Why have an autograph book?
What do young people in 2001 think is the purpose of an autograph book?
Most likely it is as a place to collect the signatures of people who are in
the limelight for their achievements as sporting idols or stage performers.
The role of the autographs in the first half of the twentieth century was
quite different. In their autograph books children, nearly always girls,
collected messages from family and friends, and the people who searched out
their autograph books to help me with this article have said how much they
treasure them now as an interesting record to look back on.
Very special books
The covers of the books ranged from ornate leather to leatherette or glazed
cardboard with the title Autographs in gold, and the pages inside
were always of varied pastel colours. Nesta Tyndall's autograph book dated
from 5/8/1912 has a leather cover with a tortoiseshell pattern, paper in a
dainty cream and brown floral pattern inside the covers surrounded by a
gold pattern on the leather edges, and cream, pale orange, blue and pink
pages with gold edges. Another book from the same date has on the front
pansies, the flowers of thoughts.
Records of friendship
I don't remember any spirit of competition or race to get the most names in
the book. I do recall that we felt it was a compliment and an affirmation
of friendship to be asked to put a message in another girl's book.
Messages written in the books
These vary according to the period and the age of the contributors, but
they follow several themes, some of which, like men's comments about women,
show how different from today were the expectations of a woman's future in
the early 1900s.
Men on women
Man wants but little here below,
He is not hard to please,
But woman, bless her little heart,
Wants everything she sees.
Men have many faults.
Women have but two,
Nothing right they say,
Nothing right they do.
Generally speaking, women are generally speaking.
Women hate a man who knows more than they do, but despise him if he knows
less than the other man.
The destiny of women!
Be a good girl.
Lead a good life.
Choose a good husband,
And be a good wife.
When you are married I wish you children three -
One to wash the dishes,
One to scrub the floor,
One to rock the cradles if there be any more.
Women on men
The corner of a page was turned over and labelled - "For women only." Lift
it and you find "Aren't you men nosey!"
If women never do what's right
And never say what's true,
What awful fools you men must be
To love us as you do.
"The man who cannot see the pixies on his own doorstep will never discover
Fairyland anywhere." Boreham
Comment on girls
Little puffs of powder
Little dabs of paint
Makes a girl's complexion
Look like what it ain't.
Do not steal this book for shame
For in it is the owner's name,
And when you die
The Lord will say,
"Where is that book you stole away?"
If you say you do not know
The Lord will say,
"Go Down Below."
Friendship - a relevant theme for what might be called Friendship
Perhaps the verse best known and often quoted whenever autograph books are
Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Honey is sweet
And so are you.
True friends are like diamonds
Precious and rare,
False friends are like autumn leaves
Your album is a garden plot
In which we all sow seeds.
I plant the seed forget-me-not.
Please keep it safe from weeds.
In your garden of friendship regard me as a flower.
(This was often accompanied by drawings of flowers.)
In your golden chain of friendship regard me as link.
Those who were gifted at drawing or painting might contribute a picture.
A painting of the sun setting over the sea in Ngaire Hawley's book in 1921
was accompanied by the following message in very small copperplate
To stand in the "Great Forever",
To live in the "Ocean of Truth",
Is to bask in the "Golden Sunshine"
Of Endless "Love and Youth".
But to stand in the "Great Forever",
With God, "as eternities roll,
(Whose Spirit forsaketh man never,
Whose Love is the home of his Soul;)
Is the Glory and Joy of living.
To know man is One with God,
'Tis the armour of might to His Spirit,
And The Blossom that crowns the sod.
Advice for life
Your life lies before you as a field of snow.
Be careful how you tread it, for every step will show.
Work on, hope on,
Self hope is noble schooling.
Do your best and leave the rest,
For God Almighty's ruling.
Go always with your face turned to the sunshine,
And the shadows will fall behind you.
From the years before the word 'gay' acquired the significance of
If you are always gay,
And good day by day,
You will help the world along,
Without a verse or song.
Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever.
The reward for a thing well done is to have it done.
Happiness is a perfume which you cannot pour on others without getting a
few drops on yourself.
Love many, trust few,
Always paddle your own canoe.
Patience is a form of despair disguised as a virtue.
Remember every cloud has a silver lining.
We were born originals.
Let us not die copies.
This was popular among younger contributors, and was clean fun, though it
may sound rather unsubtle to our older ears.
(In case you are not wise enough to interpret this :
Too wise you are, too wise you be, I see you are too wise for me.)
When sliding down the banisters of life be careful that you do not strike a
Tis hard to find a sweetheart when your heart is full of hope,
But 'tis harder still to find the towel when your eyes are full of soap.
Young man to his partner, "You are the sweetest girl in the hall."
Girl - "I am sorry, but I cannot return the compliment."
Young man - "Oh, you can."
Girl - "How?"
Young man - "Do the same as me, tell a lie."
A millionaire's money is twice tainted.
Tain't yours, Tain't mine.
Two in a hammock attempted to kiss
When all of a sudden they ended like ----this. (upside down)
Now I lay me down to shirk.
I hope that I will find no work.
If I should die before the night
Thank God there'll be no work in sight.
(Parody on a hymn)
Lines by your brother 1912
This one has a topical theme for 1940.
God made the English.
God made the Dutch.
Whoever made Hitler
Didn't make much.
One eight year old was less than popular when she wrote in her
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm glad I'm not as fat as you.
One contributor combined drawing and a joke.
My girl has turned me down.
What d'ye think of that?
To throw a fella' down
'Cos he hasn't any lap.
At the end of the book
By hook or by crook
I'll be last in this book.
If the person writing this did not squeeze it into the very last corner
someone else would write underneath:
By eggs and by bacon
You're greatly mistaken.
Autographs for this article were drawn from the autograph books of
Nesta Tyndall, Ngaire Hepburn (nee Hawley), Lilian Butcher (nee Martin),
Adelaide Page (nee Wise), Jessie Dodd (nee Watters), Wendy Walton (nee
Hepburn) and Chris Watt (nee Day).