Grace H. Fisher
To the Reader:
About a year ago, I bought a desk at an estate auction. It was a gorgeous mahogany lady’s writing desk, and it was sold with its contents apparently intact. Among the things in the desk was a silver-filigree Waterman’s Ideal fountain pen, engraved with the name Stephen J. Henderson and made by the L. E. Waterman Company in about 1915.
I was intrigued. I was born Grace Banfield Henderson, and there is a Stephen J. Henderson in my family tree. I decided on a whim to see if I could ascertain whether the pen might have belonged to my ancestor. I began by looking through my own jumble of family papers, and when I came across a letter that strongly suggested the relationship, I got serious. My research eventually led me on a quest that took me to Europe and back again, following a trail of letters. In most cases, their owners were kind enough to allow me to photograph the letters for further research. Researching the addresses and return addresses forward and backward, to establish an unbroken chain from 1915 until today, was an arduous connect-the-dots effort; but it has borne fruit, in more ways than one.
I found that the pen’s original owner was indeed my ancestor, and this pleases me.
But I also discovered another history, one that turned out to be far more interesting, in a way, than my own family tree. I met dozens of people in my travels, and I came home with about a hundred more letters. From among the letters I brought home, I selected eleven for publication. As you read them, you will come to realize my reason for choosing these particular missives. I hope your journey through time will be as fascinating as mine has been.Index to the Letters
Please read the letters in order the first time. Feel free to browse after you have read them all, but only by reading them in order will you be able to gain a full appreciation of the reasons for their inclusion in this collection.