Document 9:

Author: James Harris Fairchild

Recipient: Mary Fletcher Kellogg

Date: 29 October 1839

Location: Oberlin College Archives, James H. Fairchild Papers. Series III Courtship Correspondence,

1771-1926, RG 2/003.

Document Type: Transcript (1939) Autograph Letter, Signed by Author.



The following document is a postscript from one of James’ letters to Mary, a year and a half into their correspondence. Though short, James’ insistence here on paying postage is revealing. In his memoir entitled “Grandfather’s Story” (parts of which were transcribed by his family and included along with the courtship letters) James stated:

The mail was faithful but somewhat exorbitant in its charges which was an item to a poor student. It was customary for a gentleman, corresponding with a lady, to pay postage both ways. Miss Kellogg sometimes undertook to get a brother to mail her letter and thus secure its payment, but this was unusual. The quarter was not always in my pocket when the mail came in, and once I remember that I left my pocket knife in pawn with the Oberlin post-master in order to secure the coveted letter. It was later redeemed.

Though James was certainly poor enough at various points that Mary’s aid in paying for postage would have been a blessing, he not only doesn’t ask for her help, but attempts to prevent her from giving it. This rigid adherence to what it was considered proper for a gentleman to do reveals the ways in which unyielding nineteenth-century gender norms also could harm men even as they reinforced a patriarchal society.




Mary, I have opened this to tell you to let me pay postage. I have money enough<,> and that is my business. Perhaps I shall be too poor some day, then I will tell you.

  1. H.


Transcribed by Rebecca Debus.