Founding Father in London

July 4, 2016 at 1:35 pm (books, history, london's landscape, travel) (, , )

Franklin in LondonA perfect “4th of July” read for anyone interested in the “founding fathers” and the ties that continue to bind the U.S. to the U.K. : George Goodwin’s Benjamin Franklin in London.

I have acquired and enjoyed books on Franklin’s sister – Jill Lepore’s 2014 Book of Ages and Carl Van Doren’s 1950 Jane Mecom – so Franklin in London seemed a good off-shoot (as Jane’s life is typically told through the remnants that exist, and they pretty much deal with her famous brother).

Also, not too long ago, I saw a FASCINATING PBS show, part of the series SECRETS OF THE DEAD, entitled Ben Franklin’s Bones – which uncovered the ‘secret’ behind skeletal remains unearthed in Franklin’s Craven Street House (now a Franklin Museum, which offers architectural tours and also “historical experience” tours).

There is a ‘bridge’ section in Goodwin’s book between the voyage to England Franklin took as a young man and the long stay later in life. So readers do get a rounded idea of Franklin throughout life, not just the years lived abroad.

One source for Goodwin is the 3-volumes of biography by J.A. Leo Lemay; the full “life of Franklin,” in twice as many volumes, was cut short by Lemay’s death in 2008.

Franklin’s stay in Craven Street gives a slice of life in London not often gleaned – he was an important personage who was sought after by many. For those of us with an affinity to the European years (ie, Abigail Adams in France & England), Goodwin’s Benjamin Franklin in London is an excellent addition to any bibliophile’s library.

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Ann Lewis fecit

July 3, 2016 at 12:13 am (entertainment, fashion, history, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

Ann Lewis fecit

Hopefully you can read the artist’s signature: Ann Lewis facit, in this 1802 drawing. Alas! although the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (or LACMA) owns these DELIGHTFUL fashion plate paintings by Ann Frankland Lewis, they are, sadly, NOT ON DISPLAY!

So the next best thing is a cyber visit to Dames a la Mode – where the many works of Miss Lewis can be enjoyed over two pages.

Ann Lewis fecit2

Surely based on existing fashion plates, Ann Lewis’ drawings are colorful and wonderful, and have (obviously) given costumers some great ideas.

LACMA has only one image, and woefully LITTLE information on the artist, or their holdings. If anyone reading this knows more – please say! Two Nerdy History Girls has a lovely little write-up.

As a group they evidently date from 1774 to 1807. The BLUE dress (above) dates from 1803. And this ‘head’ from 1806.

Ann Lewis fecit3

Now, if only the museum would put these items on display – or in a special exhibit!

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The Handwriting on the Will

May 5, 2016 at 9:15 pm (history, research) (, , , , )

I have become CONSUMED with getting more and more Smith & Gosling material, and that has included the dreaded WILLS of even earlier ancestors. The one thing that has proven to be a help? The old wills means I have some earlier orthography, which often helps with the segue into “modern” spelling. The same holds for the earliest handwriting! I even READ some wills I downloaded from The National Archives five or six (or more…) years ago.

So while I thought to share a particularly fabulous hand, I chose this one because its (currently) the earliest example I have – although it is almost (ALMOST!) modern in its legibility.


The give-away: the first word; otherwise, doesn’t it rather look like a child writing?

Just in case you’re unsure what it says: Elsewhere in the Kingdom of England

Yes, this particular document has a most unusual (to me) ‘s’, which makes the first word look rather like Elfewhere… My document dates from 1726. And is related to family of my diarist Mary Gosling.

I’ll talk more about this document, which I’m just transcribing. In the meantime, I introduce you to palaeography on The National Archives website – which provides a delightful interactive tutorial.

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“Funny Business” at the Huntington Library

August 28, 2015 at 6:35 pm (entertainment, travel) (, , )


For those lucky enough to be within striking distance of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California: Funny Business: Humor in British Drawings from Hogarth to Rowlandson. The exhibition opened on August 15 and runs until 30 November 2015.

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Giving Thanks – and always

November 24, 2011 at 10:13 am (news, research) (, , , )

Today, and every day, I give thanks for this fascinating project! And for all of you who read about it, and especially those of you contributing to it!

Here’s just a short list of people who have bits, parts, and pieces of this project; some have even found me, through this blog:

Alan Godfrey – letters to, from & about Fanny Seymour.
Jeremy Catto, Oxford University, owns Drummond’s letter book, into which were copied all his letters to his sisters; and a bow to Rob Petrie who photographed the book page-by-page.
Mark Woodford – his father purchased an obscure diary, which just happens to be the earliest known diary (1798) written by Augusta Smith (Mrs Charles Smith, of Suttons).
Angela in Alberta, Canada shared with me her transcription of a truly delightful letter penned in 1824 by Augusta Smith (Mrs Henry Wilder, of Purley).
Jacky in Maidstone, England shared so many letters and journals; especially dear to my heart is Maria’s Progress, an astonishing book Mamma wrote over the years about her youngest child. Jacky’s favorites are Aunt Emma’s travel journals; precious indeed.

Mike E. in Surrey was among the first to really offer “help” – he’s taken photos, dug in databases and archives, visited churches.
Mike H. at Tring Park has sent items and photos that truly flesh out the Smiths’ Tring era.
Charlotte Frost volunteered to be my “eyes” at Oxford, and photographed three albums of drawings; she also shared her biography on Sir William Knighton (Richard Seymour’s uncle) and some research notes.
Craig in Australia had ties to the family’s Essex past, and he alerted me to the sale of the one letter I am grateful to say I own.
Eliza shared the precious image of Mimi Smith.

Caroline Benson, at the Museum of Rural English Life (Reading), helped me obtain photos.
Mark Booth, Robert Eyre, Robert Pitt, and Clare Murdoch helped with the microfilm of Richard Seymour’s diaries, held at the Warwickshire Record Office. I am currently transcribing these.

Jenny Sherwood‘s writings on John Culme-Seymour has led to the discovery of several photos of John & Maria.
Robin Jenkins kindly alerted me to the Macklin Album, which surely has ties to Aunt Emma Smith, of Glenville.

Freydis and Damaris have shared great conversation about their forebears.

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Clothing circa 1800

September 3, 2011 at 8:45 am (europe, fashion, history, research) (, , , , , , )

Just discovered this fascinating blog (in German and English):

Its subject matter deals in all things from the time period of my beloved Smiths & Goslings! Recent entries are the birthday of Goethe; and a couple lovely portraits assessed for their clothing and hair styles. Check it out!

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