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HSP, Google Partner for New Exhibit

PHILADELPHIA, PA–As part of the Google Arts & Culture project, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) has created a new exhibit, The Presidency in Times of Turmoil, featuring more than 70 images from HSP's collections. 

Historic political cartoons are visual proof that political consensus has never been a feature of American political debate. When viewed critically, however, they can provide a shared base of evidence for understanding the politics of the past and present. 

The Diaries of Selina Schroeder

The following article was written by HSP volunteer Randi Kamine and is being posted on her behalf.

"My Dearest X.Y.Z. I want to tell you everything that has occurred lately and I want you to ask me questions which I am bound to answer.”  So begins the first entry in the diary written by Selina Richards Schroeder in early 1889."

This diary is the first of three extant diaries in the possession of HSP in the Schroeder family papers (Collection 4054), which was recently processed.  The second volume continues to May 1889; Selina was to turn fourteen later that year. The last of the three diaries ends in the year 1891 when Selina was sixteen. 

Selina was the daughter of Louisa and Gilliat Schroeder.  Gilliat uprooted from Mobile, Alabama, to New York where he developed a thriving business in the commerce of cotton.  The family was upper middle class. Their home base was New York City.  Selina, in her musings, did not aim to place herself in the context of social or economic class.  However, class distinction is apparent in Selina’s excellent handwriting and grammar and the activities in which she participated, including painting lessons, music lessons, drawing lessons, and buying hats and dresses in up-scale shops in New York.  She belonged to the economic class whose members were literate and had time and means to reflect, to the extent there is reflection in her writings.

The diaries give the reader an insight into the late 19th century adolescent world.  Particularly, reading Selina’s entries casts some light on the function diaries had for Selina and girls of that era. She writes about friends, family, and herself in often candid prose, although friends and family are seldom introduced by name, which makes it difficult to figure out who is who (she uses initials and nicknames more often than full names).  While much of the correspondence in the Schroeder family papers from which the diaries emerged is formal and stilted, the diary of the young girl is open and intimate. She was adamant, however, that her thoughts stay private between her and her written words. To provide secrecy she often wrote in code. [See example below – can you figure out the code?]  

 Selina writes about things teens today are concerned with (albeit in hand written form as opposed to digital). Indeed, one may observe that things have not changed much when it comes to the thoughts of teenage girls. There is little in the way of comments on current events and few political observations.

The last of the three diaries is filled with ephemera collected from dinners, concerts, and events Selina attended. In the three year period Selina wrote these diaries, she began to take her place in the society in which she is surrounded. It is perhaps in the third volume that readers can best capture the tone of upper middle class urban culture.

In the first volume there is a stern warning that, should the book be found, it should not be opened.  Selina writes, “This book is absolutely private – except to S.R. S.[Selina herself] and her two friends E.L.S and X.Y.Z.” (Perhaps using a convention used by diarists in the nineteenth century of writing to an imaginary friend in the second person). She writes that she wants “to tell you everything that occurred lately.”  This first page of the first volume has a photo of Selina and two of her friends [see photo below].  It seems that despite her warnings her secrets were not well guarded. She writes shortly after starting the diary that “Harry, and Jim and G. got hold of this book and read part of it.  I was so mortified that I tore part of it up and put in the fire !!!”  She will henceforth “carry the keys to my desk in my corset so nobody can get them.” 

Selina’s cares revolve around who “stands up” for her and whose friendship disappoints her. In the first few pages, she gives written portraits of several of her friends.  As she herself acknowledges, most of her comments are negative.  She tries hard to be generous, but her compliments tend to be left handed and she quickly veers toward criticism even when starting out with a positive observation about the character, looks, or demeanor of her friends. She refers to her brothers as “the brats” throughout the diary.

Young men were at the top of Salina’s thoughts. Her descriptions of the boys in her dancing class tend to be caustic and not terribly kind. For example, “He looks as if he had swallowed a bayonet – so stiff.” Indeed, descriptions of boys, news of engagements, observations of male-female relationships predominate throughout this first volume. She wonders which of the women a boy named Basil has been pursuing for marriage—will she be the the one he loves or the one who has money?  She appreciates praise given to her by her father.  “Papa says I said two very clever things at dinner tonight” she writes.  After a joke about grass and hay fever, (“I think that was very clever of me.”)  her Aunt M. and Pa were talking about how “much darker and more Indian like” the Americans were getting , Selina quipped, “perhaps in another generation we would all be perfectly black –  I think that was rather clever too, don’t you?”

There were, however, moments of serious news. “My Dear [speaking to her diary], is it not dreadful, we have just received a telegram saying Aunt F. has the Typhoid fever.”  Family planned to be going to her side, in Washington, the day after hearing the news.

Comments on current events are few and far between.  However, Selina does report that she was present at the New York City celebration of the 100th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration on April 29 through May 1, 1889. She saw President Benjamin Harrison “as he went by on his boat as all the men-of-war saluted him.  He was rather late and we thought perhaps that Baby McKee [Harrison’s grandson] had left his bottle behind and had to go back for it….” Later she saw the President drive by City Hall.  “He stayed so long at his lunch we were afraid he had had an attack of indigestion because he had eaten so much.” Always the wisecracker.

Near the last pages of volume one, Selina has this to say about “Society.

"My Dear, there was such a delightful young beardless youth, Oh so handsome at The Wick’s.  His name was Douglas Taylor.  He was awfully jolly and clever. He was not a bit of a flirt and he and I looked out the window and had lots of fun. But he does not appear in Society like those ossified “beardless” idiots who do. I’m not going to let my children (particularly boys) make their appearance until they are twenty-five, as I think these youths or “cads” who go out in Society put on airs and are unbearable and detestable…. [T]hese youthful, idiots, beardless cads monopolize Society."

The second volume continues in 1889.  “It is absolutely necessary no one shall open it [the diary] but myself and my chum Edith L. Speyers,” she writes. After writing, “I never get tired of writing in it and it affords me unlimited pleasure and fun,” the next twenty pages are taken up with the topics of love and romance.  “Engaged: Miss Alice Jerone to Mr. Benjamin B. Lawrence (Uncle Ben) [she writes in large capital letters taking up two pages].  The most exciting thing that has happened in years !!!!!!!”  This volume is replete with drawings depicting couples, women swooning over men, men swooning over women, and couples in various social activities such as rowing along a river. A drawing of said Uncle Ben and Miss Alice has the caption, “This is Aunt Alice and Uncle Ben out walking.  He is so much in love with her that he can’t keep his eyes off her…This is so romantic.”  Selina does not seem particularly aware of a larger meaning of events or of time passing in any historical sense. Selina’s identity as an urban, elite young woman is not explored very deeply in her day-to-day observations. She easily accepts the social order as natural.

Despite Selina’s desire for strict secrecy concerning her own diary, she was apparently not too shy about delving into others’ confidential papers.  She writes, “We have just discovered a whole package of letters from Berkely MacCauly’s ten page letters !!!!” to her Aunt Julia. “Strictly private,” Selina warns above this confession, “Only S.R.S. and E.L.S. can see this.” Apparently, Selina and her friend were well aware they would get into trouble for snooping.

A description and accompanying drawing of the Schroeder family starting on a European trip, (“they are all going to Rome to study art!!!!!”) is indicative of the Schroeder family’s social and economic standing.  Unfortunately, although it appears that Selina was among those going, there are no notes about the trip. (Not every page is dated so it’s difficult to say how much time passed between entries.)  In this volume there are walks along Fifth Avenue, an East Hampton summer and other idle pastimes that speak to a life of leisure and at least moderate luxury. A trip to the dentist also attests to her economic standing. There are visits from friends from England who came bearing gifts and who returned from their European sojourn with seven pairs of gloves.

As in the first volume, not every entry is frivolous.  Selina mentions a funeral of a friend’s mother.  “Poor Mr. J. Van S … lost his mother a few weeks ago, and is in great danger of losing a good deal of his money.” Not exactly a sympathetic observation, but she does mention that the girl interested in poor Mr. Van S. went to the funeral and wept a great deal, went to bed and was “dissolved in tears almost the entire night.” A few pages later Selina shows a modicum of generosity when she notes that she participated in a fair for the Fresh Air Fund and helped raise $75.00.

There is one political reference.  Selina pasted a printed copy of a poem:

"Why doth the little busy bee
And Blaine and Burchard too
Forever sing the G.O.P
It is their nature to."

The poem above is in reference to James G. Blaine and Rev. Dr. James Burchard.  Rev. Burchard was a prominent Presbyterian New York minister and supporter of James G. Blaine.  Burchard was accused of killing the chances of Blaine winning the Presidency in 1884 against Grover Cleveland by Burchard’s bigoted slurs against Roman Catholics.

There are more printed poems, stories, and vignettes in this second diary than the first. Selina’s drawings have improved and her world seems to have expanded a bit. She took up photography and photographed places she visited and her girlfriends.  Her primary interest, however, is still with her social “set” and the romantic interactions that seem to be the center of her universe. (“Edith gave me a punch and shrieked, ‘Is that Archie?’  I turned around and spied a pair of legs and a very long nose swaying down 14th Street.  I almost fainted…you see I am so excited I can hardly write!”)  [Followed by dozens of exclamation marks.] Her adventures in book two include being locked in a closet for a spell and witnessing a runaway horse with an empty wagon.

The third volume starts on December 3, 1890, and has a somewhat different tone than the previous two.  There are dozens of loose pages with appointment dates and descriptions of activities. It seems that Selina is busy every day of the week with social engagements. Among her mementoes is a program from her first dinner party at the Berkeley Lyceum on W. 44th Street in New York; playbills for plays at Madison Square Garden and other theaters; and concert programs. The many comments on these souvenirs include, “Grand,” “Splendid,” “Perfectly Divine,” and “Glorious.” It is clear that Selina embraces the time and place in which she lived. And no wonder—her material life is well taken care of.  She records a list of Christmas gifts that would be the envy of any adolescent today.  The catalogue of thirty-four gifts includes two clocks, a silver pin, a silk bag, stockings, and cash.

Potential romance is still uppermost in Selina’s mind.  In speaking of a Mr. Atcheson, she says, “To tell you the truth I am dead gone on him !!!! He is very good looking and has the loveliest smile and a divine voice, and when he looks at me, such emotion thrills through every vein…He is a vision and a Dream.”  Whew.

The several drawings of dresses and costumes in the diary are a portent of Selina’s future (see picture below).

In early July, 1891 Selina closes this third volume with:

"I must close with a fond farewell as I am going to Luzerne tomorrow morning… Farewell. S.R.S."

For those of us who remember those tender teenage years, and especially those of us who wrote in diaries, the intimate musings in these books will surely have us thinking, “the more things change the more they stay the same.”  And yet, the reader might wonder, while reading about the familiar emotions that were expressed by Selina -- have things really stayed the same, or, with social media being the predominate mode of communication, is there no longer an outlet for this type of expression. Perhaps in studying these and other diaries historians can contribute to a subject that is being intensely discussed these days, that is, the diminished sense of privacy, and its implications.

Curious of what became of our carefree teenager?  In her mid-twenties she opened a dress shop in Manhattan due to a turn in her father’s fortunes! She married Charles Lawrence in Westchester, New York, in 1900.

 For more information on her and other working women see What Women can Earn:  Occupations of Women and their Compensation, by Frederick A. Stokes (1899)

HSP Joins 2017 #MuseumSelfie Initiative

#MuseumSelfie Day, now in its fourth year, is a nationwide initiative encouraging museum visitors, staff, and volunteers to snap a selfie at their favorite institutions and share it on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #MuseumSelfie on January 18, 2017.

Begun as a way to highlight museum collections and inspire more people to visit them, #MuseumSelfie Day was launched by museum professional Mar Dixon in 2014.

HSP Collaborates with the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) is partnering with the International Society for British Genealogy & Family History (ISBGFH) to explore various educational opportunities for researchers to explore their British Isles family history. Plans are currently being formulated to provide classroom presentations on basic British Isles research at HSP in the coming months, with more information to be released this spring.

HSP Launches Two New Databases for Genealogists, Scholars

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) is pleased to announce the addition of two new databases to its HSP Encounters system: the Russian Brotherhood insurance claim records (1900-1953), and the Philadelphia public school records (1835-1907), the first of a twelve-volume set.

To genealogists, family historians, and scholars, these new databases are a boon for historical research into the activities of fraternal benefit societies and the experiences of public school children in early 20th century Philadelphia.

Hidden British Gems at HSP

HSP's Historian and Head of Reference Services Dr. Daniel Rolph recently featured several "hidden gems" from HSP's collections in the International Society for British Genealogy & Family History's latest British Connections newsletter.

All of the items materials discussed below may be found via HSP's online Discover catalog. If you have any questions about getting started researching your family history, contact HSP's Reference team

British author Rudyard Kipling wrote in 1898 his famous poem, “The Explorer,” which contains the appropriate following lines:

“Something hidden. Go and find it.

Go and look behind the Ranges—Something lost behind the Ranges.

Lost and waiting for you. Go!”

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP), located in Philadelphia, is a private organization founded in 1824, whose collection is composed of some 21 million manuscripts, 700,000 books, and over 500,000 graphic items. This massive amount of data also includes hundreds of unique and diverse volumes relative to the history of the British Isles. These collections are currently sitting on the HSP’s “ranges” of shelving, “lost and waiting” for the public or researchers to come and discover. The records, pertaining to their ancestors, are available for consultation either by a personal visit or via the Research-by-Mail service offered by the society.

The above volumes are a treasure trove of resource materials which the family historian may use in order to obtain family and vital record information. The records mare in publications from throughout the entire British Isles, be it England, Wales, Scotland, or Ireland. In some cases these records are online although many are not. Whereas many researchers are forced to visit multiple institutions or pay exorbitant fees via the Internet in order to acquire British records, these volumes are all gathered together at a single repository.

Thus, one may wonder “how, when, and why did The Historical Society of Pennsylvania obtain such a vast amount of British-related publications?” The answer lies to a marked degree with Albert Joseph Edmunds, an English immigrant born at Tottenham, County Middlesex, who came to the United States in 1885. Edmunds eventually served as a cataloguer for The Historical Society of Pennsylvania from 1891 to 1936. Prior to this, Edmunds had been employed as a cataloguer at the Leeds Library in England and had worked as a librarian at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. He eventually became a world-renowned scholar of comparative religion and of spiritualism.

During his tenure at HSP, Edmunds succeeded in acquiring numerous volumes relative to the history of his native country, also leaving behind over 36 linear feet of his own papers, diaries, etc. which are housed at HSP.

In this small article, it is impossible to relate in full, the totality, scope, and sheer volume of fascinating data awaiting the would-be researcher. These publications contain a vast amount of local and family history as well as folklore. In addition, there are numerous articles pertaining to nature, art, military, and the early architectural history for almost the entire British Isles.

By making use of this material, the family historian may contextualize much of his or her ancestor’s residence since the volumes are filled with lithographs of landscapes or buildings, illustrations of family tombstones, coats-of-arms, vital records from church registers, obituaries of various individuals found in family sketches, queries, and so on.

One should also visit the general website of the society to view the online catalogue Discover in order to do a basic search. Searches can be done by name, author, title, or place. Note that the British-related volumes have not been digitized. It will require an actual visit by the researcher. If one can’t make a personal visit, the society’s Research-by-Mail service can also be used to acquire the necessary information.

The following is a very brief and randomly selected listing of a small number of volumes found within the British collection. Also, if one would like the full bibliographic citations for anything listed below, I would refer the reader to Discover once again. Remember as well that these are all hard-bound, original volumes, not xeroxes or print-outs.


  • The London Gazette | Nov. 1665 to 25 July 1797
  • The London Chronicle, Vols. 1–LXXX | Jan. 1757 to Dec. 1796
  • Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser | Jan. 1787 to Nov. 1787

Miscellaneous Volumes

  • The Reliquary, 1860–1894 | 34 volumes of folktales, armorial crests, genealogies, etc.
  • John Morton, The Natural History of Northamptonshire: with Some Account of the Antiquities… (London: R. Knaplock, 1712)
  • James Hakewell, History of Windsor and Its Neighbourhood (London: Edmund Lloyd, 1813)

Primarily Medieval-related

  • Calendar of State Papers |186 volumes
  • Patent Rolls, 1216–1485 | 47 volumes
  • Treasury Books, 1660–1725 | 10 volumes
  • Papal Registers, Feudal Aids, all of which are valuable in doing early surname research and distribution

Publications of the Harleian Society

  • Various “Visitations” of the Herald’s for the counties of England, with coats-of-arms and family pedigrees, primarily for the 16th–18th centuries, over 120 volumes
  • Thomas Dugdale, Curiosities of Great Britain: England & Wales…Historical, Entertaining & Commercial | 8 volumes, including 19th century renderings of buildings, maps, landscapes, etc.
  • Francis Grose, Esq., Famous Antiquities of England and Wales | 7 volumes, includes such early lithographs of the famed Stonehenge, descriptions of ruins, dated from the 18th century
  • Parliamentary Writs: Medieval to the Modern Era (House of Lords/House of Commons volumes) | State Trials, volumes covering periods from 1495–1741.
  • Gazetteer of the British Isles: Statistical and Topographical, ed. John Bartholomew, (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1887)
  • An Entire and Complete History, Political and Personal, of the Boroughs of Great Britain… (London: B. Crosby, 1794) | 2 volumes
  • British Army List, 1763–1850 | These volumes include names, rank, death information, with later volumes giving details relative to battles, various “Regiments-of- Foot” or the Infantry as we would say were involved in throughout the world, during the days of the British Empire.


  • Francis Blomefield, An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk… | 5 volumes, first printed in 1739, accounts of various manors, rectors, vicars, family histories, back to Medieval times
  • William Berry, County Genealogies: Pedigrees of the Families of the County of Kent, 1830 | Berry was the Registering Clerk for the College of Arms in London
  • Edward Wedlake Brayley, A Topographical History of Surrey (London: G. Willis, publisher, 1850) | 10 volumes with lithographs of churches, landscape views, ancestral estates, data concerning Medieval to Modern eras)
  • Augustine Page, History of Suffolk: A Supplemental to the Suffolk Traveler or Topographical & Genealogical Collections Concerning That County (Ipswich and London, 1844)
  • John Collinson, History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset (Bath, 1791) | 3 volumes
  • Parish Register of Almondbury (Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Parish Archaeological Section, 1988) | Vol. 3, 1683–1703
  • Leeds Parish Registers: Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials: 1695-1722 (Leeds, 1909)
  • The East Anglian: Notes & Queries…Counties Suffolk, Cambridge, Essex and Norfolk (London: 1864-1910) | 17 volumes, contains genealogical queries, pedigrees, origin of place-names, family coats-of-arms, etc.
  • Shropshire Parish Registers (on various diocese), Shropshire Parish Register Society | Over 48 volumes, covering primarily the 17th–18th centuries


  • J. Y. W. Lloyd, The History of the Princes, the Lords Marcher, and the Ancient Nobility of Powys Fadog, and The Ancient Lords of Arwystli, Cedewen, and Meirionydd (London: T. Richards, 1881–1887) | 6 volumes
  • Cambrian Quarterly Magazine and Celtic Repertory: 1829–1833 | 5 volumes
  • Archaeologia Cambrensis, 1864–1962 | 115 volumes
  • Bye-Gones, 1880–1896


  • Parish Register Society of Dublin, with miscellaneous registers such as: Church of St. Michan: 1685–1686; Church of St. Peter & St. Kevin: 1669–1761, etc.
  • Journal of the Association for the Preservation of the Memorials of the Dead in Ireland  (Dublin: 1881–1931) | containing articles relative to church records, gravestone inscriptions, etc.
  • Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 2nd Series, 1906–1974 | Volumes 12 to 80
  • Ordnance Survey Letters: Letters Containing Information Relative to the Antiquities of the Counties of Armagh- Wexford, of the Ordnance Survey in 1835 (Reproduced under the direction of Rev. Michael O’Flanagan; Bray, 1927-1933) | 34 volumes, gives data concerning myths, local history of various towns, parishes, etc.


  • Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Glasgow: 1573-1833 (published from 1870–1916) | 14 volumes
  • Walter MacFarlane and James Toshach Clark, Genealogical Collections Concerning Families in Scotland: 1750–1751, (Edinburgh: Univ. Press, 1900), ed. from the original manuscripts | 2 volumes
  • W. Innes Addison, Roll of Graduates of the University of Glasgow, 1717–1897 (Glasgow: James MacLehose & Sons, 1898)
  • James Patterson, History of the County of Ayr: With a Genealogical Account of the Families of Ayrshire, (Edinburgh: 1847) | 2 volumes

Though Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, and other online sites for British Isles research are indeed helpful, hands-on research is still highly productive in the digital age.

Working here at the society for over 31 years, I actually researched my own Rolfe/Rolph family coat-of-arms, which enabled me to discover that I had more material obtained from within our British collection upon the subject than was available through the College of Arms in London!

Doing British research at HSP can be a rewarding experience. It definitely should be consulted prior to spending time or money at expensive online sites, or before hiring private researchers within the British Isles.

Born and raised in Kentucky (10th generation), Dr. Daniel Rolph has been researching his own family lines for some 50 years, primarily out of the British Isles and specifically his Rolph/Rolfe line back to 16th century England. Dr. Rolph is the Historian and Head of Reference Services at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, a position he has held for 31 years. Dr. Rolph authors two blogs for HSP: Hidden Histories and History Hits.


HSP, LCP Welcome December 2016 Fellows

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) and The Library Company of Philadelphia (LCP) jointly award approximately 25 one-month fellowships for research in residence in either or both collections during each academic year. Fellows hail from across the country and around the world, utilizing both institutions' collections in contemporary scholarship.  

HSP and LCP proudly welcome the December 2016 fellows:

New Books Now Available in the Genealogical Collection


Below is a sampling of some of the new genealogical and family history books that were recently added HSP's library. Check them out on your next visit, and click the links for further information from our online catalog Discover.

Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: John Alden

REF F 63 .M39 v.16 p. 5

Who Was Who in America, v. 26

REF E 176 .W64 v.26

A Dictionary of Yorkshire Surnames by George Redmonds

REF CS 2470 .Y675 R43 2015

Colonial Records of the Swedish Churches in Pennsylvania, v. 6A-B

UPA E 184 .S23 S94 v. 6A-b

Porter Genealogy by Janice Roden

Fa 929.2 P844r 2016

My Somerset County Heritage by Clyde Irvin Coughenour, Jr.

Fa 929.2 C854c 2016

The Aisenbrey Family by Heinz Aisenbrey

Fa 929.2 A299a 2012

Fostering Family History Services by Rhonda L. Clark and Nicole Wedemeyer Miller

REF Z 688 .G3 C58 2016

Intelligible Heraldry by Christopher Lynch-Robinson and Adrian Lynch-Robinson

CR 21 .L9 1948a

The Hereditary Register of the United States 1973

E 172.7 .H47



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