Travel Through Time with the MHS

by Hannah Elder, Reproductions Coordinator

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched all of our lives in so many ways, from our everyday routines (I haven’t seen most of my coworkers in person in months) to the once-in-a-lifetime events (multiple friends have postponed or drastically downsized weddings). One thing I’ve missed while doing virtually everything at home is travel. So many of us had big travel plans for the year–when Massachusetts went into lockdown in March, I was in the beginning stages of planning a trip to France, a friend of mine was planning a month-long trip to Turkey and learning Turkish, and my cousin had just gotten a summer internship outside of her home state. Needless to say, those trips didn’t happen.

To satisfy some of my wanderlust, I’ve been turning to the memories and mementos of past travelers. Luckily, the MHS holds many items fitting that description! Since I know many others must be missing travelling and going on adventures, I thought I would share a couple of my favorites.

James Morgan Scrapbooks

James Morgan was a long-time reporter and editor for the Boston Globe, who often traveled the country to cover the politics of the day. He also traveled domestically and abroad for pleasure, documenting many of his travels in scrapbooks. Missing out on my European adventure this summer, I was drawn to Morgan’s scrapbook of his 1925 trip on board the SS Lapland, which brought Morgan and his wife from New York to ports around the Mediterranean.  They visited Gibraltar, Monaco, Rome, Florence, Gunten, and Paris, among many others, before returning to New York on the SS Lapland in June of 1925.

Itinerary of the Morgan trip
The Morgans’ full itinerary, written inside the front cover of the scrapbook

Along the way, the Morgans picked up mementos of their trip, including notes from family sent prior to their departure, a passenger list for the SS Lapland, programs of entertainment on the ship, letters from other travelers they met, post cards, hotel brochures, receipts, and even some plant life.

Solar eclipse ticket
A ticket to a viewing of the solar eclipse of 24 January 1925 – note the guarantee for a rain check
Scrapbook page with mementos from Switzerland
Sample page from the Morgans’ time in Switzerland

Perhaps my favorite item from the scrapbook is a faux passport drawn up for James. It requests that those presented with the passport allow him “unsafe and unfreely to pass and repass” and give him “all unlawful aid and no protection.” It lists his height as “5 kilometers less 50 millimeters,” his eyes as “Soft smiling – Blue Grass brown,” and his nose as “Aquiline.” It is undersigned by what I can only assume are his friends.

Faux passport for James Morgan
James Morgan’s “passport”


Eliza Lee Lothrop Homans Diaries

Shifting gears to adventures a bit closer to home, I also found great joy in the Eliza Lee Lothrop Homans diaries. While she was also a world-wide traveler (who visited many of the same cities as James Morgan), I was drawn to a diary that recorded her 1871 trip to the Adirondacks with her husband, Charles Dudley Homans. Of the beginning of their trip, she writes:

On Friday morning September 29 ’71 Charlie and I started for ‘the Adirondacks’!!! we couldn’t have known less of our destination if we had been starting for heaven – and certainly have much more definite ideas of the kind of preparations to make for the latter place!

Homan's account of the trip
The opening page of Homans’ account of the trip

Despite their lack of planning, the Homans seem to have had a spectacular trip. Accompanied by their friend “Shaw,” they made their way to Burlington, Vermont, where they made a chilly evening crossing of Lake Champlain into New York. Eliza describes their drives through soaring mountain passes and past quaint farms, all swathed in magnificent fall colors. I was particularly struck by her description of a morning spent on a lake. She writes:

Oh! Such as day – warm, beautiful beyond compare. We rowed along at our leisure, the poetry of travelling, sitting at ease + floating through the lovely country. At last a man hailed us to watch one side of an island on to which a deer had run . . . we waited there till finally he though it must have got off without his knowing so we rowed on to the end of the lake

Other notable events from the trip were getting caught in a sudden rain storm, spending an evening singing with mountain guides at an inn, sleeping on a most comfortable bed, and many nature walks and explorations of the lakes and rivers of upstate New York. Homans closes her account of the trip with the following entry:

Of Wednesday there is nothing to say save that it was our last day of adventure. The ride down in the cars was through that same beautiful country made more very lovely then with the glow of anticipation – now the more somber shades of memory made it less attractive and the mist of falling rain seemed appropriate to the sobering effect of getting back to the facts and duties of life – but we have had a lovely lime. Charley is better, seems rested and jolly – and I am grateful for all I have enjoyed.

I hope you have enjoyed traveling vicariously through the travelers of the past with me! To keep travelling, consider reading some of the past entries on the Beehive, including entries on Anna Peabody Bellow’s Travel Diary, Society and Scenery: The Travel Diary of Elizabeth Perkins Lee Shattuck, “A good house where we had a good bedroom…”: Edwin F. Atkin’s Travel Diary, 1872, and Travel Woes in 1814: JQA and Zandelin’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure.

While the MHS reading room remains closed to researchers, the library staff is ready to assist you virtually! Check out our Reference Services During Closure, including live chat, online resources, and reproduction services.