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William B. Cowan diaries


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. 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

William Bird Cowan was born on December 30, 1820, in Clark County, Ohio, to Joseph Steel Cowan and Phoebe Anderson Cowan. Cowan lived in New Paris, Indiana, for the majority of his adult life where he worked as a tradesman and hardware dealer.

William was married to Elizabeth Cowan. Together they had at least three children: Barbara, Samuel, and Phoebe. William died on December 8, 1884, in Hagerstown, Indiana.

"1880 United States Federal Census." Library Edition. Provo, UT: Operations, Inc., 2004. (accessed January 11, 2016). "William Byrd Cowan," Geni. (accessed January 11, 2016).

This twelve volume set of diaries was kept by Indiana tradesman William Bird Cowan between 1839 and 1877. Each volume features brief entries about local events, weather observations, business trips taken to other towns, and household tasks.

Cowan’s frequent diary entries began with a brief description of the day’s weather (cloud cover, precipitation, wind direction) and was followed by a sentence or two regarding the day’s events. These events included work done during the day, local events such as rallies and festivals, family visits, and household tasks.

In addition to serving as a diary, each volume served as a record of Cowan’s business transactions. He included lists of expenditures by item, pay for hours worked, and a variety of other business-related information. Beginning in 1873, Cowen’s diary entries became somewhat more verbose and provided more detail, contrasting with the rather terse entries for previous years.

Cowen used annually published diaries for use by tradesmen, with blank spaces for each day of the year. The first few pages of these commercially published diaries featured calendars and various charts listing information such as the distance and travel times between major cities, “notable days” of the year, dates of astronomical events such as eclipses, and tables for calculating interest.

The blank and front endpapers contain a large number of handwritten mathematical calculations and a number of simple sketches.

  1. Item 0017: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0097

Purchase, 1957.

Processed and encoded by E. Evan Echols, January 2016.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2016 January 14
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

Willam B. Cowan diaries, 1839-1877.
Item 0017
Physical Description

12 volumes

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