Monday, October 03, 2016

Museum Monday!

1834 Cope Letter  725.2013.43
 Todays Museum Monday is lucky number 725.   I am a sentimental person, cant help it. I find emotional and sentimental values to be greater than money. This is how I am, and a big part probably of why I own the Lady's Repository Museum.  My entire life I have been witness to people passing away, and the families they have left not caring anything for what they have left~ a person dies,  their family comes out of the woodwork and throws the entire house to the dump. They throw everything~ not even pausing to see  or care what is inside. This is nearly unbearable for me. When a person passes away, not just their body & spirit is gone...but that of all they knew~ their memories, their family knowledge, their life just gone.  Material things, clothing...this is a special link to our past that yes, does have great importance! Clothing can literally show us how a person lived~ their social status in the community, their financial status, clothing can give us a little peek into a certain place and time in history. We can learn what goods were available to people at what place and time, learn how things were manufactured, learn how people lived from day to day. We can even tell if the wearer had foot problems by examining the soles of the shoes they wore.  So where am I going with all this? What does it have to do with a letter?  ....
This letter is a perfect example of what I am talking about. Things get saved, they are important to the people who lived with them, they are important reminders , relics, if you will, of people they loves~ something  to physically hold on to after the person is gone....generations pass and stories are no longer known because they didnt get written down...children are not taught their own family history, and suddenly....we have a passing and there is no one to save anything...or no one who wants to save anything. Send it to the dump so we can sell the house....or sell the house to an auction company to piece it out. At least with the latter, things can be saved! This letter , in this case, found some way....some how~ it knew where it needed to be, to come back 'home'...for alone, it is just a letter from Mary Ann to Eliza....with first names within in no particular context....but together with the rest of its family belongings we can put faces and objects and names and dates all together fr a bigger grander picture! Its not just a letter to be sold for the blasted post mark!!!!

  I have, over the past 30+ years, come to know a great deal of auctioneers and antique dealers, pickers and collectors that keep their eyes open for me. I hunt and hunt, scour and dig for things.....but even still, things find me too. I happened to buy a pair of shoes on eBay one year...and seller said, 'well they came from a big trunk we saved off of a truck going to the dump...if you want the rest, Id sell it to you as a lot' Needless to say, I bought the entire lot sight unseen, which turned out to be my Wistar Family trunk(s). Not only clothing, but books and photographs!  So fast forward 7 months past that date....I am sifting thru the dribble on eBay, and up pops a letter....Mary Ann Cope it says. Oh my golly! Mary Ann Cope.....I recognize the name as it was stenciled on so many of the pieces in the Wistar Family trunk.  Seller did not include any of the text, and was selling for the postage mark,  West Chester, Aug 6, 1834. 

  I am still amazed to have found this letter~ a wonderful glimpse into the daily life of Mary Ann Cope. She was born 11 Jan, 1803, and the letter is to her sister, Elizabeth. Its beautifully written, and I have sat and transcribed it for you to read, if you would like~

 I love how early letters had no separate envelope~ the paper written on, then  folded and sealed, all with no envelope.

 A quick google of Elizabeth's address gives us a map of her home in 1834~

She lived just a couple blocks from Betsy Ross....The liberty Bell and Independence Hall~  
Here is her letter, in its entirety~ (note that the sleeves Mary Ann is missing, I think.... I may just have)
                                                                                                                                                                     West Goshen, 8 mo 6th 1834
                                                                                                                                                                                               4th day morning

 I was beginning to get the fidgets, my dear Lizzy, very considerably because no tidings from home had 
reached me, when yesterday afternoon thy very interesting letter was handed to me by our kind cousin
Gerard who rode over to Westchester purposely for it. Abby Ann having told me that such a document
was lying in the post office there for me. One of the boys here went to the post office on the 7th day, but
the mail had not come in and he came back letterless, greatly to my dissapointment for I felt almost certain
thee would have written to me by that time. However it was all the more welcome for the delay and it seemed to me that I had never received a more satisfactory communication from thee~ thy wordscouthian scraps were admirable~ the descriptions seemed as if they might have been penned for the very persons to whome thee applied them, and this peculiarity of the poet is a proof that they were drawn from nature and actual observation~ "the Excursion" would be an agreeable book to have in this part of the world for there is so much of the imagery taken from the scenery of the wild hills among which the author was so fond of roaming, that I think I should  enjoy it more here than when reading it in the artificial region of a great city~ 

 Caroline & Edward dined here on 2nd day and I was determined if the thing seemed at all practicable to find out something about Emma's arrangements, for they have been so wonderously quiet on the subject , that it has been difficult to discover how they intended to proceed in the affair~ wether they proposed having the usual train of bridesmaids & groomsmen, or thought of dispensing alltogether with such superflous personages~ I asked therefore in the most straight forward manner what they expected to do, and received for answer that they talked of passing meeting on the 20th. of this month, and that thyself & Elizabeth Smith were to be bridesmaids.  Abbey Ann declining the office because she felt as if she would rather not have any conspicuous past in the concern~ the next question was respecting the groomsmen, &, as I have all along expected, Caleb & Wm Collins are to hold  that distinguished office~ "the interesting William" is to take charge of thee my Dear, and our cousin is to devote  himself to the fair Elizabeth~  what a pity that the dark eyed youth is in part mortgaged to the little damsel at Long Branch~ thee would have had such a fair opportunity of excersizing thy captivating powers if it had not been for this untoward circumstance, upon a subject altogether worthy of them in every respect~  

 Caroline expressed much surprise to hear that Abbey Ann did not wish to be bridesmaid and seemed as if she could not imagine any cause for her want of inclination~ but it appeared to me very easy to account for it, from her known aversion to mingling much in company, which she would be almost obliged to do holding that station~ particularly as Charles's relations are so numerous and Emma will of coarse visit them all~ Caroline also told me that it was to be a small wedding and only one cousin from each family was to be invited~ so tell Lydia her expectations must vanish into "thin air" for she certainly will not be favored and I must dismiss the faint hope which entertained of receiving a gilt edged note requesting the favour of my company~ if she can bear the disappointment with as much resignation as I do it will not have a killing effect, for I care naught about it whatever,  as weddings never  gave me much pleasure being generally so stiff that very little enjoyment is to be found  at them~ the only one  I ever actually enjoyed was Marmaduke's and that was really pleasant with one exception which was the extreme heat of the weather.

  Yesterday, 3rd day, Abbey Ann her sister & myself spent at Gerards & there at a suitable oppertunity, I made some enquiries of Abbey on the same subject~ so thee sees I am resolved to make myself as fully aquainted as possible with all the particulars, and received much the same information which I had allready heard from E &C~ only that Abbey Ann told me she had not positively declined the office which Emma wished her to fill,  but it was her decided choice to do so, though she was willing to submitt her own will to what they preffered, with one reservation, that if she did serve she would not have Dr. B Coates to wait upon her~ on this she was positive for she could not submit to the idea of having any one so dissagreeable to her as he is, on such a familiar footing, and  as Charles Yarnall thought he must select on of his cousins & he was the only one near his age, she seemed to think  they would conclude to have but two bridesmaids & that would settle all difficulties~   Now I do hope that Emma has not told thee any of all this, as I have made so many words upon the occasion,  and above all things do not say any thing to her about my revelations to thee, for she appears to be so peculiarly tender upon the subject, that I should not like to her know that I had made any remarks upon it, for we often at such times give great offence without the smallest intention of doing. perhaps on this account it would be better not to let any one out of our house see this scribble, for we cannot be too careful upon such subjects~ I was really  grieved to hear of cousin Mary Curtis's death, which was totally an unexpected event, for she seemed likely to live on in a green old age for many years to come,judging from her tranquil temper and general good health, but we can not doubt that the change is a blessed one for her, tho so grievous to her sorrowing friends~ 

 Cousin Amy [sen?] is improving daily and I have now become so accustomed to her altered aspect that she does not look so very different from her former self as she did at first sight~she sends her love to you all and says she will be glad to see Mother and Lydia & appears quite gratified that the former intends coming to see her~ I wish I could give as  favorable an account of her daughter, who will, I am very fearful become a confirmed invalid, though her elastic  mind enables her to bear up under a weight of bodily ailments which would sink me to the lowest point of depression.  thee knows I have long thought her ayspeptic, but it seems now as if her symptoms were assuming the form of liver complaint very decidedly, and the pain in her side became so distressing a few days since, that she  requested the Dr to call and tell her what she had better do to releive it~ he came accordingly & I had the honor  of an introduction to his lordship, who whatever may be his qualifications as a physician, will certainly never make a great figure in the world, judging from the outward merely, for he is a little insignificant looking man, extremely shy & rather awkward in his manners, owing to that circumstance~ but they speak of him in the highest terms & say he is rapidly rising to eminance in his neighborhood, his judgement being highly asteemed & his conduct very correct~ he enquired very minutely into Amy's condition & on leaving gave her a box of 'blue pills' to take and
ordered a large warm plaster to be laid on her right side~ she is very cheerful generally, but complains of almost  constant uneasiness & is obliged to lie down several times through the day.~  I have had serious thoughts of  returning home pretty soon for I was afraid she might exert herself injuriously because of my being here, but she  will not listen to any thing of the kind and charges me not to tell you that she was worse than she really was~ their  girl is a strong able bodied excellent domestic and appears to get through their work with great ease, so that Amy has not much to do, and she does not attempt any thing that requires much excersion~ Eliza Ann has turned out admirably~ I should like thee to tell Uncle Thomas what a good girl she is~ he wa so much interested in her forlorn & friendless condition that he cannot help being pleased to hear that she conducts herself so well respectful in her  manners, attentive to her duties & cousin Amy says she has never heard an unbecomming word out of her mouth, so that it seems that she might be a great comfort to them~Amy's health was much injured by her close confinement to her mother's room last winter, anxiety of mind with great fatigue, for she was her only nurse & her mother says a most faithful one day & night {  } have shattered her constitution seriously & I am afraid it will belong before she  recovers from their evil influence~ occasionally her ancient sprightliness breaks out & she seems almost like she used
to be but generally she is graven than I ever knew her and seems quite staid & settled~ please give my love to all at home & to Aunty Cooper~ has thee seen any where in our territories the sleeves of my nightgowns which I have very unaccountably left behind me~ I thought I had put them up with the rest of the work but when I came to  unroll it, they were missing and no trace of them discernable. They might have been wrapped up in the linen or laid in the closet. Could thee please look for them and send them out by Mother & Lydia~ do write to me every  week my dear for I get to feeling very uncomfortable if I do not know how you all are every few days~ I was surprised to find thee had such a time about the box~ thee is perfectly welcome to any or all of my scraps if they are to my [ ] & use them just as if they were my own~ I am glad that my dear Father is as well as usual and also to hear such good news from Alfred~

                                                 affectionately my sister Mary Ann Cope

 To: Eliza C. Cope
          186 Arch St.

   Up margin of 1st page:
  did thee see a little scrap of lead pencil writing which I put inside of my last letter after it was sealed~ Eliza Ann is so fond of her brother & so ancious to hear from him, that I thought it a pity, Lydia should not try to bring her a  letter from him as our Mary knows where he lives & it would be so easy for her to ask him to write~


mendybowman said...

"thee would have had such a fair opportunity of excersizing thy captivating powers"... Hands down, my favorite part of the letter!! Love it! Thanks for taking the time to share it with us!

mendybowman said...

"thee would have had such a fair opportunity of excersizing thy captivating powers"... Hands down, my favorite part of the letter! thanks for taking the time to share it with us!

Diane Guidice said...

So amazing to have this glimpse into their private lives. I love how language is an art and an enjoyment for them. This letter magically transports a person back to their time - thank you for writing it out for us ! I also am in awe of how it came to you , and how she was already known to you - what are the odds ? Such a crime, though, how easy it is for people to just throw things out so easily !!! It's heartbreaking to think of what we must lose each day. There's got to be a way to create more awareness in pickers ,that even though this may not be their interest , it is still really valuable and irreplaceable.

Rachael Kinnison said...

Exactly Diane~ Just think how many 'family' letters could be found if sellers on eBay would just take the time to write the addressee in their listing. The written word is precious~ think of how many generations now, DONT write letters....they email~ and who goes and prints out their emails?! rachael