The Charles Collins diary and account table is a leather-bound notebook that was purchased in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1844. The bulk of the book is made up of accounts, both credit and debit, between Collins, a carpenter, and his customers and suppliers. The last twelve pages, written back-to-front, constitute a diary covering the dates June 11, -July 4, 1853. Several pages have been ripped from the volume and the diary resumes in July 1867.
The first eight pages of the account book contain accounts from 1846 to 1849, when Collins was a carpenter in the East. After a number of cut-out pages, the accounts pick up again in 1855, when Collins was in California after an unsuccessful attempt to profit from the gold rush. Starting in Fort "Desmoin" (Des Moines, Iowa) on June 11, , he makes entries in the diary through July 23, as his group headed west in wagons. After leaving Des Moines, they traveled 12 to 18 miles a day, arriving at Council Bluffs on the Missouri River on June 24, where they joined 11 other wagons. Twenty wagons in all crossed the Elkhorn River on June 29th and headed for the Platte. They celebrated the 4th of July by raising a flag and firing 13 guns. Since they were in Indian country, they circled the wagons and posted guards at night. Approaching Grand Island, they found two graves of individuals who died of cholera. They sighted Buffalo on July 22, and the next day they lost their cattle, which halted their travels for nearly three weeks.
The next diary entry starts on November 13, 1852, when Collins and his companions agreed to rent 15 acres of land from the local priest in exchange for giving him 1/5 of any productions. He reported almost daily rain. They killed deer every few days, encountered many drunken Indians, and tried, unsuccessfully, to prospect for gold. On January 10, John Richardson killed two bears and wounded two others.
On February 5, 1853, Collins stated that their search for gold had been unsuccessful. That day, John Richardson took off secretly with the white horse, complete with saddle and bridle, a blanket, a dog, a gun, and shot. Collins made a coffin for an old lady who died; he and the remaining “John” planted wheat and barley, and on February 24, the priest gave them the vineyard in exchange for half of all fruit it produced. They grew potatoes, cucumbers, melons, and buckwheat and supplemented this work by repairing various appliances for the priest and other people in the area, such as wheels and buggies, doubletrees, and cheese presses. A doctor named Page lived with them for two or three days, taking notes on the Mission for publication. The last diary entry is dated July 4, 1853.
This collection is made up of 113 receipts for purchases and sales by David McCreary, a New York State mason, carpenter, and construction worker. These receipts are largely from in and near Caledonia, New York.
David McCreary's receipts include sales and purchases related to his carpentry and cabinet making business. Items include various wood and lumber, such as white wood, beech, maple; and materials such as screws, files, varnish, bolts, rings, handles, nails, turpentine, and linseed oil. Fabrics include black velvet and calico. A variety of foodstuffs include molasses, tea, sugar, candles, soda crackers, eggs, cheese, apples, herring fish, salt, rum, whiskey, and more. Tools and machines include a vegetable boiler, corn sheller, beehive, root puller, pruning scissors, "self acting" cheese press, churn, and plow. A few records pertain to a loan, the purchase of a book, and a subscription to the Buffalo Sentinel.
Products represented include wheelbarrows, benches, common bedsteads, fancy bedsteads, rocking chairs, tables, Windsor chairs, little chairs, oak chairs, sewing chairs, a hearse body, coffins, children's coffins, etc. The receipts also document labor, such as sawing wood, posts, and logs, drawing lumber, digging a well, gluing up a block for a cider mill, filing and setting, painting a set of blinds green, etc.
Payments represented include cash and barter with potatoes, flour, and wheat. The final receipts are a payment to a physician for medicine and addressing a cancer in his cheek (June 11, 1860), and a payment to S. Barrett for assisting Dr. Baker with an unspecified operation (October 23, 1861).
This account book contains financial documentation of Joseph W. Brown's activities from 1822 to 1858 in Whitingham, Vermont. His records principally relate to his apple orchard, cider mill, and agricultural pursuits, but the broad exchange of goods and labor present in the volume provide a glimpse into the activities and relationships of a nineteenth-century rural community.
Joseph W. Brown sold apples, cider and brandy, vinegar, potatoes, hay, several types of livestock and meat, as well as grains and oats. Accounts relating to producing and repairing shoes and boots suggest Brown may also have been working as a cobbler, while accounts relating to carpentry, masonry, and other construction activities indicate he had experience in several fields of skilled labor. In at least three accounts, Brown documented his production of coffins (pp. 42 and 112). Brown also rented out his mill for others who were producing cider, as well as his oxen, horses, and wagons for use in agriculture, construction jobs, and travel to nearby locales such as Wilmington, Dover, Brattleboro, Hatfield, and Halifax, among others. He also appears to have offered pasturage for others' livestock. Occasional entries relate to schools and taxes that supported them.
Throughout the volume Brown included notes about credit owed to individuals for various items, such as butter, sleigh bells, oil, lime, and produce, as well as labor done for him, including tasks like digging potatoes, chopping wood, haying, harvesting, thrashing rye, patching his barn, or plastering and finishing his cellar.
Brown revealed social details in a few entries, such as a note about attending a "freeman Meeting," possibly relating to freemasonry (p. 129), the hire of fiddlers for a thanksgiving ball (p. 132), or a short list of books relating to theology (p. 147). A brief list of household goods may be a record of items he purchased for his own use (pp. 123-124).
Several loose documents are laid into the front of the volume, including a list of goods sold at a "public vendue" in 1828; several receipts and slips of paper with mathematical sums; a list relating to the "number of scholars" in Whitingham; a small notebook that includes a "Tax Bill... to support the summer school of 1829;" and two documents relating to a policy with the Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance Company from 1858 made out to J[oseph] G. Brown and Sophronia Brown.
302 items (0.75 linear feet)
The Stephen Smith papers are a partial record of the business transactions of a Boston cabinetmaker and furniture dealer, concentrated in the years 1834-1853. Despite its incompleteness, the collection provides a good overview of the trade, and includes some detailed information on cabinetry, iron stoves, retail operations, clock making, apprenticing, and business practices, and gives some minor insight into the lives of an upwardly mobile member of the skilled artisan class.
The most informative series of letters in the collection are the more than ninety letters between Smith and his brothers-in-law, Thomas and John L. Lothrop, relating to the manufacture and sale of iron stoves, and the twenty letters written by a Concord, N.H., clockmaker, Abiel Chandler, discussing clock manufacturing and the consignment of his goods through Smith. Chandler's letters provide details on the prices, design and distribution of clocks. Labor arrangement are not a major topic in the collection, however, there are several letter relating to efforts to arrange apprenticeships for boys entering the cabinetmaking trade, and one regarding a boy named Henry, possibly a relative of the Lothrops, who wanted to become an apothecary (3:34). According to the Lothrops, Henry was a difficult case, and suffered from the serious fault of a short attention span and an interest only in things when they were new. One letter, written in 1842, includes notice of a convention for cabinetmakers in Boston (2:45).
The Smith papers contain ten letters relating to the California Gold Rush, six written by Stephen Smith's brother, George L. Smith, in 1849 and 1850, and two by a ship captain who transported them to California from Boston. George's letters include literate, optimistic descriptions of the voyage around the horn and of conditions in San Francisco and Sacramento during the first year of the Gold Rush. They are especially interesting in that George was a minor success at gold mining.
Among the miscellaneous items in the collection are two unusual, brief letters of some note. The first is a letter from a recent widower, Kimbal Smith (3:13), discussing the death of his wife and the emotional hardships he has faced, and the second is a plea from a young man in prison, John Daly (3:51), pleading with his father to get him out and providing a vivid, though very brief sketch of the horrifying conditions.