A guest post by Stephen Grant
“The Hall was demolished in 1928,” Joan Harrison writes in Glen Cove, Images of America (2008), “for the building of Morgan Park,” named after financier J. P. Morgan. Emily Folger would have known when she sent this postcard in 1932 that the renowned hotel on the North Shore of Long Island was no longer.
Emily Folger penned this picture postcard message to Dr. Joseph Q. Adams, director of research at the Folger, in May of 1932, the month after the dedication of the Folger Shakespeare Library. The card was postmarked in Manhasset, Long Island, NY. She wrote “I am very glad to receive from you the copy of your paper for the Dedication. Eventually I shall place it in the Collection. Mr. Folger hoped for such an article long ago planned as the pièce de résistance of the Dedication. Yrs. Emily C. Folger (Mrs. H.C.F.)”
In 1933, the Trustees of Amherst College commissioned a book entitled “The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington.” The foreword was signed by “Harlan Fiske Stone, Chairman of the Committee on the Folger Shakespeare Library” and “William Adams Slade, Director of the Library.”
Folger principal architect Paul Philippe Cret wrote a six-page section on “The Building.” Cret noted the starting date (good to know) for construction of the Folger, Nov. 8, 1929. I was particularly interested in the section that presented 36 Plates. The first four were architectural drawings. The last 32 were black-and-white photographs of the exterior and interior of the building. The plates were the work of three photographers from three different cities: Theodor Horydczak of Washington; William M. Rittase of Philadelphia, and Samuel Herman Gottscho of New York. In one photo a security guard stands at attention outside the entrance to the administrative wing of the Folger. I found out his name, Guy L. Aber.
Another photo shows a few of the first visitors to the Folger. Plate 27 shows Mrs. Emily Folger wearing actress Julia Marlowe’s costume for Juliet from Romeo and Juliet that I proposed for the cover of Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger. This photograph allowed me to calculate Emily’s height, just five feet, by measuring her standing close to the reading room fireplace.
An aside here. In September 2013 a group of us went hiking near Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. Returning to our hotel which had a wifi signal one afternoon, I was horrified to receive the first draft of the Collecting Shakespeare book jacket from my Johns Hopkins editor: Emily was taller than Henry on the cover! I wrote back to scoot the image of Emily down a peg or two. I naively thought everyone working on the book was familiar with its contents, where I had shared the comparative heights: he five feet four and she five feet even.
The section on “The Library” with 15 pages is the major text in the book. Its author is Joseph Quincy Adams, identified as “Shakespearian scholar.” This section is the one Mrs. Folger was glad to receive and that Mr. Folger had “long ago planned.”
This 15-page section by Adams starts by focusing on the importance of Amherst senior Henry Folger buying a ticket for 50 cents to hear 76-year-old poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson lecture at the college. Soon after, young Folger was reading Emerson’s 1864 essay on Shakespeare, leading the student closer to devoting unilateral attention in his life to the Bard.
Aha, Emily, thank you for choosing another POSTCARD to communicate with Dr. Adams!
Reading Emily’s scrawl can be challenging, but this September 9, 1932 note is a request for the correct address for one “Mrs. M. F. Bergman.” Perhaps her documented writer’s cramp came from filling out so many of the bibliographic cards of the Shakespeare collection by hand! I find it touching that she doubly signs the postcard with her initials, first in her own right and second as her late husband’s wife.
Emily Folger would have purchased this postcard at The Homestead resort gift shop in Hot Springs, VA during what I believe was her last stay in March 1934. She had found it hard to go back as a widow. The postcard image shows one of 12 waterfalls along 2 ½ miles through Cascades Gorge. The cascades gave their name to the 18-hole golf course designed in the 1920s by legendary architect William S. Flynn. It is regarded as the best mountain course in the country.
This postcard was sent to Miss Helen Adams, the young daughter of Joseph Quincy Adams and his wife Helen. The younger Helen was doted on by Emily Folger, who never had children herself. Emily loved word play and riddles and that shows in this postcard.
Emily Folger died on Feb. 21, 1936. This postcard, one of her last, was sent exactly 23 months before her demise.
Joseph Quincy Adams was born in South Carolina in 1881, and died on Nov. 10, 1946. His wife Helen Banks Adams died on Sept. 14, 1935.
Adams wrote this genuine, informative, revealing, and affectionate letter to Emily Folger on November 30, 1934.
“Dear Mrs. Folger,
Your nice Thanksgiving letter came to make the day happier for us all. We had a turkey and eight friends in to share it with us but that was nothing compared to your festive hoard with “twenty-four Folgers”! There was little left of our turkey, and how many turkeys did you have?
I tried—honest to goodness I did—to get off a Thanksgiving letter to you, but I had so many callers at the Library that I could not find even a spare ten minutes. These are busy days with us, especially since several associations are meeting in Washington in connection with the vacation period. The National Council of Teachers of English, 800 strong, are visiting the Library tomorrow afternoon!
Sunday night Helen and I are giving a dinner to the Library staff—ten in number, including ourselves; and we also invited Miss Hawkins, who was much pleased; said she would be “the happiest person in the world to come.” Though she has been in Washington since this summer, she had failed to come to the Library. I called her up, and reproached her. She promised to come out “right away” and renew her old friendly relations; even offered to do any typing for me that I desired done “unusually well.” I also called Mr. Fawcett, who has not been in the Library for about a year, and asked him to drop in occasionally. He is coming today at two o’clock. I should like to have him again take charge of any publicity connected with the Library. His heart is with us.
There is much news of a minor kind, but it would tire you for me to go into details. I suppose you saw a notice last week of the gift of the 1630 quarto of Othello to the Library. I had been in communication with the donor for several weeks. Also I sent you a notice of the gift by Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt of the copy of Shakespeare owned by her husband, President Roosevelt. And last week Mrs. William Trevor, of 556 East 87th Street, New York City, presented to the Library the beautiful dress, crown, jewelry, etc. worn by her great aunt, Ida Vernon, as the Queen in Edwin Booth’s famous performance of Hamlet. This is a really fine addition to our Booth collection.
Mr. Fawcett has just been with me for an hour. He has agreed to resume his friendly relations with the Library and create a friendly spirit among the Washington newspapers toward the Library. He tells me that all the reporters are now “down” on the Library and that he will have to begin all over again to build up the old feeling of good will. Every paper in the city, according to Mr. Fawcett, is “sore,” and there has been something like a conspiracy of silence directed against the Library. I gave him some details about the Emerson volume which he will publish in next Sunday’s Star. (I offered this information to the Post but they did not accept it.) Fawcett will also see that the Emerson volume gets into the Associated Press.
This letter has been so interrupted by callers that I hardly know what I have written.
I have arranged for Mr. King to give his lectures on Friday evenings, January 18 and 25, and am now having invitations printed. His two lectures are on the topic “Shakespeare, the Artist in Sound.” Mr. Justice Stone has promised to attend, and the dates were made to suit his other engagements.
I have been ordering a lot of fine items for our collections. When you come down, I will show them to you. They will make your mouth water.
Helen and the baby are well and flourishing. They often speak of you (yes, little Helen talks at a great rate, and knows who gave her the silver mug, and whose portrait stands on the desk in the living room), and they join me in affectionate regards.
Sincerely yours, Joseph Q. Adams.”
Clearly, Adams is trying to maintain a good relationship with the remaining library founder.
In 1937, Adams was still corresponding with the journalist, Waldo Fawcett (mentioned in the letter above), as attested by this envelope. In 1932, the postal rate to send a first-class letter in the U.S. was raised to three cents. I’m not sure how this two-cent stamp got through the mails without postage due of one cent.
Stephen H. Grant is a retired Foreign Service officer turned writer. He is the author of, among other things, several books about postcards, and Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger. He can be found on the web at http://www.stephenhgrant.com.