Travel Journal of Rev. John Warner

Scope and Content

A detailed travel journal compiled by Rev. John Warner (1860-1933), describing a voyage aboard the SS. City of Chicago from Liverpool to New York, and a subsequent tour of the north-eastern United States and Canada, encompassing Dayton (Ohio), Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Montreal, Lake Champlain, Saratoga Springs, etc., between May and November 1890.

The City of Chicago left Liverpool for New York on the evening of 28 May 1890. It arrived at Queenstown [now Cobh], Co. Cork, on the following day and took on 'about 200 Emigrants - making a total Steerage of about 750-800'; together with cabin passengers and crew there were over a thousand persons on board. Warner was sick on departure but managed to get a cabin upgrade to one of the best rooms on board. The journal is crammed with facts about the ship: 'ship burns 120 tons coal p.d. ... Bakery turns out 1500 rolls p.d.' - and the friendships Warner and his wife formed, in particular with the McCalmont family of Franklin, Pennsylvania; the widow of General McCalmont wore 'a quaint sealskin long cloak and hood, like a Laplander'. Due to headwinds and fog, the ship made slow progress, sails were useless and foghorns incessant; a passing steamer warned of icebergs ahead, and several were observed. Between games of deck quoits and shuffle boards Warner held a service in the Saloon, presided over a seance, and organized an elaborate concert on 3 June (a programme is enclosed). He gave 'Recitations', Miss Hooper played 'Zither Solos' and Miss Bertini sang. £7 12s 6d was raised for the orphans of Liverpool and New York.

Two days later the ship passed the Statue of Liberty. At Customs there was an intensive crew search: plainclothes detectives had apparently accompanied the vessel on the way out, unbeknown to the passengers. Warner and his wife stayed at the Hotel Grand Central: 'We are amused with the Negro waiters... their greatest dexterity and ease... do things coolly without the noise and bustle of an English dining saloon... their pronunciation and poise of expression is wonderful and puts that of the Yankees to shame.' He is critical of 'the unfinished state' of much of New York - poor pavements, ugly overhead wires everywhere, etc. - but remarks on the uniform 'prettiness' of children's dress. In Central Park he marvels at the 'Hundreds of children running everywhere, wonderfully happy... this same brightness seems to characterize American child-life wherever we go.' He finds St Patrick's Cathedral 'wonderfully clean and white'.

From New York Warner and his wife travel to Dayton, Ohio, aboard the 'The Chicago Limited', a deluxe train 'so luxurious it seems wicked to ride in it'. Everywhere there is polished and carved mahogany and plush, cut glass, electric lamps and 'fitted lavatories'. There is a Barber Shop and a Library with a resident dictation typist. Endless freight trains rattle past full of canned meat and fruit from the West. Warner fills his journal with facts and statistics: 'It is necessary to underline the facts in America'. He views the rebuilding of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, after the devastating flood of 1889: wreckage and debris everywhere. At Dayton they are greeted by cousins, one of whom is a partner in The Dayton Fan & Motor Co. Visits are made to the Opera House, Masonic Temple, Railway Carriage Works - '15 freight cars a day' – Water Works, Paper Mill, Fire Station, Military Cemetery and the Soldier's Home... residents are judged as dowdy and slovenly - 'oh for the scarlet and straight backs of our Greenwich pensioners'. Warner is impressed, however, by the 'exquisitely furnished modern houses' of Dayton and 'the common adoption of the Telephone', and he particularly enjoys a session listening to a Phonograph and recordings of a recent concert and local conversations: 'startlingly accurate... most weird and comical'.

Later, en route to Niagara, they clearly have an incident at Buffalo: 'a wretched place... most primitive... never want to see its grimy citizens again'. Warner jokes that it needs a dip in the Falls with a bar of Pears Soap. On the train to Fort Delaware he is amused by the conductor's attempts to sell them postcards and cigars. At Saratoga Springs - the 'Buxton' of the States - he questions its huge and rapid expansion and the curative powers of its waters. The final stretch, down the Hudson and back to New York, is done at speed and the return voyage to England is barely remarked on - 'America is nice, England is nicer'.

The journal is an important source for nineteenth-century American studies, offering a perceptive visitor's comments on the condition of the north-eastern United States and Canada during a period of rapid industrial, economic, social development. The journal is also valuable for studies of trans-Atlantic passenger shipping and the railways of the U.S. and Canada.

The journal was compiled in a lined 'Court Irish Linen Writing Tablet'. A printed plan of the saloon accommodation aboard the Inman and International Steam Ship Company's City of Chicago has been pasted into the front of the volume. Loosely inserted at the rear of the volume are fourteen pieces of ephemera:

  • A cyclostyled programme from a concert aboard the SS. City of Chicago, including songs performed by Warner, 3 June 1890.
  • Spoof manuscript 'Smoking room official passenger list as required by the U.S.A. Govt. Authorities'.
  • Printed list of passengers [?], annotated with notes perhaps by Warner, e.g. 'Detective', 'singer', 'small talk', 'Captain's wife'.
  • Anglo-American Telegraph Co. telegram to Warner at the Grand Central Hotel, New York.
  • Printed ticket envelope bearing a route map of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
  • Two cuttings containing engraved views of the interior and exterior of railway carriages.
  • Colour printed plan and visitor guide to Niagara Falls State Reservation.
  • Photographic print of the SS. Laconia.
  • Photographic print of Twin Mountains, Lake George [NY].
  • Newspaper cutting containing an account of a yacht race.
  • Three magazine cuttings containing engravings of a ceiling fan, a column fan, and an 'Indian pilot' at the helm of a ship.

Administrative / Biographical History

Rev. John Warner (1860-1933), only son of John Warner, was born in Wellington, Shropshire, and studied at Lichfield Theological College. He was curate of Brereton near Rugeley, Staffordshire, from 1883 to 1891, and married Mary Leake, daughter of John Leake of Wellington, in June 1885. They had seven daughters. He was later Vicar of All Saints, Wolverhampton (1891-1901); Gnosall, Staffordshire (1901-5); and St Mark's, South Northwood (1908-33). He served as Organizing Secretary for the Church of England Temperance Society in the Dioceses of Canterbury and Rochester, 1905-8. He was also an Honorary Canon of Canterbury Cathedral. He died on 20 October 1933.

Source: Who Was Who 1929-1940 (London: A. & C. Black, 1941).

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The manuscript was purchased from Patrick King Rare Books, Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, in February 2012, for £350.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the manuscript can be supplied for private research and study purposes only, depending on the condition of the manuscript.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the manuscript. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The previous history of the manuscript is not known.