Aunt Ray's Trip to Europe

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Rachel Brewer Halsey's diary

"My Trip Abroad"

June 8th 1914 - July 30th 1914

mytripJune 8th 1914 - July 30th 1914 covers the last few peaceful weeks in Europe immediately before, and during the period when WWI broke out. In her diary, she sends a "marconi gram," observes "sub marines," notes the presence of 7,000 troops in Potsdam, and the excitement just prior to the outbreak of war. Unfortunately she ends the journal abruptly on July 30th 1914, with "War! So endeth the diary".

She was a 44 year-old Victorian lady at the time, who had started her trip on the S.S. New Amsterdam, Holland American Line, from Hoboken, N.J. with seven other ladies and a guide/chaperone.

European Tour June - September 1914

Members of the Party

Baker, Miss Marie K.W.

Chew, Miss Hanna H.

Dutton, Miss Jennie M.

Goddard, Mrs. Henry H.

Halsey, Mrs. John S.

Litchtenberger, Miss Muriel

McCracken, Miss Portia B.

Schmucker, Miss Dorothy M.

Weaver, Miss Annie I.

(Mrs. Henry H. Goddard was the tour leader and chaperone).


Steamship to Holland

June 8, 1914

Vineland, NJ - S.S. New Amsterdam, Holland American Line >

Left home at 10.38 - did some shopping in Philadelphia, and had an abstemious lunch! at Kuglers with a hurried dash of four minutes to catch the 2 o'clock train for N.Y., reaching there at 4 pm. Met Dr. & Mrs. Goddard and went to their room at the McAlpine. We took dinner at Martinique, had a ride on 5th Ave, and went to Ziegfield's Follies at New Amsterdam Theatre. We left at ten o'clock reaching the Hoboken & Holland American liner, New Amsterdam, at about 10.30. Dr. Halsey (note: her husband John) left about twelve, and shortly afterwards I retired to our very small state - having for roommates Miss Chew of Millville NJ, and Miss Jennie Dutton of Vineland.



June 9, 1914

Place: Steamship New Amsterdam. To 12 noon travelled 109 miles.

Slept soundly - rising at 8 o'clock. Had an invigorating salt bath. Just a trifle rough today and Jennie, Muriel, and Portia suffered from mal de mer. Slept, read, and wrote letters - bridge and a fine concert in the evening and bed at ten o'clock.



June 10, 1914

Place: S.S. New Amsterdam From 5/9/12 m to 5/10/12 m 375

The most perfect day imaginable. Much warmer than yesterday. Met chief engineer Sauer who sits at our table - a fat Hollander who lives at The Hague. Saw the boat drill in the morning from the boat deck. Saw a one-stack steamer pass in the far distance - too far to know what it was. Met Mr. Bernbaum of NY- a rather interesting widower who loved to talk about himself - he had crossed the ocean 84 times and told some great sea yarns. Dance in the evening which I enjoyed looking on - two especially pretty dancers.




June 11, 1914

Place: S.S. New Amsterdam. Weather perfect but warm

Sent a marconi gram home - the wireless man said the message would be sent at about 9 o'clock. Charge 36 cents per word including address and signature. Walked a great deal and felt better for the exercise. Read "Fannie's First Play" but cared little for it. By the way, the actor who took the part of Bobbie in the NY production is on board - a very sleek dapper-looking young man who keeps very much to himself. In the evening we had a vaudeville performance in our stateroom. Mrs. Goddard as "Sweet Sixteen" - Baker a "Sis Hopkins" and Litchtenberger as "Naughty Tommy" - lots of fun and merriment. Refreshments - angel food cake and fruit. From 12 m -10 to 12 m 11 - 394 miles.

June 12, 1914

Place: S.S. New Amsterdam. Weather the same.

Visited 2nd Cabin which we found very neat and clean tho' not quite so ornamental as 1st - or so large - some very nice-looking people - lots of foreigners - and children. We peeked into the engine room and kitchen - I pity the poor stokers, who, our source of information the chief engineer tells us, are ten in number. The kitchen was not very inviting, but as it was Friday, the chef and his assistants might be pardoned for the soiled linen. Saw some turkeys which looked much better when cooked and on the table. From 2nd deck of 2nd cabin we could look down on the steerage passengers who seemed the gayest of the gay - "playing tug-of-war" - both men and women. Was a trifle glad to return altho' I feel if I could not go otherwise, I would be glad to go 2nd cabin.

In the afternoon about 2.30, was delighted to receive an answer from my wireless - "Message received. All well- J." (note: Mrs. Halsey's husband). I felt quite important seeing it was the first marconi gram of my life! McCracken sang for us before dinner. After dinner we played bridge - there was no concert by the orchestra in the evening, as they were playing for the dance in 2nd cabin. Met Dr. and Mrs. C. Lee Graber of Cleveland - their stateroom is opposite to ours. He is a distinguished-looking man and full of fun and his wife is very pleasant.



June 13, 1914

Place: S.S. New Amsterdam From 5/12 to 5/13 12 m 386 m.

Weather still finer if possible. The Augusta Victoria (Kisarina) caught up to us and passed us at about eleven o'clock. She has 2 funnels and one more deck than we, and travels about 19 miles an hour - 3 miles faster than we. They passed very near to us - possibly only a thousand feet - which created quite an excitement - waving and cheering. In the afternoon we saw another vessel in the dim distance, but could not make out what it was. Wrote letters in between time. About 5 we saw a school of porpoises. One old gent told me in very broken English that it presaged a storm. Dance in the evening.



June 14, 1914

Place: S.S. New Amsterdam From 5/13 12 m to 5/14/12 m 387 miles.

Another glorious day. Last night I think it rained a little. The ocean is like a millpond. Went to church this morning - Dr. Adams Brown of the Union Theological Seminary NYC conducted the services - something like the Episcopal - and made an address - took up collection for widows and orphans of Dutch sailors. Fog came up in the evening, and the foghorn raised its voice for the first time. The fog soon raised and left the atmosphere much clearer, and cooler to the extent of six degrees. Had tea in tea room.



June 15, 1914

From 5/14 to 5/15 378 miles.

Overslept and missed the 10 o'clock engagement to visit the engine rooms - but find we can go tonight at 8 o'clock. Passed a large 2 stack steamer about a mile distant, said to be the American liner S.S. Philadelphia - the boat on which we sail for home. Baker, Schmucker, and Litchtenberger took photos. Wrote industriously after lunch to be ready for mailing at Plymouth. (note: Mrs. Halsey changed here from pencil to pen). Invested in a pen and feel much time will be saved. Went to the engine room and saw what powerful machinery it takes to run a boat - 42 immense furnaces. We were 20 ft underwater and there was still 15 feet more of boat. Found it not so hot as I had anticipated as great blasts of cold air were being driven in. The boat has its own electric light and refrigerating plant. Dance in the evening.



June 16, 1914

From 5/15 to 5/16 m 330 miles.

It was very foggy during the night of the 15th. The foghorn blew constantly, and towards morning vessel stopped to locate vessel which it heard in the distance. Was rather alarmed, but in about 3 minutes we started on O.K.

Today the ocean is more like glass than ever. Sighted a 3 masted square-rigger brigantine? a rather unusual sight for me - also more dolphins. Dr. Graber took pictures just as we struck a heavy fog, and the foghorn is booming again. Played shuffleboard with Portia - who beat me most terribly - but will try and get my revenge later. In the evening we dressed in our prettiest and had a dinner party with Mrs. Goddard as hostess with a most delightful menu - especially the ice cream - a pink strawberry in the center - with whipped cream and white of egg.



June 17, 1914

5/16 to 5/17 352 miles - Land sighted.

Was called at 4 o'clock and went up on boat deck to see the sunrise - the moon was shining too - a very pretty sight, but it didn't beat Fortescue (note: place in N.J. where they had a summer house) one bit. Went back to bed but slept late. The next excitement was the first real sight of land - the English coast with its lovely green hills and white cliffs - a little fishing hamlet and military barracks. Saw ships - long narrow black ones - throwing torpedoes into the water which would travel underwater for several hundred feet and then explode. At the entrance to Plymouth harbor there was a long narrow strip of land with a lighthouse at each end and a queer cheese-box affair in the center which we could not decide what it was. Saw torpedos or sub marines travelling underwater - very fast - about 30 miles per hr. I was told. Then the fog shut down on us just after we had waved farewell to the passengers for London on the Sir Francis Drake - and we saw nothing more until sunset. We travelled very slowly - often stopping to locate other boats. There was a beautiful sunset and we saw The Isle of Wight at about 8 o'clock, and the little flashlight lighthouse, then all was fog again.

Played bridge in the afternoon with a very aggressive Miss Smith of Charleston SC., but was so sleepy I played terribly. Went to bed, but it took me a long time to get to sleep.



June 18, 1914

Arrival at Rotterdam, Holland - The Hague

Was awakened by the arrival of the tender to take off the passengers for Boulogne, which was most unexpected as we were five miles out. This was done to save time as we had been delayed by the fog, so I did not see the departure. Wrote an anniversary (18th) to Jack.

Had a great time feeing stewards and stewardesses in the morning. Your table steward $2.50, room steward $1.50, room stewardess $1.50, deck steward 50 cents, door boy and morning lady 25 cents. At luncheon they drank my anniversary.

At lunch we caught sight of the Belgium coast, and at about three sighted the Hook of Holland, where we saw our first dykes - and how funny the houses looked, with only the tops showing over the dykes as we started up the river Maas - such a very small river for such large steamers to enter - we drawing 35 ft of water. We passed miles of low meadowland in a high state of cultivation. Saw a great many cattle and some sheep - mostly Holstein cattle. We passed by the small city of Flissingen where they manufacture a great deal of gin, and finally came to the dock - (2 hrs from the Hook) - in Rotterdam. The landing was most interesting. The inlanding of trunks was rather slow - entirely by hand - excepting the steerage baggage which was done by derrick into a small tender. I experienced my second feeling of homesickness when I saw all the friends meeting and not a face to greet us. We were passed by the custom officers as passengers without baggage (having only suitcases) and were soon in small carriages drawn by small horses on our way to the station bound for "Den Hague". Boats, boats, bridges without end, and canals everywhere, and a windmill right in the center of the town - I've forgotten the windmills in great numbers seen when coming up the river. The buildings in Rotterdam are very low, and on the highest building what should we see but a sign, "Quaker Oats". The streets were narrow and in the busy part of town the drays took the center of the road. It was strange to see a most up-to-date bicycle delivery cart and next to see a dog cart. The dogs were fastened hind part to cart and travelled underneath. Took tram (2nd class) in the queerest little compartment, and after about a 3/4hour trip reached The Hague, Hotel Bellevue - a very nice hotel with a deer park just opposite. Took a walk thru' the very narrow streets and narrower sidewalks. Coat of arms of The Hague is the stork. The stores are filled with filigree silver, potteries, and Delft china. We were surprised to find it light until nearly nine o'clock.

Went to our rooms and were writing up our diaries, when Mrs. Goddard brought me a bunch of 18 pink roses - simply gorgeous - for my anniversary - the 18th - so dear of her - and I did appreciate it.


Last Updated ( Thursday, 05 October 2017 15:30 )