This collection consists of 34 incoming letters addressed to Catherine M. Barker of Guilford, Connecticut, who received correspondence from female family members and acquaintances during the mid-19th century. Her sister, Mary A. Barker, wrote the first 8 letters while seeking work in New Haven, Connecticut, between 1856 and 1863. She occasionally discussed her experiences as a laborer in a garment factory and provided news of her social life. She described the boarding house where she lived and a visit to a performance hall, where she saw a show by French acrobat Charles Blondin (March 23, 1861). At the outbreak of the Civil War, Mary mentioned the local scramble for news, and lamented that war seemed to be the sole topic of conversation.
The letters Catherine received after 1869 originated from multiple acquaintances, primarily female, who discussed their social lives in Connecticut and New York. Emma Scranton (later Leete) wrote 6 letters to Catherine, commenting on a visit to P. T. Barnum's circus (January 8, 1873), urging Catherine not to marry her beau, Edgar (undated), and offering updates on her social life. Other correspondents planned upcoming visits with Catherine, and one friend, Ruthie, described her shock upon hearing that a friend's wife had left him.