B is for Book


For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I will be blogging everyday using items taken from the letters written by my grandfather to my grandmother from 1907 to 1912, starting with “A” and moving right through the alphabet to “Z” during April.

My grandparents - Albert B. Cleage & Pearl D. Reed in 1909.
My grandparents – Albert B. Cleage & Pearl D. Reed in 1909.


Miss Reed: – I found your book today and fearing you might need it, will bring it to you Wed Eve at 8 p.m. unless notified that you do not need or desire it.

A.B. Cleage B=book

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

What was the book that my grandfather wanted to return?  When I knew my grandmother she read or had read many books, including Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undsett, who I was named after. But that wasn’t published for decades.  It doesn’t sound like a novel because why would she “need” a novel? Of course, it may have been a ruse to get to see her and he knew she didn’t need it. Here are some books that were popular in 1906 and 1907.

There were many articles in African American newspapers at that time about Booker T. Washington and W.E. B. DuBois so maybe it was The Negro in the South by Booker T. Washington and W.E. Burghardt DuBois. Or maybe it was one of the novels of the time:The Jungle by Sinclair Lewis about the horrors of the meat packing industry in Chicago. Perhaps it was a hymnal or other book of songs because Pearl D. Reed sang in the church choir and at other community events. Beyond the Rocks is a 1906 novel by Elinor Glyn, which was later adapted into a 1922 silent film in which Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino. In the Days of the Comet (1906) is a science fiction novel by H. G. Wells in which humanity is “exalted” when a comet causes “the nitrogen of the air, the old azote,” to “change out of itself” and become “a respirable gas, differing indeed from oxygen, but helping and sustaining its action, a bath of strength and healing for nerve and brain.” The result: “The great Change has come for evermore, happiness and beauty are our atmosphere, there is peace on earth and good will to all men.”

17 thoughts on “B is for Book

  1. What a treasure! It’s so interesting to try to put yourself in his shoes and figure out his motivation. Thanks for sharing

  2. Once again enjoyed your blog.
    -oh wonderful, a link from the past, on the “courting” of the time. 🙂
    -what also caught my eye was the ref of “The Jungle by Sinclair Lewis about the horrors of the meat packing industry in Chicago.” interesting man/author to read
    Thank you, as always; GJohns

  3. I was going to do Book for B, too, but I went with Bookstore instead. How can we do B without some form of Book, right?! I believe he just wanted a reason to see her. I love the formal, classy way they had of putting things.

    1. Last year I used a name “Buford Averitt”. If I’d thought book was so popular I would have found a letter my grandfather signed with his middle name”Buford” and talk about how he chose that as his middle name 🙂

      I agree, he probably thought that was a pretty good excuse to go out and see her between Sundays.

  4. It’s fun, and a challenge, to try to get into the minds of our ancestors. I suspect he had found his strategy for getting to know her….of course she may have deliberately lent it to him in the first place. Given the theme of the card perhaps it was a religious book?

  5. Kristen! Glad to see you A-Zing, thanks for visiting. I’ve missed your blog which is my fault. Busy getting a book ready so not much hopping in the last few months.

    Well I love that postcard. How romantic and eloquently written. Yep I’m guessing it was a ruse too. How cleaver of you to try and figure out which book. You do dig deep!
    History Sleuth’s Writings – Blogging A-Z

    1. I was wondering if you were going to. I’m kind of disappointed you didn’t do another story. I really enjoyed last years!

  6. I remember so well reading ‘The Jungle’ – I love all the historical books I can find, fiction and non.

    1. They were founding members of Witherspoon United Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, so they were Presbyterians. Yes it might have been some sort of religious book, especially since Lent had just finished. I checked the calendar for that year and Easter was a bit passed when he mailed this card.

  7. This is my first time on your blog and I think you have pretty amazing theme going. Your grandparents were book lovers too? I think you right and it was a ruse to meet your grandmother. 🙂

    1. Yes, they were booklovers for sure. They had shelves and shelves of books. I remember finding some of my still favorite books on their shelves.

  8. Hey! anything to see his Love….Just like a Gentlemen Caller to have a reason to Stop By….Now I want to hear about the Novelist Kristin! Easter Greeting was a delight for the times. Glad you have these. Plus telling us what was happening during that year.

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