This is a letter sent to my grandfather and grandmother - Joe & Nelly Butterworth (in Rochdale, Lancashire, England) in 1929 by Martha A. Halstead (the A probably stands for Alice). She was a cousin who had married an American, Harry Halstead when she was a young woman and had lived in the USA in Cornwall-on-Hudson in New York state for about 30 or more years.
I'm fairly sure that this is a photograph of Martha & Harry (seated centre) when they came to visit the Butterworth family in about 1897. The young girl standing behind Harry is their daughter and the boy seated crosslegged on the right is their son.
The letter is quite interesting from a historical point of view because Martha describes her life in great detail explaining their heating and hot water system and some of the gadgets which they owned. These included an Edison radio and telephone.
Martha had a car of her own which must have been very liberating.
She also describes her husband's job as a travelling salesman, though I don't know which company he worked for or what he sold.
My grandmother lived in a 2-up, 2-down back-to-back terraced house in Rochdale for all her married life (over 50 years). This had an outside toilet even when she died in 1974, she never had a bathroom, telephone or a car. Her only garden was a little 4 ft plot in their back yard.
So I can only imagine that Martha's letter described what must have seemed like a wonderland of luxury and perhaps mystery. She kept the letter for nearly 50 years, so I think it must have been very special to her.
Feb 26th 1929
I received your very welcome letter some time since, but I seem to get so little time for writing, besides writing to Harry two or three times a week.
He left home the first Monday in this new year for a long business trip, he may be away until the middle of April, he is in the state of Texas, over 2,000 miles from here. I could have gone with him as he wished me to do so, but it would cause me a lot of inconvenience, we have four fires going all the time, one in the garage, one in a furnace to heat the house by a hot water system, we also have a system by which we heat a 30 gallon tank of water, so we have continual hot water in the kitchen & bathroom & my laundry.
The last two heating systems I mentioned are in the cellar, which is 30 x 26 feet big, with cement floor, four large windows & four electric lights at various places.
If I went away all the water would have to be drained off the heating system & the hot water tank system so as not to allow them to freeze, so someone really ought to stay here.
Well we shall soon have Spring & nice warm weather, we have had a mild winter I think you are getting what we usually get.
I am looking forward to making a garden, our land is 100 ft. square. I have some blackcurrant bushes, also some raspberries, some grapevines. Red, Black, & white, and all kinds of nice shrubbery, or bushes you may call them, they bloom in the summer. I have a dog rose, bushes etc.
I plant seeds for flowers in the spring & have some fine beds of various flowers. I enjoy working in the garden. We have a man to do the heavy work cutting and trimming the lawn each week & any other job I have for him to do, and there is many a job for him with Harry being away so much.
"Well" how are you all? I trust all well. I go to see our John & Mary about once a week, they live about three miles from us. I should go oftener as I have an auto, but as they have a telephone in the house, & so have I, I can talk to them whenever I want to, & find out how they are. It is such a convenience to have a phone in.
I am alone so much that it is handy to call if I need anyone. I call the grocer, he delivers what I want.
Sadie & Allan both have phones in so I can talk with them anytime, so I donít feel lonely.
Harry bought me an Edison Radio for my Christmas present & it is wonderful. One of the best made. I hear London on it. Hear Big Ben strike, & I have gotten over 100 stations, & our New York Stations are hard to beat I think. We have gotten California right across the country 3,000 miles away. So I feel I have lots of company as I can get fine music, concerts, or lectures at any time from 7am to 12pm.
Are there many radios in private homes over there? Almost every home has one here, & there are so many fine makes, some very cheap to buy. & we are not taxed for them here. Edison the man who has invented most of the wonderful devices, has only had his radio on the market about six months.
We have had a small one for two years (not an Edison) but quite a good one, but the Edison we have now is a wonder. It is a fine cabinet model. The voices seem to be right in the room with us.
I now have it going with a New York station broadcasting. I wish you could enjoy it with me.
I am so sorry to hear about your Martha Alice husband being so ill, let me know if they need any financial help. I should like to help them if they do. It must be hard for them to have sickness so long.
I donít know their address, so when you write again please send it to me. Donít mention what I say unless you think they wonít mind if I help them, some people are very sensitive about this.
Remember me to them, & all of my relatives, I donít know any of their addresses, so I will have you give them my love and best wishes.
John and Mary have lots to tell us about their trip to England & the good time they had while there. They enjoyed it very much and would be glad if they were coming again this next summer. Our John says often he wish they were coming every summer, & would if they could afford it. But it is an expensive trip on the ship. If the fare was only as 25 or 30 years ago. There are lots would take the trip instead of having a vacation somewhere here in the Mountains or at the seashore.
I went to spend two separate weeks at the seaside. I like to be by, or on the ocean. Harry wanted me to come with John & Mary, but I would rather he came too, he was working near home at that time, & was coming home for the weekends. If he had been on an extended trip like he is on now. I should have been tempted to come with them.
I should like to make a trip, & go to France, Germany, Switzerland & other country as I have a desire to go into these places. We have a wonderful country, & many fine & interesting places to enjoy ones vacation. I have travelled a lot, but only have touched slightly the beauties that are here. I have travelled many miles more than three times around the world. Harry travels more than the distance around the world every year, some years more than 35,000 miles. He may give up travelling after this year. You realize he is too old to get a job at home, so he is sticking to his job until he donít need to be dependant on a job. His firm consider him their best salesman, & they have over 20 agents through the country. He has been with them 15 years & never missed a dayís wages. They pay him when ill & give him a monthís vacation a year.
Now I must close with love to you and your son.
Lovingly your cousin,
Please do NOT reproduce this letter anywhere without my permission.
© Cary B 2006
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