Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont's travels in America in 1831-32 have recently become the subject of renewed interest, as a C-SPAN special program has retraced the Frenchmen's journey by broadcasting each week from a different city along the route. Now the Tocqueville rediscovery continues with the publication of this unique guidebook. Comprised of fifty-five brief chapters covering each of the places Tocqueville visited, the book allows the reader to hear Tocqueville's words while following in his footsteps.
Each chapter includes a brief description of the city or town, an excerpt from what Tocqueville wrote about it, what he and Beaumont did there, and what sights can still be seen today. Also included are information on population and major industries, telephone numbers and web addresses for local historical societies and visitors' bureaus, and comparisons of the town as it is today with the way it was in Tocqueville's time. Replete with colorful anecdotes and fascinating detail and supplemented by one hundred illustrations--many of them Beaumont's original sketches--the book offers a unique blend of past and present, of practical tourist tips and thought-provoking historical insights.
The chapter on Newport, Rhode Island, for example, begins with the story of Tocqueville and Beaumont's arrival from Europe, half-starved and thirsty after a thirty-seven-day ocean voyage on which the ship's captain had badly mismanaged rations. (The inn where the apologetic captain treated them to dinner is still standing.) Among the Frenchmen's first impressions: Americans were "entirely commercial"--a conclusion based on the small town's extraordinary number of banks (five by Beaumont's count, among them the Citizens Bank, still open today). Newport, we learn, is also home to America's first synagogue, an enduring symbol of Rhode Island's unique beginning as a place of religious tolerance, and the nation's oldest library. Also explained is the origin of the pineapple as a symbol of hospitality (Newport sailors set them outside their front door to show their neighbors they had returned from the Indies and had fruit to share). The entry concludes with directions, suggestions on where to stay, and tips on tours by foot, car, or boat.
An invaluable guide to a journey of national self-discovery, In the Footsteps of Tocqueville is the perfect companion for armchair traveler and tourist alike.
From the entry on Ossining, New York:
"The Frenchmen relished the town's natural beauty. Ossining's views of the Hudson are spectacular and Beaumont captured them in his sketch book. (For a panorama of the river, go to Louis Engle Park at the foot of Sing Sing on Westerly Road.) At 7 p.m. each evening the duo went swimming in the river. Later, they socialized with the locals. (Beaumont complained that he heard a plethora of painful musical recitals by women in town.) But the people of Ossining were impressed with the two young men. The Westchester Herald described them as 'gentlemen of engaging manners, of first rate talents.' The house where they boarded still stands (34 State Street). Now a wood-working company, the house has gained additions and lost levels since 1831. It is made of Sing Sing marble, which is actually a pale limestone that was quarried by prison inmates... "