The John and Alice Hecker papers is comprised of letters between John and Alice Hecker, written during the years of John's military service in the Civil War, from 1861 to 1864. The collection consists of 56 letters from John Hecker to his wife Alice and 25 from Alice to John. John did not write most of his letters; he was born in Baden, Germany, and was not proficient in English. A friend, Ezekiel Haskell, wrote some of the correspondence for him. In later letters, especially in 1864, John wrote to Alice himself, using a mixture of German and English.
These letters provide information about the backgrounds of the couple, and reveal how they dealt with divisions of labor during the war. They discussed the business of their household and farm, for which Alice was responsible in John’s absence. John’s letters mainly contain directions for Alice: "I want you [to]… get a receipt for all the money you pay… you must get along as well as you can. You must get someone to help about haying" (June 8, 1862). They also frequently discussed their finances. John often sent Alice money, and instructed her to make payments on the farm and other bills. In her letters, Alice reported on her management of their farm and finances. She often asked for his direction, and rarely made decisions without his counsel: "You must tell me what is the best to do with the farm in the Spring" (December 4, 1863). Her financial situation was occasionally dire, however, and she was forced to make decisions without John’s consent. In one such instance Alice sold a colt for $50.00, which angered John, who thought the colt was worth $70.00: "I ham sorrey that you ar so mad to wards me for saling the colt[.] you no that I did the bast that I no of…I ham sorrey that I shod have given you so much trouble…there is no one to do haney thing for me" (May 1, 1864).
Alice also had to deal with a troublesome ex-farmhand named "Old Smith," who claimed that John owed him money, which, allegedly, was not true. Old Smith seemed to take advantage of Alice, while John was away: "he thinck he cud friten me but it will take a batter man than old Smith" (February 12, 1864). The Hecker papers provide valuable insight into life for the wife of a rural farmer on the New Hampshire home front during the Civil War.
Two letters in the collections include illustrations: The April 4, 1864 item features a stamp with red ink that depicts a dove carrying a letter with the following statement to its right: "The U.S. Commission sends this sheet as a messenger between the soldier and his home. Let it hasten to those who wait for tidings." The item dated June 14, 1864 has a patriotic letterhead, showing George Washington in blue ink holding an American flag while seated on a red horse rearing up on a blue platform inscribed with the word "Union."