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Anna Maria von Phul’s delicate watercolors of Saint Louis in 1818 (example at left) remind us that cities in the hinterland of America have never been as far behind the times as coastal dwellers might imagine. As a former resident of the Great Fly Over, I know how defensive people can be about their relative sophistication, and that could be why our Young Lady here appears slightly defensive in her posture.

The young lady is certainly fashionable in that white gown, and literate, too, though we cannot see what she is reading; perhaps Maria Edgeworth.

It took some doing to find a similarly posed and dated fashion plate with a book, for fashion has always been more fantasy than reality.