Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cutest Historical Document Ever? From Katherine Livingston Timpson and Her Babies

In my spare time this summer I've been pouring over the delightful finds sent to me by Katherine Livingston Timpson's great grandson.  They are amazing glimpses into a history I wasn't even fully aware of.  And part of what makes them amazing is the way they tie into a history I am familiar with.

Much like this photo at right, which shows Clermont with the great veranda still intact (possibly the best photo of it that I've ever seen), the photos that have been sent to my email box every few days ring with familiarity while filling me with excitement at the new angles, moments, and faces.

So here's Katherine Livingston Timpson, John Henry's oldest daughter.  She spent part of her childhood at Clermont, and when she married Red Hook resident Lawrence Timpson in 1901, she threw her bridal breakfast here in the dining room (this photo was taken to the mansion's south.  The doors to the milk shed are in the background).

Katherine and Lawrence continued to live in the Hudson Valley for another four years, during which time they had their first two children: Theodore "Theo" and Katherine "Kay."

It was entirely by luck that I was scanning through Clermont's registry of visitors from 1900 to the 1930s that I came across the page below:




There at the top of the page on June 12th, 1903 is a visit from Katherine Livingston, Theodore Livingston, and the new baby Katherine Livingston.  The most charming part of the page of course is the addition of "his mark" and "her mark" where Katherine handed the pen in turn, first to her toddler, and then to her baby and gave them each a chance to "sign" the book.  Theo had signed the book twice before, but this was the first time his sister earned the honor.  

Perhaps it is the young mother in me, but it certainly gave me an "awwwww" moment.  Was it right around the time this photo was taken? (Perhaps not, Katherine looks to be quite a big baby) Can you imagine John Henry bouncing the new children on his knee?  What rhymes did he recite to them?  Did he pinch their cheeks?
This little moment of family life was rife with tradition as the children each took the pen and signed the book in a sort of ceremonial gesture, but also with familial love that identified the them as worthy of being recorded for all of history in the household register.  

It reminds me of all the little things we do with babies even today that they may not understand, but that confirm their identity as being part of our families.  They sign birthday cards.  They open presents at their first birthday (often long after they've gotten bored with it).  They are present at the Thanksgiving dinner table even though they'd much rather be under it chasing the family dog.  With a stroke of the pen, Katherine and John Henry were bringing little Kay and Theo into the Livingston fold.




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