[Posted as 4 of 10 in a series on the College Archives by Emma Paine, a graduate student intern from Simmons College]

Skau_1Born and raised in Hartford, Dr. Evald L. Skau (Norwegian, pronounced “sk-ow”), was no stranger to winning prizes.  As a child, he won the Sunday Globe’s freehand drawing prize, and he also took home the boy’s story prize for his “My Dream About My Kite.”

Skau_2He then went on to win many awards at Trinity, Yale, and the United States Department of Agriculture.  By far his most prestigious award, however, was his 1930 Guggenheim Fellowship, which enabled him to spend two years in Europe studying the purification of organic compounds and made him the first professor in Trinity history to be so honored.

Although he had stayed close to home for most of his life, earning his BS (1919) and MS (1920) at Trinity and returning to the College in 1927 to teach, he was eager to go abroad.  On August 14, 1930 boarded a Red Star Liner to begin the biggest adventure of his life, and he saved a large collection of letters, newspaper clippings, maps, notes, cards, menus, and journals from his trip.

His journals describe a myriad of adventures, from taking daily saltwater baths and playing shuffleboard on the Red Star Liner, to visiting “a really gorgeous array of buildings” at Antwerp’s Tercentennial Belgian World’s Exposition and “ach[ing] for a drink of Hartford or old U.S. water” while searching for a place to live in Munich.   He was so cosmopolitan that no one in Germany every thought he was American, but he shows his roots in several entries like this one:

Skau_3“Things I haven’t seen yet over here: 1. granulated sugar- it is always given out with [unclear] coffee in lumps, 2. Watermelon, 3. Ham and eggs as we know them, 4. Root beer, 5. Good movies

Unusual things you see here: 1. Beer trucks on streets loaded, 2. Small autos, 3. Innumerable bicycles, 4. Man and woman walking along, the woman carrying a couple of suitcases and the man empty handed setting a pace for her, 5. Automatic hall lights: you turn them on at front door + they go out again automatically in 3 minutes 6. Big feather beds 7. Theaters showing classical dramas crowded”)

He struggled to keep up with his journaling as the demands on his time increased, apparently abandoning his journals by the beginning of 1931. However, since he wrote so many letters, there are other ways of following him as he studies and socializes with chemists all over Europe!

For more information about Dr. Skau, his journals, and these letters, please stop by the Watkinson and ask for the finding aid.

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