1911. Original manuscripts. Plummer traveled by steamer, visiting Athens, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. This archive comprises seven letters to his wife, from 4 to 8 pages each, dated variously from March 27 to June 14, written in ink in a legible hand on steamship and hotel letterheads. The letters represent a provincial American view of an abbreviated, Christian version of a “Grand Tour,” with stays at Athens, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, and brief visits to several Western European countries, as well as Syria and Egypt. They document the pre-WWI state of the three above-named cities; and in the case of Constantinople, clearly illustrate the state of the city in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, before the modernization by the Young Turks. Plummer further laments conditions in Palestine, and indeed the whole “orient.”. Very Good. Item #039915
Plummer wrote these letters to his wife, Rhoda, often including their children in his salutations. His roots in Nebraska are evident from his comparison of London to Omaha (“a half dozzen cities the size of Omaha could be taken out of here and they would never miss it”). Also, he mentions he’s happy to know that his son Harry plans to work in Aurora rather than “G.I.” [Grand Island). The tour is a Church journey with “a party…of lovely people, all Methodists but two and they are Presbyterians.” The Rev. Dr. Allen is in charge of the trip arrangements, as well as preaching. They sail from NY on two Austro-Americana Line ships, the “Martha Washington” to Gibraltar and then the “Argentina” from Naples eastward. Two of the letters are written aboard ship, complaining about seasickness and the Austrian food (“everything cooked in olive oil…or some kind of Austrian greece.” On landing in Naples, he notes that the Health officers “are examining the Steerage Passengers…may have found some disease among them.” ~~ In Greece, they proceed from Patras to Corinth to Athens, with Plummer enthusing over the “magnificent grandeur of 2,500 year old temples” and how affected he is by walking “where Paul lived and where he preached….” He compares the climate of Athens to that of California, and notes that the trip to Egypt has now been postponed since “the plague [there] was so bad that the country is under quarantine,” hence they forego a 600-mile voyage on the Nile and proceed only as far as Cairo. His most descriptive letters were written in Constantinople about conditions there: “I never saw such a conglomerate mass of humanity in my life…1,300,00 souls here, all kinds and color…poverty and distress on every hand, human beings used as beasts of burden and beggars galore.” He continues, opining that if the American “laboring classes…could only know of the conditions existing among the day laborers [here]…I am sure there would never be any more strikes….” He goes on to report on his group’s special visit to “one of the great Mohammedan mosques”, where they are provided with sandals to wear, and then on a steamer trip up the Bosphorus to the “Roberts College, an American institution for boys.” ~~ After traveling to “Beyroot,” then Damascus, they next visit the Holy Land, where Plummer again is shocked by conditions: “Oh, the poverty…beggars on every hand…here in Palestine…up in Syria and over in Turkey and Greece…The poor of the United States don’t know what real poverty is….” On the other hand, he is greatly moved by Palestine’s wonderful sights including the Sea of Galilee (where he takes a solo two-hour walk—the “most interesting two hours I ever spent”), Nazareth, Joseph’s tomb and Jacob’s well, both visited en route from Nablus to Jerusalem, and finally Jerusalem itself, where the group spends 10 days. He stands on Mt. Olivet, visits the Via Dolorosa, Calvary, and Gethsemane, “wanders” along the banks of the Jordan, and “bathes” in the Dead Sea. He also notes that their “boarding place [the Hotel Fast] is the only good place we have found in the orient…run by Germans…first-class German cook….” ~~ In the last letter (June 13), the party is set to stay in London for the Coronation of George V, and much is made of the difficulties in finding affordable lodging for the event. The writer’s fondness for his wife, children and home are evident (though he variously signs himself “J.W. Plummer”, “JWP”, “Papa”, and in one p.s. “Joe”), and in addition to wishes for the family’s good health, etc., he comments on the news from home they wrote to him, and gives detailed instructions on proper care of the family’s strawberry plants. He also reports on what gifts he’ll be bringing them from his travels.