A Child's Scribble: 180 Years Old

October 6, 2017

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, College of William and Mary.

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©2019 by Alison Herring