Holidaying in the 19th Century? Here’s what you need to know

Sunshine has finally reached the UK! As we break out the BBQs and look forward to our summer holidays, I thought it would be fun to use The Illustrated London News Archive and Gale Artemis: Primary Sources to look back 100 years, and see what holidayers back then had to look forward to…

  1. Don’t forget your Rowland’s Kalydor and Sulpholine
    The pursuit of a healthy tan was not a familiar concept to 19th century holiday makers. Indeed, ladies would take steps to remove all traces of tan or freckles from their skin, by the use of such potions as ‘Rowland’s Kalydor’ or ‘Sulpholine’:

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    Rowland’s Kalydor.” Illustrated London News 20 July 1912: 121. The Illustrated London News Historical Archive, 1842-2003.

    Rowland’s Kalydor was first sold in the late 1820’s, advertised as a compound discovered by “a Lady of Title, in the course of her Travels and Botanical Researches in the Eastern part of the World.” It continued to be advertised throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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    Sulpholine the Seaside Lotion.” Illustrated London News 7 Aug. 1897: 200. The Illustrated London News Historical Archive, 1842-2003
  2. Make room for your ink bottle
    Suitcases are very much a 19th century invention. As tourists travelled more by train and less by ship, the old method of packing clothes into a large trunk gradually died out in favour of a more portable, lightweight method. However the contents of these suitcases might surprise a 21st century traveller. As this advertisement shows, suitcases were designed not just for clothes but for shaving mirrors, shoe horns, manicure sets, and a variety of brushes and glass bottles:

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    “Benson’s ‘Tourist’ Suit Cases.” Illustrated London News 23 May 1903: 809. The Illustrated London News Historical Archive, 1842-2003


  3. Smile for the Camera!
    The art of the holiday photo was born at the 19th century seaside. Photographers with portable dark rooms would take your photo ‘While You Wait’ for you to then keep as a souvenir:

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    “Beach Photographer.” Photographs from the National Media Museum. Primary Source Media, 1890. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.

    As this cartoon from 1927 shows, having your photo taken at the beach was all part of the holiday fun:

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    “The Seaside.” Illustrated London News 6 Aug. 1927: 255. The Illustrated London News Historical Archive, 1842-2003

    Even if you were just having a paddle:

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    “Children Paddling at the Seaside.” Photographs from the Royal Photographic Society Collection. Primary Source Media. Nineteenth Century Collections Online

I really enjoyed researching this topic, and had great success searching words such as ‘seaside’, and ‘tour’. If you’d like to see for yourself then please contact us today for a free trial.

About the Author

I joined Gale in December 2014 as Digital Product Editor, working particularly on our Early Arabic Printed Books from the British Library and Stuart & Cumberland Papers from the Royal Archives projects. I’m a qualified archivist and before joining Gale I worked in the Universities sector for nearly 10 years, so I’m delighted to continue working with Archives and Academics in a role that has broadened my horizons and introduced me to new challenges.