Traveling With Grace: Welcome to our new Tuesday series!

Posted on January 8, 2019 by


A blog post by JMM Marketing Manager Rachel Kassman. To read more posts from Rachel, click here.

Do you follow #TravelTuesdays on your social media platform of choice? (If not, I recommend it!)

On JMM’s social media, we’ve been sharing #TravelTuesday posts for the last couple of years, starting out with general photographs from the collections of people on vacation, visiting relatives, and sightseeing, then branching out to postcards from lands far and near.

For 2018, we decided to do something a little different – (almost) every week we shared a passport from our archives. Where possible we shared additional collection materials related to the owner of the passport (and sometimes other related tidbits or facts). But as the year (and my list of passports) began to wind down, it was time to make a decision: How should the Museum celebrate travel in 2019?

After some thought, discussions with a colleague in the field, and some searching in our collections database, I hit upon our next venture: travel diaries! What better way to explore the world of travel than with first person accounts? Happily, we have a few different travel diaries (also sometimes called travel journals) in the collections. Even better, we have multiple (7 to be exact) travel diaries from the same writer, one Grace Amelia Hecht, spanning trips from 1919 to 1954!

Our Director of Collections, Joanna Church, was kind enough to do a little digging for me. While we haven’t found a lot of information about Grace, she did gather some basic biographical details. Born in 1897 to Moses and Florence Hecht, Grace appears to have been an only child and remained unmarried. The family lived around Eutaw Place and Druid Hill – specifically the Alhambra in the 1920s and 1930s. Grace may have also lived at the Rivera Apts. Sadly, Grace passed away at the fairly young age of 58.

Based on her travel writings it is clear that Grace and her family were very well off. This is further supported by the disposition of her assets as related in this 1955 article from The Baltimore Sun. We are particularly intrigued by her decision to create the Grace Amelia Hecht Fund for the prevention and cure of polio at Johns Hopkins University.

There are mentions within her travel diaries of sporadic wheelchair use, and in this 1954 photo you can see Grace using a pair of crutches (JMM 1985.154.2.10). It is highly possible that Grace herself was a victim of the disease – though this is unconfirmed. We also have a brief mention in The Sun of a surgery in 1910 at St. Agnes’ Hospital, which could be related. The brief mentions of accessibility within her travel diaries give a very small look (through a very privileged lens) of one experience traveling with a disability.

In preparation for this whole endeavor, there was (and still is!) some work to be done – most importantly, transcribing the handwritten diaries. To make this process easier, I’ve been photographing each written page, so I can blow it up on my screen, which makes “translating” Grace’s handwriting simpler, but there are still plenty of words I haven’t quite been able to make out, and, as a human and not an all-powerful artificial intelligence, I am as prone to errors as anyone, so I’m sure there will be a few transcription errors throughout. I hope you’ll forgive me. (And if you’ve got a better guess on some of the trickier words, please let me know what you think!) And while one trip (from 1929) had been transcribed in the past, it was on a typewriter, so still needed to be retyped into a digital format.

Part of the transcription process has been minor editing – mostly for punctuation (Grace wasn’t too fond of commas!) to help with reading comprehension. In some cases I have corrected or updated spellings where leaving the original would cause confusion, but otherwise I have tried to leave Grace’s words as she wrote them. Words or letters appear in brackets [like this] are best guesses on my part, either because a word was missing or because it was difficult to make out Grace’s writing. Additional notes or commentary may appear as footnotes as well. Introductory remarks will appear at the top of each post and will be italicized to help make it clear that these comments are from me, and not part of Grace’s diaries.

Starting next week, on January 15th, I’ll be sharing Grace’s travel diaries – sometimes her entire entries, sometimes selections (but I’ll try and always make the full transcripts available) here on the JMM blog every Tuesday. Wherever possible, I hope to illustrate these posts with period appropriate photographs and illustrations, as well as sharing interesting articles and other reading about the people and places Grace mentions throughout her travels – images will generally link to their sources and the additional facts and stories will appear as direct links or links in the footnotes.

A word of caution – Grace is very much a product of her time, and there are words and phrases used throughout that today would not be acceptable. There are also occasionally events that many of us today might find hard to handle (for example, Grace’s description of a bull fight in Mexico). I’ll do my best to give content warnings at the head of a post and ask you to make your own best care decisions when it comes to reading.  Overall, however, Grace’s recounting of her travels (at least those I’ve transcribed so far) are lighthearted and focused on the beautiful scenery she finds herself in.

For now, I’ll leave you with the earliest entry we have from Grace’s travel diaries:

November 2, 1919: Sunday Evening. Dinner at Hotel Pennsylvania on arrival. Then to Hotel Knickerbocker, our temporary home, where the Maas family called in the evening. My first visit to New York and I am so excited.


 

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2 Comments

  1. Sue Foard says:

    What a lovely way to travel back through time! Looking forward to reading about Grace’s travels. I hope the art of writing dairies is still alive and will be preserved for future generations.

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