Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Geneva's Rough Crossing


Geneva’s explicit description of her meeting with F. Scott Fitzgerald on board the ocean liner Conte Biancamano sets her 1929 travel diary apart. Authors William Loos and Victor Doyno wrote of Geneva’s resemblance to Fitzgerald’s first love, Ginevra King, in their essay “Fitzgerald’s Very ‘Rough Crossing:’”

From available photographs it is apparent that she bore a resemblance to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first love, Ginevra King. The similarity in names must have caught his attention….imagine what it must have been like for Fitzgerald-drunk or sober-suddenly to find himself on an ocean voyage with a more mature reincarnation, in face and almost in name, of his teenage sweetheart. 

The Rough Crossing

In her diary, Geneva wrote of her March 4 meeting with Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda:
Met Scott Fitzgerald and little wife with name commencing with Z- Played bridge with Williams and wife. Later talked to Fitzg and wife- both very tight. She was probably very pretty when younger and very amusing. He ended by asking Mrs. Williams something about mens private parts and Ms. Fitzgerald called him a fool- (Scott you fool you better shut up) One can never talk about anything seriously with people- Everyone was paralyzed- He turned to me and I said I am silly I can never answer you. He followed me out saying I was beautiful and he loved me but I was very silly and kissed my hand. Scott and I had been talking about literature. He maintained that Mencken was the greatest man of the age and I standing up for George Bernard Shaw, James Branch Cabell, Anatole France saying they were fun but that Mencken was silly and trivial- that greatness had to be constructive not destructive for the race. He turned from this to Mrs. W. and said Mrs. W. do women like mens private large or small? He kept at her then his wife spoke up then and he turned to me and said Geneva won’t you answer me and I said you think I’m silly how could I.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lecture this Wednesday

Complicated, colorful, mysterious India is the presentation topic for traveler Michael Stock as part of the "Exotic Travels" Lunchtime Series at the downtown Central Library on Wednesday, May 11, from 12 noon-1 p.m. Free, presented in conjunction with current exhibit "Travelers and Cosmopolitans: The Tourist is the Other Fellow" now through May 28. Travel vicariously with us!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Portraits by Clawson

A skilled photographer, H. Phelps Clawson often took note of the people he met on his journeys, including his trips to France, Egypt and the Sudan as part of the Harvard University - Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition, and during his 1911 excursion to Russia and northern Europe.  Below are a few of those he met and captured with his ever-present camera.

"Bedouin girl and baby near Pyramids, 1927."

"The Oldest Guide," Les Baux, France.  April 13, 1933.

Workmen performing sword dance, Egypt.

Stokers onboard the Dunnottar Castle ocean liner, 1911.

"Roasting coffee.  Eyragues, Bouches-du​-Rhone.  July 19, 1933."

"Scene on the Empress of Britain, July 20, 1911."

Unknown woman, Paris.

"Russian Cossacks at St. Isaac's, St. Petersburg​," 1911

Archaeologist Noel F. Wheeler in Egypt.

"The traveling merchant.  'Bazar ambulant.'  He begins at Marseilles
and visits all the small out of the way towns.  For the household,
he had every imaginable thing.  Greoux les Bains (B.A.).  May 22, 1933."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Travel Lecture this Thursday!

In conjunction with the current exhibition Travelers and Cosmopolitans: the Tourist is the Other Fellow, a series of Exotic Travels lunchtime talks will be held at Central Library.

Travel vicariously with us this Thursday, April 21, noon – 1 p.m., as Dr. Richard Lee talks about “Medicine in the Slow Lane: Travels to Out-of-the-Way Places.”  The exhibit will also be open for viewing.  All events are free and open to the public.

Upcoming lectures:
  • Wednesday, May 5, noon - 1 p.m.  Michael Stock presents "I.N.D.I.A."
  • Friday, May 20, noon - 1 p.m.  Chuck LaChiusa on cruising Russia.
Directions to Central Library can be found here

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Digging is a Grave Problem"

Few, if any, normal boys pass the state of adolescence without feeling the urge to undertake some kind of exploration or embark on a hunt for buried treasure.

So began a 1938 article from the Buffalo Courier Express profiling H. Phelps Clawson and his work with the Harvard University-Boston Museum of Fine Arts Archaeological Expedition to Egypt and the Sudan.  Clawson worked as an archaeologist from 1924 to 1931.  Working conditions were difficult, and for one 14 week period, Clawson copied records in a tiny underground chamber measuring only 11 x 8 x 6 feet.

Clawson's transcription of "The Story of Sinuhe."
The Rare Book Room holds a collection of Clawson's papers, which contain significant documentation of his work on the expedition.  His notebooks record his daily activities, peotry, scores of photographs, and his transcription of "The Story of Sinuhe" (as published in K.E. Sethe's Aegyptische Lesestucke) contain hieroglyphs, phonetics, and English translation.

Selective images of his notebooks and photographs are below; click on each for a larger view.  Further images, as well as the finding aid for the H. Phelps Clawson Papers can be viewed- see "Resources" at left.  Lastly, the "H. Phelps Clawson" link at the top of this page has a full biography.

"Song leader at excavations, Sarras AE Sudan 1931."

Clawson with his trusty 7 horsepower Jewett automobile.

Abu Simbel.

Digsite.  Clawson with Noel F. Wheeler.

“15 here.  67 all together.  We sorted them all out 
carefully according to where from- all from 1 tomb.”

"Light and shade and the trace of a rainbow.  
Pyramid of Cheops, 1927"

"Modern Egyptian beds differ little from the style 
used 5,000 years ago of which many specimens are 
found in the tombs.  They consist of a frame 
across which ropes are stretched.  Mr. Clawson 
says they are quite comfortable.  A 4,000 
year old piece of pottery, found in perfect condition 
at Sarras, is shown at this feet."

Source: "Digging is a Grave Problem," Buffalo Courier Express, July 3, 1938, page 4. Courtesy Buffalo State College Archives and Special Collections, repository for the Buffalo Courier Express archives.

Photo at top of entry: "Our camp at Pyramids. Pyramid of Cheops or Kufu. 1929." Photo taken by Clawson during Harvard University - Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition in Egypt and the Sudan.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Baedeker's: Don't Leave Home Without It

In 1827, Karl Baedeker started a publishing company in Germany.  Soon thereafter, he published the first of many of his iconic red-bound travel guides.  Baedeker did not invent the travel guide.  What set his guides apart was the accurate description and ratings of sites, architecture, maps, hotels, prices, and customs.  So influential were these guides, in 1942 the German Luftwaffe bombed Exeter, Bath, Norwich, York, and Canterbury in Great Britain in what came to be known as the Baedeker Blitz.  These towns were chosen because of their 3-star ratings in Baedeker's Guide to Great Britain.

Today, pre-World War I and II Baedeker's are highly collectible.  The Rare Book Room at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library holds many issues.  A selection can be viewed below.

Karnak, pp. 124-125, from Baedeker's Upper Egypt
Leipsic : K. Baedeker, 1892.  Call # DT45 .B17 1892

Map of Nile districts, from Baedeker's Upper Egypt
Leipsic : K. Baedeker, 1892.   Call # DT45 .B17 1892.

Baedeker's Central Italy.  Leipzig, K. Baedeker, 1900.  
Call # DG416 .B155 1900.

Map of the Vatican, from Baedeker's Central Italy
Leipzig, K. Baedeker, 1900.  Call # DG416 .B155 1900.

Customs for tourists in Italy, from Baedeker's Central Italy
Leipzig, K. Baedeker, 1900.  Call # DG416 .B155 1900.

Elevation of Roman Forum, from Baedeker's Central Italy
Leipzig, K. Baedeker, 1900.  Call # DG416 .B155 1900.
More images of Baedeker's can be viewed here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Esperia and Bridge

On March 29 and 30, 1922, Geneva and friends sailed to Esperia, Italy after spending nearly 3 weeks in Egypt. Note her entries from these days give no description at all of Esperia! But she does write of her success at cards. While traveling, Geneva frequently made time for playing bridge (often during evening cocktails). Card games, and bridge in particular, were extremely popular in the 1920s. Geneva often ends her daily diary entries with notes on that day's bridge game, especially if she won.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Geneva and the "Red Count"

Geneva's 1927 travel diary
In 1927, the Porters set sail again, this time on the Conte Rosso ocean liner with fellow passengers and local luminaries the Schoellkopfs and senior Clawsons (H. Phelps' parents). Ocean travel aboard a luxury liner may sound glamorous. However, on March 3, Geneva wrote in her diary of a fierce three day storm:
I awoke in the middle of the night with the bowl of pink roses on my chest. In a few minutes everything in the rooms had fallen- chairs, trunks, everything and the bathroom was a merry go round of trunks and luggage- The boat was rolling from side to side so we could not stand up and hardly stay in bed without hanging on to both sides. We are in the worst storm anyone can remember….Pete’s bed is moving around the room….We are in the trough and waves high as mountains. The stewardess tells us to stay in bed because of broken limbs and flying furniture….Our room is a sight with broken glass….We have changed course three times. It certainly is exciting when the waves hit the boat. I find I am an old salt- never sick or afraid.
On this holiday, the Porters visited 19 cities in 6 countries in 2 months, including those in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Romania, Austria, and France.  The Conte Rosso was a new ship with service beginning 1922.  Known for its luxurious appointments, including steam laundry and outdoor dining, the ostentatious decor was reportedly $400,000, a significant cost for the early 20s.
The main dining salon and lounge are in the style of the fifteenth century.  They are both finished in solid oak, with embossed leather panels, and have the furniture of that period with elaborate sculpture, carvings, and other ornaments.  The music and dancing salon is in the classic Roman-Pompeian style.  The centre holds a slightly raised platform supported by Ionic columns, and the entire effect is that of an old Venetian palace.  The smoking room is Oriental, and in the library and writing room Florentine Renaissance is carried out to the last detail.  (Source:  "Italy's Newest Liner a Model of Luxury."  New York Times, February 19, 1922.)
The Travel Film Archive website has vintage travel film from this era.  The Longest Gangplank was filmed in 1926 on board a similar, though less ostentatious, trans Atlantic cruise and disembarking in France.  View the film here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Clawson's Menagerie

H. Phelps Clawson took hundreds of photographs when he traveled.  Not content with just capturing the obvious tourist sites, Phelps had a soft spot for animals.  Regardless of time or place, Phelps made sure to document his four-legged friends in all matter of disposition.