Riley’s Picks September 2020

Club Minutes: Mutual Improvement Association, June-July 1868

Club Minutes, 2004.0018.0002

Going through the minutes of the various social clubs of Sandy Spring can be a surprising process. When you least expect it, something jumps out that just immediately intrigues. The minutes for the June meeting of the Mutual Improvement Association in 1868 had this exact effect on me. One of the members, M. L. Roberts, read an extract “…asserting that because so much is read in these days, nothing is studied as it ought to be.” As I read this, I couldn’t help but reflect on my experiences as a student in College. So many varieties of this exact sentiment were made constantly, especially as a student in the arts, insinuating that we weren’t properly studying the right materials and were too focused on more popular media. It’s fascinating to me that as generations go by we’ll always be critiquing the arts and media we consume, and I thought about how things really aren’t so different now. And then, as I turn the page, still considering this thought, M. M. Miller was noted to have read “…an urgent appeal to all who have anything to do with burials to be quite sure that life is utterly extinct before consigning a friend to the grave…”, and I felt that things may be pretty different after all.

Letter: Henry C. Hallowell to Florence M. Bentley, August 1889

Letter, 1997.0005.0115

Getting a peek at a family through their communications is truly an interesting experience. You get a read on the little details of the relationships there, and it’s always different and rather special. Henry C. Hallowell is communicating to his granddaughter Florence while at sea. He’s clearly so excited to share the details of his trip with her, highlighting the creatures he’s seen and the experiences of the travelers, and he still talks about how he showed Florence’s picture to the other travelers. He writes, “I think about you all and can shut my eyes and see you so plainly.” It brings a smile to my face, thinking about how he couldn’t help but spend most of his letter about his vacation doing nothing but gush about his loved ones. Just from one little four-page letter, I feel an understanding of this man through his love for his family.

Letter: Cornelia Hallowell Bentley to “Dearest Mother,” February 16, 1899

Letter, 1997.0005.0109

In a letter to her mother, Cornelia Hallowell Bentley discusses something that is probably on most people’s mind these days; sickness. She frets about the health of her daughter, and discusses the grip that she is currently dealing with. Any descriptions of illness are particularly affecting to me with all that is going on, and her concern for her daughter echoes all the worry I feel for my loved ones. The letter is a great reminder to check in with friends and family, now more than ever.