My Research Adventures

A Child's Scribble: 180 Years Old

The artistic scribble of a little girl is as timeless as it is charming. I found such scribble on a 180 year old letter from Mrs. Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee (wife of Robert E. Lee) to her friend Mrs. Selina Lloyd Powell. The letter is not dated, but I can date the letter to 1836 based on the content. Either five-year-old Rebecca Powell or three-year-old Hattie Powell were allowed to use the back page to express her creativity - drawing around Mrs. Lee's signature and her direction of the letter to her mother. Note Mrs. Lee's signature as "M. C. Lee."


The letter can be dated based on a reference Mrs. Lee made to a woman named Mary Goldsborough and the fact that she had lost her father, a grown sister, and a grown brother within the past year. I have identified her as Mary Caroline Goldsborough (1808 - 1890) of Talbot County, MD who lost her sister Henrietta Maria Goldsborough in 1835, a brother Charles Henry Goldsborough in 1836, and her father Robert Henry Goldsborough in 1836.

Image courtesy of the Powell Family Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William and Mary.

©2020 by Alison Herring