“I wonder if there was one in the city of Tacoma that morning, who, throwing open the east window to this bright sun, did not say to him or herself: ‘This is the day.’- Sam WallIt may have been Tacoma’s most brilliant moment in the sun. George Francis Citizen Train’s record-breaking journey around the world in 67 days had turned all eyes to Tacoma, the city Train left from, and returned to – 110 years ago today – on May 24, 1890.The eccentric, controversial, and colorful crank, Train, who had taken trips around the world several times prior to his 1890 Tacoma venture, was the model for Phileas Fogg, author Jules Verne’s globetrotting character in his novel Around the World in 80 Days. The novel caught the imagination of the world, and soon, journalist Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland raced across the globe, beating the fictional record, while Train sat in cell 10 of the Charles Street jail in Boston for an old debt assumed years prior to help a printer.Train, who had earlier bestowed the City of Destiny moniker on Tacoma, had intimated in 1889 he could round the globe in 60 days. Train said he knew a way just a little out of the beaten path, that would make Phileas Fogg appear really silly, according to Sam Wall, a journalist who accompanied Train on his trip. That inside knowledge was to base his trip from Tacoma and give himself an edge on the trans-Pacific voyage that began his race with time.The Tacoma Daily Ledger undertook to sponsor Train’s trip, and as Train made his way to Tacoma, booming the qualities of the city and region to all who would listen, a series of lectures raised the funds necessary for the trip.At seven seconds past 6:00 a.m., the misty, dark morning of March 18, 1890, a cannon fired from the bluff over Commencement Bay as Train and Wall boarded a waiting carriage to race for the waterfront where the Union Pacific steamship Olympian was waiting. Brass bands blared, military units paraded, and cannons continued to boom shot after shot, heard over the crowds as the steamer headed north. The front page of the Ledger read, Bon Voyage, Psycho, a reference to Train’s written musings in the Ledger under the pen name Psycho.In the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Train and Wall boarded the trans-Pacific steamer the Abyssinia, bound for Japan. The race was underway.With Train out on the Pacific, clippings from the world’s press began to arrive in Tacoma. The March 20 Ledger article, Watch Tacoma Boom, Her Name Now is Often on the Lips of Millions, featured a Liverpool Daily Post story on the new state of Washington and the commercial metropolis of the whole state, Tacoma.As Train circled the globe, the press worldwide followed his exploits – his travel connections, his cryptic messages found in bottles washed ashore, and his constant booming of Tacoma’s qualities. For a community investment under $5,000, Tacoma was becoming known around the world.On May 24, 1890, Train, accompanied by Wall, returned by rail to Tacoma, completing their 67-day, 13-hour trip. The largest bands in the city’s history, military units, crowds of adults and children, dignitaries and giant banners of welcome met the world traveler and boomer of Tacoma. His trip had created more publicity than Tacoma could have ever expected.Train took up living at Train Villa on Fir-Tree Hill, next to a school on the southern outskirts of Tacoma. While school was in session, children, whom Train always favored over adults, played at a playground Train constructed next to his home. But when school recessed for summer, Train found himself without the attention he believed he warranted. Wall noted that Train began to ask of the occasional visitor, What does it all mean?Train, a man involved with construction of the transcontinental railway and the Credit Mobilier; British railway development; supporting the women’s suffrage movement; fighting the infamous Comstock obscenity laws; nearly getting shot in a revolution in France; refusing leadership in the Digger’s Rebellion in Australia; taking a try as a presidential candidate; and much more, grew restless.By August, Train was ready to try another around-the-world trip, but was frustrated by logistical problems with timely connections.Can it be that after all, my life is in the past? Train said. I cannot understand what it means, unless it be that I have accomplished all that there is for me to do…There seems to be nothing left, for me, but to return to silence.Train, now 61 years old, returned disheartened to New York and the children at Madison Square Park.A little over one year later, Train returned to the Puget Sound region – this time to make an around-the-world trip leaving from New Whatcom, a part of Bellingham. His fastest trip – done in only 61 and one-half days – remained clouded in controversy, as rumors grew that he had been booming Tacoma on the trip.That trip was his last, and soon after his return, Train spoke out about Tacoma, foreseeing ruin and desolation for the city unless they ‘catch on’ to me.Train, who had spent many years without speaking with adults earlier in his life, said, It depends on Tacoma whether I go back to silence.Train did. He remained only in the company of children at Madison Square Park, regaling them with tales of adventure and feeding peanuts to park squirrels.He went up like a rocket and came down like a blazing star, and has made the name of Tacoma luminous in more than a score of very good languages.- Kansas City Times, quoted in the LedgerAnd if the peoples of all the earth shall ever forget this sixty-seven day visitation, then I would recommend their taking something for loss of memory. It recurs to me like a torchlight procession, with unbroken ranks, and skyrockets, and Roman candles, and red and blue fire, and a long trail of astonished natives.- Sam WallThanks to the staff of the Tacoma Public Library Northwest Room for their assistance.Sources include Sam Wall’s Round the World with Train – A Typhoon; The Tacoma Daily Ledger, 1890-1891; The Fastest Train Afloat, by Renee Bushaw-Brown; noted Jules Verne scholar and translator William Butcher from the English Department of the Institute of Education, Hong Kong; and R.F. Bagby, from the Jules Verne Internet discussion group.”
"Citizen Train Returns to Tacoma from Triumphant 67-day Record-Breaking Trip Around the World, May 24, 1890!"
Tags: Australia, author, Boston, Charles Street jail, Commencement Bay, date, Elizabeth Bisland, English Department, Fir-Tree Hill, France, Institute of Education, Internet discussion, Japan, journalist, Juan de Fuca, Jules Verne, Kansas City Times, Liverpool Daily Post, Nellie Bly, New York, presidential candidate, Puget, Renee Bushaw-Brown, Sam Wall, Sam WallIt, Sam WallThanks, Tacoma, Tacoma Public Library, Train Villa, translator, travel connections, Union Pacific, USD, Washington, William Butcher