And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

19 December

1797
Andrew Ellicott,
surveyor

‘Set up the clock, and prepared to make some astronomical observations for the purpose of determining the latitude and longitude of the confluence of those great, and important rivers [. . .] The Ohio river, is formed by the junction of the Allegany and Monongahela rivers, at Pittsburgh, which name it retains till it falls into the Mississippi. It may not be improper here to observe, that all the Indians residing on the Allegany, ever since my acquaintance with the western country, have called that branch, as well as the main river, the Ohio, and appeared to know it by no other name.

The Ohio is certainly one of the finest rivers within the United States, whether considered as to magnitude, the great extent of its course, or the outlet it affords to an immense and fertile country rapidly filling with inhabitants.

The bottom and sides of the river are stony, from Pittsburgh down to the low country, which is generally supposed to be about eight hundred miles. The strata of stone are horizontally disposed, and principally consist of either freestone, or limestone. This horizontal disposition of the strata of stone, is observable through a very large extent of the United States. I have traced it from Oswego, up Lakes Ontario and Erie, with all the waters falling into them, and through all the western parts of Pennsylvania, and down the Ohio, wherever hills or mountains are to be seen.

The flat, or bottom lands on the Ohio, are not surpassed by any in the United States for fertility; but in many places they are small, and inconsiderable; being limited by hills or mountains, on one side, and the river on the other. A large proportion of the hills, and mountains, are unfit for agricultural purposes, being either too steep, or faced with rocks. The hills and mountains on the east side of the river, generally increase in magnitude, till they unite with the great ridge, commonly called the Allegany: but on the west side they decrease, till the country becomes almost a dead level.

The country produces all the immediate necessaries, of life in abundance, and far beyond the present consumption of the inhabitants; the residue, with many other articles, such as hemp, cordage, hard-ware, some glass, whisky, apples, cider, and salted provisions, are annually carried down the river to New Orleans, where they find a ready market. Mines of pit coal (lithanthrax), are not only abundant, but inexhaustible from Pittsburgh many miles down the river. [. . .]

The people who reside on the Ohio and its waters, are brave, enterprising, and warlike, which will generally be found the strongest characteristical marks of the inhabitants of all our new settlements. It arises from their situation; being constantly in danger from the Indians, they are habituated to alarms, and acts of bravery become a duty they owe to themselves, and to their friends. But this bravery, too frequently when not checked by education, and a correct mode of thinking, degenerates into ferocity.

Vessels proper for the West India trade, may be advantageously built on the Ohio, and taken with a cargo every annual rise of the waters down to New Orleans, or out to the islands. The experiment has already been made, and attended with success.’

Fat alligators in Florida

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1821
Phebe Orvis,
housewife

‘Cold and windy. Mrs. D[urfey] gone all day. Mr. D[urfey] this eve at Mr. Chester Rockwell’s did the wash. Twisted and washed ten knots of yarn. pieced the outside of a quilt. Mr. E[astman, Jr.] called. I spent the eve alone excepting the children. Retired at twelve.’

An extraordinary ordinary woman

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1908
Lady Minto,
philanthropist

‘Went to the races. Tea was spread out in a shamiana under the trees of which numerous people partook. This is an excellent way of getting in touch with Calcutta society.

Went down to Barrackpore by motor. Miserable at receiving a most anxious account of Lord Windsor. The nurses are splendid; Colonel Crooke is quite devoted and never leaves the house unless relieved for an hour or so by Major Bird wood or Captain O’Meara. Captain Gibbs and Arthur Guise are both at Agra, but have not been allowed into Lord Windsor’s room.’

Lady Minto’s Indian diary

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1934
Peter Fleming,
writer

‘Bus at 8 on stomachs empty save for peanuts. Good seats and smuggled luggage. Bloody driver. Second bus constantly en panne. A Chinese attached to it savagely beaten up by Jap with starting handle. Lovely mountain passes. Hunting boxes in firs. A little snow. New untouched road. One concrete bridge made. No work going on elsewhere. Soup at Lungwha, where there is a good yamen, bright colours, much mistletoe. Dust all day like a fog. Took streets too fast. Carts on ice. Camels. Suddenly came on Chengteh. First the club-shaped rock, then Tashi Lumpo (now fronted with Manchukuo barracks), then palace pagoda. Gave names and ages to Military Mission man, then walked through busier fuller [than on my last visit in 1933] streets to Conard, who was delightful and lodged us in luxury. The sad Lewisohn also there, leaving tomorrow. In clover, but police on our trail.’

Dust all day like a fog

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1944
Agard Wallace,
politician

‘I got it on very good authority yesterday that Edgar Hoover continually has Drew Pearson [a journalist and diarist - see Salty and Petulant] shadowed. Hoover specializes on building up a file against the various public figures and especially against the columnists. He has not yet built up much of a file against Walter Winchell. Winchell has so far been too smart for Hoover. Hoover is apparently on his way toward becoming a kind of American Himmler.’

The 33rd vice president

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1962
Robertson Davies,
writer

‘Minor bothers: car goes crook; parcels get mislaid, etc. Rosamund is out of school at 12. Give a good lecture at 2. We call on the Edinboroughs and have mince pies and rum punch. In the evening to Kind Hearts and Coronets, my favourite film.’

Robertson Davies as diarist

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1979
Andy Warhol,
artist

‘The ABC 20/20 camera crew was coming to the office to film. I worked until 7:30. Then at home I glued myself together. Bob called and said he was exhausted but he really wanted to go to the Alice Mason dinner, so he picked me up and we walked to 72nd Street and Lexington. I was next to Norris Church Mailer. I told her we were still interested in doing something with her for Interview but she said she’d put on weight and that she really liked eating better than staying thin for modeling. Then we got a cab to El Morocco, Norris and Norman and Bob and me (cab $5). It was a party for Margaux Hemingway’s engagement. I ran into Jamie Blandford there and had a fight with him, I don’t know why, I just always do, I hope I didn’t (laughs) offend him. And Mimi Trujillo was there. She was married to the son of that dictator and she’s a fashion designer. Victor sees her stuff then tells Halston about it - I mean, she does stuff like Halston, but she does it sort of first.

Millie and Bill Kaiserman were there. I introduced Norris to them, but I think I did it in a strange way, I guess I said, “This is Norris Church, she wants free clothes.” But they should have good-looking people walking around in their clothes for free. There were lots of funny young people, El Morocco’s back on its way again.’

The Andy Warhol Diaries

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In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

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The Diary Junction is one of those wonderful privately maintained public resources for which the Internet is justly celebrated: a database of information about celebrated and obscure diaries[over 500] from all historical periods, with referrals to the dates the diaries cover, where the originals are held and bibliographic information on published versions.’ Laura Miller, Salon

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