Throwback Thursday: How to Excel

Nothing makes me feel less like a human than when I have to record something in a spreadsheet.

I write things for a living. My exposure to Excel should be limited! It isn’t! In the workplace, I'm often asked to record what I've done in tiny boxes. 

Inputting data into spreadsheets reminds me of a depressing quote by the writer Edward Thomas: ‘We do it because they can’t invent a machine for doing it’. 

The only thing which reduced my overwhelming hatred for spreadsheets was the discovery of a couple of really beautiful examples which record gifts given and received are definitely the work of humans.  

Specifically, the Hale family. 

The Hale family, an old and prominent family from Massachusetts, comprised writers, politicians and painters, including the impressionist painter, Ellen Day Hale who painted Morning News, below:

Ellen Day Hale

The  family recorded the gifts they gave and received in beautiful pictorial charts. They were kept inside the family notebook. 

This chart is held by Smith College  in Massachusetts.:

©Smith College

This one is  held by The Smithsonian.

© Smithsonian Institute

Both were created between 1858 and 1878. They both feature columns and rows for members of the Hale family: Mamma, Nathan, Lucretia, Edward, Emily, Judy, Nelly, Arthur, Charley, Edward, Philip. 

The notebook in which they were kept also lists the likes and dislikes of the family. 

Recording gifts in this way seems like quite a mindful exercise to undertake. 

I like the simplicity of the gifts.

Hopefully you’ll be able to make out the illustrations. You should be able to spot dominoes, beds, chickens, a sword and guns. What a family.