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Edward Terry Hendrie Shaffer Papers, 1900-1963
"No man knew South Carolina more intimately nor told its story more authentically than Edward Terry Hendrie Shaffer," wrote the editor of the Walterboro Press and Standard, 6 December 1945, upon the death of his fellow townsman and noted businessman, farmer, author, lecturer, and traveler.
"In his death the Palmetto State lost a keen and sympathetic interpreter of its history, its institutions, its aspirations, and its social, economic and cultural development." "Bobbie Shaffer cannot be replaced," added Charleston artist Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, "for there is no man in the state with just his combination. He was a free man, privileged to travel at will and to observe at leisure and draw his own conclusions without bias. His contribution was unfettered by self seeking." She concluded, "He was a philosopher with humor and an idealist with tolerance. His rare gifts and generous spirit will be sorely missed" (News and Courier, 30 November 1945).
Fifty-five manuscripts, 1900-1963, consisting largely of his short published and unpublished works (including speeches), reflect what Mrs. Verner meant when she further said of Shaffer (1880-1945) that few combined "with so facile a pen such independence of action and such high thinking."
In his earliest published piece in the collection, "Why We May Hope for a Southern Literature," a student essay he contributed to the July 1902 issue of The College of Charleston Magazine as its editor-in-chief, he wrote, "[I]t is impossible to build up real literature by the mere use of local color....True humour, true pathos, true `criticism of life,' these alone can secure a place in the literature of the world. And yet local color is of vast importance. It is the setting in which the gems of true literature may often shine. And so it is that the wealth of local color which the Southern writer has at his hand is [an] advantage not to be despised." Twenty-four years later, in his essay "Favored Farmers," which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly (June 1926), he began by describing the twenty years he spent as a small-town supply merchant and concluded by observing that America's agricultural hope lay in superorganization and the machine, and then by asking, "Will there be a place in this new order for the small farmer?"
The collection contains a number of typed copies of essays which may or may not have been published. Among these are two versions of an autobiographical piece entitled variously "My Own Big Yard" and "Americana. The Changing Scene," [ca. 1940]; "Advent in Wonderland," about a chance meeting with a film actress and her company in the mountains of North Carolina, apparently entitled as a parody of the 1927 title by Belford Forrest, Alice in Movieland ; "In Time of War: Pattern for Tomorrow," which deals with the possibility of reconciling the peoples of England and Germany following World War II; and "Concerning Government and Business," which he concluded with a statement favoring "the injection of more business men into government thereby translating into administrative terms that economy and directness of objective that have so strikingly marked the successful course of industrial and commercial enterprise in the United States." In a 3,600-word essay called "Gullah Odyssey" Shaffer takes his reader on an expedition with Ben Blake, "Gullah fisherman, who had spent all his sixty or more placid years within a thirty mile radius of the log and mud cabin he called home beside the marshes of the Cheeha River."
His undated essay "Liquor and Manners" turns out to be both a revealing personal account and a social treatise of the times. "I recall that in our particular village [Walterboro] there were two rival barrooms that ministered to the needs of the thirsty," he writes, "and as I now recreate the picture I realize that these resorts supplied that compensating escape for men that is now afforded by country club, the modern mixed party, the automobile and the silver screen." He continues, "They were pointed out to us children as Vile Dens of Satan, we were never to pause in front of them; and I still recall vividly the exquisite thrill of gazing at their mysterious portals from afar or sniffing excitedly at strange, forbidden odors that were wafted through the swinging doors." "Laws concerned with liquor regulation must, and doubtless in our immediate future will be, but expressions of current manners in the use of liquor," he concludes. "Regardless of the making or the breaking of laws there will be no turning back, in manners, for here at least the ascent from the frontier is constant."
Several of the many talks and speeches he made through the years are included in the collection. In one of these, entitled "Nassau Impressions" and presented at Winthrop College on 25 September 1940, he revealed, "I was entertained at a certain hospitable mansion on East High Street, where the young sea adventuring heiress of the House of Colleton, Louisa, Baroness of Fairlawn on Cooper River, and Landgravine of Carolina, dwelt when she came to Nassau in 1785 to claim the land as Sovereign [Proprietress] of the Bahama Isles. In the midst of its terraced garden, overlooking the city and the sea, now the home of a family long [illustrious] in island history, it is mellowed but not marred by time. Its [paneled] walls, its mirror[-]like floors of English oak, its quaint winding stair, not the mere day's work of architect and builder, but a triumph of survival, eloquent of an era and a race." Among the unique items in this collection are copies of Shaffer's unpublished novel, "The Landgravine."
In another presentation, "A Journey Through the Black Border with Gonzales," Shaffer focuses upon the writings of his literary compatriot Ambrose Elliott Gonzales (1857-1926) and remarks, "Because of the shifting lights of his genius the country of the Black Border is forever charted on the literary map of the world and the spirit of a brave Past lives immortal." Still another one of his talks took the form of a radio address, 25 July 1940, in which he spoke of his then recently published book, Carolina Gardens, "It seems a happy coincidence to speak over a North Carolina station for a South Carolina sponsor [South Carolina Economic Association] about my book....For it is comprehensive of the two states, the vast and varied Empire of Carolina....No finer culture has existed in America than that agrarian civilization that from 1660 until 1860 found its most perfect expression in the two Carolinas. And because the men and women of that era were a beauty loving, land conscious race, taking just pride in their broad acres, in country seats adorned with grove and garden, their story may be traced today in gardens that have survived change and the years."
Nineteen letters survive in the collection, most of them written by Shaffer to his daughter, Jane, and to his wife, Clara Barr Shaffer. They exhibit a strong sense of loyalty and devotion to family and friends, a penchant for travel, and a vital interest in the social, economic and political issues of the day, at home and beyond. On 12 February 1935, remarking on Jane's engagement to Blanding Holman of Batesburg, Shaffer wrote her, "[Y]ou should apologize to your Pop for growing up and getting engaged and all that, you arrived a few years ago in such a small package that I, being inexperienced in babies, thought you would stay that way and never outgrow your joy in being parked in front of the store at Ritter with a few pennies to spend. But the joke on you is that in my heart you are still my baby that once ran away from the old home and came to me at the store, and the little tot who used to go to sleep on the way back from Chee-ha. So I have the double joy of having you that way and also of having this grown up creature with Town Theatre and Blanding complications."
Between 1941 and 1944 the letters contain rumblings of war and expressions of political opinion, and accounts of subsequent wartime conditions are intermixed with Shaffer's immediate personal and professional commitments. In a letter of 26 June 1941 he remarked to Jane, "No, we do not worry, or even think about the world war! As you wisely say, what's the use? let's enjoy our lives and one another and not go out and hunt for trouble. Maybe the storm will never reach us." Several letters written from California help to document a cross-country automobile tour he made from October to December 1941 as a publicity program sponsored by South Carolina, Inc., spearheaded by A.F. Funderburk, Jr., editor of the South Carolina Magazine. On 12 November 1941 Shaffer wrote Jane from Van Nuys, Ca. (where he was staying with his son, Edward, and his family) "Hope you see my manager, Funderburk who can tell you more detail of our trip. He should be pleased as I've made Big Headlines in every paper from Coast to Coast, and also made all the desired contacts for him. That part is quite strenuous and takes all the money he is putting into it, but does add to the interest and zest of the journey, so if he is satisfied we are."
By 1944 he was commenting on matters of war, politics, and the effect of the military presence in Walterboro. In a letter to Jane postmarked 13 March 1944 he lamented, "I am distressed that Vernon Price is missing in action over Germany where he flew as a navigator. I drove him and Edward to Clemson to enter and Vernon was so excited and eager to meet life, and death came so soon." "I attended the Democratic Club meeting this afternoon," he told her on 23 April, "felt good to be home again after wandering afar with strange gods such as [Wilkie] and the utilities and Republicans and other heathen. After this if anything wrong with the Democratic Party or the Episcopal Church I rather not be told." And in an undated letter from the period, written to Clara (at their summer home in Saluda, N.C.), he reported, "Last night I attended a council meeting and helped get the Sunday movies approved. The airport officials requested it and only Smoak and Wickersham fought it." "No officers here yet above Captains," he continued, "but they seem a grand lot of men. So far only a few hundred men arrived but a hundred or so come in every day. As this airport will for the present be under the Columbia authority there may not be Colonels and things here who would need hundred dollar houses, but I have listed this place for rent just to please you and Jane, you gold diggers."
The earliest letter in the collection, and its most novel, is one written to "Bobby Shaffer" by good friend DuBose Heyward from "Dawn Hill," his home in Hendersonville, N.C., not far from the Shaffers' at Saluda. Accompanying the letter, postmarked 10 August 1931, is a copy of a photograph, probably taken by Heyward himself, of a group of friends gathered at the edge of the Heywards' swimming pool in which Shaffer's young son is standing alone. "I enclose an interesting picture which might serve as an illustration for one of your articles on life in the Deep South," writes Heyward. He then proceeds to give a description of the photographic mock tableau, which he entitles SCENE FROM THE BIBLE BELT. "Little Bobby Shaffer [the Shaffers' son, Edward] `Comes through' in the presence of the congregation of the First Baptist Church. The candidate's proud father, Brother Bobby Shaffer, well known mint grower of Walterboro, S.C. can be seen garbed in spotless white flannels in the immediate back-ground. Welcome Little Brother Shaffer to the flock, and may your trousers always be as spotless as those of your distinguished parent." Identifiable among the seventeen persons in the photograph, in addition to young Shaffer and his father, are George Armstrong Wauchope, Yates Snowden, Virginia Wauchope Bass, and Robert Duncan Bass.
Other items of special interest include Shaffer's travel diary from the 1941 cross-country tour; and notes, 1938-1939, on sales of Carolina Gardens, as well as reviews and notices of the book, 1937-1941. A 111-page typed volume entitled Service in the South is Shaffer's compilation of material pertaining to the Civil War experience of his father, Alexander C. Shaffer (1838-1910), who was a sergeant in the Harris Light Cavalry, Second New York Regiment: letters, unpublished memoirs, and extracts from a pocket diary which he kept throughout his campaigns, imprisonment, and escape from Columbia and his journey to Atlanta along Sherman's scorched earth.
Two random, undated, typed pages further relate to his father. One focuses on Alexander Shaffer's deafness, "he used this minor affliction to the best advantage, never hearing things he did not wish to hear but any other times hearing a whisper." The other gives an affecting account of his last days, "After mother's death he only lived a few years, most of the time just he and I together, and although I sensed our time together running short and devoted myself to him, I fear they were lonely years for him. When the end came, the final hours, although he had never been a man to speak much of religion or of his beliefs he faced his last enemy with a stout heart and never a murmur, the old dauntless spirit that faced the cannon at Ball's Bluff bore him dauntless into the shadow."
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