While looking for some of his ancestors last spring, my cousin Peter Olivier found a packet of letters online written by my grandmother Pearl Reed (Cleage) from 1903 to 1905. They were for sale by Michal Brown Rare Books who “specialize in Americana, especially manuscript materials. We offer manuscript letters and archives, diaries, journals, personal and business correspondence from the 17th century through the 20th.”
By the time I found out that the letters existed, they had been sold to the University of Georgia in Athens. I thought it was strange because neither my grandmother Pearl Reed nor Homer Jarrett, the young man she was exchanging letters with, were well known. Homer seems to have saved every piece of mail he ever received. Eventually all of those hundreds of pieces (which included my grandmother’s letters) ended up being sold after his death, because in their entirety they give a unique picture of the era in which they were written.
I immediately got in touch with Special Collections Library at The University of Georgia in Athens. I was able to purchase scans of all 41 letters and envelopes very reasonably. I was very excited to have a look into my 19 year old grandmothers life through her letters. It was lucky that the University purchased them. I could never have afforded to buy them.
Next, the people in the letters.