History Detective

Campbell Family letters and documents

Camp­bell Fam­ily let­ters and documents

This pro­gram uses the pop­u­lar PBS tele­vi­sion show His­tory Detec­tives as a model. Upon arriv­ing at the Museum par­tic­i­pants are given an intro­duc­tion to the his­tory of the Camp­bell fam­ily, their house and how it relates to the growth of St. Louis and the West in the 19th Cen­tury. This is fol­lowed by an in-depth tour of the Museum.

The pro­gram ends with par­tic­i­pants split­ting into small groups. Each group is given a themed project (Robert Campbell’s busi­nesses, the rela­tion­ship between Robert and Vir­ginia Camp­bell, etc.) with a list of ques­tions to answer. The ques­tions are answered by study­ing a stack of theme-related Camp­bell fam­ily papers. Read­ing pri­mary Camp­bell fam­ily doc­u­ments is an excit­ing way to make the expe­ri­ences of the past relate to the present.

Com­mon Core stan­dards for this les­son: RI.6.1, RI.6.2, RI.6.6, RI.6.7, SL6.1a-d, SL.6.2, SL.6.4 

Please con­tact the Museum for more information.


Exam­ple of a Camp­bell Fam­ily doc­u­ment: 
Let­ter to Vir­ginia Camp­bell from her hus­band Robert Campbell

August 5, 1842

My Dear­est Virginia

I received your very wel­come let­ter of 25th ulto writ­ten from the farm and was much grat­i­fied to learn that you and our lit­tle son were both in very good health and both of you enjoy­ing your­selves — you in the soci­ety of Mrs. Cook and your kind friends who vis­ited you and our lit­tle son in the enjoy­ment of the fresh coun­try air which I doubt not will greatly ben­e­fit him. I think of you both very often and wish we were together again.

Front of the letter to Virginia Campbell from her husband Robert Campbell - August 5, 1842 © Campbell House Foundation 2004

Front of the let­ter to Vir­ginia Camp­bell from her hus­band Robert Camp­bell — August 5, 1842
© Camp­bell House Foun­da­tion 2004

My beaver fur has not yet arrived and there­fore I have def­ered my visit to N. York but I think I will be able to go there on Mon­day and some­time next week have my busi­ness com­pleted so as to start home. Mar­garet is n a visit to Mrs.. McCauley at Brook­lyn and expects to return with me from N. York — W.S. Kyle and fam­ily left two days since to go to N. York and Rock­away. Pon­sonby arrived the day before they left and will go on to N. York tomor­row to remain with his Brother a few days.

As usual noth­ing new is to be had in the city suit­able for you and your win­ter drapes etc. must as last sea­son be sent by Mary. I would have liked to have found some­thing suited to the sea­son dif­fer­ent from what you can get at home but there is nothing -

Last night I was look­ing over a list of fur­ni­ture which had been pur­chased by Hugh at dif­fer­ent times in fur­nish­ing his home so that you and I might deter­mine what we might require when we con­cluded on com­menc­ing pot boil­ing — I do not intend pur­chas­ing any fur­ni­ture at present although I may look around and ascer­tain what it would cost.

Hugh was form­ing plans about you for next sea­son — he says you ought to come to Phila in May with our lit­tle boy and spend the sum­mer and that I could come on as well and join you in July and return in August or Sep­tem­ber. I of course could say noth­ing on the sub­ject the time being so dis­tant — besides you know I leave all your plans to your­self, sat­is­fied that you will make a cor­rect decision -

If I remain in town on Sat­ur­day I shall have to spend Sun­day at Ger­man­town — so says Mr. Tagert and I sup­pose I will be obliged to sub­mit — Mary went out last evening accom­pa­nied by James R. Camp­bell and came back about 7 o’clock.

I called at Mrs. Jen­nings on Wednes­day evening but she had gone to Bal­ti­more to see her daugh­ter May and expected to return tomor­row. I saw Mr. Phillips and Mrs. Jen­nings junior — besides Ruben and W. Phillips — W. Peters was with me and we had quite a St. Louis talk.

I pre­sume you are at the present moment with our kind friends Mr. _ Mrs. Kerr and I there­fore con­clude you are made quite happy — I hope you won’t become spoiled how­ever I have one con­so­la­tion in the reflec­tion that you can’t be much worn.

Present my kid com­pli­ments to Mr. + Mrs. I. Kerr and Mr. + Mrs. A. Kerr and to our good friend Mrs. Cook. I feel greatly oblig­ated for their kind­ness to you.

I know that you will take the great­est pos­si­ble care of our lit­tle son, and what­ever may occur t affect his health I am sure it will not be occa­sioned by any neglect on your part — I think the coun­try will be bet­ter for his health than the city and you would both I think lay in a stock of health in the coun­try by remain­ing there as much time as pos­si­ble — still you must accept the kind­ness of your friends in the city to a cer­tain extent.

Mary is quite well and says she would like to see how you man­age the lit­tle Boy — kiss our lit­tle son for me and be assured you are not more anx­ious for my return than I am to join you both.

Ever Yours

R. Camp­bell

This pro­gram has been cre­ated with a grant from the Whitaker Foun­da­tion.