Amanuensis Monday: They “Liked it Immensely”

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick (1889 – 1984)

Letter to Benita McCormick from The
Jewel Tea Company, thanking her for
her Christmas story and enclosing a
check for $50 as payment in full.  From
Benita McCormick’s scrapbook.

[Note:  Amanuensis is an ancient word meaning one who performs the function of writing down or transcribing the words of another.  Derived from the Latin root manu-  , meaning manual or hand, the word also has been used as a synonym for secretary or scribe.]

One morning in mid-December, 1937, just months after returning from her trip to Mexico with my great-uncle Phil, my great-aunt “Detty,” or Benita (McGinnis) McCormick, opened her mailbox to find a check in the amount of $50.  It was payment for a Christmas story she had sold to The Jewel Tea Company for use in their company Christmas cards.

The Jewel Tea Company originated in Chicago, but as its success grew, the company relocated to Barrington Illinois. Though the company originally started out selling tea and coffee, it gradually expanded to include a trademark china pattern and a variety of household goods.

Whether or not the Christmas cards noted here were sent to customers is a mystery. So, too, are the cards themselves and even the subject of this letter, The Story of Shamus Beg.   Nonetheless, knowing my Aunt Detty’s vivid imagination, her story must have been filled with fanciful prose and whimsical sketches of leprechauns, or “little people,” probably based on the tales she heard during her travels in Ireland nearly a quarter of a century earlier.  


 December 10, 1937


Mrs. Phillip C. McCormick

8032 Vernon Avenue

Chicago, Illinois


My dear Mrs. McCormick:

I purposely delayed sending you your check because I had hoped to be able to include a few copies of our Christmas card.  However, I appreciate the continued urge to “do your Christmas shopping early,” and I am therefore sending your check today.  The cards will come pronto.

Naturally, the check is payment in full for all your right, title, and interest in and to “The Story of Shamus Beg.”  You will be delighted to know that all those folks who had an opportunity to “preview” the story liked it immensely.  It has the qualities of charm, simplicity, and dignity, which ought to make it ideally suited as a Christmas greeting.

I am returning under separate cover the material which you had given me earlier this year. I was very happy to be able to use your story and if in my contacts I come across people who are interested in stories of this nature, you may be sure I will keep you in mind

Best personal regards.


                                             THE JEWEL TEA CO.
                                             By:  Clayton N. Watkins, Chief 
                                             Publications Division


Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully


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