AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Alps, Early American Ascents

Early American Ascents. (Additional notes follow, with page references to the book published by the Club in 1943.) P. 1: In 1748, the young Quaker, Francis Rawle, introduced the Philadelphia custom of making the Grand Tour, scions of wealth and gentility of that city continuing almost alone for many years among their American contemporaries in following this course of education and pleasure. In the same year Edward Shippen, studying at Middle Temple, allowed himself time for “seeing the curiosities.” But the great impetus to Italian travel occurred in 1760, when Chief Justice Allen arranged letters of credit for his 21-year-old son John, “who had an inclination to see a little of the world.” John Allen sailed for Leghorn with his cousin Joseph Shippen, to spend a few months in Italy and thence to travel through Switzerland and France to London, the artist, Benjamin West, joining this party.


Unfortunately we know little about the exact routes followed by these travellers, and the journal of John Morgan (privately-printed, 1907), is still the best American account of a Grand Tour. His companion, Samuel Powel 3d, became the last Colonial mayor of Philadelphia. Quaker Thomas Mifflin and Anglican William Bingham followed Morgan and Powel to Rome. See C. and J. Bridenbaugh, Rebels and Gentlemen (1942).

P. 5: The “Native of Pennsylvania” was Joseph Sansom, the first edition of his book being published in two volumes at Philadelphia in 1805. The author crossed into Italy by the St. Gott- hard, returning over the Mont Cenis in March, 1802, and descending on a sledge to Lanslebourg. He makes the unique statement that Hannibal stood in the summit of Monte Viso to encourage his troops.

P. 19: The year of Dr. Grant’s second marriage was 1842, not 1852. P. 29 : Henry Fairbanks was a great-uncle of Weldon Fairbanks Heald (A. A.C.). P. 33: Rev. Archibald M. Morrison withdrew from his charge in Worcester while abroad in 1857, and in 1871 he resigned as instructor in the Mission House, Philadelphia, his name remaining in the city directory for 1800 but not 1881. P. 34: James Kent Stone was a grandson of the New York Chancellor, James Kent (1763-1847), and was a Harvard classmate of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. P. 42: Howard Payson Arnold’s great-nephew, Alan F. Arnold, Syracuse, N. Y., was also the grandson of John C. Randall, who lost his life on Mont Blanc in 1870. P. 50: Randall’s companion was Dr. James Baxter Bean, and the large amount of new information bearing on this fatal ascent is presented elsewhere in this issue of the Journal. P. 58: Mr. Marks is said to have been a Philadelphian, but this can not be confirmed. Miss Wilkinson came from Virginia. The accident is not mentioned in State Department records. P. 62 : Dr. Ball’s full name was Benjamin Lincoln Ball.

S. H. Leathe, of St. Louis, ascended Mont Blanc July 20, 1870 (probably; date removed from news clipping). Alvin (or Alban) Walton was killed on the Wetterhorn in 1908. Mr. Blake, of New York, died near the Grand Plateau, Mont Blanc, Aug. 12, 1908. Henry Powers, of New Orleans, was killed on the Aig. Noire de Peteret in 1908.

The anonymous Livre d’Or du Mont-Blanc, published at Thonon-les-Bains about 1902, contains the same mutilated list taken from earlier books referred to, but continues it through 1901, including 120 names of supposed Americans who ascended the mountain during the period 1880-1901. Only a few of these can be identified, but it indicates that about six Americans went up each season.

Through the courtesy of Mrs. A. W. Wilkinson we have now received the ice-axe used by John Wilkinson in various Alpine districts during 1866 and 1867.

J. M. T.