Tuesday, September 8, 2009

More from Washington

In a recent post, Rose shared some of the vintage cookbooks she found at the Washington Antiques Fair the other weekend; we found quite a lot of interesting stuff there, I'm afraid, and I thought I'd share a bit more of it here, just because I feel like it. And because of the whole weirdness of serendipity and collecting: part of what makes collecting old stuff worthwhile.

So besides the vintage cookbooks and the handful of magic lantern slides that were kind of mutual purchases on both our parts (perhaps we'll manage to put together a magic lantern slide post sometime, if we can figure out how to get good images), I also was looking at all the old handwritten stuff I could find. I did find a big batch of old papers from Gabriel Raymond, onetime resident and mill operator from Lenox, New York. The papers date from about 1819 into the 1860s, mostly dealing with the mill, and with lots 66 and 67 of the Oneida Creek Tract, which Raymond seems to have owned. All sorts of interesting stuff, including papers relating to lawsuits (including two old Utica, New York folded letters with early 1830 stamped postmarks--long before postage stamps themselves existed) and a fascinating duplicate copy of a $1200.00 settlement receipt from the Erie Canal commissioners to Nathan Raymond, "damages which the appraisers on the Erie Canal have awarded to me for the injury which I have sustained in consequence of the use and occupancy by said canal of the waters of the Cowaston [sic?] Creek, whereby the saw mill located on said creek + below said canal is deprived of its accustomed supply of water."

But also, I ran across a "zip-lock" bag full of old envelopes (fifty-one envelopes, I think, most from 1870s and 1880s) complete with stamps, etc, for only $5.00. I doubt there are any rare stamps here (stamps were probably the first thing I ever collected, and my parents once tried to get all three of us kids hooked on collecting US stamps, and I still have all of my old collection). But the envelopes (the letters are gone from almost all of them) tell a story in their own unique way: most are addressed to one Jennie B Wallace, with some of the oldest (in the 1870s) addressed to Wellesley, Mass.

This woman must have collected these envelopes over some span of time; others are addressed to her at Pennsylvania Female College in Pittsburgh (later to become Chatham, I believe). I found these two especially fascinating for the addresses:

Remarkably, however, one of the envelopes addressed to the man who must have been Jennie's father was actually sent to Greeley, Colorado, our previous hometown:
That's "Care Mr James Ewing," (and the postmark is either "83" or "88") if any sharp-eyed readers wish to look him up in Greeley archives.

Most interesting of all to me in this batch of stuff, though was the long letter from one "Cousin Aleck" to "Bell" entirely undated and without an envelope, but I think ultimately from Jennie B's father, Rev. A. G. Wallace, D. D., to her mother, Bell, probably before their marriage. (And if I've got the genealogy wrong here, it's a shame, because the story is such a nice one.) But the letter starts out by quoting Shakespeare and then goes on, "I just now see why it is that the spirit of chivalry has died + love has languished so much in this boasted of 19 century. We are impatient; nothing satisfies us but railroads and telegraphs."

The second page of the letter especially caught my eye, as I'd always heard about letters written in both directions, but this is the first one I've ever had a chance to buy:

The second text is written in red or pink ink, to make reading the two parts of the letter easier, I suppose. But for those interested in the personal musings of those long dead (especially if you can make out the brown-ink text), here's a transcription of the pink: "Permit me to add another line. I intended to write merely a note but so long as there is any room I must write. Just as I was about to go to the Post Office Father and Mother came home. Both in good health. I had almost resolved to quit smoking, but Mother brought me some good cigars and so as I write the smoke curls gracefully around my head. Smoking is favorable to revery + my reveries at present are very pleasant for Clark has been praising your likeness as perfection. Last night I slept but 3 hours, am unwell, and now it is eleven P. M. so I am forced to close this letter already too long. Goodbye."

When one can find things like this, who would not be a collector?

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