University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


SELF WORKS:
DIARIES, SCRAPBOOKS, AND OTHER AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL EFFORTS

Daily report of Charles Boss...

Life

and

Adventure

Moved camp over Salt Creek -- had to ferry it & swim stock. Worked ten hours to get two miles.
- James R. Maxwell, 1868

These contemporary and retrospective life accounts kept by men focus on their business, work, and adventures. The men whose works are featured here exhibit self-confidence in the importance of their accomplishments and life experiences; all of their diaries and accounts have a sense of having been kept for the record.


Killed a Beef... Dudley Swift.
Diary, 1784-1844.
1 volume (134 pp.)
from Diaries, Journals, Ships' Logs

    1814 December 30 Killed a beef and it wayed 443 Pounds the hide wayed 66
          Pounds
     1815 January 5  Snowed
          January 12  Snowed
          January 18  Snowed
          January 31  Snowed
          February 5  Snowed a foot deep
          February 25  Snowed over shoes
          March 6  A thaw  Blackbirds come
          March 11  ducks Come
          March 12  Ice broke up

This diary kept by Dudley Swift of Chicopee, in Hamden County, Massachusetts, is almost like a farmer's almanac with its entries concerning seasonal changes and farm chores. The intermittent entries from 1784-1844 record the arrival of blackberries and birds, apple blossoms and ice floes. Swift planted potatoes, corn, and wheat; made cider, carted rice, and milled lumber. He especially recorded the harsh winter snows and ice damage, a few events at the Chickopee Meeting House, and whenever he drew books from the library.


Charles Boss.
Daily report of Charles Boss: Life and adventures on the Frontiers, Composed in Field, Jail, and Escapes, Prairie, Mountains, Rivers, Indians, Pioniers, Robbers, and Murder stories, Theft and Desertion, District of Territories Expeditions from 1869-1876, 1877.
1 volume (444 pp.)
from Diaries, Journals, Ships' Logs

Daily report of Charles Boss...

The title of Charles Boss' work aptly describes the scope and spirit of his account as an Indian fighter in the U.S. Infantry. A native of Brooklyn, Boss was discharged from the army in 1869 and returned to seek employment in New York. Not successful in his search, he was persuaded to join John Wieler on a venture West where each man would receive "160 akers of Land from the Goverment free of charge." They departed Brooklyn in October; arrived in Omaha in November; quickly experienced a prairie fire, a buffalo stampede, and several Indian attacks; and by December 15th, they were recruited to join the Infantry at Fort Sully where they had sought refuge from their hazardous ventures. Boss was assigned to Company F, 22nd Infantry, stationed at Fort Stevenson in the Dakota Territory. Through daily risk and danger, Boss knew he was having the adventure of his life. This volume, written later than 1884 when Boss was discharged from the Infantry in Colorado, was based on "papers" he had kept during his service. Boss served in several campaigns, including the "Sioux Expedition, or Genr. Custer's Avengers," and the Nez Perce campaign of 1877, so his account refers to everyone from William Cody to Chief Joseph, from Yellowstone Kelly to Sitting Bull. His "life and adventures" includes both day-by-day accounts of soldiering duty with authentically boring details, and crafted tales of hair-raising dramas which are more-than-probably embellished and certainly mindful of penny thrillers and Wild West Shows.


Hodge's map of Madiera Frederick A. Hodge.
Log of H.M.S. Minotaur kept by F.A. Hodge, February 14 - December 21, 1881; Log of H.M.S. Achilles, December 22, 1881 - April 10, 1882; Log of H.M.S. Swiftsure bearing the [flag] of Rear Adm. Lyons, Captain H.C. Aitchison, kept by F.A. Hodge, Mid., April 17, 1882 - March 8, 1883; Log of H.M.S. Swiftsure commanded by The Hon. T.S. Brand, kept by F.A. Hodge, June 26 - November 20, 1885.
2 volumes
from Diaries, Journals, Ships' Logs

Midshipman Frederick Hodge's logs are works of art. They include the standard log records of date, course, distance, wind, barometer and thermometer readings, and remarks; but Hodge has enhanced his record keeping with pencil drawings, pen and ink sketches, and hand-colored illustrations. He drew plans and sections of each ship on which he served, details of ship parts such as rudders or guns, charts and maps of voyages, nautical flags, anchors, buoys, sketches of ports or landscapes, and passing ships. The brief routine entries of the logs are entirely official with only one lengthy narrative report on damage sustained by a grounding, but Hodge personalized his log with his artwork. The Minotaur sailed from Vigo off the coast of Spain to Portsmouth; the Achilles from Plymouth to a sea transfer; the Swiftsure from Keyham to Honolulu via Peru and the Galapagos Islands, and returned from the Sandwich Islands to Plymouth in 1885.

Hodge's ship's log

Thornton Oakley, 1881-1953.
Diaries, 1908, 1919-1953.
36 volumes
from Thornton Oakley diaries

Oakley diary
The illustrator Thornton Oakley was a student of Howard Pyle, founder of the Brandywine School of Art. In 1914, Oakley was hired to head the Department of Illustration at the Philadelphia Museum's School of Industrial Art, now the Philadelphia College of Art, where he taught until 1936. Oakley illustrated numerous books and magazines, including Harper's, Century Magazine, Collier's Weekly, and Everybody's Magazine. Through brief entries in these pocket diaries, a clear picture of Oakley's habits, schedules, and even personal expression emerges. He noted dinner engagements, attendance of performances at the orchestra, meetings at his clubs, exhibits, successful sales of his prints, commissions for new work, visits to commercial publishers in New York, and personal and family anniversaries, trips, illnesses, and deaths. National events such as the passage of women's suffrage, death of President Harding, and Germany's invasion of Denmark and Norway are occasionally mentioned.


James Maxwell James R. (James Riddle) Maxwell, 1836-1912.
Diaries, 1868, 1871, 1872
3 volumes

Incidents in an Engineer's Life in the Far West [n.d.]
Typescript and holograph manuscript (235 pp.)
from James Maxwell papers

James Maxwell's employment as a civil engineer for the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific railroads, beginning in 1866, placed him in a period of great transition for the American West. His pocket diaries listed calculations for supplies, expenses, elevations, and work progress, but they also briefly note landscapes, towns, and Indians encountered. Having never traveled beyond western Pennsylvania, Maxwell had an almost anthropological interest in the people he met in the American West. His papers also include commercially produced photographs of North American Indians, Mormon sites in Salt Lake City, and rail company photographs and lithographs of engineering parties and landscapes. Similar diaries were kept and images collected when Maxwell worked as the chief engineer of the Chimbota Railroad and the Central Railroad of Peru, 1872-1875. Commonly called the Oroya Railway, this railroad reached a summit of 15,666 feet above sea level, higher than any other in the world. Maxwell retired from engineering in 1902 and returned to his home in Newark, Delaware, where he compiled "Incidents in an Engineer's Life in the Far West," and other personal and professional reminiscences of his career in the West and Peru.


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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