Friday, November 6, 2009

E. B. Emory's "Holladay" - Correspondence from 1897

Good afternoon readers,

This letter, written by Mary Holladay, was addressed to E. B. Emory and provides a brief look into the life of a young woman recently relocated from the Eastern Shore to Annapolis. The year was 1897, and that provides a context for some of the more intriguing pieces of this document. On the first page, displayed above, Mary recounted a recent fox-hunt in which a Tilghman and some others participated, at Annapolis. This was a relief from the apparent boredom felt by the author.

One wonders about that boredom, however, when "Experimental Psychology" is discussed several pages later. Mary was enjoying a series of lectures being given by Professor Alfred Dumm. The humor of the lecturer's name was not lost on Mary, who asserted that E. B. Emory "must not judge him by his name, for he is far from dumb." Besides the amusement associated with Professor Dumm's name, this situation intrigues me. American psychology had hardly become a common subject by 1897, and Mary was on the cutting edge of psychological research. The topics being covered by the lectures immediately preceding and following the letter were "The Dermal Sense" and "Kinaesthetic and Static Sense," respectively. Perhaps most curious, Alfred Dumm was referred to as a native of Kansas City; research methods and principles must therefore have been disseminated somewhat rapidly to the Midwest during the 1890s. Sadly I can find no more information on this professor, so we are left to wonder to what extent he represents the academic world of Kansas City. Regardless, it is fascinating to read the admittedly brief observations of a student of this now-common discipline from the era when it was in its infancy.

The letter also touched upon local politics, discussing Governor Lowndes (1896 - 1899). He was "playing politics very hard," Mary wrote. She added the personal touch that the governor was attempting to make Annapolis his legal residence because of "his inclination of not going back to Cumberland," the town from which he had come. His wife was helping him as well, because "she is also anxious to go back to Washington," where Lowndes had been a State Senator earlier in the century. Sadly, they did not succeed in this venture; Lowndes returned to Cumberland and died there in 1905.*

Perhaps there are more observations in other letters from Mary Holladay to E. B. Emory, found in Poplar Grove Series 17. We are working hard to render these papers accessible to our readers in their entirety; this task will ideally be accomplished by the end of the year. Until then, these fragments of personal correspondence must suffice to whet the appetite.


* Much of this biographical data was obtained from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, available at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I assume you have the information about the Emory family of Maryland,where the Civil War general was born. Also the fact that he was married to a great grandaughter of Bejamin Franklin, and a relative of the Dallas and Bache families. I am an Emory descendant in CA, ther are six of us born to Jack David Emory, USN.
I have actually seen the published Congressional report with the original drawings in the California State University, East Bay collection. I was quite entertained by the cultural comments he made about the Indians and Mexicans of CA and AZ.