THE MARION BALLOU FISK PAPERS
Collection Dates: [1906 -- 1930]
.5 linear ft.
Scans of a document from a collection of materials held
Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1420
of the Fisk Papers
To inventory of the Fisk Papers
A second ms., typed by Marion Fisk Giersbach, seems to indicate a single complete program. (Typos and other typing errors have been corrected here; punctuation is as per Mrs. Fisk’s original.)
God gave me as my birthright, the love of beauty, and the ability to put the wonderful things I saw into pictures, for the pleasure of myself and my friends.
Like many another of his good gifts to the sons and daughters of men, this talent of mine would have been wrapped in a napkin, and hidden away, had He not also given me a friend, whose love and ambitions for, and faith in me, were boundless and unwavering. He is was, who laid upon me my duty to “stir up the gift” that was in me; Who safeguarded my time, and made many sacrifices that I might study; Who met my every discouraged “can’t” with his cheery “can.” In whatever success I have achieved, or shall achieve, he must always have a share.
It is but fitting then, that I should dedicate this little collection of the work of my head and hands, to him, my inspiration, my coach, my severest and kindest critic –
To My Husband
AMERICANS IN THE MAKING
Americans in the Making
But we can hardly make any study of Americans, present or future, without a first glance back at that cradle of American Liberty, the New England states.
Stories of New England life, and the quaint characteristics of her queer people, as they have been described by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, and other writers of New England tales, have made the whole reading world smile, and sometimes visitors have come away, disappointed that they have not found their story book characters real. It is true, New England has become sophisticated in the passing of the years, and if one would find the genuine old fashioned New Englander today, as he is celebrated in song and story, one must go far back, up among the little mountain towns, where the shriek of the locomotive has never yet been heard. I shall always count it as one of the greatest privileges of my life, that I was born and reared in just such a little mountain town, and that I counted among my childhood friends, many a quaint character, that would make my fame and fortune assured, could I but get them between the covers of a book.
We are, by birth and breeding, a reticent, quiet people, who prefer to lead our lives in our own quiet way, but of late years we have been very much infected with the city boarders, who flash their yellow riches, and their red automobiles thro’ our quiet streets, penetrate the homes of our living, and gaze upon the graves of our dead, and sum us all up in two words: “So interesting.” One of these city boarders said to one of our neighbors one day, “Aw – what do you people find to amuse yourselves with in this quiet locality?”
“Wall,” said the old farmer, “we mostly amuses ourselves laffin’ at the summer boarders.”
“Oh! Ah! I see! But what do you do in the winter-time, don’t you know?”
“Wall, then we amuses ourselves laffin’ at each other.”
It is true, in the summer time “we amuses ourselves laffin’ at the city boarders,” and some ridiculous things they do, but since they will come among us, we have felt we might as well make what we could from this source of income, and so we open our homes, and we take them in, – in more senses than one, too.
One worthy old couple who felt the might take advantage of this source of revenue was Uncle Jock Jones and his good wife, Sybil. The first arrival from the city was a very much overdressed woman who merited their deep disgust, the very first night she was there, when at the supper table she lifted a quivering gleaming dish of golden honey in her jeweled hands, and said with an air of would-be sophistication, “Ah! I see you keep a bee. Is it a Jersey?”
But their disgust at that was nothing to what they felt at something that occurred after supper. Uncle Jock was raising some fine calves, of which he was justly proud, and he used to spend a good deal of his spare time out by the calf pasture barn, looking at his pets, and “cal’latin’ how much they was goin’ to be wuth.” This night he was out as usual, after supper, leaning on the bars, and chewing a straw, and watching his pets, when the city boarder came out, and leaned on the fence beside him. For a while she stood there in perfect silence, and then, – whether the beauty of the scene really appealed to her, or whether she just wanted to get on the good side of Uncle Jock, I am sure I don’t know, – but anyway, she presently burst forth with this rhapsody, “Oh, how I do love to see the little cowlets, sporting on the green.”
Uncle Jock gave her one look of weary disgust, took the straw from his mouth, and said, “Huh! Them ain’t cowlets. Them’s bullets.”
“And in the winter time we “amuses ourselves laffin’ at each other.” The New Englander is, in his humor, as in everything else, quiet and reserved, a little bit dry, if you please, but we see one another’s peculiarities with a very clear eye, and tonight I want to bring you a little sheaf of true stories, some of the things at which we have “laffed” at each other.
Near us, in just such a weather beaten cabin as I am now drawing for you, lived a family by the name of Moore. In the early days they had been a large and prosperous family, and had contributed their share toward the making of early New England history, but in my day the family had run out, and run down, till there were only three members of the family left, two brothers and a sister. The oldest in point of years, was Nathan, but he was a fool. Next in age was a sister, Louisa, who was bright enough, but so eccentric that many of us counted her as a close second to her brother. The youngest of the three was a brother, Alvin, a great hunking good natured sort of fellow, with a voice like a foghorns, and an inexhaustible supply of profanity, and when he was breaking the winter roads of snow, which is the New Englander’s steady winter occupation, his voice could be heard for miles around as he cursed his patient, plodding ox-team.
But one day when he was breaking the winter roads he contracted a severe cold, which resulted in pneumonia and finally in death. After he was gone, the poor old brother and sister had a hard time to get along, and make both ends meet, for they had depended on Alvin for everything.
And to Louisa too fell the lot of great loneliness and needing something omn which to center her affections and, Nathan being unresponsive owing to his affliction, she turned all the love of her heart to the dumb, brute creation, – the cattle, sheep and chickens, with which she filled her yards and stables. Indeed, she loved them so much that she would not sell one at any price, even tho’ the Wolf of Want always crept close to their door.
Things had got to such a pass, with the poor old couple really suffering for the necessities of life, when the Town Fathers decided that they must take a hand. So they appeared one day, with a purchaser for a big red Durham cow that Louisa owned. In vain the poor old woman begged and cried, and threatened and even swore, the sale was made, and they led the cow away. I shall never forget her description of that scene to my mother.
“Why,” she said, “that cow didn’t want to go, and there were tears in that cow’s eyes. And just as they led her down that little hill, in front of the house, she turned around and gave me a last look, – and she looked just as Alvin did, when he died!”
But in spite of our winter’s snows, and our everlasting hills, we have ways of keeping up with the rest of the world. We have the patent medicine almanacs!
One of our neighbors was a very diligent reader of these, and year by year he accumulated the finest set of symptoms and diseases, that ever you heard of! He would read the almanac, diagnose his case, decide on the prescribed medicine, send for it, take maybe half a bottle of it, decide it wasn’t doing him any good and change the treatment. Why, do you know, that man had taken so much medicine, pills, and things, that he had ball-bearing joints!
But one day a disease got hold of poor old ‘Gene, that no patent medicine could cure. After he was gone, his widow gathered up all the half emptied medicine bottles there were around the house, and set them out in the shed chamber to await destruction. There were seven bushel baskets full of them! The hired man came in, and saw them sitting there, and he said, “Well, Marthy, what was ye cal’latin’ to do with all that old medicine of ‘Gene’s?”
“Well,” she said, “I guess I’ll have ye take ‘em down to the brook an’ dump ‘em over the bank. They ain’t any use any more.”
“Well, now, it seems a pity to waste all that good medicine. If you don’t mind, I’ll carry it along home with me, an’ I can kind of take it along.”
One of the last times I was at home, I was interested to inquire how he was getting along on his medicine, and he told me he’d got it “about half took up.” I asked him if he thought it had helped him any, and he said,
“Well,. no I can’t say as it’s helped me any, because there wa’n’t nothin’ the matter with me in the first place; but it hain’t hurt me none, an’ anyhow it ain’t been wasted!”
(picture of farm home in snow)
But in spite of the New Englander’s peculiarities and idiosyncrasies, and I grant you they are many, when the country was new, and it was desired to find some type that should represent the young republic, at once progressive and conservative, nothing could be found more fitting for such a type than a good old fashioned New England deacon, and perhaps in all the category of art there is no picture than has been more widely drawn, and is more widely recognized, both at home and abroad, than our own Uncle Sam.
Of late he has taken on a new interest, and we have been thinking more about him and his problems than ever before, and one of his chief interests lays in his very inconsistencies.
Old he is, as men count the years of men’s lives, and yet the mistakes he makes, are almost all those of youth and inexperience.
Rich is he called, richest of all the people of the earth, and yet so poor is he, that he is seeking to borrow any sums, from thousands, down to such small sums as twenty-five cents, from anyone who has that to invest in a thrift stamp. And he is asking this, not for himself at all, but simply that he may use it to “make this world a safe place for decent people to live in.”
Some there are who think that he has grown senile with age; that they can heap all sorts of indignity upon his hoary head, and that all he would do will be to sit down and write a few notes about it.
I grant you he is patient and forbearing, almost to a fault, but he has proved that the same spirit still actuates him as in seventeen seventy-six, in eighteen twelve, and in the days of sixty-one”
“And if any sad folk, with a foe’s effrontery, Step on the coat of this, our Country, L
Step on the coat of this, our Country,
Look away, look away, look away, U.S.A.!
We’ll take our sev’ral swords an’ tune ‘em, Till they’ll sing ‘E pluribus unum’ – Look away, look away, look away, U.S.A.!
Till they’ll sing ‘E pluribus unum’ –
Look away, look away, look away, U.S.A.!
Then it’s Uncle Sam forever, I say hooray! I thank the fates which fixed my dates, In U.S.A. forever.
So I’ll say ‘Hooray, Yes, I’ll say ‘Hooray! Dear Uncle Sam, forever!’
For Uncle Sam, forever!’
I thank the fates which fixed my dates,
In U.S.A. forever.
So I’ll say ‘Hooray,
Yes, I’ll say ‘Hooray!
Dear Uncle Sam, forever!’
In the making of any great country, there are many different races, and many different nationalities that go to make it up as a whole, and with the infusion of every new blood come problems of its own.
American has had her fair share of these, but perhaps there is no problem of modern times that has received so much attention, both at home and abroad, has brought forth so much discussion, and so many learned magazine articles, as has the Negro Problem.
There are various ways propounded for its settlement. Some there are, who say “Settle it by amalgamation.” God forbid! There is something in the white man’s blood that must always shudder at even the thought of such a solution of the problem as that.
Others there are who say, “Settle it by annihilation.” This is too cruel and bloodthirsty a way to be tolerated for even a moment in thought, by any civilized Christian people.
Churches and benevolent societies say, “Settle it by education.” Tuskegee and Tougaloo point with pride to the fact that never has the name of one of their graduates appeared on a criminal record. This is, perhaps, as good a way of solving the problem as any, but at the rate at which the money is pouring into the coffers of these churches and benevolent societies, it looks like a long day indeed, until such a settlement of the problem is reached.
Still others there are who solve the problem quickly and easily by the one word, Transportation. This seems at once humane and feasible, until we stop to realize that it would take twenty-seven years, with a ship sailing every day in the year, and each ship bearing a thousand passengers to transport all the negroes within our border at the present time. Let me repeat. Twenty-seven years, with a ship sailing every day in the year, Sundays included, and each ship bearing a thousand passengers, to transport all the negroes within our borders at the present time, for we have over ten millions of them, and they are increasing at the rate of a ship load every forty-eight hours.
I do not bring you any solution of this great problem, – I must leave that for wiser heads than mine, – I simply mention it as a problem which must be settled soon, for our own safety, and the safety of the country which we hold so dear. Indeed, I think the negro will ask some status in the country for which he has offered himself. I was interested when in the South to learn that the negroes averaged as well as the white man, in voluntary enlistments, and one of them was overheard to say: “Huh! Dem Germans! Jes’ you wait till we Anglo-Saxons gits after ‘em.” Yes, I think we must seriously consider the case of these colored Anglo-Saxons.
And yet, a problem tho’ the negro is within our midst, we, as an American people, owe him a real debt of gratitude, for no less an authority than Prof. Anton Dvorak, at one time President of the New York Conservatory of Music, said that every great country, save America alone, had a distinctive type of music of its own. He mentioned the heavy opera of the Germans; the light opera of the French; the lilting lay of the Italians; the stirring martial airs of Austria, Hungary and Poland. “But,” said he, “America has a type of music in the process of the making, and when it is complete, it will be found to be based on the negro melody.”
Whether we like Prof. Dvorak’s opinion or not, there is not one of us that will deny that there is something unusually touching and plaintive in the negro songs, particularly their plantation songs and lullabies.
“When I was a little baby, I remember long ago, Daddy would sit all ebenin’ An’ play de ole banjo. Mammy den would call me ‘Honey’, Take me up upon her knee An’ holdin’ me to her bosom, Would sing dis song to me.
I remember long ago,
Daddy would sit all ebenin’
An’ play de ole banjo.
Mammy den would call me ‘Honey’,
Take me up upon her knee
An’ holdin’ me to her bosom,
Would sing dis song to me.
Don’ ye cry,
ma honey, don’ ya weep no mo’ Mammy’s gwine to hol’ her baby, Mammy only lubs her boy.
Mammy’s gwine to hol’ her baby,
Mammy only lubs her boy.
I is so dreadful lonely ince ma Dinah went away. Mammy too I know is waitin’, Standin’ on de udder sho’ I gladly would gib ma freedom To hear her sing once mo’.
Now ma hair am turnin’ gray,
I is so dreadful lonely
ince ma Dinah went away.
Mammy too I know is waitin’,
Standin’ on de udder sho’
I gladly would gib ma freedom
To hear her sing once mo’.
Don’ ye cry,
ma honey, don’ ya weep no mo’ Mammy’s gwine to hol’ her baby, All de udder brack trash, sleepin’
on de flo’, Mammy only lubs her boy.
Mammy’s gwine to hol’ her baby,
All de udder brack trash, sleepin’
on de flo’,
Mammy only lubs her boy.
(picture of negro mammy, child & old man)
There is another problem that Uncle Sam has to face, and that is the Woman Problem.
A great many lovely things – and otherwise – have been said about us women of late, but one of the nicest was a tribute that was paid to us a number of years ago by Minister Wu, when at the close of an interview on things American, he said, “But, ah! Your American woman! Possessed as she is, by the carriage of the English, the grace of the French, the beauty of the Italian, and an intellect all her own, she is easily the queen of the world!”
Now I was quite set up by that statement of Minister Wu, and immediately there was born in my heart a desire to draw a picture of a perfectly beautiful woman. When I intimated this desire to an artist friend of mine he said,
“Don’t you ever try that, for ideas of beauty vary so, you know, that what is beautiful to one isn’t at all beautiful to another, and then drawing hastily with chalk as you do, if you make a single slip with your crayon, you’ll turn a beauty into a grotesque.”
Robert Burns, that great Scottish poet, wrote of the woman whom he most admired:
“Oh my love is like a red, red rose, That’s newly sprung in June.”
That’s newly sprung in June.”
By this we infer that the lady was of a ruddy complexion. Probably her enemies would have said that she was “as red as a beet,” but to him she looked “like a red, red rose,” which proves, I think, that love is not blind, as is so often said.
The ms. ends here abruptly, and pages that would complete this description are missing.