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Description

Description: This intriguing 112-page journal reflects the society of a wealthy 19th-century woman, Caroline (Carrie) Harrison of West Orange, Essex County, NJ. On her 23rd birthday, Mar 14, 1859, Carrie Harrison began to write in the red, leather-bound journal bearing the inscription “To Carrie. May all the joys to mortals blest. In sweet profusion on thee rest” signed, “Will,” (Will Sharp) who “courted” her in his own way in spite of her rejection. The Harrison family is well to-do; their wealth is marked by their acquisitions and shopping expeditions to Newark. They acquire two servants in two years–“Jane Jackson, a Negro girl,” and Sammie Gardner “a bright looking fellow about eleven to do the chores.” The women are constantly buying silk and muslin clothing; their parties are sumptuous and last into the wee hours of the morning, and most of all they have leisure time. Carrie often rides her horse Bloucher around Bloomfield. She also trims bonnets, knows how to sew, learns how to knit a cape and helps care for the family when someone falls sick. After her sister Phoebe moves, Carrie writes “I have an all gone feeling today. . . Ma has looked so sorrowful.” Even Phoebe’s dog, Carlo, refuses to eat, sleep and cries “piteously.”

We learn that she is courted by two men. She rejects Will Sharp’s attention (May 24, 1859), and in refusing him as a suitor has “made him very angry.” Later when he visits, she expects “him to keep his proper distance.” The following year Will Sharp “. . . brings [her] such splendid bouquets,” but she is often seen in the company of other men (Charles Bowles) who she rides out with. Carrie has a longer attachment to “Doct” [Smith] who is a family acquaintance in New Haven. We see them spending long hours talking, out riding, or at parties together. She admits that she does not “write half the things that occur . . . for she is so worried and full of care.” After she returns home, she is homesick all day, “thinking about the New Haven folks. . . Have wished myself there a great many times.” As we read, we know that there is more that she doesn’t admit. One entry reveals that she has lost a friend and a suitor, “a breaking of affairs between Doct Smith and [herself].” She writes, “It is not pleasant to think of after trusting one implicitly as [she has] this one so long a time, to find suddenly that confidence misplaced and feel that [they] are no longer what [they] have been to each other. . . .”  She says no more about him.

An occasional entry records other occurrences, such as John Brown’s assassination in Charleston, VA; the January 1860 mill fire in Lawrence, Mass, “which cut off the only avenue of escape for the poor beings”; the February 1860 wind damage, “blowing down chimneys,” and “unroofing” buildings in New York, Newark, and Philadelphia; the bustling medical convention in New Haven, June 1860, in which her brother-in-law Dr. Lindsley participates; the September 1860 torch light procession of “Wide Awake–otherwise Negro Worshippers. A Political Party,” before the Presidential election. The random jottings give us some insight into her other preoccupations; mostly, the family occupies center stage. It is fascinating that in her privileged world the Civil War apparently had little impact.

Caroline (Carrie) Harrison (1836-1918) was the daughter of Major Aaron Burr Harrison, a descendant of the first settlers of the New Haven Colony and the founders and builders of The Oranges in NJ. The Harrison family homestead became the site for the Edison factory. Maj Harrison was an active recruiter for the Union army.

Item #AM00273

Condition: The handwritten 7” x 8” red limp leather ruled journal has gilt edges. Corners are lightly frayed and some ink stains on the cover. Quite legible and in very good condition.