x20080704Today we have an impressively-titled history textbook, used in Barnesville: History of the United States, from Their First Settlement as Colonies to the Peace with Mexico, in 1848, Comprising Every Important Political Event; with a Progressive View of the Aborigines; Population, Agriculture, and Commerce; of the Arts, Sciences, and Literature; and Occasional Biographies of the most Remarkable Colonists, Writers and Philosophers, Warriors and Statesmen.  Accompanied by a Book of Questions and a Key, By William Grimshaw, Author of a History of England, &c., published in Philadelphia by J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1858, and donated to MCHS by Mary Beth Fleming.

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Thanks to some pencil notations inside, we know that this book was owned by a Mary Jane Knott of Barnesville. Ms. Knott, or another user, also added some mathmetical equations, doodled faces, and other scribbles, as you do.  The cardboard covers and leather spine show a lot of wear, the page edges are torn, and in fact the pages and the cover are completely separated; this book has seen a lot of wear, and it seems likely that it was read and studied by more than one student over the decades.  However, only Mary Jane identified herself in writing.

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Though this seems like a nice, specific piece of info (I do like people who write their names and hometowns in books), there are at least two possibilities for our original owner:  Mary Jane Knott of Barnesville, born in 1854 to Stanislaus and Bridget Knott, died unmarried in 1935; and Mary Jane Cissell, born in 1845 and married in 1862 to Francis Knott of Barnesville.  I lean a little more toward the former, but who’s to say that Mrs. Knott didn’t take up the study of history after her marriage (or write her name in her stepdaughter Sarah’s book)?

My favorite part is the fact that, out of all the possible images from U.S. history to use on the cover, the author or editors chose an illustration of Mount Vernon.  Our new exhibit on the colonial revival movement (at the Beall-Dawson House through May 15, 2014) includes a small section on representations of George Washington and his home throughout the centuries – so of course I had to add Mary Jane’s textbook to the display.  Come visit; you can see the adorable (if slightly inaccurate) “Mount Vernon” picture in person! If you’d like to read the history yourself, here’s a list of the prolific Mr. Grimshaw’s books, many of which are available online.

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