Thursday, August 25, 2016

Facebook Victorian-Style, Circa 1881

I've long been charmed by American culture around the turn of the 20th century, from about 1880 to 1920.  Little charms me more than this Autograph Book of my maternal great-grandmother, Jessie Belle Gibson Hutchison (1862 - 1952).

Autograph books were a fad in Victorian-era America, from about 1850 through the 1880s. Until replaced by yearbooks. Telephones. The internet.  And Facebook... 

Per Wikipedia, autograph books originated in Europe in the Middle Ages to record family genealogy, and among college students. "Traditionally they were exchanged among friends, colleagues, and classmates to fill with poems, drawings, personal messages, small pieces of verse, and other mementos. Their modern derivations include yearbooks, friendship books, and guest books."

In fact, Princeton University archives house a collection of "219 autograph books from 192 members of classes between 1825 and 1884. The books were used to collect not only the autographs of classmates, but also good wishes, bits of favorite verse, letters of farewell, or reminiscences of shared events during undergraduate years."

I appreciate my great-grandmother's Autograph Book for the extraordinary genealogy record she later, at age 71, listed in it in 1933.  

But even more, I'm charmed by the eloquent, sweet, serious, clever, often funny autographs collected in the early 1880s from family and friends by 19-year-old Jessie Gibson of farming community Sigel, Kansas

And it strikes me how much civility and graciousness Americans have lost in the last 150 years, from Victorian-era autographs books to Facebook today. 

For your enjoyment, a small sampling...

"Take this, it is a gift of love
That seeks thy good alone.
Keep it for the writer's sake,
And read it for thine own.
Your friend,
Laura M. Flagg, April 17, 1883"

"Our lives are albums written through
Of good or ill, of false or true
And as the angels turn the page of our year
Oh may they greet the good with smiles
And blow the ill with tear.
Is the wish of your friend...
Eva Cade, September 8, 1881
Lawrence, Kansas"

"Forget me not is all I wish,
And if it proves too hard a task,
Forget me.
As ever your friend,
Hattie Frazier, November 10, 1883
Alfred, Kansas"

"Oh believe me dear Cousin Jessie when I say that through life, 
my best wishes shall be for Thy happiness, and
a pure desire that we may spend eternity happily together
in the presence of our Heavenly Father.
Adda C. Petefish, October 20, 1881
Belvoir, Kansas"

"When you stand before the tub
Think of me before you rub
And if the water is too hot
Cool it, and forget me not.
Effie Hutchison, October 27, 1883"

"Miss Jessie,
Youth is life's bright morning
Age is coming on.
Watch and pray and labor
Youth will soon be gone.
Why do we hope? Disappointment will fret us
And laugh at our dreams ere our wakings begun.
Why look to the future? That will not forget us
If something is lost, there is more to be won.
Yours Truly,
James F. Morris, October 28, 1881
Richland, Kansas"

And from Jessie's future husband, my great-grandfather, Charles Hutchison (1858 to 1941) , who she married in 1884...

"Tis hard to part with those we love
Tis hard to part tis true
Tis not as hard to part with some
As tis to part with you.
Charley Hutchison, October 1883"

Charming, indeed.  I mourn the graciousness and innocence of those pre-Facebook days.

(In the photo, from left are Charles Hutchison (1858-1941), son Alpha (1884-1962), daughter Marie, my grandmother (1897-1987), daughter Gertrude (1886-1962), Jessie Gibson Hutchison (1862-1952), daughter Clara (1888-1975).)