Monday, September 29, 2008

The Education of H. E. Hartman

For a long time, the only thing I knew about my great-grandfather H. E. Hartman was that he was smart. When I was little, I would tell my grandparents about my good report cards and academic prizes. "You take after me," my grandma would say. "That's from my side of the family. My daddy went to Yale."

As I searched through the first box of my great-grandfather's book collection, I found a commemorative album called "The Book of the Yale Pageant: 1716-1916." The book was published in 1916, a number of years after H. E. Hartman graduated from Yale in 1907. I contacted the Association of Yale Alumni to see if they have any more information about my great-grandfather. I'm hoping to find some of his textbooks or a yearbook in the other boxes.

*Update, February 2009: I found some of H. E.'s textbooks from high school, but not from college. My cousin Ryan has his yearbook, which paints a very interesting picture of Holliday Ellwood Hartman as a young man. I'll have to blog about it when I get back to this project.

Before attending Yale, H. E. Hartman went to a preparatory school called Betts Academy in Stamford, Connecticut. My uncle has a photo of my great-grandfather on the Betts baseball team in 1903, when he was eighteen or nineteen years old and probably a senior. (I need to find his exact date of birth.) I searched for Betts Academy online and discovered that playwright Eugene O'Neill went to Betts in 1902 when he was fourteen years old. He studied there for three years and then went to Princeton in 1906. Since they were at Betts at the same time, it's possible that my great-grandfather knew Eugene O'Neill. The Nobel Prize-winning playwright died in 1953 in the hotel room where he was living at the time, Room 401 of a Sheraton Hotel on Bay State Road in Boston. The building is now a Boston University dormitory called Shelton Hall, and I lived on that same floor (The Writer's Corridor) my freshman and sophomore years of college.

*Update, February 2009: H. E. Hartman was born on December 15, 1884, which means he was eighteen in the photo.

H. E. Hartman's book collection shows that he was an avid reader well before prep school and university. I came across a really interesting journal called "Books I Have Read." H. E. Hartman received this journal from his Aunt Blanche for Christmas 1899, when he was fifteen. (I'm not sure yet who Aunt Blanche was. I added that to my list of questions at the bottom.) There are over 100 entries, and most of them include the title, author, publisher, place and year read, and genre of the book.

*Update, February 2009: Aunt Blanche was Holliday's mother's sister. Holliday's mother Mary Holliday Hartman had two brothers, John and Gilbert, and two sisters, Blanche and Hannah. You can read more about this side of the family in the post Hartman-Holliday Family Books.)

I think the first thing H. E. Hartman did after receiving his Christmas present was to record a lot of the books he had already read. The first thirty-one entries are in very similar handwriting and seem to be written with the same pen. About twenty of these have no "date read," and the last ten are marked 1899. Starting with the entries from 1900, the pen and ink change from page to page and the handwriting is not quite as consistent.

I've already found a few of the books my great-grandfather read before 1900, including "The Swiss Family Robinson" (a gift from Helen - who's Helen? - in 1894) and "The Prisoner of Zenda" (a gift from his brother in 1899). He also read two books by Dumas, two by Robert Louis Stevenson, and two by Arthur Conan Doyle - books I hope to find in the other eleven boxes. I was amused to find titles of books that I also read as a child, including "Black Beauty" by Anna Sewell, "Five Little Peppers" by Margaret Sidney, and "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

*Update, February 2009: I believe Helen was Holliday's cousin Helen Holliday Hastie, Aunt Blanche's daughter.

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