Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Orleans 1846

Letter written March 22, 1846 from New Orleans by Hiram A. Goodlett to his mother, Mrs. Harriet Goodlett, in Alexandria, Benton Co. Alabama. Benton County’s name was changed to Calhoun County in 1868. The letter includes a ½-page note to his brother Alfred.

Important letter filled with fascinating observations about New Orleans, its population, fashions, etc. Hiram begins by writing that he had become uneasy, having received “Only one letter in two months.” He continues, “This is a great and growing city, and I think I shall do well here yet…There are people of all nations and kinds here…The rich and the poor are near neighbors…Poor people ought not to live in cities [because] it requires wealth to be fashionable, and if families do not follow fashion, they are out of the world…All cities are more or less filthy, and a person from the country accustomed to neatness, though poor, would be disgusted with what they could not avoid…It is a great benefit to a person, of the right turn of mind, to live awhile in a city…A farmer settled in a good country, with enough for independence, is the happiest man on earth…Most persons [in New Orleans] dress finely, and the women extravagantly…There are three theatres, circuses, galleries of paintings and numberless other places to take a man’s money.”
The note to Alfred encourages him to continue his studies: “study Book Keeping…You ought to improve your handwriting by all means.” He suggests that if Father can sell the lot “on which there is a meeting house” near Goldville (some distance from Alexandria), their father can have Hiram’s share of the proceeds.
In addition, there are descriptions of the City’s distinctive cemeteries, the Mississippi River and its steamboat traffic, ships, etc., the cost of lodging and his difficulty finding affordable accommodations, cotton seed that he is sending and wants Alfred to plant (“The seed is worth $4 per bushel here.”), “I was vaccinated two weeks ago and it took well, so I shall not fear the Small Pox”, etc., etc.

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