Hermann’s granddaughter, Dorothy Jacoby Mahon (my mom), wrote the following essay about the value of Hermann’s journal as part of her master’s program work at Washington University in St. Louis. Her final grade for the paper is unknown. 

Brave New Worlds: An Edwardian Gentleman’s Letters
Dorothy Mahon
10 December 1986


In 1959, while clearing out my paternal aunt’s apartment, I found a bound collection of letters written by her father during a trip through 1909. As an archivist I regretted that the collection was a typed carbon copy but the content was intact, legible, and promising, an Edwardian gentleman’s letters to his son. The letters written by Herman Heinrich Jacoby not only described the sights his wife, daughter, and he saw, but also identified clergymen he met, repeated anecdotes about locales and individuals, gave details of transportation, meals, and service, good, bad, and indifferent. This seventy-five year old bit of social history needs to be reviewed and its worth to social researchers and others estimated.

The material needs editing. There is reason to believe it has not been previously edited. H. H. Jacoby was owner of Jacoby Art Glass where he and his son worked. The letters were sent to his son who probably had the office stenographer make several copies. A pity in view of the quality of Jacoby’s script, a sample of which is contained in the appendix.

The trip was also documented by postcards to a woman identified by name but not relationship. There are postcards from Emily Jacoby and her mother, Jennie Jacoby, who was blind, as well as from Herman Jacoby. The collection is contained in a folder that is titled, “Postcards” and has an index marked “Itinerary” that is a listing of the places illustrated by the cards. Perhaps the recipient was asked to return the postcards. Whatever the reason, its inclusion gives us contemporary views along with the word picture Jacoby gives us.

This editor will not change spelling of place names but will correct minor errors that are certainly typographical. For example, the hotel “near door” to “next door” and “we sat on the rear dock” to “rear deck” of the ship. Because the Journal is not available, at least one day will be reproduced as an appendix. Enough will be quoted in the body of this text to support a judgment for or against further preservation.


The Jacoby Journal covers the Grand Tour of the Jacoby family: father, Herman; identified only mother, Jennie; daughter, Emily, and their friends, as “Grace and her aunt,” from March through October 1909 and covering Central Europe. Prior to the World War, as it was called before it seemed to be the start of a series, there were principalities in what we call Germany. However, most of the cities retain the same name.

The highlights of this Grand Tour would be a return to his German birthplace for Hermann Jacoby and a return to Reichenberg where Jennie Jacoby was born. Reunion with relatives would be the best part of the trip for this woman who had been blind for many years. For Emily, it would be an opportunity to see what her brother had seen the year before.

In general, the term “Grand Tour” is used to describe a tour that visits the principal cities of Europe. Geoffrey Trease has written a book called The Grand Tour and traced its origins: No man understand Livy and Caesar like him who hath made the “Grand Tour” of France and the “Giro” of Italy. (Richard Lassels, An Italian Voyage or a Compleat Journey through Italy, published in 1679.)

Trease also says, “. . . at the time it became a possibility for the young American. Through him there is a sense in which the intrinsic tradition of the Grand Tour lives on, democratized and transformed on the surface, but in its impulses and aspirations much the same.”

The Jacoby son, Charles, had made the Grand Tour in 1908. For that reason it seems that Jacoby senior is recording his daily events as memory aid rather than informing his son. The son’s trip was part of his professional education, meeting artists and viewing the art glass they had created. Perhaps he provided the impetus to his family’s trip by describing his pleasure in visiting the families in Europe.

But that is speculation. The question being addressed here is, “Shall this collection of letters be put back into the attic, or should it be reproduced, edited, and turned over to a repository for use?”

To answer that question we will examine parts of the Journal and draw some parallel and comparison with travel prior and subsequent to the Edwardian period.

“On history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendour never to be seen again.” —Barbara W. Tuchman

Also described as “halcyon,’’ the Edwardian Era is not just the reign of Edward VII, January 1901 to May 1910, but extends from the death of Queen Victoria, 1909, to the beginning of the first World War, 1914. This reckoning puts the Jacoby Journey in the middle years.

Crossing the Atlantic

The journal begins in New York, “We walked to the tunnel entrance on 23rd St. and it did not take us long to get to Hoboken.” On board ship, they found flowers from “Our boy,” “Two Families in Cincinnati, Uncle Ed and Uncle Charlie, twenty-six letters and fourteen postal cards, two telegrams.” This exceeds any expectation of today’s traveller, who may receive flowers and wine when crossing by ship but nothing at the airplane seat.

There is no detailed description of the ship. The steerage is mentioned and various areas, dining room, lounges, promenade. The ship was of the North German Lloyd of Bremen, “Barbarossa.’’ But Caffrey describes ship travel for the time.

“If a symbol of the scientific marvels of the age had to be chosen, perhaps a majority—before April 1912—would have selected the new kind of ocean liner. Ships eleven stories high and one-sixth of a mile long, slender, graceful, beautiful in controlled power, with four huge funnels, and decorated inside with every refinement of art and luxury in state rooms and lounges, flights of stairs, vast murals, vases of flowers and all the Edwardian lavishness of food and drink and dance-music, could effortlessly cross the Atlantic.”

Today it would be difficult to find a ship that would cross the Atlantic and continue on into the Mediterranean. Jacoby gives us an insight into how it was:

“We are now getting ready for Gibraltar, the landing bridge is being put in order, and things look as if we were getting home. Everybody smiles, and the ladies run around with their candy boxes “Wide open.” They realize that they cannot eat them all themselves and, not wishing to pay duty on it, they give it away.”

But today’s traveller is not aware of duty on boxed candy.

The crossing took from March twenty-seventh until April seventh to Gibraltar. Today’s Concorde flight is three hours and forty minutes lapsed time.


Unexpected expenses upset all travelers and Jacoby was no exception:

“Capri, April 12: I ought not to write as I am in such a wretched humor. We had our first experience of hotel sharking and tipping, which came near spoiling my appetite for more traveling. We carry six suitcases and three satchels between us and it is a constant pay, pay, pay. To begin with, they, made our bill for two days while we stayed only 1-3/4. He then wanted to charge me for changing my traveler’s check. When I came to the concierge, he tried to do me out of $2.50, and the tipping took my breath away. Arrived at the landing we had to pay for carrying our luggage to the boat, we had to pay to carry it to the steamer and, when we got off the steamer, we had to pay again. Just tip, tip, all the time. It was one o’clock before we landed at Capri. The hotel runner took us in, and two or three women pounced on our luggage. I told the runner that I would pay one Lire and no more and gained my first victory this day.”

This becomes a game of one-upmanship, continuing through Italy when Jacoby feels that any statue with an outstretched arm and open hand are monuments to the national sport of receiving tips and he promises to compose a “Sonate Italiano” on the subject.

“The man who handed the baggage over the rail into the boat asked for a tip and I took a handful of coppers and gave them to him. He called me back and handed them back to me and I took them with a bow and a ‘Gratia Signore.’ So I got a tip for once anyhow.”

H. Lawrence in a similar situation wrote: “I gave him three francs. He looked at it as if it were my death warrant. He peered at the paper in the light of the lamp. Then he extended his arm with a gesture of superb insolence, flinging me back my gold without a word.” Lawrence shows his contempt by first calling the boy a swindler and then giving him the other two francs. (Sea and Sardinia, 1921)

In other centuries, travelers had similar problems. In 1844, Roget writes: “Our luggage was placed in the cab and ourselves in the coach, while I mounted on the box by the side of the coachmen, who drove us to the Blackwall Railway Station in Fenchurch Street, and (oh happy omen!) asked no more than his proper fare.” (Travel in the Two Last Centuries of Three Generations, F.F. Roget, 1921)

And, in 1779, Catherine Roget writes: “These bêtes here have demanded five shillings each passenger with an excuse that it is customary to give with the past Port (sic). I expect many of these kind of tricks before we leave Calais.” (Travel in the Two Last Centuries of Three Generations, F.F. Roget, 1921)

Jacoby does not stay out of humor and writes his son: “You are right, I am getting used to the tipping, and, in Florence and Venice, we found them more like gentlemen in their demands for tips. By this time I can laugh at them when they ask me for more. The fellow who punched our tickets at Venice pointed at our (new) suitcase and said, ‘too large.’ I laughed and told him ‘Kindly let me be the judge of that.’ He hesitated, but I insisted on having my tickets, so he punched them, and I put ten centesimi (2 cents) in his outstretched hand. You ought to have seen the look on his face and I gave him the laugh and so ended the Italian tipping business with the odds on my side.”

As for other expenses, Jacoby paid the equivalent of one cent to be ferried across the Grand Canal from the Railway Station to San Marcos. In 1982, his granddaughter paid thirty dollars for the same crossing. The same two generations had similar experiences in Rome:

“In the Catacombs of St. Callistus, the most important of all Christian cemeteries, we were shown around by a most comical old monk who spoke a mixture of French and English. He asked us whether any of us were Catholics, and when no one spoke up, I told him that I was a Methodist, whereupon he whispered in my ear, ‘You are going to the devil,’ and I answered him in French, ‘Mais en jolie compagnie,’ i.e., in good company, pointing to him. He laughed and said, ‘Mais, non’ (aber nicht).” [but not]

In 1975, visiting the Catacombs, Jacoby’s granddaughter is sure she met the same monk. He encouraged her to purchase a relic, “very old, cost five dollars” and another, older, cost ten dollars. His explanation: “It takes me longer to make extremely old than very old.”


Despite Thomas Wolfe’s admonition, people keep digging for roots. Genealogy is booming business, and European archivists sob when asked about the volume of family research. They have learned to make appropriate charges.

But Herman Jacoby was going home. He was born, schooled, and worked in Germany. His return to Bremen, his place of birth, was a good experience. “I knew that we were near Bremen, and I felt like shaking hands with everybody. I took my seat in the church next to Elise Kiel, our old seamstress, and her face was a study when I sat down next to her. She couldn’t very well make any demonstration, but you could see the pleasure and happiness in her face.”

On being reunited with his sister:

“Nurnberg, May 21: ‘Gemutlich’ which word is hard to translate. At the depot, my sister Lenchen received us, and it is hard to explain to you the feeling which overcame me when I embraced her after a separation of 36 years. She has changed but little in her general appearance and mode of speech and actions. We have had a delightful time ever since we met.”

But his return to college was a disappointment. His school was in Ludwigsburg, a town founded to be a rival of Stuttgart (1700). The grounds were changed, unfamiliar, and while he admired the avenue of limes and chestnut trees, he writes, “The beautiful view to the Soliture so prettily situated on the spur of a plateau and formerly the seat of the Karlschule where the great German poet Schiller received part of his education, has been spoilt by the houses built on our former play ground and I could not enjoy it. For the first time since I put my foot on the soil on which my cradle stood, I felt disappointed.”

He wondered how anyone could stand this dead town for very long. But he is delighted with the house where he was born.

“Bremen, Aug 12: It bore the number 13, and this explains why I always considered 13 a lucky number . . . I saw the old desk which Father used at the Missionshaus. I remembered how Father used to sit in front of it and talk to me in his kind and loving way when I had done a mischief.”

What does a (nearly) sightless woman enjoy on a “sightseeing” trip? Music everywhere. The family attended a number of concerts and, in Vienna, Jennie was reunited with some family and heard of the rest. She visited the place where she was born, “She stood in the spot (before the altar in the church) where her parents were married.”

The family stayed in Vienna longer than planned for Jennie to meet other relatives. There are always smells of each country. In rural areas the manure stands in front of each cottage. Jacoby tells us the size of the pile determines the wealth of the owner. And there is the sound of falling water.

“Rheinfall, Neuhausen, September 8: Our room has a veranda looking out upon the Rhine Falls and we hasten to take a look at them . . . Mama could not tire of listening to the grand voice of the Falls and sat out on the veranda as often as possible. ‘It is impossible for me to describe this sublime sight of Nature,’ Hermann quotes Goethe writing to his fellow poet and friend Schiller in 1797: ‘This phenomenon of Nature will be often enough described and painted, it will awaken the astonishment of every traveler, many will essay to give voice to their emotions, but none will succeed in catching the impression of the scene, still less in painting, it in all its power.’”

An especially memorable day began with a slow train, as was often Jacoby’s choice. There were meal stops, the only meal on the train was from a basket picked up at the station.

“Tubingen September 3: Our dinner station Signmaringen came in sight. This is a handsome little town situated on the Danube, it is the residence of Prince Hohenzollern, who lives in the Schloss situated on a rock rising abruptly from the Danube. After dinner we enjoyed the spectacle of the Prince’s sister returning from a visit to her home. The prince was there to receive her and several fine carriages with lackeys. They laid a carpet from the track to the carriage and her car stopped just in front of it so that she could walk along the carpet to her carriage. It was fun to watch the deep bows and scrapings of the servants.”

On that same day, an unexpected pleasure:

“Suddenly at 6:30 the cry arose; ‘Zeppelin, Zeppelin, here he comes.’ And across the lake over a wooded eminence the peaked nose of the white sausage-shaped airship appeared and gradually the full body of the ship with its two gondolas came in sight. It was beautiful . . . the representative of the German Empire had assembled to view the invention of Count Zeppelin and from their midst 88 persons had been selected by lot to make the ascent. Once the exchange of passengers was made on the lake. The passengers descended a ladder made of aluminum and others took their places. I am glad we had an opportunity to be present on this day and to see the wonderful Zeppelin III.”

What does anyone want from Switzerland? A watch. Jennie Jacoby had an unusual watch, made especially for a blind woman. Here is Jacoby’s account of why she had two.

“Lucerne, September 24: We reached Riel in an hour and went right to the watchmaker who has Mama’s watch to repair. We found him at home, 31 Neuengasse, his name A. Schneeberger, and he has put the watch in first class order, but Mama fell in love with another, one which she saw there and which is made to strike by pressing a knob, which is better than the pushing arrangement, so I bought it for her. I kept the other because I feel satisfied that some day it will come in handy.”

Her grandchildren loved the watches and, when she died, each of the grandsons took one. When the knob is pressed, the hour strikes, followed by chimes, one for quarter after, two for half-past, and three for quarter to the hour.

Jacoby has a comical encounter with the Kaiser:

“Seine Majestat, His Majesty, as the Berliner calls the Emperor for short. I had a good look at him, he was on horseback with a general on each side and accompanied by his youngest son who was in citizen’s clothes. Numerous men on bicycles rode around him and the cabbie told me they were detectives. We rode all around him and I poked my head out of the window, and we looked at each other. We were both so astonished over the sudden meeting that we forgot to salute. Well, S. M. is all right, and he has the proper respect for the U. S. and is good to us strangers and lets us have free access to his palaces and galleries provided we pay admission and tips.”

The return crossing is on the same ship, Barbarossa, and the departure, is delayed from October fourteenth to eighteenth. The ship, which had been in for repairs, was now ready for their return. Jacoby writes, “No flowers this time except violets and a buttonhole bouquet for Emily. What a long time to stay away from home and how short it seems now we have come to the end of our pleasure trip.”

The last entry is:

“October 28th: At two o’clock we passed Fire Island. This will bring us to the pier about seven o’clock. Dad”

Is Jacoby’s Journal worthy of preservation? Yes, not only as an archive but also as a social history document. What does Jacoby offer us aside from the usual description of what he sees? I omitted the typical, the Berne bears, for example, have been seen by visitors in other centuries. But Jacoby tells of clergymen, the communication between those in the new world and the old countries. He tells us of his choice of transportation and why. He shares his emotion at reuniting with close family. He gives us insight into why a blind woman would travel—what takes the place of sightseeing for her. He gives us a refreshing phrase when he tells us his daughter goes “shop-gazing,” a much better description than “window-shopping.”

He quotes from favorite authors, although, as would be expected, these are usually German. His touch of humor comes through. For all these reasons, his journal should not remain neglected but be reproduced as is, except for corrections of typographical errors. There is a use for the journal, by social and church historians for research, and for travel readers for a look at the “good old days” in the Edwardian Era.


Caffrey, Kate. The 1900s Lady. London: Gordon Cremonesi Ltd, 1976. Norman, Jan and Theodore, Traveler’s Guide to Europe’s Art. Great Neck, N. Y.: Channel Press, 1959.

Roget, S. R., (ed.). Travel in the Two Last Centuries of Three Generations. London: T. Fisher Ltd., 1921.

Trease, Geoffrey. The Grand Tour. New York Chicago San Francisco: Rinehart and Winston, 1967.