This post was written by Katie McCarthy, an Educational Programs Specialist in the Informal Learning Office.
In Japan, Tanabata (the Star Festival) is celebrated in July. Celebrants write wishes on small pieces of paper (called tanzaku) and hang them on bamboo. You can see an example of wish trees in the woodcut below.
In April 2023, the Library of Congress hosted Japanese Culture Day, where visitors wrote down their wishes and added them to our Tanabata tree. We received over one hundred wishes from both children and adults.
While the Library of Congress can’t directly grant wishes for health or success, there are some wishes that can be fulfilled from our collection. Visitors who wished to “explore the world” can use the Library’s collections of maps, prints, photographs, and more to plot their journey.
Luckily, we also have a handy itinerary in our collection: the 1873 French novel “Around the World in Eighty Days” by Jules Verne. In this best-seller, Philias Fogg and his companions attempt to do exactly what the title says: travel around the entire world in eighty days. The Library of Congress has a large Jules Verne collection, some of which is digitized, which includes copies of “Around the World in Eighty Days” from 1898 and 1906.
Today, we are going to follow Fogg and friends’ journey around the world with primary sources that you can share with your family. Just like Fogg did, we’ll start in London, then head to Suez, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hong Kong, Yokohama, San Francisco, before ending in New York City (unlike Fogg, who headed back to London).
As you look at the sources at each stop with your family, prompt them to make observations about what they see. What do they notice? What looks similar or different to places they’ve visited themselves?
First Stop: London, England
A guide book published for Americans hoping to visit London in 1874 described it as home to “four million souls” and exclaimed London “present[s] to the stranger a ‘vast territory of brick and mortar,’ which to find one’s way about in requires a more than ordinary degree of care.”
What do you see in the print of the etching above that supports the guidebook’s description? What might you add to the guidebook’s description, based on what you observe?
Second Stop: Suez, Egypt
The image above is a stereograph card from 1896. Stereographs were often collected as souvenirs, for places that people had visited or wanted to visit. What are some reasons that people may have collected stereograph cards in the 1890s?
From London, Fogg travelled to Suez, Egypt. When Jules Verne wrote “Around the World in Eighty Days,” the Suez Canal had been completed less than five years prior. During the 1870s and today, Suez was mostly known as a port city. However, today most of the boats on the Suez Canal are used for shipping, instead of bringing passengers like Fogg to their next destination.
Third Stop: Mumbai, India (called Bombay in 1873)
While the character Fogg was more interested in continuing his travels than seeing the sights in Mumbai, the author Verne made sure to spend some time describing what he had missed: “As for the wonders of Bombay—its famous city hall, its splendid library, its forts and docks, its bazaars, mosques, synagogues, its Armenian churches, and the noble pagoda on Malabar Hill, with its two polygonal towers—[Fogg] cared not a straw to see them. He would not deign to examine even the masterpieces of Elephanta, or the mysterious hypogea, concealed south-east from the docks, or those fine remains of Buddhist architecture, the Kanherian grottoes of the island of Salcette.”
These two images both show the Mumbai Verne is discussing. What do you notice about each image? How do they compare with Verne’s description of the city?
Fourth Stop: Kolkata, India (called Calcutta in 1873)
This map was drawn almost 15 years before Verne’s book was published. How do you think the city changed in those 15 years? What other Library resources could you look at to find out?
As with Mumbai, Kolkata was an active port, and Fogg and his companions were able to board a steamship here to head towards Hong Kong. In the 1870s, both Kolkata and Mumbai were British colonies, and British rule influenced how the cities developed.
Fifth Stop: Hong Kong
During the late 1800s, following the start of British colonial rule, Hong Kong became a tourist destination for people from England and America. These tourists included Ulysses S. Grant, who visited in 1879. You can learn more about the history of Hong Kong here.
Hotels were quickly built for the influx of new visitors. What do you notice about the hotel pictured here?
Sixth Stop: Yokohama
Who do you think these prints depict? What makes you think that? Click on the links in the captions to learn more.
Yokohama was one of the first Japanese ports open to trade with western countries, making it one of the largest ports in Japan when Verne’s book was published. Following the opening of trade, the art style “Yokohama-e” developed. These woodblock prints showed western visitors and scenes primarily set in Yokohama.
Seventh Stop: San Francisco
When Fogg stopped in San Francisco, California had been a state for less than twenty years. The city became a major port due to the California Gold Rush in the 1850s. However, it was the completion of the Pacific Railroad, which connected San Francisco to the East Coast, that served to make the city a center for trade. The young city Fogg visited was largely destroyed in the earthquake of 1906.
Take a look at the two panoramas below, taken in 1904 and 1906, to compare the city before and after the earthquake. What landmarks survived?
Eighth Stop: New York City
Fogg’s final stop before returning home was New York City. A guidebook called “How to Know New York City,” described it as “the chief city of America in wealth and population…second only to London as a financial and commercial centre of the world…it is the Mecca toward which Americans journey, and the city where millionaires, no matter where they may have acquired their wealth, come to live, and to spend their money.”
Take a look at the silent film below. Does what you see match the description in the guidebook? In what ways do you think New York City is similar or different today?
In this blog we did a bit of globe trotting (and a bit of time traveling). Here are some suggested activities for you and your family to continue your exploration!
- Use the Library’s resources to research a place you’ve already visited. How do the images in our collection match your photos or memories of your trip? How has your destination changed over time?
- Use the Library’s collections to plan your itinerary for a real or imaginary vacation. It might be somewhere you actually plan on going, somewhere adventurous, or somewhere a little more fictional. Where will you end up?
- Write a modern retelling of Fogg’s journey. If you planned a trip around the world, where would you go? How would you get from stop to stop? How long do you think it would take?
- Just like we’ve been inspired by Fogg’s journey around the world, others were inspired too! Journalist Nellie Bly attempted her own circumnavigation in 1890, and beat Fogg’s fictional record by eight days.
- Check out some of the Library’s Free to Use and Reuse sets, including Maps of Cities, Discovery and Exploration, Japanese Prints, and Historical Travel Photos.