Steamboating colleagues:
Russian writer Alexandr Lakier returned from Wisconsin to St. Louis after visiting 'Indian country.' St. Louis and region impressed him and he commented on the huge commercial and domestic buildings in America. He made arrangements to leave St. Louis for New Orleans. His comments on slavery fill page after page in his writings as he was comparing their plight here with that of the still bound serfs on Russian estates at home. Tsar Alexander II 'The Liberator Tsar' freed the serfs in 1861. Lakier's observations hit the Russian reader along with government officials of the highest levels hard at home. He also warned of coming to America as a 'pioneer' if the European didn't know how to work hard, was strong of body and mind, had a family and had some capital for land and basic equipment. He saw no romance in being a pioneer. Comments =[*]
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"The captain of the steamboat PHILADELPHIA [* Way's DIRECTORY No. 4481.] which was heading down the Mississippi, confused me with the prices he asked for trips to various points along the river. A ticket all the way to New Orleans--a distance of 1,200 miles--cost twenty dollars for a full week including meals, breakfasts, teas, a servant, [*Chamber maid or cabin boy] and a private cabin; but from Cairo to that same New Orleans cost more, twenty-five dollars, depite the fact that the distance is two hundred miles less and nearly two days shorter. The explanation for this is that five or six steamboats--sometimes more--leave St. Louis daily, but they either enter the Ohio at Cairo and sail up to Louisville and Cincinnati, or they stop and Cairo and return to St. Louis; in short, there isn't such a large competition among steamboats at Cairo and consequently the price goes up. [*Lakier deplored the American custom of putting two complete strangers in the same steamboat cabin or even hotel room. He was shocked with one fellow who was uncultivated and unwashed of body. He feared 'contagion' and sickness.]

In general the cost of a steamboat trip is not fixed, and depends on whether many travelers are going in the same direction and on how many are going to those places where the steamboat makes stops. But the charge for the short trip is disproportionately high compared to the price of a voyage from one major point to another. [*Similar to present day airline tariffs out of 'hubs' and to shorter destinations.] Calculated on a purely commercial basis and guarantess the American will not be the loser. The captain [*Possibly Capt. Clfford Wayne] tried to persuade me to go directly to New Orleans. This would have meant either a short time for becoming acquainted with towns along the river or no chance to see them at all. After long negotiations we agreed that for five dollars I would go as far as the town of St. Genevieve, where I wanted to stop to visit Iron Mountain in the state of Missouri. I had long ago heard stories about it being one of the wonders of America. [*Lakier was horrified at seeing desperately ill people of 'yellow complexion' who possibly were suffering from Yellow Fever.'
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Lakier was no fool in the study of American financial matters, pricing and currency. His notes were filled with such and later worked into his full writings for publication in Russia.

NEXT: The voyage to New Orleans continues.

R. Dale Flick