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The text face used here (as well as elsewhere) is Broadsheet™. The home page letters are set in Emily Austin™ & Lamar Pen™. All typefaces referenced on this website—Abigail Adams™, American Scribe™, Antiquarian™, Antiquarian Scribe™, Attic Antique™, Bonsai™, Botanical Scribe™, Broadsheet™, Castine™, Douglass Pen™, Emily Austin™, Houston Pen™, Lamar Pen™, Military Scribe™, Old Man Eloquent™, Remsen Script™, Schooner Script™, Terra Ignota™ & Texas Hero™—are the intellectual property of Three Islands Press (copyright ©1994–2015). For site licensing contact:

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   info@oldfonts.com

 

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Posts Tagged ‘Republic of Texas’
Handwriting and Personality: Twelve Voices from the Past
Monday, August 1st, 2016
Rabbet (Welcome Images, Wellcome Library, London.)

Rabbet (Wellcome Library, London).

Immediately upon awakening this morning, August 1, I spoke the words “rabbit rabbit” to my dog. I can’t remember how I learned of this superstition—that uttering those two words first thing on the first of any month will assure you good luck for all its days—but I’ve remembered to do it nearly every month for years.

Of course I don’t believe it’s a guarantee of luck. It’s more of a memory test. Deep down I’m more of a rational sort of guy.

That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in magic—there are miracles everywhere. But they come in the form of the births of baby animals, the cries of northern loons, the emergence of plants from seed, or the rare and evocative aroma of petrichor. I don’t do pseudoscience, though. You won’t find tinfoil headwear on my hat rack.

Detail of a letter written by then–US. Liet. Daniel Ruggles from Mexico home to his wife.

Detail of a letter written by U.S. Lt. Daniel Ruggles from Mexico home to his wife.

The pseudoscience of graphology—a.k.a., handwriting analysis—has been around a good while. Supposedly a trained graphologist can, from simply studying handwriting samples, describe personalities, diagnose mental (or physical) illnesses, even tell the sex of a pregnant writer’s child. No. Nope. Uh-uh. That stuff’s just parlor games.

But having closely studied scores of the letters and journals and diaries of famous (and not-so-famous) people of the past, I do see in penmanship evidence of mood, of age, of temperament. There’s a connection between handwriting and personality. A thoughtful soul might write more neatly. A wallflower might write small. Older hands will tremble more. A hothead might write messily, an egoist large.

Below, for your consideration, is my brief appraisal of the penmanship of a dozen people whom, for one or another reason, I’ve come to know—and whose personalities and handwriting seem to agree. (Click on any image for a larger view.)

Obscure military clerk

Obscure military clerk (1775 Muster Rolls of His Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot).

Obscure military clerk (1775 Muster Rolls of His Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot).

Two hundred forty-one years ago, a tiny fraction of the planet’s population knew how to write, and many who did made a living at it—as did the scribe who kept records for the British military at a time of unrest in the American colonies. This particular clerk (whose hand gave rise to Military Scribe) was painstaking, scrupulous, neat, exacting. I imagine a man who spent a lot of time alone at a desk in The Penmanship Zone. Smart, disciplined, tidy. A person who was frugal with ink and paper, and who embraced the mission at hand: of keeping a legible accounting of important matters for future reading.

Timothy Matlack

Penmanship of Timothy Matlack (the Declaration of Independence).

Penmanship of Timothy Matlack (the Declaration of Independence, 1776).

From historical records we know that Timothy Matlack was a Quaker, an abolitionist, a judge, a soldier—and a master penman whose careful roundhand engrossed perhaps the most famous American document (and inspired American Scribe). He was hired to do the job, a job he clearly took seriously. From his straight, clean, legible script, its compact letterspacing and narrow linespacing, I imagine a serious person, a thoughtful person, a man with strength of mind and strong convictions. Matlack died at 99 years old.

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams (letter to John Adams, 1789, via Massachusetts Historical Society).

Abigail Adams (letter to John Adams, 1789, courtesy Massachusetts Historical Society).

Although our first second lady and second first lady had no formal education, her mother (a Massachusetts Quincy) homeschooled her on reading, writing, and ’rithmatic. From her voluminous writings (mostly in the form of letters to her husband, John), it’s clear Abigail Adams was highly intelligent, curious, engaged, insightful, and philosophical. I.e., she was a brilliant thinker, correspondent, confidante. She also had to take care of business back home while her husband was off doing political things. Mrs. Adams’s untidy, disconnected cursive (immortalized in our Abigail Adams font) was clearly dashed off in a hurry, which—along with her creative spelling (not uncommon in those days)—actually makes a lot of sense: here was someone with a message to get across, never mind insignificant details. Her hand suggests a doer, a talker, a communicator, one not so concerned about style as content.

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams (diary excerpt, 1809, via Massachusetts Historical Society).

John Quincy Adams (diary excerpt, 1809, courtesy Massachusetts Historical Society).

Abigail’s son, John—the sixth U.S. president—was an orator, a diplomat, from youth a traveler (who spoke numerous languages), a politician, a negotiator, an abolitionist, and a famous diarist. For nearly 70 years he kept a daily diary. You can flip virtually through its pages at the Massachusetts Historical Society’s highly engaging website, where right away you’ll notice Adams’s upright, bold, legible, loopy hand (Old Man Eloquent is our interpretation). I imagine John Quincy got some of his communication skills from his mother, but his handwriting seems far more disciplined, more plodding, more firm, more straight-and-narrow. I see some obsessiveness there (nearly 70 years, every day?), and a very slight slant. I see fairness, equality, conscientiousness, formality, and an almost classical attention to detail.

Samuel Clarke

Samuel Clarke (in a letter to his congregation, 1825).

Samuel Clarke (in a letter to his congregation, 1825).

Years ago I found a three-page letter in a local antique shop, a letter written by the pastor of the Congregational Church in Princeton, Massachusetts, appealing for donations for a family whose belongings were lost at sea. (The graceful script, in fact, compelled me to make Schooner Script.) I know of Samuel Clarke, the pastor, only from this single bit of history, now going on 200 years old—but from his handwriting’s consistent slant, its long descenders, its curly loops and airy linespacing, I gather Samuel was careful (i.e., full of care), generous, a little formal, perhaps, but also full of grace and attentive to decorum. I envision sermons partly down-to-earth and partly lofty, with a flourish or two. I can almost hear the music of the choir.

Sam Houston

Sam Houston (letter from 1830).

Sam Houston (letter from 1830).

Hero of the Battle of San Jacinto, first president of Texas, and one of the new state’s inaugural U.S. senators, Sam Houston is one of those larger-than-life characters from history. His handwriting, too, was large (see Houston Pen), with ample space between its lines and characters. Houston seems also to have written swiftly but with a certain grace and aplomb—in keeping with the self-assured leader that he was. (He’s the only person who served as governor of two states, Tennessee and Texas.) His script is forceful, declarative, almost principled. It’s no surprise, perhaps, that he was a friend (and blood brother) of America’s natives when many of his fellow Texans wanted to drive them out of the territory—or that, in vain, he opposed secession, while Texas joined the CSA. And it might be said he also wielded a noble pen.

Thomas Jefferson Rusk

Thomas Jefferson Rusk (remembrance of his infant son, 1834).

Thomas Jefferson Rusk (remembrance of his toddler son, 1834).

I modeled Texas Hero, our first historical penmanship font, after the handwriting of Thomas J. Rusk, unquestionably a heroic early Texan. I chose his hand because it was typical of the period, comparatively legible, not too fancy or plain. Similarly, Rusk himself seemed regular, dependable, and sober. He moved his family from South Carolina to Mexican Texas, joined his fellow settlers in opposing Mexican hostility, fought bravely under Houston at San Jacinto. Rusk served as the new republic’s first Secretary of War, got more votes than Houston as one of the new state’s first two senators, carried on through various personal losses until the end—when illness and his wife’s death drove him to suicide. A good font, a good man.

Mirabeau B. Lamar

Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (journal entry, 1835).

Mirabeau B. Lamar (journal entry, 1835).

Perhaps the most popular face in our “Texas Heroes” collection, Lamar Pen is an interpretation of the stylish hand of a man with a stylish name, Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar. Lamar grew up in Georgia as a reader and writer, a poet and newspaper man. He entered politics at an early age—but then lost his wife and brother, and set off to see the world to assuage his grief, arriving in Texas just in time to join Houston and Rusk at San Jacinto. He, too, fought bravely (famously even coming to the rescue of Rusk) and ended up first vice president under Houston. From there things went south, though, as he and Houston clashed on several matters: he ordered attacks against the Cherokee and Comanche, resulting in the massacre of women and children, and opposed the annexation of Texas by the United States. I read in Lamar’s strong, if stylish, hand a man both bossy and emotional, full of righteousness, used to getting his way—albeit someone who also valued higher education. (He is credited for alloting land for school development statewide.)

Emily Austin Perry

Emily Austin (letter home to her husband, 1851).

Emily Austin Perry (letter home to her husband, 1851).

As you might gather from her eponymous font, Emily Margaret Austin Bryan Perry—sole heir of her brother Stephen F. Austin—was a brave, determined, spunky, busy pioneer woman. She was also one of the richest women in Texas, and plenty adept at managing her ample fortunes (never mind that men had to sign all contracts, and it’d be generations until women won the right to vote). From her small, distinctive script, which made good use of the margins of a page, you might gather she was frugal, thrifty, and meticulous. Spelling didn’t matter as much as accuracy and clarity. Traveling with her daughter, Mrs. Perry wrote many a missive home to Peach Point Plantation, essentially passing along fresh gossip and listing chores she wanted done. But she was reportedly a beloved matriarch to family and servants (i.e., slaves). And it’s not hard to find in her chatty scrawl a mother hen.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (letter from 1857).

Frederick Douglass (letter from 1857).

Orator, statesman, abolitionist, Frederick Douglass stands among the most distinguished of Americans. His gift of words, of communicating grand ideas and fostering great social change, is surpassed by few. As you might gather from his handwriting (simulated in Douglass Pen)—a neat, balanced, legible, utilitarian hand. You can see from the even spacing, from the letterforms dense but clear, that here was a person who placed importance on each sentence. The pace of the writing seems even, not rushed, but steady—stately, even. The script seems fair and controlled, neither tentative nor dashed off in anger. Here was someone who placed value on the written word (as he also did photography), and who expected his own to be read and heard and thought about. As they are still, nearly two centuries after he was born a slave on the Chesapeake Bay.

A. Leslie Willson

A Leslie Willson (my father, diary entry, 1946).

A. Leslie Willson (my father, diary entry, 1946).

Much closer in time—just 70 years ago—a young man named Leslie Willson kept a daily diary. Maybe not as obsessively as John Quincy Adams, but nearly so. His legible Palmer Method cursive has a consistent slant, with open loops and pointy “p”s. Even if you ignore the words, you can see a sort of artistic evenness in this handwriting style; there’s a clear attention to stroke and placement. The script easy to read and pleasant to look at—important factors when your mission is communication. It’s what you might call “nice handwriting.” This man was a nice man and a communicator. A writer, a poet, a teacher, a translator—and one who wrote pretty much exactly the same on into his 80s. I know, because Leslie Willson was my father. (Dad thought it a hoot that I modeled Professor after his hand.)

Jeanne Willson

Jeanne Willson (my mother, letter from 1993).

Jeanne Willson (my mother, letter from 1993).

Finally, here’s a sample of the handwriting of my mother, then in her late 60s. Mom was an inveterate letter writer, a correspondent extraordinaire. (John and Abigail Adams were among her heroes.) In fact, her handwriting looks a little larger than usual here: she filled pages of smallish stationery with compact lines of her distinctive curly script, although these seemed to loosen up as she grew older. They used to be straighter, too—you can see the sort of ups and downs of age. Mom’s handwriting, while meticulous, is not as legible as my dad’s. (I remember as a kid being unable to read her signature.) But it seems to be that way to encourage study, to ask for a commitment of time and attention. Perhaps written by a quiet-voiced person with a lot of big things to show and tell and say. The script, perhaps, of a historical librarian. (And my mother was a very good one.) I have no plans to make a font of it—perhaps because I love this handwriting most of all.


Miscellanea

» Handwriting in America: A Cultural History. (Penmanship used to be taught differently, depending.)

» Pen to Paper. A collection of the handwriting from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.

» The Nuclear Regulatory Commission gets rid of a 54-year-old handwriting rule

» …but handwriting ain’t history yet—witness a Bengaluru-based calligraphist’s love of the pen.

» If computers have ruined your handwriting—can it be saved?

» Not everyone hates the idea of writing by hand(“That’s neat. I’d like to try that someday.”)

» How about calligraphy and crumpets? Handwriting and wine?

Sharpening the Penknife: A Letter from 1837
Thursday, November 5th, 2015
Portrait of a Man Trimming His Quill (Rembrandt, 1632).

Portrait of a Man Trimming His Quill (Rembrandt, 1632).

Do you know the term “penknife”? Did you know that a penknife—far from the small folding pocketknife we might think of today—once had a razor-sharp, fixed blade and was used for shaping (or reshaping) the tips of quills into nibs for dipping in ink? In fact, a number of artists through history thought this small task of writers and record-keepers noble enough to preserve on canvas.

But mostly the sharpening of pens happened much as the pruning of fingernails—a small, routine, uncelebrated chore peripheral to important business at hand.

Important business at hand (moving house and office) has kept me from updating this little penman’s journal for several weeks. My apologies. But I’ve thought of something you might like to read: a letter from 1837, written by Emily Margaret Austin Perry—after whose hand I made the font Emily Austin. In particular, a letter she wrote home to her husband, James Franklin Perry, on 19-21 June 1837, while away from Peach Point Plantation, Texas.

Emily Margaret Austin Perry.

Emily Margaret Austin Perry.

Below are scans of her letter’s four pages, each followed by a literal transcription of the words it contains.

Emily’s letter gives a snapshot view of Texas and the South in that year. Her penmanship gives a hint into the kind of focused, determined woman she was. (Like most letter-writers of the period, Emily cared less about spelling than about getting her point across.) And despite the startling evidence that the Perrys were slave-owners, her words do tend to support the assertion of Rutherford B. Hayes (who visited Peach Point Plantation in 1848) that Emily was “an excellent motherly sort of woman, whose happiness consists in making others happy.”

Note: The “B” in “E. M. B. Perry” stands for “Bryan,” after her first husband, James Bryan, who died in 1822.

 

Page 1 of a letter from Emily Perry to her husband, James, from 1837.

Emily Austin Perry’s letter, page 1.

Lexington June 19th 1837

My Dear Husband

I have just received your truly welcome letter, which was a source of great pleasure to me by 7 June N. Orleans—for I had began to feal great anxiety to hear from you; I hope long before this comes to hand, you will have arrived safe at home; my Health is very much as it was, but think it will improve, when my mind is more at ease; about the Children; Eliza gives me a great deal of Trouble, she is so very rude and impolite; that she keeps me in a Fever all the time; and with all; so very hard to manage; —I shall start her to School to morrow; to a Mr. Ward; (on trial) he is an Episcopal Clern he, several years ago resided in St. Louis. I know his Correcton very well; and he is well calculated to manage such a Disposition as Eliza’s it is uncertain wheather he will receive her as a Boarder If I can git her into Mr. Wards Family for a year Mrs Holly thinks that it will be the best School in the State, he has agreed to receive her, on trial; for a short time; and if Eliza Should happen to please him, prohaps I may prevail on him to Board her, for a Year—, She has taken one Lesson in Dancing, & I have Spoken to a musick-master to teach her in that branch I find that Eliza will require so much attention; (for her Head is not well) and is in want of so many articles of Clothing; that I have concluded to remain with her un till I go to Missouri, & have given up my trip to Pennsylvania; for indeed, I am tiard of travling & long to be at Home

Page 2 of a letter from Emily Perry to her husband, James, from 1837.

Emily Austin Perry’s letter, page 2.

Guy will leave in a Week for Kenion Collage; in Company with a Mr. Waddel and two other Young Lads, that are going to the Same School. Mr Waddell is a Gentleman that I became acquainted with on board of the Steam-Boat; he is going on to Washington City. I have consented to let Austin go with him; he leaves his Family in this Place; he expects to be gone Six Weeks; I think the Journey will be of great advantage to Austin; besides having an oppertunity of travling with a Gentleman of information & Talence—the greatest wish that I have in this world, is that my Children should have every advantage that I have the Power of giving them—I am Sorry that Col. Bees Draft was not paid, but am not disapained; for their never was the like Seen, nothing taulked of but the Hard Times; the Clergey are proclaiming from the Pulpit the distress of the Country—&C.&C.—I have by me at this time a bout Seven Hundred Dollars; Austins & Guys expences will have to come out of it—their is still five Hundred Dollars to draw on the Letter of Credit; in Louisville; If you can sell any of my land, do so; for I wish very much to Buy me a Negro Girl, when I return I shall remain hear un till the first of September; but you will know of my movements, for I shall write every Week—and you must do the same, and in the meantime; if their is no likelihood of the Countrys being invaded again, make every exertion to have the two Rooms Put up by the time I return, for I expect to bring quite a Family back—I hope you will have the Garden well attented to, & the Yard inclosed as we spoke of—do not neglect having the Graves Poled in & let Simon White-Wash them; if you do not have them painted I also wish you to make a trip into Coles Settlement, and attend to the Land in that part of the Country—You must be very industrious and have every thing under way as fast as possible; for I wish you to meat me in New Orleans, by the first of November—for I wish Austin to spend a Winter in that City in Some, business House; before he

Page 3 of a letter from Emily Perry to her husband, James, from 1837.

Emily Austin Perry’s letter, page, 3.

commences for himself—If Mr. Sumvill Should want lots in Quintonna, to commence business, I wish you to let him have them, I wish you to attent to the Mattegorda Property—do write to me often and let us have all the News; for their are dreadfull stories in the News-Papers about Texas; (I say Stories for I believe them all Lies.) it is stated that the Armey & Country is in a State of Starvation & confusion; no money; and that the Speculaters have taken up all the land in the Country that is worth having; and that their is no doubt but what the Mexicans will invade Texas this Summer; & all this does not give me any uneasiness, I mearly mentioned it to let you see that Lies are told about that Beautifull Country—I have heard from Missouri Mr S. Woodson is Dead, hes left Widdow & Seven Children, almost destitute—Alfred is doing very little—If I have any money to Spare, I should like to assist poor Marie; her eldest son, I named & called him after our lamented Brother; I am told he is a very Smart Sprightly Boy—I should like very much to take him to Texas; if his Mother is willing, & you approve of it; and think we can do, any thing for him; Mrs. Alfred has taken one of the Daughters & Honey Bates a Son—As to changing the names of our Son’s You know that I spoke of it last winter; that I wish’d Austin to assume the Name of his Grand-Father, & as Little S. F. Austin is now Dead, it would be the greatest Pleasure in the World for our Son to take the name of his departed Uncle; & I have the Vanity to think that he will represent his Uncle with much more credit that his poor Little neglected namesake would have done—I am living with Mrs. Holly, she is very kind indeed, & is very pleasantly Situated; Henery’s Daughters are Beautifull Girls, and do great credit to their Father & Texas; they are boath anxious to return to their adopted Country;—I hope in a few years our Wild Rude little Daughter will be as interesting as the Miss Austins—remember me affectionately to Cousin Henery, tell him we are all looking for him with much impatience the Children all join in love to you & Joel; tell Joel to write to me; do not neglect our Dear little Sons; O! how often do I think of Henery I hope you have been to see them; my Paper is full. Adieu God bless you all your Wife E. M. B. Perry—

Page 4 of a letter from Emily Perry to her husband, James, from 1837.

Emily Austin Perry’s letter, page 4.

June 21st
I hope you will have my Horses well attended to, also the two Poneys; for they will all be wanted when I return Home with the Girls & if Mrs. Holly visits Texas, she will want a Horse to ride—If you should have Carpenters, imployed, I wish you to have a Necessary House built; in the Back Yard, in the corner of the Fence by the Lane, and on a line with the Hen-House, it can set over the Dich; these City Dames will think it Horrible to run into the Woods.—You must examin the Draws in the Secretary & see that the Bugs does not cut every thing to peaces, also two Large Trunks in the little Bed-Room & the things that I left in the Band-Box’s—I told Milley & Clarissa about them, but you had better attend your self & see that they seen them all—in Building if you can find a place to Stick a Closset in do so for these are so convenient, and will do a way the use of Trunks, they are such a Harber for roches; I wish you to have a Safe made, it can stand in the little Passage where the rooler Towels, are have some throughs made to set the legs in to hold Water—I wish Clarissa to put up as many pickles as she can; she must make the Brine of raine Water; attend to my Vinegar Cask don’t let it all leak out—I hope you will be able to send me some more funds; If you could see Col Love, it would be a good opportunity for he will visit this place, his Daughter is living with Mrs. Holley & is quite a fine Girl; I should be highly pleased to have him for a Neighbour, prohaps Joel could sell his Lots in Brazoria to him—Their is a report that the Mexicans are marching on Texas with a large Force; & the greatest part of their Armey is composed of Forin-Troops; who are goin to Drive every Texan out of the Country—I wish you to send your Nephews a number of the Telegraph and Velasco Herreld; they know very little a bout Texas; and the Lies that are continually published does great injury to the Country;—Remember me to the Mr Borders I hope you will have the Town Plots Drawn off I wish very much I had braute one of Quintonna with me; Robert & Thomas Balding would be very glad to see one—if you should conclude to Sell any of the Lots this Summer send a Plot to New Orleans—; I also regret that I have not some Deeds of Land with me; for if I should run out of Funds I could sell Some Land—Adieu, One more for I expect your patience is exaused; remember me to Mrs. Henry & Daughter, & to all my neighbours Guy is in Town with me; Austin has gone out, to see Mrs. Blackwell she sent her second Brother in for him; a very Handson Smart Young man I expect to make her a Visit as soon as I git Eliza Fixed for School—Do not neglect writing to me, and let us hear all the News; so that we may know the trouthe—; remember me to all the negros; Old Mary & Sarah I hope to God you may all keep your Healths this Summer—that is all that gives me any uneasiness; —I wish to have the Frunt and Back Yard devided off—Dont show this Scrawl to any one for I am fearful that you will find some trouble in reading it—
Once more your truly attached Wife
Emily

(My copy of this letter came courtesy of the Briscoe Center for American History, Barker Texas History Collection.)


Miscellanea

» These days if you want to write a letter with a fine ink pen, you could spend $1,000.

» That old library card catalog has pretty much gone extinct—and with it instructions to use legible cursive.

» Another argument about how handwriting is good for the brain.

» And the value of penmanship won rousing support in a Taunton School Committee candidate’s forum.

» This young lad’s in the finals of a UK handwriting competition.

» But on the other end of the spectrum, meanwhile, there’s some shaming going on.

» A century-old love letter with a “twirly” style of writing turns up under some Irish floorboards.

» Finally, here’s a little how-to—you know, in case you need to brush up on your handwriting skills.

Sam Houston Talks
Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
Sam Houston by Mathew Brady

Senator Sam Houston (photo circa 1861 by Mathew Brady).

Note: From time to time I’ll be introducing you to a particular historical letter or letters that I’ve used as source materials for our old penmanship fonts. Up first, the inspiration for Houston Pen.

* * *

If you got together in a room a group of historic Americans who might described as “larger than life,” Sam Houston would stand tall. Citizen of the Cherokee Nation, veteran of the War of 1812. political protégé of Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of San Jacinto, twice President of Texas, U.S. Senator, opponent of Confederate secession—he happens also to have been the only person elected governor of two U.S. states (Tennessee and Texas).

Houston was a skillful politician and statesman—and he wrote a lot of letters.

It’s a little-known fact* that many of those letters were to Native Americans. Unlike some of his contemporaries (ahem, Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar), he sought peace, friendship, and cooperation with the native tribes of Texas. He called these letters “talks,” since they usually had to be read to their recipients. But in them he used language as flowery as the flourish of his penmanship, which no doubt helped him get his point across.

Sam Houston letter to the Chiefs of the Border Tribes

First page of an 1843 letter by Texas President Sam Houston to the Chiefs o the Border Tribes.

I have before me a copy of a draft of a letter Houston sent to the Chiefs of the Border Tribes on 13 February 1843, during his second term as President of the Republic of Texas—a letter urging peace after a time of conflict and suffering during the intervening term of President Lamar.

From the evenness of his script, to his careful choice of words, to several corrections on the pages, you can tell Houston was eager to get the message just right. He changed the first few lines, in fact, from these…

Brothers, The great rains have passed by, and the earth is not now hin [sic] from us by the waters. The sun is again sun [sic], and…

…to these:

Brothers, The great rains like your sorrows, I hope have passed off, and the sun is again shining upon us. When we all make peace it will be to the heart like the sun-shine is to our eyes. We will feel joy and gladness. Sorrow will no longer fill our hearts. The noise of an enemy will not be near us, and there will be none to make us affraid [sic]. The voices of our women and children will see gladness. They will be heard cheerful as the song of Birds which sing in the green woods of summer.

Sam Houston "Talk" to Chief Linney

An 1838 “Talk” by Texas President Sam Houston to the Cherokee Chief John Linney.

Here’s the text of an earlier letter, written to Shawnee Chief John Linney on 28 September 1838 (toward the close of Houston’s first term as President), in its entirety:

My Brother

I send you the Agent who will read to you my Talk and you may Know that it is true. My words shall not sink in the earth but must stand. If you know of trouble or any that is at any time coming, you must as my brother let me hear of it by a Talk.

Your brother
Sam Houston

The words are writ large and seem mildly condescending, but such was the nature of the times. Then again, Houston’s own script was large and legible, with occasional showy flourishes, much as the man himself came across in dress and actions.

You need look no further than the famous Matthew Brady photo of him—or his famous signature.

Sam Houston’s Signature

Sam Houston’s famous signature

* * *

*A few other little-known facts about Sam Houston:

• He ran away from home as a teenager and joined a Cherokee settlement, where he was adopted by the tribe and given the name “The Raven.” He didn’t return home to his family for a few years.

• In 1827, he became the seventh governor of the Tennessee, a position he resigned a couple years later when his new wife (of two months) left him and made embarrassing public statements about his manhood.

• As a U.S. Senator in the years leading up to the Civil War, Houston opposed division of the Union, a stance whose unpopularity back in Texas likely ruined his consideration as a candidate for President of the United States. In an 1850 address, he paraphrased the Bible with the words “A nation divided against itself cannot stand”—eight years before Abraham Lincoln’s House Divided speech.

For more information about Sam Houston (or any other famous Texan), consult The Handbook of Texas—or consider reading his definitive biography, The Raven.


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