This collection contains letters between Kirk Cunningham of Mobile, Alabama, his wife Mary, and his brother John of Lancaster, Massachusetts. Kirk Cunningham wrote a series of letters to his wife while seeking work in San Francisco, California, in 1854 and 1855, and to his brother while living in Mobile, Alabama, during the years leading up to the Civil War. His letters concern economic matters, philosophy, and politics. John Cunningham wrote about his life in Massachusetts.
This collection (70 items) contains letters between Kirk Cunningham of Mobile, Alabama, his wife Mary, and his brother John of Lancaster, Massachusetts; a few additional letters relate to their extended family in Illinois.
The first 2 letters are addressed to Leonard Farwell of Lancaster, Massachusetts, by William Hall and his nephew Benjamin, who discussed a financial dispute in 1807. A quitclaim deed dated May 29, 1813, relates to land transferred from Isaac Brooks to Samuel Brooks in Worcester County, Massachusetts. The bulk of the remaining correspondence is addressed to or written by Kirk Cunningham, a Scottish immigrant living in Mobile, Alabama, and, briefly, San Francisco, California. On September 10, 1842, he wrote to Mary Waugh of New York City, describing a business venture and urging her to consider his marriage proposal. In a letter dated June 18, 1846, he wrote to his brother John about a man who had accompanied him to Alabama, noting his companion's declining health, death, and burial by a local Jewish merchant.
Between October 18, 1854, and September 13, 1855, Cunningham wrote to his wife Mary and to his brother John while traveling to and living in San Francisco, California, where he unsuccessfully sought work. He described the city and the local economy and discussed financial affairs with his wife. After his return to Mobile, he corresponded most frequently with his brother, who reported back about his health and sometimes discussed religion. Kirk Cunningham suggested remedies for John's health problems, including a diagram of a proposed "shower-bath" (December 26, 1858), and provided news of the southern economy throughout the late 1850s. On May 13, 1855, he noted reading Andrew Jackson Davis's The Great Harmonia (1852); his following letters reflect his growing interest in Spiritualism.
In 1860, Cunningham began commenting on political matters, noting the effects of John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry and "Seward's doings" on Southern politics (February 26, 1860), and sharing his thoughts on secession (July 29, 1860) and Lincoln's election to the presidency (October 20, 1860). On April 26, 1861, he reported that Mobile residents expected to hear news of a large battle for control of Washington, D. C., and that local military units had begun drilling. After reconnecting with his brother in 1865, Cunningham discussed the hardships that Mobile residents experienced during the war (May 7, 1866) and otherwise remarked on the postwar South. In his last letter, dated June 19, 1868, he expressed uncertainty about his future prospects and quoted extracts from Andrew Jackson Davis's Arabula (1868).
Other letters include a family update from George Kennedy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to his uncle, William George of County Antrim, Ireland (May 7, 1849), and letters between members of the Haskell family of Boston and Ipswich, Massachusetts. The "Extracts from a letter written to John Cunningham - Dunfermline Scotland - by my father John Cunningham," contains genealogical information on the Cunningham family (December 1, 1880).