Author: Frances Densmore

Recipient: not specified

Date: March 1885

Location: Frances Theresa Densmore Letters 1884-86, Letter No. 41, Record Group 30/156, Oberlin College Archives

Document Type: Typed Letter Copy

6 sketch
Fig 12: Densmore’s Sketch of Mrs. Wattles’ Home


6 portrait
Fig 13: 4 Photographs, RG 30/273 Wattles Family Papers, c. 1860-1880, n.d., Box 1, O. C. A. Densmore wrote in another letter home about a picture of Lucretia Wattles. It is unknown whether she sent this photo or another, but the photo here was taken while Wattles lived in Oberlin. “I do hope you will like the photographs. At first I did not think the one of Miss Wattles was good at a all [sic], one thing it is not well finished but the more you look at it the more it will ‘grow up0n [sic] you,’ and you will see a certain expression of quiet about the mouth which is like her when she is a little amused about something.. however it will give you a pretty good idea of how she looks- – only think of her as being a great deal sweeter and prettier than the picture, besides I never saw her have on a dress that did not fit beautifully, they never wrinkle as that seems so.”
In this letter, Densmore compared two of her music teachers at Oberlin: Lucretia Celestia Wattles and Howard Carter. Densmore preferred Wattles, seeing her as a role model. She described Wattles as having a composed demeanor, beautiful looks, and a respectful nature. She contrasted this with Carter’s harsh and anxious demeanor which she found displeasing. This was not the first time Densmore wrote about Wattles at length. In letter eighteen, Densmore wrote, “I never thought anybody could be so particular about the quality of the tone and the touch, and the curve of the fingers… The Rehearsals will, I think, be very instructive for she questions us on the key of the piece we have just heard, the rhythm, the time, and asks if we could write the theme. She adbised [sic] us to take music paper to the other (General) Rehearsals and try to write out the melody of the pieces given, said she would like to see our work; I think I will try it.” She clearly trusted Wattles’ methodology and direction.



Letter No. 41         dated March, 1885

6-1…I grow to love Miss Wattles1 more and more every time I see her. I can admire her more than __ _ [sic] <most?> for she is such a beautiful Christian, she seldom if ever speaks in a meeting yet noone [sic] could see her without knowing just what she was and being influenced by her.  I wish you had a better pictureof [sic] her — she has sucjh a strong, lovely face, one that it gives o one a calm, restful feeling to look at, so full of character yet with euch [sic] expression of quiet reserve.  She could not be more kind to me or interested for me if she had known me years instead of months, there is nothing condescending in her manner of talking with me and yet one feels as though she was infinitely above them, almost as though a silent star were to stoop down to them.  As a teacher she is far preferable to Prof. Carter, because she is less nervous, he, though very patient, is so full of music from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head that it seems as though if you should strike a note wrong it would almost kill the poor man, he paces back and forth during the lesson, occasionally calling out “G sharp,” “faster” etc, in a way that confuses me terribly, in fact, he is quite German while she always acts as though, while mistakes were not pleasing to her, still she could bear them and treat them charitably, so that one can play for her as well as when alone: I do not intend to convey the impression that Prof. Carter is not a pleasant teacher, he is very kind in meaning, but nervous.2

Transcribed by Leah Newman

Miss Lucretia Celestia Wattles (1849-1933), professor of pianoforte (piano) and harmony (music theory) at Oberlin Conservatory from 1871 to 1892. “Noted as a woman of wisdom and high standards, she was credited, along with Fenelon B. Rice, with building the strong foundations of today’s piano department” (Wattles Family Papers 1860-1953, Record Group 30/273, O. C. A.).  

2 Howard Carter, Conservatory Professor of piano from 1874 to 1906.