Author Archives: Gail Brodhead-Kae
Regular readers of this blog may remember that my grandmother’s 1898 Battin High School (Elizabeth, NJ) graduating class had two African-Americans among its ranks. Battin High School was recognized at that time as the best high school in the state.
I wrote at length about the class photo I found that included them and went to great lengths to label everyone as best I could; I also posted newspaper articles on the graduation event itself. Click here for that post. I did not, however, look beyond that event to see what was happening at that time in the field of education for members of the African-American community. So I thought I would try to see if I could find out what happened to these two students and also look at newspapers of that period using the Library of Congress’s digital newspaper archives.
As for trying to learn more about the students:
I found a James Morris (b. June 1878, VA) in the 1900 census who was 22 at the time and living with his wife Nannie and two small children, Margaret and Harold, at 10 1/2 Center Street in Elizabeth. His occupation was listed as ‘coachman’; this census asked all citizens whether they could read and write. Both this James and his wife checked ‘yes’. Whether this was the same James, I don’t know. If it was, perhaps he was working as a coachman while going to college. He has such a scholarly look about him, I am inclined to think that he went on to pursue a profession requiring a degree or two.
I found a Mattie Thomas (b. Jan 1879, VA) in the 1900 census who was living and working in the home of a physician and his wife, Harry and Daisy Washington, in Middletown, Monmouth Co., NJ, which is 30 miles south of Elizabeth. I found the same Mattie in the 1880 census as a 1 year old living in Samuel Miller, Virginia, with her parents Alexander (laborer) and Lucinda (homemaker) Thomas and 4 older siblings. At some point she probably got married and changed her last name so finding her in records further down the road may be difficult.
My quick newspaper search resulted in a variety of articles, many from African-American newspapers. Did you know there were 400 in existence across the country by the end of the 1800s?
Some interesting stats from the Wisconsin Weekly Advocate, August 10, 1899, are bulleted below. Note: dollar amounts have NOT been converted to today’s dollar; but bear in mind that in 1898, $1,000 would be $30,072 in today’s currency; also, I have substituted ‘black’ for ‘n—-‘:
- Blacks had reduced their illiteracy rate by 45% in just 35 years
- 1.5 million black children were enrolled in the common schools
- 40,000 blacks were enrolled in higher educational institutions
- 30,000 black teachers were at work in schools
- 20,000 blacks were learning trades
- 1,200 blacks pursuing classical courses
- 1,200 were pursuing scientific courses
- 1,000 blacks were pursuing business courses
- Black libraries held 250,000 volumes
- There were 156 black higher educational institutions
- 500 black doctors
- 300 books written by blacks
- 250 black lawyers
- 3 black banks
- 3 black magazines
- 400 black newspapers
- Value of black libraries: $500,000
- Value of black church property: $37 million
- Value of black-owned farms: $400 million
- Value of black-owned homes (besides farms): $325 million
- Value of personal property: $165 million
- As of this date in 1899, blacks had raised $10 million towards their own education.
- Blacks “are more eager for their education than whites. The whites enrolled 14 percent of their population in 1870, and only 22 percent in 1890”; blacks enrolled “3 percent in 1870 and 19 percent in 1890.”
- Whites “have .61 of 1 percent divorces; blacks .67 of 1 percent…”
- “In the whole country, there are 25 blacks to 75 whites who own their own homes. The proportion should be 1 black to 6 whites.”
- “Of the black homes, 87 percent are freeholds; of the white homes but 71 percent.”
- “Of farms owned by blacks, 89 percent are unencumbered; of those owned by whites but 71 percent.”
- “Forty-one percent of blacks are engaged in gainful pursuits, while only 36 percent of whites are thus engaged.”
- “Government reports show that the [black man] is the best soldier in the regular army.”
Surely this is history worth exploring and celebrating. I never knew James or Mattie or any of the American people behind all these factoids, but boy am I proud of them! I encourage anyone wanting to get a true picture of what was happening at any given time in our history to go to the newspapers of that day. Here is one more gifted lady I discovered in an article published in Montana’s Republican newspaper, The Philipsburg Mail, dated October 7, 1898:
On rolling hills south of Orlando not far from Lake Wales and amid abundant orange groves—perhaps, the last place you’d expect—stands a majestic “singing tower” surrounded by lush botanical gardens, the handiwork of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.
This is Bok Tower Gardens—yet another Florida gem that is off the beaten path but more than well worth a visit. It was envisioned and founded by editor, author, and philanthropist Edward W. Bok (1863-1930), who emigrated from Holland to the US as a child and wanted to leave behind a place of beauty for Americans to enjoy as a way of thanking them for his success.
Less than a year after the official opening to the public in 1929, Bok died of a heart attack within view of his beloved singing tower. He was buried at its base.
Since then over 23 million people have visited this place. Even today, it remains an oasis of calm in an oft-times troubled world. I’ve been here several times, always in the “off season” when the number of visitors declines to a trickle. I finally got my husband here last year, and he immediately understood why I was so keen for him to experience this place.
Wandering up the hillside toward the tower to the sound of chirping birds, we passed underneath massive old oaks laden with ferns and dripping with Spanish moss. When we finally reached the top and arrived at the end of the reflection pool, the view of the tower was mesmerizing. Once we explored the areas around the base of the tower, we strolled to the edges of the gardens for a view of the surrounding lands; we were, after all, standing on one of Florida’s highest elevations—some 295 feet (LOL).
In short: Go visit if you are ever in this part of Florida. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The 60-ton carillon still plays daily. Also on the grounds is Pinewood Estate—a Mediterranean-style mansion built in the 1930s for a steel magnate. And, there’s a wonderful museum and gift shop. If you have a botanical garden or museum membership elsewhere, check to see if you can take advantage of reciprocal agreements. You may be able to get into Bok Tower Gardens for free or at reduced cost.
That’s today’s “Florida Friday.” Thank you, Edward Bok, for leaving us all such a wonderful legacy.
P.S. Below are an article on the official 1929 opening with President Calvin Coolidge presiding (the original name was “Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower) and a January 1930 obituary.
Today I am posting a copy of the original 1812 marriage certificate that belonged to my third-great-grandparents, Isaac Jaques and Wealthy Cushman. It was among the numerous papers and clippings saved by my grandmother. I wish it contained details that would be helpful with connecting the Mayflower dots—e.g., the names of Wealthy’s parents. I assume the marriage took place in either New York City, where Isaac was making a career as a tailor, or Hartford, Wealthy’s birthplace. The couple and their children did not relocate to Elizabethtown, NJ, until 1843.
The pastor’s name was “N. Bangs”. This may very well have been Nathan Bangs, the self-taught itinerant theologian who was very well known at that time. He kept a diary of his travels and eventually wrote a history of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada and the US.
This is quite a poignant photo; the War had ended just 18 months earlier and America had lost 116,000 servicemen—53,000 in combat and 63,000 from disease and influenza. These tragic losses were marked during this Memorial Day ceremony in Suresnes American Cemetery just outside Paris. If you enlarge the image by clicking on it twice, you will become immersed in a very solemn scene.
The circling year again brings round
This proud Memorial Day,
With mingled joy and grief profound,
We deck with wreaths the sacred mound,
Where patriot soldiers lay.
Tis meet that we this honor show,
And pledge this day anew,
Our fadeless faith, that all may know
How strong this faith will ever grow,
In loyal hearts and true.
Our land so broad, so grand, so free,
Pays homage to the band,
Who fought and bled, and died that we
An undivided nation be,
The peer of any land.
Pile granite to the vaulted skies;
Carve words of deathless fame;
Let marble monuments arise
Where’er the soldier-patriot lies,
In honor of his name.
The granite pile may sink to dust,
No more its words be read ;
The marble may forsake its trust;
The nation may, in reckless lust,
Forget the honored dead.
Their fame is fixed beyond the skies,
Their glory is of God ;
Twas not ambition’s sacrifice,
Nor eager gain for worldly prize,
That laid them ‘neath the sod.
They died our nation’s life to save,
Ere it were rent in twain,
For this each fills a soldier’s grave,
For this the glorious flag shall wave,
In honor of the slain.
They died : the clanking shackles fell
From bondman’s fettered hand,
And angels winged their way to tell,
While heavenly choirs the anthem swell,
Of freedom’s happy land.
Z. F. Riley*
*From Holiday Selections for Readings and Recitation compiled by Sarah Sigourney Rice (Philadelphia: The Penn Publishing Company, 1920, pp. 187-188)
Suresnes American Cemetery – American Battle Monuments Commission
God Bless ALL of Our Fallen Heroes
To follow up on that last post about oatmeal, here are a few US newspaper ads from the 1890s/early 1900s that touted its supreme benefits. This seems to be when oatmeal really took off in the US as a breakfast food. Better late than never, our Irish, English, and Scottish cousins were probably thinking!
An image of Madame De Ryther has at last surfaced.
It’s not the best image, but I’ll take it. I have to thank Bill Simpson of Charlotte, NC, for pointing out this image’s existence to me (quite a long time ago, actually). Because he found it on newspapers.com, he did not feel he could share it for me to post, and of course I agreed with him on that. While the copyright has expired, sites like Newspapers.com and Genealogy Bank have user agreements that prohibit users from sharing their finds willy-nilly. Some get around this problem by finding articles on those sites and then looking for those same articles on free digital archive sites. But this particular Ohio newspaper—The Hamilton Evening Journal (published between 1908-1933)—was only available on newspapers.com.
So I had put this image out of mind—until recently, when I decided to take a closer look at the user agreement and discovered that “public domain content” can sometimes be used in very small quantities publicly if proper permission is obtained. So I sent off an email to ask newspapers.com for permission to publish on a non-commercial family history blog.
As you can see, fortunately for me, they said “yes.” Timing-wise it’s kind of spooky since Jule is discussing cleanliness and germs (albeit bacterial); on the other hand it’s good to see such discussions were in the news at that time. Forewarned is forearmed. We all know what happened in 1918/19.
Jule, who was born in Little Falls, NY, died in NYC of pneumonia on March 14, 1915, at age 69, so this article’s publication came towards the end of her career. She was living in a hotel at the time. Bill told me that he had discovered information indicating that she had been evicted from her home of 30 years prior to her death. A very sad end for a woman of such tremendous talent.
This may well be the only image ever published of her. I hope I am wrong about that. If anyone ever comes across another one, please let me know.
Past posts on Madame De Ryther:
- Madame Jule A. De Ryther—Early-20th-century American food writer
- 1904: “Some Dainty Luncheon Dishes” by Madame Jule De Ryther
- 1906: Food writer Madame De Ryther journeys to Jamaica & comments on ship cuisine
- 1904: “Two Good Cakes” from Mme. De Ryther, “the best gentlewoman cook in America”
- 1904: Madame Melba prompts Madame De Ryther to write about puddings
- 1903/1904: Quince jam, plum jelly, and salad recipes from Madame De Ryther
- Jule & Juliet, 1896: Madame De Ryther’s “Roast Saddle of Venison” — a recipe from the Adirondacks
- “Family” recipe Friday: 1904—Madame de Ryther writes about custards and blackberry pie
This 1845 article appeared in The American Agriculturist* before making its way into the newspapers. The Augusta (GA) Chronicle and Sentinel** is where it caught my eye while I was looking for articles on a different topic.
I’d forgotten that here in the US, oatmeal hasn’t always been considered an acceptable and even desirable food for humans. Back in 1845, oats were for horses and other animals, and farmers were focused on wheat and rye for human consumption. Today, many Americans appreciate its nutritious value, but it is still nowhere near to enjoying the popularity it experiences in a place like Scotland where it has been a staple for hundreds of years. The US is not among the world’s top oat producers, which include Russia, Canada, Australia, Poland, China, and Finland. Soybeans and corn are more profitable.
Perhaps, this article, which pulls on material published in Blackwood’s Magazine (Edinburgh and London), got some Americans talking about this subject especially since a challenge of sorts was laid down. Whether anyone took them up on that, I don’t know. Of course today, somebody would—you’d see Americans of Scottish descent loading up on “oatcakes, porridge, bannocks, and brose” and those of English descent getting their fill of “wheaten abominations” before fighting it out on YouTube or Instagram.
As superior and tasty as oatmeal may be, I did enjoy reading through the rather vast list of “wheaten abominations”, most of which sound delicious ;-):
- home made bread
- baker’s bread
- household bread
- leaven bread
- brown Georgies
- fancy bread
- raisin bread
- Bath buns
- Sally luns
- tea cakes
- saffron cakes
- slim cakes
- plank cakes
- soda cakes
- current cakes
- sponge cakes
- seed cakes
- girdle cakes
- singing hinnies
- short bread
- currant buns
Having lived in England a number of years, I recognized the baps, Bath buns and Sally Lunns. But some, like “brown Georgies” and “singing hinnies,” left me stumped. Turns out that singing hinnies are a kind of scone-like griddle cake that is popular in Northern England. Girdle cakes are thin scone-like griddle cakes cooked atop a stove rather than in the oven. I guess rusks are something you dip in your tea—like biscotti? No idea about plank cakes or brown Georgies. Please illuminate me, if you can.
Well, strangely enough, while I did enjoy oatmeal for breakfast this morning, I am suddenly feeling the need for a “wheaten abomination.” Best wishes to everyone for a safe and productive week. 🙂
*Volume 4, page 163.
**Published 10 July 1845.
Update 5/21/20: Meanwhile, another curious article from a test undertaken across the pond in 1852:
The Food of London by George Dodd (London: Longmans, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1856) – click here
“Is Oatmeal Healthy? Hear What the Experts Say” by Markham Heid, TIME online, published August 15, 2018 – click here
Solomon’s Castle is on my must-see list of Florida’s quirkiest places. Like many others on that list, it’s off the beaten path and getting there requires a bit of effort. We were staying in Sarasota a couple of years back when the brochure caught our eye. Shall we go? Why not? Early the next morning we headed east and eventually found ourselves in Florida’s rural heartland in search of the “town” of Ona. It was a hot sunny day during the off-season. Few travelers on the road. GPS was patchy at times; we worried a bit about getting lost, but fortunately, we found our way there.
Hardee County, in which Ona and the “castle” are located, probably hasn’t changed much in the last century. Its 1930 population of 10,000 has almost tripled; but that’s nothing compared to Lee County , which is where we live. Here the population has gone from roughly 15,000 to 620,000 during that same time span. Few contrasts could better reflect the great divide between the pace of life in Gulf coast towns and cities and inland areas such as this.
Solomon’s Castle was the brainchild of Howard Solomon, who died in 2016 of heart troubles. He was 81. Howard spent many decades commuting from his 55-acre property to his St. Petersburg cabinet-making and boat-building business to earn the money that fueled his creative passions. Why base himself in a place like Ona? The land was cheap, and there was plenty of it.
Photography is not permitted within the “castle,” but YouTube has footage of tours Howard used to give to visitors (see link below). You’ll quickly see why the folks behind the Weird US publication called him the “Da Vinci of Debris”. For a great article on Howard, click here.
From here on down, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Have a great weekend, everyone.