Notes on collections at the RIHS
The previous post offered a note on the Thanksgiving celebrations of 1812 in Rhode Island*. That it turns up in the pages of an almanac is not particularly unusual—almanacs were frequently used for that purpose, which is only natural, considering that almanacs are arranged chronologically. Nor is the customized interleaving done by this owner unusual. What makes this case particularly useful is that the almanac-diaries of a single person over the course of a fairly lengthy period of time (roughly 1806-22) are brought together in one place and that their author signs his name (Sanford Ross).
A genealogical account** lists a Sanford Ross born on 22 March 1752 and who died on 22 April 1831. He had 11 children with his first wife, Hannah Briggs, and after her death in January of 1809, Sanford married Lydia Peck in November of the same year. Both events are recorded tersely in the diaries: January of 1809: “Hannah Ross died 4th of January half past Seven of the Clock evening” and then in November: “Married 6th November” in the margin beside the calendar. Among his 11 children with Hannah is one named William, who appears in the almanac entry for 9 January 1811:
William’s date of death is not recorded in the family Bible that lists the births and deaths of his siblings. The genealogical account does, however, mention a death notice of a William Sanford who died on a gunboat in 1813, within a year or two of the night his father dreamed he was at home.
The image above offers a taste of the most typical concerns of the diary: Weather is far and away the most popular topic, but there are also references to things like “uncommond noises”, family members getting or leaving jobs, births, deaths, comings and goings of ships, openings of new shops, and always more weather. (The entry for 4 January will be the topic of a future blog post.)
Over the course of such entries, brief as they are, it’s possible to assemble a picture of their author. Weather, for instance, is only the beginning of Sanford’s interest in nature. The following selection hints at his interest in wildlife, as he notes the arrival of swallows in April of 1812 not once, but twice:
And the bottom of the facing page is an example of the religious, political and financial issues that are frequent as well, as Sanford notes the passing of the Embargo act in April and the fact that he managed to rent half of his church pew for 7 shillings and 6 pence for the year (more information about the practice of buying pews and an example of a particularly nice pew at the website of the Old North Church in Boston). One of the entries below (6 January 1817) provides evidence that Ross was a shop owner of some kind, and the 1824 directory of Providence lists him as a grocer at 228 South Main.
A few more selections:
** Reading Room: CS 71 R825 1938. Ross Family: Sanford Ross Descendants. Copy of manuscript.