gold rush days finds | antique papers & books

by | Aug 24, 2021 | All Things Home, Antiques, Favorite Finds | 51 comments

I was going to share all of my Gold Rush Days finds in one post, but when I started editing the photos, I realized that would be a pretty long post.  It’s not that I bought so much stuff, but each piece has a story with it and different aspects of it to show.  I didn’t want to rush through it, so I’m going to break up what I purchased into a few posts.  Today, I’m going to share some antique papers and books I found.

One booth was curated by a woman who obviously appreciated old letters, photos, albums, etc.  I lingered there for quite a while, picking through the boxes and flipping through books.  She was selling several bundles of letters for $10/each, tied up in a light blue ribbon.  Let me just acknowledge that I do not need any more old pieces of paper or people to research, but I just couldn’t help picking up one bundle.  You just never know what’s going to be in those envelopes.

Well, my instinct paid off.  What I thought would be a bundle of letters from the 1930s and 40s (based on the postmarks I could see) about mundane daily activities ended up being a lot more interesting.

gold rush finds | antique letters | miss mustard seed

The first envelope held three calling cards from the mid-1800s, something I’ve actually been browsing for online!  I haven’t bought any, because they can be pretty pricey for one small piece of paper.  I figured the contents of the first envelope were likely a fluke, but the second one yielded a beautiful invitation.  Each envelope, in fact, contained something interesting – a receipt, a recipe, a letter from Italy…

gold rush finds | antique letters | miss mustard seed

The calling cards are definitely my favorite.  I am planning on framing them.

gold rush finds | antique letters | miss mustard seed

The invitations are so beautiful, too…

gold rush finds | antique letters | miss mustard seed

This letter is from 1841, but I haven’t been able to make out any of the words.  The writing is so messy!  It looks like it could be a list of items…?  I’ll have to study it a bit more carefully to see if I can figure anything out.

gold rush finds | antique letters | miss mustard seed

Some of the envelopes are from the mid-1800s as well, but I’m not sure why some of these items were in envelopes posted in the 1930s and 40s.  Well, this mystery was to my advantage.  I got some truly special pieces of ephemera.

gold rush finds | antique letters | miss mustard seed

I thought this one was a letter, but after looking at it a bit more carefully, I realized it’s a recipe…

gold rush finds | antique letters | miss mustard seed

I have no idea what kind of recipe this is.  It looks like it could say “poltis” (poultice) at the top, but it does say to “eat whole.”  At the bottom.  This recipe seems to contain beans, vinegar, white chalk, black pepper, tea, brown sugar, and rum!  Any ideas?  Whatever it is, I love the handwriting and the misspellings.  There is something endearing about it.

My Instagram followers helped me identify the following letter as Italian.  I recently learned that letters written on stationery with black borders mean the writer is in mourning.  Isn’t that interesting?

gold rush finds | antique letters | miss mustard seed

I also bought an autograph album from the 1930s and 40s for $20.  I was sort of hoping it was blank because it would make a lovely little sketchbook, but the contents are special

gold rush finds | antique autograph book | miss mustard seed

It is completely full (most pages front and back) with notes of encouragement to a woman named Katherine/Catherine/Kay.  (It’s like my yearbooks to Marian/Marianne/Marion.)  The notes span from 1934 to about 1940, but the entries are not chronological, so I might be missing some dates.  Most of the quotes, poems, and verses are either directly from the Bible or have a Christian message.

gold rush finds | antique autograph book | miss mustard seed

There are entries in California, Idaho, and even my husband’s alma mater – Moody Bible Institute in Chicago!

gold rush finds | antique autograph book | miss mustard seed

gold rush finds | antique autograph book | miss mustard seed

I have enjoyed reading through this book even more than I thought.  Words that were encouraging and uplifting almost 100 years ago still carry the same weight today.  We live in a tough, uncertain time, but when I think about what was happening in the world during the late 1930s and early 1940s, there was great hardship and uncertainty as well.  Likely more than I’ll ever understand.

gold rush finds | antique autograph book | miss mustard seed

This entry made me smile because the handwriting reminded me of my Opa’s writing in his final years.  He never had great penmanship, but his writing became shaky as he got older and looked very similar to this.  You can tell letters were written slowly and more deliberately, with a trembling hand.

gold rush finds | antique autograph book | miss mustard seed

I don’t know what I’ll do with this book, but for now, I’m really enjoying the encouragement from it.

I also found a sketchbook for $25!  Actually, Cheri is the one who spotted it and pointed it out to me.  The first few drawings weren’t much more than scribbles with a ballpoint pen, but some of the sketches are quite nice.

gold rush finds | vintage sketchbook | miss mustard seed

There is no writing in the book at all, so I have no idea if this belonged to a man or a woman and when it was bought or used.  While the leather cover with a sailing ship embossed on it has a masculine look about it, the drawings make me think this belonged to a teenage girl.  Maybe not, but that’s the vibe I get.  The sketches are mostly of horses and a few costumes.  I believe they are costumes instead of daily outfits because of the ballpoint pen drawings.  The ballpoint pen was invented in the 1880s, but it wasn’t widely used or affordable until almost 1960.   The sketchbook has some age to it, but I’m guessing it’s not any older than the 1960s and it might be more modern than that.

gold rush finds | vintage sketchbook | miss mustard seed

I am going to tear out the scribbled pages, but I’ll leave a few of the nicer sketches in the book and make little notes about them before I add my art to the blank pages.  It’s about 75% blank and it’s a nice paper that has yellowed a bit with age, so I’m excited about using it.

gold rush finds | vintage sketchbook | miss mustard seed

I bought this antique book (printed in 1905), The Century Book of Facts, for $10.  Leather-bound books were on my list to use in the basement, but this was the only one I found!  Well, I did find a few more, but they were incredibly expensive.

gold rush finds | century book of facts | miss mustard seed

It has a pretty leather spine…

gold rush finds | century book of facts | miss mustard seed

…but what sold me on it was the handwritten notes on the inside of both the front and back cover.  There are notes about the US Revolutionary War, Thomas Edison…

gold rush finds | antique book | miss mustard seed

…spelling and grammar…

gold rush finds | antique book | miss mustard seed

Inside the book was an advertisement for baby prams and cribs…

gold rush finds | antique pram advertisement | miss mustard seed

…and on the back cover were greetings for different occasions.  I thought this was interesting – a collection of words for writing cards and letters.

gold rush finds | antique book | miss mustard seed

And, the last book I bought was Men, Women, and Manners in Colonial Times from 1897!

gold rush finds | antique book | miss mustard seed

It’s funny, I’ve read some of it and I can’t make out if it’s historical fiction or a non-fiction history book!  It was just $5 and I bought it more for its decorative value than to use as reading material.

gold rush finds | antique book | miss mustard seed

The pages have “fluffy edges”, which I love the look of.

gold rush finds | antique book | miss mustard seed

Not that I need “decorative books”, because I have plenty of real ones, but I want to scatter some old books around the basement to reinforce that English library vibe.  I was joking with a friend that I’m going to become one of those people surrounded by stacks of books and old paper.  I seem to be on that trajectory, but I am a bit too tidy for that.

Does anyone else like buying old papers and books?

I’ll share more of my finds in another post…

51 Comments

  1. KathieB

    I love reading about your finds. I have casually collected old books for 40 years. I especially love old children’s books, recipe books and bibles. I love your new games cabinet. I am surprised that something so tall will fit in a basement. I’ve never been in a house basement but I imagined that the ceiling might be quite low. It’s a lovely piece and great find.

    Reply
    • Resa Files

      ‘Delicious…delightful’ are the best words I can think of to describe this wonderful post! And to your prediction about your trajectory into mounds of papers and books, I made that journey long ago. I live alone and have the liberty of that sort of design for my environment. Surrounded by walls of my beloved books, papers, artwork and supplies, I often fall asleep with a hand or foot propped on a stack of books. And a smile on my face to have drifted off in a wonderland/nest.

      Reply
  2. Debbie Hibbert

    I LOVE buying old papers and books! All of these purchases are exactly the sort that makes my heart pound when I see them! But, like you, I don’t really like to buy things I can’t use, or have displayed and enjoyed. Unfortunately, I live in a small, one bedroom, apartment … not a lot of space. Thank you for sharing your finds.

    Reply
  3. Jo

    I love, love, love, old books and paper. I once found a piece of aged looking paper in the street, it had even been run over a few times which gave it a beautiful texture. I was so excited to have found it but the confused look on the faces of my husband and son was priceless. It made a wonderful art journal page. Sending and receiving friendship letters is becoming a lost treasure of art. I call it art because our penmanship is a personalized artist
    part of us.

    Reply
    • Denise McCurry

      Oh how true. I am saddened that cursive is becoming a lost art, and yet, it is so beautiful that. I can see the day when an art class will be to learn the how to write in cursive.

      Reply
  4. Babs

    What will future generations think of us? We will not leave behind lovely handwritten letters or beautiful calling cards which makes me a little sad. I understand some children can’t read or write in cursive. How will they read family letters should they be so lucky to have inherited some? Such a loss.

    Reply
    • Karen Juliano

      What a sad thought, and I completely agree. I still write letters to people in my family but I can’t imagine they hang on to them. I, on the other hand, have a trunk full of letters that I wrote and received in my teens, before the internet. My boys have had to sit down and practice writing their name before receiving drivers licenses because they did not learn in school.

      Reply
  5. Connie G

    My heart skipped a beat when I saw the calling card with my maiden name “Pratt” on it. I know very little about my dads family and would like to think that maybe it was one of my ancestors 😊

    Reply
  6. Margaret

    I believe it says “cut whole,” rather than “eat,” based on the writer’s “E’s” in other words. Still confusing, but if it’s a recipe for a poultice…

    Reply
    • Katherine

      I also read it as “cut”

      Reply
  7. Karen Juliano

    Old papers, yes! I love your old autograph book. I have one very like it that was my grandmother’s from the 1930s. In it, my grandfather signed, “It was nice to meet you” when they met at Bible camp. They were married four years later, after becoming friends and courting via mail – they lived in different states. They were married 64 years before she died. I feel very fortunate to have such a gem in my little collection.

    Reply
  8. Debra

    I wish I had more of my Dad’s writing, it was a beautiful script, actually a type of calligraphy. He told me his teachers gave him extra credit for writing on official school certificates. Unfortunately he became quite arthritic in older age and rarely used his talent. I did take a sample and put it in a picture frame with one of his pipes, a tiny screwdriver, service medals from WW!! and a picture from that era. It encapsulates many parts of him for me.

    Reply
  9. Patricia Kasparian

    Your “antique finds” posts are among my favorite blog posts to read. It’s always fun to see what treasurers you’re finding. I have also bought antique books and a few bunches bound letters – the letters were so delicate and so pretty that I just use them on a dresser I have as sort of a prop…but now I plan to open and read them 😉

    Reply
  10. Monica Duelley

    Hi Marian, I’m fascinated by old letters and recipes. I wonder if there is more to the poultice recipe on the back, or maybe a page is missing. Here’s my interpretation:

    For a Poltice
    Cut my beans simmer in vinegar, black pepper
    After this is all ready, grate in white chalk. Take some warm ? & tea before putting this on.
    Take three parts brown sugar one part alum. Put it on something so as to brown them/n heat some some (she previously spelled “som” warm tea) and put it with the other so as to make a salve and put it on the brest. Just cut a hole

    Reply
  11. Mylissa

    Shorthand! Much of the “messy” letter is written in shorthand. Thanks for sharing these beautiful papers!

    Reply
  12. Lorrie Baird

    What treasures! Not only are they beautiful, but also underscore the foundational values of our nation and timelessness of those values.
    I’ve been cleaning out nooks, crannies, and closets of my parents’ home (now mine) and struggle in knowing what to keep. Both parents were collectors, so the volume is overwhelming. But your post affirms my reluctance to throw things away. They need more careful consideration and respect for history. After all, those who do not learn from it are “doomed to repeat it.”

    Reply
  13. Davia

    Hi Marian,
    First let me start by saying that I love your blog! I was so intrigued by all of these old letters, books, and calling cards. I live in CT so I looked up the Oak Hill Seminary, which was in West Haven, CT. I found that is was a school for girls, and in a book written by S.H. Elliot entitled The Attractions of New Haven, published in 1869, it tells of all the “classes” the girls would be partaking in. Thank you so much for sharing these.

    Reply
  14. Judeth

    I love old books. On a dog walking trip with my boxer, we came across a garbage can full of old cookbooks. On the back page was a recipe for Chocolate Cake with the date of May 1, 1901. The other was Fanny Farmers cookbook. I pulled those 2 out of the trash. I use them as risers with my ironstone collection

    Reply
  15. Margo

    I believe your recipe instructs you to just cut hole which would make a lot of sense for a poultice. Also the messy handwriting with the list in the middle looks to be a list of names, the middle one being Frank. In fact it is almost a replica of how my late brother signed his name, so much so, that it jumped right out at me.
    I have always been a letter writer, corresponding for twenty years with a friend in England that I met on a Mediterranean cruise.

    Reply
    • Rosemary

      Ha! I live in Pocatello, Idaho! The same place that scripture from Proverbs is written from. What fun and special finds you have!

      Reply
    • Sharon Rexroad

      I agree with Margo about the messy letter including names. I think the one before “Frank” is Clint!

      Reply
  16. Lynn Pritchard

    I believe that the “fluffy” edge pages you referred to are deckle edge pages, indicating handmade paper. I heard my grandfather say that word when about 65 years ago!

    Reply
    • Teri

      I just bought at auction a portable writing desk/box. It opens to a quite faded red velvet writing pad, has a quill, ink bottle, and surprise!, someone’s 1911 handwritten will. Haven’t read it yet. I have old books too. A 1938 school science book warns of addiction from nicotine use.

      Reply
      • Marian Parsons

        Oh, what a cool surprise!!

        Reply
  17. JC

    These are treasures too!It amazes me how similar the hand writing was during a certain time period. Perhaps it was because they had penmanship as a subject in school and learned from the same typeset. My mother’s handwriting looked so similar to many above. I absolutely love the poems and Scripture encouragement, especially the verse, ” My grace is sufficient for thee.” From the looks of the handwriting from this old soul, she had plenty of opportunity to realize the depths of that truth. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  18. Karen

    Very interesting to see all this. I recently received letters and docs from my grandparents lives. Many old letters, some from relatives I didn’t know we had! One had birthed 20 children, only 12 were alive at that point. And she had 61 grandchildren, wow!

    Reply
  19. Irene Kelly

    Just love all your finds I looked up the Madison Square Presbyterian church in NYC it was a beautiful building that “lived” on that site for only 13 yrs an insurance company bought it tore it down to build a high rise office bldg. Such a shame to destroy that church.

    Reply
  20. Sharri Niehus Reeves

    Old books are my downfall! About 40 years ago my Great Grandparents house and contents were auctioned off. One of the items I got acquired was a large red book titled “Webster’s Encyclopedia of Useful Information and World’s Atlas”. Some of the topics include rules for mechanics, how to pay bills and how to start a retail business.
    Then about 15 years ago our retired Pastor passed away. His family asked the congregation to take whatever they wanted. I picked up 2 theology books and when no one else was interested, I ended up with 2 bankers boxes full of books including a Bible from the late 1800’s written in German.
    And then recently, as I was cleaning out my Mother’s house I found an autograph book belonging to my Great great grandmother.

    Reply
  21. Rita

    I love old books and emphera as well and have a small collection of my own. One my favorite bookd I found is a book called The Social Mirror by Rose Cleveland. It is from 1888. Parts of the inside pages are falling away from the spine, but it’s very interesting. After I did some research on Rose, sister to Grover Cleveland, I found that she had her own secret affair and was the First Lady of the US during Grover’s first term.

    Reply
  22. Lola

    The recipe for the poultice has me baffled. I’ve been studying it for a while now and am wondering if the first line says Cut blank leaves (misspelled leavs) since a poultice is made from plants or herbs?? Would possibly make more sense than beans. I’ll keep wracking my brain to figure out that second word. Love this post!!!!

    Reply
  23. Louise

    This is so interesting. I have mail from the 1800’s to my grandparents . Love old books .. thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  24. Beckie H

    My grandmother used to quote that saying “only one life ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” How special to see it there! Also it was fun to hear that your husband is an MBI alum! I graduated in 1988 and treasure my education from that great institution! I guess I feel even more connected to MMS now 😉

    Reply
  25. Gayle Stewart

    I do enjoy reading about your shopping adventures! The calling cards really caught my eye. My mom gave to me a sterling silver case with a long chain and what I would describe as repousee (sp. ?) on the front. Inside are two different calling cards. The inside is lined in silk. The chain is long, like it would be worn around a woman’s neck or chest. Unfortunately, my mom never told me how she came to have it or if there was a family connection. But I still cherish it.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, I have a silver case like that and it’s monogrammed with my great-grandma’s initials. I’m going to frame that as well.

      Reply
  26. Julie | Home On The Hill

    Yes! I love old books & I’m always on the look out in our local thrift stores for special finds.

    Recently I found a small leather bound book from 1822 – it will be 200 years old next year!!

    It is a book of poetry dating to 1799 by Thomas Campbell called – “The Pleasures Of Hope”.
    I felt it fitted well with the difficult times we find ourselves in as we all can do with a little hope.

    The poem is massive – about 80 pages long with notes following! I imagine it was read out loud as a form of entertainment – imagine a scene from Pride & Prejudice published around that time. 🙂

    Marian, regards the notes in your leather bound book – my 89 year old mum has a list of different greetings to be used in cards she sends as she is not a confident speller & so can refer to them when needed – I wonder if the owner of your book did it for the same reason.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      I have a collection of books from the 1700s and I feel like a keeper of history! 🙂

      Reply
  27. Jennifer

    I think at the beginning of the recipe it says “For A. Poltis” like it’s for a person instead of meaning poultice. I of course could be wrong but that was my first instinct. Don’t know if that helps or not! Enjoy your new finds!

    Reply
  28. Bea

    Marian, I always enjoy hearing about your antiquing forays and I love seeing the photos of your purchases. The old letters and calling cards are a glimpse into another era. Such fun to read them and imagine what life was like back then.

    Reply
  29. Jennifer

    Ok, I’m back to revise my earlier comment-I do think this is a poultice recipe after deciphering the rest of the recipe. Or at least I think I did-
    Let my beans simmer in vinegar and black pepper.
    After this is all ready grate in white chalk.
    Take some warm tea before putting this on.
    Take three parts brown sugar one of alum.
    Put this on something so as to brown.
    then heat some rum and put it with the other so as to make a syrup and just put it on the breast.
    Just cut a hole.

    I don’t know if syrup is correct, as pointed out by another reader it could be salve, but based on the rest of the lettering it looks like a misspelling of syrup. I hope this helps you. I really enjoyed trying to decipher it!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Yep, I think you’re right about “just cut a whole” instead of “eat it whole.” The misspellings make it tough, but amusing.

      Reply
  30. Rosalina Garcia

    Marion, I also love books with “fluffy edges”. What is it about old books that draws us to them. Please continue to share your thoughts and treasure hunts. I so enjoy.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      I definitely will!

      Reply
  31. Alissa H.

    This post and the beautiful letters reminded me of a two-part video of Rajiv Surendra called “Letter Writing is Not Dead” by the Morgan Library and Museum on Youtube in October 2020. He has gorgeous penmanship and his apartment was featured in HGTV Handmade this past June showing some of his amazing talent. I think you would enjoy these videos if you’ve not seen them before.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      I’ll have to check it out!

      Reply
  32. Kelly Alexander

    I love it! I was first introduced to calling cards when I found some of my grandmother’s in her old trunk of keepsakes after she passed. So fun to find!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      I have one of my great-grandma’s calling cards. It’s so special!

      Reply
  33. Karen Degiorgis

    Lovely finds!
    If you need someone to translate the letter to an aunt and uncle, written in Italian, just email me a good shot of it and I can do it in a jiffy.
    Enjoy your haul!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Thank you! I have someone who offered on instagram. 💙 So sweet of you to offer up your time.

      Reply
  34. VICKI ELISH

    I love old books and papers. As a genealogist, I had to look up a few of the names to see what I could find out. I am confident that Blanche B Breckenridge in your book was Blanch B. Henry and was born on 10 March 1888, in Rockport, Pike, Illinois, United States, her father, Gilbert Hamilton Henry, was 26 and her mother, Elizabeth M Hall, was 21. She had at least 2 sons and 1 daughter with Thomas Henry Breckenridge. She lived in Derry Township, Pike, Illinois, United States in 1910 and Pleasant Vale Township, Pike, Illinois, United States in 1920. The photo in your book is the same as the one from the Moody Bible Institute Yearbook where Blanche was a member of the faculty from at least 1939 to 1942. She died in 1978, at the age of 90, and was buried in New Canton, Pleasant Vale Township, Pike, Illinois, United States and was laid to rest beside her husband Thomas Henry, in the Taylor-Martin Cemetery.

    Catherine/Katerine/Kat was likely a student at Moody Bible Institute and these were students and teachers at the Institute.

    I have my aunt’s autograph book from her 1929 senior year of high school. The handwriting is exquisite and the sentiments are so lovely and sincere yet so formal by today’s standards. There are photos of her friends and activities at the school in the back. One of my most treasured possessions.

    Thanks for sharing these pieces of your collection.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Thank you for the information! That is so awesome to have a bit more information about Blanch!

      Reply
  35. Carolyn L Dietrich

    I noticed on one of the pages of the Autograph Album (we had autograph books when I was in high school in the 60’s) that it said Dear Catherine and Pocatello, Idaho. How fun! I live in Meridian, Idaho and Pocatello is further east of Meridian. It was so nice to see a city I’ve been too in the state I live in. I love all your finds. Imagine if something you wrote – or one of your sketchbooks – was one day for sale to a future someone who loves old paper and books like you do!

    Reply

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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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