The Invention of the Term "Travelogues"

Burton Holmes did, or did not, invent the term "Travelogues" for his travel lectures with slides and movies.

While Holmes is generally given credit for the term, he himself always said that the term was coined by his manager, Louis Francis Brown. Thayer Soule quotes him in this regard, and it is recorded on our business timeline as having happened in 1902.

H. L. Mencken, in The American Language, has a slightly different story: "Burton Holmes, the lecturer, wrote to me as follows on Jan. 16, 1935: 'In 1904 we planned an invasion of London with our lectures—a word that repels the ticket-buyer. My late manager, Louis Francis Brown, worried himself sick over the problem. When he came out of his pneumonia delirium he murmured weakly, "Eureka! Travelogue!," and we proceeded to broadcast the word in our publicity. Later the late Dr. [R. R.] Bowker [1848-1933] wrote us that he was the coiner of the word, and submitted circulars of an earlier date in which it was used thus: "Each of Dr. Bowker's lecures is a complete travelogue of ______." He had never used the word in any other way. We never saw it in print until he sent his circular. We were the first to give it any important publicity. Then everybody borrowed it, and we dropped it for travel-revue, screen-journey, and other inventions of our own. I have heard pianologues, naturelogues and other shockers.' To these organlog, used in the movies, may be added. Mr. Holmes seems to have made an error of a year in the date of his début in London. The Suplement to the Oxford Dictionary gives the following from the London Daily Chronicle of April 16, 1903: 'Mr. Burton Holmes, an American entertainer new to London, delivered last evening the first of a series of travelogues.'"
     The American Language, Fourth Edition, pp 171-2, note 2.


Update history: This page created 1 May 2004. Latest revision 27 November 2006.