Sunday on the Upper Deck

April 20, 1862, was a Sunday, but the Wheatons’ seasickness prevented their attending religious services. They had discovered that fresh air had a salutary effect, so they did their best to take advantage of good weather. They had their small midday meal brought out to the deck.

Enclosed spaces, on the other hand, made their seasickness worse. Eliza Wheaton noted that “Religious exercises” were held in the Dining Saloon, “but we c[ou]ld not endure a closed room.” In her travel journal entry for the first day of the voyage, she wrote, “I have failed to mention the deep repulsion I felt on going first into my stateroom—It felt more like going into my tomb—But I soon lost that sepulchred feeling—Our stateroom was one of the best on the ship—Servants kind and everything furnished we could expect but my appetite craved little—I had seasons of vomiting several times a day—“

Despite their feeling so ill, Wheaton and her husband maintained the sociability that prevailed among travelers of their class. Every time they met fellow passengers, she noted their names and where they were from, along with a bit of their story. Among the people they met on their first day out were two merchants from Boston who were crossing the Atlantic to buy goods for sale in the United States, “English people from Canada,” and “A Mr. Huddy, wife + daughter” from Philadelphia, who were on their way to Italy.

The passengers they met on Sunday, April 20, included a number of English people from St. Louis who were on their way to visit friends and families. A daughter of one family had been a student of Mary Jane Cragin’s in St. Louis. Cragin, who had taught at Wheaton Female Seminary between 1851 and 1858, was well known for her innovative methods, which included teaching geometry without a textbook.

Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

“Faces Behind the Facades,” online exhibit, Wheaton College Archives and Special Collections, <>, accessed April 20, 2010.

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