*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.
Travel, as they say, is a broadening experience. French novelist Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) said, “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” Even a man who lived long ago, when traveling was far more difficult than it is today, noted, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” (St. Augustine of Hippo, who lived 354-430.) The Danish fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) made it even simpler, cutting straight to the chase: “To Travel is to Live.”
A local woman by the name of Elizabeth Hartmetz Zutt was much of this mindset. Elizabeth Hartmetz Zutt was born in Evansville, IN in 1914 and graduated from Ward-Belmont University in Nashville, TN and the University of Wisconsin. She earned a master’s in library science from Columbia University and worked for the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library for 30 years. Zutt passed away on February 22, 2006. Her maternal grandfather owned Hartmetz Brewery, a predecessor of Sterling Brewery.
Her father, John C. Zutt, was the owner of Central Glass Company which became Evansville Mirror and had an interest in one of Evansville’s many furniture factories. All this is to say that Miss Zutt had the financial wherewithal to finance her love of travel. And indulge this love she did! In her father’s 1936 obituary, she is listed as “Miss Elizabeth Zutt in Europe.” The University Archives and Special Collections was the recipient of some of her travel diaries, now available in MSS 260.
On June 8, 1938 she set sail from New York aboard the RMS Queen Mary for 3 months in Europe. This was NOT travel on the cheap! This ship was launched only 2 years earlier by the Cunard White Star Line and was named in honor of Mary of Teck, wife of King George V of England, the current queen’s grandmother. The ship had a passenger capacity of 1957 on 12 decks, with 776 1st class cabins, 784 tourist class, and 579 3rd class cabins. (For more about this fascinating ship, including its current status as a ship hotel and museum, permanently moored in Long Beach, CA, check out RMS Queen Mary 2 Cruises.)
By June 13 the ship had made it to Plymouth, England where part of the passengers disembarked; it then proceeded to Cherbourg, France where more disembarked. The travelers “watched them take Autos off, swung them over in heavy rope like Hammock, on to the Tender, had about 12 to Cher. ours did not get out, as we go to Southampton, we will be due there at 9 PM but we will stay on ship until morning.” The next morning after breakfast, the Zutt party disembarked, went through customs, picked up their car (imagine shipping your own car across the Atlantic!), got gassed up, and the adventure began. Almost 3 months were spent on the continent, seeing England, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and France. At least part of the time in Germany was spent visiting relatives; Zutt specifically mentions seeing Kindenheim, the “old home of my parents. Only one sister left of Mothers, 88 years old….After visiting went to cemetery, saw where all the relatives are buried.”
Even for what seem to be experienced travelers, things did not always go smoothly. There are several comments about being unable to get a room as well as challenges in navigation. Berlin was particularly noted as “hard to find your way.” Auto clubs in the various countries (these appear to be akin to our AAA) were very helpful, as were the local people, even if language was sometimes a barrier. In Norway they encountered kindness in the persons of a retired sea captain and his wife, who had spent a great deal of time in America. The captain was headed to Oslo and offered that the Zutt party could follow him. After about an hour’s drive, the couple stopped. “They had the back of their car all full of food & drinks, [and] a gasoline stove. … He got out his stove, they had bacon & eggs, bread, butter, coffee & we had a 4th July picnic.” When they arrived in Oslo the next day, the Norwegian couple showed them how to get out of the city, too. “We then told them goodbye, & thanked them for their many kindnesses; they insisted the pleasure was theirs. So we parted; there are many good people in this world, all you need do is look for them.”
The return across the pond began September 7, from Le Havre, France, aboard the S.S. Normandie. The French ship had made her maiden voyage only 2 years earlier, when she set speed records both east and westbound. She was the largest ship in the world, more than 2 tons heavier than the ship taken for the outbound trip, the RMS Queen Mary. (To learn more about the S.S. Normandie, her short life and tragic end, check out Cruise Ship History: The French Line’s SS NORMANDIE.) Look at this dining room!
The Zutt party landed in New York on September 12, spent the rest of the week enjoying the sights, and headed home on the 16th. After a number of stops along the way, the travelers finally arrived in Evansville on September 19.
Other travel diaries in the collection tell of a 1962 trip to Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Israel, Greece, Sicily, and the Netherlands. They were gone for 2 months for most trips. A 1964 trip found the intrepid travelers in Iran, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Alaska, and Seattle. The year 1965 saw a trip to Africa—Senegal, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. Yet another travel diary, no year noted, contains details of an excursion to Portugal (Lisbon), Spain (Madrid), Italy (Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice, Naples), France (Nice, Paris), Belgium (Brussels), and the Netherlands (Amsterdam).
By my calculations, that’s 42 different foreign countries in 5 trips! And if that’s not enough, a September 29, 1977 article in the Evansville Press tells of an exhibition at the University of Evansville of more than 100 art pieces Ms. Zutt had collected on her journeys through South America, Africa, and New Zealand. Look at this map and see how much of the world these travelers saw. NOTE: this is a 2018 map, so it shows countries that did not exist during the time Ms. Zutt traveled, and she probably visited countries that no longer exist today. We only have a few of her travel diaries–who knows how many other countries could be added to her list?
One particularly striking thing about Elizabeth Hartmetz Zutt and her travels was her willingness to share this opportunity with others. The Elizabeth Zutt Art Student Enrichment Scholarship was established at the University of Southern Indiana in 1998. It has allowed many USI art students the opportunity to travel to places such as Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Morocco, and Holland. In addition, it includes funding for the purchase of art supplies and to gain admission to art exhibits, lectures, etc. The manuscript collection within University Archives/Special Collections also contains some thank you notes and postcards from grateful student recipients of her largesse. According to Faces of Philanthropy, v. 1, 2008, “By all accounts, Elizabeth Hartmetz Zutt was not a sentimental person. But she was touched to the point of tears when she read thank you notes from USI students to whom she gave the opportunity to see the world.” One postcard note that this was the scholarship recipient’s first trip outside the USA. Another noted that she had twin brothers who were also in college and thus money was tight. She and her mother were grateful that Ms. Zutt’s generosity enabled her dream to come true. Ms. Zutt also donated items from her art collection to the university.
Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” It appears as though Elizabeth Hartmetz Zutt was a woman after Twain’s own heart. How about you? Where’s your next adventure?