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-   -   No. 7 Alexandr Lakier, 1857/On to New Orleans. (http://www.steamboats.org/forum/steamboats-history/122-no-7-alexandr-lakier-1857-new-orleans.html)

R. Dale Flick 06-01-2006 04:12 PM

No. 7 Alexandr Lakier, 1857/On to New Orleans.
 
Steamboating colleagues:
Alexandr Lakier 'hailed' various boats on his way to New Orleans so as to visit towns and cities along the way. Booking one boat direct would have denied him the chance to visit and study more closely. The reader can only wish he had recorded the names of the boats he boarded. His views of life in America also focused on our sense of democracy which left him in wonder. His views on slavery of the day are rich and dramatic but not worth the time to include here. Comments =[*]
* * * * * * * *
"Despite the fact that the company on board the steamboat was extremely mixed, all of the steamboat's conveniences were used on a basis of complete equality without any distinctions of title, rank, or status. [*Not totally true and we wonder if he examined the 'immigrant' masses traveling deck down below the main cabin.] There were the same long, lavish breakfasts and dinners; the same abundance of courses; fresh bread, cakes, and pancakes every day; [*Russians ate a kind of pancake of a different recipe using fruit, cream etc. like a crepe.] and for the insignificant price the trip costs, you are fed for the entire length of the voyage. If a traveler from Europe were to encounter such a steamboat and have on shock after another--rushing to his place at dinner, sitting next to whomever happened to be there--the arrival would be displeased with the equality and would carry away a rather unfavorable notion of the society as a whole. There is a difference in attitudes and behavior between the eastern, western and souther states. Others feel they have the right to do as they please without paying attention to his neighbor. It is impossible not to submit to the general principle of equality: one must dine at a common table [*Long tables in main cabin]. Except for the sick, there is no service in private cabins.

A wealthy European prince took a trip by steamboat on the Mississippi. Not wanting to be at a common table and sit alongside some farmer taking his pigs to market, the prince requested of the captain that dinner be served in his cabin. The captain stopped the boat on an island in the Mississippi, ordered a table be set up, and invited the prince to dine alone. The captain could make due without him. Left on the lonely island, the prince had to bid his time until another steamboat rescued him. Legal proceedings were instituted. The captain received no more than a light fine.

From Cairo to Mamphis the forest became thicker. The trees are cut down mercilessly for the wood-burning steamboats which require thrity to thirty-five cords of firewood daily. There are oaks, sycamore, pine, magnolia--similar to Russia. In Napoleon and Vicksburg there are large depots [*Wharves] for shipping handling innumerable bales of precious cotton. Plantations face the river but stretch far back to the interior. I visited the large plantation of a Creole for a whole day and caught a later boat for New Orleans. The slaves danced and sang to a strange instrument similar to our balalaika [*A triangular shaped string instrument of variouus sizes like a banjo but with a mellow, haunting sound.]
* * * * * * * *
Thus ends the steamboat journies of Lakier. He visited New Orleans where he wrote much before sailing by steamship to Havana, Cuba. From Cuba by ship on to Charleston, S.C. and train to Washington, D.C. From New York he returned by steamship to LeHavre, France, and thence back to Russia. His writings created a sensation in Russia. He resumed his ranking civil-service position and returned to his home in Taganrog, Russia, where he taught law to the sons of the nobility. Lakier died in 1870 at age 45. Only two copies of his lengthy monograph covering his journey to America are known to exist in the United States.

Cheers,
R. Dale Flick

R. Dale Flick 06-02-2006 12:42 PM

Steamboating colleagues:
Just one 'final' word on Alexandr Lakier's 1857 trip to America due to a few questions here via E=Mail. No, Lakier's steamboat wasn't the one involving the anecdote about the European prince being put off on the island by the captain. It was a well-circulated story at the time as was related to Lakier on his steamboat trips.

Lakier was no engineer or mechanically minded man but possessed keen powers of observation. He did note the difference in steamboat construction on the rivers here from the best to what he thought poorly built. We only wonder if he understood the way boats were built for their various trades--short run vs. long runs; shallow draft for low water service etc. He did note the extravagant use of lumber here in boat building and attributed it to America being rich in forest/wood resources. He knew that western Europe and England were careful in the use of wood for boats/ships. Russia's educated upper classes and elite considered themselves part of the European arena--the average citizen did not.

There's no evidence in this century that his commentary influenced steamboat building or related business approaches in Russia. His writing was read by a relatively limited audience. Yet, that audience was influential and may have taken note. Tsar Alexander II liberated the serfs in 1861. He was blown to bits by an anarchist in 1881 with a copy of a new constitution in his coat pocket. His granddson, Nicholas II, family and retainers were murdered in Ekaiterinburg by the Bolsheviks, July, 1918. END

Cheers,
R. Dale Flick


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