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5 Fun Facts about The Little Traveler’s History

February 26, 2018

Earlier this month, Little Traveler employees gathered at The Geneva History Museum, just north of The Little Traveler at 113 S. Third Street, to learn more about the history of our store.

Terry Emma, executive director of the museum, presented The History of The Little Traveler, the same presentation she's been doing for customers in our Atrium Cafe. We don't want to give away too many spoilers, so we'll limit our teaser to 5 fun facts we learned that night.

1. A Department You'd Never Expect

The Little Traveler is well known for its many and varied departments—Gourmet Foods, Housewares, Bath & Body, Apparel, and Fair Trade, just to name a few. But here's one you probably never expected to find in our historical documents: letters from the store's founder show that at one time, The Little Traveler had a real estate department!  

2. A Mysterious Count

Kate Raftery, the store's founder, had colleagues overseas who helped curate the marvelous collections brought into The Little Traveler. In her 1932 journal chronicling her European buying trip from April through June of that year, she refers to one of her more mysterious partners: the "count". The man is more than a myth—some of Kate's former employees remember seeing him during his visits to Geneva, IL. 

3. River Life

As the daughter of a Mississippi riverboat captain, Kate Raftery never forgot her shipyard background. You'll find nods to this part of Kate's history in places like the store's first logo, the header of Little Traveler official stationery, and even on the building itself—next time you visit, look up to find Widow's Walks, railed rooftop platforms customary of coastline houses to provide unimpeded views of the waterway. 

4. "Alice in Wonderland with Price Tags"

That's what Lester Gaba called The Little Traveler in a 1947 issue of Women's Wear Daily, a New York publication. In the 1950's, a fashion show at The Little Traveler introducing the new seasonal lineup was attended by none other than Connie Weber, fashion editor of Vogue

5. Evolution of History

Before his passing in late 2017, Kate's grandson John Raftery shared his grandmother's journals with the Geneva History Museum. Kate was a prolific writer and kept journals of her travels and daily life. The museum's historians have scanned these journals and are in the process of reading them cover to cover to see what new fun facts they can uncover about the life of this remarkable woman and her beloved Little Traveler. Terry Emma will share new findings during the quarterly History of the Little Traveler programs at our store. Stay tuned! 

Join our weekly email or seasonal Almanack email lists to be informed of new dates for presentations of the History of The Little Traveler.

Geneva History Museum

The Geneva History Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit. It's just a few blocks north of The Little Traveler at 113 S. Third St. and is well-worth the stroll. Take an entertaining and informative trip through their main gallery, which chronicles Geneva's history with genuine artifacts and engaging graphics. (HINT: it's a marvelous activity to occupy restless husbands while you shop!)

Geneva History Museum Hours: THE GENEVA HISTORY MUSEUM IS TEMPORARILY CLOSED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS CONCERNS. Tues.-Sat. 11am to 4pm (Closed holiday weekends and the month of January.)

Admission includes both the Main & Feature Galleries:


$2/Children Ages 3-10

FREE to Museum Members

Little Traveler
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