An Exhibitor's Diary from 1855

The diary was transcribed by independent researcher and moving panorama historian Suzanne Wray from NY, NY.

This rare manuscript is from the Maine Historical Society via The Saco Museum and Peter Morelli. It was transcribed by independent researcher Suzanne Wray of New York City.

The diary was written by "Dr." L.E. Emerson who performed a moving panorama entitled The Grand Moving Mirror of California. Emerson toured New Hampshire and Maine from Sept. 11th to Nov. 9th 1855, transporting the moving panorama in a horse drawn wagon. The moving panorama did not survive, but the lecturer’s script and his diary of the tour did.

The diary kept by "Dr." Emerson describes the challenges he faced as a moving panorama showman in the mid 19th Century.  As they pulled into a little village, they would need to find a place to perform. That might be  a meeting house, town hall, church or school house.  Finding a place to spend the night could be difficult as not every town had a hotel.   They might have to persuade the local minister that the show was reputable and not scandalous! The diary shows their expenses and earnings for each show, weather conditions and the state of the roads.  Enjoy!

Berlin Falls, a bird's eye view.

Sept 1855

Exhibitors’ Life -   ­Left Lewiston Falls, Me, on the 11 of Sept 1855 at 1 O'clk P.M. travelled
through Minot (Cos) Mechanic Falls, Welchville, Norway Village, Harrison Flat, Bridgeton
Centre, thence to Pike School House so called in Fryburg Me. Gave an Exhibition. The house was filled to overflowing. Put up at Old Pikes, a F.W.B. Minister. This was on the 12 inst_$5.50 Ex 2.25  On the 13, went to Fryburg Centre, and set up our canvas in the Town House­. Had in some 50 persons, and blew gas 1 1/2 hours to the satisfaction of the ticket purchasers. Our host informed us that some one at the “Circus” at Fryburg lifted a (?) from his pocket in a most adroit manner. $5.44 Exp $1.20

On the 12 Rode over to North Fryburg & unrolled in the Universalist Chapel. The place was
called “Mud city”. The attendance was meagre, and we did not make our “pile” here. Put up at a Mr Chandlers on a hill, near the Chapel. Mr C. was not at home, but Mrs C. declared she was not afraid of us, and therefore “took us in" $6.50 Ex 1.25

15th drove over to Stow. Had quite a gathering at the Town House. 5 ml (?) from Stow you come to the end of the road, and bring up against a mountain. Stopped at Mr. W. Days - ­after the Exhibition heard some specimens of tall fiddling by Mr. Job Furrinton, a mountain player­

16th Sunday. Rose to South Chatham to hear the female preacher, Mrs. Cobb, formerly Mrs
Bullock of South Livingston Me. Her words are as free as the “pen of a ready writer.” Her
audience were quite attentive. The house was full. Stopped at a Mr Walkers. On the 17th
Exhibited at So. Chatham. Our audience was quite small. Took 3.00 Exp 1.50

18th Rose to Conway Street and “set up” in Osgoods Hall. Stopped with Mr. O. He has some fine intervale land and a good situation: One of the best dancing halls in the vicinity is Mr O’s. Had a sh? Audience but put um through as usual. Took 321 Ex 2.25

19th Drove to Conway Centre, and held forth in the Town House. Put up at Eastmans Hotel. The
P.M. of the place, a justice of the peace, objected to our using the town House, but finding that all his neighbors were against him, he ingloriously “caved in”. Understood his name was Lamson. Expect he is kin to old crazy Father Lamson, who used to preach on the walks in Boston. Had a good audience, and didn't burn up the town house, though friend Lamson had great fears we should, and this increase his taxes, as well as our own. Took $6.00 Ex.2.

20th Drove to North Conway. Put up at “Thompsons Hotel”. This is quite a smart village. The
scenery of the mountains is beautiful. Here are three hotels. We “set up” in the Academy Hall.
Had to admit 22 dead beads (?) for the use of the house. They have a small School here, but a
tolerably good, one, as I was informed. Here you have a full view of Mt. Kiassarge­a good view of the White Mts. Had a large audience and a? liked much. Had in 8 Painters who spoke well of our Painting. This is a fine village: the roads (?) are nice. We circulated our Bills to the Kiassarge Village at the foot of the Mountains. The distance from the base to summmit is 1 3/4 miles. Took $9.83 Ex.$2.00

21st Rode to Bartlett and put up in a delapidated School House. The School House had nearly all
the glass broken out & at least 1/3 d part of the seats had been cut up, and used for firewood. A new House is being erected in the vicinity, the old one not being fit for a hog pen, was finally
abandoned. But the Agent refused us entrance so this old shell, and an old grey bearded sinner,
who was full old enough to know something, which he did not; and whose nose was long enough
to learn him to mind his own business for fear of getting it pulled, which he does not, came in, in great wrath, and ordered us to leave the house, (which we could easily do, as every window was as open as a door) or he should be obliged to resort to force. Finding us struck under convictions, and perfectly resigned and willing to go, his fury abated at least 10 degreess, and he left, telling us to fix it up with the Agent. As no farther objections were made we commenced arranging matters for Evening. Put up at Mr ? near the School House. He has lately moved here, from Manchestesr N.H. was formerly a wool dresser, and appears a very obliging man, but we greatly fear he has settled “among thieves” for we certainly found “good Samaritans” scarce while “Levites” were minding our business to the utter exclusion fo their own. Stopped at a Mr Pitmanss. He has a brother Cond. On the Waterville R.R. Had a poor mierable place for a show, and a poor show, and likewise a small audience. One or two quite balmy victims came in and tried hard to be somebody but as nature had done nothing for them they could’nt make art accomplish a great deal. Took 3.00 Ex 2.00 

22d Drove to Jackson, up among the “everlasting hills.” Here is one Store 2 Churches,  and an
old School House. Put up at the Hotel. At dinner, a “big bug” and lady from the mountains came
in and took a seat at the table. The gentleman asked me to help him a dish of meat that stood near by at the same time enquiring “What is this Sir”? As it was mutton, a very common dish, I thought I would “answer a fool according to his folly” and replied “Turkey this is Turkey”! Said the lady “what is it”? He says it is turkey but it don’t look much like it said the “big bug” at the same time helping his “better half” to a generous slice of the supposed Turkey. I could hardly repress a smile, but finally concluded that “big bugs” were full as ignorant as other “bus” that were not so big.

23 drove to Gorham (?) N. H. [this is written over another word­ Jackson put up at the Hotel. Had a good house, it was a drizzly night. This is Sunday. Traveled over the mts from Jackson. It
being a cloudy day, could not behold much of the mountain scenery. The Glen House is a
beautiful structure. Found an uphill road from Jackson to the Glen, 12 ms and a good road from
thence to Gorham N.H. 8 ms. Walked over the mts and got somewhat fatigued.

24th Set up the machine in Evan’s Hall. Had 130 persons to witness the unrolling. Put up at
Leary’s Hotel, a sort of don’t care a d—m, help yourself place. Good fare, and prices reasonable. Visited Mr. H Cunninghams formerly of Lewiston Falls, who informed me he had lately caught a large black Bear of which there are plenty among the mts, near his residence. He is quite a hunter and woe to the Bears in Gorham. Took $11.33. Ex 4.21 (?)

25th Drove over a very bad road to Berlin Falls N.H. This is a small, but smart place. Here are
some 200 ‘gang saws” in operation, and business among the lumbermen is brisk. Stop at Forest’s Hotel. Set up in the School House, a 7 by 9 building but the only chance here for us to unroll. There is no Meeting House here, as most of the people go fishing & bear hunting Sundays. A tip top day to day, and quite warm. Good audience.this one room packed with victims. Took $11.25. Expenses $2.75

26th Drove 8 ms to Milan Village. A very quiet place. Two stores here. No Meeting House, but
meetings are held in a Hall. This is 8 ms from Berlin Falls. Stop at Mr Ellingwood’s Hotel. Set
up in his Hall. One the traders here was swindled out of $1200.00 a few days since by a gipsy
Fortune teller. She was persued and about $1000.00 of the money was recovered. The story is
this. The fortune teller told the trader if he wold deposite any sum of money, where she could
count it when he pleased she would put him in a way to double his money in 5 days. He placed
1200.00 at her disposal. She counted it over & handed it to him, & he locked it up in his desk.
Soon after the Gipsy left for parts unknown taking her departure in the night. Suspicion being
arroused, the merchant proceeded to examine his desk, when behold, instead of the 1200: was aroll of brown paper. Here was a fix. Pursuit was made, and nearly all the money recovered but it had failed of doubling itself in 5 days. These traveling Gipsies are generally “up to snuff” Took 1.75 Ex $4.00

They transported the moving panorama in a horse drawn wagon.

27th Drove to Wst Milan. Stopped at the Depot Masters. At night it rained quite fast. Had in quite an audience for a stormy evening. Took $5.00 Exp 2.50~

28th Drove 14 ms to North Umberland. Stoped at Mo? Hotel, a regular ? hole. Had his Hall as we
were posted for Mordis? Hall. Took $7.80 Exp $4.75

29 Drove 8 ms, to Lancaster N.H. Found here my coat and a line from Lewiston. Was glad to hear from home, that all is well. Circulated some about the place. There are 2 Hotels here, and
some 8 or 10 Stores.

30 Took 7.50 Exp 4.50 & 1.50 for ?stamps?

31 30th Sunday last day of September. Left Lancaster & travelled 14 miles to “Stratford
Hollow.” Stop’d at Denison’s Hotel Has the appearnce of rain this P.M. A dull place . From
Lancaster sent $10. To J. T. Gibbs Esq Dover N.H. for Bills. Got a receipt of the b? from
P.M. Ordered answer to be sent to Canaan Vt. Also sent to Lewiston 2 in.&c. Expect reply at
Canaan Vt. We are some 30 miles from Canada line.

Oct 1st 1855 Journalizings of an Exhibitor. Rainy this day at night very dark. Set up in Curtis Hall. Took $6.75 Exp 5.50

Oct 2d Drove to No. Stratford. It commenced raining at 4 P.M. & rained incessantly till 12 ?
Stoped at the Hotel. Had in some few, notwithstanding the storm. Took 2.90 Ex. 2.75

Oct 3d Drove 14 ms. To Colebrook. Stop at Hotel. Here are 5 stores and this is quite a smart
place. Set up in an old Orthodox Church. Fair day to day. Roads muddy. Had a good house.
Took 14.50 Ex 3.25

Oct 4. Drove 5 ms over the hills to a place called South Hill. Put up in a Meeting House. Stoped
at a house just oppositse at a first rate family. Had rain all day & in the evening rained like gr?s A few came out. Took 2.25 & expneses $2.25. Came out of it square & that was doing a good
business.

Oct 5. Drove 15 ms to Canaan Vt & West Stewartstown N.N. A toll bridge here to humbug the
natives Some 4 stores here. Quite a village. Stop at a Mr Henry Lings. Set up in a M.H. [Meeting House?] on N.H. side of the river. Connecticutt (sic) Had rain in the fore part of the day & at 3 1/2 P.M. cleared off. Roads muddy. Tokk 8.00 Exp 3.50

October 6th Sat. Drove 15 ms to Columbia, N.H. At 4 3/4 P.M. commenced raining. It rained hard. Opened to a small crowd. It fairly poured down in torrents. Took 1.25 Ex. 1.50

Oct 7. Sunday. Pleasant, but rather cool. Drove 8 ms to Hegan (N. Stratford) & 8 ms to Stratford Hollow. And 10 ms to Lancaster, & 5 1/2 ms to Lunenburg Vt. Total 33 1/2 ms. Here, are 3 Stores, 2 M.Hs. a Town Hall & some 12 or 14 buildings around, all on the top of a hill 1 1/2 ms from the Con. Riv. Engaged the Town Hall to set up our “Machine” in.

Oct. 8th Shall unroll in T.H. this Eve, as pr Programme’s. Took $6.00 Ex 5.75

Oct 9th Drove to Concord Corner & set up in an old Gothic Church, one of the old settlers, with
large square pews. Stoped at the Hotel. Had a small audience. Took 4.75 Ex. 2.25

Oct 10th Drove 3 ms to Wst Concord. Set up in the Universalist Church. Stoped at the Concord
House. Suspected “spirits” have an abode here, by the mysterious “raps” heard in the vicinity.
Not much of a place, anyway. Took 4.50, Ex 2.50

October 11 Drove 4 ms to the quiet village of East St Johnbury. Here are 3 small stores.
Called on a Mr Morvill for use of the Congl Church in the place. Found him one of the “men”
who considers himself almighty, simply because he happens to be a Committee Man. He refused
to let me “unroll” in either Church or Vestry. Left him “alone in his glory”. Set up in School
House. Had nobody. One of the Houses & places. Took 1.25 Ex 3.00

Oct 12th Drove to Danville Green, 10 ms. & set up in the Brich Ch. Stopped at St. Johnsbury to
get our “posters” Paid 5.00 2/ 1/2 cts each. Bought 3 qts Camphene 0.60 cts. Used 2 Camp (?)
Lamp Chimneys a 2/each 0.66 cts. Had a decent House Took 8.60 Ex 4.00 Paid out to day $5.00
for Bills, 1.32 for Camp & Chimneys and 58 cts for Horse Shoeing. Rain hurt the day-­Oct 12

Oct 13 Drove 2 1/2 ms to Palmer’s Mills. Set up in Hawkin’s Hall. Took in Messers. Thompson
& Parker 2 Concert Singers (?) to try now concertixing & Panoramarizing (?) would go together. Stop at Hawkin's Hotel. Rained all day. At night cleared up, but did not get out much of a Company. Took 4.75 Ex 3.75

Oct 14. Rode to Cabot. Stop at Hotel. Here are some 4 stores, 2 Churches, and &c. Have
Messers Thompson & Parker, Melodists. Taken well so far. This Eve attended church in Cabot.
There were only some 3 dog (?) perons out, and a pleasant night. Was told the “rush” was there! Took on

Oct 15 at Cabot 8.00 Exp $7.00

Oct 16 Drove 5 ms to Maesfield, a small place. Rain as usual. Have’nt seen the Sun for 12 days
Stop at Hotel. Set up in School House. Pay 1.50 for the House. Bad night for us: dark & rainy.
Took 5.50 Ex 5.50

Oct 17 Drove 6 ms to Fairfield. Quite a village here, but our Show, did not “hit em” Stop at
Well’s Hotel. Set up in Landlords Hall. Not much of a rush here. Took 5.00 Exp 5.75

Montpelier, VT.

Oct 18 Drove 3 ms to E. Montpelier. A small dead place. Stop at Hotel (Hammett’s) Set up in
the Hotel Hall. Rain again to day­in fact it is all wet. Had a decent audience Took $9.15 Ex 5.50
Paid 40 cts for Camphene & 1.75 for Bills at Montpelier.

Oct 19 Drove 8 ms to Calias. Not much of a place here. Some 20 Houses and 1 small M.H. Stop
at the Hotel. (Tabor’s) Set up in Hotel Hall. Don’t expect much of a crowd here. This day I
started off on foot “Posting” as our Horses are giving out. Our carraige is too heavy for them we find by sad experience. Not much of a house. Took $4.95. Ex. 3.75

Oct 20 Drove 6 ms to Woodburgy, a small old Village. Stop at Hotel. Had a decent compay. Got
up a dance after the performance. Mr Dwight Marsh, a crack fiddler was present. From his
actions & appearance should jude (judge?) him to be a very mean man.

Oct 21st. Rose over to Worcester and got my Letters from home, deare sweet home. Was glad to hear from jennie, & that all were well. At Woodby took $9.96 Ex 2? $6.00

Oct 22 Drove to Hardwick. Had a talk with the Agt. He had no objections if the Teacher had
none. So posted off to see the tetacher (a minister) He had none, and so we circulated our Bills, but the “Black Diamonds” knocked him crazy, and he came blowing along, like a young
locomotive to see the Agent. He came up and countermanded orders, and refused to let us have the house, thus proving himself a liar, notwithstanding he cometimes preaches the Gospel. I would suggest that he preach from the following text, “Do unto others, as you would have them doyou.” And see how he likes it. At the close of the School he cautioned his pupils against the demoralizing influence of Panoramas in general, & this one of California in particular. Didn’t get much of a house. Took $6.50 Exps 6.50 Paid 37 1/2 cts for Camphene 1/2 a Gallon

October 23d Drove 6 ms to Wolcott. Stop a Hutchings Hotel. Set up in Hutchins Hall. Not much
of place. Mr. J. E Sawyer of Greene was here last Thursday Evening with his Magic Lantern. The
people didn’t fancy the performance at all. Think we shall have a Dance after the “Show.”
Not much of a house Took 5.00 Ex. 4.75

Oct 24. Drove in a snow storm 4 ms to Elmore. Rain &^ Snow all day and in the Evening. Took
2.25 Exp 3.50

Oct 25. Snow all day & rain. Drove to Morrisville.(!) Bad night . In this place this Evening is a
Donation Party, a Singing School, a Lyceum & a Literary Institute besides to Pana of California.
Took 3.25 Exp 3.50

Oct 27. Drove to No. Hyde Park. Snow and rain all day to day. Had a decent collection­Took
6.75 Exps 5.00

Oct 28. Sunday. Snow and rain again to day. Posted for Eden Mills. For Monday Eve, but such
weather as this, “Cant do a thing.” In the way of exhibiting.

Oct 29. Stop at Eden Mills. We are away up among the Mts. Here is one Store. 2 Saw Mills, a
grist mill &c. This place is on a tributary of the Lasmoille (?) River. Took 5.00 Exp 3.50

Oct 30 Drove 8 ms to Lowell. A small quiet place. Stop at the Boarding House. Took 10.90 Ex
3.25.

Oct 31 Drove to Troy. Stop at Hotel. Set up in a Church. Took 8.75 Exp 3.12 1/2­25 cts for G’s
dinner. 37 1/2 for Camphene 08 ? Shoeing Horses, Total Ex 4.32.

“Nov 1” Drove 8 ms to No. Troy. Rained all day & in the Evening. Took 2.50 Ex 4.00

Nov 2 Drove to Coventry. Set up in a small old School House. No body out at all friendly. Took
3.25 Ex 6?.25­

Sunday Nov 4. At Coventry. A small village. Here are 2 Stores a saw & a grist mill.

Nove 5. Drove 4 1/2 ms to Straburg. Got a ? from home. It was ass “good news from a far
country” to hear from jennie. Stop at Whipple’s Hotel. Set up in Whipple’s Hall. Here are 3
stores, a Court House, 3 Churches, & an old dilapidated Twon House. Talk of having a Dance
after the Show. Took 6.00 Exp 5.75

Nove 6. Drove to Derby Centre. Quite a place. Set up in the Town Hall,­Here is a good School.
Took 7.00 5.25

Nov 7 Drove to Steamsted? Plains in Canada. Stop at Brodines a French Hotel. Set up in the
Academy Hall. Took 4.00_3.75

Nov 8. Drove to Moshers Corner Stop at a School House. Took 5.00 3.62 Drove to Barnston
Corner. Set up in Johnson’s Hall. Stook 5.00 Exp 5.25 Drove to Coaticoke­Set up in the School
House. Took 5.00 Exp 3.50

Nov 9 (end of document)

The Grand Moving Mirror of California, recreated by Sara Velas and crew of the Velaslavasay Panorama in Los Angeles.

Fast forward to the 21st century!   Peter Morelli sent the lecturer’s script for the Grand Moving Mirror of California to Sara Velas, Director of the Velaslavasay Panorama in Los Angeles. She and a crew of dedicated artists recreated the Moving Panorama of California in spectacular form! You can read more about it on the Crankie Factory's page The Grand Moving Mirror of California. Visit Sara’s website panoramaonview.org.

Heartfelt  gratitude to Peter Morelli for giving me permission to reprint this diary and for all the work he has done over the past 20 years to preserve and make available, artifacts and information about the  history of moving panoramas. Read about his work on the Crankie Factory's page about the  Moving Panorama of Pilgrim's Progress.