Monday, June 23, 2014

Manuscript Monday—An anarchist, his lover, and the Mercantile Library

Sounds juicy, doesn't it? In fact, this diary tells the unexceptional story of a failed affair between the future anarchist, labor leader, and Kaweah Cooperative Colony founder Burnette G. Haskell (at the time, a somewhat idle bourgeois student of the law) and a young woman named Sophie McFarlane, whom Haskell unsuccessfully courted at the Mercantile Library between the years 1878 and 1879.

Volume 1, 1878-1879, Burnette G. Haskell diaries and receipt, MS 952, courtesy, California Historical Society
The diary includes Argonaut clippings of mediocre love poetry Haskell wrote for McFarlane, and ends, with a dramatic flourish of self-pity, on July 7, 1879—the day she eloped with another man. Haskell later married Anna Fader, who assisted him heroically with his many projects and schemes, serving as Master Workman of a local Knights of Labor assembly and setting type for his newspaper Truth.

Haskell himself was an erratic and perplexing character: extremely well-read but prone to bizarre fancies; today a socialist, tomorrow an anarchist, the next day a Nationalist; on the one hand, a compulsive man who poured out his life into a series of insanely ambitious and ultimately doomed enterprises, and, on the other hand, one of the most influential radicals in nineteenth-century San Francisco whose work led to concrete and lasting gains for organized labor.

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian
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