For 12 years during the late 1800s and early 1900s, students and faculty at the Bloomsburg State Normal School took inexpensive, guided excursions to our nation’s capital each December.
On Dec. 14, 1896, the first train with 155 passengers departed Bloomsburg for Washington, D.C., on a four-day excursion. Three reserved cars carried the vacationers, who were teachers, students and patrons of the Normal School. Each railroad car was decked in lemon and maroon, adorned with flags, and featured long strips of muslin on which was engraved Bloomsburg State Normal School. The train left on Monday morning and returned the following Friday, giving three full days to visit places of interest. This initial trip cost $13.75, which included charges for the railroad, accommodations at a hotel located two blocks from the White House, three meals a day, guides and baggage transportation.
Among the places visited via street car were the Washington Monument, Capitol Building during sessions of the Senate and House of Representatives, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress, Arlington National Cemetery and, in 1896, President Grover Cleveland’s White House office and cabinet room, a substitute for an expected meeting with the chief executive who, instead, went duck hunting. A longtime favorite, George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, was visited after a steamer trip down the Potomac River. Beginning in 1898, the return trip included a stopover in Philadelphia, with an optional visit to Valley Forge.
The excursions took a great deal of time to arrange and conduct, so the schedule was revised after 1900 to offer the trip every other year rather than annually. The excursion was cancelled in 1903, but more than 200 people went on the following two trips, undeterred by the cost that had risen to $15.50 per person by 1905. In 1906, only 133 participated and the next two excursions were canceled when too few applications were received. The Normal School hosted the last trips before Christmas in 1909 and 1910 when, in addition to Washington, D.C., the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis was toured. •
Robert Dunkelberger, University Archivist