British Tourists in the United States: 1840-1940

Astonished by the hustle of American life, and awed by the immensity of the country, Richard L. Rapson describes how visitors from Britain returned home both chastened and invigorated.

One window through which one can catch a glimpse of the American past has been opened by British visitors to American shores who wrote about their adventures in the New World and the sights they saw. Let us join them and see how the new land and its cities looked through British eyes, as these observers travelled across the continent during the century that followed the year 1840.

Before the mid-1840’s, a voyage from Liverpool or Southampton to New York was a hazardous and wearying experience. Only those with unusual courage, ample time, substantial income, or a specific mission dared risk the passage. The ordinary tourist rarely satisfied such conditions; but soon transport began to improve. In 1835, a transatlantic crossing could last as long as ninety days; in 1856, the Persia traversed the 3,000 miles of ocean in one-tenth of that time.

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