Trial of the Traveler

The story of one organization seeking to help the common man, through travel and through life.

Running for the train
Engraving of a man with a suitcase running for a train as it pulls away from the station. Several people watch this with amusement.  Retrieved from Louisiana Digital Library

Traveling nowadays leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a grueling, tedious, and dreadful task that  often makes you resent ever leaving the bed. Imagine your morning commute, but switch out your air-conditioned car for a rather primitive locomotive. But imagine just how terrifying that experience was for people in 1918. Especially people in 1918 heading to the (now) bustling city of New Orleans! It’s one thing to journey somewhere that’s both unfamiliar and evolving, but imagine doing so during when World War I affected every aspect of life in America and the Spanish Flu epidemic created widespread fear and panic. This meant that people who traveled had all the odds stacked against them… Offering hope in the midst of it all,  the Travelers’ Aid Society was there to help! This organization existed with the noble purpose of assisting people through difficulties and guiding them in a dangerous, foreign world. They were typically located at places of high traffic, which meant that you would find them around railway stations where people arrive. Their primary goal was to assist fellow humans by being human. In other words, they provided individuals/families with food, shelter, money, and obviously showed them the local urban geography.

Many Strangers Given Assistance
“Many Strangers Given Assistance” Times-Picayune, November 18, 1918

This philanthropy can be traced back to an era long gone where we find that an impoverished, elderly, and blind man was given a place to stay after arriving to New Orleans to meet up with his son. Unfortunately, he learned upon arriving that his son succumbed to the flu. If it weren’t for the Aid Society, then this man would have been rubbish on the side of the street, someone to be looked down upon and pitied. Let’s build on this idea by setting the scene: you’re a lost child who just arrived with your infant sister in what seems to be a rail station somewhere in 1918 New Orleans.  As it turns out, you don’t know a single word of English, so you wander around aimlessly at this rail station… But lo and behold, you stumble upon an adult who decides to lend a helping hand. This person happens to be one of the gracious few: an agent of the Travelers Aid Society. They take you in, provide food to you and your sister, and bestow upon you a sense of hope!

But to the workers who volunteer their time and effort to aid those in need, those who are on the lowest rung of the social hierarchy aren’t scum or pests, but rather people who have the potential to make something out of their lives. And this goes for everyone, men, women, children or any creed or background, are all members of society who can be helped without any ramifications because doing so personifies the best traits of humanity. To further expand upon that point of “being human”, this simply means lending a helping hand and understanding the plight that everyday members of our society go through just to head somewhere new. I believe this ideal is embodied by the vision the Travelers Aid Society seeks to uphold. Which refers mainly to the Society nowadays as they want to help people become self-sufficient and lessen the impact of homelessness on our fellow man. All in all, their purpose for existing is one that is truly beneficial to the fabric of our society.

Works Cited

“Definition of Spanish Flu.” MedicineNet. Accessed November 20, 2018. https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=26427.
“Travelers Aid Society of Greater New Orleans Records, 1913-1970 | Louisiana Research Collection.” Accessed November 20, 2018. https://specialcollections.tulane.edu/archon/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=461.