William Bingley
Travels in North America, From Modern Writers

The Philadelphia prison is a more interesting object to humanity than the most gorgeous palaces. Its exterior is simple, and has rather the air of an hospital than a gaol: a single grated door separates the interior from the street. On entering the court, Mr. Hall found it full of stone-cutters, employed in sawing and preparing large blocks of stone and marble; smiths' forges were at work on one side, and the whole court was surrounded by a gallery and a double tier of work-shops, in which were brush-makers, tailors, shoemakers, weavers, all at their several occupations, labouring, not only to defray, to the public, the expenses of their confinement, but to provide the means of their own honest subsistence for the future. It had none of the usual features of a prison; neither the hardened profligacy which scoffs down its own sense of guilt, nor the hollow-eyed sorrow which wastes away in a living death of unavailing expiation: there was neither the clank of chains, nor the yell of execration; but a hardworking body of men were seen, who, though separated by justice from society, were not supposed to have lost the distinctive attribute of human nature: they were treated as rational beings, were operated upon by rational motives; and they repaid this treatment by improved habits, by industry, and submission. They had been profligate, they were now sober and decent in their behaviour; they had been idle, they were now actively and usefully employed; they had disobeyed the laws, they now submitted (armed as they were with all kinds of utensils) to the government of a single turnkey, and the barrier of a single grating.

The markets of Philadelphia are well supplied; and the price of provisions is considerably lower than in London. No butchers are permitted to slaughter cattle within the city, nor are live cattle permitted to be driven to the city markets.

The inhabitants of this city are estimated at one hundred and twenty thousand, and many of them live in houses which would adorn any city in the world. They have, universally, a pallid and sallow countenance, except the younger females; and many of these, even quakers, adopt the disgusting practice of ornamenting their faces with rouge. In their dress, the gentlemen follow the fashions of England, and the ladies those of France. Mr. Fearon perceived here, what, he says, pervades the whole of the new world, an affectation of splendour, or, what may be called style, in those things that are intended to meet the public eye; with a lamentable want, even of cleanliness, in such matters as are removed from that ordeal. To this may be added an appearance of uncomfortable extravagance, and an ignorance of that kind of order and neatness, which, in the eyes of those who have once enjoyed it, constitute the principal charm of domestic life. The Philadelphians consist of English, Irish, Scotch, Germans, and French; and of American-born citizens, descended from people of those different nations. It is a remark very generally made, not only by foreigners, but also by persons from distant parts of the United States, that they are extremely deficient in hospitality and politeness towards strangers. Among the uppermost circles in Philadelphia, pride, haughtiness, and ostentation, are conspicuous; and, in the manners of the people in general, there is much coldness and reserve.

Philadelphia is the grand residence of the quakers in America, but their number does not now bear the same proportion to that of the other citizens, which it formerly did. This, however, is not occasioned by a diminution of quakers, so much as by the great influx, into the city, of persons of a different persuasion.

In this city funerals are uniformly attended by large walking processions. The newspapers frequently contain advertisements, stating the deaths of individuals, and inviting all friends to attend the burial. The dead are seldom kept more than two days. At the time appointed, intimate friends enter the house; others assemble on the outside, and fall into the procession when the body is brought out.

With regard to the climate of Philadelphia, it is observed that the heats of summer are excessive; and that the cold of winter is equally extreme. During the few days which Mr. Weld spent at Philadelphia, in the month of June, 1795, the heat was almost intolerable. For two or three days the thermometer stood at 93°, and, during these days, no one stirred out of doors who was not compelled to do so. Light white hats were universally worn, and the young men appeared dressed in cotton or linen jackets and trowsers. The window-shutters of the houses were closed early in the mornings, so as to admit no more light than what was absolutely necessary for domestic business. Indeed, many of the houses were kept so dark, that, on going into them from the street, it was impossible, at first entrance, to perceive who was present. The best houses in the city are furnished with Venetian blinds, at the outside, to the windows and hall doors, which are made to fold together like common window-shutters. A very different scene was presented after sunset. Every house was then thrown open, and all the inhabitants crowded into the streets, to take their evening walks, and to visit their acquaintance. This usually lasted till about ten o'clock: at eleven all was quiet; and a person might have passed over half the town without seeing a single human being, except the watchmen. Heavy dews sometimes fall after the sun is down, and the nights are then very cold: at other times there are no dews, and the air continues hot all the night through. At this season of the year meat cannot be kept sweet, even for a single day, except in an icehouse or a remarkably cold cellar. Milk generally turns sour in an hour or two; and fish is never brought to market without being covered with lumps of ice. Poultry, intended for dinner, is never killed till about four hours before it is wanted, and even then it is kept immersed in water.

The carriages used in Philadelphia consist of coaches, chariots, chaises, coachees, and light waggons. The equipages of a few individuals are extremely ostentatious; but there does not appear, in any, that neatness and elegance which might be expected among people who are desirous of imitating the fashions of England, and who are continually procuring models from that country. The coachee is a carriage peculiar to America; the body of it is somewhat longer than that of a coach, but of the same shape. In front it is left quite open, down to the bottom, and the driver sits on a bench under the roof. It has two seats for the passengers, who sit with their faces towards the horses. The roof is supported by small props, which are placed at the corners. On each side of the doors, above the pannels, it is quite open; and, to guard against bad weather, there are curtains, which are made to let down from the roof, and which fasten to buttons, placed for the purpose, on the outside. There is also a leathern curtain, to hang occasionally between the driver and passengers.

The light waggons are on the same construction, but are calculated to accommodate from four to twelve people. The only difference between a small waggon and a coachee, is, that the latter is better finished, has varnished pannels, and doors at the side. The former has no doors; but the passengers scramble in, the best way they can, over the seat of the driver. These waggons are universally used for stage-carriages.

The accommodations at the taverns, in Philadelphia, are very indifferent; as, indeed, with very few exceptions, they are throughout the country. The mode of conducting them is nearly the same every where. The traveller, on his arrival, is shown into a room, which is common to every person in the house, and which is generally the one set apart for breakfast, dinner, and supper. All the strangers that are in the house sit down, to these meals, promiscuously; and, excepting in the large towns, the family of the house also forms a part of the company. It is seldom that a private parlour or drawing-room can be procured at taverns, even in the towns; and it is always with reluctance that breakfast or dinner is served up separately to any individual. If a separate bed-room can be procured, more ought not to be expected; and it is not always that even this is to be had; and persons who travel through the country must often submit to be crammed into rooms where there is scarcely sufficient space to walk between the beds.

The Delaware, on the banks of which this city is built, rises in the state of New York. At Philadelphia it is thirteen hundred and sixty yards wide, and is navigable for vessels of any burden. It is frozen in the winter months; a circumstance which materially affects the commercial interests of Philadelphia, and gives a great advantage to New York. The tide reaches as high as the falls of Trenton, thirty-five miles above Philadelphia, and one hundred and fifty-five miles from the sea. Six or seven steam-boats, of large size, ply on the Delaware, and form a communication with New York, by Trenton and Bordentown; and with Baltimore, by Wilmington and Newcastle. These vessels are all fitted up in an elegant manner.

Over the river Schuylkil, near Philadelphia, there is a singular bridge of iron wire. It is four hundred feet in length, and extends, from the window of a wire factory, to a tree on the opposite shore. The wires which form the curve are six in number; three on each side, and each three-eighths of an inch in diameter. The floor of the bridge is elevated sixteen feet above the water; and the whole weight of the wires is about four thousand seven hundred pounds. It is possible to construct a bridge of this kind in the space of a fortnight; and the whole expense would not exceed three hundred dollars.

About thirty miles north-east of Philadelphia, and betwixt that city and New York, is Trenton, the capital of New Jersey. Mr. Weld visited this place in the year 1796; and he says that it then contained only about eighty dwellings, in one long street. It had a college, which was in considerable repute. The number of students was about seventy; but, from their appearance, and the course of their studies, it more correctly deserved the appellation of a grammar-school, than a college. The library was a miserable one; and, for the most part, contained only old theological books. There were an orrery out of repair, and a few detached parts of philosophical apparatus. At the opposite end of the room were two small cupboards, which were shown as the museum. These contained two small alligators, stuffed, and a few fishes, in a wretched state of preservation.

Not far from Trenton, and on the bank of the Delaware, is the residence of Joseph Buonaparte, who, since the re-establishment of the ancient families on the thrones of Europe, has retired to America. The estate on which he lives he purchased for ten thousand dollars; and he is said to have expended, twenty thousand more in finishing the buildings, and laying out the grounds in a splendid style. At present it has much the appearance of the villa of a country gentleman in England.

Fifth Day's Instruction.


Narrative of Mr. Fearon's Journey from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh

In the month of October, 1817, Mr. Fearon left Philadelphia for Pittsburgh. He passed through an extensive, fertile, well-cultivated, and beautiful tract of land called the Great Valley. Farms in this district are chiefly owned by Dutch and Germans, and their descendants. They consist of from fifty to two hundred acres each; and are purchasable at the rate of about £.46 sterling per acre, the buildings included; and, in well-improved land, the average produce of wheat may be estimated at twenty-five bushels.

At the distance of about twenty miles from Philadelphia there is a copper and zinc mine. Iron ore abounds throughout the state of Pennsylvania; and many of the rocks are of limestone. A coarse kind of grey marble is found in great quantity, and is used for steps and chimney-pieces.

The towns of Lancaster, Harrisburgh, and Carlisle, through which Mr. Fearon passed, are all considerable, both in extent and population. [Lancaster is nearly the largest inland town of North America. It contains upwards of nine hundred houses, built chiefly of brick and stone, and, in general, two stories high. It has also six churches, a market-house, and a gaol. The streets are laid out regularly, and cross each other at right angles. Several different kinds of wares are manufactured here, and chiefly by German mechanics. The rifled barrel guns made at this place are considered to have great excellence. In 1787, a college was founded at Lancaster, and named Franklin College, in honour of Dr. Franklin. The founders were an association of Germans, who were desirous of establishing a seminary for the education of their sons, in their own language and habits. But it has not flourished; and, in 1815, the number of students did not exceed fifty.]

Lancaster, Harrisburgh, and Carlisle, each contain many excellent brick buildings, and the usual erections of market-houses, gaols, and churches, all evincing an extent of national property, and an advancement to European establishments, truly extraordinary, when we recollect that this is a country which may be said to be but of yesterday. The German character is very prevalent throughout this state; and even the original language is preserved.

[At Carlisle there are many excellent shops and warehouses. This place has a college, which was founded in 1783, by Mr. John Dickenson of Pennsylvania. The number of students is about one hundred and forty; and there are professors of logic, metaphysics, languages, natural philosophy, and chemistry.]

Mr. Fearon next arrived at Chambersburgh, a town which contains about two hundred and forty houses, and two or three churches. He here secured a place, in the stage, to Pittsburgh, and set off the next morning at three o'clock. About eight he arrived at Loudon, a small town at the foot of the north mountain, one of the Alleghany ridges, and at this time containing seventeen log and twenty frame or brick houses. The tavern was cheerless and dirty.

On the road Mr. Fearon counted thirty regular stage-waggons, which were employed in conveying goods to and from Pittsburgh. Each of these was drawn by four horses; and the articles carried in them, were chiefly hardware, and silk, linen, cotton, and woollen goods. The waggons, in return, conveyed from Pittsburgh farming produce, and chiefly flour. It is, however, necessary to observe that this is the only trading waggon route to the whole western country; and that there is no water-carriage through this part of America.

The road, for a considerable distance, was excellent, and was part of a new national turnpike, which had been projected to extend from the head of the river Potomac to Wheeling. This road, when completed, will be of great advantage to the whole western country. The stage passed over the North Mountain, whence there was a most extensive view, of a wide and beautiful valley, containing several thousand acres, which have not yet been cultivated. The prospect combined some grand mountain-scenery, and was the most magnificent that Mr. Fearon had ever beheld. The travellers passed through a little town situated in the midst of this apparently trackless wild.

They afterwards overtook twenty small family waggons, those chiefly of emigrants from one part of the state to another. These persons were travelling in company, and thus formed an unity of interest, for the purpose of securing, when necessary, an interchange of assistance. The difficulties they experienced, in passing through this mountainous district, were very great.

Mr. Fearon and the other stage-passengers supped and slept at a place called Bloody Run, having, for several miles, proceeded over roads that were almost impassable. Early the next morning they again set out; and they arrived at Bedford about nine o'clock. [This little town, like most others on the great western road, trades in all kinds of corn, flour, and provisions.] They were not, however, permitted to stop here, as the stage-proprietor had a house further on, where they breakfasted. In passing over a range of mountains called the Dry Ridge, the view was peculiarly magnificent. The eye, at one glance, took in a varied and most interesting view of mountain scenery, intermingled with wooded vales, and much fertile land. The travellers continued to overtake many waggons of emigrants from different states.

About five o'clock in the afternoon they reached the top of the Alleghany Mountains. The road had of late been so bad, that they had walked more than sixteen miles, leaving the stage far behind. The character of the mountain inhabitants appeared to be cold, friendless, unfeeling, callous, and selfish. All the emigrants with whom Mr. Fearon conversed, complained of the enormous charges at taverns. Log-houses are the only habitations for many miles. These are formed of the trunks of trees, about twenty feet in length, and six inches in diameter, cut at the ends, and placed on each other. The roof is framed in a similar manner. In some houses there are windows; in others the door performs the double office of window and entrance. The chimney is erected on the outside, and in a similar manner to the body of the house. The hinges of the doors are generally of wood; and locks are not used. In some of the houses there are two apartments; in others but one, for all the various operations of cooking, eating, and sleeping; and even the pigs come in for their due share of the log residence. About eleven o'clock at night, the travellers safely arrived at Somerset, a small town distant two hundred and thirty-seven miles from Philadelphia.

In the morning of their third day's journey, they crossed Laurel Hill. The vegetation on this ridge appears superior to that of the Allegheny. The mountain called Little Chesnut Ridge succeeds Laurel Hill. The difficulties of the road were here extremely great. These arose not only from the height of the mountains, but from the enormous stones and deep mud-holes with which the road abounded. The trees on Chesnut Ridge are chiefly oak and chesnut; and the soil appeared to be chalky. At half past ten at night they arrived at Greensburg, [a town built upon the summit of a hill. The land, in its vicinity is, in general, very fertile; and the inhabitants, who are of German origin, cultivate wheat, rye, and oats, with great success.]

The party started, on the fourth day, at four in the morning, and with the high treat of a turnpike-road; but the advantages, arising from this, were but of short continuance. They had to descend Turtle Creek Hill, the road over which, in consequence of late rains, had become, if possible, even worse than those across Laurel Hill. The passengers all got out; and, up to their knees in mud, they took their turns, in holding up the stage. This tract bore decided evidence of being embedded with coal. About two o'clock they reached Pittsburg.

From Chambersburgh to Greensburgh the condition of the people is that of an absence of wealth and of the conveniences of life, with, however, the means of obtaining a sufficient quantity of food. The blacksmith and the tavern-keeper are almost the only occupations. The former earns from twenty shillings and sixpence to twenty-seven shillings per week; and the profits of the latter must be very great, if we may judge from the high charges and bad quality of the accommodations. From Greensburgh to Pittsburgh the improvement, in size and quality, of the houses, is evident, and the cultivation and condition of the land is much superior to those of the country through which the travellers had before past.

Pittsburg is, in several points of view, a most interesting town. Its situation, which is truly picturesque, is at the termination of two rivers, and at the commencement of a third river, that has a direct communication with the ocean, though at the immense distance of two thousand five hundred miles. This place possesses an exhaustless store of coal.

During the great American war, Pittsburg was an important military post called Du Quesne, and was remarkable for two signal defeats of the British troops. It is, at present, a place of great importance: the connecting link between new and old America; and though it is not a "Birmingham," as the natives bombastically style it, yet it certainly contains the seeds of numerous important and valuable manufactories.

Agricultural produce finds here a ready and advantageous market. Farming in this neighbourhood is not, indeed, the most profitable mode of employing capital; but here, as in other parts of the union, it is an independent mode of life. The farmer, however, must labour hard with his own hands. The labourers, or "helps," as they style themselves, are paid high wages, and are not to be relied on. In many instances they expect to sit down at table with their master, to live as well as he, and to be on terms of equality with every branch of the family.

Mr. Fearon remained at Pittsburgh several days, during which time the rain never ceased. The smoke, also, from the different manufactories, is extreme, giving, to the town and its inhabitants, a very sombre aspect. The articles manufactured here are various, and chiefly of copper, iron, and glass. In one of the glass-warehouses, Mr. Fearon saw chandeliers and numerous other articles, of a very splendid description, in cut glass. Among the latter was a pair of decanters, cut from a London pattern, the price of which was to be eight guineas. And it is remarkable that the demand for these articles of elegant luxury lies in the western states; the inhabitants of eastern America being still importers from the "old country." Not thirty years ago, the whole right bank of the Ohio was termed the "Indian side." Spots in Tenessee, in Ohio and Kentucky, which, within the lifetime of even young men, witnessed only the arrow and the scalping knife, now present, to the traveller, articles of elegance, and modes of luxury, which might rival the displays of London and of Paris: within the last half century, the beasts of the forest, and men more savage than the beasts, were the only inhabitants of the whole of that immense tract, which is peculiarly denominated the western country. This tract is now partially inhabited; and promises soon to be generally so, by civilized man, possessed of the arts and pursuits of civilized life.

On the whole, Pittsburgh is a very important town. When Mr. Fearon was here, it was supposed to contain about ten thousand inhabitants.

The face of the country, beyond this town, is an uninterrupted level, and many parts of it are occupied by agriculturists. Mr. Fearon, however, was informed that there were still for sale one million of acres of United States' land, at the rate of two dollars per acre, or one dollar and sixty-four cents for prompt payment. The principal towns are situated on the banks of the river. There are no canals, nor, indeed is there much occasion for them, as the whole state abounds with rivers and creeks, which fall into the Ohio.

The trees produced by the best kind of land are honey-locust, black walnut, and beech; by land of second quality, the sugar maple tree, sycamore, or butter-wood, and what is called white wood, which is used for building and joiner's work; and land of the third quality produces oak. There is but little underwood; for the great height and the spreading tops of the trees, prevent the sun from penetrating to the ground, and nourishing inferior articles of vegetation.

The winters are severe, and of from three to four months continuance, with a keen and dry air, and cloudless sky. During summer excessive heat prevails, with heavy dews at night. In the spring there are cold and heavy rains. The autumns are fine, and are followed by what is called "Indian summer," which is truly delightful. Along the route that Mr. Fearon had travelled in this state, there was scarcely an elevation which could be called a hill, with exception of rising grounds on the margins of rivers. The dreary monotony of limited views, of such endless uniformity, produces sensations of the most depressing melancholy. The atmosphere, after a hot day, causes headaches, which frequently terminate in intermittent fevers.

Judging from the beds of the rivers, and the quality of the water, Mr. Fearon presumes that coal must be abundant. Salt is found in several situations, particularly on the Kenaway. There is much limestone. The wild animals, in this part of America, are neither numerous, nor troublesome.

The interior population of the United States, Mr. Fearon considers, may be divided into three classes: first, the "squatter," or man, who "sets himself down," upon land which is not his own, and for which he pays nothing; cultivates a sufficient extent of ground to supply himself and his family with the necessaries of life, remains until he is dissatisfied with his choice, has realized a sufficiency to become a land-owner, or is expelled by the real proprietor. Second, the small farmer, who has recently emigrated, and has had barely sufficient to pay the first instalment for his eighty or one hundred and sixty acres, of two-dollar land; cultivates, or, what he calls, improves, from ten to thirty acres; raises a sufficient "feed" for his family; is in a condition, which, if compelled by legislative acts, or by external force to endure, would be considered truly wretched; but, from being his own master, and having made his own choice, joined with the consciousness, that, though slowly, he is regularly advancing towards wealth, the breath of complaint is seldom heard to escape from his lips. Third, the wealthy, or "strong-handed" farmer, who owns from five to twelve hundred acres, has from one-fourth to one-third under cultivation, of a kind much superior to the former; raises live stock for the home, and Atlantic city markets; sends beef, pork, cheese, lard, and butter, to New Orleans: is a man of plain, business-like sense, though not in possession, nor desirous, of a very cultivated intellect; understands his own interest, and that of his country; and lives in sufficient affluence, and is possessed of comfort, according to the American acceptation of the term, but to which, an Englishman must feel inclined to take an exception.

The management of farms is here full a century behind that in England: there being a want of improved machinery for the promotion of economy in time and labour; and no regular attention being paid to the condition of live stock; while the mode of culture, in general, appears slovenly and unsystematic.

On the subject of emigration to America, Mr. Fearon remarks, that the capitalist will here receive legal interest of six or seven per cent. for his money; and perhaps eight per cent. might be made upon good security, as capital is wanted throughout the country. A London shopkeeper, with a capital of three thousand pounds or upwards, and who is well acquainted with the principles of business, might succeed. Lawyers, doctors, clerks, shopmen, literary men, artists, and schoolmasters, to use an American phrase, would "come to a bad market." Mechanics are able to obtain employment, but many who have emigrated have been lamentably deceived in their expectations. The person of small property, who is desirous to live on the interest of his money, and wants to remove to a cheaper country than England, should pause before the object of his choice is America. From what Mr. Fearon had hitherto seen of large towns, living is not, on the whole, cheaper than in the English cities. In the interior it may be less expensive than in the country parts of England; but such a man must, of necessity, have his ideas of happiness associated with many sources of comfort and gratification, which he would seek for in vain within the United States. With regard to certain Yorkshire and Leicestershire manufacturers, in whose welfare he was particularly interested, Mr. Fearon says, he was convinced that they could not profitably succeed here.

Sixth Day's Instruction.


Narrative of an Expedition from Pittsburg into the Illinois territory. From Notes on aJourney in America, by Morris Birkbeck

Leaving Mr. Fearon at Pittsburgh, we will thence accompany Mr. Birkbeck on his tour into the western settlements of the United States. About the end of May, 1817, this gentleman and his family, consisting of nine persons, five male and four female, arrived at Pittsburgh; and, on the 5th of June, well mounted, and well furnished with saddle-bags and blankets, they set out on their journey westward, in search of a place where they might form an advantageous settlement. Each person had a blanket under his saddle, another upon it, and a pair of saddle-bags, with a great coat and an umbrella strapped behind.

In this manner, says Mr. Birkbeck, even women, and those of advanced age, often take long journeys without inconvenience. The day before he left Pittsburgh, he was told of a lady who was coming from Tenessee to Pittsburgh, twelve hundred miles; and, although she had with her an infant, she preferred travelling on horseback to boating up the river.

Seventeen miles of the ride from Pittsburgh on to Cannonsburg, was chiefly over clayey hills, well adapted for grass; but, in the present circumstances of the country, too stiff for profitable cultivation under the plough. From Cannonsburg to Washington, in Pennsylvania, eight miles, is a very desirable tract, containing much excellent land, with fine meadows.

Washington is a pretty, thriving town, which contains about two thousand five hundred inhabitants. It has a college, with about a hundred students; but, from the dirty condition of the schools, and the loitering habits of the young men, Mr. Birkbeck suspected it to be an ill-regulated institution.

From Washington, Mr. Birkbeck and his family proceeded still westward, and, on entering the State of Ohio, they found themselves in a country beautiful and fertile, and affording, to a plain, industrious, and thriving population, all that nature has decreed for the comfort of man. It contains rich land, good water, wholesome air; limestone, coal, mills, and navigation. It is also fully appropriated, and thickly settled; and land is worth from twenty to thirty dollars per acre: an advance of a thousand per cent. in about ten years!