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New Acquisition: Travel Diary

This month the archive received a new member to its ranks, a hard-backed volume with "Europe 1930" on the spine, and nothing else. The only information I was given about the book was that it was a travel diary, which turned out to be an accurate assessment. There is no name on the flyleaf or the first few pages, so I sat down and started to methodically read through to see what I could find.

When you pick the book up, you notice that the text block has buffering strips in between each signature, which makes sense for a travel diary where the author intends to paste in programs, clippings, and other bits of paper. There is a significant addition of all these things. It's very fortuitous that there are all these additions, since a glued in invitation was the key to determining the book was Francis Wayland Pattison's.

Reverend Pattison left from the US East Coast on June 14th with a number of notable Congregationalists bound for England and the 5th International Congregational Council, to which Pattison was a delegate. The Reverend documented his boat journey, describing his day-to day activities, and made regular mention of his fellow passengers. The Council was not scheduled until the first week of July so he and other delegates traveled around significant historical and religious sites around England. Pattison spends more time visiting in England before finishing up his time in Freiburg/Oberammergau, Germany, which was hosting its decennial passion play. Pattison meticulously included postcards, travel-related papers, programs, stickers, photographs — everything and anything that would fit onto the page and a few that did not and were folded up.

Researchers will find it a fascinating window into what it was like to travel in the early 20th century. They will get a backstage pass into the activities of the international council, and get the reactions of an American for the world-famous Oberammergau passion play.

It has been a lovely diversion to dive into the mystery that was this nondescript book. I went on scavenger hunts through our stacks, talked to my colleagues, made inquiries via Claudette from extremely helpful folks on the ATLA listserv, and had the chance to use the online 1930s census for the first time. There are fewer things more gratifying in this job than going from an anonymous manuscript to one that is bursting with information that I can then share with the world.

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a sample from Pattison's diary
Click on the image to enlarge.