Thursday, January 13, 2011

Voices From the Past: Iva Swift's 1883 Autograph Book

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while have probably figured out that it's impossible to pin me down into one particular era. 

I may appear to be a 1940's vintage fashion blog for a few posts, and then suddenly I've moved into 1950's films or 1960's advertisements, and then back to the 1920's for a bit more fashion and music, and then into the 1930's for some closeups of my "scary" doll collection.  (Scary dolls?  You're all crazy - I think they're adorable.)

And now with this post, I've just jumped back 60 years in one week - from 1940's catalog fashion to 1880's schoolgirl poetry and art.

I apologize for my blog's multiple personalities. I hope I'm not too schizophrenic for you.  But I did warn you in my "About Me" that I would be sharing with you "my passion for vintage advertising & clothing and other intriguing finds from the Victorian era through the 1960's."   And that covers an awful lot of territory!

At this point, I'm too much in love with everything vintage to be willing to focus on just one era or subject.  So fasten your seat belts - it's going to continue to be a bumpy ride...

...beginning with today's look at this fantastic 1883 Victorian Autograph Book that I found at an estate sale this past summer.

I've had the pleasure of owning this Victorian autograph book for about 8 months now, so I've decided that it's time to pass it on to a new owner.

(It's up for auction on eBay right now if you'd like to take a peek.)

I love the name - Miss Iva Swift.  She sounds like she belongs in a Victorian novel.

The book is filled with more than 50 charming little poems and quotes...

Hiram Hill (another great name!) got fancy by adding a tiny red dot under each of his letters.

Emma Templeton wasn't very creative with her note to Iva, but she added a frame around her words so that she won't be forgotten... 

Others added artwork.  Isn't this girl with the daisy sweet?  The author wrote this little poem:

"Let me see,
One - two - three;
I don't care what the daisy says,
I'm bound to be married one of these days."

Christmas 1883 - James A. Butler

Was this James' way of flirting with Iva?  Cute...

Iva's piano teacher coudn't resist another opportunity to remind her to practice! 

Some of the artwork got pretty fancy.  Like this scenic view...

Here's my favorite - an owl reading to two cats on a park bench - drawn by Iva's teacher, Jeanie Blair.

I love the birds with the red and black flourishes in the photo above.  The poem is rather quirky, though:

"Be plain in dress My dear
And sober in your diet.
In short my deary:  Kiss me and be quiet."

- Yours truly. P.A.S.

Is P.A.S. another suitor of Iva's?  These young men certainly have an interesting way of showing their affections.

And finally, here's a fun little poem of B's from one of Iva's teachers, Edwin A. Sawyer...

I thought that this wise and clever poem was well worth the effort of typing out:

"B patient, loving, good and kind;
B quick to hear, B quick to mind;
B earnest in the cause of right;
B brave for truth and shed its light;
A blessing B to all around
And you'll B blest, as all have found.
To you may such B's always cling,
A swarm of B's that never sting."

Good advice for all of us - don't you think?

Hope these next days will B happy and productive ones for you.  B good! - but not too good...
- Susan


  1. I dont mind different eras..they are all equally great times..thats a beautiful autograph book.

  2. btw those dolls are creepy but they move at night?

  3. what a beautiful little book! I too love many different eras if I had a few houses - yeah right - I'd have them in all different styles, art deco would be first up after my love of the 50s which is my first love!

  4. thanks for this peek into a time long ago. i wish we knew more about iva. hardly compares to the messages found in my yearbooks from school..... ;)

    share away from whatever era your heart desires. they are all so interesting to me.

  5. That is just so darn cool. I love how people prided themselves on beautiful penmanship.

  6. Wow! What a find! Just beautiful. Are you sure you want to sell that? It's quite the treasure.

  7. Susan your post made me want to know more about this Iva Swift (you're completely right this name is adorable!). Did you try to google her?

  8. Susan,
    What a wonderful autograph book! I totally understand loving so'any thing. I have a basement full of vintage things! We could open a store and call it "Susan and Susan."

    We are in California, out of the snow. Not for fun, for Jud and radiation but it is still good to be out of the snow!


  9. OH.MY. STAAAAAAARS.....!! This is what I was talking about when I said I was addicted to those vintage girl's scrapbooks/commencement annuals/autograph books on ebay. How sweet!! I like the drawing of the cats in frock collars best. You post about the best things! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Too bad these autograph books are no tradition anymore. Over here we have the children's friends' books. These are pre printed books where your friends can write their favorite meals, popgroups, animals etc. and glue their photo, but nothing for grown ups though.
    And why pick a favorite era, or a favorite art stream when there is so much to enjoy! Don't limit yourself! I cannot choose either, so I am enjoying your 40ties (I wrote 50ties not entirely by accident) fashion advertisements as well as the 19th century autograph book. Have a great weekend!

    ps. the contact looks cleaner and brighter than ever, but I haven't tried it on yet!

  11. La Dama - See, everyone thinks my dolls are creepy! Haha - no, they don't move at night. But they do watch over guardian angels. :-)

    Straight Talking Mama - Interesting that you say that about having different homes decorated in different styles. I've given some thought to doing that in my own home, Art Deco in one, Victorian in another, 50's/60's in another.

    Ana - I was thinking about my own h.s. yearbooks when I wrote this too. You're right, friends blab on for pages, sharing way too much of my history.

    Kim - Yes, isn't the penmanship beautiful!

    Nancy - After I wrote this post, I had second thoughts about giving it up. But it was too late - someone had already bid on it! Oh well, I got my enjoyment out of it...

    Lexy - I googled Iva Swift, but no luck on finding MY Iva. Here's a bit on the girl's name Iva: Iva \i-va\ is a variant of Ivana (Czechoslovakian, Slavic), Ivy (Old English) and Jane (Hebrew), and the meaning of Iva is "God's grace".

    Suz - An antique store named Susan & Susan - you're brilliant! ;-) So sorry your California trip isn't purely pleasure - you know that you and Jud are in my prayers...

    Lisa - Aahh, so this is what you were referring to. Darn, I wish I could take the book off of eBay and give it to you. The cost would be your promise to stop by my blog every so often and say hi...

    Lili - I think you ought to frame your famous, indestructible contact!

  12. I would be sorry to put that book on sale, it's like having a piece of history in your hands! Adorable!

  13. How did I miss this post? Love the autograph book, I have a Great War one with the most equisite sketches, mottos and copper plate handwriting. A wonderful insight into the past.
    I'm a vintage whore, I love all eras and can't resist buying anything historic. xxx

  14. What an amazing treasure this is! I loved reading those entries and seeing those amazing works of art!

  15. Starting with the cover, I was in love with your little book. The folks who drew the lovely pictures were so talented! And that piano teacher who reminded Iva to do her exercises....I know exactly what she looks like (an old biddy, with glasses and a grim expression). Thanks for sharing this lovely treasure with us!

  16. Adorable, and such a little time capsule!

  17. hola,
    I nomitated for a stylish award,,check out mi blog.

  18. I love it Susan! The cover is beautiful. Their handwriting is so perfect and I enjoyed reading the little poems.

  19. La Dama - Thank you! You're so sweet... I will have fun picking ten bloggers to pass the award on to.

    Mitzi - You describe the piano teacher perfectly!

    Ann - I thought of you and Madeline and her autograph book when I posted this...

    Vix - I wouldn't have put it that way, but I guess you and I are both vintage whores. :-)

  20. Love the penmanship, and some of the accompanying illustrations. One gets the idea that people were better read in those days, quoting Plato and all. Great find, I'm sure the new owner will treasure it. Great blog, by the way.


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