Mingling with the Greats

18 Jun

One of four main points I am looking out for in Maurice’s diaries is his relationships with people- including who he met, their status and the nature of their relationship. My supervisors want me to have a full understanding of what other people were doing the things he did, and what people were helping him and shaping him as a collector. Every time a name pops up I am highlighting it, and trying to figure out who they were and what they offered Maurice. From doing this, I have noticed a great variation in the status of his friendships, from children to the elderly, and from working class to aristocracy, and yet much consistency in the types of relationships he has with them.

One of my favourite stories is Maurice taking a ship from Buffalo to Detroit on August 30th 1918. The ship is crowded and many are without berths. Maurice offers his spare bunk to a 12 year old boy, Freemont Allen, of Detroit. A few weekends later he takes Freemont away on a fishing trip weekend, teaching him how to cast and reel. This sparks a friendship between the two, and every weekend Maurice picks up Freemont for more fishing adventures. When Maurice returns to the USA in 1919, he renews his friendship with Freemont and continues to take him fishing. I won’t speculate now about his relationships with boys (perhaps this will be another post one day, or come talk to me about it for all the mysterious and creepy details!), but this relationship with a working class boy seems harmoniously simple and mutually beneficial for Maurice and Freemont, despite the gulfs in age, status and nationality.

And now to the Greats. I am looking up every name mentioned, which is largely unfruitful as many people were land agents, landowners or acquaintances not worthy of much notice or remembrance in the internet era. So it is always rewarding when I get a hit on certain names that make my hair stand on edge. These relationships show me the high circles that Maurice could penetrate and his equality of status with great men of renown. They re-affirm my sense of incredulity that Maurice is not as well known as his contemporaries, and not more celebrated for his achievements.

Here are some notable acquaintances that I would like to share with you from my glossary:

– Cecil Rhodes, 1853-1902, business man, mining magnate, politician

– Melton Prior, 1845-1910, Victorian artist and war correspondent for illustrated London news.

– Carl Ethan Akeley, 1864-1926, taxidermist, conservationist, sculptor, wildlife photographer. Considered the father of modern taxidermy. Made specimens for the great American Museums including Natural History Museum.

– Robert Abram Bartlett, 1875-1946, Newfoundland navigator and artic explorer

– Poultney Bigelow, 1855-1954, American journalist and author. A correspondent with many notables of the day including Kaiser of Germany. Wrote several books on colonial administration. Was an early supporter of Mussolini and Hitler. Founded first magazine devoted to amateur sports- Outing.

– William Thomas Brownlow Cecil, 5th Earl of Exeter, 1876-1956, very close in age and status to Maurice and owned neighbouring ranches in British Columbia.

– George Eastman, 1854-1932, founder of Eastman Kodak company.

– Madison Grant, 1865-1937, American lawyer, famous for racist eugenics policies on immigration and conservation work for animals. Very influential with New York elite, including Theodore Roosevelt

– Colonel Hoare (Francis Richard Gurney Hoare) British Born South African Military Commander. Served with British army in RFC in 1917, awarded OBE.

– Ian Donald Roy MacDonald,1898-1920, WW1 flying ace

– Ernest Thompson Seton, 1860-1946, American who was a notable author, wildlife artist and founder of the Woodcraft Indians, and one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America. Influenced Baden-Powell

– Orville and Katherine Wright- 1871-1948, and 1874-1929 brother and sister. American aviation pioneers.

These are just some of the names that have cropped up on my readings so far up until 1919. I am still frantically reading the diaries, still recording more that I need to because they are just so interesting. I really can’t help myself! I’m just beginning the 1920’s where focus shifts away from British Columbia to Africa, and the real meaty details of his collecting are about to emerge.

In other news, I had an enjoyable weekend at my first 2 day conference. ‘Unofficial Histories’ was hosted by the Manchester Centre for Regional History, which is where I am based at MMU. I regretted that I only attended as a delegate and didn’t submit a paper, as it was a friendly conference and would have eased me in nicely to the scary world of speaking and presenting.

It was the second event I’ve been to where multiple sessions run simultaneously and you pick which ones you go to. I always worry I will pick badly and miss something more relevant to me. I listened to a variety of papers, a lot from PhD students like me, ranging from the portrayal of Mary Pickford, a history of the portrayal of disability, a re-display at the Tower of London, Victorian Imperialism in pantomimes and the history of the Manchester ‘Toast Rack’ (I’m guessing most Manchester people know this building!). It’s useful for me to see how others go about their research, what approaches they take, how they interpret their findings and so on. It’s always nice to see the variety of topics being researched, and it’s funny how they can relate to your own in ways you never guessed they could! For example, Maurice has just mentioned seeing some American silent movies, and I would probably not have understood the reference before hearing the paper on the era of Mary Pickford, who I had never heard of before the conference!

As always, stay tuned for more stories, and thanks for staying with me so far.


4 Responses to “Mingling with the Greats”

  1. Fiona Cosson June 25, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Glad you enjoyed the conference! Fiona x

  2. Colin M June 28, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

    Wow Sarah, didn’t know that Maurice knew one of my artistic heroes – Melton Prior ! You must tell me more when we’ve time.

    • sarahandherphd July 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

      Just went back and found the entry:
      May 29th 1896- “19 miles outside Bulawago. Take photos of the laager and column on the march with Melton Prior. Managed to consume 18 rolls of film”.
      The laager was a mobile fort. At this point the Matabele conflict was basically over, Maurice was marching back to Bulawago, the second largest City in Zimbabwe, with his comrades. I don’t know where the photos are kept, but they should still be around as some are used in the exhibition room at Tatton. I’ll want to see them soon because one of my object case studies is going to be the Matabele axe, so I will try and sniff them out! Pretty impressive that Maurice was taking photos with Melton Prior, but then he quite often seems to be in the right place at the right time for meeting the great people of the day.

      • zulumacbeth August 14, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

        Thanks Sarah, like you I’m more and more impressed by Maurice’s life and adventures the more we discover. Very happy to help you dig around for his African photos, would be something if he took a shot of Melton, well you never know!

        And by the way Congratulations!

        Colin M

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