First American Trip

Although he crossed the Atlantic many times, Harry always retained fond memories of his first American trip, made in the winter of 1888/89. At the time, he was an impulsive 19-year-old, determined to make his mark on the world.

It was a wonderfully successful visit which set the course for the rest of his life. He loved the energy of the fast-expanding American economy, and enjoyed the spontaneity of social relations in the New World. Young Harry proved his mettle as a salesman, problem-solver and in the best sense, an opportunist.

Here is the diary he kept on the visit, along with some notes about the journey which he made in later years. The transatlantic voyage was one of the stormiest he ever made.

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November 1888

Saturday, November 17

Sailed from Larne in SS State of Nevada at 5.00 pm.

Remained on deck till 11 pm and saw the lights of Rathlin Island and Ballycastle, then got to bed but did not sleep much.

Sunday, November 18

Rose at 8 am and was awfully sick. Went on deck at 9 am and was worse if possible. Ate no breakfast, lay down on my back and was much better. For dinner I had a little greasy soup and a chop. At 5pm, very sick again. Had a cup of tea and was much better.

Tuesday, November 20

[An awful] sea running.

Ship rolling awfully, seas coming over the hurricane deck, cabins flooded and all fires put out. Making no way.  All the engines could do only kept the ship stationary. [As of] 10.30 pm, we were having an awful night, could not sleep on account of the great rolling.

Wednesday, November 21

An awful sea still running. A boat nearly washed away.

Cabin doors all packed to keep out the water.  Wheel house lashed to prevent the seas washing it away.

Thursday, November 22

Still blowing a hurricane. Everyone getting sick of the awful rolling cabins smelling awfully. Do not expect to reach New York for 3 weeks. Butcher got a very bad fall.

Friday, November 23

Wind changed round to south-east and the sea greatly down. Got on deck for the first time since Sunday.

Ship rolling awfully owing to the waves coming broadside, feeling rather sick. Raining very heavily. Day was very wet.

Saturday, November 24

About 900 miles from Larne. A very wet day, sea greatly down, put up mainsail. Saturday evening… wind rising rapidly, blowing a gale.

Sunday, November 25

An awful storm coming broadside, ship rolling awfully, seas coming over the tops of the masts 3.15 Irish time 5.25 ship time.  An awful night, got no sleep.

Monday, November 26

A little calmer, very wet.

11 pm, going to bed, tied myself to bedside to prevent being rolled out.

Tuesday, November 27

A very calm morning on the banks of Newfoundland.

Wednesday, November 28

Sea as calm as glass, running 11 miles per hour.  Very foggy on the Banks.

Thursday, November 29

A beautiful day very calm.  Any quantity of spirit on board. Champagne going like water. Greater part of the crew up all night.

Friday, November 30

Took a pilot on, saw a lot of sharks. Expect to reach New York early tomorrow. Ship time 10 o’clock. Champagne [still] going like water.

December 1888

Saturday, December 1

Having a beautiful view, going up the bay.

Arrived in New York at 12. Sent baggage to Earles Hotel.

A summary of the early days of the trip, written separately:

For the next two weeks I went calling on the trade in New York, and was delighted when I got my first order from RM Clark of Mills and Gibb on Broadway for 425 pieces of beetled black and coloured canvas.

I got sample orders from Lesher Whitman and Company who at that time used huge quantities of natural and pale Hollands. I also booked small orders from JW Goddard and Sons, Willmerding and Bisset and a few others.

The only samples I had were the ordinary range of Hollands and Buckrams, 6x7 7x7 8x9 and a 10x7, 40/40 elastic canvas, and as these goods were unsuitable for the American market the best I could do was get patterns of the right qualities for a later trip.

On December 15, I started out alone for a very long tour through the States and Canada. I went to Boston by steamer, spent two days there and got a small order from Cumner Jones, for 12 pieces of 9x11 soft black Holland.

Daily diary resumes:

Sunday, December 2

Very fine day. Chalmers came down to my hotel at 10.30.

We all went by the elevator to the Hudson River Park and got a beautiful view of the Hudson and New York City and saw President Grant’s tomb.

After dinner we walked down Broadway and took train across the Brooklyn Bridge. Afterwards we visited the City Hall, Prison, Handora office, Post Office etc.

Monday, December 3

Rose at 7 am met Chalmers at 9 pm and worked at samples and prices all day, in the evening went home with Chalmers for tea. Afterwards went out and visited the Hoffman bar which is the finest in the world. I then went home and wrote some letters.
Bed at 11 pm.

Tuesday, December 4

Rose at 7.30 met Chalmers at 9 am. Called on several houses and made some appointments for Wednesday. In the evening went to the Academy of Music saw the “Old Homestead”, a very good play and charming music.

Wednesday, December 5

At business all day, in the afternoon called on the Stuarts. Had a good evening.

Thursday, December 6

Called on a lot of houses. In the evening, went to the Lyceum Theatre and saw “Sweet Lavender”, a charming play. Phillips and I had a splendid night.

Friday, December 7

Rose at 7am. At business all day; called on [Fred?] Hazelton. A fine day.

Saturday, December 8

At business all day. The Arnolds and Mrs Priestly left for Kansas City. In the evening, I went for tea with Chalmers and afterwards Mrs C. Chalmers and I went to the 7th Regiment Armory and saw all kinds of games and went to a dance afterwards where there were over 400 couples at the 7th Regimental Ball.

Sunday, December 9

Went to St.Leo's Roman Catholic Chapel; in the evening went to the Baptist Church.

Monday, December 10

At business all day and in the evening went to Eden museum and had a game of checkers with Ageb, the great automaton. Saw photos of all the best scenery in the world, Savoy is my favourite. Saw all the waxworks and representations of all the great crimes of America.

Tuesday, December 11

A wet day; made some calls; in the evening went out with Chalmers; visited a museum.

Thursday, December 13

At business, all day, got big order from R.M. Clark of Mills and Gibb. In the evening went to dine with the Stuarts. Afterwards went to the 5th Avenue Theatre with Mr and Mrs Stuart and saw Brother F. Barrett act Julius Caesar, a charming play.

Friday, December 14

Got order from Lusher Whitman; saw Byrnes, the cleverest detective in the world. Had a good night.

Saturday, December 15

At business all day, got Horstmanns order, had tea with Chalmers

Sunday, December 16

Went with Chalmers to see the Central Park. Saw every kind of wild beast... In the evening we went over to Hoboken in the ferry. Saw the Cunard steamers coming in. Any quantity of kissing.

Monday, December 17

Bought ticket for my Canadian and Western trip for $90.

4.30 pm went on board the "Bristol Steamer" for Boston.

A wet day and evening. Steamer delayed 5-1/2 hours owing to the fog 10 pm Just starting…
Beautiful sight passing through small islands and under Brooklyn Bridge. Lights of New York made a very fine sight.

10.30 passing through Hillgate.

Tuesday, December 18

Rose at 9.00 am. In sight of several small islands the mainland. Very stormy.

11 am getting near Newport, a beautiful city close to the water's edge. A great sandy beach, waves breaking as high as mountains on the beach.

1.50 pm - Just arrived in Newport. 2.15 pm leaving for Boston by the Old Colony line. Newport is a very fashionable watering place. The scenery in the bay is beautiful. 4.30 pm arrived in Boston and got to the Tremont House. 10 pm going to bed after having a walk round and a good evening at the Grand Opera House.

Wednesday, December 19

Rose at 7 am and got to business at 8 am. Called on all houses and in the evening visited the Natural History rooms and City Park, where a number of people were skating.

Harry then sets out for Canada. In a later reminiscence, he sums the New England/Canadian leg of his trip as follows:

[In mid-December] I started out alone for a very long tour through the States and Canada. I went to Boston by steamer, spent two days there and got a small order from Cumner Jones, for 12 pieces of 9x11 soft black Holland.

That afternoon I went by train to the province of Quebec, arriving at midnight, where everything was covered by snow.

We had no agent in Montreal and I had to find out the houses that bought our goods but as it was the wrong season for buying, I only got a few small trial orders. The first was from James O’Brien and Co of Beaver Hall Hill – Mr O’Brien is a native of Rathlin island and I think he gave me the order owing to my being able to tell him all about his home. In Montreal I stayed at the Old Albion Hotel, Magill Street, rate $2.

On the morning of December 24, I went over to Quebec City, called on some houses that afternoon and spent Christmas Day seeing the Plains of Abraham. That night I left for Montreal. I had not taken even a change of socks and, having been wet through with the snow and rain in Quebec, I sat up all night in the rain…(at that time I was unable to pay for a sleeper on any occasion.) ...and in the morning I felt so ill that I had to remain for two days in bed. I spent another week in Montreal, and appointed John V Caldecott as our agent and booked a few small trade orders.

Gault brothers had just placed an order with the Brookfield Linen Company for 500 pieces of Hollands and I think would have given it to me if I had been there a few days earlier. Mr Charles King our present agent in Montreal was at that time a junior hand in Gaults. Mr McDougall was the buyer.

I next went by night (sitting up all night on the train) to Toronto, spent several days there, and opened business with the T Eaton company, WR Brock and WR Johnston, and later went to Hamilton, the Niagara Falls, Cleveland and Detroit.

Daily diary resumes...

Thursday, December 20

Rose at 7 am. Did some business and left [from Boston] to Montreal by the Grand Trunk Railway at 1 pm.

After we got out of the suburbs I enjoyed a very fine view of the city which is built on an elevation; and from a distance, it has quite the appearance of a European city. After having travelled for some two or three hours through a rather flat and very rough country, covered with pine and low bush we got into more mountainous country, where the ground was partly covered with snow and a bear or wolf was occasionally to be seen,scared by the noise of the train. By 4 pm ...passing along the banks of a river which was partly frozen; here the scenery is exceedingly fine. The graceful curves of the river and the great pine trees with their branches bent under the weight of snow form a picture which can never be forgotten.

4.20 pm - At Manchester.

4.50 pm - Saw the remains of a great bridge which had fallen the day before.

5 pm - At Canaan, passing through beautiful valleys, lakes, high mountains and rivers, which were all frozen.
Getting much colder and the snow a great deal deeper.

8 pm - In the midst of the white mountains, a glowing moonlit night. I stood for long on the platform viewing the scenery which was too beautiful to be described. Looking down the precipice below us, the great pine trees appeared not more in size than the form of a human being.

Here the free and easy North American manner first struck me. A young and very pretty Canadian lady gave me the pleasure of her company and at once struck up a lively and interesting conversation. And ended [with an invitation] to her home.

Got some supper for my fair companion at St. Albans.

11.45 pm - Arrived in Montreal and got my baggage past, drove in a sleigh to the Albion Hotel and got to bed. Rate $1.50 a day.

Friday, December 21

[in Montreal]

Rose at 8 am. After breakfast got to business.

After seeing the principal parts of the city I came to the conclusion that it is a very old-fashioned place, and business is also done in a rather old-fashioned style.

In the evening I visited the great Windsor Hotel the skating rinks and some other places of interest.

Saturday, December 22

At business all morning and in the evening I drove round the city in a sleigh. Temperature below zero.

Saw all the principal buildings. 11 pm - just in after having spent a very pleasant evening.

Sunday, December 23

I went to the Church of the Messiah, Beaver Hall Hill, and afterwards went over to the Hotel Richelieu and got some letters. In the evening I went for a drive with a Mr Dixon in a sleigh and afterwards visited some of the principal buildings, the Canadian Pacific Railway Depot and so on.

Monday, December 24

(Train to Quebec city...)

For two hours we ran through partly cultivated country, then for four hours we passed through thick patches of white birch. Scenery was beautiful.

1.0 pm saw a Canadian in a sleigh drawn by dogs.

At 2.30pm arrived in Quebec, drove in a sleigh to the Hinchey House dined and got to business at once, called on all the houses.

5 pm commenced to rain very heavily. Had a look at the Saint Lawrence from the Citadel and saw round a bit.

Afterwards had a very pleasant evening.

Tuesday, December 25

A very wet morning. Went to the Cathedral with a young friend. We then walked all over the town and through the….ground.

After dinner we walked out to the Plains of Abraham and saw Wolfe's monument, the post where Montgomery fell, the house which his remains were laid out in, and where Montcalm fell.

Had a very pleasant evening and left by the Canadian Pacific Railway for Montreal at 10 pm.

In the Saint Lawrence there is the best fishing in the world and first-class shooting in the woods around.

Quebec struck me as being one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen, and it certainly has the most polite citizens I have ever met. I never spent a better Christmas.

Wednesday, 26 December

6.30 am - Arrived in Montreal from Quebec and had a very bad cold, as I was in my wet clothes all night.

At business all day. I had been sitting up all night in my wet clothes in the train.

From separate memoirs...

I spent another week in Montreal and appointed John V Calcott as our agent and booked a few small trial orders. Gault Brothers had just placed an order with Brookfield Linen Company for 500 pieces of Hollands and I think they would have given it to me if I had come a few days earlier. Mr Charles King our present agent in Montreal was at that time a junior hand in Gaults. Mr McDougall was the buyer.

Thursday, December 27

Very unwell with a cold.

Friday, December 28

Went to shoot 60 miles from Montreal at James Holwell’s place; went out with 3 natives. Walked about three miles when the dogs came on a bear which I shot. Afterwards got two wolves. In the evening we went to the Indian chief’s hut.

Saturday, December 29

Left for Toronto at 8.45 pm. Sat up all night in train.

Sunday, December 30

Arrived in Toronto at 8.30 am. Breakfasted at Walker’s house, had a walk round and tried to get Post Restante letters but failed as the P.O. was closed. Toronto is a beautiful city situated on the shore of the great Lake Ontario. Some of its streets are within a stone’s throw of the water, and the principal thoroughfares command a beautiful view of the lake and its numerous islands. Many of the streets are made of concrete and are all at right angles to each other. After spending a quiet afternoon and evening, I retired at 10 pm.

January 1889

Friday, January 4

Left Toronto at 4 pm for Hamilton, got a fine view of Lake Ontario as we passed along its shore on the way to Hamilton. At 6 pm, we arrived in Hamilton which is a very pretty little city of about 45,000 inhabitants which is built at the foot of high hills or mountains. It used to be the leading city of that part of the Province of Ontario but of late years Toronto has quite taken the lead.

Saturday, January 5

At business till 10 am and left for Niagara Falls at 2 pm.

The scenery between Hamilton and Niagara is particularly fine. The Grand Trunk Railway passes through a number of extensive fruit fields and as you approach the Falls, the country gets wilder and the scenery better.

Passing over the great cantilever bridge which is over 800 feet long and one of the finest and highest bridges in the world, being over 250 feet above the river.

The train passed over it slowly and it commands a good view of the whirlpool rapids, where Captain Webb was last seen, and a bird’s eye view of the Canadian falls.

At 4.20 pm, arrived at the Western Hotel, which is situated within a stone’s throw of the railway station on the American side. It is by no means a first class hotel, but being well treated, with moderate terms, I put up at it. I then engaged a buggie to drive to Prospect Park House (which is a first-class hotel) for $2.50 per day, which is just located beside the Falls; my letters were to have been there but I found they had been sent on to Cleveland as I was rather behind my time.

Sunday, January 6

Rose at 8 am, after having a bad night’s sleep as I was just beside the depot and the shunting locomotives kept me awake all night. Sunday is the time for collecting all the rolling stock.

At 10 am, drove out in a buggie to the Whirlpool Rapids, descended in an elevator to the foot of the cliff and got a fine view of the rapids, where Captain Webb was last seen. The banks of the river are 250 feet here and very pretty, being most partly covered with bush.

The elevator descends in a sort of wooden structure is worked by a steam engine, a man and boy being in constant attendance.

Each visitor pays 50 cents for the use of the elevator. Guides are admitted free, everywhere.

The river here is 256 feet deep and only about 700 feet wide and the water rushes with great force. I then drove to another whirlpool which is about 1 mile further down the river. The river here is very pretty although there is not much to be seen at the whirlpool; it is simply caused by a sharp turn in the course of the river. It is very powerful and often takes down great logs. It is a fine sight to see it take down great masses of ice in the winter season.

To get a view of it the visitor has to pay 50 cents for admission to a kind of park or garden which is all enclosed.

Between the whirlpool and the rapids there is a large school or college. I drove back to the Falls and got a fine view of the American Falls from Prospect Park; I then drove to Goat Island and visited the Three Sisters Islands the Canadian Falls, the Cave of the winds and so on. At the Cave of the Winds I met a Coleraine man, a Mr Stuart. After spending a couple of hours here I drove back to my hotel and dined.

The drive cost me $3.00 for three and a half hours. After dinner I took a streetcar and went up to Prospect Park House and transacted some business and got my railway ticket.

I then got a guide for 6 cents and went across to the Canadian side, by the suspension rope bridge which was blown down two days later on and got a very fine view of both Falls.

In my opinion it is a much better plan to engage a guide and walk round all the places of interest, as you can take more time than when driving, and it is much cheaper. A Mr Dubois is a very reliable guide and is generally to be found at the entrance to Prospect Park.

At 8.15 pm I left for Buffalo and travelled with the Coleraine man whom I met at the Falls. He was very glad to meet an Irishman and gave me a warm invitation to stop a week with him in Pittsburgh.

At 9 pm, arrived in Buffalo at the Arlington Hotel.

Monday, January 7

Called on all the dry goods houses.

Had a walk round the city and left for Cleveland at 2 pm. Buffalo is quite a nice city, pretty much the same as all others of its population. At 8 pm, arrived in Cleveland had quite a difficulty getting accommodation for myself and a lady friend whom I met on the train. At last put up in the American house and I found it to be very comfortable and good value for $2 a day.

Tuesday, January 8

Called on a number of houses and left for Detroit at 3 pm. Cleveland is a beautiful city, [among] the most beautiful I have seen. Its Lower Euclid Avenue is said to be the finest street in the world, rows of beautiful trees grow at either side and the dwellings of the rich merchants of the city are regularly built at a distance of about 40 yards from the avenue. An electric car runs from end to end. I enjoyed the run from Cleveland to Detroit on the Lake Erie railroad very much. A view of Lake Erie most part of the way.

I stopped at Toledo for about 2 hours and was glad to get a good supper. Toledo is quite a fine city with a population of 200,000. At 11.45 pm I arrived in Detroit at the Greswald which I found to be very comfortable though it has no elevator.

Wednesday, January 9

A very wet day. I won’t forget a jolly good dinner which I had in the Greswald for many a day to come. I did my business and had a look at the city and left for Chicago by the railway at 8pm. Detroit is a very fine city and although I saw it at a great disadvantage, I was very favourably impressed with it. I should say it is one of the best business cities of its population in the States.

Immediately after leaving Detroit a great hurricane commenced to blow, so much so that the train could make but little headway and we feared being snowed up.

However thanks to a powerful locomotive we were able to keep moving steadily though slowly all the night. A very kind New Yorker travelled in the train with me and gave me a very kind invitation to his house in New York. I awoke in the morning and found that the storm had quite gone down.

Thursday, January 10

At 8 am, we were going through a great "prairie" and every few minutes we passed over other railways. In Great Britain one seldom sees one railway cross another without an arch but in America they just cross each other as two roads would; but of course have always to stop to see that the road is clear.

Looking ahead we saw the smoke of the great city [of Chicago], the suburbs of which have a very unfinished appearance. The roads are very bad in fact I saw none that were paved; the footpaths are nearly all wooden. For miles outside the city there are numerous lots of ground for sale; those close to the city are very valuable and great fortunes have been made by property speculation.

We arrived in Chicago at 9.45 am at the Atlantic Hotel, here I found a lot of letters waiting for me, some of great importance with reference to the firm of J.W.T. and Co who had got several hundred pounds’ worth of goods from my father and refused payment.

After breakfasting and arranging my room, I made enquiries about the location of the principal dry goods stores, got out to business and visited Messrs I.W.T. Co. with whom I had a considerable amount of trouble.

At length I got a promise of payment in full on the following Monday. I then called on several dry goods houses and I was fortunate enough to meet Mr John McIntyre, an Irishman to the backbone, for he was rather glad to meet a fellow countryman.

At first I suspected his being a “confidence man” and watched him closely. In the evening he took me to a nice hotel, the Windsor on Dearborn Street.

The proprietor is an Irishman a very wealthy gentleman who owns a lot of houses and property in the city. His wife is a Dunloy lady and knows a number of friends of mine, and was educated at Gracehill Academy which I know very well.

Subsequently we were very glad to meet Mr and Mrs Greyston who were very kind to me during my stay in Chicago. After getting my trunk from the Atlantic Hotel I went out to spend a very pleasant evening with my new but very kind friend McIntyre.

At first he took me through a number of dark back streets and I thought was going to rob me but later on we visited a number of places of interest.

Friday, January 11

At business all morning. Called on the great firm of Marshall Field who have the finest business house in the world. I also visited the Great Farwell buildings owned by Messrs J V Farwell & Co. and spent several hours seeing over this gigantic house with my friend McIntyre.

In the evening I dined with McIntyre and afterwards had a beauty of a night. Was introduced to Miss Minnie Cooper one of the great artistes of the day.

Saturday, January 12

An engagement with Messrs G.A.G. & Co. at 1.30 pm. In the evening went out to a suburban place by rail and got an idea of the residences of the wealthy merchants which are very fine and beautiful. Later on I went to dine with McIntyre at his residence. After dinner went to see some other Irishmen and had some jolly songs. Turned in about 1 am.

Sunday, January 13

Mr Greyston drove me out to his residence and introduced me to his family, and to a Mr and Mrs Young, Dungannon people who were very glad to meet me as I knew several of their Irish friends. They were on a three months visit to Chicago. After having a long talk and good dinner, Mr Greyston drove me over to the Grand Boulevards which are very fine indeed; after a drive of some 18-20 miles, and seeing a number of beautiful residences, we returned home and spent a very pleasant evening. At 10 pm we drove back to the Hotel (a drive of 8 miles) in a covered landau.

Monday, January 14

Made another effort to get the money from Messrs I.W.T & Co. but unsuccessful, had a lot of trouble [with] the dishonest sneak.

Met Mr Burgess and Mr Lindley, our previous American agents, who had sold the goods which I.W.T & Co would not pay for. They had been unable to get payment for other lots. Called on James H. Walker and Co and got a good order, also several other orders. In the evening I went to hear a political speaker, I went with McIntyre; 14,000 people present. Later on I went round the city a bit with Jasker.

Tuesday, January 15

Trying to get payment from I.W.T. & Co. but without success after threatening legal proceedings. In the afternoon visited a number of sights..the Exchange, Board of Trade and so on. In the evening went round with McIntyre, he was unfortunate enough to be robbed of $57 dollars in a Winter Garden.

Thursday, January 17

Left for Milwaukee at 8am by the C. M. & St. Paul railway. A very cold morning, temperature about 28 degrees below zero. The above mentioned railway runs pretty near Lake Michigan but not within sight. Milwaukee is situated about 90 miles from Chicago, we made the run in 3 hours including about seven or eight stops. The country within sight of the track is most part very wild and the land appeared to have been poorly cultivated.

11 am arrived in Milwaukee. Awfully cold. Stayed at “The Plankerton”. Called on all the houses till 6pm.

This was about the hardest day’s work ever I went through. At 6pm I was about 1-1/2 miles from my hotel and it was with difficulty that I got back to it. At 8 pm, made some more calls. Saw round a bit, got to bed early.

Friday, January 18

At 6 am had breakfast and left for Chicago at 7.30 am. Arrived at Chicago at 10.50 am. At first I had intended going to Racine but thought it better to hurry back to Chicago and see Messrs I.W.T. & Company...but I found a letter from home. In the evening I made a few business calls andwent out for a good evening.

Saturday, January 19

Called on Messrs I.W.T. & Company in the morning and insisted on his paying me in full. I then went over to the First National Bank got a Bill of Foreign Exchange and mailed it home After lunch I went with Mr Young to see the City Water Works. Visited the People's Library.

In a paper in the library I was much amused to see an account of a squabble which two of my father's workers had. Had a very good Irish evening with McIntyre's brother. Went to a lot of the roughest parts of the city.

Sunday, January 20

Mr Greyston was kind enough to have his sleigh fitted up and drive into Chicago for me and then drive me to his father's house, a distance of about eight miles. Later on we drove to his own residence, where I was very kindly entertained by Mrs Greyston.

After having a good lunch and getting well wrapped up Mr G again drove me out to the Grand Boulevards where we saw thousands of sleighs. We then drove about 37 miles through the country and along the shores of Lake Michigan. After returning home and dining, Mr Greyston and the Misses G and I drove back to the city, and they left me at my hotel.

Monday, January 21

After bidding farewell to all my friends I left for St Louis by the railway.

The daily diary ends here, but he sums up the remainder of his trip as follows.

After Chicago I went to Milwaukee, Saint Louis, Louisville, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. In Washington I attended President Grover Cleveland’s reception at the White House and shook hands with him. In New York I found Harry Chalmers was very dissatisfied and he told me he was going to resign. A week later, I sailed for home on the SS Georgic – another very small State Line steamer of only 1,500 tons – and the voyage occupied nearly two weeks.


Harry gave the following overview of his journey in some memoirs penned in 1931. This notes recall his adventures in Boston, Canada and the American Middle West, and the remainder of his trip.

I left New York for Boston in mid-December and went there by the SS Puritan of the Falls River line. I put up at the Tremont Hotel – a rotten place – and got only one order, from Harry Cumner of Cumner Jones and Co, who for many years later was a good friend.

Next I left Boston at 1.30 pm and arrived in Montreal at midnight. On arrival I found only sleighs at the station and thoroughly enjoyed my first drive down Magill Street to the Old Albion Hotel, rate $2 daily. For six days I tramped round all the business houses but as I had no suitable samples I got very little business. We had no resident agent in Canada. The chief house in our [line of business] was Gault Brothers ltd. Mr McDowell, their buyer, had ordered 500 pieces of hollands [from another supplier] a few days before I arrived. [Another house was] Grunshields ltd..Mr Frazer was the buyer then, and still today (in 1931) although he is over 90, he takes an active part.

[Other houses included] Fisher and Co, AE Small and Co, A Racine and Co, P Hudson and Co, James Johnston and Co, Henry O’Brien and Co. I got a nice order from the latter as the buyer came from Rathlin island and I was able to give him recent news from the island.

On December 23, I went down to Quebec and called on the trade but had no luck there as it was the wrong season. On Christmas Day I went to the English cathedral and later walked two miles to the Plains of Abraham through three feet of melting snow. On the same night, I left Hinchey House, then the best hotel in Quebec, and went through to Montreal, sitting up all night in my wet clothes.

Result – a terrible chill and a day in bed.

I remained two more days in Montreal and then went at night, sitting up all night, to Toronto. I had better luck in Toronto, and opened with WR Brock and Co, Eatons, WR Johnston and some others.

I [also] met HR Smyth, the agents who later represented us in Montreal and Toronto. I next went to Hamilton, Niagara, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago, arriving in the latter in early morning.

I put up at the Atlantic Hotel, a rotten place…and started out on business. I had not gone far when I saw some linen canvas in a window. I went in and got into conversation with the buyer who was called away, then another man came in – Mr MacIntyre, who saw my card and said he knew my father. He was in the woollen trade and took me all round Chicago. He introduced me to JH Walker and Co, Carson, Pirrie Smith and Co, Marshall Field and Co, and Ketcher of Boston stores...his place then measured about 18 foot by 10 foot, just one storey. Today in 1931 it would be about 300 by 60 and 14 stories high.

MacIntyre made me change my hotel and I put up at the Windsor European Hotel, Dearborn Street, which was own by a Mr Greyston from Dungannon who took me out on sleigh runs and was very kind.

I booked some nice orders in Chicago and went from there to Milwaukee, St Louis (got some nice orders there), Louisville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and got back to New York about February 1st.

Here I found our agent Harry Chalmers in a great rage because numerous patterns of canvas sent home in December were ignored, and he said he would resign – which he did next April, and went to Bedford Street Weaving Co and did a great trade for them.

I got a great welcome from my father, mother and all, and soon settled down to hard work executing the orders I had booked and preparing the right samples for [future sales in] the USA.