Dear Friend Robert Merry: Letters from nineteenth-century children

How to use this book

1840s: 184118421843184418451846184718481849

1850s: 18501851 • 1852 • 1853185418551856185718581859

1860s: 1860186118621863186418651866186718681869

1870s: 187018711872

About the Merry Cousins


Index & gloss


The Cousins’ Greatest Hits



Norwich, Dec. 1, 1851.

I guess, Dear Mr. Merry, (for I am a regular Yankee,) that you have plenty of letters from all sides, without caring about my swelling the list; but the truth is, I am a pretty go-a-head sort of a genius, and when I have made up my mind to do a thing (provided that there is nothing really wrong in it) I generally accomplish it.

Now, the other day, as I was going to school, I met Bob —, and he showed me a magazine that he had just subscribed for, and of which he felt very proud. Well, I looked at it and said all I could in its praise; but he was not quite satisfied with my cool encomiums, and he called me envious, and said it was a mean sort of a spirit that never could find other people’s possessions decently pretty. Now this Bob is a good deal of a quarreller, and I did not care to have any words with him, so I walked along without replying, opening my book and pretending to be occupied with one of my lessons. I really believe, however, that to a truly passionate person, silence is excessively provoking, and, perhaps, I had done better to have given him “a soft answer,” than none at all. However that may be, I saw that Bob was getting madder at every step, and his example I unwisely followed; and there we stood, with red faces, snapping eyes, and fists all ready for a close. I now capped the climax by telling him that Merry’s Museum was worth fifty such magazines as his, and at it we went, for ten minutes, when we both fell into quite a sizeable puddle in the road. This somewhat cooled our ardor, and we “breathless all arose.”

Just then father came along, and we, after a time, succeeded in calming ourselves sufficiently to explain the cause of our falling out, falling in, and falling down. Father blamed us both—but me the most. He told me that I had the advantage of learning good precepts and noble characteristics in my books at home, many of which, dear Sir, are by your friend, Mr. Parley; and, in the end, he made me rather ashamed of myself, and with my head a little less high than usual, I left Bob and pursued my way to school.

The next day my father told me to send one of my loose numbers of the Museum to Bob, and so I did, choosing out, with some malice, one that contained one of the most interesting chapters of Billy Bump: he read it, Sir, and so triumphe! The next day he came to borrow another, and now he is not only reading all my back volumes, but is saving his money to subscribe for the forthcoming ones. Another time I shall know better than to fisticuff in Merry’s favor—I will use gentler means.

Harry C.

“a soft answer”: Bible, Proverbs 15:1: “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”

Peter Parley: the extremely-popular character created by Samuel Goodrich; beginning in 1827, Peter Parley directly addressed young readers in books calculated to educate them about the world and its inhabitants. Children reacted immediately, loving the old man with the gouty foot so much that unscrupulous publishers appropriated Parley for their own works. Frustrated by the flood of counterfeit Parleys, Goodrich actually “killed off” his creation in Peter Parley’s Farewell, a study of metaphysics published in 1840, and announced his death in the Museum in 1841—to the surprise of several readers. Parley was “resurrected” in 1845, when Parley’s Magazine was absorbed by the Museum. He joined “Robert Merry” as a putative editor of the magazine.

Billy and Lucy Bump (in Robert Merry’s Museum ; 1848-1850), characters in “Billy Bump in Boston” (1848-1849), “Billy Bump Off for California” (1849), and three “Letters from Billy Bump” (1850). In humorous letters between Billy and his mother at home in Sundown, country-bumpkin Billy describes his efforts to fit into the social and cultural life of his Boston relatives and to impress his cousin, Lucy. Billy’s adventures allow the author to comment on society and to teach the reader good manners and ethics. A raccoonskin cap given Billy by an old friend temporarily makes him an object of derision, but he gains the respect of his tormentors. He also gained the respect of his readers, who defended Billy’s blunders and his awkward attempts at poetry. When the family fortunes fail, Billy is off for the gold fields of California and for adventures that teach him and the readers the evils of greed and of immoral living.


Centreville, Mich., Dec. 20, 1851.

Dear Mr. Merry:—I have been a subscriber to your Museum, and I now send you one dollar to pay for the coming year. I see your terms are $1,50, if payment be delayed till the close of the year. Now this is all honest, and it convinces me of the truth of the remark, that people who go on trust have to pay dear for their accommodations. My father was for many years a merchant, and I have heard him say that if people knew how much more they have to pay, good men, who ever mean to pay at all, would not take credits.

I see you dont try to make us little fellows think our credit is as good as our cash, but you come right out and say, “I make 50 per cent. difference between credit and cash.” I think there ought to be even more difference than that, for many who get trusted, never pay at all. Only a few days ago my father had a hard debt, and gave a man $218 for a span of poor old horses, and a worn out waggon and harness, all of which he sold for $115, and thought he got a good price. One of the horses was so old that he said he felt like taking off his hat to him whenever he came in his presence. Mr. Merry, my father says that the letters in the Museum are all written by yourself, but I do not believe it; and I tell him that he will see, when this is published, that you do not write them all. I have all the volumes of Merry’s Museum back to 1843. I shall try to get other children to take the Museum, for they are all wanting to borrow mine, and I am willing to lend it, but would rather that they take it themselves. If they would take it one year, I am sure they would be permanent subscribers. My father says that if it cost $3 a year, he would take it for us. We have good sleighing now, and it is vacation in our school until New Years. We have an excellent school, and it is said we have the best school-house in the state. It is a large, splendid building—has a bell and a lightning rod. So you see our parents think we are worth raising.

Your friend,
E. L. S.

subscription price: Paid in advance, a subscription was $1; paid at the end of the year, it was $1.50.

school: Established in 1843, Centreville’s first public school was moved into a large, two-story building in 1848, with Hiram Hamilton as teacher. [History of St. Joseph County, Michigan. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1911; p. 424]


Fulton, Miss., Nov. 24th, 1851.

Mr. Merry:—Dear sir, permit me to introduce myself to you. My name is Alma. I live in a small town called Fulton, nicknamed Fool-town. It is situated in the north-eastern part of Mississippi, two miles from Tombigby river. I have two brothers, Frederick and Louis; Frederick is thirteen years old, Louis is only five. I’ll not tell you my own age, but leave it for you to guess.

We have been taking the Museum for the last two years, and intend to take it as long as we live, or at least as long as you publish it. We all love dearly to read the letters written by the little boys and girls. One day I told brother Fred that I intended writing a letter for the Museum myself. Fred laughed heartily, and said you would never condescend to publish a letter that came from Fool-town. I didn’t know what to say to this, for I recollected that I had never seen a letter in the Museum from our town, or from any other part of Mississippi. But, Mr. Merry, I concluded to write one, and if you do publish it, wont brother Fred be surprised? It is now time for me to go to school. Good bye, dear Mr. Merry.


two brothers: Charles Frederick Kohlheim (born c. 1838, Tennessee) and Louis A. Kohlheim (born c1846, Mississippi) [M432. 1850 United States Census; reel #373: 438. • M653. 1860 United States Census; reel #590: 632.]


Detroit, Dec. 11th, 1851.

Dear Mr. Merry:—Since I have last written to you, spring, summer and autumn have passed away. The trees are bare and stripped of their golden foliage, which is now rudely scattered on the ground by the cold winds. Winter, cold and bleak, has come, with its snows, ice and frost. It is now, Mr. Merry, that, when seated around the blazing fireside, we hail the arrival of the “Museum,” and pore over its interesting contents. Indeed it is always welcome to us, and we receive with gladness its monthly visits. I saw this summer a balloon ascension, and as I had never seen one before, it interested me very much. It appeared very wonderful to see a man mount into the clouds above our heads, without any motion of his own, but raised from the earth by the power of gas, which is lighter than the surrounding atmosphere, and, Mr. Merry, I then wished that I was one of the interesting company of young people who were making Balloon Voyages with you around the earth, while at the same time sitting comfortably in your office. I am alarmed at the long silence of our friend “Billy Bump,” and I am afraid some accident must have happened to him, in his wanderings in California, to prevent him writing to the “Museum.” I am much interested in the story of “Gilbert Go-ahead,” and send him my best wishes of future prosperity, as I do also to you and all your readers.

I remain your friend,

“Balloon Travels”: “Balloon Travels Around the World” (1851-1856). Imaginary balloon trips—Robert Merry felt too old for the real thing—took Merry and five representative readers around the world. At each point, Merry told the children about the region’s history and geography. He also gave advice on morality, economics, and the glories of America. It was reprinted as The Balloon Travels of Robert Merry and His Young Friends (NY: J. C. Derby & Co., 1855).

Gilbert Go-ahead, title character in “The Adventures of Gilbert Go-Ahead.” It was the Museum’s longest-running serial (1851-1855, 1856). The quintessential Connecticut Yankee, Gilbert relies on shrewdness, pragmatism, luck, and a large collection of aphorisms on his journey through Asia in search of trade. Adventures that include shipwreck, enslavement, escape (once, via hippopotamus), and philosophical arguments with those he meets teach Gilbert and the reader about the lands through which he travels, the value of education, and the evils of greed. Not every reader believed Gilbert’s adventures—especially the hippo ride—but the serial was the most popular in the magazine’s history.


My Dear Mr. Merry—I wish to tell you about some little chipping birds which I tamed. The first time I saw them, they had built their nest in some vines on our piazza. I gave them daily some crumbs of bread to eat, and made them very tame. They hatched their young ones, but when they began to fly, my cat caught and killed them. The old pair built another nest, in one of the vines, in front of the house. The mother was setting when another cat got up into the nest and ate her eggs. The old birds however seemed to like me very much, for the next summer they came back again. I think they were the same, for I forgot to tell you that they would come and sit on the ground, and sing until I went to feed them; and those that returned the second year, acted just the same way. They built their nest in a barberry bush, and hatched three little birds, which I fed with strawberries. I only used to give them a few, for fear of hurting them. These birds used to visit me in the house. This winter a pair of chickadees come and sing every morning and night at the door, until I go and feed them. I think they are the same as the chipping birds. They eat the same way, and it is said that chickadees are chipping birds with a winter dress on. The other morning, when Jack Frost was very snappish, I did not find them as early as usual, and was standing by the window when one of the dear little chickadees flew several times from [p. 95 ] the vines on the piazza against the glass where I was standing. I thought, Mr. Merry, that he knew me and wanted to tell me that he was hungry. The other day they brought four more to feed on my crumbs. I feed them all regularly, but the new ones are not as tame as the old ones are. Now please to tell me Mr. Merry whether the chickadees are my chipping birds, or not, and whether you think the little bird knew that I was his provider, and wanted to remind me of my duty.

From your black-eyed friend,
Suzy W—.

chipping-bird: probably the chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina ). Robert Merry explained: “A chickadedee is not a chipping bird, and never can be. They are birds of a different species. [ … ] The chipping-bird is a sparrow, but the chickadedee is a small woodpecker.” (1852.1.95)


Murfreesboro’, Dec. 21, 1851.

Mr. Merry:—I am but a little girl of eight years old, but I am fond of music and drawing, both of which I practise; and I like your book for its various wood-cut engravings, which I take as models for my drawing lessons. Of course I read the contents of each number. I sometimes have to wait until my brothers read it, before I can get a look at it; so, you see, you are sought after in these parts.

L. E. L.


Jamaica Plain, Mass., Jan. 18th, 1852.

Mr. Robert Merry,—Respected Sir: Although you are now in foreign lands, discharging the duties that devolve upon your office, still doubtless you remember the pretty town where for sometime you dwelt, and which is now, and has been for many years, the residence of your correspondent. It is now covered with about a foot of snow; and, as I write, the little flakes are falling fast. The pond, which you doubtless remember as one of the most beautiful in the vicinity of Boston, is frozen hard, and workmen are busily engaged in removing the cakes of ice to different places. The scene is perhaps the very opposite of the one which lies stretched before you. We have had intelligence of the late conduct of Louis Napoleon, and we hope sincerely that it will soon be at an end, and that all this tumult will cease, if for no other reason, than because it might place our old friend, Robert Merry, in danger.


Louis Napoleon: Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (1808-1873), Napoleon III, emperor of France (1852-1870). After a failed attempt to overthrow King Louis Philippe, he was imprisoned until his escape in 1846. The revolt in Feb 1848 succeeded where he had failed, and Louis Napoleon was elected President of the Republic in December 1848; with the approval of the French people, he seized power in a coup d’état in December 1851. A new constitution soon followed, and the Empire was officially re-established in December 1852.


Abbeville, C. H., So. Ca., Nov. 24, 1851.

I went to Vermont last spring, to see my grandpa’, uncles, aunts, and cousins. I had a delightful visit; and my cousins, who are constant readers of your “Museum,” gave me two or three bound volumes, which delighted me so much, that my dear uncle concluded to send it to me at this place. When I got home, lo and behold, I found a number of it here; and it has made its very welcome monthly visits ever since. I have read a great many of the pretty stories to my dear little brother Willie; and the little fellow would open his mouth, and stretch his eyes, as though he would devour every word. I know he will subscribe for the Museum when he learns to read. I intend to try and send my uncle some more names for the Museum, if I can get them.

Your affectionate friend,
L. H. B.


Murfreesboro’, Tenn., Jan. 6, 1852.

Dear Mr. Merry:—I was only five years old when papa first took your Museum for me. Then I could only read the little stories, but now I am eight years old, and I can read everything in it. I often read the back Nos. over and over again, and do not know how to do without them. I send you a dollar for your Museum, and also a puzzle, which you are at liberty to publish or not, as you please.



Albany, Jan. 24, 1852.


My mother was a large rose-geranium, with the darkest foliage, and the daintiest lilac flowers that the garden contained. Her beauty received many compliments from the visitors who frequented my master’s dwelling. I had long been considered the most lovely of her numerous offspring.

One fine morning in spring, the gardener cut me off the large bush which had hitherto been my only abode; and placing me in a flower-pot, left me to my own meditations, which were of no agreeable nature. I was frantic at the thought of being torn from friends and home. Life seemed insupportable. But I soon found that my new master treated me very kindly. Every morning before sunrise, and every evening at twilight, I received a shower of pure water. I was sheltered from the rude winds, and not a particle of dust was allowed to rest upon me. I soon recovered my former spirits, and endeavored to make those around me happy.

In a short time I was again transported from my habitation and placed in a beautiful china vase, by a young girl, who then carried me to her room. I took a hasty survey of the apartment, and found to my great delight, that I was standing next to my dear mother. She scarcely knew me.

I had grown so tall,

And so handsome withal.

Mother told me many little bits of gossip, and as we had always moved in the first society, I was soon apprised of the movements of the “upper ten.” Mrs. Horse-shoe Geranium had eloped with young Augustus Heliotrope. Fanny Migionette was married to Charles Daffodil. Hortense Tuberose had broken her engagement with Erastus Fuschia, and the Count and Countess Violette had gone to Italy. Lord Yellow Dahlia had presented the “Mourning Widow” with an engagement ring, and “people said” they were to be married at the mansion of Marchioness de Piony. The bride’s dress was to be black velvet, shot with silver. She had intended to wear a lighter costume, but she was to start for Europe immediately after the ceremony. Our conversation was here interrupted by the entrance of my mistress who removed my mother to another window. We are still near enough to whisper across the room when the air is pure. The Marquis de Stockgillie, who is my next neighbor is a delightful companion. All day yesterday he kept glancing across the pathway that divides his mansion from my own, and sighing dolefully. It is [an] old saying that “Every sigh wastes a drop of the heart’s life-blood,” but I have no intention that he shall die. Adieu.

E. B. C.


Foxboro, Mass., Feb. 18, 1852.

Mr. Merry:—There are a great many copies of the Museum taken in this village, and we are very much pleased with it. Our village is one of the go-a-head places, if there is any such in Mass. They make a great many straw bonnets here—enough, I should think, to supply the inhabitants of the whole world.

You do not think of going to California do you? If you should, I don’t know what we should do, not having your interesting Magazine to read.

W. C.


Mr. Merry:—I have read your stories of dogs and Gilbert Go-a-head, but I think I have one that will beat them all. I know a man who said, that one day he wanted some sturgeon. So he went along down the river, spearing sturgeon, until he came to a spot where they were very thick; so he threw down his spear, and jumped in, and began picking them up in his arms and carrying them ashore, until he got his wagon full, and there was not one of them less than three or four feet long. Now you may think this rather a large story; but I know the man who told it.

L. F. B.


Memphis, Tenn., Feb. 17, 1852.

Dear Sir:—I have been taking your interesting Magazine for some years. I have a little sister about six years old; and, though she has never been to school, she can read very well, and every person that has heard her, says that she is the best reader of her age they ever saw. She reads the Museum regularly every month. I have found ou[t] the enigma in the February number is Governo[r] Kossuth.

P. L.

little sister: Imogen Latham, a later subscriber.

enigma: from Anna (1852.1.64)


Niagara Falls, Feb. 9, 1852.

Mr. Peter Parley:—I notice that you occasionally publish boy’s letters, but I have some doubt whether they are really written by boys, and I am quite anxious to know. My father tells me that I can only find out by writing to you myself. My little sister and I are very much interested in your “Balloon Travels around the World,” and the more so, because our father has just returned from a tour in Europe; and, among other things, he has told us that when he was in Paris he had the pleasure of visiting at your house, with a number of American gentlemen, and seeing the real Peter Parley. I know you must have seen everything that you describe in your travels; for our father tells us your descriptions are perfectly true. I hope you will give us a long chapter of travels in every number of your Magazine, and I wish you could find time to tell something about Paris, and oblige your young friend

V. M. P.

little sister: probably Jane H. Porter (born c1844, New York) [M704. 1840 United States Census; reel #311: 11. • M432. 1850 United States Census; reel #561: 254.]


Terre Haute, Ind.

I thought I should like to write you a letter myself; but I am only eight years old, and am just learning to write. I have two little sisters, one six years old and the other one. I have a little pony, and I take great pleasure in riding him when the weather is warm. We have a great town here; it is called the Prairie City.

J. B. T.

two little sisters: Anna E. Tolbert (born c1846, Indiana) and Ada L. Tolbert (born c1850, Indiana). Later, Kate and Alice were born, as was Olive, who died three days after her birth. [M432. 1850 United States Census; reel #177: 234. • M653. 1860 United States Census; reel #303: 500. • Woodlawn Cemetery, Terre Haute, Vigo County, Indiana, Index of Burials, 1839 Thru 1899, comp. Simona Lansaw. Kentucky, Owensboro: Cook-McDowell Publications, Inc., 1980; p. 225. • “Woodlawn Burial Records, Terre Haute, Vigo County, Indiana.” 1941-1942; p. 333. • Vigo County, Indiana. “Index to Death Records, Vigo County [Indiana], 1882-1920.” Comp. Indiana Works Progress Administration. 1940; vol 3: 219)]


Marietta, O., Dec. 27, 1851.

Mr. Merry:—I enclose you a dollar for the Museum, which was a Christmas present from my uncle; and, as my brother and sister were getting too old to take it, I determined to take it myself, for I became so much attached to it, by seeing it in the family ever since I was a very, very little girl, that I disliked to part with it, for it seemed like an old friend. I did not write this letter, but got my cousin to write it; but then you see, Mr. Merry, I told her what to say.

F. H. K.


Wheeloch, Choctaw Nation, Mar. 9, 1852.
Within 13 miles of Fort Towson.

Dear Mr. Merry:—As I was reading the last “Museum, No. 2,” I wondered whether you ever received any letters from the Indian boys that run through the woods of the far West.

I am a straight, black-haired Indian, of the Choctaw tribe; yes, a real copper-colored boy of the woods. I came to live with the missionaries a few years ago, and from them have learned many things. They are very kind to me, and tell me much about this great world, which I always thought to be as flat as a plate—supported on the backs of the big servants of the great Spirit.

They have taught me to read, and you see that I can write. I hope to improve in writing, and also in everything else that is good, so that I may be able to write a long story for the “Museum.” Do you not think that I could interest the white boys and girls of what we call the white man’s country?

I don’t believe all the readers of the Museum know all about the Indians; and now I wish that you would favor them with a story of a few pages in the Museum. I want to see how true a story you can give us. You give us very many interesting accounts of men and things of other countries.

I do not know but I am writing too long a letter to you, Mr. Whiteman; but I have not told you anything about myself. If you are as kind as I think you are to little boys, you will bear with me for a few lines more.

I am a hunter, and shoot well with the bow and blow-gun, play ball, climb trees, and shoot the deer, bear, wolf, elk, or buffalo, with the long rifle. I love very much to hunt and camp out at night; so do I love to study, read and write.

Now, dear Mr. Merry, if you have a mind, I would stop at this. If you please, give my best love to all your young friends.


mission: Perhaps the Presbyterian mission, which was begun in 1845; the Spencer Academy here was founded by the Choctaws in 1842 and administered by the Presbyterians, beginning in 1845. Before the Civil War, the boarding school had at least 100 students. [Clifford Merrill Drury. Presbyterian Panorama. Philadelphia: Board of Christian Education, 1952; p. 146.]


Madisonville, April 1, 1852.

Dear Mr. Merry:—We have taken the Museum over two years, and I assure you we have derived much instruction and amusement from it. We have been much pleased with the letters of your correspondents, which I see are from almost all parts of the Union, except Louisiana; so I thought I would write to you, to let you know that you have some friends, even in this remote corner. There are five of us, besides a good many of our little neighbors, who hail the Museum with much pleasure; and when we get a “nut” that is too hard for us little ones, we take it to our brother and sister, and they “crack” it for us. O, dear Mr. Merry, I do wish you were here to see how beautiful everything looks. Can you believe it?—we have quite large peaches, plums, figs, &c., and strawberries and mulberries are ripe. O, I wish you could see Madisonville; it is a sweet place, (so we all think at least,) for though my parents are both Yankees, they love the place so well, that they named me Louisiana. I will send you a wreath of flowers, and shall look for this letter in the Museum; so please do not disappoint me.

Your little gray-eyed friend,
L. P.


[Editor: ] M. S. P., of Brooklyn, sends us a beautiful letter, from which we extract her account of Aunt Sally’s visit.


“Our home stands on a lofty hill, and from it we have a fine view of the sea. I was very young when my aunt came to live with us; but, young as I was, I can remember how pleased we all were when my mother told us that Aunt Sally was coming that afternoon, and my brothers expressed their delight by various antics, and my sister gave me such a squeeze that I screamed right out. Afternoon came, and with it Aunt Sally. After she had given us all a good kiss, she came into the parlor with two of us children on each side of her, talking as fast as we could. She arrived about a week before Christmas day, and my sister and brothers were out a great deal buying things for our Christmas tree. Christmas morning the snow was very deep, and we were glad, for my father had promised us a sleigh-ride to my uncle’s house, and our cousins were coming home with us to spend the day and evening. We had a nice ride, and brought our cousins back with us. We passed a very pleasant day, and a better evening—for then our little tree was displayed and the presents distributed. After supper we all went up stairs into the front room, for the tree was in the back room, and my mother and aunt had been arranging it while we were at play.

“There were presents from my father and mother, and my aunt gave one of my brothers a very beautiful vessel, and the other, who was fond of reading, four handsomely bound books. My sister and I had each a large wax doll, with a wardrobe and furniture. After we had received our presents, (my cousins included,) my father, who was distributor, took from the root of the tree a handsome dressing-case—a present from us children for our dear Aunt Sally.”


[Editor: ] Kate writes a very graceful and interesting description of her forest home in Wisconsin.


“My father came here six years ago, when there was scarcely a clearing. The lofty trees stood close by the door, and the thick underwood hid the surrounding forest from view. Then the graceful deer bounded where now grows the grain. The Indian paddled his canoe where now is heard the noisy mill. But though there have been great improvements, the forests are still numerous and large.”


Onondaga Valley, May 6, 1852.

My Dear Friend Merry:—I have been a reader of your Museum for a long time; and though I have never seen you, I feel pretty well acquainted with you. I find a great many pleasing things in the Museum. I have solved many of the enigmas it contains, from time to time; and my esteemed, yet honored friend, will pardon me when I say I think they are not very difficult.

I think your voyage round the globe with your little companions is very amusing. I have tried to keep up with you, and you need not be much surprised if I should outstrip you before you get round, for my father says balloons move only as they are moved by the wind, and you may not always have favorable breezes. The wind don’t always blow one way. Now I have been learning something about electricity, and I think I shall hitch an electrical engine to my car; then keep up with me if you can.

I think “Billy Bump” has figured pretty well, but I guess he will get a bump himself by and by.

Pardon me, Mr. Merry, for being so lengthy and familiar. You seem to me like one about my age; but my father says he thinks you may have more gray hairs than he has.

But I had most forgotten the object of my letter. A long time ago, when I first began to read, you remember you published a Number that contained some lines from your “Black-eyed Sue,” in rhyme. I think it was April, 1849. I will quote a few lines, and then you will remember it.

“I like to write,

On paper white,

To one like you,

Both kind and true—

So good to all,

Both great and small,” &c.

Now, Mr. Merry, if you will be so kind as to send me that Number, I will ever be your

Black-Eyed Gertrude.


Cuddebackville, March 13.

Dear Mr. Merry:—We have taken your Museum for seven years. My brothers used to call it theirs, but they have now relinquished their claim to me; still they read it with as much interest as before. My place of residence is situated on the banks of the Neversink river, (a branch of the Delaware,) and on the Delaware and Hudson Canal, at the foot of a small mountain. It is a very pleasant situation. There is a beautiful wire suspension aqueduct near by. There are a great many wild flowers growing on the edge of the mountain. Sister Bell and I have a great many rambles in the woods, gathering wild flowers. How I love to see the first flowers appear in the spring! I do think spring is the most delightful season of the year—don’t you, Mr. Merry? Now, Sir, if you should happen out this way, you will please give me a call. If you think this worthy, you may insert it; if you do not, you will not disappoint

Your friend,
Addie R.


Dayton, May 17, 1852.

My Dear Mr. Merry:—I hope you will excuse my writing; but as so many of your subscribers have become correspondents, I take the liberty. I wish you would persuade “Lizzie [G].” to send us some more of her very interesting accounts of the public places of resort in Paris. Dayton is a very pleasant place. I am here at school, which I like very much indeed; but you must not think, Mr. Merry, that I am a “Buck-eye.” I am a native of the “Quaker City.” I want very much to obtain the back volumes of Merry’s Museum, and hope to in a short time.

Your black-eyed subscriber,
Edith L.C.

“Quaker City”: Most commonly, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, though Mathews also lists Richmond, Indiana. [Mitford M. Mathews, ed. A Dictionary of Americanisms On Historical Principles. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1951.]


Castleton, Vt., April 15, 1852.

Dear Mr. Merry:—I have just laid down the “Museum.” I there read a letter from my cousin in Abbeville, S. C., and I thought if she could write to you, I could. I have taken the Museum ever since I can remember, and like it very well. I think that if any one has a dollar, he cannot lay it out to better advantage. I attend school at the Seminary, and study Latin and Arithmetic. We have a Seminary and Medical College. This is a flourishing village, in Rutland county. The Rutland and Washington Railroad runs through it. We cannot go any way out of the village a mile without crossing it. I send a Latin puzzle. You must not expect much from me, for I am but 12 years old.

D. G. M.

Mus cucurit plenum sed,

Contra magnum meum ad.

Seminary and Medical College: Medical College, the Castleton Medical College, chartered in 1818; it taught everything from anatomy to operative obstetrics and medical jurisprudence before closing in 1861. [History of Rutland County, Vermont. Syracuse, New York: D. Mason & Co., 1886; pp. 235, 536-537]

Seminary, probably a high school for boys, which had the Rev. Edward J. Hallock as principal from 1838 to 1856. [History of Rutland County, Vermont. Syracuse, New York: D. Mason & Co., 1886; pp. 235, 536-537]

poem: “A mouse ran full but-t against my great to-e.”


Rocky Mount, Antauga Co., Ala.,
June 29th, 1852.

Mr. Merry:—Dear Sir—Father has taken your Museum several years, and we children are always anxious for its arrival. I have read it regularly for five or six years, and have been much delighted with it; particularly with Gilbert Go-ahead, Paul and Virginia, and the Galley Slave. Our residence is very pleasant; so high and dry as to be quite healthy, though not, as its name would seem to import, a mountain, nor has it very large rocks. But in this country we call even the smallest pebbles, rocks, and we have a plenty of them. We are about ten miles north-west of Montgomery, the capital of our state. Living in the piny-woods, and being but eleven years of age, you must not expect me to write any thing very interesting; but you have published other children’s letters, and it has inspired me with the hope that you may notice mine.

Your friend,
W. H. F.

“The Galley Slave”: a two-part story (Robert Merry’s Museum ; 1852). Years after he ran away to sea, a young man is condemned to the galleys on a minor infraction; he seizes an opportunity to escape, helps his family and wins his freedom through his virtuous actions. It was reprinted as “Edward Maleen” in Parley’s Present for All Seasons (NY: Appleton & Co., 1854).

Paul and Virginia: Paul and Virginia: An Indian Story: by Jacques Henri Bernardine de Saint-Pierre (Brit.: 2nd ed. London: Vernor & Hood, 1796; Amer: Baltimore: Bonsal & Niles, 1800). Their childhood on Madagascar is simple and idyllic; when Virginia’s mother tries to ensure her daughter’s wealth, the result is tragic. In 1852 the novel was abridged in the Museum in three parts as “An Interesting Story.”


Detroit, Mich., July 19th, 1852.

Dear Mr. Merry:—I have just received the July number, and am very glad to observe that Mr. Gilbert Go-ahead has renewed again his interesting correspondence, and my opinion on the veracity of the letters, if you will allow me to give it, is this, (I mean no offence to Mr. Go-ahead,) that the main facts and incidents alluded to are true; for, indeed, we have no reason to doubt them, but that some of this worthy person’s adventures may savor a little of romance. However, I hope that Gilbert will not be so “obstinate” as to let any thing put an end to his letters, in which I, for one, am very much interested. I should be very sorry to have them discontinued. To the Charade given by “Eva,” in the July number, I offer the following solution:—

When, by cares distressed, the mind

Cannot sleep or slumber find,

Comes there oft a cheerful vision

From those dreamy lands Elysian?

Sweetly all cares off it kisses,

Changes them into caresses.

Now, Mr. Merry, if I am not writing too long a letter, I would ask you to insert the following lines, which I have recently written:—


Little Star, that shines so bright,

’Mid the radiance of the night;

Shining in the heaven’s dome,

In thine own far, quiet home,

While I sit and gaze at thee,

Little Star,—so peacefully;

Little, did I say it? yet,

Brightest in night’s coronet,

Thou mayst be some giant sphere,

Rolling far off, ever there;

Or a bright and burning sun,

Thou mayst in the heavens run,

While around thy centre fly

Trains of planets, constantly.

But a dark and pathless sea

Is between thine orb and me,

So I cannot come to thee—

Vain all curiosity.

But thou shining little Star,

O’er our planet Earth so far,

While thy head is sometimes bowed

’Neath the darkness of a cloud,

Sporting in the ether blue,

Little Star! I envy you.

Say, against thy globe has e’er

The prying astronomer,

Peering with his curious eye,

Where the fields of azure lie,

Searching every thing to ope,

Placed at thee his telescope?

Little Star, were I with thee,

Playing through eternity,

I would look with tender eye,

Where the earth does sleeping lie;

I would note each passing year,

Each great change that happened here;

And would, from the heavens above,

Cast on earth a glance of love;

While I’d lend my cheering light

To illume the shades of night.

Little Star, I’d be with thee,

Playing through Eternity!

I remain, Mr. Merry, your friend,

Eva’s charade: from Eva L. (1852.2.31)


My Dear Mr. Merry:—As you are kind enough to print the letters of your young subscribers, and as I am now old enough to take the Museum in my own name, I venture to write, to tell you how well we like the Museum. My sister Mary once took it, but she is now a grown lady, and reads Graham’s Magazine and the Lady’s Book. But we think the Museum is better than either. My little sister, who is six years old, knows the story of Gilbert Go-ahead as well as I do.

I have been studying geography. When I first learned about the beautiful climate and delicious fruits in the tropics, I wished I could have lived there; but when I considered the venomous reptiles and insects that are there, and that, had I lived there, perhaps I never should have seen Merry’s Museum, I was very well satisfied with my lot. We had a cold winter here, but it is now very beautiful. The birds are singing, and the flowers are abundant. We [p. 94 ] live 36 miles east of Memphis, Tenn. We wish very much to see you. We have your portrait, and I am sure I should know you; but whether I ever see you or not, I shall always love you, for being so kind to us, and for writing so many pretty stories.

Your friend,
E. B. K.

Graham’s Magazine: Graham’s American Monthly Magazine of Literature, Romance, Art, and Fashion (January 1826-December 1858). The periodical was edited for a long time by George Rex Graham (1813-1894); Edgar Allan Poe edited it with him for a year.

Lady’s Book: probably Godey’s Lady’s Book (1830-1898): Founded and edited for years by Louis Antoine Godey, the periodical offered stories, poems, articles, needlework patterns, and plates illustrating the latest fashions.

Mary: Mary Ketchum (born 1833, Tennessee; died 1902) little sister: Isadore Ketchum (born 1845, Tennessee; died 1925) [M704. 1840 United States Census; reel #521: 137. • M432. 1850 United States Census; reel #877: 299; reel #903: 187. • James Ewell. Ketchum family tree and personal letter, 1992.]


Auburn, Sept., 1852.

My dear Mr. Merry:—For many years I have been a subscriber to your beautiful “Museum,” but not till now have I ventured to place myself among your correspondents. Perhaps I am an intruder; if so, you have not been an Editor so long without learning how to deal with intruders.

’Tis a marvel to me, Mr. Merry, that you have for so long a time preserved the “even tenor of your way” as Editor of the “Museum.” That during the prevalence of the California fever—when thousands were seeking the golden land—your “Museum” still greeted us—not dated from San Francisco, with your resignation as Editor, but still from the Empire City, and no gold dust clinging to its leaves, ’twas wonderful. And then when the Nightingale, with her heaven-born melody, enraptured and nearly turned the heads of our whole nation, ’twas indeed a wonder, that you could, every month, gather enough of your wit and wisdom together to form an interesting number.

And then, when the noble Magyar came and stirred our hearts to compassion for oppressed Hungary, did it never occur to you, Mr. Merry, to omit our “Museum” just once, for fear you might get some of his burning eloquence into our “Monthly Chat,” or astound your readers by ascribing some of his most moving passages to Gilbert-Go-ahead’s intelligent ape? For ’tis my private opinion that Gilbert is an imaginary character of your own invention. You, I think, go on the principle of Go-ahead with your “Museum;” for it is monthly more attractive in history, wit, anecdotes, and all that can instruct or amuse. You are very good to the young, Mr. Merry, and I trust they, by sending you their dollars, have made you rich, thus making your name applicable.

Truly yours,

“even tenor of your way”: Thomas Gray, “Elegy in a Country Churchyard” (1750) lines 75-76: “Along the cool sequestered vale of life,/ They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.”

Nightingale: Jenny Lind.

“noble Magyar”: Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894), Hungarian patriot who visited the U. S. in 1852; the Museum featured two pieces extolling his courage and patriotism (January 1852).

Grin: orangutan befriended by Gilbert Go-ahead, in “The Adventures of Gilbert Go-ahead.” After several adventures, Gilbert sends mischievous Grin as a gift to his maiden aunt, hoping thus to ensure that she leaves him her fortune. She leaves Gilbert six cents.


Pawtucket, Sept. 7, 1852.

Dear Mr. Merry:—I have just received the September number of the “Museum,” and as you are so kind to print letters from your young subscribers, I will make my first effort at correspondence to any person but my sister Amelia, who is a great way off at a boarding-school. If you think it worth notice, as a production of one scarcely eight years old, you can dispose of it as you think best. Let me say I am a constant reader of the “Museum,” and I have great love for it, for my mother used to read the stories to me sitting in her lap, before I could say my letters. The first thing I do when I get a new number is to go in a corner by myself and read it through. Father says that the hint on the 77th page is a great truth, and he wishes it were more fully understood. My letter is getting long, but it shall not cost you any thing, as I pay the postage.

Your friend,
Anna W.

hint on page 77: “A Valuable Hint” (September 1852): “He who has complete control over his passions, is the most powerful monarch of the nineteenth century.”


Delta, Mich., July, 1852.

Dear Mr. Merry:—I read your “Museum” with increasing interest; and my little brother and sister are so eager to get the first chance to read it, that father and mother very often have to settle the strife by telling one to read aloud to the other, or both to sit on the lounge and read together. And not unfrequently, I see, as soon as we children get through with it, that they are devouring its contents with as much pleasure as any of us.

Mr. Merry, if ever you journey this way,

Do make us a call, and at least spend a day;

For our “latch-string is out,” old acquaintance to greet,

And invite to repose in our humble retreat.

But lest you should say that you know no such friend,

My this year’s subscription I herewith will send,

And that you may know where the same should apply,

Please set to the credit of

H. P. I.


Magnolia Falls, La., Sept. 17, 1851.

Mr. Merry:—Dear Sir—Your interesting Museum is one of the first books I can remember having read, and I still hail its monthly advent with as much pleasure as ever, perhaps more, as I can better appreciate it. I reside in the “sunny south,” on the banks of the broad Mississippi, and although our natural scenery is not as sublime as it is farther north, still I dearly love my native state, and would not exchange it for all the lofty mountains, craggy rocks, and gurgling streams, in the world. My great delight is to solve puzzles. I send the answers to those in the September number. [ … ]

I send you a charade, which, by inserting, you will oblige yours truly,

Blue-Eyed Minnie.


My first is a celebrated cathedral.

My second is an incorporate community.

My whole is a city in Russia.

charade: Answered in 1853.1.35-36.

a flourish

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1870s: 187018711872

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