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.