1839 - 1854

A chronicle of a dozen and a half years in the life of a young Philadelphia gentleman, a conveyancer, who describes mid-nineteenth century living in the city, trips throughout the country by steamship, rail and carriage, as well as numerous social events including his courtship, marriage and the birth of his two children.


Joseph Warner Erwin noted his activities, almost daily throughout his life. The journal that follows covers the years from 1839 to 1853, from age 14 to to 29, that include his marriage in 1850 and the resposibility of a daughter a year latter.

Warner Erwin was a conveyancer, a 19th-century term for a writer of deeds, leases, property transfers, real estate agreements, and other legal matters. In 1843 he worked with his father, but in 1845 started his own office. Throughout the pages, he says very little about his work except for his participation in the Logan Building Fund and Savings Association. Nothing is said about his education other than his visiting his old school master, Josua Hoops, in 1853. We can presume that this was one of the men who took in a small number of boys to teach the fundementals of education before schooling was universal.

Erwin writes extensively about his leisure, especially before his marriage, his calling on "the ladies," parties, weddings, "small companies" and the "fair ones" promenading on Chestnut Street. He often attended different churches and denominations, sometimes twice on Sunday, but he was not an especially religious man.

Throughout the following journal, little is said about money. The Erwins and their friends lived well, did things that required money such as renting a summer house, taking extensive trips and having servants. But they were not extravagant. Their income must have been reduced after Warner Erwin father's death in 1845, for the family moved to a boarding house.

Current thanks go to Linda Frances Wisniewski, a former Bryn Mawr College student who helped transform the original transcription and annotations to web pages, and to Henry Bartlett of Tasmania who wrote the program to convert the original WordStar to discernible HTML files for the web site.

Special thanks also to Helen T. Loerke who proofread and corrected the manuscript and to Philadelphia historian, James Francis Dallett (noted as JFD), who contributed many of the footnotes throughout the publication.

-- S.Hamill Horne, 1436 Rose Glen Road, Post Box 33, Gladwyne, PA 19035-0033
Telephone: (610) 649-3548 e-mail:


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