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Departing for a European adventure

View William Hatch's Travels in Europe, June 1st 1901 on W.Hatch's travel map.

One hundred and fourteen years ago yesterday, William Hatch set sail for the green isle of England. A prominent teacher and school administrator, Hatch served as superintendent of ISD#97 in Oak Park, Illinois from 1882 to 1917. An elementary school in Oak Park still bears his namesake because of Hatch's immense contributions to education in that community. At the turn of the 20th Century, at the age of 56, Mr. Hatch set out on the trip of a lifetime. He wrote almost daily regarding his travels to his wife Nellie, who was a member of a prominent milling family from Rockford, Minnesota. Through his travels William retraced the paths that inspired his favorite poets, visited streets and scenes immortalized by authors such as Charles Dickens, and discovered the delights that anyone who has traveled abroad will recognize.

Each week this blog will follow the path taken by William Hatch as he made his way through England, the Netherlands, Germany, and France. Accompanying these posts is a map, which can be found at the top of each entry. Excerpts from the many letters written by Hatch on his journey and information detailing places, people, or events of particular interest or importance will also be featured throughout. Follow along as turn-of-the Century Europe unfolds before your eyes thanks to the diligent writing of this remarkable man. This is the first of many of these entries.

In his first journal entry, Mr. Hatch describes the many things which he observed about the ship on which he and his companions traveled. Setting sail from Portland, Maine (which Hatch had reached from Chicago by train), the ship traveled over the Atlantic Ocean towards its destination of Liverpool, England. Mr. Hatch writes concisely but with much detail. In describing the meals aboard ship on June 2nd, 1901he says,

"We have great fun at meals. Everything is English. The waiters (or stewards as they are called [on ships]) are all men and they have very serious, courteous manners of the English waiters. We have breakfast at 8:30 to 9:30, lunch 1 to 1:45, dinner 6 to 7, supper 9 to 10 if ordered. In the middle of the afternoon the deck steward serves tea on deck if wished. The food is fine -- a good variety and all well cooked. No butter is served to you at dinner and they made great fun of me when I ask for some."

Clearly there is much in common with cruise ships of today where food is concerned. While the meals and the dining room might not have been as extravagant as they are today, Hatch is clearly impressed with what is available. Most interesting is his description of the stewards -- it is obvious that he hasn't had much exposure to people from a different culture. This fascination and observation of other people will remain throughout the coming entries. I can't wait to see what he thinks of the French!


The ship pictured above is the RMS Carpathia, famous for rescuing survivors of the sinking Titanic. Though not the ship that Mr. Hatch sailed to Liverpool on, this picture gives a good example of what passenger ocean liners were like at the turn of the 19th Century. Hatch remarks that, "there is a long, sheltered promenade on each side of the steamer. The walk may be extended to almost the prow of the ship." These were nothing like the massive cruise ships sailing the ocean today. No climbing wall in sight, no wave pools, no outdoor bars or acres of sun decks. Nevertheless, they still provided ways for passengers to remain active. Mr. Hatch describes the deck-side habits of English gentlemen as, "he seems to take his pleasures very seriously and he walks back and forth as though walking for a wager, and an important one at that... Back and forth they go as though they were on the way to business and were late. They are painfully active." Clearly the Midwesterner from 1901 loves people watching as much as this one from 2015 does.

Check back soon for more updates from William Hatch. What idiosyncrasies will he notice next about his fellow passengers? With days left of the trip across the Atlantic Ocean, I am sure that he will have many more illuminating observations as he sails toward Liverpool, England. To follow his route, just click on the map at the top of this page!

Until next time!

Dustin Bardon
Interim Director, Rockford Area Historical Society

Posted by W.Hatch 17:01 Archived in USA

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