(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.)
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.
The 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.
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.”