Emily Elliott was a 21-year-old school teacher in Ohio at the outbreak of the Civil War. From 1861-1867, Emily’s diary captured her wartime and post-war experience in more than 32,000 words. She married her beau, Jonas Denton Elliott, three days before he went to war as an officer in the Union Army. He wrote the diary entry for their wedding day. Over the next two years, Emily recorded Denton’s story from the details of his letters, and described her life on the home front amidst a constant mix of hope and anxiety. By the end of 1863, she could not bear the distance any longer and traveled into the South to visit Denton at Union-occupied Nashville. Upon her return home, Emily continued to analyze every update from the front to convince herself that the war would soon be over and she and Denton could begin their life together—but it was not meant to be. In October 1864, she received the news that, at the age of 24, she was a widow. She entered into mourning, using her diary as a tool for healing, and eventually travelled into the south after the war to stand beside Denton’s shallow grave and arrange for a more proper burial. His body was moved to the Stones River National Cemetery in Murfreesboro, TN, where he lies beside 6,100 Union comrades and holds the distinction of being the highest-ranking offer buried there. Through her diary, Emily captured the zeitgeist of a Civil War wife and widow, perhaps better than any of her contemporaries. A few outtakes from it are pictured above.
Clara Kimball Young was a hugely popular American actress during the early silent film era. A 1914 poll showed that she was the most popular actress in America at the time. Clara appeared in over 150 films and was the second female film star to start a namesake film production company. At the time of this 1921 diary, she was thirty years old and actively shooting several films per year. During the diary, Clara went on a nine day fast during which she seemed to eat barely any food at all. She lost twelve pounds in nine days. She described elaborate meals that her family enjoyed while she only enjoyed the smells. On the fourth day of the fast, which Clara was undergoing with a girl named Carolyn, Clara wrote: “While the rest eat, we sit in the living room and invent new dishes and plan what we are going to eat when we finish our “hunger strike”.” In the midst of her nine day fast, Clara wrote a diary entry with an eloquent description of society’s demands on celebrities when it comes to their weight. This entry is pictured above.
Henrietta St. Felix, born 1864, was a member of the Victorian singing act “The St. Felix Sisters”. The act originally consisted of four sisters: Henrietta, Clementina, Charlotte, and Leonora. Leonora passed away in 1880. The sisters’ act consisted of original song and dance sketches that were described as “refined and elegant”. Their costumes were noted for their “richness of fabric and elegance of design”. The St. Felix Sisters went on annual tours of the United States and Canada. Henrietta’s diary covers the entirety of their European tour from 1887-1889. During this tour, the sisters travelled to most of the major cities in Western Europe. Pictured above are some of Henrietta’s candid observations of cities they visited.
Edgar J. Doolittle was 19-years-old in the summer of 1829 when he kept this small diary, which chronicles his travels through the coast of New England. He later graduated from the Yale Divinity School and became an ordained minister. The excerpts pictured above portray some of the religious views he expressed in the diary.