What to print and what to leave out can get complicated. Critics often had much to say about what was “appropriate” in fiction for children and for adults.

Here, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reacts to a criticism of its coverage of a case involving sexual assault. Anna R. McCormick, a servant in the household of Charles Backus, sued his son, Alfred Otto Backus, for $3000, claiming assault and battery and “seduction under promise of marriage.” Alfred claimed that their intimacies were consensual and that no such promise was made. The verdict went against Alfred, the jury awarding Anna $1250.

The trial began 14 July 1859, with Anna’s testimony appearing in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle for 15 July (p. 2). Anna’s printed testimony is harrowing, emphasizing violence and claiming that Alfred not only promised marriage, but when she realized that she was pregnant, tried to get her to miscarry. While coverage includes “(Here witness described the commission of the offense.),” the remaining testimony is filled with details of Anna being roughly handled.

The Eagle’s critic seems to have pounced immediately. Given Anna’s care to describe Alfred’s every move and her own helplessness, the testimony is graphic and overwhelming.

The Eagle’s response is … interesting. It’s easy to to see here a defense of sleaze, as the Eagle puffs up in indignation and explodes in a paragraph threatening the presence of Shakespeare, the bible, and many 18th-century novels in the family home. The (subtly salacious) details are necessary, the Eagle maintains, so as to “elucidate the character of the case.” To “emasculate” the legal record in favor of “mock modesty” and ”artificial prudery” wouldn’t “enlighten the public.” Why else publish the trials? (That The Brooklyn Daily Times reports the basics of the case in a dry paragraph highlights the Eagle’s turn toward the dramatic. [See 16 July 1859; p. 3])

Why else, indeed? Except that the plethora of details the Eagle threw into its reporting on the courts is one of the pleasures of reading them. The write-up of the assault of a butcher on a customer includes the back-and-forth leading to it, which explains how a dollar’s-worth of meat turned into a 1400-dollar verdict. (Amounts are in 2019 dollars.) So the excruciating level of detail on a sexual assault case probably was expected by readers of the Eagle.

Thus, the Eagle’s diatribe comes across as more than a little disingenuous. “Can any sane man suppose that there are among the readers of newspapers any class whose animal instincts are so utterly depraved, and whose intellect so totally imbecile, without force of reason or strength of will, as that they cannot peruse a trial, such as the one we have reported, without injury to their morals?” the Eagle asks indignantly; and the reader who’s been on the internet more than five minutes thinks, Uh … yeah. Of course there were readers relishing every horrific detail. And surely the Eagle knew that.

Still, the Eagle’s focus on the educational aspects of its reporting is on target. The details in its court reporting provide vivid snapshots of ordinary 19th-century Americans at their worst. As Anna cooks, tidies the Backus’ house, and washes clothes, it’s easy for 21st-cetury readers to see how much work one servant was expected to do.

And the diatribe is educational as well. The response of at least one reader to what appeared in the newspaper. Just what was considered possibly salacious in 19th-century America. (Oh, that naughty Shakespeare Shakspeare!) There’s an interesting theme of emasculation and virility, as the Eagle asserts its right to thrust its view of the world into the public gaze. For the researcher in early American periodicals for children, there’s the statement that the Eagle is not published for the delectation of children and the wonderfully weird—and seemingly sarcastic—sentence claiming that young readers of children’s periodicals would think that “the human race is kept up by electricity or steam” and would be “admirably adapted to solve its problems and grapple with its realities in an enlightened and efficient manner.”* Hmm.

The Eagle continued its detailed reporting of the trial, with Alfred Backus’s testimony spread over two days (18 July 1859; p. 2 & 19 July 1859; p. 2); the verdict was reported on 21 July (p. 3). (With the details of the case of the butcher and his unhappy customer.)

No doubt, many readers were grateful for the education.

Some notes about the transcript: It’s interesting to see the Rosetta Stone used to refer to something being made clear; the earliest I’ve found the concept in an American newspaper is 1847. About the “Sickles confession”: U. S. Congressman Daniel E. Sickles shot and killed Philip Barton Key (son of Francis Scott Key, who wrote “The Star Spangled Banner”) on 27 Feb 1859, because Key was having an affair with Sickles’ wife. After a 21-day trial, Sickles was found not guilty by reason of insanity (the first to be so acquitted), took up his Congressional duties, and resumed his relationship with his wife. Newspaper coverage included detailed accounts of the actions of all concerned.

* Children’s periodicals are how I found this piece to begin with. One of my standard search phrases is “children’s paper,” which appears herein. A good search term can net you the most interesting stuff …

“Prudery and Indelicacy” (from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle [Brooklyn, New York] 16 July 1859; p. 2)

We have received a communication from a source entitled to respect, complaining of the testimony in the case now being tried in the City Court, which was published in the Eagle yesterday. With all due regard to the eminent and worthy author we cannot coincide with the feeling he expresses on the subject. The case referred to is brought by a female who accuses a young man of a complication of offences including something very like rape, seduction, and assault and battery. We published precisely the amount of details necessary to show as the trial progresses, whether the case is one of outrage on an unprotected female or a conspiracy to ruin the character and deplete the purse of an innocent man, possessed of wealth and occupying a respectable position in society. Offensive details were carefully omitted, except so far as they seemed necessary to elucidate the character of the case. Perhaps those who object to the testimony will tell us what their idea is of the purpose of publishing the trials which occur in the Courts at all. We imagined that it was to enlighten the public, to inform them of the character of the prosecutions introduced and the manner in which the law was administered. Such being our view of the case, our rule is never to publish details offensive to the most refined delicacy, in fact to exclude them systematically, except when they became a part of a case necessary to its merits and character being understood; but never to succumb to an artificial prudery so far as to emasculate a legal record so that the character of the proceeding is shrouded in a veil of mock modesty, and the purpose of publication entirely frustrated. Was ever a more indelicate publication made than the Sickles confession and yet without the manufacture and publication of that document would the public have understood the characters of the actors on that occasion? it was the very Rosetta stone of the case, and furnished the key to the whole tragi-comedy. Yet the publication of the confession must have been a terrible impropriety.

Indeed, in California, where mob-law overturned all order and established tribunals, and where the courts manufacture divorces in wholesale batches, one of these same legal machines fined a newspaper for publishing the document in question; showing how a tinsel prudery may gild social depravity and corruption.

Nor can we coincide with the views of human nature, entertained by those who deprecate such publications when rendered necessary. Can any sane man suppose that there are among the readers of newspapers any class whose animal instincts are so utterly depraved, and whose intellect so totally imbecile, without force of reason or strength of will, as that they cannot peruse a trial, such as the one we have reported, without injury to their morals? If there are such, they are unfit to exercise the functions appertaining to rational humanity, and their keepers should lock up the family Bible, place Shakspeare beyond their reach, expurgate Sterne, Swift, Smollett, Fielding, and all the authors of the Augustan age of English literature, and build their moral safety on the beautiful structure of unnatural ignorance. But it is said the young cannot, with safety, be permitted to know that seduction or rape are offenses possible to the human organization. In the first place we deny that ignorance is virtue; and in the second place we would say that we do not publish a paper for the nursery. The Tract Society publishes a child’s paper, full of beautiful pictures of precocious little angels, and pretty stories for little boys and girls, which is entirely safe reading. By limiting the literature accessible to the rising generation to innocuous matter, and inspiring them with the idea that the human race is kept up by electricity or steam, we should bring forth a generation into the world admirably adapted to solve its problems and grapple with its realities in an enlightened and efficient manner.

Unless our correspondent, and those whom he represents, are ready to maintain that the publication of trials in the courts is only to be done occasionally, when the issues involved are disputes over real estate, or musty records of the times of the Pharaohs, or in a mutilated manner by omitting what the case must turn upon, they can lay no claim to consistency. Beides the details of law cases are not imposed upon by any one surreptitiously. The cases are headed by the name of the offense charged and when readers commence to read a seduction case they can hardly expect it to be composed of a moral essay.

We do not wish to be misunderstood or supposed to advocate or justify an indelicate publication. We repeat that we systematically avoid everything of the sort; and we submit to the candor of the reader whether the contents of the Eagle are ever tarnished by an indelicacy of thought or expression. But while we have a most soli[cito]us regard for the moral perceptions and the delicacy of our readers we do not forget that we publish a news-paper and not a daily tract or moral essay. We “hold the mirror up to nature, show virtue her own feature, vice her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.” If any body falls in love with the images of vice, the fault lies in the moral affinities of the individual, not in the reflecting medium.

The standard of the Eagle is that of right-minded virility; we do not address ourselves to the unformed mind and character of childhood or adolescence, or that combination of mental imbecility and moral depravity which can only be restrained from rushing into vice by being kept in ignorance of its existence.

The fun thing about pieces on etiquette is that they’re not just a discussion of how people were supposed to behave, but a description of how people were behaving. And this list of etiquette “don’ts” from Forrester’s Boys’ and Girls’ Magazine, and Fireside Companion shows that things just haven’t changed. Most of us grew up still being warned not to do the things listed below, which people of all ages probably have been doing since there was etiquette.

(It’s tempting to shove in “on your phone” in number two and “or class” in five and six. And number eight seems like there might be a very specific story behind it … )

“Seventeen Things” (from Forrester’s Boys’ and Girls’ Magazine, September 1855, p. 87)

Seventeen Things.—In which young people render themselves very impolite:

1. Loud laughter.

2. Reading while others are talking.

3. Cutting finger nails in company.

4. Leaving meeting before it is closed.

5. Whispering in meeting.

6. Gazing at strangers.

7. Leaving a stranger without a seat.

8. A want of reverence for superiors.

9. Reading aloud in company without being asked.

10. Receiving a present without some manifestation of gratitude.

11. Making yourself the topic of conversation.

12. Laughing at the mistakes of others.

13. Joking others in company.

14. Correcting older persons than yourself, especially parents.

15. To commence talking before others are through.

16. Answering questions when put to others.

17. Commencing to eat as soon as you get to the table.

The culture of reprinting in the 19th-century meant that stories often got reprinted in newspapers across the country. (“Give Your Child a Paper” had a long day in the sun before the Civil War, then seems to have been rediscovered after the War.) The story of the deaths of two teenagers was reprinted by several papers.

It’s the kind of heart-rending incident that was all too familiar to 19th-century parents: in 1855, Eddie, of Selma, Alabama, and his little sister contracted cholera at the same time; she died. The family of Mary E. Doran in 1850 consisted of two girls and their parents; by 1857, Mary’s parents were dead, as were her sister and another sibling born around 1851.

So when the sons of a minister died of meningitis in the same week, parents reading the brief piece must have sympathized. Editors also sympathized; Albert Shotwell edited the Presbyterian, published in Memphis.

Fortunately, this kind of horror is less common today, thanks to science.

“Two Young Editors Dead” (from the Brownsville Bee [Brownsville, Tennessee]; reprinted in the Leaf-Chronicle Weekly [Clarksville, Tennessee] 21 Feb 1872; p. 4)

Somerville had a little twelve-column paper called the “Mammoth Weekly,” published by two boys, sons of Rev. Albert Shotwell. It had been going on about six months, and was a live, sprightly, youth’s paper, and showed plainly that the young editors were boys of unusual brilliancy and promise. The last issue appeared on the 10th, giving the obituary of both the young editors and of the paper. Albert Frank Shotwell died of meningitis, February 4, aged eighteen years, three months, and twenty-five days. James Preston Shotwell, died of the same disease February 6, aged fifteen years, two months, and eighteen days. Theirs is a short, sad story.

The Mammoth Weekly (a phrase that shows up a lot in advertisements for newspapers too big to open comfortably on a library table—Brother Jonathan made me unpopular in the library one day at the University of Minnesota) was the kind of amateur paper produced by dozens of energetic and ambitious teenaged boys during the 19th century; unfortunately, a number of them have left no copies for researchers to enjoy.

(Wow; I really hadn’t planned to present this many ads for quack medicines, but I love the way things get worded, and I find it fascinating that we haven’t changed our bizarre fascination with using weird medicine.)

Ah, research and the things you uncover. Searching “juvenile magazine” at newspapers.com, I was chagrined to find a piece apparently reprinted from a “Phil. Juvenile Magazine.” What Philadelphia juvenile magazine? Did I miss one? And what’s the piece?

The “piece” turned out to be an advertisement for Kemp’s Worm Pastilles. (Not what it sounds like.) The “Philadelphia juvenile magazine” turned out to be— I’m still not sure. There were multiple children’s periodicals published in Philadelphia in 1857. If it was Robert Merry’s Museum or The Little Pilgrim, it may have appeared in an advertising section or on the covers. John Newton Stearns might have printed the thing—he printed just about anything—but I don’t think Sarah J. Lippincott would have printed an advertisement like this.

I mean, look at that headline: “Giving Poison to Children.” That’s the finest kind of clickbait—you just have to take a look, because who would want to poison children? And use of the word “pastille,” which is—yes—a medicated tablet, but is also a candy.

But an ad that pretends to be a piece reprinted from a “Philadelphia juvenile magazine” … The format is exactly the format used for reprints: headline in small caps as the first phrase of the paragraph; source at the end, sometimes set apart with a square bracket. In fact, until you get to the name of the product, it does read like the kind of piece you might find in a magazine for women—especially parents concerned that intestinal parasites are harming their children. It’s an advertisement shaped like an informative article; and we don’t still do that, do we? And (1) “juvenile magazine”—how wholesome! With (2) “Philadelphia,” land of 10,000 members of the Society of Friends. There are a number of 19th-century American pieces satirizing them as hypocritical lowlifes, but they’re also presented as pure of mind and soul and honest as the sequoia is tall. So we have wholesomeness with a side order of truthfulness and purity—just what you want in an advertisement for a children’s medicine.

Did the “pastilles” work? Who knows. So often, if the effect of the medication isn’t as desired, the doser or the patient gets the blame. I’m sure it was then just as it is now: if it don’t work, you did it wrong.

“Giving Poison to Children” (from The Louisville Daily Courier [Louisville, Kentucky] 9 November 1857; p. 3)

Giving Poison to Children.—Hundreds of thousands of children have been poisoned, with the best intentions in the world. We do not now refer to the result of accidental mistakes—such as the substitution of laudanum for paregoric, or oxalic acid for Epson Salts; but to the practice which prevails of dosing the young with improper medicines. It is bad enough to administer nostrums impregnated with mineral poison to adults, whose more vigorous vitality enables them better to withstand the deleterious influence; but to give mercurialized preparations to young children is downright madness. And yet this is done daily, and, as we have said, with the best intentions. The nauseous vermifuges forced with such persistent folly down the throats of children, in defiance of their young instincts, and in contempt, it would seem, of common sense, belong to this class of medicines. Calomel is their staple ingredient. Now it is not to be denied that calomel will sometimes destroy worms; but it is a corrosive poison, and cannot be absorbed into the tender system of children without periling their lives.

Why should it be employed when a vegetable preparation like Kemp’s Worm Pastilles will answer the purpose infinitely better? Chemical analysis has demonstrated that these Pastilles contain no mineral substance; and experience has proved that even where calomel fails, they produce the desired effect. It appears that they contain within themselves all the elements of cure; requiring no medicine of any kind to be taken before or after them.

Another peculiarity is giving Kemp’s Pastilles an immense popularity among mothers. They have neither the appearance nor the taste of physic. Never was a remedy for diseases more pleasant to the eye or more palatable. They are just the articles that a child would invest its pennies in at the confectioner’s. Then their operation, unlike that of calomel, is quite harmless. These are merits which it is almost unnecessary to commend to the attention of judicious mothers. They can appreciate without argument, the blessings of an infallible cure for worms in the disguise of tempting “candies.” We can sympathize with all urchins condemned to swallow disgusting potions. The time when our own throat was the conduit for that sort of thing yet lives in our recollection. Ugh! we shudder as we recall the spoon and its thick, black contents!—[Phil. Juvenile Magazine.

A couple notes: The “thick, black” medicine, was possibly sulphur and molasses, which was the homemade cure-all of earlier generations. And the image of a little child investing its pennies at the confectioner’s shop is a far cry from the diatribe against candy shops reprinted in Parley’s Magazine a generation earlier.

The Chicago Fire of October 1871 destroyed much of the city, including the offices of The Little Corporal,but not—apparently—Chicago’s famous entrepeneurial nature.

The Fire’s devastation was legendary: 300 people dead and 100,000 homeless. It also cut a swathe through Chicago publishing. Though four of the five children’s periodicals then published in Chicago recovered, it was only with great effort. The Little Corporal lost everything, from printing material, presses, plates, manuscripts, and premiums to be sent to subscribers, to “all the back numbers on hand from the commencement of the Corporal down to the number for November, which was all ready and partly printed.” The Corporal did, however, issue a November “supplement” in the form of a sheet that folded to eight pages; its December issue was 48 pages, 16 pages more than usual. Mrs. Lou H. Kimball, the editor of the Lyceum Banner lost everything: the Banner’s offices, the unmailed issue, and her personal property; she was reported dead. She printed a supplement to the Banner to replace the burned issues, but it was lost by the express company. A “half sheet” was subsequently sent to subscribers. Her insurance company went bankrupt without paying her.

It’s impossible, though, to keep a Chicagoan down, and the Corporal pointed this out in their March 1872 issue, with an amused look at the small businesses resulting from the Fire, as boys sold partially destroyed bits of salvage. The “relics” mentioned are still treasured by collectors; the safe which the editor wryly offers for a memorial was the one in the Corporal’s office, which securely held all the valuables as they securely burned to safely locked-up ashes inside. It was, the editor had pointed out in the December issue, “new, and as reliable as any in the market”—and probably not as reliable as advertised.

“ ‘Relics of the Fire’ ” (from The Little Corporal, March 1872; pp. 109-110)

The fire that came near burning us all up, started a new trade; and as it ’s mostly in the hands of the boys, I ’d like to tell you in what droll yet sad things it deals.

The big stores, of course, were full of goods, from cellar to attic, and when—in that awful night—the brick walls fell in, everything was buried beneath them. In a few days, before the ruins were done burning, boys began to poke and dig among the piles of brick and stone, as they always do—and, by the way, can any of you Little Corporal boys tell me why they do?

This time they brought up various half-burned articles, which were readily bought by the bystanders, and before a week the new trade was in full blast. Now you can scarcely pass a corner in the business streets, without being saluted with the cry:

“Relics of the fire!” and funny things you ’ll see, spread out on the sands.

Hardware stores furnish whole kegs of nails welded together, yet retaining the shape of each nail; papers of tacks and screws melted in the same way, making curious paper weights; dozens of forks firmly soldered together; and wonderful stalactites of iron.

Stalactites—perhaps you know—are formed like icicles, while the metal is melted.

Crockery stores furnish cups and saucers, bronzed by fire; piles of plates melted together; fancy bottles with a sentimental droop of the head to one side, as if they ’d been faint; unbroken egg glasses with the tops bent over together as though they were about to collapse, but thought better of it.

Then the grain warehouses furnish exquisite bits of charcoal, made of wheat, every grain perfect and glossy, as though polished.

The toy shops—alas! how can I tell the tragedies there! Dolls with glass eyes melted out; wax dolls with
complexion melted off; long haired beauties, with not a hair to their heads; all black and horrid. Square blocks of beautiful glass marbles welded together, and bent as though made of wax; chunks of china dolls, of all sizes, joined for life in grotesque ways. But, saddest of all, china babies in bath tubs, who it seems are packed in pairs (one turned upside down on another, as you put a cover on a dish), fastened together in such a way that one of the unfortunate babies must always sit on its head!

It is proposed to build a monument in one of our parks, of the burnt out safes, among them, perhaps the one which held the Little Corporal’s books and papers, while they burned to ashes.

Earlier generations of women are quite impressive; the mere physical aspects of daily life were time-consuming and exhausting. For example, dealing with those ankle-length skirts and petticoats. All that fabric, picking up mud and snow and dust and rain … ugh.

19th-century Americans didn’t disagree. The Bloomer dress was one response. And here we have two descriptions of some of the problems with long skirts. “Ellery” was a subscriber to Woodworth’s Youth’s Cabinet; the letter was printed in the magazine’s popular letters column. “Aunt Sue” was Susannah Newbould, the magazine’s co-editor. (She contributed to a number of periodicals for children and for adults; she was an interesting woman with a lively writing style.) “Gail Hamilton” was Abigail Dodge, a writer sometimes sentimental and often amusing, whose works were very popular. (Wool-Gathering is my favorite.) Hamilton had few illusions about 19th-century America and fewer qualms about describing the large and small irritations of everyday life.

Really really glad we don’t have to deal with all that fabric on a daily basis.

(from Woodworth’s Youth’s Cabinet, January 1856; p. 38)

New York, Oct. 20th, 1855.

Dear Aunt Sue,—Do you wear very long skirts? If you do, and any one steps on them, and you want to annihilate the offender entirely, serve him as a lady served me the other day in Broadway. But let me tell you all about it. I must premise that I am fourteen years old, and very small,—an evil (if it be one) which I hope to outgrow. I was returning from school with my books under my arm, and a schoolfellow alongside of me. A lady with a long skirt had walked before us for some distance, when, in an unlucky moment, I set my foot upon her dress, and I’m afraid I heard some stitches giving way! In my dismay I dropped my books, took off my cap, and prepared to apologize. Did it ever occur to you what an amount of thinking can be done up in half a second? In about that space of time I thought, “Now I’ve done it! She will certainly kill me with her black looks. I’m very sorry; but confound such long skirts! everybody ought to step upon them,—it’s a duty we owe to society to abolish them, an inch at a time, if necessary. I wish I was in Guinea, or else that she were. I must make the best of it; here goes!” &c. Such were some of my thoughts; my feelings cannot be written. I fancied that I had braced my nerves to sustain almost any shock, even if she looked daggers! but I found I had not prepared myself for what did occur. She turned round, looked at me, and said, with the sweetest smile in the world, “It was my fault, dear; I ought to apologize!” Aunt Sue, can you fancy how I was “taken aback”? I wanted to say, “You are an angel;” but of course I did n’t say the first word. I wanted to step on her dress again, that I might hear her speak again. I wonder where she lives! What an embodied sunbeam she was!—a walking epitome of practical godliness! She did me good. I have been as amiable as possible ever since. When I find no buttons where buttons ought to be, I remonstrate with Maggie, instead of scolding like everything, as I used. I bumped my head against the window-shutter, and, instead of putting the shutter back with a slam, I replaced it just as gently as I could. In fact, she has done me almost too much good. The other day, when Carlo jumped up, and left the tracks of his muddy paws on my “Sunday-go-to-meetings,” I told him so calmly to get down, that he took it for an invitation to come up again, the which he accepted on the spot. Biddy wanted to know what had made me “so good na-thred.” I told her I had seen an angel. “Och! thin, Mas-thr Elly, it’s myself would like to see that same.” I only hope I may see her again. Will you publish this, Aunt Sue? If you do, she may see it, and the knowledge of my sentiments may atone for my carelessness. I make no apology for intruding upon your time, for I think the circumstances ought to be made known to every one.

Yours, truly,

So do I, “Mas-thr Elly.”

Aunt Sue.

(from The Jeffersonian Democrat [Chardon, Ohio] March 25, 1864; p. 4)

Gail Hamilton thus describes a woman on a rainy day: “See how she is forced to concentrate all the energies of mind and body on herself and her casings. One delicate hand clings desperately to the unwieldy umbrella; the other is ceaselessly struggling to keep a firm hold of the multitudinous draperies; and, if book, basket or bundle claims a share of her attention, her case is pitiable indeed. Down goes one fold upon the wet flagstone, detected only by an ominous flapping against the ancles [sic] when the garment has become saturated—a loosened hold of the umbrella, at which it takes advantage, and immediately sways imminent over the gutter—a convulsive and random clutch at the petticoats. The umbrella righted, a sudden gust of wind threatens to bear it away, and, one hand not being sufficient to detain it, the other involuntarily comes to the rescue—sweep go the draperies down on the pavement; then another clutch, another adjustment, forward! march! and so on, to the dreary, draggled end.”

William Goodell was a businessman turned writer and editor, editing a number of periodicals for adults and children, among them the Youth’s Temperance Lecturer. As the title indicates, the magazine appears to have had a temperance focus. Appears. Copies of the Lecturer haven’t been located. Anywhere. (Many many copies of the book by Charles Jewett are everywhere.)

Luckily, 19th-century America had a culture of reprinting: if it looked good and would fill column inches, it had a great chance of being reprinted. So we sort of have articles from the Lecturer. They may have been edited; they may be filled with typos; but they’re the closest we have to what was printed in the magazine.

One of the most charming pieces appeared in the Christian Secretary: a description of childhood in early-19th-century America. Childhood in winter, to be precise.

It may have been William Goodell’s lived experience. Goodell was born in rural New York in 1792, his parents then living in a log cabin. (A pamphlet published at his death claims that he was the first white child born in the area.) It was a harsh life; Goodell’s mother died of apparent deprivation and overwork when he was eleven.

Goodell’s writing was lively and sometimes brutally honest. (One story appearing in the Lecturer points out that alcoholics often pretend to be religious and repentant in order to deceive those trying to help them. In a magazine for children. I’ve read a lot of 19th-century temperance writing for children; this is unusually harsh.) Early in his editing career, he focused on anti-slavery and pro-temperance themes. Here, the temperance emphasis shows, in the joys of pure water and in the frugality of their meals. The brown bread and butter show up constantly in 19th-century works for children; the milk porridge for supper is unusual. But frugal, apparently.

This far from the time period, we tend to glamorize life in early America, picking through the sweet and quaint and adorable aspects. “The Log School House” describes the unpretty, unadorable reality. But still quaint: it is, after all, a memory of childhood.

[Note: The “Webster’s Third Part” is part three of the Grammatical Institute of the English Language, by Noah Webster; it’s a reader. (Part two is a grammar; part one is The American Spelling Book.)]

“The Log School House” (reprinted from Youth’s Temperance Lecturer; from Christian Secretary, January 5, 1833; p. 204)

When I was a little boy, I used to go to school, a mile and a half, through the woods, and in the snow. Sometimes there would be a hard crust, on the top of the snow, thick and strong enough to bear me up, and then I used to run with my little brothers, merrily enough, among the trees, and admire the bright glistening of the sun-shine, that peeped through the thickets, and glistening upon the snow crust.—Sometimes after a light snow, we used to see the foot prints of wild animals tracked across our path, for it was a new country, and then we used to look at each other, without saying a word, and hasten along, as fast and still as possible, for fear of the wolves and panthers.—When we came to the school house, we were sometimes very cold, and were glad enough to put our fingers to the fire. The school house was built of logs, without any chimney, but a great hole was made at the top, for the smoke to go out at. There it was, that i first learned to spell—b-a ba; k-e-r ker:—baker, and was proud enough that I could beat Clara Rexford, and get up to the head—When we wanted drink, we asked the Master to let us go out; and then went to a little spring, a few rods distant, and either crouched down, on or hands and knees, to drink, or else, dipped it up in our hands. Oh! how sweet it used to taste! Better than all the cordials, and wines, and slings, that ever were drank. Then, at dinner time, what do you think we had to eat?—Do you think we had mince pies, and plum cake! No such thing. No, nor even an apple, for none grew there, then. We took from our little baskets, some good brown bread and butter, or sometimes an Indian Johnny cake, much coarser than the Graham bread which some people complain of, as “scratching their throats” so badly! But it tasted very good, and all the little children had red cheeks and bright eyes, and when our dinners were eaten, oh! what fine times we used to have! We drew our little hand-sleds up to the top of the steep hill, and then rode down upon them at a fine rate, I assure you. It made our hair whistle again, and we had to keep a sharp look-out, lest we should run against the stumps.

Some of the larger boys could write and cypher, and read in Webster’s “Third Part.” And I thought if I could only learn, to know as much as the school master, I should know almsot every thing. Indeed, he was a “pretty smart young man,” as every body said,—(if he was my cousin,) and he has, since, been a member of Congress, notwithstanding he once taught school in the woods.

When school was out, we used to hasten home, as it would be nearly sun-set. And then, the shadows of the tall pine trees, along the snowy sides of the high mountains, would look so grand, that I wanted to stop and look at them, and my brothers would have to pull me by the hand, to get me along. I have seen lofty spires, and splendid palaces, since I have grown older, but none of them seem so noble and lofty, to me, as the snowy mountains and the pine trees that I used to see, when coming from school.

When the snow was deep, the walking bad, or the weather stormy, my father used to come, sometimes, and carry me home, on his back, as the Indians carried their children; and my mother used to laugh when she saw us coming, and say—“Well, father! have you brought ome your pappoose?” Then we had a bright evening fire and our bright pewter basins full of good smoking milk porridge; sometimes sweetened with maple sap which was put in the milk, instead of water. There’s a temperance luxury for you, that the little children in New-York, Philadelphia, and Boston, have probably never tasted!

Transcribing (amusingly uniform) letter-writers points up that some problems show up generation after generation. Such as the everybody’s-mean-to-me reaction of students encountering an unindulgent college professor mentor.

Twenty-first-century college students can attempt to weaponize their parents, who then bounce off FERPA. Nineteenth-century students appear to have tried the same thing, with their parents— Well, the letter-writers suggest that 19th-century parents should be reluctant to take their child’s perceptions of the situation as accurate.

The Fashionable Letter Writer (1819) has five letters on the subject of apprenticeships—mostly adults reminding young apprentices that they were expected to work through their difficulties during a crucial period of life. The letters were reprinted in 1862 in The American Fashionable Letter Writer pretty much as published in 1819, implying that perhaps apprenticeships were just as fraught later that century. (Though to be honest, publishers would reprint any book that looked like a good reference book, whether it was up to date or not. After all, the point was to sell the book more than it was to provide truly accurate information.)

So here we have an uncle delicately hinting that the young apprentice may have caused his own difficulties and a mother pointing out that other adults aren’t expected to coddle her son as she had. The latter is still good advice for new college students, who sometimes have a difficult time transitioning from high school to the now-you’re-the-grownup world of the university. (My advice to new college students: read the syllabus. Read it. Read the whole thing. Most of your questions are answered there. So READ IT.)


An Uncle in Answer to a Nephew’s complaining of Hardships in his Apprenticeship.

Dear Nephew,

I am sorry you should have any misunderstanding with your master: I have a good opinion of him, and am unwilling to entertain a bad one of you. It is so much a master’s interest to use his apprentices well, that I am inclinable to think that when they are badly used it is oftener the effect of provocation than choice. Wherefore, before I give myself the trouble of interposing in your behalf, I desire you will strictly enquire of yourself, whether you have not, by some misconduct or other, provoked that alteration in your master’s behaviour of which you so much complain. If after having diligently complied with this request, you assure me that you are not sensible of having given cause of disgust on your side, I will readily use my endeavours to reconcile you to your master, or procure you another. But if you find yourself blameable, it will be better for you to remove, by your own amendment, the occasion of your master’s displeasure, than have me or any other friend, offer to plead your excuse, where you know it would be unjust to defend you. If this should be your case, all your friends together could promise your better behaviour, indeed, but as the performance must even then be your own, it will add much more to your character, to pass through your whole term without any interposition between you. Weigh what I have here said; and remember that your future welfare depends greatly on your present behaviour.

I am your loving kinsman.


From a Mother to her Son, in Answer to his Complaints of Hardships in his Apprenticeship.

I am very sorry, my dear Sammy, to hear that your master and you do not agree so well as I could wish. I was always afraid you would expect the same indulgence when you got abroad into the world, as you experienced when at home. You know, that in many instances, I have endeavoured to make seeming hardships as easy to you as I could; but if this makes you more difficult to be satisfied it would be a great trouble to me. Your uncle tells me, I am afraid with too much truth, that the indulgences you have received from me, have made your present situation more disagreeable than it would otherwise have been. Whatever I have done for you, was always intended for your good, and nothing could so deeply afflict me, as to see my tenderness have a mischievous effect. Therefore, my dear child, to my constant care of you, do not add the sorrow of my seeing it the cause of your behaviour worse, than if I had been less tender to you. Before we put you to your master, we had a very pleasing character of him from all his neighbours, and those who had any dealings with him. As Mr. James, who is now out of his time, gives him the best of characters, and declares your mistress to be a woman of great prudence and good conduct, I know not how to think they would in any respect use you ill. Consider, my dear, you must not in any other woman than myself, expect to find a fond and perhaps partial mother; for the little failings which I could not see in you, will conspicuously appear to other persons. My affection for you would make me wish you to be always with me; but as that would be inconsistent with your future welfare, and as you must certainly be a gainer from the situation you are now in, let a desire to promote my happiness as well as your own, make every seeming difficulty light. I have desired your uncle to interpose in this matter, and he will write to you soon. He has promised to see justice done you, provided your complaints are founded on reason[.] Believe me, my dear child,

Your affectionate mother.

As I was assured by the young men moving my belongings a couple years ago, I have a lot of books. (“Too many books” was their phrase, but I think we can agree that “too many” is … relative.)

I thought several years ago that I’d be able to jettison a copy of What to Do and How to Do It, one of Samuel Griswold Goodrich’s books on conduct of life. It was published in 1844 and stereotyped. I have a pristine copy of the 1844 edition, a toddler-colored copy of the 1856 edition, and a— Okay, it’s difficult to describe what happened to my other 1844 copy. It’s been stomped on, dunked in water, and extremely, extremely well read.

So I thought I had my copy for transcribing. Copies that have been transcribed aren’t always the same at the end of the process, so I prefer ones that won’t win beauty pageants to begin with. (My favorite is Ruth Hall, which was complete, but which was already broken down into its component parts. Boy, does it lie flat.) This copy was missing a few pages, but surely it wouldn’t be missed if it went to a landfill after transcription. It already had led a rich life.

Then I looked again at the title page, mostly because I’d have to clean it up for the web site. Because it looks like this:

A little research later, and, yeah: the copy apparently belonged to Ernest Hemingway’s grandfather. At least, according to the handwritten note:

For Hemingway Hines.
Grandson of Anson Tyler Hemingway
born 1844
Terryville Conn.
up the long hill from

Given to
born 1867
when a little girl
by her
Grand Mother
Harriet Lynsay [sic]
Tyler Hemingway
her oldest

This H. L. Tyler was
of the same
Scotch clan
as The Bag Pipe
Singer “Harry
Louder” of
Scotland who

The publication date on the title page—1844—is underlined three times in blue pencil, with “ATH” written beneath it; beside this are the words

When young,
Blue penciled
by Anson Tyler

So what we have here seems to be a copy owned by Anson Tyler Hemingway and given to Ernest Hemingway’s aunt, Anginette Blanche Hemingway Hines, who passed it down to her son, Hemingway Hines. Anson Tyler Hemingway was born in 1844—the same year as this copy—and appears to have underlined the date of publication and left his initials on the page. (And, Hemingway and bagpipes? Hmm.)

So, yes, I still have three copies of one book. Sorry, movers. At least you won’t be called on to move my books again. (Long and ugly story involving a moving company I used to admire.)

And, btw, did Ernest Hemingway ever read this book? Surely not. But it colored the environment in which he was reared, not just because his grandfather and father probably read it, but because Samuel Goodrich’s generic advice on conduct of life was in keeping with that permeating American culture at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. Amusingly, Goodrich’s dictum to “Do not be too positive” was flipped by Hemingway, one of whose writing tips is “Be positive.” Goodrich meant that readers shouldn’t insist that they’re right on a subject they’re not actually certain about; Hemingway meant that writers should say what something is, instead of what it isn’t. Goodrich would have agreed with him: it’s good advice for someone writing for children.

Most early American periodicals for children were edited and published by adults, but some notable ones were produced by teenagers. The publications won’t be remembered for the quality of the contents, but what they lacked in quality, the editors more than made up for in enthusiasm.

Some periodicals were written or edited by the young, but overseen by adults. The Juvenile Key (1830-1837) was famously printed by Zerui’ah-Juan Griffin, Joseph Warren Griffin, and George Griffin, but edited by their father, publisher Joseph Griffin. Boys at the Orphans’ Home in Germantown, Pennsylvania, set the type for the first year of
The Busy Bee (1866-1874), while students at the North Carolina Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind set type for The Deaf Mute Casket (1861-1865). Students at the Cherokee Female Seminary published Cherokee Rose Buds and A Wreath of Cherokee Rose Buds in the 1850s; students at the Cortland Academy in Homer, New York, published The Juvenile Literary Cabinet in 1823. Factory workers in Lowell, Massachusetts—many of them teenagers—published the Lowell Offering (1840-1845), which was organized by Abel Charles Thomas, and the Operatives’ Magazine (1841-1842). And uncountable magazines were carefully created by hand for family (the “Home Casket,” 1858) or schoolmates (“The Violet,” 1860 and 1861; “The Floral Wreath,” circa 1855).

But some young publishers had greater ambitions, producing works for a wide audience. Thomas Donaldson, jr (age 15), handwrote copies of The Weekly Magpie (1859) until it became too popular: “Formerly, it was in manuscript, but the demand for copies daily increased, so that we were not able to supply even one half of the applicants,—thus depriving the world of this enlightening and refining influences of this popular journal, and retarding, for some time, the march of civilization.” [editorial. 1 (18 June 1859); p. 3] Thomas Gray Condie (age 15) founded The Juvenile Port-folio (1812-1816), which had several hundred subscribers; G. M. Dilworth (age 16) edited Young America (1856-1858) for two years. Origen Bacheler (age 18) edited the Juvenile Gazette for another publisher when it appeared “for a few months” in 1818; Oliver Kendall (age 14) kept afloat his own Juvenile Gazette (1827-1828) for a year by sending out sample issues and advertising widely.

Like many adult editors, these young entrepeneurs worked hard, often writing much of what went into each issue. “No Contributions are inserted from persons over 15 years of age,” Donaldson declared in early issues of the Magpie, though he raised that age to 15 1/2 when some contributors aged out. Dilworth “[set] all his own type and [worked] off his own paper, on a hand press, besides writing editorials, selecting copy and doing all the etcetras which belong to the publishing of a newspaper.” [May 1857, p. 3] Ross Alley (age 16), who apparently established a new periodical each time his family moved in rural Indiana, built his printing press from a cider press when he began to publish the Youth’s Casket (1850-1852) and the Genius of Youth (1852).

For the most part, the publications were small-scale versions of periodicals for adults. Quite literally: most of these publications were only four pages, with a page size under nine inches high; Oliver Kendall’s Juvenile Gazette could almost be hidden by a poker card.

Contents also mimicked publications for adults: poetry, stories, essays. Poems describe how “Death bore the cherub from us, to the tomb” or bewail a rabbit dead “of too much cherishing.” [M. Louisa Chitwood. “Mementoes.” The Genius of Youth 1 (1 June 1852); p. 4. “The Tale of a Rabbit.” Weekly Magpie 1 (9 July 1859); p. 15] The Magpie and the Port-folio printed serialized stories stuffed with adventure and melodrama and “phrenzy”-filled romance: “I wept my hard fate in the arms of my juvenile lover,” a character declares in the Port-folio, “who, exasperated almost to phrenzy, vowed destruction on himself unless I would consent to become his wife, without the knowledge of my father”—which turns out to be a bad idea. [“Bromley Melmot.” 3 (4 March 1815); p. 33] In the Magpie, Sir Victor, Sir Tristram, Sir Ottonitz, Sir Wigmund, and Sir Mardin go to slay a dragon for noble ladies who say “prithee” and “methinks” and faint on cue. As in periodicals edited by adults, fiction could be didactic: Kendall published a three-part story (all of six paragraphs) in which Nancy No-Point demonstrates the importance of understanding punctuation.

Essays allowed these editors to explore a variety of subjects. Dilworth listed useful personality traits and explored “How the Birds are Treated in Japan” (first sentence: “Very kindly.”). [“Keep It Before Yourself.” Young America 2 (May 1857); p. 1. “How the Birds are Treated in Japan.” 2 (May 1857); p. 2] Kendall reviewed various childrens’ sports and games in a series of one-paragraph essays, noting prudently that flying kites was “against the law, for horses are often frightened by them” and that when playing Blindman’s Buff, “the little boy or girl that is blinded should move slowly and carefully lest a broken nose be the consequence.” [“Flying the Kite.” Juvenile Gazette 1 (1 March 1828); pp. 59-60. “Blindman’s Buff.” 1 (16 February 1828); p. 52] Condie’s Port-folio had much to say about matrimony. In the Port-folio, women were to juggle an astonishing number of traits: “softness of manners, complacency of countenance, gentle unhurried motion, … a voice clear and yet tender, … internal strength and activity of mind, capable to transact the business or combat the evils of life; [and] a due sense of moral and religious obligations.” [“Rudiments of Taste, and a Polite Female Education.” 1 (3 July 1813); p. 150] A correspondent, however, noted that women couldn’t hope to please everyone: “If women are of a disposition, gay, lively, and cheerful, they are then censured as bold, forward, and assuming; if they are thoughtful and reserved, they are stigmatized by the epithets of prudes, mopes, &c. so that however prudent and consistent their conduct may be, they are sure to fall under the lash of some male tongue, which is accustomed to utter nothing but slander.” [C. Letter to the editor. 3 (1 April 1815); p. 51] Donaldson’s breezy editorial comments point out that “The youth of the neighborhood would find it greatly to their advantage to devote themselves more to athletic exercises, (and as some one suggests) less to girls” and announces that “The other day Miss E. D., in the course of her morning ramble, was so fortunate as to find a mammoth toadstool …. It will be remembered that Miss E. D. is the same young lady who secured 36 tadpoles some time since; she has, from her infancy, shown a full appreciation of the animal and vegetable kingdoms; and has been particularly active in securing rare specimens of them.” [“The Nest.” Weekly Magpie 1 (2 July 1859); p. 12]

That many of these periodicals weren’t published long also imitated those published by adults. The Weekly Magpie lasted six months. Kendall’s Juvenile Gazette ended after a year. Young America folded a few months after Dilworth handed it over to another editor. Some editors “aged out” of their own publications: at age 18, Ross Alley founded The Forest Rose and at 19, The Literary Messenger—both for adults. At age 20, Thomas Gray Condie shifted from editing a periodical for children—The Juvenile Port-folio—to one for adults—the Parlour Companion, which he published for almost two years. Only one seems to have made any kind of a career in publishing: Origen Bacheler edited the Anti-Universalist as an adult and wrote several books. Oliver Kendall built organs; Thomas Condie became a lawyer. (Ross Alley died at age 20.) As editors, none of them produced great literature, but what they did produce often has a sort of wonky charm (and some very creative spelling).

Where to read some of the periodicals: The Juvenile Port-folio is available in the American Periodicals Series and the American Antiquarian Society databases. Young America and the only known issue of Genius of Youth are reproduced in the American Antiquarian Society database.