The Land of Contrasts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 243 pages of information about The Land of Contrasts.

While thus reserving the editing of the book for one of our own household, we realised thoroughly that no approach to completeness would be attainable without the cooeperation of the Americans themselves; and I welcome this opportunity to reiterate my keen appreciation of the open-handed and open-minded way in which this was accorded.  Besides the signed articles by men of letters and science in the introductory part of the handbook, I have to acknowledge thousands of other kindly offices and useful hints, many of which hardly allow themselves to be classified or defined, but all of which had their share in producing aught of good that the volume may contain.  So many Americans have used their Baedekers in Europe that I found troops of ready-made sympathisers, who, half-interested, half-amused, at the attempt to Baedekerise their own continent, knew pretty well what was wanted, and were able to put me on the right track for procuring information.  Indeed, the book could hardly have been written but for these innumerable streams of disinterested assistance, which enabled the writer so to economise his time as to finish his task before the part first written was entirely obsolete.

The process of change in the United States goes on so rapidly that the attempt of a guidebook to keep abreast of the times (not easy in any country) becomes almost futile.  The speed with which Denver metamorphosed her outward appearance has already been commented on at page 214; and this is but one instance in a thousand.  Towns spring up literally in a night.  McGregor in Texas, at the junction of two new railways, had twelve houses the day after it was fixed upon as a town site, and in two months contained five hundred souls.  Towns may also disappear in a night, as Johnstown (Penn.) was swept away by the bursting of a dam on May 31, 1889, or as Chicago was destroyed by the great fire of 1871.  These are simply exaggerated examples of what is happening less obtrusively all the time.  The means of access to points of interest are constantly changing; the rough horse-trail of to-day becomes the stage-road of to-morrow and the railway of the day after.  The conservative clinging to the old, so common in Europe, has no place in the New World; an apparently infinitesimal advantage will occasion a bouleversement that is by no means infinitesimal.

Next to the interest and beauty of the places to be visited, perhaps the two things in which a visitor to a new country has most concern are the means of moving from point to point and the accommodation provided for him at his nightly stopping-places—­in brief, its conveyances and its inns.  During the year or more I spent in almost continuous travelling in the United States I had abundant opportunity of testing both of these.  In all I must have slept in over two hundred different beds, ranging from one in a hotel-chamber so gorgeous that it seemed almost as indelicate to go to bed in it as to undress in the

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The Land of Contrasts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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