Some heirlooms really bring to life their owners and their time. I am thrilled to have three autogaph books from the 1880s and 90s that belonged to my Great-Aunt Mary Emmeline “Maude” Stout (Bartlett) 1875-1963 and to my Grandmother Vera Stout (Anderson) 1881-1964. Every page is precious, but I only have space to share a few pages with you.
Paging through the autograph books, I notice that my grandmother Vera’s is packed full, while the two by Aunt Maude have many blank pages. Also, there are more boy’s signatures in my grandmother’s book. This confirms my impression that grandma was always more sociable and probably more popular than her more serious sister. The inscriptions in both range from religious in nature to silly verses.
My grandmother’s book seems to have been a Christmas gift in 1890 when she was nine years old. The first signatures in the book are from New Year’s Eve, 1890. The book is nine inches wide and six inches high. There are 34 pages in all, with signatures on both sides of all pages except the title page. The pages have become very brittle and edges are disintegrating. Most pages are tan (presumably originally more white) but a few are pastel shades. While some pages seem as clear as the day they were written, some have faded considerably and are difficult to read.
The first entry is Vera’s invitation to her friends. She always had beautiful hand writing, but I am amazed that this was written by a nine-year-old.
Note: The words in italic are added in a different hand as though someone was improving her poem.
Some of the entries are very plain, but some are quite fancy. In this case, decorated by the friend, Carrie Wood, who wrote a plainer entry later in the book.
Carrie’s embellished words say
Some adults signed the book, too–church and school officials. Here are signatures by two adults with more artwork.
For those not confident of their artistic talent, the book apparently came with stickers from which the signers could choose.
Every autograph book has to have some of these silly sayings, and the same ones might have shown up in my own autograph book fifty years later. Boys, particularly, did not want to say anything mushy or religious.
Most precious to me in these autograph books are the signatures of Vera’s brother Will (William Morgan Stout) and her sister Maude and other relative and friends I know.
Unfortunately, Will’s page has faded very badly, but I am delighted to say that he signed as “Bro” which is the way that my brother signs notes to me as well.
I am not absolutely certain of the year, thinking at first it was 1899, but by then he would have been in New York in School, so 1893 is more likely. He would have been 19 years old.
Short message, but I love the sweeping hand in which he writes, full of confidence.
Maude, the 16-year-old sister, had advice to impart from her advanced age. Interestingly, she signs these pages as Maud (with no “e” on the end), but as an adult, she signed with an “e”–Maude, so that is the spelling I use.
The following year, Maud wrote another entry with an interesting P.S. at the bottom.
I have no idea what exactly that means, but apparently the town was building a new school. And this was the school in 1893. Grandma is to the left of the teacher in the front row.
Finally, tucked away in the book is a piece of paper art with the initials of brother Will Stout, and a page from the man who made the art.
J.R. Welker was a Floral Cut, Paper Artist. I imagine like penmanship teachers and photographers, Welker traveled from town to town, demonstrating and displaying his art for sale in a public place, and perhaps teaching the art while he was there.
Oh, my, I can just see little Vera begging her mother to buy all of Mr. Welker’s art work after reading that romantic message.
When I look at my autograph book from when I was about the same age, I can only remember a couple of those people pleading with me to remember them. However, Killbuck, Ohio was a small town and people grew up together. I recognize some of these names and know that they were life-long friends.
Oh, I cannot close without adding one more page–this one from Aunt Maud’s autograph book, where Vera, then 4 years old, added her signature. The woman who would learn to write so beautifully, had not yet mastered the art. Fortunately someone, probably her mother Hattie Morgan Stout added the necessary information.