Tag Archives: Travel

Random Thoughts on History and the Past

Our recent trip to Pennsylvania included a lot of history, which is the top consideration whenever we plan a trip. I’m lucky that my husband is also interested in the past, as it makes for an agreeable itinerary for both of us.  The primary reason for the trip was so I could attend the regional Costume Society of America symposium in Shippensburg, PA, but when we realized how close Philadelphia was, we decided to add a few days to the trip and visit the city.

Much of what is now referred to as the Old City is owned publicly and is administered by the National Park Service. A large part of this is the Independence Hall complex, seen above. In the center is what was the old Pennsylvania State House, and it was there that the Continental Congress met to discuss and sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and where eleven years later the Constitutional Convention was held.

To the right is Congress Hall, where the Congress of the United States met after the government moved to Philadelphia in 1790, and behind the trees on the left is where the Supreme Court met.  In a building to the right of where I took this photo is where the Liberty Bell is now housed.

I always find the juxtaposition of modern buildings and historical ones interesting. Philadelphia is a modern city, and that is left from colonial and early Federal days is scattered  throughout the Old City. The house in which Dolly Madison lived with her first husband survives, but the house that was George Washington’s Presidential residence does not. You can visit Betsy Ross’s house, but not Ben Franklin’s.

Both Washington’s house and Franklin’s are represented as “ghost houses”, where frames made of white pipes show where the houses would be if they had survived. It’s hard to believe that the President’s residence was torn down, but look at the photo above and you can see the big yard in front of Independence Hall. Years ago this lawn was full of homes and businesses. Washington’s house was located on this lawn.

This is the Thomas Bond House, which now houses an inn, and which is where we stayed. To the left is a parking garage, to the right a paved park, and beyond that, an apartment building. The paved park is the site of the home of William Penn, the founder of the Pennsylvania colony.

It is useful in such a situation to be able to imagine the missing buildings, and to see this house as part of a street of similar ones.

Thankfully, such a street still exists. It’s Elfreth’s Alley, where the houses all date from 1720 to 1830. It is literally in the shadow of  Interstate 95 and is just off a busy modern street, but all that is forgotten when walking this alley. So how did it survive? It became home to poor immigrants, and was rediscovered in 1934 when preservation efforts began. If you look at cities where a lot of old buildings survive, you’ll see that poverty is often the reason.

And while it’s a shame that so much of historic Philadelphia was lost, the real story might be that it is amazing that so much still exists. For comparison, how many pre-1830 buildings are still standing in New York City. The answer is very few.

I found this visit to Colonial Philadelphia to be oddly comforting in our stressful political climate. It was a great reminder that the figures of the past were not perfect beings, but they were still able to create a democracy that has lasted 230 years. They enslaved people, even Franklin (who later argued against slavery). They gave women no say in the proceedings, and when Jefferson wrote “All men are created equal…” he meant all white men.

In a time when we seem to be going backward in our progress as human beings, this serves as a reminder of how far we have come since 1776. It also helps to remember that history, like fashion, is not linear. I think the best example of this is our recent elections. Total control is no longer in the hands of one political philosophy, but is now shared with those of different views. If you study how our Constitution was written, you’ll see that our country has never agreed on every issue, but it is necessary that all voices be heard.

But enough of that – let’s look at signs of fashion history. We spotted this sign just down from the Betsy Ross House, but it is not a hoop skirt factory, but an apartment building. At one time this was an industrial building, but I’m unsure if hoops were ever made there.

When traveling, don’t forget to look up.  This building on Market Street is no longer a seller of trunks and bags, but one can imagine what it must have been like one hundred years ago.

At the site of an old public house, A Man Full of Trouble must have been referring to the hatbox she is carrying.

On the way home we stopped in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, which is most known for the raid of abolitionist John Brown. Again, the National Park Service has a big presence, and it interprets not only the raid, but also the town of Harpers Ferry as it was in the nineteenth century.

I had been wanting to visit Harpers Ferry since college, when one of my professors declared that everyone in the town had one leg a bit shorter than the other from walking on the hilly streets. I actually can’t confirm that is true.

Part of the town is level, and runs along the Shenandoah River. This has been restored to look as the town did in the nineteenth century. Not knowing this, I got all excited when I saw the shop windows full of antique merchandise. As it turned out, it was just an illusion.

Still, it was fun peering into a general mercantile of the time.

The best interpreted store was an actual men’s haberdashery, Philip Frankel & Co.

Due to it being off-season, there were few rangers about to tell about the buildings, but the park has done a decent job of posting information for those willing to take the time to read.






Filed under Road Trip, Viewpoint

Trip Time

It evidently is not cold enough here in North Carolina, because I’ll be traveling north with friends for the next week.  I’ll be in New York City just in time for New York Fashion Week, which I’ll be ignoring, and the Westminster Dog Show, which I may have to trick my friends into attending.  Otherwise it will be nonstop museum hopping and fabric shopping, with a bit of sight-seeing and warm bars and restaurants thrown in for fun.

There will be scheduled posts here while I’m gone, and I’ll try to check in to reply to comments.  I’ll be posting on Instagram as well, so check in for a preview of all the things I’ll find to write about here on The Vintage Traveler.


Filed under Vintage Travel

And Just a Few More of New York

I’m the type of person who loves to plan.  When going on a trip I read and plan and usually know exactly what I want to do and see before leaving home.  The nice thing about this latest trip to New York was that I left some time for exploring and serendipity.  In a city as huge as New York, there is always something exciting to discover.

What else I loved, in no particular order:

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.

The memorial to John Lennon in Central Park.

The shop windows are always a treat, and this time I especially loved the ones at Tiffany and Co.  There were little beach scenes with metal umbrellas, and a gold or silver bauble or two.

Louis Vuitton had a prehistoric theme.

There are little pockets of the luxury that existed along Fifth Avenue starting after the turn of the 20th century.  This window is by Lalique who designed the windows for cosmetics firm Coty in 1912.  The Coty building is still open, and is now home to Henri Bendel.

Bendel’s today is a shadow of its former self when store president Geraldine Stutz was breaking ground with her boutique-within-the-store concept.   It is owned by The Limited and sells mainly accessories.  Still the store is worth going into just to ogle at the windows and to think of how rich and powerful Coty was 100 years ago.

These might have been in any number of the fine jewelry establishments on Fifth Avenue, but they weren’t.  These earrings are in the Met, and are Byzantine, made in about the 6th century and found in Cyprus in 1902.

Honestly, the food stands in Chinatown almost made me wish I were a food blogger.

In the late 19th century this stretch of Sixth Avenue was known as the Ladies Mile.  All the elegant stores were located here, and so a lady could easily patronize her favorites.  Today it is home to many mass merchandisers, like TJ Maxx.

I had to laugh at this billboard about Little Edie.

I had not planned on doing any vintage shopping, but how could I pass by and not at least look?  This shop was a pleasant surprise.  With so many vintage stores these days selling nothing made before I graduated high school (1973) Ritual Vintage was a shop full of older clothing, beautifully displayed.

One of the many beautiful sweets shops

Breakfast in Bryant Park

Love, by Robert Indiana

A lunchtime friend, Baxley

I had to have a serving of vegetables…

Thanks to all of you who have read and commented on my many trip posts.   It has been fun sharing the museums and shopping with you who share my interests, and writing the posts made me sit and critically think through all that I’d seen.


Filed under Road Trip

Vintage Miscellany – August 11, 2013

The Vintage Traveler will be off to New York City this week, but there will still be postings here.  I might be a little slow responding, as I’ll be museum hopping and doing a bit of shopping and eating and well, whatever.

I’ll be tweeting my adventures, so if you want to know whether or not I get into trouble you can follow my tweets using the link in the side bar.  Wish me luck in my quest for lots of fashion fun!

*  Cone Denim in Greensboro, NC, has had to find and refurbish old looms to keep up with the demand for their selvage denim.  Capacity was increased by 25%.

*   Dior Couture is not your average sewing factory, and this short video shows why.

*   Colin McDowell looks at the state of fashion criticism and does not like it.

*   Saks Fifth Avenue will be sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company.  Is luxury shopping endangered?

*   Honestly, some people have NO clue about life.

*   On my list for this week: Urban Fabric: Building New York’s Garment District.

*   Here’s look at some vintage travel posters in the Charleston Museum collection.


Filed under Vintage Miscellany

National Museum of American History – America on the Move

It wasn’t all about fashion last week in Washington.  I managed to work in a travel exhibition as well.  America on the Move is a survey of Americans going places.  It is part of the ongoing remodeling of the museum, and is a walk through various scenes that show how travel has changed over the years.  To give you an idea of the size of the museum, included is an exhibit with an actual Southern Railway locomotive.

Above is a 1903 Winston, which was the first car to cross the United States.  Driven by Nelson Jackson and Sewall Crocker, they drove from California to New York, picking up Bud the bulldog in Idaho.  In many places there were no roads at all, and they had to have equipment to remove them from gullies and such.  The trip was completed in 63 days.

In this scene, a girl is standing on the porch of a tourist cabin, part of Ring’s Rest, a small motor court in Maryland.  Built in 1930, the court remained open until the 1960s.  The Ringe family, which owned the motor court donated the building and Cabins sign along with many photographs that document the business.

Look how tiny!  I’ve been in a few of these older cabins where there is room for only a bed, a small table and a chair or two.

Ring’s Rest, 1940s

The trailer is a 1934 Trav-L-Coach which was owned by the Eben Cate family of New Hampshire.  The scene is of their camping spot at Decatur Motor Camp in York, Maine.  While Father Cate sits, sleeping beneath his paper, Mother and Daughter are conducting business as usual in the trailer kitchen.

The test notes pointed out that the trailer was already damaged where the cut-away section is.   This little taste of vintage trailers made me more than ever want to visit the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana.

Station wagons were the mom vans and SUVs of the 1950s.  How would you like to load the back of this 1955 Ford Country Squire with a picnic basket full of great food, a Scotch Kooler, and a red plaid Pendleton blanket?


Filed under Museums, Road Trip

Ad Campaign – Grace Line, 1950

After it became obvious that airplane travel was here to stay, and that a trip to Europe could be completed in 10 hours instead of five days, the cruise line companies began to shift gears from providing transportation to providing vacations.  A ship voyage was already a pleasurable experience for those with the money to buy first class tickets, and so that level of luxury was easily converted to the idea of the ship as a hotel that visited different ports.

The idea really caught on after WWII, when the cruise lines got their ships back after their wartime service.  Cruises to Hawaii and South America became big business.  These pleasure cruises would last up to a month, in contrast to the common three and four day cruises of today.

I’m sure you have all read how the 3100 passengers on the Carnival Triumph got an unwanted four day extension of their four day Mexican cruise.  This was big news in the US, and completely overshadowed what was an even worse incident on a cruise in the Canary Islands when five crew members of the Thomson Majesty were killed during a routine lifeboat drill.

I’m not qualified to comment on the safety regulations and procedures of cruise ships, but for an industry that has people talking about the accident of the Costa Concordia over a year later, it seems to me that they have some ‘splaining to do.

Does anyone beside me remember that series on The Mickey Mouse Club where Annette took a trip to Hawaii?  She went on a cruise ship and I thought it was the most fun thing ever.

Several years ago a friend and I took a cruise through the Aegean as part of an educational tour of Greece.  As such, we were on a small ship which held about 600 people, and I thought *that* was big.  I can’t imagine being on one of those floating towns of up to 5000 people that pass for cruise ships today.  Especially now.


Filed under Advertisements, Viewpoint, Vintage Travel

Ad Campaign – 20th Century Limited, 1951

The Time: 6 P.M., any night.  The Place: Grand Central Terminal, New York. The Star: you, stepping from the crimson carpet to the magic carpet that is the famous 20th Century Limited.  It’s the New York Central’s luxury hotel on wheels, your overnight vacation between New York and Chicago, first night on your coast-to-coast week end.

If you love old magazines, then I bet you are like me, always lamenting the total lack of glamour in travel today.  I don’t think it would be so bad if not for these reminders of how travel itself was once an experience to be savored.  Unfortunately, travel today is more likely to just be endured, especially travel by plane.  But even trains are not the luxurious and relaxing places they once were.  But in our busy lives, it is often time that is the luxury, and the speed of modern travel does allow us more time when on a trip.

I’m writing this several days in advance, because when it is published I’ll be on a trip, with two of my dearest friends who knew I needed a change of scenery.  Maybe this post should have been about friendship instead of travel.

I bet you can guess where I am!



Filed under Advertisements, Proper Clothing, Vintage Travel