Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Nineteenth-Century Advice to Fathers

June 14th, 2016

In honor of Father’s Day this coming Sunday, this week’s blog post highlights a book in Special Collections that provides guidance for fathers: William Cobbett‘s 1829 work Advice to Young Men, and (Incidentally) to Young Women, in the Middle and Higher Ranks of Life, In a Series of Letters, Addressed to a Youth, a Bachelor, a Lover, a Husband, a Father, a Citizen, or a Subject.

Cobbett begins his “Letter to a Father” with a statement about the blessings of children and the important role of fathers.

Image of William Cobbett, Advice to Young Men, And (Incidentally) to Young Women, section 225, 1829

The beginning of William Cobbett’s “Letter to a Father,” in
Advice to Young Men, and (Incidentally) to Young Women.
London: The author, 1829. Call Number: B5060. Click image to enlarge.

Cobbett then continues on for roughly 116 pages, offering advice to fathers on a wide variety of topics including the importance of breastfeeding; the use of midwives and servants; the role of resolution, tenderness, and courage in parenting; the use of cradles; the controversy of smallpox inoculation; the roles of good food, clean air, exercise, book-learning, and schooling (by subject) in educating children; and the importance of impartial treatment of adult children, compared with their siblings.

On the surface, some of Cobbett’s advice seems surprisingly modern, as seen in the two excerpts below.

Image of William Cobbett, Advice to Young Men, And (Incidentally) to Young Women, section 249, 1829

In section 249 of his “Letter to a Father,” Cobbett offers this advice:
“Let no man imagine that the world will despise him for
helping to take care of his own child.” Click image to enlarge.

Image of William Cobbett, Advice to Young Men, And (Incidentally) to Young Women, section 289, 1829

“Men’s circumstances are so various,” Cobbett acknowledges in section 289.
“In giving an account, therefore, of my own conduct, in this respect, I am not to be understood
as supposing, that every father can, or ought, to attempt to do the same.” Click image to enlarge.

Other sections of Cobbett’s advice may seem more humorously outdated to 21st-century readers, such as his description of bath time.

A great deal, in providing for the health and strength of children, depends upon their being duly and daily washed, when well, in cold water from head to foot. Their cries testify to what a degree they dislike this. They squall and kick and twist about at a fine rate…Well and duly performed, [bathing children] is an hour’s good tight work; for, besides the bodily labour, which is not very slight when the child gets to be five or six months old, there is the singing to overpower the voice of the child. The moment the stripping of the child used to begin, the singing used to begin, and the latter never ceased till the former had ceased. (section 257).

You can read Cobbett’s work in its entirety through Project Gutenberg.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

“Hope to See You Before Father’s Day Again”

June 19th, 2015

Many archival collections at Spencer Research Library contain letters exchanged between fathers and their children. In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, we’re sharing several items from our collection of Leo W. Zahner, Jr.’s World War II letters, housed in the Kansas Collection.

Photograph of Leo W. Zahner, Jr. and other sailors, 1946

Leo W. Zahner, Jr. and other sailors at the College Inn, San Diego, California,
January 1946. Leo is the second from the right, seated in the front row.
Leo Zahner, Jr. World War II Letters. Call Number: RH MS-P 1079.
Click image to enlarge.

Zahner (1925-2007) was a lifelong resident of Kansas City, Missouri. He joined the Navy during World War II, receiving training from August to November 1943 at the U.S. Naval Training Station at Farragut, Idaho. In late November, he was transferred to the Navy’s metalsmith school at Great Lakes, Illinois, where he was hospitalized with scarlet fever in December 1943. In the summer of 1944, he shipped overseas, where he served on a tank landing ship at U.S. combat zones in New Guinea and the Philippines. He returned to the U.S. mainland in December 1945 and was discharged from service in March 1946.

The Zahner collection contains three items specifically related to Father’s Day. One is a letter he wrote to his father to celebrate the holiday in 1945; the other two items (a card and a souvenir handkerchief) are undated, and a cursory examination of the collection didn’t reveal when Leo sent them to his father.

Image of a Father's Day card, circa 1940-1946

Image of a Father's Day card, circa 1940-1946

Father’s Day card, circa 1940-1946. Leo Zahner, Jr. World War II Letters.
Call Number: RH MS 1079. Click images to enlarge.

Image of a painted souvenir handkerchief from the South Pacific, circa 1944-1945

Painted souvenir handkerchief from the South Pacific, circa 1944-1945.
Leo Zahner, Jr. World War II Letters. Call Number: RH MS Q270. Click image to enlarge.

Image of a letter, Leo W. Zahner, Jr. to his father, June 17, 1945Image of a letter, Leo W. Zahner, Jr. to his father, June 17, 1945

Letter, Leo W. Zahner, Jr. to his father, June 17, 1945. Leo Zahner, Jr. World War II Letters.
Call Number: RH MS 1079. Click images to enlarge. Transcription below.

June 17, 1945
Fathers Day.

Dear Dad;
Well its Fathers Day again and I’m still over here. Hope every thing is going fine with you.

The war looks like it’s going pretty good in general and looks better at [our?] end too.

I wish you could get a letter off to me. its been a long time and you ought [owe] me a couple.

Mother keeps me pretty well up on the shop [the family business in Kansas City, A. Zahner Sheet Metal Company] lately. I hear Russell White is working for you Hows his friend Billy. There ought to be a lot of the old men come back

The 1st Lieutenant just call me up I’ve got to [go?] he wants me to fill out requestion for our supplies here in the C & R. He’s our offer of Deck [officer on deck?]. were under [illegible]. I’ve got them all made out now so I can finish this letter to you. I take care of every thing we need down here. Its a pretty good job thank goodness it don’t happen very often. He try to get me [illegible] but [i]s having lots of trouble. If I get 3/r [3rd?] in at most couple of months I have a good chance of getting 2/nd, but I settle for third. ha. ha. before going home. It would make a lot of difference after I get off this tub.

I’ve got all the gear to gather for Mellott to run off a batch of icecream. We had a pretty good snack last night Red and Ed did a little [illegible] for batch. So I had [break and the fire?] pot. The hot plates busted. I do the biggest part of the cooking.

We got turkey for chow today it was pretty good except the hide was about 1/2 thick with pen [illegible] like welding rod.

This is the first holiday weve had in three weeks. I sleep till noon. There was no church. It was felt good to sleep that late.

I’ve got a pretty nice job tomorrow a making a couple of brass covers for front of some big lights. [diagram] I like that kind of work.

Well Dad hope you had a happy fathers Day. Well write me soon now so Ill have something write back about.

Hope to see you before fathers Day again. About the end of this year. I hope I’ve counted my chickens right before the hatch.

Your Son
Junior.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services