Crumbling Columns and Day-Old Ruins <i>Specters of Antiquity on the American Grand Tour, 1819–1837</i>

in Untimely Ruins

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780226946634
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226946658 | DOI:
Crumbling Columns and Day-Old Ruins Specters of Antiquity on the American Grand Tour, 1819–1837

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Ruins can elicit a wide range of responses and representations. This is evident in two contrasting scenes in 1835–1836, the first in Thomas Cole's painting Desolation and the second in Alexis de Tocqueville's book Democracy in America. In Desolation, the last canvas of his Course of Empire series, Cole portrayed the kinds of classical ruins that adorn the Mediterranean coastline. In the first volume of Democracy in America, Tocqueville described some non-classical ruins discovered in the wilderness of the American interior. These are only “day-old ruins,” the remains of a settlement that was built and abandoned hastily and reclaimed almost as hastily by nature. This article focuses on “inland cities” such as Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo that rose up along the Erie Canal. The canal's unpredictable and fluctuating effects upon the fortunes of settlers, boosters, and town founders may also account for Lake Oneida's ruins.

Keywords: day-old ruins; Thomas Cole; Alexis de Tocqueville; Democracy in America; Mediterranean; inland cities; Erie Canal; Rochester; Syracuse; Buffalo

Chapter.  17664 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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