The Americano Grand Tour: A Young American’s Journey Across Europe


Fred Wilton Russell Diary, 1875-1876, MS2013-042, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Frederick Wilton Russell was an atypical albeit lucky American teenager. In the late 19th century, he embarked on a European expedition with his family, which could be considered an American form of the “Grand Tour.” As was customary at the time, Russell kept a personal diary of his adventures, specifically describing his time in Paris and Dresden. In an ordinary entry, Russell would write about what all the other young adults had on their minds – women, drinking and playing games.

Most American travel writers ventured to Europe to explore the unknown, discover their heritage or sharpen their poetic writing. Russell, by contrast, embraced the mentality of a European “Grand Tourist.” He immersed himself in the continent’s culture and lifestyle and distanced himself from fellow Americanos, attending concerts with aristocratic Europeans and speaking in foreign languages. He was part of the “sinning culture,” but he also walked down the Champs Élysées and visited Versailles Palace – as many young Europeans did.

Largely educational, Russell’s trip included excursions to the “Musée du Luxembourg,” the Palace of Industry’s exposition on maritime industries and, of course, the Louvre. Additionally, Russell saw noteworthy sites like Albrecht Dürer’s house, the Statue of Hans Sachs, and St. Lawrence Church – but abstained from describing these places, reminding himself to look at guidebooks for more information. The casual manner with which Russell mentioned the iconic monuments of Paris reflected the young man’s intimate familiarity with the buildings. By the time he traveled to France, these sites had been studied and known to all.

Works Consulted:

Fred Wilton Russell Diary, 1875-1876, MS2013-042, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

  • James Berkman BC 2016, Fall 2015 Making History Public Student

The images and content in this blog post are from the exhibit Historical Monuments, Monumental Histories, which is now on display in the History Department, Stokes 3rd Floor South.    This exhibit was curated and organized by Professor Dana Sajdi’s Fall 2015 Making History Public class, in collaboration with the Boston College University Libraries.


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