JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to , [, Allegheny Co., PA], 16 July 1842; handwriting of ; one page; Manuscript and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations, New York City, NY.
Single leaf measuring 8 × 9⅞ inches (20 × 25 cm). Embossed in the upper left corner of the recto is the round insignia of a paper mill. The design has an illegible word at the top, the word “LEE” in the middle, and the word “MASS” along the bottom. The leaf is ruled with twenty-seven horizontal lines. All edges of the leaf are unevenly cut. The verso of the leaf is blank. The letter was trifolded twice in letter style.
The letter’s custodial history is uncertain prior to its acquisition by Charles L. Woodward, a well-known bookseller and document collector, sometime before 1880. Woodward inserted the letter into the first volume of “The First Half Century of Mormonism,” a scrapbook he compiled and edited. New York City merchant William Berrian acquired a majority of Woodward’s collection, including the scrapbook, when it was sold at auction in 1880. Berrian expanded the collection over the next sixteen years. Helen M. Gould obtained the collection sometime between 1896 and the end of 1899 and then gave it to the New York Public Library in January 1900. The letter was removed from Woodward’s scrapbook and sent to the Manuscript Division of the New York Public Library on 3 March 1938.
Woodward, Charles L., comp. “The First Half Century of Mormonism. Papers, Engravings, Photographs, and Autograph Letters,” ca. 1880. Scrapbook. New York Public Library, New York City.
On 16 July 1842, while in , Illinois, JS composed a letter addressed to , who was in , asking him to purchase building materials for the Nauvoo . According to an article in the 2 May 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons, construction on the temple was “progressing with great rapidity; strenuous exertions are being made on every hand to facilitate its erection, and materials of all kinds are in a great state of forward[n]ess.” Progress on the temple required additional building materials that JS hoped Page could procure in the eastern , where such goods were more readily available. In addition to the request for nails, brads, and blasting powder, the letter provided a general update on the health of the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo and mentioned ’s conduct there.
JS’s letter was a reply to a nonextant letter from dated 3 June 1842. JS apparently dictated the letter to his clerk , although it is possible that Clayton composed the letter himself on behalf of JS. Page received it, likely two to three weeks after it was sent, and replied on 8 August 1842.
Yours dated June 3rd. has been received together with the articles pr bro . Circumstances has hitherto prevented our forwarding an answer
We are glad to hear of your success in the ministry and as you requested the prayers of the saints have been raised in your behalf— we trust there will be a great ingathering in that region—
We are now very much in need of a few articles for the which I will name and if it can be accomplished it would relieve us grealty [greatly] if you could arrange it so as to send them very soon. We want 1 Keg of Nails 10s.— 1 Keg of 8s.—, 1 Keg of 6s.— 1 Keg of 4st. & 1 Keg of 3s and more of 6s, 8s, 10s if you can get them Also a few Groces of Brads 1½ inch, 1 inch & 1/2 inch
We also want very much a few Kegs of the very best blasting powder for blasting Rock &c—
We know not what privilege you have of sending these articles but hope you will let us know as soon as convenient. We are hindered at present for want of them.
The health of our continues good. There are some few cases of sickness.
You no doubt have heard of s conduct we think he cannot do much—
Time prevents me writing much at present. Please accept our warmest respects in the E. C
Nails were classified both according to their length and according to their weight. Although Clayton generally used an “s” to designate the length, the common abbreviation was “d,” the English symbol for a penny. According to one construction manual, “the origin of the designation is generally assumed to be in the old system of weights, the nails being made with as many pennyweights of metal as the number indicates.” The length of the nails went from 3 inches for a 10d nail to 1¼ inches for a 3d nail. JS may have made this request because Page was friends with Richard Savary in Pittsburgh, who was “a maker of all kinds of nails and vender of Nails and Iron of all kinds.” (Blackall, Builders’ Hardware, 13; Loveday, Rise and Decline of the American Cut Nail Industry, 4; John E. Page, Pittsburgh, PA, to Edward Hunter, Nauvoo, IL, 3 June 1842, Edward Hunter, Collection, CHL.)
Blackall, Clarence H. Builders’ Hardware: A Manual for Architects, Builders, and House Finishers. Boston: Ticknor, 1890.
Loveday, Amos J., Jr. The Rise and Decline of the American Cut Nail Industry: A Study of the Interrelationships of Technology, Business Organization, and Management Techniques. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983.
Hunter, Edward. Collection, ca. 1798–1965. Photocopy and typescript. CHL.
Brads were a specific type of nail “used in floors and other work, where it is deemed proper to drive nails entirely into the wood.” The word Groces appears to be an alternate (and pluralized) spelling of gross, meaning twelve dozen. (“Brad,” in American Dictionary ; “Gross,” in Oxford English Dictionary, 4:445.)
An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to Exhibit, I. the Origin, Affinities and Primary Signification of English Words, as far as They Have Been Ascertained. . . . Edited by Noah Webster. New York: S. Converse, 1828.
Oxford English Dictionary. Compact ed. 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971.
To obtain stone for the construction of the Nauvootemple, the Saints blasted large limestone beds in the city, with the main bed being at the city’s north end. (McBride, House for the Most High, 21–23.)
McBride, Matthew. A House for the Most High: The Story of the Original Nauvoo Temple. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007.