Scrapbook 41: Some Stories About Our World
The second post of an archival blog series. Read the first post here. Check back on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month for more from this series!
Sarah Eva Howe Salyers (1883-1955) was the matriarch of the Salyers family. Over dozens of scrapbooks she tells the history of her family, her childhood neighborhood and her children’s education. Sprinkled into those topics are scrapbooks like scrapbook 41. For scrapbook 41 is, as Sarah calls it, “Some Stories About Our World”.
Sarah created the scrapbook for her grandson, David H. Salyers III, for Christmas in 1948. In the “foreword” [sic] Sarah lays out the foundation of her history, her Christian faith. She writes, “God made our world David, so long ago no one knows the realtime [sic]. All through the years though, he has watched how it grew, especially the men and women he put in it to take care of it.”
Her story begins with evolution and the peoples of ancient history. She details the early history of Egyptians, the Greeks (although it’s mostly about their mythology), the Romans, the Chinese, the Arabs, and the Indians. Then the scenes shift to the history of the ages of exploration and enlightenment by discussing Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Additionally, she details Italian Renaissance artists, Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. Moving next to Martin Luther, Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, Spanish conquistadors, “the discovery” of South America and William Penn.
The remaining chapters of the story are about American history from the establishment of the Virginia colony and encounters with Native Americans, to the Revolutionary War and America’s westward expansion. The scrapbook discusses American forefathers John Adams and George Washington as well as the likes of Florence Nightingale, Andrew Jackson, and Robert E. Lee. Next, she covers the Texas Revolution and the brutal treatment of Native Americans. The American Civil War only warrants a glancing mention with no discussion or depictions of slavery. The last chapters in Sarah’s history cover the Spanish-American War and World War I.
Sarah ends her history of the world writing, “[w]ell here we are at the end of the book David, but far from at the end our story…This is the harbor of our greatest city, New York…where all the people from many different nations, but all Americans.”
Sarah’s “Some Stories About Our World” is an incredible example of the historical value of scrapbooks. While Sarah does not tell her story using primary sources (ex. newspapers, photographs, letters, etc.), in her own way, she created a primary source. Sarah wanted her grandson to understand the history of her world. She wanted to impress upon her grandson that America and its people are exceptional. I can imagine that, given the trauma the world had recently gone through during World War II, Sarah was
worried about the future of America and the world and wanted to make sure that she left something behind to tell her story of the world.
Future generations will look to the scrapbooks, diaries, video blogs, and twitter posts that we create and leave behind for them to discover. I encourage everyone to think about the material they can leave to history that will explain their life and experiences. We all have a unique, yet connected perspective. Scrapbook 41 is Sarah Eva Howe Salyers’ perspective and it’s one that can tell us a lot about her experiences in the world she lived in. I am forever grateful that we have Sarah’s history of her world and I’m eager to read all the histories of the world that are being created right now.