primary source exercise
Written primary sources are in a different font and are specific to each question. Be specific and provide plenty of examples and evidence to support you answer.
It is not simply enough to repeat what the sources say; you must analyze them and explain how they relate to the time period under study and what information we can glean from them about these time periods. Analyzing primary sources is one of the cornerstones of the historian’s craft.
This is an excerpt from a letter from a Cincinnati, Ohio woman:
Letter from Hannah Robbins Gilman to Elizabeth Hale Gilman Hoffman, December 29, 1823
Never my dear Eliza did I so much rejoice, as when I opened my beloved Winthrop’s letter, and discovered your own hand writing. I have thought of you my dear child, with great anxiety since we received Robert’s letter, you suffered so much, the first time you was attacked with that distressing complaint. But the Lord, who hears the cries of his children in distress, and is often seen in the moment of danger, has again appeared for your relief. I trust my dear that you called upon him in your distress, and he has answered your prayers. May you be enabled to give yourself to him, through the blessed Redeemer, which is your duty and privilege. Remember he has said, whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my father who is in heaven. It is of little consequence whether we attach ourselves to a Presbyterian or Episcopal church, provided they hold to the Deity and atonement of Christ. You my dear Eliza are convinced of these important truths — and O how it would rejoice my heart could I know that my beloved Mary and her husband were also established on these all important points.
Your letter of 14th is at hand. My last was under date of 25th: since which the competition in the Provision Market, has continued increasing. Very prime Pork will now readily command $2.50 & I shall be compelled to pay that price. In general, the pork is not so good this year as usual. I have on hand about 80 bbls. [bbl is an abbreviation for a barrel] Mess, 140 Prime, 200 kegs of Lard, & 25 Hams and Shoulders. The price of the latter, in pickle, as mentioned in your last (7 @ 8cents’ lb) at New York; exceeds my expectations, and would be much better than to sell here on contract at 4 cents — Therefore if you have good grounds to believe that the first quality will command that price, it would be well to omit making a contract, as it will not cost 2cents/lb. to send them from this place to New York, including insurance. I wrote to Captain Pierce requesting him to be at Louisville by the Scioto & Congress, which are to leave this [Cincinnati] the 31st for New Orleans. The River is quite high, no ice, & every prospect of an open Winter. White Beans are 40 cents bushel. I have thoughts of placing a Keg of Lard in the Centre of a bbl of Beans. The plan of putting the article in tin Canisters, is novel, & no doubt will keep it perfectly good for years. There are plenty of Stone Jars here, but I do not like the Shape. For reasons, heretofore mentioned, I have not made any further arrangements with Parsons respecting a Schooner [a type of ship]. If he should build, I could not superintend his Vessel & a Steam Boat at New York. The Rob Roy arrived at New Orleans. I calculate that you will receive the consignment of Tobacco &c, about this time, & shall hope for your report of its quality by the 15th of next month. The bbl of Pork I do not expect will pass the New York Inspection as Mess. I cannot account for the Captain drawing on You for $500 — It was an incorrect measure on his part; and you were wrong in coming under an unconditional acceptance. I hope you will not encounter the same hazard again, for any friend or relative, however dear to You, or respectable. A Gentleman arrived here yesterday, in a Steam Boat from Wheeling 6½ days from Washington City [Washington, D.C.]!
Question: Perhaps now is a good time to mention that Gilman was married to a businessman. Although long and written seemingly haphazardly (hint: all of these prices and numbers are not important unto themselves, but think about what Gilman is doing and how she is doing it), Gilman’s letter highlights an extraordinary number of historical events and developments occurring in American society in the wake of the War of 1812. What characteristics of American society do we see highlighted in her letter? What historical events, developments, and movements is she a part of and observing?