Category Archives: Travel

Pharaoh Fever: Tut-mania

‘Tutankhamen-Shimmy’ by Jára Beneš, published by Wiener Boheme Verlag (Wien, 1923).

Tutankhamen, aka Tutankhamun, was a pharaoh of minor historical importance. He reigned more than 3.000 years ago for fewer than ten years and died at a young age. Yet he is somewhat the celebrity of Ancient Egypt. That is largely because, when his tomb was found in 1922, it was almost intact: it still contained the magnificent treasures intended to accompany the boy-king into the afterlife. The antechambers were packed to the ceiling with more than 5.000 objects. And Tutankhamen’s portrait mask, made of solid gold laid with precious stones, is one of the most beautiful archaeological objects of Ancient Egypt.

‘Tutankhamon – Fox’ by William Rowers, published by Elkan & Schildknecht, Emil Carelius (Stockholm, sd) and Illustrated by Eric Rohman.

It was the British archaeologist Howard Carter, backed by his patron Lord Carnarvon, who discovered the tomb. He had searched the Valley of the Kings for Tutankhamen’s resting place for many years. To examine and clear the tomb it would take him and his team eight more years. The phenomenal discovery of the tomb and all these wonderful things, in Howard Carter’s own words, kicked off a worldwide ‘King Tut’ craze or Tut-mania in the 1920s that would  continue well into the Thirties.

Every stage of the excavations was chronicled by the press. To finance the dig, Lord Carnarvon had sold the exclusive rights to the Times for the then huge sum of £5.000. It gave the Times unique access to the tomb and the opportunity to publicise its fabulous contents. To compete with the Times’ success, other media created wilder stories, some of which were based on exaggerated claims and even falsehoods, rather than on actual events. So did Lord Carnarvon’s sudden death, within weeks of the tomb’s opening, lead to speculations of a curse.

‘Toet-Ankh-Amen’ by Jan von Lindern & Carlo Rombouts, published by Editions Liro (‘s Gravenhage, 1923) and Illustrated by Jan Hoek

Expert photographer Harry Burton, documented the eight-year-long uncovering of King Tutankhamen’s tomb. For that purpose Burton learned to operate a movie camera. With it he recorded the opening of Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus. His creative and technically advanced images and films contributed largely to the Tut-mania phenomenon.

Left: ‘On Nile Land’ by Vicente Pastelle, published by Ildefonso Alier (Madrid, sd). Right: ‘Egyptian Dream’ by Font Palmarola, published by the composer (Barcelona, sd).

Apart from being celebrated by the media, Tutankhamen also notably influenced the arts and culture in the 1920s. Egyptian motifs became an integral part of Art Deco. They decorated fabrics, jewellery, furniture, ceramics, and were ornamental in architecture. Even in society Egyptian hairstyles and costumes became fashionable.

As a result of this Tut-mania, Egypt blossomed as a tourist destination for rich people. Travels to it though, were time-consuming. Tourists could —as did the Belgian queen Elisabeth— travel first by train to Italy, and then board a passenger steamship in Genoa. After a stopover in Naples they would arrive in Alexandria or Port Said four days later.

Each Egyptian adventure started in Cairo where one could swarm the bazaars and curio shops.

Cairo‘ by Sherman Myers, published by Francis-Day (Paris, 1927) and Illustrated by Fabien Loris.

From there one visited the obligatory sphinx and took a sightseeing camel ride around the pyramids.

‘Le Destin’ by Byron Gay, published by :Francis-Day (Paris, 1922) and illustrated by Dorothy Dulin.

Then one took a wagon-lit to Luxor, or visited the famous ruins along the Nile by steamer.

‘La Légende du Nil’ by A. Roux, published by La Parisienne (Paris, 1924) and illustrated by Clérice frères.

In Luxor one checked in at the Winter Palace Hotel or one of the other luxury hotels. With a bumpy ride on a mule under the scorching sun one went to see the Karnak temple complex…

‘Sur la Route de Karnak’ by Harry Sing, published by Gallet & Fils (Paris, sd) and illustrated by Clérice frères.

… to finally arrive at the high point: the Valley of the Kings and the grave of Tutankhamen.

‘La Valle dei Re’ by L. Baracchi, published by the author (Parma, sd) and illustrated by V. Bianchi.

And of course Tut-mania made its mark on the music world also. Soon after King Tut’s discovery, his effigy started to appear on sheet music covers.

Left: ‘Old King Tut was a Wise Old Nut’ by Lucien Denni & Roger Lewis, published by J. W. Jenkins Sons Music Co. (1923). Right: ‘Old King Tut’ by Harry von Tilzer and William Jerome, published by Harry von Tilzer (1923).

One of the most popular songs was Old King Tut by Harry von Tilzer and William Jerome (1923). Another one (Old King Tut was a Wise Old Nut) was published around the same time. Both depict Tutankhamen as an old man. No one knew at the time that when ‘Old King Tut’ died he was in fact a very young man.

Recently, the song by Harry von Tilzer has featured in the television show ‘Boardwalk Empire’:

The Tut-mania craze gave rise to a number of novelty dances, with poses one can see in the Ancient Egyptian reliefs. Not easy to twist your limbs this way. Known for his quirky illustrations, Peter Curt shows us the popular Swedish composer Gunnar Boberg trying out the ‘Egyptian walk’.

‘Aiba’ by Gunnar Boberg, published by A.B. Skandinaviska Musikförlaget (Stockholm, 1922) and Illustrated by Peter Curt.

The British vaudeville artists Jack Wilson and Joe Keppel show you how it is done. Easy enough, get Alexandre Luigini’s Ballet Egyptien on Spotify, throw some sand on the floor and start shuffling!


 

Female Globetrotters

‘Globetrotter’ by Antonio Tosca, published by A. Cranz (Brussels, 1902).

At the end of the 19th century a new type of leisurely traveller made its appearance: the  globetrotter. Steamship connections, the extension of railways in the colonies and the opening of the Suez canal shortened the travel time a lot. Of course recreational travel was then an exclusive pleasure for wealthy (European) men. Female travellers had to challenge the notions of their time that travel was unsuitable for their sex. But nonetheless it was a woman, Nellie Bly, who first broke the fictional record set by Jules Vernes’ Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days.

Nellie Bly in 1890. The original caption reads: “Nellie Bly, The New York WORLD’S correspondent who place a girdle round the earth in 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes.” (source: New York Public Library – Digital Collections)

Nellie Bly (or Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman) who was an acclaimed reporter at New York World magazine boarded a steamer in 1889 and began her journey. Travelling alone she toured to most of the places that Fogg visited during his journey. She even met Jules Verne when passing through France. Nellie arrived in New York just over 72 days after her departure.

Left: ‘Nellie Blye’s Tour Around the World’ by Chas. D. Blake published by Chas. D. Blake & Co. (Boston, 1890). Right: ‘Globe Trotting Nellie Bly’ by Joe Hart published by Willis Woodward & Co. (New York, 1890). Source: Johns Hopkins Sheridan Libraries.

About twenty years later Elisabeth Yates also attempted a record to travel around the world, but this time on foot. Luckily for us her adventure was rather well documented by Clyde Sanger in his story for ‘The Guardian from London’ (December 9, 1959). It goes like this.

Elisabeth or Lizzie was born in Yorkshire UK. After the dead of her mother she sought her luck overseas and emigrated to Canada. There she performed on stage under the name of Elsie Kelsey. She then went to live in America where she met Harry Humphries whom she married. Both keen walkers, they took a ‘short’ honeymoon walk of 4.000 km from New York to Florida and back. It took them two months. It also got Mrs Humphries the attention from the editor of the New York ‘Polo Monthly‘ magazine. It was he who challenged her to walk 48.000 miles around the world in four years. For this she would get a reward of 10.000 dollar. Not worth the candle according to a then journalist. But Mrs Humphries and her husband, who had decided to accompany her, thought otherwise and they started to prepare their journey.

Mr & Mrs Harry Humphries

Harry, an embroiderer and tattooist by profession, designed their khaki costumes. Lizzie wore a blouse and skirt, a soft hat and knee-high waterproof walking boots. A knapsack with a sweater and a few necessities completed her outfit. One of these necessities was a revolver. In July 1911 the Humphries couple —or the Kelsey Kids as they named themselves— left New York for Canada. From there they sailed to in England in late November. The two lived on milk and farinaceous food, eating little meat and never drinking water. One of the terms of the wager was that they could only live on hospitality but should not beg, borrow or steal. To finance their journey they gave lectures. In January the couple arrived in Manchester. There Harry had a ‘nervous breakdown’ and returned to America. The truth is, he ran away abandoning Lizzie and their round-the-world walking tour, taking all of their money with him.

Our Lady Globetrotter though continued her voyage, this time accompanied by a dog as a more loyal companion. She wanted to show that women dare to walk “in all kinds of weather, day and night and in countries whose language they cannot speak.”

Lizzie had planned to walk across Africa, Asia and Australia. She would then sail to South America and travel northwards back to New York. But her plans came to nothing. For two years she kept walking back and forth across Europe. The reason for this is that Lizzie had engaged an agent, and the course of her journey depended on the contracts he could sell. By then she enlivened her lectures with films about her walks.

‘The Globe Trotters March’ by Max Uyma published by Förenade Biograf. Förlag (Stockholm, 1912).

The sheet music The Globe Trotters March was published while Lizzie was walking in Sweden in 1912. The following film from 1913 shows Lizzie in Düsseldorf. The cheerful man with his practical jokes, is believed to be her agent.

When the Great War broke out, Lizzie was still in Düsseldorf and had to leave her trunk full of memories behind and flee from Germany. She had ‘only’ walked 10.000 miles, so she did not fulfil the wager and did not get the $10.000 prize money.

A few months later, in 1914, she walked 5.000 miles from New York to San Francisco. Her aim was to gather funds for the benefit of the Red Cross on the battlefield of Europe. This shows that our Lady Globetrotter had the heart in the right place.

We cannot but think that when her scoundrel of a husband Harry deserted her, she might have found solace from Nancy’s vengeful words…


Seadromes

‘Tout Là-bas’ by Allan Gray & Bernard Zimmer, published by Salabert (Paris, 1932) and illustrated by Ch. Roussel.

The sci-fi cover for the song Tout Là-bas – Chanson de Matelots  shows air planes taking off from an artificial floating island. The song comes from the 1932 film I.F. 1 ne réponds plus. This was the French version of a German UFA production F.P.1 antwortet nicht, by Erich Pommer the producer of Metropolis and Der blaue Engel.

During the early talkie period, before dubbing and subtitling became popular, films were produced in several languages for international markets, the so-called multiple-language version films. For F.P.1 antwortet nicht, the same plot, sets, crew and costumes were used to also make the French-spoken version and an English one, F.P.1 Doesn’t answer. Only the cast was changed.

The three lead actors with the same role, aviator Elissen. Left: the German Hans Albers, middle: the English-speaking Conrad Veidt and right: the Frenchman Charles Boyer. Source: http://www.virtual-history.com.

The film F.P.1 antwortet nicht was based on a novel written by science fiction writer Kurt Siodmak published the previous year. The F.P.1 from the title stands for Floating Platform Number One.

Edward R. Armstrong with a scale model of his seadrome. Source: Pinterest.

Siodmak got his idea of a floating platform from the ‘seadromes’ invented by Edward R. Armstrong. This DuPont engineer had worked for years on a scheme for building a string of floating airports across the Atlantic. Air planes would then make stops at the various points where the seadromes were anchored.

The Atlantic seadrome chain as shown in Popular Science, february 1934

In Popular Science from 1934 we find a clear description: it was Edward R. Armstrong’s plan to bridge the Atlantic with a string of artificial islands. Five of the seadromes would become anchored between America and Spain by way of the Azores. These would serve as refuelling stations each three hours of flight apart. Planes using these islands as steppingstones could thus transport heavier loads at greater speed since they carried less fuel. The platforms would have stabilizer legs to prevent the flight deck from pitching and rolling. Each seadrome would accommodate 100 travellers in addition to quarters for it’s own crew and hangars for 50 large planes. The seadrome would be run like a ship with a captain, officers, sailors, a physician and two meteorologists.

The design and construction of the Armstrong seadrome, illustrated in Popular Science, february 1934

Edward R. Armstrong had already been designing and experimenting with sea bases for more than a decade, when in 1927 Charles Lindbergh succeeded to fly non-stop from New York to Paris. Within days songs were composed, and sheet music published, in order to pay tribute to Lindbergh’s Transatlantic Flight.

Left: ‘I fly to Paris!‘ by Helge Lindberg published by Reuter & Reuter (Stockholm, 1927). Right: ‘Aero-Marsch’ by Charles Nestor, published in Sweden (1927).

The most beautiful cover without doubt, was drawn by the Belgian illustrator Peter de Greef for the song De New York à Paris.

Sheet music illustration for Lindbergh's flight of the century
‘De New York à Paris’ by Langlois & Tutelier, published by L’Art Belge (Brussels, 1927) and illustrated by Peter De Greef.

Lindbergh’s flight of the century encouraged Armstrong to further develop his idea to use the seadromes as floating airport platforms for refuelling during transatlantic flights. However the Great Depression crossed the plans to effectively install the seadromes. After World War II the ambitious project became obsolete altogether because of the use of long-range aircraft that did not need such refuelling points. Later though, the idea of an anchored deep-sea platform would be set to use for floating oil rigs.

But back to the film… Not a great plot: the classical love triangle and some sabotage aboard the F.P.1. It has Peter Lorre in a supporting role. If your secret pleasure is to listen to deep male voices singing in choir to the tune of a melancholic far-way-from-home accordion, then the Song of the Sailors from the sheet music cover at the top is worth your attention: fast forward to 48:45.