William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Finding aid created by
Peter Birdsall Letters, 1848-1849
Meg Hixon, November 2011
Peter Birdsall letters
Birdsall, Hester Gillespie, b. ca. 1826
This collection is comprised of 7 letters written by Peter Birdsall to his wife Hester from New Orleans, where he stayed with friends while seeking a steady job to support his wife and child. The letters reveal his efforts to find work and his newlywed's dismay over their separation, and include occasional remarks about the couple's African American slaves.
The material is in English
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown
Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.
Peter Birdsall Letters, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
The collection is arranged chronologically.
Hester Gillespie was born in Missouri ca. 1826, and married Peter Birdsall (b. ca. 1814) in September 1847; the couple had at least one child. In 1850, they lived in New Orleans, where he worked as an accountant.
Collection Scope and Content Note
This collection is comprised of 7 letters written by Peter Birdsall to his wife Hester from New Orleans, where he stayed with friends while seeking a steady job to support his wife and child. In his first letter, dated May 11, 1848, he described his rough voyage from Clinton, Mississippi, where his wife remained, to New Orleans. The other letters, though optimistic, reflect his difficulty finding reliable job. Throughout the summer of 1848, he described his efforts to find steady employment; his schemes included work in Texas and a position at a dry goods business in New York. The couple had several acquaintances in New Orleans, about whom Birdsall frequently reported. His letters reveal a consistent desire to be with his new wife and his regret over their current separation. Several of the letters mention African American "servants" owned by couple; on May 31, 1848, for example, Birdsall reported that "Tompkins returned from Texas Yesterday, and brought over the black girl [Harves] bought for me, for which he paid $450…," and revealed his intentions to use her as a nurse. In his final letter, written on August 8, 1849, he reported on the health of his baby, as well as on the health of his African American slave.
- Family life.
- Marriage--United States.
- Migrant labor.
- New Orleans (La.)--History--19th century.
- Separation (Psychology)
- Unemployment--United States.
- Birdsall, Peter, b. ca. 1814.