A nine-volume diary, started by a fifteen-year old boy was one of my assignments to research and catalog. I began to read the idyllic day-to-day life of Jacob Edward Schmidt (1891-1986) known as Edward living in Lebanon, Pennsylvania with his parents and brother above the family jewelry shop J. C. Schmidt, Jeweler and Optician. (For more information on the J. Edward Schmidt diaries, see the finding aid). I expected to skim through the pages and read what would be a daily report of weather, school, siblings, and parents. If I was lucky, maybe I would encounter some teenage angst. I learned quickly Edward was serious about his diary. He began writing it on his fifteenth birthday 18 March 1906, and included a “Preface” at the end of the first volume about the responsibility of keeping a diary. Edward wrote: “Maybe the rear end of a book is not the proper place for a preface, but in this case it can’t be helped . . . The keeping of a journal or diary is not the easiest thing in the world, for it is often very troublesome to attend to it correctly . . .”
Edward was faithful in his daily entries. He recorded everything about his day. His interactions with his parents and brother, the daily chore of waking early to open the jewelry shop his father ran and one day he would inherit. He wrote of attending school and going to church on Sundays. Edward loved photography and wrote of taking and printing photographs. He also talked of the weather and activities of the seasons, spending summers at Mt. Gretna and Exmoor, Pennsylvania. The one thread throughout diaries that compelled me to read more was his Mary.
Edward met Mary Weimer (1892-) in May 1907 and she quickly became both the object of his devoted affection and main subject of his diary. I followed their five-year courtship as it grew from friendship to romance. Edward was a romantic. He wore his heart on the pages of his journals. Each diary has at least one pressed flower or plant saved as a memento of the first sign of spring or his beloved Mary. Photographs, mostly of Mary, are interspersed throughout the diaries’ pages. Edward ends almost every daily entry with “God bless Mary.”
Edward was seventeen, Mary was sixteen on 14 June 1908 when he writes of their first anniversary. Edward says one evening “Mary and I are truly what I had long ago hoped to be with Mary, my best friend, not only now but for always. We got home after 7, & I was with her in the evening again we walked and saw the full moon in all its glory, on this our day. We are the happiest beings alive . . .” There is a memento of that day left in the pages of dried flowers.
Their romance blossomed. In December of 1908 Edward writes ” I could really fill a book telling how I love her.” He makes a brooch for her recounting the design and time he spends. Edward notes Mary’s birthdays, 10 October, his birthdays, their anniversaries. He records the idyllic summers when they meet at the train station in Exmoor, Pennsylvania. He records walks, picking berries, and taking drives.
By this point I am wondering have they kissed yet? Is he too embarrassed to write this down?
In June 1909 Mary graduates high school. Edward buys her a large bouquet of flowers. They spend a happy summer together before Mary leaves for Miss Wright’s School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Edward misses her and is happy to visit her on her eighteenth birthday. While he is visiting they attend the Fairmount Park Races in Philadelphia.
On 18 March 1910 Edward turns nineteen and notes that he is six feet tall. In May he attends Mary’s graduation the program is neatly folded in his diary. Edward begins counting the days in the summer of 1910 before Mary leaves to attend Wellesley in September. He writes of their picnics together and the long beautiful summer days. When Mary leaves for school he marks each day Mary is away, recording his longing desire to see her. Edward spends Thanksgiving with Mary in Massachusetts.
During four years and four volumes there is no mention by Edward of impropriety, no sexual longing, not even a kiss among all their romantic encounters between them. However In January 1911 Edward records his desires for Mary. After spending time with Mary over Christmas break Edward confesses his true wants stating “I heartily wished I could have sexual intercourse with Mary, but only for selfish amorous reasons . . .” In this same entry he notes they are engaged and will marry on their day 14 June 1915.
While Mary is away and Edward’s longing grows more profound he busied himself with work at the jewelry shop, his motorcycle, his father’s car, and taking photographs.
During Mary’s summer break on 30 August 1911 in volume seven Edward writes “Mary has given herself entirely to me.” This occurs at her father’s house while listening to the Victrola. The bottom of the page is torn out! Did Edward tear out what happened between them after confessing it on paper? When she returns to school in September Edward is counting the days Mary is gone. He makes notations of this until she arrives home for Christmas break.
In the beginning of 1912 Edward and Mary are completely separated. Edward goes to Cleveland, Ohio and Mary returns to Wellesley. I am nervous for them. Will she find someone else in Boston? Will he find someone else going away from home for the first time. Edward traveled to Cleveland to apprentice with a master engraver. He and Mary are separated until June when he meets Mary in New York on their day 14 June 1912. He returns from Cleveland and plans to ask Mary’s father for her hand in marriage. So the happy couple survived the big separation.
Edward buys Mary an engagement ring on a payment plan. The table with payments is written out in the diary. After the fall semester at Wellesley Mary decides not to go back to school and they work hard to get married.
Mary’s departure from Wellesley seems sudden. Edward talks about his mother teaching Mary how to sew and learning homemaking. There seems to be a veiled tone over this change in plans to marry sooner. I wonder if she is pregnant, did something happen? The last two pages of volume eight have been torn out.
I was beyond eager to get to the next volume to find out what happened with Edward and Mary. What was their wedding like? Were there snapshots of the young couple? Did they have children right away? Where did they live? Are they still as in love as ever?
I pick up the final volume and open it in anticipation of what is next for this devoted pair. I encounter the year 1916. I am a bit disappointed, obviously there are some volumes missing and I don’t get to read about their wedding or their first years together. But still I will get to read about them and see where Edward and Mary end up. I look closer, the handwriting looks completely different. The pages aren’t numbered. This appears to be a list of names, not one of Edward’s diary entries. I figured possibly marriage and children made him busy and he didn’t have time to write as much. I page through the volume and see several different hands. I look at the seller’s description and indeed the ninth volume is listed. However the volume I hold in my hand was not written by J. Edward Schmidt. It is not a continuation of their story.
This rogue volume that has suddenly appeared doesn’t tell me anything about Edward and Mary. As I look closer at the first page I ask myself is that Leopold Stokowski’s signature. And indeed it is! This little volume added at the end thought to be Edward’s is actually someone’s Maine island vacation guest book!
After following this romance of desire of idyllic, innocent love from teenagers to adults I’m left without an ending to my tale. I was a bit devastated by this turn.
You will be happy to know I did do a bit of research to find out what happened. Edward and Mary were married. I don’t know when, but I would like to think it was on their day 14 June. The census reports tell me that they had two children named Edward and Mary and they lived in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Hopefully happy and in love.