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30 Days of '37: From Coast to Coast (Almost)

On a perfect day in June 1937, Mrs F. W. Stone and her family left Ashtabula, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie and set out by air conditioned Pullman coach for California. Originally the trip was designed to visit a sister, who had long been neglected, but it was also a chance to really ‘see’ the West. As she put it, “For some reason American people do not take trips to see their own country in the same way they take European trips. They will go to the West to visit a friend or relative, spend two or three weeks with them, come back and apparently have not seen much of the country.” The party were determined that the trip would therefore primarily be a sightseeing one, with dad in charge of the cash, mum advising on the itinerary and Rachael documenting the trip in Kodak. These are, incidentally, interspersed throughout, along with postcards and other ephemera.

Mother and Martha, Dad and Rachael as Santa Fe Grand Canyon Limited Passengers. Copyright of this material is retained by the content creators. Loyola University New Orleans does not claim to hold any copyrights to these materials. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. To see this document, click the image above.

Although designed by the family, the trip itself, (railway tickets, hotels, transfers and sightseeing) was booked through a railway agent, turning it into a package tour with every comfort taken care of. As the scenery rolled by and they passed Cleveland, Chicago and San Francisco, they were thrilled by setting their watches back and forwards as they crossed the different time zones – a novelty undertaken no less than three times during the journey. At strategic points, the train would stop to allow the passengers to take in specific sites and the party spent a day at the Grand Canyon, admiring its beauty, as well as in several cities to shop or visit attractions. 

What is fascinating within this particular travel journal is how the passengers perceived and interacted with the different communities they visited and how American Indian, Chinese and Mexican communities (to name but a few) became spectacles to be gawped at. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Navajo Indians sold traditional crafts to tourists, while children encouraged them to take photographs. The picture below, taken on Rachael’s Kodak, shows Hopi Indians performing in traditional dress to a crowd of onlookers. We are told that the residents of Santa Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles, also dressed specifically for the tourist crowds, whilst the Mexicans in Los Angeles “… acted Mexican …” (!?)

Grand Canyon Hopi Indians. Copyright of this material is retained by the content creators. Loyola University New Orleans does not claim to hold any copyrights to these materials. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. To see this document, click the image above.

The reader also gains an insight into the punishing schedule of the African American Pullman porters. “We were somewhat surprised when we saw Celestial, our porter … taking in the scenery at the [Grand] Canyon brink. He told us that the Pullman conductor had given him permission to lock up the car and take the day off. We were glad that he was able to do this because his run from Chicago to Los Angeles is a long one. Sixty hours of continuous duty, 2,500 miles of riding, during which time he is subject to the call of every person in his car, besides having a lot of work to do, such as keeping his car clean, making up the berths, etc.”


Celestial. Pullman Porter. Copyright of this material is retained by the content creators. Loyola University New Orleans does not claim to hold any copyrights to these materials. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. To see this document, click the image above.

Another interesting relationship highlighted by this journal is that between the tourists and the natural landscape around them. In Yellowstone National Park, we are given several stark reminders of the power of nature and what happens when we disrespect it. In the days before sunscreen became readily accessible “many people wore a sort of paper shield on their nose, other ones purchased a mask something like the false faces used at Halloween time.” The writer goes on to say: “There was a bride and groom on our bus. The bride had beautiful arms, knew it, and did not object to other people knowing it. Next day she realised she would have been better off if she had covered them up. They were blistered so badly that she had to have them bandaged.” A cautionary tale indeed!

While staying at the Old Faithful Inn, further tales of woe emerge. “That the hot springs are really hot was made plain to us by the plight of a young girl who had stuck her foot into the spring to find out. The hot water filled her shoe, scalding her foot so that she was hobbling around with a crutch.” Bemused, she adds “Strange what chances people will take.”

30 Days of ’37, from the Anthony Stanonis Travel Scrapbook and Diary Collection at the J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans is a detailed account of a journey passing through 17 states and covering over 9,000 miles, including some of America’s most famous natural and man-made wonders. It is a fantastic example of the eyewitness accounts available for research in History of Mass Tourism.

Join Professor Anthony Stanonis on 22 June for Adam Matthew’s free webinar on History of Mass Tourism. Sign up here: www.amdigital.co.uk/m-products/product/history-of-mass-tourism/webinar/

History of Mass Tourism is available now. For more information, including free trial access and price enquiries, please email us at info@amdigital.co.uk.

All of the documents used in this blog will be available to access for 30 days.





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