(1904-07). Large, heavy photo album, 15 1/2 x 16 1/2 in., brown pebbled leather over boards. Light grey paper album pages bound together securely, but detached from covers. The approximately 768 photographs are loosely inserted into corner slits cut into the album pages. The majority of the images measure 3¼ x 4 – 3¼ x 5½ in., while 18 large images measure 4½ x 6½ – 7½ x 9¼ inches with many identified either by locational captions or numbers. Interleaved in the album are 13 typed pages of a travel journal: “Extract from Judge Wallace Nesbitt’s Journal – after Col. Thompson’s arrival late on the night of December 10, 1904 at St. Charles Hotel.” [ink caption]. The journal of over 6000 words begins in New Orleans, on 11th December,1904 and ends in Miami, FL, Jan 13, 1905, giving a highly detailed account of a portion of the trip documented by the photographs. In addition, the album includes approx. 50 postcards plus several other pieces of ephemera including invitations and menus. The album covers are worn and there is loss to the spine. Some of the interior pages contain light staining, but the photographs are exceptionally clean and clear.
A printed invitation to a reception on board the "Everglades," sponsored by the Reception Committee for the Iron & Steel Institute, and Colonel and Mrs. Robert M. Thompson, Sunday, November 6, 1904, is laid down on the first page of the album. An ink caption above it reads: "Reception given before starting on trip." Thompson's houseboat begins its travels down the Mississippi River, at St. Louis, just at the close of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Presumably the joint reception held on board his boat with the Iron & Steel Institute marked a collaboration of his business interests with the fair exhibits. Over the next few weeks, the "Everglades" makes its way south to New Orleans, recording sights along the river (boats, towns, river scenes, locals, hunting camps, etc.), and providing uncommon photographic documentation of some of the small towns along the Mississippi at the turn of the twentieth century. The first 150 or so photos record this part of the "Everglades" trip down the Mississippi to New Orleans. There are photos of Thompson and his guests on board the boat, enjoying leisure activities, as well as scenes observed along the river. These include river and town views of Memphis, TN (8); a goose hunt (16); Mississippi River views of the coastline, houseboats, riverboats, paddle steamers (18), Helena and Arkansas City, AR river scenes, riverboats, downtown street scenes (22); Vicksburg, MS steamboats, cityscapes at a distance, a photo of two nuns walking across a muddy street on wooden planks, etc. (9); Natchez, MS shoreline, a downtown street scene, etc. (7); New Orleans, LA train station and street scenes (14); Montgomery, AL [evidently a side trip], including the state house, a few larger photographic views of the downtown area (12), plus several of African Americans (18), including what appears to be a river baptism, a black man in prison stripes, and a handicapped beggar on the street. Once the Nesbitt party joins the group in New Orleans, the next 150 or so photos include: Lake Pontchartrain (10); Madisonville, LA river views, a picnic, rural and downtown street scenes, a hunting party (37), and (5) of African Americans, including groups of school children; Pensacola, FL (5); Apalachicola, FL views of the town along the wharf (6); Cedar Key, FL town scenes and pictures of local residents (18), Suwannee River scenes (13); Tampa , FL (1); Punta Rassa, FL river views and wharf views (18); Fort Myers, FL water views (5); locals at the Plantation at Cape Sabel [sic: Cape Sable] (7); and Miami & Cocoa Grove houses, fruit trees, & palm groves (9).
The houseboat "Everglades" is described in Nesbitt's journal as being 120 ft. long x 28 ft wide, with 9 state-rooms & 2 large bathrooms, a large dining room capable of seating 16, an observation car, sitting room, and a crew of 14 (including a Japanese cook). Games to occupy the guests' time included deck golf (several photos show people using the "Anderson's Varsity Home Golfer" set that was on board), basket ball, a "Victor machine" for playing music. While in New Orleans, Thompson and Nesbitt dined at Beguies “an ancient tavern with a sanded floor and narrow stairs and curious settles before unused fireplaces that one would expect to find in mediaeval France,” and Antoine's, the famous old French restaurant. Nesbitt describes the recipe for their vermouth cocktails, as well as their visit to Sasarach's for “the world renowned Sasarach cocktail." Nesbitt recounts Thompson's friend Capt. Kimball's story of having been head of the Naval Secret Service in Washington, DC, and having made a dangerous reconnaisance trip to Cuba to map the placement of cannon at Havana Harbor and elsewhere shortly before the Spanish-American War. The next stop en route is Madisonville, Louisiana which Nesbitt says was an old summer place of New Orleans people before the war, but now "the streets are practically deserted; the old summer-houses and gardens in a dilapidated condition but very picturesque. Numerous photographs were taken of huge oaks, every twig and branch of which were covered with moss... and we also saw the product of the cotton in the form of seed, ground meal and a species of chop stuff which is gotten from the refuse of the cotton and the seeds and apparently is taken into the country by ox-teams consisting of from six to eight span of oxen driven with long whips which can be cracked quite as loud as a rifle shot. We went to a shop and got some "syrop battery", a molasses made from the pure cane and which is very highly thought of." The excursion continues around Lake Pontchartrain, to Lake Borgne, Pas Christian, passing Mobile, and on to Pensacola, then Apalachicola, Florida. On the way to Cedar Keys, they are joined by "Captain Gardiner [sic], who was the associate of Mr. Greig [sic], the author of "Fish of East Florida" [and] an expert fisherman." [a reference to John Gardner and Wm. H. Gregg, authors of “Where, When, and how to Catch Fish on the East Coast of Florida” published in 1902]. The party arrives at Cedar Key, Florida just before Christmas: “We wandered through the village which you reach by going over an old trestle bridge which is built on the tideway and which is as old and dilapidated as the village itself. The most imposing houses are made of oyster shells and concrete. The streets are of sand, ankle deep. There is a prehistoric mound where it is said the bones of prehistoric man are to be found in great quantities, and in fact men over ten feet in height.” On Christmas Eve the "Everglades" cruises up the Suwannee River about 40 miles, to a place called Old Town: “Mrs. MacArthur who had been attracted by the boat’s whistle came down to the shore, and she turns out to be the last of the plantation proprietor inhabitants. Mr. Fenelson and Mr. Colter called: both are thin and wiry, freckled, wrinkled, but keenly intelligent specimens of Southern American. Both carry quite unpretentiously large size colt revolvers which have the appearance of being for use rather than ornament. They have a plantation four miles back and have something over ten thousand cattle each and I do not know how many thousand of hogs….” The guests celebrate Christmas on board the "Everglades." On January 3, 1905, off the Florida Keys, Col. Thompson received word of the fall of Port Arthur [Russo-Japanese War] and his Japanese steward Hiro sent in a bottle of Japanese wine, hoping the guests would all drink “Banzai” for Japan. Here Nesbitt describes his take on the Florida Keys: "Here I saw for the first time how the Florida Keys are made. Some sand, etc., lodges and presently a mango bud drifts to it and takes root and sprouts and immediately puts down four long fingers into the water, to which oysters attach themselves, and by the growing of the roots are hoisted out of the water and you find them in thousands of clumps dying and dropping back into the sea and then being washed into shallow places where they gradually form a little oyster shell island which becomes covered with mango roots and so the process goes on and through the ages the keys are formed." On Jan. 5th, Nesbitt's journal mentions an old hotel on the beach frequented by sportsmen in tarpon season. The guests engage in hunting and fishing parties, obtaining ducks, plus yellowtail, cavalla and oysters. On Jan. 14, having arrived at Miami, Judge Nesbitt says he hooked a 22 lb. king fish, which while still on the line, was swallowed by a shark. He and two other members of the crew fought with the shark for an hour and a half before finally pulling it alongside and shooting it. When hauled on deck, it proved to measure 8ft 4 in., and 225 lbs. They then extracted the king fish with the hook still in its mouth! Here the journal entries conclude.
In addition to the journey described, three separate trips to Havana, Cuba are recorded (in 1905, Spring 1906, and Jan./Feb. 1907) showing monuments, harbor scenes, street scenes, locals, and including several larger photos of street scenes (two with the name of the photographer "Trafton" identified in white on the image), a Cuban boat, a horse-drawn carriage, and the Avenue of Royal Palm, and two of the "Maine" (53).
The album also contains photos from other trips the "Everglades" took later in 1905 and in 1906: views of the Regatta at Palm Beach, Feb. 1, 1905 (13); a New York Yacht Club Cruise from 1905 (66); a Florida fishing trip in the Spring of 1906, with candid shots on board of the passengers and their strings of fish trophies (caught by both the men and the women) (65); Annapolis, MD photos of guests on board the boat (12); Key West, FL harbors, boats, and fishing (17); Punta Gorda, FL harbor views and local residents, including a pair of African Americans delivering blocks of ice by wagon (11); Pensacola, FL street and harbor views, and guests on board the boat (9); Miami, FL beach and harbor scenes (3, including one panorama); St. Augustine, FL photo of the outside of the St. Augustine Institute of Science and Historical Society, advertising the opening of the "Vedder Collection" exhibit, Dec. 1906 (1); and numerous other photos of life on board the "Everglades," as it traveled the southern coastline. Item #60535
Robert Means Thompson was born in Corsica, Pennsylvania, and received his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1864. Upon graduation in 1868, he saw service in the West Indian and Mediterranean Squadrons, and at Newport, Rhode Island. Retiring from the Navy in 1871, he went on to pursue a law degree at Harvard. He did practice law briefly, but eventually became President of the Orford Copper Company, which subsequently merged with the International Nickel Company of Canada. Thompson made the bulk of his fortune in the mining and smelting business. He continued to be involved with the Naval Academy throughout his life, serving as President of the New York branch of the alumni association for many years, donating money for the bronze doors on the Naval Academy Chapel, and founding the Navy Athletic Association. He was also President of the New York Athletic Club, and twice served as President of the American Committee of Olympic Games (Sweden, 1912 and Paris, 1924). He maintained homes on Long Island and Washington, DC. Wallace Nesbitt (1858-1930) was a native of Canada, lawyer, and later a Supreme Court of Canada judge. While in private practice, he represented a number of business interests including, in 1900, the Canadian Copper Company in its opposition to duties on nickel exports. He and Robert Means Thompson most likely became acquainted over these similar interests.