A Deeper Look


I was recently able to look at the transcripts for the Chaffey Letters Book I and it turns out that all those beautiful pages actually said real stuff! In my last blog post I mentioned the sign off each letter had and found out that it indeed says, “Yours Truly, Chaffey Bros.”

The letters in this book are majority written by two brothers, Will Chaffey and George Chaffey (and sometimes an individual by the name of Wm. Henderson writes the letters, but a small portion). The dates for the letters range from 1882-1884. As I read through the transcript, I notice that the letters have different tones depending on the brother as well as the purpose of each letter. I have observed that many of the letters written by George Chaffey have a more serious and dominant tone in comparison to that of Will, who has written more letters with an apologetic tone. It’s an interesting game of good cop bad cop between the two and makes one ponder on the relationship between the two brothers. While Will Chaffey often writes letters when something has gone wrong on their end, George Chaffey is often blaming someone else for his problems or confronting someone else for their faults. In one letter, George Chaffey writes, “I think too that you might have had the courtesy to write explaining why you could or could not ship the mould board.” It’s odd, but pleasant to have a glimpse into the personal life of the Chaffey Bros through some of their letters. For example, I noticed some letters end with a personal message depending on the receiver. In one of the letters, writing to a person by the name of Jim, George ends the letter by stating that,

 “All well. Mrs. Chaffey and children have spent the summer at Santa
Barbara on the cost (sic) but complain of its being too cold there, and
want to get back to a warmer country.”

(below is the letter where this is written and the transcript for the letter)


It’s hard to believe that one was able to transcribe the original letter considering how difficult it was for me to decipher the words, but understanding what each of these letters say adds a whole new dimension to these documents. In my past blogs, I’ve talked about the aesthetic value, but the ability to understand the words written on these letters provides a whole heap of new character. The ability to distinguish by the language of the letters George Chaffey from Will Chaffey is both hilarious and, for a lack of a better word, awesome. For myself, it allows me to move towards looking at these letters through the lens of sociology and psychology. The letter pictured above in specific allows the familial workings/relations of this company to sink in; the reader of these documents may witness what could very much have been a mix of business and personal for the Chaffey Bros. Incredible that 130 years could pass, and a student such as myself take a peek inside the life of two brothers.

until next time,