15 years in the editing!!

160 years in the making!!!

merrycoz.org is tickled to announce
the publication of

Letters from Nineteenth-Century American Children to Robert Merry's Museum Magazine

edited by Pat Pflieger

Available NOW from The Edwin Mellen Press

also available online as "Dear Friend Robert Merry": Letters from 19th-century Children

Robert Merry, surrounded by children
Robert Merry tells his young friends the exciting news that they're now on the cover of a really big book!

The name of Merry long will be
Remembered well, and loved by me.

-- Margaret, 1842

A unique collection of letters from the pages of Robert Merry's Museum, the premiere American children's magazine from 1841-1872.
Before Samuel Goodrich began to print letters from his subscribers, no other children's magazine published in the U. S. had regularly printed letters from its young readers. "Merry's Monthly Chat with His Friends" offered a platform for thousands of children to talk about themselves, their families, and their times.

And a lively bunch they were!

P. S. I had very nearly forgotten to say that I enclose one dollar, for my subscription for the coming year. If your Museum continues as good as it has been heretofore, I shall be satisfied. Don't make it any better: I couldn't stand it.
My father likes it very much. I never heard him say a word of disapprobation, except in regard to the article upon "whiskers." He thought that might just as well have been omitted; some folks might consider it personal, inasmuch as some people do wear them, and think they have a right to do so; and even think some folks do that it improves their appearance. My father wears whiskers; but that, of course, has nothing to do with the propriety of publishing that article. He would have thought just the same about it, but might not have said any thing. To be candid with you, my mother could not see much wit in it, and spoke rather disparagingly of it. I may observe, that I have heard my mother speak rather admiringly of my father's whiskers, but that's neither here nor there.

-- Franklin Bostwick, 1845

In the pages of the Chat, subscribers formed a unique community of a type not duplicated until the Internet. The "Merry Cousins," as subscribers came to call themselves, shared their griefs and their lives, with each other and -- ultimately -- with us.
My little cousin Florence and I had a nice doll's party, with eighteen dolls, on Christmas day; but it was not like last Christmas, when my other cousins, Freddy and Clementine, were here; nor like Christmas before last, when my brother was with us all. They are all in heaven, and I think they are happier than they would be here.

-- Clementina Tompkins, 1857

Mr. Merry: I have just begun to take your Museum, and I like it very much. I think you tell stories very much as Peter Parley did. I like Parley's books so much that I called my little dog Peter Parley. He died some time ago, and now I am going to get another, and I intend to call it Robert Merry. I hope you won't be offended at this, for we always call dogs after famous people.

-- James A., 1842

The Cousins wrote about the events of the time:

New York City in a blizzard ... Great drifts of snow lay along the street, blocking up the sidewalks and doorways, and shrouding the basements in total darkness. No trace of vehicle or human footstep was visible, and the white cloud-offspring lay in a broad unbroken sheet, beautiful to behold. However, it is impossible for New York to remain snowed up for any great length of time, and consequently the Shovel Brigade were soon out in full force, ready to clear the walks at (un)reasonable prices. It was quite a good day's work to remove some of the drifts, and in many streets they were left as the wind had placed them.

-- William Hoyt Coleman, 1856

It is a beautiful rosewood piano, made by Mr. Chickering in Boston. What a long way for it to come here, right in the midst of the mountains of Virginia! ... I hope the Union never will be dissolved, but if it should be, I have got my piano any how.

-- Phoebe Preston, 1851

... Secession

Dear Merrys: A welcome visitor looked in upon me this evening the April Museum. It could get no farther south this route, for three hundred yards from me, across the Rappahannock, the camp fires of the rebel pickets are brightly burning, and there, over the ill-fated city of Fredericksburg, the moon sheds a pale, ghastly light on "Rebellion."

-- Oliver Onley, 1863

... War

And while I still say "Never! never!" to the proffers of friendship from all who are yet rebels at heart, I would, God helping me, extend a forgiving hand even to that one, were he truly penitent, who sent the fatal ball which has made me brotherless and laid that noble form and bright young head which I loved, to molder beneath the soil of ... Tennessee. A stricken sister can offer no different "amnesty" to those who have deprived her of her heart's most cherished treasure.

-- Jenny, 1866

... Reconstruction

Women's rights ... You must know, dear Mr. Editor, that the hackneyed and much abused subject of "Woman's Rights," is a darling hobby of mine, (being "a chip of the old block,") by which I rise to splendid ærial castles, where, before my bedazzled vision, float spectres of future fame and glorious renown; though in what particular line, I am still in unblissful ignorance still, that I shall have a "call" for something, I no more doubt than I do my own identity.

-- Alice Corner, 1856

(Also, swimming, skating, playing, reading, going to school, and just plain getting through the day...)

The Cousins were the children of shopkeepers, of bank presidents, of ministers, of plantation owners. They grew up to be diplomats, farmers, college professors, artists. Here are Charles E. Mitchel before he was president of Stanley Rule and Level, William F. Draper before he entered the U. S. House of Representatives, Clementina Tompkins before she exhibited at the Corcoran, and Daniel H. Burnham before he designed the Flatiron Building. Just as important, here are the ordinary citizens who voted, raised children, shaped American life in subtler ways.

Dear Editors: My little son brought from the post-office to-night the first number of Merry's Museum, for which his mother had subscribed. Upon casting my eyes over its pages, I thought it must be the identical magazine which my father took for me in my boyhood. If, indeed, it be so, I am glad to make its acquaintance once more, after a separation of at least a quarter of a century.
How great was my interest in the old magazine! Nothing I have ever read since has clung so fast in my memory. The Siberian Sable Hunter, Bill Keeler, Thomas Trotter, and all the rest are my boyhood's heroes.

-- B. C. S., 1870

Subjects touched on in the letters

Among those whose letters appear in the book (with years and place):
Catherine Josephine Allen Lewis Davis (1855-1857; AL)
Herbert Allen (1851; IL)
Robert Thomas Barton (1858; VA)
Isabella Besley (3 letters; 1860-1864; WI)
Franklin Bostwick (1845; IL)
Louisa H. Branch (1852; SC)
Daniel Hudson Burnham (1858; IL)
Mary Ellen Burnham (1858; IL)
Josiah Cary (2 letters; 1857-1859; MO)
Laura Almira Chapman Barlow (1842; MA)
Fanny B. Cochran Dudley (3 letters; 1849-1851; VA)
Elizabeth Cogley (1845; PA)
Hayden Level Coleman (2 letters; 1857-1858; TX)
William Hoyt Coleman (22 letters; 1851-1864; mostly NY)
Alice B. Corner (4 letters; 1856-1857; OH)
Emily Caroline Crafts (1843; MA)
Henry Augustus Danker (2 letters; 1861-1862; NY
Theodore Bell Dawson (1853; KY)
Blanche Livingston Delaplaine (1856; WI)
Mary E. Doran (1857; NY)
William Franklin Draper (1854; MA)
Frederick Lawrence Drinkwater (1861; KS)
Amanda Viola Drinkwater Fogwell (1861; KS)
Annie E.Drummond (5 letters; 1856-1865; IL)
Charles M. Eames (3 letters; 1864-1865; IL)
Richard Tilghmann Earle (2 letters; 1849-1850; MD)
Josephine Eaton (2 letters; 1855-1856; TN)
Mary W. Fluker Bradford (1851; LA)
Maria L.Gage McKeyes (1848; MI)
Cornelius M.Gibbs (1860; GA)
Marcus La Rue Harrison (1849; MI)
Maria S. Hall Watkins (1849; VA)
Edward M. Higbee (1855; NY)
George B. Higbee (5 letters; 1857-1859; NY)
Mary Elizabeth Hills Reese (2 letters; 1849-1850; GA)
Chester Holcomb, jr (1857; NY)
Mary Alice Iles Shropshire (1854; KY)
Charles Jewett (1854; VT)
Susan H. Johnson (1848; PA)
William Kenner (2 letters; 1849-1851; LA)
Frank E.Kellogg (1855; WI)
Emily Barsina Ketchum Ewell (1852; TN)
Alma Kohlheim Morton (1852; MS)
Marietta E. Lane Gamage (1853; ME)
Imogen Latham Southerland (4 letters; 1855-1861; TN)
Pinckney Latham (3 letters; 1852-1860; TN)
Lucy E. Leiper Darragh (1852; TN)
Robert Hill Loughridge (2 letters; 1857-1858; Creek Nation)
Hattie McDonald (1868; MO)
William Potter McMillan (1856; IL)
Darius G. Maynard (1852; VT)
Laban Lewis Meriam (1845; MA)
Charles Elliot Mitchell (1850; CT)
Louisa J. Neal Pittman (1850; GA)
Robert Worthington North (1853; LA)
William Forrest Oakley (9 letters; 1859-1864; NY)
Adelbert Older (4 letters; 1857-1865; WI)
Edward Winslow Paige (1857; NY)
Jane/ Jeannie Williams Parker (3 letters; 1860-1862; NY)
Robert A. Parker, jr (1850; TN)
William M. Pearl (1850; CT)
Louisiana A. Perkins Thomson (1852; LA)
Ada Josephine Pierce Saunders (3 letters; 1858-1859; MI)
Vincent M. Porter (1852; NY)
Phebe Alexander Preston Cocke (1851; VA)
Thomas H. Rockwood (1848; MD)
Emma M. Shaw (1859; MN)
Elizabeth Madison Sheffey Pendleton (1858; VA)
Frank H. Sleeper (1859; NY)
Edward Clarence Smith (1850; NY)
Frank A./R.Snow (1856; MS)
Charley F.Speck (1863; PA)
Abby Marietta Stearns (1858; WI)
Flora Pierpont Stearns Bowen (3 letters; 1857-1859, 1867; VT)
John B. Tolbert (1852; IN)
Edwin Burton Thayer (1855; VT)
Elizabeth H.Thompson (1858; VA)
Benjamin Latimer Tompkins (1855; DC)
Clementina M. G. Tompkins (3 letters; 1856-1858; DC)
Catherine Olivia Van Winkle or Van Wickle Mathews (1851; LA)
Rachel E. Williams Miller (1850; NY)
Charles Horatio Ward (1855; IL)
Charles F. Warren (2 letters; 1861-1863; MA)
Sarah Annie/ Annie E. S.Wedgworth Logan (1859; AL)
Charley E.Wheelock (1859; WI)
Edward Savill Whitcomb (1853; VT)
Harriet E. White (1851; VA)
William Bache White (1855; PA)
Alonzo Church Whitner (1856; FL)
Trevanion Dallas Wilkins (3 letters; 1851-1852; MI)
Samuel Wilson, Jr. (1860; OH)
William S. Wright (1854; IN)
My Dear Friend: My mother is holding my hand, so that I can write you my first letter. She says you have taught me to love to go to school and learn to read, and that the first time I try to make a letter, I must thank you for all the good you have done me; and so I do very much. I am five years old to-day....

-- Ellen, 1851

Letters from Nineteenth-Century American Children to Robert Merry's Museum Magazine is more than letters about nineteenth-century American life: it's the story of an important magazine and of its community of readers.

The collection spans 32 years, and gives us a glimpse into hundreds of lives. Over 100 readers are identified and traced into adulthood. I've used 10 libraries, in eight states and three time zones, spending 15 years researching the times, the magazine, and the letter-writers. Especially the letter-writers: original research on them alone took close to a decade and the help of dozens of family historians.

But the letters -- and their authors -- are worth it.

Even as I love the scenes of my boyhood and the happy hours spent with those good old books, Parley's Magazine and Merry's Museum so in my old age I love the Chat and my Merry Correspondence. ... [T]hink of this, all ye people! old and young, from all parts of our country, connected in the bonds of friendship, for only one dollar and a half per year, postage stamps extra.

-- W. A. R., 1866

At $149.95 (at 692 pages, it's pretty much sold by the pound), Letters probably will find its way into more research libraries than personal libraries.

Don't let that stop you, though!

If you order through Edwin Mellen's web site, it's only $119.96. (You get 20% off!) Order often! Order early! (The price has already gone up $20!)

More important,

tell your library!
(You'll want to read their copy, too!)

More about the book

Congratulations to the following, for adding this great book to their libraries!

University of Pennsylvania; Luther College; University of Pittsburg; Harvard University; Nova Southeastern University; University of California--Berkeley; New York University; Southwest Texas State University; University of Maryland--College Park; Boston College; University of Southern Mississippi; College of St. Benedict; Florida A & M University; Princeton University; Montclair State University; University of Oklahoma; Arizona State University; Georgia State University; Indiana University--Purdue University at Indianapolis; University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill; University of Virginia; the New York Historical Society; San Diego State University; the Strong National Museum of Play; Miami University; Texas Tech University; University of Toronto; Boston Public Library; Texas State University--San Marcos; Marquette University

Letters from Nineteenth-Century American Children to Robert Merry's Museum Magazine, edited by Pat Pflieger
(Lewiston, NY: Mellen Press, 2001)
692 pages | ISBN 0-7734-7505-2

If wishing could bring but a kind thought
From the depths of your hearts for me,
So I knew you welcomed the stranger
In truth and sincerity;
And Aunt Sue was my aunt, and "Merry"
Was my Uncle Merry, too, --
I would sign myself "Yours, merrily,"
And ever be true to you.

--"Softsoap," 1868

Talk to me.

Copyright 2000-2011, Pat Pflieger

To "Nineteenth-Century Children & What They Read"
Some of the children | Some of their magazines
To "Voices from 19th-Century America"
Some works for adults, 1800-1872

To Titles at this site | Subjects at this site | Works by date
Map of the site