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Shorthand note

Shorthand writing found on back of memoirs

Shorthand writing found on back of memoirs

I was going through the memoirs today when I found a note written in shorthand on the back of a sheet in the middle of stack. As shorthand is a dying art, I guess I will rely on my code-cracking skills to try to figure out what the note says. Any ideas?

10 Responses to “Shorthand note”

  1. Beryl Pratt says:

    I have attempted to transcribe the Sam Steele shorthand note which is written in Pitman’s Shorthand. The page begins mid-sentence. I have put question marks for doubtful words, double dashes where only the consonants are readable, dots for words not deciphered, and slashes for alternatives for the same outline. The word [made] refers to the longhand word in the centre of the 4th line from the bottom, where he seems to have corrected his words. The quote marks are as written. The last occurrence of “Wild Bill” has marks underneath the outlines to indicate initial capital letters, so this is definitely a name. I think he has written “rifle” with a hooked FL after the R stroke, which is difficult to show, and therefore looks like “rife”. I hope this helps other who may be working on the note, who are hopefully better acquainted with the language and terms likely to be have been used. Beryl Pratt, Kent, United Kingdom.

    with 6 rounds in the revolver; shot? his? parry? chicken? with one of them and when he arrived at house/on horse? sat? chatting a while with the lady while doing so he noticed a k–t–gun barrelled rifle hanging over fireplace examined it casually found it loaded and presently the lady of the house said “such and such gang passed here a short time ago and they would not/won’t? be back if they see your horse at the door they will come in and murder you. wild bill said nothing to continue the conversation, a few minutes later they heard gallop of horses one man? called out “billy/bully/pull? over/for? wild bill we have got him at last!” the gang dismounted hurriedly and advanced to door pistol in hand [made] to the open door pistol in hand Wild Bill seized the rifle from above mant(le)piece faced? … killed 1st 5 with his revolver, the 6th of the 10 with the rifle, around? a couple men? with the barrel? finish the last 2 with the t–w– on the/and? knife.

  2. Lynn McPherson says:

    Thanks much for your contribution! Most of us don’t have the shorthand skills to read this.

  3. Sylvia Moffatt says:

    Interesting. The k-t-gun may refer to the Kentucky long rifle used at the time. The first line would possibly be “shot his prairie chicken” which would leave five shots in the revolver. The prairie chicken was/is a common game bird.

  4. Lynn McPherson says:

    Thanks for your thoughts – we’ll soon have this shorthand note figured out!

  5. Mally Goos says:

    Using Beryl’s excellent transcription here added to my own, done before reading Beryl’s to see if & how much we matched up, plus Sylvia’s confirming input (I did think ‘prairie chicken’ too, but no R hook so wasn’t sure if he was referring to a gang nickname, “Barry Chicken”?).
    The rifle is most likely an Octagon Barreled Rifle – Remington for instance was manufacturing them from 1885 but it was more than likely the Hawken Rifle aka the “Plains Rifle”: So the statement probably says: ” . . he noticed a octagon barreled rifle . . “. Going by his sometimes basic S/H outlines & occasional errors I would read his S/H as saying here: ” . . the lady of the house said, “S/soap and the S/soap gang passed here a short time ago and they won’t be ? [I don’t think it can be “back” although it looks like it, more likely a word for ‘happy’ in the vernacular of the time & locale; as they can’t both leave & come in IMHO] after they see your horse . . “. Makes it tricky to transcribe when he apparently uses the same outline for horse & house, but I think that’s what he did too Beryl.
    Further on, I agree with Beryl also that it’s: ” . . one man called out to “Billy over [‘here’ left out maybe?] Wild Bill we’ve got him at last!” the gang dismounted hurriedly and advanced to the door post? in I made for the open/ed? door possibly not ’til mid night. Wild Bill seized the rifle from above mantlepiece [leaving out crossed out/line through outlines here] killed 1st, 5 with the revolver, the 6th with the rifle, brained a couple men with the barrel finished the last 2 of the 10 [insertion mark in wrong place?] with the B/bowie knife ”
    Note: Hopefully anything incorrect here will be corrected…. I think the statement indicates that Wild Bill only shot the rifle once & then used the barrel; which would possibly increase the likelihood that it was the Hawkens “plains rifle” as that rifle was a “one shot” rifle.
    Hope this is useful. Keep up the brilliant work Lynn! ��
    Mally – Victoria B.C.

  6. Lynn McPherson says:

    Wow Mally,
    Thanks so much for your input – I never had a shorthand course, so appreciate all the help I can receive in translating the note. Your detailed explanantion is so interesting – and it does tie in with other material Steele wrote about the ‘gangs’, etc. – I’ll keep an eye out for the kind of rifles he mentions in his non-shorthand correspondence. Again, thanks so much for the contribution – translating shorthand is a dying art!

  7. […] the images posted on the blog, to accompany the blog entry. Some entries, such as the one on the translation of shorthand in the memoirs of Sir Samuel Steele, openly invite people’s […]

  8. Dan Watson says:

    Using some of the key words transcribed by Beryl Pratt from the shorthand, I was able to do a quick in-text search of the online copy of Forty Years in Canada available here: . I searched (ctrl+f) “six rounds” and it brought me right to page 304 of the pdf, which showed the published text of this shorthand note.

    “He started for the
    purpose one afternoon with six rounds in his revolver. On
    the way he shot a prairie chicken, and when he arrived at
    the house he sat and chatted with his partner’s wife. While
    doing so, he noticed an octagon barrelled rifle hanging over the
    fireplace, and this he examined casually, finding it loaded.”


  9. Lynn McPherson says:

    Thank you for this!

  10. David Trainer (Sydney) says:

    What a fascinating relic! Thanks to Beryl, and all others, who provided the translation. I struggled with it as my Pitman shorthand is indeed rusty. I was one of the last New South Wales state goverment employees listed as a “stenographer” and the only male one employed in my intake. I’ve never lost my love of it, and this has prompted me to do some revision and start writting again, for pleasure.

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