Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Europe With Alice

On March 9, 1929 Alice T. Miner and three friends embarked on a journey to Europe. Alice wrote about the trip in a small black leather travel journal given to her as a Valentine's Day gift by Will. In addition, she bought numerous postcards in the places they visited and wrote dates on each one to record when they experienced these cities, sites and landmarks. This post is a continuation of their journey, to read earlier installments you can go to the first article, the second article, or the third article by clicking the words. You can also just scroll down the home page of the blog to get to the earlier installments.

When we left Alice and her friends they had just spent the day with a guide named Mr. Gallo who showed them around Ravello, Amalfi and Sorrento. Alice writes,

"Mar 27th
Got up early. I will never forget our lovely rooms in the Tramontano Hotel We overlooked Bay of Naples & it was lovely. We shopped and bought shawls, inlaid boxes & lace table cloths. Started for Pompeii at 11AM. Had an interesting drive to Pompeii. Had same guide and chauffer. The drive was lovely. Lunched at Grand Hotel where manager recognized me, having spent years in the Waldorf. Spent two hours seeing the excavations. Returned to Hotel Vesuve feeling very tired."

Tramontano Hotel

Pompeii - artists rendition on the top half and photograph of the same spot below - very interesting!

Mar 28th
Naples, Hotel Vesuve
Took motor to National Museum. Had guide for two hours. Saw Pompeiian relics, statuary, jewels, mosaics and spent a short time in the Art Gallery.
Went & had lunch at Belolino. Beautiful view of Naples & the Bay. Delicious food and we all felt like a million dollars. Enjoyed everything. Went to the Am. Ex. & shopped near by. Bought hand colored photos of Naples, Sorrento and Ravello from Bowinkle's Art Store. Also two silhouettes. Bought antique pin, Mother of pearl & small turquoises. Had fun. 

Pompeii Anglo American Hotel - says "Mar 29 lunched..." on back

Mar 29th
Went to Am. Ex. Bought nothing. Walked through principal street. Saw narrow Italian flower market & also regular market street. Had luncheon Via Roma. The food tasted good but restaurant not very inviting. We wished to go to the ladies room, young man took us across the way & down stairs to a barber shop. Paid 4 Lira. Had a good laugh. Walked down Via Roma met man who had been in America. Also another who wished to go. Talked with them. Went to Sapios (?), Mrs. H bought necklace.

Mar 30th
En route from Naples to Rome
Left Naples at 9:10 arrived Rome at 12:15. It was a lovely ride through rich cultivated country. Many sheep & long horned cattle. Mts in distance. Stopped at Hotel de Russi, the best yet. We were treated like Queens. After a delicious luncheon we walked over to Am. Ex. where I got a long letter from Lou (her sister Louisa). Then drove to St. Peters and certainly was awed by the magnificent edifice. Talked with verger who told me, in French, that he would have seats in the chancel for four of us & to be there at 9:30. Had pleasant visit with two Chicago girls. Saw much of interest. Drove back in carriage. 

(At this point there is a gap in post cards so I will borrow from other sources for the purpose of illustration.)

St. Peter's

Mar 31st
Easter Sun. in Rome
Rec'd cable from Will. Arrived at St Peters at 9:30. Vast crowds were gathering. Had no difficulty in finding verger who gave us good seats in front. The pomp & display was wonderful to see. Cardinal Merry de Val celebrated Mass and the music was lovely. It was a beautiful warm day. We had luncheon at Fagians on Piazza Collona. Walked to Scala Spagna & mounted stairs to Pincio gardens where we sat, rested & enjoyed watching the people. In looking over the paraphet from the top of the hillwe found ourselves looking into the garden of our hotel. Birds were singing. Visited Santa Marie del Popolo. 

Santa Maria del Popolo

Apr 1st
Am. Ex. guide met us at 9:30 (Achille Renzi). Fine auto took us to Vatican. Saw the beautiful marble statues, Nero's dining room with marble fountain. Sistine Chapel. Bought 2 pictures. Bought rosary & had it blessed by Pope Pius 11th for Mrs. Jeffery. Returned to hotel for lunch & rested. At 2:30 started with guide visited the coliseum & down the Appian Way to church of Saint Sebastian & Catacombs. Back to hotel & had tea. Wrote letter to Lou. Had fine dinner. All well.

Alice T. Miner. Sylvia Silver, Laura Haynes, Jessica Johnson 
and the guide Achille Renzi in Rome

We will leave Alice and her companions enjoying their stay in Rome. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Touring the Settee

We recently made another trip to Williamstown Art Conservation Center in Williamstown, MA. This time we were picking up the two tables on which we had necessary work done. While there I had a tour of our early 19th century settee - currently in the process of conservation with furniture conservators Hugh Glover and Gretchen Guidess. 

Gretchen and I examine the original fabric and hair stuffing on the arms of the settee

Furniture conservators employ a method I affectionately call "furniture forensics" to determine the many lives and looks a piece like this settee has gone through over the years. They photograph the object as it looks before work begins and then strip it's show cover to determine the history of the piece. From the description written by the conservators, "By examining and comparing the relative position of the layered textile attachments and the location of occupied and unoccupied tack holes, the following items were determined:

The settee has had four show covers... a black cotton satin weave fabric, followed by a gold fabric of undetermined weave structure, and finally the jacquard tapestry (on the settee since approximately the 1920s). The earliest show cover was a dark colored hair cloth, remnants of which were found under two tack heads along the underside of the front seat rail... the textile structure was observed to have two different elements woven together - one thick and one fine... most likely linen warps and horse hair wefts..."

"The haircloth show cover was decorated with a row of domed nails that were used to outline the seat back, the bottom of the sides and along the front seat rail of the settee. The broken shanks remaining in the frame are square and are corroded green, indicating copper containing metal alloy. The shank shape and alloy components signal early historic brass domed nails. The close spacing and clustering of broken nail shanks suggest two campaigns of decorative domed nails applied to the frame."

The parts remaining on the settee that are original include linen webbing, loosely woven linen base cloths, and curled horsehair stuffing. "During the investigation some inscriptions were revealed. 'AH Bullard/Winchester, Mass' was penciled down the frame element support of the proper right seat back. The proper right arm letters run vertically upward along the top third of the arm: 'Hooky??? Bi???' The outside seat back appears to have several inscriptions but they appear too faint to decipher..."

Gretchen explains the textile structures of the settee, and those of it's original fabrics and elements that are still intact - you can see the curled horsehair stuffing on the settee arm. The white cloth and new stuffing are being added before the new haircloth show cover is applied

Inscriptions too faint for the naked eye were revealed through UV light photographs

"This is an early 19th century straight back sofa with six mahogany legs, brass casters and concave armrests on the ends. The only show-woods are the legs and one stretcher; the front legs have a tapered saber form with reeding on their forward faces; the rear legs are slightly curved..."

Hugh shows the options for domed nails

Tools of the trade

Christine Puza, Gretchen Guidess, Amanda Palmer and Hugh Glover after a wonderful tour of the settee, and a tasty lunch in Hugh's garden

Friday, September 20, 2013

Exploring the Old World

As Alice Miner and her friends neared the European continent their comfort and excitement grew. Soon they would be off the Laurentic and exploring ancient cities through the assistance of skilled guides. The temperatures also were warming and everyone was feeling well and happy, including Jessica Johnson, who had experienced so much sea sickness on the trip across the Atlantic.

Alice writes, "Mar 18th
It rained and was quite cool. Wrote letters and sent postal cards. Met an interesting lady who told us about Paris & London. Jessie is feeling fine & we are having lots of fun. Had loquats for dinner. They grow at Madeira Island. Went to bed early. There was a fancy dress party and some of the costumes were fine. (can't read words) dressed as children, their costumes made out of newspapers won first prize. Slept well"


Alice does not seem to have brought along a camera on her trip abroad in 1929. In order to remember the places visited she purchased postal cards and assiduously wrote the dates on the backs of each city or site she visited.

"Mar 19th
We awakened to find ourselves nearing Gibraltar. Had an early breakfast. Bought extra tickets to go over by tender to Algeciras, Spain - where we spent the morning and had lunch at the Reina Christina. Did not like the Spanish cooking. Met ... West's friends. The streets were made of cobble stones & there was poverty everywhere. Went over to Gibraltar & took auto to galleries where we climbed 500 feet to see the view. It was wonderful. Saw public gardens. Shopped. Bought kimona & perfume. Returned to ship tired and slept like a top."


"Mar 20th
The morning was lovely & the Mediterranean looked very blue. I wrote letters for an hour. Walked on deck with Jessie. Afternoon rested in deck chairs. In the Eve had a game of bridge & at 9 o'clock went down to listen to Mr. Spellman give a splendid lecture on the interesting cities we were to visit. We are all keen over the prospect of seeing Algiers in the morning. Slept fairly well."


Hotel St. George, Algiers

"Mar 21st
Awakened to find ourselves entering the harbour of Algiers. The city is very oriental in appearance. The city is built on a hill site & the buildings are white with red tiled roofs. Dirt predominates. I saw Arabs, Bedouins & Jews & French all huddled together. The poorer section has very narrow streets & they are very steep. The poor are lying in the streets. We visited a weaving establishment, saw little girls 5 yrs old at work. Had dinner at the St. George Hotel, very fine. Beautiful gardens. Had special guide for the day, the weather was pleasant. Bought nothing, everybody well.

Mar 22nd
Had lovely quiet day on shipboard. The Mediterranean Sea was shafire (sic) blue & very beautiful. The sunset was magnificent and at night there was a full moon. Have met some charming people on board. Many are on a long cruise to Egypt & the Holy Land."


Monte Carlo

"Mar 23rd
Monaco & Monte Carlo
It was a beautiful day. We landed on Monaco by tender where autos were on hand to take us on the Corniche Dr. A most beautiful roadway built by Napoleon - Fruit trees were in bloom & the view was very wonderful. We drove to Nice where we had luncheon at the Majestic Hotel. Very fine. Mrs. Silver unexpectedly met a friend (Miss Murray) on the street. We returned to Monte Carlo & visited the Casino where we tried our luck & lost. We all had a lovely day.

Mar 24th
On board the Laurentic
A lovely bright warm day and so calm. Passed Elba Island, Monte Cristo & Corsica.
Attended Episcopal service in Lounge Room. Captain French & Mr. Parton read the service & orchestra did the music. Lounged in the aft. Packed our bags & had a great time settling our tips. For a time thought I had lost some Am. Ex. checks. It was only a scare. Talked with Mrs. Curtis of St. Louis, Mrs. Tucker of Witchaws (hard to read) & Mrs. Treadwell of Chicago. They are all continuing the cruise to the H. Land."


"Mar 25th
Arrived at 7am. Left ship at 9 o'clock. Am. Ex. man took charge of baggage & soon we arrived at Hotel Vesuve. Had large spacious rooms over looking the quay. First walked to Am. Ex. office . No letter no cable. Returned via the park & visited the Aquarium & saw octopus & every kind of sea life. Was amused watching children & nurse maids. Had luncheon at Hotel & shopped. Called on Mr. Sapio. Bought tortoise shell vanity box. Had lots of fun on the street with natives. Came back to hotel for dinner."




"Mar 26th
Left at 9AM in auto with private guide Mr. Gallo. He was patient, attentive & kind. Drove through the valley & up the mountains 3,000 feet to Revello (sic) for lunch at Carrisos Hotel. Met travellers from the Laurentic. Had clear day and saw the Mediterranean in all its beauty. Drove in sight of it all aft. visiting Amalfi & arrived at Sorrento at 3:30. Visited some shops & bought dress for Nancy. When at Revello we went into the old church & saw the wonderful mosaic pulpit. Arrived at Hotel Vesuve in time for dinner. Saw Judge Clark & where we had lunch the manager recognized me having seen me at the Waldorf. He was in the Palm Room for years."

We'll leave Alice and her friends in Sorrento... next stop Pompeii!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

On The Laurentic

Alice and her fellow travelers spent four days on the Laurentic before finally arriving in Madeira on March 17th. They passed their days writing letters and playing cards, taking walks on deck and visiting with others on the ship. When they arrived in Madeira the day-trip was canceled because the seas were too rough for boats to go ashore. 

Alice T. Miner, Sylvia Silver, Laura Haynes, Jessica Johnson
and the guide who showed them around Rome, Achille Renzi

Alice writes, "Mar 12th   Wrote letters. It is still very cold with flurries of snow in the air. The sea is a bit rougher but Sylvia (Mrs. Silver) & I enjoyed a brisk walk on deck. Met Mrs. Ernest Wheeler & daughter. They recognized me. Mr. & Mrs. Treadwell are on board, friends of Dr. Hopkins. They are very pleasant. Mrs. Johnson (Jessica) in stateroom all day. Mrs. H, Mrs. S, & I have not known a sick minute. The sea was rough during the night."

S.S. Laurentic postcard

"Mar 13th   Slept well. Awakened to find it 12 degrees warmer - temp 51 degrees. The morning was spent writing letters & sitting out on deck. All are feeling in fine spirits. Had afternoon tea & came in & dressed for dinner. Mrs. Tucker asked us to join in the card game. I accepted the invitation & enjoyed the game. Retired at 11PM. It is getting warmer.

Menu from the Laurentic sister-ship the S.S. Megantic

Mar 14th   The sea was very rough. Mrs. S, Mrs. H and I never had a qualm. It was hard to navigate but the Sea was grand & we enjoyed the experience. Mrs. Johnson is keeping quiet. Went to bed early and slept splendidly. A French singer in stateroom nearby is demented & often burst out singing. She was taken to the hospital."

First class passengers like Alice Miner and friends were treated to great luxury on the White Star Line ships. The White Star Line worked hard to overcome the tragedies of the Titanic and the sinking of two from the fleet during WWI (including the first ship named Laurentic, built in 1908). The Laurentic, built in 1927, was their first ship of distinction in the re-born fleet, signaling a modernization of the White Star Line ships. She sported the new spoon-shaped stern which would later be seen on the Queens and other famous vessels. The Laurentic weighed in at 18,724 tons, sported two funnels, two masts, three screws and could travel at a speed of up to 16 knots. There were accommodations for 594 cabin class, 406 tourist class and 500 third class passengers.

Alice writes, "15th   Had bath at 7A.M. every morning. Wrote letters. Sat in deck chairs in company with Jessica (Jessie), Laura & Sylvia. Played bridge with Mrs. Hester, Mrs. Tucker & Miss - Had poor score. Retired early, slept well.

Mar 16th   The sea was calm. Wrote letters all morning. Mailed 23 letters. Jessie feeling fine & is preparing for tomorrows outing at Madeira. We are the first to go ashore. Leave our ship at 9A.M. To bed early.

Postcard of Madeira

Mar 17th   Madeira   Got up early. Breakfasted at 7 o'clock. Expected to land on the Island at 9. The approach is lovely. Houses of many colors dotted the mountain sides. The sea was too rough to land. We spent the day on the deck watching natives who came over in small boats. Young boys dived for money. Flower and linen vendors came on board. Had lots of fun. Bought Madeira square for table doilies, etc. It was all very strange but wonderful. Did not sleep so well.

Postcard of Madeira

Perhaps the excitement was too much for Alice... it must have been rather circus-like to have so many visitors from the island after their quiet days on ship. This is just the beginning of the European experiences. I'll be back with more soon!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Journey With Alice

In honor of the 150th year since Alice T. Miner's birth I will take you along on her trip to Europe... Embarked upon on March 9, 1929 and recorded in a pocket-sized leather journal with "My Trip Abroad" and "A.T.M." embossed on the cover. Tucked in the journal is a small envelope (about 1.5 x 2.5 inches) with "Valentine Greetings" in gold, gothic font on the front... Inside the envelope is William's calling card... Perhaps the journal was his Valentine's Day gift to his Heart's Delight?

Alice and three friends traveled from New York City on the White Star Line for a Mediterranean cruise. Their ship was the S.S. Laurentic - an 18,000 ton ocean liner built in 1927 and powered by coal. Alice writes,
"Mar 9, 1929
Left New York in company with Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Haynes & Mrs. Silver for cruise on Mediterranean. The day was fine but cold. We met in the Waldorf Fri & sailed Sat. Mar. 9 having spent a very happy time in the City together. Will, Mr. Johnson & Mrs. Clapp were on hand to see us off. Flowers, fruit, telegrams & letters kept us busy for a long time. We were a happy crowd."

Not long after she took this trip Alice experienced great tragedy and change in her life, and in the lives of those she knew. October 1929 the stock market crash occurred... and in April 1930 her husband Will died suddenly while undergoing elective surgery at Physicians' Hospital in Plattsburgh. For these three months on her journey she experienced no hardship, but for missing her dear Will.

Mar 9th 1929
Left New York at noon in company with Mrs. Johnson, Haynes and Silver. Will was at boat to see us off. The day was clear but cold. Our flowers were beautiful. The Am. Ex. Co. had reserved nice table in dining room. Service fine - had brisk walk on deck in aft - Wrote letters & retired early Slept well.

The Waldorf in New York City

The ladies apparently did most (if not all) of their planning through the American Express Company, including reservations for lodging and even tour guides in the various sites they visited. Alice was 65 years old and interested in objects to collect for her museum, and in the historical sites and churches they would visit. This was not her first trip to Europe as evidenced by her comments later in the journal.

The White Star Line docks in New York City

The Plattsburgh Republican reports, "A party of North Country people, consisting of Mrs. Corydon S. Johnson, Mrs. Cassius D. Silver and Mrs. Irving S. Haynes of Plattsburgh, and Mrs. W.H. Miner of Chazy and Chicago, are leaving today for New York whence they will sail tomorrow on the S.S. Berengaria for France. They will be gone for two months." These ladies were all prominent local citizens married to - Dr. Cassius Silver... the beloved doctor of Alice and William Miner and the man who inspired them to build Physicians' Hospital... Corydon Johnson - a local politician and Irving Haynes - also a Plattsburgh doctor. Clearly the newspaper did not have the right ship name.

Mar 10th
Awakened feeling quite refreshed. All four ladies enjoyed the morning on deck - It is bitter cold. Arrived in Boston at 1:30 P.M. - Took passengers aboard stayed an hour and then started on our long voyage - Wrote and mailed Jim (perhaps her brother) a letter in Boston. The quartette had our first pleasant, chatty aft together. Retired at 9 P.M.

We'll catch up with Alice and her friends in a later post...