A Great Many Jews

Daniel Betts' letter to his daughter Julia, April 7, 1821. Ms 101843

Daniel Betts’ letter to his daughter Julia, April 7, 1821. Ms 101843

I am often struck by how many men from Connecticut moved south to North or South Carolina to seek their fortune. Daniel Betts of Redding was one such man, and we recently acquired a series of letters he wrote home to his daughter Julia while he was in Charleston, South Carolina. One of his letters in particular caught my attention. It was written April 7, 1821.

He wrote: “I will observe that there are a great many Jews in this place it is said there are more than in any other place in the United States.” Daniel commented on their “forms and customs” that he found a bit odd. He insinuated they rarely told the truth, they did not handle money from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, but they will still made contracts during that time, and “they will purchase goods anywhere that they can find a bargain.” Ahh, stereotypes. Continue reading

A ballad of Captain Kidd

The title page from Sarah Churchill's booklet. Ms 101734

The title page from Sarah Churchill’s booklet. Ms 101734

This coming weekend we have a Behind the Scenes Tour about “creepy” things at CHS. I don’t think anyone thought of this little gem I found, a booklet with two poems copied by Sarah Churchill before 1791 (that is the date of the newspaper used as a cover). The bulk of the text is a copy of “The dying words of Captain Kidd, a noted pirate whom was hang’d at execution dock.” The ballad was first published in London in 1701 and soon made it across the Atlantic to America where it was printed about 1730 until 1820. As always, things get “lost” in translation, and William Kidd became Robert Kidd in the American version, which is how Sarah copied it.

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