What were the hobbies of your great grandparents?
What? You don’t know?
Well don’t feel badly. Most of us couldn’t possibly know what occupied the small amounts of free time folks had over a hundred years ago. Back then, if I had found a spare second from sewing clothes, baking bread, milking cows and all the other one hundred and twenty chores that people did then, I am guessing I would have been content to just sit down! Once that fascination wore off – and that might have taken a while – I probably would have loved to read a book.
If I had been pressed to guess for a hobby for Edith and her mother I would have thought of singing and playing music, of course. But working your craft 24/7 can make for a dull life so it stands to reason they must have had a hobby or two. I would have never been able to guess it, but I can now say that Astronomy and Telescopes were of particular interest for Edith Vail Ross and her mother Helen Sophia Beals Ross in the summer of 1903. They even shipped the family telescope down from Rutland, Vermont to Edith in New York so she could star gaze from the city. It is interesting to note that the telescope was always referred to as “Momma’s” so I believe Edith’s father Edward did not take much to this pastime. I have no idea what the telescope might have looked like but it was most likely a tabletop set up, sturdy but able to be shipped in a box on a train. Edith spent some weeks anxiously awaiting its arrival and was thrilled when it finally made an appearance (and intact) at the end of July, 1903.
Maybe it looked a bit like these two examples
Now whenever I see an old telescope in an antiques shop I will pause a bit to think of Edith and her mother star-gazing together in Vermont. What must it have been like for Edith to set it up on her own in New York City and look up into a dark night sky lit by the moon, stars and fellow planets?
While Edith and her mother never took any formal Astronomy class that I am aware of, here is an inspiring image of such an opportunity in 1890 from Rollins College.
Rollins has a wonderful blog on their school archives and it can be found here, http://social.rollins.edu/wpsites/libraryarchives/
Happy Star Gazing!