Saving Memories: Autograph Albums

 

Autograph Albums

Oh! sometime come with gentle eye,
And o'er these pages kindly bend;
Then memory will give a sigh
For each beloved, departed friend!
My name will then reveal to thee-
Though parted in this world so wide,
And I may long forgotten be,-
That once I tarried by thy side.

Eliza R. Knowlton
Oct. 22nd 1865
Milwaukee, Wis.

In the United States, the practice of keeping autograph albums began in the 1820s and increased in popularity through the nineteenth century.

In fact, the definition of an album in the 1847 edition of Webster's American Dictionary is "a book, originally blank, in which foreigners or strangers insert autographs of celebrated persons."

Autograph albums during the Victorian period often incorporated elaborate illustrations, colored pages, and ornate covers. But earlier albums were usually simple volumes that encouraged serious inscriptions and lofty sentiments rather than the flippant verse so often associated with albums of the twentieth century.

Samuel and Emeline Palmer Allis, Missionaries

Samuel Allis was born in Massachusetts in 1805. In 1834 he went west with Reverend Dunbar under the patronage of the Presbyterian Church American Board of Foreign Missions to Bellevue, which was the agency for the Omaha, Otoe, and Pawnee Tribes. Prior to his departure, he engaged to marry Emeline Palmer, a member of his church in Ithaca, New York. She came west in 1836 on a wagon train to marry Samuel and they served as missionaries to the Pawnee Indians until 1845, when they built a boarding school for Native Americans.

The Allis collection in the Nebraska State Historical Society includes two autograph albums, Samuel's and Emeline's. Both albums were completed as first Samuel and later Emeline were preparing to leave family and friends to travel far into what was at that time the wilderness. They knew that they would not likely see these people again in their lifetimes, and the messages inscribed in these albums would be evocative reminders of those that they had left behind.

Allis autograph album

You tell me to engrave a few lines in your Album, as a memento of friendship. To tell of scenes forgotten accept at memorys shrine they'll stand as consecrated relicks of remebrance. Ah yes, me thinks they'll awaken a pleasing recollection of the past, they'll tell of friendships formed at Ithaca, and joyful hours that are past away. But when towards the west you sail, with the bright hope of enlightening the savage, May you depart in Jesus name, and he will help you onward.

Susan

Ithaca May 28 1834 

Allis autograph album

One might guess that the most treasured autograph in Samuel's album was from his bride-to-be, who wrote:

Lines addressed to Mr. S. Allis. 
Since you are soon to leave your native land, 
Permit me to address you as a friend To whom much love and gratitude is due; 
I write to bid my friend adieu. 

Allis autograph album

In Emiline's album, her cousin Lathrop takes the opportunity to describe the value of this book of remembrances.

Miss Emeline

How valuable to you must be this repository of friendly tributes! Each associate, relative & friend, anticipating soon a lasting separation, is anxious to insert here some tribute of esteem, some memento of past & happy times, which when the vicissitudes of life shall have caused your departure for other & distant climes, will yet remain, a valuable remembrance, & a mitigation of the pain of separation.-And that such may be the value placed upon this small but sincere tribute is the heartfelt wish of your devoted Cousin

Lathrop Storrs Eddy

Ithaca 30th Au. 1834

Pawnee-made beaded bow tie worn by Rev. Samuel Allis

Pawnee-made beaded bow tie worn by Reverend Samuel Allis when he was missionary to the Pawnee in 1837.

 

Erasmus and Lucy Correll, Workers for Woman's Suffrage

Erasmus Correll was born in Canada in 1846. As a child, he lived in Illinois and in California. He studied civil engineering and surveying at Eureka College in Illinois and, in 1869, moved to Thayer County to work as a surveyor. He married Lucy L. Wilder in 1868. In 1871 he started a local paper, the Hebron Journal, and in 1882, he began publication of the Western Woman's Journal, a newspaper that enjoyed a national pro-women's suffrage readership. He and Lucy campaigned tirelessly for suffrage and he served as president of the American Woman Suffrage Association. He died in 1895 and Lucy died in 1924.

Autograph books mark a significant occasion by recording the signatures and sentiments of the people present. The two autograph books in the Correll papers at the Nebraska State Historical Society commemorate two momentous events in the fight for woman suffrage in Nebraska.

Correll autograph album

Erasmus Correll's autograph album was compiled on the occasion of the Feb. 3, 1881, vote in the Nebraska Legislature to place woman suffrage on the ballot that November. The bill passed but the amendment fell in November at the hands of Nebraska's all-male voters. He notes the purpose of his album on the inside front cover. 

Historical
    "House Roll No 162, Joint Resolution providing for the submission to the electors of this state of an amendment to section 1, article VII of the constitution." was introduced by the undersigned in the House of Representatives of the Legislature of Nebraska, Feb. 3, 1881. It passed the House Feb. 21, 1881, the Senate, Feb. 25, 1881, and received the signature of the Governor Feb. 26, 1881. The amendment is to be voted on by the electors of the state Nov 7, 1882.
    The following signatures are the autographs of the members of the House and Senate who voted for the bill.

Lincoln, Neb.,

Erasmus M. Correll

May 20th, 1882

Rep. from Thayer County

 

Correll autograph album

The Women of America are equal in intellect & morals, identically with men & should have the elective franchise extended to them.

Geo. W. Brown, Dayton Boone Co. Neb.

4th Dist Extra Session

Correll autograph album

Commending your stand for liberty

Yours Robert B. Daley Red Willow Co. 

Correll autograph album

Yours for equal rights and fair play.

C. Cole

1st Dist. Extra session 

Correll autograph album

The autographs in Lucy Correll's album are all dated September 14, 1882. The American Woman Suffrage Association held its annual convention in Omaha at that time and undoubtedly Lucy's album was signed by delegates to this meeting. These inscriptions almost always included some slogan or wish for success in achieving woman suffrage.

Yours for the cause of woman

M.E. Hastic Sept 14, 1882, Summerset Iowa 

Correll autograph album

The love of your co-worker for justice

Belle G. Bigelow Omaha September 14th 1882 

Correll autograph album

Yours for a peoples' government

Mrs. J. Be Fenn

Nevada Story Co. Iowa

Correll autograph album

The most notable autograph in the book may have been added later in the month. Susan B. Anthony, while not mentioned in the local newspapers as attending the September 14 convention, was scheduled to speak at the convention of the National Woman Suffrage Association held in Omaha later in the month. Her signature in Lucy's book was, perhaps, acquired then. 

William Jennings Bryan's Fairview Guest Book

William Jennings Bryan was born in 1860 in Illinoisstudied the law and entered law practice in Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1883. In 1887 he moved to Lincoln and became active in the Democratic Party. He was elected to Congress serving from 1891 through 1895 and was a candidate for President in 1896, 1900, and 1908. In 1912 he was appointed U.S. Secretary of State by Woodrow Wilson, a post he resigned when the United States entered World War I. He was an advocate for the common people, an editor, and an author. Bryan died in 1925. 

William Jennings Bryan

Fairview guest book

Similar in many ways to autograph books, guest books record who visited a given place on a given day. The guest book for Fairview, William Jennings Bryan's Lincoln, Nebraska, home, holds a blessing left for him by a distinguished visitor to the house in 1912. 

Fairview guest book

In September 1912, 'Abdul-Bah Abbas, eldest son of Baha'i founder Baha'u'llah, visited William Jennings Bryan's home, Fairview, hoping to meet with him. Bryan was out of town and 'Abdul-Baha Abbas and left a blessing for him in the Fairview visitor album. 

Bless this family and grant it happiness in both this world and the world to come. Confirm this distinguished person in the greatest service to the human world, which is the unity of all mankind, that he may attain to Thy good pleasure in this world and obtain a bounteous portion from the surging ocean of Divine outpourings in this luminous age.

'Abdul-Baha Abbas

 

Newspaper article about 'Abdul-Baha Abbas visit to Lincoln

NSHS blog: International Religious Leader Visits Nebraska 

 

Lucy Drexel, Student

Autograph albums in one form or another have been especially popular with young women since Victorian times. These albums, with their inscriptions pledging everlasting friendship and asking the same from the owner, were not only a form in which to preserve memories of friends and family, but were also a way to define a circle of friends with cryptic messages and memories that only people on the inside of that circle could understand.

Lucy Virginia Drexel was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1861. She attended the Nebraska Baptist Seminary in Gibbon, Nebraska, in the mid-1880 and later married Henry George Harte of Omaha. 

Drexel autograph album

Lucy Drexel's autograph album brims with cryptic notes only she, the author of the note, and perhaps a few good friends would understand. Inscriptions such as 'Last two Wednesdays in Gibbon, Bad Girl,' and 'skating party' were meant to remind her of secrets that friends shared.

"Beautiful hands are those that do
Work that is earnest and brave and true
Moment by moment the whole day through."

Dear Lucy, 
In your journey through life, may you have agreeable companions, pleasant paths to tread, and an occasional ride, on a 4th of July for instance to Plattsmouth or Lincoln 

Your friend. Sophie ________

Omaha, Neb. 

Sep. 11, 1881

Do you ride or walk on "Fourth of July? Walk.

Drexel autograph album

In an album of light-hearted verse and good wishes, the inscription from Lucy's brother Henry stands out for its serious, scolding tone:

Omaha Nebraska.
January 27th 1882.

Sister Lucy,

A good deal can be said about dancing "as the saying is."
It requires neither brains nor good morals to be a good
dancer. As the love of one increases, the love of the 
other decreases.

Put dancing in the crucible, apply the acids, weigh it, and
the verdict of reason & religion is, "Weighed in the balance
and found wanting"

Best wishes
Henry

 

Drexel autograph album

The most striking entry in Lucy's book was crafted when Lucy's roommate, Clara Hendryx, sat down to add her note. She recounted, by name, all of the inscriptions already present in the volume. While the rhyming is strained, it is still an ambitious example of original verse.

Dormitory

Dearest Lucy

Albums are records kept by gentle dames,
To show us that their friends can write their names,
That Miss can draw or brother John can write
"Sweet lines," or that they know a Mr. Horth.
The lady comes, with lowly grace upon her,
"I will be so kind" do her book such honor
We bow, smile deprecate, protest, read o'er
The names to see what has been done before,
And write with modest glory "Osterhout"
A.B. Carson succeds, and King, Perkey, and Craig,
And Jacoby & Lucas with an original remark
Out of the speaker-then come "Elmers sweet lines,"
Christie's "sweet air," and Mary's "sweet designs."
Then Williams, Nightingale, Snelling, Enslow & Maude
And, with a flourish underneath them, Munson
Alas! Why sit I here, committing jokes
On social pleasures and good humor'd folks,
That see far better with their trusting eyes,
Than all the blinkings of the would be wise?
Albums are, after all, pleasant inventions,
Make friends more friendly, grace ones' good intentions,
Brighten dull names, give great ones kindred looks,
Nay, now & then produce right curious books.

Your Omaha friend & Gibbon room-mate
Clara Hendryx
April 23, 1883

Remember your Dormitory Troubles 
"As if I ever cld forget them"

 

Viola Barnes, Student

Viola Florence Barnes was born in Albion, Nebraska, in 1885. She received a Bachelor of Music degree and a B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from the University of Nebraska, plus a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1919. Miss Barnes was an instructor at the University of Nebraska from 1912 -1916 and at Mount Holyoke College from 1919 to 1952 where she was chair of the History Department and later chair of American Culture. She died in 1979. 

Viola Barns

Barnes autograph album

The Barnes Family collection of the Nebraska State Historical Society includes both an autograph book belonging to Viola while attending school in Albion and two unique handmade booklets known as "mystic albums." 

"Mystic albums" were composed of letters written by friends on sheets of stationery that were then folded so that the messages were hidden and tied with ribbon to keep them closed. Visible on the outside of each of the folded letters was the date on which it was to be opened and read. These dates were sometimes specific, sometimes relative, but always seemed to have a significance known at least to the author and the recipient of the note.

Open when you happen to think of me
Open on your next birthday
Open after you graduate in music
To be opened between 5 & 6 a.m. during the month of June in Albion
To be opened last of all

 

Barnes autograph album

The letters are fairly typical autograph entries, although they are usually written in prose not verse, and are usually longer than the normal autograph inscription.

Dear little Sally:--

Yes I will write in your mystic album. When you read this I will be having my nineteenth birthday. Oh! I wonder if it will be spent at the dear old "Con". Probably it will not be hailed like Jessie's twenty-third.
I am beginning to realize that soon we must leave the "Con". probably never to return and possibly never to see one another again. A sadness creeps over me.The future is like this book "mysterious" and I hope it will be bright and fair for you.

Elsie Mengedoht Open Jan. 6 1905
1611 Kymer Ave.
Omaha Nebr.
June 14 1904

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