October 1903 – Italy


​It is now October 1903 and Marjorie has just spent an idyllic month in Venice — visiting churches, art museums, palaces, a glass factory, and a lace factory.  She spent a day at the Lido and took daily walks to St. Mark’s Square where she never tired of gazing at the glorious façade of the Cathedral of San Marco.  She loved exploring the city, getting lost in the narrow, warren-like streets, or gazing awe-struck from a gondola as she lay back on the cushioned seat listening to the “dip…dip” of the oars, and the beautiful arias sung by the gondoliers. At the end of September Marjorie, Dorothy, Gertrude, and Miss Macartnay “…had a most mournful last gondola ride down to the station and took the 2.30 o’clock train for Milan.”

​The train from Venice passed through Padua, Verona, Vicenza, and Brecchia, arriving in Milan in the evening.  The next day was delightfully clear and sunny, so they decided to take a trip to Lake Como while the weather was good.  They arrived at the town of Como just before noon, and immediately boarded a boat to take them up the Lake. The glorious fall weather enhanced the colors of the water, the surrounding hills, and the gardens of the villas along the lakeside:  “The vines that covered the Italian villas had all turned red and shone so exquisitely in the sun.  Each shore of the lake was terraced and crowded with grape vines, gracefully twined —and the grey green of the olive was seen everywhere.  It was a perfect day with the blue sky reflected in the water, and vines so red, and the villas so bright and picturesque in the sunlight,” wrote Marjorie to her mother. Their destination was Bellagio, a charming little town on a point of land between Lakes Como and Secco.  They left the boat and wandered around among the roses and oleanders, walking through the quaint arcade, “where everything imaginable is for sale, from roast chestnuts to real shell combs and brushes.” They climbed the cobble-stone path leading from the town up the hillside to the silk factory where they watched the workers making scarves and blankets.

​Back in Milan they visited the museums and churches, and particularly enjoyed the Cathedral: “It is wonderful.  All white and glistening outside, with hundreds of carved Gothic spires.” They shopped in the famous “Galleria” and had hotchocolate at the celebrated restaurant “Biffis.”

​The next stop was Genoa, a flourishing seaport where the town is built on a semicircle of hills surrounding the harbor, the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.  They stayed overnight at the Hotel Savoie, and then took the train to Pisa. They drove straight to the “…wonderful group of buildings —the Cathedral, baptistery, Campo Santo and Leaning Tower.  I am so glad we saw them first by evening —for the marble turned yellow with age was so exquisite against the sunset sky. The great dome of the baptistery with the rose colored clouds behind it, I think I shall never forget.”

The Basilica and Tower, Pisa

The Basilica and Tower, Pisa

​Marjorie was fascinated with the enormous bronze lamp that hangs in the Basilica whose swinging (so slight that you can hardly notice it) gave Galilieo the idea of the pendulum and the earth’s motion.

​On to Siena!  “One of the very red letter days.  Siena is the most fascinating Italian town – the streets so tiny and winding and all up and down hill, and the houses are old and so interesting.  The city is built on three hills, and in the very centre is a square or campo where all three meet.” They studied the della Robbias, commenting on and comparing the work of the father, son, and nephew. They left Siena reluctantly, “…but even on the train we didn’t quite lose our memories of a delightful time for we had one of the famous cakes called ‘Panforte di Siena’ as a delicious reminder.”

​A four-hour train journey took them to Florence, a city Marjorie would return to many times.  They took rooms at the Hotel de la Ville on Piazza Manin with views of the River Arno and its graceful bridges.

Hotel de la Ville, Florence, 1903

Hotel de la Ville, Florence, 1903

Here they studied the Medicis, and visited the Uffizi Gallery several times to see the del Sartos, Botticellis, Peruginos, andFra Angelicos.  They shopped on the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), “…with shops on each side and a streetway in the middle – the shops are so gay, pinks and blues and yellows, and there’s a lovely open portico in the centre where you can look up and down the river and see the city as if it were in a frame. At the Pitti Palace they saw Raphaels and Titians, and at the Santa Maria Novella the exquisite Cimabues.  They went to Michael Angelo’s house and saw his desk and chair and many of his great statues; then Dante’s tiny home, (one room full of relics of his life, and the chair he sat in while writing the “Inferno.”) They visited the Convent of San Marco to see the frescoes by Fra Angelico, and the Bella Arti to see Michael Angelo’s famous statue of David.  They rode out into the country – to Fiesole, San Miniato, Prato, and Poggio a Caiano.  Every day, after their exhausting sightseeing, they went toGiacosa’s Tea Room, still in business today on the Via dellaSpada.

Giacosa’s Tea Room, Florence, 1903

Giacosa’s Tea Room, Florence, 1903

​With their time in Florence running out, Marjorie took a quick trip to Perugia, Assisi, and Orvieto.  She would have liked to stay in Florence longer, but by the end of October she was looking forward to the next part of the tour – two months in Rome.  They had applied for tickets to the Vatican to attend the first Consistory on November 12th.  Pope Pius X (who was himself later canonized) had called the assembly of Roman Catholic Cardinals to witness the canonization of a new Saint.

​The November issue of “Notes from the Archives” will be a tour of Rome, through Marjorie’s letters, including the extraordinary experience of attending the Consistory.


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Marjorie’s European Tour, 1903-1904

Taken from letters to her mother, Bessie

In early September, Marjorie’s train steamed into Berlin where the temperature was 100 degrees in the shade.  It was debilitating after the freshness of Norway, and Marjorie wrote that they were all “mighty crochety.”  But, short tempers notwithstanding, they set out immediately to tour Berlin, going through the Brandenburg Gate to the Thiergarten, a fascinating street lined with statues, and ending in the Monument to Victory.

Marjorie's Postcard of the Brandenburg Gate

Marjorie’s postcard of the Brandenburg Gate, 1903

Other highlights in Berlin were Kroll’s Theater where they drank beer, (“I’m trying to like the horrid stuff!”) and a day at the Hohenzollern Museum and the Old Museum where they saw paintings by Van Eyck, Velasquez, and Murillo.  Marjorie purchased postcards of all her favorite paintings and sent them home to Bessie.   She celebrated her twentieth birthday in Berlin with cables and letters from home and the promise of a string of pearls that she could choose for herself when they arrived in Italy.

On a day trip to Potsdam they toured the palaces of the different German monarchs.  Their favorite garden was the “Orangerie,”  where they walked up the terraces to the summer palace, past fountains, trees, and arbors, until they came to “Sanssouci”, the preferred palace of Frederick the Great.

 Marjorie’s postcard of the terraces at Sanssouci, 1903

Marjorie’s postcard of the terraces at Sanssouci, 1903

Next they spent two days in Dresden (“a charming little city”) where they stayed at Weber’s Hotel and attended ‘The Flying Dutchman’ at the Opera House.

     Marjorie’s postcard of the Opera House in Dresden, 1903

They went to the King’s Palace where they saw a collection of “bronze, ivory, amber, coral, shell, silver, gold, and the most wonderful jewels you can imagine, a green diamond weighing 5 ½ ounces!  It is believed to be the richest collection in Europe.”  But the most impressive experience for Marjorie was her visit to the Art Museum in Dresden to see the “Sistine Madonna” painted in 1513 by Raphael:  “She is wonderful, so calm and serene and yet seeming to see and know everything.  And the little cherubs do look so human – mischievous in contrast to the Christ Child.”

 The Sistine Madonna, Dresden

The Sistine Madonna, Dresden

The next step of the journey was a train ride to Salzburg in Austria where they visited Mozart’s birthplace and saw scores and programs of his operas.  In contrast, the following day they left the city for a tour of a salt mine in the hills outside of Salzburg.  As they drove out of the town in the fresh morning light they said they could see why people called Salzburg one of the three most beautiful cities of Europe.  “As we rose higher and higher we looked at it from the distance, and the rambling old houses clustered so picturesquely below.”  They passed snow capped mountains on their way to Berchtesgaden and the disused salt mine.  At the entrance to the mine they were required to put on “blue and black knitted caps, black alpaca redingotes, and duck trousers!”  The visit began with a walk along a dark underground passageway, carrying wooden lamps in their hands, and getting a good view of the sparkling salt imbedded in the dark rock.  They finally came to a chute where, three or four at a time, they sat down on the smooth, steep plane, and slid with the aid of little leather aprons fastened to their belts.  “It was the most exciting toboggan slide I ever had, and such fun … I had to slide, wildly clutching the man in front of me!  Then we went across a great black lake in an equally black and gruesome rowboat.  Then we went down another slide – this time I hung onto Gertrude!  We ended up with a breathless ride, downhill and around curves and finally out into the open air again – right in the middle of the little town, and all sitting astride of a ‘bob sled’ on wheels!”

 Marjorie’s postcard of the Salt Mine in Salzburg, 1903

Marjorie’s postcard of the Salt Mine in Salzburg, 1903

 From there they crossed into Bavaria to see King’s Lake.  They admired the picturesque boats and the people in Tyrolese costumes, and Marjorie was fascinated by the hundreds of shrines along the road where accidents had taken place.  Many of them had pictures of the mishap – “a man flying head downward into a chasm, or lying with a huge stone on top of him.”  They reached their hotel, safely, at 8pm after a long but happy day.

Back in Salzburg, Marjorie and Dorothy were overjoyed to find that they were to have a visit from Dorothy’s father, Frank Pardee.  They proudly took him around Salzburg, and the next day Frank hired a car and driver to take them all to Konigesee.  It was the first time Marjorie had been in an automobile, and she found the experience exhilarating:  “It was great fun.  We simply flew along, and so smoothly.  A fine way to see the country, and the weather was perfect too.  It was an ideal ride – up and down dale with splendid views of the mountains and snow.  Coming home, I never went so fast in all my life – around all the curves on two wheels.  We made the trip in 1 hour and 5 minutes – in a carriage it takes 3 hours!”

            Another day they took a beautiful train ride up mountains and around lakes, to the bathing resort of Ischl, and then a steam boat to Hallstadt.  This was followed by a visit to the “Three Lakes”, Gundlsee, Toplitzsee, and Kammersee, where “The water was clearer than any I have seen and fairly glistening with reflections from the beautiful green mountains around.  It was exquisite.”

 Marjorie’s postcard from Ischl, 1903Marjorie’s postcard from Ischl, 1903

             Too soon, their visit to Salzburg came to an end and they took a five-hour train ride to Vienna.  “This is a fine city, great wide streets and so much to see.  It is gay like Paris, only more so, and everything goes with a rush – even the cabs tear around the streets as if on the lookout for excitement,” wrote Marjorie.  Around this time, Bessie began to miss her older daughter and suggested that she should think about returning in November.  However, Marjorie wrote back immediately saying “I have just gotten your letter suggesting that I come home … How I should love to see you and all, but I really think I had better stay.  I think I will stay until March.  I know I shall weep all Christmas day, still I think I would be foolish to come home.”  That settled, she spent the next few days shopping for new clothes.  She found this dull entertainment,  buying hats and gloves from the department stores, and standing for hours for dress and suit fittings at Drecoll’s, the famous Viennese fashion house founded by Baron Christoff von Drecoll in 1896.  After several days, she wrote “Just think how long we have been in beautiful Vienna and seen nothing but stupid suits and things!”  But then they were rewarded for their patience, for they heard that the Czar of Russia was arriving in Vienna to meet the Kaiser.  They witnessed the whole procession from a hotel window.  “Presently the Kaiser came along on his way to the station – dressed in a grey Russian uniform with the cape and round Russian cap, and the band played “Glorious things of Thee are spoken”.  At 11.30 they returned with the Czar in Austrian uniform sitting on Franz Joseph’s right and all the fierce-looking Russian Guards following.  The Royal carriage was very stunning – fine horses, brilliantly caparisoned, and equerries on each of the two near ones. The Kaiser and Czar are both such very handsome men … “

On Thursday the first of October they went to the Historical Museum where they saw specimens of different kinds of stone and marble – one from Rhode Island, and another from Connecticut.  They went to the Kaiser’s Palace where they saw the crown jewels and the richest, most beautiful collection they had seen.  On their last day they visited the beautiful gardens of the Kaiser’s summer house, full of fountains, shady walks, and curious old ruins.  They were to spend the next two months in Italy.

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At the end of July Marjorie left England by boat from Newcastle, sailing overnight to Bergen in Norway.  The party of four – Marjorie, her cousin Dorothy, her friend Gertrude, and their chaperone/guide Helen Macartnay – spent the next few days traveling north and east by train, steamer, and horse-driven carriages called stolk-jaerres, gradually making their way towards the glaciers of northern Norway.  Their first destination was Vaatedaleu where they stayed at the Hotel Egge, “a dear little Hotel where we are treated with almost overwhelming politeness.  I have just finished breakfast – a good sized fish, a boiled egg, a cup of coffee and a rather queer three-cornered flapjack – and I wouldn’t like to say how many pieces of toast!  Doesn’t that speak well for Norway air!  Oh, Mother, I know you would love it here.”   A few days later they were in Stalheim where Marjorie described the views as the finest, most inspiring, and grandest she had even seen.  They set off for beautiful walks past waterfalls with rainbow-tinted spray, and took drives in stolk-jaerres to see the countryside that was covered in harebells, buttercups, daisies, and Johnny jump-ups; and forests full of silver white birches, fir, and juniper.  The lakes were especially beautiful, and Marjorie marveled at the little cottages, their grass roofs with heather or harebells growing in them.

Post-card from Marjorie to Bessie, 1903, showing the stolk-jaerres               

As they traveled north towards the glaciers the weather became much colder.  For the next week they crossed fjords and visited a different glacier every day, each one seemingly more magnificent than the last.

A glacier in Norway

Ten days later, Marjorie wrote to her mother, “We are all so in love with Norway – really I can imagine nothing lovelier than these dear big mountains and beautiful fjords.  One could never tire of it.” After a delightful trip through the Nordfjord they arrived at Olden.  They drove around the lake and then rowed up toward the glacier, “and it was perfectly lovely. The glacier was the most stunning greeny blue you can imagine.”  They were staying at a very plain, but comfortable, hotel in Olden, where they made plans to go to the largest glacier.  The much-anticipated day dawned cold and damp, but they set off on a steam boat, armed with warm shawls, to the head of the lake, and then drove toward the glacier.  As they got closer to the great mass of ice they became colder and colder.  They stopped at a small hotel for “nice hot tea” and then began their walk up to the glacier.  There were “fascinating waterfalls and a dear little tumbling river to look at, to say nothing of the glacier itself, so we didn’t mind the puffing and scrambling.  At a distance, the glacier had seemed quite green, but as we neared it, it became a most gorgeous blue – varying as you looked at it.  And when we got quite close and could look down into the deep blue of the fissures, it was the most beautiful thing you can imagine.”  The snow was illuminated by the blue ice beneath.
One of the much anticipated trips was to the Stryn Road.  They dressed in their very warmest clothing again, and set off with a driver to climb up and up among the mountains, “crossing and re-crossing the dearest little stream – full of waterfalls, until finally we came to the highest point – over 3000 ft. above the fjord!  Then the most beautiful part of all began, for there was snow everywhere in great patches.  We were literally ‘up among the clouds’.  It was cold and misty … it was glorious  Wherever the snow had melted, dear little delicate flowers were growing, hare-bells, wild geraniums, moss pink and lots of others. It made the snow seem almost a dream.”

The Stryn Mountain Road

At the summit they rested, and then started to wind their way down the other side to the town of Merok.  They found themselves looking down into a green fertile valley, with wooded mountains on either side.  Marjorie’s room at the Union Hotel overlooked the Geiranger Fjord, and after their exhausting adventure she slept until 1 pm and rested for the remainder of the day.
The following day they took the boat for Molde and left the rugged scenery behind.

Marjorie’s post-card to Bessie from Molde, 1903

They took several day-trips through sheltered fjords, including a ride in the stolk-jaerres to Eide, north-east of Molde, one of the loveliest drives of all, “winding up among huge green mountains, and suddenly coming upon glorious views of the valley on the other side.  A valley bordered by almost perpendicular rock mountains, and with a splendid waterfall tumbling through it.  It was gorgeous, and we could fairly feel the spray in our faces.”

The Eide Waterfall

The next leg of the trip was to Horre, “a dear little place, and the hotel so nice and comfortable.”  Marjorie was delighted to meet two Norwegian ladies who played the piano for them in the evening after dinner – “Grieg’s music to ‘Peer Gynt’, a drama by Ibsen.  It was specially interesting as both author and composer are of course Norwegian.”
Too soon, their itinerary took them to the big city, Kristiania (now Oslo).  They stayed at the Grand Hotel, so grand that Marjorie felt she hardly knew how to behave after 3 weeks in simple country hotels.  The first morning they set out to see the Viking Ship, 2000 years old, found buried in the ground.

The Viking Ship today

They all agreed that Norway had been a most successful trip:  “This Norway trip has done us all a world of good – we feel like different people….”
They left Norway reluctantly, but more excitement was in store.  They crossed the border into Sweden and reached Stockholm.  “This will always be one of my red letter days, for it is such a charming city.  Here the hotel was even more grand.”  They were staying at the Grand Hotel, built in the 1880s on the waterfront.  They went to the Zoo, the Park, and the Northern Museum, and took a boat trip to see old Drottningholm Palace.

Leaving Stockholm, the travelers took the train to Copenhagen for a short stay at the Hotel Angleterre, Marjorie’s favorite hotel.

Marjorie’s post-card to Bessie from Copenhagen, 1903

They visited the King’s summer palace, and the Art Museum, before leaving Scandinavia for Germany.
In the September issue of “Notes from the Archives” you will be able to read about Marjorie’s four weeks in Berlin, Munich, Vienna, and Salzburg.

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Marjorie’s European Tour, 1903‐1904
Taken from letters to her mother, Bessie
Marjorie arrived in London at the beginning of July, and wrote to her
mother a few days later: “This has been a very happy week in London.” With
her customary enthusiasm, she set out to see all the sights and to savor as many
wonderful experiences as she possibly could. The first day, after collecting their
mail at Cooks, and withdrawing funds from their letters of credit at the bank,
Marjorie and Miss Helen went to buy tickets for the upcoming Gala Performance
of the opera Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Opera House. The tickets were
shockingly expensive, “seventeen‐fifty apiece!!!” (current value $460), but their
seats were perfect – with excellent views of both the stage and the Royal Box.
King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra were in attendance, along with the Prince
of Wales. Marjorie described the experience as “the superbest sight I have ever
seen … diamond tiaras sparkled everywhere, and the house itself was one mass
of roses from top to bottom.” Since the invitation stated “evening dress
required,” Marjorie worried that she would be unsuitably dressed, so she took a
pair of scissors in her glove, quite prepared to cut out the neckline of her dress
“…if worse came to worst – but luckily it wasn’t necessary and we got in all
The next day they went to services at Westminster Abbey, and took a
guided tour. They saw the wax figures that were placed on the top of the hearse
when anyone famous died: “They were rather ghastly, but most interesting, as
the clothes they wore were originals.”

Westminster Abbey

Marjorie then began a round of visits to museums and galleries: the
National Gallery, the Portrait Gallery, The Tate Gallery, and the Wallace Collection
at the British Museum. She was fascinated by the Gainsboroughs, Reynolds, Van
Dycks, Murillos, and Corots.
They took the train to Hampton Court where, “…the gardens were the
really lovely part – such roses and all sorts of dear old fashioned flowers and
nice fountains and terraces. And the delightful Maze where one really gets lost
– it was most exciting.”
Marjorie soon found a perfect place for tea and socializing. A visit to the
Cecil Hotel provided a refreshing, restful interval to their busy schedules.

The Hotel Cecil, London

“We went to the Cecil for tea. It was very amusing and gay.”
They spent a day in Oxford “a quaint city – all spires and domes. We
visited Christ’s College first, and I think I like it best.” At the end of the day,
instead of driving to the station to return to London they went in a “big punt and
were slowly poled down that delightful river, past the colleges and on to the
station. It was perfect!”

Punts on the River at Oxford

tratford was the next stop, “driving over the most beautiful English
country imaginable. We visited Shakespeare’s birthplace and the little museum.
And then found our way through the fields and over a style to Anne Hathaway’s
cottage … one of the dearest places imaginable.” Marjorie was delighted with
Stratford and described it as old‐fashioned and peaceful – “in spite of its
thousands of visitors.”

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Stratford

They took a coach to Warwick — “I feel as if this name ought to be written
in pure gold – it is the loveliest place in all England.” From there they traveled
by train to Chester, where Marjorie walked along the top of the Roman wall and
shopped in the covered “Rows.” Next they traveled to Llandudno in North Wales
where they attended a concert at an open air theatre, and then on to Edinburgh
where they stayed at the Roxburghe Hotel on Charlotte Square where Bessie and
Will McKee had stayed on their honeymoon two years previously. They visited the
Castle, John Knox’s house, and the Royal Scottish Gallery; and shopped for
shortbread and tea at Jenners on Princes Street. “Princes Street is the most
beautiful street I have seen!”

Edinburgh Castle

The next part of the Scottish tour was the most magical of all. It was a day
trip to the Lakes and Trossachs “and it was perfect in every way.” Traveling west
via Glasgow, and then north into the highlands, they arrived at the pier in Balloch
where the Sir Walter Scott steam boat was waiting for them. They sailed up Loch
Lomond admiring the hills covered with brown and purple heather. Even more
notable was the boat trip across Loch Katrin, “the loveliest part of all.”
The Sir Walter Scott steamboat on Loch Katrin today
On the way back to Edinburgh, they stopped at Stirling to see the Castle
and “the statue of Robert the Bruce outlined against the sky.”

Statue of Robert the Bruce at Stirling Castle

In the following days they visited Roslyn Chapel, Melrose Abbey,
Abbotsford House, and Dryburgh Abbey. Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter
Scott, was “…all I had dreamed it would be – only much more. I don’t wonder
Scott loved the Tweed, and that view beyond.”

Abbotsford House and Gardens

At the end of July, Marjorie very reluctantly said goodbye to Scotland. She
traveled south to Newcastle where she would take a boat to Bergen on the west
coast of Norway. Next month, follow Marjorie’s travels in August 1903 through
the ice fields of northern Norway and into Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

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JUNE 1903 — On board the Deutschland, and Paris

Marjorie’s European Tour, 1903-1904

Taken from letters to her mother, Bessie

JUNE 1903  —  On board the Deutschland,  and Paris

On June 4, 1903, nineteen-year-old Marjorie Van Wickle set sail from New York on board the Hamburg Amerika Line’s luxury ocean liner, Deutschland.  Bessie and William McKee were at the dockside to wave goodbye as Marjorie set off on her eleven-month adventure.  She was accompanied by Helen Macartnay, a professional chaperone/tour guide, her cousin Dorothy Pardee, and a friend, Gertrude Vaughn.  They would tour the capitals of Europe, with a focus on the study of art and history.


The Deutschland

The excitement began with the ocean-crossing.  Marjorie’s first letter to her mother was written as soon as they set sail, while she still had a view of the New York skyline.  She thanked her parents for their patience with her, and for understanding her last-minute nerves.  There were gifts of flowers and chocolates in her cabin, and ‘steamer letters’ with good wishes for a ‘bon voyage.’

A week later, Marjorie reported that the crossing had been delightfully peaceful.  The sky a perfect blue and the water a ‘deep sea’ blue and smooth as glass.  Every comfort was thought of and provided for on-board, and there was constant entertainment, including parties and dances every night, gala dinners, and concerts: “As you see, we are living in the midst of gayety, and the time fairly flies.”  They were expecting to see the coast of Ireland that day, and reach their destination, Cherbourg on the north coast of France, the next day.

From Cherbourg they took the train to Paris – a seven-hour journey.  They arrived, exhausted, at the Normandie Hotel near the Opera House where they were to spend the next 3 weeks.


The Normandie Hotel today

Their first impressions were of a busy city where walking was a dangerous activity!  “Walking is the most daring and brave thing you can do in this strange land … you get out into the middle of a Rue or Boulevarde and every carriage within hailing distance makes a rush for you … [to see] if they can succeed in running over you – dead or alive, I believe!”  They went through the Palais Royal, and shopped for silk and lace shawls; and strolled up the Champs Elysees, past the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde “where the big guillotine was.”


Marjorie’s postcard of Place de la Concorde

 Weary from walking, they took a cab to the Arc de Triomphe, and then on to the Bois de Boulogne, a fashionable city park where all the “elites” of Paris strolled on fine afternoons.


Arc de Triomphe

The next day, Sunday, they all went to the American Church and then to a small cemetery where victims of the “Terror” were buried – “1306 people who were guillotined at the Place de la Nation nearby.  It all seems so peaceful and quiet in the part of Paris now, that it makes it hard to believe that only a hundred years ago such terrible things were happening.”  In the afternoon they went to the Vincennes Wood where crowds of Parisians were enjoying their free day — men reading their newspapers and women knitting, while the children took turns on the ‘merry-go-rounds.’  They took a Seine boat and had a delightful sail up the river “showing new surprises every minute and our first view of Notre Dame.”


Notre Dame from the Seine

But for Marjorie, the best part was her first of many visits to the Louvre.  It was a defining moment in her life.  “Do you remember that I used to say I didn’t like Art Galleries?  Well I’ve changed my mind for good and all.  I should like to spend weeks in the Louvre.  That’s not a bit of an exaggeration either.  The great marble statue of the Victory of Samothrace was, I think, my favorite that first day.  You can almost smell the ocean breezes as they blow back her draperies.”


Marjorie’s drawing of Victory of Samothrace

            The itinerary grew more and more crammed full of wonderful experiences.  A performance of Faust at the Opera House; climbing to the roof of the Trocadero to see the ancient carvings and statues; the Luxembourg Palace Art Galerie; the Pantheon; the Madeleine; Notre Dame to attend vespers; and shopping at Les Galeries Lafayette (on Bargain Day!)  All interspersed with frequent visits to the Patisseries for cakes and ice cream.  The following days were filled with trips further afield, to Touraine, Chartres, Poigny, Blois, Tours, Chambord, Chenonceau, Loches “and all those fascinating places…” 

            Next month’s “Notes from the Archives” will follow Marjorie and her traveling companions as they cross the Chanel to spend the month of July in London, Oxford, Stratford, Chester, Warwick, and Scotland. 





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Sailing on the Bay

In the summer of 1894 Augustus Van Wickle, a graduate of Brown University, and his daughter Marjorie came to Rhode Island to scout out locations where Augustus might build a summer home for his family. Although they stayed in Narragansett and visited Newport, it was a special invitation from an old family friend from Philadelphia, Dr. Herbert Howe, to visit Bristol that piqued their interest in the area and changed the course of their lives.

Dr. Howe owned an estate on Ferry Hill (now the site of Roger Williams University), as well as a magnificent 85-foot Herreshoff steam yacht named Polyanthus. He sailed Polyanthus down to Narragansett, picked up Augustus and Marjorie, and took them for a sail on the Bay, ending up at his home in Bristol. Augustus was so impressed with the performance and comfort of the well-appointed boat that he asked to visit the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company and meet John Herreshoff, the designer.

The Marjorie-a Herresoff Steam Yacht

At the boat-building workshop, John Herreshoff showed Augustus the new 78-foot steam yacht Eugenia that he had built for his wife. Augustus was so captivated with the yacht that he persuaded Mr. Herreshoff to sell it to him. Marjorie remembered, many years later: “My father fell in love with the yacht and bought it right then and there. He renamed her Marjorie. We could not sail away in her, as the embroidered names on the linen had to be changed!”

Later that same day, Dr. Howe took Augustus to see a 70-acre estate on Narragansett Bay that had once belonged to John Rogers Gardner. Marjorie wrote: “My father loved the place. But he restrained himself from buying it to at least consult with his wife! A week or two later, we went to Narragansett again. This time my mother was with us…my father brought mother to see the Gardners’ place. She fell in love with it also, and so the family became the owners of Blithewold.”
The “Gardners’ place” was not large enough, however, for the Van Wickles—and it was built too close to Ferry Road. So they had it moved to the southern part of the property to use as a guest house, and built a much larger residence in its place—a beautiful Queen Anne-style shingled mansion designed by Francis Hoppin of Newport. They engaged the services of John DeWolf, Bristol Landscape Architect, to help Bessie design the gardens.

Bessie and Augustus Van Wickle with three Pardee cousins

In the meantime, Augustus commissioned the building of a large dock complex on the Bay, next to a sandy beach for the children. From the beginning, summer life at the estate focused on water sports, from swimming and diving to sailing, kayaking, and rowing. The boathouse at the water’s edge was filled with boats of all sizes, built for sailors of all ages. The Marjorie, moored at the new dock, was a beautiful, stately, and luxuriously outfitted boat that accommodated family and friends on day sails to and from Newport, and on longer cruises to Massachusetts and Maine.But Augustus had more challenging sailing in mind, so he also bought two racing boats from the Herreshoffs—Esperanza and Wild Swan. He became very active in the Bristol Yacht Club, racing his boats at every opportunity, and was soon elected Commodore of the club.

Marjorie & Augustine Van Wickle on Chanticleer

After Augustus’s untimely death only two years later, Bessie married William McKee. Bessie sold the Marjorie and William McKee chartered the Chanticleer—a 118-foot schooner yacht that the whole family enjoyed for many years.

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Marjorie’s European Tour, 1903‐1904
Taken from letters to her mother, Bessie

Marjorie and Helen Macartnay spent the last few weeks of their 11‐month
tour in Rome, Florence, and Paris. Marjorie was looking forward to seeing her
family again, but determined to enjoy the last few adventures, particularly the
experience of being in Rome over Easter. They returned to the Hotel Russie by
the Pincian Hill, “It seemed almost home‐like to get back to the dear old Russie
again. Rome is charming this time of year, and we are enjoying it thoroughly.”

Hotel Russie, 1903

Hotel Russie, 1903

The weather was warm, bright, and summer‐like. They enjoyed walking in
the Piazzas and visiting churches to see the altars decorated with flowers, and to
hear the music. They were amused at the congenial sense of occasion at the San
Pietro church, where Marjorie was shocked, though charmed, at the “continual
talking and chatting … they shake hands with their friends, form little knots of
gossip, just as if they were at a reception, and part with an ‘I will see you again
at San Giovanni or Santa Maria Maggiore’ or wherever the case may be.”
On Good Friday they went from church to church, watching the crowds,
listening to the music and witnessing the presentations of the Relics. On Saturday
Marjorie passed the flower stand in the piazza “and laid in such a supply for
Easter that I could scarcely stagger to the hotel – a whole arm full of yellow
daisies four inches in diameter and beautiful lavender anemones.” They took a
carriage ride up on the Pincian Hill behind the hotel, and through the grounds of
the Villa Borghese.
Easter Sunday dawned warm and fair – “The loveliest day of all.” They
went to services at the American Church on the Via Nazionale, and in the
afternoon drove to San Pietro in Montorio to see the famous view over the city.
Two days later Marjorie found herself in Florence once again (“My favorite
city in Italy”), anxious to fit in all her last‐minute sight‐seeing and shopping: “We
are fairly flying about from place to place now – really when we wake up in the
morning we have to think hard before we know where we are!” They stayed at
the Palace Hotel near the Ponte Trinita. “It was a pleasure just to look out the
window at the river, the bridges, the soft colored straggling houses, and all the
dear familiar sights.”


Marjorie’s watercolor of Florence “the river, the bridges, the soft colored straggling houses”

She set off across the Arno to the Thursday Flower Market in the loggia of
the Mercato Nuova, a big open building — just a roof supported by pillars — in
the centre of the city: “An ideal place for a flower show. They were banked up
around the grey old columns, and standing in pots all over the pavement. I
bought an enormous bunch of Mignonette, four branches of such sweet apple
blossoms, and some lilies of the valley.” A walk along the Tornabuoni, Florence’s
main shopping street, and a stop at Giacosa’s Tea Room for cakes and chocolate,
completed the day. The next day she revisited old, favorite sites, the Uffizi, the
Strozzi Palace, the Cathedral, and the Palazzo Vecchio. She went to see the
familiar paintings at the Pitti Palace, “saying ‘How do you do?’ to all my dear
ones there,” the Botticellis and Cellinis.
Time was now running out, and Marjorie daydreamed that she might
“…miss that Paris train tomorrow on purpose, to stay over in Florence another
week! It makes me sad to think that we leave tomorrow evening for Paris – I
wish we could stay here till we sail. But never mind, I am looking forward to
going to the Louvre again.”
A week in Paris gave Marjorie sufficient time to visit her favorite
dressmaker (Champots) to order clothing for the approaching summer. She
shopped for hats, gloves, and stockings on the Rue de la Paix before re‐visiting the
Louvre. The Victory of Samothrace was still her favorite sculpture, followed by
paintings by Titian, Raphael, Da Vinci, Holbein, Corot, and Millet. As their time
ran out they took a carriage ride to bid au revoir to the Place de la Nation, the
Louvre (one last time), the Bois de Boulogne, the Champs Elysees, and the Arc de
On April 29, Marjorie and Miss Helen boarded the luxurious ocean liner
Deutschland. For 6 days they ate twelve and fifteen course dinners and enjoyed
the unaccustomed inactivity, preparing them for the transition back to the lives
they had left behind eleven months ago. Bessie and William McKee and young
Augustine were at the dock in New York to meet them, and they stayed overnight
at the Holland Hotel before taking the train to Boston. An older, and wiser,
Marjorie was looking forward to spending another idyllic summer at her beloved

S. S. Deutschland

S. S. Deutschland

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