Lillie J.S. Watt friendship album

Biographical and Historical Notes

Lillie John Saville Watt was born in Pennsylvania on May 20, 1864 to John Wesley Watt and Harriet Saville Watt, a dressmaker. At the age of 34 she was living with dressmaker Sarah Altemus in Philadelphia and worked in Altemus’s shop as a clerk. By 1923, Watt had her own dress shop at 2114 Walnut Street, and identified herself on business stationery as “Miss Lillie, Creator and Importer of Costumes, Gowns and Wraps.” Lillie Watt died in Philadelphia on June 27, 1946.


1870 Federal Census (accessed via on June 29, 2017)

1900 Federal Census (accessed via on June 29, 2017)

1920 Federal Census (accessed via on June 29, 2017)

1930 Federal Census (accessed via on June 29, 2017)

Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-1999 Database (accessed via on June 29, 2017)

Philadelphia Death Certificates, 1906-1964 Database (accessed via on June 29, 2017)

Information derived from the collection.

Scope and Contents

This friendship album belonged to Lillie J.S. Watt of West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and contains autograph inscriptions, signatures, and drawings done by her friends between 1884 and 1909.

An inscription on the front flyleaf suggests that Watt received this friendship album for Christmas in 1884. Most of the dated entries were made by friends in the 1880s, but several date from as late as 1909. Watt used the first several pages of the album to paste autographs and signatures cut from correspondence with friends. Although many of the signatures were from acquaintances from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware, she received correspondence from as far away as Des Moines, Iowa, Topeka, Kansas, and Southampton, England.

Most of Watt’s friends wrote entries about friendship and religion, often including quotations from well-known literary works. In an April 1888 entry, Mrs. C.C. McLean described traveling with the album, observing that it “enjoyed a winter in Florida” and would take a trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee and the Luray Caves before returning to Philadelphia in May. Several of the entries were embellished by ink and wash drawings. These include a detailed eight-pointed star, a windmill, flowers, and a cow.

The album is bound with a red paper over boards and features an applied lithograph of a girl carrying a child in a barnyard on the front cover. The word “Album” is embossed on the front cover in gold. The spine is decorated with green and gold embossed leaves. There is an embossed floral design on the back cover. A handwritten inscription on the front flyleaf reads “Lillie J.S. Watt/#411 Market St./4058 Aspen St./West Phila./Pa./Christmas, 1884.” The first street addressed was crossed out and replaced with the second address. The album contains 52 leaves of gilt-edged, unlined, wove paper. An advertisement for the William Penn statue has been laid in the back of the volume.