The 1890 Travel Blogger: Grand Tour of America

(There were no travel bloggers in 1890. There were no blogs. No Web. But there were more and more people in America ready to do some traveling and looking for places to go. So if there was such a thing as a travel blog in the last decade of the 19th century, this is what I think it might have looked like.)

Latourell Falls3. Grand Tour of America

The concept of a Grand Tour started in Europe as early as the 17th century. It has become something of a rite of passage for European, and especially English, noblemen and landed gentry. Upon completing their education and before settling in to a life of privilege, they take a pilgrimage to France and Italy and sometimes Greece, in search of art and antiquity.

In more recent times some of these Old World aristocrats have looked to America for a different Grand Tour destination.  The Marquis de Lafayette and Alexis de Tocqueville are among the well known Europeans who famously set out on a Grand Tour of America. The first Grand Tours of the New World were all about points of interest in the Northeast. In the first half of this century that was likely to include New York City, the Hudson River Valley and the Catskills, Niagara Falls, the Connecticut River Valley and the White Mountains.

Now as modern rail tracks have been set down from coast to coast it is possible to offer a tour that can best be described as the Manifest Destiny of American travel. A transcontinental Grand Tour of America dwarfs the European tours both in terms of size and in natural splendor.

Columbia River GorgeThe premier provider of Grand Tours of America is the Raymond and Whitcomb Agency of Boston. Just last year Raymond and Whitcomb offered its sixth annual Tour Across the Continent and Through the Pacific Northwest. The 72-day trip started and ended in Boston. Two other coast to coast tours left from Boston in the fall.

This year, Raymond and Whitcomb is planning a Grand Excursion of 66 Days including a Visit to Yellowstone National Park and an added tour across the continent to the scenic points of the Pacific Northwest and California. The Grand Excursion leaves from New York on Thursday, Sept. 1, and will cost $525.

The trip west will follow the Northern Pacific Railway Line starting in St. Paul. It includes a full week in Yellowstone. The western trip will also take in the scenery of the Rocky Mountains, Lake Pend d’Oreille and the Cascade Mountains. Upon reaching the Northwest the tour will include a visit to Victoria, capital of British Columbia, Seattle, Tacoma and a steamer trip on the Columbia River.

Coronado Beach

Hotel del Coronado

The trip from Portland down through California will be on the scenic Mount Shasta All-Rail Line. Time will be provided for an excursion to the Yosemite Valley and the Big Trees. And in Southern California, the travelers will spend three nights at the magnificent new Hotel del Coronado in San Diego.

The return trip will be along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway line through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas, connecting in Kansas City with the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway. And what Grand Tour of America would be complete without a stopover at Niagara Falls where the group will dine at the Spencer House.



Traveling by rail on a Raymond and Whitcomb tour is the height of luxury. Guests will be accommodated in vestibuled Pullman Palace cars. Dining cars on the trains will provide three meals a day. And the trains include libraries and barber shops.

The cost of the Grand Excursion, in addition to double berth Pullman sleeper cars, includes any required stage or steamer fares, hotel accommodations, all meals and all transfer and handling of baggage. Travelers will arrive back in New York on Saturday, Nov. 5. A little later in the year, Raymond and Whitcomb will also be offering a 62-day Grand Excursion to the Pacific Northwest and California at a cost of $475. That trip leaves from New York on Monday, Oct. 13.

In planning its Grand Tours of America for 1890, the agency promises that “the route of the excursion combines in its constant succession of grand features the most diversified and picturesque scenery upon the continent.”

(Earlier 1890 Travel Blogger posts include Atlantic City and Wonderland.)

This entry was posted in History, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to The 1890 Travel Blogger: Grand Tour of America

  1. Erica says:

    I can’t imagine having 60 or 70 days to go sightseeing. I will admit though, that to me that trip sounds nice. Now, with all the vacation destinations that air travel has made available, we don’t often want to spend our time going through small towns. There must have been something nice about letting go over the world, and just slowly travel and take in the local sites. It seems they really got to see the contrast of all that the United States has to offer. It is amazing that we are one of the first generations not to see rail travel as a luxurious, modern form of travel.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lenie5860 says:

    Ken, I enjoyed the way you wrote this post – about the past in the present. I got quite wrapped up in the story and forgot that you were writing about 1890. I used to take the train back in the 60s and occasionally I would be lucky enough to have one of the deluxe ones, I loved those, but they no longer exist as far as I know. The Grand Tour was definitely something that set the rich apart from the average person.


  3. Tim says:

    I am sitting here thinking what an amazing adventure that would be and for $525 for 72 days I would just ride the train all year long. Gives me a great destination for when time travel comes of age; as long as my greenbacks from 2015 are accepted back then. Excellent series Ken that allows the reader an insight into how much things have changed.


  4. Hi Ken, I too, just like Lenie, got so interested in this that I forgot you were writing about the past. I was thinking this sounds awesome, I want to go on a grand tour of America for 72 days! Then I saw the price and snapped back to 2015. Lol. It does sound like an awesome adventure. I would love to do that!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like an interesting trip. In some ways travelling definitely was more enjoyable in the past. Imagine travelling around the world like Somerset Maugham did. Nowadays the places that used to be fantastic are frequently distroyed by development and tourists.


  6. jacquiegum says:

    Oh my! The Grand Tour sounds like so much fun! Don’t you wonder sometimes what life would look like if we could take that kind of time away? I love that you wrote this piece in the present tense:) I was in the moment with you.


  7. patweber says:

    Your post made me think Ken, didn’t they HAVE to serve 3 meals a day on the trains back then? I mean, were there all that many restaurants along the way to stop at? Sure they went slow enough but surely either the places to eat were slim or not everyone could afford what might be the one and only one at a stop.

    Thanks for making it such a fun read making me think – wow – we’re on the tour NOW.


    • Ken Dowell says:

      I think you’re right and that they did have to serve three meals a day. I’m sure there were places to go at the train stations but I would expect that on a coast to coast trip there would be times when you wouldn’t stop all day. And if you did let everyone out for a meal it would probably slow things down considerably. Be something like a bus at a highway rest stop.


  8. I think we have lost some insight about vacations and traveling. We still go to remote places and see exotic locations. But imagine back in the 1880’s, the traveling itself must have been such an adventure.


  9. What a brilliant concept for a blog and really fascinating detsils about what was happening back in the day. I can totally see a novel coming out of this. Any thought on that as a possibility?


  10. Mina Joshi says:

    I would have loved to be on a train journey across USA- or any other country for that matter!! I love train travel. Your picture of the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego brought back memories of my stay there a few years ago. I remember that wonderful breakfast. I loved San Diego


  11. I enjoyed the idea of Grand Excursion now. It gave me an inspiration that this is possible and can happen. Thank you for the inspiration. Although I am not sure if I can stay in a train that long. Well, it’s an adventure, right?!


  12. Jason @ says:

    $525 is a heck of a deal. I would have jumped on it in a heartbeat.


  13. Wow really enjoyed reading this post.
    Thank you Ken.


  14. Love it! Love the idea of a train with a barbershop on it–keep those gents looking tidy for the duration of such a long haul. What fun, Ken. Keep us touring the past!


  15. Kire Sdyor says:

    Is it wrong that I read “Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe” and began singing it like Judy Garland? Too much Johnny Mercer on my Pandora.


  16. Pingback: The 1890 Travel Blogger: Mohonk Mountain House | off the leash

  17. apple.e.e-s. says:

    I asked my in-laws once how they traveled years ago. How did you know about certain places and how did you navigate without GPS? They laughed and replied, “Old School”. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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