The original “Dudes” were the shiftless, indolent, empty-headed sons of wealthy, old-moneyed New York Wasps. In language reflecting the casual racism of the time, an article about life at the summer resorts at Saratoga, New York in the summer of 1888, showed that an actual Dude might also be a hard-working, upwardly mobile African-American hotel waiter:
The Dude of Saratoga. Albany Argus.
I have thus far seen but three dudes at Saratoga, and the greatest of these was a negro. He is still here. He is as gaudy as a circus-wagon, and twice as handsome. He condescends to act as a waiter at one of the hotels for a few hours each day, but during the large leisure of that class, and while his fellows are playing base-ball on South Broadway, or pitching quoits on back streets, he clothes himself in all his wardrobe’s glory and promenades Broadway. No pains and but little expense is spared in his get up. His natural color is as brilliant as that of a new rubber shoe. His mouth is as handsome as a gash in an over-ripe watermelon. His necktie is the reddest of the red, his gloves are white kids, and the tops of his gaiters are dove-colored. During his triumphal march the backmen cease from troubling and the ‘busmen are at rest; the little dogs laugh to see such sport, and the tally-ho coach guard hath not where to blow his horn.
The Pascagoula Democrat-Star (Mississippi), August 17, 1883, page 1.
A pair of Currier & Ives prints from the same period depict what the Saratoga Dude and his Dudine (in the gender-specific slang of the day) may have looked like:
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