What did Julia Sand say?
September 22, 2023 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Wondering if anyone knows where one can read all of the (typed/transcribed) letters of Julia Sand to Chester Arthur. More specific instructions below.

I don't want terrible scans of her handwritten original letters (can't read 'em, that handwriting....) or excerpts only from them in other books. I am very good at Internet searches, library searches, etc. and I cannot find anything that just has a list of all of the letters, typed up and easily readable. It seems ridiculous to me that this isn't something I can find online, nor have I been able to find them in local libraries. Somebody has to have read them somewhere to be able to quote from them in books, but I can't seem to find this. Is this just not existing for the average non-professor to find?
posted by jenfullmoon to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Scholars will read them in their original form (or scans). They would generally only be transcribed if someone were publishing an edition, which I'm guessing you would've found if it existed. I'm afraid no one is going to be inclined to do this work for free when the letters exist and are in English (and in a major US archive) so that any interested party can read them for themselves. Alas, the historical record often does not conform to twenty-first-century expectations about ease of access.
posted by praemunire at 4:49 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe you can find authors who have written books or articles about Chester Arthur (where they reference those letters) and then write to those authors to see if they might have transcripts.
posted by alex1965 at 5:47 PM on September 22

Best answer: Damn you, jenfulmoon, damn you! Stop being so interesting!
posted by y2karl at 9:10 PM on September 22

Response by poster: Oh well. Guess that won't be happening. Thanks anyway. I had just figured that someone had to have had them in a book or something SOMEWHERE....but apparently not.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:45 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]

I bet you could get pretty good results using OCR (optical character recognition).

I just took the image from this NYTimes article, turned it into a PDF, uploaded it to Google Drive, and then imported it into a Google Doc. The result wasn't great, but given the low quality of the input I was surprised at how much it was able to do. If better scans of the original letters are available, I bet you could get a readable first transcription by trying a few different OCR tools and seeing which one works best with cursive.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 10:35 AM on September 23

Best answer: People had the same question on this entry of the Library of Congress blog

You'll have srcroll down to the comments.

September 1, 2021 at 5:57 pm
Has a book of Julia’s letters been published ?

Neely Tucker says: ( Neely Tucker is a writer-editor in the Library’s Office of Communications. He manages the Library of Congress blog)
September 2, 2021 at 4:53 pm

I forwarded your question to Michelle Krowl, the historian in the Manuscript Division who wrote the post. Here’s her response:

To the best of my knowledge there has been no published volume of Julia Sand’s letters. The closest thing I have seen is an article by Chester A. Arthur biographer Thomas C. Reeves: Reeves, Thomas C. “The President’s Dwarf: The Letters of Julia Sand to Chester A. Arthur.” New York History 52, no. 1 (January 1971): 72-83. LC catalog record.

Does Julia’s letters have a manuscript version? In some places it’s very difficult for me to read the handwriting, but I would be very curious to read the full text.
posted by yyz at 2:26 PM on September 23 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I did find/read The President's Dwarf online, but it didn't really do anything different than any other "here's some excerpts" that I saw, unless they cut something off in the online scan.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:19 AM on September 24

I downloaded The Presidents Dwarf, but like you said it's only a few excerpts and some commentary on them. Not even a complete letter. So no real use.
I'm actually surprised that no one has transcribed the letters.
If they were, her story would be more widely known.

Anyways it was an interesting question jenfullmoon.
posted by yyz at 10:42 AM on September 24 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Agreed, I'm flabbergasted nobody.has in the modern era.. I cannot read the scribbly cursive in scans worth a damn. I guess I'll never know.
Thanks anyway, y'all.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:09 PM on September 24

Do you have a link to scans of some (or all) of the letters? I'm happy to take a crack at transcribing some of them. I was raised on cursive, and the samples I've seen are pretty legible to me.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 6:29 PM on September 24

Winnie the Proust, the most convenient way to get to most of the letters is through this essay that accompanies the Chester A Arthur papers. Many of the links there, especially the ones that are dates, go straight to the LOC page images for the specific letters. I'm not sure if that post lists all of the letters or not: there's a full list in the Index to CAA's correspondence, but I haven't seen a way to get from those entries to a specific page in the online archive.
posted by xueexueg at 8:31 PM on September 24 [1 favorite]

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