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Manuscripts of Modern America
Personal Letters and Correspondences

What follows is a descriptive list of personal letters and correspondences of the post-Civil War era, located among the North American manuscript holdings in the Department of Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame. Letters and letter groups listed here date wholly or primarily from 1865 to the present day. Users searching for letter groups from this period should also browse the manuscript collections listed under Personal Papers and under Literary Manuscripts, on this Web site.

Some of the descriptions that follow may be linked to finding aids, which will provide readers with fuller information on that particular collection.

  • NETTIE GUDGEN CORRESPONDENCE. 1859-1871. 100 letters, many with envelopes; 3 miscellaneous manuscripts; 1 letter box. A group of personal letters directed to Lucy Brunetta ("Nettie") Gudgen, born ca. 1846 in Clermont County, Ohio. Almost all the letters date from the 1860s; about half were written during the Civil War. During the period covered by the correspondence Gudgen was a student at Mt. Washington Academy in what is now Cincinnati, and a schoolteacher at several locations in southwest Ohio. The greater number of the letters were written by young female acquaintances and family members, including Gudgen's close friend Carrie Denham; her cousin Emma Belle White; and her sisters Mary, Mollie, and Nancy Gudgen. Mention of the war is for the most part limited, though there are letters to Gudgen from three soldiers, including several from Joseph Frank Trotter of the 52nd and 70th Ohio Infantry. MSN/CW 5084-1 to MSN/CW 5084-105.

  • WORTHINGTON FAMILY CORRESPONDENCE. 1871-1887. 50 letters, most with envelopes, and 9 postal cards. Most of the items in this group are letters or postal cards written to Rhoda Clark Worthington (1835-1925), of Clinton County, Ohio and Rush County, Indiana. Rhoda Clark was born in Henry County, Indiana, the eleventh child of the Quakers Hezekiah Clark and Abigail Mendenhall. In 1866 she married Isaac Worthington (c1818-1878), also a Quaker, who owned a farm in Clinton County. In January 1874 Rhoda Worthington led a temperance crusade in Wilmington, the Clinton County seat, and was thereafter active in the Women's Christian Temperance Union after that organization was formed in Cleveland later in 1874. The letters to Worthington are from more than 25 different correspondents. Some are from relations, and contain mostly personal or social news. Others are primarily church related. Perhaps a dozen, dating largely to 1878-79, have content related to temperance work; half these were written by Henrietta Moore of Morrow, Ohio, in adjoining Warren County. There are two letters written by Worthington herself, to her husband Isaac, and a few others directed to Isaac. MSN/MN 5000-1 to MSN/MN 5000-59.

  • SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE LETTERS. 1906. 4 letters, most with envelopes. A group of four personal letters written by a woman identifiable only as "Mary," describing the aftermath in the San Francisco Bay area of the great earthquake of 18 April 1906. The author was employed at Mills College in Oakland, and was perhaps a member of the faculty; she writes to her mother, Mrs. J. M. Kirkwood, in Pasadena and San Diego. The letters date from 26 April to 7 May, and speak of the college community's response to the disaster, and material losses suffered by its members. There is also a good deal on the relief effort, including the author's work in Oakland handing out clothing to those in need. A letter of 7 May describes the author's impressions following a trip through the "burnt district" of San Francisco. MSN/MN 5001-1 to MSN/MN 5001-4.

  • NOYES MOULTON LETTERS. 1898-1899. 7 letters (28 pp.), with envelopes. A group of seven letters written by Noyes Moulton (1852-1912), a carpenter and native of Parsonsfield, York County, Maine, describing a prospecting venture to the Copper River region of Alaska in 1898-99. The letters are addressed to Moulton's grown daughter, Ruby, in Parsonsfield. In March 1898 Moulton traveled by steamer from Seattle to Valdez on the south coast of Alaska, whence he embarked on the arduous trip to the interior, over the Valdez Glacier. After wintering along the Klutina he pushed on to "Trickhill City," a campsite on a tributary of the Copper River. By autumn 1899 he was back on the coast, working to earn his way home, his venture a failure. Moulton's correspondence spans almost his entire stay in Alaska, with individual letters from Valdez (March 1898) and Juneau (October 1899) bracketing five written from camps in the interior (March 1898 to April 1899). Word of gold in the Copper River region led to a "stampede" of some 4000 prospectors across the Valdez Glacier in 1898, though most found nothing but misery. Much of the content of Moulton's letters pertains to the hardships of living and working in this inhospitable region; there are repeated accounts of men who lost their lives on the glacier route, and a description of his own battle with scurvy during the "epidemic" of the winter of 1898-99. MSN/MN 5002-1 to MSN/MN 5002-7.

  • WILLIAM B. CLIFTON LETTERS. 1898-1899. 6 letters (38 pp.), some with envelopes. A group of six letters written from the Philippine Islands by Pvt. William B. Clifton, during his service with the 1st Washington Infantry, U.S.V. in 1898-99. Clifton played the alto sax in the regimental band, and was typically attached to regimental headquarters at Manila. The Washington volunteers—mostly former members of the Washington National Guard—arrived in the Philippines in November 1898, after hostilities with Spain had ended. In February 1899 fighting broke out between U.S. troops and Filipino "insurgents" under Aguinaldo; the Washington volunteers saw a great deal of action in the early months of the war, manning the defensive perimeter of Manila at Pasig City. Clifton's letters range from 28 November 1898 to 8 May 1899. There is much on the Philippines and army life in general; an account of a trip to Corregidor, past Dewey's fleet; and close descriptions of photographs taken and included in the letters (now lacking). Encounters with Filipino troops are frequently mentioned but not described in detail; Clifton's time in the firing line was limited by his band duties. Most of the letters are addressed to Clifton's aunt in Santa Barbara, California. MSN/MN 5003-1 to MSN/MN 5003-6.

  • JOHN F. DELANEY LETTERS. 1898-1899. 38 letters. The author of the letters in this collection, John F. Delaney (b. 1856), was living in Salt Lake City when he left, in February 1898, to prospect for gold in the watershed of the Yukon River. Delaney's letters chronicle his journey north to Fort Wrangell in southern Alaska, and three separate trips into the interior. In 1898 Delaney made two trips from Fort Wrangell to the headwaters of the Big Salmon River in southeast Yukon Territory. On the second occasion he continued down the Yukon River by steamer, across Alaska to Cape Nome on the Bering Sea. In 1899 Delaney made a third trip to the Big Salmon and again passed down the Yukon, working for wages and prospecting around Circle City in Alaska and around Cape Nome. The letters range in date from February 1898 to December 1899; almost all are addressed to Delaney's wife, Catherine, in Utah. They provide a full account of his experiences, as well as broader commentary on mining, the human hardships of the gold fields, and the cruel economy that left most prospectors busted. MSN/MN 5004-1 to MSN/MN 5004-38. [Finding Aid & Images]

  • VALLENTINE FAMILY LETTERS. 1898-1905. 13 letters (21 pp.). This small group of letters relates to the Yukon gold prospecting of Arthur Vallentine (b. c1846), who prior to his departure for the North was working as a die sinker in Hartford, Connecticut. Vallentine himself is the author of ten of the letters, which range in date from the month of his departure (March 1898) to his third winter in the North (March 1901). Most are one or two pages in length, though several are densely written and provide details of the manner in which Vallentine worked his claims along Hunker Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River, west of Dawson in the Yukon. Most of Vallentine's letters are directed to his wife, as are two written by Patrick H. Dewey of Northampton, Massachusetts, a business associate of Vallentine's. MSN/MN 5005-1 to MSN/MN 5005-13.

  • EUPHEMIA PAXTON LETTERS. 1901-1904. 5 letters (28 pp.), most with envelopes. A small group of personal letters written from the Philippines by Euphemia S. Paxton (b. 1879), one of the hundreds of American schoolteachers to arrive in the islands in the early years of U. S. rule. Paxton, called Effie, was a resident of Orange, California, and mentions having attended "U. C."—presumably Berkeley. Three of the letters, written in September and October of 1901 from Negros Island, probably date from just after Paxton's arrival; she was then living in a Filipino household, as the home/school being prepared for her (at Talisay, Negros) was yet unfinished. The other letters date from December 1903 (when Paxton was teaching at Iloilo on Panay) and June 1904 (during a short tenure at Dumaguete, Negros). MSN/MN 5006-1 to MSN/MN 5006-5.

  • PHILIPPINE INSURRECTION LETTER. 1900 February 15. 1 letter (4 pp.). A letter written during the Philippine Insurrection from Indan, Luzon by an American infantryman identifiable only as "Harry," possibly of the 46th Infantry, U. S. Volunteers. The content is mostly military; the author speaks of his regiment's impending departure from Luzon, of recent engagements at Lemery and Taal, and of the deaths of the members of an outpost of the 32nd Infantry. MSN/MN 5007-1.

  • ALLEN FAMILY LETTERS. 1900-1901. 2 letters (18 pp.). A pair of letters written by two U. S. soldiers, father and son, during the Philippine Insurrection. The earlier of the two, written by Lt. Albert C. Allen, 38th Infantry, U. S. Volunteers, and directed to his mother, is entirely given over to a description of "a very successful expedition into the mountains near here" (Batangas, Luzon). Allen relates, in considerable detail, how three companies of the 38th Infantry repulsed a Filipino ambush in a nearby village. The second letter was written to Albert Allen, now home at Salt Lake City, by his father, Maj. Leven C. Allen (c.1851-1912), a regular army officer then with the 16th Infantry at Echague on the Cagayan River in central Luzon. Maj. Allen describes army life at this remote outpost, outlines his plans for retirement, and mentions the impact of the American presidential election of 1900. MSN/MN 5008-1 to MSN/MN 5008-2.

  • ROBERT B. DRINAN CORRESPONDENCE. 1897-1973 (bulk 1897-1901). 155 letters, including some postal cards and telegrams; printed ephemera; clippings; realia. Robert B. Drinan was born in 1880 in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of John T. and Mary Drinan. In late 1896 or early 1897 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy's apprentice program, whereby qualified recruits aged 15 to 17 received general schooling and naval training, ashore and at sea, before joining the crew of a cruising ship of war. Drinan served as an apprentice on a succession of ships until his 21st birthday, 10 August 1901, when he left the Navy. The Drinan collection consists mostly of letters written by and to Robert Drinan during his years as an "apprentice boy." There are 70 letters and cards written by Drinan to his parents and siblings in Rhode Island; these range in date from 7 March 1897 to 13 May 1901, and include letters posted during his 1897 training cruise to Europe (4 items); his service aboard U.S.S. Columbia during the Spanish-American War (22 items, written from ports on the east coast of the U.S. and from Puerto Rico); and his service in the Pacific in 1899-1900 (11 items, written from Guam, Yokohama, and the Philippines). There are also many additional letters posted from naval stations in the U.S. While much of the content is family related, there are also accounts of Drinan's stations and ports of call, of life aboard ship and other naval news, and of Drinan's own progression in the apprentice program. The collection also includes 79 letters written to Robert Drinan; the majority of these are from his mother and other family members, but a significant number were written by friends and former shipmates. There is also a small amount of printed ephemera from Drinan's years in the Navy, including station billets, programs of shipboard musical entertainments, and business and tobacco cards. Also surviving are Drinan's binoculars, and his wooden naval ditty box. MSN/MN 5009-1 to MSN/MN 5009-164. [Finding Aid]

  • WILLIAM BATCHELDER CORRESPONDENCE. 1851-1910 (bulk 1863-1886). About 900 letters, many with envelopes; 10 pieces of printed ephemera. The Batchelder correspondence consists primarily of business and personal letters directed to William Batchelder, an oar manufacturer in Lancaster, Coos County, New Hampshire. Batchelder was born in Effingham, New Hampshire in 1826 or 1827, the eldest son of the farmer Stephen Batchelder (1791-1870) and Betsey Hutching. The family's involvement with the crafting of oars dates to at least the 1850s; in the 1860 Federal census both Stephen and William Batchelder are identified as "Master Oarmakers". After the Civil War W. & J. Batchelder (subsequently William Batchelder & Co.) grew into an important supplier for oar retailers in Boston, Portland, Gloucester, and elsewhere. By the later 1870s Batchelder was receiving orders from firms in Chicago and San Francisco. Individual orders range from a few oars to more than 500. Many of his wholesale customers were boat builders, including at least one—Oliver & Tullis of Philadelphia—who specialized in racing shells. The Batchelder collection includes around 730 incoming business letters, ranging in date from 1863 to 1886. Common types include orders, inquiries, freight and shipping arrangements, late payment excuses, and occasional complaints regarding quality. Some of these letters include Batchelder's endorsements, often in shorthand. Taken together, the letters shed light on most aspects of Batchelder's business, from raw material procurement and product promotion to sales, shipping, credit extension, and payment. Also in the collection are around 220 personal letters, mostly directed to William and mostly dating from the 1860s, 70s, and 80s. These are typically from his parents, his many siblings, and his children. Some have a direct bearing on the business, especially those written in the 1860s by his brother (and partner) John (b. 1829). MSN MN 5010-1 to MSN/MN 5010-112.

  • ENOCH P. HILL LETTERS. 1899-1901. 41 letters, most with envelopes; 1 printed book; 2 photographs. A group of 40 personal letters written by Enoch P. Hill (1873-1930) of Franklin County, Illinois, to his sweetheart and future wife Mary Chilton (1882-1965) of Jefferson County. Most of the letters were written during Hill's years of military service, in Cuba, the U. S., and the Philippines. Nineteen are from the latter country, where Hill served during the Philippine-American War as private and corporal in Co. A, 30th United States Volunteers. The letters are most notable, perhaps, for their preservation of what was largely an epistolary courtship. Hill had never met Chilton when he first wrote to her in April 1899, and the couple was together only briefly prior to Hill's return from the Philippines two years later. They were married in 1901. MSN/MN 5011-1 to MSN 5011-42; MSN/MN 5011-43-F3. [Finding Aid]

  • MARGARET MITCHELL LETTERS. 1868. 3 letters. Three letters written from Chapel Hill, Orange County, North Carolina in the summer and fall of 1868, by the teacher and North Carolina native Margaret E. Mitchell. Mitchell informs a Northern correspondent ("Miss Jay") of the decline of freedmen's schools in the village, following the removal of the president, board of trustees, and faculty at the University of North Carolina. MSN/MN 5012-1 to MSN/MN 5012-3.

  • ELIZA AGNEW LETTER. 1874. 1 letter (14 pp.), with 2 printed enclosures. A letter to the U. S. written by the American missionary Eliza Green (1807-1883), as principal of the Oodooville (Uduvil) Female Boarding School near Jaffna in Ceylon. The letter discusses recent events at the school and local missionary work generally. Enclosed with the letter are a contemporary newspaper clipping and a printed letter of commendation to Agnew from the school's graduates and students, on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary. MSN/MN 5013-1.

  • WILLIAM E. HEARSEY, JR. LETTERS. 1865-1867. 20 letters; 1 manuscript enclosure.. William E. Hearsey, Jr. (1840-1866) was a Boston native and Civil War veteran who, in the fall of 1865, voyaged to the West Coast of Africa to engage in plantation agriculture. For most of 1866 he worked as manager or overseer on the cotton and cocoa plantation of the American William B. Sparhawk, on the island of Fernando Pó (now Bioko) in the Gulf of Guinea. Hearsey died of fever in December 1866. The collection includes 16 letters (17 November 1865 to 27-28 November 1866) written by Hearsey to his father, which together provide a full account of his experiences in Africa. They also provide considerable descriptive detail of, and commentary on, the novel environment in which he found himself and the people with whom he came in contact—especially the Bubi people native to Fernando Pó and the "Kroomen" brought from the mainland to work the fields. Also in the collection is a letter from Sparhawk to Hearsey Sr. recounting the young man's death, and a note to Sparhawk about Hearsey from the British consul, Charles Livingstone. MSN/MN 5014-1 to MSN/MN 5014-20.

  • ELIZA ALMA STARR LETTER. 1888. 1 letter (2 pp.). A brief personal letter by the Catholic artist and writer Eliza Alma Starr (1824-1901), mentioning a lecture trip to St. Louis. MSN/MN 5015-1.

  • SEYMOUR HOWARD STONE LETTERS. 1884-1895. 195 letters and postal cards; 1 photograph. A collection of personal letters written by the young Seymour Howard Stone (b. 1867), mostly to his mother and/or father in Delaware. The letters are from Stone's schoolboy and early professional years, and have much to do with his efforts to settle on a career that was consistent with his interest in the strenuous life and the out-of-doors. Groups of letters from Swarthmore Preparatory School (1884-86) and the Adirondack Mountains (1887) precede a series of around sixty letters written from the San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado, where in 1888-89 Stone sought to establish a farm on a claim of 160 acres. The collection also includes a group of some thirty letters written from Florida in 1894-95, when Stone was employed at a phosphate mining company. MSN/MN 5016-1 to MSN/MN 5016-59. [Finding Aid]

  • HATTIE AIKEN ROBINSON FAMILY CORRESPONDENCE. 1934-1936. 33 letters, with envelopes. A group of Depression-era personal letters directed by family members to Hattie Aiken Robinson (b. ca. 1887-90), an African-American woman living in Texarkana, Miller County, Arkansas. Most of the letters were written by Hattie's estranged husband, Cleveland Robinson; by her son and daughter-in-law, Lloyd and Bernice Robinson, in Chicago; or by her daughter, Eva Vashti Robinson, in Arkansas. The correspondence was occasioned by the two Robinson children's recent departures from Texarkana, Lloyd to work in Chicago, and Eva to attend college and teach elementary school in the South. MSN/MN 5017-1 to MSN/MN 5017-33. [Finding Aid]

  • GEORGE F. KENNAN-JOHN LUKACS CORRESPONDENCE. 1952-2004. 404 letters and other manuscripts, plus photocopies. The manuscript correspondence of U.S. diplomat, State Department official, and historian George F. Kennan (1904-2005) and Hungarian-born American historian John Lukacs (b. 1924), ranging from 1952 to 2004. Kennan is best remembered for his early advocacy of the U.S. Cold War policy of "containment" of the Soviet Union. The collection includes some 360 letters, in which Kennan and Lukacs exchange ideas on international events and the Cold War, the practice of history, and other topics. As the men became friends there is much on their personal lives as well. MSN/MN 5018-1 to MSN/MN 5018-79. [Finding Aid]

  • MARIE BALJE KIMBALL CORRESPONDENCE. 1886-1927 (bulk 1897-1919). About 200 letters, most with envelopes; ephemera. Most of this collection consists of personal letters and cards directed to Marie Balje Kimball (1873-1967) of Fulton County, New York. Many are from former classmates at the New York Deaconess Home and Training School, where Kimball studied ca. 1896-98. Among these is a series of 22 letters written from Turkish Armenia by the missionary Maria B. Poole in 1906-08. There are also numerous letters written by Marie's husband, Harry L. Kimball (b. 1876), a worker in the glove trade and a committed socialist and labor activist. A radicalized Kimball writes extensively of events in New York City in the winter of 1919, when he was studying at the Rand School of Social Science. MSN/MN 5019-1 to MSN/MN 5019-41. [Finding Aid]

  • MCCRACKEN FAMILY LETTERS. 1912-1944 (bulk 1918-1944). Around 500 letters and cards. Frank McCracken (1859-1945) and Ruth Carr McCracken (1859-1953) spent most of their married life on the Northern plains, in North Dakota and subsequently in Montana. The collection includes more than 500 personal letters directed to the McCrackens over a span of more than 25 years, from their departure for Montana ca. 1918 to the death of Frank McCracken in 1945. The majority are from family members, most notably the siblings of Ruth McCracken; authors are mostly located in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana. The dispersion of letters over the interwar years is fairly even. In addition to their extensive personal and social content, the letters have much to say on broader issues of the period, with reference to the Northern plains generally and North Dakota in particular. Among these are: the American involvement in World War I; the influenza epidemic of 1918-19; the farm crisis of the 1920s; the North Dakota Non-partisan League; banks and the economy; Prohibition and bootlegging; oil on the Northern plains; the Great Depression and its consequences; and American involvement in World War II. MSN/MN 5020-1 to MSN/MN 5020-137. [Finding Aid]

  • LAWRENCE SHIELDS LETTERS. 1898-1903. 316 letters, most with envelopes. Lawrence Shields (1872-1946) was a Cincinnati native who from December 1898 lived as a member of the American "colony" in Mexico City, pursuing his career as a medical doctor and surgeon. The greater number of the letters in the collection were written by Shields from Mexico during 1899-1902, to his future wife, Clara Kinney, of Xenia, Ohio. The letters contain extended accounts of activities in the expatriate community, as well as descriptions of pre-revolutionary Mexico and the Mexican people, their social conventions, religion, and politics. MSN/MN 5021-1 to MSN/MN 5021-85. [Finding Aid]

  • JACQUELINE KENNEDY LETTER. 1960. 1 letter (3 pages), with envelope. A personal letter written by Jacqueline Kennedy on 7 December 1960, about four weeks after the Presidential election and less than two weeks after the birth of her son, John F. Kennedy, Jr. The letter is directed to Evelyn Peyton Gordon, columnist for the Washington Daily News; it acknowledges, and gently corrects, Gordon's column on Jacqueline Kennedy's riding and hunting activities. MSN/MN 5022-1.

  • SCOPE PROJECT LETTER. 1965. 1 letter (4 pages). A personal letter written by "Lynn" from Luverne, Crenshaw County, Alabama, while serving as a volunteer with the Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) Project of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The letter, written on 24 July and directed to a friend in the North, describes the activities of the 11 volunteers in Luverne, including a meeting with the mayor. On 3 August several of the Luverne SCOPE volunteers were attacked and beaten by a white mob. MSN/MN 5023-1.

  • MARIAN STOLL LETTERS TO ELIZABETH MORISON. 1928-1938. 27 folders; 1 container; .5 linear feet. A collection of 100 manuscript personal letters written by American textile artist Marian Stoll to her friend Elizabeth Morison, all dated between 1928 and 1938. The letters describe aspects of Stoll's personal and professional life as well as her experiences living in Paris, Athens, and later, the U.S. MSN/MN 5024-1 to MSN/MN 5024-27. [Finding Aid]

  • UPTON SINCLAIR LETTERS TO MELVILLE KRESS. 1933-1958 (bulk 1928-1938). 55 folders; 1 container; .5 linear feet. A collection of 55 typescript letters written by Pulitzer Prize winning American author Upton Beall Sinclair (1878-1968) to Melville L. Kress (1906-1998), a labor organizer, factory worker, and long-time correspondent. The letters reveal aspects of the background and context of Sinclair's literary work, particularly his World's End series of eleven novels, as well as containing reflections on his friends and acquaintances, thoughts on current events, and advice to Kress on the latter's writing. MSN/MN 3014-1 to MSN/MN 3014-55. [Finding Aid]

  • WORLD WAR II CORRESPONDENCE OF DAVID MACGILLIVRAY. 1944-1945. 77 letters; ephemera. Correspondence written by Private First Class (Pfc.) David MacGillivray to his fiance, Eleanor Gamber, during World War II. MacGillivray was assigned to the 102nd Infantry Division and served in the European Theater of Operations, with notable locations that include the Cherbourg Peninsula in France and the Rhine and Roer Rivers in Germany/Holland. MSN/MN 5025.

  • REVEREND BERNARD SCHLEGEL LETTERS. 1949-1956. 1 cubic foot. The collection consists of 85 letters written 1952-1956 from Bernard Schlegel to his parents while studying to be a priest at the Pontifical North American College in Vatican City. Also included are two essay drafts, a journal, pamphlets, and 49 prayer cards marking the ordination of fellow priests. MSN/MN 5026-1 to MSN/MN 5026-148.

  • SYDNEY HOBART BALL AND FAMILY PAPERS. 1885-1991; bulk 1905-1949. 436 folders and 1 oversize folder; 17.5 cubic feet. An extensive collection of letters, diaries, professional writings, photographs, and other papers deriving from the American mining geologist, engineer, and gemologist Sydney Hobart Ball (1877-1949) and his immediate family. Among other things, the papers chronicle Ball's extensive travels as a mining consultant, to the Congo, Russia, Mexico, the American West, and elsewhere. Especially notable are the materials relating to Ball's work for Forminière, a Belgian-American company formed to discover and exploit the mineral resources of the Kasai region of the Congo. The collection includes around 3,400 letters (over 1,600 written by Sydney Hobart Ball); several diaries; more than 1,000 photographs; professional articles and reports written by Ball (many of them relating to diamonds); and personal papers of Ball's wife and two daughters. MSN/MN 0513.

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