Across the pond with Rex Wailes: In New York

January 21st 2020 by Nathanael Hodge

Extracts from Rex Wailes' 1929 diary of his trip to the USA and Canada. Part 17.
Poster Image

Grand Central Station, New York


Next day, I 'phoned Fred Littleworth, and arranged to go out to see him that evening. Then I spent some time at the Great Central Station, where they have what they call a "Transportation Exposition". I was lucky as they had just put in place and uncovered the Junkers monoplane Bremen, (the first to fly the Atlantic from East to West direct), the night before. It is suspended from the ceiling above the gallery decked out below with the American, German, and Irish Free State flags.

The monoplane Bremen, first to cross the atlantic east to west in April 1928

Then up to the Metropolitan Art Museum in Central Park. I had very little time, so concentrated on the oil paintings – a very few of them, and made notes of those that particularly pleased me. I spent an hour looking at these and didn't bother about anything else. I just let them sink in, and felt the better for them.

I had an appointment with Richardson Wright, editor of House & Garden, and returned to Grand Central, Edwin L. Howard, the young Architect whom I met in Newport, had given me his name and told me that I ought to see him about an article on windmills. He must have about half a floor in the Graybar Building. The reception room has various passages leading out, I was led down one lined with doors, mostly open, and right at the end, on a rear corner was Wright's office. His first words were, "Well, what's the story?”

Richardson Wright, Editor of House & Garden, 1914–1946

I got down to it and in due course produced some photographs. He soon wanted to see more and we were well away. We talked for an hour, and his desk was strewn with photos. He said "I ought really to send you to "Country Life", but this is good, and I want it myself". We got on famously.  He told me to see the Pennsylvania Historical Society about windmills and also that Mr. Frank Crundall, of the Jamaica Institution, Kingston, Jamaica, B.W.I., might help me regarding the Jamaica windmills if I mentioned Wright's name. They were used at one time for crushing sugar cane. In Puerto Rico, he said, horse mills are used for coffee and sugar production, the old yoke and wheel type. At the finish he asked for an 800 word article with about a dozen photographs by the end of August or beginning of September for use in the November or December issues.

I went off to see Fred Littleworth by a train soon after 5.0.p.m. He has a self-contained flat on the top floor of a pleasant timber frame house in a very nice neighbourhood. Mrs. Littleworth, who is 10 - 15 years older than he is - is a motherly soul with a grown up family of her own. We talked about England & home - Fred and I, while she got supper, and an excellent supper it was. Afterwards, Fred took me out in the car to see the place.

Fred told me he was gassed in a peculiar way. They had been in the front line under fire for 3 days and with supplies cut off. Some of them found some bread in a trench, soaking wet but still bread. Six of them ate it. Only two lived - the wet bread had absorbed mustard gas which ate away the stomach lining. Even now he has to be careful and will never be right, it’s only by keeping physically fit that he can remain well. He took me to the Station and saw me off by a train shortly before 10 p.m., and later I sent him the Forsyte Saga, as he had not yet read it.

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