Monday, September 27, 2010
Today's featured item from the Brooker Collection is a letter written in 1853 by J. Currier, Jr., of Warner, New Hampshire. He writes to a Mr. Hayward that due to a shortage of funds for the school district, "a female would answer their expectations as well as a male teacher; and the amount of school money being less than usual, to pay a male teacher what would be considered any thing of a fair compensation would so shorten the school as to make it advisable to employ a female teacher."
What is particularly appalling is the writer's matter-of-fact tone, though those of us who watch Mad Men have seen plenty of this sort of thing - and worse. Hat tip to my ever vigilant colleague Dorothea Rees for bringing this letter to light!
Posted by Karen Beck at 10:07 AM
Monday, September 20, 2010
My colleague Dorothea Rees unearthed today's gem from our library's Brooker Collection of Early American Legal and Land Use Documents. Document #1824 is a brief handwritten agreement to arrange a substitute for a (presumably) wealthy man eager to avoid military service.
It states in full: "It is agreed between Amos W. Pike & Peyser Drake & Co. - that the latter furnish the said Pike a substitute either for the Army or Navy for the sum of eight hundred & seventy five dollars (875 D.) Portsmouth August 2 1864 Peyser Drake & Co. by W.M."
Until February 1824, it was perfectly legal to pay a $300 fee to the government to commute one's service, or to hire a substitute. After that time, legislation abolished commutation, so the only way to avoid service was to procure a substitute. The price for substitutes immediately skyrocketed - hence Mr. Pike's steep fee of $875. (This figure amounts to about $12,300 in today's dollars, using the Consumer Price Index.)
Posted by Karen Beck at 10:58 AM