Lawrence, Richard W.
Manuscript Diary of Richard Wesley Lawrence, future Republican Party operative and piano manufacturer, of the Bronx, New York City, New York, kept while working as an 18 year old clerk in 1896

16mo, pocket diary, 182 manuscript pages, plus 9 pages of memoranda, notes and accounts, bound in original red leather, entries dated 1 January 1896 to December 31, 1896, in very good clean and legible condition.

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The diary details the daily life of Richard W. Lawrence, at age 18, as he goes to work during the day and attends night school in the evening. The diary entries also detail his social and domestic activities, including a number of events sponsored by the YMCA. Lawrence also enjoys ice skating. He lists his travels about New York either on the “cars” or on foot. Lawrence mentions the news of the day, including the troubles in Cuba, South Africa and other events. Lawrence is also active in literary clubs, debates, etc., Lawrence is living at home with his parents and two sisters.

Richard Wesley Lawrence (1878-1948)

             Richard W. Lawrence was born 7 May 1878 in New York City, the son of Louis and Mary J. Lawrence. Louis and Mary Lawrence were Protestant Irish immigrants, who came to New York City about the year 1872. They had three children, Richard W., the eldest, and two daughters, Annette (born 1880) and Ethel (born 1887). Louis worked in a dry goods house.

                When this diary was written, Richard Lawrence was working as a clerk for Henry W. T. Mali & Co., at 329 Broadway. Mali was a woolen merchant. Lawrence was living at 535 Union Avenue, near 149th Street in the Bronx according to the New York City directory. In 1900, Lawrence was still living on Union Avenue, with his parents and siblings, and was working for a piano company. From his death notice we find that he was associated with the Weber Piano Company from 1896 to 1910, serving as vice president for the last six years of that period. While he was with Weber, he attended New York Law School, 1900-1901, but never practiced law.

                 About ten years after this diary, Richard W. Lawrence was married on 20 November 1906, in Manhattan, to Ruth Earle (born 1881). He and Ruth had two children, Ruth E. (born 1908) and Richard W. (born 1909). The couple lived in the Bronx at 2519 Sedgwick Avenue, where they were listed as living both in the 1910 Federal Census and the 1915 New York State Census. Richard was listed as a piano manufacturer, which is how he was listed in 1920 as well. During this time he was president of the Autopiano Company from 1910 to 1916, and of Kohler & Campbell for the next five years.

                By 1930 Lawrence had moved from the Bronx to Manhattan, 79 East 79th Street, where he is listed as the president of a finance company. His office was at 270 Madison Avenue and he also had a country home in Quoge, Long Island.

                Richard W. Lawrence was also involved in Republican Party politics in the Bronx. He served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention from New York in 1920, 1924, 1928, 1940 and as an alternate in 1944 and 1948. He also served as treasurer of the New York State Republican Committee from 1937 to 1948; Chairman of the Bronx County Republican Committee 1919-1926, and president of the National Republican Club in New York from 1928 to 1931.

                Lawrence also served as the president of the New York Chamber of Commerce (1938-1940), and at the time of his death in 1948 was board chairman of the Young Men’s Christian Association of the City of New York, of which he had been president for ten years, from 1935-1945. His association with the YMCA began in 1892 and at his death he was the oldest member of the local association in point of years of membership. He was one of the most active leaders in a drive in the late 1920s which raised $ 4,500,000 for the association. In 1944, he was campaign chairman of the New York War Fund, which raised more than 15 million dollars in their drive.

 Lawrence died of a heart attack on October 7, 1948 in Manhattan.

Sample Quotes:

            In February, Lawrence attends an Anti-Catholic group’s secret meeting:

            “February 11, 1896 Did not attend night school, went over to the “Webster Literary Society” which name is simply a subterfuge, the organization (which is a secret society) is a flourishing chapter of the American Protective Association it has a membership of 300 and Dr. McElveen is the president, it was through him that I was trusted with this knowledge. Attended the singing class at the YMCA, having previously called on Dan Kingsland.”

            Lawrence’s entries contain much about his activities with the YMCA:

            “March 3rd 1896 I did not go to night school – went over to the regular monthly members meeting at the YMCA – I made a short speech inviting the members to come to our Literary Society – Geo. Grey and myself originated the building fund by each subscribing $ 1 to it. Mr. Larson gave us $ 2. D. H. Kingsland $ 1. The idea of a building fund was thought of by Mr. Lawson, he spoke of it in his usual speech.”

            Easter Sunday:

            “April 5th, 1896 Attended church in the morning & also Sunday School. This was the last Sunday that Mr. Eggleston was to remain with us. I shook hands with him. Attended Sunday School again in the afternoon & began my duties as assistant librarian. Dan, Frank & myself took a walk as far as West Farms together. The Infant Dept & the main school took charge of the services in the evening. Papa’s term as ass. Supt. Expired today.”

            Lawrence regularly mentions politics and world events:

            “May 10, 1896 Attended church in the morning only Frank and Dan called in the afternoon we took a walk over to Oak Point. Mr. Robinson, Bowersax Briggs and Frank & Bill called to ask for Papa. The Cuban insurrection continues with all its fury – The Spanish captain General Weyler is creating a hatred among Americans by his brutal treatment of Cuban prisoners.”

            Richard is also fond of cycling:

            “September 7, 1896 Labor Day. In the morning I rode over on my wheel to order cream & cake. I also took a short ride to Hunt’s Point. About 11 A.M. the Muir young folks arrived and we took them for a walk up the boulevard – at 1 P.M. the elder Muirs got here & after dinner our entire party took a trolley ride to West Farms – young folks took a walk though Bronx Park & the old folks went on to Williams bridge they went home at about 9 P.M.”

            Richard also notes his job in his daily entries:

            “October 19, 1896 Ritter was as I thought discharged last Saturday. During the day Mr. Schoenfeld informed me that I with the assistance of Harry O’Kane was to commence taking stock tomorrow, towards evening I started to copy from the stock books to a memo book the Kimball stock. Attended night school in the evening after which I came directly home rec’d a letter from C. Lawton.”