Thursday, October 11, 2012

Boston Athenaeum Staff 1897

My collection of postal librariana consists mostly of envelopes usually without the contents. It is much more interesting when I find the letter which was sent in an envelope, especially when it has tidbits of information about the staff of the library. I have a letter (first page shown above) which was mailed in June of 1897 by a staff member of the Boston Athenaeum to another staff member who was evidently on vacation. The letter was mailed by Minnie Hortense Webster to Miss DeMeritt and it mentions a number of other staff members.  The Athenaeum Centenary (Boston Athenaeum, 1907) contains a list of all staff members who worked at the library up to 1907 so I was able to identify most of the staff members mentioned by Miss Webster along with the dates of their employment.  Miss Webster worked at the Athenaeum from 1897 to 1901 so she had only been employed for a short time when she wrote the letter. Evidently other senior staff members were also on vacation and at one point in the letter Miss Webster writes, "Miss Rabardy and I are left to our own devices, and we are both so fearful of making some abominable blunders that we actually forget to carp(?)." Miss Rabardy was Etta Lebreton Rabardy who started working at the Athenaeum in 1895 and was still working there in 1907. Miss DeMeritt to whom the letter was sent was Jennie Mabel DeMerritt who worked at the Athenaeum from 1892 to 1901. Also mentioned in the letter are Walter Lewis Barrell (1896-1900), Mary Honoria Wall (1890-1906), and Linda Frobisher Wildman who was employed in 1883 and was still working there in 1907. Miss Webster reports that a nice letter was received from Mr. Lane (William Coolidge Lane served as Librarian of the Athenaeum from 1893 to 1897 and left to become Librarian of Harvard University in 1898). Miss Webster also makes note of the Stanwood - Bolton wedding. This was the wedding of Charles Knowles Bolton to Ethel Stanwood. Bolton became Librarian of the Boston Athenaeum in 1898 and served in that capacity for the next 35 years. A lot of historical connections in a single letter. Today letter writing is a lost art, but then we can often keep update on the activities of our colleagues through Facebook.

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