Main content

Mary C. Brown diary


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. 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

Mary Cornelia was one of at least five children born to Mary Caroline Browning Brown (1830-1881) and Charles Dennison Brown (born 1822) at Pharsalia, Chenango, New York. Siblings of Mary Cornelia included Orcelia Frances born in 1848, Charles L. born in 1851, Truman H. born in 1855, and Frank born in 1856. The family owned and worked on their farm in Pharsalia. Mary Cornelia is the aunt of Frank and Bessie Minerva Brown's daughter Grace Mae born in 1886 who died at the hands of Chester Gillette in 1906. Grace Mae was the murder victim fictionalized in Theodore Dreiser's novel American tragedy.

A calendar entitled "Excelsior diary for 1877," with printed front matter bound in brown leather. Each page is ruled and divided into two days. Mary Cornelia Brown kept faithful daily entries and recorded the day-to-day life of the Brown family farm in Pharsalia, New York. In 1877 Mary was the only child still living at home with her parents, Charles and Mary. Each day begins with a record of the weather followed by the daily arrivals of family and friends from adjacent farms. Most of the visitors are her brothers and sisters, chiefly Truman referred to as True, Frank, and Orcelia. Frank sometimes arrives with the new baby and his wife Minerva. Mary's Uncle Rob and her grandmother are also frequent guests. Entries record the chores performed that day, trips to post office, and to Norwich. Mary noted her thirtieth birthday on June 18. She discussed the work her brothers perform with their father such as chopping wood, bagging potatoes, and drawing hay. Mary recorded her chores in the house, cooking, cleaning, and sewing and mentions her exhaustion in the evening. Mary often writes of loneliness and sometimes sadness. At the end of some days Mary writes "I wish I could see my boy," possibly referring to a boyfriend. At the end of the volume are eighteen leaves of recipes. A majority of them are for cakes. The back cover is lacking.

Sold by Michael Brown Rare Books (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 2015.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Donna Brandolisio
Finding Aid Date
November 2015
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Collection Inventory

Request to View Materials

Materials can be requested by first logging in to Aeon. Then, click on the ADD button next to any containers you wish to request. When complete, click the Request button.

Request item to view
Mary C. Brown diary, 1877. 1 volume.
Volume 1
Physical Description

1 volume

Print, Suggest