1867: John J. Wise to Henry B. Latimer

This square piano was made by J. J. Wise and Brother in Baltimore, Maryland about 1840. Smithsonian Institution.

This square piano was made by J. J. Wise and Brother in Baltimore, Maryland about 1840. Smithsonian Institution.

This letter was written by John J. Wise (1799-1879) of Baltimore, Maryland. He was the son of McKeel Wise (1755-1809) and Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Bonnewell (1779-1850) of Accomac County, Virginia.

John J. Wise established a piano manufacturing firm in Baltimore, Maryland in 1829, and he built a small number of square grand pianos and melodeons that were known to be of very good quality. In 1860, the name of the firm was changed to J. J. Wise & Brother, and instruments were built under the name of ‘J. J. Wise & Brother’, ‘John Wise & Brother’, and ‘Baltimore Piano Factory’. During the 1860s, the firm is listed at 31 Hanover Street. The company went out of business in 1877, and their instruments are exceedingly rare today.

Wise wrote the letter to Henry B. Latimer (1807-1885) — a prominent citizen of Atlanta who lived the last ten years of his life at Gainesville. He was a banker by profession. Henry probably purchased a piano from Wise for his daughter, Emma E. Latimer (1847-19xx) — a school teacher who resided with him in his Atlanta home until she married Dr. Henry Latimer Rudolph in 1875.

TRANSCRIPTION
Addressed to H. Latimer, Esqr., Atlanta, Georgia

Baltimore [Maryland]
July 25, 1867

H. Latimer, Esqr., Atlanta
Dear friend,

Glad to hear from you. I am glad to hear the prospects of a good crop still holds out. Regret to hear the money market is still stringent. Hope things will be easier this fall. Cotton and wheat will have the effect to bring about a circulation towards the South. There is plenty of money here but it requires a business demand to bring it out of the hands of capitalist or money holders.

I rejoice to hear you have a mild military dictator, ¹ but what business have you for a military chieftain. Surely there is peace in the land — at least there is no use for swords and shields. No one desires to look on one except to despise them. Where is our American Eagle with his trphies of freedom and liberty? Is is not a gross falsehood to talk of liberty and military commissions at the same time? How is it a man can be found to execute such a mission and a man to appoint such an one and at the same time declares he is acting without authority of law and constitution and uses his veto power — a strange consistency for longheaded men as appear to me. I would displace all the chieftains. There is but one executive. Then the President Johnson would be constant to his veto proceedings.

I will mail you some papers that you may see what we are doing and about to do. I had no hope that you had sold the piano but hope this fall you may find a purchaser. Keep a look out. Much obliged for your attention to the express.

Yours truly, — J. J. Wise


¹ General John Pope was appointed the Governor of the Third Military District on 1 April 1867, giving him total administrative control of the state of Georgia. He issued orders shortly thereafter regarding the registration of voters in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. He also issued orders that allowed African Americans to serve on juries, postponed elections, and banned city advertising in newspapers that did not favor Reconstruction. He was replaced by Gen. George G. Meade after 9 months.

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About Griff

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries. View all posts by Griff

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