Re: Speaking of classes in America...

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Posted by Gayle on August 04, 2000 at 17:35:32:

In Reply to: Speaking of classes in America... posted by Dana S. on August 04, 2000 at 12:55:44:

: Speaking of classes in America….What did all you Gathering attendees think of the Biltmore? I have to say, I loved the lower level and found it much more fascinating than all the poshness on the upper levels. I could almost feel the hustle and bustle of maids and butlers, mechanics and gardeners. I thought, too, that the decorating in the servant quarters was more "classy" than the upper level brocade and chintz filled rooms.( I know, Gayle, I'm looking at it from a 21st century perspective) Just an impression I didn’t seem to have enough time to share at Gathering…

: Dana S.

Since I didn't do the Biltmore tour, I don't have any idea what it looked like, so no opinion on whether it reflected the era of the movie or not. According to reading I have done, the upper classes had access to a lot in the way of luxuries and comforts, but the lack of synthetic materials as well as temperature and humidity control took its toll on furniture and fabrics. Also lack of cleaning materials (not to speak of appliances for vacuuming, washing, etc.) meant mildew, odors, stains and general dirt from open fireplaces and daily living. I don't get the impression, from Cooper's books, that the servant classes had nearly the nice furniture and belongings that their employers had, and except for the house servants, lived in fairly grungy circumstances.

Cooper gives really detailed descriptions of luxury of upper class living arrangements in many of his books - particularly "The Pioneers", "Satanstoe", and "Home as Found". But then you get a much more dire picture of the domestic arrangements of the lower classes in books like "The Spy". He really felt the Europeans treated and housed their servants much better than the Americans did - small, but interesting diatribe on that issue in "The Ways of The Hour".

I never got the impression that the servant classes had much in the way of fine decorating or furniture, but I'd be willing to bet their quarters looked more human and lived-in than the decorated-for-show accomodations of the upper classes. ( Just a personal observation there, for what it's worth.)


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