The trotty veck messengers, part 1 of 2
The above title is the name given a tiny 3-inch wide by 6-inch high book published in Saranac Lake by a couple of gentlemen who came here sick with tuberculosis.
Not knowing if they would survive, Seymour Eaton Jr. and Charles Swasey Barnet decided to become messengers of good cheer and began publishing the Trotty Veck Messengers in 1915.
There is an illustration of Trotty Veck himself at the bottom of page one with this inscription, “For the story of Trotty Veck see ‘The Chimes,’ by Charles Dickens.
I have a copy of “Message No. 1” so printed at the top of the cover and the bottom of page one reads “Copyright, 1915, by Seymour Eaton”. Hard to believe that I owned a copy of No. 1 and then it was even harder to believe when I read this on the inside back cover:
“This Trotty Veck Message is one of a series of little books of ‘good cheer’. If after reading this one you think you would like to see the others just write to the Publishers (name and address below) and they will be pleased to send you an assortment on approval.
“These little books are not published at any regular interval nor oftener than one a year. The tenth number came out in 1921.
“Information about the Adirondacks will be gladly furnished to anyone on request.”
So I guess my “Message No. 1” is a copy and others republished if they were sent out as an “assortment.”
There are thousands of quotes in the little books, from the Bible, from Confucius, from anon and from R. L. Stevenson. Many we will get to later, but I can’t wait for all that so here is one for my friend, the dog trainer Sharon Bishop:
THE REASON A DOG
HAS SO MANY FRIENDS
IS THAT HIS TAIL WAGS
INSTEAD OF HIS TONGUE
So, who was Trotty Veck?
Following is the message on page one of every copy:
“Toby Veck was a messenger. He was called Trotty from his pace: a weak, spare old man, but a Hercules in his good intentions.
“He loved to earn his money. He delighted to believe that he was worth his salt. With an 18-penny message in his hand, his courage always high, rose higher; and he had perfect faith in his ability to deliver, no matter how difficult the errand or how complicated the route.
“Trotty’s headquarters were in a sheltered niche of a church wall and his dearest friends — the inspiration of his life — were the chimes which measured off the record of his working hours. Wind or rain or a fall of snow only increased his courage; made him more anxious to be helpful in his calling as a ‘common carrier.’ Trotty was an optimist; a messenger of cheer. You and I can be messengers of cheer; we can be Trotty Vecks.”
Eaton and Barnet
It would be a feeble attempt on my part to explain more about the Messenger authors when I have this piece on hand by Mary Hotaling written for the Center for Adirondack Studies Newsletter in 1980.
“Charles Swasey Barnet, known as Beanie, was a patient at the Trudeau Sanatorium who launched a publication, the Trotty Veck Messengers that would sell four million copies. Arriving in Saranac Lake in 1906 at age 21, he stayed at the Hasse Block, the Benjamin Woodruff Cottage, Riverside Drive, the Johnson Cottage, Ledger Cottage and a house on Old Lake Colby Road.”
[I don’t know which cottage Mr. Barnet was staying in at the time but it was located on Franklin Avenue. Ed LaPoint and I would pick up his laundry to take to Mrs. Allen on Pine Street, along with her other customers. Many women did laundry in their homes with everything starched and ironed when we returned it…but with hundreds of patients living in town business was brisk and there were also two full-time commercial laundries in town … the Troy Laundry, today that huge brick building on Sumner Place, and the Silver Laundry located at 146 Charles Street.]
“Mr. Barnet, known in Saranac Lake as ‘Beanie’ because of his Boston origins, was the son of Robert A. Barnet, an extremely successful amateur playwright and businessman. His mother was Sarah Swasey Barnet, a member of the first class at Wellesley, who named her son for her father, a Union Army surgeon in the Civil War. The family has a treasured heirloom, a document signed by President Lincoln attesting to Dr. Charles E. Swasey’s service.
“Eaton was born in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, and had been a student at Syracuse University. His father, Seymour Eaton Sr., was famous as an advertising authority, the originator of the Teddy Bear craze, and of two circulating libraries in this country in the early 1900’s. When he came to Saranac Lake for the cure he became the roommate of Mr. Barnet.”
[Thanks to Mary Hotaling, an author, a founder of Historic Saranac Lake, has an MS in Historic Preservation from the University of Vermont and an Honorary Degree from Paul Smith’s College; she is also the appointed Town Historian for the Town of Harrietstown. Thanks also to Sharon O’Brien for suggesting this column and to my son, Kean, who gave me these three copies of the Messenger 10 years ago for Father’s Day.]