University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


Living and Learning -
the Efforts of Children and Students

... staining these pure and spotless pages with the indelible marks of our faithfulness or neglect
- Ellen Carpenter, 1852

Parents and teachers have long encouraged their children and students in the wholesome activity of keeping diaries and journals. The works produced serve as educational tools and instruments of self improvement, and the routine mental exercise of recording thoughts and lessons provides discipline. Journals of students and children reflect various educational experiences and attitudes toward learning. Mature thinkers such as William Patterson kept serious records of intellectual development, while younger students such as Samuel Warren or Benjie Henderson sought companionship from their diaries and consolation for the hardships of their lonely scholarly endeavors. In addition to individual diaries, it is interesting to find group efforts of journal keeping, such as the Swan family journal and the Milford High School Daily Journal.

Henry W. Marston.
A Daily journal for 1875; January 1 - December 31, 1875.
1 volume (123 pp.)
from Diaries, Journals, Ships' Logs

Cover of Marston's Journal
On January 1, 1875, John Marston, Jr., signed a contract with his son, Henry W. Marston, that for every ten lines of composition written in this diary, daily for the year 1875, he would pay the sum of ten cents per entry provided "each and every word so written shall be correctly spelled without assistance..." The young Marston began January badly, with forty-nine words misspelled, but had improved to only four words wrong in December. In all, Marston averaged twenty-four words misspelled per month, and his annual yield from the exercise was $ 32.72.

Henry Marston was a student of the "Middle" class of West Penn Square Academy who lived with his family in Philadelphia. The nine and only omissions in the diary are explained shortly after Marston started his first job, in Mr. Redner's office as a junior scribe: "I have not written lately because I did not get out until half past five and was then (having been writing most of the day) too tired to write..." The discipline of daily writing was maintained throughout the rest of the year, however, and despite his protest that "My life is the most uneventful life that was ever led, I guess," Marston leaves a colorful picture of daily concerns from one year of his youth. The winter passed with ice cutting and walks to check the condition of the Delaware River. He drove the family on outings in the phaeton; played chess, croquet, cricket, and "needle gun," a game involving balls shot from a pistol toward a "boleing alley"; recounted his friend Joe's repast at a Centennial Tea held at Bryn Mawr: deviled crabs, ice cream, and strawberries; bet with Joe that yes, he could eat a bunch of bananas in a week; attended the Reformed Episcopal Church, Sunday School Convention, and choir; saw the "smasher" of a horse-drawn furniture car with a buggy; shopped at Wanamakers; attended with his Uncle Frank Du Pont the opening of the Centennial Exhibition; and walked and walked and walked the city streets of Pine, Market, Walnut, 14th, and Chestnut. The small daily entries of ten lines each, indeed, create a larger picture of a boy's life in 1875.

Samuel Edward Warren.
Journal, September 6, 1846 - March 20, 1849.
1 volume (154 pp.)
from Diaries, Journals, Ships' Logs

On a quiet September Sunday, at school at Andover, Massachusetts, Samuel Warren found more time than any available on a weekday to think of home, and thus resolved to "make a little record of the events of the day, so I now write the first entry in my first Journal."

The journal captures the naive voice of an earnest, inquisitive student. Warren ceased his regular journal entries when he summered at home and was occupied with "haying, getting wood, gathering apples, and study besides recreation and reading Thucydides, and writing a doctrinal epistle with practical remarks to [cousin] Dicky." But when he returned to boarding school, he resumed writing in his journal "especialy while I am in the house without one solitary companion whom I can expect to be interested in my chat or thoughts."

George G. Needham, b. 1842.
Diary of George G. Needham, April 19, 1855 - July 24, 1864.
5 volumes
from Diaries, Journals, Ships' Logs

New York City resident George Needham began this diary at age thirteen and kept it until he was twenty-two, shortly after he was graduated from the New York Ophthalmic School and Hospital in February 1864. The entries of his younger days record lazy play and loitering around the Harlem railroad depot; school work (with disappointments in "bad lessons"); visits to his parents' store, church, friends, and relatives; and trips to nearby states for fishing and other diversions. There was apparent parental guidance in keeping the diary, and Needham valued the record he kept because he noted that these volumes are copies made at a later date. He had a good ear for conversation, which he often included in his "stories," and added amusing details to dramatize his small miseries. In describing his anxiety before presenting the valedictory address at his graduation, he wrote, "My throat was rather worse but, by the aid of licorice, slippery elm, sugared lemon juice, lemon drops, Brown's bronchial troches, compound cough mixture, vinegar & molasses, a raw egg in wine and bay rum (for my eyes ached) I managed to get ready."

William D. Patterson, b. 1833.
Diary, January 1, 1856 - July 22, 1857; and Notes of Sermons by Dr. Creigh, December 1860 - April 1861.
1 volume (138 pp.)
from Diaries, Journals, Ships' Logs

Patterson, a twenty-two-year-old student at the Allegheny Seminary near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, began this hybrid diary-journal with a prayer of thanksgiving and guidance. Patterson's daily entries noted the weather of the day and his routine activities, but he also used the volume as a reflective workbook for his intellectual pursuits as a seminary student. He recorded his readings, topics of recitations attended, notes of sermons and prayer meetings, and Bible studies. Greatest detail was expended on summaries of arguments heard at regular meetings of the Society of Religious Inquiry, where he followed such discussions as "Are creeds useful?" or "Is the Union of Ch. & St. adapted to promote the morals of a nation?" As might be expected from this pre-Civil War period, national issues such as slavery and secession are included in notes of sermons.

Benjie Henderson.
Daily Pocket Diary, 1862-1870.
8 volumes
from Benjie Henderson papers

Benjie Henderson
Benjie Henderson was one of those sensitive individuals entirely affected by the weather: "January 21, 1862 It is still rainy and disagreeable and everything appears dull and I feel very dull indeed myself." Henderson was graduated from Fairville Halls, a girls' boarding school which was not far from her home "Near Newark, Delaware" and began her own teaching career in October 1862. There is a great difference between the schoolgirl's worries about her studies and the young teacher's adjustments to her charges, but Henderson's pocket diaries consistently reflect the moodiness of her life. She suffered great homesickness during the week when she lived in a boarding house while she taught school, and from detailed financial accounts in the back of each diary, she suffered equally from poor teeth:

Henderson wrote about her family, friends, relationships, and the troubles which threatened peace and Union in the early '60s, "Surely it can be nothing else but wicked to see one brother killing their fellow men. It fills the mind with horror and grief just to view closely the state of affairs."

Milford High School (Milford, Mass.).
Journal of the Milford High School, January 24 - October 22, 1852.
1 volume (178 pp.)
from Diaries, Journals, Ships' Logs

Student Ellen Carpenter began the "record book" for her class, "we go on stamping anew other impressions, and staining these pure and spotless pages with the indelible marks of our faithfulness or neglect." After a week, the duty of keeping the daily record book passed to another "scholar" and continued to rotate through the six-week terms of the Milford High School. Under the tutelage of Mr. Nason (later replaced by the portly Rev. Mr. Woodbury) and Miss Scott, the students recited to each other lessons in spelling, grammar, reading, Latin, French, chemistry, arithmetic, algebra, geometry, physiology, philosophy, geography, bookkeeping, and closed each day with singing. Old enough to write with style and flourish, the young scholars project individual personalities in their commentary about the collective activities of this high school, and through comparative criticisms and praises of their classmates. This journal proved to be a creative educational tool by exercise of participatory self-expression.

George Washington Jonson, b. 1801.
Swan family journal, September 1, 1838 - January 31, 1839, 1842-1844, 1856-1857.
1 volume (239 pp.)
from Diaries, Journals, Ships' Logs

Family census in Swan family journal
Instigated by thirty-seven-year-old George Jonson the day after his return from two years in Europe, the Swan family journal was a light-hearted entertainment kept by several members of the extended household of Jonson's brother-in-law, Dr. Caleb Swan of Easton, Massachusetts. The second page of the journal includes a household census, a courtesy not provided by most diarists. Jonson's sister, Louisa Sophia Swan (wife of Dr. Swan), and seventeen-year-old niece, Ruth B. Swan, were the most active participants in the journal-keeping other than Jonson, but even Dr. Caleb added occasional entries about his medical cases. The Swan family valued educational pursuits: both Dr. Swan and his wife took French lessons, and guests were entertained with books in the family library. Many of the entries are jests and spirited rhymes between family members, teasing entreaties to add a line or two. Overall, there is a thorough picture of the Caleb family's home life and relationships between family members.

Considering self works Creating self works Living & learning Domestic diaries
Business & adventure War diaries Keepsakes Word & deed
Inner journeys Travel diaries Professional writers Avocational efforts

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