Monthly Archives: June 2010

Combining Business and Tourism

The International Exhibition of 1862 offered the occasion for the travelers’ journey. Held in Kensington like its 1851 precursor, the exhibition presented opportunities for various nations to display their economic and technological achievements. Eliza B. Wheaton, Laban M. Wheaton, and David E. Holman rode the omnibus out from their hotel on Holborn Street to the site of the Exhibition on their first full day in London. Two days later, Holman met with an agent about registering the patent for his machine, and Laban M. Wheaton met with his bankers. While Wheaton rested in the afternoon, Holman escorted Eliza B. Wheaton to visit the National Gallery. And before the group had been in the city a full week, they traveled by rail to Luton, the center of straw hat manufacturing. They spent two and a half months in London, boarding on Sloane Street in Kensington, and combining tourism with the business of establishing residency for the patent.
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Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

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Letters from Lydia

Eliza Baylies Wheaton and her companions traveled from Liverpool to London by rail on April 30, 1862. After noting the time of their departure and the price of their first-class tickets, Wheaton described the journey. She found the sensation of passing through a three-mile tunnel “unpleasant,” which was countered for her by the pastoral landscape of the Midlands. “Our own country we left with the Sterility of Winter upon it,” she wrote; “and after crossing the cold, pitiless ocean to have such a landscape of verdure spread out before us, with beautiful herds of horned cattle and great numbers of sheep was truly delightful to us not yet fully recovered from Seasickness.”

The landscape was not entirely pastoral, of course, and Wheaton noted that they passed through the cities of Stafford, Wolverhampton, and Birmingham. “The iron districts about Birmingham looked very desolate,” she wrote.

After a journey of about eight hours, the travelers arrived at Euston Station. Wheaton’s comment about a bit of business that had to be done before they could proceed to a hotel pointed to one of the purposes of the entire transatlantic journey. “After David saw his Machine safely deposited,” she noted, “we took Cab (4 wheels) for Wovets Hotel Holborn.” The hotel had only one room available, so David stayed nearby at Bretts Hotel, which was on site of Old Furnivals Inn, 139 Holborn Street.

Safely arrived in London and with lodgings procured, the travelers could rest. “We were pleased,” Wheaton wrote, “with the appearance of London.” And the appearance of the hotel workers appealed to her as it had in Liverpool. “The attendants waiting Maids have a little cap on the back of their heads—Those females at the Office or Bar, are dressed like ladies—refined and apparently virtuous. The male waiters dressed as described on pag. 13,” she noted.

And those “females at the Office” gave Wheaton something very important indeed. “I was at once presented with two letters from Lydia Fowler wh. had been awaiting my arrival,” she wrote. Lydia Folger Fowler had once been a student at Wheaton Female Seminary, and she now offered Wheaton a link between home and an unfamiliar city. Fowler would be an important figure in the social circle that Wheaton created for herself as she settled temporarily in the city.
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Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

Madeleine B. Stern, Heads and Headlines: The Phrenological Fowlers (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971).

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Touring Liverpool

In 1862, the Cunard Line mail route from North America terminated in Liverpool.  The  city’s position as terminus reflected a long history as a significant English port for Atlantic trade.  In this commercial city, Eliza Baylies Wheaton, her husband, and his cousin had their first experiences of England.  They spent a day touring the city’s sites and pursuing a lost bag.

Those sites consisted of St. George’s Hall and the Free Museum.  As the group made their way to the first, a clever Liverpudlian identified them as Americans and offered his services as guide.  “He added very much to the visit,” Wheaton noted.  The guide doubtless imparted the facts that she recorded about the “massive, grand, and beautiful” edifice—its courtrooms and concert rooms, and its marble floors and pillars of Aberdeenshire Marble.

The travelers parted with their guide and proceeded to the Free Museum and Library on their own.  On finding that the museum was not open that day, they explained that they were Americans, in town only for the day.  They received a private tour.  “We were surprised,” Wheaton wrote, “to find a very extensive collection of natural curiosities of every description.”  She remarked especially on the “most beautiful coral specimens.”

The group spent the afternoon riding around the city and its docks in a carriage.  Wheaton noted that they rode “some 8 or 10 miles in pursuit of my lost bag, which was finally found and brought to me.”  A satisfactory end to a first day in an unfamiliar country.

Liverpool now boasts eight National Museums, including the International Slavery Museum, which grew out of a permanent exhibit on Transatlantic Slavery at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.  Though the Wheatons favored the abolition of slavery, it is unclear how familiar they might have been with Liverpool’s long connection to the slave trade.  Laban Morey Wheaton had served in the Massachusetts Assembly as a member of the Liberty Party, and David Emory Holman had served briefly in the Union Army, earning the lifelong recognition of that fact in the honorific that memorialized his rank, “Major.”

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Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

Charles Robert Gibbs, Passenger Liners of the Western Ocean: A Record of the North Atlantic Steam and Motor Passenger Vessels from 1838 to the Present Day (New York: Staples Press, 1952).

National Museums Liverpool

International Slavery Museum

The Former Transatlantic Slavery Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum

Tours of Liverpool’s Old Dock, Merseyside Maritime Museum

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Ambitious Plans

When I set out to blog Eliza Baylies Wheaton’s travel journal, I planned to blog each entry in a kind of “this day in 1862” fashion.  You would think that after twenty years of teaching I would have realized that was an unreasonable goal for the final month of the spring semester.  But fools rush in.

So now that the semester has been over for a month and June is half over, I am finally ready to get back to blogging the travel journal and the parts of Wheaton’s 1862 journey that she did not record there.  Tomorrow, Liverpool.  Then London.  And in a week or two, Paris.

I wish I were going to Paris….

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