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Autograph Albums


Oh! sometime come with gentle eye,
And o'er these pages kindly bend;
Then memory will give a sigh
For each beloved, departed friend!
My name will then reveal to thee-
Though parted in this world so wide,
And I may long forgotten be,-
That once I tarried by thy side.

Eliza R. Knowlton
Oct. 22nd 1865
Milwaukee, Wis.


In the United States the practice of keeping autograph albums began in the 1820s and increased in popularity through the nineteenth century.

In fact, the definition of album in the 1847 edition of Webster's American Dictionary is "a book, originally blank, in which foreigners or strangers insert autographs of celebrated persons."

Autograph albums during the Victorian period often incorporated elaborate illustrations, colored pages, and ornate covers. But earlier albums were usually simple volumes that encouraged serious inscriptions and lofty sentiments rather than the flippant verse so often associated with such albums of the twentieth century.

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Samuel and Emeline Palmer Allis, Missionaries

RG2628.PH: 1RG2628.PH: 2

Samuel Allis was born in Massachusetts in 1805. In 1834 he went west with Reverend Dunbar under the patronage of the Presbyterian Church American Board of Foreign Missions to Bellevue, which was the agency for the Omaha, Otoe, and Pawnee Tribes. Prior to his departure, he engaged to marry Emeline Palmer, a member of his church in Ithaca, New York. She came west in 1836 on a wagon train to marry Samuel and they served as missionaries to the Pawnee Indians until 1845, when they built a boarding school for Native Americans.

The Allis collection in the Nebraska State Historical Society includes two autograph albums, Samuel's and Emeline's. Both albums were completed as first Samuel and later Emeline were preparing to leave family and friends to travel far into what was at that time the wilderness. They knew that they would not likely see these people again in their lifetimes, and the messages inscribed in these albums would be evocative reminders of those that they had left behind.


You tell me to engrave a few lines in your Album, as a memento of friendship. To tell of scenes forgotten accept at memorys shrine they'll stand as consecrated relicks of remebrance. Ah yes, me thinks they'll awaken a pleasing recollection of the past, they'll tell of friendships formed at Ithaca, and joyful hours that are past away. But when towards the west you sail, with the bright hope of enlightening the savage, May you depart in Jesus name, and he will help you onward.
Susan
Ithaca May 28 1834


One might guess that the most treasured autograph in Samuel's album was from his bride-to-be, who wrote:

Lines addressed to Mr. S. Allis.
Since you are soon to leave your native land,
Permit me to address you as a friend To whom much love and gratitude is due;
I write to bid my friend adieu.



In Emiline's album, her cousin Lathrop takes the opportunity to describe the value of this book of remembrances.

Miss Emeline
How valuable to you must be this repository of friendly tributes! Each associate, relative & friend, anticipating soon a lasting separation, is anxious to insert here some tribute of esteem, some memento of past & happy times, which when the vicissitudes of life shall have caused your departure for other & distant climes, will yet remain, a valuable remembrance, & a mitigation of the pain of separation.-And that such may be the value placed upon this small but sincere tribute is the heartfelt wish of your devoted Cousin
Lathrop Storrs Eddy
Ithaca 30th Au. 1834


Pawnee-made beaded bow tie worn by Reverend Samuel Allis when he was missionary to the Pawnee in 1837.


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Last updated 13 April 2010  

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