1936 Diary of a 74-Year-Old Republican Who Dislikes Roosevelt and Loves Her Husband, the Superintendent of the City Public Welfare Dept.

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On offer is the diary of Mrs. Harriet Shaw (1861-1959), wife of Albert William Shaw (1861-1940), a prominent citizen of Berkshire, Massachusetts. 

Harriet L.B. (Sumner) Shaw  was born in Vermont. She settled in Pittsfield, MA in 1880, where she married Albert William Shaw in 1882. They had four children: three sons and one daughter. Albert who was the superintendent of the Berkshire Public Welfare Department as well as being a banker and real estate investor and a member of the Freemasons. Harriet herself was a member of the First Church of Christ, Daughters of the American Revolution and matron of a chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. 

Given Albert’s status within Berkshire, the Great Depression did not impact the Shaw family. Rather, Albert had his regular meetings with the “Bank Men” as Harriet calls them, throughout 1936. Her children are grown and living their lives. Harriet has friends to the house, goes out about town, sends packages to her children, has her children and grandchildren to visit. She reads, attends meetings, and keeps track of Albert’s whereabouts. Importantly, Harriet is very interested in politics and 1936 was an election year. She comments on the Presidential election, making her pro-Republican views quite well known.

The following excerpts will give a flavour to her diary:

“...Henry called at noon and so did Marion. Park & Marion returned yesterday from New Jersey where the had a fine time. Tonight we listened to President Roosevelt making a campaign speech in the guise of an address to Congress. It consisted of words. Congressman Treadway called it a ‘one ring circus’. D.A.R. met today” [Jan 3].

“We went uptown this morn and I did some shopping for the house – new draperies for the house, etc for the guest room. In the afternoon we went to Lebanon Springs and brought home four gallons of water. Had a nice ride. Albert gave me two lovely red rosebuds. I put all the clocks ahead tonight as daylight savings begins tomorrow. How I dislike it!” [Apr 25]. 

“Light frost this morning. The second day of summer. Albert went out with the Bank Men. Mr. and Mrs. Herman Wood and Barbara, from NM called this morn. Miss Campbell was with them. Albert and I went up to the Lake after supper. We sat up til 10pm to hear John Hamilton’s chairman of the Republican Party. He was very good” [June 22]. 

“...The Bank men came for Albert at 9 AM... After dinner, Albert & I voted in the Primary and later went to the Donations Party...Only a few were there – it was so unpleasant...” [Sept 15]. 

“We went uptown this morn. Albert paid the taxes which amounted to considerable. I gave some coffee to the House of Mercy Bazaar. In the afternoon we went to Richmond and stopped at the Pravus but they were not at home. Park, Marion and the children stopped here a few minutes” [Oct 22]. 

“We went uptown this morn and Albert did a lot of marketing as we expect Charlie tomorrow. Had a nap after dinner. Albert went to an Anti-Tuberculosis meeting this afternoon. We heard Ex Pres Hoover over the radio. Then we had the Halloween callers and gave them candy. It rained a little” [Oct 30]. 

“...Roosevelt is re-elected and I am disgusted!...” [Nov 4]. 

In the Memoranda section, she keeps track of her expenses and accounts and lists the Christmas gifts she received. For a social historian, this diary offers an excellent look into the world of the well-off during the depths of the Great Depression as well as providing a neat through-line about a Republican’s experience of an election year in which a Democratic candidate is the incumbent.

This diary measures 6.0 inches by 4.5 inches and contains 365 pages. It is 100% complete. The red leather cover is in good condition as is the binding. The pages are intact and the handwriting is legible. Overall G. 

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