My Antiques Roadshow style birthday gift
I was fussing over a random book I found on a shelf in a used/rare book store in San Diego. It was a touch out of impulse buy price range, so as the BF and I walked around the store I talked myself into the purchase outloud. He disappeared and came back, having haggled over it for an undisclosed lower amount and gifted it to me. It is the best kind of gift, something not only fun and beautiful to behold, but full of mysteries to uncover.
Come through the pages with me, won't you?
The clerk at the store described it as a community book... something folks write in and pass around, but that's all he knew of it. After I got it home and got to look over some pages more carefully, I would say it's more likely a book the owner kept in the house and visitors would leave well wishes in, with some scrapbook elements as well. Dates inside range from 1931-1936, all manuscript by many authors in French and some English, includes photos, printed ephemera, calling cards, and official French government documents. Some deducing leads me to believe it belonged to one Madame William Warren Card, who was recognized by her friends for her philanthropy. She was also, apparently, recognized by the French government for her charitable works, as in 1933 she was inducted into the French Legion of Honor, and there are numerous official documents, congratulations cards, and well wishes to that effect.
I didn't even find this letter, folded modestly and pasted inside, until well after I got it home. It is from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dated June 27, 1933, notifying Mme. Card of her recommendation for the cross of Officer in the Legion of Honor.
Some very preliminary research (aka Googling) tells me William Warren Card was chief engineer and general superintendent of the Cleveland, Tuscarawas Valley and Wheeling Railroad. Born in New York state in 1831, his parents moved to Lancaster, Ohio in 1837 where his father served as county surveyor for Fairfield County, Ohio, and son William assisted. He eventually worked his way up to superintendent and general freight agent until 1864, when he gained the same position for the Pittsburgh, Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad, where he stayed until 1871. He was a colleague of George Westinghouse, Jr., and resigned his position in 1871 to work for the Westinghouse Air Brake Company. In 1873, he became superintendent and chief engineer of the Lake Shore and Tuscarawas Valley Railroad, now known as the Cleveland, Tuscarawas Valley and Wheeling Railroad. And apparently he looks like this. In June 1872, he married Miss Hattie Dinsmore, stepdaughter of Rev. D. D. Mather, of Delaware, Ohio, and presumably owner of the book that is now in my possession. Further Googling reports that the Reverend gave a fairly famous speech on the occasion of Lincoln's death, and was apparently a trusted community leader, until accusations of indiscretion led to public shaming and the sudden suicide of his just-wed daughter, Stella.
I believe this photo is our lady and former owner of the book, Mme W.W. Card:
Congratulations card (here it is opened), opposite page a letter to the French president.
Calling cards and opposing page acid burns
Life is like a mirror, if you grimace it will send that back to you, but if you smile, it will smile upon you. Sept 7 1935
What fun mysteries to unfurl in this little leather book! So many signatures to decipher, I wonder if any of these folks writing sonnets are celebrated poets perhaps, since she seems like the type of lady who could be an artist's patron. I will slowly savor the discoveries this book will reveal over time as I delve into it. Couldn't think of a better birthday gift for a francophilic book nerd like me. :)