George L. Van Bibber IV Diary 1926-1979, MS. 2409

George L. Van Bibber IV Diary, 1926-1979, MS 2409, Maryland Historical Society


Collection Summary

Title                                          George L. Van Bibber IV Diary

Creator                                      George L. Van Bibber IV

Call Number                               MS.2409

Span Dates                                August 1926 to February 1979 

Extent                                       The diary occupies 63 chronological volumes (with 7 additional volumes kept by Van Bibber on his travels), totaling approximately 50,000 pages. 

Abstract                                     Diary entries of George L. Van Bibber IV


Administrative summary

Repository                                H. Furlong Baldwin Library

                                                Maryland Historical Society

                                                201 W. Monument Street

                                                Baltimore, Maryland 21218




Access restrictions                    Access to this collection is unrestricted


Use restrictions                         Permission to quote from this collection must be received in writing from the Special Collections Librarian.



Processing note                        The Papers of George Lindenburger Van Bibber (1906-1979) were donated to the Maryland Historical Society in April 1979. By the terms of his will, the Society received his diary and the card index system to the diary, his scrapbooks, manuscripts and any unsold sketches. The material was handed over to the Society by John S. Carver, J. Garland Green and Charles H. Reed, named by Van Bibber in his will as his Personal Representatives.



The Gallery of the Society holds Van Bibber's sketches and watercolors. The papers in the Manuscripts Division are restricted for twenty years from date of deposit.


Biographical Note

George Lindenburger Van Bibber IV was born on March 12, 1906, in Harford County, Maryland. He was the son of Armfield Franklin Van Bibber (d.1953) and Susanna Rebecca [Michael] Van Bibber (d.1955). He had one brother Edwin M. (d.1967) and two sisters Katherine and Ann (Mrs. William T. Whitney).


Van Bibber was a life-long resident of Bel Air, living at 303 Main Street, his childhood home. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1929 with a degree in architecture and was employed as a draftsman in the Edgewood Arsenal from 1936-1960. His real interests lay however in local history, travel, literature and the cinema. He made numerous trips abroad, culminating in a five-month round-the-world voyage in 1975.


Van Bibber was active in the Harford County Historical Society, serving on its Bicentennial Commission and writing a monograph “Notes on Bel Air - a character sketch of our county seat.” He designed the seal for Harford County and the town seals for Bel Air, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace.


Over the years Van Bibber contributed numerous columns to local newspapers. He wrote “Crazy Horse Spoke” for the News Advertiser and the Havre de Grace Record and “Henry Harf Hath Hearde” published in the Bel Air Aegis. He illustrated his columns with drawings and caricatures.


Van Bibber never married. After the death of his mother in 1955, he began renting rooms in his house to boarders and having all his meals in the restaurants and cafes of Bel Air. This habit ensured that Van Bibber was a familiar personage in the town and his diaries are full of references to pedestrians or motorists hailing him during his perambulations.


Throughout much of his life Van Bibber was plagued by insomnia and many of the later volumes of his diary record his efforts to occupy the hours of sleeplessness. Many of these hours were spent on the diary itself with its time-consuming transcriptions, amendments, indexing and the like. Indeed it occasionally seems as if the diary were the focus and raison d'etre of Van Bibber's life with many of the elaborations of style, annotations etc. growing out of a need to occupy his thoughts and time. The days were structured by the grooves of habits and patterns repeated over the years but Van Bibber's relatively unfettered and solitary existence was made even more inward-directed and solitary by the regimen of keeping his diary.


Van Bibber also suffered from alcoholism. The gradual progression from the exuberant drinking of a college youth to social drinking as a young adult to dependence and abuse of alcohol in maturity is evident in the pages of the diary -- indeed, there must exist few autobiographical accounts of the disease as meticulous as this one. In 1968 Van Bibber was hospitalized for several weeks in a state of near physical collapse after one particularly severe period of abuse. As a result of this episode, with its attendant warnings of fatality, Van Bibber embarked on a period of abstinence which lasted ten years. He frequented the same familiar cafes and kept the same company without jeopardizing his own resolution.


Van Bibber died on March 26, 1979, after an illness of several weeks.


Scope and Content

As will be obvious from the previous pages the most remarkable feature of this collection is the voluminous daily diary kept by Van Bibber from August 1926 to February 1979, the month before his death. The diary occupies 63 chronological volumes (with 7 additional volumes kept by Van Bibber on his travels), totaling approximately 50,000 pages. The format of the diary evolved over the years as Van Bibber refined and modified his system but the commitment to a faithful recording of the minutiae of everyday life never wavered. Not only do the entries capture life's progression of one individual from youth into old age but also they preserve a contemporaneous record of the social and technological changes over half a century.


Van Bibber recorded his daily routine from literally the exact time at which he awoke, to his meals, his conversations, mail received and sent, his dreams, what he wore, when he washed his socks or brushed his teeth, what clothes he took to the cleaners, his purchases and financial transactions. He described parties and reported conversations, noted the pieces of classical music broadcast on the radio, summarized the plots of radio and television programs, movies and books, reported the weather and commented on world affairs. When he was traveling, this recording became even more complex with times of departure, descriptions of scenery, hotels, cities, fellow travelers and the like.


Van Bibber began his diary while a student at the University of Virginia. He used old classroom notebooks and wrote in a dense scrawl, completely covering the pages with numerous amendments, additions and marginalia. Van Bibber occasionally made entries in Russian or in a (seemingly) invented alphabet.  Many of the early volumes contain whimsical sketches or architectural drawings.


In 1935 Van Bibber began typing his diary on loose-leaf sheets of paper and binding them into volumes of approximately 1000 pages. With few exceptions, he continued this practice until his death. He kept notes throughout the day and then transferred this information to a typed narrative form. Many of the early volumes contain indexes of those items or events Van Bibber deemed important but in 1947 he refined his system even further by instituting a card index. The subject headings of this card system are listed on pages 12-13 of this register. By far the most voluminous category is “motion pictures” reflecting Van Bibber's enthusiasm for the cinema, but there are also hundreds of cards for “books” and “letters.”


Van Bibber was a poor speller and often wrote in a phonetic style but in 1971 he began using an elaborate and complicated “shorthand” system of his own invention. With the exception of the diary of his round-the-world voyage in 1975, he made entries in this code for the rest of his life. The volumes for the latter years (1974-79) also include Van Bibber's personal correspondence and copies of his replies.


In addition to the diary the collection includes three volumes of poetry written by Van Bibber, the typescript of his monograph “Bel Air - a character sketch of our county seat,” his treatise on English grammar, pronunciation and spelling titled “Wurz the Far at?” and one folder of newspaper clippings and miscellaneous souvenirs.



One folder containing:

  • Copy of obituary notice, The Aegis, Bel Air, Maryland, 29 March 1979.
  • Copy of article written about Van Bibber with personal anecdotes and reminiscences, The Aegis, 20 April 1978.
  • Article re Harford County Bicentennial, quoting Van Bibber and including photograph. c.1973
  • Brochure of Harford County Bicentennial Historic Pilgrimage, September 29-30, 1973.
  • Souvenirs of Bibber's round-the-world trip: travel brochure for Nikko, Japan, postcard, 2 photographs taken aboard ship. 1976


Volume I

August 14, 1926 - December 2, 1926

includes sketches and calligraphy; written in classroom notebook of sister Katherine Van Bibber.


Volume II

December 3, 1926 - March 29, 1927

includes sketches and calligraphy; written in classroom notebook of sister Katherine Van Bibber.


Volume III

March 29, 1927 - September 3, 1927


Volume IV

September 6, 1927 - February 25, 1928

Includes sketches and calligraphy; from other end of book, classroom notes on the history of art taken by Van Bibber.


Volume V

February 25, 1928 - July 7, 1928

114 pp.

“What I have written between these pages is not the work of saint or sages. I'll ask you not to look and see the things about myself and me”


Volume VI

July 7, 1928 - July 4, 1929

297 pp.

Includes sketches, calligraphy, poetry by Van Bibber and expense account (September 5-10,1924) kept by brother Edwin Van Bibber.


Volume VII

July 5, 1929 - September 7, 1930

300 pp


Volume VIII

September 8, 1930 - October 19, 1931

“A diary that is now of some consequence to me.”  Begins some phonetic spelling and shorthand.



Volume IX

October 19, 1931 - June 6, 1933

“The past at least is secured.”


Volume X

June 6, 1933 - April 23, 1935


Volume XI

April 23, 1935 - July 28, 1935


Volume XII

July 28, 1935 - September 10, 1937

1216 pp

“Diaries still have their uses; they record life's choice abuses. Guaranteed to drive one frantic until time labels them romantic.”

Includes transcript of excerpt from Volume V (June 7-13, 1928). “In case the other volumes of this diary become lost there is a certain portion which I value so highly that I am recopying it here.” Describes parties and escapades at end of junior year at University of Virginia.


Volume XIII

September 10, 1937 - January 29, 1938

300 pp

“It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scrole (sic), I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”


Volume XIV

January 29, 1938 - May 1, 1939

1234 pp


Volume XV

May 1, 1939 - November 23, 1941

1430 pp

`A pessimist is a person who foretells the future accurately.'


Volume XVI

November 23, 1941 - November 29, 1943

998 pp

`An optimist is a person who foretells the future inaccurately.'


Volume XVII

November 29, 1943 - February 6, 1945

680 pp


Volume XVIII

February 6, 1945 - July 6, 1945

258 pp

Includes description of trip to Panama.


Volume XIX

July 6, 1945 - April 11, 1947

1042 pp


Volume XX

April 11, 1947 - December 27, 1947

1000 pp


Volume XXI

December 27, 1947 - September 11, 1948

1000 pp


Volume XXII

September 11, 1948 - April 24, 1949

1000 pp

Includes description of trip to Mexico City and Havana.


Volume XXIII

April 24, 1949 - January 13, 1950

1000 pp

Includes 1973 newsclipping.


Volume XXIV

January 13, 1950 - November 18, 1950

1000 pp

Includes description of trip to Europe.


Volume XXV

November 18, 1950 - September 17, 1951

990 pp


Volume XXVI

September 17, 1951 - September 2, 1952

1000 pp


Volume XXVII

September 3, 1952 - August 11, 1953

1000 pp



August 11, 1953 - December 27, 1954

1000 pp


Volume XXIX

December 27, 1954 - March 29, 1956

1000 pp


Volume XXX

March 29, 1956 - April 19, 1957

1000 pp


Volume XXXI

April 20, 1957 - June 5, 1958

1001 pp


Volume XXXII

June 6, 1958 - June 14, 1959

1002 pp



June 15, 1959 - April 26, 1960

1001 pp


Volume XXXIV

April 27, 1960 - December 5, 1960

1001 pp


Volume XXXV

December 6, 1960 - July 18, 1961

1003 pp


Volume XXXVI

July 19, 1961 - March 7, 1962

1003 pp



March 8, 1962 - October 18, 1962

1001 pp



October 19, 1962 - June 10, 1963

1010 pp


Volume XXXIX

June 11, 1963 - March 26, 1964

1004 pp


Volume XL

March 27, 1964 - January 9, 1965

1008 pp


Volume XLI

January 10, 1965 - September 17, 1965

1002 pp


Volume XLII

September 18, 1965 - June 13, 1966

1008 pp


Volume XLIII

June 14, 1966 - February 25, 1967

1004 pp


Volume XLIV

February 26, 1967 - December 15, 1967

1001 pp


Volume XLV

December 16, 1967 - November 10, 1968

1009 pp


Volume XLVI

November 11, 1968 - May 13, 1969

1010 pp


Volume XLVII

May 14, 1969 - October 30, 1969

1002 pp



October 31, 1969 - March 31, 1970

1021 pp


Volume XLIX

April 1, 1970 - August 22, 1970

1002 pp


Volume L

August 23, 1970 - February 1, 1971

1002 pp


Volume LI

February 2, 1971 - June 10, 1971

1006 pp


Volume LII

June 11, 1971 - November 7, 1971

1012 pp


Volume LIII

November 8, 1971 - March 8, 1972

858 pp


Volume LIV

March 9, 1972 - August 12, 1972

1009 pp


Volume LV

August, 13, 1972 - February 8, 1973

1009 pp


Volume LVI

February 9, 1973 - August 13, 1973

1003 pp


Volume LVII

August 14, 1973 - March 21, 1974

1003 pp


Volume LVIII

March 22, 1974 - October 24, 1974

1002 pp

Includes copies of letters sent and received.


Volume LIX

October 25, 1974 - November 13, 1975

903 pp

Includes copies of letters sent and received.


Volume LX

November 14, 1975 - July 24, 1976

902 pp

Includes copies of letters sent and received and copies of column [UNK] “Haffe Hath Heard”


Volume LXI

July 25, 1976 - March 19, 1977

701 pp

Includes copies of correspondence and of columns.


Volume LXII

March 20, 1977 - March 1, 1978

702 pp


Volume LXIII

March 2, 1978 - February 27, 1979

479 pp


Volume XLVII-a

September 10, 1969 - October 1, 1969

138 pp

Trip to Europe


Volume LIII-a

January 29-31, 1972

Trip to Easton.


Volume LXIX-a

April 21, 1970 - April 25, 1970

121 pp

Trip to Virginia


Volume LII-a

August 4, 1971 - August 16, 1971

Trip to Seattle, Victoria, Vermont


Volume L-a

September 28, 1970 - October 24, 1970

201 pp

Trip to Europe


Volume L-b

October 25, 1970 - November 7, 1970

163 pp

Trip to Europe (continued)


Volume LII-b

September 20-21, 1971

Trip to Parris Island


Volume LVIII-a

September 13-27, 1974

501 pp

Trip on the Delta Queen.


Volume LIX-a

January 30, 1975 - April 24, 1975

Round-the-world trip.


Volume LIX-b

April 24, 1975 - June 1, 1975

150 pp

Round-the-world trip (continued)


Volume LIX-c

June 1, 1975 - July 4, 1975

109 pp

Round-the-world trip (continued)

Volume I

`Poems' Written before November 11, 1924

82 pp


Volume II

`Poems' Begun March 5, 1938, completed November 5, 1964

120 pp


Volume III

`Poems' Begun February 16, 1965. Last entry March 20, 1977

66 pp

N.B. Volumes of poetry are indexed by title.

`Notes on Bel Air - a character study of our county seat'

48 pp

Typescript by Van Bibber, clipped and pasted in school calendar. Heavily annotated and re-arranged. Indexed: “Beginnings, Hotels, Churches, Town Government, Utilities, Transportation, The Business Section, The Fire Company, The Police, The Press and Radio, Organizations, Public Gatherings, Education, Entertainment and the Armory, The Red Cross and the Library, Affairs held in the Armory, The Movies, Chataugua, Restaurants, Notables, Loss of the Old and Hope for the New.”

“Wurz the far at? A study in Murkn. As distinguished from the American English spoken and written by my father Dr. A.F. Van Bibber M.D. to whom this book is dedicated by George L. Van Bibber”

49 pp


Preface, chapters titled: grammar, pronunciation, delivery, spelling of dialect, vocabulary, popular expressions. Illustrated by Van Bibber. Treatise on the subject of incorrect grammar and pronunciation. Diatribe against Samual Johnson's spelling rules and conventions.