German Woman Recreating Ancestor’s Journey to America

June 20, 2016 - garden totes

Sibylle Randoll poses for a design in Lincoln Park during her revisit to Chicago in May.

In 1880, a 26-year-old German leather manufacturer named Otto Dahl left his hometown of Barmen for America to file his skills in a family business. His office led him to Bozeman, Montana. Dahl documented a scarcely dual years he spent stateside in a diary.

His practice traversing a nation have been common with generations of his kin. Now his great-great-granddaughter, Sibylle Randoll, will have an even some-more insinuate attribute with those tales as she recreates a tour Dahl took 136 years ago.

Growing up, Randoll review her great-great-grandfather’s stories about his time in America, and in 2012, she motionless to revisit them. As she read, she had an epiphany: “He’s seen a Niagara Falls, and I’ve seen them too. Maybe we can see all of a other places that he has been to on this trip,” Randoll said.

“The initial thing we did that Christmas was make a route. we remarkable down all of a cities that he mentioned and all of a places that he mentioned, and attempted to find them if they still existed.”

Below, see her route.


And so began Randoll’s #Barmen2Bozeman campaign. “In Germany, [Bozeman] is a end like, ‘Where are we going?’ People don’t know of it given it’s a tiny town,” she said. “When we come over, we come to New York, Chicago, San Francisco and all of those places. Bozeman, Montana is not a destination, so I’m going to this place given he led me there.”

Despite mapping her outing out in 2012, it would be several some-more years until she over for America. “I finished studying, and afterwards we started a job,” she said. “It was just—one day I’ll do this.”

Last fall, Randoll satisfied she would be branch 26—the same age her great-great-grandfather was when he took his trip. “Then we usually started formulation it,” she said, adding that she had been saving for a outing over a years.

Randoll’s family members immediately embraced her preference to transport in her great-great-grandfather’s footsteps. They even had an suspicion for her clothes.

“We’re large fans of ‘Downton Abbey.’ And we cruise somehow that played a purpose in this given one day [my mother] comes adult to me and says, ‘Well you’re recreating this 1880 journey, because don’t we do it reasonably dressed?’ And we pronounced OK, so here we am with a dress,” Randoll said.

Sibylle Randoll dons a custom-made 1880s character dress when she visits a same places her great-great-grandfather did.

The dress is a custom-made 1880s-style, full-length gown. Randoll, with a assistance of a dilettante in chronological dress making, designed a blue and bullion silk dress and relating hat. In further to an outfit suggestive of a 1880s, Randoll totes an umbrella, fittingly, from her great-great-grandmother to finish a look.

The journey

Despite a many technological advances in travel given 1880, Randoll trafficked to America a same approach her great-great-grandfather did—by sea. On May 4, Randoll, accompanied by her mother, boarded a Queen Mary 2 in her custom-made dress.

After a weeklong journey, Randoll arrived in New York City and set out for a end that desirous this trip—Niagara Falls.

“I attempted to arrange of postponement for a impulse and think, ‘Wow, I’m saying Niagra Falls again and this is a indicate in a story when we motionless to do this journey, and it’s unequivocally important,’” she said.

Niagara Falls desirous Sibylle Randoll to set out on a tour recreating her great-great-grandfather’s 1880-1882 outing to America.

But her attainment during a scenic waterfalls did not go unnoticed. Dressed in an authentic 1880s-style dress, she stood out from a crowd.

“When we went to Niagara Falls, we was like a vital print wall,” she said. “It’s a weird experience, though afterwards again in this dress, I’m in a certain role.”

Throughout her tour she’s been asked by extraordinary onlookers about her attire. “Most mostly it’s people usually wondering and seeking what [I’m] doing. Or they ask, ‘Who are we playing?’” she said. “Then we explain it to them, and afterwards they’re like, ‘Oh, wow. That’s a good idea.’”

Since a outfit attracts so many attention, Randoll usually wears it during a “important parts” of her journey, that enclosed a outing to Lincoln Park.

A revisit to Chicago

In 1881 Otto Dahl, Sibylle Randoll’s great-great-grandfather visited Lincoln Park. In late May, Randoll took a wander by a park.

In late May, Randoll’s tour brought her to Chicago, where her great-great-grandfather spent a revisit in 1881—just 10 years after a Great Chicago Fire. 

“In Chicago, he mentioned he took a travel in a Lincoln Park. That’s because we wore it on a day we went to Lincoln Park,” she said.

During her walk, Randoll stumbled on a Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and a garden bed that has been in existence given 1870.

“I stood there and thought, ‘Wow, maybe he’s been here and he saw some-more or reduction a same garden bed, flower beds,’” she said. “It was really nice. we competence not have left to Lincoln Park [in] Chicago if we hadn’t famous about him going there. This [trip] leads me to places we competence never have seen.”

That same day Randoll tapped into her German roots with a outing to Lincoln Square.

“I went to a DANK Haus, that is a German informative center,” she said, adding she also took a German cooking category there. “I went around a area to revisit this aged pharmacy, a German pharmacy that’s from 1875, and afterwards to a Brauhaus and a integrate of German bars.”

No outing to a Windy City would be finish but visiting some of a city’s many iconic traveller attractions.

“One day we usually went downtown sightseeing,” she said. “I went and saw Navy Pier and Cloud Gate—in normal clothes.”

From Chicago, Randoll continued her tour west toward Bozeman. While Dahl spent scarcely dual years in America, Randoll will be in a nation for tighten to 6 months.

“He worked in a U.S.,” she said. “I can’t do that, I’m on a traveller visa. we theory we could cruise my operative a blog.”

The blog Explories (a mashup of a difference exploring and stories) highlights her adventures in America and those of her great-great-grandfather’s. Since she’s essay in both English and German (and perplexing to suffer her trip), her posts don’t indispensably coincide with her location. For a many present information, Randoll suggests following her on Twitter. Randoll’s tour wraps adult Oct. 26 when she earnings home to Stuttgart, Germany.  

Follow Kristen Thometz on Twitter: @kristenthometz

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