Editor's note: Students working for the USC Libraries' Special Collections routinely come into close contact with unique archival materials. Here on the libraries' website, we're sharing occasional dispatches from these students about the collections they work with. Emily Hodgkins, a USC undergraduate majoring in history, writes about the Krueger Stammbuch:
Before yearbooks became a standard way to remember friends and memories from school days, young students would often use their own blank books as a way to collect signatures and other mementos. In 19th-century Germany, one of these was called a Stammbuch, and was filled with poetry, locks of hair, and drawings dedicated from one’s closest companions or family.
This new acquisition, a book kept by a young student who lived either in or near Berlin during the 1830s and 1840s, is an excellent example of the different sorts of elements often included in a Stammbuch.
This first page (above), from May 8, 1839, was written in Berlin by Pauline Richter and includes a lock of hair tied with a ribbon. She spoke of the “true friendship” they had, and asks that she would not be forgotten.
The next page (below), with a delicate image of a rose, was from the uncle of the student who owned the book. It was inscribed “in memory” from the city of Magdeburg.
The third example page from the book (below), which also includes a lock of hair tied with a tiny string, was written from Berlin on November 30, 1835. Included is an aphorism entitled “Der Schlüssel” [The Key], originally written by German poet Friedrich Schiller:
Willst du dich selber erkennen, so sieh, wie die andern es treiben, [If you intend to know yourself, look to the actions of others,]
Willst du die andern verstehn, blick in dein eigenes Herz.” [If you intend to know others, look inside your own heart.]
The last image (below) is an illustration, depicting a genial, pastoral scene with an accompanying verse. Like the rose, this page is an example of one of the more complex additions one’s friend might contribute to a Stammbuch, to supplement their verse of poetry or other heartfelt sentiment. While not much is known about the student who owned the book (although they were likely female, with the last name Krueger), the inscriptions written to them allow us today to see what society and school-age relationships were like during the mid-19th century, and let us glimpse a very personal documentation of individual history.