The Fergusons Do Europe

                In 1901 Dr. Everard D. and Mrs. Marian Ferguson of Troy traveled to Europe and the Middle East.  A European sojourn was very fashionable for those in the social elite at the period. Dr. Ferguson had been a doctor in Troy since 1878, and was one of the founders and a Professor at the Training School for Nurses at Samaritan Hospital. He was a prominent member of the Rensselaer County Medical Association.

                In 2012 Sally Brillon of Washington County gave a collection of materials to the RCHS which included Dr. and Mrs Ferguson’s photo albums of the European journey. Dr. Ferguson took more than 500 photos on this vacation, not so remarkable in our digital age, but an amazing feat in 1901. The photos, taken with a Kodak Brownie camera, are beautifully organized and labelled in two albums.  The Doctor wrote detailed letters about their journey for the edification of his nursing students.  They were published in the Troy Daily Times.  The collection includes a scrapbook of those articles, allowing for exact identification of the sites of the beautiful photos he took, as well as detailed information about the places he and his wife visited and their histories. It was difficult to choose the photos to illustrate this blog as there are so many wonderful ones.

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           S.S. Augusta Victoria c. 1890 photo at wikipedia

 Dr. Ferguson’s first letter begins: “Hamburg-American Line. Steamship Augusta Victoria. Feb. 1, 1901. To the Pupils of the Training School, Samaritan Hospital- Dear young ladies: It is my purpose to send to you from time to time such items concerning my trip as I think may interest you… February 3, 4 p.m. Since writing the foregoing old Neptune has been busy, and we are having a storm of such force that the waves are from twenty to thirty feet from crest to trough…”

                The first landfall on the Fergusons’ journey was the island of Madeira, a Portuguese possession. They went on to Gibraltar, and entered the Mediterranean. The next landfall was Algiers, then they sailed on to Italy, where they visited Genoa, Nice, Monte Carlo, and Syracuse, on the island of Sicily.  Next was the island of Malta, then Egypt, where they stayed in the storied Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo. Dr. Ferguson took a side trip to Thebes, then the couple went on to Alexandria, Jaffa, and Jerusalem. By mid-March they arrived in Athens, then went back to Italy to visit Naples, Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, and the Italian lake district. They arrived in Lucerne, Switzerland by rail, then went on to Vienna, and Germany, with visits to Munich, Dresden, Berlin, and Frankfurt. A voyage down the Rhine followed at the end of April, and then they were on to Cologne, Amsterdam, and Brussels, ending in Paris in early May. They arrived in Dover by May 10, then went on to London, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, finally leaving for the U.S. from Southampton on May 24, completing a journey of four months.



           Dr and Mrs Ferguson:  “The Jordan is a small stream as compared to our rivers, but as it was only fordable at certain places and in certain seasons, it formed a natural barrier between the Jews and the Moabites.” In Jerusalem, the Fergusons visited the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Dead Sea, and “the Wailing Place” (Wailing Wall). Though the photo is not so labelled, it may depict the Fergusons.

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The Fergusons’ hotel in Venice was next to St. Mark’s Square. Is this Mrs. Ferguson feeding the pigeons? “Our arrival here (Venice) was just at sunset, and the ride to the hotel was our first introduction to the gondola, the Venetian cab, and the skill with which they guide the crafts through the crowded waterways and around corners with a single oar worked from the side is very curious. When collision seems almost necessary, a deft motion is made and away you glide, and miss the object by a fraction of an inch apparently, but still you pass without a bump or grind. “



 “Though there is a good roadway from the pyramid to the Sphinx, the shiekh (sic) does not allow the carriage to go, so one must walk, go on a camel or on a donkey. The choice is rather unpleasant to timid and stout people…I rode on a camel, a not very comfortable method of transportation to those not accustomed to the motion of the beast, but apparently pleasant to the Arabs. A dragoman on all these trips is a necessity to secure any relief from the crowd who surround you and cry for bakshees (sic) or press their spurious “finds” on you.”

                    The 2019 exhibit theme at the RCHS is travel, and these and many other photos and stories will be featured.