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

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.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

Recently on All Over Albany

Palace Premier Movie Series 2014-2015

The schedule for the new season of The Palace's Premier Movie Series is out. It includes 18 dates, with films that range from classic classics... (more)

Memories, of laser cats and laser dogs

Remember Schenectady High School senior Draven Rodriguez and the laser cat yearbook photo? Here's the compromise photo planned for the yearbook: Rodriguez and Mr. Bigglesworth... (more)

TOP2014: RD1: Mama Mia's v 5th and 50

Tickets are still available for the Tournament of Pizza final! Taste the final pizzas, have some beer, and vote for your favorite! And so it... (more)

Drawing: A bag of items from the Honest Weight Local Harvest Festival

This Sunday is the annual Honest Weight Local Harvest Festival in Washington Park. Dozens of local producers and food vendors will be set up in... (more)

The Sea The Sea

Something to listen to today: "Love We Are We Love" by The Sea The Sea. Singer/songwriter duo Chuck e. Costa and Mira Stanley are... (more)

Recent Comments

They've had them in Arizona for years. When I lived there, I hated the idea and hated it even more when I was caught, twice. There's something endlessly creepy about being mailed a photo-ticket of yourself driving. BUT... It stopped me from not only speeding, but from trying to slide through those yellow-ish red lights. ...

Drawing: A bag of items from the Honest Weight Local Harvest Festival

...has 113 comments, most recently from Sarah

Milk bottle rustling

...has 20 comments, most recently from Nancy

The week ahead

...has 1 comment, most recently from Brooke

Memories, of laser cats and laser dogs

...has 3 comments, most recently from Susan Bardack

Morning Blend for Sep 29

...has 1 comment, most recently from Big 'Vic' Proton