Frederick Douglass: Gentleman of Letters

  Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895), African American writer, orator, and social activist, was a gentleman of letters. Born into slavery, he was largely self-taught, learning to read and write prior to entering his teens. His eloquence and fiery oratory gave him great influence as an abolitionist, social activist, and diplomat throughout his adult lifetime. Last month, on a visit with my daughter in Washington, DC, we had the opportunity to tour Frederick Douglass’s final home, Cedar Hill, located in Anacostia. Douglass, who purchased Cedar Hill from the Freedmen’s Bank in 1877, lived there for seventeen…

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Favorite Books 2017

New enticing titles are on the horizon in 2018, but looking back, I would like to share some of my favorite books from 2017. Many “best books” of the year lists are compiled near the end of the year – check out New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, and Publishers Weekly, to name just a few. While some of my favorite books are crossovers from these lists, and/or appear on local and/or national bestsellers lists, my lists are by no means comprehensive or definitive. The following reading suggestions are merely those that I found most enjoyable…

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Gratitude: The Art of the Thank You Note

Despite the accelerating demise of the personal, handwritten letter, the art of bread and butter letters and thank you notes appears to have continuing life. Expressing gratitude sometimes can be difficult, but even a brief note of thanks is always welcome, and one of the most meaningful and important communications we undertake. While social usage evolves over time, good manners are timeless. In Your Best Foot Forward: Social Usage for Young Moderns (McGraw Hill Book Company, Inc., c. 1940) by Dorothy Stratton and Helen B. Schleman, the authors advise that “You are expected to write a…

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Letters 4.23 – 4.28.14

Dear Correspondents, It has been incredibly satisfying to receive such a strong response to last week’s launch of socialcorrespondence.com. It seems that many of us are nostalgic for the mail of the old days, but still prefer to conduct our social correspondence by e-mail or social media, and limit our snail mail offerings to thank you, sympathy and sometimes birthday notes. Perhaps if we all committed ourselves to writing one short letter a week, hand written and sent through the mail, we would regain that sense of satisfaction upon hearing the arrival of the postal carrier…

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Typewriter Musings
In store display: Papel New York, Brooklyn

Typewriter Musings

Manson Whitlock, often described as America’s oldest typewriter repairman, passed away in Bethany, Connecticut in August 2013 at the age of 96.  He began repairing typewriters in 1930 in his father’s New Haven bookstore and continued in this profession until a few months before his death.  His obituary in the Washington Post notes several of his prominent clients, including authors William Manchester, Robert Penn Warren, and Archibald MacLeish. For decades, Manson Whitlock repaired typewriters for students and professors from nearby Yale University. The New York Times Magazine noted that he "fixed more than 300,000 of them…

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Welcome to Social Correspondence

Welcome to Social Correspondence! This blog is dedicated to the art of letter writing. Too few of us actually receive “real” letters in the mail. For the most part, we don’t write them either. Letters in the mail were once a lifeline for people. Rather than placing expensive phone calls or using hand delivered missives, the U.S. Postal Service was the primary means of staying in touch with friends and loved ones and for business transactions. Today communication comes with many options. We can text, email, and use social media. We even can look at one…

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