Documentary Editing, Association for


Date of this Version

Spring 2003

Document Type



Documentary Editing, Volume 25, Number 1, Spring 2003. ISSN 0196-7134


2003 © the Association for Documentary Editing. Used by permission.


This article focuses on the diary's account of one particular episode of illness, but the manuscript in its entirety contains information of greater significance: Mersman's story illustrates the development of the middle class in nineteenth-century America.3 In 1849, when he was twenty-five, Mersman moved to St. Louis, where he and John Clemens Nulsen (1824-1906) established a business and became prominent members of the German-American community (see illustrations p. 17). They rectified whiskey and imported cigars. Nulsen & Mersman bought raw whiskey wholesale, distilled it a second time to increase the alcohol content and remove impurities, added coloring and flavoring, and then distributed the refined product to retail businesses such as saloons and brothels. In addition to recording his progress in becoming a successful merchant, Mersman described an illness that had a profound effect on his entire life: syphilis.