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Home » Inns and hotels » Traveling in the mid-nineteenth century – Part III

Traveling in the mid-nineteenth century – Part III


In the third part of my series discussing travel in the mid-nineteenth century, the subject is hotels and inns.

Here is quote from The American Guide-Book, “The largest hotels are always supplied with polite and efficient waiters, excellent cooks, and almost every convenience. The beds and furniture are perfect, the means of ablution are clean and neat, many of the houses now having warm and cold bathes, the tables are supplied with all the delicacies of the season and the choicest wines, and generally if the traveler sojourns any length of time he can be as comfortable as at home.”

Charges for average hotel rooms were between $1 and $2.50 per day.

Miss Leslie advises ladies traveling alone “On arriving at the hotel, ask immediately to see the proprietor; give him your name and address, tell how long you propose staying, and request him to see that you are provided with a good room. Request him also to conduct you to the dining-room at dinner-time and allot you a seat near his own.”

Many hotels had a formal parlour and lady’s drawing room. This was where guests could go to read, receive visitors or converse. Breakfast and tea were generally taken at leisure, up until 9 o’clock. After breakfast, guests were urged to retire to the drawing room so the maids could clean the rooms. Room keys could be left with the clerk or barkeeper when the patrons went out.

Dinner was always served at a set time with arranged seating. Dress for dinner shouldn’t be “…more showy than you would wear when dining at a private house.”

According to the guidebook concerning gratuities, “When you give a gratuity to a servant…give it at no regular time, but whenever you think proper, or find it convenient. It is injudicious to allow them to suppose that they are to do you no particular service without being immediately paid for it…All persons who go to hotels are not able to lavish large and frequent gratuities on the servants. But all, for the price they pay to the proprietor, are entitled to an ample share of attention from the domestics.”

Source: Anna Worden, Travel in the mid-19th century, The Citizens’ Companion, June 2009.

Next month I’ll be back with some more facts about mid-nineteenth century travel.



  1. Denise Eagan says:

    Fun blog, Susan! Thanks.

  2. Thanks, Dee! It’s always good to get an idea of what your Victorian would do and where she’d stay if traveling.

  3. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? How times have changed. Great blog, Susan.

  4. Thanks, Pat! They sure have!

  5. I especially liked the part about the servants receiving a gratuity when they least expected it. Or that they shouldn’t necessarily expect it. Or any other way of saying they shouldn’t stand there with their hand out!

    But I’m going to go to sleep tonight with the vision of a hotel proprietor having a bevy of unattached females with him every evening as he descends to his dinner. Lol, sort of makes it worthwhile to be a (male) servant, who can aspire to manage a hotel! Never mind the tip.

  6. This was great for me, Susan, as my hero in my third story owns and runs a hotel in the town where they had the 1849 gold rush. Thanks for sharing the information with us.

  7. Yeah, Jenn! I don’t know how many women actually traveled without a male escort back then, but they’re all advised to seek out the ship captain, the hotel proprieter…. LOL.

    And glad I could help, Paisley! It’s always good to know how they did things back then.

  8. This has been such an interesting series, Susan. I’ve enjoyed it a lot, thanks for posting it!


  9. Thanks, Nicole! And it’s always interesting to find out new facts about the Victorian time period. Saves time when you’re writing something new and you have to nail down those little details.

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