When I was a boy my grandmother drove a Packard. It had a huge straight eight engine under the hood that pulled over 8,000 pounds of automobile down the highway like an irresistible force in search of an immovable object. Long before more pedestrian vehicles it had factory installed air conditioning that blew air though two large celluloid [the word plastic meant something cheap and shoddy until the 1960’s and was never used to describe anything of quality!] vents mounted on the rear deck. It was the epitome of what used to be called a touring sedan and it included – there were no options on Packard’s – a custom tailored set of luggage to fit in the trunk which was capable of holding enough clothing and toiletries to supply a family for a month. But even with all of its power, magnificence and a cubic capacity it would not have begun to be commodious enough for any of our travellers here. With apologies to Ozymandias we shall try to set the stage for the travels that might have more accurately been called a progress.
Travel in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was very different from travel today. Even going on a tour was a completely different experience. There was none of the if-this-is-Tuesday-it-must-be-Belgium madness. The museums and the marvels were there to be seen and were either happily or dutifully observed dependent upon the inclination of the traveller and the severity of the chaperone. Dining could be an adventure – there were the long-established and hotel restaurants that you may have even had Cook’s coupons for – but there was also the possibility of finding some smaller place or some different place and introducing a little gastronomical adventure into the journey. As with all things you might sin in haste and repent at leisure but at least the landscape was not littered with international fast food franchises so that the twelve-year old’s in your party could enjoy the same chicken nuggets in Piraeus as Peoria. The same could be said of shopping. You could get an Inverness Cape from Inverness – not The Gap in Inverness selling something manufactured at the back side of beyond.
Although we thought the Morrison & Fourmy’s series was never going to end we recognize that it provided a good deal of information as to what the Galveston of 1880-1920 was really like. Limiting ourselves to a single entry this time we are going to use the same technique to paint a picture of the first stop on the tour – a place where two peoples separated by a common language came together when the people of the new world came to see something of their past in the old.
There is an old joke of the raffle held in Dublin in which the first prize is a week’s vacation in Belfast and the second prize is two week’s vacation in Belfast! The humor aside this place is probably fairly typical of the large hotels in the large cities. Lodging was available to suit any budget from boarding houses to private homes that were let by the month or season and most of the smaller towns along the various routes probably had the capacity to double or triple their population with tourists. Some of the hotels were destinations in and of themselves with temperance inns being very popular and there was no place in the world at this time – with the possible exceptions of the Sahara and Gobi deserts – where you could not go and take the waters.
The idea of a World’s Fair – a sort of one stop world tour that could later be supplemented with Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf [the Harvard Classics] and produce the self-educated person (to complement the self-made man) – may have had its first introduction in the Crystal Palace in 1851 in London. So popular was this exhibition that the original glass and steel buildings and exhibits were enlarged and moved from Hyde Park in central London to Penge Common next to the suburb of Sydenham Hill where it continued to attract people from 1854 until 1936.
There were, thanks to companies like Thomas Cook, packaged tours in which the early tourists were herded like so many sheep and had everything that they needed to see pointed out to them possibly with as many as five minutes allowed to contemplate something like the Sistine Chapel before being hustled on to see Moses in Chains. For those with the leisure there were guide books published by firms like Charles Murray whose lists included works by Augustus John Cuthbert Hare like Walks in Rome, Walks in London, Wanderings in Spain and Days near Rome the prose in these is more than a little purple – Hare was a Victorian raconteur first, foremost and always and his Walks in Rome should be read before visiting the city (give yourself at least six weeks to read it!). Someplace between the imposition of a guide and a writer every bit as rusty as Ruskin were the plethora of pocket guides that could be perfectly serviceable to either tourist or traveller.
In addition to the guide books this was a great age of maps and the maps contained the smallest attractions as well as the largest. The following list shows that the map for the United States included over 16,000 place names and the map for India had nearly 9,000 place names while the best map for tourists of Scotland had a scale of three miles to the inch and came in sixteen sheets.
Now that the traveller has a place to stay and the necessary information at hand to find their way they may still need some additional accoutrements to continue on their progress. A fair portion of the clothing that they wore in Galveston was probably imported and even what was made for them there was probably made of imported cloth but they were coming from a very temperate climate to one that could be a good deal cooler. This was also the time of coal-fired steam power on both the oceans and the rails and a protective coat was required to keep their day wear free of soot and other detritus of travel.
We have always found a certain amount of irony in luggage being name a Halliburton case or more recently a designer line name for Amelie Earhart considering the fates that they met. In some ways the Raglan coat may fall in the same category named after FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, the 1st Baron Raglan, who is said to have worn this style of coat after the loss of his arm in the Battle of Waterloo. The garment was unusual in that the sleeves continued in one piece up to the neck, producing a larger, looser armhole that suited the one-armed general and, apparently, a good deal of the travelling public.
Nor were the ladies left out with the Cramond Coat – an early all-weather full length coat to protect from everything from the gales of Scotland to the sirocco that blew across the Mediterranean – for wear during the day and shawls for the evening. These were not clothes simply for the trip. They would be brought home, admired by friends and passed on to children who would treasure their quality and have them tailored and admired for another generation. There is a story of Karl Marx being unable to leave his home in London because his clothes had been pawned and it is difficult for us to imagine a garment of sufficient quality to be substantial enough to serve as security for a loan but there was a time, within living memory, when it happened.
The first practical pneumatic tire for a bicycle was made by John Boyd Dunlop in Belfast, Ireland in 1887 and while it no doubt made for a more comfortable ride it also introduced the phenomena of the flat tire and gave birth to a whole new industry of preventing flats and repairing tires. The roads of the day – whether city streets or country lanes – were still designed with the horse in mind and even though this ad mentions motor cars the guides give no directions for employing one nor any indication that they were used in transportation for travellers at all.
Cycling through the British Isles and parts of the European continent was a very popular way to travel and although there were bicycles for hire or purchase locally there was also nothing to stop the enthusiast from bringing his own bicycle over on the boat with him. Like a set of golf clubs or a tennis racket the aficionado may have had his own ‘wheel’ that had been tailored to him and the American manufacturers had agents to provide spare parts as need for repairs – that were probably accomplished by a blacksmith. While a relative handful may have bicycled their way over the Canterbury Pilgrim’s route, just as an even smaller handful may have followed the pilgrimage across Spain of Santiago Matamoras, the great majority came on steamers, moved between the islands on ferrys, cruised the rivers on barges and crossed the continent on trains.
Moving from Ireland to England was either done on a quick ferry from Dublin to Liverpool or on a small coaster that left any number of smaller ports, visited the islands and would cruise up the Thames to London where the voyage could be continued by taking barges farther into the interior.
Two days on the river with stops for sightseeing, lunch and a night’s lodging that could be stretched to two weeks by disembarking for longer visits among the dreaming spires of Oxford, the palace at Windsor or going to the market at Kingston on Thames. For those who could stand garlic – Tobias Smollett could not – or were willing to test their French, German or Italian then London was the starting point for the great continental trains.
London to the Riviera, to Rome, to Madrid and Lisbon, to St. Petersburg, three times weekly to Constantinople, to Brindisi for Egypt in a sleeping car – or in a railway carriage for the budget conscious – and the hotels; Shepheard’s in Cairo that had already been there for seventy years and that would host Henry Morton Stanley, Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, Winston Churchill, T. E. Lawrence and Ronald Storrs the last of whom may have best summed up the British empire’s attitudes with his famous statement we deprecated the imperative, preferring instead the subjunctive or even, wistfully, the optative mood. While Shepheard’s original building was burned in 1952 during the first Arab spring the Hotel Victoria in Ismailia is still standing as is the Pera Palace in Constantinople which was built in 1892 to serve as the original terminus of the Orient Express.
While many of the tourists may have marvelled and even believed the healthful benefits of being pummelled before or after being nearly boiled alive in some sulphurous spring only to be shocked into revival in a freezing vat – the resulting numbness being pronounced a cure – none were so naive as to drink the stuff, stories of a sick fish cured with a bucket of well water not withstanding. Today we refuse to drink the water out of our taps for fear of contamination by methyl ethyl bad stuff even though it is probably, historically, the safest drinking water ever offered to a large population and we swill down bottled water by the gallon even though it is more expensive than gasoline and may, very well, have come out of a tap somewhere. Schweppes was possibly the Coca-Cola of its day, at least in Europe, while Cambrian offered to keep the British in India safe from dysentery. Aside from club soda and ginger ale Cantrell & Cochrane offered Sparkling Montserrat for the gouty and rheumatic and as a sign of things to come, Club Kola which had been awarded a Gold Medal at the Paris Exhibit of 1900.
If you did drink the water – or contacted any malady from the dubious sanitation of peoples or places visited – Europe was no less the home of patent medicines than the United States. For those who had brought their own formulas and did not wish to trust the village apothecary you could buy everything from acetone to vitriol in bulk and concoct your own potions. If you lacked the supplies or expertise there were things like Dr. J. Collis Browne’s Chlorodyne. Late of the army medical staff his product had cured Dr. Gibbon of Calcutta of diarrhea in two doses, was also effective against neuralgia, gout, cancer, toothache an rheumatism. It afforded calm, refreshing sleep without headache and invigorates the nervous system when exhausted while shortening attacks of epilepsy, spasms, colic, palpitation and hysteria. With such remedies at hand it is not surprising that the British amassed an empire on which the sun never set.
In some ways the farther you travel the closer you are to home. Judge Roy Bean was a well-known character of the West and Lily Langtry was the object of his great affection. She had performed in Galveston and was probably better known than the Judge. While the levels of sanitation, or lack thereof, probably made it necessary ladies of Margaret Edythe Young’s generation generally carried a handkerchief permeated with perfume to hold to their noses when passing any unpleasantness. Like patent medicines it was a habit that died hard since I remember her sister keeping a bottle of Lilac Pinaud to cure headaches well into the 1970’s.
Like the enthusiasts who brought their own bicycles there were tourists and travellers with cameras. Most of the tour of the far east by John Young will be based on photographs as will the trips of Bill Leach to the jungles and oil fields of Venezuela in the 1930’s. For the Grand Tour most of what we have is post cards. Some were sent to Margaret Edythe Young from friends and relatives when they were on their tours and many were collected by her during her travels. Our next two entries in this will keep us in the British Isles – one for England and a separate one for London itself – before we venture on to the continent.