Gratitude: For the written word

Published 6:40 am Saturday, November 24, 2018

Don’t you agree that words put on paper (or on a computer screen) make a lasting impact?

We may forget what people say but when words are written down, they are preserved. Much of our understanding of history is based on what people have written to others. In reading and studying letters we learn about both the writer and the recipient.

On Nov. 24, 1884, George wrote the following letter to his mother. His words reveal his concern for his father as well as his business mindset of the day. They also suggest that he valued his mother’s counsel that he saw fit to write to her of his life happenings.

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“Dear Mother,

Yours received this morning, and I must say that I am sorry to hear that father has such a bad cold.

I hope father will take good care of himself, and not think that he can stand all kinds of weather without catching cold, and if he has bronchitis he will have to take good care of himself, or he will have something worse… He being out in the wagon, ought to be equipped with all the necessary garments for all kinds of weather.

Considering everything (financially) and the change of president, I think it best for me to not go into business, until I have more money myself, and as future prospects are very unfavorable all over the country, I have concluded to travel another year, then I will have my own money to do business with. One can’t tell how investments will turn out, even with the best of judgement…

Now if Father will be unable to run his business himself, I am willing to go home and run it for him, rather than have him exposed to all kinds of weather and do work that he is unable to do. I am going to try and make money outside of my business if I travel another year. I can lend money on good security for two and three months at a time at the rate of 12% and as high as 15%…then at the end of the year I will realize a good result.

Am glad to say this leaves me well and hearty and hoping that father will recover.

I remain as ever,

Your son George”

What George does not say in his letter is Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving occurred on Nov. 27, in the year 1884 so I find the omission of the holiday greeting interesting. George was 23-years-old and an over-the-road hide buyer writing from a hotel in Des Moines, Iowa. I wonder where he spent his Thanksgiving Day that year.

That is the beauty and mystery of historic documents. From them we can learn a great deal, but they can also leave much to our imaginations.