In the pre-dawn of August 2, 1826, Alexander Stewart Scott stepped aboard the steamboat Chambly in Quebec City, Canada. He was beginning a journey that not only took him across New York State but also ultimately changed his view of America and her people. A keen observer, the twenty-one-year-old meticulously recorded his travel experiences, observations about the people he encountered, impressions of things he saw, and reactions to events he witnessed.
This firsthand account immerses the reader in the world of early-nineteenth-century life in both New York and Lower Canada. Whether enduring the choking dust raised by a stagecoach, the frustration and delays caused by bad roads, or the wonders and occasional dangers of packet boat travel on the newly completed Erie Canal, all are vividly brought to life by Scott’s pen. This journal also offers a unique blend of travel and domestic insights. With close family members living in both St. John’s, Quebec, Canada, and Palmyra, New York, his travels were supplemented by long stays in these communities, offering readers comparative glimpses into the daily lives and activities in both countries. Gregarious, funny, and inquisitive, Scott missed nothing of what he thought worthy of observation.
“Everything Worthy of Observation charts the lively trip of Alexander Stewart Scott across New York State in 1826. From drinking the waters at Saratoga Springs to getting completely drenched by the spray at Niagara Falls. Scott’s fascinating diary is contextualized and expertly explained by Paul G. Schneider Jr. making the reader want to visit these places in order to compare Scott’s observations.” — Jennifer A. Lemak, coauthor of An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War
“Everything Worthy of Observation is a delight to read. Not only does one see State landmarks such as Niagara Falls through fresh eyes (a neatly foiled snake attack at the Falls is recounted) but one almost feels the dust of stage coach travel. The hazards of canal travel are made clear—the large number of low bridges on the Erie Canal required that canal boat passengers ‘lie down flat on the Deck … or get down below’ to avoid receiving severe blows and getting knocked down. No doubt the pleasure of reading this book is greatly enhanced by the scholarship of Paul G. Schneider Jr. His extensive research is evident in the wonderful notes he provides that furnish context for the reader. I highly recommend this book.” — Margaret Lynch-Brennan, author of The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840–1930
“Carefully transcribed and meticulously edited, the travel journal of Canadian Alexander Stewart Scott provides a close-up view of life in upstate New York in 1826. A cultivated devotee of the theater and of books and reading, Scott records many details during his canal and lake voyage. He describes meeting many interesting people during his travel, which included transportation not only on canal boats but also by stagecoach and steamboat. Scott has left us with a fascinating depiction of New York State during a significant period in its history.” — Paul R. Huey, Retired Senior Scientist (Archaeology), New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation
Paul G. Schneider Jr. is an independent historian and a member of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars. He lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.