Travel is not mere restlessness. Most often it is undertaken deliberately and with care, by private individuals and official travelers alike. So there are often records of the trips we take, whether for business or pleasure, for official reasons or clandestine ones, for nostalgia, or study, or even escape. Travelers make journals, keep diaries, submit reports, and write home. At some remove from a trip, they compile guidebooks, draw maps, assemble atlases, and even compose memoirs. Every such record constructs a world for writers and their readers and stimulates more travel (real or armchair).
The Newberry was founded in 1887, when most Chicagoans had come here from somewhere else. Walter Newberry traveled from his home in Connecticut to Detroit when he was 24 and on to Chicago at age 29. One early Newberry trustee, Eliphalet W. Blatchford, came to Chicago as a boy. Both arrived in the 1830s when Chicago was little more than a frontier outpost. So they had plenty of experience of the rough-and-ready travel that characterized pre-Civil War America. No wonder, then, that fifty years on they might expect the newborn Newberry Library to collect travel literature. Travel was central to their notion of an American civilization then still struggling to identify itself.
Great Chicago book collectors inherited this tradition of real and imagined travel. Many of the items in our exhibit were the gifts of Edward E. Ayer, Everett D. Graff, Gerald Fitzgerald, and Roger Baskes, all great travelers who collected and studied the literature of travel.