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

Berkman

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.

 

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
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