The Kendall collection consists of twenty letters written to Harriet Kendall over nearly forty years, demonstrating the difficulties of keeping up friendships at a distance in the 1800s.
Collection processed and finding aid created by Rachel K. Onuf
Scope and Content:
This small collection illustrates the difficulties of keeping up friendships at a distance. Harriet seems to have been a rather lackadaisical correspondent, if the rather frustrated salutations of her friends' letters are to be believed. "Why in the name of cross-eyed Cat-fish, don't you write to your old friends? Really! I am real provoked at you" began Lottie, who lived in Corning, N. Y. (1865 November). Lottie and others urged Hattie to come visit them, and it appears that she did get to her friend Sarah P. Burroughs' home in East Varick before the fall term of 1866. Since there aren't any letters by Harriet herself in this collection, it is difficult to tell how she responded to her other friends' repeated entreaties to visit or write to them, or to get a good sense of her attitudes toward them.
Although Sara Fisher, too, took Harriet to task for not responding promptly, Harriet evidently did keep up a correspondence with her after they graduated from Genesee College. There are five intensely chatty letters from Sara. She dreaded the idea of teaching, missed her school friends, and had lost touch with her friends from home, most of whom were "dead or married." She glumly reported that those who were around "laugh at me because I cannot translate my diploma for which I've worked four years" (1869 July 11). Once she settled into her position teaching school in Rome, her anxieties abated somewhat, but her letters still caromed from subject to seemingly unrelated subject with an incredible nervous energy, and rarely touched upon her job. Instead she writes of other people, and quizzed Hattie for news of others, sprinkling in reminiscences and sidebars about her cozy room and holiday plans as she hurtled along.
The other cohesive group of letters centers around a boy. By November 1865, Lottie is quizzing, "how is Mr. Brigham," and there are four letters from the young man in question in this collection. Hattie met Charles H. Brigham, Jr. in Lima, and she evidently kept him posted on news of the town and college after he left for Spencerport. He wished he was back in school, and told Hattie, "one can't prize a good education to high." He was particularly sensitive about how his writing ability measured up to Hattie's, and his frequent comments about how Hattie must think "his letters are dry and don't amount to much any way" are too morose and persistent to be read simply as coy talk (1865 August 27). Charlie thought about going to the oil region of Pennsylvania, but after his brother returned from Pithole with typhoid fever, he reconsidered, and turned his attention to a possible career in the Rail Road business.
Whatever the nature of Hattie and Charlie's relationship, their epistolary courtship was ended abruptly by Charlie, who wrote, "Hattie, I cannot with justice to you and to myself correspond with you longer." He gave the unsatisfying explanation that "all things must have an end, and so with this," and he assured Hattie that his reason for the break had nothing to do with her letters: "for I think that there are very few people that can write as good a letter as you can. I know I can't. wish I could" (1866 January 13). Whether or not Harriet was mollified by this statement is unclear. A letter from Ruby Rice written a few years later, in an attempt to reestablish her friendship with Hattie, mentioned that she saw "Charley Brigham almost everyday -- we often get to talking about Lima and the Lima people -- and he often speaks of you, what good times you used to have" (1869 February 26).
Biographical / Historical:
Harriet Jaques Kendall, the recipient of all of the letters in this collection, was born June 29, 1848, at Pavilion, N. Y. In 1850, the Methodist Episcopal Church had founded Genesee College, a co-educational institution, in Lima. At some point during her childhood her parents moved to Lima, and Harriet attended the college from 1865-1869, returning to get a masters degree in 1873. Harriet was the preceptress at the Academy in Baldwinsville for the 1869-70 school year, and then married Egbert R. Thompson on October 18, 1870. They had two children, Alfred K., born June 1, 1872, and Russell J., born September 28, 1876. Harriet died April 11, 1884 at Hemlock Lake, N. Y.
One of the primary correspondents in this collection was Harriet's classmate, Sara Elizabeth Fisher, born in Clyde, N. Y. on September 16, 1848. She was the preceptress at the Free Academy in Rome from 1869-1872. Sara married George Hamilton Barton, the Principal at the Academy in Rome and fellow member of the class of 1869, on April 14, 1870. Sara moved to Elmira after her husband's death in 1885.
The other principal correspondent is Charles H. Brigham, Jr., a young man Harriet met in Lima and exchanged a few letters with after he returned to Spencerport. Less is known about the other correspondents. Ruby Rice, also from Spencerport, met Harriet in Lima. The other writers, Lottie, Sate Mathers, and Sarah Burroughs, were probably girlhood friends.
1998. M-3441.1 .
Rules or Conventions:
Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Additional Descriptive Data:
Alumni Record and General Catalogue of Syracuse University 1872-1899 Including Genesee College, 1852-71 and Geneva Medical College, 1835-72. (Syracuse, N. Y., 1899).
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