N.P. c. 1898. Brown paper bound composition book comprised of 43 manuscript pages and 6 original crayon drawings by a young girl. First page excised. Ownership stamp of Hattie Plegge used on sheets toward the center of the book; teacher's signature Miss Sewell on nearby middle page. A fascinating and research-rich notebook, in which a young girl practiced her hand in ink and pencil by copying out popular song lyrics, folk ballads, and poetry.
While the composition book of Hattie Plegge contains no overt indication of the girl's geographical location, there are signs within her work that point toward the North. Poetry about General Grant and Abraham Lincoln, as well as an original crayon drawing of an eagle marked "Union Forever" suggest that her community belonged to the Union during the Civil War. Additionally, though she writes no date, school year, or age in the book, her cursive and her drawings suggest that she was under the age of 12 at the time of composition. As she strives to mature her hand, Hattie selects a fascinating array of works to copy out with care; and they provide valuable information about the types of music and poetry that were available to an elementary school girl. Some of the selections come from folk songs, such as Billy Boy (listed in the Roud Folk Song Index). Others were more widely popular tunes of the time, including In the Gloaming (1877), On the Banks of the Wabash (1897) and I Guess I'll Have to Telegraph my Baby (1898). Mixed with these are also longer poems. Though Alice Cary's Suppose is listed as a recommended copybook text in Ballads for Little Folk (1874), others take a more adult, political leaning, as is the case with suffragist Frances Willard's work Grant is Dead (copied out twice, the second being more careful) and Oliver Windell Holmes' Old Ironsides. Whether the poetic works were provided by a teacher, suggested by a parent, or chosen by Hattie herself, that give a glimpse into the social influences surrounding her. As a reminder that she is, in fact, a child, there are 6 simple crayon drawings interspersed throughout, including a Union eagle, a donkey, and what appears to be a schoolgirl in a cape.
A rich historical document with research possibilities including but not limited to paleography, geography and politics in the post-Civil War era, the history of education, the transmission of folk songs and folk tales, the history of music, literature and poetry, and gender studies.
Roud Folk Song Index 326. Ballads for Little Folk 47. (Item #2508)