Every summer, the Historical Society brings a few high school student interns on board. The students get volunteer hours, and some experience in the many and highly varied activities of a small museum; we get some awesome free labor, and the satisfaction of introducing students to some neat stuff. If we’re lucky, the ones we don’t succeed in scaring off might return to volunteer some more during the school year. It’s win-win! This summer I had a few young women working on transcribing and researching some long-term projects, and they did a fabulous job. I thought I’d highlight some of their work for a few weeks.

The parrot makes another run for it; a relative falls ill

Three girls labored over faded, old-fashioned handwriting, transcribing a number of diaries from our archival collections. Mrs. Darius Clagett’s diary has been mentioned on this blog before, but it was never fully transcribed until this summer. Although it covers less than a year (June 25, 1924 – May 16, 1925), the journal provides a fascinating, and often poignant, glimpse into the life of an elderly woman in the early 20th century. Henrietta Eliza Brown Clagett (1878-1925), very recently widowed, is now living with her daughter and son-in-law in Rockville. Many of her entries concern her loneliness, her ill-health, and her dislike of being reliant upon her children. Every now and then, though, outside events perk her up. She takes an interest in her granddaughter Ethelyn’s callers, endorsing a few as “real old fashioned Southern gentlemen.” There is a distressing period when the family’s parrot, Mike, keeps flying away – Mrs. Clagett fears he is lost forever – until son-in-law Dr. Pratt advertises a reward; Mike is found living in a tree a few blocks away, and brought home safe and sound. (The image above shows her description of Mike’s second attempt at freedom.) Mrs. Clagett is completely outraged by the election of Calvin Coolidge, in sentiments familiar to modern people of any party:

Tuesday Nov 4th 1924 

As it looked like it might rain Effie and I went down early to Polls to vote for Davis. I pray he may be elected but am afraid he will not he is such a splendid man.

Wed Nov 5th 1924 

We are dreadfully disappointed to have the Republicans win, and our country given over to corruption and wickedness. It’s dreadful to think of, what is in store for all who live to see it.

from Henry Copp's 1890 "Peerless Rockville" brochure

Next week I’ll highlight another newly-transcribed diary (thanks, girls!) and ramble on for a while about how much I love reading about the people’s daily lives.  In the meantime – we do not, sadly, have a photo of Mrs. Clagett, or of her daughter’s family – but above, here’s the Pratt home in Rockville, where Mrs. Clagett, Dr. Pratt, Effie Pratt, Ethelyn Pratt, their live-in servant, and Mike the Parrot were living in 1924-25.  (Granted, this shows the house in 1890; sorry.  It’s from the 1890 “Peerless Rockville” promotional brochure.)

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