Thousands of people around the world cheered and were touched by the historic journey of the original Miss Columbia—the famous 19-inch doll who circumnavigated the globe to raise funds for children’s charities from 1900 to 1902. Read her travel journal.
In the year 2000, the Wenham Museum, home of the original Miss Columbia, re-created her incredible journey to help commemorate the trip’s 100th anniversary and to offer an exciting learning opportunity to schools and students nationwide. Journal entries from her second trip can be read here.
Around the World in 1000 Days: Highlights of the First Voyage
The Original Story of Miss Columbia’s voyage 1900-1902
Miss Columbia was a doll ahead of her time. In an era when few Americans could hope to travel abroad, she went around the world. At a time when no proper young lady went anywhere alone, she set out on her travels unchaperoned. To all appearances just a simple (if highly charismatic) doll, she was in reality an ambassador with a mission.
Miss Columbia’s travels began in December 1899, when she left the home of her creator, Miss Emma Adams, in Oswego, New York, and journeyed to Boston to become part of the International Doll Collection belonging to Elizabeth Richards Horton. Ms. Horton’s collection numbered around 600 dolls and since 1896 had been widely exhibited throughout the country to raise money for children’s charities.
As the newest member of this large family of dolls, Miss Columbia had been designated to journey across the continent and then board a ship to circle the world. Her mission was to continue Mrs. Horton’s charitable work for needy children, and in the process to create a history for herself. Columbia’s appearances on her trip would be free to anyone who requested her presence. The only stipulation attached was that at each of her stopping places a tag was to be placed on her dress telling the circumstances of her exhibition and how much money she had raised.
On April 12, 1900, Columbia was packed in a telescoping trunk and sent on her way courtesy of the dams Express Company which, in conjunction with Wells Fargo Express, provided her with free transportation across the country. Colombia may have traveled unchaperoned, but she did not travel alone. Into her trunk went six extra dresses, warm coat and bonnet, copies of the Boston daily and Sunday newspaper, a red, white and blue sash and a small American flag of silk. One of her most important accessories was a journal in which she and her hosts were to share her adventures at each stop along the way. Miss Columbia proved to be a faithful “journal-keeper” though her entries were transcribed in many different hands!
Columbia made her first appearance in Chicago, followed by appearances in St. Louis, Kansas City, MO, and Omaha, NE on her way to Denver. Her visit in Colorado was so successful that she stayed almost a month. Surely she is the only doll who can claim that a reception was held for her on top of Pike’s Peak and that a dance in her honor was performed at the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.
On July 13, 1900, Mrs. Horton’s little retinue arrived in Los Angeles. She would remain in California for almost a year, appearing at numerous fund-raising receptions and visiting hospitals and orphanages.Everywhere she went children presented Miss Columbia with souvenirs of her visit: a rosary from a Catholic childrens’ home, a Chinese hymnbook, a neck chain made of seaweed from children too poor to give anything that cost money. Miss Colombia returned from a brief trip to Alaska with a treasure basket from an Indian boy and from Baja, California with a clay bank and straw sombreros presented by Mexican children. Humble but endearing gifts, these small tokens reflected the affection that greeted the little doll wherever she went.
Finally in July 1901, Miss Columbia secured passage for the Philippine Islands on the U.S. Army Transport Thomas, popularly known as the “Teachers’ Transport”. After the Spanish-American War, the Philippines had been ceded to the United States, and the U.S. government was transporting schoolteachers, as well as soldiers, to the islands. One of these adventurous teachers, Miss Cora E. Fay of Colorado, was to be Columbia’s constant companion for the next year.
Before going aboard, Columbia’s face and hands had to be thoroughly cleaned because, as recorded in her journal, “I had been kissed by so many big folk as well as little ones. At Denver over 600 children kissed and shook hands with me at one reception… However my face and hands have been well washed for my start over the sea.”
Across the Sea
After a peaceful voyage that included a stop in Honolulu, the Thomas reached Manila Bay on August 21, 1901. Miss Fay was assigned to a teaching post in Zamboanga on the island of Mindanao, so the two travelers boarded another transport, the Buford, for the trip south. The seas were so high that day that the gangplank could not be lowered. Columbia and several of the teachers had to be hauled up from the launch and pulled aboard through an open porthole. If that were not indignity enough, Miss Columbia was issued a tag that read: “Pass bearer on Buford as a dead head (underage), from Manila, P.I. to Zamboanga, P.I. to be fed in saloon with a spoon.”
“Dead Head” or not, for the next year Columbia shared Miss Fay’s excursions on Mindanao and even survived an earthquake. But by August 1902, a letter from Mrs. Horton reminded Miss Columbia and Miss Fay of the long trip home to Boston. Passage was found for her on the transport McClellan, whose commanding officer, Capt. Nye, would look out for her more than halfway around the world. Before leaving Zamboanga she was cleared by the Collector of Customs, who certified that she had complied with the customs regulations and had not defrauded the government. However, after inspecting her New England wardrobe, he suggested she bring more suitable clothes on the next trip. “It doesn’t snow here very often,” he wrote.
The McClellan docked in New York, and Miss Columbia, her souvenirs, her tags and all of the other mementos of her trip were forwarded to Boston by Adams Express. On Christmas Day, 1902, the express company manager personally delivered her to Mrs. Horton’s townhouse. After two years and eight months of travel her mission was accomplished: She was the most famous doll in the world and she truly had been an ambassador of good will everywhere she went. In her own words: “I met with kindness everywhere, not for my beauty but to show what good even a little plain rag doll can do, if she tries, to make sunshine in the world.”
Now having reached the venerable age of 100, Columbia and her brothers and sisters of the International Doll Collection form the nucleus of the renowned collection of dolls at the Wenham Museum in Wenham, Massachusetts. Instead of traveling the world, the world now travels to Miss Columbia, and visitors from coast to coast and from overseas are always assured a warm welcome from the rag doll who journeyed around the world.