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Hotel: An American History

A. K. Sandoval-Strausz
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    When George Washington embarked on his presidential tours of 1789-91, the rudimentary inns and taverns of the day suddenly seemed dismally inadequate. But within a decade, Americans had built the first hotels-large and elegant structures that boasted private bedchambers and grand public ballrooms. This book recounts the enthralling history of the hotel in America-a saga in which politicians and prostitutes, tourists and tramps, conventioneers and confidence men, celebrities and salesmen all rub elbows.Hotelexplores why the hotel was invented, how its architecture developed, and the many ways it influenced the course of United States history. The volume also presents a beautiful collection of more than 120 illustrations, many in full color, of hotel life in every era.

    Hotelexplores these topics and more:

    · What it was like to sleep, eat, and socialize at a hotel in the mid-1800s

    · How hotelkeepers dealt with the illicit activities of adulterers, thieves, and violent guests

    · The stories behind America's greatest hotels, including the Waldorf-Astoria, the Plaza, the Willard, the Blackstone, and the Fairmont

    · Why Confederate spies plotted to burn down thirteen hotels in New York City during the Civil War

    · How the development of steamboats and locomotives helped create a nationwide network of hotels

    · How hotels became architectural models for apartment buildings

    · The pivotal role of hotels in the civil rights movement

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14999-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    The hotel is everywhere in the modern world. Hotels line downtown streets, surround airports, anchor convention centers, house casinos (fig. 1), and shelter vacationers on tropical beaches and in mountain resorts. In the popular imagination, the word itself conjures up a series of often contradictory associations: traveler’s haven and criminal hideout, wedding location and trysting ground, ritzy cocktail lounge and skid-row residence. The ready recognizability and broad familiarity of the hotel setting have made it a common icon in world culture: hotels appear regularly in media as diverse as Latin Americantelenovelas, German prose, Indian cinema, British situation comedy, Japanese...


    • [One Introduction]
      (pp. 11-12)

      In early america, public authority was deeply invested in policing people’s comings and goings. Colonial communities generally discouraged visits from strangers and kept a close watch on those who made their way into town. Certain approved travelers, such as circuit-riding judges and other officials, were of course welcomed, but most others, including itinerant peddlers and preachers, fortune-tellers, and especially people without work, were viewed with suspicion. Towns often passed laws according to which all outsiders were immediately scrutinized upon arrival; those who might accommodate them were in turn charged with particular duties. Innkeepers were assigned the role of both guardian...

    • One A Public House for a New Republic: Inventing the American Hotel, 1789–1815
      (pp. 13-44)

      George washington began his journey on an overcast October morning in 1789. The president and a small retinue of officials and servants mounted their horses at nine o’clock and rode northward out of the national capital at New York City. It was slow going. “The Road for the greater part, indeed the whole way,” Washington wrote in his diary, “was very rough and Stoney,” and a steady morning rain and “frequent light Showers” that lasted through the afternoon left the riders wet in their saddles. Yet on the whole the transplanted Virginian was pleased with what he saw that day....

    • Two Palaces of the Public: The American Hotel Comes of Age, 1815–1840
      (pp. 45-74)

      The first generation of hotels was in many ways a remarkable achievement. The creation of a new building type demonstrated that Americans had begun to think in innovative and even visionary ways about what kind of accommodations their commercial and republican nation required. The work of hotel building had united the efforts of intrepid entrepreneurs, talented architects, and skilled artisans, who financed, designed, and constructed a number of highly impressive edifices. Hotels had become hugely popular public places, drawing crowds into their lobbies, parlors, and rooms, creating a ready clientele for the shops, offices, and libraries within, and establishing themselves...

    • Three The Hotel System: Assembling a Transcontinental Accommodation Network, 1840–1876
      (pp. 75-109)

      Domingo faustino sarmiento was lost. The Argentine teacher and journalist, who fifteen years earlier had been exiled from his homeland by a brutal dictator, visited the United States in 1847 to study its innovative public schools; his hope was to use them as a model for public education in South America. When the dictator was overthrown several years later, Sarmiento returned to Argentina and became its most influential educator. Elected president in 1868, he arranged for the construction of more than a hundred libraries and initiated the greatest expansion in school enrollments in the nation’s history.

      On this particular summer...

    • Four Imperial Hotels and Hotel Empires: Tourism, Expansion, Standardization, and the Beginning of the End of a Hotel Age, 1876–1908
      (pp. 110-135)

      The tremendous surge of travel to Philadelphia for the Centennial Exhibition heralded the dawn of mass tourism in the United States. In the final quarter of the century, the democratization of pleasure travel led to new uses of hotels on the nation’s frontiers and fostered innovative modes of hotel building and management in the cities.

      The rapid growth of tourism created a new relationship between hotels and cities. For more than eighty years, hotel construction had followed capitalist urbanization. Commerce, agriculture, manufacturing, and mining had dictated where and when people would settle, and hotels helped anchor communities and tied them...


    • [Two Introduction]
      (pp. 137-141)

      In part one, we saw that hotels could be viewed collectively as elements within larger networks of transportation and accommodation. But a history of hotels must also reveal how they functioned individually as purveyors of hospitality. The hotel was not the first institution to provide shelter, sustenance, and services to travelers and others willing to pay; it was only the most recent in a long line of hostelries. But hotel hospitality was distinct from any that had come before. Accommodating travelers and strangers always raised thorny questions: Who would provide hospitality? On what basis would they do so? And most...

    • Five The House of Strangers: The Transformation of Hospitality and the Everyday Life of the Hotel
      (pp. 142-185)

      Hotels were sophisticated hospitality machines. While they served the same basic purposes as inns and taverns—providing shelter, food, and refreshment to travelers and others away from home—they did so in a fundamentally different way. This new order of hospitality recast the host-guest relationship, restructured the architecture of accommodation, and reorganized the work of welcoming strangers.

      Understanding the transformation of hospitality means going inside hotels, and accordingly, in this chapter I will focus on everyday hotel life. Hotels were characterized by a permanent state of coming and going, of constant contact between people unknown to one another. There were...

    • Six The Law of Hospitality: The Common Law of Innkeepers and the Public Space of the Hotel
      (pp. 186-202)

      Hotelkeepers created an impressive array of services and amenities for their guests, making hotels into some of the most elaborate business enterprises of their day. But hotel hospitality was not simply the outcome of a dialectical relationship between entrepreneurs and customers in which the supply and demand for services and goods resulted in constant revisions and improvements. While proprietors and clients were undoubtedly the main influences on the everyday operation of the hotel, it would be a mistake to assume that hoteliers were free to set the terms of accommodation, or that guests could negotiate any conditions they wished. Hotels...

    • Seven Unruly Guests and Anxious Hosts: Sex, Theft, and Violence at the Hotel
      (pp. 203-227)

      Some people went to hotels for the wrong reasons. Hotelkeepers and their employees worked hard to make their establishments welcoming and comfortable, and showed tremendous resourcefulness in creating ever more sophisticated methods for efficiently receiving guests, providing them with shelter and sustenance, and offering them a variety of personal services. Yet the very same qualities that made hotels appealing to their desired clientele also attracted people whose intentions were less than legitimate. As much as their proprietors would have liked to deny it, hotels were home to a great deal of illicit activity. Adulterers, seducers, and prostitutes sought out their...


    • [Three Introduction]
      (pp. 229-230)

      We now turn to the influence of the hotel on American society more generally. In Part One we explored the origins of the hotel form, the reasons it evolved from an experimental building type into a ubiquitous presence on the national landscape, and its subsequent development domestically and overseas. Part Two focused on the internal workings of the hotel, from the everyday experience of hotel life to the laws governing hospitality and the difficulty of maintaining order. In Part Three I take up the question of how the hotel’s particular operational, architectural, social, and legal characteristics shaped the American scene....

    • Eight American Forum: Hotels and Civil Society
      (pp. 231-262)

      “There is one country in the world which, day in, day out, makes use of an unlimited freedom of political association,” observed Alexis de Tocqueville after his 1831 visit to the United States. “And the citizens of this same nation, alone in the world, have thought of using the right of association continually in civil life, and by this means have come to enjoy all the advantages which civilization can offer.” The aristocratic young Frenchman, who had come in search of clues as to what the rise of equality might mean for Europe, found much to admire in the United...

    • Nine Homes for a World of Strangers: House, Hotel, Apartment Building
      (pp. 263-283)

      The influence of hotel hospitality on everyday life also reached into the American home. The people of the United States had created in the hotel an extraordinarily versatile social technology and soon adapted it for yet another purpose. They began to make homes in hotels, and beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century the hotel became a key architectural and social model for a new type of residence, the apartment building. Apartment buildings emerged in a period when the American home was undergoing important transformations: people were changing the ways they built their homes, occupied the space within, and...

    • Ten Accommodating Jim Crow: The Law of Hospitality and the Struggle for Civil Rights
      (pp. 284-311)

      Frederick douglass was the most famous black person in the world. But black he was, and so now, in 1851, a Cleveland hotel clerk was telling him to get out. “Sir,” said the clerk, “you must leave this table.”¹

      Douglass had been born into slavery in Maryland in 1818. As he grew into adolescence, he chafed against the restrictions placed upon him as a slave. He taught himself to read and write, set up secret schools for other slaves, and attempted to organize a mass escape to the North. At the age of twenty, he secured his own liberation by...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 312-316)

    Hospitality is the idea which more than any other encapsulates this book’s subject matter and conceptual approach. The idea of hospitality has provided narrative continuity to this history’s pivotal episodes, from the invention of the hotel to developments in the business of hotelkeeping to the struggle for equality in public places. More important, hospitality has served as a cultural indicator, an empirical measure of changes in the way Americans welcomed strangers, populated the national territory, and organized their political and social affairs. In the most general sense, thinking in terms of hospitality offers a new perspective on the human condition...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 317-356)
    (pp. 357-359)
    (pp. 360-362)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 363-375)