Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Tuesday. 30th.

Thursday. 2d.

Wednesday. May 1st. CFA Wednesday. May 1st. CFA
Wednesday. May 1st.

Col. Perkins has lately made a splendid donation of his dwelling House to the Asylum of the blind. This has carried to it’s height the enthusiasm of the public for this charity. And this day was the one fixed upon for the fair by the Ladies to assist it. A fair is an appeal to the mixed passions of human Nature. Its ultimate purpose is Charity, but the means which it uses are the common ones of barter and value. Many will be found willingly to pay a high price for an article when they would not elsewhere be reconciled to buying the same article for less and giving the difference right out of pocket. After a hurried call at the Office, I accompanied Mrs. Frothingham and my Wife. The crowd was great and the arrangement not very convenient.1 I remained until my patience was wearied out and then went to the Office where I was busy the rest of the morning. Afternoon, Botta. We are about moving and therefore in confusion. Miss Julia Gorham and her brother Gardner came in for an hour. I afterwards finished Botta and enough of Chateaubriand’s Itineraire.

1.

The wide current interest in the possibilities of education for the blind (see entry for 26 March above) had found handsome expression in Col. Thomas Handasyd Perkins’ gift for the establishment of the Perkins Institution for the Blind. The gift carried with it a requirement for matching gifts of fifty thousand dollars. A Fair at Faneuil Hall was conceived as a major means toward the realization of this sum. Twelve thousand people attended during the four days the Fair was open. Nearly thirteen thousand dollars was raised, of which “two dollars only were counterfeit.” Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis Jr. (Eliza Boardman), an energetic widow, took conspicuous leadership in the fund-raising effort. Later in the year her efforts and those of the Boston ladies associated with her were subjected to merciless satire in a volume issued anonymously in New York under the title Scenes at the Fair. It later became known that the author was Fanny Inglis, afterward Mme. Calderón de la Barca, who is better known as the author of the letters to William H. Prescott published as Life in Mexico, 1841 (vol. 4:185; Columbian Centinel, 30 April, p. 2, col. 4; 11 May, p. 1, cols. 1–4; 22 May, p. 2, col. 5; Morison, H. G. Otis , 1969, p. 491–492, 547).