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First Sight of Land

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Late-nineteenth-century Americans' familiarity with modern tourism was abetted by the advent of regular transatlantic routes, faster and more comfortable vessels, and reduced fares. Here, Bacon, who made many transatlantic crossings, tells a story of shipboard life on the luxurious French mail steamer the Péreire. The prominent mast indicates that even steam-powered liners used auxiliary sails to take advantage of good winds and reduce fuel consumption. The well-dressed young passenger, who has cast aside her tartan lap robe and book and risen from her chair, proclaims that women were venturing abroad in greater numbers during the 1870s than ever before to "finish" their education and prepare for marriage. Bacon offers only a fragmentary, open-ended narrative: because the book is a salmon-covered paperback associated with French publishers, the woman may be returning to America, yet her excitement suggests she is arriving in Europe.