Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What the bon ton was doing then

The Salt Lake Tribune printed the story of the housewarming on the front page. Twenty-eight rooms, area for a ballroom on the third floor, twenty-two-foot ceilings, corner towers, satinwood, rosewood, two dining rooms, kitchen of solid slate, ten-foot-wide airtight cookstove, built-in safes, one for the family silver made out of a ton of Ophir ore, one for Napoleon brandy and other fine liquors, one for valuables such as the Russian necklace of sapphires and a diamond bracelet that goes around the arm above the elbow five times and has three hundred diamonds running along it . . . Hot water flows through the towel racks to keep the towels warm. A carriage house, a stable, blooded horses, six house flunkies, two yard men, a stableman, coachman and man of all work. Only one other set of china like it in the world! Peacock-blue satin draperies, four hundred and two and three-fourths yards at three English pounds per yard (fifteen dollars), figure it out for yourself. Drawing room carpet alone cost five thousand dollars . . . orchestra . . . roses . . . champagne corks popping like the Battle of Antietam . . .
                The Tribune said it would like to be able to turn the clock back, to twenty or thirty years ago, and see what the bon ton, the elegantly clad company at the party, was doing then. Bent over pick, shovel and sluice box some of the haughtiest now, sweat running down their bare backs, or keeping a saloon or working in a boarding house or freighting over the mountains or hammering up a shack. Sleeping at night on a rough board bedstead with poles across for slats and a mattress and pillow stuffed with dried bulrushes; old blankets, bedbugs, lice; a filled-up private place of ease out back; soap made out of soup-fat and clay. Eating pork and beans, greasy steak, spuds, pickles, dried-apple sauce. No swans then of spun sugar and isinglass, no consommé de volaille, galantine of turkey, pheasant, bécasses et bécassines, and twenty-seven kinds of cake and candy.
                But such are the opportunities in this great land of ours if people are willing to roll up their sleeves! Or, as Minerva said when she read the account, in some cases roll up their skirts at the right moment.
     --From Variation West

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