One way we add to our manuscript collection is through what staff and readers find within other collections at AAS. Often we will find letters, notes, or other ephemera interfiled in books, periodicals and newspapers, and often it is deemed best to move this material into the manuscript collection. These items are fun because, while their provenance is not always clear, knowing where they came from within our collection adds a bit of mystery to the item. Seeing handwritten notes within the pages of books connects us to the past owner of the book. It makes us think of what that person might have been doing while reading the book. Were they bored and needed a distraction, and therefore decided to jot down a poem? Were they about to deliver a letter but decided to use it as a bookmark and forgot about it? Or maybe there’s a scrap piece of paper with important information on it that has been frustratingly lost within a book for 100 years.
One such item was recently brought to my attention by an AAS Fellow. A piece of correspondence was found in the pages of the songster Greenback and Labor Songs (see the catalog record for this item here). The letter is addressed to a Mr. Verry, who apparently had written to the Greater Joliet Chamber of Commerce (Greenback and Labor Songs was published by the Greenback News of Joliet, Illinois) in search of a copy. Mr. Jack P. Meade, Business Manager of the Chamber of Commerce, responded to Mr. Verry with the unfortunate news that four of the five men involved in the publication of this book – Young and McLaughlin, who compiled the book, as well as Nelson and Ferris, of the publishing firm Nelson, Ferris & Baldwin – had passed away. But Mr. Baldwin was still around, and could help Mr. Verry with his request. Please note all the dates listed on the letter, including the all important footnote at the bottom. Lesson be told, don’t procrastinate!
However, as this letter was folded and stashed away in a copy of the book he was looking for, we can assume Mr. Verry indeed did find a copy!