By John Marks, Curator of Collections and Exhibits
A common quip in my profession is, “I’m a historian. I read dead people’s mail.” Even more revealing are the diaries and journals that have been given to the historical society. A particularly interesting collection is the diaries of Francis (Frank) Herendeen from 1914 to 1929.
In 1868 the Herendeen family began making farm implements and steam boilers in Geneva. Frank was the secretary of the Herendeen Manufacturing Company, which became part of the U.S. Radiator Corporation in 1910. After 1910 Frank’s role in the radiator company is unclear, but apparently he had time on his hands. In 1914, he decided to take his wife Annie and only child Frances (Fannie) to Europe for the year. (Genevans will remember the daughter as Fannie Truslow, wife of Tommy; they lived next door to the historical society on South Main Street.) Catherine Rankin, their live-in domestic, also traveled with them.
|Annie Boynton Herendeen, Frances (Fannie) Herendeen, Frances (Frank) Herendeen|
Both Frank and Annie had traveled before their marriage. Frank noted in his 1914 diary that he had not been to Europe since 1900. Part of his desire to travel again was to expose their seven year-old daughter to the world while being tutored. He was particularly impressed with German educational methods as Fannie had received German lessons in Geneva.
The family left Geneva just after New Year’s 1914. (I should mention that Annie also kept a diary. While she wrote of exhaustion from packing for a long trip, Frank mentioned packing in passing and said that everyone had been busy.) Sailing from New York, they spent time in Spain, Algiers, Monaco, and Italy. In June they moved to Austria. Their first stop was Botzen in the Tirol mountains. (I am using the spellings as found in Frank’s diary.)
|Fannie Herendeen posing in the Borghese Gardens in Rome, April 1914|
Annie was not feeling well and Frank brought in “the best Doctor here to attend her.” The diagnosis was “thin blood” and the prescription was two raw eggs in milk every two hours and daily arsenic shots. Surprisingly, she did gain more strength.
As his wife was bedridden for several weeks, Frank spent his time exploring the area with Fannie. He hired a local woman to walk with Frances every morning and talk in German with her. He recorded his days in great details. The day that caught my attention the first time I read his 1914 diary was June 28, 1914. He wrote of the weather, his activities with Fannie, Annie’s health, and then:
“This eve at 7 o’clock at dinner, the news came of the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand heir to throne of Austria & Hungary & of his wife the Duchess of Hohenberg, in Sarajevo, the Capitol of Bosnia, by a student of Servia, one Prinzib.”
A few days later Frank mentions the town mourning the Archduke with black streamers, but otherwise there is no mention of political events. They moved to a higher, cooler altitude at Karersee once Annie felt strong enough to travel. On Friday July 24, at the end of an entry about a day trip to San Martino, Frank wrote,
“Ret[urned] to Karersee at 9 p.m. found the Hotel excited over the 48 Hour ultimatum of Austria to Servia – the news of which had just arrive. It may mean war.”
Frank’s entry the next day reflected the chaos of uncertainty:
“Nothing was discussed so much today as the probability of a great European war & of the immediate importance of the visitors here leaving at once, in such case for their homes...The dispatches are posted as received & seem contradictory – First that Servia had protested – then later that she had agreed to all of Austria’s demands. When this came there was immense relief and happiness all around….About 10 p.m. came the next telegram that King Peter had fled & Austria had declared War…Many people are now preparing to leave tomorrow…We may soon leave here too.”
Needless to say, things got more interesting in Europe very quickly. I will pick up the story in next month’s blog.