Haverhill: 1940. First Edition. Seven journals, each approximately 70 pages, with pages measuring 4 ½ x 2 ½ inches. Near Fine. Item #List329
These journals, by an unnamed member of the Dean family of Haverhill, were assembled around 1940 from collected family and historical photographs. Taken as a whole they provide a richly detailed social history of the region, from the perspective of a well-to-do military family with many ties to the local business community. They bridge the gap from the post-Civil War era, with reference to G.A.R. reunions and the like, to the late 1920s. The author’s perspective - conservative, sometimes horribly bigoted, with a penchant for underlining key passages of her own writing - is on full display throughout. We have not identified the author, though she is shown in several photographs.
Much of the journals recount the details of civic-minded local life, often with surprising detail. On an evening in city hall, she writes, “the walls hung with banners - flags and scrolls of all descriptions, front of boxes were elaborately draped, the stage represented a campground... “ Two entries for 1886 log a fire in Music Hall, followed by an account of the “First Hebrew (Jew) Wedding,” about which she writes, “too bad it wasn’t the last, no doubt the people of Haverhill would have been just as well off and I believe better.” Some entries show the way in which information from the outside world was filtered by various family members who left Haverhill. An account of a family member’s adventures in the Alaskan gold fields, “ It was very interesting to hear them tell of their experience...the picnic parties and good fishing for salmon and trout, in the summer, when the weather is warm and nice. Also the Ways of the eskimo… the gold nuggets nice to look at too;”
Interspersed with the diary entries are many cut photographs and postcards, some of family and some of the region, and the author weaves her entries onto the versos of the photographs from the diary paper. The photographs are meticulously trimmed in a uniform rounded edge with an impressive aesthetic result. The diaries were likely assembled in the late 1930s or early 1940s, as one mentions the hurricane of 1938. Overall they show an uncommonly detailed and lengthy account of a family’s life in Massachusetts, with much information about the civic history of the Haverhill region. Well preserved in near fine condition with minimal normal wear.