By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager
Over the course of 2020, we have been following the travels of Francis Kelsey and his team as they made their way across Europe. They arrived in 1919 and stayed through August 1920. The past few months here on “From the Archives,” we went back to the start of their journey, recounting the team’s arrival in Europe in 1919. We have watched them land in England, travel about, and make their way to the mainland.
For this month’s “From the Archives,” we join the team as they end 1919. In early December, they were still in Bulgaria, where we left them last month. By December 3, they started their train trip from Sofia to Istanbul. In this series of photographs, we see the train and the sights along the way. It seems that Swain was fond of capturing their entire adventure, which so often meant their modes of transportation. Thus far on this trip, we have seen trains, and ships, cars, and more trains.
Swain also made sure to capture life as they saw it. People working, people milling about, people living their lives. We have seen his attention to architecture, or the remains of it after the ravages of war. On their way to Turkey, we see the same. Men at the station, the landscapes, and buildings along the way.
Once in Istanbul, Swain continued his relentless capture, giving us glimpses of the sites of the city, such as the Hagia Sophia, the bazaar, the Galata Bridge and Tower, the Blue Mosque (Mosque of Ahmed), and the “Bosporus” (Bosphorus). Along the waters, we see numerous ships and boats, including military ships from Italy, the US, and Greece.
After Christmas, the team left Istanbul (“Constantinople”) and traveled some more. More trains, more train stations, more views of the countryside. And more people they met along the way. We see Francis and Easton Kelsey, as well as George Swain himself, posing throughout. We are also allowed to see some of the repercussions of recent events. Miss Cushman’s “relief” kindergarten and all the children there. In photo 7.0156, we see an Armenian refugee camp. Francis Kelsey was heavily involved in the relief effort following the Armenian genocide. Later on this trip, they would spend more time with Armenians and with refugees in Syria.
For their last day of 1919, Kelsey and team were in Adana, not far from the modern Syrian border (and near Aleppo). Here they got more views of the locals, the buildings, the station, and life in general. And more relief work.
Swain was quite prolific with his photo capture. For December 1919 alone, we have records for 376 Swain photographs. We are presenting only 99 this month, but even these show the range of his photographs.
By this point, we have covered the majority of their visit to Europe and beyond, recounting the start of the journey as well as the tail end of the trip. Since the majority of their trip occurred in 1920, and we have already accompanied them throughout 2020, we will take our leave of the team here in Turkey. For glimpses of how the journey continued, be sure to go back and view previous blog posts from 2020, where we present their visits to Turkey, Syria, and elsewhere.
Wherever you find yourself this coming new year’s eve, we wish you the best and a happy holiday. Thank you for following Kelsey and Swain’s adventures this year. In 2021, we will return with new series and memories from the archives. Happy new year!