[Technocracy] : [Women] [Manuscripts]. [Manuscript Diary Archive of a 1930's Member in the Technocracy Movement]. [New York City]: 1934-1949.
14 manuscript diaries. Commercial notebooks, ranging in size from approximately 6" x 4" to approximately 9 1/2" x 7 1/2." Each about full with entries in a cursive holograph. Easily more than 100,000 words. Clippings and ephemera frequently laid-in or paper clipped about contents. A detectable odor of must about volumes, some infrequent staple rust bled onto pages, though no significant visible damage or effects from moisture. Volumes well handled, overall sound and good-plus as a group. Legibility fair to good.
A sprawling, primary written archive chronicling the life of a New York City (Manhattan) woman highlighted by her experiences as an active member in the NYC Technocratic Movement of the 1930ís ; and as wife to a working pulp and sci-fi author (Robert W. Sneddon): the manuscript diaries of a Helen Sneddon, 13 volumes, spanning 1934-1949 (with 1935 and 1943-1944 not present).
Helen was born in Maryland, likely Baltimore area, in about 1888. We are able to identify many dates and locations for the years covered here in archived census, ancestry, etc... records, though a precise birth record for Helen has eluded us. It seems probable her maiden name was ìKeyî as a laid-in obituary for her Father, a Francis S. Key (described as being the Grandson of the famed composer) is laid in.
She and Robert Sneddon married in February of 1918 and the New York City Census of 1925 has the couple living in an apartment on the Upper West Side at 176 W. 94th. St. Robert wrote for many pulp publications and had two fantasy/adventure novels published by Methuen in the 1920ís (GALLEONíS GOLD and MONSIUER X). By the time our volumes here begin, in 1934, it seems life for the two is rather pleasant, despite the onset of the Great Depression and a daughter, Eugenia, who is confined to the Manhattan State Psychiatric Hospital:
ìWe have had a very happy Xmas week and I thank god for all the good things that we have enjoyed this year past and for what lays before us in 1934. R[obert] is so dear to me I love him more each day.î (January 1, 1934)
The balance of the 1930ís, into the 1940ís have them living in at least a few different apartments, all in or very near Greenwich Village, and in 1940 the couple purchases a Summer cottage in Pine Bush, Orange County, about 80 miles north and slightly west of the city. The majority of entries in the early volumes are rather typical place and time markers: errands, social calls, travels, etc... though Sneddonís writings frequently turn hostile. Below, her thoughts on England and on NYCís own Mayor:
ìTonight [...] Prince Edward read his good by speech [...] in a firm sure voice. This is surely the beginning of a terrible political break up for England & this unfortunate man is simply the victim of his people who he has worked hard? to serve for 25 years. The English people area a pack of Middle Class thugs and their government a trough of filth I hope it will soon be wiped off the face of the world as we will never have peace as long as it exists.î (December 11, 1936)
[easy Helen, damn]
"We listened to Al Smith's speech the filthy punk his English is the worst I've ever heard in a public speaker" (January 25, 1936).
It is this hostility towards politicians that seems to lead her to seek out alternative movements. By late 1936 she is attending regular meetings of the Technocracy movement (which she refers to as the ìTechsî) and by mid-1938 she appears heavily involved. Often her entries on the movement are quite brief:
ìWent down to Tech tonight [...] a very good speech by King Hubbert. The Shockleys spoke of going up to the country with us.î (May 14, 1937)
Though, several provide precise information and descriptions on the organization:
ìTonight we went to the opening of our new quarters at 23 W. 35th St. There were about 60 people there and we had a moving picture by King Hubbert & a telephone broadcast from Howard Scott from Wis[consin?].î (May 2, 1938)
ìTonight we went to the dinner at Leck (Lech?). It was to be at the Derby but as it was Hitlers birthday they though we were Nazis and refused to give us dinner so we had dinner across the street at a Chinese place. They were afraid to have us such a democracy.î (April 20, 1938)
By the end of 1939, her involvement with the group seems to cease:
ìI hope to god the next year is no worse than this has been. I pray we will have health & more money so we can build our little house & pay for it & have enough to live on & keep this place. I will look at this next year & see if we have been able to achieve this. [name illegible] was here this morning to talk us into staying in Tech but he did not succeed.î (December 31, 1939).
All told, volumes 1936-1939 each have substantial content on NYC Technocracy.
The early 1940ís has her busy with their newly purchased cottage in Pine Bush and their financial situation seems in increasing peril. Robert passes away in 1944 (no diaries are present for 1943-1944). She remains in the city, rents out the summer cottage, and seems to become more withdrawn and gloomy. In fact, the volumes from about 1945 on are the least legible of the group, with her cursive becoming harder and more slanted than in the earlier issues. And, admittedly, even those previous required some training of this catalogerís eye to reach fluid legibility (many page scans are available upon request, as are several additional transcribe pull quotes).
Of additional note is an accomplished ink portrait drawing of Robert (signed "Rafael") with the stamping of pulp-publishing magnate, Frank A. Munsey Co. to its verso ; and a multi-year volume, with many laid-in receipts, documents, etc... on the expenses and process involved in renovating their cottage in Pine Bush (curiously this notebook begins with about 40pp. of manuscript dramatic writing, likely of an unpublished play of Helen's titled "Week End").
Overall, an expansive, passably-legible, and visceral glimpse into life in Depression-era New York City, with uncommon primary content on at least one of its many fringe social movements. ____.