Cecilia Koch was one of Augusta’s dearest friends during her time in Stockholm. She was most likely Augusta’s classmate in Edgren’s school and they were also in the same confirmation class. After I wrote about Cecilia last fall, I received an exciting email from her brother’s great-grandson who had stumbled upon my blog entry. He had a treasure that had belonged to Cecilia that he was willing to share.
I love when I get comments or emails from relatives of those I write about. But this email also opened the door to a whole new area of research.
In Cecilia’s family archive, there is a small, red, velvet-clad, cardboard box. The lid is decorated with gilded leaf scrolls and the text “ALBUM”. The box, which has belonged to Cecilia, contains loose leaves with poems and artwork, all signed in one way or another.
I was now given access to pictures of these pages and to my excitement, as I scrolled through the images, I recognized one name after the other. The pages contained greetings from Cecilia’s family members and friends and many of those were also Augusta’s friends.
Did all girls have these types of boxes or albums in the 1840s? Could these records be used to discover constellations of friends?
Last year, I wrote about Augusta’s confirmation friends. This spring, I will write about the girls who provided poems and drawing for Cecilia’s album. I have identified 15 so far. For the rest, I only have clues.
Memory Books, Poetry Books, Autograph Albums…
There are many names for these types of books or albums. And there are numerous scholarly articles and books written about them. One book that really stands out is Lev lycklig, glöm ej mig! Minnesböckernas historia (Live Happily, Forget me Not! History of the Memory Books ) by Carola Ekrem. The title implies the purpose of these albums: wishing the friend a happy life and making sure you are not forgotten.
The Swedish folklorist Bengt af Klintberg has studied Swedish memory albums and found that those written between 1810 – 1850 mostly belonged to girls in the upper social classes. These girls either studied with a governess or attended private schools for girls. They learned foreign languages (French, German, and sometimes English) at an early age and could, therefore, write poetry in those languages. They also learned how to draw or paint in watercolors – which is evident in the memory albums. And sometimes they would include a lock of their hair in the albums.
During the latter half of the 1800s, memory albums became popular among girls in all social classes.
The Little Town on the Prairie
Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote The Little House on the Prairie series of books, actually described what was called an Autograph Album, in the book The Little Town on the Prairie:
In Laura’s package was a beautiful small book, too. It was thin, and wider than it was tall. On its red cover, embossed in gold, where the words:
The pages, of different soft colors, were blank. Carrie had another exactly like it, except that the cover of hers was blue and gold.
“I found that autograph albums are all the fashion nowadays,” said Ma. “All the most fashionable girls in Vinton have them.”
“What are they, exactly?” Laura asked.
“You ask a friend to write a verse on one of the blank pages and sign her name to it,” Ma explained. “If she has an autograph album, you do the same for her, and you keep the albums to remember each other by.”
Ekrem, C. Lev lycklig, glöm ej mig. Minnesböckernas historia. Atlantis 2002.