My Grandmother’s Travel Journal

My Granmother's Journal

My parents recently reorganized their library, and while they were doing so they discovered my maternal grandmother’s diary from a trip abroad she took in 1936, at the age of 22.  I knew my grandmother as Doris Stein, but when she took this trip she was Doris C. Kaufmann.  She wrote as much in the front of the book.

Name: Doris C. Kaufmann
Home Address: 1131 E. 50th St. Chicago, IL
Starting Point: Montreal
Name of Ship: S. S. Duchess of Atholl
En route for: England, Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Switzerland.

I’ve decided I’m going to transcribe the journal as I read it, and post it here.  It will, for me, be a fairly fascinating look into my family history, and I think it will more generally be an interesting glimpse into the high society of Chicago in the pre-World War II era.  My grandmother’s family was what my mother calls, “very comfortable.”  Her father, Charles Kaufmann, was the inventor of the telescoping camera and owner of Kaufmann and Fabrey, the largest commercial photography company in Chicago.  So for those thinking about authorial voice, this series will be the reflections of an upper class Jewish young woman heading out on her “grand tour” of Europe.

Before I start posting the contents, though, I want to talk a little about her journal as an artifact.  It’s a leather bound volume with an attached pencil. It was printed specifically to be a cruise diary, with color pages to identify not just the flags of foreign countries, but also the iconography of the various cruise lines of the day.


Flags of the world’s countries and cruise lines. (Click to enlarge.)

Tucked between the pages are clippings and other errata of her trip, including a postcard of her ship and a map of the world.

The Duchess of Atholl. (Click to enlarge)

The Duchess of Atholl. (Click to enlarge)

World Map. (Click to enlarge)

World Map. (Click to enlarge)

Finally, sandwiching the primary portion of the book which has pages titled “My Trip — Day by Day,” there are pages for personal memoranda, the recording of addresses and ship’s logs, tables of exchange rates and international posting costs, and other such things.  My favorite bit of content from these pages relates to tipping.  There are several paragraphs printed in the “Information for Travelers” section about how tipping practice is a debated topic.  My grandmother seems to have sought advice on this subject from someone, perhaps her father, and written a table for her own reference showing how much money she plans to give to the various persons on the ship.

Tips on Board Ships. (click to enlarge)

Tips on Board Ships. (click to enlarge)

Much more about this book to come.  I will try to provide historical context as I relate my grandmother’s experiences.  For example, I recall her telling me once that she was on a trip to Europe when the Spanish Civil War started.  This has to be that trip, so I will try to note what world events are going on as my grandmother jaunts about the Atlantic.


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  1. That is so cool. My maternal grandmother left many journals behind (the yearly kind), and some of them contain her travels to Colorado. I’ve always imagined boxing up her journals and retracing her steps, camping where she camped, recording the weather in my own journal for my descendants someday.

    The little ephemera tucked inside is my favorite. Thanks for sharing this… I can’t wait to read what Doris got up to on her trip!

  2. I can’t wait to read each entry! I love this kind of stuff 🙂 How wonderful that you still have it!

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