John Muir, his wife, a big mountain, and a stick

If you do scholarly work on John Muir, as I do, chances are good you know the man was a crack-up. Not a crack-pot, a crack-up. He was really funny. He also loved his children very much and wrote some great letters to them on his various journeys to Yosemite, the Pacific Northwest, and beyond. These letters often had great doodles in them—besides his illustrations of new plants and what not, he also drew happy little pictures of squirrels and bears (and other things). If you know me, you know that I have a tattoo of one of his doodles and it makes me smile every day.

I had the good fortune recently of e-mailing with Mike Branch, and we were talking about all the good Muir stuff hidden away, like his illustrations and letters to his kids. I remembered another favorite letter & doodle: Muir pushing his wife up a hill with a stick. Then I remembered that the last time I had the microfilm of his papers, I scanned it! Here you go world—the text of the letter, and then the image itself.

July 16, 1884
My Dear Wanda:
Papa & Mamma are coming home to baby tomorrow & Mamma & papa hae been glad all the time when grandpa wrote a letter & baby wrote a letter that said “baby is well & good & does not cry at all.” After Papa wrote the other letter to baby Mamma & Papa climbed up a high mountain & Mamma got tired & so Papa walked behind & pushed Mamma with a long stick this way & the stick soon began to hurt Mamma’s back & then Mamma was too warm & so she took off some of her clothes & papa tied a shirt on the end of the stick & ….

It trails off because of archivist FAIL. In other words, I didn’t manage to grab an image of the flip side of the letter, because I am an idiot. It’s not like I won’t be seeing the microfilm again, though, so I’ll remedy that in the future. But I think you get the point.

Muir's doodle in a letter to his daughter, 1884


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Posted in Academics, Misc Life
3 comments on “John Muir, his wife, a big mountain, and a stick
  1. bitchphd says:

    Are there any published editions of his stuff, with the little drawings, for kids?

  2. JM says:

    No, but you better believe it’s on my list of projects to do immediately after getting a job.

  3. Mary says:

    I LOVE his drawings, and I hope you do publish his stuff. What a wonderful source for the early West/California for children and adults alike.

    Keep up the great work!

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