Text: Edgar Allan Poe, Critical Notices, Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. II, no. 5, June 1836, 2:???-???


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[page 445:]

CRITICAL NOTICES.

LETTERS ON PENNSYLVANIA.

A Pleasant Peregrination through the Prettiest Parts of Pennsylvania. Performed by Peregrine Prolix. Philadelphia: Grigg and Elliot.

We know nothing farther about Peregrine Prolix than that he is the very clever author of a book entitled “Letters descriptive of the Virginia Springs,” and that he is a gentleman upon the wrong side of forty. The first fact we arse enabled easily to perceive from the peculiarity of an exceedingly witty — pedantic style characterizing, in a manner not to be mistaken, both the Virginia and the Pennsylvania Letters — the second appears from the first stanza of a rhyming dedication (much better than eulogistic) to John Guillemard, Esquire, Fellow of the Royal Society, London

I send my friend a little token

Three thousand miles across the sea,

Of kindness, forty years unbroken

And cherished still for him by me.

However these matters may be, it is very certain that Peregrine Prolix is a misnomer, that his book is a very excellent thing, and that the Preface is not the worst part of it.

Our traveller, before setting out on his peregrinations, indulges us, in Letter, with a very well executed outline sketch, or scratch, of Philadelphia, not troubling himself much about either his keeping or his fillings in. We cannot do better than just copy the whole of his picture. —

Philadelphia is a flat, rectangular, clean, (almost too clean sometimes, for on Saturdays “nunquam cessavit lavari, aut fricari, aut tergeri, aut ornari, poliri, pingi, fingi,”*) uniform, well-built, brick and mortar, (except one stone house,) well-fed and watered, well-clad, moral, industrious, manufacturing,rich, sober, quiet, good-looking city. The Delaware washes its eastern and the Schuylkill its western front. The distance between the two rivers is one mile and three quarters, which space on several streets is nearly filled with houses. Philadelphia looks new and is new, and like Juno always will be new; for the inhabitants are constantly pulling down and new-vamping their houses. The furor delendi with regard to old houses, is as rife in the bosoms of her citizens, as it was in the breast of old Cato with regard to Carthage. A respectable-looking old house is now a rare thing, and except the venerable edifice of Christ Church in Second above Market Street, we should hnrdly know where to find one.

The dwelling-houses in the principal streets are all very much alike, having much the air of brothers, sisters and cousins of the same family; like the supernumerary figures in one of West’s historical paintings, or like all the faces in all of Stothard’s designs. They are nearly all three stories high, faced with beautiful red unpainted Philadelphia brick, and have water tables and steps of white marble, kept so painfully clean as to make one fear to set his foot on them. The roofs arc in general of cedar, cypress or pine shingles; the continued use of which is probably kept up (for there is plenty of slate,) to afford the Fire-Companies a little wholesome exercise.

The streets are in general fifty feet wide, having on each side convenient trottoirs well paved with brick, and a carriage way badly paved with large round pebbles. They are kept very clean, and the kennels are frequently washed by floods of pure Schuylkill water, poured from the iron pipes with which all the streets are underlaid. [page 446:]

This same Schuylkill water is the cause of many comforts in the shape of drinking, bathing and clean linen, (indusia toraliaque;) and enters into the composition of those delicious and persuasive liquids called Pepper’s beer and Gray’s ale and porter.

This water is so pure, that our brothers of New York complain of its want of taste; and it is as wholesome and refreshing as the stream of father Nilus. It is also so copious, that our incendiaries are scarcely ever able to burn more than the roof or garret of one or two houses in a month. The fire companies are numerous, voluntary, well-organized associations, amply furnished with engines, hose, and all other implements and munitions necessary to make successful war upon the destroying element; and the members are intelligent, active and intrepid young men, so skilful from daily practice, that they will put you out three or four fires in a night, in less time than Higginbottom, that veteran fireman of London, would have allowed them to kindle.

The public confidence in these useful, prompt, energetic and faithful companies is so great, that no citizen is alarmed by the cry of fire; for he knows that the first tap on the State House bell, arouses hundreds of these vigilant guardians of the city’s safety, who rush to the scene of danger with one accord; and with engines, axes, ladders, torches, hooks and hose, dash through summer’s heat, or winter’s hail and snows.

The old State House, in whose eastern room the Declaration of Independence was signed, has on the top of it, a sort of stumpy steeple, which looks as if somewhat pushed in, like a spy glass, half shut. In this steeple is a large clock, which, twice as bad as Janus, presents four faces, which at dusk are lighted up like the full moon; and as there is a man in the moon, so there is a man in the clock, to see that it does not log behind, nor run away from father time; whose whereabout, ever and anon, the people wish to know. This close observer of the time is also a distant observer of the fires, and possesses an ingenious method of communicating their existence and position to his fellow citizens below. One tap on the great bell means north; two indicate south ; three represent east, and four point out west; and by composition these simple elements are made to represent also the intermediate points. If the fire be in the north, the man strikes successive blows with solemn and equal intervals, thus; tap —— tap —— tap —— tap; if it be in the south, thus; tap tap —— tap tap; if it be in the north east, thus; tap —— tap tap —— tap tap —— tap tap tap; so that when the thrifty and well-fed citizen is roused by the cry of fire at midnight, from a pleasant dream of heaps of gold and smoking terrapins and whisky punch, he uncovers one ear and listens calmly for the State House bell, and if its iron tongue tell of no scathe to him, he turns him on his side and sleeps again. What a convenient invention, which tells the firemen when and where to go, and the terrapin men when to lie snug in their comfortable nests! This clever plan is supposed to have been invented by an M. A. P. S.; this however, we think doubtful, for the Magellanic Premium has never, to our knowledge, been claimed for the discovery. This reminds us that the American Philosophical Society is located* in Philadelphia, where it possesses a spacious hall, a good library, and an interesting collection of American antiquities, gigantic fossil bones, and other curiosities, all of which are open to the inspection of intelligent and inquisitive travellers.

The Society was founded by the Philosophical Franklin, and its presidential chair is now occupied by the learned and venerable Duponceau.

There exists here a club of twenty-four philosophers, who give every Saturday evening very agreeable male parties; consisting of the club, twenty invited citizens [column 2:] and any strangers who may happen to be in town. These parties are not confined to any particular circle; but all men who are distinguished in the arts, whether fine or mechanical; or in the sciences, whether natural or artificial, are liable to be invited. The members of the club are all M. A. P. S., and the parties are supposed to look with a steady eye towards the cultivation of science; the other eye however regards with equal complacency the useful and ornamental arts of eating and drinking. The only defect in the latter department that we have discovered, is the banishment of ice cream and roman punch.

The markets are well supplied with good things. The principal one is held under long colonnades running along the middle of Market street, and extending from Front to Eighth street, a distance of more than one thousand yards. The columns are of brick and the roofs of shingles, arched and ceiled underneath. If I were to say all they deserve of its beef, mutton and veal, there would be no end to the praises that flesh is heir to; beat the butter and cream-cheese in the spring and summer, are such dainties as are found in no other place under the welkin. They are produced on dairy farms and by families near the city, whose energies have for several generations been directed to this one useful end, and who now work with an art made perfect by the experience of a century.

Here is the seat of the University of Pennsylvania, which comprehends a College of the Arts and several preparatory schools; and a college of Medicine the most celebrated of the United States, in the list of whose professors are many names advantageously known in all civilized nations.

The Hospital for the insane, sick and wounded is a well conducted institution, and worth a stranger’s visit. Go and see also the Museum, the Water-Works, the Navy-Yard, and the public squares, and lots of otbet things too tedious to write down.

The site of the city promises very little for the scenery of the environs ; but unlike the witches in Macbeth, what is promised is more than kept. Take an open carriage and cross the Schuylkill by the Market street bridge, and ride up the west bank of the river forfre or six miles, and your labor will be fully rewarded by a succession of lovely landscapes, comprehending water, hill and dale; wood, lawn and meadow ; villas, farmhouses and cottages, mingled in a charming variety.

On the west bank of the Schuylkill opposite to the city, we regret to say, is an enormous palace, which cost many hundred thousand dollars, called an Almshouse, (unhappy misnomer,) which is big enough to hold all the paupers that would be in the world, if there were no poor laws to make them. But you had better go and see it, and take the length and breadth and height of our unreason, in this age of light, when we ought to know better.

The people of Philadelphia are in general well-informed, well-bred, kind, hospitable and of good manners, very slightly tinged with quaker reserve; and the tone of society is good, except in a small circle of exclusive imagines subitæ, who imitate very awkwardly the exaggerations of European fashion. The tone of the Satanic school, which has somewhat infected the highest circles of fashion in England, has not yet crossed the Atlantic.

There are many good Hotels, and extensive boarding houses; and the table of the Mansion House is said to be faultless.

Taking every thing into consideration, this is certainly the very spot for annuitants, who have reached the rational age of fifty, to nestle in during the long remnant of their comfortable days. We say long remnant, because as a class, annuitants are the longest livers; and there is an excellent company here, that not only grants annuities, but also insures lives.

The climate of Philadelphia is variable, and exhibits (in the shade,) all the degrees of temperature that are contained between the tenth below, and the ninetieth [page 447:] above zero, on the scale of Fahrenheit. In general, winter does not begin seriously until after Christmas, but he sometimes lingers too long in “the lap of spring,” and leaves a bridge of ice on the noble river Delaware until the tenth of March.

There are generally three or four weeks of severe told, during which the thermometer sometimes at night sinks below zero, and sometimes in the day does not rise to the point of thaw. This period is generally enlivened by two or three snow storms, which set in motion the rapid sleighs, the jingle of whose lively bells is heard through day and night. The Delaware is not frozen over every winter, but there is always made an ample supply of fine crystalline ice to last the citizens until the next winter. The annual average duration of interrupted navigation may be four or five weeks. In March there is sometimes a little Scotch weather in which Sawney would rub his hands and tell you, here is a fine cauld blawey snawey rainy day. There is however not much such weather, though the March winds have been known to blow (as Paddy would say,) even in the first week of April; after which spring begins with tears and smiles to coax the tardy vegetation into life.

Spring is short and vegetation rapid. Summer sprinkled a day here and there in May, and sets in seriously to toast people in June j during which month there are generally six or eight days whose average temperature reaches the altissimum of summer heat. In July the days are hot, but there is some relief at night; whilst in August the fiery day is but a prelude to a baking night; and the whole city has the air of an enormous oven.* The extremely hot weather does not continue more than six weeks, and so far from being a misfortune, it is a great advantage to the inhabitants; for it makes every body that can spare twenty dollars, take it pleasant journey every year, whereby their minds are expanded, their manners improved, and they return with a double zest to the enjoyments of Philadelphia, having learned, quantum est in rebus inane, that is, in the rebuses of other places.

The autumn, or as the Philadelphians call it, the Fall, is the most delightful part of the year, and is sometimes eked out by the Indian Summer as far as Christmas. The Fall begins in the first half of September and generally lasts until the middle of November, when it is succeeded by the Indian Summer; a pleasant period of two or three weeks, in which the mornings, evenings and nights are frosty, and the days comfortably warm and a little hazy. The Indians are supposed to have employed this period in hunting and laying in game for winter use, before the long-knives made game of them.

The population of Philadelphia and its suburbs exceeds 180.000 souls.

Having taken passage for himself and the friend in the Pioneer line, at 8 A. M., for Hallidaysburg, Mr. Prolix dates his second letter from Lancaster. This epistle is full of fun, bustle, and all good things — gives a lively picture of the horrors of early rising and half-eaten breakfasts — of a cruise in an omnibus, about the city of Brotherly Love, in search of the due quota of passengers — of the depôt in Broad Street — of an unilocular car with its baggage and passengers — of an old woman in a red cloak and an old gentleman in a red nose — of a tall, good looking Englishman, who was at the trouble of falling asleep — and of an infantile little American gentleman, who had no trouble whatever about fulfilling [column 2:] all his little occasions. Some account, too, is given of the ride to the foot of the inclined plane on the western bank of the Schuylkill, of the viaduct by which the plane is approached, the view from the viaduct, of the country between Philadelphia and Lancaster, of the Columbia rail road, of Lancaster city, and of Mrs. Hubley’s very respectable hotel.

Letter III is dated from Dunoon’s Island. Mr. Prolix left Lancaster at 5 A. M. in a raid road car, drawn by two horses tandem, arrived at Columbia in an hour and a half, and stopped at Mr. Donley’s Red Lion Hotel, where he “breakfasted and dined, and found the house very comfortable and well kept.”

“Columbia,” says Mr. P. “is twelve miles from Lancaster, and is situated on the eastern bank of the noble river Susquehanna. It is a thriving and pretty town, and is rapidly increasing in business, population and wealth. There is an immense bridge here over the Susquehanna, the superslructuie of which, composed of massy timber, rests upon stone piers. This bridge is new, having been built within three years. The waters of the Susquehanna, resembling the citizens of Philadelphia, in their dislike to old buildings, took the liberty three years ago, to destroy the old bridge by means of an ice freshet, though it was but twenty years of age, and still in excellent preservation. The views from the bridge, up and down the river, are very interesting. Here is the western termination of the rail road, and goods from the sea-board intended for the great west, are here transhipped into canal boats. Columbia contains about twenty-five hundred souls.”

Our author does not think that the state affords the public as good a commodity of travelling as the public ought to have for the money paid. Each passenger car, he says, pays for locomotive power two cents per mile, for each passenger — for toll two cents a mile for itself, and one cent per mile for each passenger — burthen cars paying half these rates. There is some mistake here or — we are mistaken. The estimated cost of working an engine, including interest and repairs, is sixteen dollars per day — and the daily sum earned is twenty eight dollars — the state clearing twelve dollars per day on each locomotive. Empty cars pay the same toll and power-hire as full ones, which, as Mr. Prolix observes, is unreasonable.

At 4 P. M. our peregrinator went on board a boat to ascend the canal which follows the eastern bank of the Susquehanna. His description of the genus “canal boat,” species “Pioneer Line,” is effective, and will interest our readers.

A canal packet boat is a microcosm that contains almost as many specimens of natural history as the Ark of Noah. It is nearly eighty feet long and eleven wide; and has a house built in it that extends to within six or seven feet of stem and stern. Thirty-six feet in length of said house are used as a cabin by day, and a dormitory by night; the forward twelve feet being nocturnally partitioned off by an opaque curtain, when there are more than four ladies on board, for their accommodation. In front of said twelve feet, there is an apartment of six feet containing four permanent berths and separated from the cabin by a wooden partition, with a door in it; this is called the ladies’ dressing room, and is sacred to their uses.

At 9 P. M. the steward and his satellites begin the work of arranging the sleeping apparatus. This consists of a wooden frame six feet long and twenty inches wide, with canvass nailed over it, a thin mattress and sheets, &c, to match. The frame has two metallic points on one side which are inserted into corresponding holes in the side of the cabin, and its horizontally is preserved [page 448:] by little ropes descending from the ceiling fastened to its other side. There are three tiers of these conveniences on each side, making twenty-four for gentlemen, and twelve for ladies, besides the four permanent berths in the ladies’ dressing room. The number of berths, however, does not limit the number of passengers; for a packet is like Milton’s Pandemonium, and when it is brim full of imps, the inhabitants seem to grow smaller so as to afford room for more poor devils to come in and be stewed; and tables and settees are put into a sleeping fix in the twinkling of a bedpost.

Abaft the cabin is a small apartment four feet square, in which the steward keeps for sale all sorts of potables, and some sorts of eatables. Abaft that is the kitchen, in which there is generally an emancipated or escaped slave from Maryland or Virginia, of some shade between white and black, who performs the important part of cook with great effect. The breakfasts, dinners and suppers are good, of which the extremes cost twenty-five cents each, and the mean thirty-seven and a half.

The passengers can recreate by walking about on the roof of the cabin, at the risque of being decapitated by the bridges which are passed under at short intervals of time. But this accident does not often happen, for the man at the helm is constantly on the watch to prevent such an unpleasant abridgment of the passengers, and gives notice of the approaching danger by crying out ’bridge.’

This machine, with all that it inherits, is dragged through the water at the rate of three miles and a half per hour by three horses, driven tandem by a dipod with a long whip, who rides the hindmost horse. The rope, which is about one hundred yards in length, is fastened to the side of the roof, at the distance of twenty feet from the bow, in such fashion that it can be loosed from the boat in a moment by touching a spring. The horses are changed once in about three hours and seem very much jaded by their work.

At an hour past midnight Mr. Prolix arrived at Harrisburg, where the boat stops for half an hour to let out and take in passengers. It was pitch dark, however, and nothing was visible from the boat. We miss, therefore, a description of the town, which is cavalierly snubbed by the tourist for containing no more than forty-five hundred inhabitants. He goes to sleep, and awaking at 5 in tho morning, finds himself opposite to Duncan’s Island. He lands, and takes up his quarters at the hotel of Mrs. Duncan. Unlike the hotels previously described, which were all “elegant, respectable and neat,” this one is merely “neat, elegant and respectable.”

Letter IV is dated from Hallidaysburg. Leaving Duncan’s Island at 6, the traveller embarked in the canal packet Delaware, Captain Williams, following the bank of Duncan’s Island in a north-western course for about a mile, and then crossing the Juniata over “a substantial aqueduct built of timber and roofed in.” In the course of the day he passed Millerstown, Mexico and Mifflin, arriving at Lewistown before sunset, a distance of about forty miles. Lewistown contains about sixteen hundred inhabitants, some of whom, says Mr. Prolix, make excellent beer. Waynesburg and Hamiltonville were past during the night, and Huntingdon at 7 in the morning. In the course of the day Petersburg, Alexandria and Williamsburg made their appearance, and at 3 P. M. a shower of rain. At half past 6, “the packet glided into the basin at Hallidaysburg.” Here terminates that portion of the Pennsylvania canal which lies east of the Alleghany mountains. Goods destined for the west are taken from the boats and placed in burthen cars, to make their passage over the mountains [column 2:] by means of the Alleghany portage rail road. Mr. Prolix here put up at Moore’s hotel, which was not only very “neat, elegant,” &c but contained at least one vacant room, six feet wide by fourteen long, with a double bed, two chairs, and a wash-stand, “whose cleanliness was as great as its littleness.”

Letter V is headed Bedford Springs, August 7,1635. At half past 8 on the 6th, “after a good and abundant breakfast,” Mr. P. left Hallidaysburg in a coach and four for these Springs. The distance is thirty-four milos — direction nearly south. In six hours he arrived at Buckstown, a little village consisting of two taverns, a blacksmith’s shop, and two or three dwellings. Here our traveller put up at a tavern whose sign displayed the name of P. Amich — probably, quoth Mr. P, a corruption of Peregrini Amicus. Leaving this establishment at 3 P. M. he proceeded eleven miles to the Tillage of Bedford — thence two miles farther to the Springs, of which we have a very pretty description. “The benches,” says Mr. Prolix, “and wooden columns of the pavilion have suffered much from the ruthless ambition of that numerous class of aspirants after immortality who endeavor to cut their way to the temple of fame with their penknives, and inflict the ambitious initials of their illustrious names on every piece of stuff they meet. As a goose delights in its gosling, so does one of these wits in his whittling.”

Letters VI and VII are a continuation of the description of the Springs. From letter VII we extract, for the benefit of our invalid readers, an analysis by Doctor William Church of Pittsburgh, of a quart of the water from the particular springs ycleped Anderson’s.

A quart of water, evaporated to dryness, gave tiirrf one grains of a residuum. The same quantity of water, treated agreeably to the rule laid down by Westrumsb, contained eighteen and a half inches of carbonic and gas. The residuum, treated according to the rules given by Dr. Henry, in his system of Chemistry, gave the following result.

Sulphate of Magnesia or Epsom Salts, 20 grains.

Sulphate of Lime, . . . . 3 3/4 “

Muriate of Soda, . . . 2 1/2 “

Muriate of Lime, . . . 3/4 “

Carbonate of Iron, . . . 1 1/4 “

Carbonate of Lime, . . . 2 “

Loss, . . . 3/4 “

31 grains

To which must be added 181 cubic inches of carbonic acid gas.

“These waters,” says our author, “have acquired so great a reputation that immense quantities are sent away daily in barrels to perform long and expensive journeys by land to go and cure those who cannot come to them. The price of a barrel filled, and ready booted and spurred for its journey, is three dollars — and that is enough to last a regular and prudent toper four months.”

Letter VIII is dated “Somerset, August 14.” At 10 in the morning of this day, our traveller left the Spnofi in a hack, to join the mail coach at Bedford on its way to Somerset. “In an hour,” says Mr. P. “were snugly ensconced in one of Mr. Reeside’s well-appointed coaches, and rumbling over the stone turnpike on our way to the great west. The road for eleven miles is, we are told, not very hilly. Afterwards the corntry rises gradually from plateau to plateau, for a distance of fourteen miles, when you reach the summit of the Alleghany. Here is a large stone tavern, where the coach takes fresh horses. The country is now nearly level — but for the next six miles descends by alternate declivities and levels into “the broad valley which lies between the summits of the Alleghany Mountain and Laurel Hill,” the distance between which is about twenty miles. In this valley stands Somerset, which Mr. P. reached at half past 7 P. M.” having been eight hours and a half in travelling thirty-eight miles from Bedford.”

Letter IX is dated “Pittsburg, August 16.” At half past 3 A M. on the 15th, the tourist took the coach from the east bound to the City of Furnaces — at 7 passed the summit of Laurel Hill — at 5 arrived at Jones’ Mills, about one-third down the western declivity of (he mountain, and breakfasted — at one reached Mount Pleasant, having passed through two mountain villages, Donegal and Madison — thence twenty miles to Slewartsville — thence thirteen farther to

Pittsburgium, longæ finis chartæque viaque,

in spite of the manifold temptations offered to keen appetites by the luxuries of ChalfanPs, at Turtle Creek, which, quoth Mr. Prolix, “is a very good house.” His opinions of Pittsburgh, as of every thing else, are entitled to much weight, and in the present instance we give them entire.

The sensation on entering Pittsburgh is one of disappointment; the country through which you have come is so beautiful, and the town itself so ugly. The government of the town seems to have been more intent on filling the purses, than providing for the gratifieauon of the taste, or for the comfort of its inhabitants. As for the Pittsburghers themselves, they are worthy of every good thing, being enlightened, hospitable, and urbane.

Pittsburgh has produced many eminent men in law, politics and divinity, and is now the residence of the erudite, acute and witty author of the Memoir of Sebastian Cabot, which should be read by every native American. Its manufacturing powers and propensities have been so often described and lauded that we shall »ay nothing about ihem, except that they fill the people’s pockets with cash, and their toiling town with noise, and dust, and smoke.

Pittsburgh is full of good things in the eating and drinking way, but it requires much ingenuity to get them down your throat unsophisticated with smoke and coal-dust. If a sheet of white paper lie upon your desk for half an hour, you may write on it with your finger’s end, through the thin stratum of coal-dust that has settled upon it during that interval.

The Pittsburghers have committed an error in not rescuing from the service of Mammon, a triangle of thirty or forty acres at the junction of the Alleghany and Monongahela, and devoting it to the purposes of recreation. It is an unparalleled position for a park in which to ride or walk or sit. Bounded on the right by the clear and rapid Alleghany rushing from New York, and on the left by the deep and slow Monongahela Sowing majestically from Virginia, having in front the beginning of the great Ohio, bearing on its broad bosom the traffic of an empire, it is a spot worthy of being rescued from the ceaseless din of the steam engine, and the lurid flames and dingy smoke of the coal furnace. But alas! the sacra fames auri is rapidly covering this »rea with private edifices; and in a few short years it u probable, that the antiquary will be unable to discover a vestige of those celebrated military works, with which French and British ambition, in by-gone ages, had crowned this important and interesting point.

There is a large bridge of timber across the Alleghany [column 2:] and another over the Monongahela; the former of which leads to the town of Alleghany, a rapidly increasing village, situated on a beautiful plain on the western side of the river. About half a mile above the bridge the Alleghnny is crossed by an aqueduct bringing over the canal, which (strange to say) comes down from the confluence of the Kiskeminetas with the Alleghnny on the western side of the latter river. The aqueduct is an enormous wooden trough with a roof, hanging from seven arches of limber, supported by six stone piers and two abutments. The canal then passes through the town and under Grant’s hill through a tunnel, and communicates by a lock with the Monongahela.

The field of battle on which the conceited Braddock paid with his life the penalty of obstinate rashness, is not far from Pittsburgh, and is interesting to Americans as the scene on which the youthful Washington displayed the germs of those exalted qualities which afterwards ripened into the hero, and made him the founder and father of a nation.

Pittsburgh is destined to be the centre of an immense commerce, both in its own products and those of distant countries. Its annual exports at present probably exceed 25,000 and its imports 20,000 tons. lis trade in timber amounts to more than six millions of feet. The inexhaustible supply of coal and the facility of obtaining iron, insure the permanent success of its manufactories. Pittsburgh makes steam engines and other machinery, and her extensive glassworks have long been in profitable operation. There are also extensive paper mills moved by steam, and a manufactory of crackers (not explosive but edible) wrought by the same power. These crackers are made of good flour and pure water, and are fair and enticing to the eye of hunger, but we do not find the flavor so agreeable to the palate as that of Wattson’s water crackers. Perhaps they are kneaded by the iron hands of a steam engine, whereas hands of flesh are needed to make good crackers.

New Yorkers and people from down east, who wish to visit the Virginia Springs, cannot take an easier and more delightful route, than that through Pennsylvania to Pittsburg, and thence down the Ohio to Guyandotte; whence to the White Sulphur the distance is one hundred and sixty miles over a good road, through a romantic country, and by a line of good stage coaches.

Letter X is dated “Johnstown, August 20.” Mr. P. left Pittsburgh on the 18th, at nine in the evening, in the canal packet Cincinnati, Captain Fitzgerald. In a few minutes after moving, the packet entered the aqueduct which carries the canal over to the western bank of the Alleghany, “along which it runs in a north eastern direction for thirty miles.” At five o’clock on the morning of the 19th, our tourist passed the village of Freeport, which stands on the western bank of the Alleghany, below the mouth of the Kiskeminilas. A few minutes afterwards he crossed the Alleghany through an aqueduct, which “carries the canal over that river to the northern bank of the Kiskeminilas, the course of which the canal now pursues in a south eastern direction.”

At eight A. M. Mr. P. passed Leechburg, at twelve Saltsburgh — and at two P. M. an aqueduct leading the canal into a tunnel eight hundred feet long, going through the mountain and cutting off a circuit of four miles. At 3 A. M. on the 20th, Johnstown is reached, “the eastern end of the trans-Alleghanian canal, and the western beginning of the Portage rail road.”

Letter XI gives a vivid picture of the Portage rail road. This also we will be pardoned for copying.

Packet Juniata, near Lcwistown, August 21, 1835.

Yesterday, at Johnstown, we soon despatched the ceremony of a good breakfast, and at 6 A. M. were in [page 450:] motion on the first level, as it is called, of four miles in length, leading to the foot of the first inclined plane. The level has an ascent of one hundred and one feet, and we passed over it in horse-drawn cars with the speed of six miles an hour. This is the very interesting part of the route, not only on account of the wildness and beauty of the scenery, but also of the excitement mingled with vague apprehension, which takes possession of every body in approaching the great wonder of the internal improvements of Pennsylvania. In six hours the cars and passengers were to be raised eleven hundred and seventy-two feet of perpendicular height, and to be lowered fourteen hundred feet of perpendicular descent, by complicated, powerful, and frangible machinery, and were to pass a mountain, to overcome which, with a similar weight, three years ago, would have required the space of three days. The idea of raising so rapidly in the world, particularly by steam or a rope, is very agitating to the simple minds of those who have always walked in humble paths.

As soon as we arrived at the foot of plane No. 1, the horses were unhitched and the cars were fastened to the rope, which passes up the middle of one track and down the middle of the other. The stationary steam engine at the head of the plane was started, and the cars moved majestically up the steep and long acclivity in the space of four minutes; the length of the plane being sixteen hundred and eight feet, its perpendicular height, one hundred and fifty, and its angle of inclination 5° 42’ 38”.

The cars were now attached to horses and drawn through a magnificent tunnel nine hundred feet long, having two tracks through it, and being cut through solid rock nearly the whole distance. Now the train of cars were attached to a steam tug to pass a level of fourteen miles in length. This lengthy level is one of the most interesting portions of the Portage Rail Road, from the beauty of its location and the ingenuity of its construction. It ascends almost imperceptibly through its whole course, overcoming a perpendicular height of one hundred and ninety feet, and passes through some of the wildest scenery in the state; the axe, the chisel and the spade having cut its way through forest, rock and mountain. The valley of the little Conemaugh river is passed on a viaduct of the most beautiful construction. It is of one arch, a perfect semi-circle with a diameter of eighty feet, built of cut stone, and its entire height from the foundation is seventy-eight feet six inches. When viewed from the bottom of the valley, it seems to span the heavens, and you might suppose a rainbow had been turned to stone.

The fourteen miles of this second level are passed in one hour, and the train arrives at the foot of the second level, which has seventeen hundred and sixty feet of length, and one hundred and thirty-two feet of perpendicular height. The third level has a length of a mile and five-eighths, a rise of fourteen feet six inches, and is passed by means of horses. The third plane has a length of fourteen hundred and eighty feet, and a perpendicular height of one hundred and thirty. The fourth level is two miles long, rises nineteen feet and is passed by means of horses. The fourth plane has a length of two thousand one hundred and ninety-six feet, and a perpendicular height of one hundred and eighty-eight. The fifth level is three miles long, rises twenty-six feet and is passed by means of horses. The fifth plane has a length of two thousand six hundred and twenty-nine feet, and a perpendicular height of two hundred and two, and brings you to the top of the mountain, two thousand three hundred and ninety-seven feet above the level of the ocean, thirteen hundred and ninety-nine feet above Hallidaysburg, and eleven hundred and seventy-two feet above Johnstown. At this elevation in the midst of summer, you breathe an air like that of spring, clear and cool. Three short hours have brought you from the torrid plain, to a refreshing and invigorating; climate. The ascending apprehension has left you, but it is succeeded by the fear [column 2:] of the steep descent which lies before you; and as the car rolls along on this giddy height, the thought trembles in your mind, that it may slip over the head of the first descending plane, rush down the frightful steep, and be dashed into a thousand pieces at its foot.

The length of the road on t he summit of the mountain is one mile and five-eighths, and about the middle of it stands a spacious and handsome stone tavern. The eastern quarter of a mile, which is the highest part, is a dead level; in the other part, there is an ascent of nineteen feet. The descent on the eastern side of tie mountain is much more fearful than the ascent on the western, for the planes are much longer and steeper, of which you are made aware by the increased thickness of the ropes; and you look down instead of up.

There are also five planes on the eastern side of lie mountain, and five slightly descending levels, the last of which is nearly four miles long and leads to the basin at Hallidaysburg; this is travelled by the cars without steam or horse, merely by the force of gravity. In descending the mountain you meet several fine prospects and arrive at Hallidaysburg between twelve and one o’clock.

Letter XII is dated from Lancaster and is occupied with the return home of the adventurous Mr. Prolix, whose book we heartily recommend to all lovers of the utile el dulce.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 445, column 2:]

* Plautua, Pænuli, Act i., sc. 1, I. 10.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 446, column 1:]

* A new and somewhat barbarous, but exceedingly convenient yankeeism, which will probably work its way into good society in England, as its predecessor ‘lengthy,’ has already done.

† Called Wistar parties, in honor of the late illustrious Caspar Wistar, M. D., Professor of Anatomy in the University of Pennsylvania.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 447, column 1:]

* The season of the Dog Days. A witty Philadelphia lady wing once asked, how many Dog Days there are, answered ton there must be a great many, for every dog has his day. At that time the city abounded in dogs, but the corporation has since made fierce war upon them, with a view perhaps of lessening the number of Dog Days, and improving the climate, by curtailing those innocent beasts.

 


Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - SLM, 1836] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - Criticial Notices (June 1836)