A Glimpse into the 1920s

old leather bound album

What a lovely thing I found yesterday!

When one of my great aunts died, at least ten years ago, but probably closer to fifteen, I remember spending some time helping my mum sort through her belongings. I picked up two very old autograph books, which had belonged to my great uncle as a boy, and asked if I could keep them.

I came across them again yesterday when I was sorting through boxes, and I had forgotten how absolutely beautiful they are. Both are leather-bound, with ‘Album; embossed on the outside in gold lettering. One is dated 1918, and the other seems to have entries dating from 1924-1926.

They seem to have been used as a way of collecting small notes, sayings and sketches – often humourous – from family and friends, and I can’t get over how lovely some of the pages are. There must be at least forty or fifty pages that have been filled, each by something witty and delightful. Here is a very small selection:

1920s sketchbook


old autograph book

1920s illustration

painting of flowers from 1920s

One of my favourite pages is a long bit of advice from someone called DL Kent, which was written in 1926, in very elegant, cursive handwriting.

Be sharp in all your doings
said the knife.
Trust to your stars for success
said the night.
Find a good thing and stick to it
said the glue.
Spend much time in reflection
said the mirror.
Strive to make a good impression
said the seal.
Turn all things to your advantage
said the lathe.
Make much of small things
said the microscope.
Never take sides, but be sound when you’re wanted,
said the bell.
Make the most of your good points
said the compass.

Such good advice, nearly 90 years later!

I’m so glad I found these two books again, and can’t wait to make time to read through them both properly. What a wonderful thing to treasure.


Nominations have just opened for this year’s MAD Blog Awards. Last year I was chuffed to pieces that your support saw me end up as a finalist in the Best New Blog category. I’m obviously not eligible for that again, but if you think I deserve to be nominated in another category this year such as Best Blog Writer or Best Family Life Blog you can do so on the MADS website here.

40 responses

  1. How lovely for you to pass on to your children. A snippet of life in the early 20th century, so sad that we don’t have such little books any longer. My mother had one with similar writings and little water colours/sketches, but it’s long gone. I can remember when I left my primary school I had an ‘autograph book’ in which I collected little ditties from all of my friends in my class. Such silly little verses as “Never kiss your boyfriend at the garden gate, love is blind, but the neighbours aint!” or “Roses are red, violets are grey, I know that is wrong, still “Never mind aye” ‘Never mind aye’ was the catch phrase of Alfie Bass in Bootsie and Snudge on the Beeb, long before you were born!

    • It is sad, isn’t it? I know we record so much more digitally – more photos, blog entries etc, but there’s something so lovely about the effort that goes in to writing and creating by hand. xx

  2. Oh thats lovely isn’t it – a really unusual treasure to have as a keepsake. Unfortunately we don’t have anything like that now as parents got rid of loads of stuff years and years ago when moving house. A shame really, who knows what little gems they could have had.
    BTW I didn’t realise you have blogging such a short while, you write like you have been around much longer. 🙂

    • It’s a hard balance isn’t it knowing how much family stuff to keep? I’ll keep letters & cards & stuff for years but then I always get rid of a lot when we move house. You can’t keep everything, but it’s lovely to have a few special bits and pieces 🙂

      You must have had to do a real downsize when you moved? Or have you got things in storage?

      Yup – only been blogging for about a year and a half! I still feel like a complete newbie. It helps that I’m still just on free WP & not able to do any advertising or sponsored posts though – haven’t had to get to grips with any of the SEO stuff or get stressed about my stats!

      • We are lucky as we have been able to store a lot at the inlaws and the company paid for shipping so it was cheaper to pretty much ship everything over. I’m the same as you in that I keep things for a long timebut then when I have a major clear out or move house like we did this time I just have to be ruthless and get rid of things. That said I do have a few bits and pieces that I have taken with me. Old diaries and that sort of thing, probably quite a bad idea really,they are pretty incriminating! 🙂
        I know what you mean about the SEO stuff, as an even more newbie blogger than you, I have not got a clue about that stuff at all. It’s all so confusing, I am just getting on with writing my blog and maybe I will buy a book or something. (Trouble is the people that right them seem to think that we are well up on the techy stuff already and are full of jargon I don’t understand!!) x

  3. What a treasure to have, and how wonderful to re-find them midwinter, as I am sure they were a treat to peruse fireside. I have nothing this nice, but do have a little daily journal from my first and only landlord after college… It shows daily expense (4 cents for pencils) and occasional reflections on moments in history (today was the State of the Union address by President Hoover. He said very little.) I leave those glimpses into another world, another time… True treasures.

    • Oh that’s wonderful – any little handwritten book or diary like that is a treasure. Isn’t it funny what people thought was noteworthy? When my Grandpa died, my Mum found drawers full of books where he’d written down how much he’d spent every single time he’d filled his car up with petrol, and how many miles he got from each tank. For years and years! Goodness knows why, but it was obviously very important to him to have that all recorded.

    • Oh Emma, I do too. That’s why I’ve been sorting through all these boxes, trying to organise things a little bit into books and albums rather than having it all loose. We’ll get there one day, I promise! xx

  4. What a treasure! Those drawings are stunning.

    Have you done any family history to discover who these people were in your Gt Uncle’s circle?

    Fascinating and beautiful thanks for sharing.

    • I’ve not, but I really should. Even my Mum might have some idea who they are – they’re such wonderful names some of them. Edna Bamford and Cecily Parker seem to feature quite a lot… I’m planning to take them with me next time I visit her so we can sit and look through them together.

  5. Oh I’m so please Becky let me know about this. Such fab device, the first thing I thought was ooh this must be almost like a visitor book. People that may have stayed in the house would be asked to write their musing in the book/s perhaps. So fab!!

    • That’s a good thought! The parents of one of my friends at school kept a visitor book, so every time I went over there for a sleepover I had to sign it. At the time I thought it was a bit weird, but on reflection (now that I’m not a cynical teenager) it’d be quite nice to have a record like that of all the friends who have stayed with you x

  6. Pingback: A Glimpse into the 1920s | LAB

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