"Saratoga is the wickedest spot on earth."

new york world nellie bly saratoga illustration

So reported famous journalist Nellie Bly after visiting in the August of 1894 for the New York World in order to report on the scene at the Saratoga Race Course and the (then) village's various hotels and gambling establishments.

"Crime is holding a convention there and vice is enjoying a festival such as it never dared approach before," Bly wrote.

She described Saratoga as "gambling mad," with men, women, and children placing betting the horses at the track, and money flowing freely at the various casinos. She also interviewed Cale Mitchell, the village president and proprietor of Saratoga's "most notorious gaming rooms." A clip:

"Do you think Saratoga Is the wickedest spot on earth?"
"There are a great many things objectionable here," he said, seriously, adding, "Upon my word, if honorably conducted, gambling la the least evil in Saratoga."
"But don't you think the gambling and presence of gamblers bring the other evils?"
"Where there's honey, there you'll find bees," he said, winking his eye. "Still, as I understand the laws of my Creator. Is for everybody to enjoy their own ideas of life. If the axe must fall, let it fall where it will. I have no more right to think for you than you have for me."
"Don't you think Saratoga will continue to get worse?"
"I don't see how it can get any worse," he laughed merrily, "and the only way I see to better it is to have people born different."

Mitchell would later be bumped from office during a reform movement, and ended up running saloons in Albany and Troy. In 1902 he shot himself out the outside the Saratoga office of Edgar Brackett, a state Senator who had been part of the reform effort.

Earlier on AOA: "Nellie Bly's Interesting Experience in Albany"

New York World clip via Nellie Bly Online

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