Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Have you ever wondered what your things will tell the world about you after you are no longer here? Aside from what you write on the internet, how do your possessions describe you? One hundred ten years from now if someone finds your wallet or purse, what information would they glean from it? I've often felt that once I'm gone.....well, I'm gone. Other than immediate family and family stories, there won't be much known about me.

I drove over to the secondhand store this evening for a quick look-around. Along with my usual clothing treasures and a rotary wall phone (I don't even know if it works, but it'll be one great conversation piece ;) I was digging through the mess and saw some old, small newspaper clippings. Curiosity always gets the best of me, so I started gathering them up. With them were also some pieces of paper with very old fashioned writing. My heartbeat quickened and I did not want anyone to notice that I was now grabbing these clippings faster when my eye caught a very old disintegrating wallet. Once I thought I had everything, I set in in my cart and covered it so my haul wouldn't draw attention. Only after I paid at the register and sat in the car did I open some of the papers to see what I had.

The first papers were from Geo. H. Cooper, dealer in Choice Family Groceries, and was a tally of goods and foods purchased by a Mr. Marks, showing partial payment in 1893.

There was also a bill of goods from Eli Brockett, builder. Mr Marks was earning $3 per day for labor in 1872.

Perhaps the most interesting paper was the receipt from the tax collector in 1897. The tax due on property valued at $450 was $5.40, paid by Mrs Marks. The receipt also has lines for Poll Tax and Millitary Commutation Tax.

Mr Marks was interested in farm and animal related articles from the paper. There's a very interesting chicken coop in one clipping. The one I particularly enjoyed was the one stating: "As a rule it is the ladies who succeed best at poultry keeping. Their patience, industry and good sense carry them through successfully whenever they undertake the business. A woman is nearly as proud of a flock of little chickens or turkeys as she is of a baby."

What would my wallet say about me? I have a separate key ring with all those little plastic tags from the grocery stores and Best Buy and CVS to get special "savings". Would they think I spend all my time looking for ways to spend money? Likewise the receipts that get stuffed in there. My pocket calendar with birthdays, appointments, vacation days, hieroglyphic notes scratched everywhere....would they think I'm very organized....or dis-organized?

I'm somewhat impressed at the collection from Mr. Marks. It says so much more about him than just being someone who kept papers......over one hundred ten years ago.


Mug said...

The Second Hand stores "up your way" sound ever so much better than the ones "down my way"....You should really begin jotting down short stories about the personalities your finds conjure up. I really enjoyed what you wrote here:)
Some of your ruminating about the people behind your "finds" reminds me of riding my bicycle when I was a young girl to the old cemetery down the road and wondering about the lives of the people who had died...especially the small graves. And, later (when grown) visitng Maine and wandering through a very old cemetery there, reading the inscriptions and wondering about the people buried there....

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

Hi Mug,
You've got the same curiosity that I do - wanting to know what life was like in days before we came along ;)
Maybe it's from growing up in New England and seeing so many old buildings disappear throughout my lifetime or trying to understand what life was like "back then", but I would love to follow someone from the 1890s - 1940s through their day.

Maria said...

I love this post, especially the chicken coop. They still A Frames similar to that type of coop that you showed. I'm not sure what a Poll Tax or a Military Commutation Tax are??

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

Hi Maria,
From what I've read, a Poll Tax was a condition for being able to vote, if you had never do so previously. The Military Commutation Tax was, in essense, paying a fee to avoid doing service in the military.
Please forgive my overly simple explanations. There are more details to these than I can explain.

farmlady said...

How interesting. I never looked at a wallet as a time capsule before, but it is.
Life was not as complicated then but folks still had to keep records and pay bills.
I love finding out what life was like back then. They could never imagine our life now, could they?

Bev C said...


What a great find, the dockets nowadays fade within a short time, so I reckon we will loose a fair bit of our history. Love the bit about loving the chickens.
Happy days.

abby jenkins said...

WOW what a treasure....I love that they have found you and visa versa. Priceless.