“The ships that travel along the ocean coasts between a city and another are marvels of nautical progress.
In a word they are sumptuous floating palaces.”
“We in Italy have a long way to go before arriving at the simplicity and readiness
with which things are done in America. They are a young nation but more
than two centuries ahead of us, especially with the railroad.”
On August 21, 1880, after touring New York’s sights for two days with the French-speaking guide provided by Prang, Juglaris boarded a steamship bound for Boston. His initial reservations about American culture and aesthetics did not blind him to the country’s opportunities. Nor did they jaundice his views regarding America’s very conspicuous strengths. He marveled at the efficiency, speed, and economy of the young nation’s public transportation. But the steamship carrying him to his destination was not merely clean and efficient. It was comfortable and elegant. His cabin even came equipped with a novelty: electric lights! As Juglaris remarks in his memoir: “The ships that travel along the ocean coasts between a city and another are marvels of nautical progress. In a word they are sumptuous floating palaces.”
Transferring to a train for the last leg of his journey, Juglaris continued to be impressed by America’s technological know-how and taste for comfort. The velocity of his Boston-bound train astonished him. Its speed was unmatched by anything he had experienced in Europe. Juglaris was also struck by the ease with which even ordinary people traveled in the United States, unencumbered by borders and bureaucracy. Americans knew how to make things work. What discipline, energy and drive! In his memoir, Juglaris concluded: "We in Italy have a long way to go before arriving at the simplicity and readiness with which things are done in America. They are a young nation but more than two centuries ahead of us, especially with the railroad."
Not everything on board was admirable, however. “The cuisine,” he noted, “leaves much to be desired.” He was served “tough steak with potatoes cooked in water” with just salt and pepper to give them a “bit of taste.” And where was the wine? Instead, he observed, Americans washed down their supper with coffee or tea, “both so awful that it is better to prefer fresh water.” But Juglaris had high praise for the beer! He ordered a glass of lager and pronounced it “exquisite.” He decided to forego any scruples about what was proper at the supper table. Henceforth, he would enjoy American beer when dining. Cheered by this discovery, Juglaris felt better equipped to face the challenges ahead.
On Board the Train. . .
Tommaso Juglaris’s enthusiasm for America’s boats and trains was not idle or unwarranted. He arrived in the United States at a time when a huge amount of resources were being spent on transportation infrastructure. Fifteen years previously the outcome of the American Civil War had been impacted by the strategic use of railroads. At least one historian has called it a “victory on rails” for the North. After the Civil War, the railroads were viewed as a means of melding the Union and fortifying the nation shore to shore. In May 1869, only a little more than a decade before Juglaris arrived in America, a golden spike was driven into the ground at Promontory Summit, Utah, signaling the completion of the final link in the transcontinental railroad. “Annihilating space and time,” it was suddenly possible to travel by rail between the east and west coasts within just six to nine days for as little as $30. America’s well-integrated railroad grid spurred cross-country economic development, contributing enormously to the nation’s “Gilded Age.”
Throughout the 1880s and ‘90s rail service continued to improve in speed, dependability, and quality. As railroad historians Christian Wolmar and Albro Martin note, by the early 1900s “the superiority of American [rail] passenger travel to any in the rest of the world was beginning to be taken for granted.” Inspired by the longstanding luxury of river and coastal steamboats, American train builders began to upgrade their interior designs. George Pullman led the way and set a new standard internationally with the development of his sumptuous sleeping, dining, and lounge cars for long distance travel. But the amenities for railroad cars used on more local and shorter distance routes were also enhanced. Boarding his first American train to Boston, Juglaris would have immediately noticed the difference from European trains. Dining was available on board the train. Also, all passenger seating was open for the full length of each railroad car: there were no compartments.
Although Juglaris generally preferred the classical and traditional in art, he admired the gains made possible by technological advances. In later years, he gladly accepted a commission to decorate with murals the Porta Nuova Train Station in Turin, one the great train terminals of Europe.