July 23, 2008

Of Vice and Men

This letter, from an anonymous "young lady," warns William White Chew about the danger of his vice and offers out the hope of redemption if he becomes more watchful.

"Tell me did you ever think of the dreadful consequences which will accrue if you continue in your folly? At this early period of your existence persons predict your early death. How would you appear at the throne of God after abusing the glorious advantages he has given you, think you ever of this? If you have not, think now...."
She goes on to talk about how her own death might be near, and then resumes pleading with Colonel Chew to change his ways. After all of the talk of finality in this letter, his correspondent closed the letter with this seal, which reads "I Trouble you with a line" and shows one person tying a noose around another's neck.

There are references throughout William White Chew's correspondence to "incidents" that he was clearly trying to conceal, and even hints that he was forced to withdraw from his diplomatic career because of some improprieties. I have just begun processing his papers, and feel myself drawn in to Mr. Chew's mysterious story. I am sure there will be much more intrigue to report.

July 11, 2008

the subtle beauty of surveys

This project has introduced me to many types of materials and aspects of history that I was previously unfamiliar with. It has also been teaching me a lot about balance and letting go of rigid ideas of perfection. Some days, it is easy to get lost in the enormity of the task that is processing a 400 linear foot collection. I panic about deadlines and not meeting all of my goals.

Yesterday, as we were putting Benjamin Chew Jr.'s papers to rest, I found a number of folders of oversize material that still needed to be integrated. It would have been easy for me to become frustrated that I had forgotten where every piece of paper was, but then I opened one of the folders and found this:

Survey of Chewton, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, [n.d.]

I don't know why I am so affected by surveys. I have fallen in love with their subtle, sweet beauty. I am always moved by the depictions of trees and houses, the meticulous detail with which the surveyors rendered their subjects. It could be that I've developed this interest because of the sheer number of surveys in the collection, but I think it is more that they offer such a simple view of boundaries and the space between place and place.

July 2, 2008

Where's Waldo?

Have fun searching for Waldo on the cover of this book: Journal or Diary of Henry B. Chew at the Epsom Farm in 1831.1832.1833. He's there - really.