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Now in proofreading: On an Irish Jaunting-car

On an Irish Jaunting-carOur latest Distributed Proofreaders project is a change of pace from the usual variety of popular fiction titles. On an Irish Jaunting-car through Donegal and Connemara is a travel narrative describing (and illustrating with photos) a variety of Irish scenes. This is one of several books written by Samuel G. Bayne, an author who appears to have made quite a lot of money in various business ventures when not traveling or writing about his adventures.

If you would like to help transform this vintage book into a new electronic edition, please read this earlier post to learn more about the process, then visit the project page.

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Her Semester Abroad: Ellie Thackara’s Jaunt in the Dominion of Canada

Posted by: Jean Turner, Digital Library Intern Spring 2011

You may think you have nothing in common with Eleanor Mary Sherman Thackara, the 19th century daughter of the famed General Tecumseh Sherman on whom the Digital Library has many records, but let me ask you this: Have you gone abroad?  When I first sat down to read “A Summer Jaunt in the Dominion of Canada,” Ellie’s published accounts of her traveling in Canada, I admittedly worried I might not be able to relate to someone from such a different time and position.  But traveling has been the only time I have ever had the self-discipline to maintain a thorough journal.  So, while my day-to-day life will depend upon memories, my trips to Italy and Southeast Asia and my time on a small sailboat in the Caribbean are documented in well-weathered notebooks on my shelves.  Quite surprisingly, Ellie’s passages printed in The New York Ledger, like mine, regale the readers with asides about local history, imaginative descriptions of the landscapes, and many anecdotes of the interesting and unique people she meets along the way.  If you’re a student hoping to go abroad, a traveler with journals and memories of your own, or just a student of human nature read on!

In Ellie’s first installation she remembers remarking to a landlady that her “object in coming so far, aside from all the joy of beautiful scenery, was an interest in these foreign parts, their people, and their history.”   She proves this love for history by retelling tales of local importance for many of her destinations, whether it was the long-ago residence of a French martial city and convent or a famed Indian council attended by Champlain and Lescarbot in 1603.  Her satisfaction upon matching these facts to buildings and valleys is much like my own pride at recognizing a piece of history in front of my own eyes, and I don’t think Ellie and I are alone.

In an age where social networking allows us to share our traveling pictures with anyone and everyone, we might overlook Ellie’s attempts to put all of the beautiful sights she encounters into words.  Yes, she was prosperous enough to have several photographs taken and included in her accounts.  Despite this trailblazing technology, she further honors the uniqueness of each of her experiences by attempting to keep the scenery alive with her own pen.  From the decks of one boat, Ellie wrote, “The moon is a russet orange, from which the great bear must have had a bite, and long lines of clouds streak its face.  It is close upon our stern horizon, and before many moments will go down into the liquid darkness.”  Unable to snap a picture of every gorgeous sight she sees, Ellie includes many descriptive passages in her account to remind herself and share with others the landscapes one sees while traveling in Canada.

A look at several scenes Ellie came across.

It wouldn’t be a travel journal, at least it wouldn’t be like mine, without a cast of kooky characters that one meets along the way.  Ellie’s three pieces include tales of a guide who answered every question with his two-word vocabulary, “Yish, um,” and “Naw, um,” a Scotch-faced steward aboard one of her ships with an interesting “checkered double-visored cap” and lastly a “most artistic tramp” that she finds lying on a hillside as she disembarks from a boat.  Travelers everywhere meet those who wish to play a trick on tourists and this self-proclaimed blind man was such a person.  But after his farce was exposed and they knew they had been fooled, the newcomers begged for a photograph of the actor with his bald head and tattered garments “stuffed here and there with straw.”  As he knelt for them he dramatically exclaimed, “My name is George, G-O-R-G.  You are quite welcome.”

A look at the beggar George!

Not all of our travel memories are destined for publication or kept in the holdings of Villanova’s or any other university’s special collections, but it’s likely that they contain similar stories to those you’ll find if you read more of Eleanor Mary Sherman Thackara’s accounts.  After all, aren’t many of our reasons for traveling, whether for school or vacation or adventure, also the joy of beautiful scenery and an interest in foreign places and their people?  Read some more of Ellie’s accounts or explore the pictures in any of her three articles, all named A Summer Jaunt in the Dominion of Canada, found in the Sherman Thackara Collection of Villanova University’s Digital Library.

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Philly and the Railroads of PA – A View From 1875

The Pennsylvaniana Collection in the Digital Library is the perfect place to go if you want a detailed look at the life and layout of 19th Century Philadelphia – in particular a very interesting old book entitled “Philadelphia and its Environs, and the Railroad Scenery of Pennsylvania.” This engaging little volume, published in 1875 by J. B. Lippincott and Co., catered richly to my penchant for poring over street maps, and taught me much about Philly’s geographical development over its multi-century history; and beyond the reports of long-gone former features of familiar locations within the original city bounds, throughout the districts consolidated in 1854, and even into the western and northern suburbs, the adventure stretches deep into the Pennsylvania countryside, illustrating the Keystone State’s unique place in the history of American railroads.

It’s fairly common knowledge that the famous Dock Street, site of William Penn’s original landing, was a winding creek before unsanitary conditions led the city to level and pave it over, but in this book I learned about several other lesser-known bygone landmarks that imparted names to prominent Center City streets: the creek running east to the Delaware which began at a spring at what is now the corner of 6th and Spring Garden; and the eastern terminus of Arch Street, which sunk into a ravine west of Front Street and was crossed at that junction by an arch. (Front Street, which once outlined a river bluff mandated for preservation by William Penn as a public promenade, of course now overlooks Interstate 95.) And did you know that Race Street used to be called Sassafras, and that South Street used to be Cedar?

fountain at Franklin Square

fountain at Franklin Square

Intended as a guide for tourists paying a visit to Philadelphia, the book leads the reader to a host of historical landmarks, buildings, and natural features, many of which – Independence Hall and the Betsy Ross House, for example – are still kept alive in memory today as current attractions; but the perspective of 1875 also brings to life many sleeping giants within present-day Philly. Fairmount Park in particular must have been very beautiful, judging by the detailed descriptions of the parks and monuments at sites like Lemon Hill, and the woodcut illustrations of views from various bluffs above the Schuylkill. This was the eve of the Centennial Exposition, and especially noteworthy is the mention of ongoing construction of the permanent hall, the building that was “saved” in 2008 by the Please Touch Museum. Overall this virtual tour is very thorough; reading this section of the book one gets the sensation of systematically traversing the streets of Philadelphia and experiencing them as they must have appeared in 1875, buildings, parks, railroads and all.

on the grade

A Pleasure Tour on PA Railroads

Also very thorough, vivid, and exciting is the tour given in the second half of the book – an imaginary journey through the entirety of Pennsylvania’s unique and wonderful railways. This author takes you on a memorable ride through the dips and turns of the Delaware Water Gap and the Lehigh Valley, up and down the ingenious locomotive-free switchbacks of the “gravity railroad” at Mauch Chunk, and west into the coal country developed by Stephen Girard (namesake of Girard Avenue), where the grades were some of the steepest in the world, and where horseshoe curves existed such that “engineers going over the road with long coal-trains, on dark nights, have been signaled to stop by a red light on the track ahead, which, on investigation, proved to be the customary signal-lamp on the end of their own trains.” These descriptions held a special interest for me, as I had recently heard mention of these very same areas by Engineering professor Dr. Ronald Chadderton in the course of his lecture in Falvey Library on the 1889 Johnstown flood. And of course, roads closer to the source (Philly) are described in detail which illustrates how much of our surroundings in Southeast PA – the “Main Line”, and the riverside route down the Delaware toward Ridley Park and Chester – were already venerated fixtures of the region even as far back as 135 years ago.

Porcelain Teeth

Porcelain Teeth

And last but never least, a popular publication of the 19th century is always a great place to browse antique advertisements. In this volume, look for Samuel S. White’s Porcelain Teeth, Marcy’s Sciopticon (a primitive projector of some kind), W. J. Wilcox’s Lard Refinery, and Atmore’s Mince Meat (source of the cow on the Pennsylvaniana Collection’s banner image). Point your browser to http://digital.library.villanova.edu/Pennsylvaniana/Pennsylvaniana-00001.xml, and go back to 1875 for a fascinating trip around Philadelphia and Its Environs.

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Ireland with Mr. and Mrs. Hall

A behind-the-scenes look at part of the exhibit “Rambles, Sketches, Tours: Travellers & Tourism in Ireland.”

Over the summer I did a fair amount of research on Irish travel writing for my exhibit and I quickly learned that you simply cannot discuss Irish travel writing without mentioning the Halls.

Samuel Carter Hall (1800-1889) met Anna Maria Fielding (1800-1881) in 1823 and they were married in September of the following year in London. Although both had been born in Ireland to Anglo-Irish families, they pursued their careers in England. Samuel Carter was a journal editor and writer who participated in a dizzying array of activities from 1823 to 1830, at which point he suffered a brief nervous affliction. He soon recovered and rejoined the editorial game, eventually finding some level of stability as sub-editor/editor at the New Monthly Magazine. Anna Maria’s career as a writer took off in 1829 with the publication of her first book, Sketches of Irish Character, which contained reminiscences of her childhood in Ireland. She subsequently published a number of children’s tales, novels, plays, essays, and more Irish stories.

Title page of Halls' Ireland (186-?).
Title page from the Halls’ Ireland (1860s).

The Halls made many tours of Ireland and penned an initial account of their travels that appeared in three volumes from 1841 to 1843. Ireland: its Scenery, Character, &c. was hugely successful in Great Britain. The Halls continued to tour Ireland after the publication of their account, and continued to update information in subsequent editions. In the 1850s, they capitalized on the popularity of their work even further by breaking it into regional sections—such as, The North and Giant’s Causeway—and publishing them separately. These regional guides were a much more manageable size, fitting right in with the popularization of “handbooks.”

Falvey Library’s Special Collections owns two multi-volume editions of the Halls’ Ireland (from the 1860s and 1911), as well as two of their regional guides, and I used all of these in my exhibit. “Rambles, Sketches, Tours” features eight images from the Halls’ works—can you find them all?

Further Reading:

Hall, Mr. and Mrs. S.C. Ireland: its scenery, character, &c.. 3 vol. Philadelphia: Gebbie & Barrie, [186-?].

Mandler, Peter. “Hall , Anna Maria (1800–1881).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/11940, accessed 11 Nov 2010]

Mandler, Peter. “Hall, Samuel Carter (1800–1889).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/11987, accessed 11 Nov 2010]

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Take a tour of Ireland in our new online exhibit

I am pleased to announce the debut of our new online exhibit, “Rambles, Sketches, Tours: Travellers & Tourism in Ireland.” The exhibit can also be seen in person on the second floor of Falvey Memorial Library through the end of the semester. The display was featured on the main library news blog last week.

Rambles exhibit poster
Promotional poster by Joanne Quinn.

“Rambles, Sketches, Tours” highlights Irish travel narratives and related materials, primarily from the Joseph McGarrity Collection. The site is broken into sections that highlight the methods of travel to and within Ireland, the motives of some of the most influential and popular writers, and the development of the tourism industry. In addition, there are five sections that look at some of the most popular travel destinations.

Custom House, Dublin
The Custom House in Dublin from A View of
Ancient and Modern Dublin… (1796) by John Ferrar.

Many of the works included in the exhibit are available in full-text versions online, either at our own Digital Library or at the Internet Archive. Links have been provided throughout the exhibit pages and on the exhibit bibliography, which also includes the materials I used in researching Irish travel and tourism.

I had a lot of fun researching this exhibit and selecting items to include—I hope you’ll find some enjoyment, too. I’ll be posting a few behind-the-scenes tidbits over the next couple months, so stay tuned!

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Last Modified: October 28, 2010