On January 17, 1900, Henry McMorran applied for a passport to take a winter cruise to the Mediterranean. The trip, known as the Clark Holy Land Excursion, was organized by Frank C. Clark of New York, the manager of the traveling tour. On February 1, 1900, Henry, with his daughters, Emma and Clara, and other Port Huronites, Reverend and Mrs. John Munday, Mr. and Mrs. H.G. Barnum and Mrs. William Jenkinson, embarked at Boston on the Dominion Line Steamship, New England, commanded by James McAuley.
The cruise made stops in Cairo and Jerusalem before heading on its return trip to Italy. On March 19, the New England arrived in Naples. Roughly 250 passengers scheduled to leave the tour at Naples got off the ship and departed the city. The boat was docked at Naples, and the remaining passengers proceeded to Rome by train. A few days later, two of the ship’s proceeding passengers, Miss Scouten of Sparta, Wisconsin, and Mrs. I.G. Vaughn of Dayton, Ohio, fell ill in Rome and were hospitalized for smallpox. Before Miss Scouten died from the disease, she stated to the doctor treating her:
“I noticed a suspicious case of disease similar to my own. The person being isolated and quarantined at one end of the ship. The sick person being a Mrs. Thompson, wife of Captain Thompson of Friendship, Maine. I noticed the lady’s face covered in blotches. I spoke to Mr. F.C. Clark about it. He denied the fact and asked me not to talk about such things or the ship may get quarantined.”
After Miss Scouten’s death, Rome port authorities questioned Mr. Vaughn and he corroborated Miss Scouten’s declarations made to the doctor. When the port authorities questioned Mr. Clark, the manager of the traveling tour, about a smallpox outbreak on the ship, he denied the accusations. Concerned a smallpox outbreak was being hidden by officers of the New England, Rome port authorities immediately sent a telegram to the U.S. Consul at Naples where the boat was docked:
“Request port authorities ascertain if steamer New England had any smallpox cases on board before reaching Naples. Some cases broke out among Americans of ship’s party. They claim sickness was on board but concealed. Inquest necessary to establish truth and the responsibility.”
On March 23, Captain McAuley received a telegram from his steward: “Send Dr. Casselberry at once.” “Something wrong with the crew.” The captain informed Mr. Clark of the situation and they both left Rome at once, leaving behind their passengers who were to depart for Naples on March 25. Captain McAuley and Mr. Clark boarded the New England that evening to find four or five cases of smallpox, 15 or 16 more ailing and five or six cases under suspicion, six of the ailing being passengers and the remainder being of the crew. The sick passengers were named as Mr. Howard and his daughter, Mrs. Taylor, Captain and Mrs. Thompson and Rev. Mr. Noble. Captain McAuley wanted to get the steamship to an English port immediately to make sure the passengers were afforded adequate medical care and the vessel was properly disinfected. He also wanted to avoid a 6-week quarantine in Naples. He told Mr. Clark he would be unloading the luggage and sailing for Liverpool the next day.
Mr. Clark was immediately troubled by this and asked the captain what he should do, as he had agreed to take the passengers from Naples to Nice. He went on to say that if the ship left for Liverpool, he would be financially devastated. The captain informed him, “I am not going to bring 220 unsuspecting people on board a ship in a case like this.” Mr. Clark reiterated his declaration that he must take the tourists to Nice. Captain McAuley pressed, “In this case you have a contract with your people, just as we have with you. You have an article in the contract making it incumbent upon the people to pay their own expenses if the trip is interrupted by quarantine. The contract with the company allows me to do as I think best in such an emergency. I suggest you telegram a message to your steward in Rome immediately.” The two men sat together, and the captain dictated the following message “Culver Hotel, Marina, Rome: Hold passengers in Rome. Article in contract respecting quarantine regulations in force. Any passengers coming to Naples after this notice will do so on own responsibility. Shall be in Rome at 1:30 to explain. Room baggage will be sent at once. Signed F.C. Clark.” After reading the message, Captain McAuley thought the reference made to quarantine might cause panic and alert port authorities to act. Thus, Mr. Clark’s telegram to his steward at Rome read, “An article in contract in force.”
Mr. Clark left for Rome, and Captain McAuley sailed for Liverpool March 25. Mr. Clark had notices posted at the hotels in Rome where known New England passengers were staying informing them not to return to the steamer on account of an outbreak of smallpox and that baggage was being sent from Naples to Rome.
The Rome authorities received a reply from the U.S. Consul in Naples to their telegram days earlier seeking an investigation of smallpox on the New England:
“New England not visited by local authorities. Out of the jurisdiction. Sailed Liverpool.”
They questioned Mr. Clark again and he admitted to them a small number of the crew had contracted the disease. Rome authorities immediately issued a telegram to the port at Liverpool:
“Strongly suspect steamer New England of Dominion Line returning from eastern cruise with 500 American tourists had smallpox case on board before reaching Naples. A number of cases broke out in Rome among passengers from the ship. They claim that the sickness on board was concealed from authorities. Ship reported all right on board. Was not visited at Naples. Sailed suddenly for Liverpool, where she is booked for New York with some of the passengers. I suggest that inquest be made, if possible, on arrival of ship to ascertain the truth and to fix the responsibility. One of the patients has since died from the disease.”
A letter was written to confirm the telegram. It stated:
I am hopeful that some action might be taken to thoroughly investigate this matter, and if possible, to bring to justice the people guilty of the perpetration of the criminal action of concealing the existence of the infectious disease on board. They have brought great sorrow and desolation to a number of families and endangered the health and life of whole communities. Had the officers of the New England, upon their arrival at Naples, made the proper sanitary declaration, the passengers would have been vaccinated and otherwise treated, and the evil would have been checked. The conduct of the officers of the ship and of the manager of the touring party was no doubt dictated by greed and to attain their aim; they have committed a dastardly offence against the law of nations and against mankind. I sincerely trust that they will be made to suffer for it.”
The authorities in Rome received information from Genoa, Italy, on April 5 that a Mr. Emory Ford from the same touring party on the New England had died there. Supposedly Mr. Ford and his friend, Mr. Price, left Rome to visit Genoa arriving on March 24. After his arrival, Mr. Ford took sick and died at a Genoa hotel.
The New England reached Liverpool on March 28, where it was quarantined. The boat was disinfected with the burning of Sulphur in all passenger and cargo spaces, textile fabrics were removed and cleaned or destroyed, and passenger cabins where sickness was present were repainted. 148 of the original excursion passengers made their way from Italy to Liverpool, and on April 12, the New England sailed for Boston. The remaining excursionists stayed behind to finish sightseeing in Europe, most of them visiting the Paris Exposition.
On April 12, authorities at Rome received a telegram from the Liverpool authorities:
“Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your telegram of the 28th ultimo and to thank you for the information therein contained. The British port sanitary authorities were notified, and the New England was quarantined upon her arrival here March 28. Nineteen cases of smallpox were found aboard. The vessel complied upon her arrival with all the requirements of British law, and, of course, cannot be brought to account for deceptions practiced in Italian ports. From information gathered here, there is morally no doubt that the vessel was infected upon her arrival at Naples, and some sharp practices must have been indulged in to escape quarantine at that port.”
Henry McMorran was one of the passengers who sailed for home on April 12 on the New England. In a letter to his wife he stated “the excursionists were divided into sections, each section in charge of a conductor. At Rome, the disease appeared among the members of one of the sections, who were immediately quarantined at the Hotel Royal in that city.” After reading her husband’s letter, Mrs. McMorran was of the understanding that all of the Port Huron party had escaped the disease without quarantine, her husband was sailing for home, and her daughters were staying in Europe to witness the Oberammergau Passion Play.
The New England arrived at Boston on April 20 to a large crowd. Many of the passengers who exited at Boston were outraged with Mr. Clark over his handling of their luggage, the inconvenience of their tour being cut short, and the extra expense of traveling from Italy to Liverpool. 45 of the passengers filed a claim with the Dominion Line seeking reimbursement of $100. Only one court case was ever filed concerning this matter for reimbursement for lost baggage.
Despite all the confusion and hubbub of his European excursion, McMorran arrived home safe and sound in Port Huron, Michigan, just in time to get back to business and to serve as a Commissioner on the Port Huron Canal Building Committee.
Below are pictures of the New England as it was in 1900.
GG Archives website, 2000-2020, Dominion Line Book of Views, 1900, retrieved from: https://www.gjenvick.com/OceanTravel/Brochures/DominionLn-1900-BookOfViews.html
Henry McMorran Passport Application (Jan. 1900), Ancestry.com
Home from Naples, (1900, April 21). The Boston Globe.
Small pox in the Party, (1900, April 13). The Port Huron Daily Times.
The New England, No. 1,154, July 15, 1901, District Court, D. Massachusetts, 110 F. 415.
U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, NCBI website, England, Report from Liverpool, April 2, 1900, Public Health Reports, Vol. XV, No. 16, p. 942, Washington D.C., April 20, 1900, retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2014025/?page=38
U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, NCBI website, England, Report from Liverpool – Smallpox on the steamship New England, April 9, 1900, Public Health Reports, Vol. XV, No. 17, p. 1009, Washington D.C. April 27, 1900, retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2014026/?page=47
U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, NCBI website, England, Report from Liverpool, April 17, 1900, Italy, Report from Genoa, April 17, 1900, Report from Naples, April 11, 1900, Public Health Reports, Vol. XV, No. 19, pp. 1079, 1088, 1089, Washington D.C. May 4, 1900, retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2014028/
U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, NCBI website, England, Report from Liverpool, April 30, 1900, Public Health Reports, Vol. XV, No. 20, p. 1218, Washington D.C., May 18, 1900, retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2014024/?page=42