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Edward F. Smith travel journal


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

Edward F. Smith lived in Dubuque, Iowa, in the late 1860s and traveled west through Nebraska in 1869. In late 1870, he resided in Omaha, Nebraska.

Biographical information derived from the collection.

This travel diary written by Edward F. Smith documents his 1869 journey from Dubuque, Iowa, to Omaha, Nebraska, and further west along the Platte River. The journal also served as a commonplace book and features handwritten quotes and poems, assorted facts, sketches, handwriting exercises, records of financial transactions, and debts owed.

The first third of the small, leather bound booklet contains diary entries relating Edward F. Smith's August 1869, trip to the West, through Nebraska. Smith began the diary on July 31, 1869, by mentioning his attendance at a performance given by Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins (1849-1908), an African-American piano prodigy and autistic savant, given in Dubuque, Iowa. On August 3, Smith left Dubuque with a group of companions traveling west to Omaha, Nebraska. Once he reached Omaha, he traveled by foot and wagon to Fort Kearny, Nebraska, journeying along the Platte River. Each of Smith's entries mentioned the time of day camp was broken, distance (in miles) traveled during the day, and the location camp was made during the evening. During his August 10-20 journey from Omaha to Fort Kearny, Smith's party was plagued by a large amount of mosquitos with one entry exclaiming that "3 qts of blood" were lost to the insects. Smith left Fort Kearny, continuing west, on Aug 21, armed with carbines for protection, and noted that his "first blood" was a prairie dog. On August 22, the party camped at Plumb Creek, the site of an 1864 massacre of a wagon train by Cheyenne warriors. The first encounter with Native Americans, who he repeatedly referred to as "ye noble savages," was on August 27. The second encounter occurred on the morning of August 30, when his camp was attacked and the members of his party drove them off with "some hard fighting."

At this point the entries stop and resume only sporadically in October 1869, during his return journey. Smith returned to the what he considered the "miserable old mudhole" of Dubuque on November 24, 1869. In the last entry of the diary (December 5, 1869), Smith cursed Dubuque, himself for returning to it, and claimed that if he ever manages to leave the town again, he would not return. Smith apparently managed to follow through on this promise as evidenced by a later date and location in the journal placing him in Omaha in October 1870.

The remainder of the journal does not contain chronological diary entries, but instead serves as a commonplace book, with an assortment of other information. The journal features handwritten quotes, poetry, and lines of practice writing featuring the names of various individuals (presumably his companions during his journey west), and locations such as Dubuque, Cheyenne, Cleveland, Ohio, and California. There are also sketches of people, objects, poker games (red and black), and a map of terrain and "Indian trails." Smith wrote down assorted facts, such as the population of the world, and the dimensions of Noah's Ark. He also recorded financial information such as amount of winnings at poker and poker debts, with dollar amounts listed next to the names of individuals and the sum of these amounts. Smith recorded prices of purchased items such as pieces of clothing and furniture. There are two pages of the journal dedicated to "reasons for" and "reasons against," presumably related to pursuing a love interest. The journal also contains a short message written in cipher. The key, which converts the symbols into alphanumeric characters, is featured on the next page of the journal. A number of pages were ripped out of the journal, some that contained writing.

  1. Item 0067: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0097

Purchase, 1958.

Processed and encoded by E. Evan Echols, March 2014.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2014 March 12
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

Edward F. Smith travel journal, 1869-circa 1870.
Item 0067
Physical Description

1 volume

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