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Herbert Altamont Moses Papers, 1895-1929   
    A gift to SCL Manuscripts Division announced in 2007

| Manuscripts Gifts 2007 | Front Page 2007 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |

Twenty-two letters and one printed volume, 1895-1929, reveal something of the life and times of Sumter, South Carolina, native Herbert Altamont Moses (1876-1969) and his circle of friends.

Four of the letters were written to Moses by college classmate Herman Louis Spahr while the latter attended Heidelberg University following his graduation from South Carolina College in 1895. In these Spahr describes his academic workload as well as his social distractions. In a letter of 2 April 1896, Spahr informs Moses that he had recently attended a ball and that "it is a wonder I was not forced into an engagement." In the same letter he relates that "I have held up S.C.C.’s record in beer drinking with honor….Don’t think, however, that I am a drunkard or anything near it. We always stop at the right time, never get any worse than lively. I gave way once, but it was more of an accident than anything else." Spahr also joined a fraternal student organization while in Germany, and as part of this he participated in dueling with the "Schlager." These duels were usually not harmful to the participants and resembled modern fencing more than actual combat. In a letter of 2 February 1896, he boasts that he is "progressing nobly in Schlager fighting. I have not yet challenged or been challenged, but came within an inch of it twice while slightly under the influence of too much beer." And in the 2 April 1896 letter he informs Moses that "Having reached the point where one can trust one’s self on the duel floor, I shall in May let the point reach me. Hope it will keep away from my face." In addition to describing his own experiences, Spahr inquired about the South Carolina College baseball team of which Moses seems to have been a member.

Moses also received three letters from classmates Daniel Crawford (b. 1876) and an individual identified only as "Dick," possibly Richard S. Desportes (1874-1945), while the two were on a trip from New York to Italy via Scotland, England, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland during the summer of 1896. Writing from Venice on 25 July, Dick describes an outing on the Grand Canal in a gondola - "Dan and I went out on the G.C. last night after dinner - moon light - all that kept it from being absolutely perfect was that Dan was not a girl….Boats R passing and repassing loaded with fellows playing bangos, mandolins, guitars, women singing. Everything necessary to settlement was there - except the girl. Tonight street-walkers R rife. Pretty looking women. But Lord, I [would] rather have a stilletto at once; would die quicker."

Moses also seems to have shared a friendship with Laura Mood (b.1878) and her younger sister, Pulitzer prize winning author Julia Mood Peterkin (1880-1961). In a letter mailed on Christmas Day 1909 from New York, Laura instructs him to "Be nice to Julia when she is in Sumter - and don’t think unkindly of her for you expect too much from her." A single letter from Julia to Moses is dated 25 June 1903, less than a month after her marriage. She writes, "Your last letter to me was of course horrid. For instead of wishing me joy and expressing congratulations for my husband, you only expressed sympathy for him; and you mightn’t have behaved that way at the very least."

The other primary correspondent represented in the collection is Baltimore native Augusta E. Boylston, for whom Moses (whom she always addressed as "Alphonse") seems to have held strong feelings. Judging from a letter written by her to Moses on 3 February 1905, while on a cruise of the Mediterranean onboard the White Star Line’s S.S. Arabic, these same feelings were not shared by Boylston: "It is hurtful to drag out what I have to say….Alphonse, I am engaged to Donald Campbell….I know I’m hurting you. I have always hurt you and you have never been anyway but the right way and done anything but the right thing….I am not to lose you am I? Be ever my friend please. I can not let you go….However haltingly and coldly I appear to tell you this believe me I suffer."

Also included here are letters and the printed California Crop Report from 1927 which document Moses’ interest in farming cooperatives. A letter of 30 January 1920, written by Oliver S. Morris, Editor of The Nonpartisan Leader, from St. Paul, Minnesota, enclosed back issues of the newspaper and informed Moses that he would send other literature describing the League and its work. The Non-Partisan League (NPL) was a political organization founded in 1915 by former Socialist party organizer A.C. Townley. It advocated state control of mills, grain elevators, banks and other farm-related industries in order to reduce the power of corporate political interests. The final letter, penned by R.E. Blair, Assistant Chief, Bureau of Field Crops, California Department of Agriculture on 10 May 1929, encloses information relating to cotton production in California from 1924-1928, including acreage planted in cotton, yield in upland bales, yield in long staple bales, cost of production compared with the southeastern United States, average price per pound compared with the southeastern United States, and volunteering or ratooning cotton (harvesting cotton from the same plant for multiple years).

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