John Bartholomew Junior in the USA

Posted 14 September, 2012 13:04 by Karla Baker

This instalment of the countdown to our Bartholomew Archive exhibition turns its attention to the personal. The Bartholomew Archive is extraordinarily rich when it comes to reconstructing the production processes of John Bartholomew and Son, but it is no less rich when it comes to illuminating personal stories too.

John Bartholomew Junior (1831-1893) was the third generation of the Bartholomew family to take up engraving as a profession. John Junior benefited from the good reputation that his father and grandfather had earned for their skill and professionalism. He was thus able to build on this reputation and did so initially through a prestigious apprenticeship with the German geographer August Petermann (1822–78). Petermann came to Britain with new ideas and techniques and would go on to be appointed Physical Geographer and Engraver in Stone to the Queen. This small but significant detail laid the foundations for the great success the firm would go on to enjoy because in John Junior’s hands, the small engraving concern became a major engraving and printing house.

In 1885, John Junior and his travelling companion, Andrew McDonald, undertook a 22,886 mile, three month journey around North America. The principal aims of the trip were to foster new business connections and to gather information, and John Junior travelled with at least two endorsements to this end.

letter of recomendation by edinburghs merchants co

But it wasn’t all business and John Junior had many an opportunity to indulge in sightseeing and pleasure cruises. Mementoes from this trip even include two pressed flowers that John Junior picked at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park. More examples of the colourful and interesting remnants of the trip can be seen below.

milwaukee lake postcard

No matter where he was on this mammoth tour, John Junior’s diary reveals that he couldn’t resist comparing almost everything that he saw to the more familiar landscapes of his native Scotland. So, for example, certain stretches of the Mississippi were “something like the width of the Clyde”, Telegraph Hill in San Francisco “looks as steep as the Calton Hill” and the Green River was compared to the Tay at Perth.

The trip can be considered a success if evidence from the firm’s Printing Record can be relied upon. At around this time there appears to be a marked increase in the orders Bartholomew received from North American publishing firms, including T Ellwood Zell and J B Lippincott. However, the trip was almost scuppered.

John Junior travelled from Liverpool on the S. S. “Germanic” on the 2 April 1885. The ship landed at Queenstown the next day. It collected some 300 sacks of mail then embarked again for the crossing of the Atlantic, heading to New York. The weather was set fair but on the night of the 3rd a storm set in. The storm lasted all of the next day and whilst John Junior “supposed this to be the usual experience of an Atlantic voyage” he couldn’t help but note that “the thundering of the waves against the ship was something awful”. It got worse. “At 10.30 there was a tremendous crash, a greater wave than the others having thundered over the vessel, carrying away 7 boats, 2 steam cranes…rails, deckchairs and everything movable on deck. One seaman was washed overboard and lost. The water rushed in torrents through the breach in the recreation room…then passed along the passages and into the passengers cabins, setting afloat books, shoes, boxes…About 13.00 Greenwich time an officer came round and began to screw down the iron shutters over the port hole windows…he said that the Captain had given orders to turn the ship and all the port holes had to be screwed down in case the windows would be broken and the sea burst into her broadside. This was not very comforting and we anxiously waited for the critical period to be passed”. The experience must have been terrifying. However, on the 7 April, five days after leaving Liverpool, the “Germanic” safely docked back into Queenstown harbour. John Junior later discovered that “the “Germanic” was 540 miles west of Queenstown when she encountered the wave, and that the cost of the accident to the White Star Line was £25,000″. This would equate to many millions of pounds in today’s money. Three days later, John Junior and Andrew set sail again, this time aboard the “Adriatic” and this time they made it to New York.

white starline passenger list cover

There are many more personal stories to be found in the Bartholomew Archive, some of them profoundly significant, some of them comical and some of them tragic. Join us from December-May to discover more of the personal stories of the Bartholomew firm and their amazing staff.

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