Unspeakable Awfulness: America Through the Eyes of European Travelers, 1865-1900, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Unspeakable Awfulness

America Through the Eyes of European Travelers, 1865-1900, 1st Edition

By Kenneth D. Rose


288 pages | 25 B/W Illus.

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The late nineteenth century was a golden age for European travel in the United States. For prosperous Europeans, a journey to America was a fresh alternative to the more familiar ‘Grand Tour’ of their own continent, promising encounters with a vast, wild landscape, and with people whose culture was similar enough to their own to be intelligible, yet different enough to be interesting. Their observations of America and its inhabitants provide a striking lens on this era of American history, and a fascinating glimpse into how the people of the past perceived one another.

In Unspeakable Awfulness, Kenneth D. Rose gathers together a broad selection of the observations made by European travellers to the United States. European visitors remarked upon what they saw as a distinctly American approach to everything from class, politics, and race to language, food, and advertising. Their assessments of the ‘American character’ continue to echo today, and create a full portrait of late-nineteenth century America as seen through the eyes of its visitors.

Including vivid travellers’ tales and plentiful illustrations, Unspeakable Awfulness is a rich resource that will be useful to students and appeal to anyone interested in travel history and narratives.


"The book provides an excellent introduction to the 19th-century US following the Civil War, and thanks to the far-reaching number of topics and documented sources, inherently suggests numerous points of exploration for further study and research. Abundant notes, ample illustrations, and a very extensive bibliography. Summing Up: Highly recommended." - R. A. Shaddy, Queens College, CHOICE

"In researching this subject, Rose has clearly plumbed the depths of the extant published travel literature from this era. He demonstrates a nearly encyclopedic understanding of this material…Overall, Rose’s book is a welcome and necessary addition, an impressive, broadly sourced, well written work." -Richard Gassan, American University of Sharjah, The American Historical Review

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Character, Class, Dress, Advertising

Chapter 2: The Built Environment: Cities and Boosterism, Accomodations and Transportation

Chapter 3: Culture: Aesthetics, Language, Music, Humor, Copyright and Journalism

Chapter 4: Personal Habits: Dining, Drinking, Tobacco Chewing, and Gun Use

Chapter 5: Domestic Relations: Women, Men, Children and Their Education

Chapter 6: Race, Immigration, and Religion

Chapter 7: War, Politics, and Patriotism

Chapter 8: The West: Landscape, Human Inhabitants, and Decline


About the Author

Kenneth D. Rose teaches history at California State University, Chico. He is the author of Myth of the Greatest Generation: A Social History of Americans in World War II, One Nation Underground: The Fallout Shelter in American Culture, and American Women and the Repeal of Prohibition.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / United States / General
HISTORY / Social History
TRAVEL / Essays & Travelogues