Travels with Grace: Algiers, 1929

Posted on May 21st, 2019 by

Welcome to this week’s segment of our 2019 #TravelTuesday series: Traveling with Grace. Today Grace shares her first visit to shore in the city of Algiers. As mentioned earlier, Grace’s language and word choices are not always progressive – this entry in particularly contains insensitive and classist language.

July 4, 1929

Algiers, North Africa. When we come out on our balcony this morning a beautiful scene greets our eyes. There on the shore of the blue Mediterranean hangs a diadem of pearls, the white houses of Algiers gleaming softly in the morning sunlight, tapering up to a point on the hills. Soon a number of little boats of every description are swarming around us and little boys and men, almost nude, are diving into the water for coins which are thrown to them. They look exactly like frogs swimming about, their agile bodies browned to a bronzy hue. Then there is laid a long pontoon bridge which is quickly lined with native merchants displaying their several wares, notably rugs, tapestries, articles in copper and brass, curved knives and silver jewelry. Over this bridge we cross to the shore. It is very got in the sun, a dry heat, but pleasant in the shade and when driving. The city is half French, half Arab. The architecture is predominantly Moorish, though in the European quarter the houses are strongly reminiscent of Paris and they even have a park named after the Bois de Boulogne.

The city and harbor of Algiers, Algeria, from Collier’s New Encyclopedia. Volume 1, 1921. Via.

The Arab men wear the long white bernous, white turbans twisted around and around their heads, they are usually bare-footed and wear scraggly beards. The women are also swathed in white (not unfortunately spotless however), their faces veiled up to their eyes, no stockings but high-heeled slippers and a bracelet around each ankle. Nearly all of them carry babies. There are also a number of Turks wearing the red fez. These people are far from clean. Many of the little boys have monkeys on a leash and these are the commonest household pets. I was told they are caught over in the Atlas Mountains where they live wild. The manner of their capture is as follows: being very fond of nuts, they are enticed by gourds filled with this delicacy, into which they thrust a hand. With this hand full of nuts they cannot extricate it and they will not relinquish the prize. Thus struggling they are caught.

Former stronghold of Barbary Pirates, ocean front approach and mosque in distance, Algiers, 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

We visited a carpet factory where oriental rugs are manufactured. Little girls from five years of age up to ten or twelve work at the looms. At each loom are two little girls and one older girl who sits between. They follow their patters with rich and deep colors and make the knots with incredible speed. (It is pitiful to see such tots work but it teaches them a trade and keeps them from mischief or from begging on the streets.) Their long plaits are wrapped closely in strips of cloth, they look like a chinaman’s queue and this is to prevent the hair from getting mixed up with their threads. Some of the little girls are quite pretty in a dark, roguish way. They beg slyly when the forelady is not looking. Next door is a shop where they sell the rugs and also beautifully embroidered shawls, scarves and dresses of the purest wool.

We next visit the governor’s winter palace, archbishop’s palace, Cathedral and Post Office, all handsome structures in the Moorish style, richly ornamented with mosaics in which light blue and gold predominate against a white background, and slender fluted columns of marble. Heavy doors of hard wood are embellished with carvings and large copper nail heads. The walls are covered with lacy arabesques while tall minarets and sparkling domes dominate the exteriors. We ride through the old Arab quarter and look up the little side streets which are in reality narrow winding stairways over which the walls of the houses almost meet. They lead up to the Kasbah or fortifications on the top of the pyramid formed by the buildings.

The Kasbah, 1920s. Via.

Here the natives live in the utmost squalor with no notion of sanitation. The wider thoroughfares are nearly all arcaded as a protection from the dazzling sunshine. Men are frequently seen sprawled out on the pavement fast asleep. We see the flea market where odds and ends of junk are sold and the produce market where the fruits and vegetables look very fine. We see a mosque and a synagogue, both similar in architecture. Most of the Jews look like Turks. On the principal shopping street, Rue de la Marine, are some pretty stores, the Bon Marche being similar to the one in Paris and the women seen in this section look very stylish. The Library, Opera House and National University are very nice buildings. We ride out in the open country, up through the hills where the breeze is blowing fresh from the sea. Here the vegetation is green and abundant. Numerous are the fruit trees of all kinds and there are very pretty farms, one we saw being the property of an American, Lovett Henn. There is a country club and extensive golf course, many of the villas are covered with the brilliant bouqainvillia via. We see the handsome summer residence o the Governor which commands a beautiful view, in fact there are many beautiful panoramas opening up form the hills down to the sea which remind me strongly of Nice and the Cote d’Azur. Palm trees abound and the air is fragrant with mimosa.

Jardin d’Essai du Hamma. Via.

On our way back to Algiers we pass the Pasteur Institute where there are lots of cows and we visit the Jardin d’Essait or botanical gardens where the most beautiful tropical plants and trees are growing in almost wild profusion. There are huge hibiscus trees, magnolia, rubber, banyan bamboo, and a lovely tree bearing yellow flowers and thin fringe-like leaves. A part of the garden is laid out in formal French style copied from Versailles, and they are building a new museum of fine arts which, when completed, will look like the Trocadero. We ride along the Quai. Many of the better class homes facing the sea are closed as the wealthy inhabitants live elsewhere during the summer.

Notre-Dame-d’Afrique, early 20th century. Via.

Crowning a high hill overlooking the sea, is the handsome Byzantine Cathedral of Notre Dame of Afrique Birkadem. Many of the Arab homes have flat roofs which serve as the family sitting room at night and here their poor women can unveil their faces and be comfortable. We go to call on the American Consul but do not find him in.

When we return to the ship, we find it full of visitors, this being its first visit to Algiers, they are holding open house and I think all of the European residents are availing themselves of the opportunity to inspect it. Refreshments are served to all. Tonight, a special dinner is served in honor of the 4th of July and the table are decorated with little Italian and American flags. Ice cream is served every night after the dance.

July 5, 1929: We are at sea again and this afternoon sight the Island of Sardinia. Tonight is the Captain’s dinner. Ship treats all to champagne.

Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. Next week we pick up with the family as they visit Naples. As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager


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Travels with Grace: Steaming Away, 1929

Posted on May 14th, 2019 by

Welcome to this week’s segment of our 2019 #TravelTuesday series: Traveling with Grace. This week Grace and her family embark on a long summer journey east across the ocean, beginning in northern Africa and working their way through parts of Europe.

 Going: June 25, 1929

S.S. Saturnia: Cosulich Line

Cut-away printed in 1927, before the maiden voyage, by Arti Grafiche Modiano of Trieste. The ship portrayed is the Saturnia.” Via

Golda and Meyer were here to see us off. This boat is sumptuous, and everyone is courteous from the captain who introduced himself and offered his services to the little boys who bow us into the elevator like tiny courtiers. There is a gorgeous swimming pool all lined in stone mosaics copied from Pompeii, a wonderful gymnasium fitted with all sorts of apparatus, a children’s play room with every kind of toy to delight the hearts of kiddies and a fascinating painted frieze, a solarium furnished in yellow, red and white which radiates brightness and our own little private balcony where we spend many hours of rest and quiet contemplation.

“The indoor swimming pool, in Pompeian style, the work of Gaetano Moretti.” Via

June 30, 1929

Fencing in the gymnasium. Via

About 2 pm we sight some rocky islands, the Azores, which provide a slight variation to the watery distances of five days duration. There is a travel movie every afternoon in addition to a comedy (after lunch a fine concert on deck), a every night horse races and fencing after which refreshments are served.

July 2, 1929

This afternoon we watch some very amusing games in the 2nd cabin.

July 3, 1929

Gibralter, 1929. Spanish town of La Linea can be seen in the distance. Via.

This a.m. we steam into the harbor of Gibraltar to let a party off on a private yacht. Good view of town from deck of Saturnia. Mask ball tonight.

Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. Next week Grace and her family make landfall in Algiers! As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager

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Camp Louise

Posted on May 1st, 2019 by

Blog post by JMM archivist Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie HERE.

Aaron and Lillie Straus at Camp Louise with campers. JMM 2018.7.101.

Last week I was processing photographs that were a gift of Camps Airy & Louise. These incredible images were telling the story of a camp I had heard of many times but (until recently) did not know much about their long and interesting history. From my research into the history of the Associated, I knew that Camp Louise began in 1922 when the Daughters in Israel and the Young Ladies Benevolent Society (both part of the Associated Jewish Charities) joined together to operate a camp for young working women in the mountains.

Daughters in Israel was founded in1896 and was a residence home for young working woman. It was first located at 121 Aisquith Street, and would later move to 1111 East Baltimore, then 1200 East Baltimore Street. The young woman, who were either new immigrants or without family, were provided a room in the home, a weekly excursion, a day for friends to visit, and were offered courses in dressmaking and cooking. The cost for this was $2 a week which included housekeeping, room, and board. Most of the young woman were employed in Baltimore’s teeming textile industry where the conditions were difficult and the hours long. (You can learn more about Baltimore’s history with “The Needle Trades” this weekend, when the Museum hosts Jack Burkert of the Baltimore Museum of Industry – more info on his program here.)

The other organization involved in the beginnings of Camp Louise was the Young Ladies Benevolent Society. The Society “gives relief to girls suffering from illness, furnishes maternity care, acts as guide and mentor to girls and young women in need of advice; started in 1900 by a group of 300 working girls, it was an organization that helped care for sick girls over the age of 16 and women in confinement.” “What Your Contribution Accomplished” Pamphlet, 1921; Associated Jewish Charities 1916-1925 Scrapbook. JMM 2017.68.1.14.

These two organizations would join together to operate a camp for young working women in the mountains. It began when they rented a house in Highfield, Maryland, in the Blue Ridge Mountains called Sand-Mar House. “The Associated Jewish Charities provided a budget of $500 for the project. From this amount, $300 had to be paid for rent. The remaining amount of $200, and the very minimal fee that each vacationer paid, if any, comprised the funds for all other necessities. There were ‘counselors’, more fortunate young women from Baltimore, who volunteered their time and interest to make the Sand-Mar House vacation relaxing and attractive. The important responsibilities of management and operation were given to Miss Ida” The Story of Louise by Sara Yudlson. For more than 50 years Ida Sharogrodsky, known as Miss Ida, would run the early camp for working girls and Camp Louise.

Ida Sharagrodsky (Miss Ida) and Lillie Straus (Aunt Lillie) from the Cohen Family Camp Airy Collection, JMM 1993.59.33d.

After several years the Ida Sharogrodsky was told that Sand-Mar could no longer be rented and the Associated Jewish Charities could buy the home if they wished to continue using it. Miss Ida went to one of the active board members who had been a great supporter of the camp, Lillie Straus. She suggested that her husband Aaron Straus buy the building for the Associated so the women could continue having their summer vacations. The story is that Miss Ida decided to take a walk in the area and passed the Melview House, a hotel for sale.

She would ask Mr. and Mrs. Straus to come and look at the hotel and after a journey with quite a few set backs they finally arrived at Melview House. After a tour of the hotel, which offered additional space and the ability to serve more young women, Aaron Straus bought the building and gave it to the Associated Jewish Charities. It was around this time that his sister, Louise Straus passed away. In honor of her they named the new camp, Camp Louise. “It Started with that Big White House,” 1922. Gift of Camps Airy & Louise, JMM 2018.7.107.4.

On June 22, 1922 Camp Louise would officially open with twelve campers. Sara Yudlson wrote, “Activities were leisurely. To just sit on the front porch and rock in a chair, and to look out on green grass and young trees, was rewarding and restful enough for many of the young women.” That summer Aaron and Lillie Straus would visit Camp Louise and made a decision to take the camp on as a personal project and relieve the Associated Jewish Charities of all financial responsibilities and management. They created a new non-profit organization which continues to this day as Camp Louise. Lille and Aaron Straus, who would be known as Uncle Airy and Aunt Lillie, would continue to spend summers at Camp Louise, interacting with the campers and assisting in caring for the camp they loved.

Over time the camp would become a sleep away camp for girls as the needs of a country vacation for young working women became less. The generosity of Aaron and Lillie Straus would allow many Jewish children who would have otherwise never been able to afford sleep away camp a chance to experience a summer of fun. “Syme Inn – one of our original bunks.” Gift of Camps Airy & Louise, JMM 2018.7.106.5.

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