Pet Book Project Part 2.3: Miss Mary Wallace, the Primary School Teacher

The intended audience for this book is apparent just in the title of the book: The Girl’s Own Outdoor Book.


It is meant to be read and used by girls, specifically those who are interested in learning more about nature and the outdoors. When I was first looking at this book, I assumed that the use of “girl’s” in the title meant that the book was intended to be read by younger children. However, based on the contents of the book and some of the diagrams that are illustrated throughout it, it seems to be intended more for adolescent girls and young women. The diagrams/illustrations throughout the book that show female figures seem to portray older girls, or at the very least, not young children. They are shown as having more mature figures and facial features, and the clothes that they are wearing also seem to be more sophisticated and probably typical of older individuals.

I find it interesting that this book is targeted at this specific age group, considering that the adolescent years are generally seen as a time for growth and exploration. The Girl’s Own Outdoor Book seems fitting for this stage in life.

Another clue as to the audience that this book was intended for is the price that is written on one of the first pages in the book. It notes the book as costing $400. The date that is noted along with this price is December 25th, 1890. The only website that I was able to find that could adjust for inflation that far back is “,” but according to that website, $400 in 1890 is equal to $10,366.80 today. This seems like an obscene amount of money to pay for a book, especially one of this kind, which appears to be a day-to-day educational book for adolescent girls. What this price does tell us, though, is that whoever purchased/owned this specific copy was likely extremely wealthy. In addition to helping to determine what the price of this book would be now, the date also tells us that this book was probably a Christmas gift from one member of an upper-class family to another.

The same page in the front of the book that notes the price and the date also has a name and address written on it. The name is Mary Wallace, which is also written twice on the previous page (but as “Miss Mary Wallace” and “Mademoiselle Wallace”), and the address is “25 Oxford St., Boston Mass.”

On Google Maps street view, the most recent image of this address was taken in August of 2017, and shows a lackluster storefront that is part of a large building that appears to house many other businesses.

There are locked gates covering the entrances and graffiti on the windows, and there is a sign that reads, “Space for Lease; V&E Realty, Inc.; 617-786-9399.” V&E Realty, Inc. still exists but is now located in Quincy, Massachusetts, and looks to be a very small business. The space on Oxford Street does not look to have been occupied recently. I was unable to find any information about what this place might have been in 1890, but based on the price of the book, it was likely a wealthier part of the city at the time, and may have been the residence of the owner of the book.

As for the name Mary Wallace, there are three women by that name that come up in the results on for Boston, MA in 1890. One is a Mary Wallace who lived at a 31 Dove St., South Boston, another is a Mrs. Mary Wallace (for whom there is no other information in the record), and the third is a Mary K. Wallace who was a teacher at a primary school on Eustis Street in Boston, and boarded at a 106 Mt. Pleasant Avenue.

This information is also listed in The Boston Directory from 1890, which is almost 2000 pages long and contains the city record, directory of citizens, business directory, and street directory for that year. For the name Mary Wallace, the directory contains the same information as except that it lists Mrs. Mary Wallace as having died on January 6, 1890.

This means that the book likely belonged to one of the other Mary’s, because it was gifted in December of 1890, which is after this Mrs. Mary Wallace passed away. This copy of The Girl’s Own Outdoor Book, then, probably either belonged to Mary Wallace from South Boston or the primary school teacher, Mary K. Wallace. Neither of the addresses match with the one written in the book, but another possibility is that the address in the book is where it was purchased, or it may be the address of the residence of the owner at a different point in time.

Researching the possible owners of this book was absolutely fascinating, and I am tempted to do more digging to try to find out which Mary Wallace owned this copy and who she was. I think it is so interesting how one single page of this book provided so much information and sent me into a multiple-hours-long search to figure out this book’s history of ownership. I am still so curious, and so excited to continue learning about this copy of The Girl’s Own Outdoor Book.


Primary School on Eustis St. and the Primary School on Morton St., Boston, MA, 1894, Edmund M. Wheelwright