Featured Sections
Social/Cultural Interest
American History
Family History


Main photo page
group photos

Vance: The Essays
About the Book

Prominent Family Members

Anne McC
Annie Criswell McC
Donald McC
Eliza McC
Henry McC
Henry McC II
Henry B. McC
James McC
James McC, Jr.
James McC, Sr.
Mary McC

Robert McC
Vance McC
William McC

Clara Alricks
Hamilton Alricks
Herman Alricks
Mary Alricks

Simon Cameron

Other McCormicks

Correspondence of Mary Alricks McCormick
Edited by Claire Messimer and MaryAlice Bitts

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

Mary's letters were written on two different kinds of stationery. Both were buff-colored, eight by ten inches in size, folded in half book-wise. Faint blue lines are found on both types of stationery. One letter contains a heavily embossed figure of a cotton bale with the name of Lee Mass printed on it. Her script is tiny with capital letters greatly flourished. The ink is grey-brown. The pen nib is tiny as the writing is spidery and delicate. At times her mind traveled faster than her hand, leaving sentence fragments. As with the other writers, she didn't use apostrophes nor was spelling of family names standardized, i.e., Martie/Marty.

Mary was given the chore of controlling Clara's fashion choices and encouraging Marth's faint fashion sense. Through her letters we see what was in fashion for children (military suits for small sons) and young adults (Balmoral cloaks and boucle scarves). Wealthy families had seamstresses to create everything one needed, from underclothes to outerwear. Parties were described, elopements discussed (frequent occurrences in war time), and occupations unfamiliar to us are mentioned (china woman). The health of her father, sons and sister are of equal importance. Sadly, her infant son Hermy, whose rash concerns her, dies in infancy.

No mention is made in her letters of her son James's birth. Victorian women dreaded pregnancy and childbirth.(16) Obviously the constant round of pregnancies took a physical toll and many of them resulted in the premature deaths of young children. Mary herself had buried three infants by 1863. If women survived the ordeal of childbirth, they separated themselves literally and figuratively from the newborn until it was judged that the new child would live. This may have been the only was for women to protect their sanity in the face of repeated losses. (17) I never did learn why Mary gave birth in Willie Buehler's home in stead of her own. Perhaps because her husband traveled so often, it was deemed safer for Mary to reside with her uncle, near her family, at the time of her "confinement". As was proper for the Victorian wife, she refers to her husband as Mr. McCormick and not the more familiar and intimate, James.

The Letters:

From Mary McCormick to Clara Alricks, 11/11, 1863 ("Their last performance that I heard of was their distinguishing themselves throwing corn and behaving like boys generally on Halloween...")

From Mary McCormick to Clara Alricks, 11/27, 1863 ("I can't imagine what kind of furs you could get for your money. Nothing decent looking I should think")

  • 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.

McCormick Family Papers - Home
The Center for Pennsylvania Culture Studies - Home