It's always fun to receive emails from fellow readers and from those looking to find out just who Grace Livingston Hill was. This email came recently and it's intriguing.
Perhaps someone can help unravel the mystery of who Anna E. Martin was and why she asked Grace Livingston Hill to sign her banjo!
Hello, I recently acquired an old tenor banjo with what looks to be an authentic Grace Livingston Hill signature on the banjo head. The name, Anna E. Martin and initials AEM from Colmar, PA is also on the banjo and case, making me believe that she was the owner. I was wondering if you would have any idea what the history might be on this banjo or if there is any connection between Grace Livingston Hill and Anna Martin? I have attached some pictures. The banjo was made by Gibson around 1932.
Of course, we don't know if Anna lived in Colmar before or after Grace autographed her instrument. The only Colmar, Pennsylvania I can find was about 35 miles from Grace's home in Swarthmore. It's actually Colmar Village and it's within Hatfield Township. The village grew up around a railroad station back in the 1870's. Read more about it here.
Here's my take on the story. If this banjo was made around 1932, then it's possible that Anna played it at one of the many places that Grace spoke in Pennsylvania during those years. Grace had a full schedule, often speaking at 15 or 20 different places each month. Quite often she would give talks with specific titles. Many of them corresponded to the small "pamphlets" produced in the 1930's by Lippincott, such as "Beggarman", "The Strange God", or "The Handmaid of the Lord".
After the evening's activities concluded, I'm sure Grace was besieged by those in attendance who wanted her autograph. She signed quite a few, as many of you who own an autographed GLH book know. Perhaps Anna didn't bring a book along. Maybe she didn't own one. Or maybe she just wanted a memento of the day she played her banjo where Grace Livingston Hill was speaking. Any of these are possible, but the real story is probably much better.