The Story of Miho Baccich
Miho Baccich (1859-1935) was born on the Dalmatia Coast in present-day Croatia. He left home in 1875 to work aboard the “Stefano.” This ship, bearing coal to be delivered to Hong Kong, was wrecked off the coast of Australia, leaving Miho and one other boy to survive, eventually returning to Europe to tell their story.
Later, Miho would immigrate to New Orleans, where he raised a large family. He brought with him a manuscript, in Italian, where the story of his Australian survival was told. His wife translated the account for their children. Later, a daughter bound the translation into a book. And still later, a grandson, wrote a book about the account. In addition, there have been other forms of memory created around the shipwreck: the name of one daughter, for example, was given to remind the family of the kindness of the Australians to young Miho. In the late twentieth century, the ship itself was found and a documentary on the survival of the boys was created. Several of the great grand daughters have traveled to Australia to meet the descendants of those who saved Miho. In addition, the documentary filmmaker has a website where he also translates the account from the manuscript.
Considering gender, it is helpful to recall that the family in New Orleans depends today on the first translation of the manuscript by Angelina Cietcovich Baccich, Miho’s wife. Family members recall that Angelina (whose name, so like that of Evangeline, means angel and messenger) was “a scholar,” a new role for women of her time. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s pride in this achievement, so many generations later, is noticeable. Angelina wrote in a simple notebook, from which later, one daughter typed the account and another daughter, who was skilled at bookbinding, bound in dark green leather (“a very stiff, substantial cover, just like a commercial book,” one of the descendants points out). On the front in the upper third is embossed a shield with three seahorses, behind which are the wavy lines of the sea. Above that is the title, again embossed.*
*Susan Tucker. “Tacitly the Work of Women: Personal Archives and the Public Memory of Families,” in Women’s Archives Reader, edited by Tanya Zanish-Belton and Anke Voss. (Chicago, Society of American Archivists, forthcoming 2013).
Eunice Baccich, daughter of Miho Baccich, might be especially considered, as a memory keeper. Much in family history depends upon who can type, who lives longest, who lives with parents, and how long the family remains in the same house. In this case, Eunice brought another skill. Unmarried, and living always with her father, she was a bookbinder. Her bookbinding skills combined to make the translation seem all the more durable and this book, like family names, has passed to the oldest daughter’s family.
“Eunice Baccich graduated from Newcomb in 1918 with a Bachelor of Design. A graduate art student from 1919 to 1921, she was an Art Craftsman from 1919 through 1929. In 1931 Baccich was an assistant in jewelry and bookbinding. In 1937 she studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and the following summer at the Academy of Applied Art in Munich, Germany. Upon her return to New Orleans in 1938, she became an Instructor in Jewelry. From 1940 until her resignation in 1943, she held the rank of Instructor.
Baccich received honorable mention for bookbinding at the 38th Annual Exhibition of the Art Association of New Orleans at the Isaac Delgado Museum in January of 1939 and was represented that year in the Louisiana State Exhibit Building in Shreveport. She returned to Munich in the summer of 1939 to study jewelry and bookbinding, and exhibited her work in the Newcomb Art Galleries that same year.
Her love of books and her skills brought her many prizes, and she exhibited her handiwork frequently. Baccich had demonstrated her own intense interests early in her schooling. She had been art editor of the Arcade at Newcomb, and as a senior had joined the Art Association of New Orleans. Remaining active in that group for a number of years, she was a frequent exhibitor in the semi-annual exhibitions, and in 1933 was reported to be serving her third term as a secretary-treasurer.”*
*Bonner, Judith H. “A Faculty Dictionary.” Newcomb Centennial 1886-1986: An Exhibition of Art by the Art Faculty at the New Orleans Museum of Art, March 24, 1987-April 12, 1987. (New Orleans, La.: Newcomb College, Tulane University, 1987: 19-20).
Miho Baccich Image Gallery: