Or: A reflection on the sadistic humour of the goddess Clio (continued)
(continued from Part 1 of Chasing Constantine Raises)
By Dr Tamson Pietsch
There are aspects of the account told by Raises that do fit. In early 1925 Lough was publishing notices in the newspapers trying to drum up sufficient interest to enable him to purchase the SS President Arthur and these touted the benefits of his Floating University for the Merchant Marine. In mid-1925 MacIntosh did join with Lough to play a major role in the organisation of the successful 1926-27 Floating University cruise (and also its sabotage, but that is another story), the ship they sailed on wasowned by the Holland America Line, and Constantine Raises was a member of that voyage – he appears on the passenger list and his passport (held at the University of Colorado Bolder Archives) carries all the appropriate visas.
But I don’t think Professor James E. Lough went to Greece in 1920. I haven’t managed to find a copy of his passport application, but the first record of his arrival or departure from New York by ship is in 1924, when other sources also show he sailed with a party of students to Europe for the summer on the SS Orduna. Indeed, the early 1920s was a turbulent time in Greek history, 1920 particularly so, and Lough’s own account of the origins of the Floating University suggest the NYU summer tours did not start up until 1923 because of the unsettled post-war conditions in Europe.
Second, although Constantine Raises was certainly a member of the 1926-27 Floating University cruise, I do not think he immigrated to the United States in 1922 after fleeing the Smyrna fire. The same passport (issued 1 Sept 1926) that bears his visas for the 1926-27 cruise records that he was born in Smyrna on 13 April, 1900. It records his occupation as Secretary/Teacher and lists his address as 17 Washington Place, Mount Vernon, New York. A man named Frank Earl Briggs, of the same address, is down as his emergency contact.
The only Constantine Raises born in Smyrna around 1900 who appears in the US immigration records entered Ellis Island on the SS Alice, arriving from Patras, Greece, on 26 December, 1908. He was eight years old and in the records his name is spelt “Constantinos Raissis”. He was travelling with his sister, Despina (aged 10) and their father, Elias Raissis, a “Taillor” [sic] (aged 33) who had been to New York before. Their nearest relative in their country of origin was given as Anastassia Raissis of Smyrna, Elias’ mother and Constantinos’ grandmother.
In February 1919 a Constantine Raises, of 29 Woodbury St New Rochelle (occupation, mariner; birthplace, Smyrna) submitted a petition for naturalisation as a U.S. citizen. He had migrated, the application stated, on 5 Dec 1908 on the SS Alice and entered New York on 26 Dec that year and had resided continuously in the U.S. Since that time. Later that same year a “C. Raises” aged 20, with Greek nationality, appears again in the New York passenger lists. He was a Quartermaster on the crew of the New York and Cuba Mail Steamship Company’s SS Panuco entering New York from Portugal on 16 August. Indeed, a “C. Raises” meeting the same description features on the crew lists of a number of vessels exiting and entering the port of New York in 1920 and 1921 and on the 1920 Federal Census a Constantine Raises (age 20; birthplace Greece; migrated 1908; occupation, mariner) appears as living in New Rochelle.
But by 1921 things had changed for this Constantine Raises. His application for naturalisation had been approved, and when in 1922 (age 21; residence Mount Vernon) he appears on the passenger lists entering New York, it is as a U.S. Citizen, naturalised by the Southern District Court New York on 18 June 1921. The great fire of Smyrna began on 13 September, 1922 and burnt for nearly ten days. But in June “C. Raises” (age 22; naturalised) had been in New York and applied for a Seaman’s Protection Certificate to work as a purser on the SS Philadelphia. He is recorded as returning to that city on the SS Cameronia, which sailed from Naples on 25 August. The next entry in the immigration records for Constantine Raises is from 1927. It shows that a man by that name (aged 26; naturalised in 1921; living at 17 Washington Place, Mt Vernon) arrived in New York on the SS Leviathan, having left the port of Cherbourg on 29 March, a week after the SS Ryndam had been released from quarantine (for suspected bubonic plague!) at Rotterdam.
It seems relatively clear that the Constantine Raises who left New York as a member of the Floating University in 1926, was the Constantinos Raissis who entered New York as a child in 1908. He was not a student at the University of Athens in 1920. He did not meet Professor Lough and act as his tour guide. He did not flee Smyrna as fire engulfed that city in 1922.
What then, does this mean for the story about the dinner on the Newport that Constatine Raises told Paul Liebhardt in San Francisco in 1984?
Feature Image: Constantinos Raissis’ 1908 immigration record – New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 / Roll T715 1897-1957 / 1001-2000 Roll 1182
[Editors Note: This piece originally appeared on Cap and Gown: blogging the original knowledge economy, Tamson Pietsch’s excellent research blog, republished here with permission from the author. This article forms part of a series on the Floating University, which can be found here: https://capandgown.wordpress.com/category/floatingu/%5D]