A winter resort guide for tourists and invalids (1877)
The actual title is: Appleton’s illustrated hand-book of American winter resorts for tourists and invalids, and it’s much more fun to read than Fodor’s, I promise. The book, in its entirety, is one of millions that have been digitized by a consortium of academic institutions, Google, and trusts like Hathi. Most of the original books that are being digitized by these projects are out of print, rare, or severely antiquated. You can find reports on countryside diseases in 19th-century England, a review of the USS Iowa explosion, or how to plan a trip to a nice winter resort to help your 19th-century mother cure her consumption or tuberculosis. Perhaps you can imagine that you, living in 1877, developed asthmatic problems from all of those gas lamps you installed in your Victorian home, and you simply cannot stand one more winter in your home in Galena, Illinois. You have money, dammit, and you need to put it to good use!
But where should you go to alleviate those ill effects of respiratory disease and maladies? This illustrated guide denotes several “grouped” areas:
—South Carolina Resorts
—North Carolina Resorts
—Arkansas Hot Springs
—Along the Lower Mississippi
—The West Indies (where you can find such interesting places like “Hayti,” “Porto Rico,” “Curacoa,” and “Barbadoes”)
—The Sandwich Islands (where my ancestors are from, now called “Hawai’i”)
Of note are many passages of the book that make each destination grand and alluring. For instance, “even invalids” can go camping for sport fishing and hunting in the Florida wilderness, even with a detour to “Mosquito Inlet.” Hunters have tons of prey to take pot shots at, as evidenced by this passage:
Of quadrupeds, there are the bear, the panther, the lynx, the gray wolf, the gray fox, the raccoon, the Virginia deer, the Southern fox-squirrel, the gray squirrel, the gray rabbit, and the opossum. The game-birds include the wild-turkey, the Canada goose, the mallard, the canvas-back, the teal, the black duck, the scaup-duck, the red-head duck, the wood-duck, the ruddy duck, the raft-duck, the green wingtail, the blue wingtail, quail, black-billed plover, golden plover, piping plover, snipe, yellow-legs, godwits, curlew, black-necked stilt, rails, herons, cranes, and ibis.
In short, if it’s not a human or a plant, shoot it, and then travel home by rail to share grand tales of the days you blasted a piping plover and gray squirrel back to the loving, pastoral marshes of Mosquito Inlet and the Indian River.
While in Florida, why not steam over to the Dry Tortugas for a quick tour of a desolate prison?
[They are] a series of desolate, barren rocks at the extreme end of the Florida Keys. During the war these islands were used as a penal station for Confederate prisoners, and several of the conspirators concerned in the assassination of President Lincoln were confined there.”
Out west in scenic California the land and times were much, much different than today. Appleton’s guide takes visitors on a botanical tour of “cacti of the most curious sort,” and it also explains why I saw so many Eucalyptus trees while living there in 2000-2004: “But the people plant a little shoot of the Australian blue-gum (Eucalyptus globulus), and in two years it becomes a shade-tree 15 or 20 feet high.” Fashion and comfort were obviously not commodities in the near horizon if Eucalyptus shade-providing trees were the amenities.
Be sure to head north to Santa Barbara and buy a horse for only $20 so you can tour the beaches. Cure your rheumatism at the Hot Sulphur Springs with sulphureted hydrogen, iron, aluminum, and potash. The dry air the guides associated with relief for consumptive illnesses was and is the same dry air responsible for horrendous wildfires that we see in the news every summer.
Speaking of natural disasters, the section on “Hayti” pays particular note to the hurricanes and earthquakes that were not unfrequent:
“The island has on several occasions suffered from earthquakes; the most disastrous on record being those of 1564, 1684, 1691, 1751, 1770, and 1842. By that of 1751 Port-au-Prince was destroyed, and the coast for 60 miles submerged; and by that of 1842 many towns were overturned and thousands of lives lost.”
This, of course, was one of the historical aspects of the island, which featured not much else except a climate that could be restorative to one’s health.
But of the most interest to me was the chapter on “The Sandwich Islands,” where most of my family currently resides, and where most of my family’s ancestry hails from. How does one reach Hawaii, when the year is 1877? You could take a steam ship from San Francisco for $75. Mr. Nordhoff the traveler said, “The voyage down to the islands lasts from 8 to 9 days, and even to persons subject to sea-sickness is likely to be an enjoyable sea-journey . . .” Visitors, women included, were encouraged to take a horse and a pack mule for a several-day tour of Oahu. On the tour guests can visit the Chinese-cultivated rice paddies, sugar plantations (if it’s harvest time, one had to be sure to watch the sugar-making process!), and an orange farm in Waialua (It must be mentioned here that all of these things are not indigenous to Hawaii). There are places on the seashore for a mid-day bath, and tourists should even take a stop at the boarding house for Hawaiian girls to see how “they are taught not only in the usual studies but in sewing and the various arts of the housewife.” This last statement was a peculiarity, which led me to assume that the sickly American tourists to Hawaii were of such high upbringing that they were never taught the arts of the housewife, a hallmark of the era. But I could be mistaken.
The climax of the tour in Oahu is to take a trip up to the Pali, a breathtaking, windy overlook that still stands today (and now charges non-locals a fee to take a gander off of the stone walls that are simply blasted by high-force winds):
“As you approach the Pali the mountain becomes a sheer precipice for some miles, broken only by the gorge of the Pali, up which, if you are prudent, you will walk, letting your horses follow with the guide—though Hawaiian horsemen ride both up and down, and have been known to gallop down the stone-paved and slippery steep. As you look up at these tall, gloomy precipices, you see one of the peculiarities of a Sandwich Island landscape. The rocks are not bare, but covered from base to crown with moss and ferns; and these cling so closely to the surface that to your eye they seem to be but a short, close-textured green fuzz. In fact, these great rocks, thus adorned, reminded me constantly of the rock-scenery in such operas as ‘Fra Diavolo,’ the dark green being a shade which I do not remember to have seen before in Nature, though it is not uncommon in theatrical scenery . . .”
The book then diverts to the three-day journey by ship to Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii, the largest of the islands and farthest southeast. My parents live next to, and my father works in, Volcanoes National Park. The climate is so wet that standard plumbing systems are abandoned for rain catchment systems, a fact not unnoticed by our 1887 guides, who drearily note when waiting to take a nice horse ride around Kilauea, the active volcano then and now, “it is useless to wait for a fine day, as it will probably rain at any rate before the Volcano House (a lodge that still stands) is reached, and if you have started in a heavy rain the sun is likely to be out within two or three hours.” In other words, pack spare clothing with the pack mules, and wrap them in India rubber blankets!
If Hawaii isn’t for you, you can always take a train to go admire the somewhat newly “freed” Negroes continue to labor in the sun, picking cotton with their free hands in the beautiful land of southwest Georgia, basking in their lives of happiness and carefree attitudes, free from oppression, and probably singing songs of gratitude and goodwill to the rich whites on vacation. Or you can head over to the then-newly dubbed “Nickojack” Cave deep in the Raccoon Mountains of South Carolina. “The cave is said to have been the headquarters of the leader of a band of negro outlaws. He was known by the name of ‘Nigger Jack;’ hence the name of the cave.”
Or, oddly enough, the guide suggests that invalids should go to Minnesota, where the dry air is the best, even though the winters are severe:
“These are the facts on which are based Minnesota’s claims as a resort for invalids; and they are sustained by the record of vital statistics. While the rate of mortality from consumption is 1 in 254 in Massachusetts, 1 in 473 in New York, and 1 in 757 in Virginia, in Minnesota it is only 1 in 1,139.”
All dry humor aside, and I don’t mean “dry” as a pun on living quality for consumptives, Appleton’s Illustrated Hand-Book for invalids and tourists wintering abroad the United States and its neighbors is a sad reminder of the human need for relief from such debilitating ailments like tuberculosis (i.e., “consumption,” which, as an aside, the book claims can not originate in Minnesota). Each “resort” focuses primarily on being outside in the air, absorbing the sun, riding on horseback across the land. The connection with nature is startling to the 21st century eye. The 21st-century traveler expects to be near cars, cell phones, tents and food and showering facilities. Even ladies of stature rode side-saddle and then hiked up to the Pali in Oahu, just for the same sight that my cousins and I see when we take a drive. The impression made on the author of the “hand-book” as he gazed out from the Pali was startling enough to warrant prose worthy of an essay for the Romantics.
Appleton’s Hand-Book also makes a lot of notes of the agriculture of the area, as well as what can be hunted and fished. Today most kids would be hard-pressed to name five different types of birds in the area, much less the types of birds that can be hunted and eaten for dinner. And camping for several days? For fun? Sounds like paradise to me.
If you were an invalid in 1887, where would you go? Where would you go now?