In the early years of the new nation, travelers arrived in the United States from all over the world. They were eager to see the world’s first democratic republic in action and curious about the customs and culture of the people who had built it. Many of these travelers documented their impressions of the United States in drawings and writings. Some only shared their travel records with friends and family. Others published their accounts so the public could learn more about the United States of America.
These six watercolor paintings are by Anne Marguérite Joséphine Henriette Rouillé de Marigny, commonly called the Baroness Hyde de Neuville. The Baroness and her husband fled to the United States from France in 1807 after being exiled by Napoleon Bonaparte. They spent the next seven years traveling the country. The Baroness painted and drew any person or place that captured her imagination. Today, her collected works are an invaluable record of the diversity of people and places in the early United States.
The excerpt is from Frances Wright’s Views of Society and Manners in America, which was published with great success in 1821. Frances was a Scottish writer and philosopher who traveled throughout the United States with her sister from 1818–1820. Her writings illuminate the ways that American society was already distinguishing itself from its European predecessors.