August has proven a quiet month for the Digitization Project. Now that comparatively shorter items are being processed, the team has been heads-down working through a large volume of documents with the majority of our time devoted to applying descriptive metadata. Descriptive metadata is the information you see below the document’s image on Digital Maryland that ultimately makes the documents findable. To ensure the integrity of the collection’s cohesion, consistency and adherence to standards are always paramount in this process.
While descriptive metadata allows the item findable, as we pointed out in the past, transcription is the key to making the item’s actual content searchable. We have been thrilled to see our transcription warriors getting terrific support, and are pleased to now include in our newsletter a volunteer spotlight we are sure you will enjoy.
Staff Picks from the Digital Archives
Lydia’s Picks August 2020
Club minutes, 2011.0035.00010-Bk 10
During their mid-summer meeting in 1913, The Home Interest Club heard a committee report regarding the efficacy of a new gadget intended to lessen the drudgery of laundry day. The gadget was called a “vacuum clothes washer”, something with which I was not familiar. A member had been appointed the task of trying the gadget and reporting back to the group at the following meeting, eventually giving a favorable review. I find it wonderful that The Home Interest Club organized their own consumer critiques a century before the days of Amazon reviews! While we do not have an example of this kind of washer in our Museum’s collection, a successful internet search for a picture initially left scratching my head and then suddenly realizing this was the forerunner of the modern agitator machine. In fact, it can still be purchased today!
When the Enterprise Farmers’ Club met at Falling Green on May 11, 1867 the farm inspection portion of the meeting took quite a turn upon visiting the pigs’ pen. The meeting’s secretary wrote “… members have witnessed many curiosities and agricultural monstrosities, but nothing of the kind has caused their dignity to be more absolutely laid aside and their mirth to be more intensely excited than when our host with a few ears of corn in a basket led us to the pig field.” Apparently a raucous display ensued as the pigs went joyously wild for the corn, running here, there, and everywhere. Though quiet now due to quarantine, when I used to drive by Falling Green and see its fields full of the young athletes of the Olney Boys and Girls Club running every which way, I couldn’t help but think of Falling Green as being a continuous steward of joyous activity as much today as it was in the past.
This 1887 poster for a recital at the Sandy Spring Lyceum offers it its own visual performance with as many as a dozen different fonts! The rise of advertising in the 19th century stimulated a demand for typography that really caught the eye and packed a punch. The promoters of this production certainly got the memo using variety to full advantage in communicating a whimsy to match the spirit of the event. Late 19th century innovations in the printing industry made low-cost reproduction accessible to a wider population and I have to wonder whether this specific poster was produced locally or in the city.
Given how many Sandy Springers were active in the suffrage movement, the recent centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment had me digging curiously through the archives for a personal impression of this victory. In 86 year-old Ellen Stabler’s diary entry for Tuesday, November 3rd, 1920, she first records and comments on the weather (72’ and cloudy), then notes a trip for the day to Olney by Frank and Edward and finally casually mentions “Elsie went in the morning and voted.” Oh my goodness, how and why is this so casually mentioned? Why did she not vote? Did she have strong feelings about it or was merely ambivalent? Never has an entry in the archives made me desperate to converse with its author to learn more!
Derek’s Picks August 2020
Travel diary, 2012.0006.0001
After spending 2+ weeks in Great Britain visiting distant family and exploring tourist sites, James grows anxious to return home. He sums up his land-based adventures, written in Volume’s 2 and 3, starting here. Reading his “Review”, it is beautifully written and introspective. A perfect lead-in to the Return Voyage detailed in Volume 4. Something that Volume 4 shares with the other volumes is James’ use of old shorthand! Don’t forget to read Page 29 of Volume 4, where he describes seeing the Aurora Borealis for the first time: a fitting end to a 3-month adventure!
I’m a self-confessed gearhead that loves all things related to the history of transportation. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad is the oldest railroad in the United States, opening in 1830. Its founder – Philip Evan Thomas – was from Colesville and was related to the pioneer settlers of Sandy Spring. James Pleasants Stabler, of Sandy Spring, was a man of many talents. After returning from his Trans-Atlantic adventure in 1827, James married the daughter of Educator/Engineer/Surveyor Isaac Briggs. In addition to being Postmaster of Sandy Spring and co-owner of the Sandy Spring Store, James Stabler was Chief Engineer and Supervisor of Construction for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. This Journal details the construction specifications for the stone sills used on the earliest sections of the Railroad.
Sara’s Picks August 2020
As a person who loves lists and stays organized with the use of a day planner, this ledger feels very relatable for me to view. There is a meticulous quality to how store proprietor, A.G. Thomas kept records of the accounts of his customers. This ledger has a lot of amounts transferred over from a previous folio to help him keep the balance of all his accounts. The little bits of math and notes in the margins show some more of Mr. Thomas’ organizational strategy.
This scrapbook is filled with advertisements, pictures, and clippings from the late 19th century. There’s a wide assortment of themes and images, some of which are quite quirky or silly. It reminds me a bit of people today capturing screenshots on their cell phones that are sometimes just little images that they want to remember or look back on at a later time. It’s fun to consider the meaning of these clippings and wonder why they were chosen and saved in this book.
This property survey shows the land contained within the Bloomfield Farm property, owned by John C. Bentley. The farm shape is interesting and makes me wonder what was developed to fill that space. It’s sort of an open canvas to fill for living and farm use. And because it’s located in Sandy Spring, you can check it out today and see how it has evolved through time.
Team sports are in short supply these days, so this little record book of the 1950-1951 Sherwood High School basketball season might help fill that gap a bit. It shows points scored, broken down by individual players, and other detailed records of the games. As I flipped to the last pages and saw the full team record for the season, I was a bit dismayed to see the several losses my old high school, Damascus HS, had against Sherwood for that season.
Patricia’s Picks August 2020
2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment granting (primarily) white middle-class women the right to vote. Non-white women would continue their struggle against racial inequality for another 45 years until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Equal Rights Amendment proposed March of 1972, failed to receive ratification by three-fourths of the states. The struggle continues; however, looking back to 1839, one can see progress, painfully slow progress, but progress all the same.
Acting as “trustee” for one Thomas Reese (debtor), Caleb Bentley and his wife Henrietta (having the right of dower) did sell four acres in Brookeville to Roger Brooke. Just in case you were worried that Henrietta signed away her dower rights (1/3rd of her husband’s property upon his death) under duress, you can be assured that she “did sign and seal the said deed or instrument of writing…and make her acknowledgment thereof voluntarily and freely and without being induced thereto by fear or threats of ill-usage (sic) from her husband or be fear of his displeasure…”
Emma Taylor Stabler drew this quaint drawing in 1886 as her contribution to Jessie B. Stabler’s autograph album given to her by her grandmother as a Christmas gift in 1881. Throughout the book are poems, proverbs, and maxims, accompanied by signatures of friends and family members. Reading through the pages, one can imagine what it was like living in a “kinder and more considerate” world.
Benjamin Hallowell was the first president of the Maryland Agricultural College (University of Maryland) in 1859. One month later, he was forced to resign due to illness. Benjamin Hallowell married Margaret Elgar Farquhar and together they had nine children—this letter was written to Henry by his father with the intent to assuage any feelings of disappointment Henry might harbor regarding his academic appointment. Benjamin speaks of the importance of knowledge, information, a well-trained mind, and a well-regulated heart, as well as feelings of modesty and humility. This letter is a testament to a father’s support and tenderness towards his son
The oldest “book of friends” (album amicorum) on record dates back to 1545. Also known as autograph albums, they were a method of exchanging poems, drawings, and messages among friends, colleagues, and family members. Mary B. Kirk’s autograph album, dated 1835, has a number of poems penned by local Sandy Springers. This selection is by James P. Stabler on August 3, 1837, entitled “To Make a Rail Road” (sic).
Stabler posits that making a railroad to Heaven is as possible as making one on earth. He suggests that it should be “located on the ground of the love to God and to our fellow creatures. The chief engineer shall be the still small voice which makes no curves either to the right hand or to the left…the road will be straight…the board of trustees will furnish him with the funds to carry on the work from a treasure as inexhaustible as the fountains of light and love…pride and cruelty will be levelled by …mercy…”
What gems are to be found within these “book of friends”! Today’s glossy photos and slick copy is pleasing to the eye, but I challenge anyone to find the depth of emotion and breadth of wisdom composed by those folks who wrote in Mary Kirk’s autograph book in 1837.
Riley’s Picks August 2020
When I started reading this diary, I wasn’t expecting to be led through a journey of what surely must be one of the more interesting vacations ever recorded. In one trip, Isabel documents mass sea-sickness, horse-drawn carriage related injuries, the beauty of the solar eclipse seen at sea, and the opulence of churches in St. Petersburg. I was enthralled the entire read, due in no small part to the wonderful writing of its author. One passage I found to be particularly enjoyable describes a man who mistakes Isabel’s traveling partner “H.” as an escaped lunatic due to his attempt to see the North Star in St. Petersburg. Vacationing is either difficult or impossible now during the global Covid-19 pandemic, and I found this to be a nice step away from life into the adventures of another, in some ways reminding me of my own experiences traveling.
This letter may not be as immediately exciting as others, but the legacy of its contents interests me greatly. Edward Stabler’s prowess as a seal maker and the beauty of his Smithsonian Seal was such that he was contacted by George William Brown, who was the founder of the Maryland Historical Society and the President of The Library Company of the Baltimore Bar, to create a seal for the Peabody Institute. George William Brown is a fascinating character, only two years after this letter was sent he was the mayor of Baltimore, and a year after that, he was in jail. He was an inciting force in the Pratt Street Riots in Baltimore, apparently taking a rifle from the hands of a present soldier and shooting one of the rioters himself. Strangely enough, it seems his arrest had nothing to do with that, but with his authorization of the destruction of railroad bridges during the ensuing riots. The curiosity these archives inspire is truly special, reading through this letter led me to research the people involved and learn about their personal history, and in turn, gave some more context to the letter itself. I can wholeheartedly recommend doing the same, research the subject involved in any documents you come across, you never know what you’re going to find
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.