Thursday, August 18, 2016

She was proud of her father,
the bookseller

This 1924 edition of A Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony by Alice Turner Curtis1 has a loose and damaged binding and will rapidly loose what remaining value it has without some repairs or reinforcing.

It's another book that was in the possession of John Brake of Virginia2 in the 1970s, spent time in the inventory of a Pennsylvania bookseller and ended up in my possession via a bulk lot.

Before all of that, though, it had a family history.

At the bottom of the inside back cover, there's a small bookseller's label3 — just seven-eighths of an inch wide — for E.S. McCawley & Co. of Haverford, Pennsylvania. The label has been circled, with purple ink, and someone has written "My Father."

I discovered a little bit about Edmund S. McCawley from his March 1966 obituary in the Delaware County Daily Times. He had died at age 75 in Radnor Township. He was born in Philadelphia and lived for 40 years in Ithan (an early, unofficial name for a portion of Radnor Township). He was a president of the American Booksellers Association and chairman of its board of directors, and he was, of course, founder of the E.S. McCawley Co. bookstore.

For more, we turn to the inscriptions on the first page of A Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony...

It took a bit, but I now know what all that handwriting says:

Mary Yorke McCawley
Ithan - Penna -

From - Dady.
Christmas 1926.

Heath McCawley

"Heath McCawley" is written in the same pen and handwriting as "My Father" on the inside back cover. So we can perhaps agree that Heath (a girl) is the one who wrote on these two pages, perhaps years after the original inscription.

Meanwhile, Mary Yorke McCawley, who was born in 1917, had a very full life. Nicknamed Yorkie, she was a hospital volunteer and a lifelong gardener who sailed on the SS Normandie and was married twice. She " delighted in presiding over large holiday gatherings for extended family and friends."

Mary died in March 2014 at age 96. One of her granddaughters wrote: "My grandmother spoke like Katharine Hepburn. She had secrets. She was born in 1917. I didn’t think she would ever die."

You can read all the memories and stories of Yorkie's life on her two obituary pages, which I have been quoting, at and a blog titled "Wednesday-Night" by Diana Thebaud Nicholson.

Mary's sister, now Heath McCawley Porter of Villanova, Pennsylvania, was still alive at the time of Mary's death 29 months ago. I cannot find an obituary for her, so it's possible that she's still alive.

I would love to track her down and give her this book, which she wrote in so many decades ago.

Stay tuned.

1. According to Goodreads: "Children's and young adult author Alice Turner Curtis was born in Sullivan, ME. She lived most of her life in Boston, MA. Alice Turner Curtis is the author of "The Little Maid" Series of books. Originally published by Penn, during the period from 1913 to 1937. Reprinted by Knopf in the 1940's and 1950's with illustrations by Sandra James. Some books were reprinted by Applewood in the 1990's with the original illustrations. One books containing two original stories was printed by Derrydale Books in 1991."
2. I haven't yet found a full biography of Brake, who once collected so many early 20th century books, but I did discover that he published The History of Greenville, Virginia: the Town, Its People, Their Relatives and Friends, Businesses and Organizations — a volume of more than 1,200 pages — in 1994. According to one source, it was limited to 300 copies.
3. For other Papergreat posts featuring bookseller labels, see the list at the bottom of this November 2015 post.

1 comment:

  1. The book arrived yesterday and I took it to my aunt (Heath McCawley Porter) who was delighted and curious how you found all of us.
    I am sure Heath will write you a note now that we have a snail mail address - she doesn't do email or computers yet...Thank you for the joy you brought us and the stories that were shared concerning the book, my grandparents and great grandmother, all of whom I knew at least for a time. Sally Fridy