The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Gertrude Codman Carter’s Diary, April 1917

Today we return to the 1917 diary of Gertrude Codman Carter. You may read the previous entries here: 

Introduction | January | February | March

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “paleography” as “the study of ancient writings and inscriptions.” This practice however, and the word to describe it, are increasingly used to refer to the practice of deciphering handwritten manuscripts in an age when typescript is what many of us encounter on a daily basis beyond the scribbled shopping list or note to self in one’s planner -- unless you, like many of us, have abandoned the print version in favor of Google calendars or a planner-like app. The art of slow reading, when making sense of a densely-handwritten letter might take the better part of a day in the archive’s reading room -- and often an intimate familiarity with the writer’s hand -- is a skill that we must increasingly practice with intent rather than one that we develop passively through everyday exposure.

Gertrude’s diary and letters are no exception to this rule, and in the spirit of this rough-and-ready transcription project I have undertaken for the year, I often find myself inserting [illegible] in the place of partially or wholly impenetrable words that by the end of a year spent in Lady Carter’s company might well seem perfectly understandable. Another solution to [illegible] manuscripts, one that we are often called upon to assist with in the MHS reading room, is crowdsourcing: enlisting a second, or third, or an entire list of social media followers to cast their eyes over the scribblings that befuddle a researcher and see what we can decipher as a group.

In the spirit of demonstrating the labor of paleography, I offer in this month of April the rough-and-ready transcription of Gertrude’s scattered April 1917 entries alongside the phrases that confounded me at first and second pass. Think you have an idea of what a word may be? Leave a comment below or let us know on Twitter @mhs1791!

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2 April.

Paid bills.


3 April.

[left blank]


4 April. Great day!

10.30 Meeting at the [illegible] Road.

11.30 Theater meeting with the model. Everyone pleased. A splendid meeting.

[Pilgrims?] at home.

President Wilson’s grand speech. America enters the war.

Mr. Fell rang to tell me how pleased he was to hear it.


Here the diary skips to April 19 and continues on.


19 April.

[illegible] stonework.

G[odettes?] to dinner & Mr. Fell. He sang a heartrending little song called “Somewhere in France”. How terrible it must have been for Mrs. [Water?]worth.


20 April.

Band at the Savannah Club

Had an offer for 501 which was depressing & yet I don’t dare refuse $18,000 ($15,000 on mortgage at 4 ½ %). I cabled 5% or $20,000 which was very clever (so Charlie said in his letter) - I got the 5%. This was some time ago.


21 April.

I [damaged text] sale of 501.

4.15 Dinner party at [illegible]. An amusing chat with Laddie. He can be quite fun.


22 April.

To church.

To Erdiston in the afternoon.


23 April.

Consul again.

4 Miss Packer re: Savannah beautification

Later Mr. Carpenter. Jolly chat.


24 April.

8.30 Miss Packer

Laddie Challum motored me out to Caledonia. He has a nice little Ford car, a ripper at hills.


25 April.


[illegible] to auction

Procession of Civic Circle around its various outposts & then meeting.


Here ends the April 1917 entries remaining in the diary.

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If you are interested in viewing the diary or letters yourself, in our library, or have other questions about the collection please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.

permalink | Published: Friday, 14 April, 2017, 2:54 PM


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