1844: Aunt Harriet to Delia Ann Dennison

The identity of this woman who signed her name simply “Aunt Harriet” has not been determined. If you believe you know, please send me a message in the comment field below.

The letter was sent to Delia Ann Dennison (1828-18xx), the daughter of Joseph Lufkin Dennison and Delia Ann Porter (1803-1829). I believe Joseph Dennison was a relative (cousin?) of Aaron Lufkin Dennison (1812-1895), the famous Boston silversmith & watchmaker who had his store at 67 Washington Street — mentioned in this letter.

Harriet mentions a woman by the name of Dorcas in the letter. I believe this is Dorcas Dennison (b. 1814) in Freeport, Maine. the daughter of Emerson Dennison (1784-1844) and Margaret Hannaford (1789-1857). Emerson was a tailor who lived on Mast’s Landing Hill, Freeport.

Stampless Cover


[Addressed to Miss Delia A. Dennison, Freeport, Maine]

Boston [Massachusetts]
April 18, 1844

Dear Delia,

I thought as all of the other children had received a letter you and Juliet might think you ought to receive one from Boston, and as it is a rainy Sunday afternoon, I have availed myself of the opportunity of scribbling a few lines if I can only say any thing that would be interesting. Well Delia! How do you get along? I hear by Lucy’s letter you are at Aunt Susan’s. I was very glad to hear it for I hardly know what is for the best, or what would be the best place for you to learn a trade now. And I do not know as there is any hurry about it as you are so young, you will have enough to try _____ perplex you if you should not commence this sometime yet. But I do not wish to discourage you by any means but should rather encourage your going the first suitable opportunity. I have thought a good deal about you but I would not come to any conclusion what would be for the best, but it seems you are provided for at present and if Aunt Susan wants you, you had better stay this summer as you could not have a better place. Try and be a good girl. You will, I have no doubt, take interest in your business. That calico I have at home that is not made up you may take and make you a frock of. We have received a letter from Eliza. She seems to be pretty well contented.

I am boarding at Mr. [Aaron] Dennison’s. Dorcas and I have almost sole command, or Dorcas rather. Mrs. [Charlotte] Dennison has gone to Springfield nearly three weeks. I came here to stay with Dorcas during her absence. Mrs. Roberts has moved to Roxbury. They have therefore concluded to let me stay longer which, by the way, I find to be a very agreeable place so far. Tell Horatio I received his letter and had concluded to start off home but I was sent for at the shop that very afternoon. I have been ever since –business a plenty after waiting three or four months. But never mind. We must take events as they pass.

Tell John H. not to hurt himself in moulding clay for it is fragile stuff at any rate. We had a lump of clay here the other day in the form of a man that cut profiles. He had been slightly burnt. So we all had our likeness takened. I will send mine home to a perfect representation. You will all say I told him to be sure and not flatten it. And then that pretty pony a specimen of his drawing. I cannot but admire it. Do you not think it almost equal to the daguerreotypes ha ha ha.

Dorcas, I expect, will go home next month but it will be very uncertain when I shall go now unless something especial calls me. I want you, therefore, to send me by Capt. Griffin – I think, or if anyone is a coming up that you know of – you may send my parasol, white bleached shirt, and old black mantle. Have them carried to Mr. Dennison’s store, 67 Washington Street [here in Boston]. I will get ______ to settle for the trouble when they are delivered.

Dorcas and Aaron have sent their profiles to Springfield. Dorcas will send hers home when she gets it. Tell Gus he must come and sit for his own portrait if he wants himself represented in the brickyard on the _____ and we will employ the celebrated artist Jacob Caton.

Give my best respects to Aunt Susan and Rachel, Uncle, and John. Tell John to call and see us if he comes here this spring. Tell all of he folks at home we are alive yet and tell Horatio not to wok too hard. Write soon to Aunt Harriet.

My Dear little Juliet,

How do you get along with your little family? I suppose Deborah has got to be a very good girl by this time and you [did] not have to punish her at all. I suppose you help Mother a great deal now. Delia is gone. It seems as if I could see you now picking up chips, dusting the chairs, and doing every little chore with as happy a face as you can think.  We have got a little girl here. Her name is Lottie. She is a very good little girl. She is not old enough to talk much yet. She can say oysters. I suppose you have learned a great deal this winter. I expect you will learn almost enough this summer so you can write to me and how glad I shall be to have a letter from Juliet.

Give my love to Mother, Uncle Horatio, and all of the folks down to Grandfather, and to everybody that enquires after Aunt Harriet.


Aaron Lufkin Dennison

Aaron Lufkin Dennison (6 March 1812-9 January 1895) was an American watchmaker born in Freeport, Maine, USA. He was apprenticed to James Cary for three years, then worked as a journeyman watchmaker in Boston in 1833. During this time he identified inaccuracies in the workmanship and construction of even the best of hand-made watches, following the suggestion of fellow US watchmaker Tubal Hone. He predicted that the manufacture of watches would soon be systematized and perfected in much the same way as had firearms manufacture. Dennison was also involved in the jewellery business in Boston, which led him in another direction. He realised that he could make paper boxes better than the imported products. In 1844 he took supplies of box board and cover paper home to his family home in Brunswick, Maine, where his father, Col. Andrew Dennison, cut out boxes and his sisters covered them. The box business was soon growing, but after five years he decided to focus on watch manufacturing, and passed the box business onto his younger brother Eliphalet Whorf Dennison.

In 1850 Dennison partnered with the clockmaker Edward Howard, using capital from mirror manufacturer Samuel Curtis, to make interchangeable movement parts, to enhance quality and lower the price of watches. About ten years earlier Dennison had invented the ‘Dennison Standard Gauge’ and an ‘Interchangeable System’ for American watch manufacturing. The business grew, and in 1854 a new factory was built in Waltham, Massachusetts. The company was eventually renamed the Waltham Watch Company. Waltham was the first company to manufacture interchangeable movement parts, and make affordable, reliable watches, railroad chronometers, 8-day clocks and other time measurement devices in the United States.

Towards the end of his life Dennison moved to Europe, eventually founding a very successful watch case company. He died in 1895 in Birmingham.

Reprint of The American Jeweler, February 1888, by Greg R. Frauenhoff, January 2003.
“Seventy-Five Years” Company edited booklet, Dennison Manufacturing Co, Framingham, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
“Watch Case Makers of England; NAWCC Supplement 20”, Philip T. Priestly, NAWCC, Spring 1994.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Lufkin_Dennison, accessed 20/9/06.

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