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“For We Are Brother and Sister”: Luis and Isabel Emilio

One of the highlights of the Luis F. Emilio papers at the MHS is his correspondence with his younger sister Isabel. The siblings were obviously very close, but their relationship suffered a serious blow in 1862 as the result of a misunderstanding involving one of Luis' best friends, Oliver Wendell Holmes Upham.

First, our cast of characters: Luis and Isabel were the two oldest children of Manuel and Isabel (Fenollosa) Emilio of Salem, Mass. Luis had enlisted in the Union Army and, in the fall of 1862, at just 17 years old, was serving as an officer in the 23rd Regiment at New Bern, N.C. Luis's friend Oliver Wendell Holmes Upham, a.k.a. Wendell, had enlisted with him but was discharged due to illness and sent back to Salem. Naturally, while there, he visited his friend's family, which included Isabel, then 15.

Opinion seems to have been divided on Wendell. Luis described him as “a good boy, rather odd, but in every respect a gentleman[...] He is my most faithful friend.” A mutual friend complained of Wendell's laziness. At any rate, Wendell was warmly welcomed and liked by the Emilio family, particularly Isabel and her four younger siblings, who ranged in age from 11 to 4. As Luis' mother wrote, Wendell “was delighted to meet the children[...] He played with them as if one of their age.” She called him a “good affectionate boy.” Wendell also enjoyed his visits immensely and wrote to Luis with effusive praise for his family.

However, just 2-3 weeks after his first visit, Luis' mother started to express some reservations to Luis.

Wendell comes in often. He is very fond of fun and quite fond of kissing which I do not like as I have to be present when he [is] in the room or else he would be I fear too wild. Isa seems to like to have him come. I hardly know what to think of him. Can you explain[?]

 Isabel also wrote to Luis about this time, joking about one of Wendell's visits. That letter is missing, but Luis' reply is filled with consternation.

I must confess I am ashamed to hear of such actions as you write. He has made a perfect fool of himself[...] I must pray you not to humor him in the least thing, and if he attempts to act so again to leave the room, and let him know his company is not wanted; sometimes he acts in the most foolish manner, so that I have been ashamed of being with him.

After some digging, I discovered that Wendell's primary offense had been to kiss Isabel. As an old friend, he was in the habit of kissing all the members of the family, including the younger children and Mr. and Mrs. Emilio, but Luis felt it was inappropriate for him to kiss the 15-year-old Isabel. It was not the first time he had advised his younger sister in this big-brotherly vein. It was also, apparently, not the first time he'd been embarrassed by Wendell's behavior. He wrote angrily to his friend, and while his letter is not included in the collection, we can infer its contents from Wendell's hurt reply.

On 2 Nov. 1862, Wendell scrawled an emotional 8-page letter in which he argued that the kiss had been intended innocently and that neither Isabel nor her parents, who witnessed it, had objected. He resented that Luis assumed the worst and dredged up past offenses, and was heart-broken by the reprimand. After all, their families had always been close.

I am sorry to think that you can’t allow the same friendship to exist between Isabel and myself, without jealousy, that I have always seen with pleasure existed between yourself and my sister Sarah. I never rebuked you for kissing her nor never will, nor do I claim a right to interfere. That is her business.

He paid another call on the Emilios to address the issue and to apologize, if necessary. The family assured him he had caused no offense.

Wendell's distress greatly affected young Isabel, who is by far my favorite player in this drama. Her compassion and confidence are impressive. While she respected her older brother's advice and appreciated his protectiveness, she passionately and articulately defended Wendell against the unjust accusations. In her 8-page letter about the “unpleasant affair,” written the same day as Wendell’s, she told Luis he had misunderstood the entire situation and that his friend’s behavior had been merely “playful.” Luis' interference was unnecessary, and worse still, he had “implicated” her in the whole mess.

It is very humiliating to your friend to be told he acted like a fool, and I am also placed in a very unpleasant position, as it must appear to him, as if I had told you, if not in those words, in words equivalent to them that, he had acted so, which was far from my intention to say.[...] Wendell had a funny fit on, as we all have at times, and acted just as he felt, nothing more.[...]

I don’t like the idea of my letters to a brother, making hard feelings between friends, and neither do I wish to be called upon to state what I say in my letters to my brother. I feel provoked to think that Wendell should have the impression that I am in the habit of informing or complaining to you of his conduct here, for he will not feel at home and at ease when he comes to visit us but will be entirely unlike himself.[...]

I have not written a very elegant letter. It is rather disconnected and ungrammatical, I have no doubt, but I don’t care one snap for that. I have tried to tell you what I think, and how badly I feel about the whole thing.[...]

You know, Wendell, is very peculiar, but he thought as he was in the house of an old friend who would not mind his way, and he thought rightly. I think on the whole he is a very good boy, and we all make mistakes and sometimes very gross ones, and therefore should not judge others too harshly when they commit them.

Isabel argued, as Wendell had, that if she or her parents had objected to his familiarity, they would have put a stop to it. After expressing her regret at being “the one who has done all the mischief,” she finished with this wonderfully snarky parting shot:

When you write to Dave Sawyer please remember me to him and tell him I should so much love to see him once again. You might give him my love, if it would not be improper for me to send love to such an old friend as Dave.

Now it was Luis' turn to be hurt. He insisted he'd only been thinking of Isabel's welfare and maintained he “had a perfect right” to admonish Wendell, but admitted he'd been “rather hasty” in his letter and was sorry for the trouble it caused. All the fuss was soon smoothed over. Luis wrote a conciliatory letter to Wendell, whom he called an “esteemed” friend. Everyone apologized, and the relationships between all parties were as close as ever. Isabel wrote to Luis on 17 Nov. 1862:

I had no wish to pain you and would not for all the world, on any account, for we are brother and sister, Luis, and both of us are quick-tempered and hasty when provoked or excited, are we not?[...] Our lives are short and uncertain; we cannot tell how long we may remain in this world of sin and sorrow. So while we may, let us forgive, and be forgiven by others, any injuries we may have done or received.

 Unfortunately, Isabel Maria Emilio did not live long. She died of typhoid fever at the age of 32. Wendell Upham lived until 1905, and Luis Emilio until 1918.

 

 

Image: Daguerreotype of Luis and Isabel Emilio, ca. 1852-1853, Photo. 1.574

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 19 November, 2014, 1:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

We are kicking things off this week with a rare Sunday event, an MHS blue moon, if you will. Beginning at 1:30PM on Sunday, 16 November, is a special screening of The Better Angels, a film about Abraham Lincoln's childhood.The screening is followed by a discussion led by Professor John Stauffer of Harvard University, current long-term research fellow at the Society. This event takes place at Landmark Theaters in Kendall Square (355 Binney Street, One Kendal Square, Cambridge, MA 02139).

On Monday, 17  November, join us at 6:00PM for an author talk given by Lindford D. Fisher of Brown University and J. Stanley Lemons of Rhode Island College. Decoding Roger Williams: The Lost Essay of Rhode Island's Founding Father documents the interdisciplinary approach to cracking Williams' handwritten code. There is a $10 fee (no charge for Fellows and Members). Please call 617-646-0560 or click here to register.

And on Tuesday, 18 November, come by for an Environmental History Seminar given by Derek Lee Nelson, University of New Hampshire. "The Ravages of Teredo: The Historical Impacts of Marine Wood-boring Worms on American Society, Geography, and Culture, 1865-1930" begins at 5:15PM and is free and open to the public. Robert Martello of Olin College of Engineering provides comment. Please RSVP if you plan to attend. Also, you can subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.

Last but not least, on Saturday, 22 November, there is another free tour at the Society. "The History and Collections of the MHS" is a 90-minute docent-led walk through our public rooms. The tour is free and open to the public with no need for reservations. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please first contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.orgWhile you're here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibitions, "Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: Massachusetts Women in World War I" and "The Father of His Country Returns to Boston, October 24, 1789."

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 15 November, 2014, 10:04 AM

“Most Amusing”: A Brookline Couple on Holiday in California, 1915

In late October of 1915, as the days in New England grew shorter and the temperatures colder, twenty-seven-year-old Mildred Cox Howes of Brookline, Massachusetts, boarded a train with her husband, Osborne “Howsie” Howes, and headed west. Between 22 October and 14 November 1915 the couple traveled to California, where they attended the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. As was her habit, Mildred carried with her a line-a-day diary in which she recorded their movements, travel times, meals, friends met along the way, and sights seen.

Despite the fact that Mildred had recorded in early October spending time rolling bandages at a local hospital, presumably to be sent overseas, her own life was largely untouched by the reality of war in Europe. While England and the continent were digging in for the war to end all wars, the United States was in an expansionist, celebratory mood. Having recently flexed its imperialist muscles in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars (1898-1903), in 1914 the United States finally saw the completion of the Panama Canal (1903-1914) which dramatically increased the speed of an ocean voyage from the Atlantic to Pacific coasts of North America, saving ships nearly eight thousand miles of travel around Cape Horn. The Panama-California and Panama-Pacific International expositions were a message to the world regarding the United State’s new place on the world stage, as well as an opportunity for San Francisco, particularly, to celebrate its reconstruction following the devastating 1906 earthquake.

Mildred’s diary is spare, but does provide readers with a sense of the nature of upper-middle-class travel during the early twentieth century, before widespread adoption of the automobile. The Howes left Brookline on Tuesday, 22 October by the 12:34 train for Chicago. Mildred reported a “very pretty” ride through the Berkshires. Arriving in Chicago the following morning, they spent the day in Chicago visiting friends, dining out, and attending a garden show that Mildred described as “not much good.” Departing on an evening train, the Howes passed through Kansas and New Mexico, reaching the Grand Canyon a week after leaving home.

The Grand Canyon was not yet a national park (it would be dedicated in 1919), but nonetheless a popular tourist attraction. “About 10- we started & walked down to the plateau 5 miles & very steep,” Mildred wrote, “A guide & mule met us there ...I rode up. Howsie walked. Fine. Wonderful views.”

The Howes reached San Diego the following day, after a morning spent traveling by train across the desert to Los Angeles, and then changing trains for the trip south to San Diego. They spent three days in San Diego, sunbathing at Coronado Beach, visiting the Panama-California Exposition, and driving down to Tijuana for a day (“Most amusing & just like a book”).

Departing from Coronado Beach by motorcar, the couple drove through Murietta Springs, Riverside, Pasadena, Los Angeles, arriving in Santa Barbara on Monday, November 1st. The automobile appears to have been as much for pleasure as transport, as Mildred repeatedly describes having “motored around” the cities they pass through, including a detour up to the top of Mt. Rubidoux, today a city park. Mildred also lists the names of the hotels at which the couple stay, often luxurious locations such as the Mission Inn (Riverside) and the Potter Hotel (Santa Barbara). When they arrive by train in San Francisco, they take up residence at the newly-constructed Palace Hotel, about three miles from the exposition -- located between the Presidio and Fort Mason in what is today the Marina District.

“First [day] at the exposition - cleared off into a lovely day,” Mildred reported on November 4th. “Saw the manufactural palace & fibral arts… Dined at the hotel & went out again. Took a chair & looked at the illumination & listened to the bands.” Mildred and Howsie remained in San Francisco for a week, taking in the exposition and exploring the area. On exposition days, they arrived mid-morning and stayed until dinner, sometimes returning in the evening. On Saturday, Mildred reported going to the cinema to see “On Trial” (“very good & exciting”); on Sunday they took a Packard car and drove to Palo Alto for lunch with friends. On Tuesday they went to see Houdini perform at the Orpheum.

Twenty days after leaving Boston, Mildred and Howsie packed and, after a final morning at the fair, left at 4 o’clock on an eastbound train, traveling through Nevada to Ogden, Utah, and on across Wyoming and Nebraska at a brisk pace; they reached Chicago after three days’ steady travel, stopping the day to visit the art museum and stretch their legs. Boarding the train in Chicago they discovered friends Jessie and Frank Hallowell, and John Balcheder, also headed for Boston. By Sunday, November 14th, they were home once more.

Briefly factual in tone, Mildred’s diaries reveal only glimpses of her subjective experiences as a traveler, but nonetheless strongly evoke the rhythms of early-twentieth century travel for modern readers. If you are interested in this, and other diaries, kept by Mildred Cox Howes, you are welcome to visit or contact our library to access the collection.

 

 

**Photographs from Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. Photograph Collection: Grand Canyon of the Colorado (#183.2043); Lotta’s fountain in front of the New Palace Hotel (#183.2022); Crowds at the Golden Gate Park (#183.2027).

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 12 November, 2014, 8:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

After a flurry of activity to close out last week, this one starts a little bit more slowly. Please note that the Society is closed on Tuesday, 11 November, in observance of Veteran's Day. Happy Armistice!

On Wednesday, 12 November, join us at noon for a Brown Bag lunch talk given by Johann Neem of Western Washington University and the University of Virginia. In this talk, titled "Making the Self-Made American: The Original Meanings and Purposes of America's Public Schools," Neem discusses the collective effort required to achieve American individualism. This talk is free and open to the public. 

Then, on Friday, 14 November, beginning at noon is a free author talk. Join award-winning food and drinks writer Corin Hirsch as she discusses her first book, "Forgotten Drinks of Colonial New England." This event is open to the public at no cost.

And on Saturday, 15 November, we return with "The History and Collections of the MHS." This 90-minute, docent-led tour explores all of the public space in the Society's home at 1154 Boylston St., touching on the art, architecture, collections, and history of the institution. The tour is free and open to the public with no need for reservations. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.orgWhile you're here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibitions, "Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: Massachusetts Women in World War I," and "The Father of His Country Returns to Boston, October 24, 1789."

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 9 November, 2014, 8:00 AM

MHS Librarians Hit the Road

Today, the library at the MHS is closed in preparation for our annual fundraising event, Cocktails with Clio. What is a group of librarians to do with a day off? Rather than sit by and toil in our respective offices as set-up goes on around us, we instead are opting to go on a field trip. Specifically, we are jumping on the Mass Pike to go see our counterparts at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester.

The reader services staff here recently decided that we should better our knowledge of at least some of the many institutions in the area that are similar to ours. With that in mind, we compiled a list of such “sister institutions” to visit so that we can get a better sense of what they do, what collections they hold, and what a user’s experience is like.

While the MHS holds incredible and unique collections relating to the history of the state and the nation, we do not always have the right materials for every researcher. One thing that we hope to take away from these site visits is a better understanding of the holdings and specialties of some nearby institutions. This will in turn allow us to better serve our own researchers by knowing the proper direction to send them when we cannot answer their questions.

Also, these experiences give us the chance to network with colleagues and peers working in other libraries around the Boston-area. We can discuss emerging scholarship relevant to our respective institutions and talk about trends in research topics and researcher questions and behavior.

Another hope is that the places and people we visit will get the same from us in return. It is easy to think that every library professional in the area knows who we are and what we do but that is not always the case. These site visits give us the opportunity to expose ourselves more widely to the academic community in Massachusetts and to help our peers understand what material we hold and what we might do to help their researchers.

In a profession – and an institution – where it is sometimes easy to insulate ourselves from the outside, this is an opportunity for us to reach beyond our four walls to communicate our mission to other institutions. We also get the chance to increase our own ability to pursue that mission. 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 7 November, 2014, 12:00 PM

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