1904 Diary of a Bright New England Teen Who Would Become a Foreign Relations Advisor for the US Government and Economics Professor at Top American Universities

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On offer is a diary of a seemingly  average teenage boy living on a farm who would grow up to become an academic and have an important impact on the United States of America. 

The author of the diary is Alton Ross Hodgkins (1890-1952) a 14-year-old boy who would go on to become Dr. Hodgkins, a foreign relations correspondent for the US State Department and an Economics professor at many renowned academic institutions [SEE FULL BIO NOTES AT END OF LISTING]. 

Hodgkin’s diary is full of the details of a young teenager who is intent on keeping a detailed record of his daily life. At the time he kept this diary, Alton was living in Damariscotta Mills, Maine. His father was a farmer. It is clear from Alton’s diary that he equally valued contributing to the family farming work and his academics. Some excerpts give the flavour of the diary: 

“It has snowed all day. It was tough coming home from school tonight. We had to take some exams today. Got A in Latin and B in Algebra. We had Uncle Charlies team today” [Jan 22]. 

“My Birthday. Got up a little after seven. Pa carried uncle John to the train this morning. I went down to Ermalines after milk this forenoon. Been reading about all of the afternoon. Marm gave me a couple of books. Been reading them” [Mar 19]. 

“Pa and I have been hoeing, planting, etc. all the day. Sunie went up to Nettie’s this evening and is going to stay all night. I went down to Sizzies after milk tonight” [June 4].

“Pa and I mowed McCurda’s swamp this forenoon and branched it this afternoon. I read some today. Ella cooked, washed the floor, dusted and so forth all day” [Aug 27]. 

“Christine, Sandford, Roy and I went in Tad’s wagon with his horse today. Norman got hit on the head with an iron ball today. I was down to the store this eve. Pa went over the pond this afternoon” [Sept 20]. 

“Got up, did the chores, ate breakfast and went to school. We didn’t come down to dinner. Went over street this evening, came back and went to sociable at the Congo. Roy was up to David’s. Have been studying [Dec 6]. 

“Got up, ate breakfast and went to school. Took exams in German, Latin and arithmetic today. Got Algebra paper, A. We walked home tonight. Been doing nothing this even. Mamma is over to Lill’s” [Dec 23]. 

“I will make more money than before, and that I will keep an account of my spendings, earnings, etc. Also, that I will pay more attention to my studies and be more orderly and respectful to my instructors. And that I will try to be more attentive to my work at home” [1904 New Year’s Resolutions tucked into diary’s back pocket].

For a social historian, this diary paints a very clear picture of day-to-day life in rural New England at the turn of the 20th century, as seen through the eyes of a young teenager. It is fascinating to find clues as to this boy’s future success. His surprisingly tidy handwriting, dedication to recording details and ongoing comments about his academics make up some of the pieces of the puzzle. 


Dr. Alton Ross Hodgkins was born in Newcastle, Maine to parents Daniel and Alice (Bartlett) Hodgkins. Alton graduated from Bates College in Maine, received his Master’s degree from Washington University and a PhD from John Hopkins. Dr. Hodgkins worked as a special adviser to the Minister of Guatemala, served three years as a foreign relations correspondent for the US State Department and completed a Carnegie Research project on the living conditions in Haiti. Dr. Hodgkins taught economics at the State Normal School in PA, University of Maryland, National University in Washington, Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Virginia, Tulane University, Newcomb College and ended his career at Centre College in Kentucky. Dr. Hodgkins was married twice. He married June Atkinson in 1914 while living in Washington, DC. They were married for 27 years before divorcing in 1941 and had no children. Later in 1941, Hodgkins married Blanche Couessin in while living in Virginia. He died of cardiac causes unexpectedly at the age of 61.

Measuring 6 inches by 3 inches, this diary contains 122 pages plus memoranda. The diary is 100% complete and the memo pages at the end are about 10% complete. The leatherette cover is in fair to poor condition with a large stain on the back cover. The spine is damaged and the rear cover is partially separated. The enclosure strap is quite worn. The pages are in good condition and the handwriting is quite legible. Overall Fair. 


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