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Alcott, Louisa May.

Manuscript; Photographs; Textiles. (7 items total)


Textile Archive from the Alcott's Home
(Alcott, Louisa May) Textile samples from the Alcott home. Ca. 1870s.
One leaf of 8-1/2 x 11" personal stationery ("Mrs. F. Alcott Pratt"); five fabric samples loosely attached; handwritten notes in ink; recto only.
Together with:
(Alcott, Louisa May) Autograph letter signed, "Jessica L. Pratt," to Mrs. V.W. Raymond, Rochester, NY, February 2, 1923.
One 6-1/2 x 10-1/4" leaf of black-and-white stationery, folded to make four pages, all sides, covered in pencil; folded for mailing; original envelope included. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
A remarkable glimpse into the everyday lives of the Alcotts. Mrs. V.W. Raymond of Rochester, NY contacted Jessica Pratt, the widow of F. Alcott Pratt (Louisa May's nephew and model for one of the characters in Little Men) requesting samples of wallpaper from Orchard House, where members of the Alcott family lived from 1858 to 1877. Raymond and her daughter visited Orchard House in the summer of 1922. However, since the wallpaper had been changed since the Alcotts moved out, Pratt instead sent this assortment of textiles that she had complied over the years, along with a letter. The letter reads in part:
Your letter of several weeks ago asking about wall paper out at Orchard House was given me for reply, and I am sorry to be so tardy in doing so. But I waited for an opportunity to go to the Orchard House to look for some of the paper to send you, and it has been too cold…The paper there is not the old paper (with one exception), but when the house is re-opened, I can get some pieces of that now on the walls, if you wish it for the little daughter's book. Meantime, I am glad to send her some other bits of material which were really used b one or another of the family, and hope they may add to her book with interest and pleasure in some degree. It is, indeed, most interesting to us older ones of the family connection to find that the stories are still so much loved and read-and I am sure it is just what would please and satisfy our dear Aunt Louisa Alcott herself…I hope the book will be most satisfactory and a lasting pleasure when completed, and that these few trifles may add a little to its value to her.
Included in this archive:
  • 7" swatch of frayed fabric from a black silk dress worn by LMA
  • 3-1/2" piece of lace used by LMA to make a summer dress
  • 4" swatch of gray trim from a bonnet worn by LMA
  • 3-1/2" square of embroidered fabric from a scarf worn by Mrs. Alcott (Marmee)
  • 3-1/2" piece of chintz from curtains at Orchard House "used when the Alcotts lived there."
Two Photographs of Alcott at Age 43
and an Unpublished Short Story Manuscript
Alcott, Louisa May. Untitled short story. June 5, 1872.
One 4 x 5" leaf of unlined paper, loosely affixed to heavier stock; both sides covered in pencil; verso covered in illegible childlike scrawl (not Alcott's); together with Alcott's signature, likely clipped from a letter and affixed in a scrapbook.
Together with:
(Alcott, Louisa May). Carte de Visite, [1875].
2-1/2 x 4"; black and white; produced on cream cardstock; "Howell, 867 & 869 B'way" printed in elegant script beneath the photograph.
Together with:
(Alcott, Louisa May) Photograph of Louisa May Alcott and her two cousins, [1875].
11-1/2 x 16-1/4" photograph framed in cream mat board; "Howell" and "867 & 869 Broadway" written in black script beneath the photograph and above two German seals; with an autograph note on the verso identifying the subjects as "L.M. Alcott and Cousins" in Jessica Pratt's hand (wife of F. Alcott Pratt, Louisa's nephew).
The story is strange and rather macabre, and reads in full:
A little girl went to play with her cousin one day, & they had a balloon & little Betsey was playing with it, & the window was open & the wind blew poor Betsey right out, & away she went among the clouds & was never seen any more.
"Betsey" may refer to Alcott's aunt, her father's younger sister. "Aunt Betsey" is also a character in Alcott's 1869 novel, An Old Fashioned Girl.  
Alcott sat for both of these portraits during a trip to New York in November 1875. The photographs were taken by the Howell Company, whose name and address appears on both images. In the carte de visite, Alcott is facing right with a solemn expression. For the larger photograph, Alcott posed with her cousin Octavius Brooks Frothingham and his sister, Ellen; the women are seated, with Octavius standing between them. Alcott made several trips with her cousins and often accompanied Frothingham to meetings he organized for debating social issues. This portrait was taken one year before the publication of Frothingham's major book, Transcendentalism in New England, one of the most comprehensive histories of the American Transcendental movement. Ellen Frothingham worked as a translator, completing metrical translations of Goethe and Auerbach, among others.

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