[Diary for 1844 kept by a Young Man in Albany and Troy, New York starting a Business and struggling with Alcohol and Mental Health].
A mind troubled and unsettled by temperance, religious indifference, and death
I am uneasy in my mind continually: there seems to be in decision, a want of stern unbending integrity of purpose; and yet a desire to do justly. Weather is fine, beautiful, delightful. Oh, I wish I was right to enjoy it. How foolish, foolish. (August 8, 1844)
This sparsely used handwritten diary was kept sporadically by a young man in Albany and Troy, New York in the summer of 1844. (Ten pages at the back of the diary book, dated October 1847–December 1849, appear to be the records of a person taking in washing. It is written in a different “hand” and it is unclear how it relates to the diarist.)
While brief, the writing reveals a mind troubled and unsettled by temperance, religious indifference, and death. He writes about temptations and vile affections. He may be an alcoholic.
Arriving in Albany in June from his likely hometown of Troy, the diarist puts up at the Temperance House [hotel] and begins his diary by declaring his intention “...to work at my trade…” The diary, which accounts for only half of the present manuscript, was written mostly in August 1844. During this trying time he writes frequently about his almost continual spiritual and psychological discontent and likely hints at his difficulties with alcohol. “I feel that I need more religion to combat the various temptations that surround me.” (August 3) “I have visited the poor house and moved around among its inmates and I feel humbled, yes ashamed because of my discontent. Lord impart thy wisdom.” (August 5) “I am uneasy in my mind continually: there seems to be indecision, a want of stern unbending integrity of purpose; and yet a desire to do justly.” (August 8) “Oh, mind is in a bad state…Oh, that I might be delivered from these vile affections.” (August 14) “This day we opened a store 915 River St., not however without some misgivings. I pray that it may be for the best and that I may not decline in spiritual things.” (August 30)
Commercially printed and ruled, the handwritten diary served as the safety valve for the distressing thoughts of a perplexed mind. Besides his being somewhat comforted by religion, the diarist seems to realize he needs other help to overcome his alcoholism:
There is a great anxiety resting on my mind. I see what is my duty but have not the moral courage to perform it and I fear shall not have this evening attended a temperance meeting, Washingtonians. (August 6)
This last reference is to the Washingtonian movement of temperance groups, named after the Washington Total Abstinence Society formed just four years earlier, in 1840, in Baltimore. Our diarist, like a modern-day alcoholic, is building up his courage to go to a “meeting.” The Washingtonians, however, preceded Alcoholics Anonymous by almost 100 years. Like AA, they focused on the individual alcoholic, but unlike AA (and the present diarist) they mostly eschewed spirituality and religion.
At the conclusion of the handwritten diary, the diarist has moved to Troy, New York and “[m]ade an arrangement to enter into coppartnership [sic] with Ansel H. Gale in the stove business.” (August 29) Ansel Hays Gale (b. 1817) trained as a lawyer under Governor John S. Robinson of Vermont and was admitted to the Bar around 1843. He subsequently spent four years, including the period of the present diary, practicing law in the office of Hon. D. L. Seymour in Troy before going west in 1848. Gale later settled in Sandusky, Ohio and there operated a hardware store. It is possible that Gale was a “silent” partner to the diarist.
A brief handwritten diary of a summer of anxiety, lows and highs, and spiritual and mental turmoil, not incidentally caused by the temptations of alcohol.
Description: [Diary for 1844 kept by a Young Man in Albany and Troy, New York starting a Business and struggling with Alcohol and Mental Health].
[Albany & Troy, NY]. June 18, 1844–August 30, 1844; October 1847–December 1849.  ll. of which there are 14 ll., i.e. 20 manuscript pages, in pencil. Diary in: Diary for 1844; or Daily Register… Harrisburg, Pa: Published Annually by Hickok & Cantine, Book Sellers and Blank Book Manufacturers . Embossed black leather binding. Worn and rubbed; front pastedown stained; lacks front endpaper; pages clean, writing legible.
Ref. Gale, The Gale Family Records… (Galesville WI, 1866).