Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dreams of white satin and veil

As the time for their wedding approached, Elise and Edwin planned their nuptials in a series of letters, like this one she wrote that is dated July 4th, 1920. Teddy's favorite cousin, Rosalie Mickey, was visiting New York and planning her own wedding, which unlike Teddy and Elise's, was to be a formal one.

Dear Heart,
You will be surprised to know that Rosalee handed me your dearest letter while we were preparing for bed. Yes she is with me. They were filled up at the "Y" building and I just lost my roommate that morning so what else to do but take her to my house. And so we are quite at home. ...

I too have always wanted to know myself in white satin and veil and orange blossoms; it has been one of my life's dreams. I shall have me a white dress however for the reception. And there shall be a few other bits of finery and we'll only miss the veil but it can't be helped. So let us forget what we might have done and perfect what we shall do.

I am very sorry Marie is still ill. Had a letter from her yesterday, very pessimistic, but nothing can disturb the tranquility of my mind. I am treading on air air, happy? I should say! When ever I allow my mind to dwell on our immediate future, my heart goes pounding away, carrying me off on a wave of happiness that frightens me and causes me to send up a silent petition to Him who holds our destinies acknowledging my unworthingess and begging a long, long life and a continuance of youth that I might enjoy -- you. ...

So dearest boy, go right ahead, do what you think best and when you come here we can talk of the Studio. The biggest thing on that is the camera but we need a few furnishings for our house first.

For today -- bye bye. Rosalee is asleep or else I'm sure she'd say she arrived safely and is very comfortable.

Dare I hope to be surprised with another letter tomorrow?

Your very own

Elise's first letter to Teddy was followed by a second, in which she expresses her frustration that he is not only unable to visit her in New York but also uncommunicative. She is resigned to continuing to make their plans by mail.

My dear Mr. Edwin Augustus,

I am at a loss "where to start to begin to commence" talking to you. For the first time that I can remember, I find it hard to write. Of course I had been hoping, wishing, longing to see you this month and had my mind all set on our last heart to heart talk, the probable settlement of business, a little while of "just us" away off to ourselves, up the Hudson, maybe. Now I must tear that up, rout it out and replace that by planning my home coming.

Well, I have waited, I am waiting and can still wait. Am not at all in any hurry. I'm working, you see, and the job's mine as long as I want it. Had to do something, this was offered and it looked better than hunting when I was very much in need.

You know how much I enjoy telling you things and the pleasure there would have been in writing you every day if I had had the slightest encouragement, but far be it from me to thrust unwelcomed missives at you. If you wanted to know what I was doing the simplest thing to have done was to write. ...

Now then here's a try at what I think. Since you're not coming here, I'll begin immediately to look up studio paraphernalia and as soon as I find something worthwhile will let you know so you may cash up.

I had hoped we could use two rooms of the apartment across the hall for the Studio but that is rented, is it now? Could I have your studio for a dark room? It's almost impossible to discuss this in this manner.

What do you say to my coming home first and fixing the Studio after I'm there. I could get the camera and some things that could not be very easily ordered and then after the party get to work on that? As to my thots on the "party." It would please me much to have you come here for me and have done with it with as little fuss as possible, and you see there wouldn't be any fuss expected on this end.

But to come home and have it there means that your family and my family and their friends and acquaintances expect us to have a show. It would be better if there was lots of money of course. There have been dreams of white satin and floating veils, flowers, music etc., etc. etc. But I've had to come down out of the clouds very often that I'm quite used to it.

... As to the time, how about September? One year since I've seen you. How I long for the feel of your arms about me, the thot sends the blood rushing to my brain. ...

I have no idea of your idea of "taking me off properly" so you'll have to let me hear from you. And for God's sake don't wait two months again or I won't be responsible for what I may do. ...

Well, sweetheart, it's up to you, fix your nest and then come get your bird -- and "we'll live happy ever after" -- provided you promise not to fuss at me over the table during mealtimes -- it's bad for digestion. ...

With all my love, and longing for you. I am your very own


Sunday, July 20, 2008


During his lifetime, Edwin A. Harleston received a great deal of attention for his work as an artist. His paintings have been exhibited at major museums, galleries and libraries, and cited in numerous books, articles, catalogs and other publications.

More recently, scholars documenting the role of women in American history have shown interest in Elise F. Harleston as a pioneering black female photographer. Besides the period in the 1920s, when her photos were displayed at street level to attract customers to the Harleston Studio in downtown Charleston, her work was only publicly exhibited 20 years after her death -- in the 1993 show "Conflict and Transcendence: African American Art in South Carolina," organized by the Columbia Museum of Art.

I have written articles about Elise for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ("Portrait of an Artist," Dec. 8, 1996), BET Weekend Magazine ("Picture Perfect," March 1997) and the Charleston Post & Courier ("Into the Light," May 7, 2006).

My mother, Edwina "Gussie" Harleston Whitlock, wrote a biographical sketch about her Uncle Teddy for an exhibition organized by Your Heritage House Museum in Detroit, and she collaborated on a book about the Harleston family that was published by HarperCollins in 2001, "The Sweet Hell Inside." That book was written by Edward Ball, who won the National Book Award for his "Slaves in the Family."

The couple is also mentioned in Edmund L. Drago's "Initiative, Paternalism and Race Relations: Charleston’s Avery Normal Institute," published in 1990 by the University of Georgia Press, and other books.

Below is a list of publications that cite Elise and Edwin Harleston.


Horwitz, Margot F. (1996). A Female Focus: Great Women Photographers, p. 41-43.

Moutoussamy-Ashe, Jeanne (1986). Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers pp. 34-39.

Rosenblum, Naomi. (1994). A History of Women Photographers pp. 150-151.

Severens, Martha R. (1998). The Charleston Renaissance. pp. 155-156, 180.

Teal, Harvey S. (2001). Partners With the Sun: South Carolina Photographers -- 1840-1940 pp. 291-292, 299, 321.

Willis, Deborah (2000). Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers – 1840 to the Present. pp. 37, 46, 69.


Adams, Myron W. (1930). A History of Atlanta University: 1865-1929, p. 106.

Allen, Simona A. (1972). Introduction. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 140 (Nov. 1928): 243.

Art Digest 6 (Feb. 15, 1931): 7.

Artists Proof 11 (1971): 27.

Arts in Society 5 (Summer/Fall 1968): 259.

Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (1933). Exhibition.

Atlanta University Bulletin (Dec. 1941): 6.

Bardolph, Richard (1959). The Negro Vanguard. pp. 181-184.

Barnwell, Andrea D. (1999). The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art. pp. 103, 157.

Baskin, Wade, and Runes, Richard N. (1973). Dictionary of Black Culture, pp. 29, 201.

Brawley, Benjamin G. (1918). The Negro in Literature and Art in the United States, p. 104.

Brown, Eugene Jesse (1934). "A Short History of Negro Art," p. 513.

Brown, Marion E. (1966a). "The Negro in the Fine Arts," p. 768.

Bulletin of the Association of American Colleges 17 (Nov. 1931): 363.

Cederholm, Theresa Dickason (1973). Afro-American Artists: A Bio-bibliographical Directory, p. 117-118.

Charleston Evening Post (May 13, 1966): B-12. "E.A. Harleston Paintings Are Being Exhibited." On solo at Old Slave Mart Museum.

Charleston magazine (May 2004): 86-93. "The Invisible Artist: The Life and Art of E.A. Harleston," by James Hutchisson; illus.; photo.

Chase, Judith Wragg (1971). Afro-American Art and Craft, pp. 113, 115.

Chicago Art Institute Scrapbook 54 (Aug. 1927-Mar. 1928): 62. "The Bible Student."

Christian Education 15 (Nov. 1931): 102.

City University of New York (1967). Evolution, p. 63.

The Crisis 22 (Jun 1921): 59. Photo of Harleston.

_ 29 (Mar. 1925): 223. "The Horizon." Notes Harleston portrait, commission from blacks in Delaware; illus.; photo.

_ 49 (April 1942): 117.

Dallas, Texas Centennial Exposition (c.1936). Thumb Nail Sketches, p. 4.

Dawson, Charles C. (1929). "Celebrated Negro Artists," p. 27.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (1972). Reflections.

Denmark (1971). "Black Artists," p. 298.

Dover (1960). American Negro Art, pp. 31, 48p pl. 34.

Driskell, David C. (1975). "Essay." In Amistad II: Afro-American Art. p. 46.

_ (1976). Two Centuries of Black American Art. pp. 57, 136.

DuBois, William Edward Burghardt (1924). The Gift of Black Folk. p. 313.

DuSable Museum of African American History (c. 1969). 1970 Calendar.

"Edwin A. Harleston, Painter of an Era, 1882-1931," exhibition catalog, Your Heritage House Museum, 1983.

Embree, Edwin R. (1931). Brown America: The Story of a New Race. p. 247.

Encyclopaedia Brittanica (1963), Vol. 16, p. 200.

Fax, Elton Clay (1969). "The American Negro Artist." In In Black American: 1968 -- The Year of Awakening, p. 224.

_ (1971). Seventeen Black Artists, p. 11.

_ (1977). Black Artists of the New Generation, p. 160.

Ferguson, Franklin Fields. (1969) Negro American: A History, p. 118.

Finkelstein, Sidney (1955). Charles White, ein Kunstler Amerikas, p. 11.

Fisk University (1975). Amistad II: Afro-American Art, p. 70.

Franklin, John Hope (1956). From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans. p. 501.

_ (1974). From Slavery. p. 382.

Gaither, Edmund Barry (1976). "Afro-American Art." In The Black American Reference Book, p. 839.

Gordon, Allan Moran (1974). Introduction, West Coast '74: Black Image.

Gordon, Asa H. (1929, 1971). Sketches of Negro Life and History in South Carolina, p. 140.

Grigsby, Jefferson Eugene Jr. (1977). Art and Ethnics: Background for Teaching Youth in a Pluralistic Society, pp. 4, 101.

Harmon Foundation (1931). Exhibition of the Work of Negro Artists, pp. 21, 26, 42, bc.

Hatch-Billops Collection (1979). Hatch-Billops Collection Inc., Archives of Black Cultural History, p. 5.

Herring, James Vernon (1967). "The American Negro as Craftsman and Artist." In The Negro in Music and Art, p. 215.

High Museum of Art (1973). Highlights from the Atlanta University Collection of Afro-American Art.

Irvine, Betty Jo (1969). Fine Arts and the Black American, p. 9.

Journal of Negro Education 8 (July 1939): 526.

Journal of Negro History 19 (Jan. 1934): 6.

Locke, Alain LeRoy (1925). "The Legacy of the Ancestral Arts." In The New Negro: An Interpretation, p. 266.

_ (1932). "Negro Art." In Encyclopaedia Britannica, p. 198.

_ (1940). The Negro in Art: A Pictorial Record of the Negro Artist and of the Negro Theme in Art, pp. 25, 132.

_ (1975). "Legacy," p. 240.

Magazine of Art 23 (Sept. 1931): 215.

McDaniel, Maurine Akua (1994). Edwin Augustus Harleston, Portrait Painter 1882-1931

Monro, Isabel Stevenson and Monro, Kate M. (1948). Index to Reproductions of American Paintings, p. 279.

National Center of Afro-American Artists, Museum of (1970). Afro-American Artists.

Negro History Bulletin 2 (Apr. 1939): 58.

_ 30 (Oct. 1967): 7.

New York Times (Aug. 15, 1925): 19, "Prizes Are Awarded to Negro Artists."

Opportunity 2 (Jan. 1924): 21-22. Madeline G. Allison, "Harleston! Who is E.A. Harleston?" Biography; illus.

Pittsburgh Courier (July 29, 1950): 6, "Progress of the Negro in Art During the Past Fifty Years: Negro Artists Gain Recognition After Long Battle."

Ploski, Harry A. and Brown, Roscoe C. (1967). The Negro Almanac, p. 632.

Porter, James Amos (1943). Modern Negro Art, pp. 95, 106, 108, 109, 226.

Powell, Richard J. (1997). Black Art and Culture in the 20th Century. p. 39.

Robb, Frederic H. (1929). The Book of Achievement -- The World Over: The Negro in Chicago, 1779-1929, pp. 19, 27, 198.

Severens, Martha R. (1998). The Charleston Renaissance. pp. 136, 150, 153, 154-156, 180

St. Louis Public Library (1972). An Index to Black American Artists, p. 20.

Schatz, Walter (1971). Directory of Afro-American Resources, SC 1.2.

Serif 7 (Dec. 1970): 35, "A Checklist of Afro-American Art and Artists."

Simms' Blue Book and National Business and Professional Directory (1923). Harleston biograpy and photo, p. 266.

Southern Workman 53 (Apr. 1924): 149, "Negro Art Exhibit," on show Feb. 4-11 sponsored by Literary Round Table, Albany, N.Y.

Stoelting, Winifred L. (1978). "Hale Woodruff, Artist and Teacher: Through the Atlanta Years," pp. 119, 185.

Tanner Art Galleries (1940). Exhibition of the Art of the American Negro (1851-1940).

The Times (London) (Dec. 30, 1927): 8 "Negro in Art Week."

United Asia 5 (June 1953): 182, "The Negro in the Arts."

University of South Alabama (1970). Afro-American Art: Slide Catalog, p. 85.

Who's Who in Colored America: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Persons of Negro Descent in America 1 (1927): 84.



Boone Hall Plantation, ca. 1925
By Edwin Harleston (1882 – 1931)
Oil on canvas
© Image Gibbes Museum of Art/Carolina Art Association

The Bible Student

Miss Bailey With the African Shawl
© Edwin H. Whitlock

Portrait of Aaron Douglas
Gibbes Museum of Art

The Nurse
Gibbes Museum of Art

Charleston Shrimp Man

The Honey Man

The Old Servant

An Old Veteran

Portrait of Pierre S. DuPont

Portrait of the Artist's Wife
Harmon Foundation Collection
National Archives, Washington, D.C.

The Soldier

A Type


Sunday, July 13, 2008

June 1920

Uncle Teddy was thirty-eight years old and had never been married, but soon he would take a wife. In his last year of bachelorhood, he spent as much time as possible traveling around the country -- painting, trying to drum up new commissions, visiting family and friends, and attending conferences. In June of 1920, still president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP, he was in Atlanta for the organization's regional conference, where he witnessed a historic event: his mentor DuBois received the organization's highest honor that year.

Atlanta, June 2, '20

My Sweetie,
I did come to Atlanta though at the time of the receipt of your card I was by no means sure if I could make it. Many of our folks urged that I come to the conference. It is a fine gathering quite worthy of the cause, and I have been very much inspired by hearing the finer things said here in the heart of the Cracker country.

Have met many old friends and acquaintances of other days, among them the darling Chrystal Bird.

There has been time to do nothing but attend the three sessions a day closing at midnight, but I may remain over a few days.

I have been anxious to have a word from you but as I expect so soon to return I shall have a hatful of anticipation until I get home. Shall write you again before I get back.

Dr. DuBois was awarded the Spingarn Medal yesterday at a most beautiful ceremony on the campus of Atlanta Univ.

Oh say! Have wished that this could have been my honeymoon trip but it has been impossible. However it will not be afar – if you say so.

With love and best wishes with a kiss and another and another ad infinitum ...

Elise's response to Teddy's June 2 letter is missing, along with any others she might have written while he was away from home. In this one, whose envelope bore the date June 29, 1920, she gently scolds him for his lack of communication and gives him instructions on how to prepare for their new life together.

Dearest and bestest,
Having waited what seems months to hear from you, I feel it my Christian duty to remind you that I love you just the same and that I would be very happy to have a "few lines hoping I'm well" and saying you love me still.

Long dreary days of silence make me wonder just what kind of love you have for me. I'm beginning to think it is "tainted," that it is not "all wool, yard wide, dyed in the yarn" kind. Will you say aught to the contrary?

Of course I've heard you have been travelling around the country and I know they don't sell stamps nor issue telegrams in those little by-ways where the trains carried you, so I forgive you for not writing me the past months altho you did say you'd write me before you left Atlanta. So in order to get into my good graces again, you'll have to go back to Atlanta and write -- see?

Or else -- sit right down now this very minute and write me.

I suppose you've been selecting the dumb witnesses of our future happiness and if you have made me a white kitchen, a dark cool looking dining & living room and a delightful bedroom somewhat on the order of [your sister] Eloise (don't forget the vanity table), why I'm ready to come to or rather with you whenever you say -- but please say -- write -- write if you only say you're thinking of doing something.

Don't forget the pots and pans and groceries and tea wagon and can opener and ice pick and vacuum cleaner and electric coffee percolater. Have the telephone extension made to top floor and the little table beside the bed for the telephone and electric floor lamp. ...

Although she had been away from home for months and was eager to settle down, Tantie received a letter from Teddy hinting of his desire for her to continue her studies at Tuskegee Institute under Cornelius M. Battey, "the dean of black photographers." Battey's most famous student was the legendary P.H. Polk.

June 30, 1920

Your gentle letter was awaiting my arrival from the “provinces” and your card no. 1 with its reminder. Then came your other card – no. 2 with its little Threat and a’ that. ...

Why didn’t you ask me something of my trip? You surely are interested in my wanderings. Let me tell you of one incident: I went to Tuskegee. I wanted to see a few people and a few things there – Halsey, my classmate, who runs things in a measure; his wife, one of our crew at A.U. and another gentleman whom I hope you will soon know, Mr. Battey, the real photographer – the artist par excellence in his line, head of the budding school of photography there.

I want you to get some of his amazing skill, and have already written him about you. I think he may be in your city soon and if he does you can talk shop with him.
Perhaps next summer, if you care to do so, you can work with him at Tuskegee in their wonderful new building, a part of which is designed especially for his work. He is not very enthusiastic over your school, but one could hardly expect one of his calibre to be so – he is one of the “cracks” of the world.

Perhaps you will tolerate my mentioning this at length because it may have a definite bearing upon our “business.”

You see, it’s a bad thing to be poor [when planning a wedding], for this is a time when the erstwhile “comfortable” and even the “well-to-do” people must be considered as poor, and we are surely in that category.

Now, suppose you come home. Could we very well do without a “church and reception” wedding? Would you be prepared to fashion a sure-enough trousseau? I went to the Ransier-Gaillard reception downstairs and it was merely a pleasant dance given by Tom. The Dawson LeRoach affair was shoddy.

Or would you prefer to have me come for you in New York, take a trip eastward and then return to the Sunny South?

I confess I have forever dreaded the idea of the ordeal of a public wedding with its stiffness and pomp relieved by the coarse jests of certain “friends” who would be funny; but on the other hand I have so admired a bride that never have I dared to hope to be worthy of anything so ethereal and have always wondered that the average bridegroom should dare to presume to call something so beautiful and holy “his own.” But nothing is to be denied a bride, Lise, and I will do as you want me to do with you, for you and, so far as I am able, by you. ...

It would be a source of great relief to me to be able to get the valued assisting suggestions or even direction from Marie and Eloise, but the [former] is still sick abed and the latter has gone to Hampton to summer school. But we shall do the best we can by all means. ...

I can’t go back to Atlanta to write you, for I have bid goodbye to all my folks there as a bach and had benedictions said for my bride. You see, I’ve never had one before and I don’t know how to act, so I will henceforth be very docile and take lessons from you, knowing me. First of all, I presume, is the matter of writing and as there is much to be said I’ll write often. ...

Everybody has chided me for not writing often and I have not changed much. That’s one of the reasons why I have repeatedly offered myself to you as I am. You already know me, and I am inclined to be honest, so when I have repeatedly protested my love and offered it – all of it -- I have meant it and still mean it. It may be a poor sort of love not to make a lot of fuss and frills but it is genuine and it will not change, except to grow. ...

Goodbye for today with all my love.
Forever yours,

Monday, July 7, 2008

Spring 1920

March 26, '20

I believe that never before have I so utterly failed in my efforts to make my pen follow my mind as has been the case so repeatedly for weeks and weeks past.

I mean, that I sit (or lie) thinking of you and carrying on an imaginary conversation in which I say what I want and ought to say to you, but you surely could not know much of what I am thinking by what I have written in the past few months. ...

I have been forced to send the camera to you without its case and strap. They have concluded at #97 that you or someone else has done away with it.

Now say; you said much of the details of your contract and so forth at the school, but you finished by not saying if I must send the fifty or not. What do you say? Are you to pay it?

The town has gotten rather dull to me by this time – absolutely nowhere to go and no one to call upon – some place!

... Your birthday greeting was very much appreciated. Leave it to you for the amenities. ...

I miss you so much and there’s nobody to take your place. Good night.

Forever yours,
Mr. H.


"No. 1"
We are ruined, bereft, disconsolate, lonely, deserted -- in the dumps. For our darlings are gone to their new home in "Summerbill" -- went yesterday, so that this joyous Eastertime must be for others who have their loved ones with them -- with one exception -- you. You must be happy. ...

I salute you -- I embrace you for I know I love you. Do you ever wish I were there to share your pleasures? I do.

Do you imagine I could love you any more if I made more effusive show than I have? I don't, for I turn over to you myself without reservation and if you are still of this disposition you will continue to do what you know I like, and imagine me at your side, or looking straight into your eyes whenever you ask yourself "what shall I do now?"

Forever yours,

New York City
April 6, 1920

My dear,
... There was a time when I could rapturously express my thoughts to you, but through your training, I have learned to hold such thoughts in check and simply say, "I thank you." While all the while my heart is bursting within my breast.

Happy? Away from all I love? I am busy, and the time goes quickly and I try to be content. But not happy! Only you can make me so. Only you can create within me the desire to be so.

I haven't dared dwell on the thot of seeing you soon. I say to myself, "I'll see him by Christmas." And so I plan swimming Monday nights. Tennis soon. I haven't even been to a show but once in nearly three months. ...

No one has said aught about the payment of the $50 at the Studio. But they have given diplomas to all students who have been there as long as I have and they have mine ready for me, which I shall get next week. So I suppose they are satisfied. If however they should ask for it I shall let you know immediately.

Am I to be taken into your confidence and be told when you expect to begin your tour and in which direction you will travel?

And will you go to see my mother before you leave and acquaint her of your plans? I think we owe her that. I thank you. Maybe you'll write me again. I dare not hope soon. ...

121 Calhoun St.
Charleston, S.C.
May 25, '20

My dear Lady,
Your prodigal returns with any amends your Ladyship may demand. I did not need your card to remind me that I had not written you for so long an interval but I was very glad to have it especially because it answered me that you had not irrevocably set yourself at loggerheads. ...

I have not yet gotten myself any equipment even yet, for I did not want to get things of value which I should have to throw away soon. Now we must get something. So I want to ask you what shall it be – in the kitchen?

I know you are angry with me else you would have written a letter long ago so I ask you now to slack up on your wrath and write me a letter setting forth your wishes that I might plan to carry them out.

You have had ample time to decide if you would entrust your heart and body to me. With my numerous shortcomings, my poverty and all else will you still have me? I am still offering all that I have to you – all my love and my poor self just as I am. I cannot promise more than this, so do not think of me in any other light than as you already know me for I am about as plain and ordinary as I claim to be and maybe worse – certainly no better. ...

I have been let off for a week to go to Atlanta if nothing holds me up by Friday, but I am used to disappointments by now. Up to the present you are about the only thing in which I have not been disappointed. Keep the record up – you will do the world a service thereby. ...

The Owls have a Spring dance tonight.

May I hear from you soon? With love,

Forever Yours,

Sunday, July 6, 2008

February 1920 -- "My Dearest Heart"

N.Y. Feb. 28th, 1920

My Dearest Heart,
Moultrie is home now so you’ll have more time to write me. Sounds selfish, eh? Well I am where you’re concerned. He came to see me before leaving, brought me a box of candy and gave me a nice five dollar bill which came in quite handy, I assure you. Thank him please. ...

I have a little more routine work at the studio which I hope to complete by March 15th. ...Kiss Gus & Sylvia Elise for me. Regards to all. Love to you.

Write your own,

Wednesday, Noon
March 2, 1920

My very dear Tedwin,
It seems that besides having contracted a cold, I have a habit – namely, writing you.
... And now dear, let’s discuss a little business.

First I want that camera of mine that is in your studio. There is a case for it at my home. I would like to have that also. How soon may I have them?

Next, we both ... read Mr. Brunel’s pamphlets wrong and according to Mr. Brunel we still owe him $50. In the booklet it reads that he will give the photographic course and the motion picture course for $150. Of course according the contracts I do not owe anything so I have been checking my work according to the routine and have only a few other things to do before finishing. ...

Now here is another proposition. I had a notice from the Census department at Wash. asking if appointed would I accept work there at 95 per [unintelligible], said work to last 6 months or a year. I answered saying yes and that if I were not working and they should send for me it might mean I could perhaps have a chance to spend evenings or some of them at the [Addison] Scurlock studio to advantage. Of course you understand these are only some of my various “castles” and the topic is open for discussion.

You won’t discuss your plans nor ideas with me (if you have any) so of course I am at sea as to what you may be thinking. If however you don’t like my “house of cards” why just blow it over, see?

In the meanwhile it’s your turn next and please building one better than mine or else let mine stand. ...

Kiss Gus and tell her “Tantie” longs for her, for the clasp of her dear little arms about my neck, and the warmth of her little soft body, also to hear her say “Sing I lub 'u tshuly.”

With love one has only for the rest of one
(the rest of you)

Dear Tedwin,
Today finds me no better and compelled to send for a doctor. My cold is worse and am still painful. ...

Please send me some cash as the fee & prescription will just about take my last cent. I regret to be of so much trouble to you but hope some day to be of equal service to you. ...

I have slept quite a lot and dream continually about home so I have all of you with me very often. I dreampt this morning that you kissed me and it was so real that it awoke me. Please do that again.

Shall look to hear from you soon.

With love
Your very own,

Friday, July 4, 2008

January 1920

More than two weeks after she received Uncle Teddy's beautifully tender proposal, Tantie wrote this accusatory note that lacked even a salutation.

18 days since I’ve heard from you
Tuesday morning, Jan 20

My better nature rebels at the thot of reminding you that “it is too long between drinks.”

For the first time since Christmas, I am unable to control my tears and this morning with not even car fare I was not able to hold my smile when I was told “no mail for Miss Forrest.”

... As far as you are concerned, your promises are nil. Nevertheless “I love you just the same.”

Your hungry, neglected “wife to be”

As it turns out, Robbie, Marie and their infant Sylvia had returned to Charleston and were living on the third floor of the Harleston Funeral Home. All three of them had tuberculosis and occupied an apartment across the hall from Teddy and his brother Moultrie.

Teddy and Moultrie shared custody of Robbie and Marie's four-year-old daughter, Gussie, but it was Uncle Teddy who did all the work. Tantie once said his brother Moultrie was the laziest man she had ever known.

Although Tantie was in the habit of writing to Uncle Teddy daily, he was unable to reciprocate because of family illnesses and work responsibilities. He finally responded to her letters one day after her birthday.

Feb. 5, '20

My Sweetie,
You may not have heard from others (and you certainly did not from me) that we have been having more than our hands full here for some time. Your last letters but one had a lot of questions which would have taken a long sitting to answer, and with the awful rush of the past three weeks I have not had that time.

Did you know that Marie, Robbie and the baby have been sick in bed together? That it has been impossible to get anyone to help? That I have had to cook for them and keep house and do my work? That we have been head-over-heels in the undertaking line? Even Bob Randall is down with the flu.

I have had a hard time meeting these various duties, but they are now all recovering – Marie is sitting up in her room; the baby and Robbie have both been out for two days. Yesterday we had four new calls – from ten a.m. to 10 p.m.

You must know how I wanted to write you on your birthday but I could not that week nor the past one. I know you must be glad to hear from home, and you ought to know that I appreciate the fact of your isolation but I don’t think you ought to be well nigh hysterical in your every other letter.

You know I have a few nerves also, and an everyday schedule of from 9 a.m. to 1, 2, 3 a.m. is a little matter to put anyone on edge. Of course since I have not told you, you may not have known, but try to fill in a gap and imagine that it is not all a matter of my worthlessness. ...

Please write me a cheerful letter; send me some pictures and tell me how you are getting along.

When you go to the museum again buy a photo of “Salome” by Regnault (pronounced Rain-yo) for me, if you have the price [of entry].

And don’t reckon the extent of my love by the frequency or length or my letters – my heart is yours and all I have to give but don’t persecute me and stab me by continued peevishness. I love you as you are & won’t you try to do the same for me?

... Goodbye for today. Write again soon. ...

With love – the same as ever and a little bit more.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

About This Project

My great-uncle, Edwin Augustus Harleston (1882-1931), was the most notable African-American portrait painter of his day. His wife, Elise Forrest Harleston (1891-1970), was one of the nation's first black women photographers.

They owned an art and photography studio in their hometown, Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s. To make ends meet, they also worked in the thriving funeral business established by Edwin's father, who had been born a slave.

In addition to being an artist, Edwin Harleston was the founding president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP and was actively involved in the National Negro Business League, the Atlanta University alumni association and other organizations.

In the early 1900s, few black Charlestonians could afford to have their portraits painted, so Teddy Harleston was always on the road either seeking commissions or fulfilling them. Consequently, from 1913 until shortly before his death in 1931, he and Elise wrote hundreds of letters to each other.

Edwin and Elise Harleston had no children of their own, but they reared two nieces. One of them was my mother, Gussie.

I knew Elise as "Tantie" and Edwin as "Uncle Teddy," the nicknames Mama and other family members used. Although Uncle Teddy died long before I was born, I was fortunate to know Tantie in the twilight of her life, after she had been widowed for the second time and was living alone in Los Angeles.

As a child, I lived in her home for nearly a year, but I had no idea she had been a photographer, that she was married to an artist, or that they knew people like scholar and activist W.E.B. DuBois, tenor Roland Hayes, educator Mary McLeod Bethune, scientist George Washington Carver, artist Aaron Douglas and many other famous African Americans.

In the decade that I knew her, Tantie never talked about her first husband and their life together, but she kept his letters long after his death. I am publishing them here along with photographs and paintings, diary entries, correspondence from family and friends, and personal commentary. I hope readers will learn something about this couple, my most illustrious ancestors, and about this segment of black American society one generation after slavery.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

New Year's Day 1920 -- "Our Year"

It was January 1st, 1920, when Edwin Harleston finally proposed to Elise Forrest, who had been studying photography in New York City. Nearly seven years had passed since the day they met, and though she was instantly smitten, it had taken him a very long to fall in love. She must have been ecstatic to read this letter.

121 Calhoun St.
Charleston, S.C.

My Little L,
Happy New Year. I am so glad to hear of your having a tolerably pleasant time at Christmas. I had been straining my nerves to have that good news from you, for you are such a poor little creature when you wish to be so.

We had a rather quiet and uneventful day here, my only diversion being a little dance that night in chilly Dart's Hall where I took Hilda Johnson Jackson.

As usual, Santa Claus forgot me but I found pleasure in making a few gifts to as many folks. ...

Perhaps next Christmas we shall have the same old condition again, but somehow we always seem to survive -- I remember one I spent away from home with not even the price of breakfast, but I heard a good sermon that day and was happy ever afterward. ...

I am glad to learn that you are doing a little work sufficiently good to "charge" people for it -- keep it up, it is good practice. Find out for me, please, every fine point about photographing a drawing and a painting for patent reasons -- we may need it someday.

When you have leisure afternoons and evenings, stop up at the N.Y. Public Library and ask to see the collection of "prints" and photographs of paintings and of course you will go to the Metropolitan Museum, Fifth Ave. and 82nd St. via the Bus at a dime (?) and see what artistic posing and lighting and arrangement mean. Is this too asking too much of my Little One? In other words study! study!! study!!! That's the way to become a shark.

Today I had occasion to look through a batch of my mother's old papers and letters and found some documents which I had read often. Some of them are of pleasant interest to me. Others are somewhat sad. But two in particular are of general interest. Of these one is the Bill of Sale delivered to my great-great grandmother in 1804 when she bought herself and Flora her little daughter from slavery -- brave woman. The other is the deed of emancipation and manumission which she presented to her daughter Flora in 1820 that this daughter might marry then as a “free person of color” not being owned even by her mother. This was my great-grandmother.

That was a hundred years ago. Nineteen Hundred and Twenty must be our year.

It may seem like a hundred years to you since first we met, and it has been a fairly long time, but then your know we have not been in love that long – I didn’t know you and you surely didn’t know me, but love did come – it grew with me, which is safer than a flashing spurt. You must know that I regard it as a holy thing that has no relation to opportunity in the sense of furthering one’s position either socially or materially else I should have been married already and have had much of this world’s goods.

But you know I am not made that way and so I have waited, and you came. Maybe the future holds something fine in store for us – maybe not, but I will bet my chances that if we continue honest, we shall fare happily – you know they say “all the world loves a lover."

At any rate this is “our year” – the month, I cannot say for I must get ready for the material phase of the matter and you know what that takes.

Within a short while I shall be able to say, for we must do this thing right. Of course I love you; of course I want you, of course we will marry, and of course it will be this year and before Scorpio crawls up the sky too. ...

Goodbye! Happy New Year! Our year. ...

With love,

1919 -- "Christmas is a short day"

This letter from Teddy was dated November 25, 1919, two days before Thanksgiving. Tantie is still in New York and longing to be home for the holidays.

Her sister Marie has a new baby, little Sylvia Elise, and Tantie wants to see them before they return home to Summerville. Uncle Teddy, however, is a perfectionist who believes she should stay in New York and concentrate on improving her photography skills.

121 Calhoun St.
Charleston, S.C.

My dear Lady,
It was very much of a relief to have your last letter after thinking over the previous one as a sort of nightmare -- it didn't have its silver lining, only the dark cloud. This last found me so much on the run that I have not been still enough during reasonable writing hours to write. I arrived here yesterday after running the gauntlet of rising waters in Georgia. The floods were more terrifying but my train out of Augusta ran through about a mile of covered tracks without any damage.

I can readily understand how a sojourner like you would like to be at home at Christmas time -- especially as you're a woman, but I have wondered if you are quite ready to come especially after your intimation more than once that you were not satisfied with your advancement in your special mission to New York. Of course, you may be through, but don't measure your course with Christmas as your limit, please! Leave this one thing well until you are "hanging over" -- master it!

I shall be so happy to see you, as I am happy to be near you, always, but not at the expense of anything worthwhile to you.

I have had a very pleasant stay in Atlanta, and a nice trip to Florida. Found everyone wondering when I should arrive.

The baby has grown fine -- looks like Gussie as a baby. Both have slight colds at present. Everything and everybody else is about as usual.

What about your going to Washington for Christmas and then back to NY? If you are ready it would undoubtedly be a nice trip for you. Write me [immediately] if you will and say what you need and it will be forthcoming. In any event, write me soon soon and I will be glad to respond.
Here's some change -- not your fare.

With love 'neverything,

The first page of this letter has been lost. In it, Teddy tells her about the unveiling of the Herndon portrait at First Congregational Church in Atlanta. He was not present for the event, but friends told him it was well-received, leading Teddy to hope it might finally help him achieve the success that had eluded him so far.

It may have been pleasant for you to come for several reasons -- to help Marie off and to say "Merry Christmas" to your folks and friends. But Christmas is a short day and you have foregone too many things for yourself as I have done so long. I think it high time to look out for your own interests without being selfish. Marie is planning to go after Christmas for which I am very glad.

This promises to be a sort of dull season here so far as I can see and I hope that you will find it pleasanter there among your friends -- new and old.

You ask about my picture. I am much gratified at the result both technically and in its appeal to the people.

They had a great celebration at its unveiling two days after I left, and a few friends wrote me that it has made for me "some reputation" there. It is a portrait 4 by 6 feet almost full figure with a bit of still life like this: [drawing of man standing next to table]

Already I am wanted back in the spring. I have been much encouraged by the general approbation of my "stuff," and am at a loss to explain why I am not permitted to get about it more regularly. But we'll "see what we can see" as to that very soon.

Tantie had a visit from Teddy's brother, Moultrie, who was visiting New York. She was unaware that Moultrie harbored a secret desire for her and was jealous of Teddy.

In this fairly lengthy letter, Tantie tells Teddy how she spent the holiday in New York. As she often does, she mentions a male friend, another guileless attempt to make her sweetheart jealous and provoke a marriage proposal.

New York City
Dec. 28th 1919

My dear Teddy,
Moultrie brought your letter Thursday evening and I was out, so I have not seen him. Where is he?

Nevertheless [the cash] was quite a surprise and a very welcome one. Like you tho, I am at a loss what to buy unless it be a mesh bag that I have longed for, 'twould be in the nature of a gift. ... I may save it and start my camera fund -- you see how worried it keeps me.

Everybody will want to know "and what did He give you?" and it is so much pleasure to say what that I am halfway tempted to get the bag.

I have had a lovely Christmas. The night before Christmas I went to Ethel Dawson's and trimmed the children's tree for her. Then at one o'clock went carol singing with Miss Sims and the Y girls. It snowed from 5 p.m. until after 4 a.m. and we were out in it, happy. No gentlemen accompanied us on this trip, only girls.

Was it coincidence that I should do that same things this year that I did last year and yet not at home?

Gee! Boy! but I missed you. The longing for you has become such that it is painful to have one of your sex get too near me. For instance, Miss Sims and I visited Charles Winthrop at his dormitory and on one occasion in his assisting me on a crowded car had occasion to put his arm around me to protect me from the crowd and so help me it was beyond me why I should felt as I did but it was merciful that it was only for a few seconds.

Teddy boy -- please hurry -- Does it mean wait until Spring? Can I last that long and not blow up? Four long months have gone -- away from you -- before that three, that's seven -- seven ages, Ted, lost.

I think you remember Charles Winthrop that came to see me at Marie's ...? He is at Union [Theological Seminary] and since I have lived in N.Y. he has been very nice to me. I took dinner with him at DeVann's Xmas night. And went to the Strand afterward. ...

I had a job to do some Xmas cards for the matron. Got $6. I wanted to make some photos of myself for Xmas but this came just at the same time and so prevented my doing so. I have several small jobs to do next week besides some snaps to develop and print. So you see I'll have a little [money] to help out with expenses. ...

O yes. Charles brought me a two pound box of candy so I was not without that. I am patiently waiting for my boxes from home as I'd dearly love to have some cake. I haven't had a bit of fruit cake.

Did you go home for the wine or are you still saving it?

I did not tell you that I made [$]2.50 retouching plates for the main Studio during the Xmas rush. They gave work to all the advance students. ...

Be sweet dear heart and write me immediately -- can you, this once? Since I can't have you New Years, let me have a letter if you write me the very night you get this. ... Will you?

Yours -- wanting you badly,

October 1919 -- "It's a golden day"

During the winter of 1918, Uncle Teddy had completed a portrait of Myron Adams, dean of the faculty at Atlanta University, a job commissioned by the alumni in honor of Adams' 30 years of service.

Now, he is back in Atlanta to do another painting, and his spirits are high. Teddy had been a popular student at Atlanta University, a member of the football and debate team who sang with the glee club and wrote and performed plays. He remained friends with the people he met at AU through the years, many of whom supported his artistic aspirations.

Whenever he visited Atlanta, he stayed in the home of his friend and former AU professor, George A. Towns. It is probably during this period that he does a charcoal and pencil sketch of Towns' young daughter, Grace. (She later becomes Grace Towns Hamilton, the first black state legislator in Georgia.)

Meanwhile, in New York, Tantie is broke and lonely and wants to come home. But Teddy has his eye on a bigger prize.

2 University Place
Atlanta, Ga

My Sweetie,
That's how I feel today -- just fine. It's a golden day and all that, but I have just about consummated an extra job of a commission that promises well -- work to begin tomorrow, or next day and so I just feel as if I'm walking on the air. I have been working on my other big portrait for a few short sittings and it is coming along pretty well. I can assure you ... it was some relief to get at it after an unexpected and distressing delay caused by my illness.

I sent you a little change by wire which I hope reached you in time to cheer. I will send some money by the end of the week and hope you will never run out again -- I will see to it.
Cheer up for your own sake as well as mine and don't court the blues.

I am not sure how much longer I shall be in Atlanta -- it all depends upon the work for I presume I may be useful back home, although I grow so weary of the quiet purposeless periods there, and when you are not in town it is awful. These accumulated years of loneliness are telling on me.

I go for a sitting now, so good bye, good luck. God bless you. Will write again before the close of the week.

With love 'neverthing

2 University Place
Atlanta, Ga.
Oct. 8 '19

My dear Lisa,
I am still on the job in the Gate city [Atlanta] with the time of winding up still uncertain. The folks for whom I am making the big portrait are pleased so far with the progress of the picture as it grows. They are spending about $75.00 for the frame -- so you see they mean to lay it on.

Have seen some of my old friends as well as my athletic adversaries of years ago.

Have just returned from the funeral of the mother of some former schoolmates. Imagine -- she has been a teacher continuously in the public schools for 41 years and the first time she was ever tardy in all those years was the day she was stricken on the way and died that night.

I have just had an invitation from my sister Katie to come to St. Augustine to address the N.A.A.C.P. on the 24th. I'm not sure if I can make it. We'll see.

Here's a little change. Will send something more and more before I leave.

I hope you will cheer up and say more of yourself -- whom do you see, what do you do, etc. etc. etc. How's the work?

Am trying to get this off so good bye with love and more love -- I am appreciating your value, your meaning to me more and more and more by comparison each day and week. Don't worry, we shall be happy together, just be a little patient with me, for the world is different today from what it was -- even last year.

Yours forever,

121 Calhoun St.
Charleston, S.C.
Oct. 3 '19

My little Lady,
If you feel as I have felt recently when you expect a letter and get none I will surely write you often, for I had expected at least a card to say that you had had my letter of the 24th as I had your "Blue" note of the 25th. I hope you will not need to have to send another such.
Perk up and cheer up!

What's the matter, cold feet?

... Now I hope you will settle down to a genuine enjoyment of your stay in the metropolis, see the king and queen and the Prince of Wales and all the swells, have a real alround good time, behave yourself perfectly, keep in perfect health , make friends of worthwhile folks only.

I will close with best wishes for your happiness, kind regards to Mrs.Elzy and every assurance of love to your dear self.

Fondly yours,

2 University Place
Atlanta, Ga.
Oct. 23 '19

My dear Little One,
I have been in Atlanta several days and by some sort of perverse fortune have spent most of that time in bed. While working to get my canvass and background etc ready to begin work that afternoon -- I just had to quit, call off the engagement for the day and take to bed. It came on with headache and fever as the flu used to, and has just about left me, but I am all punk as a result of the bout with the fever. ...

I hope to begin work tomorrow or Saturday if the wretched weather clears up. ...

Today I am down in cash. if you need anything write me forthwith as I shall soon have something for you.

With love

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Editorial Guidelines

Hundreds of documents comprise Edwin and Elise Harleston's letters. The correspondence telegrams, letters, postcards and notes between the couple, as well as from family members, friends, business associates and clients.

The bulk of those appearing on this blog were written by Tantie and Uncle Teddy between 1913 and 1930, during their courtship and marriage. I also plan to include letters from the early 1900s, before they met -- during his years as an undergraduate at Atlanta University and as an art student in Boston.

In the early years of their courtship, Tantie and Uncle Teddy's correspondence is sparse, but by 1919, when the couple began making plans for their future – plans that required her to study photography in New York – their written communication is more abundant. I excluded letters that I decided were redundant or that would not interest a general audience.

Most of the letters were handwritten. The few that were typewritten contained spacing errors that I have silently corrected. Generally, I transcribed the letters verbatim, using ellipses when deleting words and using brackets to note added verbiage.

I corrected errors that were obviously unintentional, such as repeated words, and some misspellings that I thought distracting. Idiosyncratic misspellings (“thot” instead of “thought”) were retained, as were abbreviations of city names (“Chaston” for “Charleston,” for example, and “Phila” for “Philadelphia”) and shorthand addresses (“121" meaning the Harleston Funeral Home or its third-floor apartments at 121 Calhoun Street; “97" meaning the Forrest family home at 97 Morris Street).

Blacked-out passages generally were not noted, unless the letter writer mentioned the erasure. In that case, I noted in brackets that a passage had been blacked out.

Edwin Harleston is referred to Teddy, Ted or Tedwin, among other nicknames. Elise Harleston appears in the letters as Lise, Lisa, Liza and other iterations of Elise.

The vast majority of the letters were written on plain stationery. If deemed significant, the use of letterhead stationery is mentioned in notes.

Over the years, many of the letters were removed from their envelopes, making it difficult to determine the dates of undated correspondence. In those cases, I made an educated guess and inserted the letter where it appears to belong.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

September 1919 -- "I am the only woman"

Tantie took a train from Charleston to New York City in the fall of 1919 and enrolled in the E. Brunel School of Photography.

Uncle Teddy supported her financially and arranged for her to live in the home of his friend, Robert Elzy, and his wife. Elzy was executive director of the "Brooklyn Urban League for Social Service Among Negroes." Her first letter from New York, penned September 15, was written on the organization's stationery.

Monday Evening

Dear Ted,
Your telegram came last night and I went for the money this morning, got it without much trouble and went to school where I was cordially received.

I am the only woman, there is one other colored, a young man from Wilson, N.C., and a Jap. The others are Jews, Germans and Irish. They are very polite and today, every one wanted to show me something.

The instructor is a very young man, German, I think. I can hardly understand him. He started me at retouching negatives to see if I have an artistic touch. He didn't say wether I have or not but very encouragingly said it would take practice to develop what he wants. The Jap is the model of the school, every one seems to try to retouch as well as he.

Thanks very much for the extra. There was $1 for lockers, $1 for album. I had no parasol so bought one, 'spec that's alright? Carfare does eat a hole in one's cash. I have 20 cents carfare per day & lunch.

Why don't you write?

Shall attend N.A.A.C.P. meeting tomorrow night. Gee how I do wish for you.

Several days I have been home alone all day. It is such a nice place, I feel so contented and would be happy if you were only here. ... Please write.

Your own Lise

This next letter was undated but obviously written soon after the first.

Dear Ted:
I went to the Studio this morning where I was courteously received and invited to come in any day during the week and make myself at home.

I told him I'd be ready to start next Monday, so I am writing you as per instruction to let you know he said $100 down and sign contract to pay $50 before the end of term. If it's all the same to you, send money payable to E. Brunel.

Am a little tired so bye bye.

Much Love,
Your Liza

P.S. Tell everybody Howdy and love to all. Kiss Gus & Sylvia Elise. And W.R.I.T.E. soon and say something extra nice. Call my Ma and ask if I gave her the correct address.

Teddy must have been surprised to learn of the $150 fee for Tantie's course work. He had been told it would total $100. The school wanted her to take a "moving picture" class.

Money was an ever present problem for Uncle Teddy. He had grown accustomed to surviving with little when he was an art student in Boston. But once he went to work for his father, Teddy had hoped his finances would improve. Captain, however, controlled the pursestrings tightly, doling out small amounts to Teddy and Elise as he saw fit.

The couple hoped their investment in Tantie's education would pay off once they launched their studio -- and that they could free themselves from Captain's grip.

121 Calhoun St.
Wed 24th Sept.

My Little Lady,
... I was very glad to have your letters and the snaps and to find that you are about your business at the school, and of course I hope you will continue to like it and to do well. While you are at it you will, of course, make every inquiry as to paraphernalia of every description, lighting, appliances, furniture, screening, etc etc. etc.

I am hurrying this letter while a funeral is in the church that you may receive it Friday morning. This change (15.00) is all I have for you this week but hope to send some more next week. Do not fail to let us know what you need. Maybe I can supply it.

I gave your mother the message and she said she would write you. ... Have a good time but work hard, and oh yes, keep a complete notebook of your stuff. I miss you so much.

With love 'neverything.

121 Calhoun St.
Charleston, S.C.

My dear L. Lady,
Your very pleasant letter came last week and strange to say I read it with a grin -- it didn't seem that you had been gone that long.

Oh child, yours truly has been some lady's man since you left. Such entertaining you never saw (by me). I certainly wished for you with your excellent managerial ability.

You might inquire of the rate without moving picture work for I can hardly see the need of your taking the latter, and unless I am mistaken the assistant to Mr. Brunel told me that without it the fee is one hundred in advance only. I wired you one hundred and five ($105.00) and let me know early what are your needs in any way as early as you find them out.

I am depending upon you to use your time to the very best advantage without any directions or restrictions whatever, for you ought to know that I am satisfied if only you keep the big things in view.

I will close with several things -- but wishes for your success, and early reply and of course with love.

Lovingly, Teddy

As a postscript to this letter, Teddy wrote, "Marie says she misses you dreadfully and hopes nothing happens before you return -- whatever that is." Tantie's sister Marie had lost a lot of weight and was so weak she occasionally had to be carried into the house. It is possible she thought death was imminent.

June 1919

For much of the summer of 1919, Uncle Teddy was away from home. He had gone to Atlanta to paint a portrait, traveled to Florida to visit his sister, and went to Cleveland for the NAACP's 10th annual conference.

Tantie, as would become their pattern, remained in Charleston. Her letters were filled with news from home. In this one, she write about programs she attended at they school they both had attended, Avery Institute, and their church, Plymouth Congregational.

She wanted to get married in September, before going to photography school in New York, but it would be another year before they would wed.

Chas’n, S.C.
June 16, [19]19

My dear Edwin,
I shall not close my eyes this night until I at least write that I have received both letter and card and altho I have not hastened to let you know, I have wanted to long before this. (I am really not trying to write poetry.)

I have just come in from a very nice program at Avery under the auspices of the City Federation. There were some good numbers on the program among them Mrs. A.E. Baker who recited Enoch Arden, Miss Maud Smith, piano selection and of course the selection of the Aurorean [Orchestra].

Not a large number attended Monday evening and lots of other affairs. There were two affairs for Plymouth last week. I attended one. Went to a ballgame one afternoon. Had some work at home and generally kept busy, quite busy.

Two days of last week were spent in an attempt to make a trip to Snake Island. On last Tuesday a party of thirty started out and got nearly there when the engine balked. We floundered and drifted for several hours when a boat came along going to town and towed us home. We landed at Chisolm’s Mill and spent the rest of the afternoon playing games and eating ice cream.

We are going again however. ...

The moon is gorgeous! Sunday night I sat on my back porch and just wished.

There is a mosquito in my net and I shall kill him as soon as ever I am through this letter. O yes, I’m writing in bed, only way I could, the mosquitoes are so bad.

Say Ted, may I get ready for “a trip to the moon” in September? Say the latter part, eh?

Or don’t you want to send me to that school of Photography any more yet again? Or would you rather buy me [an] auto? haha. While I think of it why not bring me one from -- (where does Mr. Ford live?). ...

Rev. Burroughs was buried last Friday. Was dead a week, paralysis.

Paul Winds says I must tell you he beat my ring -- he & Euphrasia Lewis were married very quietly last Wednesday evening -- no cards.

Ethel C. Has gone to Columbia [location of the state mental hospital] -- no she isn’t insane -- went to rest up before assuming the burdens of matrimony -- help!!!

I’m going after that mosquito. All join in love to you.

Your very own

As president, Teddy Harleston represented the Charleston branch of the NAACP at the organization's tenth annual conference. This letter, in which he told Tantie about the event, was written on the letterhead of The Negro Welfare Association of Cleveland, Ohio, an affiliate of the "National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes."

The addresses he mentioned at the end of his letter are those of the Forrest family (97 Morris Street), where Tantie still lived, and the Harleston Funeral Home (121 Calhoun Street).

June 23, [19]19

My dear Liz,
The Conference is under way and a fine gathering of men and women from every section of the country. ... Had a nice trip up from Atlanta where I made three pictures and had an engagement to go to Maine to paint the Pres. of Atlanta Univ. See that I go -- it will take a week or ten days longer to do it.

I like the idea of your going to the school of Photography -- if you be good, think I can arrange it.
Enjoyed your letter. Do you think we could manage things this fall? They want me back in Atlanta in Oct. to do a nice job or two -- one good one. How about November? It seems that we can fix up by then and have both ventures done with, provided we can find somewhere to live.

It has been very inspiring and reassuring to be here at this conference. Last night in half an hour $10,300.00 was subscribed to the Assn. for the coming year and tonight it was increased to more than $12,000.00 above regular dues. I have reason to be proud of the Charleston Branch in comparison with other cities and the officers here appreciate what we have done. We go to Oberlin tomorrow for a session (by trolley). I am to speak at the Thursday aft. session, and hope to crowd some helpful words into the twelve minutes. There are over three hundred delegates registered.

I have very often had your image in my mind's eye since leaving. You are a sort of steady company with me. I judge folks by you. I compare you with them. Perhaps I am too severe a judge sometimes, but do not forget that I can be only a just judge in such moments; so do, my lady, let me have the abiding happiness to declare in your favor by deserving it, for if you love me, (and do you not?) you will make and keep yourself perfect for me, as I keep myself clean and wholly for you.

With every wish for your happiness, and love to all the folks at 97 and 121.


Shall probably leave here Sat. for Detroit. Miss Eva Bowles spoke here tonight.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

April 1919

In April 1919, with the war ended, a U.S. Navy ship arrived in Charleston from France. The local newspaper, the News & Courier, carried an announcement of the event and invited the public to celebrate the ship's arrival. However, Uncle Teddy and other black Charlestonians were rebuffed at the dock. He wrote a scathing letter to the editor.

I do not know, Mr. Editor, who was responsible for the order, but it certainly caused a number of people an unnecessary and unwarranted humiliation. In future announcements state when possible whether it is the "public" that is invited or "whites only." Perhaps, I do not need to tell you, Mr. Editor, that we know how to stay away.

Later that month, he traveled to Atlanta, where he was painting a portrait of Alonzo Herndon, the nation's first black millionaire. The portrait now hangs in the Herndon Home, a museum dedicated to the life of the former slave who acquired his wealth as the owner of a barbershop catering to a white clientele. Herndon later established the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.

While working on Herndon's portrait, Teddy took a side trip to St. Augustine to visit his older sister, Katherine, who had married and settled there.

Tantie, meanwhile, remained in Charleston, planning a trip to New York, where she would enroll in photography school.

2 University Place
Atlanta, Ga.
April 1919

My dear Elise,
Oh you saucy one! I had your letter with the two pictures and my! oh my, some blessing out. Well, if you say I do, I do, and I will not argue back.

It seems that you have tried to make [me] toe a certain line which I can't seem to be able to toe. ... I cannot fathom the psychology of you little women and maybe you can't ours, so don't worry, you'll get wrinkles. (This is an essay -- it starts from anywhere and gets you nowhere.)

You are perfectly at liberty to go where you will to stay -- if to the "Y" so much the better and you shall have funds sufficient for your needs.

I am leaving Atlanta tonight for Florida, and have to return by way of Atlanta as the Herndon picture is neither varnished or framed -- the frame has not yet arrived from Boston. Everybody concerned is very highly pleased with it -- I have been much flattered with the enthusiasm. It is to be "unveiled" next month.

Here's a stake for "Liza" with more to come next week. And please cheer up. I'm getting off or I would write more sensibly -- I will write you from St. Augustine.

Yours with love -- I mean the real sure 'nuf kind as they say in Georgia.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

September 1918 -- Marie Forrest Harleston to EAH

Tantie's sister, Marie, wrote Uncle Teddy a letter in the fall of 1918 to let him know how his brother (her husband, Robert Harleston) was faring.

Robbie and Marie had gone "up in the pines" of Asheville, North Carolina, to ease the symptoms of tuberculosis, which they both had. The disease would kill Marie less than two years after she wrote this letter.

Tantie, referred to here as "Lease" (short for Elise), was staying with Robbie and Marie awhile. At some point during the visit, she took this picture of Marie and Gussie, who is referred to here as "Ras," possibly short for Rascal.

Asheville, N.C.
Sept. 7, 1918

Dear Mr. Teddy:
You surprised me quite a few weeks ago very agreeably. Hope that you will be able to say the same thing when you receive this.

I wonder what are you folks doing tonight. Would you be surprised to hear that we have had on coats all day also had to have a fire with the windows [shut] like winter time. Those who had to go out have come in with rosy cheeks. Together with rain I tell you it makes one feel very homesick.

Mr. Bob tried himself again today. He came down a hill then went back up bicycling. We raised so much fuss that he went off to the doctor. He told him to be careful of all strenuous exercise as it might cause a [hernia] -- but that he saw no signs caused from his actions today. If he can swim and ride a bicycle, walk the hills go whenever he wants to, I am of the opinion that he is well enough to come home and do something.

I saw where you asked Lease if he seems well one day and sick the next. Since we have been here he has had about three days, on which I might say he went back. Twice he had fever and once he lost half a pound. Since he lost the pound he has regained it along with a pound more. Now he is 138 ½. Looks fine, eats well, sleeps (over well). Not only me but the doctor remarks how steadily he came along.

Sometimes he coughs, the sound still makes me shudder. It is hollow and sounds very strange. Then I might say he is irratable at times. The least thing just throws him off. I asked him to have the doctor come see me I suppose he will come out in a few days. Will question [the doctor] then about Bob's coming home when I come on the fifteenth. Also about his coughing.

Its raining brickbats now. Lease has gone across the street to a farewell dance. I made the punch, but no dance for me; it's too cold, then I feel a bit tired so will retire instead.

Lease made three quarts of apple butter today, her jelly is cooking now. Her hands turned dark from the apples and when she was sealing the jars of course they were hot and her hands got burned a little. I wish you could have heard her. I was sewing today so she said she could cook the dinner. I waited nicely until she started to make the fire. Then I hollored to her to clean the stove. Believe me she fussed some. A little girl across the way says she is not coming over here any more because lady name Miss Lease hollors after you too much. Some old maid sister I have.

Ras is still terrible. She won’t ever go to bed unless she has her dirty doll baby. Even when she is eating it's right on the table. She goes all over the house running the window shades up. If the bathroom door is left open she goes in and turns the water on in the tub. I will be glad when I get her home every day I will send her in the office. ...

Every body says that I look good. I am ninety one pounds now. Would give any thing if I could reach one hundred. ...

Hope this won’t tire you too much. Remember us to all inquiring friends. Will write later just when to expect us.

Us Harlestons

Ten days had passed with no response from Teddy. In that era, mail was delivered twice and day, and people often wrote each other daily. Marie is hungry for news from Charleston, especially because she has sent Gussie back home to stay with her parents for a month.

Gussie had not contracted tuberculosis, despite the fact that both of her parents had the disease, and their doctor had advised Marie and Robbie not to have any more children because of the threat of infection. He also suggested they allow other relatives to care for Gussie.

Shortly before her second birthday, she would become the permanent ward of her Uncle Teddy, his brother Moultrie.

Asheville, N.C.
Sept. 17, 1918

My dear Mr. Teddy:
Can’t you spare a few moments and answer my letter. Or have you forgotten all about me. Suppose you are satisfied now that you have a house keeper. You don’t have to keep on speaking terms with this one as you don’t need her any more.

Say Mr. Teddy, Lease said you wanted to give Ras something but did not know just what, so I told her to tell you to give her a pair of shoes and two pairs of white socks. Mr. Mout wrote that he has bought her a pair, if his are white then you buy black or if he bought black then you buy white. Her birth day is next week so it can be a birth day present also.

How do you like her? Do you think is still as ugly as she used to be? Tell Capt. he sure can call her "Breeze" now. The back of her head just won’t behave.

I miss her very much. Mae and Bob actually make me ill playing that they are she. Robbie even goes so far as to roll all over the bed saying, "leave me lone, Daddy Bob" or some other little saying of hers.

The doctor came out to see me tonight. Says he sees no reason why Bob won’t get along alright at home, but he must be prudent. He considers him a very childish young man and not at all careful or particular as he should be. Says most folks in his stage are hard to manage, that they do not realize the seriousness of it until it is generally too late. I asked about when would he suggest leaving. He said around the first of the month, the fifteenth preferably. Says he does not advise me leaving him alone as he sees he is a person who requires attention.

It will be awfully hard to stay another month when my mind is all made up for home, but no one realizes more than I just what and how Bob has to be managed. I have to take him his breakfast, and beg him to eat his dinner, then some how I manage to get the milk and eggs down. Every day it’s the same thing.

Am awfully sorry to hear of Mama being sick, especially since Gus is there. It will be just one more to worry her. Sadie wrote that she looked awfully bad.

Tell Mout to go for Gus as often as he can so as to relieve the folks at home. As soon as she gets use to you all, you will find her a pretty good baby as long as she is left alone. Am awfully afraid that a month will have her some rotten.

Has she sung and played the piano for you yet? Please take her one of her dolls. She used to cry for this one she left here every night. It was too dirty then the arms were off. She had a fit one day because I did not have time to fix it.

Say Teddy, take that piece of brown goods in the bottom [drawer] in the front room, the piece Robbie gave me and have Erwin make it up at once for Bob. He says to make it just like this brown suit. Three pieces. You must try it on. His brown suit has two punches in the seat, is beginning to look shabby. The blue is about gone. He is very much in need of the suit so please have it done at once.

Please answer me at an early date. Tell me all about my daughter. ...


1918 - "And now comes the Draft"

A wave of patriotism had swept the United States after it entered World War I in April 1917, and African Americans were eager to be part of the war effort. Teddy's brother, Robbie, had gone to the Colored Officers Training Camp in Iowa, where he contracted tuberculosis. After returning home to Charleston, he passed the disease to Marie.

In an effort to spare two-year-old Gussie's health, Robbie and Marie sent her to live with her two bachelor uncles, Teddy and Moultrie, in their apartment on the third floor of the funeral home at 121 Calhoun Street.

Teddy, as head of the local NAACP, had helped the Army recruit black soldiers, and he wanted to enlist, as well. This thought sent Tantie into a panic. She had fallen in love with Teddy the moment they met five years earlier and had waited for a proposal ever since. If he joined the Army, she dreaded what might happen to him.

101 Hill St. Asheville, N.C.
Sept. 2, 1918

My dear Ted,
Your letter this morning surprised me a little. Like you, I have not written because there was nothing to say, at least what I would say would not be what I would want to say and I am sure you know what a task it is to keep one’s thoughts from invading ones letters. ...

And now comes the Draft.

The winter we were in New York I had reason to believe we would by this time be "next door to heaven." Christmas coming makes two years we have surely lost. There are only a few months left – and you may be] gone – forever. And I?

... Rob’s improvement has been wonderful. Dr. Walker says if he will only keep good habits – eat well, stay out of doors as much as possible and don’t worry, he will very soon be as sound as a dollar. ...

How about myself, eh? Well how about me? You can answer that better than I. Honest. I can’t think of home & you without thinking of that horrid draft.

I surely don’t intend having you go to camp leaving me in Charleston. As near as I can figure it, if you & Moute pass, which I have no fear you will, Spring will find you in camp as they are planning to have this draft in France by June according to the latest report. Ted, is this the way?

This is why I have not written you before. Every few words I write, I must stop to choke down the sobs and smile so the rest won’t guess my thoughts. I had planned to go to the woods today to have a good cry out all alone. I’ll feel better when I do, so don’t mind.

... Sometimes I think I’ll not come home and sometimes I think I will. If I do come promise to see me every minute possible? Do!

What are you planning, Ted? Anything at all?

O well, if you’ll accept this as a letter, I shall expect to hear from you – sometime soon.

All join me in love to you, Capt. Katie, the kids & Moot.

Mamma told me of the melon you took for her and how much she enjoyed it.

Be good.


Teddy received a draft notice on October 12, 1918, but was disappointed that he was not called up. But during this period, he painted two war-themed canvasses, "The Gas Attack" and "The Dough Boy." When the war ended with the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918, it appeared Teddy would never get to Europe to see the great art museums, something he longed to experience.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

1918 - EAH to W.E.B. DuBois

Uncle Teddy had been DuBois' student at Atlanta University, which he attended from 1900 until his graduation in 1904. They remained in contact after Teddy left Atlanta for art school in Boston. He knew DuBois' wife and daughter, and gave the latter a painting as a wedding gift upon her 1928 marriage to poet Countee Cullen. Because money was often tight, Uncle Teddy occasionally gave his artwork as a gift.

121 Calhoun St.
Charleston, S.C.
Mar 2, ’18

My dear Doctor,
I had hoped to have you receive a bookplate (a drawing for which I have mailed separately) in time for the celebration of your fiftieth birthday, but my eyes have been bothering me and I had to give it over. The little thing is done now, and I send it with this one regret – that it will cost you a few pennies to have the plate made. That may be a bad kind of gift to make, especially to an editor, but then you might make the excuse that it is from a student to his friend and teacher.

It may have been better made or designed differently, but I am quite sure that no more fitting device could border the plate than this prophetic sentence “The problem of the Twentieth century is the problem of the color line.”

And now that you are fifty, we are all thanking God that you have not yet lowered your colors nor turned from that straight course that leads through honor to glory. We who know you have preached you and prophesied this very day – which must be somewhat cheering after those painful days of misrepresentation and slander, as you intimated in that charming bit of autobiography in the February Crisis. Please give us something like it again – it sounds like the “Souls of Black Folk” essays.

I am writing Dill to ask of you the honor of your … signature in “The Souls of Black Folk” and “The Negro.” This is my eighth copy of the former, having presented seven copies since 1903 to friends I thought should know you better.

I do not know how many more birthdays to wish you – it might be very embarrassing, but I do know that there will be sad days in Ethiopia when they cease.

Kindest regards to Mrs. DuBois and Miss Yolande.

Loyally yours,

"Dill" was Augustus Dill, who graduated from Atlanta University in 1906 and later became editor of the NAACP's Crisis magazine.

Summer 1917

Tantie wrote of her brush with racism during a visit to Mount Mitchell, North Carolina, in the summer of 1917. She had been in Asheville for a teacher's conference and was staying with relatives. The "Dr. Proctor" mentioned in this letter was the Rev. Henry Hugh Proctor, who had pastored the First Congregational Church in Atlanta. As a student at Atlanta University, Teddy had attended the church. Rev. Proctor would officiate at Tantie and Uncle Teddy's marriage three years later.

Asheville, N.C.
Aug. 7, 1917

Dear Ted,
Your second letter came this morning, surprising and cheering as nothing else can do.

Am so glad you enjoyed your launch party and sorry I was not there to enjoy "our" island once more with you. Perhaps, someday, we’ll go again together, at least we can hope so. I hardly think a day passes I do not think of our first trip there and all the memorable instances pertaining thereto.

If this weather holds up some, we may have a hike or two to the mountains. Friday a week ago, the Teachers summer school closed and a party was made up for a trip to Mt. Mitchell. A private concern runs the road up the Mt and none but "white" have been allowed. But the R.R. agent said if we were twenty-five in number he could accomodate us. There were nearly fifty of us willing to spend $3.05 to visit "the highest point east of the Rockies" but our money happened to be black, as some of the white people hearing of our party refused to go, which caused the agent to notify us that we could not go that day but could go some day when the white people wouldn’t. This we refused to do, and so we didn’t go up on "the highest point east of the Rockies."

Last week the Sociological Congress met here with several prominent speakers white & colored. I got to go Friday afternoon to hear Dr. Proctor of Atlanta. Mrs. DeMond and her mother & sisters were there. Am enclosing newspaper report of that day & night. It got torn before I had a chance to clip it. You may paste it for me and put it away, after reading it of course.

That same night I went to see "Christus" [an Italian silent film] at the auditorium. Colored people have accommodations in half of balcony. ...


Tantie followed Uncle Teddy to New York, where he had gone to study mortuary science, and she often visited him in the city on weekends. She had found a job at the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum, which had been established in 1866.

According to the website Commack History, "For the Howard Orphanage ... things were not going well by 1917. ... Due to war rations when the winter came there was no more coal to heat the buildings with and the children were sent into the surrounding woodland to cut cordwood for heating the houses. Then some of the hot water heaters broke down. Now forced to sleep around the stoves for warmth some children were told to place their cold hands or feet as close to the stove as possible, but it was too late frost bite was setting in on some and they were taken to hospitals where a few had to have limbs amputated."

Kings Park, L.I.
Jan. 11, 1917

My Dear Edwin,
I am glad you have made your decision and are complying with our father’s wishes. That means of course that you will soon be homeward bound. I wish you God speed.

I sincerely hope your brother [Moultrie] will be spared to reach home once more and that all at home will be there to welcome him. I am sorry to think I will not even but a witness, yet I shall rejoice with you now in the prospect of having him home after so long an absence. Perhaps you may persuade him to stay and help you and Rob with the business.

I am enclosing a letter from home which I am sure you will enjoy. You may keep it until I see you which may be sooner than either of us know. The first part concerns – not you – skip it.

I also received my box. I really did wish for you to enjoy it with me – devilled crabs – chicken – cake (I’m saving you a piece) candy – nuts. Wasnt’ that lovely? Some "Mudder" eh?

I am a little nervous tonight. Started laughing at supper and – well I wasn’t thinking of you just then so you can’t say I had hysterics over you for I did not. I was unduly nervous and felt like crying and so there. But I’m going to bed soon and sleep it off. ...

Perhaps I shall be able to come in the last of Jan. But surely Sat. Feb. 3rd & Sun. Feb. 4th 1917 – if not sooner.

Hope to hear from you before that time. You can imagine what your letters mean to me out here.

Lovingly your own

Kings Park, L.I.
Jan. 28, 1917

My Dear Edwin,
Yours received a few days ago. Am sorry & then glad I did not come Friday as I thought but glad when I do come I can stay. I expect to come in next Thurs., if I do I will drop you a card Thurs. A.M.

Am very tired tonight. Have been on the job since 6.30 A.M. It is now 7 P.M. I shall welcome my pillow.

I am very glad of your success. Now home & work. I almost envy you. But I hope I’ll be home with you next Christmas.

Don’t worry about me. I have always "looked out" for myself since I can remember and others quite sometime. [Two lines blacked out.]

Please excuse this; it doesn’t happen often but I’m too weary to start another sheet. That was one of my extravagant thoughts and I just remembered how distasteful they are to you.

Just a few more days and you shall see & love
Your own

Monday, Feb. 26, [19]17

My dear "Mr. Harleston",
Did you expect me to answer that note? I have been expecting a letter from you, and even as I write I am listening for the Post man’s whistle.

I hardly know anything that is happening in town, but what you may read of, and what concerns me, is not of such importance to you that I need mention it here.

It seems you had only to get home again to display a bit of meanness in your very first letter. Will you do me the very great kindness to explain why this is? Why do you become so very irritated and annoyed whenever my name is mentioned to you? Any other friend (?) of mine would have been glad to say they had seen me and it is no more than natural. And it has always been a puzzle to me how you can have this feeling, and yet are so very different when with me.

Now then Sir, take this vital question up in your next letter, and explain away all my doubt. Please Ted, write me as soon as you can, a nice long letter; I am anxious to have some word from you.

You did not say a word about the baby.


Through his association with W.E.B. DuBois, who had been his professor at Atlanta University, Uncle Teddy became the founding president of the Charleston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. One of the group's first accomplishments was petitioning the state legislature to change the law forbidding black teachers from working in Charleston's public schools.

[Handwritten in the left margin] This is my second letter on the machine. The first was to Mamma.
New York. N.Y.
March 1, [19]17

My dearest Edwin,
Your letter received this morning, found me home, with a very bad neck. I have two boils in my head which have given me some trouble, had to have them lanced. The pressure caused several lumps to form on my neck, which are very painful. I did not go to work two days this week, as the day after the doctor lanced the boils I have had the fever. You know what this means to my pocket, and to my spirits also.

I enjoyed your letter so very, very much; and am sorry you are not able to say the same this morning, when you get my letter. But you will understand, Ted, and forgive me, and write me real soon, won’t you?

... My work has not been as successful as I had hoped and it is only my desire to fulfill my promise to you that keeps me here and to other things too.

But don’t let this bother you. I am sure I shall be alright in a few days.

Have you been to see my mother yet? And what do you think of the baby? I can just see the studio.

Have a little patience, dear, and all will come right soon. ...

Tell Ethel to write me, also my sister. That is very fine about the [NAACP]. You will make a very fine President.
Love to all, and write me soon.

Your own

P.S. I had to cut my hair so am sending you a curl, if you do not want it give it to Marie. Phone Ethel as soon as you receive this. Have you been to church yet? In the choir?


Tuesday, June 17, 2008


During the year she taught in rural South Carolina, Tantie had to contend with cold one-room schoolhouses in the day, bedbugs at night and the ever present loneliness and longing for home.

In the letter below, Tantie mentions a Mr. Pendergrass, reminding Uncle Teddy that she has other potential suitors. It also is the first indication that she and Teddy were contemplating the idea of a studio.

Cades, SC
c/o Mr. W.L. Fulmore
January 3, 1916

My Dear Teddy,
This is the first letter this year and it must be a short one as I am sleepy, tired and my eyes hurt considerably.

Arrived O.K. Folks met me and took me home for breakfast. You see my train got in at 8.15 A.M. sooner than I expected which was very fine. The lunch came in good nevertheless. Thought of you while unwrapping it, could hear you say "You’re not going to take this cake?" – see you enjoy it -- but now I think of it – did you eat the pineapple? I don’t remember when you did.

Did not only think of you at that one time, have scarcely thot of else. If I were to write the thot [that] comes to me at this time you know what it would be. You are so exceedingly kind, too kind, so kind that I hardly know wether to come home for the [Roland] Hays-[Will] Lawrence Recital or not. You see dear I am taking advantage of my privilege (being leap-year) and am inviting myself as your guest, and being wholly your guest you know how much trouble and worry the trip will cause you, it is up to you. Say the word – and I’ll be down with bells on.

Gee whiz! but I nearly boo-hooed! If I had started crying you could not have stopped me. Am not far from it now but am determined I will not.

Met Mr. Pendergrass again who asked the privilege of calling on his next trip home. O they do make me tired. Well dear, dearest boy, I must quit. Say "howdy" to "our" Studio. And a kiss for the best boy alive.

Truly your very own
Little Lady

By the summer of 1916, Tantie was back in Charleston working as a seamstress at the Union Millinery & Notion Company. (In the photo above, she is standing to the far right in front of the business, which was located at 469 King Street.) Besides missing Teddy, she probably wanted to come home to be near her sister Marie, who gave birth to her first child -- my mother -- Gussie Louise Harleston, on September 28, 1916.

Uncle Teddy was growing increasingly frustrated. As an art student in Boston, he had been free to visit art museums, galleries libraries and other public spaces. But in Charleston, racial segregation meant he could not set foot in the city's only museum, the Gibbes.

Although he viewed himself as an artist, his primary occupation was as an undertaker at the Harleston Funeral Home, a job he took at the urging of his father. Teddy was deeply unhappy with this line of work, but he had a strong sense of duty, and so not long after Tantie returned to Charleston, Uncle Teddy was headed to New York to enroll in the Renouard School of Embalming.

Monday Oct. 9, 1916
At work

Disappointed? Well, I guess so. It seems such an age. I would not come to the store early but waited until I knew the mail had gone so I could hear the girl say "Yes, a letter from N.Y." Then I would hurry oh! so fast to get here. Please write me tonight! Ted I’m missing you more every day.

Well you see, since you left I have not been attending any affairs, there haven’t been many, but what there have been, I have used "Marie" as an excuse to stay home. Now that that excitement is over I feel foolish telling folks I prefer staying at home. Friday evening there was a small affair for the benefit of St. Marks in "our" Hall and I went down at about 10 O’clock. It kept up until 12 but I went up just before the last dance.

This is the second affair Dr. McGill has asked me to go to and each time I’ve had an excuse but while I went last Friday evening I did not go with him but alone and when he called me to account I simply said I had changed my mind. But you know Ted, none of these men are going to take me places unless they are allowed to call evenings and calling evenings means getting better acquainted, and affectionately so.

There are several reasons why I do not wish to become too closely attached to any of them. Firstly and mainly – none of them appeal to me, secondly For three years I have been using one brand of xxxxx and don’t want any substitute. Thirdly I work too hard days and need to sleep nights. etc. etc. etc.

Wednesday Evening the Owls give a card party & dance. I have accepted Dr. McGill’s invitation to that. Will wear my blue dress – remember it? Will fix my hair "a la Billy Burk." All frizzly around the face. I am pretty that way.

Mr. Scott the artist is in town again for an indefinite stay. Much attached to Carrie. By the way haven’t you written her yet? Shame on you boy! We are great friends. She, Robbie and I were to visit Mr. Scott’s rooms to view his work or at least some of it. I haven’t "met" Mr. Scott yet, but I would surely like to shave his chin.

Bob Morrison just left interupted me two hours. Brought me some ice cream. ...

Strange – the people that we like go miles and miles away. And those we do not like we see most every day. If that man doesn’t let me alone I’ll give him a scrubbing.

Am going to dinner now.