October 20, 1862

Sylvia’s Journals

Monday, October 20, 1862

Went to the dressmakers and to see Nate Monicher and the Willards in the evening.

Tuesday, October 21, 1862

Went out in the afternoon to invite a few to the house. I can never forget here hateful Ma acted down at Mr. Sans.

Wednesday, October 22, 1862

Ruth and Annie gave out the cards. William came just for the day.  Brought me a lovely set of pearls.

Thursday, October 23, 1862

Ruth and I packed a box. Aunt Clara spent the day with us.  Went up to see Tina for the first time since her (…).

Friday, October 24, 1862

Went up to Anita’s to see Aunt Julianne.  Stayed there for there to tea and we went up to see Tina in the evening.

Saturday, October 25, 1862

Went down to the tent to meet Carrie to see her long all the morning.  Anita took us to ride in the afternoon.

Sunday, October 26, 1862

My last Sunday in Bristol.  Dismal and forlorn did not go to Church went all day.

image By the Water, Bristol  © Stacy Renee Morrison


This is Sylvia’s last week as an unmarried young lady…

I recently have been asked if I read Sylvia’s journals before I created this blog. In truth, when I first encountered the journals, I attempted to examine them, but in actuality they are incredibly difficult to comprehend because the books themselves are teeny tiny and her script in order to fit in the books is minuscule and finally to make matters even more difficult, she wrote in pencil! These impediments were daunting and therefore I only really examined the dates when I knew something important had happened in her life. I did read the entries about her marriage, the death of her mother, the birth of her sister and a few other occasions beforehand, but otherwise I am learn about her days as I write them. My goal with starting this tumblr was to make the commitment to read her journal every week. With time and a stronger glasses prescription, navigating her penmanship has gotten easier. 

I like the way her life unravels a bit more to me on a weekly basis. This process has been so inspiring for me. Her everyday is quite extraordinary!

October 13, 1862

Sylvia’s Journals

Monday, October 13, 1862

Rainy. Went to Mrs. Manchester’s. Busy sewing all day. 

Tuesday, October 14, 1862

Busy. Did some errands in the afternoon. Oh! What a mean old man Grandpa is.  I am surprised to hear what I have.

Wednesday, October 15, 1862

Ma and Annie went off to Providence. Went to see Hannah Waldham married. Went up to see Lizzie and Mrs. Gladding.

Thursday, October 16, 1862

Made my last calls which took me all afternoon. Had a letter from William and a sweet set from Dora including a charm made of dear Jud’s hair.

Friday, October 17, 1862

Went to Providence, had a tooth filled, dined at Uncle John’s came home in the carriage at night. Found a present from Lizzie waiting for me.

Saturday, October 18, 1862

Went out in the afternoon. Very busy all day.

Sunday, October 19, 1862

Went to Church for the last time. Wrote to William & Dora in the afternoon,  up to Mrs. Smith’s with (…) and Mary Abby in the evening.


In Sylvia’s trunk there is a small black circular box in the shape of a circle, with a hand embroidered Japanese man riding what appears to an oversized white dog, but what I assume is more of a mythic creature. Inside the box, ensconced in the softest red silk fabric, are the remains of Sylvia’s mourning jewelry.

There are five pieces:

A long necklace with a cross at the end.

A brooch with a “D” charm at the bottom.

A man’s gold ring with leaves where hair is set inside of them.

A brooch in the shape of a circle.

An anchor, heart and cross charm.

I have always assumed she worn this jewelry in memory of her mother.  But this week, we learn that Dora gives her a charm made of Jud’s hair  I wonder if the anchor, heart and cross charm is the same.

I hold the charm in my hands and open and close my fingers around it.  It is in remarkable condition for its age.  I rest it on my laptop and continue this post.


Many find hair jewelry to be morbid, but I think it is perhaps some of the most beautiful jewelry.  Hair is such a representation of who we are and our hair is one of the features that makes us the most readily recognizable to the world.  It is no wonder people wore the hair of both their beloveds and deceased beloveds around their necks, on their wrists, or pinned to their ears.

The anchor, heart and cross stand for hope, faith and charity…

I now believe that this trinket is made from Jud’s hair.

October 6, 1862


Les Modes Parisiennes

Sylvia’s Journals

Monday, October 6, 1862

Busy, went down to the boat with Anita and up to Mary Abby’s in the evening.

Tuesday, October 7, 1862

Made some calls went up to Tina Doringh’s in the evening.

Wednesday, October 8, 1862

Carrie Dodge’s wedding day here.  I wish I was there.  I do think it is bad I am not.  Went to bid Isabel (…) goodbye.  She left in the boat.

Thursday, October 9, 1862

Went to Providence to do some shopping, had miserable luck.

Friday, October 10, 1862

Spent the day at Grandpa’s.  Sewing all day.  Rained so hard that I couldn’t go home at night.

Saturday, October 11, 1862

Came home early in the morning.  Fixed cut in the seem and sewed all day.

Sunday, October 12, 1862

William came at 10am.  Spent all day writing cards.  Went out a little while.  Mrs. Larry Alvin Fales called in the evening,


I wonder why Sylvia was not at Carrie Dodge’s wedding?  It seems that she wished to be.  

When I put “Carrie Dodge,” “wedding,” “1862” into Google, I came up with the wedding dress selection of a much more recent Carrie Dodge on Pinterest.


I like the continuity that there are always Carrie Dodges in the world that are getting married.

Sylvia, in commenting on Carrie’s marriage, must have always been thinking about her own wedding, which will occur in a couple of weeks.  Here are some excerpts from Cassell’s Household Guide from the era to aid in our preparation for attending a wedding 1862.




September 29, 1862


Chrysalis © Stacy Renee Morrison

Sylvia’s Journals

Monday, September 29, 1862

William went off at 9.  Very boring all day.  Went to see Mrs. Willard in the evening.

Tuesday, September 30, 1862

Ditto.  Went to Tina Doringh’s in the evening.

Wednesday, October 1, 1862

Raining hard all day.

Thursday, October 2, 1862

Ditto.  Heard from William and Carrie Lawrence.  Perfectly delightful to think that matters are arranged at last so nicely.

Friday, October 3, 1862

Went out in the afternoon a little while.

Saturday, October 4, 1862

Sewing (…) me.  I am so tired.  Dined at Aunt Eliza’s.

Sunday, October 5, 1862

Busy.  Went down to the boat with Anita and up to Mary Abbie’s in the evening.


I find myself talking as Sylvia writes.  Oh dear, perfectly delightful… the way she expresses herself has infiltrated into my daily speech.   I have always been very susceptible to antiquated language but it has gotten worse.  I say “Oh my goodness” and flutter my hand to my throat so often that I am trying to consciously ween myself off from doing this; as my contemporaries often have to do so with “like”.  

I just love her language though:  Perfectly delightful to think that matters are arranged at last so nicely.

I do assume she is discussing some element relating to her impending nuptials, which are happening later this month, but she could also be describing a murder plot too.  

Her beautiful vagueness makes me truly love these little books.   They have become so familiar to me that I feel that I could not have written them myself.

September 22, 1862


Emancipation Proclamation

Last week, while Sylvia was shopping in New York City on September 17th, the Battle of Antietam was taking place in Sharpsburg, Maryland.  Sylvia’s experience with the war seems far removed. She never writes about politics in her journal, but this was not the nature of what her diary was for.  Woman in the 19th century were encouraged by the the popular magazines to keep a journal as a chronicle and a means of organization for the everyday.  The war impacted Sylvia’s everyday, I am confident of this, for it impacted every citizen of this country at the time, she just did not write about it.

There is one notable journal, written by a woman during the Civil War, who writes about the conflict and her name was Mary Boykin Chesnut.  She was married to a Confederate General named James Chesnut Jr. who was an aid to President Jefferson Davis.  She was older than Sylvia and her position due to her marriage, put her in a place where the political was personal.



Sylvia’s Journals

Monday, September 22, 1862

Went out to Brooklyn to see Carrie Dodge.  Went to see Dora in the evening.

Tuesday, September 23, 1862

Rode over to New York with Carrie.  Came home and went to the hair dressers.  Went to see Dora and came home to tea.

Wednesday, September 24, 1862

Rode over to New York again.  Went home to dinner.  Carrie had a magnificent serenade.  Went to bed about three in the morning.

Thursday, September 25, 1862

Came home from Brooklyn, did some shopping, then went to see Carrie Laurence and stayed all night,

Friday, September 26, 1862

Carrie and I went down together and went to see Mrs. Leonard.  Dined with Mrs. Willard at the (…).

Saturday, September 27, 1862

Busy packing up.  Left at 4 o’clock with William.

Sunday, September 28, 1862

Sunday morning writing on the Metropolis.   William not dressed yet.  Rained hard coming home and all day long.

The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest day in American History.  Although the actual number of casualties are impossible to compile, the findings on the National Park Service website have the number at 22,720 either killed, wounded, missing or captured.

The battle served as a turning point.  Lee’s forces were driven from Maryland and it was a key victory for the Union and Lincoln. Less than a week later, on September 22, 1862,  Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Emancipation Proclamation declared that as of January 1, 1863 all slaves in the rebellious states “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”

September 15, 1862


Hat from 1862

Sylvia’s Journals

Monday, September 15, 1862

Very busy getting ready to go to New York. Started out at 4.  Mr. Smith and William in ride with me.

Tuesday, September 16, 1862

Arrived in New York.  Breakfasted at Delmonicos. Went to Brooklyn to see Dora and Carrie Dodge.

Wednesday, September 17, 1862

Started early in the morning shopping.  Did not get  home until late.  William and M Bunill called in the evening.


Thursday, September 18, 1862

Shopping.  Went up to see Nellie and her baby.  Stayed there to tea and William came after me.


Friday, September 19, 1862

Very warm.  Shopping all day.  Took a ride with William in the afternoon.


Saturday, September 20, 1862

Shopping all day.  Went home around five.  Took a bath.  William came in the evening.


Sunday, September 21, 1862

Went to the (…) Church with Mrs. Palmser. William and I took tea with Carrie Sarmene.


Shopping, shopping, shopping…. this filled Sylvia’s week.  Considering Sylvia will be marrying William next month, it is my conjecture that a great deal of her shopping was for her trousseau. 

If this is indeed the case, I am sad that she does not mention her mother as being with her on this special shopping expedition, but she could have been and Sylvia merely neglected this detail, but irregardless, it does seem like Sylvia was enjoying herself very much this week in New York.

As always…I wish I could go shopping in 1862!


'Girl of My Dreams': One woman's obsession gives another new life

Please check out this lovely article in the Bristol Phoenix about me and Sylvia written by Christy Nadalin:


September 8, 1862


Found photograph of a 19th century woman sewing

Sylvia’s Journals

Monday, September 8, 1862

Went down to Boston in the early train.  Stayed all day, went back at night. William went to New York (end).

Tuesday, September 9, 1862

Sewing machine here all day.  Took a little walk after tea.

Wednesday, September 10, 1862

Very busy.  Did not go out.  What a dream the sewing machine is.


Sewing Machine from 1862

Thursday, September 11, 1862

Work, work all day.  Had one of his disgusting tirades, if he isn’t the greatest specimen.

Friday, September 12, 1862


Saturday, September 13, 1862

Thank fortune the sewing machine went off at 3 o’clock.

Sunday, September 14, 1862

William came about 3.  Went to see Mrs. Smith in the evening.


I find it fascinating to read that Sylvia acquired a new technology this week.  She finds the sewing machine to be a dream, but a couple of days later, she is pleased it went off at 3 o’clock.  I wonder about this.  Was she just trying it out?  Perhaps it was brought to the house by a crafty salesperson encouraging her mother to buy one, or did Sylvia merely mean that she just shut if off for the day?

I decided to research the history of the sewing machine in the United States more and I came across this fascinating article by Joan Perkin entitled: Sewing Machines: Liberation or Drudgery for Women.  Here are two separate passages from the article that I thought were super interesting:

By 1862, three out of four new sewing machines were bought by garment manufacturers, but the makers realised their largest potential market was in the millions of families who meant to have a sewing machine in their homes when they could afford it. Yet how many people was that? The earliest machines were  expensive and some men doubted that their wives would be able to operate them, so they were re-designed into smaller, lighter machines with polished metal surfaces, elaborate ornamentation and cabinets of fine woods. However, this did not solve the problem of cost, until the Singer company in America decided in 1856 to rent out the machines and apply the rental fee to the purchase price, as was already the way pianos were being sold in New York. Suitable buyers (i.e. men with good credit reputations) could purchase a sewing machine for $5 down (half a week’s average wage) and pay the balance plus interest in monthly installments of $3-$5. Singer referred to the plan as ‘hire-purchase’. Success was immediate, and by 1876 Singer was selling twice as many machines as its nearest rival. Eventually the cash price of the machine fell, but most buyers still preferred to pay on the instalment plan.

The American journalist and campaigner for women, Sarah Hale (1822-79), wrote in Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1867 that to make the average shirt by hand required 20,620 stitches; at a rate of thirty-five stitches a minute, a competent seamstress could complete a shirt in ten to fourteen hours, work for which she was ill paid when she did it for a living. As Thomas Hood wrote in Song of the Shirt (1843), she was ‘Sewing at once, with a double thread/A shroud as well as a shirt’. Operating a sewing machine at 3,000 stitches a minute, a seamstress could assemble a shirt in an hour with neater results, though her pay was still low.

Here is the link to the full article, which I highly recommend!


The article went on to say that for women who made their own clothing the machines drastically reduced their time spent sewing, but the sewing machine had the adverse effect upon women who made clothing for a living because the expectation became that their work be done much quicker and for less money.

Maybe Sylvia was working on one of these dresses  :  )  :   )  :  )


I often think about Sylvia when I am doing laundry.  I wish I could show her my washing machine and dryer.  I think she would be amazed and  think they were a dream too.

The Girl of My Dreams in Rhode Island


I am so pleased to announce my exhibition at Roger Williams University.  My lecture is at 6pm on September 10th with an opening to follow immediately afterwards.

Rhode Island is absolutely lovely this time of year… if you fancy a road trip.

The Handmade Photograph


I am pleased to announce that I have a portfolio and interview in the new photography magazine called The Handmade Photograph.  The article is all about The Girl of My Dreams!  Please do check it out!   The top link is for my article and below is the website for the magazine.