Autograph collecting emerged as a hobby in the United States in the 1840’s.  The Historical Society of Montgomery County has two interesting autograph books owned by a pair of brothers from Berks County.  One of the brothers, J. Glancy Jones, was a member of the House of Representatives from 1851 to 1858.  Both he and his brother Charles managed to get the autographs of many of the most important political leaders of their time.

Fillmore

This signature from President Millard Fillmore is dated 1852. Below it, Charles has the signature of Fillmore’s first Secretary of State, Daniel Webster.

Webster

Webster’s signature has obviously been clipped from a letter, as have these two other signatures, President James Buchanan and General Winfield Scott.  It’s possible that these signatures were from letters received by Jones  himself, however, it is also possible that Charles purchased the letters in order to cut out their signatures.

buchanan

His brother Jehu Glancy Jones has another presidential signature in his album, Franklin Pierce.

pierce

Both brothers also sought out the signatures of senators and congressmen  from each of the states.  Here’s part of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation in J. Glancy Jones’ album.  It includes John Alexander McNair, who represented Montgomery County, and who, thankfully, has a very clear and legible signature.

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Source: http://www.raabcollection.com/blog/autograph-collecting-america-brief-history

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Taufschein

wanenr taufschein

The Historical Society of Montgomery County is fortunate to have in its collection several examples of Fraktur, illuminated Pennsylvania German folk art.

Here we have a great example of a Geburts und Taufschein, or a record of birth and Baptism.  Taufscheine are a common form of Fraktur.   Preprinted in German blackletter (Gothic) type, this Taufschein was then hand painted and filled in by the family and minister.  This particular Taufschein was created for Johannes Wanner, son of Amos and Elizabeth Wanner, and is part of the Wanner Family Collection (2014.222).  Below the personal information is a lovely poem about the joy of being baptized.

 

Letters from a Western Union man

This morning while processing a collection of the papers of the Wanner family, I came across an interesting set of correspondence between John Wanner, a lawyer in Skippack Township, and William Stoneback, originally of Skippack.  Stoneback was an employee of Western Union, and was sent to several cities by the company.  In the late 1850s, he was in Savannah, Georgia.  He speaks a little about slavery in the letters, but also says that he is not very political.  Georgia at the time required voters to pay a poll tax, and Stoneback was unwilling to do so.  In this letter from 1859, Stoneback discusses the possible presidential candidates for the next year.

stoneback letter2

The “Douglass” mentioned is no doubt Stephen A. Douglas, who would indeed run for president on the Northern Democratic ticket.  “Crittenden” was John J. Crittenden, a moderate senator from Kentucky who sought compromise in the years leading up to the Civil War.  Although he did not run for president, he did help to found the Constitutional Union Party, which ran John C. Bell.  Of course, neither man won.

Once the war broke out, Stoneback relocated to Covington, Kentucky.  If he ever wrote his thoughts about the secession crisis or his move north to Wanner, the letters don’t survive.  While he was in Kentucky, the Ohio River flooded, and Stoneback wrote these lines from nearby Cincinnati, Ohio.  Since he was out of writing paper, he used two telegraph sheets.  On the second page of the letter, he describes the flood.stoneback letter4

Later in the letter, he refers to the now famous battle of Fort Henry.  Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant attacked the fort the same day the letter was written, February 6, 1862.

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By May of 1863, Stoneback was posted in St. Louis, and he wrote to his friend about secessionists in the Union occupied city.

stoneback letter6                         stoneback letter7

I just finished reading the Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, a fascinating and informative book about the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition, or Chicago World’s Fair.  What really struck me is how much of a worldwide sensation it was.  Today, it is a forgotten piece of history.

Cover of Rand McNally & Co's "A Week at the Fair"

Cover of Rand McNally & Co’s “A Week at the Fair”

Ten suggestions for visitors, from "Official Guide to the World's Columbian Exposition"

Ten suggestions for visitors, from “Official Guide to the World’s Columbian Exposition”

 

Map of World's Columbian Fair

Map of World’s Columbian Fair

 

In 1889, Paris had put on a huge World Exposition, and the United States was ready to compete.  A huge complex of buildings and exhibits was created on the shores of Lake Michigan in Jackson Park, and was open to the public from May to October, 1893.  The cost for admission was fifty cents.  Buildings were erected by nations from around the world, including Japan, Germany, Jamaica, Spain, and the list goes on.  Each state had its own structure.  Huge buildings were devoted to branches of the arts and sciences, including the Electrical Building, Anthropological Building, and Fisheries Building, to name just a few.

Dedication Ceremonies in the Manufactures Building, October 21, 1892, from "Official Guide to the World's Columbian Exposition"

Dedication Ceremonies in the Manufactures Building, October 21, 1892, from “Official Guide to the World’s Columbian Exposition”

Dome of the Administration Building, from "Pennsylvania and the World's Columbian Exposition"

Dome of the Administration Building, from “Pennsylvania and the World’s Columbian Exposition”

Along the Midway, whole foreign villages were transplanted to the fairgrounds, the newly-invented Ferris wheel turned 250 feet in the air, and other attractions were waiting for visitors.  Tens of thousands of people visited each day, with the highest one-day total over 750,000!

Elictricity Building, from "Official Guide to the World's Columbian Exposition"

Electricity Building, from “Official Guide to the World’s Columbian Exposition”

Mimeograph of The Great Ferris Wheel, found inside copy of "The Best Things to be Seen"

Mimeograph of The Great Ferris Wheel, found inside copy of “The Best Things to be Seen”

Streets of Cairo in the Midway, from "Snap Shots"

Streets of Cairo in the Midway, from “Snap Shots”

Entrances to Main Buildings, from "The Best Things to be Seen"

Entrances to Main Buildings, from “The Best Things to be Seen”

After reading the book, I decided to explore the vaults of HSMC to see if we had any material relating to the Exposition.  Turns out, we have LOTS!  We have souvenirs, like postcards and flags.  We have a variety of guides, including Rand McNally & Co’s A Week at the Fair and Pennsylvania and the World’s Columbian Exposition.  Also in the collection are “Snap Shots.” World’s Fair through a Camera and the Official Catalogue of Exhibits—Department K, Fine Arts. 

Souvenir card picturing a rendition of Columbus.  Made in Philadelphia

Souvenir card picturing a rendition of Columbus. Made in Philadelphia

Change purse showing the Electricity Building

Change purse showing the Electricity Building

 

Souvenir flag.  Fairgrounds are pictured diagonally across the flag.

Souvenir flag. Fairgrounds are pictured diagonally across the flag.

We also have a few pieces in the collection which were exhibited at the fair, later purchased, and then donated to the Historical Society.  You may remember one such thing in a previous post (see the porcelain teeth in “Oral History”).  Montgomery County artist Thomas Hovenden exhibited his painting Breaking Home Ties and it was voted the most popular painting at the fair!  Come see another of his paintings Looking West at the Historical Society Headquarters.

Punch bowl exhibited at the fair and later donated to the Historical Society

Punch bowl exhibited at the fair and later donated to the Historical Society

By looking at these various artifacts and their donors, one can see that Montgomery County went to Chicago for the fair!  Ambrose Dettre went on October 28th, 1893, right before the fair closed at the end of the month.  The Misses Preston arrived earlier, in August, to see the sights.  On the map in their guide, they penciled an “X” at every building they visited, and had a running list of the places still left to see, including the Texas, Delaware, and Louisiana buildings.  The Fornance family also visited; someone in the family wrote down train ticket prices in their guide (8 cents for a single ticket or 60 cents for a ten-pack).  Other prominent members of the Historical Society also attended, including Mrs. Anna Delacroix and Senator A. D. Markley.

Pennsylvania State building - a replica of Independence Hall, from "Snap Shots"

Pennsylvania State building – a replica of Independence Hall, from “Snap Shots”

The Liberty Bell (yes, the original!), from "Snap Shots"

The Liberty Bell (yes, the original!), from “Snap Shots”