Life of a Salesman: The Diaries of Simón Bolívar Camacho

Monday, May 22, 2017

Recently, Hagley received a generous gift of the diaries of Simón Bolívar Camacho (1859-1906), the great grand-nephew of Simón Bolívar, the Liberator, and the son of a Venezuelan diplomat and his American wife.

A patrician of two hemispheres, Camacho was equally at home in both worlds.

Portraits of Simon and Frances

In 1884, he began a career as a sales representative for the American Bank Note Company, the dominant U.S. producer of bank notes, stock and bond certificates primarily in Latin America but also in Europe. In 1888, Camacho married Frances Eaton (1865-1903), a great-granddaughter of U.S. President John Adams.

The diaries, primarily in English but with occasional Spanish passages, offer a nuanced picture of the type of networking and hustling needed to be a successful international sales representative and of the difficulties of international travel at the turn of the nineteenth-century.

Camacho's constant travels described in the diaries, often to then-very remote places, took a toll on his health, and he died at the age of 46 of meningitis contracted in South America.

Small black diaries with large oval stickers on front with the years: 1899, 1900, 1901

The diaries offer far more then the life of a saleman as Camacho comments on hemispheric relations, the Spanish-American War, and various Latin American wars and revolutions that interrupted his travels.

Camacho also records the domestic relations of his extended family, his participation in the rich cultural life of New York City and personal introspections, the last expressing his traditional Catholic piety and musings on sickness and mortality.

At the other extreme, he repeats poems, some of his own composition, and risqué limericks that he shared with business associates.

Portraits of Simon and Frances

The diaries yield a well-rounded picture of a somewhat atypical but fully-alive salesman over a century ago.

For more information, please email research@hagley.org or call (302) 658-0545.

 


Chris Baer is Assistant Curator of the Manuscripts and Archives at Hagley Museum and Library.