Today is John Steinbeck’s 112th birthday – or would have been, if he weren’t dead. But some pictures that ran across my Facebook feed this morning seemed somehow relevant.
May 1921. Washington, D.C. “Professor Charles Seeger, a composer, is a brother of Alan Seeger, the war poet. His wife is a distinguished violinist.” Little Pete Seeger, 2 years old, and family along with their camping rig. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.
The Seeger family More on this intriguing bit of ephemera was written about in the Washington Post (text and image found at Shorpy):
Washington Post, May 22, 1921.
TRAVEL AND LIVE IN AN AUTOMOBILE
Charles Seeger, Wife and Three Sons See World While Living Outdoors
LIKE WANDERING MINSTRELS
Mrs. Seeger Famed as Violinist. Husband Professor of Music In California.
Bound for wherever they happen to stop, paying no attention to daylight saving or other forms of time, and spreading music wherever they go, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Seeger, once of the University of California and now “wandering minstrels” of the world at large, are encamped at Rock Creek park, their home an itinerant Ford and a home-made trailer. They are accompanied by their three little boys.
Mr. and Mrs. Seeger, the latter known in musical circles as Constance Edson Seeger, are taking the boys to museums and places of interest wherever they stop, and the two [older] boys are learning to play the violin.
Their Profession in Music.
“We are trying to solve the problem of educating three boys, and at the same time lead a worth-while outdoor life,” said Mr. Seeger yesterday. Mr. Seeger says that they got the idea while they were at the University of California, where he was head of the music department for seven years after graduating from Harvard and studying music in Europe and where Mrs. Seeger gave violin recitals following her graduation from the New York Institute of Musical Art and a course at the Conservatory of Paris.
The Seegers came here from Richmond and to that city from Pinehurst, N.C., where they spent some time. In addition to the three boys, Charles, 8; John, 6, and Peter, not yet 2 [actually, he had just turned 2], they have taken with them Miss Marion Brown, whom they picked up at Pinehurst and who tutors the children and cares for them while their parents are giving concerts.
The Seeger “home” is a house of five and a half feet in width by fourteen feet in length, and contains all the comforts of home, including a sewing machine, a portable organ and games for the boys. It even has a front porch, which slides under the trailer while traveling.
Going to New England.
The Seegers spent the winter at Pinehurst and are now en route to the New England States for the summer, expecting to go back South when the winter approaches again. Increasing rents make no difference in their lives, as a camping place is always available.
Mr. Seeger is the brother of the famous war poet Alan Seeger, whose “I Have a Rendezvous With Death,” written shortly before he died, has become immortal.
Mr. and Mrs. Seeger gave a concert lecture at the Corcoran Art Gallery last night.
May 23, 1921. Washington, D.C. “Professor Charles Louis Seeger and family.” Charles Seeger, wife Constance Edson Seeger and their 2-year-old son Pete, of future folkie fame. National Photo Co. Collection glass negative.
Another image of the itinerant Seegers. These images have nothing directly to do with Steinbeck, but there’s a distinctly “Grapes of Wrath” feel about their living style in these pictures. They weren’t destitute like the Joads, but my mind couldn’t help but make the connection. There is part of me that would love to be able to live on the road… as long as I had a comfortable motor home with some bookshelf space and the funds to support such a lifestyle.
The Old Wolf has spoken.