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.

September 1, 1862


Lizzie Borden

Sylvia’s Journals

Monday, September 1, 1862

Raining hard so we could not have our ride.  William went to New York, Mrs. Doringh went with him.

Tuesday, September 2, 1862

Went up to Nagate to tea with Mary Abby and Mr. Naylor.

Wednesday, September 3, 1862

Went down to see (…) for a little while.  Stayed at home in the evening.

Thursday, September 4, 1862

Went to see Mrs. Smith a little while in the evening.

Friday, September 5, 1862

Went out a little while in the morning.  We all took tea at Grandpa Bullock’s.

Saturday, September 6, 1862

Very boring Lizzie (…) dined with us.  Took a ride after tea with Mr. Naylor.  It was lovely by the water.

Sunday, September 7, 1862

William came in the morning.  Went to Church after tea went to the Willards, Fales, and Doringhs.


I love the fact that Sylvia wrote that boring Lizzie dined with them.  A Lizzie who was not boring was born a little more then two years prior to that date in Sylvia’s journal.  Lizzie Borden was tried and acquitted for the axe murders of her father and stepmother in Falls River, Massachusetts in 1892.  Falls River is just a hop, skip and jump from Bristol, Rhode Island.   Maybe Sylvia and Lizzie Borden crossed paths?  I wonder what Sylvia thought of this lurid tale in 1892?  

Lizzie Borden’s home is now a Bed and Breakfast/Museum.

Sylvia’s home is also a Bed/Museum too (but I think that the latter part is only for me).

The crime still remains unsolved.   As a Detective of the 19th century who makes photographs, perhaps this will be my next case….

August 25, 1862


Princess Alice wearing earrings in the 1860’s.

Sylvia’s Journals

Monday, August 25, 1862

Took a most lovely ride with William up to Balletts farm, then up to (…) with Mr. & Mrs. Willard and William.  Had tea there.  Had my ears pinned, fainted dead away.

Tuesday, August 26, 1862

Madame went to Providence.  Went up to Mrs Smiths for tea.

Wednesday, August 27, 1862

Went in bathing with (…) and Tina.  Went up to the Union lake, rather a nice time.

Thursday, August 28, 1862

Caro and Mrs. Willard took tea and spent the evening with me.

Friday, August 29, 1862

Went out in the afternoon.  Spent the evening with Caro.

Saturday, August 30, 1862

Went up to see Mary Abby after her visit to New York.  William came in the cars.

Sunday, August 31, 1862

Went to Church in the morning.  Went up to see Grandpa in the evening and Mrs. Doringh.


When I looked up “ears pinned/19th century” the meaning was not what I expected.  In the 19th century it was used more as an euphemism for “being scolded or yelled at”.  I do not think in the context of her entry this is what she meant though. Sylvia is much more matter-of-fact in her writing.  I believe that she did indeed have her ears pierced, as we call the process today, and this is why she fainted dead away. 


Doll wearing earrings from the 1860’s- Ruby Lane Antiques

August 18, 1862


Newport, Rhode circa 1860’s

Sylvia’s Journals

Monday, August 18, 1862

Up to Providence with William.  How unreasonable he is at times, dear me.  No one understands me. He went away in the boat at 4 o’clock.

Tuesday, August 19, 1862

Sewing all day.  What delightful parents I have only I thing I enjoy having my room to myself. (?)  I wish she would stay (…).  Spent the evening at Tina Doringhs.

Wednesday, August 20, 1862

Mrs. Menten came up from Newport and spent the day.  Like her so much.

Thursday, August 21, 1862

Telegraphed to William about going to Newport but he could not go.  Madame (…) that I should not go, what a devil she is.

Friday, August 22, 1862

Dined with Cara and went on to the wharf to see the Regatta.  So disappointed about not going to Newport.

Saturday, August 23, 1862

Heard from William.  Went to Nagatt for tea.  To my delight on my return found Annie had not arrived.

Sunday, August 24, 1862

Went to Church in the morning with Mrs. Smith.  Went to the Willard’s in the evening.


This is the second time I have encountered a question mark written slightly above a passage in Sylvia’s journal.   As with the first incident, the passage is something that I immediately questioned upon reading it too.  When Sylvia writes that she has delightful parents, I thought ? and someone else thought ? too.  Has someone else read through her journals?  Did she do this.  The mystery is so curious.   I will never know the answer to this, but at least I am happy that whether Sylvia herself, or some unknown editor, has the same opinion as myself.

Now to Annie.  In 1886, three years after her sister Annie’s death at the age of forty, Sylvia sentimentalizes her sister in a heartbreakingly lovely way.  She saves pieces of wallpaper from her house, and writes on the reverse sides:  Kept because Annie saw the room last with it on.


Because Annie Saw The Room Last With It On © Stacy Renee Morrison

Relationships between sisters are always complicated, especially those sharing a room.  I know she loved Annie very much but she also liked having space to herself.  I understand this.  I love my sister very much and although I always had my own room, but my sister Caryn was a big soccer star and I have to admit when my parents would go to her weekly games, those few hours of alone time when it was just me and Duchie, our golden retriever, were heavenly.  


Me and Caryn circa 1983

August 11, 1862


Clouds at Colt State Park

Sylvia’s Journals

Monday, August 11, 1862

Went to bid Nellie and Mary Abby goodbye.  The girls came down in the evening.

Tuesday, August 11, 1862

Went up to Mrs. Doringh’s a little while. The (…) at Town Hall for which such great preparations had been made came off very well.

Wednesday, August 12, 1862

Went out in the morning a little while.  Dined at the Smith’s.  Went to the (…) in the evening.

Thursday, August 13, 1862

Did not go out all day.  Wrote to William.

Friday, August 14, 1862

Went up to Mrs. Smith’s to bid Mrs Poole and Miss Farley goodbye.  I wish could go away somewhere, dear me, everything goes wrong.

Saturday, August 15, 1862

To my delight Miss Annie went off and I can have my room to myself.  Took tea with Ruth.

Sunday, August 16, 1862

William came about 10.  We went to Church in the afternoon.  Went to walk with William after tea.


Sunset on the Narragansett


Sylvia wanted to be somewhere other than Bristol this week in 1862 and I was in Bristol, 152 years later, feeling quite the contrary, for I did not want to leave.  


On the boat to Prudence Island

The weather was beautiful and cool and every night we walked HJ to the water where he was a little frightened of the sound of the waves lapping against the rocks.  By the last night he was brave enough to step on a rock on the jetty where he kept his head high and happily sniffed the salty air.

From her journals, this week I learned that Sylvia and Annie shared a room.  What a fabulous little slice into her life.


Henry James in Sylvia’s house and maybe a ghost!


Mt. Hope Bridge from the ferry

***Photographs of Sylvia’s beloved Bristol and the water more than a century after the fact all made on my IPhone.