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Guide to the Mary Huntington Morgan Diary

MSN/MN 8008


Collection Summary

Title: Mary Huntington Morgan diary
Dates: 1896
Collection No.: MSN/MN 8008
Creator: Morgan, Mary Huntington (1873-1966)
Extent: 1 volume plus 1 folder
Language: Collection material in English
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: A manuscript diary of some 80,000 words kept by Mary Huntington Morgan (1873-1966) in Washington DC during the year 1896. Morgan was the unmarried 23-year-old daughter of Daniel Nash Morgan (1844-1931), Treasurer of the United States under Grover Cleveland.

Selected Search Terms

Women--Washington (D.C.)--Social life and customs--19th century
Fairfield County (Conn.)--Description and travel
New Haven (Conn.)--Social life and customs

Administrative Information

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Preferred Citation: Mary Huntington Morgan Diary, Department of Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

Acquisition and Processing Note: The Mary Huntington Morgan diary was acquired in 2013 by the Hesburgh Libraries from Carmen D. Valentino: American Historical Manuscripts of Philadelphia (Catalogue 71, Item 73). Finding aid 2014, by Kenneth Kinslow.

Biographical Note

Mary Huntington Morgan (1873-1966) was the only daughter of Daniel Nash Morgan (1844-1931) and Medora Huganen Judson (1843-1924). Daniel Nash Morgan began his career in the dry goods business and served as director, then president of the City National Bank of Bridgeport, Connecticut. During this same period he was active in politics: common council, board of education, mayor (of Bridgeport), state legislature, and state senate. President Grover Cleveland appointed him to the office of Treasurer of the United States, a position he filled from 1893 to 1897. It was during this period that Mary Huntington Morgan wrote the present diary, chronicling her life as a young, eligible socialite in the nation's capital. The diary is filled with references to luncheons, dinners, dances, and teas. She is frequently engaged in music lessons, letter writing, and reading, as well as attending church services, theater performances, and lectures at the Smithsonian. Because of her father's position, she was often invited to official government events and diplomatic receptions: the opening of the Senate, the celebration of Kaiser Wilhelm II's birthday at the German embassy, a reception at the Russian minister's estate in honor of the coronation of Nicholas and Alexandra. After the inauguration of the newly elected William McKinley in March of 1897, Mary Huntington Morgan and her family returned to Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Mary Huntington Morgan married Daniel Edwards Brinsmade on 9 June 1904 and lived in Fairfield, Connecticut. She died on 23 June 1966.

Scope and Content Note

Morgan's diary for 1896 is a single volume (22 cm.) bound in half-calf with marbled boards; it contains 160 leaves, with 299 manuscript pages in the diarist's hand. The front free endpaper is inscribed: "Mary Huntington Morgan, Washington, D.C. January 1, 1896." There are entries for each day of that year, averaging around 3/4 of a page or 220 words. The style of the first-person narrator is simple and direct, and the handwriting is relatively clear. The diary introduces us to family members as well as a variety of friends and acquaintances: Julia, the daughter of Vice-President Adlai Stevenson, the daughters of the renowned clergyman, DeWitt Talmadge, suitors such as Mr. Duvall, and members of foreign embassies such as Mr. Chung. The events that Morgan describes are the everyday occurrences that take place in Washington, or on visits to Bridgeport and New Haven, Connecticut. The interest of the diary often lies in the frequency with which Morgan refers to letter-writing or to the attendance of church services, to dinners and dances. She often makes note of her reading, from William Dean Howells' Indian Summer and Arthur Conan Doyle's Adventures of Sherlock Holmes to such now largely forgotten works as Marie Corelli's Barabbas and John Ames Mitchell's Amos Judd. She mentions plays and musicals like The Geisha and The Wizard of the Nile and provides a picture of the popular culture of the 1890s. Political commentary is only occasional; when William Jennings Bryan won the nomination to run for President on the Democratic ticket, Morgan remarks: "The convention [in Chicago] has been carried by the liberals I am sorry to say."

Like many diarists, Morgan often records her moods: "I have been terribly blue all day." She occasionally becomes introspective and philosophic; at the end of September 1896 she quotes from Nathaniel Hawthorne's Blithedale Romance: "No summer ever came back and no two summers ever were alike. Times change, and people change, and if our hearts do not change as readily, so much the worse for us." The reader can often relate to the described feelings and events: the way Morgan is unhappy at how she appears in photographs or the tedium of waiting three hours in a dentist's office. On the other hand, the diary also offers a glimpse into a more unique world: ". . .mother and I went to the White House to Mrs. Cleveland's tea. It was beautiful, a thoroughly charming affair, and of course Mrs. Cleveland was as lovely as she always is."

In the margin alongside her entry for 30 September Morgan makes reference to a journal for 1895; unfortunately, other diaries and journals have not been located.

Arrangement Note

The collection consists of one diary plus one enclosure.

Container List

  • Diary. Mary Huntington Morgan, 1896. Folder 1 (MSN/MN 8008-1-B)
    1 volume.
    • Enclosure, [1896] April. Folder 2 (MSN/MN 8008-2)
      1 item.
      Printed invitation to an exhibition of the paintings of Felix Bernardelli at the V. G. Fischer Art Gallery, with a list of names (of visitors?) annotated in pencil.