A Lost Art: Milton Goldsmith’s Family Remembered by their Letters

The second family album compiled by Milton Goldsmith has some pages devoted to his parents and siblings including photographs and letters and news clippings. I’ve already incorporated the photographs into earlier posts. In this post I will share some of the letters included in this second family album. They made me nostalgic for the days when people wrote actual letters.

First, this is a letter written by Milton’s mother Cecelia Adler to her future husband, Abraham Goldsmith in 1857:

Phil 19th 1857
Dear Ab,
You deserve a scolding for writing in German, knowing that I cannot read it as well as English, being of a very inquisitive nature, I spelt it out, although it took me at least an hour. I am delighted to hear you passed such a pleasant night, which I assure you was the same case with me. I am very sorry you cannot come early this evening, try to make your stay at the meeting as short as possible. Excuse my bad writing it being wash day we are very busy.
I remain yours forever,

This second letter from Cecelia, which was also written in 1857 on October 28, sounds a little less patient with her beloved!

Phil Oct 28th 1857
Beloved of my heart,
I do wish you would write me some thing new, you always tell me that you are captivated, no wonder, I being so charming. We shall be ready this evening at the appointed times. You just write as if you were doing me a favor, in going to your sister’s house. It is the contrary I oblige you. Ma thinks my only fault is good nature. Do not stay long at the meeting. I must close. Mr. and Mrs. Bachman have just come.
Yours forever,

Cecelia and Abraham were married just a few months later on January 27, 1858, as seen in their wedding invitation:

Ten years later, Cecelia seems quite content with her life with Abraham and their children. On July 20, 1867, she wrote to her mother from Cape May, New Jersey, where presumably she and her family were vacationing, though it appears that her daughter Emily was not well and was home in Philadelphia with Cecelia’s mother.  I love the long list of clothing and other items that Cecelia wanted her mother to bring her when she brought Emily to Cape May. It reminds me of certain emails or phone calls I received from my own daughters when they were away at college.

Cape May, July 20th 1867
Dear Mother,
I suppose Ab informed you that I like it here, I enjoy myself very much. I am writting (sic) in the hall, and all the ladies around me. The children are all well, and send their love. I hope you are well and Emily will be well enough by Monday to come down. Please bring all the wash, with Hanah’s trunk, and if she has room bring my grey dress & over skirt from last year, and my white silk parasol. It is in the 2nd drawer of the front bedroom bureau & my striped Balmoral skirt & a black cloth sack in Maggies closet. Hoping [to] see you soon. Your’s Cely Love to Father, Emily & all

And in this letter we get to hear Abraham’s voice. This is a letter written on February 16, 1870, by Abraham to his wife Cecelia while he was on the road in Ohio. It is such a sweet and loving letter.

Salem, Ohio Feb 16 1870
Dear Cely!
I arrived here this evening well and hearty, and before retiring I know of no better recreation than to write to you a few lines. I was to day at New Brighton and Beaver falls, waded through the mud ankle deep, and sold a few goods. From here I shall go to morrow to Canton and spend my night at Masillow. On Saturday morning I expect to be at Pittsburgh again and stay there over Sunday.
I can hardly contend (sic) myself until I get there to hear from you and the children but hope to receive the glad news that you are all well.
If I knew of any news I would write them to you but unfortunately I know of nothing to interest you. Meyer and me get along very well, the only objection I have to him, he snores too much at night. I don’t like his company half as well at night as I would like a certain Ladies.
I hope when I come home to hear good reports of Milly, Hilda, Edy, Rose, Emily & Estella, if either of them expect me to bring them anything they must conduct themselves accordingly.
With kindest regards to mother, father, and all friends,
I remain yours forever,
I have written to you now three letters hope you have received them.

Abraham was working as a wholesale clothier in 1870, according to the 1870 census, and it sounds like he was traveling from place to place, promoting his wares. He speaks of traveling with Meyer (who snored), presumably his younger brother with whom he was in business. I did chuckle at Abraham’s comment that he did not like his brother’s company at night “half as well as a certain ladies.”

I also love the list of the children and the references to his two sons Milton and Edwin by their nicknames—Milly, Hilda, Edy, Rose, Emily, and Estella. I can imagine how excited the family was when Abraham returned and they were all reunited.

Finally, one more letter. This one was written, according to Milton’s caption at the top, by his sister Hilda to their parents on November 15, 1872, when she was ten years old:

Phil Nov 15th 1872
Dear Papa and Mama,
I have now taking the opportunity to write you a few lines asking you if you arrived safe and I hope you enjoy your selves very much by eating fried oysters and going to theatres every night and I hope you are well and we are all well and I hope you Papa and Mama will not forget my buttons and to bring me a big box of glass buttons and I have good news to tell you that I got a Disinguish note on Friday and I am on the first form and spracters [? Practice?] 1 hour every night.

What makes this letter so poignant is that Hilda died just three and half years later at the age of thirteen. Just a few years earlier she was a happy little girl dreaming of getting glass buttons and excited about her success in school. I have no pictures of Hilda, so seeing this letter written in her own hand was quite touching. It is the one personal object of hers that still exists.



39 thoughts on “A Lost Art: Milton Goldsmith’s Family Remembered by their Letters

  1. Unbelievable these letters have survived! The wedding announcement was gorgeous! I too chuckled at his mention of ‘certain ladies company’ . While I enjoyed reading every letter I was always also struck by the handwriting – so clear and perfect, a lost art as well as letter writing also becoming lost 😦 Great post Amy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right—no one writes in cursive any more. I don’t even think they are teaching it in school these days. And when I try to write now, I find my letters are not forming well from lack of practice. Thanks, Sharon!


      • Not only was it cursive but those letters were written with pens that had to be dipped in ink. There were no ink cartridges or ballpoint pens back then. My 6th grade teacher made us learn to write with old-fashioned pens that we had to dip in ink. It is not easy. I think I may have an old pen that belonged to my grandfather.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, the emotional power and personal touch of handwritten letters! They remind me of the bitter-sweet correspondence my wife and I had before she came to join me here in Canada. I say it again, Amy, with these albums you hold a real treasure in your hands.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s hard to imagine. Do most people save emails? If so, aren’t they password protected? Likely to disappear when someone closes their email account? I hope that there will be some record of people’s correspondence, but I am skeptical.


  3. Great letters. They really bring them alive. So sad in these days that all the correspondences will disappear. So important that he saved the letter from his sister. I wonder if his Mom and saved it as a memento of the child she lost.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, Hilda’s mother died in 1874, two years before Hilda’s own death. Her father Abraham remarried the year she died (1876), but I don’t know whether that was before or after Hilda’s death. My guess is that Abraham saved the letter. It seems someone in the family did preserve all these letters—maybe it was even Milton, who seemed to be the family archivist. He was fifteen when Hilda died and may have treasured that letter as much as anyone. He was only fifteen months older than Hilda; she was in age his closest sibling.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. I wish I had the time and patience to scan and transcribe all of Milton’s letters to Sophie. They must also be filled with so much history and personality. Perhaps their direct descendants will do that!


      • The direct descendent would be me. Are the in good enough condition that I can bring them back to Maryland and look at them over time or do they need to go to Philadelphia to be preserved ASAP? Have you scanned and transcribed some of Milton’s letters to Sophie?

        I think I have some of the letters my father (Charles Jacobson) sent my mother when he was in the army in WWII. My mother didn’t want me to read them but now they are history so I think it is OK to read them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, no. I couldn’t scan them—too many. I just don’t have time. Either you will have to do it, or you will have to hope they are safely preserved in Philadelphia. I’ve scanned as much as I am going to have the time to do, I’m afraid.


  4. Letters show so much more about a personality than photos and documents ever could. These are phenomenal. Hilda’s is heartbreaking, given the context. Cecilia is very sure of herself haha. Her husband is sweet. Those letters are so old, too! Treasures!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. These letters make me wish I had kept all of the letters my parents sent me when I was at camp, college, etc. I kept very few of them. Back in the 1960s we still wrote letters. I do have a few that my kids sent from camp but very few and I’m sure they did not keep the letters that we sent them.


    • I wish I also had kept the letters I received from my parents and from my kids as well as from my friends. What was I thinking? So sad. Milton was one smart cookie—he really had a sense of his place and his family’s place in history.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I struggle with preserving the hundreds of letters I have between my grandparents and even my dad’s letters that he wrote while he was in Europe after the war. I’ve been transcribing them (need to get back to that) but like you said, there is no way I can scan them all. Once the letter has been transcribed, I put it in the appropriate acid free box. Mine even have the envelopes so it makes it easier to put them in order by the postmark.

    On another note, this is the second blog post (out of two) that I’ve read today talking about handwritten letters and cards. They are definitely a treasure but, sadly. a dying art.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I have some letters my daughter, Becca, sent from summer camps – Southwoods and one other camp. I also have pictures of her and lots of her photography and some of her artwork. None of it makes up for the fact that she died so young.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Of course not. Nohting can. I am so glad that you have those letters and the photographs and art work. You must cherish them.


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