Diary of a Little Girl in Old New York

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Catherine Elizabeth and her father Rensselaer Havens in a daguerreotype taken in 1849.

I read this book called Diary of a Little Girl in Old New York.  I read it on Kindle so I’m not sure how big the book is, but I read it in about an hour or so.

The 10-year-old girl’s name is Catherine Havens and she wrote her diary from August 1849 through June 1850 and there is some of 1851, too, and eventually, it was published in 1919 when her older sister told her it might be a good idea to see if they could get it published all those years later. It’s interesting because it describes so much of old New York, where most diaries are only about the person writing it; this includes so much of what life was like in the mid 19th Century.

I noticed that the whole diary can be read online here. So you don’t have to buy the book.

Catherine comes from a wealthy family and the people she is surrounded by including family and relatives are all in good spirits it seems. For some reason, I always think of people in the olden days as being dour and humorless, but this is not the case. Even her old grandfather has a good sense of humor. Her father was old, he was born before the Revolutionary War.  She writes that people would mistake him as being her grandfather.

Catherine writes about her old aunts who lived in a house built in 1733 and of her own mother’s school days back in the 1810s.

Her world seems mostly to have revolved around 9th Street in New York City and most of the stores they visited and the schools were on 9th or near 9th Street.  She names names of people who lived then and where they lived up and down 9th Street.  She did travel though, to far off places, via boat/ships of the time.

She writes about school and how they did math back then and also how they learned words, starting with the Latin word and working into American English. She tells of how her math teacher rattled off numbers in sequences and the kids had to know the answer.

She mentions her grandfathers’s slaves, by name: “My father’s father lived on Shelter Island, and had twenty slaves, and their names were: Africa, Pomp, Titus, Tony, Lum, Cesar, Cuff, Odet, Dido, Ziller, Hagar, Judith, and Comas, but my grandfather thought it was wicked to keep slaves, so he told them they could be free, but Tony and Comas stayed on with him.”

I love when she writes about her mother’s youth: “My mother says Stuart’s candy store down on Greenwich and Chambers Streets used to be the store in her day. When she was a little girl in 1810, old Kinloch Stuart and his wife Agnes made the candy in a little bit of a back room and sold it in the front room, and sometimes they used to let my mother go in and stir it.”

Here grandfather is one of the first people to have water pipped into their kitchen down on Maiden Lane in New York City.

They even debated about either or eyether and neither and nyther back then!

If you like history, this book is really great, Catherine seems wiser than her 10 years, but maybe that is how the children were back then. It’s interesting see back 1849-50 from a child’s eyes. She wrote that she hoped to live to see the 20th century, but learned in Bible study that in the year 2000 the world would end, so she hoped she would not make it to that age. She did make it to 1939, so she lived to be 99 years old, almost 100. In the diary she mentions that she hoped her mother would live to be 100, and she almost did, she passed away at the age of 96.

Wednesday is “Read A Book Day,” so this might be a good one to read on Wednesday.

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Summer reading; Little Free Libraries

library1I have a friend who is fixated with the little free libraries that you may have seen around your town. There are only four of them in my town, this one shown here. Now our objective, is to have more added. Places like Lake Worth, Florida, have as many as 80 around their town! It started small and grew from there.

According to Lake Worth resident and artist AnnaMaria Windisch-Hunt, Palm Beach County has a REAP program (Resident Education to Action Program) that funds the boxes now through grants. The libraries started off with three, where AnnaMaria had a couple of sailors build the boxes. “The three were hand built with re purposed items and dumpster diving. One looks like the replica of the owner’s home. The other was done from a hope chest and mine incorporated [AnnaMaria’s late husband] Fred Hunt’s dresser,” she says.

She went on, “We ask all the talented artists in the community to paint one and they all come out. Now we have someone local who is able to build them. The only ones what required variance were in public right of ways. i.e Forestation, the ones by City Hall. Everyone is on board. In fact the Library used to divest of books via selling or trashing if they were in good condition they would now be kept and picked up by the Library Steward.” It’s so popular that she can no longer get books at the library but now they are looking to publishers for donations.

She has a story about the library boxes in her Lake Worth Every Minute blog.

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These Little Free Libraries or “book boxes,” as they are called are loved by the neighbors. There is one at LoKal, a local burger place, they call it the “bootleggers library.” That’s Adrian from Lokal, he enjoys the library and has some great suggestions for restaurant guests.

The advantage of these little libraries are that neighbors meet neighbors through them and in a way, they are sharing more than just neighborly visits. Books are being shared that were read by neighbors who are now sharing the books with fellow neighbors. It would be interesting to see what books are being shared in which neighborhoods.

A nice project would be to have a bunch of the libraries sponsored and then maybe painted by artists, like we did in our town a few years ago with painted peacocks. In this digital age, its nice to hold paper and ink in hand, have the smell and feel of an actual book and enjoy sharing it.

There are more than 50,000 book boxes around the world in 70 countries; they are in all 50 US states.

This is an excellent idea to share the books you already read and loved.

Related posts:

Little Free Library

Plans and tips for library builders

Set of plans

The Danger of Being Neighborly Without a Permit

The Low-tech appeal of Little Free Libraries

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10 things you didn’t know about best-selling author Brad Meltzer

10 With Tom
10 questions in 10 minutes

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Brad and his two new children’s books. Photos courtesy Brad Meltzer.

Brad Meltzer is a well known, best selling novelist who writes political thrillers and non-fiction. He’s also a comic book author, having written for DC Comics’ Green Arrow, also Superman/Batman, Justice League of America series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and so many more. Brad is also well-known from his excellent TV shows, “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded” and “Brad Meltzer’s Lost History.”

He has two new children’s books out, “I am Jane Goodall,” and “I am George Washington,” also “The House of Secrets.”

I asked Brad the 10 With Tom questions. Here they are:

TOM: I see you were one of the entertainers at Barbara Bush’s 90th birthday party. What did you do to entertain the guests?
BRAD: The only thing I know how to do: Tell stories.

TOM: Who would you rather be Batman or Superman? Why?
BRAD: Batman. He’ll never win. He’ll never stop crime. He’ll never bring back his dead parents. But he’ll never stop fighting. Superman is who we wish we were, but Batman is who we know we really are. We all fight a losing battle every day. But we never stop.

TOM: I watch “Lost History,” your History H2 show. If only one piece of lost history could be found, which would you prefer it be?
BRAD: The 9/11 flag. That’s the one.

NOTE: Good News! Looks like the flag was finally located thanks to Brad’s determination!

TOM: Favorite junk food?
BRAD: Ice cream. Scooped ice cream at Haagen Dazs for four years. Still never tire of it.

TOM: Which comic strip would you love to jump into and spend the day?
BRAD: Calvin & Hobbes.

TOM: Last show you binge watched?
BRAD: Stranger Things.

TOM: Word of the moment
BRAD: Sad.

TOM: I was hesitant to ask why.

TOM: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
BRAD: Hawaii.

TOM: Last book you read, other than your own.
BRAD: Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron.

TOM: What did you have for breakfast today?
BRAD: Blueberries and granola. But I tell my brain it’s Count Chokula.

Thanks, Brad!