Member Blogs > Read'Em Again BooksA Year in the Life of Two Turn-of-the-Century Teenagers - 6 July 2012

  • Tue, 24 Jul 2012 09:20:38    Permalink
    I spent last weekend visiting the Pennsylvania antique "extravaganzas" at Kutztown and Adamstown as well as browsing through antique malls along the way.  And . . . it was a fairly productive trip.  Although, I only picked up a single book, I did find some nice ephemera like a piece of 1870s Santa Claus sheet music and a small lot of Long-Cut tobacco cards featuring photographs of 1880s actresses (including a couple of Lillian Russel and others who are rather scantily clad).

    However, my favorite finds of the trip are two illustrated diaries penned by a brother and sister in 1907.  The children, Richard Wigley Perrot Rose and Helen S. Rose, were thirteen and twelve years old at the time.  The family lived a fairly comfortable upper-middle class life just outside of Montclair, New Jersey, supported by Mr. Rose's work in New York City, apparently as a women's fashion tailor (at least that's how his occupation was identified during one census).  Richard and Helen received diaries for as Christmas presents in 1906 and resolved to keep them current for the entire next year.  In truth they did a pretty good job as Richard completed entries almost every day until September, and Helen lasted until July.  After that the entries are sporadic. 

    Richard, who was about a year and a half older, was by far the better artist, and his entries provide an exceptional window on what it daily life was like for a young teenage boy in the very early years of the 20th century.  His entries are detailed and include information about school, manual training (he's building a printing press in shop class), meals, sports (mostly skating and baseball), reading habits (he anxiously awaits the weekly delivery of The Youth's Companion has a fondness for the Rover Boys), violin lessons and choir practice, church, his favorite toy (an alcohol fueled steam engine with attachments), dancing lessons, weather, sledding, trolleys, and much, much more.  While the content is excellent; Richard's many illustrations are exceptional. Richard Wigley Perrot Rose's Diary.  Montclair, New Jersey, 1907.  Sound binding.  Very legible writing.  Cover has some minor wear and soiling.  $2,500
    Following Richard's graduation from Princeton, he took a position with Aetna Life Insurance Company until the outbreak of WWI. He then enlisted in the Marine Corps and was promoted to Corporal just before the Battle of Belleau Wood. On June 6, the first day of the Marine counterattack, Richard was mortally wounded as his unit, the 67th Company (Company D, 1st Battalion) of the 5th Marine Regiment was raked by machine gun fire as it advanced. He died 18 days later in American Red Cross Hospital #1. Later, a Princeton scholarship was established in his name.
    Helen Rose, whose artistic abilities were not quite equal to her brother's, likewise provided a superb window into the life of a middle-class girl in the very early 20th century.   Her entries are detailed and include information about school, manual training (she's builds a loom to weave), meals, sports (tennis, baseball, skating, basketball), reading habits (she likes Andrew Lang's Fairy Books), violin lessons and choir practice, church, clothes, parties, stereopticon lectures (including one by Admiral Peary about his 1905/6 expedition into the Arctic), candy, weather, sledding, sleigh rides, stuck automobiles, illness (mumps and the 'imitation' measles), visits to the dentist, and much, much more. 
    Helen S. Rose's Diary.  Montclair, New Jersey, 1907.  Sound binding.  Legible entries. Cover has some wear, soiling, and significant dampstaining that doesn't affect the pages.  $1,500 

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