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The New York Times, April 16, 1859, p.9:


The Windward Islands—Barbadoes—
Appearance of the Island—The Principal City—
Beauty and High Cultivation of the Soil—General Habits of the People.

From Our Special Correspondent.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbadoes, Thursday, Feb. 10, 1859.   
    I do not propose to enter into a historical, a geographical or descriptive account of this island, except in so far as they will tend to elucidate my subject—the Results of Emancipation. Elaborate and minute particulars of Barbadoes and her beauties may be found in the works of SCHOMBERG, EDWARDS, or MARTIN.

    I cannot, however, consistently, pass by Bridgetown, or fail to notice its peculiarities. A stranger, and most especially an American, upon first landing, would hasten to proclaim it an exhausted city; once, possibly, the centre of a flourishing business, and the emporium of great wealth, but now almost abandoned to ruin and decay. This impression would be formed from various reasons, and from none more than the contrast which the capital of Barbadoes presents to what we should call a rising place.
    To illustrate this assertion, I might say that I was first struck with the narrow streets and the ruined appearance of the houses. It seemed as though no attempt had been made to repair their dilapidated condition within half a century. The paint was worn away from roof and wood-work, and the mortar which had fallen from the walls had never been replaced, except in very few cases. Around each dwelling of more than ordinary Barbadian pretensions there was generally an unfinished looking wall, with broken pieces of glass bottles on the top to protect the property from the trespass of the wicked.

    In going to my lodging-house, a quarter of a mile distant from the wharf, I was obliged to traverse several acres of vacant lots, which were overgrown with wild cactuses and studded with moss covered ruins. They lay in the very heart of the city—the "burnt district," as it is called, of twenty years standing. Picturesque it was, but it gave very little indication of industry or enterprise.
    I passed up Broad-street, a combination of Wall-street and Broadway, but though it was the busiest time of day, I saw few signs of the enormous trade that this Island carries on, and nothing to remind me of an American city with a population, as Bridgetown has, equal to that of New-Haven.

    I was struck with the European aspect of the place, and was startled every now and then as I came across a banana, a cocoa, or a cabbage-palm tree. Their tropical look seemed out of place, and, for a moment, I wondered how they existed there. Altogether the town is such a strange mixture that I despair of presenting its picture to your readers.

    The market-place—about an acre of ground inclosed with a neat row of butcher's stalls—reminds one of New-Orleans. There the clatter of tongues, extolling the virtue of divers fruits and vegetables offered for sale, is perhaps the closest illustration of Sambo that Bridgetown can produce. The centre of the market inclosure is filled with splendid evergreens, and beneath their shade several scores of negro women, with pairs of scales and piles of yams, sugar-cane, sweet potatoes, oranges, grape-fruit, mangroves, &c., before them, earn their daily bread.

    The fish-market—a solitary shed erected on the beach—is in full blast about nightfall, after the fishermen have returned well laden with flying-fish; and at the confused noise in this focus of business even a London Billingsgate would be compelled to hide its diminished head. It is characteristic of Sambo throughout; his untiring tongue never stops for a moment to take rest.
    A cab-stand presents another vivid picture of Sambo as he is. In the midst of Trafalgar-square—about as large as the triangle opposite the TIMES office—near the statue of NELSON and beneath a gigantic evergreen, the cabmen find it convenient and profitable to assemble. Woe unto the stranger whom they espy and who may be in search of a one-horse shay; and when he has selected his vehicle, and has made his escape from the crowd, it is amusing to hear the successful driver denounce the "imperlite b'havor of dem niggers," and deplore the city as the "awfulest he never see'd."
    So much, as an illustration of the African aspect of Bridgetown, of which, considering the colored population is nearly ten blacks to one white, you are unceasingly reminded.

    A traveler from the North must remember what he is in danger of forgetting, that in Bridgetown he is far down in the Tropics, within seven hundred miles of the Equator. The climate is not tropical; it is to be imagined and felt, for it cannot be described. Select the most perfect day that September ever presented to New-York, and I should do injustice to a Barbadian sun and Barbadian breezes if I compared Barbadian weather to yours. The sun necessarily gives out a great heat, but it is always tempered by incessent winds and by daily showers which never last above a minute. Night or day, in Winter or in Summer, the temperature knows no change. In a word, the inconveniences of heat are never felt; the penalties of cold are never known. There are no thunderstorms like those which desolate more elevated regions within the torrid zones; no poisonous reptiles of any kind; no annoying insects like those which in Summer months will make known their presence even in the latitude of New-York.

    The appearance of the houses, which are of one story and built solidly of stone, may perhaps remind you that you are in a country where the severities of Winter are not even imagined, and, after you have entered them, you may no longer fancy yourself in a European or North American dwelling. The spacious rooms, with polished cedar floors, the contrivances to make everything about you feel cool—the high pitchers of ice-water on the side-boards and the luxurious cane chairs—are luxuries here which one might look for as necessities in other tropical countries.
    The inside of a house in Bridgetown is very different from what its outside appearance would lead a stranger to infer; and this disregard of outward appearances is only one of a thousand English idiosyncracies to be encountered.

    The houses, then, and a few scattered purely tropical trees, are about the only outward indications that Bridgetown possesses of being a tropical city. You may be puzzled every now and then by the sight of a black soldier in Zouave costume, or a black policeman in a London uniform, but they are anomalies. They do not belong to the picture.
    Bridgetown, in fact, is European, though somewhat behind the age of European progress. It is, perhaps, necessarily behind the age, owing to its insulated position. Its shops remind you of an inferior English town, and it is only after you have entered them that you discover how well and with what first-rate articles they are supplied.

    The streets are macadamized with the native calcareous rock, and are light-colored and perfectly smooth. The white population here have wonderfully preserved their English manners and customs. You find here none of the indolent and luxurious habits of the tropics. Though a vast amount of business is transacted before breakfast, the lazy siesta is not indulged in, but work is steadily performed until four o'clock in the afternoon.
    The churches are similar in their architecture to those that may be seen in any English village; the forms and ceremonies of English society are preserved even to the farce of wearing a stove-pipe hat whenever you wish to appear in full dress; in spite of yams and mangroves, the dinner you eat is as nearly English as circumstances will admit; and the bed you lie upon is unmistakably of English make and fashion.

    Perhaps the British officers, military and naval, help to keep alive the peculiar customs of the mother land; but it is undoubtedly a fact that the Barbadians take a pride in preserving as close a resemblance to the Old Country as the differences of position will allow, and I am not prepared to say in so doing they act an unwise part.
    The few Americans who have emigrated here—though they have brought with them the spirit of American invention and enterprise—have lost their peculiarities, and have succumbed to prevailing customs. But Yankee clocks, Yankee buggies, and that famous Yankee establishment to which all Bridgetown daily resorts—the ice-house—have brought fortunes to their proprietors and delight to the hearts of the Creole population.

    Directly you leave the precincts of the capital the European phase of the island vanishes. You may be reminded of the fair scenery of Old England, to which, indeed, these lovely hills and valleys are likened; but you can never for a moment forget that you are looking upon productions which no English soil could bring forth, and which no English sun could ripen. The landscape scenery is necessarily on a small scale, but in variety it is complete, and occasionally it approaches the sublime.
    One of the grandest spectacles I ever witnessed was the view from Hackleton's Cliff—a bold bluff at the northern extremity of the island rising 1,000 feet above the level of the sea. Looking East, you see, in the far distance, a range of hills running parallel with the one upon which you are standing, and in the intermediate valley, which gradually slopes towards the sea, the productions of all the Indies are gathered together.

    Here and there, upon some projection of coral rock, which the cactuses carefully conceal, a palm-tree towers like a land-mark on the horizon, or a gigantic sentinel upon his post. Cottages are thickly-scattered over the picture; the red wheel of the sugar mill, unchanged for a century, may be seen at every point, and you may strain your eyes in vain to look for a single spot which has not been cultivated even beyond what we should call perfection.
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    Barbados is an island in the Caribbean Sea (part of the North Atlantic Ocean), northeast of Venezuela.
    The island was uninhabited when first settled by the British in 1627. Slaves worked the sugar plantations established on the island until 1834 when slavery was abolished. The economy remained heavily dependent on sugar, rum, and molasses production through most of the 20th century.
    The gradual introduction of social and political reforms in the 1940s and 1950s led to complete independence from the UK in 1966.
    In the 1990s, tourism and manufacturing surpassed the sugar industry in economic importance.
    ...Historically, the Barbadian economy had been dependent on sugarcane cultivation and related activities, but production in recent years has diversified into light industry and tourism.
    Offshore finance and information services are important foreign exchange earners. The government continues its efforts to reduce unemployment, to encourage direct foreign investment, and to privatize remaining state-owned enterprises.
    The economy contracted in 2002-03 mainly due to a decline in tourism. Growth should be positive in 2004, the precise level largely dependent on economic conditions in the US and Europe.
    CIA World Factbook: Barbados

Area of Barbados: 431 sq km
2.5 times the size of Washington, DC

Population of Barbados: 280,946
July 2007 estimate

Languages of Barbados:

Barbados Capital: Bridgetown

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    The surf, as it crawls up the long line of white sand that lies extended far beneath you, and the ocean beyond, complete a picture of what may well be termed the Eden of Barbadoes. You look down upon a valley which burns and blazes with all the heat of the tropics, but you are standing upon a spot ever open to the fresh and invigorating breezes of the temperate zones.

    What I have said with regard to cultivation is equally applicable to the entire Island, from the estate of the richest planter to the plot of the poorest negro. I have traveled over the whole of Barbadoes, and have not seen a single acre of uncultivated land. The highways are perfect models of cleanliness and smoothness, and the cane-fields, more luxuriant than those of Louisiana or Texas, are without inclosure, and extend to the very edge of the roads, which, for want of space, appear to have been reduced to the narrowest limits.
    Barbadoes is essentially a sugar island, and you do not meet in it the abundance of fruit trees that are to be seen in St. Vincent or Grenada. The cocoa-nut trees, which were once valued at a pound sterling each per annum, were destroyed some years ago by a plague of insects, and the few that remain are more ornamental than profitable. Orange trees, lemons, grape-fruit, mangroves and bananas are abundant in Barbadoes, but they are not reared in such large groves here as in other islands.
    The cabbage-palm, of gigantic stature, is one of the most beautiful of its class, and is best calculated to adorn the peculiarities of the landscape. A planter's house is generally surrounded with these stately trees, which make it an object of attraction for miles around. A good bamboo grove is highly prized, and no gentleman's estate would be complete without it.

    I have said enough, perhaps, in regard to the general appearance of Barbadoes, to give your readers an idea, such as I wish to convey, of its great natural beauty and high cultivation. Upon these points I am capable of offering an opinion. But as a stranger, it would be presumptuous to discuss, without a closer scrutiny than I have yet had time to give to so important a subject, the political and social condition of the island, and compare it now with what it was before the abolition of Slavery. The question has many ramifications, and each of the West India Islands—I might almost say each plantation—must stand upon its own merits, for I know that the causes which might ruin one would not affect another.

    Arguments that may apply to overcrowded Barbadoes might with equal justice be used in regard to Kansas and Dacotah, as to the rich virgin soil and sparsely settled island of Trinidad. The subject, indeed, is not to be approached hastily; but I hope that, in my next letter, I shall be able to transmit some information on the free labor system in Barbadoes, which I shall only obtain from authentic sources, and which I shall endeavor to give with unbiased judgement.
W. G. S.

free image of the above article from Barbados by W. G. S., April 16, 1859, in .pdf format
free image of a 2nd article from Barbados by W. G. S., April 20, 1859, in .pdf format
free image of a 3rd article from Barbados by W. G. S., April 23, 1859, in .pdf format

The New York Times, March 8, 1860:

From Barbados.


    The West Indian, published at Bridgetown, Barbados, under the date of Feb. 15, contains a long account of a destructive fire at Bridgetown on the night of Feb. 13. The fire broke out in Mr. Alleyne's lumber-yard, from which it spread to Mr. Jones', adjoining, and Messrs. Barrow & Dummett's dry goods establishment in High-street; and before any effectual means of checking it were available, it became uncontrollable.

    From Barrow & Dummett's it spread to the ice-house. It then seized upon the large buildings of the Commissariat Office and the houses on the opposite side of High-street, which were soon enveloped in flames. On the other side the fire spread from Alleyne's and Jones' lumber and coal yards, across Stable-street to Messrs. Throwbridge's stores, into Marihill-street in the east and the Green on the south.

    The flames penetrated across Nelson-square to the range of stores running on to the bridge, and abutting on the careenage. Thus the three sides of the square presented an inclosure of flame with Massiah's lumber-yard in the middle, like a focus, immediately in front of which stood the statue of the old hero.

    The soldiers and police came to the aid of the citizens and vainly tried to check the progress of the flames. Several buildings were burned down. The high wind carried sparks to distant quarters of the town and set fire to other buildings. Stores, houses and lumber yards were destroyed, until much of the town was in flames. The West Indian says:

    "The extent of the ground covered was we should say fully as large, if not larger, than in the fire of 1845, and a large portion being in the centre of the business part of the town, the value of property destroyed must be much greater. It is variously estimated at from a million of dollars to a million of pounds, and the general opinion seems to fix it at 500,000, a very inconsiderable portion of which we regret to say is insured—not exceeding 30,000.

    "We are happy to add that we have not heard of any worse accidents than a few bruises from the falling timbers of the houses. There was a great crowd of people of both sexes and all ages movingn about and watching with interest the progress of the fire. They were very peaceable and quiet; and the women particularly exerted themselves in relieving the distressed and removing property. But there are great complaints of the indifference and unwillingness of the men in assisting to check the fire."

The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1860 was equivalent to $22.88 in 2007.

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