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A mystery is solved

November 15, 2007 A mystery is solved
October 17, 2007

And an obsession comes to an end…partially.

My ongoing obsession with my copy of the Oxford book of English Verse has borne fruit, I now know exactly who the previous owner of my book was, where she lived, and some fascinating tidbits about her life.

I contacted a historical society on the east coast who had a Mary Hanks listed on their website, sure enough, it turns out it is the very same Mary Hanks that was the previous owner of my book, and not only that…she lived an amazing life.

Below is the E-mail I received. Tenacity seems to have paid off!

Thank you for letting me know about your book. It does look it belonged
to Mary Esther (Vilas) Hanks. We have the Hanks Family papers and
photographs here in our archives, including some directly related to

For your information, Mary was born October 10, 1873 in Madison, WI the
daughter of William Freeman Fox (1840-1908) and Anna Matilda Fox
(1845-1922). William was a lawyer, who fought as an officer during the
Civil War. Later he served in President Cleveland’s cabinet as
postmaster general. Once done with that he served as a US Senator for
several terms. In a few biographical articles we have about Mary in the
archives, she remembers growing up in Washington and playing with the
Cleveland children. We have one of her dolls in our collection, a very
special Jumeau fashion doll. On October 5, 1898 she married Lucien
Hanks (1868-1950), a bank executive. The couple had three children:
William Vilas Hanks (b. 1902), Sybil Anna Hanks (1908-1969), and Lucien
Mason Hanks Jr. (1910-1988). Mary was one of the grand dames of Madison
during the first half of the 20th century. She died during December
  1. Joan Mason Hanks Said,

    Hi – I was talking to a friend of mine today about my Great Grandmother whom I know my Grannie (Mary Ester Vilas Hanks. I happened to come across your blog. Wow how amazing is that!! I have all kinds of fun info . Would love to hear from you.

  2. admin Said,

    I am so sorry, I literally just got this message, my site has been down.
    I am so very excited to hear from you! I’ve always wondered why and how this book reached me….

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