Guide to the Sarah Ann Hays Mordecai collection, undated, 1823-1888


Processed by Felicia Herman

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160



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Machine-readable finding aid created by Felicia Herman as MS Word document, August 1995. Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on June 26, 2009. Finding aid written in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator:Mordecai, Sarah Ann Hays
Title:Sarah Ann Hays Mordecai collection
Dates:undated, 1823-1888
Abstract:Consists of a commonplace book containing 102 manuscript poems (and 22 illustrations) apparently by contemporary poets, the majority of which are dedicated to Miss Sarah Ann Hays, including the work of Charles Fenno Hoffmann, Charlotte Meade Graham, and William Keating, an original water color of a view of Major Stephen Long's expedition party crossing the lower falls of the Winnipeg River by Samuel Seymour and other illustrative material; contains also 17 individual items among which are 3 original sketches, a pith drawing by Charlotte Meade Graham and a copy of an 1830 edition of Flora's dictionary.
Languages: The collection is in English, French, and Latin.
Quantity: .25 linear feet (1 half manuscript box)
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Biographical Note1

Sarah Ann Hays Mordecai (1805-1894)

Sarah Ann Hays was born on September 27, 1805 to Samuel and Richea Gratz Hays. One of her maternal aunts was Rebecca Gratz (see *P-8), the founder of the Jewish Sunday School Society, about whom Sarah published a book in 1893.

She married Alfred Mordecai, who served in the Mexican War, on June 1, 1836 in Philadelphia, and the couple had eight children, including Alfred Mordecai, Jr., an officer in the Civil War, and Laura, Miriam and Rosa Mordecai, whose papers are collected in the Mordecai family papers (*P-116).

As a member of the interconnected network of elite Jewish families of the early 19th century, Mordecai traveled in high social circles and was acquainted with many of the influential Americans - Jews and non-Jews - of the era.

Sarah Ann Hays Mordecai died on May 26, 1894, in Philadelphia.

1 Source: Malcolm Stern, First American Jewish Families.

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Scope and Content Note

The papers of Sarah Ann Hays Mordecai include items relating to the life of this 19th century member of several prominent American Jewish families. Items include a commonplace book, a printed dictionary of plants and flowers, a pith drawing by Charlotte Meade Graham, several sketches, ephemera, poems, and correspondence.

The collection is valuable to researchers studying the Hays, Gratz, and Mordecai families, and Jewish women in the 19th century.

Of special interest is the commonplace book, which is visually stunning, illustrated throughout with color drawings and watercolors, and includes poems, songs, and favorite quotations, some written by Mordecai, but most written by friends, relatives, or others.

The collection contains a commonplace book, a published book, correspondence, drawings, pressed flowers, paper stencils, and slides.

The documents are in English, French and Latin.

The collection contains 19 items.

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The collection is organized into a single series.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Collections and Engagement of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

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Related Material

Material relating to the children of Sarah Ann Hays Mordecai can be found in the papers of the Mordecai family (*P-116). In the library of the American Jewish Historical Society is a copy of a volume written by Sarah Ann Mordecai, Recollections of My Aunt, Rebecca Gratz (Philadelphia, 1893), and other material relating to the Gratz family can be found in the Gratz family papers (*P-8).

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Sarah Ann Hays Mordecai collection; P-70; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY.

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Acquisition Information


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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Click the box in the request column to open the form that allows you to request a box for onsite viewing in the reading room at the Center for Jewish History, New York, NY.


Sarah Ann Hays Mordecai collection, undated, 1823-1888

English, French, and Latin.
.25 linear feet. Box 1.
11Manuscript Commonplace BookSee Item Listingrequest_box

  • - Her name is embossed on red (leather?) cover in gold
  • - Picture (watercolor?) of an American historical scene - 1873, Long crossing the Winnepeck River
  • - Epigram, quote from Montague
  • - Inscription: "Dedicated to the Admirers of Science and the Fine Arts, Miss Sarah Ann Hays"
  • - Includes poems, songs, and quotes: some written by her, some well-known, some by friends, some in French, some in Latin
  • - Drawing of her initials
  • - Quote on roles of husbands and wives: "The Husband may give his wife moderate correction...," within reasonable bounds, no violence
  • - Lines: "Sometimes my plague, sometimes my darling,/Kissing today, to morrow snarling" different handwriting appears occasionally
  • - Her own poem, "The Broken Heart"
  • - By DaCosta, poem "Israel"; after the poem, the name Miriam Moses, wife of Solomon Cohen
  • - Poems on death, love lost, aging
  • - Some of the authors and painters who appear:
    • - Miriam Gratz Hays
    • - Ann Meredith Ogden
    • - Sarah Meredith Ogden
    • - Ann Mora Gratz
    • - Isabella Etting
    • - M. Etting
    • - Ellen Hays Etting
    • - David Cohen
    • - Mr. Murray
      • - After this poem, there's a drawing of a cherub and the word "Amore," and written later, "Joys -recollection is no longer joy while sorrows memory, is a sorrow still"
    • - Joshua Barney
    • - B. Etting ("For Sarah")
    • - Mr. James Caldwell
    • - I? Antonio Rousseau
    • - W. F. Krumbhaar
    • - Dillon Drake
      • - Poems praising her good sense, taste, mind, virtue
    • - "Her Doctor"
    • - An acrostic spelling her name
    • - Charles Fenno Hoffman
    • - Poem, 1829
    • - (C or E) Byrne
    • - Drawing, 1830
    • - Gustav Meyer
  • - She writes about women, beauty
  • - Quotes include: "Life is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/signifying nothing"
  • - Newspaper clippings of 2 poems: one by a male lawyer from Georgia, one by a Baltimore lady (her?)
  • - Paper folding letter and cut-out with Bible verse and drawings and paintings depicting the Garden of Eden
  • - Poem, "The Bride's Farewell"
  • - Poem, "Lines written on leaving the place of my nativity after a short visit," Phila., October 1828
  • - Poem, "My Epitaph"
  • - 2 love poems, later crossed out, titled "To _______"
  • - Men's signatures some with "forget me not"
  • - Tues., 16 April 1833, prose on leaving someplace
  • - Pencil drawing of a dog, "York"
  • - Poems to her on leaving her - "remember me," etc.
  • - Drawing of a man's head

12Flora's Dictionary1830request_box

  • - Published in Baltimore, 1830
  • - "by a lady"
  • - Inscribed "Miss Sarah Ann Hays January 1, 1830"
  • - The dictionary includes quotations, which mention plants and flowers, and what various plants stand for - love, friendship, etc.

13Pith drawing by Charlotte Meade Grahamundated, 1888request_box

  • - Drawing of a woman in white (a bride?) kneeling in prayer, looking up to the sky
  • - "For Miss M. Hays from her friend C. Meade"

14Sketchesundated, 1888request_box

  • - "Chestnut Hill" by "A.M.B.," July 18, 1888
  • - "The Wheelbarrow Man," anon.
  • - Leaves/plant, anon.

15Material used for illustrationundatedrequest_box

  • - Pressed flowers
  • - Stencil/cut out

16Miscellaneous itemsundatedrequest_box

  • - Poems
  • - Slides of the painting in the front of her commonplace book (Long crossing the Winnepeck)
  • - RSVP to a Mrs. Cox from Miriam (Sarah's daughter) stating that her invitation must be declined because "we are deprived of entering into any gayety [sic]"
  • - "Prize given to Miss Ellen Hays for Diligence, Amiable Conduct & Improvement by her friends the Miss Lymans"

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