Corals & Cameos Souvenir Shopping & Art Collection on the Grand Tour

Franklina and her mother were magpies during the Grand Tour, whether feathering their nests or adorning themselves with all manner of shiny, sparkling, beautiful things. In this they were like most European tourists. Not only was Paris the fashion capital of the Western world, but the skill and craftsmanship available throughout the continent were legendary.

In Brienz, at the foot of the Alps, Franklina spent most of the day buying handmade wood carvings. In Switzerland, she wrote to William:

All my hopes are centered in a Cukoo (how do you spell it?) clock. They are so beautiful here."

In Geneva she could not resist spending $60.00 for a “stemwinder” clock pendant for herself. Her mother bought her a chain from which it could hang. Matilda later presented Franklina with a necklace and earrings made of gold-set scarab beetles which they had purchased in Egypt.

Southern Italy proved to be Franklina’s undoing. From Naples she wrote to William, “Corals and cameos are specialities here but I have begun my economies by giving up my set of coral. It wasn’t much of a 'give up.' Perhaps it was not a 'give up' because she did purchase a cameo for herself and coral studs for William.

Left: A lace fan Franklina purchased in Paris (Camron-Stanford House Collection. Gift of Tracey Bartlett, 2018). Top Right: A scarab beetle necklace, circa 1850. Bottom right: a hand-carved cameo brooch from Italy, late 19th Century (courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Franklina purchased many pieces of jewelry and accessories during her Grand Tour.

"This morning we went lace hunting"

While she certainly acquired a fair number of souvenirs, a priority on Franklina's shopping list was her wedding trousseau. Much like today, well-to-do Victorian women were expected to purchase not only a wedding gown but also new clothing with which to begin married life (think nightgowns, day dresses, and gloves!). Franklina visited many textile factories and fabric shops during her Grand Tour.

In Belgium, Franklina visited lace factories, recording in her journal:

We saw red eyed women bending over their intricate work making their black bobbins fly unceasingly. These women work twelve hours a day for which they receive one franc twenty five centimes: and the very best work women two francs! Think of slaving so for forty cents a day!”

Despite the inequity she saw, she purchased a handmade Belgian lace veil to top her wedding ensemble.

(Pictured: Details of lace accessories purchased by Franklina and Matilda on their Grand Tour, Camron-Stanford House Collection. Gifts of Franklina Moore and Tracey Bartlett.)

Tough working conditions were commonplace for many laboring people in the 19th Century. In Milan, Franklina visited a silk and velvet factory noting:

To form the ordinary width goods it takes 8 thousand threads of silk, each separated by a little wire. We saw a little girl separating these threads & earning ten cents by eight hours of labor; while the weavers earn from one to four francs."

Matilda Gray wore the black velvet gown pictured here on Franklina's wedding day. One must wonder if the dressmaker thought it curious for the mother of the bride to commission a dress in such a heavy, dark fabric for her daughter's wedding day!

In 1877, while staying in Paris, Franklina and her mother employed four different dressmakers to accomplish the work of outfitting their new wardrobes.

Franklina's white satin wedding gown was purchased in Paris and made by the celebrated dressmaker Amédée François. François was a contemporary of Charles Worth, the English fashion designer who founded the House of Worth. His designs were sought out by royalty and celebrities. Given her social standing, it is no surprise that Franklina opted chose high-fashion for her wedding gown! You can read about François' designs here.

(Pictured: Matilda Gray Hewes' black velvet dress, c. 1878, Camron-Stanford House Collection. Gift of Tracey Bartlett, 2018.)

Franklina and Matilda were not alone in their pursuit for fine clothing. Returning to Paris after a solo-trip to Damascus, Mr. Hewes presented Franklina with a richly embroidered opera cloak, complete with matching hat, vest, and slippers. Though we do not know what he paid for these items, his penchant for luxury suggests this was not a cheap purchase.

Later, in Germany, Hewes purchased 25 sets of window curtains to be sent back to Oakland. Franklina noted:

I don't think I ever saw a handsomer curtain of the kind than those Mr. Hewes paid 38 dollars a window for."

Adjusting for inflation to present day values, Hewes paid $23,810.00 to outfit his home in these German textiles.

The Damascene embroidered cloak, hat, and vest. Franklina was thrilled with the present and wrote to William of the fine craftsmanship of the items. (Camron-Stanford House Collection. Gift of Tracey Bartlett, 2018.)

Miles of Paintings

In the celebrated Pitti Palace and Uffizi Gallery there are several miles of paintings...indeed so many treasures as it would weary me to write. But to see them! This is more pleasure than I can tell.”

Letter, Sunday, October 10, 1875, Florence, Italy

Franklina loved art and was intent on learning more about it during the Grand Tour. While traveling, Franklina and the Hewes party frequented the various fine art museums of Europe. Between the Louvre in Paris, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and the Vatican Museum in Rome, Franklina found herself overwhelmed by the amount of paintings and sculpture to be seen. Writing in her journal from Venice, Franklina said:

In the Accademia delle Belle Arti, we looked at 550 pictures; – how many we really saw is doubtful.”

(Pictured: View of the Grand Salon Carré in the Louvre by Giuseppe Castiglione, 1861. The Louvre Museum, Paris. Note the artists around the gallery painting replicas of the pieces in the museum!)

American visitors to these museums were so inspired by what they saw that they wanted to bring the pictures home with them. While museums today often sell printed post cards and posters of the more famous pieces in their collections, many Victorian visitors opted for hand-painted recreations of their favorites. The Hewes party was no exception. David Hewes was extremely fond of statuary and as Franklina mentions in her letter, bought over twenty-five reproductions while in Italy.

The collecting done here made the foundation of the art gallery on display in the Camron Stanford House (pictured in the title image of this page). Alongside alabaster carvings and bronze figurines, Hewes also purchased a copy of Caracci's "Christ & the Woman of Samaria at the Well" as a last-minute birthday present for Franklina in 1875. She also received a dozen silk handkerchiefs, a scarf, and pair of pearl and turquoise earrings on that day, upon which she remarked:

Am I not always lucky in receiving presents?"

Letter, Monday, December 20, 1875, Naples, Italy

19th Century replicas of famous European works, all part of the Camron Stanford House Collection. Top Left: Painting, Copy of Guido Reni's Beatrice Cenci; Sculpture, Replica of Johann Heinrich von Dannecker's Ariadne on the Panther. Top Right: Copy of Raphael's Madonna della Sedia. Bottom: Replica of Antonio Canova's Venus and the Graces Dancing in the Presence of Mars.

David Hewes was so inspired by European sculpture that he commissioned two alabaster busts while staying in Genoa, Italy: one of himself and one of Franklina. She recounted the experience to William:

Monday morning I got up at six o'clock (think of it!) & went in a pouring rain to a studio to sit for a bust in Alabaster, – a notion of Mr. Hewes. After sitting for three hours watching the process of bringing a head out of a lump of clay; – I went to the Alabaster store to help Mr. Hewes select his two or three hundred dollars worth of the beautiful white stuff."

Letter, Friday, October 22, 1875, Genoa, Italy

(Pictured: Alabaster portrait bust of Franklina C. Gray by G. Andreoni, c. 1875-77. Camron-Stanford House Collection, Gift of Franklina Moore, 1979.)

Hewes seemed to enjoy visiting artists' workshops as part of his European sight-seeing. In Naples, Franklina and David spent a day exploring such workshops and meeting local artists.

We went into a sculptor's studio one day & found him modeling from a little boy about five years old. The little naked fellow was sitting on top of a bale box shivering, but looking grave as a judge. Mr. Hewes gave him some pennies & we left him screwing up his mouth in the effort not to smile."

Journal, Sunday, November 21, 1875, Naples, Italy

(Pictured: Alabaster portrait bust of David Hewes by Nicoli Carrara, c. 1875-77. Courtesy of Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University.)

Matilda was not left out from Hewes' love of gift-giving and statuary. In 1876, in Paris, Hewes presented his new wife with the clock and mantle ornaments pictured below. Franklina recorded: "The clock of mottled African & black marbles is an imitation of the propylea of an Egyptian Temple, it is surmounted by a bronze Sphinx."

The Egyptian Revival styled bronze and marble clock given to Matilda Hewes by David Hewes (Camron-Stanford House Collection, Gift of Frank Rapp, 1978). The obelisk mantle ornaments stand two feet high! 

Crafting Keepsakes

Franklina and her travel companions were the rule rather than the exception when it came to tourism and shopping. Like 21st century travelers, Grand Tourists' purchases funded local economies and kept artists and craftspeople employed.

There was, of course, a wide spectrum of working people whose labor facilitated Victorian shopping sprees. From the seamstress who outfitted Franklina's European wardrobe to the quarrymen who excavated the alabaster for her portrait bust, so much work went on behind the scenes.

Though some craftspeople were undoubtedly underpaid and under-appreciated, the relationship between tourist and local vendor was a symbiotic one. For a price, customers came away with high-quality clothing, accessories, and housewares and those purchases allowed independent artisans to continue their business and build their own economic security.

(Pictured: Women at a factory "Making fine-texture hosiery, an old and important industry at Balbriggan, Ireland," Underwood & Underwood, Publisher, circa 1880, Library of Congress.)

That said, the 1878 State of Labor in Europe report showed that wages in Europe were on average about half that of wages in the United States. Furthermore, everyday necessities in Europe such as food, lodging, and clothing cost equal to or more than the same necessities in the United States. An Italian shoemaker earned $4.32 per week while his New York counterpart earned $8 and $12. The cost of flour in Italy was 7 cents per pound while New Yorkers paid 3 to 4 cents a pound. No small wonder, then, that the Italian boy couldn't help but smile when David Hewes tossed him a few pennies!

After a long day of shopping and gallery hopping, the Hewes party returned to their hotel de jour. Click the button below to hear Franklina's thoughts on the places she stayed throughout Europe.

Franklina C. Gray: The Grand Tour / An Online Exhibit Presented by Camron-Stanford House.
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Camron-Stanford House


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