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Chauncey P. Holcomb farm diary


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

The creator of this diary was Chauncey P. Holcomb, a farmer and advocate for practical agriculture residing in New Castle County, Delaware, during the 1840s and 1850s. Holcomb was born in Connecticut in 1803 and traveled to Louisiana and Ohio to study law before settling in Philadelphia in 1831. In Philadelphia, he practiced law and served in the state legislature between 1833 and 1834. He married Rebecca Taylor in 1839 and had two sons that survived to adulthood, Bankson and Thomas.

The family moved to New Castle County, Delaware, in 1841, where Holcomb established Devondale Farm. Holcomb became deeply involved in the agricultural reform movement, publishing in various agricultural journals and becoming involved in local and national politics. He frequently went to agricultural fairs to study new innovations in farming, even traveling to Europe for this purpose in 1852. Holcomb died at Devondale in April 1855.

Biographical and Genealogical History of the State of Delaware, Vol. 1 Chambersburg, PA: J.M. Runk & Co., 1899.Martin, John Hill. Chester (And Its Vicinity,) Delaware County, in Pennsylvania; with Genealogical Sketches of Some Old Families. Philadelphia, 1877.“Death of Chauncey P. Holcomb.” Maine Farmer. April 26, 1855.“Philadelphia Agricultural Society.” The American Farmer, a Monthly Magazine of Agriculture and Horticulture. June 1855.Guide to the Holcomb Collection, 1682-1971, Delaware Historical Society (accessed December 5, 2016)1850 U.S. Federal Census (accessed via on December 1, 2016)Information derived from the collection.

This volume is a farm diary kept by Chauncey P. Holcomb of New Castle County, Delaware, between 1843 and 1850. Holcomb recorded information related to his crops and livestock, as well as references to the weather, his health, and his involvement in agricultural reform.

The bulk of Holcomb’s diary relates to the daily management of Devondale Farm, where he raised herds of livestock and grew a variety of crops, including corn, wheat, potatoes, and peas. Holcomb was especially interested in his herd of Devon cattle, noting bovine ailments, when cows calved, and how much milk the herd produced each season. He also captured the seasonal rhythms of farm life, recording when various crops were planted, fertilized, and harvested. Most of his entries contained observations on the weather and how it affected life on the farm.

Holcomb’s interest in the agricultural reform movement is evident throughout his diary. He recorded receiving various agricultural journals, including

The New England Farmer and American Agriculturist. He was a member of a local agricultural club, attended agricultural fairs and exhibitions, and made frequent speeches on the topic throughout the Mid Atlantic. Holcomb’s diary also shows that he was an active member of the Whig Party, and made occasional trips to Washington, D.C., on political business. After traveling to Washington in February 1843, he observed that he was “much more interested with the pursuits & occupations of my Farm than with any scene I witnessed at the Capital.”

Holcomb also made frequent notations regarding his health, especially references to his “excitable” pulse and a chronic cough. Holcomb treated his ailments in a variety of ways, abstaining from coffee and cigars, and consuming regular doses of Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral and cod liver oil. He also noted when there was illness in his family. Holcomb’s entries following the death of his youngest son, Chauncey, in April 1850, are the most personal in the volume, and one of the few places where Holcomb discussed his religious beliefs.

The volume is bound in marbled paper over boards with a black leather spine and black leather corners. An inscription on the front cover reads “Journal/January 1843, to October 1850” in black ink. The volume contains wove paper pastedowns and flyleaves. On the inside of the front cover is the inscription “Chauncey P. Holcomb/Journal of farm affairs” written upside down in black ink. The volume contains 64 leaves of faintly-lined wove paper, although several other leaves have been cut out. It contains handwritten text primarily in black ink, although there are several entries in handwritten blue ink.

Item 0166: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0097

Gift of the Moyerman family, 1972

Processed and encoded by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, January 2017.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2017 January 11
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

Chauncey P. Holcomb farm diary, 1843-1850.
Item 0166
Physical Description

1 volume

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