Special Collections and Archives holds many unique and interesting diaries which chronicle the adventures of travelers from all over the world. One of these, entitled, Journal of a Trip from Liverpool to San Francisco, was penned by a young Englishwoman visiting the United States for the very first time. The journal chronicles her trip from April to June of 1895, beginning with a trip across the sea on the “luxurious” S.S Teutonic.
It is interesting to note that although more than a century has passed since the writing of this journal, some of her interests are very similar to those of young people today. When describing her cabin she mentions, “Carrie and I had the best one in the ship, being in the centre next to the dancing salon and having two port-holes.” For these young ladies, being in close proximity to the dancing salon, holds the potential for great adventures and entertainment. By looking out the port holes, they witness an exciting new world, the unbridled power of the stormy seas and even a polar bear sitting atop a floating iceberg.
It is amusing to see that her points of interest are very similar to a modern tourist. In New York she visits Central Park, Broadway, and Grand Central Station where they take the ‘luxurious’ Pullman to Boston. While in Boston she comments that “There were many little American customs especially, at the meals to learn,” highlighting some cultural differences at the time. In Chicago they spend part of their day ‘patronizing’ the Siegel Cooper department store, the largest in the world at the time. It is then that the longest part of their journey begins with a train ride west.
Many of the journal entries are written while traveling between Chicago and San Francisco. At this point some noticeable differences arise. While some of the place names are familiar to most of us, others have long since disappeared from today’s maps. While travelling through Iowa, it is interesting to note that she is amazed by the farmers’ ability to grow corn. She believes it is the “high standard of knowledge” that the American farmer possesses that makes him outstandingly better than his English counterpart. In other ways, the young woman’s observations seem much like our modern views. When entering the state of Colorado, she writes, “The fertile regions of the previous day were exchanged for nature revealed in all her glory in the Rockies”.
As she makes her way into Utah and Salt Lake City, she mentions the fact that Utah, although not recognized as a state, had just been added to the Union. After reaching Nevada, she has her first encounter with Native Americans, and writes, “For the first time we saw the native Indian at the small villages at which the train sometimes drew up.” Many of her comments about the Native Americans are negative, and would be considered very inappropriate today. Their arrival to California brings them much happiness. The contrast in landscape between Nevada and California creates a great sense of relief and pleasure. Interestingly, after a couple of days in San Francisco she writes, “This great city from the first had not made a favorable impression upon me, but it was California we had come to see and not San Francisco.” And truly they do spend most of their time in the surrounding cities and counties such as Monterey and Del Monte. The conclusion comes all too naturally as the sightseeing comes to an end. Her last written day recollects conversations with some new American friends, and a long discussion comparing Dante and Shakespeare, spurred by a purchase of a nicely bound copy of Dante's Inferno. The night concludes with them attending a concert by the great and renowned Belgian violinist Ysaye. A few more words are said about the many flowers she collected and attached to the last page of this journal, along with a quote from a poem by Henry Ward Beecher.