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Clara Alricks
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Herman Alricks
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Correspondence of Herman Alricks
Edited by Claire Messimer and MaryAlice Bitts

The Letters

Herman used the same stationery for all his letters. The cream colored sheets have a deckled-edged top and bottom. They measure five inches by eight inches. They contain no watermark and were used front and back. Faint blue lines ruled the paper. The ink was sepia brown. A wide pen nib produced a regular and heavy ink flow consistent with a man's handwriting. An occasional sentence fragment appears as if his mind moved faster than his hand. The script is very beautiful, and is often embellished with swirls and flourishes.

An interesting picture of Herman Alricks emerges from his letters to Clara. He was conservative, well educated, and devoted to his children and grandchildren, but was more than a little biased against Jews and African Americans. He kept a tight rein on family spending, forbidding credit accounts and paying all bills promptly. His letters were full of family and friends' activities whether it was the arrival of Hamilton's pacer pony or the death of a friend in war. Women's "things" he left to his older daughter's judgment.
Herman seems to be overly concerned with his own health, as well as the health of his children. His letters allude to headaches and "deteriorating health at this time". He states he could not longer live in his home at 23 S. Second Street due to the troubles there and the tolling of the bell. No doubt the house held many unpleasant memories for him and his family. In the panic of 1857, he, along with other bank investors in the Harrisburg Saving Institution, likely lost large amounts of money in defaulted loans. In addition to burying his wife, Mary, in 1857, he also buried daughter, Ann, in 1832, son, James in 1836, daughter, Jane in 1839, son, Herman in 1846, and daughter, Rosanna in 1852. (13)

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The head pain that resulted from the tolling church bells was as much a psychological pain as physical. Church bells tolled announcing the death of aperson to the community at large. (14) It certainly rang often enough in Herman Alrick's past to remind him of his losses.

His concern over Marty' infected finger and Hampy's night sweats were well-founded. In an age where antibiotics were unknown, any minor cut or cold could quickly turn into a life-threatening disease. Children and adults died of scarlet fever, consumption, diptheria [sic], measles, typhoid and typhus in alarming rates. (15) Considering lack of medicine, medical knowledge and sanitary conditioned, one has fortunate to survive the first year of life.

The Letters:

From Herman Alricks
To Herman Alricks

Letters From Herman Alricks

From Herman Alricks to Clara Alricks 9/14, 1863 ("In writing a letter you should not use the word "very" so often."}

From Herman Alricks to Clara Alricks11/19, 1863 ("This morning I enclosed $25...")

From Herman to Clara, 11/19, 1863, (I just heard Fanny Berghaus was married to Captain McConkey...All the friends, I think, opposed except her mother.")

From Herman Alricks to Clara Alricks, 12/2 1863 ("The town is as full of frivolity as ever. So we old fogies think.")

From Herman Alricks to Clara Alricks, 12/8, 1863 ("In these letters he says nothing about guerillas or an attack on Memphis.")

From Herman Alricks to Clara Alricks, 12/9, 1863 ("I see none but negroes about the house. They peep into our windows at night from the balcony - & every morning almost")

From Herman Alricks to Clara Alricks, 12/14, 1863 ("The boys have behaved well and have become men & men of business habits, which would not be the case if I were rich -- probably.")

From Herman Alricks to Clara Alricks, 12/18, 1863 ("I enclose a small bill of Einstein (1) which provoked me today. I had forbid any one of the family dealing at that store.")

From Herman Alricks to Clara Alricks, 12/18, 1863 ("I did not dream that I owed any Jew.")

From Herman Alricks to Clara Alricks, 1222, 1863 ("I am sending you a Christmas gift...I have not heard from you yet about the small bill of Einstein's. If you said anything to me about it, I have totally forgotten-but my memory has failed so much of late that I forget what happened a month ago.")

Letters To Herman Alricks

Hamilton Alricks to Herman Alricks, 11/5, 1864 ("We wake at the fire of the cannon, write by it, and go to sleep with it.")

Hamilton Alricks to Herman Alricks, 12/27, 1864 ("Tell me what kind of Holidays they had in Harrisb[ur]g...and you must tell me what you think of my war correspondence."

Hamilton Alricks to Herman Alricks, 1/3, 1865 ("..I stop the pain by boiling water in a tin pail, stretching a piece of cloth over the top and holding the part affected over it so the steam heats it thoroughly.")

Hamilton Alricks to Herman Alricks, 1/18, 1865 ("This country is hard on the horses, the limestone sticking up in the streets, worse than in the vicinity of Carlisle.")

Hamilton Alricks to Herman Alricks, 4/25, 1865 (A letter that ends abruptly)

Hamilton Alricks to Herman Alricks, 4/20, 1865 ("Yesterday we had a grand procession here. Some estimate the number in line at 60,000.")

Hamilton Alricks to Herman Alricks, 5/16, 1865 ("The town is filled with Rebel-Soldiers returning from the South. A more ragged dirty miserable looking set would be hard to find.")

Hamilton Alricks to Herman Alricks, 5/25, 1865 ("The question is, where did Jeff get the Mexican money, as the Government had done away with that coin some time before the war. Did it come from Mexico for his use or-not.")

Hamilton Alricks to Herman Alricks, 5/25, 1865 ("I also have charge of the Pay Car, a magnificently furnished car with Kitchen, Dining Room, Sleeping Room and Office in it. It is used to pay the men along the roads...")

Hamilton Alricks to Herman Alricks, 6/26, 1865 ("We left Nashville the 21st up to this date have expended $30,000 and paid some 600 men.")

Hamilton Alricks to Herman Alricks. 7/10, 1865 ("I am the color of a maple or oak table. My eyes are of a golden hue.")

Hamilton Alricks to Herman Alricks, 8/1, 1865 ("...I wish I could be home to show Miss Boggs around...")

Hamilton Alricks to Herman Alricks, 8/8, 1865 ("Capt[ain] Wickersham of Lancaster is chief Ass[istant] Q[uarter] M[aster] of the Dep[ar]t[ment] of Tenn[essee] and if I choose to go to Agusta he could give me a situation, but the weather is too warm.")

See also:
Clara Alricks' Letters
Hamilton Alricks' Letters
McCormick Letters Page
McCormick Papers: Home Page

  • Alrich, William H. Uncle Levi and the Alrich (Alricks) Family Genealogy. by the author, April 1985.
  • Barney, William L. The Passage of the Republic. Lexington, Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Company, 1987.
  • Bate, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-6. Harrisburg: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
  • Boyd, William H. Boys's Business Directory of Adams, Bucks, Chester, Dauphin, Dauphin, Delaware, Franklin, Lancaster, Montgomery, and York, Pennsylvania,1860. Philadelphia: N.E. Corner and 6 Minor Street, 1860.
  • Draper, Stacy, curator of Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, New York. Interviewed by author 11, April 1993.
  • Eggert, Gerald G. Harrisburg Industrializes. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.
  • Egle, William. Egle Book of Pennsylvania Genealogy: Scotch-Irish and German Families, Hamilton Family. Harrisburg: Lane S. Hart, Printer and Binder, 1886.
  • Egly, William. Genealogcial Record of Beatty, Egle, Muller, Murry, Orth and Thompson. Harrisburg: Lane S. Hart, Printer and Binder, 1886.
  • Foote, Shelby. The Civil War Narrative: Fredericksburg to Meridian. New York: Bintage Books, 1963.
  • Garrett, Elizabeth Donaghy. At Home: The American Family 1750-1879. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, 1990.
    • Genealogical Family Manuscript Charts::
      Alricks Family
      Boas Family
      Buehler Family
      Cameron/McCormick Family
      Forster Family
      Hamilton Family
      Kerr/Wilson Family
  • Gopsill, James., pub. Gopsill's Directory of Lancaster, Harrisburg, Lebanon and York, 1863-64. Jersey City: John H. Lyon, Printer, 1863.
  • Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History of People and Events. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1975.
  • Johnson, Allen and Dumas Malone, eds. Dictionary of American Biography: Vol. III. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958.
  • Kelker, Luther Reily. History of Dauphin County Pennsylvania with Genealogical Memoirs: Vol. III. New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1907.
  • Phelps, Stephen. "The Indomitable Emma Willard" The Conservationist (March-April 1979): 17-19.
  • Schuessler, Raymond. "The woman who proved female intelligence". N.R.T.A. Journal (November-December 1977): 9-11.
  • Urdang, Laurence, ed. The Timetable of American History. New York: Simon And Schuster, Inc., 1981.
  • Williams, Susan. Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts. New York: Pantheon Books, 1985.
  • Yarwood, Doreen. The Encyclopedia of World Costume. New York: Bonanza Books, 1986.

This online project is a joint venture between Penn State University and The Historical Society of Dauphin County, where the McCormick Family Papers are kept.

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