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Drinking the Waters: Creating an American Leisure Class at Nineteenth-century Mineral Springs

Drinking the Waters: Creating an American Leisure Class at Nineteenth-century Mineral Springs (Hardback)

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Few public places in the early nineteenth century offered men and women from different regions of the United States the opportunity to socialize with each other. At the resorts of Virginia's western mountains and upstate New York's Saratoga Springs, the nation's social, economic, and political leaders gathered to relax and to recuperate, and in the process they began to form a 'fledgling aristocracy.' As Thomas Chambers reveals, at these resorts the boundaries of class and region were defined, tested, solidified, and broken by the Civil War, but eventually repaired in its aftermath. No other movement or establishment challenged the springs as the social centers for America's leisure class. Chambers describes how the springs attracted the cultural elite through architecture, bucolic landscapes, and claims of medical authority and high fashion. The conflicts between old and new money created tension, and status was open to negotiation at the springs. Chambers examines how these conflicts illustrate the nearly constant process of social display, class construction, and the negotiation of gender roles.

The attempts to create an American national elite faltered with the approach of the Civil War. Although the Northerners and Southerners who frequented the springs could agree on the place of women in society, on dress and comportment, and on chivalry and honor, they could not agree on the issue of slavery. The springs' popularity did revive after the war as patrons eventually overcame cultural and political differences with nostalgia.

History & PoliticsHistory: specific events & topicsSocial & cultural historyPhilosophy, Psychology & Social SciencesAnthropologySocial & cultural anthropology Publisher: Smithsonian Books Publication Date: 17/10/2002 ISBN-13: 9781588340689  Details: Type: Hardback Format: Books
Availability: Unavailable. Withdrawn from sale by publisher.  

Thomas A. Chambers is a visiting assistant professor in the Department of History at Albion College, Michigan.

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