This diary (approximately 178 pages) contains personal reflections and stories from the life of James Shields Coon, a lawyer from Salem, New York. The volume opens on July 1, 1840, with a three-page dedication statement devoted to Coon's reflections on the historical record. Coon wrote his first entry on July 3, 1840, as he sought treatment in Albany for ill health. He kept entries fairly regularly throughout the next few months, and described a trip to New York City in July; there, he stayed with his uncle's family, relaxing and taking in some of the local atmosphere while he recorded his impressions of the city. After his return to Salem, he mentioned a series of fires, possibly a case of arson, that ravaged the town, and wrote about his daily life.
In many entries, Coon commented on contemporary political affairs; he devoted five pages (November 2, 1840, and November 18, 1840) to the 1840 Presidential election, which he believed would be of great historical significance. He also described a debating club meeting about slavery, which led to a three-page entry in his diary (January 11, 1841). After beginning his legal education in April 1841, he wrote less often, but continued to reflect upon his personal life, career, and current events; on May 11, 1846, for example, he wrote of his marriage to Jane Clegg. As his entries became less frequent, he began to concentrate more on the deaths of families and friends, and he described several funerals throughout the 1840s. Toward the end of the diary, he focused on the births of his three children, their birthdays, and his devotion to his family. In the final entry, dated July 13, 1858, he mourned the death of his youngest son, Charles.
Additional material in the journal includes two poems, a four-page list of books Coon read and studied, and genealogical records of the Poole and Coon families.