Ciphering Book Collection (ca. 1730-1849)

Finding Aid Completed by Eric Roth August 28, 1999
Last updated January 14, 2013
Volume: 1.5 cu. ft., 25 items
Acquisition: The ciphering books were donated separately and aggregated together at the repository. Acquisition information for each book is provided in the Item Descriptions.
Access: Unrestricted.
Copyright: Request for permission to publish materials from these records should be discussed with the Collections Manager and Archivist of the Historic Huguenot Street.

Special thanks to Vicki Garrison for processing this collection.

Collection Description
 

The collection, housed in three boxes, consists of 24 handwritten ciphering books used by students learning mathematics, handwriting, spelling and other disciplines. In many instances, the problems in the ciphering books may have been copied from published contemporary textbooks. Most of the books date from the early 19th century and are bound in cloth, leather, or board. As a whole, the books are in very good condition and quite legible. The majority of the books contain entries in English, although occasional examples of French (#23) and Dutch (#11) are also found.

The collection is an excellent source for documenting the early history of education and children in New Paltz and Ulster County, NY, particularly of descendants of the French and Dutch families who settled New Paltz in the 17th and 18th centuries. Families represented in the books include Chase, Coddington, Deyo, DuBois, Elting, Freer, Hasbrouck, LeFevre, Schoonmaker, Stillwell, and Vreeland. Mathematical content in the books typically includes geometric problems; simple mathematical operations such as addition subtractions, etc.; measurement, problems involving several different currencies; application problems, proportion, interest, decimals, fractions and etc.

Of particular interest are the application problems, which reveal social issues of the times. Religious and moral lessons abound throughout all of the books. Examples include questions and comments such as "He who cannot be happy without great pains will always find his pains greater than his happiness," and "Josiah DuBois is my name, America is my Nation, New Paltz is my dwelling place and Christ is my Salvation. When I am dead and in my grave and all my bones are rotten, when this you see remember me that I am not forgotten." Also of interest are records of financial transactions, genealogical information, names of schoolteachers, and drawings and other evidence of "doodling."

Other ciphering books are located in the Louis Bevier Family Papers: The Elizabeth Wright Collection (1721-1929).

Item List

Box 1
#1: Josiah LeFevre Ciphering Book (1822-1824)
#2: Stillwell Family Ciphering Book (1829-1842)
#3: Andries J. LeFever Ciphering Book (1799-1811)
#4: Rachel Elting Ciphering Book (1803-1812)
#23: Abraham Hasbrouck Ciphering Book (ca. 1730-1739)*
#24: Roelof J. Elting (1823)*
#25 Jeremiah A. Houghtaling Ciphering Book (1828)

Box 2
#5: Cornelius D. LeFever (1820-1825)
#6: Philip Deyo Ciphering Book (1834)
#7: Abraham Deyo Ciphering Book (1804-1846)
#8: Josiah Hasbrouck/Sarah DuBois (1821)
#9: Benjamin Hasbrouck, Jr. Ciphering Book (1764-1766)
#10: Unidentified, "New Paltz School , June 1818, Gilbert Cuthbert Rice(,) preceptor." (1818-1849)
#11: Peter LeFever, Jr. Ciphering Book (1773-1775)
#12: Peter LeFever, Jr. Ciphering Book (1779-1781)

Box 3
#13: Elias Freer Ciphering Book (1802-1803)
#14: Blandina LeFever Ciphering Book (1833)
#15: Josiah DuBois Ciphering Book (1792-1794)
#16: Hendricus Schoonmaker Ciphering Book (1781-1785)
#17: Merril Chase Ciphering Book (1790-1791, 1836)
#18: Philip Deyo Ciphering Book (1768)
#19: Philip LeFever Ciphering Book (1834)
#20: Jacobus Coddington Ciphering Book (1830)
#21: Jacob Vreeland Ciphering Book (1839)
#22: Johannis Freer Ciphering Book (1797, 1829-1833)

* Books #23 and #24 are housed in Box 1 for space reasons.

 

Item Descriptions

Box 1

Ciphering Book #1: Josiah LeFevre Ciphering Book (1822-1824).
Donor unknown, possibly Sadie Mott.
Topics in this book range from simple mathematical operations to more complex problems such as percents and interest and roots of numbers. Other subjects include cloth measure, vulgar fractions, time and weight. In addition to mathematical questions, there are also spelling problems, and application problems involving American History and business and commerce. The handwriting becomes difficult to decipher towards the end of the book.

Ciphering Book #2: Stillwell Family Ciphering Book (1829-1842)
Donated by Mrs. Richard Ordway, 1978-1998. Forms part of the Stillwell/Johnson Family Papers (1789-1943).
Major topics of study include "reduction," measurement, and direct and indirect proportion. Of interest are numerous "practical questions," or application problems concerning business and commerce. Several of these questions require the student to differentiate the value of the U.S. dollar according to each state's currency. Also found in the book are several "philosophical" quotes such as: "Commendation commonly animates the mind," "He who cannot be happy without great pains will always find his pains greater than his happiness," and "The possession of enjoyment is better than the enjoyment of possession." The book also includes lists of books read and purchased, and their prices. The handwriting in this book is particularly neat and clearly legible.

Ciphering Book #3: Andries J. LeFever Ciphering Book (1799-1811)
Donor unknown.
Includes simple addition, plane geometry, and logarithms. An inserted note reads "Nothing is certain in this world." Other non-mathematical comments include "Be wise and beware," "Command your passions," "Improve your learning," "Beauty commands esteem," and "The children of Mary were twins both boys born June 20, 1811." Other names (or signatures) in the book are Cornelius D. LeFever, Alexander Day, Lewis DuBois, Littyann, Sarah Jane, and Jane. In the book, Andries LeFever notes that he is 18 years old on November 27, 1809.

Ciphering Book #4: Rachel Elting Ciphering Book (1803-1812)
Donor unknown.
Topics range from addition of money to the rule of three. Some pages appear to be missing. Some notes on the bottom of later pages appear to be a record of money saved and spent until 1812. Some application problems were designed to be unique to Rachel. For example, one question is phrased "Suppose Rachel you was born in year of our lord 1792 I desire to know your age to present year 1803 in years, days, hours, and minutes." There are also non-mathematical comments such as "Rachel Elting is my name and so I hope it may remain." A largely illegible note on the inside back cover appears to be addressed to "Mr. Solomon Elting my father."

Ciphering Book #23: Abraham Hasbrouck Ciphering Book (ca. 1730-1739) *
Loaned by Kenneth E. Hasbrouck. Date unknown, probably originally donated by Annette Innis Young, 1963. [1] 
Written almost completely in French, this book contains multiplication problems, application problems involving currency (francs, florins, pounds, shillings, etc.), geometric problems, "proeve" applications, and narratives about various mathematical principles and methods. Of particular interest is what appears to be a rough draft of a will. Also included in the book are accounts dating from the 1730s probably kept by Isaac Hasbrouck concerning the purchase and sale of books, shirts, pipes, tobacco and other domestic supplies. The names of two schoolteachers, Jean Tebanin and Jean Meschine, are also supplied. The book is wrapped in leather and contains a strap. The front cover contains and inscription and signature by Abraham Hasbrouck.

Ciphering Book #24: Roelof J. Elting (1823)
Donor unknown. Possibly Lanetta Elting DuBois. Date unknown.
Contains lessons and word problems chiefly concerning business mathematics. Subjects include on the double rule of three, interest, equation and barter, loss and gain, fellowship, alligation, exchange, and fractions and decimals. There are also some problems relating to geometry. In addition to the mathematical work, there is one essay entitled "Humanity," which argues that "Humanity is not properly a single virtue; but a disposition residing in the heart, which does not spurn the needy & afflicted, but sends them away relieved from their wants...."

Ciphering Book #25: Jeremiah A. Houghtaling (1828-1833)
Donated by Ellen Frazer, 2004. Archives Accession Number #2004.008.
Contains mathematical lessons and word problems, including the Rule of Three, Commission, Brokerage, Insurance, Interest, Tare and Trett, etc. Of interest are poems and phrases found on the final pages of the book, and numerous dated signatures of Jeremiah A. Houghtaling. 

Box 2

Ciphering Book #5: Cornelius D. LeFever (1820-1825)
Donor unknown.
This leather-bound book contains problems involving units of measure (including motion) and "compound fellowship." The work of Cornelius LeFever is dated from 1820-1825. Also included in the book are: a note for a loan dating from 1859; request for signatures; comments of Catherine Bevier and Jacob Hardenbergh; several stories; a note to a parent from John Clarke. There is also a note from Gertrude Elsie Van Orden DuBois giving Cornelius' age as twelve when he started the book, although his birth year is listed as 1804.

Ciphering Book #6: Philip Deyo Ciphering Book (1834)
Probably donated by Sarah E. Deyo in 1960. Forms part of the Deyo Family Papers (1675-1870).
Newspaper used as binding. Includes sections on simple addition, compound addition, and subtraction, as well as a practice alphabet. Inscription: "Philip Deyo Book and his writing and it is well done and don't steel (sic) this Book." Also includes a philosophical quote about death.

Ciphering Book #7: Abraham Deyo Ciphering Book (1804-1846)
Probably donated by Sarah E. Deyo in 1960. Forms part of the Deyo Family Papers (1675-1870).
Cloth-covered book begins with simple addition and ends with simple interest. Also includes a recipe for "Moris Pills," a list of fifteen scripture verses, an 1846 map of "Apel (sic)Trees," and two pages of cures. There is also an 1830 record of transaction between Abraham Deyo and Elisha Beardsley, and records of birth for sons Jonathan in 1815 and Sallamon (sic) in 1829. 

Ciphering Book #8: Josiah Hasbrouck/Sarah DuBois (1821)
Donor uncertain, possibly Annette Young. Forms part of the Locust Lawn Collection (1672-1969).
Cloth covered book includes work of both Josiah Hasbrouck and Sarah DuBois. One set of problems is titled "The Elements of Arithmetic, Commenced by Sarah DuBois, Gilbert Cuthbert Ricey, Recepter (sic)." Topics include reduction, "promiscuous questions" (applications), vulgar fractions, and domestic exchange. When the book is opened from the back cover, the work of Josiah Hasbrouck is shown. It begins with compound multiplication and ends with inverse proportion. The date January 11, 1821 is included.

Ciphering Book #9: Benjamin Hasbrouck, Jr. Ciphering Book (1764-1766)
Donor unknown.
Cloth-covered book. Questions chiefly involve subtraction, fractions, and interest. Of interest are steps in several problems entitled "Proeve,' which appear to involve checking over previous work. Some entries are in Dutch. Miscellaneous items and comments in the book are the signature of Benjamin Hasbrouck, Sr., dated February 22, 1819; an undated newspaper clipping obituary for Mrs. Solomon Kelder; and an 1865 Huguenot Bank check with the signatures of JM and JJ Hasbrouck.

Ciphering Book #10: Unidentified, "New Paltz School , June 1818, Gilbert Cuthbert Rice(,) preceptor." (1818-1849)
Donor unknown.
Book includes simple addition, inverse proportion, interest, and commission. Contains practice exercise such as "How many Barley corns will reach round the globe...?" Inside front cover contains payment records from 1836, 1844, and 1849.

Ciphering Book #11: Peter LeFever, Jr. Ciphering Book (1773-1775)
Donor unknown.
Leather-bound book begins with subtraction of vulgar fractions and also includes topics such as decimals, interest, arithmetical and geometrical progressions, and square and cube roots. A newspaper clipping affixed to front cover dates from 1770. A note dating from January 1775 reads "Behold this year begins like human life with cold and nakedness." Also, one comment reads "Don't steal this Book for fear of shame for look above there stands the owner's name." There is also a note pertaining to lots (property) of Daniel LeFever and Josiah Elting.

Ciphering Book #12: Peter LeFever, Jr. Ciphering Book (1779-1781)
Donor unknown.
This cloth-covered book begins with addition of money and also includes inverse proportion and addition of fractions. Most dates are given as 1781, but there are a few references to 1779. Comments similar to those mentioned in other books are found in the inside froth cover.

Box 3

Ciphering Book #13: Elias Freer Ciphering Book (1802-1803)
Donated by Marylin Andersen on August 1, 1996.
This cloth-covered book begins with numerical tables and also includes simple multiplication. There are also several comments and examples of doodling.

Ciphering Book #14: Blandina LeFever Ciphering Book (1833)
Donor unknown.
Decorative title page reads "Miss Blandina LeFever Under the tuition of Miss Sarah Coverly, New Paltz, March 27, 1833." The book is covered in leather. Mathematical content chiefly includes multiplication. Other information includes copies of "A Ballad by Mary Hewitt," and "The Doctor's Song", which includes the name "Abm. D.B. Elting, New Paltz, Ulster County , N.Y."

Ciphering Book #15: Josiah DuBois Ciphering Book (1792-1794)
Donor unknown.
This cloth-covered book includes numeration, measurement, proportion, interest, fractions, decimals, roots, and the Mariner's Compass. The last page identifies Isaiah Plyter, Philomathematician, Dec. 31, 1794. Also in the book is the comment "Josiah DuBois is my name, America is my Nation, New Paltz is my dwelling place and Christ is my Salvation. When I am dead and in my grave and all my bones are rotten, when this you see remember me that I am not forgotten."

Ciphering Book #16: Hendricus Schoonmaker Ciphering Book (1781-1785)
Donor unknown.
Cloth-covered. The front inside cover contains a newspaper clipping from March 1776. Mathematical content begins with subtraction of measurement and also includes proportion, interest, money exchange, and equation of payments. Smaller pages have been inserted into the book. These pages concern decimals, geometry, trigonometry, and area. A note reads "Henry Schoonmaker has begun a quarter schooling by Mr. Agnew, May 3, 1785." There is also a record of a bond to John Smith, Essex County, N.J., March 20, 1785.

Ciphering Book #17: Merril Chase Ciphering Book (1790-1791, 1836)
Donor unknown.
Title reads "Merril Chase Book 1790, Begun at M. Bartlet's School, Dec. 3, 1790." Content includes a numeration table, measurement, and application problems. One sample problem reads "How many days hath elapsed since the birth of Christ to Christmas 1756?" One additional note states "Enoch French began taking papers March 8, 1836."

Ciphering Book #18: Philip Deyo Ciphering Book (1768)
Possibly donated by Sarah E. Deyo in 1960. Forms part of the Deyo Family Papers (1675-1870).
This book contains no cover. Mathematical topics include subtraction of money, interest, measurement, and proportion. The signatures of Jacob and Dinah Elting are present.

Ciphering Book #19: Philip LeFever Ciphering Book (1834)
Donor unknown.
This paper-covered book contains "Geometrical Problems Preparatory to Surveying." Topics include constructions, right triangles, trigonometry, and area. There are also a significant number of application problems, several of which have elaborate accompanying sketches. There is also some more recent calculations done in pencil.

Ciphering Book #20: Jacobus Coddington Ciphering Book (1830)
Donor Unknown.
This cover-less book is identified as that of Jacob Coddington of the town of Rochester, NY. Content includes basic operations and measurement, application problems, and a record of accounts. 

Ciphering Book #21: Jacob Vreeland Ciphering Book (1839)
Donor unknown. Forms part of the Vreeland Family Papers (1822-1904).
Cloth-covered. Topics include measurement, fractions, decimals, and interest. Additional material concerns an account of a trip from Puerto Rico to Ireland to New York on a ship entitled the "Phoenix."

Ciphering Book #22: Johannis Freer Ciphering Book (1797, 1829-1833)
Donor unknown.
This book may actually be three separate books in one. Topics of Tare and Trett, rule of mixture, partnership, bankruptcy, exchange, interest fractions, proportions, and decimals. There are also several notes of loans to members of the Freer and DuBois families. The first section dates from 1797 and includes the name of Johannes Freer. The third identifies Johannes J. Freer and dates from 1829-1833.

Notes


[1] Huguenot Historical Society of New Paltz, NY, Yearbook, #8, 1963, p. 15.