This post was written by Christine Calvo, American Historical Manuscript Collection Processing Assistant.
“I came to a dead halt, — It was like translation to another planet — all the mountains, I had ever seen at such close range were barely wooded hills by comparison. I’m lost for adjectives that are at all comprehensive.”
The American Historical Manuscript Collection contains many legal and personal documents. This post highlights some of the AHMC’s illustrated correspondence. The three items were sent by the correspondents while they traveled abroad or in nature.
James Henry Moser corresponds with “Mr. and Mrs. Hutchins.” Stilson Hutchins was the founder of the Washington Times and later the Washington Herald. Moser was a Canadian artist who would become an illustrator for the Washington Times, Post and Herald.
Moser’s letter is dated September 11, 1895. He depicts the journey in small watercolor panels throughout the letter. He and other companions had ventured to Intervale, New Hampshire to the Mount Washington Valley.
Their purpose was to hike up Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeastern United States. Rather than rely solely on the written word to describe the trip to the peak, which Moser does well nonetheless, he accompanies the text with images to complement the letter.
“The Presidential Range was like a marvelous piece of velvet. To the naked eye it revealed much of that tender quality that one sees in the landscape images on the ground glass of a camera.”
Joseph N. Mulford, a reverend from the Holy Trinity Church in West Palm Beach, Florida, wrote to his nephew, Maurice Newton, from Venice. He recounts the geography of Venice, its 117 small islands, his amazement that there are no horses there at all, and how fascinated the children were at seeing a horse in 1883.
Mulford is most taken by the pigeons of the Piazza San Marco. A previous owner of several houses in the area had required future residents of the homes to feed the pigeons everyday a 2 o’clock. (This tradition was banned in 2008.) Reverend Mulford followed suit, dropping kernels from a “parcel of corn” for the pigeons trailing behind him on his walks. He illustrates this humorous scene for his nephew.
David Murray sends an unaddressed four-page letter from Delhi in Ulster County, New York of a “piscatorial excursion” to Beaver Kill and Balsam Lake. He sardonically refers to his three companions “Bob,” “Smith,” and “Jones,” to great extent. Beaver Kill was a popular Catskills destination for trout fishing during the 1850s.
Murray expresses his worry of overeating trout:
“Three days gave us enough of Balsam Lake. We had caught trout, cooked trout and eaten trout, till I began to entertain fears that fins might be developed and I might acquire an appetite for angler worms and grasshoppers.”
Cataloging of the American Historical Manuscript Collection (AHMC), a group of 12,000 small and unique manuscript collections, is made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Peck Stacpoole Foundation, and the Pine Tree Foundation of New York.