Advertisement, found in 2004.0004.0005
My days are often brightened by the bits and bobs we find tucked into diaries or ledgers. While often unremarkable scratchings and miscellanea, these stray pieces survive decades and even centuries by simply been unthinkingly slipped between random pages; it feels so personal, a little like preserving the contents of one’s pockets or purse on any given day. When I came across this gem hidden inside one of Dr. Caleb Edward Iddings’ ledgers, I gasped. Who knew creosote could be medicinal!
These three letters from John H.B. Latrobe to Edward Stabler were written between March 16th and April 4th, 1845 in which designs for a stamp for the State of Maryland are discussed. That these two gentlemen collaborated on such a task is somewhat unremarkable; after all, Stabler was a seal maker and Latrobe an engineer. What captures my interest is that both men were true polymaths: Stabler was also a farmer, the postmaster of Sandy Spring, and the head of the Mutual Fire Insurance Company; Latrobe was also a patent lawyer, an inventor (the Latrobe stove), and founding member of the Maryland Historical Association and the American Bar Association. It’s fun to imagine how the genius of one may have fed off of (or collided with) the other.
This particular diary is a bittersweet testament to marital devotion. Dr. Caleb Edward Iddings was a lifelong diarist faithfully recording his daily experiences throughout his entire adult life. In the year of his death, he continued to write daily until mid-February, after which his wife Harriet begins to sporadically add notes of Dr. Iddings’ declining health and of visitors offering well wishes. Following his passing on June 4, 1904, Harriet picks up the pen and begins a daily chronicle in same book, continuing ritual for many years afterward.
I had to giggle when I saw how these two items together illustrate that generation gaps have existed long before the “OK Boomer” crowd! A discussion of the “unladylike and deleterious habit of chewing gum” among the younger generation ensued during the February meeting of The Mutual Improvement Association in 1918. The women rested assured, however, saying that their “dear Sandy Spring is comparatively clear of girls addicted to this disgusting habit”. That said, in browsing the scrapbook of a young Deborah Willson (nee Iddings) from the same period I found, nestled among her most treasured memories and mementos, two gum wrappers! The irony is that Deborah eventually joined the club herself as an adult and I am sure her future self engaged in many discussions regarding the “younger generation.”