Manuscript journal dating from 1866. On the front cover, engraved in gold lettering, it says, “Elder Skinner and his customers.” On the back cover, engraved in gold it says, “Edmund and Mary F. Field.” Then inside I saw the city name of New Rochelle (New York I’m assuming).
At first I thought Edmund was Elder Skinner and perhaps it’s his alias but when I went to look up Mary F. Field on the web I found that she was married to Edmund Field and she was once Mary F. Cornell; that of course if this journal belonged to the same Edmund and Mary as I found on the web. If it is, Edmund was born in 1813 and died in 1890. Mary was born in 1809 and died in 1874 and they were married in 1858.
As you’ll see in the following excerpts it sounds as though Elder Skinner is writing this journal but it also sounds like Edmund could be writing the journal so more research needs to be done. This also could be a book written by Elder Skinner and then dedicated to the Fields.
I can tell you they are Quakers and most of the journal, which has 122 handwritten pages, has to do with the evils of “intoxicating” liquor and other addictive substances and stimulants. There are a few other notes on various subjects. The most interesting thing is that I felt like the author had once sold liquor (cider) and eventually saw the errors of his ways and now is trying to reform everyone. I’ve quoted from several of the passages to give you a better idea but first here are a few of the titles you’ll find in the journal….
“Apology, Creed Versified, Lines Written on the Death of a Little Ebony’s Name Sake, Explanatory, On the Dangers of All Artificial Stimulants, Explanatory, Pickles Should Never Enter the Human Stomach, On the Folly; and Filthiness of the Use of Tobacco, Elder Skinner and His Customers; He Proceeds to Eulogize His Apples and Cider, The Cider Toper Becomes Impatient and Desires Elder Skinner to be Brief, and Conclusion.”
The first page says, “Rambling Thoughts of Leisure Hours.” Across from that it says, “Edmund and Mary F. Field. The following pages, with all their imperfections, are gratefully and affectionately inscribed as a token of remembrance when long years have flown away and the hand that rudely sketched it, lies moldering in the clay. O! then with gentle steps pursue your rugged march through time, let not your heart or hands be stained by cruelty or crime.”
Here are a few other excerpts….
“Criticism on Cider making and cider selling Friends: I am well aware that in attempting to call in question the morality or utility of a long established, hoary headed custom, that numbers amongst its advocates, ministers, elders, overseers and other Friends in good standing in the Society, that I cannot reasonably hope or expect to escape censure.”
“Cider as a Beverage Worthless: I can well remember the time, when our excellent and worthy Friends, Thomas Hawkshurst and Alexander Young, both valuable ministers in the Society of Friends, were largely engaged in the business, the former occupying as a cider vault, the basement of the Friends Meeting House in Pearl Street, in the city of New York, while the latter might be seen, pensively wending his way through the city, pushing his little hand cart before him filled with bottles containing samples of cider for which he was endeavoring to find customers, apparently without any compunction or scruples of conscience in either case. Yet the pernicious influence of their example was not lessened one single iota, in consequence of their innocence.”
“Thomas Fowel Buxton, a rich and influential Friend, was one of the most celebrated brewers in England. I have been credibly informed that the traveler in passing through the streets in London, in large letters painted over the doors of the beer shops and tippling houses, Buxton’s Best! It is also stated on good authority, that Thomas Paine (of Anti-Bible Notoriety) was a birthright member of the Society of Friends and that it was in the beer cellar of his father where he first contracted the habit of drinking to excess. But it was not in England alone where members of the Society have become celebrated brewers.”
“I had a number of good customers that bought liberally and paid well. These customers I had sought out amongst the tavern keepers and tippling houses in the city of New York and elsewhere; I could then under the sheltering wing of the discipline walk into the barroom, and call for a glass of Albany Ale or some other fermented liquor, with perfect composure. But I freely confess that I was perfectly disgusted with the company that the delivery of my cider led me into. At this point the light first began to dawn and the fog that had hitherto obscured my vision, vanished and with it the distinction that I had heretofore supposed I saw between distilled and fermented liquors. I now beheld the whole catalogue of stimulating and intoxicating beverages as being the legitimate. Children of the same diabolical parent and all inheriting a large portion of their father’s Satanic Spirit:whose family likeness and affinities for each other are so completely that I confess that I can no longer find where to draw the line of separation; it would be, in my estimation, simply an effort to make a distinction where no difference exists.”
“On the Danger of All Artificial Stimulants: Tobacco and Opium, in their multifarious forms are also summoned to assist in banishing the blues, or Hypo (as it is sometimes called) for the purpose of restoring peace and tranquility to the poor depressed and desponding mind. But Alas! All these remedies are only temporary and therefore only calculated to increase the mental malady that they were confidently expected to cure; and the poor helpless victim is thus left powerless, to be swallowed up by that owning moral maelstrom of Intemperance or suicide and lost forever.”
“Apology. Elder Skinner and His Customers Brought Face to Face: I presume that it will not be inferred from the picture I have drawn or attempted to draw of cider making and cider selling Friends in general and elders in particular, that I have been an eye witness to all the disgusting and heart sickening scenes that I have attempted therein to describe.”
“Pickles Should Never Enter the Human Stomach: In relation to the use of pickles, I confess that I have strong doubt to whether under any circumstances, they should be allowed to enter the human stomach inasmuch as they are rejected by every four footed beast and creeping thing that breaths and moves on the face of the earth. For it is not pretended that they possess the smallest particle of life sustaining properties to recommend them.”
“In the Folly and Filthiness of the Use of Tobacco: The reader will also perceive that notwithstanding I have made Elder Skinner a smoker, yet I have nothing against the use of tobacco. For it does really seem to me, that the practice is so utterly useless and unnatural, apart from its disgusting filthiness and its despicable, loathsomeness, that no decent, sane person that possessed the smallest particle of reason and common sense would be in the least possible danger of contracting the habit.”
“Elder Skinner and his customers brought face to face: A neighbor, poor lives in our town with wife and children five, where misery and rags abound and nothing seems to thrive. He loves his bottle dearly well and is a poor provide. His wife and children he would sell to purchase rum and cider. He arises in the morning while all is calm and still, and with a lusty jug in either hand. At Elder Skinners cider mill he promptly takes his stand and after lounging here and there. His patience wanes apace, then to the Elders house he doth repair and finds him saying grace…..” (This poem is actually 26 pages long and there is much more to it)
“The cider Topee becomes impatient and desires Elder Skinner to be brief: To Neighbor Skinner: Please be brief for I am exceeding dry and if I cannot get relief I fear that I shall die.”
The journal has some wear on the spine and the cover is starting to pull away from the binding. All the pages are bound together however. There is also a bit of foxing on those pages. The journal measures about 4" x 6 1/2".
An interesting Quaker journal.