Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP434

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
William Greenell [ARW's son] Wallace
16 January 1887

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, The Hamilton Hotel, Washington D.C., USA to William Greenell [ARW's son] Wallace, [Nutwood Cottage, Frith Hill, Godalming] on 16 January 1887.

Record created:
01 June 2002 by Lucas, Paula J.


Re. newspaper reports of snow in England; snow in Washington, sleighs on the streets; stone artefacts from grave mounds displayed in American museums (ink sketch of five of these on p. 2 of letter); museum's orang-utan display; encloses some amusing cuttings (not present) from American papers; urges William to apply himself to carpentry lessons at school. "William Greenell Wallace" is written on the back of the letter in Alfred Russel Wallace's hand.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP434.434)

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

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/5/15
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Item notes

Physical description

Transcription information




The Hamilton Hotel, Washington. D. C.

January 16th. 1887

My dear Willie1

I see by the papers you had a great snowstorm the day after ‘Xmas day so I suppose you had some good fun at Hurst2 making snow men or something of that sort. When I got back to Boston just before 'Xmas the streets were full of sleighs cutting about silently, even the great waggons and carts were all sleighs, and on fine days gentlemen and ladies were driving about as hard as they could go on beautiful light sleigh carriages. Here they have got some fine Museums with more curious stone & flint weapons than I have ever seen anywhere. Besides all kinds of arrows, spears, axes, knives &c. they have many kinds of stones cut for games like quoits, and curious ornaments, pestles & mortars, plates & dishes, hoes, & spades, & no end of other things that no one can tell the use of. Most of these are found in the old graves & [[2]] mounds which are found all over the country.

Here are sketches of a very few of the queer stones found in these mounds: (1/4 or 1/6 real size)3

[An ink sketch of five museum artefacts in a row follows here.]

These are all made of a very hard stone speckled something like fine granite, and are cut beautifully true and smooth. Most of them have holes through them, as shown, & seem to have been ornaments. These are only a few out of hundreds that I saw the other day at the N[ew]. York Museum, & sketched hastily. The arrow heads are so abundant that sometimes they find thousands all together. I shall try to get a few for your museum before I come home. There are some large flint hoes as big as a garden hoe, which have been used in fine soft earth till their edges are polished like glass.

Among the things to see here is the highest monument in the world -- an obelisk4 555 feet high -- that is, two and [[3]] a half times as large as our garden stuck up on end! It is a monument to Washington. I shall go up to the top some day [sic]. In the Museum here is a splendid group of Orang-utans up in a tree -- two big ones fighting, and two smaller ones looking on, one in a nest. The trees are real, with the leaves done like those in the Bird cases in the Brit[ish] Museum just like real. The case containing it is about the size of our drawing room.

I enclose you a few cuttings from American newspapers to amuse you. I donot [sic] know whether you have begun work in the Carpenter’s shop yet, but I wrote to the D[octo]r. for you to do so this term. I hope you will try and learn all you can. You should work at it just as much as your lessons for it will be quite as much use to you, and you will always be glad that you have learnt it. Above all learn to sharpen tools, and whatever you do stick to it till you can do it as well as it can be done. With best love,

Believe me | Your affectionate Papa | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

[[4]] William Greenell Wallace.5


1. William Greenell Wallace (1871-1951), ARW’s son.

2. Refers to Hurstpierpoint, a village in Sussex where William Wallace’s maternal grandparents lived.

3. The section in brackets is written in pencil.

4. ARW refers to the Washington Monument, an obelisk on the National Mall in Washington D.C. built to commemorate George Washington, the first President of the United States of America.

5. Written in the middle of the page.

Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.