Sep 28, 2023 - Sale 2646

Sale 2646 - Lot 232

Price Realized: $ 2,125
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
(PENNSYLVANIA.) Family papers of Luther Halsey Smith re the seaman's life, his cousin Mary Cassatt, and more. More than a thousand items (1.5 linear feet), most of them neatly sleeved and organized in 10 binders; condition generally strong. Various places, 1804-1948

Additional Details

This family archive covers four generations, but the central figure is Luther Halsey "Lute" Smith (1842-1910). He was raised at the family home, "Sunny Slope," in Allegheny, PA near Pittsburgh. He spent much of 1862 and 1863 as a seaman, going around the horn to California and onward to China by merchant vessels.

Smith's seaman diary includes [64] manuscript diary pages, 1 January 1862 to 19 October 1863. His first voyage was perhaps not what he expected: "The officers showed some more of their brutality this afternoon by beating nearly all of the men without any cause so far as I could see. Two months & half more till freedom" (22 April 1862). Three days later, "there was a general knockdown, nearly every man aboard was beaten, and all for nothing." On a lighter note, "Capt. caught a shark and three dolphins this afternoon. The shark played around deck, making men & dogs move for a short time, but a few blows with a handspike put an end to His Sharkship" (16 May 1862). Smith dreams of Civil War battles while at sea (7 July 1862), and upon arriving in San Francisco learns of the battlefield death of his brother Don (15 January 1863). The 29 October 1862 letter from his sister with the bad news is included in the collection: "He died while warring against this slave-holder's rebellion. Let us rather die than see the cause which slew Don recognized by our government."

Lute's next journey to Hong Kong was more peaceful, though on 29 March 1863 "got my right shoulder and collar bone badly bruised this morning in a row between two of the men by a grindstone which one of them threw, hitting me as I sat on deck eating my scouse." Upon returning home, he began taking commercial courses at Iron City College on 15 September 1863. Also included is Smith's more formal logbook of the ship Flying Eagle from San Francisco to Hong Kong, 24 manuscript pages, 20 July to 8 October 1862. Smith wrote several letters home during these voyages. On 21 July 1862 he told his father "The Wild Pigeon is a fine little ship. . . . Her officers are brutal men. Several of the men were severely beaten. I fared better than most of them." His 15 October 1862 letter from Hong Kong is quite dampstained, with an explanation: it is marked "salvaged from the wreck of Colombo, Jan 1863."

The family correspondence in the collection fills several binders. Luther Halsey Smith's wife Annie Mitchell Gardner Smith (1844-1913) was the first cousin of the important American Impressionist artist Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), who was also raised near Pittsburgh. Many of Annie's letters are present, as well as an 1829 letter to her mother Mary H. Cassatt. Several letters reference the famed artist as a young woman, and her life-changing voyage to Europe to study painting. Writing to Luther in a letter postmarked 12 October 1865, "the latest news is that Auntie and Mame [Mary] Cassatt are going to Europe! They were to sail next week, but Mame has been very sick, so I don't suppose they will get off until the next steamer. They go immediately to Rome, where Mame is to stay alone and study for three or four years. Aunty expects to come home next summer." On 5 November 1865, Annie discusses the artist's departure from her beloved invalid sister and model Lydia Cassatt (1837-1882): "The Cassatts sail today, then send for Lydia [Gardner] yesterday to go out and stay with Lydia Cassatt until Uncle returns from New York. She is almost heart-broken about it. I don't know what kind of a woman Auntie must be to go and leave her. They expect one of us to go out and stay with her." Several other letters reference "Mame" or Mary. On 27 November 1863, Luther writes "Tell Mame I feel very sorry for her loss. She has been very unfortunate with her pets." On 9 June 1864 he writes "I hope Cousin Mary will come out here. She need not hunt up her old friends, they will not know she is here."

The earliest papers in the collection are several letters dated 1804-1814 to and from Luther's grandfather Dr. Aaron Mattison Smith (circa 1788-1814), a physician of Newburgh, NY, including letters discussing the start of his medical career and a letter of recommendation written by the Rev. Ira Condict. A 13 November 1805 letter describes the city of Philadelphia and his medical studies there: "I have attended the lectures of Doctors Rush, Wistar & Church. . . . I have obtained tickets at $20 each. . . . Dr. Rush mentions the clinical cases in the University and his prescriptions."

Dr. Smith died young, and his widow remarried the Rev. Luther Halsey (1794-1880), a minister from Schenectady, NY who taught theology at several colleges. Included are several letters to and from him dated 1832 to 1880, most from Blooming Grove, NY and Hammonton, NJ.

The collection includes numerous letters written by Luther's father Charles Gardner Smith (1809-1872) of Sunny Slope, Allegheny, PA from 1837-1862. The latest items in the collection are letters addressed to Luther Halsey Smith's two unmarried daughters, Annie Halsey Smith (1875- after 1949) and Mary Gardner Smith (1869-1948). The collection also includes more than 120 photographs of family and friends from circa the late 19th century, many of them identified (though none identified as Mary Cassatt), as well as other papers and genealogical notes.