From the Archives #57

By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

In 1919 and 1920, just after the end of the Great War, Francis Kelsey took a long journey, from England to continental Europe, to Turkey and Syria, through to Egypt. He brought with him a group of people to assist in these travels, including photographer George R. Swain and his own son, Easton Kelsey. This was their first opportunity in a long time to visit this side of the world. They had quite a lot of work to accomplish on this trip, for its purpose was twofold. They were there on humanitarian grounds, visiting Red Cross refugee camps in Turkey and Syria following the Armenian genocide. They were also there to visit colleagues, collections, and historical and archaeological sites. In Egypt, they began planning future archaeological expeditions.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present a selection of twenty-five photographs showcasing the group’s travels exactly 100 years ago. In August of 1920, they found themselves in England, France, Belgium, and Germany. The photographs from this leg of the trip, taken by George Swain and Easton Kelsey, show the range of their adventures and activities. We see Windsor Castle in England, with tourists milling about outside. The team connects with Herr and Frau Reindjes and her sister, as they rent a car in Germany. We also see them dealing with their vehicles, extracting them from ditches and changing their tires.

We also get a chance to see post-war life in the respective countries. A man with plow and oxen in Tongeren, Belgium. Another man in Koblenz, Germany, with his dog-pulled cart. An amorous couple (“Local color,” according to the photo label), also in Koblenz, Germany. In Dijon, France, we see a view of one of the castles of the Dukes of Burgundy, and in Paris, we get a glimpse of the Place de l’Opera. Swain and Kelsey provide us with views of other structures, both natural and human-made. In some captions, they include the words “Good,” or “Excellent,” attesting to the quality of the photograph.

Along with these images of resilience, we find ourselves looking at the devastation brought about by the Great War. In La Fere, France, we see “piles of war wreckage” where buildings, including homes, once stood. In Alsace, we see barbed wire entanglements scattered through a field and a shell-hole with wrecked woods in the background. Throughout the war, Kelsey was in frequent communication with his friends and colleagues in Europe and Southwest Asia. The plight of people and areas affected by the war was on his mind, as it was for many Americans.

By the end of August 1920, Swain’s and Kelsey’s photographic documentation of this trip seems to have come to an end. Thanks to their work, we get to see how Europe was one hundred years ago. People were getting back to their lives after years of war, trying to find their new normal. After almost an entire year traveling through Europe, Southwest Asia, and Egypt, it was time for these Americans to return to their normal as well.

 

black and white photo of Windsor Castle
August 1, 1920, London, England. “Windsor. Approach to the castle, and castle. Tourists.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK322.
August 1, 1920, London, England. “Windsor. Tower on the site of one built by William the Conqueror.” Easton Kelsey, photo KK323.
black and white photo of a man and dog on bridge
August 9, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “Four-wheeled cart drawn by a big dog, on the pontoon bridge.” George R. Swain, photo KS225.10.
black and white photo of a stone bridge
August 9, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “Stone bridge across the Moselle, at Cobler looking up stream; raft of logs in the foreground.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK324.
black and white photo of a river
August 9, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “Confluence of the Rhine and Moselle, looking up the Moselle. Shows considerable of the country.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK327.
black and white photo of crowded bridge
August 9, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “Throng of traffic on the pontoon bridge.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK341..
black and white photo of a man and woman embracing
August 11, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “Local color at the Kranenberg, above Andernach.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK339.
black and white photo of a 1920s car
August 15, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “Our army Cadillac has to change tires.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK369.
black and white photo of army troops in formation.
August 16, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “U.S. soldiers marching along the street. Good.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK355.
black and white photo of a 1920s car with passengers
August 17, 1920, Koblenz, Germany. “The German car we rented at the gas station at Coblenz. In front, Frau Reindjes and her sister; on the back seat, GR Swain and Professor (Francis W.) Kelsey; Herr Reindjes standing by car.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK365.
black and white photo of 1920s car and passengers
August 20, 1920, near Tongeren, Belgium. “Views. A stop to fix a blow-out on a tire, near Tongres. Shows Professor (Francis W.) Kelsey, Capt. Minuth and Frau Reindjes.” George R. Swain, photo KS227.05.
black and white photo of a statue
August 20, 1920, Tongeren, Belgium. “Statue of Ambiorix.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK359.
black and white photo of a man with oxen
August 20, 1920, Tongeren, Belgium. “Man with oxen and plow, road beyond.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK361.
black and white photo of man and woman on a bench
August 21, 1920, Spa, Belgium. “Herr and Frau Reindjes on the grounds at Spa. Little out of focus.” George R. Swain, photo KS227.11.
black and white photo of a river
August 22, 1920, Namur, Belgium. “Looking down the Meuse from the top of the Citadel.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK377.
black and white photo of a woman seated on stone steps
August 22, 1920, Belgium. “Picture of Frau Reindjes, somewhere in Belgium.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK378.
photo of a ruined house
August 23, 1920, La Fere, France. “War-wrecked house.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK379.
black and white photo of ruins in French village after WWI
August 23, 1920, La Fere, France. “Another pile of war wreckage.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK380.
black and white photo of people in front of bombed buildings
August 23, 1920, La Fere, France. “Jumble of war wreckage — once houses.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK381.
August 26, 1920, Alesia, France. “The car in the ditch, coming down the hill. Professor (Francis W.) Kelsey at the right.” George R. Swain, photo KS229.07.
black and white photo of a triumphal arch
August 27, 1920, Dijon, France. “Small triumphal arch at Dijon near the hotel.” George R. Swain, photo KS229.10.
black and white photo of a building
August 27, 1920, Dijon, France. “More detailed view of one end of the castle of the Dukes of Burgundy.” George R. Swain, photo KS230.02.
black and white photo of a field with barbed wire
August 28, 1920, near Colmar, France. “Near Colmar. Barbed wire entanglements scattered through a field.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK394.
black and white photo of a parched field
August 28, 1920, near Colmar, France. “Near Colmar. A shell hole in the foreground with water, wrecked woods beyond.” Easton T. Kelsey, photo KK395.
black and white photo of a building in Paris
August 30, 1920, Paris, France. “Place de l’Opera looking toward the Opera house. Excellent.” George R. Swain, photo KS230.12.

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