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A Luxury Cruise in 1928: The Rose de Rose Papers

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Rose de Rose and her mother, 1928Rose de Rose and her mother, 1928When socialite Rose de Rose accompanied her mother on the 1928 round-the-world cruise aboard Empress of Australia, it was one of Canadian Pacific’s most luxurious vessels. By the 1920s, Canadian Pacific had diversified from rail travel to launching its own fleets of ships — first for the movement of goods, and then for travel and leisure. The very popular round-the-world cruises were offered on its three luxury ships — the Empress of Britain, the Empress of Canada, and the Empress of Australia.

The Rose de Rose papers held by the Library's Manuscripts and Archives Division contain travel ephemera from her 1928-1929 world cruise on the Empress of Australia. The materials include dinner menus, programs, and invitations to balls and parties.

The collection of menus is not complete, but all are beautifully illustrated and printed, with information on themed nights, such as a dinner honoring the 107th anniversary of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, with haggis being served in his honor. Other dinners include a birthday dinner in honor of George Washington, the "Twelfth Night Revel," and "King Neptune’s Dinner Party." All menus include music selections, as well as the food to be served.

"Tropical Fruits of Java Which You May Safely Eat," click to enlarge"Tropical Fruits of Java Which You May Safely Eat," click to enlargeThe richest material consists of over 50 handouts given to the passengers before each port of call, describing the sights and people that they would encounter at each stop. The shipboard handouts include a monthly calendar showing all stops and lectures, followed by maps of the area detailing points of interest. More detailed handouts were often deemed necessary, and include topics such as "Chinese Street Restaurants," "Tropical Fruits of Java which you may safely eat," and "Snake Charmers of India."

The handouts provide insight into Eurocentric attitudes of the time, but also detail the passengers’ genuine interest and delight in world travel. The handout on "Chinese Customs" — highlighting what is different culturally — is printed backward so that one has to hold it up to a mirror to read statements like "Dessert is eaten at the beginning of a meal."

The handout on snake charmers assures guests that the snakes have not been defanged, and that the call they will hear is "Mastah.. please.. Laidee.. pleasee... You like to see mongoos[e] fight cobra!" Maps of Egypt include tiny drawings of tradesmen shouting "For you, very cheap!", and when passing Italy, the maps show "two Italian fish fighting over a string of macaroni." The attention to detail is exceptional and it is clear that every effort was made to make the passengers on the cruise feel at ease with their ever changing surroundings.

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16mm film of the 1928 round the world cruise by Charles Gilbert

Northeast Historic Film, moving image archives in Bucksport, Maine, (www.oldfilm.org) has the 16mm film reels of Charles Gilbert from the same excursion. Fully titled film: "C.E. Gilbert presents a pictorial log in ten reels of his trip around the world on the Empress Australia." First title, "On Dec. 1, 1928 the great Empress noses her way down the Hudson for ports of flowers and sunshine."

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