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schoonmaker cover

2 parts12 parts2Come with Me through Belgium and Holland is the title of a travel book printed in 1928. The author “Colonel” Frank Schoonmaker had previously written Through Europe on Two Dollars a Day. This book was the “forerunner” of the Arthur Frommer’s series of books on popular travel on a budget decades later. Schoonmaker, previously, wrote another volume about travel Come with Me to France .

The author, of Dutch descent, grew up in South Dakota and attended Princeton University for two years. His father worked for the US State Department as a writer after he went to Europe traveling around as a Bohemian for several years. Having a father/writer must have helped him hone his skills as a journalist.

After canvassing thoroughly the entire French countryside and meeting people engaged in wine growing and wine export, he put some of his own skills to work and became a writer on wine publishing some very famous wine books. He began importing wines after the alcohol prohibition was over, and ultimately selecting the wines at French estates. Later on he successfully hired out his expertise to a number of Californian wine growers. Fast forward to 1940, he enlisted in the O.S.S. short for the Office of Strategic Services under “Colonel Wild Bill Donovan who later helped create the C.I.A.After a career as a spy for the allies in Spain and assisting in the organization of the Allied invasion in France, he ultimately retired with the rank of Colonel.

Back to the book, rare in a fresh condition with a near perfect hard to find dust jacket not price clipped for a change. It has 182 pages, 8 black and white photographs and a perfect fold out map besides the 2 maps in the front and rear inside cover.

Schoonmaker was a very astute observer of events and the character of people (as could be expected of a “later” spy) and makes no bones about it either in his writing.

The book allows us a window into travel of an earlier age, details about places and at the same time today gives us an insight into the sociology of two “nations” and their behavior without going into academics. Although not a “first” in writing on European travel as that was profusely done since the middle of the 19th Century and not strictly a guide as the famous Baedekers, Thomas Cooks or John Murrays, I believe it is one of the better American early 20th Century views on Belgium and Holland by a writer later on better known for his writings on wine! This book definitely belongs in the history of travel category.

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