Archives for category: sea travel
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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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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