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Madame Eliza Jumel

madame eliza jumel

Eliza Jumel is one of the more colorful characters in Saratoga's vibrant history.

Born into poverty in 1777, Eliza Bowen never had a day of school education, and may have even worked as prostitute. She managed to keep her past a secret, however, when she met and married French wine merchant Stephen Jumel in 1804. Madame Jumel was rejected by New York society despite her rise to wealth, as ladies of "old money" had a sense she was low class.

In 1815, she moved to France, living in Paris as a vocal supporter of Napoleon Bonaparte. Reportedly, she even offered him safe passage to New York after he was defeated in Waterloo. Naturally, her controversial actions were percieved as threatening, and in 1816 Louis XVII himself asked her to leave the country.

Madame Jumel returned to New York, this time without her husband. Their marriage fell apart, as did the majority of their wealth. In 1832, Eliza married again, this time to former Vice President and infamous rival of Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr. She wanted to increase her social standing, and he wanted her wealth.

This vivacious woman first came to Saratoga due to her fondess for taking long carriage rides. When one such carriage ride brought her to Spa City, legend has it that it was love at first sight: she aquired many parcels of land in the Saratoga area, including a grand home on Circular Street, which she bought in 1851.

As the very first Saratoga socialite, Madame Jumel was fond of driving all around in a fabulous yellow carriage drawn by four matching horses. This was a spectacle that locals soon grew tired of, and one summer day, a man dressed in an extravagent gown followed her carriage waving and bowing just like the grand dame, much to her embarrassment.

For all her extravagance, Madame Jumel is fondly remembered in Saratoga history. She served as sort of an advertisement for the city, as a famous resident of the emerging vacation spot. Today, her gorgeous home, "Les Tuileries" (named for the French palace where she had spent so much time) still stands as a private home.

Madame Jumel's, a Caroline Street Pub, was named for her.

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