No: I 'American journey, 1857'/Aleksandr Lakier.
Russian civil servant and nobleman at eighth level of ranks, Aleksandr Lakier (Cyrillic spelling) was one of the few Russians to make an extended journey to the United States in 1857 aboard the steamship EUROPA. His long journey by steamship, railroad, mailcoach, river steamboats reads more like an official report covering all aspects of life in America. Titled 'Puteshestvie' he recorded all he saw through the eyes of a trained lawyer speaking five languages. Tsarist Russia under Alexander II had just relaxed controls on such semi-official journeys. Lakier saw America through the eyes of a man steeped in the repressive, absolutist Russian regime in need of liberal reform. His writings received wide circulation in Russia at the time. He was astounded at the democratic system, education and free business approach here. I will excerpt the most interesting parts of his journey to America focusing on steamboats on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers ending in New Orleans. He commented on slavery here in contrast to the system of feudal serfdom in Russia. Additional comments =[*]
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"A white steamboat used for sailing on rivers, lakes, carried us over Lake Champlain, the rocker arm [*walking beam] of the engine continually working above deck between the funnels rising and falling. There was the same comfort as on other steamboats, the same abundance of space for strolling and resting, the same washstands, and the same shops [*aboard]. It seemed to me that the Americans, who for other reasons had not had time to shave and comb their hair on the land route, purposely traveled on the restful steamboats in order to take care of some of their everyday necessities. [*Laker was astounded at the size, luxury, appointments of American steamboats believing them far superior to those in Europe and Russia at the time.]
Steamboat [*Boat not named] food fascinated Lakier. "The table was arranged with various viands, meats, the pork without which an American won't sit down to dinner or supper--same as mutton in England--fish dishes, vegetables, and breads of various kinds. Everyone selected whatever he wanted and asked the Negro standing behind the food to cut a portion [*No doubt a midday buffet]. 'Help yourself, don't dawdle; hurry, reach, don't offer anything to your neighbor, but take what you like cause' everything will run out, and--it's all gone,' says the Negro serving you. In ten minutes chairs begin to scrape and everyone leaves his place as if fulfilling an unpleasant duty. [*Exaggeration as he was customed to the long Russian dinner service]. The ladies...were allowed at the head of the line with the captain, remained at their tables longer for woman is the universal idol here."
NEXT: More impressions of steamboats and life aboard.
R. Dale Flick