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Correspondence of Jennie Boas
Edited by Claire Messimer and MaryAlice Bitts

September 14, 1863 to December 22, 1863
Manuscript # MG466


Jennie's two full pages of local news were written on cream paper eight inches by ten inches, folded book-like. The first page contains Jennie's initials heavily embossed in a circle. The ink is sepia in color and applied in a regular script with a fine-to-medium pen nib. If Jennie was the same age as Clara, her writing ability was advanced for her age. The sentence structure is complex. Paragraphs often included several sentences and punctuation meets today's standards. Jennie told Clara the latest news of Clara's closest friends, giving us a glimpse of how young people occupied their time in 1863. Card parties, buggy rides, skating, piano playing, and church attendance filled their social life outside of school.

I found her opening sentence interesting. Her remark that people loved receiving letters from home no matter who wrote them leads me to wonder if some female misunderstanding had arisen between them. Other letters from Jennie found in Manuscript #MG466 contain as much information as this one. While I would not classify Jennie as a gossip, she certainly supplied information on the latest happenings in Harrisburg. Her description of the fire as the most beautiful she ever saw is an interesting commentary on the danger of fire in 1863, and the fascination it held for spectators of any age.

Jennie's description of the circus was amusing. Attending a circus was considered risque' at the least and adventurous at most for young adults in the 1860s. Her statement that she found not one indecent act leads one to wonder if she secretly hoped for one or was afraid one would appear. (Or she might have wanted to assert that the circus was judged unfairly.) Traveling groups of performers were held in suspect by most of society at this time. Certainly a young woman exposing her legs in tights would have caused excitement among a society that corseted and covered every inch of a woman's body.

The twelve letters, along with other family memorabilia, are in the Manuscript group #MG466 owned by the Dauphin County Historical Society, 219 South Front Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. These letters give a glimpse into the lives and activities of the leading Harrisburg families and their ties to each other in 1863.

The Letter:

From Jennie E. Boas to Clara Alricks, 10/12, 1863 ("You can't imagine how much we miss you.")

  • 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.
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    • 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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