About the Collection

Susan Makepeace Larkin Wales (1839-1927) was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts to Thomas Crane Wales and Mary Rebecca Holmes. As a financially comfortable spinster with family members listed in Clark’s Boston Blue Book, she travelled extensively through Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. She spent about 17 years of her adult life traveling abroad with unmarried or widowed female companions as befitting her station and customs of the period.   

The Susan M.L. Wales Journal, 1887 -1895 is a collection of illustrated letters sent to her sister, Annie Flagg Wales Stratton of Boston. It is a charmingly embellished record of three trips she took to hone her artistic skills and experience other cultures. In 1887-1888 Wales visited the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany with Sarah Gooll Putnam, a skilled oil portrait artist. Mrs. J. Noyes was her companion for trips to Algeria, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and Germany in 1891 and again on tours of Switzerland, Italy, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Austria and Germany from August 1893 to September 1894. Wales appears to be residing in Eisenach, Germany with a woman named Alvina from at least May 1895 and occasionally traveling with her to other places in Germany until the journal’s final entry in July that year. Included are descriptions of Wales’ travel arrangements and challenges, gossip, inquiries about relations and friends, what she was painting, and family memories she shared with her sister Annie. Most of the 543 pages contain a small sketch or watercolor of people, places, and things she encountered over the course of these three journeys.  

Wales studied with Bernard J. Blommers of the Hague School as well as with Vicente Poveda y Juan, Joaquin Sorolla y Basida, and Francisco Pradilla Ortiz who were Spanish artists living and working in Rome. She met Jozef Israëls, head of the Hague School; American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Dr. Mary Pierson Eddy; and diplomats and consuls, as well as European and Middle Eastern lords, ladies, and pashas during her travels.  She delighted in catching glimpses of royalty and meeting friends and acquaintances in unexpected encounters. 

Wales was a member of the all-female Boston Water Color Club from 1892 to 1916. She participated in the Boston Water Color Club’s annual exhibitions for many years. One of her paintings, “Monica,” is owned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  

Almost all the transcription, digitization, subject heading and metadata work related to this digital project was done by Library volunteer, Laura Lewis.

View the finding aid: Susan M. L. Wales Travel Journal, 1887-1895 Finding Aid

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