office with first-class tickets to New Orleans, and emigrant class beyond.
Crossing the Hudson river to Jersey City in one of the magnificent ferries described, we started from the terminal station there. By the bye, the word station is not used in the States; deepot, pronounced as written, does duty for it. I was surprised how, in many ways, the language used in America differs from our English. I will give a few examples: A cock is a rooster—biscuits, crackers—deficiency, shortage—put in prison, jailed—drapery, dry goods—cabman, hackman—horses' reins, lines—sleepers under rails, tyes—guard, conductor—cabin, state room—engine-driver, engineer—funnel, smoke-stack—engine, locomotive—to post, to mail—sending by rail, to ship—clergyman, minister—to harness, to hitch—to think, to guess—to do, to fix—to carry on any business, to run—barmaid, bar-tender—public house, saloon—many, quite a few—and pages might be so filled. Doubtless the language, the idioms vary more and more yearly, and probably the pronunciation also. You do meet Americans, travelled ones, who have no nasal twang, but otherwise the nationality, partly by that, partly by the way occasional words are pronounced, is easily recognized. Some of the Americans seem to forget that England was the birthplace of the English language. One said to me, when pronunciation was one day the subject under discussion between us, "Very true, we do pronounce many words differently, and I can always recognize your countrymen by the British accent they use when speaking our language." I laughed, and remarked that unless I mistook, we had spoken it before Americans existed. He did not answer; it seemed to strike him as a new view of the subject, and he ruminated!
Running south from New York, the country we passed through until night fell was very beautiful. That, and some I saw near Lake Erie months later, was the most charming pastoral country I beheld in the States. It was quite equal to anything in England, which is so rich in pastoral scenery. One charm in American travel is, that, in traversing that mighty continent, you see scenery equal to, and like, the best that any country on earth produces. While executing the enormous distances on American rail lines, you lie down at night, the last of the twilight having shown you rural scenes—peaceful villages, ivy-clad churches, browsing cattle, waggon teams and green fields. You awake in a desert—a real desert like the great African ones. Far as the eye can reach, for hours and hours as the train rolls on, sand and nothing else. Not a house, not an inhabitant, no water anywhere. You close your eyes that night on the arid waste, and lo! next morning you are in Swiss scenery. Great fir-clad mountains, capped with snow, border the rail, a precipice is below, and you shudder as you realize how near you are to the edge. A mountain stream, with numerous cascades, accompanies you for miles. Domestic animals are confined to a small breed of horses and goats, but if lucky you may see a large stag, or a grizzly bear, and possibly have a shot at the latter. Before evening all changes again. Vast and interminable plains of grass, with an occasional sluggish stream. Cattle by the thousand in great flocks, sometimes grazing peacefully, sometimes driven by wild-looking cowboys on wiry horses with the high-peaked Mexican saddles and long whips. Here again you may travel for hours and see no habitation. Trees, too, there are none. It seems to be a country designed by nature for cattle only, and such is indeed the use it is put to.
The enormous cattle-ranches we read of exist here. The life of the owners or managers is a very Robinson Crusoe kind of existence. Miles probably from any rail, and miles also from their nearest neighbours, the solitude is extreme. Women delight them not, for there are none. An occasional newspaper finds its way there, but complete ignorance of the affairs in the outer world is the rule. A ranch-man's library is very limited, so not much can he do in the way of reading. He lives in a log-hut he has probably built himself, and he or his companion, if he has one, cook their simple fare. They have beef ad libitum, milk by the pail, they can wallow in cream, and consume any amount of butter. Tea and coffee too they have—sad the day they run out—and possibly a bottle or two of spirits, but the last they are very sparing of, for such is not easily obtained, and they are a sober race. Two iron beds, which either of them gives up willingly to a friend and makes his own on the floor (hospitality is a law with them), a table or two, three or four chairs, shelves and pegs to put and hang everything on, and this is all the furniture in the hut. But, except at night, they are seldom indoors. Riding many miles after stray cattle, milking, butter-making, rearing crops for cattle food in the winter. There is plenty of occupation and they work well.
The cattle on such ranches stay out the year round. On the largest the owner often knows not how many there are. Occasionally they are driven into corrals (wooden enclosures), and counted, while the young stock are then branded. The life is necessarily wild, rough, and solitary. The ranch-owner, like Robinson Crusoe, is lord of all he surveys for many miles round. His work is not hard, his gun, his rod, his horses are his amusements, but domestic happiness, the charm of "home" is not his. Think you he is to be envied or pitied?
All ranches in the States are not as above described. Where there is more population the ranches are smaller and differ in other ways. I shall have to describe one later which I bought, so will not do it here.
I had with me a mattress and blankets for the emigrant car beyond New Orleans, but having a first-class ticket I supposed this entitled me to a regular made-up bed in the Pullman carriage which was next to the first-class car. I found though it was not so, and that two dollars a night had to be paid for the luxury. In the first-class carriage, with small seats holding only two, it was impossible to lie down at all, and so I paid it, but this was the first experience I had of the way Europeans are deceived on the American railroads. When I paid at New York the difference of third to first as far as New Orleans, the official well knew, for I told him, I did it to secure sleeping accommodation, but he took good care not to undeceive me. I have known the same sort of thing occur again and again. The most flagrant case I met with I will mention here. I was in Colorado at the time, and about leaving for England. I wrote to a high official of the Central Pacific Railway, at Denver, for the rates of through tickets to New York. He replied that first-class was 48 dollars, second, I think, 44, and added, the difference was small (which was quite true), and that an additional advantage obtained by going first-class was that "it entitled you to sleeping accommodation." (I can swear to the six words quoted.) "Yankee cuteness" had made me suspicious by this time, besides I had never known the Pullman beds included in first-class fare, so I wrote again, and asked if he meant what his letter said. Driven into a corner he explained what I had previously known, viz. that only first-class passengers could use the Pullman, but had to pay extra for it. I wrote back indignantly and said the statement in his first letter was analogous, and equally truthful, to the following supposititious case. A meets his friend B in a town. A points to a jeweller's shop, and tells B he is "entitled" to anything in it. So he is if he pays for it, and it was the same with the Pullman car!
We reached New Orleans in due course. It is in latitude 30 deg. while New York is 41 deg. It is thus much further south, about 1600 miles by rail. It is not a healthy place, the yellow fever often makes great ravages, but I heard nothing of it. I was only there one day, so can say very little about the town. The sun was very powerful and I did not care to roam. There are many French, and they had imported Cafes on their national plan, with seats outside. Of course the coloured race was numerous, and as a consequence the semi-coloured also. Many ladies and women of this latter class are very handsome; I saw some beautiful faces among them. The "Yankees" are not in the ascendant so far south, and as a consequence the habits of the people are more courteous. The large French element there also conduces thereto. Another thing struck me, the inhabitants seem to take life easier, there is not the rush and drive one meets with in New York. As regards the people I should not object to live there, but the climate is a sad drawback. The winters are much pleasanter than met with north, but the summers must be far worse, and the yellow fever is a sad ogre.
The principal street is a grand one, very wide, with trees on the Boulevard plan. In this respect it far surpasses Broadway in New York, while in buildings it is equal to it. I also found New Orleans much cheaper, the dollar commands more. I was only there about sixteen hours, and then left by the Southern Pacific line en route for California.
As I said before, for this part of the journey I had only emigrant class tickets. The distance is very great, right across the continent, and to San Francisco, where I was bound, some 2900 miles. It was with no little anxiety, therefore, I stepped into and inspected the said emigrant class carriage, in which I was to spend some five days and nights. The interior will be better understood after I have described the general plan and principle of American trains.
Here in England each carriage is divided into compartments, distinct from each other, holding 6, 8, or 10 passengers. In America there are no compartments whatever. Whether first, second, or emigrant class, the carriage is open from end to end. In the middle, connecting the doors at either extremity (there are no doors at the sides), runs an open space, about three feet wide, and the seats are on either side of this passage, and placed at right angles to it. Each seat holds two people, the seats are placed in front of one another on both sides the whole length of the carriage or car, except a certain space at either end, of which presently. When the passengers are seated they thus all face the engine, but the back of each seat works on a pivot at its foot, so that the said back can be placed on either side of the seat. In other words, you can thus sit either with your face or back to the engine. This is a great convenience, for, if the carriage is not crowded and two people can occupy two seats, by placing the backs different ways, you can put your legs on the opposite cushion. But it is a greater convenience still in the emigrant cars, for in them a board can be drawn out to fill up the vacancy between the seats, and you thus have space for a bed. In the emigrant carriages each passenger is entitled to space for his bed at night, and it is thus arranged. The two seats hold four in the day. At night two of the said four vacate, and occupy a space above, made large enough for two beds. This is the arrangement when the car is full, which is not often the case, but otherwise one sleeps above and one below. I was fortunate. Sometimes I occupied the upper, sometimes the lower space, but I never had to share either with another. The above arrangement, viz. spaces for beds, is only in the emigrant cars. In the first class, and in the second if there is one (for a second class carriage is the exception), there is no board to pull out to fill up the vacancy between the seats, nor is there any space for beds above, so that really, unless you go first and pay the nightly charge for the made bed in the Pullman car, you are far better off in the emigrant carriage than in either of the others.
The spaces alluded to above at both ends of the carriages are occupied in one case by a stove and reservoir for iced water, in the other by a lavatory and retiring closet. The long journeys in America could not be undertaken without these conveniences.
In front of the door at each end of the carriage is a small platform, which joins on to and very nearly touches the adjoining one of the next car. The conductor or guard can thus at any time go from one end of the train to the other. So in fact can anybody else, though not permitted into a higher class than paid for. There is no difficulty whatever in going from one carriage to another. I have often seen children do it with the train running at full speed. The said platforms, except the passing space, are railed in, and it is often very pleasant to stand out there in the day time and see the scenery, often at night too, when it is hot, for the draught then is very welcome.
The seats in the emigrant cars have no cushions, they are plain wood. The passengers sit on the pillows or mattresses brought with them, and there is thus no hardship in it. The other carriages have all cushioned seats. The Pullman cars are models of luxury. In some trains there are two Pullmans; one used as a drawing-room in the day and for beds at night, the other for meals. The lavatories in these are most commodious, one for men and one for ladies, and in every possible way the comfort of the passengers is studied. You have your meals at any hour you like, the cuisine is good, and all kinds of wine are on the list. You pass the day reading or writing, though the last is not easy, perfect as the springs are. You smoke, when you will, in a luxurious smoking-room. You can wander from one end of the train to the other, and at night you have a perfect bed. What more can one desire? Under such circumstances, a week's journey is no hardship; but, and it is an important "but" to many, to "do" America in this way is very expensive. The fare is high, the meals dear; thus, to cross the continent in this wise, costs perhaps 40l.
I advise none but the rich to visit America with travel in view. But those to whom "money is no object," as the saying goes, can wander in the States with more comfort and luxury than anywhere in the world.
The American rail-cars, in their construction and arrangements, being so different to ours, it is well worth while to consider which is the better. I do not hesitate for a moment to award them the palm, in their phraseology, "far and away." In the first place, in such carriages the murders, thefts, and outrages, we occasionally hear of in England, are simply impossible. I will not dwell on this point, it must be so obvious. Secondly, you can quench your thirst, when you will, in whatever class you are; here you cannot do it at all. More, you can wash, you can retire for any purpose, while here, the suffering both sexes often go through, for want of such conveniences, is often very great, sometimes permanently injurious. Thirdly, you are not boxed up in a confined space in their cars as you are in our carriages. You can have change, choose your society, stretch your legs, go outside, and all this necessarily makes the time pass pleasantly. That all this is so, every one must allow. Should we not then do well to copy their plan? The conservative feeling, prevalent with some, that because "our plan is ours it cannot be beaten, and we'll stick to it," is so contemptible. Let each nation, I say, learn from the other in every way. Perfection is not human, there is always room for improvement, and narrow-minded is the individual who, puffed up with conceit for his own or national attributes, fails to recognize it outside. I know, of course, that to change our plan of rail carriages must in any case take many years, but some might be built on the new plan, and the change tried gradually. If any like privacy, a carriage on the old build would meet the want.
But beyond the carriages there is nothing regarding American railroads equal to, or as good, as our system. Here in England the lowest tariff, the third class, is fixed by Act of Parliament. Every line is compelled to provide traffic at a given rate, viz. one penny per mile (parliamentary fares), and thus the poor can always travel cheaply, or the rich either if they choose to go third class. In America, as far as I could ascertain, there is no Government interference at all in this respect, and each railroad company can charge what fares it pleases. The consequence is that on some lines the rates are simply prohibitory.
In England we have first, second, and third class, to suit the means of passengers. In America some lines have first and second class, some first and emigrant class, but some again only first! The second class avails nothing for long distances, inasmuch as you have no room to lie down, and if you go second, as I said above, you cannot, even if ready to pay the charge, get a bed in the Pullman car. You are therefore, unless prepared to go emigrant, practically driven into the first class. On those lines where there is only first class, you are, of course, still more helpless, and can simply elect between rail and any other conveyance. I later bought a ranch in Colorado, close to a railroad. On that line there was only first class. I there wrote the following letter to a local newspaper, and I give it here, as it elucidates much of what I have said.
A RANCHMAN'S PLAINT.
To the Editor of the DAILY GAZETTE.
Sir,—I am an Englishman. I have lately bought a ranch near a station on the Denver and Rio Grande Railway. I naturally thought when I did so, that being near one of the iron roads would be a great advantage in many ways, but experience has shown me I was mistaken, inasmuch as the rates for passengers, goods, and live stock are so high, no benefit whatever is conferred by the said railroad.
First, as to the said rates. On all the railroads I have seen in all the many countries I have visited, and I have travelled much, there are different classes for passengers. Here, on this railroad, there is only one, and that first-class. Where the justice, nay the policy, of this, even in the interests of the railroad? Is it fair to make a poor man travel in a velvet bedecked and gilded carriage and pay for the same, when economy being the one important point to him, he would rather pay less for ruder accommodation? Of course the only object the railroad directors can have by this unique and singular arrangement is to increase the receipts. But does it do so? I say no; many times no. How empty the carriages are! In my own case, had there been a cheap class, I should, since I have been here, have once or twice a week visited Denver or the Springs. Instead of perhaps twenty trips, I have made three (my family none), and the last time there were only two other passengers with me in the carriage. None of the ranchmen around use the rail. If they have to go anywhere on the line they drive, and all say it is far cheaper to do so and pay livery for the team than incur such high rates. Is not this an absurdity? The rate is, I believe, six cents a mile, which is just about three times that for the third class in England. A railway should increase and foster travel. It always does so. No; one exception: the D. and R. G. Railway does not. In the same way as individuals use their legs, horses, anything in preference to the rail, so it is on this line found cheaper to cart crops to market, and it is so done. Another result: crops don't pay here because the cost of taking them to market is so high. So not only does the railroad not get the existing crops, it also forfeits all which would be grown were the rates reasonable. Truly the policy figured is a strange one and exemplifies exactly the best way "not to do it."
But I dare not trespass more on your space, or I could enlarge greatly on other singular facts. How, because there is competition in one case and not in the other, short distances cost more for both passengers and goods than longer ones. How it was (I am not sure as to the present) cheaper to take a through ticket when the destination was an intermediate station and get out at that station—if you could! These and much more are not peculiar to the railroad under discussion, though peculiar to America. The whole system of railroads in America puzzles me. With much that other countries might with advantage copy, there are crying evils which, were public opinion more expressed, could never be tolerated. But enough for to-day. If you care to insert this I may write again. E. M.
The American carriages have not the class painted on them as ours. How you are supposed to know which is which, beats my comprehension. Having settled yourself with all your small parcels, you suddenly find you are not in your right class, and have all the trouble of changing!
When the train stops, be it for meals or otherwise, you are not warned beforehand, and no notice is given when about to start again. Not even a whistle when it does start! How different this from our plan, or the one on the Continent. The object in the States would seem to be to try and leave passengers behind. This uncertainty also diminishes the advantage of stoppages, especially when meals are in the case.
I omitted, when describing the carriages, to dilate on the advantages of the stoves. These warm the cars most thoroughly. With the thermometer outside 20 deg. or 25 deg. below zero, the interior will be, say, 60 deg.! Here the most we get is a foot-warmer, and must needs shiver! The Americans certainly score against us in all as regards the carriages and their comforts.
In England there are porters at all stations. In the States there are very few. Luggage once "checked," that is registered, you have no further trouble with it, but you will find no one to help you with what you keep by you. Changing trains with mattresses, bedding, baskets with food, &c., &c., is often very difficult. You carry your belongings, or rather as much as you can, to the new train, there is nothing to indicate the class, so you place them in any carriage, and rush back for the rest, doubtful how much may be stolen at either end. Perhaps three trips are necessary, and you know not how long before the new train starts. No one thinks of helping you. Darkness, possibly, adds to your difficulties, for you can't find your last carriage, or the train you came in has been shunted. You are lucky if, after gymnastic performances with luggage which is a new experience, and wishing, as no porters exist, barrows were supplied, for then you could carry all in one trip, the new train has not started, without you, but with a share of your belongings!
I have seen ladies with children, emigrant women with their little all in peril, nearly insane in such cases. I have done their porter work more than once myself, and broken my shins in doing it. It is very shameful that it should be so; more shameful the fact that if on railroads, in such cases, you ask for information or help, the chances are you are answered a la Yankee, i.e. rudely, and no assistance or information given you. Oh, this beastly want of courtesy in America, how I did loathe it!
The rail wars in the States are a grand feature—grand in the sense that they produce great results, some of them very absurd. One line tries to swamp the other by lowering its rates; the other retaliates, and quotes still lower figures. The first comes down more still, and the second follows suit. This goes on for months, to the advantage of the public, to the ruin of the lines. At last the reductio is truly ad absurdum. 1500 miles for $5! Then the companies agree, and, presto, the rate is $50!! On a line there may be competition at either end, not in the middle, e.g. the Denver and Rio Grande Railway above. Then is it cheaper to take a ticket right through than for half the distance, and get out at your destination if you can, for they often try to prevent your doing so! The Americans may be, nay, they are, "cute," but common sense would be more to the purpose in cases like the above.
Cut-rate-offices exist in all the large towns. The meaning of the term is an office where rail tickets can be bought under the existing rates. This is accomplished legitimately, and also by fraud; the first, by the fact that the companies think it worth their while to give such agents a commission on tickets sold, and they allow you a portion of such commission; the second, by selling you, often at a large reduction, the return ticket of another, who on arrival has found it unnecessary, and sold it for what he could get. As such tickets are not transferable, you have, after buying such, to personate on the return journey the original possessor, and sign his name. But the Yankees think nothing of this. Thank goodness, all Americans are not Yankees!
The object "far west" being population, emigrant carriages are supplied westward, in order that this said poor class shall go cheaply; but having arrived, it is wiser to keep them there, and ergo, if they return they must do so first, or at least second-class, for there are no emigrant fares back, i.e. eastward. I presume they are supposed to make so much money by even a short sojourn in the west, that economy can be no object on their return!
In England luggage is not registered, why, I never understood, for there is practically no safety in our plan. The boxes are labelled for their destination, and are thus safe so far; but if from any cause you are not then by to claim them, any one can walk off with any portion, and consequently the smallest delay on arrival is dangerous. Strange that losses are not more frequent. For, or on the Continent, it is registered through, and you get a receipt for the number of packages. So far good, but if you are obliged to stop en route, you cannot obtain the luggage or any part of it. Only at its destination can it be claimed by the production of the receipt. The Continental plan is better than ours, but inferior to the American. They use brass labels with numbers; one is attached to the package, one given to the owner. Presenting this label, he can claim the baggage it represents at any time en route. The said labels are convenient enough, thin brass plates about half an inch square, and can easily be carried in a purse. The corresponding label is attached to the package in an excellent way. It is fastened to a leather strap, some six inches long, and in this, at the opposite end, is a slit; the strap is passed through the handle of portmanteau or carpet-bag, or under the cord of any box, the label passed through the said slit, and the strap drawn tight. It cannot possibly come off. On the label attached is the destination besides the number. On arrival there it is kept until claimed by the production of the corresponding ticket. It is by far the best arrangement for luggage I have ever seen.
Before arriving at any large town the train is boarded by what are called express-men. If you deliver to one of these your labels he gives you a receipt for them, and telling him where your baggage is to be sent, you will receive it there, without fail, in a couple of hours. There is no risk whatever in doing so, and the plan is very convenient; but as regards their charges the said express-men are most extortionate. They think nothing of fifty cents for each article, however short the distance may be, but half that amount if the things are few and large, one quarter if many and small, is enough, and when they find you won't give more, they agree.
Still you are then not quite safe. Having been "done" once or twice by express-men to a considerable amount, I, on one occasion, when leaving Denver, the capital of Colorado, made a bargain with an express-man to take my baggage to the rail for a certain sum. He brought it to the station, delivered to me what I supposed was all, and I had it duly "checked," as described. I then tendered him his payment; he asked half as much again, saying the amount agreed to was not enough. I objected. He replied, "I kept back one thing till you paid me; it is in the waggon outside, and I shall not give it up." I appealed to the rail officials; they answered curtly that it was no business of theirs, and that I had better go to the police. This was impossible, for the train was just leaving. I had my son with me, and I thought I could take it from his waggon by force, but there were many of his class by, and I did not fancy a free fight. "Pay the money," said some one, "take his number and report him to the superintendent of police," and I thought this the better way and did so. I did report the case fully, and offered to return to Denver to prove it by my son's evidence, but the said superintendent was not even courteous enough to reply. The express-men are licensed by the police, and accountable to them, but many told me, e'er I wrote, I should get no redress, for unless prepared to spend money in the case I should not get a hearing. The law on every point is most lax in the States, for bribery and corruption are acknowledged on every side to be the rule, and cases promising no profit are passed over. Still I must add the above was an exceptional case, I having always found the express-men act up to their bargains. I think, therefore, a bargain made with them will be completed.
But all this does not advance the journey from New Orleans to San Francisco. If you look them up on the map you will see how far they are apart—some 2500 miles as the crow flies, and by rail, say, 3000 miles. You traverse the states of Louisiana, Texas, a little of New Mexico, Arizona, and California. A state in America is, speaking generally and leaving out the smallest, as large as England, some much larger, twice as big. Thus it was no small journey; it took me five days' and nights' incessant travel by rail. But what must the distances in America have been before the days of railroads. Here in England, between the old waggon era and the rail time, we had an interregnum of coaches, which for speed were the best in the world. Thus from one end of the kingdom to the other was then only an affair of three or four days. It was different in the United States. As far as I could ascertain there never had been a coaching-time, except for short distances. The long ones were done by waggons, at the rate of, say, fifteen miles a day, the passengers sleeping in or under the said vehicles at night. From New York to California at that time took a good six months. It is now done by the direct route in something less than that number of days.
Louisiana, the first state we traversed on leaving New Orleans, is an uninteresting and swampy country, and must be very unhealthy. The vegetation is luxurious and semi-tropical. Mosquitoes exist in swarms. Some of the jungle we passed through (it has that character) reminded me of the jungles in the south-east of Bengal. Louisiana cannot be a good state for emigrants.
Texas, the next, is very different. No swamps, indeed not much water. Vast and interminable plains of grass, very thinly inhabited, and almost entirely destitute of trees. The soil in many parts seemed good; the climate, though hot, is not bad, and millions of emigrants might find homes here. This is the largest cattle-breeding state, and the ranches there are of enormous size. I have said much on this head previously, so we need not linger here.
New Mexico comes next. We only traversed a corner of this; it was all desert, and from this point, all through Arizona and well into California, there was nothing else as far as the eye could reach on either side but sand, sand, desert sand, and not a drop of water. If I remember right, we were nearly two days and nights traversing it. I was astonished beyond measure; I had read much about the United States, and I knew that there was a desert around Salt Lake, the abode of the Mormons, but I had never heard of any other. When later, both from what I saw and what was told me, I found that a very considerable part of the States is desert, I wondered more that such a great and important fact is not at all known in England, and that none of the numerous writers on America have brought it forward. In the following, I may in one or two cases be open to correction, but substantially I know I am right, for most cases are the result of my own experience.