The Quaker City Excursion was as much a scam as it was a legitimate enterprise. The owners, “Daniel D. Leary and his brothers, Charles C. and Arthur, were business partners in New York. Charles had owned a share of the Quaker City since April 1865; Daniel apparently purchased his share in 1867, when he joined the excursion; and Arthur, although not listed explicitly as an owner, was the ship’s “husband and agent” and “had the entire management of employing all the crew, furnishing all supplies and making all contracts, and receiving all the earnings of the said ship.” It was their hope to sell the ship to the Russians. Wooden sidewheelers had become obsolete and Tsar Nicholas apparently already had two modern metal yachts under construction.”
Leary also tried to sell the ship to Ismail Pasha, viceroy of Egypt. Consequently, the excursion was a financial disaster for the owners. “It appears that neither the seamen, nor the parties who furnished the supplies, were paid by the enterprising manager of the excursion, and so the steamer was seized, and on Saturday was knocked off at auction by the U.S. Marshal. The seamen’s claims for wages amount to $9,000.” The 15 February auction brought a mere $18,000, part of which went to meet the $9,000 claim for wages, and part to cover two claims for supplies totaling $1,145. Nothing more is known about the “$1,100 loaned to Dan. Leary” by fellow passenger Thomas B. Nesbit from Fulton, Missouri. At the request of several other part owners of the ship, and after Arthur Leary assured a United States District Court judge that “all claims against said ship and owners were arranged for and would be duly paid,” this sale was set aside. The ship was reauctioned on 11 April, bringing $40,000 this time—still a disappointment, since the Learys originally hoped to get $250,000 for it”
The Mark Twain Journal: Vol 47, contains a letter from Dr. Abraham Reeves Jackson, one of Twain's fellow travelers. Originally published in the New York Herald (20 December 1867), reprinted in the Sacramento Union (12 December 1867), from which I copied this.
The Quaker City Pilgrimage— .A Malcontent Passenger's- Story of the Excursion. [Correspondence of the New York Herald.] Tour readers doubtless remember the great " Mediterranean Excursion," which left New York Iast June for the purpose of visiting a large portion of the habitable world, and which has just returned. Of course they remember it; for it was advertised and puffed as much as though it were a new mowing-machine or patent medicine. Many of them will also, perhaps, recollect something of the machinery by which the thing was so skillfully " worked up." First, a most wonderful ''programme" was issued— a programme which Is now regarded as such a marvel of Ingenuity that copies, although at that time sent gratis over the whole country, can no longer be obtained at any price. After briefly but graphically describing the wonders of the Old World, it devoted a largei space to the names of the various Committees and officers who were to give character and prestige to the undertaking. There was a Committee on Selecting a Steamer, Committee on Credentials, a Treasurer. Secretary, etc. The inducements set forth In that curiosity cf literature were so great that no person of ordinary excitability could read it through without clapping his hands in ecstasy. What fullness of promise! Europe, Asia and Africa were to be visited, Paris and the Great Exposition. Italy and her art galleries, Switzerland and the Alps, Turkey and her mosques, Syria and the Holy Land, and scores ol Other places most Interesting to travelers; and so judiciously was the route projected that it was all to be well done in the incredibly short period of five months. And then the manager of this mammoth picnic had a very galaxy or "stars"' to place at the head of his company, and among there was such a variety of talent that he doubtless congratulated himself on being able to please the most fastidious. Successively there appeared the names of Henry Ward Beecher, General Sherman, Miss Maggie Mitchell, Mark Twain the humorist, the Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock. What a dazzling array!. Among the minor inducements were a printing press, "selected with special reference to the occasion," a variety of musical instruments, modified billiards and a library. Surely no reasonable person could desire more. And yet more was offered. Care was to be taken that the society on board the Quaker City should be strictly first class, and only those persons could be permitted to accompany the excursion whose character for morality, Intellect, refinement and position were beyond question. All applicants, therefore, were required to submit their requests in writing, accompanied by their vouchers of respectability, to the Committee on Applications. All this unexampled opportunity of travel, all this privilege of associating with " stars," all this enjoyment of first class society was to be had for the merely nominal price of $1,250 currency. . Thus Induced and thus assured, persons from all parts of the country sent in their applications, accompanied by piles of recommendatory letters from Senators, Generals. Judges and other dignitaries, and then anxiously awaited the reply of the dread Committee of Three. Forty-five members of Plymouth Church who desired to accompany their pastor through the Holy Land were exonerated from this ordeal, their membership being deemed a quite sufficient guarantee of reliability. Those, however, who were not thus favored found no reason to complain, for In every instance the answer of the Committee, transmitted through the manager, was favorable- a fact at first accounted for on the ground that only those of most irreproachable respectability had dared send their names before that august tribunal, but which admitted of another explanation when It was subsequently ascertained that the Committee was only a myth, and that behind the curtain which veiled the imaginary faces of its members beamed only the bland countenance of the "manager himself, and that all the essentials of a good character ware cover by the " twelve hundred and fifty dollars, currency." As no places could be secured until paid for, and as their number was strictly limited to two-thirds the ship's capacity, in order that there might be ample room for comfort and for bringing home such curious animals and valuable rocks as the pilgrims might pick up on their travels, and as each applicant was informed that there was "only a few choice ones left." there was soon a rush to the manager's office, and people seemed as anxious to leave their money there as they did not longs since to buy oil Stocks.
Thus far all was bright and the manager's heart was glad. But mutability is stamped upon all things earthly, and after a time some of the brightness of this dazzling scheme began to wear off. Beecher, finding his name made use of for the purpose of bolstering up the enterprise, a position probably not bargained for and one which is always distasteful to a person or sensitive nature, suddenly remembered that he had engaged to write "Norwood," and would be compelled to forego the pleasure of accompanying the excursion.
Here was a damper. What was to be done? A Committee of two, consisting of the manager and a friend, waited upon the divine and Implored him to reconsider and relent. ' But he was firm ; be must write "Norwood " very sorry, indeed, but could not possibly go, and the Committee retired, saddened and disheartened.
The forty-five members of Plymouth Church, who had only wished to accompany Beecher and whose interest in the excursion had now ceased, also seceded. Their respectability was so assured that they had not been required, as members of other churches had been, to prepay a percentage of the passage money, and there was, consequently, nothing in the way of their change of mind. It was an unlooked for and terrible blow.
But a bright thought enters the active brain of the manager. General Sherman is written to and invited to go. He stipulates that his daughter must be included in the invitation. Manager consents. Another demand : the daughter cannot go without her friend— the daughter's friend must be invited. The Invitation is sent, and the General finally agrees to go. The sky once more becomes clear. The manager has turned a new trump, and he plays it strongly. Every newspaper forthwith gives notice of the fact of the General's intended trip; letters in regard to it are drawn out from him and published, and the public are informed that a [illegible] is to be issued by the Secretary of State which will cause all the crowned heads of Europe to receive the General "and party" with open arms. This for a time had the desired effect. If the church was lost the army at least was gained, and Colonels and Majors and Captains (none under the grade of Captain thought of applying) sent in their money. But the General, too, became tired of being. an advertising medium, and he also heeded duty's call and preferred a Summer campaign among the Indians to going on shipboard and submitting to a five months penance for the sin of popularity. So he withdrew, and here was another damper.
Misfortunes never come singly. Miss Maggie Mitchell became alarmed at the turn matters were taking, and, although she had paid a large proportion of her passage money, concluded to profit by it and go to Europe in a more quiet and less ostentatious way. Very reluctantly and only at the last moment, the manager admitted that she too had withdrawn. Even the Drummer Boy would not go, notwithstanding the tempting offer of a free passage, and preferred the alternative of marrying and leaving the country. Of all the celebrities only Mark Twain remained. But the time of departure was near at band, and for a reason which afterwards became apparent, could not be postponed, and it seemed useless to advertise him. Besides, experience had shown the danger of such a course. His delicate sensibilities might also be shocked, and he, too, refuse to go. But sixty-five passengers— a little over one half the limited number— had been secured, and the Quaker City started on the 8th of June.
It had been announced that another steamer would accompany the Quaker City a few miles down the bay for the accommodation of such of the friends of the passengers as might desire in go that far, and to enable them to return to the city. This was regarded as an evidence of liberality on the part of the manager, until it was ascertained that it was a little private speculation, and that the accommodation was to be paid for by the passengers themselves, or their friends, at the rate of one dollar per head. It was intended that a salute should be fired as we left our moorings, and we had a couple of rusty old four-pounders with which to do it, but somebody "had forgotten to get any ammunition, and so we left quietly, as became our new character of Quakers.
In a few hours the printing press was put in operation, and the first number of the 'Quaker Mirror, a paper six by eight Inches in size, appeared, and was supplied to subscribers at the modest price of ten cents per copy, the reputed editor and proprietor being a son of the manager. As It only contained an editorial which had been published before in a New York daily, and which everybody on board had read, together with some advertisements from tbe same paper which nobody wished to read, it created but little enthusiasm, and the subscribers even cruelly withdrew their names, so that the first number of the Mirror was also the last.
The "modified billiards" proved to be nothing more than pushing disks of wood about the decks with forked'poles. The musical Instruments consisted of a melancholy melodeon, a husk-voiced clarinet and a third rate pianoforte, none of which seemed capable, amid the general gloom that surrounded them, of emitting any but the most dismal sounds. The library, with the exception of the nooks furnished by the passengers themselves, consisted of a score and a half of the "Plymouth Collection" and two volumes of Harper's Weekly, while the letters that were " issued by the Government recommending the party to courtesies abroad" were never seen or heard of by the said party.
Thus one by one the promised and anticipated glories of the picnic passed away, and a feeling of widespread discontent sprang up among the passengers, many of whom felt that they had been victims of a series of deceptions. One circumstance after another developed the fact that there had really been, excepting in the name, no Committee on selecting a steamer, no Committee on applications — in short, that all the officers and all their duties had been merged in the one person, and that there was no other to whom passengers could look for a faithful performance of their several contracts. This feeling of dissatisfaction was not lessened when evidence of Incompetency and irresponsibility on the part of the manager began to appear. There was a lack of discipline and subordination on the part of the waiters and crew; and correctives, scoldings and intemperate faultfindings took the place of dignified enforcement of rule. Private feuds and animosities; from opposing interests and views, arose, too, among the passengers themselves. Cliques were formed, tea-parties were organized, where, at their daily sittings, the participants indulged In the amiable pastime of exchanging comments on the conduct, characters and peculiarities of their fellow passengers. These parties assumed great importance; and so necessary was it considered that there should be no lack of material for discussion that in one Instance a member was actually discovered with her ear applied to the door of a neighboring stateroom in order to obtain it. As these things appeared to receive the sanction of even those highest in authority, much indescretion was excited.
From all these things it will be seen that this great pleasure party, as such, has been a failure. It is true that we have visited a number of interesting places, but we have done so in the most hurried and unsatisfactory manner, while the expense has been much greater than if the travel had been made upon the regular line.
It was thought that this excursion might be the first of a series of similar ones; and had it been successful such might possibly have been the case. But for such an enterprise to succeed several things not found in this one are essentially necessary. Even with these granted, the experience of this trip has shown how dangerous to the comfort and pleasure of travel it is to bring together persons from parts of the country widely separated, unknown to each other, and who, by reason of disparity of age, disposition and interest, have but few feelings in common, and compel them to live together In one house, as it were, for many months. It seems probable, therefore, that this great Mediterranean excursion will be the last of its kind.