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A European Tour on Bicycle

While browsing the Collections Search Center for an interesting trade catalog to highlight on the Blog, I came across this one from 1894. The only illustration in the entire catalog is on the front cover but that’s not what caught my eye. Instead, it was two words in the first paragraph: “photographic souvenirs.”

The catalog begins, “In assuming that you are an amateur photographer, I also assume that you enjoy what is beautiful in nature and art, and that a trip through a portion of the world where these are to be found in the greatest abundance, and from whence you may return with numerous photographic souvenirs, will appeal to you strongly.”

Sure, I like to buy souvenirs when I travel but my favorite souvenirs have always been the photos I take. So when I saw the words, “photographic souvenirs,” I was immediately drawn to this piece of trade literature. The title of the trade catalog is With Cycle and Camera from Normandy to the North Sea and it advertises a European Tour for Amateur Photographers on bicycle during the months of June, July, and August 1894.

Front cover of a F. A Elwell 1894 trade catalog showing a man bicycling next to a castle, cameras, and photographs.
F. A. Elwell, Portland, ME. With Cycle and Camera from Normandy to the North Sea, 1894, front cover, man bicycling next to a castle, cameras, and photographs.

The tour was “personally conducted by F. A. Elwell” and they bicycled through France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland. Departing from New York and arriving in France during the first week of June, they began the bicycle part of the tour in the city of Beauvais. They traveled through Paris and continued on for three hundred miles before crossing the Jura Mountains and entering Switzerland. Next stop was Germany which they entered via the Black Forest, and the final country was Holland. They traveled through major cities and “many out-of-the-way places” before ending the trip at Rotterdam.

F. A. Elwell had been conducting tours for ten years prior to 1894 and among the travelers, there had always been some who brought cameras. But he had noticed that “where one good picture was secured, at least a dozen were failures, either from wrong exposure, poor selection of subject, out of focus or various other causes.”

The hope of F. A. Elwell was to “secure a party of twenty from among the various camera clubs of the country to participate in what…will be a most delightful outing.” He even offered prizes for the “best collection of fifty pictures” taken during the trip from start to finish.

With Cycle and Camera from Normandy to the North Sea by F. A. Elwell is located in the Trade Literature Collection at the National Museum of American History Library.



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