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Using online translators for a Kite Collection French Language Poem

  • Posted by: Michael Foight
  • Posted Date: May 6, 2014
  • Filed Under: Transcription

Posted for Susan Ottignon, Digital Library and Special Collections Team:

When tasked with transcribing a French poem and prayers, written by Elizabeth Sarah Kite, and having no working knowledge of the language, I relied heavily on several online translators [1], so readily available these days, to decipher unfamiliar French words. The Villanova Digital Library, (VDL), digitized Kite’s papers and are available as part of the Catholica Collection.

After a few tries of copying/pasting words from the work into the varied translators which gave some interesting results. I decided to ‘dump’ entire verses into a translator and discovered rather quickly each system had its own distinct differences and many similarities in their translation. This wasn’t an exercise, on my part, to analyze the software or to provide an authoritative translation of Kite’s writings. My contribution, by using the translators, is an attempt to offer us, the non-French readers, an opportunity to read and feel the deep expressions of the author’s faith and love for the Lord. I leave to future researchers the task in executing an authoritative edition of Elizabeth Sarah Kite’s writings.


[1] Online Translators used: Google Translation, ImTranslator ©2014 Smart Link Corporation, Bing Translator © 2014 Microsoft and Reverso Translation.


“Local News of the Week Condensed”: Ardmore Chronicle, April 13, 1907.

Post for: Susan Ottignon, Special Collections and Digital Library Team
Ardmore Chronicle - Volume XVII, No. 29, Saturday, April 13, 1907.

Ardmore Chronicle – Volume XVII, No. 29, Saturday, April 13, 1907.

Annotated and transcribed text from the digitized copy in the Historical Society of Montgomery County Collection.


Notes of General Interest Gathered Here and There Around Town.
Miss Harriet P. Cooper, of Philadelphia, addressed the Missionary Circle of the First Baptist Church Tuesday afternoon.

Secretary C. D. Bruckner, of the local Y. M. C. A., has been spending the last week in Pittsburg.

A cross-country run, open for all Lower Merion High School [1] boys, except last year’s track team, will be held on April 19. The winner will be awarded a gold medal.

The supper and bazaar given in Masonic Hall Tuesday evening by the ladies the Lutheran church was well attended.

Mr. Conrad Sheive, who comes up for renomination as District Attorney of this county at the June primaries, made a brief canvass of Ardmore on Tuesday.

Bert Simpson, of Narberth, who is traveling in the South with the U. P. [2] baseball team, has made a good showing in the pitchers’ box at several of the games.

The local office of the Lower Merion Directory has been established at No. 1 Colonial Block.

A runaway horse and cart belonging to Mr. Charles Frederick, of Ardmore, narrowly missed colliding with the team of Mr. Harry Bicking last Saturday at Wynnewood station.

Four new arc lights, supplied with electricity from the dynamo in the cellar, will be used in the gymnasium of the public school tonight during the musicale given by the High School.

Sam Lung has moved his laundry from the Y.M. C. A. Building to the location formerly Clinton’s barber shop.

Mrs. H. C. Franzen, who has been visiting Mr. Paul J. Kugler and Dr. Anna Kugler, left for her home in Hartford, Conn., this morning.

The members of the Lutheran church are getting ready for the production of “Who’s Next?” a comedy which promises barrels of fun.

The D. T. Society met last Saturday for their fortnightly assembly at the home of Miss Marguerite Goodman, on Simpson road.

Mr. and Mrs. William Mann entertained on Monday at their home, on Aubrey avenue, in honor of Mr. Mann’s birthday.

A Rummage Sale for the benefit of the Ardmore Free Library will be held April 27 to May 4, inclusive, at the old trolley station, Cricket avenue. Donations are solicited. Articles may be sent to the old trolley station during sale, or send a postal to Mrs. D. Bartlett, and they will be called for.

Miss Helen Morley, who has been visiting Miss Mary McGodlrick for the past month, leaves tonight for her home at Youngstown.

St. Denis’ I. C. B. U. [3] will give a euchre and dance in T. A. B. Hall on April 30.

Mr. Henry Kauffman, of Hackensack, N.J., has been the guest of his mother, Mrs. H. Kauffman, of Simpson road, during the week. On Tuesday evening he left for an extended trip to the Pacific Coast.

Miss Jane Cleaver has returned from a visit of several weeks at Huntingdon, Pa.

The seniors of the Lower Merion High School held their second reception last night in the gymnasium.

The Autocar [4] office team played a nine from the shops last Saturday in the first baseball game of the season. The office won, 11-5.

Mrs. F. Alison and family of, Lancaster avenue, removed yesterday to Chestnut Hill, where they will reside.

Mr. Clarence Piper, of Ardmore, after an absence of six months, has returned to work for his former employer, Mrs. John Cameron, of Bryn Mawr.

The prizes for the drawing to be held soon by St. Denis’ T. A. B. Society [5] are: First, $10; second, an umbrella; third, a suitcase; fourth, a pair of shoes made to order.

Dr. J. Howard Cloud has taken up permanent residence on Lancaster avenue, in the property recently purchased by him, and which was occupied by Mrs. Alison.

Miss Helen Condrick hasreturned [sic] from Pennsville, N. J., where she was visiting friends.

The baggage stand at the Ardmore station is being enlarged by a 20-foot extension.

The work of enlarging the store of the Elborn Hardware Company has been going on all week.

Rev. F. W. Staley spent part of the week in Harrisburg.

Don’t forget the lecture in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church next Thursday night, on “An Hour’s Ride With General Phil Sheridan.

The Christian Endeavor Society of the Baptist church of Ardmore held a business meeting and social at the residence of Mrs. J. E. Bourne on Tuesday evening.

Charley Cassell, of Ardmore, who was to have been tried out for the Ardmore baseball team, received an offer from Cornell University, and he left for Ithaca on Tuesday morning. He will try “pitching” his way through college.

The Hayloft of Blue Jacket Tribe, 395½, Imp. O. R. M. [6], full regalia, paid a visit to Manoa Tribe on Thursday evening. They had “a large time.”

A number of Ardmore people attended the T. A. B. dance at Rosemont on Thursday night.

1. “Ruins of the Ardmore Public School (1900) — Photograph.” Collection: W. Robert Swartz. Lower Merion Historical Society Archives. Accessed 11 March 2014. <http://www.lowermerionhistory.org/photodb/web/html2/138-1.html>
2. University of Pennsylvania.
3. Irish Catholic Benevolent Association.
4. “Autocar in Lower Merion.” By David Schmidt, Special to Main Line Life. The Lower Merion History Society. Copyright © Lower Merion Historical Society. Accessed 11 March 2014. <http://lowermerionhistory.org/dev/sample-page/full-text-resources/david-j-schmidt-collection/278-2>
5. Temperance — Societies, etc.
6. ” . . . The fraternity traces its origins back to 1765 and is descended from the Sons of Liberty. . . ” The Improved Order of Red Men. Content © 1998-2014 The Improved Order of Red Men. All rights reserved. Accessed 11 March 2014. <http://redmen.org/redmen/info/>


Sent mail

Today in electronic communication, when an email is composed and sent, an automatic copy is routinely placed in a “Sent” mail folder. In the manuscript era, however the only way for an author of a letter or memo to keep a copy of the correspondence was to manually scribe a copy. This may have been a “fair copy” – a nearly exact copy of the sent letter, or a draft copy, which would included revisions and edits. Some authors kept these fair and draft copies as individual sheets, while in other cases, a bound book of blank pages was used.


The two letter books kept by Peter Cullen, during the 1832-1934 years, are good examples of the bound format of sent mail and document his ongoing commercial correspondence. These were draft copies as the numerous corrections and emendations can attest.


Over 90 leaves of letters are present in the 1832-1833 volume; the 20 leaves of the 1834 volume are newly available in a transcription by library staff member Frances DiLenge.


Bringing to Life a 19th Century Ship Master’s Cargo

Posted for Susan Ottignon, Digital Library Team:

With each passing hour, as I scrutinize the scanned images found in the Barry-Hayes Papers–Series 58 Ships’ Papers, and begin to build a ‘metadata catalog’ by identifying and labeling each slip of paper, a picture emerges of early 19th merchant ship owners contracting, with a variety of merchants, to load cargo and to sail between the ports of Philadelphia and a foreign destination, in this case, Havana, Cuba. The Ship’s Papers series is a voluminous collection comprised of ‘bill of lading,’ accounts and receipts for specific schooner, sloop, ship or brig all related, in one way or another, to Patrick Hayes who was a ship owner and, on many occasions the Captain, aka ‘Master,’ of the ship. These business transactions provide us, in one sense, with a 19th century ‘paper trail’ into the rich history of commodities, either exported or imported, through the port of Philadelphia.

Receipts list of 1811 voyage

Receipts for cargo destined for Havana, Cuba, on the Brig Commodore Barry in 1811.

beaver cargo

In October of 1811, the Brig Commodore Barry, anchored in Philadelphia, and destined for Havana, Cuba, clearly illustrate the types of consigned merchandise that filled the ship’s cargo hold, and transported in all kinds of containers like kegs, barrels, jugs and boxes, all transacted over a few short days, between the 9th and 13th of the month. We can see Patrick Hayes, the assigned Master for the voyage, affixed his signature in receipt for merchandise. I successfully confirmed, on this occasion, each merchant’s name and trade by reviewing several city directories, from 1801 and 1813, like The Philadelphia Directory and Register, 1813, for Samuel Beaver whose entry read, “Beaver Samuel, cabinetmaker 155 n. Front,” and comparing the receipt, which read in part, “Ten boxes of furniture, seven and a half boxes chairs. . .” The other merchants’ items and their trade, were confirmed through review of directories from various years, like a cart, from a wheelwright merchant, Benjamin Newport, as well as a box of saddles from Matthew Lyons, Blacksmith, confirmed in The Philadelphia Directory, 1801.

This is just one instance from all the many voyages by Hayes, on the Brig Commodore Barry as well as all the other ships’ papers found in this collection. Every ‘connected dot’ I make, when confirming a person and his trade with an historical account, brings to life, once again, the steps taken by a merchant, a ship owner and its master to recreate that one voyage from the many transactions, bound to Havana, and realize it all took place over 200 years ago. The Villanova Digital Library’s many collections offer like experiences from its myriad of individuals and events that transcend the digital image to create a window to view history in a new light.


Thee, Thou, and Ain’t

Posted for: Lisa McColl, Spring 2012 Digital Library Intern.

Philadelphia, November 9, 1880

My dear Lizzie
I received thy postal and in answer say thee would be welcome to the instruments – if there were any to send …

(Letter, To: Elizabeth Sarah Kite From: John Alban Kite, November 9, 1880)

Thus begins a letter from John Alban Kite to his sister, Elizabeth Sarah Kite. Elizabeth Kite’s early letters in this new collection from the Digital Library, came mainly from her Quaker family. The letters’ heavy use of “thee” and “thou,” a common practice of Quakers of that time, gives them a formal tone to our modern ears. The family took care with their writing, sometimes chiding Elizabeth if her letter fell short of their writing expectations. Her grandfather lectured in an 1875 letter to Elizabeth, “I wish to encourage my grandchildren to accustom themselves to the use of the pen in epistolary correspondence for to become a good letter writer is quite an attainment.” (From , Letter to: Elizabeth Sarah Kite, From: John L. (John Letchworth) Kite, November 8, 1875.)

How then could one of John L. Kite’s grandchildren, five years later, use the word that appears at the very top of the first page of that same 1880 letter? It is that ultimate of colloquialisms that will sound the “uneducated” alarm, even in children’s ears, today:

Ain’t this beautiful weather? What would grandfather think? The day after I read this surprising use of slang by a member of the Kite family and seeming anachronism I saw a new book entitled The Story of Ain’t by David Skinner. While the book did not answer my particular questions as to when the word began and if it was considered slang by John Alban Kite and the rest of his family, it chided me to search further.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage the word “ain’t” was commonly used during the time that John Alban Kite wrote this letter and was not quite as vilified for use in casual conversation as it is today. It’s difficult to say if his grandfather would have approved of its use in writing an “epistolary correspondence,” but it’s fun to see in this context today … ain’t it?


Transcriptions from the Elizabeth Hayes letters

Posted for Summer 2012 Digital Library Intern Gail Betz:

Over the summer, I transcribed a portion of Elizabeth Hayes’s personal letters. Elizabeth was Patrick Barry Hayes’ wife, and she devoted a great deal of her time to corresponding with her seafaring husband and traveling sons. While only a few of the letters that Elizabeth herself wrote are included in the collection, she kept letters from her sons and her husband, which now provide a glimpse into their everyday lives. As a history lover, I greatly enjoyed reading these primary source documents, trying to figure out what the different words could be, and deciphering the context of the letter. I discovered that it was much easier to read the younger sons’ letters, because they had much neater cursive than their father did. It’s possible that Patrick Barry Hayes spent much of his time writing to Elizabeth while at sea, which could account for some of the jarring script that made much of his letters illegible. In contrast, his sons’ handwriting was easy to read, and they used more modern vocabulary than their father did.

Having the opportunity to read personal letters from the early 19th century was fascinating for me. It was like reading a diary, but with multiple perspectives and a great deal of guessing about missing information between dates and locations. I enjoyed learning that one son had reunited with his love, and had written to her father to ask for her hand in marriage. I was worried for the son who was away at school for the first time, was ill, and clearly homesick for his mother. While these letters were written almost 200 years ago, the thoughts and feelings they related were contemporary and relatable.

Thank you to Michael Foight and Laura Bang for sharing their knowledge and advice, and providing me with the opportunity to learn about and work with digital libraries. I enjoyed seeing the “other side” of the digital library process, and look forward to using this experience in future digital projects!

Editorial Note: These transcriptions are in the process of being attached to the digital images and will be available for the public in the near future.


Connecting the shards of history

Finding and making available lost or hidden treasures from collections is one of the greatest satisfactions in working with heritage materials.   In processing collections for digitization one occasionally finds materials that don’t seem to fit with the other materials in a collection, especially when dealing with a partner’s materials that may not have been fully described in paper prior to the digitization.

I was quite shocked and amazed when in the box of the Eleanor C. Donnelly personal paper collection, which is owned by the American Catholic Historical Society, Villanova University’s first digitization partner, I found a bound volume that she had owned that didn’t fit with the remainder of the materials, which largely contained correspondence to and from Eleanor, primarily from priests and Bishops throughout the United States in answer to her requests for facsimiles of episcopal seals.  Eleanor Donnelly, who lived from  1838 to 1917, was a figure on the Philadelphia literary scene.  She was known as “The Poet of the Pure Soul” and was also a contributor to numerous Catholic magazines and newspapers.  She edited the Augustinian magazine “Our Lady of Good Counsel” for a period and wrote over 85 books.  She was also sister to the infamous Ignatius Donnelly so her collection had at least the possibility of being filled with unusual treasures.   But this newly discovered bound volume upon closer examination proved to be in fact a manuscript containing signatures of Confederate prisoners of war held at the Johnson’s Island prison during the Civil War.

The first step was to describe the newly discovered work. A careful count finds that the manuscript itself consists of 62 leaves of unnumbered pages filled with not only signatures but also place and dates of capture and sometimes even other information.

After describing the album, I next reached out to other organizations to communicate the new find.  A short Google search provided the name of the heritage organization that documents and collects information about the prison:  the Johnson’s Island Preservation Society.  A little further digging found that they also have a page of documentation about the C.S.A. autograph books which have already been digitized and collected.

Next I reached out to them to let them know the url and the title of the work.  They were very excited – as can be imagined – about the discovery.   They immediately saw the benefit of cross-linking to our content and we asked for and received permission to link to theirs; thus we are digitally uniting two disparate physical collections into one linked set of resources that connects together the shards of history heretofore lost by the vagaries of time and place.

The final step is the creation of a detailed hand transcription of the document that will provide readers an easy way to view the text, and searchers a way to discover the names and other content from search engines and tools like Google and the library catalog.  Indeed we have started this process already as  one of our student transcribers has specifically requested to work on this item because she shares her home town with many of the captured Confederate soldiers whose names were written in this memorial almost 150 years ago.


New Digital Library Administration Software

Falvey’s Digital Library has just been upgraded with new backend software that will improve its ability to continue growing and improving the online collection. The Digital Library’s first incarnation was launched in August 2006. Over the course of 4 years, the DL’s collection grew to over 9,000 items, and a substantial software functionality wish-list.

  • Add support for more file formats, so our collection can include a broader range of materials
  • Incorporate an OCR process to facilitate full-text searching of collection content.
  • Add support for inclusion of transcriptions with hand-written materials


Our initial software used a variety of technologies to achieve its goal of storing information about digital documents. Unfortunately, not all of these tools worked well together. While the new version of the software retains the METS metadata format and eXist-db XML database, it replaces nearly all of the other components with a suite of more closely-related technologies. The new, all-XML, all-Open-Source framework consists of the following components:


New Key Features:

Root level Document Attachment


Catalogers now have the ability to add document-level items to each object. The most relevant use of this feature is to attach a hand-transcribed, fully annotated companion document to a digitally scanned book. More information on this feature can be found here and a live example can be found by viewing the Lane Manuscript

AJAX-based metadata editor


The Orbeon forms Java-based XForms engine integrates with the YUI JavaScript Library providing a rich user interface for metadata editing.

Document layout and file attachment configurations


The system incorporates a batch-attach routine for adding multiple files (in our case the pages of a scanned book) to a digital object as a single operation. An interface is available to customize the arrangement and location of these files, as well as adding and deleting files when appropriate.

OAI harvestable


OAI/PMH is a standard for serving and harvesting metadata. The Digital Library is now fully harvestable using this standard.

In the coming months we will extend the software to include custom drivers for a VuFind front-end and modularize the metadata editor to support a wide-range of options including Dublin Core, MODS, EAD, and PREMIS support for preservation Metadata.

Our plan is to launch the software as a simple, open-source platform for preservation and presentation of digital collections. So stay tuned! We are targeting April 2011 for the Beta Release.

We are always looking for development partners! If you are interested, please contact us at digitallibrary@villanova.edu


Transcriptions brought to life online

A newly released and long awaited feature in the digital library software enables the display of transcribed content. When transcribed content is present in a digital library object, a new tab, designated Docs, is displayed. This tab will present the transcribed content as readable and downloadable files. Just click on the thumbnail icon of the file type. Most transcribed content is available in both smart-PDF and Word formats. We are very proud to bring this new feature to you!


Handwritten content is often difficult to decipher and, when digitized, not conducive to OCR. In parallel to the scanning of heritage materials, individual volunteers, staff, and students have been transcribing the writings from the past. Individual transcribers’ names are included. Now these letters and diaries can be read easily online as part of Villanova University’s Digital Library.

The first transcription to be included in the online collection is the Lane Manuscript. This contains the autobiographical manuscript of Samuel Alanson Lane (1815-1905). From January until May of 1835, Lane traveled around the U.S., looking for work in numerous cities, including New Orleans, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland, until finally settling in what would become his hometown, Akron, OH, on June 29, 1835. S. A. Lane was a dedicated follower and professional lecturer of the American temperance movement as well as an avid supporter and political participant for the Republican Party, formed in 1854. Perhaps Lane’s most interesting and daring pursuit, was his active participation in the mass emigration to California in search of fortune like many other easterners during the California Gold Rush, which kept Lane from his home and family in Akron for over two years. This manuscript covers his life and contains many depictions of 19th century American frontier life. An exhibit featuring the life and times of Samuel Lane is also available online.

While only a few transcriptions are online at present, over the coming weeks and months much new transcribed content will be available to delight and fascinate. On the technical front, we are quickly working to make these materials discoverable with keyword searching. Printed texts that have been OCRed will also have enhanced findability.

I would be remiss without acknowledging all who have toiled many long hours over these often cryptic documents filled with fragmentary words and sentences. Thank you! In addition much hard labor also went into the software enhancements that make such content available, so out of the many individuals involved, I would especially like to thank David Lacy for his hard work in bringing the best to our digital library software!

If you are interested in helping to bring historical materials alive, please consider volunteering. Just reach out and email us at: digitallibrary@villanova.edu


More Heavenly Than Pure Love

Posted for Marylyle McCue, Digital Library Intern, 2010.

Detail from A.M. Thackara’s Letterhead.

The Sherman Thackara Collection is comprised of private letters, photographs and other documents belonging to General William Tecumseh Sherman and his family. Three entire boxes contain the love letters of Eleanor Mary Sherman Thackara, one of the four daughters of General Sherman and his wife Ellen Ewing Sherman. Eleanor (aka Ellie) and Alexander Montgomery Thackara (aka A.M. or Mont) kept up a passionate correspondence for many years both before and after they were wed on May 5th, 1880. The letters range in date from 1879-1897. Mrs. Thackara is believed to have donated these letters to Villanova some time around 1897.

Recently I had the pleasure of transcribing several of Mont’s letters to Ellie, as well as to read many of the letters written by Ellie to Mont. One consideration when reading someone else’s letters is that over time you come to recognize the author’s idiosyncrasies and the letters become much easier to read, as if they were written in the hand of an old friend. Certain letters may be a struggle to read until one has become more familiar with the process and with the author’s handwriting, while others may just be a lost cause. Reading letters in a digital format presents different advantages and disadvantages in comparison to reading them in person. In person, one can hold the work in their hands (or gloves) and look closely, perhaps even using a magnifying device. Of course, the archives may not be within a close distance, they may not be open during convenient hours, require an appointment or have room for only a few researchers on any given day. Though one cannot physically examine a digital document, image correction can be used to make it more readable. Contrast, brightness and sharpness can be adjusted to make an image more legible than it would be in person. They can also be printed and written on when otherwise, at best, they would need to be photocopied by a librarian or at worst the researcher would have to make painstaking notes. Barring an Internet outage or major site upgrade, digital library images are available to you in your home or office 24 hours a day. As a countermeasure, when there was a delay in the project due to a site upgrade for the Villanova Digital Library, I saved a stockpile of digital letters as PDF images to my computer to prevent any further delays. It is certainly not an exaggeration to say that digital collections have forever changed the face of historic research.

Business card from Tiffany’s with Miss Sherman’s (possibly Ellie’s) ring size written on back.

One popular misconception about the Victorians is that their personal lives were devoid of romance or passion. On the contrary, during this period the notion of marrying for love became common and accepted in middle and upper class society. The Victorians were simply very private about their personal lives and extremely careful of when, where or in front of whom this side of them was displayed. A person would share their most personal feelings, fears and desires only with their beloved. However, it was understood that physical consummation of this passion would only be acceptable within the boundaries of marriage. The written word was then the most common and effective way to express these powerful emotions.

There are countless examples of the devotion and sheer adoration that this couple felt for one another throughout their letters. Only a few examples can be shared in this post, but they offer a glimpse of the letters’ contents along with a few recurring themes common in love letters of the time. In one note, Mont wonders to his sweetheart if she can imagine anything “more heavenly than pure love” and how those who have never felt it cannot truly conceive of it.

“My Little Darling- Oh! You know so well that every day my love for you is growing stronger. Every day you become more dear.” A detail from one of Mont’s letters to Ellie.

Like other Victorian lovers, Mont and Ellie were also very careful to keep their correspondence private. Ellie writes, “Today I put one of your dear letters into the book and its clasp that locked them from all but myself.” There are many instances where they have referred indirectly to events as if to protect those secrets from even the most prying of eyes. For instance in one letter, Mont alludes to a disagreement involving other unnamed parties that has upset Ellie greatly and he attempts to console her. He generously offers:

“I do not think it strange that you should wait to tell me of your troubles. Don’t you think that I have shown myself to be a friend that would sympathize with you. where in the beast dislikes fire, who knows my affection for her will never hesitate. I hope you call on me in any trouble that may arise, Oh! That I could do something believe this […] happens, that I could take to burden myself. Is there anything that I can do?”

Another example shows Mont simply wondering what important and mysterious matter Ellie plans to discuss with him that evening that she would not write to him in a letter. He ponders, “I am prepared for a serious talk my Darling on what subject I cannot fancy, still I will soon find out.” It is also likely that there could have even been some letters deemed too personal for donation.

Another notable convention present in love letters of the period is “testing,” where one lover ensures the devotion of the other through self-deprecation, admitting to or attempting to provoke jealousy. The author seeks a response assuring them of the other’s love and faithfulness, as well as of their own good qualities. Mont and Ellie often tease one another about trying the other’s patience, while also offering reassurance to the other. Each also claims to fear that they are completely unworthy of the other, as well as revealing a hope that the relationship will improve their own individual characters. Ellie refers to herself as “a good for nothing little body” and looks to Mont to dispel her fears that another lady will catch his fancy. Mont attempts to ease them in one note where he has “not seen any of the young ladies of this place yet, nor have I any desire to see them. All I want is to see you again.” Mont himself reveals, however, a terror that when their wedding day arrives, though he finds that he loves Ellie more than before, she will discover that she does not love him at all. A man of this time period and society would likely have had few, if any, outlets for expressing insecurities other than to his beloved.

The Victorian masculine ideal was strength tempered by gentlemanly restraint while the feminine ideal called for “piety, purity, submission and domesticity” [Welter, pp. 151–174]. Evidence of period gender roles and expectations are apparent throughout both Mont and Ellie’s letters. Mont repeatedly describes Ellie as “pure” and lauds her for her piety. He also refers to “how happy I will be to know that a darling little soul will look up to me for […] protection and how proud I will be to protect her from any harm.” Ellie in turn writes of, “how happy I shall be in waiting upon you caring for you, learning better + better to anticipate your wishes and to please you.” Each vows to take care of the other, albeit in gender appropriate ways. Mont wants to shelter his “timid little one” from the wider world, while Ellie wants to nurture her “spoiled boy Mont” inside the confines of their household.

Mont and Ellie’s letters provide a variety of possibilities for research regarding the mid- to late 19th century United States, including topics such as correspondence, courtship, marriage, and gender roles. Judging by the fact that they had a long and happy marriage, Mont appears to have kept true to his promises of eternal love to Ellie:

“You can always feel certain that during the time we will have to pass before the spring and forever after, that I will have towards you the same undying affections and imperishable love that I have now.”

Further Reading:

Bederman, Gail. Manliness & Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Lystra, Karen. Searching the Heart: Women, Men, and Romantic Love in Nineteenth-century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Welter, Barbara. “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820–1860.” American Quarterly, 18.2 (1966): 151–174.

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Last Modified: September 20, 2010