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Guide to the Papers of H. William Geils
  MS 242

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Celia Hartmann

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 09, 2011
Description is in English.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists predominantly of correspondence to H. William Geils from family members, notably his uncle Louis Lankenau, of San Francisco, CA; and friends Charles Rebman, an undergraduate at Cornell University; Augusta Dietrich, a neighbor and sometime sweetheart; and Emily Flanagan, a student at the New York Training School for Teachers and later a teacher. Most are addressed to Geils at home in Manhattan and the Bronx; some document vacations in Massachusetts and upstate New York.

The letters show the daily life and concerns of young people of this time: school, work, news of other friends and family members, gossip, and planning and attending social events. They delineate the behavior expected by the parents of courting couples, the etiquette observed between young unmarried men and women, and use extensively the slang and vernacular expressions of the period.

Corrected drafts of letters from Geils to Emily Flanagan detail his journey west. Among the undated correspondence are typescripts of off-color jokes and stories, including one involving Alice Roosevelt and Nicholas Longworth; its origin might be assumed to predate their February, 1906, marriage. Some of the undated letters are in envelopes on which are written Geils' name and "Addressed," indicating that they may have been enclosures in other correspondence.

The highlight of the collection is an April 23, 1906, letter from his uncle detailing the San Francisco earthquake of April 18 and the subsequent fires that destroyed the city. Addressed from Bolinas, CA, where Lankenau was living temporarily, it and a May 21, 1906, letter provide first-hand accounts of the destruction. They detail Lankenau and his friends' plans for new business endeavors in the city after its planned rebuilding.


The collection is arranged in two series. Within each series the materials are arranged chronologically.

  1. I. Correspondence to H. William Geils
  2. II. Draft correspondence from H. William Geils