Implicit in a career involving museum collections is that discovery and wonder become part of your day-to-day experience; a tremendous privilege to be sure! One of the most delightful surprises of the digitization project has been seeing how our transcription volunteers are connecting with our historic collections in this very same way – a connection possible only through a kind of deep-dive into the material seldom afforded to the casual museum visitor.
As COVID-19 forces us out of our shared physical spaces, the transcription project offers a digital space in which people can make such a rewarding contribution. Recognizing this opportunity, the Olney 1st Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints chose our project as their “Day to Serve” beneficiary. Undeterred by pandemic restrictions, this enterprising group’s commitment to finding a socially-distanced community service project led them to us and resulted in over 550 pages of transcription!! Wow, THANK YOU!
Participant feedback indicates an enjoyable and gratifying experience was had by all; we certainly hope they will each consider continuing to be a part of our project’s community and that other groups will consider us when seeking service opportunities during these unusual times.
Staff Picks from the Digital Archives
Patricia’s Picks October 2020
The brainchild of Theodore Roosevelt in 1910, the World League for the Peace of Righteousness was formed on behalf of peace and justice in an atmosphere of rising tensions between nations. Sandy Spring native, Allan Farquhar, was one of the select few to be awarded a Certificate of Honorary Appointment by the Governor of Maryland on April 24, 1918. Allan Farquhar served as a state delegate at the conference entitled, “Win the War for Permanent Peace” in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1918. An impressive appointment, indeed!
Found within the Mutual Improvement Association’s papers in 1932, Fanny Pierce Iddings penned this formal verse using the ABAB rhyme scheme, whereas the first and the third line of each verse is set to rhythm, as is the second and fourth line. While the poem suggests reverence towards the early members, it also hints at their perceived innocence.
They ventured on uncharted seas,
And felt a little awed perhaps,
Nor dreamed what hosts would follow these
Sweet faces framed in Quaker caps.
How quaint their faded minutes are,
We smile to see their lack of scope;
So proud of just an apple jar,
So very fond of making soap.
Spring of 2020 was a spring-like no one living today has ever witnessed. Like many people, I decided to grow vegetables and bake bread in order to become less dependent on the food supply. With that said, I ran into the same situation that practically all of us shared and that was–scarcity in supply chains. I had this great idea to plant potatoes; however, finding “seed” potatoes was not as easy as it was many years ago when I first had tried this.
Enter Dr. Caleb E. Iddings in 1868. I could not help but choose this selection from his diaries because he discusses on June 8, 1868, that, “Jennings Boyd worked all day with the oxen on the roads.” The following day, “Jennings Boyd went to Christiania and Penningtonville on a fruitless search for seed potatoes.” Not to be worried, Dr. Iddings wrote that on the next day, he purchased two bushels of seed potatoes for $1.70 each.
Now back to 2020, I managed to find a few seed potatoes via the internet and only one out of three batches produced something akin to a potato. All of us in this modern era could learn a thing or two about growing vegetables from these local people from a bygone era!
Just in case you were searching for the perfect cure for the dreaded “cramp,” I might have three solutions for you; however, please disregard everything I am about to say, in fact, definitely do not “try this at home!”
Sandy Spring local, Elizabeth Ellicott Lea, offered a variety of home remedies in her 1845 publication “Domestic Cookery…”. Her suggestions for alleviating leg cramps especially caught my eye. Elizabeth notes that the sufferer can place a “foot-board to the bedstead” (i.e. bed frame) and put “the foot against it…” Or, you can tie a string “between the body and the pain, about as tight as a physician does to draw blood…” And, finally, her last suggestion was to “wear a bandage filled with pounded brimstone round the limb.” Elizabeth also thought it was a good idea to hold a “roll of brimstone in each hand” and suggested keeping extra by the bed just in case. Should you be wondering what brimstone is, it’s actually sulfur – extremely flammable and difficult to extinguish! Perhaps a heating pad would be safer!
Sara’s Picks October 2020
This little poem was written by Ethel Farquhar for a camp called “Camp Content”, which hopefully was as peaceful and joyful as the title implies. It appears that she was able to work each of the week’s camper’s names into the rhymes, which is a fun and personalized take on the group of campers. It seems helpful that some of the camper’s names rhymed already.
The Olney Grange was an organization related to farming and agriculture. This collection of documents details many parts of the group through the years, showing their history and development through notes, member lists, and meeting minutes. I especially like the short poems inserted to add some creative parts to the rest of the group’s documentation of their history and other events of the days.
This is a scrapbook kept by Ethel Farquhar during her years at the Hollins Institute in Virginia. Hollins Institute (today Hollins University) was among the earliest institutions of higher education for women in the United States and, so this is a book where Ethel saved various mementos and notes about her time at the school. She saved little calling cards and invitations to events. College was a formative time for me and I like looking back and thinking about the many people and events that were a part of my life at that time, although unlike Ethel most of my photographic mementos from that time are preserved digitally on social media, even though I have my own personal journals or notes from that time too.
The first part of this document that caught my eye was the really precise, neat cursive writing. As an artist, this is the type of aspect that I’m often drawn to. I find the writing relatable to the ‘hand-lettering’ trends that have developed in recent years. One of the most quirky aspects is the missing ‘r’ in the large title across the top. It’s easy to overlook as you take in the precise script. I wonder if the writer also got caught up and drawn into the detailed writing he was doing. Either way, a funny moment in an otherwise serious document, which actually refers to land transfer from Mr. Chandlee to his adult children and son-in-law. Much like today’s times, it was probably necessary to have a legal form in place to prevent any awkward family disputes over land transfers.
Riley’s Picks October 2020
In the minutes of the Mutual Improvement Association from 1897, Elizabeth G. Thomas provided a wonderful piece of advice that I think is actually more relevant today, 123 years later. She read “an article recommending stillness as a cure for overworked and worn out people who fall into a habit of looking back instead of forward and waste precious hours and nerve tissue by speculating what results might have followed if they had acted differently on various occasions.” I am far from “overworked”, but I fall into the trap of wondering and obsessing about the past, as I think most do. The idea of stillness is harder to come by too, with more things to distract and occupy than can be named. It’s very interesting to me, and kind of comforting, to think that people from generations ago had dealt with these sorts of feelings, much the same as today.
Everyone knows the awkwardness of trying to convey a delicate statement through indirect means. Be it texting, emailing, or in this case, letter writing, it’s never easy to come across the way you are intending to when you’re not face to face with whomever you’re speaking to. I found myself laughing at this letter as Ober Hussey tries as politely as he can to warn Edward Stabler of the dangers his virtuous son could face by coming to work at his factory in Baltimore, fretting over offending or insinuating with his words.
You can really only expect one thing from a cookbook; recipes. So imagine my surprise when the first thing that greeted me when I looked at this document was a really charming poem by Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton. I ended up searching for the poem and finding that it had more to it, a few stanzas preceding what was copied in the cookbook. A favorite line from those not included would be, “Never, never, oh, never! earth’s luckiest sinner, Hath unpunish’d forgotten the hour of his dinner!” I have to say that this has convinced me that all cookbooks and recipes, included those posted online, should probably feature poetry upfront. One can dream.
Edward Stabler, a man I’ve written several of these reflections about in the past, was a man of many talents but was probably best known for his seal making. This document is an advertisement for his seals, promoting his efficiency and the durability and neatness of his seals. My favorite feature of the advertisement is a Certificate that has previous clients of Stabler’s attesting to the quality of his work. It reminds me of modern advertisements, which often rely on testimonials to sell their product, but way more verifiable and compelling.
Lydia’s Picks October 2020
We digitization staff work with hundreds of documents each month and by necessity, many are processed without much notice to finer contextual details. Every now and then, however, you see something that causes you to catch your breath and moves you immeasurably. This note by Edward Lea just three and a half months before his death did just that. As a founding member of Sandy Spring’s first Farmers’ Club, he writes to submit his resignation seemingly aware of his impending passing. I found the note to embody tremendous grace and a profound sense of peace; I couldn’t help but feel the approaching loss his community must certainly have experienced for this gracious and grateful man.
I admit feeling guilty for having a favorite Sandy Spring character, perhaps I should treasure them equally, but I confess to an especially big spot in my heart reserved just for Dr. Caleb Edward Iddings (1829-1904). It was through working with his decades-worth of diaries and medical ledgers that I truly fell in love with this project. These documents are, however, admittedly one-sided so imagine my delight in finding a birthday note he sent to his five-year-old granddaughter Dora (Deborah Iddings Willson). It is a delightful little note that Deborah clearly treasured her whole life, writing on the envelope “Only letter I ever received from “Grandpa Doc”.”
Procuring merchandise must have been far more complicated before online orders and next-day delivery options. This bill of lading is part of a collection of shipping documents and invoices for items to stock the shelves of Granville Sharp Farquhar’s general store in Washington, D.C. in 1836. The papers are from several suppliers for a dizzying array of products, everything from Godfrey’s Cordial to Kidder’s Indelible Ink, the latter of which arrived by schooner from New York City, as detailed on this bill of lading. To our contemporary minds, shipping by sea generally conjures images of long, oceanic crossings between continents but this document speaks to a robust 19th-century coastal system as well. It’s fun to imagine the Potomac River filled with schooners and brigantines instead of the armada of kayaks and stand-up paddleboards seen on any given weekend.
During these socially tumultuous times, it is comforting to be reminded of kindness and generosity. In paying this invoice for a plumbing repair, Mary B. Brooke of Falling Green (now Olney Boys and Girls Club) writes a note acknowledging that J. Hilles Robison intentionally undercharged her for installation of a new water tank. Robison appears to be sharing the burden of cost with Brooke for an incident involving a destroyed tank and scalded chicks. I can only imagine what may have happened, but it seems compassion and humanity were the response.
The Archives Digitization Project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.