Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Ancestry in Books

I haven't been working on my Judging By His Books project lately, but I revisited the material in order to enter The Lawrence G. Blackmon Student Book Collecting Contest sponsored by Boston University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Reasearch Center.

For the contest, I wrote an essay called "An Ancestry in Books" which features many of the people and titles I've already discussed in this blog. I also created family trees using photos of the books that belonged to my ancestors instead of their portraits. In the essay and the diagrams, I reference a total of 25 of the books in the collection. They are indicated with letters in brackets [X].

Alas, I did not win the book collecting contest or the generous prize. However, I'm posting my essay and diagrams because they fulfill some of the goals I had when I started the Judging By His Books project and blog.


An Ancestry in Books
By Katherine Hala, March 2010

When I was younger, my grandma told me more than once, "The brains in this family come from me - my daddy went to Yale." My grandpa saw his father-in-law differently. "Your grandma's father was named Holliday, and the story goes he declared one from the day he was born." I grew up with two ideas about my great-grandfather Holliday Ellwood Hartman - that he was smart and that he was lazy - and that's all I knew about him until I inherited his library.

In August 2008, my grandparents moved from their home of fifty years in Harmony (a farming town in Western Pennsylvania) to a small apartment attached to my uncle's house a half mile away. My mom and brother helped pack their belongings and came across twelve boxes of books in their attic. According to my grandfather, most of the books had come from Holliday Ellwood Hartman's home when he died in 1960. The boxes had been up in my grandparents' attic for nearly fifty years and no one had paid much attention to them. My grandpa thought I might like looking through them, so my brother drove the boxes to my parents' house outside Philadelphia and stacked them behind the living room couch.

I joined the books at my parents' house one month later. I had just finished a two-year contract with the French Ministry of Education and needed a place to live until I found a new job. I hadn't lived with my parents for any extended period of time since I was 17 years old, so I was hoping to keep my "in-between jobs, living back home" status brief. My timing couldn't have been worse, though, and I had trouble finding a job.

In my ample free time, I started looking through the boxes of books that were stashed behind the couch. My grandfather was right that most of the books were Holliday Ellwood Hartman's, and I started to piece together his bibliographical biography. In 1890, when he was five years old, Holliday received The Birds' Xmas Carol [A] from his father. Two years later, his mother gave him books in the Five Little Peppers [B] series, and two years after that she gave him The Century Book For Young Americans [C]. All of these books are signed and dated, but the most helpful find was a journal called "Books I Have Read" - a journal my great-grandfather received from his Aunt Blanche one hundred and ten years ago, when he was 14. The young Holliday recorded dozens and dozens of books each year, including many that I found behind the couch: Man in the Iron Mask [D] by Alexander Dumas (a gift from his brother for Christmas 1899), The White Company [E] by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Last of the Mohicans [F] by James Fenimore Cooper, The Virginian [G] by Owen Wister.

In addition to many novels, I found a Feltinum composition book marked, "H. E. Hartman / Betts Academy" and, after doing some research and looking through family photos, I discovered that my great-grandfather had attended the preparatory school Betts Academy in Stamford, Connecticut, around 1903. Incidentally, I also read that the playwright Eugene O'Neill went to Betts in 1902 and studied there for three years. The playwright died in 1953 in Room 401 of a Sheraton Hotel on Bay State Road in Boston. The building is now Boston University's Shelton Hall, and I lived on the 4th floor - The Writer's Corridor - my freshman and sophomore years of college. Perhaps my great-grandfather and I both lived in the same hall as Eugene O'Neill.

Holliday was sent to a reputable preparatory school and had many nice books and photos, and I wondered what his situation had been to afford him such luxuries. I visited my grandparents in Harmony to ask about Holliday's parents. His father, Henry Waters Hartman, was an industrialist. He was born in 1850 in Huntington County, Pennsylvania, and worked for Hollidaysburg Iron & Nail Company, the Pottstown Iron Company, and the Gaither Steel Works in Johnstown. At the age of 33, H. W. Hartman opened a steel mill in Beaver Falls - Hartman Steel Works - where he employed more than 900 men. Andrew Carnegie was one of the primary investors. My great-great-grandfather was chairman of The Hartman Steel Company Limited and maintained branch offices in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, St. Louis, and Chicago. In 1892, he founded Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, and moved his steel mill there. I visited the Ellwood City Historical Society and saw the Hartman family home. I also saw a portrait of my great-great-grandfather that had been taken in Paris. I returned to Philadelphia and looked through the books more carefully. I found Triumphant Democracy [H] by Andrew Carnegie and, knowing that my great-great-grandfather had been his business partner, I eagerly opened the cover. It is dedicated: "H W Hartman Esq / With regards of / Andrew Carnegie."

Moving along in Holliday's life, I found his 1907 yearbook from his senior year at Yale. Other students' biographies start with quotes like, "Thou who hast / That fatal gift of beauty" (he was voted Class Beauty) and "Your wit goes well, it ambles easily" (voted Wittiest). My great- grandfather looks miserable, one might even say haunted, in his photo. His quote is, "Wake, for thou hast long enough been silent" and he wasn't voted anything. Shortly after graduating, Holliday traveled in Colorado. I know about this trip because his book Thirty-one Years On The Plains And In The Mountains [I] includes his note "Sept 1, 1907 - entirely over 'Switzerland Trail of America' - Denver to (65 miles) Eldora, Colo." Perhaps he was visiting his father, who sold his steel mill to Andrew Carnegie and moved to Colorado to start a streetcar business. The details are unclear, but my great-great-grandfather's business failed and he lost his steel fortune. He died in Colorado in 1913 at the age of 62. His books suggest that Holliday wasn't doing very well, either. In 1908, his Aunt Mary presented him with Pushing to the Front or Success under Difficulties [J].

A few years before his father's death, Holliday married Ida Zeigler and they had their first of six children in 1911. Ida died of cancer when their youngest child - my grandmother - was nine years old, and their oldest son Henry died five years later in a car accident. Despite Holliday's excellent education, he did not pursue a career in his field. He held a job in insurance, which is probably why he owned a lavishly illustrated book called The Conquest of Fire [K] published by the New York Underwriters Agency. Holliday's uncle, Jesse Lee Hartman, paid the mortgage and utilities on Holliday's home. I can tell from the dates in his books that Holliday continued to read. My mom's cousins, who are older than my mother and remember their grandfather, say they called it "dreading": Grandpa Hartman got drunk and read. Later in life, Holliday seemed to read fewer novels and instead spent time with books such as The Divine Plan of the Ages [L] (freemason theology) and The Poetical Works of Samuel Johnson [M] (a gift from his mother in 1914). An edition of Noble Deeds of the Great and Brave [N] includes a fancy bookplate that reads, "Souvenir of Friendship / Presented to H. E. Hartman / By Himself."

After looking through Holliday Ellwood Hartman's books and learning more about his life, I understand the two opinions of the man - that he was intelligent and that he appeared to be on holiday. I wonder what it was like for him to grow up with a father who was so successful at such a young age then placed his bets in Colorado and lost everything. I wonder what it was like for him to lose his wife when he had six young children and then lose his oldest son. My grandma might be right that the brains in the family come from her daddy. I wonder if depression does, too. In 1907, and for most of his life, the attitude toward my great-grandfather seemed to be, "Wake, for thou hast long enough been silent." I published my research on Holliday Ellwood Hartman's book collection in a blog called "Judging By His Books" so that his passion for literature would not stay silent.


Many thanks to everyone who's been reading this blog!
I really appreciate the e-mails and comments I've received.

An Ancestry In Books, Appendix A

This is my maternal grandmother's bibliographical family tree. It features books that belonged to each of my ancestors starting with Eleanor Ida Zeigler Wise - my grandma. I created the diagram using iFamily and submitted it to The Lawrence G. Blackmon Student Book Collecting Contest sponsored by Boston University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Reasearch Center. I didn't win, but I thought it was worth posting.

An Ancestry In Books, Appendix B

This is my maternal grandfather's bibliographical family tree. It features books that belonged to each of my ancestors starting with John Harold Wise - my grandpa. I created the diagram using iFamily and submitted it to The Lawrence G. Blackmon Student Book Collecting Contest sponsored by Boston University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Reasearch Center. I didn't win, but I thought it was worth posting.