Sep 24, 2020 - Sale 2546

Sale 2546 - Lot 164

Price Realized: $ 45,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 5,000 - $ 7,500
(NEW YORK.) Guest register for the legendary Catskill Mountain House. 48, [576] manuscript guest register pages. Folio, 12 1/2 x 8 inches, original sheep, worn, with cover label reading "Mountain House Register"; moderate wear to contents, a few leaves loose, a few blank leaves possibly removed. Palenville, NY, 1839-43 and 1846-52

Additional Details

The Catskill Mountain House was at the forefront of American tourism. Built in 1824 on the precipice of a steep cliff in the Catskill Mountains, its majestic view made it one of the nation's most popular tourist attractions in the mid to late 19th century. Offered here is the hotel's original manuscript guest register, starting with the proprietorship of Charles L. Beach in May 1839. It is filled with approximately 20,000 names, each one with their arrival date, first meal, room number, town of residence, final meal, and departure date. For the first year or two, a clerk recorded the guest's names; in later years, the guest often inscribed his own signature. As you might imagine, some of the guests were very prominent. They came from all over the world--in the first two months of this register, parties from Germany, Russia, Cuba and more are recorded--but the great bulk came from New York and New England. A surprising number were local visitors from the surrounding Catskill mountain towns. The hotel was mainly open during the summer months, opening most years in late May or early June, and shutting down by the end of September.
The Mountain House played a role in the development of the artists of the Hudson River School; several came to take in the majestic views. Thomas Cole was a regular visitor. He might well be the "Cole" of New York who appears second in the entire volume on 20 May 1839. He was certainly the T. Cole who shared a room with the poet William Cullen Bryant on 26 July 1839 and 25 June 1840; the two were good friends. Cole returned on 26 June 1841 and 25 July 1843, signing his own name on that final visit. Among the other art figures spotted are Hudson River School painters John W. Casilear (6 October 1839) and Frederick Edwin Church (6 September 1847), who signed his name, as well as engraver James Smillie (17 July 1840) and painter William Sidney Mount (16 September 1843), who also signed. Furniture-maker Duncan Phyfe visited on 8 September 1846. A Philadelphia calligrapher named Benjamin Eakins and his wife visited on 19 August 1846; they likely brought their 2-year-old son Thomas, who went on to a noted art career himself.
Several future political leaders visited the house as young men. Future congressman and Union general Daniel Sickles signed on 13 August 1841, aged 21. Future abolitionist senator Charles Sumner signed on 19 August 1842 when he was an unknown 31-year-old Boston lawyer; he returned the next year on 10 August with his close friends Mr. and Mrs. Henry W. Longfellow; Sumner signed for everyone. 32-year-old Horace Greeley, two years into his tenure at the New York Tribune, went with his wife on 1 July 1843. Two noted New York diarists are spotted: Philip Hone on 15 July 1840 and George Templeton Strong on 12 June and 12 September 1847. 4 members of the Roosevelt family checked in on 1 August 1846: the unborn president Theodore Roosevelt's grandparents, uncle Robert, and father Theodore Sr., then aged 14.
Accompanying the guest book are 7 photographs, a postcard, and a pair of late 1950s newspaper clippings. 5 of them are mounted albumen promenade cards with various views of the house circa 1890. One large glossy mounted photo shows trains at the base of the resort's long cog railway; another is a circa 1950s shot of the abandoned building in great disrepair. Provenance: given to the consignor's great-grandfather, who worked at the house during its later days.