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Book of the Month

March 2003


of a Baltic Cruise

Sp Coll Dougan Add. 9

This month we highlight a photograph album of a cruise in the Baltic enjoyed by Charles John Guthrie and his family in August 1902. A fascinating piece of social history, this personal record of the early days of leisure cruising preserves nearly one hundred pre-war holiday 'snaps' of a journey that took in stops at Oslo, Stockholm, St. Petersburg and Copenhagen.  

Postcard bound in at beginning of volume

The cruise was undertaken on the S.S. Prinzessin Victoria Luise, a screw steamer built by Blohm und Voss, Hamburg, for the Hamburg-America Line in 1900. She was used for cruises in the Baltic and Atlantic until becoming stranded on an uncharted reef (thrown up by a recent earthquake) at Plum Point near Kingston, Jamaica, on 16 December 1906, after which event she became a total loss. 

The Prinzessin was a luxury yacht. Unusually, she was built specifically for cruising, whereas most of her contemporaries doubled as liners outside the season. Carrying up to 180 passengers, she was popular with German and English speaking clientele on both sides of the Atlantic. Her design was based closely on Kaiser Wilhelm's steam yacht Hohenzollern (1894) while she incorporated features from the design of the  most prestigious contemporary first class transatlantic liners -  without the impediment of having to cater for second class and steerage passengers or cargo. Her dining room and lounge was covered by a glass dome and there was a well-appointed library and a writing room. There was even a state apartment for the Kaiser. Although there is no information that he ever used it, a letter sheet from the Prinzessin Victoria Luise shows that she was the ship on which Franklin D. Roosevelt and his mother Eleanor cruised in 1904, and this was the apartment presumably used by them. 

Album page: photos 4 & 5

Photo 4: Departure from Hamburg, 22 August 1902

The Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft (Hamburg-America Line) had been established by Hamburg businessmen and ship owners in 1847 for sailings from Hamburg to New York. This successful company expanded greatly over the following fifty years. The company's greatest rival during this period was Norddeutscher Lloyd. The two firms merged as recently as 1970 to form Hapag-Lloyd AG - a company that trades to this day.

Photo 11: Leaving Christiania (Oslo)

The cruise recorded here departed from Hamburg on 22 August 1902 on a paddle steamer, to join the Prinzessin Victoria Luise at Cuxhaven (Hamburg's foreport). She then called at Oslo, Marstrand, Gothenburg, Visby Island off Gottland, Stockholm, Kronstadt, St. Petersburg and Copenhagen.

From the photographs taken, it is evident that there was plenty of time provided for sightseeing ashore. The stops at Stockholm, St Petersburg and Copenhagen were apparently quite lengthy, allowing sufficient time for the exploration of places of interest in the locality - such as a visit to the site of the Imperial Palace at Peterhof while anchored at St Petersburg.

Photo 39: the Guthrie party

The album was compiled by Charles John Guthrie (1849-1920), an eminent Edinburgh lawyer; he was presumably also responsible for taking many of the pictures. All of the photographs are accompanied by captions, and one of these records the names of Guthrie's party. These were, as shown here from left to right: C.J.G. : Charles John Guthrie himself; Sir Richard Sankey (1829-1908), a retired Lieutenant-General of the Royal (Madras) Engineers; A.J.G.: Anne Jemima Guthrie, Charles' wife; T.M.G. : Thomas Mansfield Guthrie, Charles' son; and Mrs Beauclerk and Florence Beauclerk, who have not been traced. The last member of their party, another son called Charles (who became as officer in the R.A.F.), does not appear here: he perhaps took this photograph.

Photo 39: close up of Charles John Guthrie

Charles John Guthrie was born in Edinburgh on April 4th 1849, the son of a distinguished and popular Free Church minister.  Educated at Edinburgh University, he became a successful lawyer; in 1900 he became Sheriff of Ross and Cromarty and Sutherland, and in 1907 he was appointed to a Judgeship of the Court of Session with the title Lord Guthrie. Despite the time consuming nature of his legal duties, he maintained wide interests throughout his life. He was responsible for many charitable works and was an active member of several learned and antiquarian societies. Travel, however, was his absorbing passion. By the time he was eighteen he had already visited France, Switzerland, Italy and America. Indeed, his youthful enthusiasm for travel is recorded in a notebook (published by Aberdeen University Centre for Scottish Studies) describing his impressions of his American tour of 1876. In later life he returned to the U.S. and Canada, and also travelled extensively in Egypt, Syria, Palestine and South Africa. Guthrie died in 1920 at the age of 71. Several obituaries are testament not only to his upstanding legal and public career, but also describe a pleasant man. The Times says he displayed 'an infinite capacity for taking pains' while ' his gentle, kindly nature endeared him to all who knew him' while the Scots Law Times refers to the 'placidity of temper' that enabled him to meet the ups and downs of professional life, summing him up as 'a gentleman in the highest sense of that term'. 

Guthrie's memento of his 1902 summer cruise around the Baltic contains ninety nine photographic prints. These provide an invaluable historic record of many important buildings and landmarks that no longer exist or have been changed over the past one hundred years. The photograph shown here, for example, is interesting for depicting in the background the burnt ruins of Christiansborg Castle. Situated in Slotsholmen, a small island in the heart of Copenhagen, this building was the third 'castle' to have been built on the site. It replaced the baroque castle built by Christian VI in 1730 and which had burned down in 1794. This second Christiansborg Castle was erected between 1803-28 in the new classical style; it unfortunately met the same fate as its predecessor and its remains are photographed here. It was replaced by the present castle  between 1907-28: it now houses the Danish parliament, the supreme court, and the Chamber of the Council of State as well as the Royal Reception Chambers.  

Photo 92: statue of a Danish General with the burnt Palace of Christiansburg, Copenhagen, in the background

Photo 51: Czar's Yacht "Etoile Polaire"

In addition to photographs of buildings and places visited on land, there are several photographs taken at sea; these snapshots of passengers enjoying afternoon tea or promenading on the deck of their yacht give us a unique insight into the comforts of cruising at the beginning of the twentieth century. Perhaps even more interesting are those photographs that show some of the daily routines of the yacht, including her being moored and undergoing the maintenance of painting at Stockholm. Several other ships are also recorded besides the Prinzessin.  Shown here, for example, is a photograph of Czar Nicholas II's yacht, the Etoile Polaire (Polyarnaya Zvezda or Polar Star). Built in 1891 by the order of the Russian Imperial Court, she was one of a fleet of yachts at the call of the Imperial family during this period. 


A few other pieces of memorabilia are also preserved with the album. These include colourful postcards of the yacht and the menu and concert listing from a dinner dance held on board on Sunday 24 August. The dinner included beef broth with semolina dumplings, roast leg of roe, braised oxtongue ā la Polonaise and chocolate ice cream. The music included a march by Millöcker, an overture by Nikolai, and a waltz by Vollstedt.

Detail from photo 30: Wisby (Visby). Returning to SS Prinzessin Victoria Luise

Photo 81: Russian peasant


Most of the photographs measure 4 3/4 x 3 11/16 inches and are silver bromide prints. From their composition they would seem to be the work of an amateur and it is likely that Charles John Guthrie and his family actually took many of them. These holiday snapshots are possibly also augmented by some from other sources - photographs purchased at tourist sites, for example. In addition to the main run of photographs, there are also three panoramas of ships glued into the endpapers of the album: these have been trimmed down to fit the pages, but were probably taken with a Panoram Kodak camera. 

The album was one of eight donated to Glasgow University Library by Mrs John Baird-Smith on 22 May 1947. These nearly all consist of travel photographs collected on various tours by Charles John Guthrie and his relatives between 1885 and 1906. Other tours documented in this way include visits to Italy and Greece in 1885, and to Egypt, Syria and Palestine in 1888. Mrs Jean Baird-Smith was Lord Guthrie's grand-daughter.

The albums augment the important resource of early photographs found in the Dougan Collection of Glasgow's Special Collections.

Photo 59: St. Petersburg: street scene.

Other albums from the Baird-Smith photographic collection:
Dougan Add. 5: Photographs of England, by various photographers. Chiefly 1880s. Collected by James C. Burns. Photographers include: George Washington Wilson, James Valentine, and Francis Frith (125 photographic prints).
Dougan Add. 10: A cruise on the Dunottar Castle. Photographs of a Mediterranean cruise, April 1909. Photographer: Charles John Guthrie (59 photographic prints).
Dougan Add. 11: Italy and Greece, 1885; Germany and Holland, 1887. Photographs collected by Charles John Guthrie. Includes views, portraits of the royal families, and photographs of paintings and sculptures in Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Munich and Holland (159 photographic prints).
Dougan Add. 13: Photographs of Sicily, Turkey and Greece. ca 1889-1906. Souvenir of cruises on SS Cuzco, April 1904, and SY Argonaut, April 1906. Collected by Charles John Guthrie. Includes 2 photographs of the arrival of Princess Sophie of Germany at Piraeus, 1889, on her marriage to Crown Prince Constantine of Greece, 2 portraits of Princess Sophie(?) and photographs of cruise passengers (219 photographic prints). 
Dougan Add. 18: Germany, 1891. Photographs collected by Charles John Guthrie. Includes portraits of the royal family and other notables, reproductions of paintings in German galleries, and programme of 400th anniversary celebrations of Luther's birth, Wittenberg, Sept. 1883; also photographs of Rome, including paintings and sculptures in churches and galleries (157 photographic prints).
Dougan Add. 19: Egypt, Syria, 1888. Photographs. Souvenir of a tour of Egypt, Syria and Palestine by Charles John Guthrie and members of his family in 1888. Includes photographs of the Palestine Exploration Society and portraits of missionaries. Photographers include Felix Bonfils and Francis Frith. Title on cover: Egypt, Syria, 1888 (120 photographic prints). 
Dougan Add. 20: Photographs of miscellaneous views of Britain and Europe, portraits, and other works of art. c.1860-1902. Probably collected by Anne J. Guthrie. Including some postcards and coloured views. Photographers include George Washington Wilson and James Valentine (222 photographic prints).

For details of other early photographs in Special Collections, see the Dougan Collection page.

For more information about Charles John Guthrie and his travels, see:
Charles J. Guthrie's Journal of tour in America in 1867 with a commentary by Edward Ranson.
University of Aberdeen: Centre for Scottish Studies, 2000 Main Library History TP42 GUT
Robert Low Orr Lord Guthrie: a memoir London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1923 (2nd ed.) Store U22 -f.23 

Information about the SS Prinzessin Victoria Luise came from:
Philip Dawson Cruise ships: an evolution in design (London: Conway Maritime Press, 2000), pp 15-19.


The cataloguing and much of the background research for this article was undertaken by Fiona Palmar, Strathclyde University placement student; additional information provided by Peter Asplin.

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Julie Gardham March 2003