Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Faint doodles inside a very old arithmetic textbook

To see the above doodles, you might need to squint or adjust the angle of your computer screen. They were drawn on the inside back cover of "School Arithmetic, Primary Book," which was published in 1900 by B.F. Johnson Publishing Co. of Richmond, Virginia.1

From left, we have:
  • A chick.
  • A girl with a dress and bow in her hair. She appears to be holding something rather large. An animal, perhaps?
  • A rabbit standing on its two back legs and wiping/covering one eye.

The book once belonged to Mae Beathe of McDowell, Virginia, whose name is written next to the date October 17, 1912, on the book's first page.2 She might or might not be the artist responsible for the doodles.

I don't have many good leads for Mae Beathe. The best one comes from a 2011 obituary for James Hugh "Corky" Cross, who was born in 1928 and was the youngest child of Edward Marcey and Anna Mae Beathe Cross. Some of the time and geographic elements there seem to fit.

Meanwhile, McDowell is an unincorporated community in Highland County, Virginia.3 It must have been an interesting place to grow up and go to school a century ago. Nowadays, it is sparsely populated, with an estimate of just 2,321 residents in 2010. It is the least-populous county in Virginia and one of the least-populous counties in the eastern United States.

Highland County is known as "Virginia's Little Switzerland" and its museum and heritage center is located in McDowell.

McDowell itself is too inconsequential for its own Wikipedia page. But the Civil War's Battle of McDowell — an early victory by Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson — has its own page. So the area's past seems to be more relevant than its present.

1. Interested in more doodles? Check out these posts from February 2011:
2. Also on October 17, 1912, Albino Luciani was born in northern Italy. He would go on to become Pope John Paul I for 33 days in 1978 before dying of a heart attack. Well, probably a heart attack.
3. Other unincorporated communities in Highland County include the wonderfully named Blue Grass, Clover Creek, Doe Hill, Forks of Waters, Hardscrabble, Head Waters, Possum Trot, and Trimble. Sounds like the perfect kind of county for Joan and I to explore.

1 comment:

  1. The doodle of the bunny looks exactly like a page from Beatrix Potter's Benjamin Bunny or Peter Rabbit - there's an illustration where peter is crying. Not sure if the timing would line up, though!