Simanaitis Says

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IF ANYONE ever earned the title “Prince of Vagabonds,” it was Harry A. Franck. A trip around the world sans cash? Sure. Through Germany immediately after World War I? Yep. Hitch-hiking the length of South America? Why not? The entire Far East? That too. And even A Vagabond in Sovietland during the turmoil of the 1930s.

I have a modest collection of Harry Franck’s works—well, practically all of them. Maybe you’d like to learn about his adventures too.


Harry Alverson Franck, 1881-1962, American adventurer and travel writer over the first half of the 20th Century. Image from

Harry was a Michigander. Between his freshman and sophomore year in 1900 at the University of Michigan, he set out to see Europe with only $3.18 in his pocket. Harry worked a cattle boat across the Atlantic, visited England and France, and got back to UofM only two weeks late.

This pretty much defined Harry’s lifestyle for the next 60 years.

Armed with his trusty Kodak (as cameras of the era were called generically), Harry took 16 months to work his way around the world. The product of this trip, A Vagabond Journey Around the World published in 1910, set a literary precedent for Harry’s inquisitive and occasionally acerbic style: “Italy is one of the most cruelly priest-ridden countries on the globe.” He was to note others.


The Fringe of the Moslem World, by Harry A. Franck, Century, 1928. Many of his books are listed at and Secondhand shops stock them as well.

In The Fringe of the Moslem World, Harry quotes a French diplomat, “Ah, if only we could get out of Syria on our tiptoes without any of the rest of the world noticing it!”

Profit from his books encouraged Harry to mix continued travel with a career in teaching, primarily middle-school geography.


Mexico and Central America, A Geographical Reader, by Harry A. Franck, with many illustrations, largely from photographs by the author, F.A. Owen Publishing, 1927.

Harry’s four-volume middle-school readers of Travel in Many Lands, Mexico and Central America (1927), The Japanese Empire (1927), China (1927), and South America (1928), are as insightful, and as outspoken, as his travel books.

Of Mexico and its mixed ethnicity: “In one sense North America south of the United States is not a white man’s country. Yet in another sense it is, for the white inhabitants do most of the governing and have most of the wealth.”

Of Japan and China: “It is hardly flattering to us to know that the ancient nations of the Far East did not want at all to be introduced to us upstart people of the West.”


Marco Polo, Junior, by Harry A. Franck, Century, 1927.

Harry’s young-adult book Marco Polo, Junior is subtitled “The true story of an imaginary American boy’s travel-adventures all over China.” Written in early Nancy Drew prose, it’s a charming tale.


The Franck family, at the Farm in New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1940. From the left, Harry, Harry, Jr., wife Rachel, Katharine, Patricia, William and Peter. Image from

Harry’s wife Rachel traveled with him on many adventures, not that it was always evident in the books. There’s a sense of “Oh, by the way, last Thursday, Rachel had a baby, whom we named Harry, Jr.”

Rachel’s point of view is offered in I Married a Vagabond, by Rachel Latta Franck, Appleton Century, 1939. Briefly (I may be channeling Harry here), their five children were born in five different places.

Rachel Latta Franck was clearly the Princess of Vagabonds. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013


  1. Alison Huettner
    October 16, 2013

    Greetings from the Franck family! Nice to see he still has fans. You spelled Mom’s name wrong, though: she was a Katharine, not a Katherine.

    • simanaitissays
      October 16, 2013

      Mea cupla. Updated directly.
      Harry’s writing gave me much pleasure–and education.

    • bruce kempkes
      May 1, 2019

      I am wondering if any of his children are still alive. Can you help me? Thanks.

      • simanaitissays
        May 1, 2019

        Sorry, I have not made any recent attempt.

      • Alison Huettner
        May 1, 2019

        Just one — his younger daughter Pat Franck Sheffield (my aunt) is 93 years old and still sharp as a tack. Hally and Bill predeceased my mom, Katharine, who died in 2006, and we lost Pete just last fall 😦

      • simanaitissays
        May 1, 2019

        Thanks sincerely for the family update. I continue to enjoy rereading Harry’s adventures.

  2. mike decker
    November 5, 2013

    I just discovered Rachel Franck’s book buried on a shelf at my house in early oct of this year and enjoyed it.Upon further investigation I found that we were practically neighbors, I live in warminster.Now I see others are still reading these books.
    I’ll be buying some of Harry’s soon.

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This entry was posted on October 12, 2013 by in I Usta be an Editor Y'Know, Just Trippin' and tagged , , , .
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