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Life in Washington City in the 1830s: An Interesting Piece from the Baltimore Sun Correspondent

In the 1830s, the Baltimore Sun was a prominent paper covering the daily happenings of life in Washington City. We came across an interesting piece from the Baltimore Sun correspondent in Washington, both a colorful description of life in the city, as well as a rather amusing observation.
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In the 1830s, the Baltimore Sun was a far more prominent paper, covering the daily happenings of life in Washington City.

We came across an interesting piece from the Baltimore Sun correspondent in Washington. You may find this, both a colorful description of life in the city, as well as a rather amusing observation.

Capitol Building west front (John Reubens Smith)
Capitol Building west front (John Reubens Smith)

At the time of this piece, Washington was still very much a swampy, backwards, and rather unappealing place to live. The country had moved on from eight years of the people’s president, Andrew Jackson, into the first (and only) term for President Martin Van Buren, a widower.

Washington, Dec. 30, 1837.

This is one of the most beautiful days that man ever witnessed, and I have enjoyed much of its sweets in promenading Pennsylvania Avenue, witnessing as bright and as fair an array of beauty as ever lighted the gloom of man’s earthly pilgrimage.

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The sun has shone intensely bright; a balmy breeze from the south has wafted over the city, and all animated nature appears as if anticipating the approach of spring. Who could not, cannot, will not enjoy a day and an hour like this–who amid such scenes as those that have visited us today, will not, must not, cannot be happy! If life during the whole period of its existence, presented during the whole period of its existence, presented but one such day as this, it would cast a reproach upon those repining wretches who complain of a world like this, and talk of suicide and the grave! Give me this world, say I, with all its sorrows and it cares, and I’ll ask no other, till it pleases the author of every good to call me hence.

The several States of the Union, and the Territories of Florida and Wisconsin, are represented in the female circles of Washington. The Madona [sic] of the day, is a fair widow from the Floridas. Thought not past sweet twenty-two, she is a widow, and now laments the too early demise of her bosom’s lord. She possesses every attraction that can render the female desirable–is young, beautiful, intelligent, witty and accomplished in all the refinements of life–and to add still greater force to her power of attraction, she possesses a princely fortune in “wool and ivory,” cotton lands, and seven per cents defined.

The fair creature came into the city the day before yesterday, and is now on the eve of departure for the north. Were she to remain here a few days, she would raise a breeze among the single M. C.’s– captivate all the widowers, and leave the House of Representatives destitute of a quorum. It is fortunate for the interests of the country that she does not remain at Washington.

A number of splendid creatures from New York, Boston and Philadelphia are also in the city. The fairest one that I have yet seen, except the Florida widow, is a young lad from the interior of P–. She is all life, health, happiness and elasticity, and the graces themselves appear to have combined to complete the fairest and purest model of nature’s workmanship. She is the daughter of a member of Congress. Her father, a poor man, I am told lost his wife when the daughter was an infant, and has not since been married. All the love and affection that he once lavished on the wife is not bestowed on the daughter, and he has resolved that she shall spend a life of celibacy. Mistaken father! Unhappy daughter!

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Few places in the world, afford a larger number of elegant females than the city of Washington. They may not, in ruddiness of complexion vie with the ladies of Newport, Rhode Island, or the mountain lasses of Vermont; but they exhibit a grace and a splendor of manner–if so one may speak–that captivates all hearts and hands.

I need not say one word about the beauty of the ladies of your good city. Their superiority is established and admitted by all who have visited the city of monuments; and all agree in saying, that the proverbial beauty of your women, has acquired for Baltimore a reputation and a fame, which must be as imperishable as the marble columns you have erected to perpetuate the renown of your countrymen.

Monday is New Year’s day; the city will then be all life, bustle, and fashionable, yet innocent and rational dissipation. Matches will that day be made and broken, and many a warm heart will rejoice at the events of the 1st of January. And alas! many a warm heart may be made sad by them.

The President as usual, throws open the executive mansion that day for the reception of company, and many a widow’s cap will be set for the widowed President. He is not to be caught, ladies, and you might as well give up the pursuit. The President knows what he is at–he accepts of no smiles except those which dimple the check of youth and beauty–as for you, you unfortunate widow ladies of forty and five and forty, its not case, and you need not set your caps. Stand back a little, good widows–the President can’t manage but one at a time, and she must be as fair as another Cleopatra. It is not right that these things should be so, but how are we to help it? The President is a free man, and will do as he pleases; if I had my way, however, I would make him imitate the example of Robin Roughhead, and marry all the widows and father all the orphans. Neither House in session to-day; neither meet again till Tuesday.

Yours, &c.

Capitol Building in the 1830s (Cornell University)
Capitol Building in the 1830s (Cornell University)

Did you know this music video and song was based on this article? No joke.

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