Authors of Their Lives: The Personal Correspondence of British Immigrants to North America in the Nineteenth Century

By David A. Gerber | Go to book overview

4
Using Postal Systems
Transnational Networks on the
Edge of Modernity

The family of George Hollingsworth left the West Riding of Yorkshire in the 1820s in a series of progressive emigrations that over time led to resettlement in Leicester, Massachusetts, of George and his five sons (John, Jabez, Joseph, James, and Edwin) and their families. All the Hollingsworths were textile artisans. Originally George and his brothers hoped to be able to find work in American factories, but finding those factories every bit as exploitative as the ones in England from which they had fled, ultimately they chose to consider pooling their resources with those of yet a wider circle of extended family, including Joseph Haigh, who was married to George’s sister, and a number of other uncles, aunts, and cousins still in England. Their plan was to buy their own small mill in Connecticut and run it on cooperative principles, while also engaging in cooperative agriculture. These ambitious plans did not succeed, in part because several of the five brothers, who had recently married and begun to have children, opted to go out on their own.1

In coordinating these far-reaching plans for family reunification, the Hollingsworths proved to be deft strategists at using their letters and the state postal systems of their day to maintain multiple international correspondences to effect the ends they believed for a time that they wished to accomplish. A volume of letters produced by George and his sons contains thirty-five letters, twenty-nine of which are exchanged directly among Hollingsworth family members. But a much more extensive range of correspondence is referred to than those that are reprinted in the published collection of Hollingsworth letters. It is far from easy to keep track of the scope and scale of all the correspondence suggested by this volume. George, Jabez, and especially Joseph, the principal cor-

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