It is so exciting to find diaries that actually give details about daily life. Four volumes we recently received do just that. The writer, Edward Steele, was a day laborer who lived in Wethersfield. His spelling indicates he was not too well-educated, but he noted when he and his wife Maggie went to the theater and the play they saw, and he often read when he stayed home. More to the point, though, is the fact that he put a lot of information in a very small space. Each entry started with a description of the weather throughout the day. He kept a detailed record of the work he did on the road–the number of loads of stone carted to which street, the streets he scraped, and the amount of dirt he hauled and spread–along with the number of hours. But it gets better. In 1896 he and Maggie moved into a new house. Edward’s entries include such details as putting the Ship Essex into a frame, tacking down the oil cloth in the hall, hanging curtains, putting up shelves, laying down carpet. He even mentions one day chopping cabbage and making pickle.
These volumes, dated 1896-1899, document the life and work of a real “everyman”, something we don’t often see in the world of archives.