Five months of full-time detective work have enabled us to trace the guestbooks of 49 hotels (including 25 in French-speaking Switzerland), 40 mountain huts, 3 hospices, 2 restaurants, and 1 private residence.
We are close to finishing contacting all hotels dating before 1950 in the Cantons of Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel, and Valais. Based on this often tedious legwork, one thing has become clear: very few hotels have kept their guestbooks. In most cases the owners no longer know their whereabouts. Either they have been destroyed, or former owners kept the documents, making the search very difficult for us.
It has now been three months since the Swiss Guestbook Project was initiated. During this time, we have been able to develop two databases: the first one is a list of historic establishments in Switzerland and some neighboring countries (see entry of 30 March), and the second one is a list of all the guestbooks/visitors books/registers that we have been able to locate so far.
To create this second database, we have mostly prospected in communal and cantonal archives in the French part of Switzerland (Cantons of Neuchâtel, Vaud, Geneva and Valais). So far, we have found the guestbooks of 34 hotels and 2 restaurants, as well as 130 mountain hut registers (thanks to the Alpine Museum in Bern) as well some documents linked to our project, including the Gazette des Étrangers de Lausanne-Ouchy which listed foreigners staying in hotels of that city.
We also have started to develop collaborations, including with Mrs. Evelyne Lüthi-Graf of Swiss Hotel Archives, and we wish to pursue others, including with the Alpine Museum in Bern. All the people or institutions linked to the SGP can be found in the Research Group page or in the Links. We take this opportunity to thank them all for their help.
The three simultaneous next steps of the project will be :
1) to contact old but still active hotels in Switzerland in order to present them our project and ask them if they have visitors books, starting with the Suisse Romande.
2) to continue to extend the project to other research groups in Switzerland and develop collaborations with institutions
3) to raise funds from private and public organizations, including the National Fund Switzerland or/and the Loterie Romande
Since late March 2015, we have been able to locate almost 30 extant hotel and inn guestbooks in Switzerland. We first prospected in the Canton of Neuchâtel area, where we only found one guestbook: the livre d’or de l’Hôtel de la Fleur de Lys in La Chaux-de-Fonds, which is on deposit at the history museum of the city. In Neuchâtel, we also came across the Carnet de l’officier de la garde in the communal archives, in which we discovered lists of foreigners staying in hotels and inns of the city between 1769-1770. We have not been able yet to track down prospective guestbooks for the Grand Hôtel Bellevue, in which Miss Jemima Morrell stayed in 1863.
Previous research conducted by Kataryna Michaelkiewicz helped us track down several guestbooks in canton Valais, from which we obtained digitized samples, including from the Mont Cervin Hotel, the Hotel Nest und Bietschorn and the Hotel Riffelberg.
We also began searching through online archive catalogs to identify guestbooks on the whole Swiss territory. One of our best online « discoveries » is the livres des passants of the Grand-Saint-Bernard hospice, which regroups no less than 36 guestbooks, covering a period of more than one and a half century (1812-1970) and whose scans are available online. Here is the link : http://www.gsbernard.ch/60/passants/index.html
Charles Dickens’s entry on 3 September 1846, Livre des passants, Hospice du Grand-Saint-Bernard (photo courtesy of the Congrégation du Saint-Bernard)
The next step in our research will take us to other areas of French-speaking Switzerland. We will focus our attention on Lausanne and Geneva, where we hope to identify more guestbooks, as well as continuing to search for hotel guestbooks along Jemima Morrell’s route. At the same time, we are working on developing collaborations with institutions related to the history of Swiss tourism, and we are reaching out to other research groups in Switzerland. We are happy to announce that Professor Rafael Matos-Wasem of the HES-SO Wallis, an expert on the history of tourism, has joined us, and that we will be hosting Professor Kevin James of the University of Guelph, Canada, an authority on guestbook history, next fall.
One of the SGP’s first goals was to establish a list of historic hotels, pensions and other accommodations for tourists. This preliminary research was done with the help of nineteenth-century guide books and some travelogues, including the celebrated Swiss Journal of Miss Jemima Morrell. We mainly used five guide books :
- The 1816 edition of Henry Coxe’s The Traveller’s Guide in Switzerland
- The 1817 edition of Ebel’s Manuel du voyageur en Suisse
- The 1841 edition of Adolphe Joanne’s Itinéraire descriptif et historique de la Suisse
- The 1867 edition of Murray’s Handbook to Switzerland
- And the 1869 edition of Baedeker’s Switzerland, handbook for travellers
Based on these, we were able to build our first database, in which we included no less than 1524 hotels and pensions! Although the primary objective was to list only Swiss establishments, we have also listed those neighbouring countries’ hotels also mentioned in the Swiss guide books. In total, we have indexed 1356 establishments for Switzerland, 69 for Italy, 65 for France, 25 for Austria and 8 for Germany.
For example, here are the names of the establishments we have found for city of Lucerne:
Schweizerhof, Luzerner Hof, Englischer Hof, Schwan, Hôtel du Rigi, Waage, Hôtel du Lac, Hôtel des Alpes, The Adler, Rössli, Hôtel de la Poste, Mohren, Hirsch, Krone, Kreuz, WilderMann, Worley (pens.), Kaufmann (pens.), Morell (pens.), Beaurivage (pens.), Faller (pens.), Dommann (pens.), Suter (pens.), Suter (pens.), Tivoli (pens.), Seeburg (pens.), Pitzger (pens.), Döpfner (pens.), Bellevue (pens.), New Schweizerhaus (pens.), Sonnenberg (pens.), Blättler (pens.).
This research has also enabled us to identify major tourist flows from the late 18th to late 19th centuries, which we will then use in the next step of the project, which will be to focus on certain itineraries, sites and tourist establishments in order to hopefully discover surviving guestbooks.