“Saratoga is the wickedest place in the United States.” Nellie Bly

 

Enter if you dare.
Enter if you dare.

Wicked maybe, but beautiful too. Oh, for the days of such wickedness! Before the CIA promoted ugly art causing president Truman once to remark, “If that’s art, then I’m a Hottentot.”

Gambling was illegal when Mr. Morrissey, a tough prize-fighter from Troy rolled into Saratoga and set up his Gentlemen’s Club (aka casino). The Saratoga mineral springs had attracted rich Southerners before the war who liked to flaunt their wealth and Paris fashions, but after the war a more democratic crowd filled the hotels and rubbed shoulders with the wealthy. That was fine all day, but when evening came . . .

Perfectly respectable wickedness.
Perfectly respectable wickedness.

Morrissey recognized the need for gentlemen to have a luxurious place to have a bit of gambling fun and so the casino began. Nellie Bly, Spencer Trask and others bemoaned the gambling being done at the club and then at the track (Morrissey realized vacationers would get bored of mineral water before noon and needed afternoon diversion so started the races with the backing of richie-riches like Travers, Jerome and Vanderbilt ).

Okay, so drinking, drugging, betting and adultery are wicked pursuits, but the seasons at Saratoga were beautiful–as was the casino.

Exhibit 1 Beauty
Exhibit 1 Beauty
Exhibit 2 Can anything truly wicked happen in a room like this (the High Stakes Room)?
Exhibit 2 Can anything truly wicked happen in a room like this (the High Stakes Room)?
Exhibit 3 Give me gambling like this any day over the riff-raff jingle jangle Atlantic City casinos!
Exhibit 3 Give me gambling like this any day over the riff-raff jingle jangle Atlantic City casinos!

The Vanderbilts, the Whitneys, US Grant and Mark Twain ate club sandwiches (invented here so not all wicked) while they gambled the night away. That must have been fun and here’s the sideboard where the stacks of refreshments where kept ready for hungry wicked people.

Club sandwich, Mr. Twain?
Club sandwich, Mr. Twain?

But what about the wicked women? Nellie Bly found the women trashy, but they don’t look too bad to me–though maybe a little pale as they read magazines, sip tea and play tunes on the piano in the reading room of the casino (some probably fretting a small bit about fortunes being squandered up above.

Fa-la-la to hell we go!
Fa-la-la to hell we go!
The casino today still looking pretty great though no longer all that wicked.
The casino today still looking pretty great though no longer all that wicked.

 

6 thoughts on ““Saratoga is the wickedest place in the United States.” Nellie Bly

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