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Hoole, Henry E.
Autograph Letter Signed, Green Lane Works, Sheffield, England, January 22, 1841, to his cousin, Henry Shaw, retired St. Louis merchant, then travelling on the continent, Hotel Meurice, Rue de Rivoli, Paris

Quarto, 3 pages, plus stampless address leaf, hole in third page due to careless opening, affecting about seven words of text, else good.

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“…I finished my business in London and got home by Xmas day, since which I have been very closely confined to the Warehouse, taking Stock and balancing the Books, being determined to carry out the plan we talked over and which you approved, respecting my partners and my business. You know I very much wish I was with you, as I am certain we should contribute to the pleasures of each other. If it be possible I will join you in Milan in July…If you sojourn as long in every place as you are doing in Paris, you will not be able to accomplish your journey by that time but I do not suppose after you leave Italy’s fair daughters that you will find the attraction so great in other part of the World. I found the young little damsel I mentioned to you on my return to Sheffield, more beautiful than I expected – delicately fair, with a good figure and a fair Eye and still finer complexion. I think I can match her against the great bulk of the French Ladies, but of course she is not so accomplished in the Arts of Love as the femmes galantes of Paris, who having made it the study of their lives surpass I fancy all the World besides. I have got involved in another affair and I fancy one of the Heart too – you will recollect admiring a certain young Lady with long ringlets whose visits to Sheffield have been almost as frequent as mine of late to her Father, but poor girl she is at present confined to her bed and I am sorry to say in rather a precarious state.  I have made arrangements for my brother Joe to come immediately to Green Lane. He will be exceedingly useful and I can fully depend upon him… I was always the child of feeling and never want a long acquaintance to be able to tell whether I can esteem and trust a person and I sincerely hope to acquire and to keep the good opinion of yourself which I shall ever value…”

Henry Hoole’s Sheffield company was one of the largest British manufacturers of ornamental bronze and iron stove grates and fenders, his Green Lake Works, displaying notably handsome industrial architecture, winning a medal at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Thirty years earlier, Hoole’s family had put up the capital and exported goods for his 19 year-old cousin, Henry Shaw, just immigrated from Sheffield to America, to establish the first hardware store in the small village on the Mississippi River called St. Louis. Over the next two decades, while the Hoole Company thrived in Sheffield, so did Shaw’s hardware business in the new state of Missouri, selling high-quality cutlery to farmers, soldiers, and, in particular, pioneers headed across the plains to the wild West, after being outfitted in St. Louis. He also invested in real estate, agricultural commodities, mining and furs.  Having acquired “the attitudes and outlook of an English gentleman" before leaving Britain, Shaw became so wealthy that retired at age 39, then indulging his penchant for travel in pursuit of his passion for Botany.  He was on his first European jaunt when he received this letter from his cousin in Sheffield. He spent the next ten years travelling, returning to St. Louis in 1851 to build a mansion surrounded by gardens so extensive and of such horticultural quality that the grounds surrounding his home eventually became the Missouri Botanical Garden, which he opened to the general public and eventually donated to the city of St. Louis – still known today as “Shaw’s Garden”. After his death in 1889, he was recognized as one of the foremost Missouri philanthropists of the 19th century; he was also founder of the Missouri Historical Society and the Botanical Department of Washington University.

Hoole’s mention of Italy’s ‘fair daughters” and French ladies “accomplished in the Arts of Love” suggests a personal knowledge of Shaw’s private life which is unknown to historians.