This collection is made up of correspondence and photographs related to James Shearer's travels and life in South America in 1921 and 1922.
The Correspondence series (67 items) includes letters that Shearer wrote to his family in Bay City, Michigan, between June 27, 1921, and September 3, 1922. Shearer's first letters concern his voyage from New York City to Santiago, Chile, by way of the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, Ecuador, and Peru; he described his trip through the canal and other aspects of the locales he passed or visited. The bulk of the correspondence pertains to Shearer's life in Santiago, Chile, which he discussed in his frequent letters to his mother and, less often, his sister-in-law Winifred. He wrote about local customs and language, his work and the economy, historical influences on Chilean culture, and other aspects of his daily life. Shearer traveled in Peru and Bolivia in February and March 1922 and briefly returned to Santiago before traveling by railroad to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in June 1922. He compared Buenos Aires to Santiago and mentioned his attempts to locate potential clients for the Industrial Works of Bay City, Michigan. In the fall of 1922, he also wrote from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The Writings series (2 items) includes an undated description of the collection's contents written by Shearer, with brief notes about his work at the time, and a typed article regarding earthquakes in Coquimbo and La Serena, Chile.
The Photographs and Postcards series (77 items) consists of 40 photographic prints, 28 picture postcards, and 9 photographic negatives; the negatives correspond to a group of prints. The photographs, which include Shearer's captions, show scenes from Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, including views of the Coquimbo harbor, views of railroad lines running through mountains, overhead views of cities and surrounding scenery, and street-level pictures of buildings and street scenes. Some images feature groups of people and, in one instance, a flock of llamas; 3 show a well-dressed man holding open a very large, manuscript musical book. The series includes a portrait of James Shearer from his South American trip and a formal portrait of Shearer taken in 1956. The postcards, many of which have captions by Shearer, feature pictures of Santiago landmarks; Chilean railroads; the town of Sewell, Chile; Chilean women; a mountain monument in Mendoza, Argentina; La Paz, Bolivia; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Some of the postcards and photographs have numbers written on the back that appear to correspond to Shearer's letters.