Family history documents and stories to supplement the genealogical information at

Saturday, January 24, 2009

National Handwriting Day

My great-grandmother, Katie Weinsz Gordon, spent a lot of time writing things down. She kept a journal, and almost every photograph and document that passed through her hands bears a notation of some sort. The following example is a particularly detailed one, written on the back of a photo of her girlhood home.
Weinsz House, Dover, Ohio
Weinsz House, Dover, Ohio

I don't have too many memories of her; I was brought up in Illinois and she lived in central Ohio and we didn't see each other that often. But one time when she came to visit in Illinois, she sat down with us kids and showed us how (encouraged us?) to do handwriting exercises. I remember these exercises as rows and rows of scrolling ovals, but I'm sure there was more to it than I remember. I thought it was fun because I'd never seen anything like that when I learned to write.

I didn't know then, but those exercises were similar to the ones set forth in the Palmer Method. A. N. Palmer's penmanship book was published in 1894 and I think Katie was already attending school by then, but she must have learned handwriting by a similar method.

National Handwriting Day is January 23, the birthday of John Hancock, and brought to us by (surprise, surprise) the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association.

If you want to know more about the development of penmanship, there's a fascinating book review of Handwriting in America at Paperpenalia.

I don't know about you, but my handwriting has greatly deteriorated since I started using a keyboard for almost all written communication. Time to add penmanship exercises to the list of things I oughtto do. I should have stuck with them when Grandma tried to teach us.
Katherine Weinsz

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tena to Katie, 6 January 1895

Canal Dover, Jan. 6
Dear Sister, Brother and Parents,

I wish you all a happy New Year. Dear Sister Katie I suppose you think that I never would write to you and I wanted to write to you long ere this but it seems as though I can't get at writing. I find so much work to do since we came home.

How are you all getting along? I had a letter from Sister Rose telling you mother was very sick. How is she by this time? I hope she will get well soon. My children also had a bad cold, it seemed like the gripp. They had a high fever and such an awful cough. They are better but they cough quite a lot at night.

Will had been working six days. He helped making ice. We had quite cold weather; the ice was from six to eleven inches thick. We also had snow enough for sleighing for over a week but now the weather is warmer and it is raining. Most of the snow is melted. There was some more iceing to do but if it keeps on raining I don't think they can make any more till it freezes up again. How is the weather up there? I suppose the same as here.

Katherine goes to school, she likes to go. They had a Christmas tree at our church, Will and Katherine went. She got a sack of candy. At home she got a nice wool fascinator, a drawing slate, a book, a dollar in money, and candies, cakes, nuts, and what Santa Claus could bring all. Albert got a little wagon and a tin horse and the rest like Katie's.

Have you been home lately? When you go give our regards to the parents. Feils have moved; they bought a home in town. Mrs. Jim Grove was married last week.

Now I will close writing, hoping to hear from you soon.

I'll remain your sister,

Notes: It seems many of these letters mention ailments. It's no wonder that patent medicines were so popular in those days, and the newspapers of the times were full of advertising for them. I was going to write that Tena should have tried Ayer's Cherry Pectoral for her children's coughs, but then I read a recipe claiming to duplicate it in Encyclopedia of Practical Receipts and Processes Containing Over 6400 Receipts By William Brisbane Dick: Ayer's Cherry PectoralTake of syrup of wild cherry, 6 drachms; syrup of squills, 3 drachms; tincture of blood-root, 2 drachms; sweet spirits of nitre, 2 drachms; antimonial wine, 3 drachms; wine of ipecacuanha, 3 drachms; simple syrup, 11/2 ounces; acetate of morphine, 2 grains. Mix, and add oil of bitter almonds, 2 drops; dissolved in alcohol, 1 drachm.
Syrup of squills? What kind of squills? The active ingredient, I suppose, was the morphine.

Ice-making. Now ice comes from the fridge, but once it came from winter. The Ohio Memory project has a series of photos of the ice-making process from a slightly later time (ca.1915-1925), but I imagine the process was much the same when Tena wrote her letter.

Tena mentions that Feils moved to town. She doesn't say which Feil family she meant, but the newspaper shows that John Feil bought a lot (and house?) in Dover from Sheriff Adams. The economic depression that began in 1893 lasted until 1897. Almost the entire first page of the same newspaper (The Ohio Democrat, New Philadelphia Ohio, 10 January 1895) is a list of properties to be sold because of delinquent taxes. The Feils married into the Weinszs, by the way. William's next younger brother, Louis, married Anna Catherine Feil, daughter of Christian Feil. I think the John Feil who bought the house in Dover was her brother.

Tena also mentions that Mrs. Jim Grove was married last week. Huh? Mrs.? I suppose she must have been a widow. The newspaper reports that John Strang and Cecelia Grove got a marriage license. So she became Mrs. John Strang. I wonder who she was before she was Mrs. Jim Grove?

The next letter from Tena is March 1, so maybe I'll fill in with some family history posts before I post the next letter. In the meantime, some horticultural advertising in same newspaper I was perusing above led me on an Internet expedition which I intend to write up at Tangled Branches: Cultivated later today.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

Dramatis Personae

Over the holidays, I had the opportunity to scan some family photos. While I'm posting Christena Roth Weinsz's letters, I thought you might like to see some of the people and places mentioned.

Christena Roth Weinsz

wrote home

(Lorain, Ohio)

to her sisters and parents

from her current home in Dover, Ohio

primarily about her children

Katherine (Katie) and Albert Weinsz

and her husband and his work (or lack of it).

(William Weinsz and other workers at "some plant" in Dover)

This is "little Elnora", daughter of Christena's sister Katie Roth and George Ruth, mentioned in the December 23 letter.

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