Regina O’Connor recorded all of Andalusia Farm’s financial records from July 1946 to December 1962 in a set of three identical ledgers. When she purchased them, they were blank, and she customized them with special labels, in a system designed specifically for the farm. Because they are of her own design and short hand it can be hard to understand what she was recording when you first read them. But with a quick overview you can quickly decode the books and learn a great deal about life on the farm.
Generally, the ledger is organized by the following rule: one set of pages is equal to one month. This evolved over time, with early months being over two sets of pages, or occasionally would share pages. Through time her records became more succinct, leading to the previously stated rule of one set of pages being one month.
The first column of the ledger is a list of the names of the individuals and businesses who did business with the farm. The names on the list grow and change, over the years, illustrating long term workers and business partners.
The next two columns next to the list of names were the list of deposits and withdrawals from their account at the exchange bank, which correlate to the names on the columns next to it. The column on the left is all of the deposits, and the column on the right is the withdrawals. They were used to add and subtract numbers, balancing amounts and bank budgets.
Next to the bank balance columns, are the sales columns. Early on in the ledgers there were three columns, Creamery Sales, Non-Creamery Milk Sales, and Other Sales, which over time shrank down into two columns, Milk Sales and Other Sales. The choice to reduce down to two categories implies a confidence in recording sales, and a change in business model, as most sales went to a single source.
Every other column in the ledger represents a category of expense incurred by the farm. Most of the columns are single categories, which could be completely summarized by a single set of numbers, that have no direct connection to other categories, things like feed, and fertilizer.
There are some columns that are placed next to each other with a shared header. The header has a broader subject name that encompasses the two themes of the category beneath them. Trucks are an example of this, with two categories: gas and repair. This allows Regina and researchers to connect the two items together, and differentiate from other types of fuels or repairs. This is consistent except for the categories of wages and extra labor, which both deal with compensation of the workers, but are on opposites pages. The reason behind this choice is unknown, but it is consistent across many of the ledgers.
The pages of these ledgers are filled with Regina O’Connor’s thin steady handwriting, show a clear dedication to her business. It shows a design of a woman growing in confidence of what she was doing, making choices that brought success and failures, and keeping the farm going through the years. Her dedication clear in every single cursive word.