“A Ready Reference Receptacle” – Part Two

Dec 29, 2014 | 1 comment


Signed: Porfirio Diaz

Signed: Porfirio Diaz

When I finished writing yesterday’s blog about the 1876 “newspaper cuttings” featuring my great-grandfather Daniel Sidney Richardson, I took a few minutes to look beyond those first few pages of the “Ready Reference Receptacle” as this once-upon-a-time blank book was described. Well affixed to almost every page are the columns and articles written by my forebear, each with his familiar D.S.R. notation on the final line.

But, there are other treasures, as well. On page 23, for instance, is a note to Señor D.D.S. Richardson (why the double D?) dated Mexico 22 Junio 1878 and signed Porfirio Diaz who was then President of Mexico. My Spanish is not quite good enough to get the nuances of the note, but it seems to be expressing appreciation for a photograph received from Dan the day before. Maybe. I’m sure my Spanish-speaking friends can help me out with this.

In any case, finding something signed by Diaz was a bit of a thrill. In his book Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village, my uncle Willard Espy wrote this about Dan’s wife, my Great Grandmother: But Mexico remained her heart’s home. When General Diaz fell ill at the time President Garfield was shot, grandma’s whole concern was for the sick Mexican; her Richardson in-laws explained to her, using charts, that our own President was her husband’s sixth cousin once removed, but she could not have cared less whether Garfield lived or died.

To: Charles Warren Stoddard

To: Charles Warren Stoddard

On the very next yellowing, somewhat crispy page of this old scrapbook is another surprise – an envelope addressed to Charles Warren Stoddard, 616 Harrison Street, San Francisco, California with a notation in the lower left corner: Walt Whitman. The cancellation mark: LONDON ONT JU 25 80.

I have long heard that there are letters among our family papers from both Charles Warren Stoddard and Walt Whitman (as well as from Joaquin Miller and other notable California poets of the late nineteenth century.) They were among Dan’s friends and fellow members of the California Poets Society.

But this envelope is the first physical evidence that I’ve seen indicating that those letters really exist. Not that I ever doubted the stories. I just thought that Willard had appropriated those bits and pieces when he was researching his Oysterville book and they never got back into the files. Maybe they’ll yet show up…

1 Comment

  1. Stephanie Frieze

    How exciting! An article appeared on Face Book lauding a snarky teenager for coming up with a brochure about herself to pass out to elderly relatives at holiday gatherings outlining what is going on with her, the implication being “don’t ask me about college, boyfriends, etc. I was appalled that the writer of the article thought her adult unmarried, unemployed children ought to do the same. I thought the lot of them rude and suggested that they instead think up interesting questions to ask their elders instead of rude none-of-your-business answers. Someday the Uncle Sydneys and Uncle Willards of the world will be gone and there’ll be much we wish we’d asked about. Congratulations on your find! I hope the letters turn up!


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