Artifact Corner: Letter from Henry Delord

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a letter that Henry Delord wrote to his sister on the 24th of October, 1820. The letter as you can see is written in French. Henry was born and raised in France, and he was writing the letter to his sister who was still living in Nimes. Today we will be reading excerpts of this letter, to understand Henry Delord and learn a bit more about his concerns and his dreams for his future, more than 200 years later.

My dear sister,

I received your letter dated 20th of July the day before yesterday in the morning, and I have to answer it right away. I just can’t help it. Since I can not tell you yet when I will be able to embrace you. The pleasure and consolation to write to you give me joy and fill me with gladness. The Happiness to see my native land and to be able to hold you in my arms would be for me beyond expression. I could visit the grave of my parents and of my dear brothers and sisters and shed tears of tenderness and of satisfaction. Nature and gratefulness prompt one and order me to accomplish these duties. The idea to cross the ocean with my family present some difficulties, also the necessity to realize what is left of my assets. I watch and keep an eye constantly for a favorable occasion to sell my properties – in this country, as in yours, real estate has little value. Cash is scarce now. Real estate and landlord properties in France particularly in Nimes, nevertheless are more sound values than they are here.

The troubles which infected Europe have been of great importance in the United States. The restrictions imposed by Europe on the ships of this country are so high that the Americans have to abandon trading – which brings a general stagnation in the businesses. They had neglected agriculture – now they push it with force and energy which greatly lower the price of different crops – but cash is scarce – Moreover you should not worry about my security – this country is perfectly peaceful. As to a new war with the English it does not look like it.

My wife is quite touched by your kind words and my little Francoise is already quite proud to have an aunt who loves her so much though she does not know her. My portrait and those of my family are already in boxes and ready to ship; I will send them to a friend in New York at the first opportunity to have them shipped. These portraits have been painted two years ago – people say they are not flattering but quite natural. The likeness of mine is said to be as perfect as possible – the ones of my wife and of Francoise, which I can vouch, are of exact likeness and strikingly natural. My wife since that time gained weight – she is a very beautiful and elegant woman, well bred and educated and I may say quite truthfully and without flattery that her virtues even surpass her beauty.

The details you ask me to give you concerning our way of life would take reams of paper, so different they are from which you see at home. Here the persons who have only an average fortune have more luxury in their homes than our richest persons of independent means – rich rugs cover their floors everywhere. You can see silverware -tea and coffee pots, urns, candle holders, also pieces of furniture made of rare and costly woods like mahogany and macemillier, the first one a reddish which once carved and polished give hues which compare to the most beautiful marbles of Italy, the second of a spotted yellowish hue of great beauty. Also mirrors of large sizes and the richest paintings from the best artists – also other costly pieces of furniture – silver or silver plate andirons, candleholders, chandeliers, lamps, curtains and gilted cornices and bedstead which cost from 10 to 20 louis. This country produces an excellent sugar and plentifully from a tree – these trees which are quite common here are very big and reach 60 to 80 feet in height. The English call them maple, which I believe”erable” in French. There are many lumber yards and shops making oak furnitures etc. From Plattsburgh to New York the distance is 110 leagues – the means of transportation is a steamboat which is safe and fast – the boat is set in motion by the use of air coming from water heated in a boiler on board the boat, and going through pipes set in motion a big wheel on each side of the ship, which turning in the water at great speed gives a big thrust to the boat. These wheels are larger than the ones that are used in the gardens for the wells. So that everyday you can go from here to New York almost without stress or fatigue – the same from New York to Plattsburgh. These ships can accommodate 3 to 400 passengers with spacious lodgings for the ladies as well as the gentlemen – every lady has a cabin to lay down in, so have the gentlemen – husbands, brothers or any other person can visit the ladies during the day or the evening, but they have to retire in their cabin at night and be separated from their wife.

The winters here are very cold, we often have snow in this month (October) that stays on the ground until April. Often the snow is 5 feet deep. In the winter people ride toboggans and sleds drawn by horses like a carriage. They travel on lakes and rivers on the ice 6 feet deep. It is surprising to see the clothing and fur blankets necessary to travel that way and the amount of wood consumed annually in these houses heated generally by stoves.

So long, my dear friend, I just want you to be sure of my deep affection and wish you a good and happy year enjoying a perfect health.

Your Brother and friend,
Henry Delord

Henry was writing to his beloved sister to inform her of him sending portraits of him and his family. He was also letting her know of his plans to sell all of his property and belongings, and move him and his family back to France. This was not to be. Henry never did make it back to his family home in Nimes. His health deteriorated, and he passed away in 1825 at the age of 61, and is buried here in Plattsburgh in Riverside Cemetery. If he had sold this home and all of their possessions, it is safe to say that we would not be a museum. While we are sorry Henry never made it back to France, we are glad that the family remained here, and saved so much of their incredible history. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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