Archives for category: from the archives
Constantine Raises (R) and Dr. John Tymitz (L) one of the original members of the Institute for Shipboard Education, photograph by Paul Liebhardt c1984

Constantine Raises (R) and Dr. John Tymitz (L), one of the original members of the Institute for Shipboard Education, photograph by Paul Liebhardt c1984

Or: A reflection on the sadistic humour of the goddess Clio.

(continued from Part 2 and Part 1 of Chasing Constantine Raises)

The official records of the 1926-27 Floating University have disappeared. The Raises collection overview notes that Raises himself presented this material to the University of the Seven Seas (a successor enterprise launched in 1960) after which it “may have been permanently lost”. I contacted Semester at Sea (the organisation that now runs the university cruises) and they have confirmed that this early material does not exist. 

So I’ve followed up the other threads of the story. I’ve been to the Riesenberg archives in San Francisco and found nothing more than drafts of salty books on naval adventure, none of which bears evidence of a Greek translator. Of the books Riesenberg published in the 1920s that I  managed to find, none features Raises in the acknowledgments. But all archives are partial records and this one especially so. I have failed to find Andrew J. McIntosh’s papers, and similarly had no success in my search for the records of the diplomat George Horton. I am in the process of trying to chase down the copies of the New York World (on microfilm at the New York Public Library) to see if the editor Herbert Swope wrote the articles Liebhardt suggests he did, though again it would not be remarkable if he had – so many newspapers carried accounts of Lough’s plans. But perhaps, just perhaps, such an article might mention the Newport dinner?

When did Raises began to tell this version of his life? Maybe, in late 1920s New York, after Horton’s book on Smyrna had received such huge attention, Americans made the assumption for him? Possibly it was only after Lough’s death in 1952, when the other members of the original cruise had all gone, that the Newport story emerged. By then Raises was in his early 50s and trying to relaunch the student cruise while also running his own travel agency. He organised a very successful reunion in 1952 of the alumni of the 1926 voyage and a similar event in 1954 for the 1928 successor voyage, and in 1958 he had connected with a small businessman and Rotarian called Bill Hughes who wanted to launch a university that would sail around the world studying international problems. It was the early years of the Cold-War. After the horrors of the Holocaust, the Nuremberg trials had introduced the world to the concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity; Senator Fulbright had just launched his international scholarship exchange program, and the United States was seizing a new and more interventionist global role. An origin myth that invoked one man’s survival of an earlier catastrophe and linked it to an American innovation in international education may have fitted the times? 

But this is all speculation. Much of the story Raises told Liebhardt is plausible. Possibly the dinner on the Newport did happen.

Why should the reader believe the version I present, over Raises’ testimony? My account grows out of the kind of expert knowledge about the world that is certified by universities and the conventions of historical scholarship,with its socially sanctioned apparatus of source analysis. Raises’ version was embedded in his own personal experience of travel and migration in the American century.

Which of us gets to know?

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New York Passenger Lists, 1920-1957, Roll T715, 1897-1957:1001-2000:Roll 1182: SS Alice 26 Dec

Constantinos Raissis’ 1908 immigration record – New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 / Roll T715 1897-1957 / 1001-2000 Roll 1182

Or: A reflection on the sadistic humour of the goddess Clio (continued)

(continued from Part 1 of Chasing Constantine Raises)

There are aspects of the account told by Raises that do fit. In early 1925 Lough was publishing notices in the newspapers trying to drum up sufficient interest to enable him to purchase the SS President Arthur and these touted the benefits of his Floating University for the Merchant Marine. In mid-1925 MacIntosh did join with Lough to play a major role in the organisation of the successful 1926-27 Floating University cruise (and also its sabotage, but that is another story), the ship they sailed on  was owned by the Holland America Line, and Constantine Raises was a member of that voyage – he appears on the passenger list and his passport (held at the University of Colorado Bolder Archives) carries all the appropriate visas.

But I don’t think Professor James E. Lough went to Greece in 1920. I haven’t managed to find a copy of his passport application, but the first record of his arrival or departure from New York by ship is in 1924, when other sources also show he sailed with a party of students to Europe for the summer on the SS Orduna. Indeed, the early 1920s was a turbulent time in Greek history, 1920 particularly so, and Lough’s own account of the origins of the Floating University suggest the NYU summer tours did not start up until 1923 because of the unsettled post-war conditions in Europe.

Second, although Constantine Raises was certainly a member of the 1926-27 Floating University cruise, I do not think he immigrated to the United States in 1922 after fleeing the Smyrna fire. The same passport (issued 1 Sept 1926) that bears his visas for the 1926-27 cruise records that he was born in Smyrna on 13 April, 1900. It records his occupation as Secretary/Teacher and lists his address as 17 Washington Place, Mount Vernon, New York. A man named Frank Earl Briggs, of the same address, is down as his emergency contact.

The only Constantine Raises born in Smyrna around 1900 who appears in the US immigration records entered Ellis Island on the SS Alice, arriving from Patras, Greece, on 26 December, 1908. He was eight years old and in the records his name is spelt “Constantinos Raissis”. He was travelling with his sister, Despina (aged 10) and their father, Elias Raissis, a “Taillor” [sic] (aged 33) who had been to New York before. Their nearest relative in their country of origin was given as Anastassia Raissis of Smyrna, Elias’ mother and Constantinos’ grandmother.

In February 1919 a Constantine Raises, of 29 Woodbury St New Rochelle (occupation, mariner; birthplace, Smyrna) submitted a petition for naturalisation as a U.S. citizen. He had migrated, the application stated, on 5 Dec 1908 on the SS Alice and entered New York on 26 Dec that year and had resided continuously in the U.S. Since that time. Later that same year a “C. Raises” aged 20, with Greek nationality, appears again in the New York passenger lists. He was a Quartermaster on the crew of the New York and Cuba Mail Steamship Company’s SS Panuco entering New York from Portugal on 16 August. Indeed, a “C. Raises” meeting the same description features on the crew lists of a number of vessels exiting and entering the port of New York in 1920 and 1921 and on the 1920 Federal Census a Constantine Raises (age 20; birthplace Greece; migrated 1908; occupation, mariner) appears as living in New Rochelle.

But by 1921 things had changed for this Constantine Raises. His application for naturalisation had been approved, and when in 1922 (age 21; residence Mount Vernon) he appears on the passenger lists entering New York, it is as a U.S. Citizen, naturalised by the Southern District Court New York on 18 June 1921. The great fire of Smyrna began on 13 September, 1922 and burnt for nearly ten days. But in June “C. Raises” (age 22; naturalised) had been in New York and applied for a Seaman’s Protection Certificate to work as a purser on the SS Philadelphia. He is recorded as returning to that city on the SS Cameronia, which sailed from Naples on 25 August. The next entry in the immigration records for Constantine Raises is from 1927. It shows that a man by that name (aged 26; naturalised in 1921; living at 17 Washington Place, Mt Vernon) arrived in New York on the SS Leviathan, having left the port of Cherbourg on 29 March, a week after the SS Ryndam had been released from quarantine (for suspected bubonic plague!) at Rotterdam.

It seems relatively clear that the Constantine Raises who left New York as a member of the Floating University in 1926, was the Constantinos Raissis who entered New York as a child in 1908. He was not a student at the University of Athens in 1920. He did not meet Professor Lough and act as his tour guide. He did not flee Smyrna as fire engulfed that city in 1922.

What then, does this mean for the story about the dinner on the Newport that Constatine Raises told Paul Liebhardt in San Francisco in 1984?

1951 Raises Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965 for Constantine Raises Group 9 004920882

Constantine Raises’ 1951 visa for Brazil – United States Immigration Cards, 1900-1965 / Group 9 / 004920882

 

 

Great Fire Smyrna 1922, refugees crowding into boats

Overcrowded boats with refugees fleeing the Fire of Smyrna, 1922. The photo had been taken from the launch boat of a US warship.

Or: A reflection on the sadistic humour of the goddess Clio.

There is an alternative origin story for the Floating Univeristy that does not (at the moment) get told in my book.

It begins like this:

Some time in the cold New York winter of February 1925, six men met for dinner on a ship moored on the East River at the southeastern tip of the Bronx. The Professor, the ship’s Captain, the diplomat, the newspaper Editor and the Quaker had been brought together by a Greek refugee called Constantine Raises.

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