Words are the usual focus of diary scholars. The physical diary is the focus of this article, along with the “diary-keeping” practices of Ontario-based farm men and women from 1830 to 1930. The convenient, compact, sturdy blank book was preferred by most diarists documented at the Rural Diary Archive at the University of Guelph. Whereas musicians played their fiddle, diarists “kept” their diary, preserving it and faithfully making regular entries thereby creating an intimate and ongoing relationship with it. Their diary connected them to the world of manufactured stationary products. Its structured format encouraged them to forego conjecture for a disciplined accounting of their lives and agricultural work. At the same time, its blank space stimulated self-expression. Diarists readily adjusted its purpose and format, just as they modified other consumer products to meet the needs of agriculture. When we analyze the diary as an artifact that is acquired, handled, transformed, and preserved, another page opens on rural life.

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