Ella Curtis family correspondence, 1849-1899 (majority within 1849-1861)
Using These Materials
- The collection is open for research.
- Curtis family
- The Ella Curtis family correspondence is made up of 71 letters, predominantly incoming to Ellen "Ella" Curtis from her sisters Elizabeth "Lizzie" Curtis Plimpton and Ada Curtis Bridge, father Henry B. Curtis, and other friends and family members. The correspondence covers a wide range of topics, such as Lizzie's life in an apartment complex in New York City in the 1850s; Ada's letters from New York City and East Wareham, Massachusetts, pertinent to childbirth, child rearing, depression, and her alcoholic abusive husband; and other letters related to life in Ohio, love, marriage, sisterly advice, and additional subject matter.
- 71 items
- Collection processed and finding aid created by Cheney J. Schopieray, December 2020
- Scope and Content:
The Ella Curtis family correspondence is made up of 71 letters, predominantly incoming to Ellen "Ella" Curtis from her sisters Elizabeth "Lizzie" Plimpton and Ada Curtis Bridge; father Henry B. Curtis; and other friends and family members. The correspondence covers a wide range of topics, such as Lizzie's life in an apartment complex in New York City in the 1850s; Ada's letters from New York City and East Wareham, Massachusetts, pertinent to childbirth, child rearing, depression, and her alcoholic abusive husband; and other letters related to life in Ohio, love, marriage, sisterly advice, and additional subject matter.
Ella Curtis sent 13 letters to her friends and sisters between January 7, 1852, and October 25, 1858. She wrote the bulk of them from Mount Vernon, Ohio, with introspective passages on her hopes and dreams for the present and future. Two letters to "Jim" in 1856 read like love letters.
Elizabeth "Lizzie" Curtis Plimpton wrote 16 letters to her sister Ella between June 13, 1852, and February 1860, including several undated. She sent many of her letters from London Terrace, a New York City apartment complex that provided low-cost housing for white-collar workers. Her information-filled letters reflect on her friends, family, children, life in the apartment, games, clothing and fashion, city life, sisterly sentiments, lost loves, trips to the opera, military parades, and other aspects of everyday life.
Ada Curtis / Ada Curtis Bridge sent her sister Ella eight letters, dating from November 3, 1857-July 22, 1861, New York City and East Wareham, Massachusetts. Her letters begin during the later stages of her pregnancy with Emma Bridge, having engaged a nurse who had worked as a wet nurse and seamstress. Her letters continue with discussions of physical health problems, acquiring dresses and sewing clothing for her daughter, and gossip about friends and family. By 1859, she settled in East Wareham and continued to discuss her fatigue, child rearing, reminiscences about girlhood, deep depression, loneliness, self-criticism, her husband Louis's "cross and ugly" behavior, reaffirmations that her husband loves her (albeit with "a very very selfish love"), and the support she received from God. In 1860, she began to confide in her sister about Louis's mentally abusive actions toward her, and, when unable to have an effect, toward their daughter Emma. She related the deep anguish she felt at witnessing the abuse of her child. Louis would be "affectionate and reasonable" in the morning, but in the evening would be "entirely a changed being." As time progressed, she finally revealed that Louis was a heavy drinker or an alcoholic, whose abusive behavior stemmed from drunkenness (see especially February 2, 1860, and July 22, 1861), and that she lived in humiliation and terror.
Thirty incoming letters to Ella Curtis, November 14, 1849-May 13, 1861, include five from her father Henry B. Curtis, three signed "J.C.D." (almost certainly Ella's future husband Joseph C. Devin), two from Jno. E. Hamilton, and many other writers. The letters from her father largely hailed from Mount Vernon, Ohio, 1852-1857, and described affairs at home, a train journey to Philadelphia, and a lengthy description of an art raffle at the Cosmopolitan Art Association at Norman Hall in Sandusky (February 29, 1856). His letter of June 23, 1857, was written on illustrated, printed Mount Vernon Female Seminary stationery. J.C.D.'s letters, dated in 1859, from Medina, Newark, and Mt. Gilead, Ohio, provide his thoughts on marriage and his legal work on several trials. On May 4, 1859, he offered a vivid description of an off-hours social scene of lawyers at a hotel in Mt. Gilead. Jno. E. Hamilton's two letters, dated 1856, profusely apologize for his "inappropriate" and "disgraceful" behavior to her while he was a student at Kenyon College. The collection also contains four miscellaneous Curtis family letters.
- Biographical / Historical:
Henry B. Curtis (1799-1885) and Elizabeth Hogg Curtis (1803-1878) married in 1823 and lived in Mount Vernon, Ohio, where Henry Curtis was a prominent citizen for his work helping establish Kenyon College in the 1820s and developing the town in the 1840s. Henry and Elizabeth had at least four children, including Ellen Isabella "Ella" (1833-1907), Elizabeth "Lizzie" (1824-1893), Ada (1836-1861), and Henry Lambton Curtis (1841-1897).
Ella Curtis married lawyer Joseph Chambers Devin (1827-1904) in 1859 and the couple lived in Mount Vernon, Ohio, until at least the 1880s. Lizzie Curtis married merchant John G. Plimpton (1817-1869) in 1845 and the couple lived in New York City and Mount Vernon, Ohio. Ada Curtis married Louis K. Bridge (1833-1863) and the couple moved to East Wareham, Massachusetts around 1860.
- Acquisition Information:
- 2020. M-7215 .
The collection is arranged chronologically.
- Rules or Conventions:
- Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Apartments--New York (N.Y.)
Depression in women.
Drinking of alcoholic beverages.
Fathers and daughters.
- Letters (correspondence)
Mount Vernon Female Seminary (Mount Vernon, Ohio)
Bridge, Emma P., 1857-.
Bridge, Ada Curtis, 1836-1861.
Curtis, Henry B. (Henry Barnes), 1799-1885.
Devin, Ella Curtis (Ellen Curtis), 1833-1907.
Devin, Joseph Chambers, 1827-1904.
Hamilton, Jno. E.
Plimpton, Lizzie Curtis (Elizabeth Curtis), 1824-1893.
- New York (N.Y.)--Social conditions--19th century.
Using These Materials
The collection is open for research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Copyright status is unknown
- PREFERRED CITATION:
Ella Curtis Family Correspondence, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan