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STCA

STCA letterhead, 318.03 Passage, 477 Students’ Triges (1925), HAL Archives

I came across the records of the Student Third Class Association (STCA) in the Holland America Line archives in Rotterdam while I was on the endless chase to track-down records on the Floating University, which also sailed on a Holland America Line ship. At first I could not believe what I was reading. Was it really possible that a major transatlantic shipping company ran a student organisation as a front for their commercial rebranding? The answer, it seemed, was yes.

My article on the STCA, which was founded in the early 1920s by a student of Yale University called James Stanton Robbins and sponsored by the Holland America Line throughout the interwar period, has just been published in Diplomatic History, and it sheds light on much bigger questions in the history of U.S. foreign relations in this period.

Working for the Holland America Line in the 1920s, J.S. Robbins presented the Student Third Class Association as a student organization and the voyage across the Atlantic as an extension of college life. Deftly exploiting cultures of trust embedded in elite East Coast college life, Robbins recruited students to sell third class travel to each other, and in the process played a major role in laundering the reputation of steerage travel by commodifying university prestige. The indignities of Ellis Island, the notorious conditions in steerage, and the prevalence of white, middle-class fears of racial and class-based contamination are well established in the history of 1920s United States, as is the generally white and elite nature of East Coast colleges and universities. This article shows that in the mid-1920s, the STCA used U.S. students to foster the idea that long distance travel was affordable, accessible, and acceptable to the U.S. middle-class.

Yet Robbins and his fellow student travel organizers have disappeared almost entirely from the history of Americans abroad in the early 1920s. The rapid growth of student third class travel across the Atlantic in this period is usually portrayed either as part of the history of U.S. tourism (a 1925 innovation of the shipping companies in response to the dramatic reduction of steerage traffic from Europe to the United States after the introduction of the 1924 Johnson-Reed Immigration Restriction Act) or as a footnote in the history of international education (which tends to cast the shipping companies as merely a means to get to Europe for the summer). This article provides a new account of the cultural and economic politics of travel in the interwar period, showing how the ground of post-1945 mass overseas tourism was laid in the 1920s by U.S. college students who, both as travelers and retailers, remade the hierarchy of steamship travel and the politics of class formation.

I think the history of the STCA is important to the history of U.S. foreign relations because it collapses boundaries between consumer and producer, campuses and commerce, and the United States and the world in the 1920s. In doing so it helps de-naturalize this series of binaries that remain stubbornly entrenched in our histories. The STCA highlights how central universities and colleges were to the United States’ commodifying empire, not just as engines of expertise and ways of knowing, but also as sites that fashioned what Paul Kramer has recently called “bourgeois internationalism’s structuring habitus”—the college ties, elite mobility, and geopolitical imaginary that functioned as a key component of U.S. internationalism and cultural and dollar diplomacy before and after the Second World War.

In uncovering the intimate relationship between the expansion into Europe of the networks of this commercial empire and the thick cultures of sociability cultivated in elite white East Coast college campuses in the period after the First World War, this article responds to Kramer’s call for “bridge-building projects that join local, subnational, and national histories of U.S. capitalism to transnational histories of the capitalist world economy.” Highlighting the centrality of college students as commercial as well as cultural intermediaries, both domestically and abroad, it shows how post-1945 U.S. foreign relations drew upon the commercial and cultural entanglements of the interwar period.

You can read the full text of the article here.

Tamson Pietsch, “Commercial Travel and College Culture: The 1920s Transatlantic Student Market and the Foundations of Mass Tourism” Diplomatic History, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 83-106 https://doi.org/10.1093/dh/dhy059

 

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Ok so I’ve started a history podcast. Well, me and a bunch of amazing producers at 2SER (a community radio station in Sydney). It’s called History Lab and this is the two 2 min taster:

Podcasting, in case you have been living under a rock, is definitely now a thing. 

According to Sharon Taylor, CEO of Omny Studio, downloads in Australia are now in the tens of millions per month. While you might have noticed radio stations making a big push for podcasts they are by no means only podcasting platform in town (actually only 14% of weekly podcasts are by Australian radio stations or Australian radio personalities). For lots more statistics have a look at The 2018 Infinite Dial Australia study, conducted by Edison Research and Triton Digital (they also have reports on the UK and the USA).

For academics, impact and engagement are also now definitely things. Historians, of course, engage with broad audiences in a variety of ways, from writing for public audiences, to building partnerships with teachers, institutions and community groups – and, yes, to making tv and radio documentaries too! But the rapidly growing popular demand for podcasts makes it a promising – but as yet unharnessed – platform for doing in and with broad audiences.

With History Lab we are trying to make a new kind of podcast. We’ve got some good stories to tell, but we are interested in much more than just the story. Instead of an academic or other expert doing the research and then telling you what it means, we want to draw you as a listener in to the investigative process. We want you to come along with us as we try to make sense of the traces the past leaves in the present.

Sometimes this is confusing and frustrating: records are patchy, evidence is destroyed and a lot of the time people disagree about what happened and what it means. Sometimes there are more questions than answers. But more often than not, trying to make sense of the traces of the past is also pretty exciting. Things are not always what they seem. Aren’t we always in the process of finding that out?

I’ve written a short piece about why I think podcasting matters to historians and what is special about History Lab (it involves an iceberg analogy), but this is the redux version:

First, in a world of fake-news and post-fact, showing what lies behind historians’ claims to knowledge about the past is imperative if those claims are to be believed.

Second, and related, personal experience is transformative. Abstractions and stories must be taken on trust, but lived experience is direct. Hearing steps echoing in empty corridors and the host wondering about the things historians say, invites the listener into the process of discovery. It opens up the experience of history-making to all who listen.

In these two ways, the History Lab podcast seeks to be a contribution to public discourse – it is premised on the notion that doing the work of thinking and making meaning together is central to the good society.

So come and join the History Lab.  Listen online, download in a podcast app and subscribe to receive notifications whenever we release an episode. Tell your internet friends by posting it on facebook, follow @historylabpod on the twitter or send out a carrier pigeon.

Best of all, sit give your friends a good cup of tea and tickle their ears with some history.

Series 1 is as follows (and yes Episode 1 releases imminently!)

  • Episode 1: (30 May) Lindy Chamberlain and the Afterlife of Evidence – What has happened to all the evidence on which Lindy’s trials turned?
  • Episode 2: (13 June) Damages for a broken heart – What is the history of love and heartbreak in colonial Australia?
  • Episode 3: (27 June) When the Titanic sank in the outback – Why is there a memorial to the Titanic in the middle of outback Australia?
  • Episode 4: (11 July) Fishing for answers – We encounter the practices of the Eora fisherwomen and discover if you listen closely the past of Sydney Harbour still sings.
  • Bonus Episode 5: (18 July) The making of History Lab  Explore the thrills and spills of Season 1, and how you can get involved in the next season.

But, wait there’s more!

Don’t just listen to History Lab – help to make it! History Lab is open as national engagement platform for historians of all stripes. Find out more about how to pitch us an episode and a whole lot more at our website https://historylab.net

 

 

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