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Florence and Marion Walbridge travel letters


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Florence Cosby Vail was born on September 30, 1839 in Louisville, Kentucky to Orsamus and Marion Vail. The family moved to Brooklyn, New York around 1856. Florence married diamond broker Walter Augustus Walbridge (1833-1920) on October 10, 1859 at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, New York. They resided in Brooklyn and welcomed five children: Joseph Boyd (1860-1861); Florence Vail (1862-1943); Augustus Merrill (1867-1958); Marion Creighton (1874-1968) and Blanche Homer (1879-1880). Florence died on June 10, 1927.

Marion was born on August 29, 1874. She married the Reverend George Wilson Crockett Hill (1869-1952) on April 27, 1908. They resided in West Hartford, Connecticut and had two children: Norman Walbridge (1911-1911) and Virginia Walbridge (1913-2011). Marion died on January 18, 1968.

Florence and Marion Walbridge set sail on August 26, 1897 aboard the Steamer Friedrich der Grosse. Traveling with them was Fannie (1843-1924) and Eloise (1878-1969) Vail. Fannie was the widow of Florence's cousin, George Ira Vail (1833-1888) of Cleveland, Ohio, and Eloise her daughter. They reached Southampton, England on September 5, where Mr. L.M.F. Scott of Cleveland, Ohio, met them. Mr. Scott and his wife accompanied the party and managed their itinerary. The party began their grand tour in London and moved onto Paris, Lucerne, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Cairo, Port Said, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Jericho, Beirut, Constantinople, and Athens. They returned to Naples and set sail for home on January 5, 1898 aboard the SS Auguste Victoria.

Resources: Ancestry.

This collection consists of primarily of letters written by Florence C. Walbridge to her husband and son in Brooklyn, New York. These letters from Florence and her daughter, Marion, document what appears to be their first venture outside the United States. Florence's intent in writing such detailed and long letters was as she wrote, "…I want you as near as possible to enjoy this trip with me…" (September 4, 1897). She carefully chronicled her observations and experiences in numbered letters that began on the first day of their voyage aboard the steamer the Friedrich der Grosse and end with the docking of the S.S. Auguste Victoria in New York 5-months later. Letters were often written over the course of several days.

The almost daily letters provide descriptions of cities, landmarks, landscapes and people in London, Paris, Lucerne, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Cairo, Port Said, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Jericho, Beirut, Constantinople, Athens and other brief stops in cities and towns along the way. Florence's keen observations are apparent in her written details of activities, gardens, music, schools, shops, food, churches, and clothing. Also evident in her letters are stereotypical views of race, culture and class, and the language used should be considered in the context of the times in which the letters were written. Florence's wry sense of humor is also evident throughout her letters. Marion was prone to seasickness and was loath to leave the cabin most days while at sea. On their first evening, Marion ordered tea to help combat the queasiness. When that proved unsuccessful, Florence suggested she order a bottle of Rhine wine. It seemed to do the trick and Florence quipped, "I told her if she had got to be kept on Rhine wine all the way over, I guessed it would be cheaper to throw her overboard." (August 26, 1897). Traveling companions also mentioned in the letters are family members Fannie and Eloise Vail, and L.M.F. Scott and his wife.

The majority of Marion's letters are to her brother, while there is one addressed to her father. Marion leaves the detailed descriptions of the landmarks and landscapes to her mother. She mainly focuses her letters on personal experiences. In the letter to her father, she is quite excited to describe the "most thrilling experience" (November 11, 1897) to the pyramids in Egypt. It was an experience her mother couldn't relay, as she did not go.

The two letters from Abdallah G. Kayat, their guide while in Jaffa and Jerusalem, are perfunctory in nature, although the September 2, 1898 letter describes the preparations for the German Emperor's upcoming visit to Jerusalem.

Sold by Ian Brabner Rare Americana, 2023.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Kristine McGee
Finding Aid Date
2023 January 13
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This collection is open for research use.

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Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Collection Inventory

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Walbridge, Florence C.: letters to family, 1881 and 1897 August-September.
Box 1 Folder 1
Walbridge, Florence C.: letters to family, 1897 October.
Box 1 Folder 2
Walbridge, Florence C.: letters to family, 1897 November.
Box 1 Folder 3
Walbridge, Florence C.: letters to family, 1897 December-1898 January.
Box 1 Folder 4
Walbridge, Marion: letters to family, 1897.
Box 1 Folder 5
Kayat, Abdallah G.: letters to Florence C. Walbridge, 1898.
Box 1 Folder 6

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