Dear Friend Robert Merry: Letters from nineteenth-century children

How to use this book

1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 18701871 • 1872

About the Merry Cousins


Index & gloss


The Cousins’ Greatest Hits



To the Editor of Merry’s Museum : Dear Sir: When, as a child, I read and enjoyed Merry’s Museum, though I indulged in dreams of writing, I was not practical enough about it to think of ever seeing my stories within its treasured pages; but now, as a woman, I sit before my fire, and when some thought or fancy begins to shape itself in my brain, I think, “That is just the thing for Merry’s Museum”—“dear old Merry’s Museum,” as I call it. Therefore I send this little story, “What Ben and the Twins did for Chicago,” hoping it will please you and the little readers of your magazine.

How well I remember the stories I used to pore over, and which I have told to so many children, to their great delight! As I write now, I feel an almost irresistible impulse to get an old volume and read the tale of the Black Tulip.

I have not seen many of the late numbers, for no children’s feet have pattered in our home for a long time; but I have no doubt many boys and girls read and read, until father bids them, “Put up the book, for it is too dark to see.” We used to do that, I well remember. I hope you will esteem it for the welfare of your magazine to give me the pleasant link to my childhood it would be to see one of my stories, which perhaps I owe to that by-gone impulse, in its pages. If not,—for in this practical world we must make many calculations,—will you kindly return the MS.?

Yours respectfully,
S. C.

“What Ben and the Twins Did for Chicago”: story by Sara Conant (Robert Merry’s Museum; September 1871). The title characters work hard and hold a fair to earn money for the homeless after the Chicago Fire.

tale of the Black Tulip: “Tale of a Tulip”, five-part serial (in Robert Merry’s Museum; 1851) Set in Holland during the tulip-madness of the seventeenth century, the story is built around the development of a black tulip; the reader learns not only history, but the evils of vanity. It was reprinted in Parley’s Present for All Seasons (NY: Appleton & Co., 1854).


Williamsburg, March 23, 1872.

Dear Uncle Robert:—I have been an interested reader of your Museum for nearly three years. My grandfather sends it to me. Will you please accept the answers to the puzzles in the March number? you will find them on the next leaf. Seeing Percy V. R.’s question in reference to the oldest copy of the Bible, knowing that Rev. John Davies, of this city, had an ancient copy, I called on him yesterday, and saw the book. It was printed in Germany in 1608, and then smuggled into England. He has lately had it bound; but before it was bound anew, he says there were between the leaves bits of mortar, lime, dirt, and [p. 244 ] straw, from the walls and holes where the persecuted Christians had hid it. This is one of the oldest copies. He also has a Greek book (the oldest in Brooklyn), from the library of Melanchthon, who was connected with Martin Luther, the great reformer. This book was printed in 1556, and is in a very good state of preservation. Who can tell of an older book?


Percy: Percy V. R.’s question was posed in the March 1872 issue: “Percy V. R. asks the following question: Where is the oldest copy of the Bible to be found, and who is its owner?” (1872.1.147) Though Uncle Robert invited more answers, none appeared.

Martin Luther (1484-1546): German religious reformer credited as “the parent of the protestant reformation.” His friendship with Melanchton dated from early in Luther’s career as a reformer. In 1844, the Museum printed a two-part biography.

Melanchthon: Philip Melanchthon (1496-1560), German Protestant reformer. He formed a friendship with Martin Luther at Wittemberg, where the two were professors. [Samuel Griswold Goodrich, comp. Popular Biography. New York: Leavitt & Allen, 1832.]


[Editor: ] I sometimes wish that those boys and girls who have parents able and willing to supply them with everything essential to their comfort and well-being could see some of the letters received by our publisher. “My father is dead,” says a little boy, “and mother tells me we cannot afford to take your magazine any longer. Dear Merry, how I shall miss you!”

“The man I worked for did not pay me; so I cannot pay you now, but will as soon as I can earn the money,” writes another little fellow.

A little girl says, “Father has been sick a long time, so that he could not earn the money to send for your good magazine for me. I shall miss it so much! I think your picture, ‘First Love,’ must be very pretty.”

A kind lady sent this little girl the picture and a receipt for a year’s subscription.

“First Love”: steel engraving offered as a premium to subscribers paying in advance for 1872; engraved by Willcox from a painting by M. Perrault, it pictured a young girl playing with a cat and its kittens. The Museum printed a poem inspired by the picture in February 1872.


Milwaukee, May 11, 1872.

Robert Merry, Esq.:—Dear Sir: The solution of some, at least, of the enigmas contained in your valuable juvenile publication gives useful employment to older minds. Myself and “better half” last night, during a spare hour, attacked successfully, we think, two of those in your last number; and herein you will find our answers. Too much praise can hardly be given to the conductors of Merry’s for the taste shown in the selection of the articles. Where all are good, it is difficult to discriminate; but we think those entitled “Iceland” and “The Voyage of the Salt Mackerel” especially noteworthy. The publisher certainly deserves success.

Yours truly,

“Voyage of the Salt Mackerel”: two-part serial by Charles Barnard (Robert Merry’s Museum; May-June 1872). Inspired by stories in the Youth’s Banner (presumably, a story paper), two boys build a raft and set out for adventure in a humorous parody of sensational fiction.

articles referred to, on Iceland: “Iceland and Its Inhabitants,” by F. F. E. (May 1872), a description of the island and those who live there.


Lee County, Va.

[excerpt ] About sixteen miles below here is Cumberland Gap, the point where the three states, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky, come together. There is there, near the top of the mountain, a small, upright stone, one third of which is said to be in each of the states mentioned. When there last I sat down on this stone, and can now say that I have been seated in three states at the same time.

[boy ]

1872.2.November cover

[Editor: ] The following letter pleased “Uncle Robert” so much, that he asked to have it printed, and as it is his last request, we must gratify him.

September 27, 1872.

“Friend Merry: Circumstances do not allow —— to write this month, and so I enclose our answers and a few puzzles, some of which I hope you can use. The child always waits impatiently for the coming of her magazine—her own—paid for out of a little fund accumulated by her labor, and by self-denials which have saved money. I do not expect to outgrow my own liking for it in my lifetime, and I cannot be grateful enough for the help it gives me with my child. A year or two ago strong influences were drawing her away from me towards a lower level. Our work together upon the puzzles and mutual interest in the stories help me keep her, and I bless the heads and hearts that devise so wisely and kindly for the children.

[anonymous ]

[The following note was stitched into the November, 1872 issue, facing the letter printed above: ]

Boston, Nov. 1, 1872.

The Publisher of Merry’s Museum announces its discontinuance with the issue of the present number. He has made an arrangement by which it will be merged into the Youth’s Companion, and the subscribers will be furnished for their unexpired terms with that paper. The price of the Companion is the same as that of the Museum. [ … ]

We have labored hard to improve the character of Merry’s Museum, and shall always hold in kind remembrance the many commendations which we have received from its readers.

By our new arrangement all are to be benefited, and this thought lessens the sorrow of saying to one and all,


a flourish

How to use this book

1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 1850185118521853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 18701871 • 1872

About the Merry Cousins


Index & gloss


The Cousins’ Greatest Hits

Copyright 2000-2024, Pat Pflieger

To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read
Some of the children | Some of their books | Some of their magazines

To “Voices from 19th-Century America
Some works for adults, 1800-1872
To Titles at this site | Authors at this site | Subjects at this site | Works by date | Map of the site

Talk to me.