Lydia’s Picks September 2020

Journal: Tales of the Dismal Campers, 1887

Journal, 1982.0007.0002
As this unusual summer draws to a close, it’s the absence of season-defining social gatherings that stands out most for me. Looking to the archives for reminders of more social summertimes, my hands-down favorite are found in the journals of the Dismal Campers! This was a group of young Sandy Spring women who, beginning in 1887, embarked on an annual adventure whereby they “camped” in an empty residence. They were a very funny lot that never seemed to take themselves too seriously. I especially like the lists of silly monikers they assigned to each other and those supporting their adventure including, “Baby,” “Talker,” “Charitable Spinster,” and “Resigned Father.

Club Minutes: Phrenskeia Society, 1888-1901

Meeting Minutes, 2004.0011.0012

For anyone who feels guilty when they don’t finish a book club selection before a meeting, Sandy Spring’s Phreneskeia Society may have proven especially vexing. In existence between 1888 and until at least 1901, this was a local literary society that expected a high degree of preparation and participation around some very weighty topics. At this particular meeting on April 18th, 1891 the group held a formal debate exploring whether the Elizabethan age or the Victorian age did more toward the advancement of the world of art and literature. Phew! In their early years, they struggled with absenteeism, especially among those with assignments critical to the evenings’ programs. As a result, they incorporated “absentee excuses” into their regular meeting itinerary, serving up a small slice of humble pie to this social group known more for its intellectual pursuits than its gastronomic extravagances.

Essay: “My Trundle Bed”

Essay, 1997.0005.0103

Anyone who has helped disperse an aging parent’s belongings knows how the rediscovery of long-forgotten childhood items can melt decades away and revive timeworn memories as vividly as if they happened yesterday. In this tender story, an old trundle bed elicits recollection of nighttime prayers shared with a mother since passed but lovingly remembered.



Letter: Edward Kummer to his sister Carrie, August 8, 1857

Letter, 2000.0005.0302

I am endlessly fascinated when I stumble upon examples of cross writing in our collection. This fashion of writing, quite common in personal correspondence in the 18th and 19th centuries, is done by filling a piece of paper then turning it 90 degrees to create a second, perpendicular layer of text. Ostensibly done to conserve paper and postage costs, I do wonder if a simple pleasure derived from fine execution and quick decryption was also at play. I know personally, I can’t help but stop and take a quick stab at decoding the jumble of letters and words.

Riley’s Picks September 2020

Club Minutes: Mutual Improvement Association, June-July 1868

Club Minutes, 2004.0018.0002

Going through the minutes of the various social clubs of Sandy Spring can be a surprising process. When you least expect it, something jumps out that just immediately intrigues. The minutes for the June meeting of the Mutual Improvement Association in 1868 had this exact effect on me. One of the members, M. L. Roberts, read an extract “…asserting that because so much is read in these days, nothing is studied as it ought to be.” As I read this, I couldn’t help but reflect on my experiences as a student in College. So many varieties of this exact sentiment were made constantly, especially as a student in the arts, insinuating that we weren’t properly studying the right materials and were too focused on more popular media. It’s fascinating to me that as generations go by we’ll always be critiquing the arts and media we consume, and I thought about how things really aren’t so different now. And then, as I turn the page, still considering this thought, M. M. Miller was noted to have read “…an urgent appeal to all who have anything to do with burials to be quite sure that life is utterly extinct before consigning a friend to the grave…”, and I felt that things may be pretty different after all.

Letter: Henry C. Hallowell to Florence M. Bentley, August 1889

Letter, 1997.0005.0115

Getting a peek at a family through their communications is truly an interesting experience. You get a read on the little details of the relationships there, and it’s always different and rather special. Henry C. Hallowell is communicating to his granddaughter Florence while at sea. He’s clearly so excited to share the details of his trip with her, highlighting the creatures he’s seen and the experiences of the travelers, and he still talks about how he showed Florence’s picture to the other travelers. He writes, “I think about you all and can shut my eyes and see you so plainly.” It brings a smile to my face, thinking about how he couldn’t help but spend most of his letter about his vacation doing nothing but gush about his loved ones. Just from one little four-page letter, I feel an understanding of this man through his love for his family.

Letter: Cornelia Hallowell Bentley to “Dearest Mother,” February 16, 1899

Letter, 1997.0005.0109

In a letter to her mother, Cornelia Hallowell Bentley discusses something that is probably on most people’s mind these days; sickness. She frets about the health of her daughter, and discusses the grip that she is currently dealing with. Any descriptions of illness are particularly affecting to me with all that is going on, and her concern for her daughter echoes all the worry I feel for my loved ones. The letter is a great reminder to check in with friends and family, now more than ever.

Sara’s Picks September 2020

Silhouettes: Hannah and Joshua Peirce, undated

Scrapbook, 2004.0015.0080
This scrapbook was put together by Hannah Pierce’s granddaughter, detailing aspects of the Pierce family including family trees, silhouettes, and other newspaper clippings. This specific page has 2 silhouettes of Hannah and her husband, Joshua. I enjoy looking through old family photos and reading through notes that my grandparents have left behind for our family, so I imagine this was a fun and edifying task for Hannah’s granddaughter to gather mementos and information to include in this scrapbook.

Military Pass: John (Jack) Bentley, November 27, 1918

Military Pass, 1997.0005.0609

This military pass for Jack Bentley granted him permission to visit Luxembourg. Although he had likely traveled and moved around Europe during the war and seen many places during that difficult time, it is interesting to imagine what sights he may have seen and what the purpose was during that particular visit. I have visited Italy and Germany before and often think back fondly over those trips and the many amazing memories from those times, while now looking forward to the days when travel such as that can safely resume.

Diary: Harriet Iddings, 1910

Diary, 1983.0083.0040

This 1910 diary consists of daily entries of Harriett Iddings, a Sandy Spring local. After her husband, Dr. Caleb Iddings passed away in 1904, she continued on following the same writing manner as her husband had used. Each day is a brief entry, sharing bits and highlights from the days. Those little ordinary moments can sometimes be mundane but are the essential moments that put together as a whole show the unique life of a person. I received a journal at the start of 2020 where you can write a brief note for each day. I have been using it faithfully and I know it will be very interesting to look back through after this year in particular ends.

Announcement: Women’s Exchange, undated

Announcement, 1991.0084.0009

This item shows the history of the Women’s Exchange of Sandy Spring and it is very interesting to see how the women of the community hand-crafted items and then had them available for sale. It’s a bit of a shock to see how the pricing has changed in relation to the current times. As an artist myself, it’s always a bit of a question as to figuring out fair pricing for pieces to sell. What a great opportunity for the women of the day to share their talents with the community!

Patricia’s Picks September 2020

Autograph Album, Mary B. Kirk, 1835 (Poem by M. Fitzwater, 1836)

Autograph Album, 1983.0107.0008

The popular Irish Blessing, “May the road rise up to meet you…may God hold you in the palm of His hand,” exhibits amazing similarity to my next selection found between the pages of Mary Kirk’s autograph book written by M. Fitzwater in 1835.  Fitzwater’s intense faith, strong spirituality, and ability to express those feelings are apparent as evidenced throughout each verse.  A particularly poignant line reads, “…and when length of years makes thee tired of earthly joys, and the curtain of death gently closes round the last sleep of human existence, may the angels of God attend thy bed and guard the expiring lamp of life…”

Autograph Album: Mary B. Kirk, 1835 (Poem: “Friendship”)

Autograph Album, 1983.0107.0008

My selection this week touches upon the meaning of friendship.  The sentiments expressed in this poem written in Mary’s album by “Emily” hold as true in 1839 as it does in 2020.  Emily wrote that “Friendship! How pleasing is that sound, to those who know its meaning true!  And yet, how few on earth are found…”  Emily makes her message clear in the last stanza when she writes, “…those only who with hearts the same, at friendships holy alter kneel—know the true meaning of that name.”

Autograph Album: Mary B. Kirk, 1835 (Poem: “How Beautiful”)

Autograph Album, 1983.0107.0008

This poem caught my attention due to its darker nature, seeming antithetical to the other works found within the remainder of the book.  Penned by “Sarah” her contribution to Mary B. Kirk’s autograph book describes the beauty of nature and “how beautiful is this fair world—there’s not a leaf that falls within the forest not a flower that springs beneath our footstep not a twinkling star that gems the hour of night but gives the heart a lesson it should ne’er forget of peace and innocence..”  Sarah closes her poem with a question, “Oh why will man transform this gentle paradise of sweets to a dark waste of sorrow and sin.”

Book list: Caleb Edward Iddings, 1894-1903

Book List, 2004.0013.0001

This month I wish to highlight an amazing book list created by Dr. Caleb Edward Iddings in the 19th century. The titles found within Dr. Iddings notebook reflects a man of uncommon intellect, as well as one who appreciates all peoples regardless of their gender, religion, or ethnicity. It seems to me that perhaps, Caleb Edward Iddings was a man ahead of his time. This is a minute sampling of a vast collection of titles.

1. Israel Zangwill, Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People
2. Anatole France, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard
3. James Anthony Froude, English Seamen in the Sixteenth Century
4. Richard Harding Davis, Our English Cousins
5. Recollections of the French Revolution
6. Peter the Great
7. Mansfield Park, Jane Austin
8. Edward Bellamy, Equality
9. Marietta, Samantha Among the Colored Folks. “My Ideas on the Race Problem”
10. B. H. Davis, Our English Cousins