Travels Through North America, during the years 1825 and 1826

By His Highness,
Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach

A merchant, Mr. Halbach, to whom I was introduced, took a walk with me to two gardens adjoining the city. One of these belongs to a rich merchant, Mr. Pratt, and is situated upon a rocky peninsula, formed by the Schuylkill, immediately above the water-works. The soil consists mostly of quartz and clay. The owner seldom comes there, and this is easy to be perceived, for instead of handsome grass-plots you see potatoes, and turnips planted in the garden. The trees, however, are very handsome, mostly chestnut, and some hickory. I also observed particularly two large and strong tulip trees; the circumference of one was fifteen feet. In the hot-houses was a fine collection of orange trees, and a handsome collection of exotic plants, some of the order Euphorbia from South America; also a few palm trees. The gardener, an Englishman by birth, seemed to be well acquainted with his plants. Through a hydraulic machine the water is brought up from the river into several basins, and thence forced into the hot-houses. There was also in the garden a mineral spring of a ferruginous quality. From several spots in the garden there are fine views of the Schuylkill, whose banks, covered with trees, now in the fall of the year, have a striking and pleasant effect from the various hues of the foliage. The other garden, called Woodlands, belonged to the Hamilton family. The road led us through the village of Mantua, which altogether consists of country-seats, and where Mr. Halbach also has his country residence. Woodlands has more the appearance of an English park than Mr. Pratt's country-seat; the dwelling house is large, and provided with two balconies, from both of which there is a very fine view, especially of the Schuylkill and floating bridge. Inside of the dwelling there is a handsome collection of pictures; several of them are of the Dutch school. What particularly struck me was a female figure, in entire dishabelle, laying on her back, with half-lifted eyes expressive of exquisite pleasure. There were also orange trees and hot-houses, superintended by a French gardener.

The navy-yard, which I visited with Mr. Tromp, was shown us by a lieutenant of the navy and major Miller of the marines; at the same time I became acquainted with the naval architect, Mr. Humphreys, who is considered one of the most skillful in his department in the United States. Three years ago he visited England and its dock-yards by order of the government. This navy-yard is not very large, for although ships are built here, yet they do not leave the yard perfectly equipped, as the Delaware is too shallow for completely armed ships of the line. On the stocks there was a ship of the line and a frigate yet incomplete, which, however, could be made ready for sea in a short time. The former is to carry one hundred and forty guns, and is said to be the largest vessel ever built. The frigate was of sixty-four guns. Each vessel had an elliptic stern, and was under cover. The house which covered the ship of the line is so large that I counted on one side one hundred and forty windows. Between the two houses the keel of a sloop of war is to be laid.

There was no man-of-war here in actual service, but a small steam-brig in ordinary, called the Sea Gull, which had returned a few months ago from the West Indies, where she had been cruising after the pirates; she was now condemned as unseaworthy, and used as a receiving ship. Philadelphia is inhabited by many Germans and descendants of Germans; some respectable people among them have formed themselves into a German society, which has rendered great services, particularly to the unfortunate Germans who arrived here some years ago in great numbers. When those gentlemen heard of my arrival, they invited me to a dinner, given in honor of me. It took place on the 15th October, in the Masonic Hall, a large building, erected by the freemasons of this place, whose basement story contains a very handsome hall, which serves for public entertainments. The table was set for seventy persons; every thing was splendid.



Quondam © 2007.04.17