Drinking the Waters: Creating an American Leisure Class at Nineteenth Century Mineral Springs
Saratoga Springs- On Tuesday, September 18 at 7:00 pm in the Canfield Casino the Saratoga Springs History Museum presents Professor Thomas Chambers will explore Saratoga Springs as a 19th century spa and the creation of a new leisure class of Americans. Few public places in the early nineteenth century offered men and women from different regions of the U.S. the opportunity to socialize with each other. At the resorts of Virginia’s western mountains and Saratoga Springs, the nation’s social, economic, and political leaders gathered at the mineral springs to relax and recuperate, and in the process began to form a ‘fledgling aristocracy.’ 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 the American leisure class. Professor 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.
Professor Thomas Chambers is Chairman of the History Department at Niagara University. He has a Ph.D. in American History from the College of William and Mary. Professor Chambers has also published Crosswords of Empire: Cultural Exchange and Imperial Rivalry at Old Fort Niagara. He is a member of the War of 1812 Bi-national Bicentennial Committee and the Underground Railroad Commemoration committee. Professor Chambers was the 2009 conference Co-organizer of Contests for Continents: The Seven Years War in Global Perspective.
This event is part of the Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable trust program series. It is free and open to the public. For more information call the History Museum at 518-584-6920 or visit www.saratoghistory.,org.