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On the Road with the Eagle

Aug 1, 2011 4:50 PM | 0 comments

Summer is in full swing and hopefully for many of our readers the word VACATION is coming to mind.  While daydreaming of my own escape from the daily grind, I came across a scrapbook in excellent condition that chronicles a journey taken by a group of Brooklynites exactly 92 years ago today.

Horseback Riding

The National Parks Tour, organized by the Eagle, was open to the public and advertised in the paper during the early months of 1919.  Headlines such as "Western Cities Rival in Offers of Hospitality to Eagle Tour; Unique Drives Programmed," attempted to lure all of Brooklyn's most dedicated armchair travelers out of their parlors and onto the open road.

For all of the details, I was unable to find the price anywhere.  Given that the party travelled by private train (the Eagle Express) and that a barber, tailor and maid were hired "for the greater convenience of the party," I suspect the answer to my question is, "If you have to ask, you can't afford it."

In all, 126 tourists joined the 33-day adventure which traveled from Brooklyn across the United States to Washington and back through Canada:

Route of the 1919 National Parks Tour

The Eagle's coverage of the trip was as compelling as its advertising.  Each day, an update on the adventures of the party was included in the paper.  And while these updates give us wonderful anecdotes (such as the story of Mrs. J. Renwick Thompson spotting a forest fire in Colorado and helping park rangers prevent a terrible disaster), it is the scrapbook's contents that capture the real story.

"It's a bear."Each page is carefully constructed with photographs and handwritten notes.  No author is credited - I suspect it was the work of an Eagle staffer.  While some pages (above) provide narrative, most include brief captions, allowing the photos to speak for themselves.  The image on the left is simply titled, "It's a bear."

The Eagle planned a truly remarkable tour.  I had a difficult time selecting the photographs to include in this entry, as each one seems better than the next. 

In Wyoming, meeting with local Sheep-hearders (sic):

Sheephearders in Wyoming

Still in Wyoming, taking a contemplative rest:

A Solitary Moment in Wyoming

Taking in the view of Colorado:

 Taking a Break on the Mountain

Hiking in the Badlands:

Two Brooklynites in the Badlands

Admiring sulphur formations in Yellowstone:

Sulpher Formations

Outside of Glacier National Park, greeted by a party of Blackfoot Indians:

Greeted by the Blackfeet

The party's "sweethearts" hike Mount Rainier together:

Young Love

In Alberta, Canada, swimming in the natural hot springs:

Swimming in the Springs

For me, there is something both unexpected and inspiring in viewing these pictures.  First, they are like nothing else in our collection; a stark contrast to the urban and industrial pictures that make up the majority of our photographs.  It is fun to see New Yorkers exploring the wilderness.  One can only imagine what the "Eaglettes" (the scrapbook's name for the party) felt as they explored everything from big sky country to the rainy forests of the Pacific.  Second, when I look beyond the smiling faces, I am awe-struck by the beauty of the landscape.  They make me all the more grateful for our National Parks, knowing that many of these places are still as beautiful today as they were in 1919.  For the entire Eagle party, I imagine, it was a once in a lifetime trip--one that I wouldn't mind recreating myself someday...

 The train heads home to New York...