Madam Jumel

jumel house.jpg

Madam Jumel's Circular Street home. No, Aaron Burr never slept here.

By Mike Hare

One of the raciest residents of Saratoga Springs began life as a prostitute, befriended Napoleon and married a U.S. Vice President. Her name was Betsy Bowen, but she
was better known as Madam Jumel.

As a young woman, Betsy Bowen followed in her mother's footsteps. In 1775 she was born to a prostitute in Rhode Island. But Betsy's career in prostitution was short lived.
At nineteen she found herself pregnant. She left her newborn son in Rhode Island and headed to New York City with a plan. She wanted to become a mistress to rich men.

One of her favorite "sugar daddies" was a wealthy merchant named Stephen Jumel. She decided she wanted to marry him, but he wasn't too keen on the idea.

So she pretended she was dying. He believed her. They got married. She outlived him.

The Jumels had influential friends in America and France, many of them French nobility. She sympathized with Napoleon and is believed to have offered to bring him to New York after his defeat at Waterloo.

When the French economy soured in the 1820's, Stephen Jumel's fortunes did, too. He gave his wife power of attorney and sent her back to the U.S. to sell some of his property. Instead of bailing him out, she used the money to buy her way into New York society.

Now a rich woman, she allowed her poor husband to live in their New York City mansion until he died in 1832, after toppling from a hay cart.

At 57, Madame Jumel married Aaron Burr. The controversial former U.S. V.P. was 79 and in need of money. Betsy Jumel had it. Betsy divorced him for squandering her cash. Shortly after the divorce became final, Burr died.

Madame Jumel spent summers in Saratoga Springs. In 1839, she bought a house on Circular Street, then considered the outskirts of town. In her last years, she flaunted her wealth, riding around Saratoga in fancy carriages, wearing expensive clothes.

She didn't make many friends among the locals, but generations later folks were happy to drop lots of money on Bloody Marys and "Brothel Burgers" at the popular Caroline Street pub that bore the name "Madam Jumel's."

Mike Hare is the author of Saratoga Lives and a Spa City tour guide.

Comments

I want a house just like that, ghosts and all. It looks like it smells of freshly sharpened pencils and crisp autumn leaves. If I had a house like that I would have it decorated for Halloween all year round. I wish I could explain it but that house in the fall is the epitome of the Northeast for me.

Well, most of what you say about Jumel is correct but yet again, you missed some things. She died in 1865 leaving an estate of $8 million making her the richest woman in America at the time. Most of this estate was built through her financial know how and not simply inherited from her first husband.

She was my great, great aunt.

JL

My mother inherited a mirror from the Jumel Mansion and often mentioned that we were related to Aaron Burr rather than the Madame.,The mirror is still in our family. Ironically, my husband is working on a plan to renovate the Saratoga Polo Club in
Saratoga Springs and the model house they have picked for duplication is the Hestor Burr model. Until he mentioned this, he had no idea that we proudly count Burr as a family member, hopefully not the Donald Trump of his day, but definitely an outspoken man.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.

Search

Recently on All Over Albany

Capital Region holiday markets 2018

The unofficial holiday shopping season officially starts up Friday. (Or so they say.) If you're looking for something a little bit different -- craftier, handmade,... (more)

Got people in town a need to get 'em out of the house? Head for a museum.

It can be great having friends and family around for the holidays. But sometimes after all that visiting people need to just get out of... (more)

Turning the camera around

Journalist typically try to stay out of the photos. Which is one of the reasons this photoset posted by longtime photojournalist Cindy Schultz is interesting... (more)

Albany Can Code has a new round of classes starting up soon

Albany Can Code -- the local initiative aimed at making training in computer coding available to a wider group of people -- has a new... (more)

Upstate Girls

A book collecting Brenda Ann Kenneally's ongoing work documenting the lives of people living through poverty in Troy -- Upstate Girls -- was published in... (more)

Recent Comments

I am grateful for the wonderful mix of old and new sights to see in Albany, and the ever interesting humans who inhabit this place, and to the proximity Albany has to such adventures as Adirondack hikes, Shakespeare in Lenox Mass, music in the Berkshires, and the beauty and history of Saratoga.

Upstate Girls

...has 1 comment, most recently from ravioliollie

Got people in town a need to get 'em out of the house? Head for a museum.

...has 2 comments, most recently from ravioliollie

Stuck on Albany

...has 3 comments, most recently from EMB

Albany is set to build the link between Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail and the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail -- here's the plan

...has 9 comments, most recently from EdB

AOA Thanksgiving charity drawing 2018: What are you thankful for this year?

...has 32 comments, most recently from MM