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