Autograph books were a fad in Victorian-era America, from about 1850 through the 1880s. Until replaced by yearbooks. Telephones. The internet. And Facebook...
Per Wikipedia, autograph books originated in Europe in the Middle Ages to record family genealogy, and among college students. "Traditionally they were exchanged among friends, colleagues, and classmates to fill with poems, drawings, personal messages, small pieces of verse, and other mementos. Their modern derivations include yearbooks, friendship books, and guest books."
In fact, Princeton University archives house a collection of "219 autograph books from 192 members of classes between 1825 and 1884. The books were used to collect not only the autographs of classmates, but also good wishes, bits of favorite verse, letters of farewell, or reminiscences of shared events during undergraduate years."
I appreciate my great-grandmother's Autograph Book for the extraordinary genealogy record she later, at age 71, listed in it in 1933.
But even more, I'm charmed by the eloquent, sweet, serious, clever, often funny autographs collected in the early 1880s from family and friends by 19-year-old Jessie Gibson of farming community Sigel, Kansas.
And it strikes me how much civility and graciousness Americans have lost in the last 150 years, from Victorian-era autographs books to Facebook today.
For your enjoyment, a small sampling...
(In the photo, from left are Charles Hutchison (1858-1941), son Alpha (1884-1962), daughter Marie, my grandmother (1897-1987), daughter Gertrude (1886-1962), Jessie Gibson Hutchison (1862-1952), daughter Clara (1888-1975).)