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Winterthur Digital Collections

About this collection

Numerous diaries, travel accounts, and memoirs in the Downs Collection offer researchers a wealth of information of everyday life of days gone by.  Several are now available online. 

 

Archibald Gracie, Jr., a cotton exporter, traveled to England and Scotland in the fall of 1815.  Of particular note are his reports of visiting factories and craftsmen, describing the production of household objects in the early years of the Industrial Revolution. Gracie was particularly fascinated with the use of steam power. During the trip, Gracie visited a place where tambour work was done by steam power, a cotton manufactory, a calico printing house, and a tape manufactory, witnessed iron being recast, and saw a demonstration of glassblowing.

 

Ralph and A.F. Stover traveled from Alexandria to the Ohio-Indiana state line and back from May 2 to June 7, 1833 and described scenery along the way.

 

In four volumes spanning twelve years, printer David Clapp (1806-1893) of Boston described trips to New York City in 1831, Washington, D.C. in 1841, and Niagara Falls in 1843, including details about his travel methods, people he met, and sites he saw. 

 

In 1850, John W. Kinsey and W. B. Bemans took a six week trip through the western United States.  They departed from Lowell, MA and stopped in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. en route to Chicago.  On the return trip they journeyed along the Great Lakes and visited Niagara Falls. 

 

Harrison Vandegrift served in the Civil War in the Delaware Volunteer Cavalry.   His diary covers two years of life as a soldier enduring poor living conditions, routine drills and inspections, dress parades, and sabre exercises.  While camped near Westminster, MD in June 1863, his company engaged J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry en route to Gettysburg in a skirmish that claimed the life of his brother Willie. 

 

In 1876, E.S. Marsh traveled from Vermont to Philadelphia to visit the Centennial Exhibition.  He recorded his observations of grounds and buildings during his three week visit.

 

German-born Ernest Hagen (1830-1913) worked as a cabinetmaker in New York City in the second half of the 1800s and partnered with J. Matthew Meier from 1858 to 1888.  He later dealt in antiques and was an authority on Duncan Phyfe.  His “Personal Experience of an Old New York Cabinet Maker” contains comments on the furniture industry and contemporaries Charles Baudouine, John Henry Belter, and Alexander Roux, among others.

 

William Colflesh Butler struggled as a young ornamental sign painter in Philadelphia in 1880-1881.  He documented his attempts to find employment, his summer in Atlantic City running a boardinghouse, and his church activities.

 

Englishman A. Strangman sailed to America and Canada in 1885. His log includes descriptions of Baltimore, New York City, Niagara Falls, and places in Canada along with watercolors of views he saw.   

 

See also the Watson Family Diaries:

http://content.winterthur.org:2011/cdm/landingpage/collection/watsonfam.

 
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