New York, 7 October 1893

Already at 6 o’clock in the morning, consul general Havemeyer came to accompany me for the tour of his farm in the West of New York. Through the empty streets we went to the Southwest of the city to the shore of the North Hudson River and from there with a great traject steamer to Jersey City where a special train was awaiting us.

These traject steamers are true monsters of which always a large number are crossing upstream and downstream. They can take in at once 10 to 20 wagons and multiple hundreds of passengers. The height of the deck corresponds to that of the dock or respectively the street so that the wagons pass directly on board and on land. Despite the early hour, there was already much activity on the river. Vehicles of all kinds were driving up and down, numerous mighty steamers of the transatlantic lines were moored in front of the big magazines of the companies. Downriver anchored two warships and multiple torpedo boats of the United States.

Just beyond Jersey City the train passes through a long tunnel and then enters into a wide swampy territory covered with tall yellow reed. Small open water areas and streams criss-cross it and some forest lots stand out like islands in the swamp that is currently being drained and filled in to gain land for cultivation. Then we came to a very friendly territory without any villages or factories. Its small woods, fields and orchards reminded me distantly about the lower lying regions of Upper Austria. This aspect as well as the wonderful, clear and warm autumn day presented the scenery in a very sympathetic light, namely because the forest was resplendent in all colors of the spectrum.

At the small station next to Havemeyer’s farm, a coach was waiting, drawn four spotless black-brown horses. At a brisk speed we drove through the autumnal landscape, past bedewed meadows and fields to the farm.

In front of the farm lies Havemeyer’s pheasant garden that allegedly is annually raising up to two thousand pheasants. Here we were to hunt and had equipped ourselves with a vast quantity of rounds, having the highest of hopes. When, however, instead of drivers, I only saw three pointers that were let loose for tracking the pheasants and ran around like crazy, and the forester, a Frenchman, did not seem to look like a „real hunter“, my expectations were very much reduced. Our results in fact were only three pieces shot and four pieces caught by the dogs which led the leader of the hunt to excuse the low result with the limited time available for the hunt, In another more distant part of the hunting territory there would have been a lot more pheasants. I however felt fully compensated by the fact that I could undertake observations of the tree during the armed promenade and admire the great varieties of oak species here. Next to the hunting lodge was the breeding farm and compounds in which more than a thousand pheasants were running around.

We soon forgot the failed hunt during the visit of the farm that consisted of a charming villa and great estate buildings next to extended agricultural lands. The villa’s site has to be called as exceedingly favorable as it offered a splendid view of the manor, the extensive meadows and the wooded hills. The villa had been built according to plans drawn by Havemeyer himself, is very comfortably and cosily furnished and mostly features wood panelling. Ivy and other climbing plants are entwined on the exterior wall of the building which is the owner’s proof that he has not lost the sense for tasteful domesticity after having gained millions. Havemeyer introduced his son-in-law to me who spends the whole year here in this bucolic idyll and is also in charge of its administration having an admirable understanding of the matter. He is a passionate farmer and spoke with enthusiasm about Vienna where he has stayed for quite some time.

As we had only an hour before the train departed, we could only visit the horse and cow stables that were equipped with great luxury and kept meticulously tidy. Havemeyer’s horses and in particular some specimens he had shown to us received our full appreciation. These are beautifully built, noble yet strong horses and for the most part output of local breeding except for some imported English half-bred horses. The cows were standing in a stable built in the form of a cross from whose center one could survey all pieces. Rich fodder was not missing so that the milk output is quite considerable. It is partly sent to New York, partly made into butter in a large room laid-out with porcelain tiles.

The condition of the surrounding fields, as far as it could be analysed out of a wagon, was very good, the soil seemed fertile, corn and rape stood in excellent shape. Though I believe that the profit from this farm whose aim for correctness and neatness, I might even say elegance, will probably be not great, a Croesus such as Havemeyer can enjoy the pleasure of such a venture without having to fear any damages. Between the estate buildings and the train station lies a larger zoo with a good stock of big game and deer.

During the return drive, Havemeyer provided interesting information about his industrial holdings. Especially important is his sugar refinery in Brooklyn that processes 1.814.400 kg of input per day what results to an annual output of 544.320 t on the assumption of 300 work days.

When we rushed at full speed over the dam of the swampy area, suddenly the locomotive experienced a defect and, despite the locomotive driver and the conductor constantly shouting All right“,  were unable to go forward or backward so that a passing express train had mercy with us and sent a machine to help at the next station. The machine brought us with a considerable delay to Jersey City.

Noon was already past and at 3 o’clock the „Bretagne“ on which we were to return to Europe was bound to depart. First, however, Havemeyer still wanted to offer me a breakfast at Delmonico’s. The seemingly impossible was nevertheless achieved. With true American speed our steamboat crossed the Hudson, the wagons sped through the streets at the fastest pace and before we could take notice, we sat on a richly set table that offered everything a gourmand could desire. We believed to be at Lucullus‘ table. The historic ragout of nightingale tongue was in fact missing but we were offered a dish that was prepared from oyster parasites, small crabs the size of peas that are found as rare guests in the oyster shell. When I add that about 100.000 oysters had to be opened to collect the necessary number of crabs for our breakfast, this gives a scale for the value of this certainly excellent treat that was followed by worthy other courses of the menu.

The friendly host and our ambassador accompanied me on board of the „Bretagne“. At 3 o’clock in the afternoon we left the harbor of New York and the New World, the last stop on our long voyage around the world, the heart filled with blessed homeward bound feelings.

I did not have the opportunity, in contrast to my original intentions, to really visit the United States, I had to restrict myself to fly through the enormous territory. Thus my impressions are not based on a deep understanding but could only collect impressions at the surface. Like the gushing and bubbling geyser reveal the secret forces in the interior of the earth, one may in other areas take the visible symptoms and make conclusions about the underlying reasons and causations. What I have seen of the landscape of North America, the huge mountains, the eerily jagged valleys, the endless plains, the enormous rivers and waterfalls, the lakes extending as far as seas, the unfathomable distances, the still noticeable elementary forces in the interior of the earth drawing their last breaths — all this carries the element of greatness in it.

But it is not a greatness that is cherished and embellished by an exaltation of dignity and poetry with which the son of the Old Europe is used to look out for and is touched by nature in the most delicate strings of the human heart — it is more the proud feeling of self-reliance of invincibility, an elementary force joined with a defiant belief into greatness that we are encountering here and the inexhaustible wealth of all kinds in the interior of the earth that nature is ready to defend from the greedy grasping hands but in this is challenging the humans to struggle for it. This battle is under way and nature is losing it. The giant Goliath lies slain at the feet of weak David.

If somewhere man has grown to meet a higher purpose, then it has happened in the United States. Here it was necessary to overcome the sky-high mountains, to cross it, to measure the plains, to make waters usable, to break the virgin soil for agriculture, to turn bare areas into living urban settlements — these great works had been achieved in an astonishing manner that deserves admiration. Man has grown on this battleground to the size of a giant, he has learned to extract one secret after the next from nature, to disarm her and turn those weapons against her.

The generation that has fought here a forever memorable struggle in human history and still continues fighting has met the same fate as the conquering peoples that subjugate others and force their compliance by the application of iron but adopt more and more of their means and customs and make them their own. The so different parts of the white population of the United States have today not yet been amalgamated into a homogeneous mass, yet still the inhabitants of the United States are already much distinct by their national characteristics from the peoples of the Old World.

The descendants of those Europe sent to the West who have led the broad stream of emigration are now foreign to us even though flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood. It is not the big water that separates the citizens of the Union from us but the nature of the country has produced the difference. She has assimilated her conquerors, equipped them with all the advantages and disadvantages that she are her own. Its quality of greatness is also part of the characteristic of the inhabitants of the United States and is undeniable but is however not rarely transformed into the bizarre, the grotesque, even the repugnant.

The most audacious ideas are born in the land of the rocky mountains and the Niagaras and executed with amazing skill, with insurmountable mastery in technology. Heroic entrepreneurship that is indeed often enough paired with unequalled ruthlessness creates again and again new paths, leading to the amassing of colossal fortunes but not rarely causes the ruin of thousands of existences and without letting morale stay mourning at the side line. Besides admirable creations of philanthropic minds one notices the most crass egoism that sees fellow man only as an object of exploitation but not as a being with feelings.

Conscientious efforts are faced at every step with competition from loud advertisements and inimitable humbug. Close to honest business, a wild dance around the golden calf is performed that here has taken the form of the dollar. Earnest striving to create ordered public administration and sustain them is all too often equalled by corruption in the leading circles that at times even invades the judges so that instead of an assured system of justice  one’s own initiative of the rawest form is used.

In all appearances that express the character of the population of the Unites States, it is — I repeat this — the pursuit of greatness the outstanding aspect while its various manifestations may at times even be repugnant they still remain always interesting. The struggle towards larger than life, the superman, lies in the citizen of the United States that has been inoculated by the surrounding nature. As they are missing the magic romantization, the humans lack the intimate charms of personality, of warmth as a being. The have given me the impression of cold individualism as I found them wanting in terms of kindness of their hearts as well as cosiness of their senses — only these treats make humans sympathetic, even though we might have many other reasons to acknowledge and may even admire them. The cultured peoples of the Old World are not sick with sentimentality. They too had to struggle for their existence but heart and feelings have not only suffered, namely in our beloved homeland, but are equal, mitigating, positive factors besides the calculating reason, next to the determined will.

A small tugboat towed the „Bretagne“ from its moorage, then the machines of the ship were put in motion and we drove downriver past the masses of houses of New York and Brooklyn, past the many ships in the Upper Bay, finally crossing between Staten Island and Long Island to the ocean past Coney Island.

Before sunset we were bound to enjoy a beautiful maritime spectacle as on that day the most important North American sailing regatta was held for the prize of the New York Yacht Club. The two best yachts of the United States of America and Great Britain, „Vigilant“ and „Valkyrie„, competed for the victory. During the whole day, New York had been in febrile excitement about which of the two would win the prize, an excitement that is always present if there is a competition between Americans and the English.

The regatta had just ended. Already the ships loaded with the spectators of this maritime feast were coming towards us and soon we could see for ourselves that the palm of victory fell into the hands of the United States, as the passing American steamboats had hoisted all their flags — a sign of national jubilee — and everywhere shouts of joy rang out, kerchiefs and hats were waved. We enjoyed this fleet revue as in a space of only a few hundred meters about more than two hundred steamers of all kinds, from cloddish Hudson steamers to delicate steam yachts, filled to the brim with humans drove past both sides of the „Bretagne“ in order to communicate the joyful news to their waiting friends. Each steamer tried to pass the other, even here the competitive spirit turned into a real struggle so that at time four or five ships abreast steamed  past us, while the people on board shouted and howled and some of the steamers fired off joy shots. Then the two towed competing yachts with shortened sails approached until after less than half an hour the complete crazy procession had finally passed us by and the ships were only visible as tiny points on the horizon in the direction of  New York.

At last the clouds from the smoking chimneys too disappeared out of sight and all around there was nothing but the smooth sea on which we drove on a North-eastern course, soon enclosed by the shadows of the coming night.

Links

  • Location: New York, New York, United States
  • ANNO – on 07.10.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing the comedy „Der kleine Mann“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing „A Santa Lucia“ and other pieces.

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