Books: Impressions of a Tenderfoot

Preamble: I’m taking a a break on regular posts from January through March, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting things to read!

In lieu of regular content, I’m highlighting some of my favorite primary source materials from the last three years. Read a little, read a lot, skip through and look at the photos, it’s up to you! These are all online, so you don’t even have to venture outside into the cold.

Regular posts will resume in April.

This week it’s another book in the category of travel literature. Authored by Susan Margaret Richards St Maur (née Mackinnon), Impressions of a Tenderfoot during a Journey in Search of Sport in the Far West records St Maur’s 1888 travels with her husband, Algernon St Maur (later 15th Duke of Somerset), “in search of health, sport, and pleasure,” in western Canada.1 After its publication in 1890, Impressions of a Tenderfoot became reasonably popular and well read.

Susan Margaret (McKinnon) Saint Maur, Impressions of a Tenderfoot during a Journey in Search of Sport in the Far West (London: John Murray, 1890),

Six chapters of Impressions of a Tenderfoot discuss the St Maur’s travels in the Windermere Valley. The two had invested in James Brady and Thomas Belhaven Henry Cochrane’s Findlay Creek Hydraulic Mining Company, and so they spent some time in the summer of 1888 living along Findlay Creek, partly to check on their investment, and partly for said sport and pleasure. Susan St Maur spends much of her time in the area travelling with Adela – T.B.H. Cochrane’s wife.

Among other observations, Susan St Maur shares her experiences travelling on the steamboats Duchess and Marion with Captain Francis P. Armstrong, a trip to Canal Flat as the canal there was being dug, meeting with Helen and Sam Brewer, and staying overnight at the Windermere Hotel.

This book is an easy read, and although St Maur very much discusses the people she meets from her elevated social position, her observations are also helpfully detailed and frank. I particularly appreciate her complete confusion at the reaction of miners to a collection of books she gave them – “tales with a good moral tendency.”2 Rather than grasp the esoteric lessons from these books, the miners latch onto inaccurate or confusing (to them) details, causing them to dismiss the works as entirely unhelpful.

Check out the entire book, or just the relevant chapters. Impressions of a Tenderfoot is free to read on the Internet Archive:

Impressions of a Tenderfoot appears in the following posts:
Findlay Creek
James Brady
The Duchess
The Marion
The Gwendoline
Captain Francis P Armstrong
Canal Flats
Sam and Helen Brewer
Windermere Hotel


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