Correspondence of Jennie
Edited by Claire Messimer and MaryAlice
September 14, 1863 to December 22, 1863
Manuscript # MG466
Jennie's two full pages of local news were written on cream paper eight
inches by ten inches, folded book-like. The first page contains Jennie's
initials heavily embossed in a circle. The ink is sepia in color and
applied in a regular script with a fine-to-medium pen nib. If Jennie
was the same age as Clara, her writing ability was advanced for her
age. The sentence structure is complex. Paragraphs often included several
sentences and punctuation meets today's standards. Jennie told Clara
the latest news of Clara's closest friends, giving us a glimpse of how
young people occupied their time in 1863. Card parties, buggy rides,
skating, piano playing, and church attendance filled their social life
outside of school.
I found her opening sentence interesting. Her remark that people loved
receiving letters from home no matter who wrote them leads me to wonder
if some female misunderstanding had arisen between them. Other letters
from Jennie found in Manuscript #MG466 contain as much information
as this one. While I would not classify Jennie as a gossip, she certainly
supplied information on the latest happenings in Harrisburg. Her description
of the fire as the most beautiful she ever saw is an interesting commentary
on the danger of fire in 1863, and the fascination it held for spectators
of any age.
Jennie's description of the circus was amusing. Attending a circus
was considered risque' at the least and adventurous at most for young
adults in the 1860s. Her statement that she found not one indecent act
leads one to wonder if she secretly hoped for one or was afraid one
would appear. (Or she might have wanted to assert that the circus was
judged unfairly.) Traveling groups of performers were held in suspect
by most of society at this time. Certainly a young woman exposing her
legs in tights would have caused excitement among a society that corseted
and covered every inch of a woman's body.
The twelve letters, along with other family memorabilia, are in the
Manuscript group #MG466 owned by the Dauphin County Historical Society,
219 South Front Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. These letters give
a glimpse into the lives and activities of the leading Harrisburg
families and their ties to each other in 1863.
E. Boas to Clara Alricks, 10/12, 1863 ("You can't imagine how
much we miss you.")
- Alrich, William H. Uncle Levi and the Alrich (Alricks)
Family Genealogy. by the author, April 1985.
- Barney, William L. The Passage of the Republic. Lexington,
Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Company, 1987.
- Bate, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers
1861-6. Harrisburg: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
- Boyd, William H. Boys's Business Directory of Adams,
Bucks, Chester, Dauphin, Dauphin, Delaware, Franklin, Lancaster, Montgomery,
and York, Pennsylvania,1860. Philadelphia: N.E. Corner and 6 Minor
- Draper, Stacy, curator of Rensselaer County Historical
Society, Troy, New York. Interviewed by author 11, April 1993.
- Eggert, Gerald G. Harrisburg Industrializes. University
Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.
- Egle, William. Egle Book of Pennsylvania Genealogy:
Scotch-Irish and German Families, Hamilton Family. Harrisburg: Lane
S. Hart, Printer and Binder, 1886.
- Egly, William. Genealogcial Record of Beatty, Egle,
Muller, Murry, Orth and Thompson. Harrisburg: Lane S. Hart, Printer
and Binder, 1886.
- Foote, Shelby. The Civil War Narrative: Fredericksburg
to Meridian. New York: Bintage Books, 1963.
- Garrett, Elizabeth Donaghy. At Home: The American
Family 1750-1879. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, 1990.
- Gopsill, James., pub. Gopsill's Directory of Lancaster,
Harrisburg, Lebanon and York, 1863-64. Jersey City: John H. Lyon,
- Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History of People
and Events. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1975.
- Johnson, Allen and Dumas Malone, eds. Dictionary
of American Biography: Vol. III. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,
- Kelker, Luther Reily. History of Dauphin County Pennsylvania
with Genealogical Memoirs: Vol. III. New York: The Lewis Publishing
- Phelps, Stephen. "The Indomitable Emma Willard"
The Conservationist (March-April 1979): 17-19.
- Schuessler, Raymond. "The woman who proved female
intelligence". N.R.T.A. Journal (November-December 1977): 9-11.
- Urdang, Laurence, ed. The Timetable of American History.
New York: Simon And Schuster, Inc., 1981.
- Williams, Susan. Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts.
New York: Pantheon Books, 1985.
- Yarwood, Doreen. The Encyclopedia of World Costume.
New York: Bonanza Books, 1986.
This online project is a joint venture between Penn
State University and The Historical
Society of Dauphin County, where the McCormick Family Papers are
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