Why These Documents Matter

Participation in a Tradition

In the documents presented here Alice Hawkins and her soon to be husband Fletcher Mulkey participate in a cultural phenomenon of copying and repurposing documents from others.  Ellen Garvey notes in the introduction to her book Writing with Scissors that in the nineteenth century “goods and messages traveled at unprecedented speed and volume across the growing country, spreading information in ways that made news central to economic and political life. National news entered into conversation and fueled ordinary social interaction.” The quick transmission of information was aided by soft and/or non-existent copyright laws in this period. The lack of laws allowed newspapers to reprint text without changes and often without noting the original source creating little need to rewrite stories and therefore speeding up the publication process.

This is what happened with the two articles detailing the event during which the original Untitled Poem was recited. In comparing the two copies I can see a two minor changes in the poem itself although the description of the event is identical. These differences make it clear that Alice copied her poem from the Texas Republican because her version is the same as the one published in that newspaper.

You can view these differences here: Versions of Untitled Poem.

The differences most likely occurred during the copying process itself. There was no copy and paste option in 19th century printing and even though the “development of stereotyping…allowed composed type forms to be duplicated so that material could be reprinted without having to be reset” the original still had to be set by hand. This was time consuming and allowed for mistakes and changes (both deliberate and accidental) in the copying process.

Both of Fletcher’s poems are a part of this tradition as well. He takes poems that we see in many texts of the time, makes small changes, and employs them to display how he feels about his fiancĂ©e. Both Alice and Fletcher are following in a tradition of taking information from other sources and using them for their own purposes. In continuing this cultural practice they add to the larger framework of information being disseminated around the country at this time.

Further Research Questions:

Burning and flame font query mark

Burning questions I still have…

With more time I would like to consider the following questions:

Who are the girls listed in the Untitled poem? Were they girls that Alice knew? Important families in the area? Women with links to the war effort?
Where was Alice born and when did she move to Waxahachie? When/where did she meet Fletcher?
How do the other documents (the letter from her father, the very hard to read letter from Fletcher) found in Alice Mulkey’s folder connect with the ones already displayed here?
What information in these other documents can help to expand how we look at the documents here?


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