About Nineteenth-Century Scrapbooks and the Prudence Person Scrapbook
The Prudence Person Scrapbook Project was inspired by the work of Ellen Gruber Garvey, whose Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance highlights a long-standing tradition of scrapbook-making among American readers. These scrapbooks, Garvey argues, offer a record of the concerns of average Americans who may not have left written records behind. Scrapbooks are often also the only sites where the publications of disenfranchised communities were preserved and cherished.
The University of North Carolina Libraries contain a number of scrapbooks created by North Carolinians from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Among these is the scrapbook created by Prudence Person (1848-1922), a resident of Louisburg, North Carolina. Prudence Person was probably born in Sandy Creek, North Carolina; she moved with her family to Louisburg when her father bought a house there in 1858. As a teenager she attended Louisburg Female Seminary, located next door to the Person family home. (The Person home has been preserved through the efforts of the Person Place Preservation Society.) At the age of 41 Prudence married Willie Mangum Person; she and her husband lived in the Person home together. When Prudence's mother Abiah died in 1892 Prudence became the head of the household until her own death in 1922. For more information about the Person family and the Person home, see this page.
Person began her scrapbook sometime in the 1870s and continued adding to it until shortly before her death. It is one of the few artifacts she left behind. (Others include her handwritten will and her diploma from Louisburg Female Seminary, which can be viewed here.) The Presley Person Papers at Duke University contain extensive records left by members of the Person family, but Prudence does not seem to have been avid writer. She did, however, "write with scissors," as Garvey would say, and her scrapbook paints a vivid portrait of her interests and concerns. It contains clippings from local newspapers and national magazines as well as postcards and religious and floral illustrations. The content of the clippings ranges from sentimental poetry to life advice to home remedies to aphorisms to dialect jokes. Many of the articles and poems Prudence preserved were religious in nature, and many offered counsel on how to live a contented and meaningful life. The scrapbook also contains public accounts of events that were personal to Prudence, including a newspaper article about her graduation from the Louisburg Seminary and obituary notices for her family and friends.
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