‘By hook or by crook’
Dolly Youngein’s autograph album
Twelve-year-old Dolly Youngein was given this small embossed leather-bound album by her mother in 1912. Collecting entries for these inexpensive albums was a popular pursuit at the time, and many such books survive as tantalising social history objects, capturing fragments of a time and place as expressed by the owners’ relatives, friends and acquaintances.
Making your mark in these books required more than the flair and flourish of a confident signature. The general expectation politely demanded that the autograph be coupled with an entry of some kind – often comic quips or sage proverbs, words from popular songs, and verse that ran from dodgy doggerel to lofty lines from the Romantic poets. The artistically inclined rendered sketches in pencil, illustrations in ink and wistful watercolours.
Dolly’s album begins with entries she collected as a schoolgirl, and flicking through the book’s pastel-coloured pages we catch a glimpse of the passing of the years. From ‘forget me not’ lines written by other Fort Street High School girls to the cheery banter of her fellow students at Stott & Hoare’s Business College, which Dolly attended from the age of 16, the tone of the entries in her album is chirpy and good-natured.
Once deciphered, the entries written in the strange glyph-like code of Pitman’s shorthand prove to be more fond pleasantries. In today’s age of unfiltered opinion via social media, this keepsake is a gentle reminder of the social decorum of a bygone time.
Collected: Sydney Living Museums acquisitions
Sydney Living Museums seeks to tell diverse stories about Australia’s past, from a broad range of voices and perspectives, through the 12 museums and heritage sites, and rich and varied collections in its care.