Patricia’s Picks December 2020

Essay: Allan Farquhar


One might tend to believe that we are living in unprecedented times, but the assumption would be wrong. In coming across Allan Farquhar‘s essay, “Neighborhood Interests,” dated March 12, 1915, I now believe that assumption could be wrong.

In the essay, Mr. Farquhar discusses many issues being debated at the time, such as different types of governance, faith, taxation, and poverty to name a few – all of which resonate equally today. His “recommendations” are as beneficial to a contemporary reader as they were then. His suggestions included (1) “study the questions thoroughly and impartially on all sides…” (2) “you can do more good by working with others than by yourself,” (3) “they have just as good a right to their opinions as you have to yours,” and (4) “for Heaven’s sake dont (sic) become a nuisance by intruding your ideas on all occasions and at inappropriate times!”

I encourage you to take a look at this thoughtful and provocative essay, as the parallels between then and now are stark.

Letter:  Edward Kummer to Carrie Kummer, 1886


Each week, I am delighted to discover events from the past which would have eluded me had it not been for this weekly newsletter.  Today’s selection recounts the adventures and experiences attained by Edward Kummer during a trip to Massachusetts in 1886.

In a letter written to his sister, Carrie, he begins with a description of his visit to the site of the wreckage of the Hesperus at Norman’s Woe — the inspiration of Longfellow’s famous poem, “Wreck of Hesperus.”  I was drawn to this letter because I too spend much time on the water, however, I cannot say that I enjoy the “…constant up and down motion of the boat, with occasional extra lurches…feeling rocked in the cradle of the deep under such circumstance (sic) a most pleasurable sensation.”  I’m guessing that Mr. Kummer never sailed through a storm in the Atlantic Ocean!

Deed: John Cox (as Mayor of Georgetown) to Caleb Bentley, 1841


In 1841, two lots, No. 261 and No. 262, located in Georgetown, Washington D.C., were put up on the auction block.

Sandy Spring native, Caleb Bentley, paid $80 for both lots and after paying the tax due, which was an astounding $4.50, he was the new owner.  Can you imagine buying two lots in Georgetown for $80.00 today?!

I have a great interest in reading deeds from the past, due to the amazing information one can learn.  I challenge anyone to do the same—the deeds will not disappoint.

Letter: Harriett Long to Alice Hallowell, 1864


The holidays are upon us and they are unlike any other experienced in over a century.  Yet, thanks to the power of the human spirit, we carry on the traditions of the past, albeit slightly altered.

With this in mind, I turn to a letter written during another turbulent time, 1864.   America was nearing the end of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln was elected for a second term.  Wondering how Christmas was being celebrated at this time, I direct you to a letter written on December 29, 1864, by Harriett Long to Alice Hallowell discussing Christmas Day.

She described, “[J]ulia hugging a new doll.  Florence…ditto the rest of you with various pretty gifts.  Did you go to your Grandpa’s or did he dine with you?  I know you had a merry time anyhow.”  Being a student of history, I enjoy drawing parallels between the past and the present.  I’m guessing you do, as well.