Travel Tips From 1875

This blog post is a compilation of the best proverbs, quotes and tips for traveling in 1875.

The “what happened in the 1800s in america” is a question that has been asked many times. The answer to this question will be given by 1875, an article written by a traveler who visited America during that time period.

Vintage photograph paris eiffel tower.

Note from the editor: The following extract is from a book published in 1875: Cecil B. Hartley’s A Gentleman’s Guide to Etiquette Hartley has already educated us on some witty and insightful conversation rules. He now gives advice on how to travel like a gentleman, particularly while traveling overseas. While it’s no longer appropriate to refer to locals as “peasants” in the nations you visit, the most of Hartley’s advice still remains true. 

If you want to go to other countries, particularly in Europe, I would encourage you to learn the languages before attempting to travel there. In Europe, French is the most helpful language since it is used in the courts and among diplomats; nonetheless, in order to truly enjoy a visit to any nation, you must be able to communicate in that country’s language. You may then visit private homes, see peasant life, and travel confidently from village to town, city to city, learning more about the country in one day through familiar interactions with the locals than you would in a year from guide books or your courier’s lectures.

The best way to really experience a travel through a new nation is to carry your backpack or valise and do a foot tour through the hamlets and villages, rather than rolling over the roads in your carriage, stopping at hotels, and being escorted to the areas of interest by your guide. Take a room in a hotel in one of the major cities and see all your guide book tells you to see, then go on your own research trip, and trust me, your own walks and discussions with the villages and peasants will be incomparably more enjoyable than your visits prescribed by others. Of course, to appreciate this means of transportation, you must have some knowledge of the language, and even if you begin with just a rudimentary understanding, you will be astonished at how quickly you will learn to talk when you are forced to speak in that language or remain completely quiet.

The ability to manage your own affairs will also benefit your wallet. You will be deceived by everyone, from the lad who blacks your boots to the brilliant artist who promises to fill your picture gallery with the works of the “ancient masters,” if you go with a courier and rely on him to manage your hotel bills and other concerns. We are positive that if Murillo, Raphael, and Guido could see the paintings brought to our nation every year as real works of their pens, they would rip their ghostly hair, wring their shadowy hands, and return to the grave in disgust. If you don’t know the language of the country you’re visiting, you’ll be conned by innkeepers and taxi drivers in small villages and large cities, in the country and in the city, morning, noon, and evening, daily, hourly, and weekly; so, once again, I recommend studying the languages if you plan to travel abroad.


Nothing distinguishes the gentleman from the clown in a strange nation more than the respect they show for foreign traditions. While the latter will cry against every foreign attire or meal, and even exhibit indications of distaste if the latter does not satisfy him, the former will strive to “do in Rome what Romans do” to the extent that it is possible.

Accustom yourself to the customs of the country you’re visiting as quickly as possible, and follow them as closely as you can without violating any principles. You will much improve your personal comfort by doing so, since you cannot expect the whole country to adopt your habits, thus the sooner you adopt theirs, the sooner you will feel at ease in this unfamiliar environment.

Never mock or condemn any use that you find absurd or incorrect. You may injure or enrage individuals around you, and making yourself unpopular will not contribute to the enjoyment of your vacation. If your meat is served on marmalade or your beef is served uncooked in Germany, or if you are served peas in their pods in Italy, or if you are served frog’s legs and horsesteaks in France, make no comments and suppress any disgusting looks or gestures. If you can’t adjust your taste to the foods, remove the items you can’t eat off your plate and create your meal on the remaining items, but do it softly and quietly so as not to draw attention to yourself.

The best travelers can eat cats in China, oil in Greenland, frogs in France, and macaroni in Italy; who can smoke meerschaum in Germany, ride an elephant in India, shoot partridges in England, and wear a turban in Turkey; in short, adapt their habits, costume, and taste to the national manners, dress, and dishes in each country.

When traveling overseas, avoid constantly praising your own nation or denigrating others. If you discover that people are curious about America, talk openly and freely about its culture, landscapes, or goods, but not in a manner that implies disrespect for other nations. It is impolite, ill-bred, and inexcusably terrible taste to scoff at the Thames because the Mississippi is longer and broader, or to sneer at any thing because you have seen its superior at home. You will discover innumerable items of attraction outside of America that America cannot match, and you should avoid using “our rivers,” “our mountains,” or “our industries” when traveling. You will find ruins in Rome, paintings in Florence, cemeteries in France, and factories in England that will take the lead and challenge the world to compete; and you will display a far better spirit if you openly acknowledge that superiority rather than making absurd and untrue claims of “our” power to excel them.

You will, of course, encounter plenty to disapprove of and much to make you chuckle; but, control the former and keep quiet about the latter. If you want to point out a flaw, do it softly and discreetly; if you want to compliment someone, do so without reservation, truly and warmly.


Study the geography and, to the extent feasible, the history of any nation you want to visit. If you are unfamiliar with the events that made places or monuments historically significant, you will have little interest in them.

Make small talk with everyone who seems to be interested in getting to know you. You may so spend an enjoyable hour or two while gaining important knowledge, and you are under no need to continue the acquaintance unless you choose to. Many of each nation’s customs may be found in other countries among Europe’s elite circles, but genuine nationality can only be found among the peasants and people.

You may bring one rule with you into any country: no matter how much the locals object to your clothing, language, or customs, they will joyfully agree that the American visitor is totally nice and courteous.



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