Finding The Letters

This photo of the letters is from Michal Brown Rare Books website before they sold the letters.

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. 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 grandmother’s 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.

11 thoughts on “Finding The Letters

  1. Well in some ways that was lucky … wasn’t it … I’m glad you get copies so relatively easily … cheers Hilary

    1. Yes, it was all lucky and it was all good and I was amazed to get copies so easily and cheaply! No complaints. I hope a cousin finds another batch of good stuff out there!

  2. That is a fascinating find!!! Just curious….what insights did you take away about your grandmother, and that era, after reading the letters?

    1. I will be posting the letters soon. I learned what she did for fun, what books she read, her interaction with her mother and her brother Hugh. I also learned what she thought about some current events.

  3. Hi Kristin,

    My name is Roxanne and this refers to the information about Abraham and Amanda Cleage. I’m with the Historical Society of Long Beach and have information about Abraham’s death including a newspaper with his obituary. I couldn’t figure out how to respond on the Cleage page but thought you might be still be interested.

  4. What a great find, and now we can enjoy hearing the details of the lives of these people who went before us…I love reading old letters!

  5. What a wonderful find, and that you were lucky enough to get copies – inspiration for many more interesting blog posts!

  6. Congratulations on obtaining copies of your grandmother’s letters! Repositories play such an important role in preventing family correspondence, records and artifacts from being lost — and providing them later to family researchers. The papers and correspondence of a cousin of my great-great grandmother Mary E. Bull (the Union Army widow) are at Emory Univ., but I have put off requesting copies. Based on your experience, I am adding that to my research list!

  7. The letters are a great find. It is disconcerting that private papers end up in institutions, especially if you know you yourself would treasure them. But it is great that they are available to cousins and interested researchers and they will be preserved.
    I am enjoying your posts on each of the letters.
    Best wishes

    1. I’m glad they did end up at the University in this case. Since they weren’t in my grandmother’s house, I would probably never have seen them.

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