Letter from Stockton Strawbridge to Jane Strawbridge Ledyard, 1855

A letter to Jane Strawbridge Ledyard from her nephew, Stockton Strawbridge. This letter consists of four pages written in the usual way, in black ink. At the end of the fourth page, Stockton wrote across the length of the page in red ink, right over the black lines. His writing was so beautiful and even, that there was no problem in reading the letter. Paper was dear in those days, and it wasn’t unusual to find people writing all around the borders of their letters.

San Francisco 21 Jan. 1855

Dear Aunt

Your letter of 28 Nov. was handed me a day or two before the steamer of the 16th left, but I had not time to answer it by that opportunity. You have received, I hope, my letter of (about) 16 Dec., acquainting you with the change in my position. I commenced my new duties on the 18th Dec. and have been kept closely occupied at the desk every day since, including the last three Sundays. The end of the year is always a busy time, making out stated accounts, closing others, and getting ready for the coming year, etc. I do not think I have ever been so closely confined to work as here, except perhaps at Pittsburgh. In the last week of December we moved to a new office, at the corner of Comin’l and Montgomery Sts over Davidsons, Bank, and have three fine rooms, which being handsomely fitted up -new carpets, furniture, etc., are not surpassed by anything of the kind in the city. The front room looking on Montgomery St. being the largest, is the main office – from that a door leads into my room and then comes the private office. Beyond that comes a small room at present unoccupied, but which I could use as a sleeping room. Mr. H. seems rather desireous I should sleep in the office. My room, as I call it, contains the large safe and a long desk – this is the scene of my labors and here I am from morning till night, having a duplicate key to the fireproof, I get to work long before Joh. gets to the office. I never go out – all the out door business is attended to by the other clerks, so that I am entirely out of the world of comercial business, and not being seen by the few merchants I know, shall soon be forgotten by them and in case of another breakup, I should be more than ever at a loss to whom or where to apply for a situation. Out of sight, out of mind, I fear is more the case in California than elsewhere. For my duties – they are, if monotonous, not difficult or complex, except at every three or six months. I do not think they will be laborious or keep me at the office during the evening. One real comfort I experience, I am not expected to act as poster – make fires sweep and dust, and cleanse spittoons, as was the case at B & H’s . This is all attended to by a proper person. I have not yet been told what is to be the amount of my compensation -and am anxious to know, as it would have some influence in deciding whether I should take up my quarters at the office. I am still at the hotel, where I have a good room and on many accounts, feel loath to give it up — Still I should not hesitate to do so -the saving of $300 per ann. is an object – but there is a material objection. This is the fact that both the brothers CH. Are in the habit of coming down to the office every Sunday and remain there all day, more or less -if they find anything to work at, they work – (it is seldom but what they can find something to do) then persons are coming in, French and others – and then it is talk and gas about investments, interests, water lots, various stocks and speculations generally. Now I do not like this – I am perfectly willing to work on Sundays when business is pressing – have no conscientious scruples in so doing – wish I could say I had, but ordinarily I am for putting aside on that day, all business cares — so far as possible. This untiring devotion to money making, with all it’s attendant anxieties, becomes wearisome. It isn’t a prominent feature in California, where, until not a very long time ago, Sunday formed little or no exception in the strife of labor which marks the rest of the week. So long then as the gentlemen are at the office on Sundays, of course, there is no freedom or privacy for me. At B & H’s I had no annoyances of any kind. Sometimes when the steamer was to leave on Monday morning, B. would come down on Sunday and write a few letters, but usually from Saturday night till Monday morning, I saw nothing of him. This is one reason I hesitate to remove my traps (suitcases) to the office. As to salary I have no great expectations, and it has occurred to me that perhaps one reason for the apparent desire of Mr. H. to have me lodge in the office, is that the room, being rent-free, may be considered an item in my compensation. The other clerk gets but 125/p.mo. and told me he applied to Mr. H. some time ago for a raise, but it was “no go” – he was told
that Mr. H’s expenses were so great that the profits of the office were reduced to a mere point! This is all gas — as I happen to know, for a B & H’s I had an opportunity of seeing the markets and other bills of the family – (B and his wife live with H.) and they would make you stare – I really should not wonder if H’s annual expenses were from 25 to 30/M DIls. Besides he is rich, so considered here, having been very fortunate in his private speculations with a number of clients, both here and abroad, who have placed large sums in his charge for investment which yield commissions. (He has the business of nearly all the French in town.) He came here from N. 0. – not five years ago. There he had been unfortunate – when he left he might have used the queer saying, “If anybody owes me, I hope they’ll pay me right off, and if I owe anybody, I forgive ’em the debt!” He landed here in debt and yet he is now looked upon as a man of substance, so it is idle to talk about not being able to pay his clerks high, or even liberal salaries. Hereafter, Dear Aunt, you shall not have any cause to remonstrate about the inattention to my own interests – I see, now, that in so selfish a place as this – a disposition to act
honorably and liberally with those who observe not the same lines of conduct, may be regarded as a species of Quixotism. I desire no presents or gifts from anybody – have always felt unwilling to receive them – can’t help the feeling, however singular it may appear, but for my salary whatever it may be, little or much, I’ll have every dollar of it, if my employer is so flat broke that he has to go out and rob somebody to pay me. It is pleasant to say, at the conclusion of this long story about myself, that Mr. H. treats me with consideration and kindness. He is so easy to “get on” with – so polite and attentive to any request I may make for explanations of business. He is one of the most gentlemanly men I have ever met with and is like by everyone. I really think I could get along with him, year in and year out, without a cross look or word. I like him extremely —– Perry paid me a visit last evening and I read parts of your letter to him, tho’ I find his sisters keep him well posted up. We often talk together about the folks in Cazenovia. I do so earnestly desire to pay a visit there! Yet what an idle dream it is – Perry, I hope, will eventually do well. He is in some bother just now about his Sandwich Is. Business,
which annoys him much. If he can rid himself of this, and keep in with Dows, it is not unlikely he may become a partner. This is conjecture –. Old Dows has gone into the whiskey business with a “perfect looseness”. He has lately put up buildings for distilling, at a short distance
from town, at an expense of some $50/M and P says, is prepared to go in for $100/M! His wife, P. says, is not coming. Jackson’s wife has arrived some time since. P. has proposed to me that we should call on Mrs. Vande (water?), Gen. Hurd’s daughter, now living here with her husband who was formerly the agent for the M——-ir S. S. Co. I have not seen her since she was a school girl at Mrs. Larrar’s ? in and passed Christmas holidays at Sidney. P. became acquainted with her lately and called on her New Years Day — I condole with cousin George on his retirement from office – “Othello’s occupation is gone”. (what an original quotation!) but one comfort is “once a Captain, always a Captain”, and we can continue to call him “Colonel Ledyard” – how well it sounds. I have often wished to see G. with his new unicorn on and behold him on the Governor’s staff “cavorting” about on a fine “horse”. Let us hope the factory prospects will improve – if the war continues – their stock of casemens? (guere kersigmerd?) may come in good play – The poor soldiers before Sebastopol have a hard time of it. It is perfectly unaccountable to me how there can be any sympathy HERE for the Russian cause – Yet there are very many who are anxious for the success of Nicholas – Russia is the very last country (leaving out Africa) that I
should fancy for a residence. I noticed in that last N.Y. paper that some lawyer of that city has gone over to offer his services to Nicholas. I hope he’ll have a good time, tho bayonets and can non shots and mines, rifles, etc. are harder to detect than the quirks and quiddities of the law. That our “Ancient grudge” against England should prompt many to desire the discomfiture of her forces in the Crimea, I can understand, but the French have always been our friends and allies, and it showed in sad want of proper feelings to rejoice over the success they meet with – I hope still to hear that Sebastopol has been stormed, yet it will, I fear, prove an unsatisfactory
triumph as far as the prospect of peace is concerned. The resources of Nicholas are said to be almost inexhaustible and when men are led to give undoubted faith to the justice of their cause, and that death in battle is but the passport to Heaven, they will fight like fiends – Ignorance and fanaticism were ever twin brothers. I was surprised to notice in a paper that the lady, Miss Nicholson, who has left England with 40 nurses, to minister to the sick and wounded in the military hospitals, is a young lady of good family, highly accomplished and well informed – has traveled much (and I suppose read more). Her father, a man of great wealth, in Derbyshire – what a sing
ular fancy, tho if the undertaking is prompted by a sincere desire to ameliorate the condition of the suffering soldiers (and she is said to be disposed to works of benevolence), she is entitled to more credit than even the good sisters of charity, for it is their “vocation”.

I saw in a “Humbolt’ paper, last evening, a notice that the Editor had been obliged to “Mr. Strawbridge” for some news about Indian troubles, which he had just brought in. I suppose it was Jem.

Wonders will never cease, I am anxious to hear more about that boat which “turns on a pivot” — and thus gains in tacking. Whereabouts is the pivot? A slow boat may win a race from this advantage – something like the sailor who said “what he couldn’t do in dancing, he could make up in turning round”. Please remember on you next to describe this “peculiar construction”. What a fine thing it would be for our ships if they could turn on a pivot round Cape Home.

I have not heard lately from Philadelphia – am happy to learn Father continues in such comfortable health. The papers mention the excessive cold weather at the East – how I wish you could pass a few weeks here at the present season, that you might experience a realizing sense of our delightful climate – I am writing in a room without fire – and could keep the windows open without inconvenience – the climate of California is the only thing I should give up with regret. I have taken Sunday morning to scribble this letter – and will leave the vacant space below in case anything turns up between this and steamer day. Please direct to me “care of Lucien Hermann Esq.”

29th The mail is just in. Buslings ? brother James, a passenger, brought me a couple of daguerrotypes of Betty’s two eldest children. B. writes that your Helen was on a visit to Anne, who was to give that night (3 Jan.) a big party. It strikes me, Anne is “going it with a rush” in fashionable life — B. further says, “George (yours, as I understand) has sailed for Europe! I hope he is not going to offer his services to Nicholas! I presume you would have a word to say against any such plan. 3 1 st Nothing to add, but the assurance of my affectionate regards and my respects to Mr. L. and all the family.