Anna Seifert to Lester Seifert: 25 July 1940

Content: a lightning strike hit the home through telephone wires; rainy weather made farm work difficult; Hilbert got injured when a wagon filled high with hay tipped over; the horse had to have surgery.


Click on the images below for a full view.

1940, June 25, envelope
1940, June 25, page 1
1940, June 25, page 2
1940, June 25, page 3
1940, June 25, page 4


Transcription: 1940-06-25

This is a character-by-character transcription of the original document written in Kurrent. It adheres to the spelling and line-spacing of the original.

  • Characters in italics are written in Latin script in the original.
  • Characters in square brackets [ ] have been added by the transcribers for better understanding of the text.
  • A question mark in square brackets [?] indicates that the transcribers are not sure about the spelling of the preceding word.

English Translation: 1940-06-25

Words written in italics in this translation indicate English words written in Latin script in the original.


This is the first of eight letters between June 25 and September 12, 1940, that were addressed to Lester in “Fogelsville, Pennsylvania (c/o) General Delivery). For three months that summer, Lester biked through rural Lehigh and Berks Counties, Pennsylvania, and conducted interviews with Pennsylvania Dutch speakers for his Ph.D. research. Click here to read more about Lester’s fieldwork. [Scroll down]

The big news in this letter was that “Friday evening, lightning struck the big poplar tree, traveled through the telephone wires, blew out the door of the telephone, and ripped out all wires. It was an awful noise. The door landed near the dining room table. There was stuff strewn all over the room. There were even small holes in the lace curtains, and everything was thick with smoke. We thought there was a fire, but the dear Lord held his protecting hand over us.”

“Lady signaling operator on old style telephone. Scranton, Iowa,” April 1940. Library of Congress image 2017810138.

In the 1920s, telephone service became widely available in rural Wisconsin, mostly provided by small telephone companies. In areas where farmers were already familiar with agricultural cooperatives, the cooperative model was often used. By 1940, freestanding rotary phones had become popular across the country. The phone Anna described in her letter however seemed to have been an older wall phone as used by the caller in the above photo from 1940 in Scranton, Iowa.