Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917

Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917
William Richardson, Alice Josephine Richardson Dakin, Robert Worthington Richardson, Harry Bogart Richardson

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Scrapbook with a Surprise, and a Question

A few years before my mother died, she took me upstairs to a chest where she had a couple quilts and some scrapbooks.  Two of the scrapbooks belonged to Robert Searing Worthington.  Mother said the other scrapbook belonged to Robert's daughter, Martha Elnora Worthington Richardson.  I suspect that this scrapbook belonged to Robert's wife, Mattie's mother, Elnora Esther (Ella) Cobb Worthington (1839 - 1923).

The scrapbook is full of illustrations that were originally published in the woman's magazine, Demorest's Monthly Magazine dating from 1876 to 1882.  Since Martha was born in 1865, I suspect her mother, Ella, kept the scrapbook because Mattie would have been age 11 when she was first saving pictures from a woman's magazine that included articles, prints, and paper dress patterns.  It turns out that the Demorests developed a business selling dress patterns, magazines and sewing machines among other things.

A few illustrations were in color.

There was a big surprise about this scrapbook that I accidentally discovered as I looked through the various pictures.  One picture became unglued over time.  I discovered this was not a regular blank book meant to be a scrapbook.  Instead of blank pages with pictures glued onto each one, this is what I saw:

The Congressional Record?!  YES, THE Congressional Record for the House.  I'm not sure which year, but this unglued page is December 14, the year would be on the top of the right hand page and all of those pages are securely glued down.  The year was probably in the about 1874 or 1875 since the pictures which have dates start in 1876 and the footnote on this page refers back to something in 1873.

For the curious about the business of the day in Washington then here is more of this page:

I got to wondering why the cover (above) didn't identify the book as the Congressional Record?  Was that flower strategically placed on the cover?  I looked at the binding more carefully and realized that the three lighter colored stripes of tan were actually tape, probably strategically located over the book title!

The book weighs 7 3/4 pounds.  The pages are quite thick.  Looking carefully at the book I and realized how she had constructed this.

For each page used front and back with pictures glued on, there were a bunch of pages equal in thickness cut out.  Then a page of tissue was glued in, using one of the cut out pages to glue to, before another page of pictures.

The page on the right has the print from the magazine, there is a page of issue paper inserted.  If you look closely towards the bottom of the page on the left,  you can see the stumps of the cut out pages.

So now my question:  Why would Ella Cobb Worthington own a copy of the Congressional Record?

In 1876, Ella and Robert Worthington were living in Chicago, and according to the Lakeside annual directory for the City of Chicago, he was a cashier.  Before the Chicago Fire, Robert worked for Gibson, Chase & Company (in freight forwarding).  After the fire, Gibson, Chase goes out of existence and Robert goes to work for J.N. & S.E. Hurlbut, commission merchants.  At some point, Robert goes to work for the Chicago Board of Trade Real Estate Committee, as the Secretary and is involved with the building of the new board of trade building which opened in 1885.  About 1877, they move to "the country," Oak Park.  Robert's scrapbook was full of articles from the newspaper that he found interesting, anything on Thackery & Dickens and obituaries of friends and family.

None of this points in my mind to a family who would have bought a copy of the Congressional Record -- not exactly a casual reading book at 2 1/2 inches thick (and now 7 3/4 pounds).

Do my readers have any idea?  Please post if you do!

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©2013 Erica Dakin Voolich


  1. Erica-

    One thing to consider when looking at your scrapbook is that Victorian children were encouraged to scrapbook in the 19th century and this meant to cut out pictures of "stuff" and to collect images. (When we think of scrapbooks now, it's basically a type of photo album, then it was for all kinds of ephemera). In fact they were encouraged to do this for many reasons including educational and in the interest of not wasting "scraps." Obviously adults kept scrapbooks as well.

    In the book The Scrapbook in American Life Edited by Susan Tucker et al., page 201 it says:

    "Although albums could be expensively bound and embellished, they could also (and often were) a simple recycled magazine, ledger, or unwanted books. For example, a child might compose a scrapbook of illustrations, poetry, humor, and anecdotes, pasted over the printed pages of a catalog."

    Hope that helps! What a great heirloom! Thanks for sharing it with us.


  2. What a fine scrapbook find for your family history! You'll find a lot more on books remade as scrapbooks in my book, Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance.
    I have seen other scrapbooks made with Congressional Records, but wouldn't assume the scrapbook maker was the initial recipient. Often scrapbooks were made from books that had been discarded or passed along in some other way -- many wonderful stories buried there! You can learn more about the history of the Congressional Record from the Library of Congress, at Cutting out some leaves to make room for pasted in material was common too.
    A child could well have been cutting up Demorests. Nineteenth century magazines typically had material that would appeal to all members of the household. Children were encouraged to cut things up and to make scrapbooks, to become more skilled with scissors, and to develop their taste.
    As you delve deeper, and see that your family scrapbooks have a lot in common with other scrapbooks of the period, you may also see more about what's unique about them, or especially tied to family history. -- Ellen Gruber Garvey

  3. Yes, that was very interesting. Jim's grandmother saved all the Currier and Ives pictures from the Traveler's Insurance calendars over the years, pasting them onto pages in an old book. Another scrapbook that I know about belonged to a man in Westwood (where we lived for over 25 years) who clipped out every news article and ephemera about town affairs. He pasted them onto pages of old unwanted books. So the practice was common. Waste not, want not!

    Posted for BDakin