Saratoga: See And Be Seen


See and be Seen: Saratoga
By Hollis Palmer

In the summer “season” of 1858, everyone, who was anyone, flocked to Saratoga to “See and be Seen.”   America’s wealthy and politically connected descended on the village with the most prominent staying at the States Hotel.  Among those who came each season were: bankers, industrialists, religious leaders, politicians and social reformers.  Like magnets, those of distinction attracted dowagers, conmen, gamblers and “pretenders.”

The guests’ days were all about being social. They went to the springs each morning to gossip and see who else was in town; they shopped and strolled in the afternoon. Each evening it was at either the hop or ball where the real action took place.

The series “See and be Seen: Saratoga” follows five families that spend the summer of 1858 in Saratoga.  James Marvin owns the States Hotel, the center piece of the village.  His cottages are the summer residences of America’s top families.  Marvin is independently wealthy having invested in the railroads.  Philandering Jacob Marvin (nephew) is planning to inherit the hotel.

The dysfunctional Stiles are a wealthy southern family, who has a plantation.  Cora Stiles, mother, seems not to care that Thomas, the shallow father, is involved with his daughters’ female slave.  The Stiles’ oldest daughter, Sarah (18), a product of the antebellum era, has a romantic interest in the local flirt Jacob Marvin.  The Stiles second daughter, rebellious Sadie (17), is the interest of Walter Pratt, a young reporter and recruiter for the Underground Railroad.  As the series is set after the Dred Scott decision, the Stiles are able to bring their African American Slaves with them.  Slavery is a key element in the series.

Jacob Marvin’s best friend is George Batcheller (20), a recent graduate of Harvard Law School. George is in Saratoga reading for the law under Attorney William Beach (the leading criminal attorney at the time). Typical of those who graduated from elite schools, George is a liberal and active in that upstart liberal Republican Party.  In Saratoga George meets the very proper Catharine Cook, the daughter of James Cook, a wealthy widower, active in politics.

New to Saratoga is John Morrissey (30), who wants to establish an upscale casino in the village.  During the Gold Rush, Morrissey made his way to California where he became a prize fighter, he literally fought his was way out of poverty.  Morrissey makes money because he knows the foibles of men.  His wife, Susie, is as beautiful as he is rough around the edges.

There is also a group of dowagers who have mastered the art of minding everyone else’s business.  They report what happens off stage and judge everyone and every behavior according to Victorian standards.

The storylines of the series are based on issues that were from the period; the murder of a wealthy father by his son, the kidnapping of the Stiles son, the robbery of Morrissey’s casino, escaping slaves, gambling, temperance, class struggles, “proper” dating, the role of religion in everyday life, politics, health, and love.

The series ends with the annual Grand Ball – during which one of the Stiles slaves makes her escape for Canada.  The pilot and the first seven episodes are completed. 

Lured to the show will be those who watched Downton Abbey, Hell on Wheels, The Hatfields and McCoys, and a younger audience which will be intrigued with the antics of the Stiles sisters.

The vision for the show is Netflix, Showtime, HBO, the History Channel then network television.

Names in italics are those of real people.

© 2013 Hollis Palmer

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