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Part III of the Dury Series: A Tribute to Dury's

June 22, 2020

If you haven't heard the most recent unfortunate news about the long-standing Nashville business, it's closed for good. Insert sad face emoji's here. You'll be missed, Dury's. 

1909 Advertisement for Kodak's sold at Dury's Photo Stock House

Though I only visited the store once with a friend, I'm still familiar with the store's importance to photographers all around, as well as being one of the few long-standing businesses in the city. It's sadly another casualty of the current norm made by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Last year, I co-wrote two blog posts about the family and the business with my coworker, Christine Irizarry from the Green Hills Library. Christine has been a great help to us by translating Katharine Dury's 19th century diary, written in the old German Sütterlin handwriting, which was discontinued during World War II.

Katharina was George Dury, Sr.'s wife, but if you haven't read those posts and would like to learn a little bit more about the family and the start of the business, here are the links to the 2 blog posts: 

Well here's Part III, also written by Christine Irizarry. Enjoy!

The Cover of Katharina Dury's Diary

The diary starts on March 25th, 1849, when she, her husband Georg (or George) Dury, her husband’s sister and sister’s husband, the Gattingers, left Europe for Tennessee following the 1848 revolution in Bavaria. Katharina’s diary is not a daily record of her days in America. She does, however, note their ship’s departure from the French port of Le Havre on April 29th, 1849, and their arrival in the United States on May 26th, 1849.

On June 5th, 1850 in Nashville, Tenn., she records the birth of her first child, Augusta Katharina Carolina Dury, named after the child’s Dury grandmother. On October 4th, 1853, she writes about the birth of her son, whom she and George Dury are naming after the child’s maternal grandfather, Schaefer: Heinrich Maximilian George.

The diary then skips to January 10, 1859, to note the birth of their third child, named after his father: George Carl Adolph.

By recording family births and deaths, Katharina’s diary shares characteristics, on the one hand, of a family book (Familienbuch), customarily used in Germany to record family events, and on the other hand of commonplace books, which typically collect quotations, aphorisms, and poems. See the article in the New York Times of May 30th, 1970, about commonplace books: – Accessed 2020-02-10.

In her diary, pages 1 to 9 contain birth records of children and grandchildren, followed by blank pages from 10 to 15.

Starting on page [16], the reader finds pages that Katharina copied from other writings. The question arises: Where did Katharina find the poems and aphorisms that she copied? Did she consult her own library? Were her Bavarian relatives sending her books and magazines?

Nowadays, with large numbers of 19th-century publications digitized and searchable, mostly in Google Books, even some ephemeral or obscure publications have become accessible. One such publication, which I may assume was read by Katharina, is a densely printed magazine (paper wasn’t cheap!) titled: Über Land und Meer: Allgemeine Illustrirte Zeitung. German Wikipedia lists the published issues of this magazine, with links to their locations and digitization records - – Google Search, accessed 2020-02-07.

The cover of the Über Land und Meer: Allgemeine Illustrirte Zeitung magazine

Page 26 of Katharina Dury’s diary may be partly copied from a page in the 1886 issue of Über Land und Meer (p. 11), which features some of the same aphorisms, or “Gedankenspäne” (detached thoughts, scraps, shavings), by an author identified just by the initials W.G.

Page 26 from Katharina Dury's Diary, with translations below.
Page 11 of the Über Land und Meer magazine.


– von W.G.

Das Leben lehrt uns die Menschen entweder besser zu be=

handeln, als sie es verdienen, oder schlechter. Ob Unparteilichkeit

im Munde der Sterblichen mehr als ein Wort ist, kan[n] sehr

zweifelhaft erscheinen.”

"Life teaches us either to treat people better than they deserve, or worse. It is doubtful that neutrality expressed by the mouths of mortal men is more than just a word."

Page 29 of Katharina’s diary reproduces “New Persian Words of Wisdom by Brugsch” [Neupersische Weisheitssprüche von Brugsch], which are also printed in Über Land und Meer - Google Books link to copy of magazine. (Accessed 2020-02-10, p. 1075.)

Page 29 of Katharina's diary, that's translated below.
Scan of Über Land und Meer publication.

“Suche beim gemeinen Haufen

Nur kein menschlich fühlend Herz,

Denn es steigt aus Raubthiernestern

Nie ein Phönix himmelwärts!”


Do not search among the common masses

For a humanly feeling heart,

Because from the nest of predators

Never does a phoenix rise to heaven!

From her presumed aphoristic sources, German magazines such as Über Land und Meer, read by expatriates and filled with stories, jokes, pictures, and more, as well as the articles pasted at the back of her diary (p. [114]), it is fair to assume that Katharina spent quite some time each day reading, copying, and thinking, things both abstract and practical.

Page 114 of Katharina Dury's diary.

Christine Irizarry, February 10, 2020

lucille ball


Sarah is a Program Coordinator with Metro Archives. Her interests and areas of expertise are history, reading books (of any kind), music, travel, Harry Potter, and bingeing a good comedy series. When not in Archives, she is either nose-deep in a book or planning her next trip. Learn more about the fascinating materials found at Metro Archives through their website.