Souvenir of Choir "Surprise". November 27, '97
[Racine, Wisconsin]: 1897. Approx. 7-3/4" x 8-3/4". 32 pages of holograph text and ink illustrations, recto only. A stab-bound "slant" book tied with leather cord, rebound in quarter leather over marbled boards, with new endpapers. Toning and repairs with archival tape to edges and inner margin of first leaf; minor edge repairs and faint remnants of heavy pencil scribble to second leaf; light offsetting to blank versos of most leaves from facing illustrations. Some leaves possibly reordered during binding process, as in a few instances offsetting does not match up with facing illustration. Very Good.
A book of rhymed verse and humorous illustrations, written by an unknown member of the First Methodist Episcopal church choir in Racine, Wisconsin, gently lampooning his(?) fellow choir members and their leader, pastor John E. Farmer. No mention is given of the location, which we have deduced instead by tracing the names mentioned to the book, "History of the First Methodist Episcopal church, Racine, Wisconsin, with a preliminary chapter devoted to the city of Racine, 1836 to 1912," with the help of birth records.
With the exception of the first poem, a paean of sorts to the entire choir, each page is a stand-alone illustrated verse, usually focusing on one member of the choir and often rhyming based on his or her name. The lines on the first page instruct the reader to "[p]eruse the contents once in a while / 'Twill do you good, 'twill make you smile".
The quality and style of verse varies, from the initial longer poem that introduces many members of the choir, written in rhymed couplets, to limericks and silly quatrains: "E. A. Tostevin wouldn't say his prayers / His wife boxed his ears and sent him downstairs / He picked himself up and climed [sic] on the shelf / If you want any more you may write it yourself."
Named members include: Julia Phillips, Walter DuFour, Jennie Dutton, Cora Phillips, [Walter J.] Tostevin, E. A. Tostevin, A. L. Anderson, George Leach, Millie L., L. Evans, Ed Rapps, Cora Blandin, J. E. N. Collins, Lizzie DuFour, Lena Leach, Mary Hardy, W. E. Lunn, Eva Heroy/Lunn, Florence Clemons, Clara Diehl, Lottie Griss[i?]nger, Herbert Clemons, N. E. Collins, and E. E. Scott.
Given the gentle ribbing of the pastor - the author suggests his wife writes his sermons - and obvious rapport shared by the choir as a whole, we speculate this may have been a gift to him.
A unique and utterly charming manuscript portrait of a Wisconsin Methodist choir at the turn of the 20th century.