Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP404

Sent by:
John Wallace
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
18 November 1893

Sent by John Wallace, Stockton, California, USA to Alfred Russel Wallace, [Corfe View, Parkstone, Dorset] on 18 November 1893.

Record created:
01 June 2002 by Lucas, Paula J.
Verified by:
06/07/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline (All except summary checked);


Re. acknowledgement on October 1 of Alfred Russel Wallace's letter dated September 15 reporting the death of their sister Fanny; work on connecting houses to a sewerage system emptying into the San Joaquin River, expense of board of health building requirements; general economic depression due to the Democratic administration; Alfred Russel Wallace's reaction in his letter of August 23 to John's views on the theories of the Earth's crust.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP404.404)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/3/87
Copyright owner:
©Wallace Family
Record scrutiny:
06/07/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Physical description

Transcription information





Nov 18th. 1893

My dear Alfred

I had intended to write to you in answer to your letter of the 23rd of August when I received the one of the 15th Sept. concerning the death of Fanny which I acknowledged the receipt of about Oct 1st, since then I have been rather busy about the premises supervising the connection of my three houses with the public sewers. We have a system of sewers established here on the pipe or Wareing place, the main sewer being no more than 18 in pipe, with pumping station on the outskirts of the town delivering the sewage about two miles off to the San Joaquin River.

Our "Board of Health" requires all houses to have water closets, and kitchen sinks, and both rooms, to be connected with the sewer, and besides having two secure traps between the sewer of the house, requires inflow air or ventilation pipes 4in and 3in diam. running up above the eaves of the house, two for every water closet and one for every sink or bath tub outlet, causing much unnecessary expense. I have had to put in 3 water closets, and the connections for the sinks &c. of the 3 houses. It has cost me nearly 200 dollars and 75 dollars for street sewer besides my own work in building a new closet in connection with the house for ourselves. The main difficulty in all this extra expense is, that it does not improve the value of the property, in one house I had no sooner made the improvement, than the tenant wanted a reduction of rent owing to the bad times, and they would have moved out if the reduction had not been made. I suppose you have heard of the general stagnation of business all over the United States, owing to the Democratic administration.2

[[2]] In your letter of Aug 23 in answer to my objections to the theories as to the Earths crust you seem to pas them over as scarcely worth considering, while I supposed that I had flummoxed and bamboozled the whole scientific world! Such is the fate of ignorance and folly!! But all the same I do not consider that you have answered my objections by any means, and with regard to the roots of the mountains, (which I consider the most absurd theory of the lot) you say that the temperature of the solid other[?] liquid where they are in contact must be the same; of course it is and always must be, and where is the room for any roots as you call them, for in that case the roots must be of a different temperature and a different density, or else there would be no roots at all. Then as regards my proposition of ice 20in thick, you think perhaps it would sag with the bricks on it, but the question is not only would it sag a little in time, but would it ever break through and allow the bricks to settle into the ice. You have not answered one very important question and that is, do you know any substance so frail that it would not support the addition of one fifth of its own thickness, without rupturing it? And when we consider the primitive rocks are among the hardest strongest substances we know of, and moreover although we have mountain chains with portions 4& 5 miles high, the high portions form a very small part of the elevation, they resting and being in a great measure supported by their base extending hundreds and even thousands of miles in extent; in many cases the base of the mountains commence at the sea shore and in a gradual inclination extend to the highest summits and then gradually falling on the other side to the level of the sea again, the actual base in many cases being thousands of miles. Make a drawing to a scale, of a 20 mile crust with a mountain 4 miles high with a base of only 100 miles, and see what an rising significant addition the mountain makes. With regard to the sinking of deltas or the filling of the seas, although the deep parts of the sea can never be filled up, still when denudation gets in its work, will not the water gradually cover the land, and eventually infold the earth in a watery shroud. I send in this letter some of the old postage stamps that I thought I would send in a box, but I found they could not go except as letter mail, but I find by looking over them, that they would be of no value as they are all European, French, Netherlands, Belgian &c. so I have picked out a few which I enclose good or bad, mostly I fear the latter. I have now nearly got to the bottom of the page so must conclude with regards and love to yourself and all the family, and I will now remain your affectionate Brother

John Wallace3[signature]


1. Written in an unidentified hand at the top right of the page is the archival reference "[WP1/3/87]".

2. Written at the bottom of the page in an unidentifed hand "[OLD REF WP2/1/22]".

3. Wallace, John (1818-1895). Elder brother of ARW

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