Correspondence of Mary
Edited by Claire Messimer and MaryAlice
September 14, 1863 to December 22, 1863
Manuscript # MG466
Mary's letters were written on two different kinds of stationery. Both
were buff-colored, eight by ten inches in size, folded in half book-wise.
Faint blue lines are found on both types of stationery. One letter contains
a heavily embossed figure of a cotton bale with the name of Lee Mass
printed on it. Her script is tiny with capital letters greatly flourished.
The ink is grey-brown. The pen nib is tiny as the writing is spidery
and delicate. At times her mind traveled faster than her hand, leaving
sentence fragments. As with the other writers, she didn't use apostrophes
nor was spelling of family names standardized, i.e., Martie/Marty.
Mary was given the chore of controlling Clara's fashion choices and
encouraging Marth's faint fashion sense. Through her letters we see
what was in fashion for children (military suits for small sons) and
young adults (Balmoral cloaks and boucle scarves). Wealthy families
had seamstresses to create everything one needed, from underclothes
to outerwear. Parties were described, elopements discussed (frequent
occurrences in war time), and occupations unfamiliar to us are mentioned
(china woman). The health of her father, sons and sister are of equal
importance. Sadly, her infant son Hermy, whose rash concerns her, dies
No mention is made in her letters of her son James's birth. Victorian
women dreaded pregnancy and childbirth.(16) Obviously the constant round
of pregnancies took a physical toll and many of them resulted in the
premature deaths of young children. Mary herself had buried three infants
by 1863. If women survived the ordeal of childbirth, they separated
themselves literally and figuratively from the newborn until it was
judged that the new child would live. This may have been the only was
for women to protect their sanity in the face of repeated losses. (17)
I never did learn why Mary gave birth in Willie Buehler's home in stead
of her own. Perhaps because her husband traveled so often, it was deemed
safer for Mary to reside with her uncle, near her family, at the time
of her "confinement". As was proper for the Victorian wife,
she refers to her husband as Mr. McCormick and not the more familiar
and intimate, James.
McCormick to Clara Alricks, 11/11, 1863 ("Their last performance
that I heard of was their distinguishing themselves throwing corn and
behaving like boys generally on Halloween...")
From Mary McCormick to
Clara Alricks, 11/27, 1863 ("I can't imagine what kind of furs
you could get for your money. Nothing decent looking I should think")
- 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 Street,
- 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, Printer,
- 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, 1958.
- 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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