September 27, 1868 letter to Sarah Keith from Hiram Crawford Jr.

September 27, 1868

To: Sarah Keith 

From: Hiram Crawford, Chicago, IL

Mentions Kate, also his mother’s visit with Henry and Mary. Hoped that Henry was making money out of his roofing – it would be refreshing to see a Crawford make money and keep it. David had written that he had made and lost three fortunes since he had been “in that country.”

1868-09-27 1868-09-27B 1868-09-27C 1868-09-27D


Sept 27” 1868

Dear Sister,

Your very unexpected but welcome letter of the 15th inst.[1] was received all right. Sarah I had really forgotten all about owing you a letter. Though I had answered yours long time ago. Told Kate[2] I thought you must be mistaken and she like all good and obedent wives said she guesses not. That in the matter of corresponding she had as soon believe you as me and a little sooner. I guess she knows me. —I am sorry to learn that Mother[3] has been poorly and am glad that she is getting around all right. Also am pleased to know that her short visits at Henry’s[4] and Mary’s[5] was pleasant and agreeable. I have not heard from Henry since he was here. I think sometime in July. I suppose he has been making money out of his Roofing. At least I hope so. I would like to see a Crawford make mony and keep it. It would be refreshing.

I haven’t heard from David[6] in sometime. He wrote me that he had made and lost three fortunes since he had been in that country and was going for another one. Good for him. I hope he will make it and keep it. I am expecting a little to see him along here this fall, just for the simple reason that he has not said anything about it in his letters. I trust Luke[7] has come out all right. Chicago is tolerable sickly this fall, principally Billious[8] fevers and congestive chills. The weather is very cold and wet this month. Have had to have a fire most of the time. The principal topic of interest here is politics. Our Tanner demonstrations are immense. Ten thousand torches in a line is a sight worth seeing[9]. The people of Galesburg[10] ought to insist on Bill & Lucinda staying there as the place would probably sink if they should go. Kate says she would like to get into your Mrs K melon patch. She would make it look sick, of course I wouldn’t eat any. Kate and Grandma[11] joins in love to Mother, yourself and family.

Your Brother


P.S. I wish when Mother came back you wold send those framed Pictures of mine. And don’t wait a year or two before you write again.

H. Crawford

430 North Clark St

Chicago, Ill


[1] Instant, meaning of the present month

[2] Katherine (Atcheson) Crawford, Hiram’s wife.

[3] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

[4] Henry Clay Crawford, Hiram’s brother

[5] Mary (Hamilton) Crawford, Edwin’s widow and Hiram’s sister-in-law

[6] David Caleb (D.C.) Crawford, Hiram’s brother

[7] Luke Keith, Sarah’s husband

[8] Typhoid, malaria, hepatitis or elevated temperature and bile emesis

[9] Republican Ulysses S. Grant, who ran against Democrat Horatio Seymour in the 1868 presidential election, was the son of a tanner and while he worked in the tannery occasionally as a child, he swore that as an adult, he would never do so. Noted in A History of Chicago, Volume II: From Town to City 1848-1871 by Bessie Louise Pierce, was the following: “The campaign was enlivened by Tanner Clubs patterned after the Wide Awakes of the early ‘sixties (the Wide Awakes were a youth organization and, later, a paramilitary organization cultivated by the Republican Party during the 1860 presidential election in the United States). By September, enthusiastic young Republicans lighted the streets in their torchlight parades to demonstrate their will to put the ‘Tanner” in the White House.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, the first Tanner club of torchlight soldiers was organized in Chicago on July 24, 1868. The name ‘Tanner’ took like wildfire; 1,000 Tanner clubs sprang up within two weeks, and within two months there were fully 10,000 Tanner companies.*

The name Tanner came from the fact that General Ulysses S. Grant had worked for a time as a tanner as a young man and that he had been able to “tan” the secessionist rebels who in the Civil War had taken up arms to destroy the nation. Their intent was to increase voter turnout on election day by marching in torchlight parades dressed in uniforms reminiscent of the Union armies.

A typical duty of the torchlight soldiers in every city was to march to the local railroad station to meet visiting political celebrities and escort them to their hotel. A delegation of the most prestigious local dignitaries would join in meeting the celebrity and the combined procession then marched through the city streets to the hotel. The celebrity customarily made a brief speech, thanking and complimenting his escort, then retired to change his clothes, have dinner, and confer with local party personalities before the evening political meeting.*

Later when the speaker was ready to proceed to the meeting place, the torchlight soldiers paraded through such major streets of the city as the political meeting managers had time for. Military bands, fireworks, bonfires, and booming cannon added heightened excitement to the occasion. Once arrived at the county courthouse square or meeting hall where the speakers were to give their orations, the appearance of the torchlight soldiers in their colorful uniforms, their cheering, their singing and their patriotically impressive presence added to the political excitement of the evening.*

Probably the highest ceremonial honor torchlight soldiers could confer on a visiting celebrity was to form two lines and permit him to “pass through.”*

(*Excerpts taken from “Torchlight Soldiers: A Wisconsin View of the Torchlight Parades of the Republican Party ‘Tanners’ and the Democratic Party ‘White Boys in Blue’” by Charles D. Goff, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh)

[10] Galesburg, Michigan, Sarah and Luke’s home

[11] Kate’s grandmother, Elizabeth McGrath


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: September 27, 1868 letter to Sarah Keith from Hiram Crawford Jr. – Letters & Diary Entries From the 1860s

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