The Orphaned Images Project: Sallie B. Gordon’s album

5 01 2011

Among the wonderful treasures in the box of “orphaned images” given to me by Doris, a family friend, is a 6 x 7.75 red hardcover “CEM Album,” produced by J.B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia. On the first page the album’s owner has written “Miss Sallie B. Gordon.” There is a thread-tied lock of hair (Sallie’s, perhaps?), a perfectly pressed leaf and a swatch of silky blue and red checked fabric nestled into the front of the album. Just imagine—these items are more than 150 years old! Other pages have signatures, poems and well wishes from dozens of friends and the date they signed her book, ranging from 1858-1869.

In the back of the book, Sallie tucked in a card with a photo of a group of men. The caption reads: Active Mitglieder des Beethoven Maennerchors, December 25, 1893. I did a little research and there is still an active “Beethoven Maennerchor” in San Antonio, Texas. You can check out their website here. It is one of the oldest German singing societies in Texas and its purpose is to preserve German song, music and language. The Beethoven Mannerchor was organized in February 1867 by William Carl August Thielepape (1814-1904), who was the mayor of San Antonio during the Reconstruction era. Research on German-born Thielepape revealed he was quite the Renaissance man—he was an architect, engineer, teacher, photographer and lithographer. He was known as the “singing mayor.” After his tenure as mayor, he was an attorney in Chicago. I also found a pdf file—Celebrating Das Deutsche—from the Journal of Texas Music History, Vol. 5 [2003], Iss. 2, Art. 4, that has a similar image (exact same men but a different exposure) on page 6 of the pdf file.

The letter shown below was written by two of her teachers (they address her as “Sarah” and not Sallie; perhaps Sarah was her formal name). The letter reads:

Presented to Miss Sarah B. Gordon by her teachers—Mr. and Mrs. Bower—as a reward of merit for attention to her studies, and obedience to her teachers.

May this token of our regard ever prove to her, that merit never goes unrewarded: that intelligence, modesty and virtue are jewels fairer and richer than earth’s boasted treasures. Be diligent and dutiful and a bright future awaits you.

Youth is not rich in time—it may be poor—part with it, as with money; sharing; Pay no moment, but in purchase of its worth. And what its worth? Ask death-beds; they can tell.

Chillicothe, Mo., May 27th, 1858

I find it fascinating that this little treasure made its way all the way from Chillicothe, Missouri to San Antonio, Texas…carried from the Show Me State to the Lone Star State by a young student, then passed down or tucked away more than 100 years until Doris discovered it at a yard sale and passed it on to me. Thanks, Doris!