Fanny and Nathaniel: Love in the Library

Chelsea White, past AAS intern and present Simmons MLS student, has transcribed a diary from AAS’s collections that will become our newest Line-a-Day blog debuting with the new year.  Here is her introduction:

If you’ve enjoyed reading the A Day in the Life of a Blacksmith or the A Day in the Life of a Schoolmarm blog, then I think you’ll be excited to hear about AAS’s next blog project: Nathaniel Beekley’s Diary. Nathaniel Beekley was a young man who, in 1849, moved from his hometown of Norristown, Pennsylvania to Philadelphia to work as a bookkeeper for Reeves, Buck & Co., an iron manufacturer. He kept a diary during his first year in Philadelphia which illuminates the everyday life of a young clerk including social outings to the theater and exhibits at museums, courtships, trips back home to Norristown, and financial hardships.

One of the aspects that we at AAS are most interested in is Nathaniel’s romance with a librarian named Fanny C—t. After reading and transcribing the entire diary I have no illusions about Nathaniel being head over heals in love with Fanny exclusively, but he mentions her enough throughout his diary for the reader to infer that she may have held more of his affection than any of the other girls he courted. She is first mentioned in an entry dating 22 March 1849:

Delightful day—clear and fresh. In company with Miss F—y C. called on a young lady whom I had never met before—Miss L—a D—ds. Like most young ladies she was very talkative and exceedingly trifling and nonsensical, having but one idea—fun.

While he does not gush about Fanny’s good attributes, his negative comments on the other young lady he is with seem to be meant to contrast Fanny’s character. About a month later Nathaniel records that he “assisted [Fanny] in registering and numbering some books” in the Apprentices’ Library where she works. He assists her in cataloging again the next month.

Perhaps more telling than the accounts of Nathaniel’s actual meetings with Fanny is the frustration he records when he is unable to meet with her for some time. On 12 June he called on Fanny only to find that she was out. When this happens a second time on the 15th of the same month Nathaniel writes, “Called on Miss F—y C—t again but she was out as usual.”

Nathaniel’s final diary entry is sweet and sad. He records that he is “no nearer being married” than he was a year previously. We are not sure who Nathaniel ended up marrying, or even if he ever did marry, but his diary has entertained and amused us and we hope it will do the same for you in January.

Incidentally if you’re ever in Philadelphia visit the Free Quaker Meeting House, the building that housed the Apprentices’ Library in 1849 when Fanny and Nathaniel met. I visited it in June and met a very friendly historian who was interested to hear about the Beekley blog.

Quaker meetinghouse

Free Quaker Meeting House (home of the Apprentices’ Library)

4 thoughts on “Fanny and Nathaniel: Love in the Library

  1. Dan Beekley

    I’ve just come across your wonderful bio of Nathaniel Beekley and Clerk and the City. I believe that Nathaniel’s uncle (John’s brother) Thomas was my 3rd Great Grandfather. I grew up in the West Nantmeal, Chester County area myself.
    Would love to chat if you could send me an email.
    Great work!
    Many thanks,
    Dan Beekley

  2. Chelsea White

    Hi Dan,
    I’m so glad that you found the blog and bio! I had a lot of fun reading and transcribing Nathaniel’s diary and wondering what he was like. I think it is the details of daily life that make history seem real.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *