“Long Sleeps Last Night for Both Sophias”: A New Mother’s Diary from 1910
By Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services
As one of our staff prepared to depart on maternity leave this fall, I took the opportunity to delve into the print and manuscript materials in our collection related to pregnancy and childbirth, parenting and childhood. The MHS has a wide variety of print, manuscript, art and artifact materials related to the history of parents and children, from Cotton Mather’s Help for Distressed Parents, Or, Counsels & Comforts for Godly Parents Afflicted with Ungodly Children (1695) to the children’s health diaries of Helen C. Morgan (in the Allen H. Morgan Papers), who kept tidy notes on her children’s growth, eating habits, childhood illnesses, and medical treatments from their infancy through their college years (1923-1951).
One of my favorite discoveries was the diary kept by Sophie French Valentine during the first months of her daughter’s life. Perhaps in anticipation of her daughter’s birth, Sophie purchased a page-a-day Standard Diary for 1910. In the days before Internet-based social media was our platform of choice for documenting the everyday, Standard Diaries offered a way for many Americans to keep account of their own comings and goings with “status updates” that continue to resonate with intimate immediacy for future generations.
Sophie Valentine’s 1910 diary remained blank until the page for Saturday, July 23, on which she wrote simply, “She came. 8 pounds 7 ounces, 21 inches. Thoroughly healthy. abt 11.42 a.m.”
While her infant daughter was healthy, Sophie was not. On August 2nd she had to undergo an operation (unspecified), that necessitated separation from her daughter and several days’ sedation with “narcotics.” Sophie wrote on the page for August 2nd, “I nursed the baby every three hours up to this time - but just before the operation it was decided best to take her from me!”
As the summer waned, Sophie recovered from her surgery and chronicled the comings and goings of her household, as well as the growth of her daughter (also christened Sophia). Several weeks after the birth, the family doctor paid a visit and pronounced “the little one…sound and vigorous.” Three days later, infant Sophie “went out in the bassinette in front of the house” for the first of what would be many afternoons in the fresh air with her mother. Sophie’s husband, a diplomat, appears to have been away during much of his wife’s convalescence, but a steady stream of female friends and relatives populate the pages of Sophie’s diary. On August 14th, for example, the day “the little one” was baptized Sophia French Valentine, she “had pictures taken with Harriet, Charles, Aunt Martha, Auntie May; and Elizabeth and Lucy,” as well as with her mother and Aunt Caroline (“who held her and talked to her lots”). Later she was visited by “Theodore, Mrs. Graves, and Auntie Beth.”
By Thursday of that week the social whirl may have worn thin for both mother and daughter: the entry for August 18th reads simply, “Long sleeps last night for both Sophias.” A heartfelt status update that will no doubt resonate with many new parents generations hence.
The Sophie French Valentine Papers are part of the Robert G. Valentine Family Papers and available for use by researchers in the reading room of the MHS library.
| Published: Wednesday, 11 December, 2013, 1:00 AM
Are those sketches of penguins?
By Andrea Cronin, Reader Services
Penguins unexpectedly cover the first page of a 1939 sketchbook in the Henry Daland Chandler papers. The rest of the sketches within the book are detailed and shaded images of Bermudian buildings created with the critical eye of the professional architect, Henry Daland Chandler. These penguins from the Bermuda Aquarium add a delightful and personal touch to this small volume.
I nominate the chubby grump in the lower left corner as “cutest penguin.” Do any of these penguins speak to you?
| Published: Friday, 6 December, 2013, 12:00 AM
Thanksgiving in War-time, 1862-1864
By Susan Martin, Collection Services
The life of a Civil War soldier was difficult even at the best of times, but holidays were particularly poignant. Many of the men were very young and away from home for the first time. Edward J. Bartlett of Concord, Mass. had been just 20 years old when he enlisted in August 1862. In his letters home in November of that year, written from New Bern, N.C., he described his first Thanksgiving as a soldier, the elaborate preparations, the decorations, and especially the food:
First we had oysters then turkey and chicken pie then plum pudding then apple raisin & coffee with plenty of good soft bread & butter. After we had all eaten a little too much, people usualy do on Thanksgiving days and we who had lived so long on hard tack did our best[,] we had a fine sing.
The meal was followed by songs (including “Auld Lang Syne”), speeches, toasts to President Lincoln and the troops, games, and a dance. Deep in hostile territory, the men were determined to celebrate “in the true home style.” Bartlett concluded that:
The whole day was very succesfull every thing went of[f] pleasently, not a thing went wrong. We were surprised that such a dinner could be got up in this God forsacken country. Twas pleasent to celebrate Thanksgiving in such a way.
The next year, his letters were more sober. Writing on 15 November 1863 from Nashville, Tenn., Bartlett reflected:
Our company Thansgiving in the barracks last year is a day that I can never forget. Six of those boys are now dead. Poor Hopkinson, the president, in his address, [said] “that he hoped the next year would see us all at our own family tables.” He died two months after.
Bartlett spent Thanksgiving 1864 stationed at Point Lookout, Md., guarding Confederate prisoners-of-war. He wrote to his sister Martha about his homesickness on the evening before the holiday:
Thankgiving eve. I sat over the fire, thinking of what you were doing at home, and what I had done on all the Thanksgiving eve’s, that I could remember.
The day itself, however, proved to be a rousing celebration that included music and dancing (“It was fun to see them kick thier heels about.”), horse races, sack races (“Such a roar of laughter I never heard before. Most of them were flat in the dirt before they had gone three steps.”), wheelbarrow races, a turkey shoot, greased-pole climbing, and greased-pig chases (“This made more sport than all the rest put together.”). Bartlett again, unsurprisingly, lingered over his description of the meal: oysters, turkey, duck, beef, chicken, vegetables, apple pie, pumpkin pie, mince pie, etc., finished off with cigars.
Edward J. Bartlett survived the Civil War and lived to 1914. To learn more about Bartlett, visit our Civil War Monthly Document feature for November 1863 or visit the MHS Library to read more of the papers in his collection.
| Published: Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 12:00 AM
Lovers’ Tiff in Turkey
By Andrea Cronin, Reader Services
Sometimes you come across the completely unexpected when searching the MHS collections. Initially I hoped to highlight the food of the season, and began a search for an interesting menu from any date in the month of November. If turkey had been on any of the menus, that would be the subject of today’s post. Not finding a satisfactory menu and determined to have some sort of turkey in this post -- be it fowl or country -- I started searching for descriptions of Turkey. With a subject search for “Istanbul (Turkey) – Description and travel” a collection finally caught my eye.
What I found was a letter, written in 1830, containing a beautiful yet brief description of Constantinople in the Henry K. Loring papers. However, the depiction of mosques, minarets, and palaces was not the most intriguing excerpt from this letter. A lovers’ tiff revealed in the very same letter entirely captivated my attention!
Captain Loring’s passenger ship arrived in Constantinople (now Istanbul) on 27 November 1830. As a sailor abroad, Loring often wrote to his sweetheart Sarah Hichborn in Boston from his various destinations, including the Greek Islands, Italy, and Turkey. During this stop in Constantinople, he wrote to Hichborn on 12 December 1830 responding to a situation that she addressed in a prior letter, which is not among this collection of correspondence. She seemingly accused him of intentionally impressing ladies other than herself while he was last in Boston. The captain addressed the issue with such ostentation I am uncertain whether his sentiments are flirtation or vainglory:
Dear Sarah, as you observe, distance, does not seperate minds. May ours, never be seperated. But be always, united according to your good Wishes, I cannot recalled, were I took Tea, excepting it was at your house, I do not remember, any ladies, that I could possibly, have impressed them, with any Particular regards for me. I suffer it was on account, of my beauty, Gentlemanly appearance &c. I think you aught to have gratified me, by telling me who they were, Now by way of retaliation I shall not tell you, how near I come, loosing my heart, at Constantinople. The Turkish and Armenian ladies, are certainly very beautifull.
Ooh, trouble! I would advise the captain that retaliation is not always the best course of action in matters of the heart.
Dear readers, if you are worried about their relationship, let me reassure you. Captain Loring and Sarah Hichborn married on 21 March 1833.
| Published: Saturday, 23 November, 2013, 1:00 AM
The Real Gettysburg Address
By Peter Drummey, Librarian
On November 19, 1863, when Abraham Lincoln spoke to an immense crowd at the consecration of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Edward Everett of Massachusetts, the greatest orator of the day, was the primary speaker. In his diary, Everett omitted any reference to the president’s remarks except for his praise of Everett’s speech. The next day, however, after they had returned to Washington together, Everett and Lincoln exchanged letters concerning their respective addresses:
I should be glad [Everett wrote to Lincoln], if I could flatter myself, that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.
Lincoln replied the same day:
In our respective parts yesterday, you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor I a long one. I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure.
On Tuesday, 19 November, the Historical Society will mark the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address by displaying this extraordinary exchange of letters—and other materials related to the respective roles of Lincoln and Everett that day at Gettysburg—from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM.
Come and help us decide what was the “real” Gettysburg Address.
| Published: Monday, 18 November, 2013, 10:00 AM