Miss Mary Smith, I hardly knew ye

Sahib Edition; Kipling's Works

While trolling through a used book shop in Jim Thorpe, PA last weekend I stumbled upon these. Note the swastika design, a sacred symbol in the Hindu faith and, thus, appropriate to the subject matter, as well as distinctive to the Sahib Edition of Kipling's works, I'm given to understand.

Inside one of the books I found this:

Property of Miss Mary Smith
107 S. Main St.
Mahanoy City
I immediately wondered what kind of life Miss Mary Smith had led in the Pennsylvania of 1914. Why was it important to add the "Miss" in front of her name inside the cover of her book? Were there other married Mary Smiths in her immediate family? Was she expressing satisfaction with her single state?

Perhaps the last thing Miss Mary Smith wanted in her life was boys. Maybe she wanted to go and experience some of the adventures Kipling wrote about for herself. The US hadn't entered the Great War yet and the larger world must have still held quite a bit of mystery. Mahanoy City was a coal mining town and it can't have had much in the way of excitement. Miss Smith may have spent more than one snowy winter wishing for the tropical heat of Kipling's India instead of shoveling anthracite into the kitchen stove to keep warm.

Did Miss Mary keep her books throughout her life or did she have to sell them? Was she a coal cracker or, with a not very Irish name like Smith, one of the higher classes? Could she possibly still be around? Is her family still in Mahanoy City? With a name like Mary Smith it might take a bit of work to find out. In the meantime, Miss Mary Smith's strong stylish penmanship, still unfaded, resonates with me much more, today, than the printed words of old Rudyard.
  • Current Mood: coal cracker
Kipling used the swastika symbol all his life- up until the point where it became identified with the Nazis- then he dropped it.

Good for him.