April is National Poetry Month, so in honor of this occasion, here are two books of poetry from our collections.


At left is a collection of William Wordsworth‘s poems: The Poetical Works of Wordsworth. With Memoir, Explanatory Notes, Etc., published by Belford, Clarke & Co, circa* 1885. The cover and spine are embossed with red, black, and gold accents, and the pages are edged in gold; it’s a nice volume, designed as much for display/presentation as for reading. On the endpaper, a nice floral pattern, we find this ink inscription: “Jennie Rice from her friend James M. Nourse”.


Jennie Longstreet Rice (1871-1941) was the daughter of George and Elberta Rice of Darnestown. The Reverend James M. Nourse (1840-1922), a cousin  to the local Nourse family, was the minister of Darnestown Presbyterian Church from November 1883 through May 1885, at which point he was called to the First Presbyterian in Alexandria, Virginia. In November 1885,  Miss Rice, age 15, was “received by examination” as a member of the Darnestown Presbyterian Church. Those facts come from church records; our book here adds another, more personal element to the story. The Darnestown Presbyterian Church, founded in 1855, was an important part of the religious and social life of the community; in the 1870s-90s, the minister was also the principal of the nearby Andrew Small Academy (which Miss Rice probably attended). Thus, Miss Rice likely encountered Rev. Nourse and his family in and around the neighborhood, and it seems probable that he also helped her prepare for her church membership examination. This handsome edition of Wordsworth – his favorite poet? Hers? (Or simply the nicest book available at the shop?) – may have been a parting gift, as Rev. Nourse left the community and moved on to his next assignment.

Next, continuing our Poetry Month theme and throwing in National Library Week for good measure, is the book on the right: a small, somewhat tattered volume of William Cullen Bryant’s works, “collected and arranged by the author,” and printed in 1857. Bryant was an American poet and journalist (and, fun fact, the namesake for NYC’s Bryant Park).  The book appears well-read, or at least frequently handled, and indeed it was a library book. Pasted inside the front cover is a printed label reading, “Dawsonville Library Association. No. 66. No Book shall be kept from the Library more than Two Weeks. Without renewals of the same, the holder failing to return, shall pay Four Cents a day for extra use.”


I’ve not yet found any reference to a 19th century Library Association in Dawsonville (and perhaps this book originated in, say, Dawsonville, Georgia, rather than Montgomery County’s town), but it’s possible that this Association was an offshoot of the delightfully-named Dawsonville Literary Sociable. The activities of this lively group were recorded in the late 1870s-early 1880s by pseudonymous correspondents** in the local Montgomery Advocate. The Literary Society (as it was later known, though I can’t help but prefer “Sociable”) held officer elections and operated as a formal club, but in essence these meetings were well-organized house parties, designed to enliven the winter months with food, music, dancing, out-of-town guests, and – the ostensible point of the whole thing – readings and orations.

Not to be outdone – and conveniently helping to tie today’s books together – nearby Darnestown also had a Literary Society. In January 1883, Dawsonville correspondent “Johnny Reb” had “the pleasure . . . , accompanied by a fair damsel, to be present at the meeting of the Darnestown Literary Society last Friday evening.” After the “regular programme” of readings and songs, “chatting was renewed with increased vigor” and, essentially, a lot of young people spent a lot of time flirting until it was time to make their way home through the snow. In February 1883, the Dawsonville Literary Society received an invitation from their Darnestown counterparts “to attend, en masse, an entertainment . . . which was accepted by unanimous vote.”

Here's your geographical orientation: Dawsonville and Darnestown both lie along modern-day Route 28, which follows much the same path now as it did in the 19th century.  The Darnestown Presbyterian Church is at the intersection of 28 and Turkey Foot Rd, with the village itself closer to the Seneca Rd intersection; Dawsonville was at the intersection of 28 and 121. From the 1879 Hopkins Atlas of Montgomery County.

Here’s your geographical orientation, using the 1879 Atlas and the modern-day names for the old roads that appear here: Dawsonville and Darnestown both lie along modern-day Route 28. Darnestown is near the intersections of Turkey Foot Rd. and Seneca Rd.; Dawsonville was at the intersection of Rts. 28 and 121. From the 1879 Hopkins Atlas of Montgomery County.

The full text of the extant “society columns” – which also include wedding and death announcements, business updates, and weather news – can be found in our Library, in Jane Sween’s History of Dawsonville and Seneca, Montgomery County, Maryland (1967/1993); some excerpts also appear in the article of the same title and author in The Montgomery County Story, Vol. XI, No. 2, available in our Museum Shop. To whet your appetite for polite 19th century youthful antics (in case your copy of Jo’s Boys is not easily at hand), here’s the description of the December, 1879 meeting, as composed by “Toney”:

Eight months or more have passed since your humble servant occupied a position in your columns, as reporter of the doings of Dawsonville Literary Sociable; so hope you will give space to a brief description of the meeting which occurred Saturday week at the “Hermitage”, the residence of Mr. F. A. Dawson, one of its most prominent members. The wind though cold and boisterous during the day lulled when “Sol” donned the veil of night, leaving, however, Mrs. “Luna” and her dear little bright cherubs to twinkle in his absence to the merry throng that lined the different roads leading to the mansion. The entire building was ablaze with lights, all the rooms on the lower floor having been transformed into a spacious hall with cheerful fires to greet the chilled guests, who were received by the modest and pleasant Miss A.L. Dawson whose cordial welcome dismantled (if any) the slightest feeling of restraint worn by anyone. The agreeable Messrs. Hickerson and Balch aided in dispatching guests to the second floor where dressing rooms had been tastefully filled up with everything necessary to the comfort and vanity of women, or make an old bachelor ashamed of his lot. As early as 7 P.M. guests began to assemble in the South Parlor and up to 7:40 P.M. were continually arriving, filling the entire hall to repletion. Taking a survey of the room I concluded that I had never seen a brighter, handsomer and more tastefully dressed bevy of ladies in my life. The gentlemen also looked remarkably well.

The President, Mr. Cass F. Eastham, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called roll, which showed the society composed of twelve honorary and thirty-one active members all in the enjoyment of good health and liberty. . . . The business before the meeting was soon dispatched, Miss Gertrude Dade was added to the active list as a member and Miss Vallie W. Allnutt’s invitation was gladly accepted unanimously by everyone with thanks to meet at her pleasant home on Saturday January 3rd 1880. The secretary then called Miss M. C. Darby to open the evening’s programme, who read XIX Psalm; Miss Lille Dyson entertained by reading “Pondering”; Mr. B.F. White, declaimed “Charge of the Light Brigade”; Miss Nellie Allnutt read “Quality Hill”; Miss Susie Darby read “Antique Beau”; Mr. W.M. Hickerson read “The Deacon’s Story”; Miss Annie L. Dade recited “Buttercups and Daisies”; Miss Marian Cross read [not transcribed]. Miss Vallie Allnutt by request closed the programme by reading “The Rose.” The entire programme was creditably rendered and pleased the audience judging from the applause each participant received.

The Messrs. Heck, Mullican, Darby, Poole and Galeen of Darnestown then entertained to the great pleasure of all, with choice vocal music. Among the bright faces I noticed Miss Maud Hepburn of Washington; Miss Bessie Dawson of Arlington Heights; Miss Annie White of Loudoun, Va.; Misses Veirs, Scott and Hall of Poolesville; Miss Maggie Beall of Darnestown; Mr. Upton Darby of Seneca; Mr. Smoot of Washington; Milton White of Baltimore; Samuel Veirs of Rockville; and Mr. [?]. Wade of Barnesville. All vying with each other in general parlance when the announcement of supper caused a temporary stop. The pleasant hostess, Miss Gue, assisted by her bright sister Mary soon had served from waiters a luncheon tempting to the most delicate, winding up with a confectionary collation. After many congratulations and expressions of pleasure experienced the company left for their respective homes with hearts both light and gay.

*This edition has no copyright date, but several other collections by Belford, Clarke & Co., with similar covers, were published in 1884-85.

**These columns were collected in a scrapbook by an unknown individual; many are undated now. They are variously signed “Toney,” “Uteuty,” “Wild Bill,” “Johnny Reb,” “Delgrada,” and “Ivanhoe,” who may all be the same person; the authors frequently identify themselves as “an old bachelor,” and there are other literary similarities.


Following on from last week’s post, here’s another book where the owner noted her hometown:

x20130103My New Home. By the author of “Win and Wear,” “Tony Starr’s Legacy,” “Faithful and True,” “Ned’s Motto,” “Turning the New Leaf,” Etc., published in New York by Robert Carter & Brothers, 1881.  This novel, written by Sarah Stuart Robbins, was first published in 1865; it’s a gently religious story, written for young ladies, about a woman moving out of her childhood home after the death of her mother. (Many volumes of the “Win and Wear” series, of which this is a part, can be found online.)


The book is well-read, with a partly-detached cover, rubbed corners, some water damage, and dog-eared pages; there are also a number of inscriptions.  The earlier ones, on the inside cover (above), include the name “Dr. Ayler” and a sticker from the Library of the Poolesville Presbyterian Sabbath School.  (Note that “This Book must either be returned or reported to the Librarian each Week.”)  The Poolesville Presbyterian Church was founded in the late 1840s; though it appears to have had a rather small congregation, it was active enough in the late 19th century to support both a Sabbath School and a Library with at least 104 books in it.  (This book being No. 104.)

Dr. John W. Ayler (1839-1916) was a physician from Virginia who made his home in Poolesville from the 1870s to the 1890s; he was active in the Poolesville Presbyterian congregation, and in fact his wife’s brother was a minister in the Rockville Presbyterian Church. It’s not clear why his name appears in the front of the book, though perhaps he donated it to the Sabbath School.

The Poolesville Presbyterian Church lost its full-time minister in 1902, and while I haven’t found mention of the Sabbath School in any of our records so far, it seems possible that the school closed around the same time, and the library books dispersed.  By 1903, this book was in the hands of young Margaret Lee, who identified herself clearly on the copyright page:

my house where I live Feb. 19, 1903.
Margaret Lee age 17 years
Poolesville, Md is my staying place but Sugarland is my house where I live

Sugarland is an African American community near Poolesville, founded soon after Maryland abolished slavery in 1864.  The Lees were one of the first families to purchase land and set up their households in the new community.  Margaret Lee can be found in the 1900 census, living at home with her parents Wallace and Martha; she’s noted as “at school,” probably attending Sugarland’s one-room schoolhouse. The book inscription indicates that by 1903 she was living, and likely working, in the larger town of Poolesville – but we are not to mistake that for her actual home!  Like many small towns, Sugarland inspires a strong sense of community in its residents and their descendants.  Miss Lee’s inscription – whether or not it was prompted by the theme or title of the novel, and whether it was meant for other readers’ eyes or only her own – emphasizes those ties in a particularly affecting way.

For more information about Margaret Lee’s community, visit the Sugarland Ethno-History Project website. The rest of Miss Lee’s history is currently unknown, though the people at the Project – some of them related to Miss Lee – are looking into her story.  The book itself was donated to the Historical Society’s used book sale fundraiser many years ago; we rescued it from the sale, but were not able to identify its donor by name.  If you have any information about the post-1903 history of Miss Lee or her book, please let us know!

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.

x20080704-5 title

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.


x20080704-6 barnesville

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.

x20080704-5 Mt Vernon

The MCHS curatorial office is home to a collection of ‘old books’ – some original, some reprints – which we use for reference and display.  If you’ve visited one of our exhibits in person, you’ve likely seen the fruits of these books (in person or in digital form); A Fine Collection readers will also have noted my fondness for 19th century fashion magazines and reproduction department store catalogs.  These books, magazines and catalogs are not considered part of our permanent artifact collections, but they are a valued resource nonetheless.  Let’s take a look at a few!

DSC06668Needle and Brush: Useful and Decorative is a hardback book in the “Metropolitan Art Series,” published in 1889 by the Butterick Publishing Co. and donated to the reference collection by Eleanor Cook. The Introduction informs us, “…our aim was to meet the demand of our patrons for books containing illustrations and descriptions of such varieties of fancy-work as come within the reach of those whose best efforts are dedicated to the task of making home beautiful.”  Other scholars have discussed the various social, political, and economic underpinnings of the Victorian fancy-work fad more thoroughly than I can here, so other than noting that there were plenty of Victorian-era women who lacked the time, skill, or inclination to participate in this pastime, I’ll simply focus on my favorite section of the book: Chapter XVI, Decorated Thermometers.  No doubt you yourself have noticed that “Among the things which lend themselves most readily to any attempt toward the beautiful are thermometers.”  . . . No?  Really?  Well, admire these examples, and see what you’ve been missing.


Here’s a lovely copy of The Social Mirror: A Complete Treatise on the Laws, Rules, and Usages that govern our most Refined Homes and Social Circles, copyrighted by L.W. Dickinson in 1888, and donated by Jane Cyphers. The premise of this book is easily summed up by the first sentence of the preface: “The aim of every one is success.”  What follows is a long, long series of rules to help you achieve said aim.  Because I enjoy this kind of thing, here are the chapter headings:

Introduction (by Rose E. Cleveland)  DSC06679
Entering Society
In Public Places
Riding and Driving
Soirees, Matinees and Musicals
Ladies’ Calls and Cards
Calling Customs of Gentlemen
Visitors and Visiting
Ceremonious Dinners
In the Dining-Room
The Art of Conversation
Customs and Costumes for Weddings
Receptions, Kettle-Drums and Five O’Clock Teas
Manners While Traveling
The Awkward and Shy
At Home and Foreign Courts
Superstitions of Wedding-Rings and Precious Stones
Wedding Anniversaries
Fitness and Incongruities of Dress
Mourning Customs
The Toilet, Toilet Medicines and Recipes
The Guest-Chamber
Home Beautiful
Treasury of Home Reading
Relation of Parents and Children
A Mother’s Influence
A Mother’s Cares
Family Government – What Is It?
The Home Conversation
Courtesies in the Family
Home Memories
Keep Your Daughters Near You
Be Patient With the Boys
Culture in the Home

…See? Something for everyone! Though some of the social circumstances have changed (unless Kettle-Drums have caught on again in Polite Society?) and no doubt much of the actual advice is out-dated, if not outright frowned upon today, in a broad sense these are modern – indeed, somewhat timeless – concerns. What is the proper/fashionable/acceptable way to dress or act in public? How do I behave in an unfamiliar situation?  Whether you need advice on polite behavior, fashionable attire, interior decoration, child-rearing, hygiene, or even what books to read, The Social Mirror will help you out.  It has helped us out in many exhibits and research projects, allowing us to catch a glimpse of the everyday lives of Montgomery County’s past brides, mourners, children, and households.

DSC06681Finally, here’s one of four volumes of J.J. Thomas’s Rural Affairs: A Practical and Copiously Illustrated Register of Rural Economy and Rural Taste, Including Country Dwellings, Improving and Planting Grounds, Fruits and Flowers, Domestic Animals, and All Farm and Garden Processes, this one covering the years 1858-60, from an unknown donor. As promised by the title, the book includes instructions and advice on a variety of topics, from Preserving Fresh Fruits to Renovating Old Trees to Improved Jersey Cows.  Like our other ‘old books,’ Rural Affairs is a great primary source that helps us research and explain the many 19th century household implements in our permanent collections . . . and it also provides such delightful diversions as this treatise on Working-Men’s Cottages:

. . . And though The Social Mirror is not as illustrated as some of its friends, I can’t leave you without letting its author drop some knowledge on you. Here you are: Calling at a Hotel, from the section on The Calling Customs of Gentlemen.

DSC06678  “Calling at a Hotel. – A gentleman, visiting a friend at a hotel, will send up his card and remain in the parlor, never offering to go to his friend’s room until invited.  Of course, a lady will always receive a gentleman in the parlor or reception room, unless she should have a parlor for her own use, where, if she be a young lady, she may entertain her guest in this apartment in the presence of her mother or some older person.”

School’s in session once again, so let’s take a look at some early Montgomery County homework.  Our collections include two handwritten exercise books created by a young man attending Damascus area schools, circa 1850.


Both books are bound with marbled-paper cardboard covers, with leather spines and corners, and measure 12.5” x 8”.  They’re the 19th century version of the composition notebook, basically.  The owner carefully inscribed the title pages with the subject, school, and teacher, as well as his name:

LAB title pages Left: “Larkin A. Beall’s Book. Containing Gauging, Mensuration, Geometry, & Surveying.  As taught by E. Thompson preceptor of Mountradnor School.”  Right: “Double Entry Book Keeping By Larkin A. Beall As Taught by E. Thompson Preceptor & Teacher of Mathematics In Mountradnor School Montgomery County, Md.” (Please note the extra flourishes, which are hard to transcribe.) The bookkeeping notebook also contains a section on mensuration and geometry; those pages are noted, “Larkin A. Beall, [various dates] 1854, James Purdum, Preceptor and teacher at Pleasant Plains School, Montgomery County, Md.” (See below.)  In addition, the names F.E. Beall, Horace Beall, and James O. Etchison are noted in different hands, though Larkin seems to have been the original, and primary, creator.  Dated pages range from 1848 to 1854.


These were likely workbooks, in which students took dictation, made notes, and solved problems.  Some sections may have been written by the instructor, including notes referencing a printed textbook, and instructions for exercises.

DSC05795 “Exercises in Journalizing
Transaction   |   Journalizing
[pointing hand] Note Refer to the page 172, 173 fur further perticulars under this head” (errors original)

These workbooks give me a lot to cover: schools, study subjects, and people.  Though geometry – specifically, measuring solids – takes up much of the books, I’m going to focus on the bookkeeping section; after all, it’s not often I can say that something was invented in 14th century Italy.  I’ve spoken to two separate people in the last month who have praised the delights of double-entry bookkeeping.  I suspect the satisfaction a bookkeeper derives from a balanced ledger is akin to my own when I match up a set of mystery artifacts with the appropriate paperwork.  However, I do not personally understand this age-old method, so let’s let E. Thompson explain it (all spelling and grammatical errors are from the original):

part second PART SECOND
Double Entry Book Keeping

Double Entry
This term is derived from the fact that every business transacted recorded in the Day book is entered twice in the Ledger one on the debtor and once on the creditor side

Debtor And Creditor
These terms are correlative, the one implies and involve the other  Wherever there is a debtor there must necessarily be a creditor of an equal amount; and wherever there is a creditor there must be a debtor

Application of Debtor and Creditor
In single entry these terms are (with the exception of cash only applied to persons, but in double entry they are applied alike to persons and property, the persons being made [a] debtor for what you have trusted them, and creditor for wat they have paid or trusted you; and the property account being made debtor for the balance or cost of the property, and credit for what it produced when disposed of

On to the people.  Larkin A. Beall (b. 1836) was one of ten children born to Elisha and Alethea Lewis Beall; he grew up on a farm between Damascus and Browningsville (off present-day Bethesda Church Road).  Several of Larkin’s brothers are referenced in the notebooks; Horace and Franklin added their own names, and Larkin noted the deaths of John in 1852 and Evan in 1860.  (There’s also a side note in one of the books about three feet of snow that fell in 24 hours on February 20th, 1854.)  By the early 1860s, Larkin had moved to Washington, DC to pursue a career in retail, with a shop on 7th Street. City records from the 1860s and 1870s describe him variously as “clothier,” “merchant,” “[in] hats,” and “dealer in gents’ furnishing goods.”  Good thing he studied double-entry bookkeeping!

Larkin referenced two Damascus area schools in his workbooks.  E. Guy Jewell, in his manuscript “Damascus: Small But Lively” (1974), identified Mount Radnor as having “stood on the west side of Ridge Road near the intersection of Gue Road” from as early as 1839 until the site was sold to the county school board in the late 1870s.  The Pleasant Plains School was in Purdum, on the other side of Damascus, off present-day Mountain View Road.  (Note that both of these schools were for white children only; Pleasant Plains should not be confused with Pleasant Grove, Purdum’s African American school, which opened in 1869.)

There are two teachers listed in the 1850 census for this election district, but neither of Larkin’s preceptors are among them.  Jewell noted, “Many of the men teachers had their own small farm and taught school for the little extra cash each year.  Remember, the school law then limited teachers’ salaries to ‘not more than $300 per annum.’” With that in mind, 52 year old Elijah Thompson and 37 year old James Purdum, both “farmers” in the 1850 census, become likely candidates for Larkin Beall’s instructors.

Why did Larkin switch schools between 1849 and 1854? Maybe Pleasant Plains opened around that time, and was easier to reach. However, the Bealls lived about halfway between the schools (as the crow flies / as the teenage boy walks across neighbors’ fields), so distance may not have been a factor.  Perhaps one teacher was more congenial, or had a better reputation for mathematical skills.  Although there are a few side notes in the books (see: deaths of brothers, and depth of snow, above), there are few clues to the reason for the switch.

The books were donated to MCHS in 1978 by Lawrence Walter, who informed us that he received them from Miss Estella Drane (1865-1955), a DC school teacher.  Unfortunately (for me, since I like the whole story) it’s not clear how Miss Drane acquired them.

So, children, as you begin this school year full of enthusiasm and excitement, follow Larkin Beall’s example to keep that enthusiasm from flagging as the year progresses: Either take the time to make your notes pretty, with elaborate fonts (not at the expense of your attention span, of course!) . . . or be glad you don’t have to hand-write a textbook’s worth of notes.


“Directions for posting.”

The month of May is both National Scrapbooking Month and International Storytelling Month.  Those go together quite nicely, I think, and to illustrate that, here is a charming little scrapbook from our archives: Ethel Grove Van Hoesen’s album, titled “Living and Teaching in Maryland from 1917 to 1940.”
cover and title

The album has stamped suede covers and a plastic spiral binding; a label in the back informs us that it was purchased from Edward F. Gruver Co., “Paper Rulers and Book Binders,” in DC.  Inside is a mix of photos, newspaper clippings, and paper ephemera, often accompanied by handwritten notes and explanations.  The first few pages – clearly meant as an introduction to “Life and Teaching in Maryland” – contain poems about gardening, teachers, homes, and retirement, plus a 1934 highway map of the county, and the lyrics to “Maryland My Maryland.”  Though there is some order to the contents, the scrapbook has the appearance of having been created all at once, from a stash of saved bits and pieces; one page, for example, consists of a snapshot dated 1922, a 1930 map of Capitol View, and a newspaper “fun fact” from the Washington Evening Star, November 22, 1939.  Other pages are more traditional photo-album style, with chatty little descriptions.

not a good pictureNot good pictures – but from left to right Anne – Helen Rector – Ethel Van Hoesen. 2d row – Sophie [her daughter-in-law] – Margaret – Elizabeth. 3rd row – Sophie Philip [her granddaughter] – Minnie -.  Brad [her son] taking the picture”

Both Ethel Grove and her husband Fred Van Hoesen were born in Franklinville, NY in 1870.  They married in 1892, and had one son, James Bradley (“Brad”).  Mr. Van Hoesen first trained as a clergyman, but he switched careers at some point, and in 1917 he was appointed as the first Cooperative Extension Agent in Montgomery County.  (More about the Extension Service, and Mr. Van Hoesen’s work, can be found here.)  The family lived in Rockville for several years; after Mr. Van Hoesen’s 1924 death, Mrs. Van Hoesen moved with her son’s family to Forest Glen.

forest glen 1943” The station and Post Office [at Forest Glen] as it looks today (1943).  No longer bevies of young ladies crowd its platform; but in their stead groups of convalescent soldiers dot the spacious N.P.C. grounds.  N.P.C. [National Park College] beloved by many ‘old girls’ has been bought by the Gov’t.  It houses hundreds of soldiers wounded in every battle of this global war.”

Mrs. Van Hoesen was a life-long teacher.  Her obituary states that she began teaching at age 18; an 1892 Franklinville census shows that she was still teaching shortly after her marriage.  The 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses all give her occupation as “teacher, public school.”  In Montgomery County she taught at Woodside, Bethesda, Slidell, and Cabin John Elementary Schools.  When she was appointed to the one-room Slidell school in 1930, she moved upcounty (Slidell is in the Barnesville/Beallsville/Dickerson vicinity) to a farmhouse called “Sky View.”  The scrapbook includes many photos of the house, school, and neighborhood, and several pages are taken up with handwritten lists of her students for each year.
slidell school 1934“Slidell School April 5, 1934 – with and without the teacher” (Can you spot Mrs. Van Hoesen?)

In 1939 the Slidell school was closed, and Mrs. Van Hoesen moved back downcounty to teach in Cabin John.  She retired in 1940 (though she continued to substitute-teach for a few years), and bought a house in Capitol View; she died in 1949, and was buried next to her husband in Franklinville, NY.  In the 1960s, Brad’s wife Sophie gave the Society a large collection of artifacts and archival material related to her in-laws, including this little book.
Shady Nook‘Shady Nook’ A retired teacher buys a new home No 6 Lee St. Capitol View, Maryland. with summer shade”

Mrs. Van Hoesen saw a variety of life in the county, her adopted home.  She taught in both suburban and rural schools, and kept up with her students’ later lives, as demonstrated by the notations (“married Gladys Smith.”  “Poolesville High class ‘44.”) included in lists of pupils’ names. Her neighbors and friends, former students, colleagues of her husband from the Extension Service, people from her church, notable county residents, even Evalyn Walsh McLean (who evidently was “kind to Jack Thompson”) are represented through photos, wedding announcements, human interest stories, and obituaries.  There’s a magazine article about Sugarloaf Mountain, the program from the 1934 Annual Meeting of the Homemakers’ Clubs of Montgomery County, a drawing of White’s Ferry by her daughter-in-law, a “Barnaby” comic about washing machines, and snapshots of people, buildings, roads, and views that were important to the book’s creator.  Throughout, Mrs. Van Hoesen’s ink notations keep us informed of who did what and when: “The house was painted in 1932.” “This is where I go to church.” “Mr. Knott did not know he was getting in the picture – we are glad to have him – he was one of Slidell’s best friends.”  Though this scrapbook doesn’t necessarily read like a traditional narrative, it is telling us a story all the same.

20130514125920_00012A map, photo, and story about Sugarloaf Mountain.

animal neighbors“A few of my animal neighbors” in Slidell, 1930s.

20130514125920_00004A page of miscellany, including an article about a fellow Woodside teacher’s retirement; the 1936 marriage notice of Mr. Van Hoesen’s counterpart, former Montgomery County Home Demonstration Agent Blanche Corwin; and a 1930 campaign card for a “farmer, teacher, and business woman” running for office in Nebraska.  (I wish there was a handwritten note about Mrs. Himes, but I can see the possible connections to Mrs. VH’s life there.)

20130416114841_00003One of the early A Fine Collection posts concerned a small book that belonged to Margaret Beall (1817-1901), life-time resident of the Beall-Dawson House (now our museum).  In that post I noted how excited we (well, I and my intern) were to discover it, in a collection of uncataloged books, particularly as we have little enough of Margaret’s belongings.  And it’s happened again!  This time, our exciting discovery comes thanks to a donation from one of Margaret’s cousin’s descendants.

Harry A. Dawson (1874-1944), son of Margaret’s cousin Amelia Somervell Dawson, grew up in the Beall-Dawson House.  He married Mary “Polly” Hoff in 1901; eventually they settled into a house a few blocks away from Harry’s childhood home, where his father and sisters still lived, and the branches of the Dawson family remained close. Recently, Harry and Polly’s granddaughter (also named Polly) donated a variety of artifacts, including books; most belonged to Polly Hoff Dawson, but among them was a copy of Early Days of Washington (1899).  This was a nice surprise – it’s a rare-ish book (though there are ebook versions) – but even better was this note inside:

A little Birth Day token of love for dear Cousin Margaret J. Beall with the earnest hope that there may be in store for her many more happy Birth Days.  Her loving Cousin – Louis Mackall  May 30 1900

The author, Sally Somervell Mackall, was another of Margaret’s many cousins, and much of her book describes the extended Beall-Somervell-Mackall-etc. family’s posh social life in Georgetown in the early 19th century.  Early Days of Washington contains a few stories about Margaret’s father, Upton Beall, and is particularly notable for being the only place to see an image of Upton; a photograph of a painted miniature appears on page 65.  (The pastel portrait in our museum is not an original; it was copied from this image, in the 1980s.)  Though we have the book in our library and we’re familiar with its contents, I think there’s something rather special about having Margaret’s own volume.

bealls father and daughter
Unfortunately, Mr. Mackall’s wish for his cousin did not come true; Margaret died on April 18, 1901, a few weeks short of her 85th birthday.  But as far as we know, she was still active in 1900 despite her relative age – after all, the census that year described her not as “keeping house” or with “no occupation,” but as a “capitalist” – and I’d like to think that she enjoyed reading about her father and his cronies back in the day.  I do wish she’d made some editorial comments in the book, anything that might help us to confirm or deny Sally Mackall’s anecdotal stories… but you can’t have everything.

I started work on a nice, long blog post this morning, then realized that I should hold onto it until July 2013 when this particular artifact will be 200 years old.  (And you’ll just have to wait a few months to find out what it is!)  Instead, here’s a quick look at some of the cataloging work that’s been going on ‘behind the scenes’ in the curator’s office – specifically, one of the fun things we’ve found.

x146811This winter’s in-depth cataloging project is books: textbooks, novels, picture books, cookbooks, and the like, owned and used by local people.  We have a largeish set of textbooks from Rose K. Dawson of Rockville, including many used in the 1910s-20s at the Rockville Academy by her brothers, Walter and Joe, and by family friend William Ross.  Ross, a Native American from South Dakota, came to live with the Dawsons when that family moved here in 1911; they lived at Rocky Glen, Mr. Dawson’s family home in Rockville.  Ross’s story is a good one, and I’ll include more of it in a future post; for now, let’s just say that he liked to write in his textbooks.  The Dawson boys did too, but Ross’s books are particularly scribbled-in.  (As someone whose class notes, if not necessarily school-property books, were always covered in doodles, I sympathize.)   Flipping through this copy of Higher Lessons in English:  A work on English Grammar and Composition, In which the Science of the Language is Made Tributary to the Art of Expression – A Course of Practical Lessons Carefully Graded, and Adapted to Every-Day Use in the School-Room  (Reed & Kellogg, 1909), one finds repeated iterations of “Bill Ross, Rockville Maryland,” the date 1919, and – fantastically – this page:


Though it seems unlikely that a teacher would chastise a student by having him write “I must keep my seat” in his textbook, even a book that the Dawsons had purchased (like this one), perhaps Ross was simply continuing his written punishment in a slightly rebellious manner, or out of boredom.  Just from this one little page, I feel like the window of the past is a little clearer – always remember that our ancestors were people, not simply collections of genealogical facts. Of course, our official stance is “Don’t write in books, kids!” . . . but, actually, go ahead and write in your books.  (In moderation.) Future historians may thank you!

Sometimes, you need a little break from reality. Where better to turn than a ripping adventure novel? Here are a few from our collections.

Robinson CrusoeA large (8×12) illustrated edition of The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner, as Related by Himself, by Daniel Defoe, published by McLoughlin Brothers, 1897.  The flyleaf is inscribed “Mary Elinor England, from Aunt Mattie.” Mary England (later Ward) was born near Shady Grove in 1901, and moved with her family to Rockville around 1917. The book was donated by her son, who may have (probably?) read it himself as a child.

x20120310-4A nice little undated edition of Tales from Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb, published by W.B. Conkey around 1910.  The inside cover is inscribed “Eugenia Warfield, Gaithersburg, Md.” It belonged either to Eugenia H. Warfield (1873-1963) or her daughter Eugenia Elizabeth Warfield (born 1907); the Warfields lived in Laytonsville, but the younger Eugenia probably attended high school in Gaithersburg, and the donor (Eugenia Elizabeth’s nephew) believed that all the books in this donation related to schoolwork.

x20080706And last but not least, a personal favorite: The Prisoner of Zenda, Being the History of Three Months in the Life of an English Gentleman, by Anthony Hope, published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1898. This edition features “four full-page illustrations by Charles Dana Gibson,” including the frontspiece.  (If you don’t know anything about this book, it’s worth clicking on the title link to check out the plot summary – you’ll either want to run out and read it, or will be glad to know to avoid it.)  The flyleaf is inscribed “Maria Waters. 1912.” Miss Waters (1895-1970) of Germantown also owned the sequel, Rupert of Hentzau, From the Memoirs of Fritz von Tarlenheim, in a 1923 movie tie-in edition. I always wonder: did she wait ten years to read the sequel? (Both books were first published in the 1890s.) Or was the 1923 book a replacement for an earlier volume that she loaned out, or lost?  Both books were donated by Maria’s great-niece.

Part 1 of “What are you reading?” included the readers’ notes and reflections on various works; in these cases, we have their novels, but not their opinions.  Yet all three books (and Rupert of Hentzau, not shown here) are far from pristine; they have loose pages, rubbed corners, broken spines, and other hallmarks of a well-used book. In addition, all were saved through at least two generations.  I think it’s safe to assume that they were read many times (or at least, read once, but hard) and were enjoyed enough that they were kept, to savor again.

While looking for something else in our Library special collections yesterday, I came across a mid-19th century notebook in the Farquhar collection.  I could tell it was from the Farquhars – beyond the archival location info, of course – because it has one of Roger Brooke Farquhar, Jr.’s typed notes pasted to the cover:

Roger Brooke Farquhar, Sr. grew up at “Olney” (the house, that is, which was conveniently located in what later became the town of Olney) and as a young adult moved to the farm “Lonesome Hollow,” between Olney and Rockville.  Thanks to his son RBF Jr. we have a large archival collection of diaries, letters, photos and other materials that tell the personal story of his family. 

Inside this particular volume, as promised, are poems and literary excerpts written by a variety of hands.  I glanced through and was struck by the following page, annotated in pencil by RBF Jr.* (Click the photo to enlarge.)

The circled bit is the final stanza of “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with an underlined “me” in place of “us.”  The “M.P.C.” who copied this bit may be, as RBF Jr suggested, Mary Coffin, a Sandy Spring teacher – she married Willie Brooke in 1871.  RBF Jr circled the lines and added, “Remember!!!!  RBF Sr to RBF Jr to RBF III.” 

It’s not clear whether RBF Sr. specifically pointed his son toward this piece of poetic advice, or if RBF Jr. found it years later and took it to heart.  What is clear is that RBF Jr. saw this passage as fatherly advice, which he wanted to share with his own son and namesake.  So many different personalities – the original poet, Mary the teacher, the three Rogers – intersect in just this one snippet of a page.  When the words on the page make their own connections across the generations, old papers turn from “archival material” into a real, physical story.

*I recognize his handwriting, as he was one of the Society’s curatorial volunteers in the 1950s; his shaky writing and firm pencil are often found on our early paperwork.  Roger has helped us out with Father’s Day posts before; see his adorable tiny hand-ax