THE GRAND TOUR: Postcards and Travellers in Egypt

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THE GRAND TOUR: Postcards and Travellers in Egypt


  • THE GRAND TOUR: Postcards and Travellers in Egypt*


    Elaine Altman EvansCurator/Adj.Asst.Prof.

    Frank H. McClung MuseumThe University of Tennessee, Knoxville

    Figure 1.: Audigiers at GizaToday, I would like to share some information about a collection donated to theUniversity of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1934 by Louis Bailey Audigier in memory of hiswife Eleanor Deane Swan Audigier, now housed in the McClung Museum on the campus.Items from the gift of the Knoxville couple have been used to trace their travels in Egyptin 1912-1913 as part of the Grand Tour.

    Figure 2.: Mrs. Eleanor Deane SwanAudigier (1864 -1931).

    Figure 3.: Mr. Louis Bailey Audigier(1858-1943)

  • Figure 4.: Luggage Label and Information Sheet of the Norddeutcher Lloyd, Bremen.

    Figure 5.: Luggage Labels: New Khedivial Hotel, Alexandria (& Continental Hotel,Port Said).

    Mr. Audigier was a businessman and photographer for the New York Times in Rome,Italy. Mrs. Audigier was a cultured woman from Knoxville, who had a deep appreciationof art. Business and love of Italy made Rome their home for a number of years. Fromthere they traveled the continent. In their rich gift to the University of paintings,furniture, porcelains and other objects of art, were a large number of printed paperitems from various countries they had visited as participants on the Grand Tour. Theseconsisted of scores of proper photographs, over l75 hotel baggage labels, and manyhundreds of postcards from various countries of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.Among the postcards were 150 from their tour of the Nile Valley in 1912-1913, as wellas baggage labels and photographs taken by Mr. Audigier, while in Egypt. These itemshave provided data about the places they stayed and how they travelled. This paper trailhas provided a retracing of the experiences of this little known couple in Egypt.In the collection are baggage labels and information sheets from the NorddeutscherLloyd Shipping Company. No doubt the Audigiers boarded a Norddeutscher Lloydsteamer at Naples, some 136 miles south of Rome. A ship was scheduled to stop thereon a Friday at Noon, before arriving at Alexandria the following Monday. After threedays of sailing the Mediterranean Sea, they would arrive to see a long, low breakwater,a sandy gray shore, with dull gray and tan dwellings. The impressive Pharos, a replica ofthe great lighthouse, its origins dating the Ptolemaic Period, built between 285-247 B.C.,loomed before them. Inside the protected harbor were shoots of masts and numerousships of various kinds. The Alexandria of fine European style villas and spacious gardenswere yet to be seen. Of added interest to them would be reminders of ancient andmodern Italy, reflected in the citys architecture and Roman remnants. Only a stroll orcarriage ride away from their hotel was Place Mohammed Ali, designed by the Italianarchitect Francesco Mancini, or the ancient Roman pillar, the so-called PompeysColumn.

    After disembarking and going through customs, the couple must have been amazed atthe port town and assuredly taken back by the mysterious smells, hustle and bustle, andloud noise of exotic peoples in gallabehs and turbans around them. One wonders howmuch they used their umbrellas or walking sticks to keep baksheesh criers and souvenirsalesmen at bay! They now knew they were a far cry from Europe in a unique andcompletely different land.

  • The exact date of their arrival at Alexandria is unknown, creating one of several missinglinks in their travels. It does seem to have been December 1912 a fashionable traveltime as they were in Luxor for Christmas, December 25th. In any event, the hotelluggage labels suggest they stayed in the New Khedivial Hotel, a luxurious resting placefor those bound for Cairo.After a day or two, they seem to have boarded a Khedivial Mail Line ship. Smallersteamers were offered by the company for tours up & down the Nile, at least as far asCairo as indicated on the back of this card.In Cairo, they surely stayed at the Mena House, a choice and handsomely decoratedhotel located right at the pyramids. It offered electric tram service from Cairo centerwithin 40 minutes, electric light, a lift, three tennis courts, a 9-hole golf course,swimming bath, and much more.

    Figure 6.: Postal-style Card for the

    Khedivial Mail Line.

    Figure 7: Luggage Labels: MenaHouse, Giza; Palace Hotel Heliopolis;

    Grand Hotel, Helouan.Figure 8.: The Audigiers

    at the Great Sphinx.

    A short carriage ride in a good Victoria, with horses driven by locals, would put them infront of the Great Sphinx. The other resort hotels located in the nearby area, were idealfor a few days visit.In addition to postcards and baggage labels, we have several small silver prints taken byMr. Audigier, with written notations, and a few personal letters, with comments. Theseprinted memorials provide data and help to imagine both the modern and ancient sitesthey visited during the winter months. The weather was excellent for travelling andtherefore a popular seasonal choice. Cairo could be chilly so travelers would leave forthe healthful and beneficial dry climate at the resorts of Luxor and further on to Assuan.We are provided with glimpses of a few of their experiences in Cairo, typical for visitorsto Egypt and from comments on the back of Mr. Audigiers silver prints.He loves the desert like a native and rides the camel like a Bedouin is so happy andwell.

    Figure 9.: Mr. Audigier on a CamelProbably at Giza; photographer L. B.


    Figure 10.: Mrs. Audigier by a Pyramidan

  • in Front of the Cairo Museum;photographer L.B. Audigier .

    I take to standing on dry land with the glories of this wondrous country about me.There is good reason to believe that after having arrived in Cairo, they continued theirjourney up the Nile as was usual for travellers by transferring to another steamer. Onewell known company that offered its services was Thomas Cook & Son, located nearShepheards Hotel in Cairo. A major event for travelers was taking a steamer, sailingpast and stopping at a variety of points of interest. One possibility to choose from was a20-day tour from Cairo up the Nile to Luxor, Assuan (First Cataract) and back, offeredevery week in November to March. It was from Assuan that steamers turned around tobegin a leisurely progress down the Nile. A dahabyeha, a boat for independent travel,took from 2 to 3 months from Cairo to Assuan & back. The government run train systemalso offered package tours.Her ladyship being borne from the boat on the Nile in the arms of two faithful Arabes.Thebes, Jan. 4, 1913.

    Figure 11: Mrs. Audigier Being Carried atThebes; photographer L.B. Audigier.

    Figure 12.: Luggage Label: Savoy HotelLuxor; Grand Hotel Assuan.

    The Importance of PostcardsPostcards are charming treasures, which can be valued and appreciated in a number ofways. They are informative, revealing a universal story that is woven into the fabric ofearly travel. At a time of hand written correspondence, they added a way to correspondwith fewer words. In addition, they illustrate a few milestones in their development andof the postal system. Mostly, they provide details about the impact such small,illustrated, inexpensive, mass produced cards had on the travel experience. Alsorecognized are publishers, occasionally photographers, artists, and card styles andprinting methods, which were essential to promoting their popularity. In thetechnological age of today, it is important to preserve postcards as they may disappearas seems to be with other hand held, hand written methods of communications. All themore reason to treasure a few of those collected by our travelers as they recorded theirjourney up the Nile.

    Figure 13.: Place Mohamed Aly,Alexandria; published by Dr. Trinkler &

    Co., Leipsig, Germany.

    Figure 14.: Le Phare, the LighthouseAlexandria; published by S.N.

    Theodossiou, Alexandria, Egypt .Postcards were essential to the memory file of the Grand Tour. As was done by manytravellers of their era, after they returned home the Audigiers arranged their postcardsfor further study. Because they were valued and served as reminders of what they had

  • seen, the cards were carefully filed according to specific subject categories such asarchitecture, costume, landscape, etc. As editor and postcard expert Norman D. Stevenswrote in 1995, In the pre-World War I Golden Age of postcards, postcard collectingwas a major craze. In recent years there has been a steady growth of interest in usedpostcards of all kinds, but especially in those from the dawn of the postcard era, largelyon the part of individual collectors who recognize the extent to which those cards provideimportant visual information about so many elements of society in a way that no otherobjects do. (Stevens, pp. 1-2)During the period of the Grand Tour, the fad raged around the world. Shops andsouvenir vendors in major Egyptian sites and cities carried postcards, including those inCairo, Luxor and Assuan and in ports, such as Alexandria and Port Said. While theirpopularity declined after WWI, interest in postcards did not fade altogether. Eventoday, thoughtful enthusiasts have not only collected them, but produce monthlypublications about them for postcard clubs, societies, institutes, or research centers.More recently their value has been highlighted by a rise in new books about the subject.Some are scholarly works, which focus on postcard research and cultural studies, andprovide earnest information about postcards. Postcards have become an important partof library and museum collections. These serve as study tools revealing informa- tionabout cultures of the world and aspects that may no longer exist.

    A ConnectionAs suggested earlier, our travellers had a close relationship to postcards as they traveledthe world. No less so were those of Egypt. Their cards of Egypt illustrate and recordobjects in Egyptian museums, cities, hotels, village life, and important sites and locationsof monuments and tombs. The images on the cards inspired the couple as they boughtthem, while they stopped at various booksellers, stationers, and souvenir vendors. InCairo, many opportunities were located near the famous Shepheards Hotel, the HotelMetropole, or in the Ezbekiyeh area. Wherever they were sold, the Audigiers and theirtraveling companions could reflect upon their surroundings and the works of art andarchitecture they had seen as they looked through the assortment of cards for sale. Ascollectors they must have been delighted by the selections at their first stop Alexandria.Comments surely took place between them such as Which one should I buy? This is agrand scene, They may have sat on the front terrace of their hotel enjoying theirpostcards and the passing scene.

    Figure 15.: Column de Pompee et Sphinx,Alexandria; published by Dr. Trinkler &

    Co., Leipsig, Germany.

    Figure 16.: A village in Alexandria;published by Dr. Trinkler & Co. Leipsig.


    In this way the Audigiers preserved through their selections certain images theyperceived as their most important experiences. To Mr. Audigier, who was a professionalphotographer as well as businessman, those postcards which expressed the art ofphotography so dear to his heart would be particularly favored. Also, those recording

  • Figure 19.: Russian Exhibition in Port Said; publisher unknown. Featured on the cardis a statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps at the entrance of the Canal.

    important political associations such as the portrait of Khedive Abbas Hilmi Pasha II(1892-1914).Mr. Audigier was intrigued by the monarch and aware that Abbas was affected byproblems of internal political turmoil. Nationalists wanted total independence from bothBritish rule and Ottoman dependence. To Mrs. Audigier, who was a devotee of the finearts, cards best reflecting the rich artistic culture and heritage of all periods in Egyptwere duly admired.

    Figure 17.: Khedive Abbas I. [sic.];published by the Cairo Postcard Trust,

    Cairo; photographer P. Ditrich. [P. Dittrich(fl. 1880-1918) is misspelled on card.]

    Figure 18.: The Greco-Roman Museum;Alexandria; published by Max Rudmann,


    For such travellers, an extensive collection of postcards served an important role as apictorial record of what they had learned and wanted to savor about both modern andancient Egypt. A large collection of postcards documenting their travels was, more-over,a way to demonstrate their good taste, erudition, and affluence. A large collection ofpostcards was a status symbol. After all most of the affluent and educated members ofsociety collected cards.As travellers learned about sites, some wrote comments on the cards about their under-standing and opinions about the social and cultural context that surrounded them.Alas, in the case of the Audigier collection, we have mostly un-posted cards. Only afew of un-posted cards in the collection have written messages on their backs. Thesemay also illustrate some postcards were often enclosed in envelopes and sent, ratherthan being posted individually. This was done so messages could be longer andcontinued on several cards.

    On one typical, unstamped example she writes letter-like on its entire back, includingMy Dear Child went to the Russian Exhibition and bought some heavy lace for somesheetsit is lovely.The Suez Canal is wonderful. An important attraction leftunmentioned, though, was the famous statue of the French-man Ferdinand de Lesseps,the dynamic force that made the Suez Canal a reality in 1869.

  • Figure 20.: Ancient Egyptian Papyrus Fragment.

    Figure 21.: Postcard sent from Cairo to Cln, Germany, 1893. **

    An Ancient TraditionIt is interesting to note the postalhistory of Egypt began in ancienttimes. Perhaps some of thehistorical details of this ancienttradition crossed the inquisitiveminds of the Audigiers. It is welldocumented that letters, or postaldocuments, were known as early asthe Old Kingdom, 2300 B.C., andperhaps even before that time.A detailed story of the ancient postalhistory of Egypt is outside the scopeof todays presentation, today.However, a few important thoughtsabout this very ancient tradition mayhave crossed our travellers minds,while surrounded by hieroglyphic

    texts and papyri in Egypt and a Baedeker in hand. Egypt could boast that letters, orpostal documents, were known as early as the Old Kingdom, 2300 B.C., and perhapseven before that time.Postal services existed serving the pharaoh even beyond the borders of Egypt.Pharaoh controlled the official mail system and had control of mail that reached thefarthest of his territories.. In those ancient days, undecorated correspondence waswritten mostly on papyrus, potsherds and limestone flakes and to lesser degree on woodor clay tablets. The proper material was papyrus cut from a roll to the desired size ofthe message. These letters bear little resemblance to the postcard, though, as theywere rolled or folded up and sealed. Couriers or letter-carriers carried the official mailfrom place to place and it was recorded. This was a rudimentary postal...