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Susan Ritter Trautwine MacManus diaries


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Susan Ritter Trautwine was the daughter of Pennsylvania-born Elizabeth Ritter (1810-1884) and John Cresson Trautwine (1810-1883), a civil engineer and consultant on numerous canal projects in North and South America. The couple had three children: Susan, William, and John Cresson Jr. (1850-1924). Susan was born in the early 1840s in Knox County, Tennessee, but spent the majority of her life in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On September 14, 1870, she married Charles V. MacManus (born late 1830s), a Civil War veteran and conveyancer who owned the MacManus & Trautwine firm with her brother, William. Prior to marrying, Susan taught Sunday school at her church, worked for the local library, and taught Bible study classes at the Chestnut Hill Hospital during the Civil War. After the war, she began sewing clothing for herself and friends, and even selling some items at Wanamaker's. Susan and Charles had three children: Elizabeth Trautwine (born 1872), Charles Jr. (born 1876), and May (born 1878).

This collection is comprised of fourteen of Susan Ritter Trautwine MacManus's diaries from 1857 to 1881, three folders of loose papers that were contained within the diaries, and a short transcript of five entries from 1863 and 1864. All but one of the volumes contain two full years of entries, with two or more entries per page. Entries are often written at later dates, and the time and date of writing is noted for each. Her handwriting is generally easy to read, although some entries are illegible due to the size and quality of the handwriting, bleeding or fading ink, and damaged pages. She maintained a separate volume of soldier accounts from 1863 to 1865, which contain the names of soldiers she met during her time volunteering in Philadelphia hospitals in addition to information about each soldier's regiment and news of his death or life after release.

The entries recount the day-to-day life of a woman living in Philadelphia in the 1800s. Susan's accounts from before and after the Civil War often mention household chores, Bible study and church attendance, and visits with friends. She wrote most frequently about her friends Clara, Liny, Anna Baker, Lizzie Potts, and Lou Peale, in addition to various interactions with members of the Leeds, Seller, Potts, Clegg, and Biddle families. Susan's religion pervaded her entries, and she often included short quotations from the Bible to express her thoughts, writing on April 12, 1861, "Our unhappy country seems on the verge of civil war - 'but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord, happy is he!'"

Beyond the scope of the Civil War, Susan's entries are little concerned with events or politics outside of her immediate experiences. Between 1861 and 1865, she noted the National Day of Fasting, President Lincoln's 1861 visit to Philadelphia and subsequent inauguration, the names of friends enlisting in the Union Army, the surrender of General Lee and the Confederate Army, and Lincoln's assassination. In the days leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg, she wrote, "The rebels are most uncomfortably near to us - being in large force in Penna" (June 26, 1863). After the war, she rarely mentioned politics, only noting that her husband had gone out to vote for Ulysses S. Grant in the 1872 presidential election, and the assassination of President Garfield in 1881.

Susan's entries after the war contain personal accounts of her activities and important events in her life, such as learning how to ice skate, her wedding day, and the births of her children. She also mentioned Philadelphia landmarks such as the Academy of Fine Arts, and writes on January 31, 1871, "Charlie took me this evening and Will took Louisa to hear Miss Kellog at the Academy of Music. We were quite disappointed." Other events discussed in her entries include the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Centennial Exposition in 1876, which she visited on multiple occasions. After the birth of her first child, her accounts of various ailments, injuries, and dental issues and their subsequent treatments suffered by Susan, her children, and her husband become more detailed and frequent. Her last entry is dated August 7, 1881, after many months of entries describing her suffering of a long and unnamed illness.

The final pages of the majority of the diaries contain detailed cash accounts for her own earnings and household finances, in addition to lists of items purchased and their costs, visits from friends, letters and Christmas cards received and answered, and books read and lent to others during the year.

Gift of Rosalie M. Mongel, 1960.

Three loose papers and clippings were removed from the diaries and can be found in folders 1, 2, and 3. Other loose items that appeared to belong with specific entries remain in the volumes.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Jillian Ferrara
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