Wednesday, January 6, 2016

"I thot you were man enough to give me what I earned." Early 20th Century Snowflake Mail.

My great-grandfather was a professor of classics and literature at a small private college in southwestern Ohio. While visiting my parents recently, we sorted through some boxes of family documents, and among them was a letter mailed 100 years ago to my great-grandfather by a student angry about his course grade. I was fascinated both to see that some things haven't changed, but also to know that my great-grandfather thought to save this letter for over 60 years (he died at the age of 90 in 1977). I've transcribed the full letter below as written:

June 12 [1915]

I have received my grade card and received a D for my grade for last semester. I said nothing about last semester's failure, but, I am not going to receive flunks when I do efficient work. I know you haven't any use for me, but I thot you were man enough to give me what I earned. I think you did that way in order to have an excuse to flunk some (you have it in for). I would like to have a talk with you about the matter. I think it was your place to give the test if you doubted any one. Last semester I didn't have time to study my lesson and I took the D in english lit as justice. But I have done good work this semester and will not recognize any grudge blow like that. I think I shall take an examination in it and get justice. I just wanted you to know that I am aware of your prejudice-ness and partiality and that I have brains enough to know when one is trying to lay one over on me.

Signed by
Chester A. Jacobs

[I've attached a photo of the first page of the letter if you would find that a helpful illustration; I'm guessing FERPA doesn't reach back 100 years.]
- Panacea


  1. Thank you, Panacea, for taking the trouble to transcribe this.
    It's the first time I've seen something from such a date, and it was truly fascinating.
    I wonder what your great-grandfather's reaction might have been?

  2. Someone once described historians as busybodies and gossips who read other people's letters. And I can't deny...

  3. How much do you want to bet he sent the exact same letter to the English lit professor from the previous semester?

  4. Maybe this guy? The age is around right, anyway.

    Chester Arthur Jacobs, 1893 - 1966
    Chester Arthur Jacobs was born on month day 1893, at birth place, to Harvey Presley Jacobs and Lois Ellen Jacobs (born Hill).
    Harvey was born on December 8 1855, in Crayne, Crittenden Co. Kentucky.
    Lois was born on September 29 1862, in Crittenden Co., KY.
    Chester had 9 siblings: Carrie Snyder (born Jacobs), Ruby Arnalla Henle (born Jacobs) and 7 other siblings.
    Chester married Emma H Jacobs (born Ingalls) circa 1916, at age 22 at marriage place, Washington.
    Emma was born circa 1894, in Toppenish, Yakima Co., WA.
    Chester lived on month day 1910, at address, Washington.
    He lived on month day 1920, at address, Washington.
    He lived on month day 1930, at address, California.
    Chester passed away on month day 1966, at age 73.
    He was buried at burial place, Washington.
    Documents of Chester Arthur Jacobs
    Arthur Jacobs in 1910 United States Federal Census
    Arthur Jacobs was born circa 1893, at birth place, Kentucky, to Harvey P Jacobs and Ellen Jacobs.
    Arthur had 4 siblings: Reed Jacobs and 3 other siblings.
    Arthur lived in 1910, at address, Washington.
    Chester Jacobs in U.S. Social Security Death Index (SSDI)
    Chester Jacobs was born on March 21 1893.
    Chester lived in Toppenish, Washington 98948, USA.
    Chester passed away in October 1966, at age 73.

  5. The night before I first read this letter, I had gotten an email from a student unhappy with his/her course grade that contained the line "Is there anyway we can speak about what happened with my grade?" Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose!

  6. I have a retired military friend who had an old letter from a soldier to his parents describing how mean and terrible his superiors were by not letting him and his buddies go drinking in town, etc. My friend would ask "In what war was this written?" People would guess Vietnam, Korea, and even the Persian Gulf. They were always shocked that it was from 1862 during the American Civil War. Nothing has changed. :)

  7. I have a question - why does Chester seem to act like the professor should have given an exam, but didn't, and then declare he'll take the exam for spite?


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