Abstract

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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Notes

1. The original 1884–1887 diary and copies of her other two diaries 1888–1892 are in my possession and at the Rural Diary Archive, University of Guelph (hereafter UG), https://ruraldiaries.lib.uoguelph.ca/ (accessed May 19,
2016
).
2. Some exceptions are Molly McCarthy,
The Accidental Diarist: A History of the Daily Planner in America
(
Chicago
:
University of Chicago Press
,
2013
); Kathryn Carter,
“Accounting for Time in Nineteenth-Century Manuscript Diaries and Photographs,”
Life Writing
12
, no.
4
(
2015
):
417
30
.
3. Kathryn Carter,
“Accounting for Time,”
425
.
4. More background information on all the diarists in this paper can be found at the Rural Diary Archive, https://ruraldiaries.lib.uoguelph.ca/all-diarists. More rural diaries can be found in the following collections: Margaret Conrad, Toni Laidlaw, and Donna Smyth,
No Place Like Home: Diaries and Letters of Nova Scotia Women 1771–1938
(
Halifax, NS
:
Formac Publishing Company
,
1988
); Kathryn Carter, ed.,
The Small Details of Life: Twenty Diaries by Women in Canada, 1830–1996
(
Toronto
:
University of Toronto Press
,
2002
); the five volume set, Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston, eds.,
The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery
(
Toronto
:
University of Toronto Press
,
1985–2004
); Royden Loewen, ed.,
From the Inside Out: The Rural Worlds of Mennonite Diarists, 1863–1929
(
Winnipeg
:
The University of Manitoba Press
,
1999
); Suzanne L. Bunkers, ed.,
Diaries of Girls and Women: A Midwestern American Sampler
(
Madison
:
University of Wisconsin Press
,
2001
).
5. This theme runs through Ronald R. Kline,
Consumers in the Country: Technology and Social Change in Rural America
(
Baltimore
:
Johns Hopkins University Press
,
2000
).
6. See the classic Robert A. Fothergill,
Private Chronicles: A Study of English Diaries
(
London
:
Oxford University Press
,
1974
); more recently David Amigoni, ed.,
Life Writing and Victorian Culture
(
Aldershot, England
:
Ashgate
,
2006
); Kathryn Carter,
“The Cultural Work of Diaries in Mid-Century Victorian Britain,”
Victorian Review
23
, no.
2
(Winter
1997
):
251
53
; Jane H. Hunter,
“Inscribing the Self in the Heart of the Family: Diaries and Girlhood in Late-Victorian America,”
American Quarterly
44
, no.
1
(Mar.
1992
):
53
; Molly McCarthy,
“A Pocketful of Days: Pocket Diaries and Daily Record Keeping among Nineteenth-Century New England Women,”
The New England Quarterly
73
, no.
2
(June
2000
):
274
96
; Bonnie Huskins and Michael Boudreau,
“‘Daily Allowances’: Literary Conventions and Daily Life in the Diaries of Ida Louise Martin (nee Friars), Saint John, New Brunswick, 1945–1992,”
Acadiensis
34
, no.
2
(Spring
2005
):
88
108
.
7. Farm diaries are defined in this article as those written by men and women of any age living on a farm. Rodney C. Loehr,
“Farmers’ Diaries: Their Interest and Value as Historical Sources,”
Agricultural History
12
, no.
4
(Oct.
1938
):
313
25
.
8. See Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s Pulitzer Prize-winning study,
A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785–1812
(
New York
:
Alfred A. Knopf
,
1990
); Nicholas Van Allen,
“On the Farm, in the Town, and in the City: Nineteenth-Century Networks and Spaces in Rural Middlesex County, Southwestern Ontario,”
(PhD diss.,
University of Guelph
,
2016
). In general, life-writing is now turning to the everyday; see Suzanne L. Bunkers and Cynthia Anne Huff, eds.,
Inscribing the Daily: Critical Essays on Women’s Diaries
(
Amherst
:
University of Massachusetts Press
,
1996
); Danielle Fuller,
Writing the Everyday: Women’s Textual Communities in Atlantic Canada
(
Montreal
:
McGill-Queen’s University Press
,
2004
). For recent conventional monographs that use diaries extensively, see Gail Campbell’s
“I Wish to Keep a Record”: Nineteenth-Century New Brunswick Women Diarists and Their World
(
Toronto
:
University of Toronto Press
,
2016
); Joanne Findon,
Seeking Eden: The Dreams and Migrations of Sarah Jameson Craig
(
Montreal
:
McGill-Queen’s University Press
,
2015
).
9. Kathryn Carter,
“An Economy of Words: Emma Chadwick Stretch’s Account Book Diary, 1859–1860,”
Acadiensis
29
, no.
1
(Autumn
1999
):
43
57
.
10. Rebecca Steinitz argues that the diary’s unique organization of time and space made it a popular vehicle for the dominant discourses of the Victorian era. Rebecca Steinitz,
Time, Space, and Gender in the Nineteenth-Century British Diary
(
New York
:
Palgrave Macmillan
,
2011
); see also Beverly Lemire,
The Business of Everyday Life: Gender, Practice and Social Politics in England, c.1600–1900
(
Manchester
:
Manchester University Press
,
2005
),
10
; Patricia Cline Cohen,
A Calculating People: The Spread of Numeracy in Early America
(
Chicago
:
University of Chicago Press
,
1982
).
11. Diary writing as self-reflexive and important in women’s creation of selfhood is a topic explored in many works. Some of the most notable can be found in Margo Cully, ed.,
A Day at a Time: The Diary Literature of American Women from 1764 to the Present
(
New York
:
Feminist Press
,
1985
); and
“‘I Look at Me’: Self as Subject in the Diaries of American Women,”
Women’s Studies Quarterly
17
, nos.
3/4
(
1989
):
15
22
; Suzanne L. Bunkers and Cynthia Anne Huff, eds.,
Inscribing the Daily
.
12. Karen V. Hansen also observed that diaries changed very little in her study period
1820
1865
; Karen V. Hansen,
A Very Social Time: Crafting Community in Antebellum New England
(
Berkeley
:
University of California Press
,
1994
),
176
77
.
13. Marilyn Ferris Motz,
“Folk Expression of Time and Place: 19th-Century Midwestern Rural Diaries,”
Journal of American Folklore
100
, no.
396
(Apr.–June
1987
):
131
47
.
14. Molly McCarthy,
The Accidental Diarist
,
54
55
. Trade journals such as the American Stationer, Stationary & Office Products, and Bookseller and Stationer capture the industry’s rise in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By the twentieth century, diaries especially for women were being created.
15. Consuela Metzger,
“The Blank History of the Blank Book,”
CGPublishing, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okt-mjKs0fg (accessed May 19,
2016
); Arthur Green,
“Some Forwarding Techniques for Springback Bindings,”
The Book and Paper Gathering, http://thebookandpapergathering.org/2013/10/20/some-forwarding-techniques-for-springback-bindings-2/ (accessed May 19,
2016
).
16. James Bowman Diaries,
1892
and
1893
, XR1 MS A737, Archival and Special Collections, UG.
17. Patricia Lockhart Fleming,
“Bookbinding,”
in
History of the Book in Canada, Volume One, Beginnings to 1840
, eds. Patricia Lockhart Fleming, Gilles Gallichan, and Yvan Lamonde (
Toronto
:
University of Toronto Press
,
2004
),
112
; Patricia Lockhart Fleming,
“The Binding Trades,”
in
History of the Book in Canada, Volume Two, 1840–1918
, eds. Yvan Lamonde, Patricia Lockhart Fleming, and Fiona A. Black (
Toronto
:
University of Toronto Press
,
2004
),
101
103
.
18. There were 221 such businesses; Greta Golick,
“Bookselling in Town and Country,”
in
History of the Book in Canada, Volume Two, 1840–1918
,
213
.
19. In the 1960s they were still in business;
“History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario, Part IV,”
ElectricCanadians.com, http://www.electriccanadian.com/history/ontario/york/part04chap31.htm (accessed May 19,
2016
).
20. The school system kept pace with agricultural expansion; Chad Gaffield and Gérard Bouchard,
“Literacy, Schooling, and Family Reproduction in Rural Ontario and Quebec,”
Historical Studies in Education
1
, no.
2
(Oct.
1989
):
206
.
21. The 1902 Sears, Roebuck catalog sold bound blank ledger-sized journals for $.07–$1.60 depending on the quality and number of pages, the cover, and binding;
1902 Sears Roebuck Catalogue
(
New York
:
Bounty Books
,
1969
).
22. Patricia Lockhart Fleming,
“The Binding Trades,”
102
.
23. See, for example, gentleman farmer, George Leith Diaries,
1834–52
, F
734
, Archives of Ontario (AO); farm laborer, Edward Lancley Diary 1890, installments in the Leeds & 1000 Islands Historical Society Newsletter, nos.
30
,
32
37
, http://www.ltihistoricalsociety.org/newsletters.html (accessed May 19,
2016
); domestics, Mary McCulloch Diary, 1898, RPA 1979.023, Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archive, Bampton, ON; and Mary Longmore Green Diary, 1899–1900, no accession number, Huron County Museum & Historic Gaol (hereafter HCM), Goderich, ON.
24. John Quinn Diary,
1897–1905
, transcribed installments in the Leeds & 1000 Islands Historical Society Newsletter, nos. 8–25, http://www.ltihistoricalsociety.org/newsletters.html (accessed May 19,
2016
).
25. Hannah Jarvis Diary,
1845
, XR1 MS A210086, Archival and Special Collections, UG.
26. Greta Golick,
“Bookselling in Town and Country,”
210
12
; and John J. Fry,
The Farm Press, Reform, and Rural Change, 1895–1920
(
New York
:
Routledge
,
2005
).
27. Donald W. Carpenter,
Diary of James W. Carpenter 1880–1907
, vol.
1
(
Wallaceburg
:
Past to Present
,
1991
). With diaries and scrapbooks, James was clearly interested in creating an archive of his family’s life; Ellen Gruber Garvey,
Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance
(
New York
:
Oxford University Press
,
2012
).
28. Clara and Joseph Washington Diary,
1896
, no accession number, HCM.
29. Frances Tweedie Milne Diary,
1866
, F
763
, AO.
30. Benjamin Freure Diary, 1836–42, Baldwin Room, Toronto Public Library; John Ferguson Diaries,
1868–83
, F
1254
,
AO
.
31. Carolyn Cordery,
“Hallowed Treasures: Sacred, Secular and the Wesleyan Methodists in New Zealand, 1819–1840,”
Accounting History
11
, no.
2
(
2006
):
201
; and Andrew O. Winckles,
“Drawn out in Love: Religious Experience, the Public Sphere, and Evangelical Lay Women’s Writing in Eighteenth-Century England,”
(PhD diss.,
Wayne State University
,
2013
); Curtis D. Johnson,
Islands of Holiness: Rural Religion in Upstate New York, 1790–1860
(
Ithaca, NY
:
Cornell University Press
,
1989
),
43
. Roman Catholics were less likely to attend school and left earlier. In my collection of one hundred thirty diarists only two were Roman Catholics. Protestants had a proclivity toward clocks and watches. Livio Di Matteo,
“The Effect of Religious Denomination on Wealth: Who Were the Truly Blessed,”
Social Science History
31
, no.
3
(Fall
2007
):
302
.
32. Tom Nesmith,
“‘Pen and Plough’ at Ontario Agricultural College, 1874–1910,”
Archivaria
19
(Winter
1984–1985
):
94
109
.
33. Albert Smith Diary, Jan. 1,
1869
, XR1 MS A142—Boxed with XR1 MS A140, UG.
34. George Easton Diary,
1830–39
,
122
.86, Middleville Museum, Middleville, ON.
35. Benjamin Freure Diary,
20
; James Cameron Diary, July 19,
1881
, F 1256, AO; Elizabeth Simpson Diary,
1877
1902
, AR2164-994, Dufferin County Museum & Archives, Mulmer, ON.
36. Susie Smith Diary, 1874, located in “Bills Payable” near the back, XR1 MS A142—Boxed with XR1 MS A140, UG.
37. John MacGregor Diary, 1877–83, binder 94, box 12, Series III, Col. 2504, Ewan Ross Papers, Queen’s University Archives, Kingston, ON.
38. Minnie Boothe Diary, 1897–98, Acc. 1987-041, location 2999, Queens University Archives, Kingston, ON.
39. Coal-oil lamps were available in the second half of the nineteenth century; see R. W. Sandwell,
“The Coal-Oil Lamp,”
Agricultural History
92
, no.
2
(Spring
2018
).
40. The dip pen consisted of a metal nib with capillary channels mounted on a handle. Compared to the quill pen, it was a maintenance-free writing utensil with a variety of interchangeable, sharp, and durable nibs. It had to be dipped regularly into an inkwell; how often depended on the writer and pen. Diarists used India ink, a waterproof pigmented ink. Fountain pens eventually dominated the pen market until the arrival of ballpoint pens in the 1960s; “Dip Pen,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dip_pen (accessed May 20,
2016
).
41. The semi-public nature of diaries meant that diarists censored their content. Bonnie Huskins and Michael Boudreau,
“‘Daily Allowances,’”
106
.
42. Diary of Sophie and Thomas Adams, October 1882, Seaborn Collection, AFC 20-5 (B5582), University of Western Ontario, London, ON. For others who asked people to fill in for them, see Frances Jones Diary,
1878–1880
, Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg, ON; Amos Andrew Diary, HCM; and Velma Beaton Diaries,
1930
1988
, A2010.40 MU 976, Wellington County Museum and Archives, Fergus, ON.
43. William Sunter Diaries, 1857–1914, XR1 MS A528, UG.
44. Garrison Shadd Diaries,
1881–89
, Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, North Buxton Chatham, ON. See also Mayes Family Diary,
1874–77
, XR1 MS A006, UG. Mary O’Brien, who was pioneering near Lake Simcoe, sent her journals to relatives back in England. Helen M. Buss,
Mapping Our Selves: Canadian Women’s Autobiography in English
(
Montreal
:
McGill-Queen’s University Press
,
1993
), Chpt. 1. The Crombies of Brant County fashioned their diaries into an illustrated newsletter format to be distributed to relatives in Montreal; Edward R. Crombie Diaries,
1903–30
, boxes 11 and 12, series 4, first accrual, McMaster University Archives, Hamilton, ON.
45.
1902 Sears Roebuck Catalogue
,
261
.
46. The diary format was recommended in
Canada Farmer
1
(Feb. 15,
1869
):
42
. For double-entries, see
Farmer’s Advocate
23
(Oct.
1888
):
298
;
Farmer’s Advocate
45
(Feb. 14,
1907
):
251
52
;
Farmer’s Advocate
49
(Aug. 6,
1914
):
1421
23
; and
Canadian Countryman
12
, no.
10
(Mar. 3,
1923
):
3
,
23
. In 1861 about 40 percent of farms were 100 acres, the standard size falling between 70 and 169 acres. R. Marvin McInnis,
Perspectives on Ontario Agriculture 1815–1930
(
Gananoque, ON
:
Langdale Press
,
1992
),
44
45
.
47. Christopher Switzer Diary, 1881–83, Upper Canada Village.
48. Margaret Griffiths Diary, 1899–1901, F 722, AO. Helen C. Abel, Lois Chipsham, and Phyllis D. Ferris found in surveys conducted after World War II that 40 percent of farm women kept the accounts for the family farm;
Farm Families Today
(
Toronto
:
Ontario Department of Agriculture
,
1966
),
27
.
49. Cynthia Huff,
“Textual Boundaries: Space in Nineteenth-Century Women’s Manuscript Diaries,”
in
Inscribing the Daily
,
127
.
50. Frederic Smith Diary, 1869–77, F 1239, AO. Thick strokes could be created on the down-strokes by putting greater pressure on the nib so that the tines splayed and let down more ink. The finest lines could be created on the upstrokes or sidestrokes. The ink had to dry before the page was turned; see
“A Comparison of the Different Styles of Pointed Pen Script,”
http://www.zanerian.com/ScriptComparison.html (accessed May 20,
2016
).
51. Edward Lancley Diary,
1890
.
52. Carver Simpson Diaries,
1878
,
1882
, AR2165.994, Dufferin County Museum & Archives, Mulmer, ON.
53. John Tigert Diary, 1888–1902, in the private possession of the Tigert Family.
54. Kathryn Carter,
“Accounting for Time,”
418
.
55. Benjamin Crawford Diaries, 1810–1859, F
709
,
AO
.
56. Thomas Dick Diary, 1867–1905, F
1237
,
AO
.
57. William Cobbett,
Advice to Young Men, and (Incidentally) to Young Women, in the Middle and Higher Ranks of Life
(
1829
; repr., New York: Oxford University Press,
1980
),
87
, quoted in Molly McCarthy,
“A Pocketful of Days,”
285
.
58. Royden Loewen,
From the Inside Out
,
4
.
59. Arthur Schulze Diary, 1860–61, no accession number, HCM.
60. Jeannie Watson Diary, 1900–01, 107 R6 S6 Sh2 B2 F5 4, Elgin County Archives, St. Thomas, ON; Clara and Joseph Washington Diary, Jan. 20, Jan.
25
,
1896
.
61. George Gohn’s son, William, who inherited the farm, continued George’s diary; George Gohn Diary,
1889
1921
, Markham Museum, Markham, ON. As Fanny Jones was dying in 1880, her daughter, Lucia, made entries; Frances Jones Diary,
1878–80
, 93.x20 11449, Upper Canada Village. Elizabeth Simpson dictated her entries to her daughter in her old age. Likewise, Olive Beaton took over the diary of her dying mother in 1930; Velma Beaton Diaries,
1930
1988
, A2010.40; MU 976, Wellington County Museum and Archives.
62. Phenix Diaries,
1869–1934
, F 1255, AO; and Barrett Diaries
1911–58
, XR1 MS A447, UG.
63. William H. Treffry Diary, Mar. 6,
1889
, Norwich and District Museum and Archives, Norwich, ON.
64. Lucy Middagh’s daughter, Lucy Johnston, kept some of the diaries. Then she gave them to her niece, Myrtle Hyndman/Dougall. It is not clear how many diaries were given to other children or how many Myrtle had. The 1884–87 diaries stayed in Myrtle’s line of the family and are now in my possession. In 1946 Myrtle sent her brother, Charlie Hyndman in Manitoba, Lucy’s diary for 1890–92. It is now in the possession of Alan Hyndman. It has recently been transcribed by another relative, Gail Spanier, in Australia. The 1888–89 diary was kept by another member of the family living in or near Mountain Township, likely Sally Middagh, and was the property of Debbie Hoermann of New Jersey by 2004. A copy was then acquired by Laure Jansen in Washington, a descendant of Lucy’s sister, Aurilla Rosseter/Rose who had lived her married life out west. Laure believes that the copy came from a descendant of Sally Middagh. Gail, Laure, and I have brought the diaries together.