US Federal 1930

Lavinia P. Angus (1858-1940s)—geometry whiz; who knew?!

1820 watercolor portrait of French mathematicians Adrien-Marie Legendre and Joseph Fourier; Boilly, Julien-Leopold. (1820). Album de 73 Portraits-Charge Aquarelle’s des Membres de I’Institut (Wikimedia Commons: Image in Public Domain)

1820 watercolor portrait of French mathematicians Adrien-Marie Legendre and Joseph Fourier; Boilly, Julien-Leopold. (1820). Album de 73 Portraits-Charge Aquarelle’s des Membres de I’Institut (Wikimedia Commons: Image in Public Domain)

I know, I’m breaking my self-imposed vow of ‘blog silence until the New Year’, but once I’ve assembled enough information about someone, I just feel compelled to get it ‘out there’ as quickly as possible! So here I go again–

My dad occasionally spoke of his [Great] ‘Aunt Vean’ (short for ‘Lavinia’). Unfortunately, so much time has passed since his passing, I can’t remember the context. I only recall that whatever he ever had to say about her was complimentary and implied that she was quite a pistol.

Beyond that, until recently, I did not know much else about her. I only knew she was the youngest daughter of Wealthy and James Angus and that she had once been married to a gentleman with the surname Marthaler. Lavinia’s father James passed away when she was just a toddler so her memories of him would have been minimal. She had numerous older brothers and sisters (including my great grandmother Wealthy who was about eight years her senior) who would have helped raise her.  (As an aside, one of her older brothers was Job Angus about whom I wrote a previous post containing a letter from Texas.)

With a bit of digging, more info about Aunt Vean has come to light, including the curious blurb entitled ‘Fast Mathematics’ that was published in 1875 in National Teachers’ Monthly, Vol. 2 (p. 192–see the accompanying image on this page). Lavinia, born in September 1858, would have been about 17 at the time, and obviously she was a very bright young lady. Somehow she managed to memorize in one night 17 geometry theorems of famed French mathematician Adrien-Marie Legendre, and then recite them all the next day in class in a record time of 1 minute 40 seconds. I looked up all these theorems (posted on this page as an image–click on it to enlarge) to see what was entailed, and indeed, her feat was incredibly impressive. While she never went on to attend college, it’s obvious if she had, she would have possessed the determination to succeed at whatever subject matter she put her mind to.

1875, p. 192

National Teachers’ Monthly, Vol. 2, 1875, p. 192

The 18 theorems Aunt Vine memorized and recited

The 17 theorems Aunt Vine memorized and recited; click on image to enlarge it.

‘Aunt Vean’ married John Philip Marthaler in Elizabeth, NJ, on 24 May 1879. She was 21 at the time, and he was roughly 7 years older than she. The 1880 census shows a Lavinia and Philip ‘Morthala’ living at 163 Kent Street in Brooklyn with a young man named Hulet Valentine, whose occupation is listed as “Root beer”. Philip was working as a clerk in a store. Sadly the marriage did not last for long—Philip must have died sometime before 1885. The NJ state census of that year shows Lavinia back living with her mom Wealthy Ann Jaques Angus, and the 1900 and subsequent censuses list her as a widow. There is no indication that she ever remarried, and as far as I am aware she and Philip never had any children.

I found ‘Vean’ in all the Federal censuses taken between 1900 and 1940, and also in the 1905 NJ census. As you can see below, further down the page, her first and last names were commonly misspelled. She lived in Newark, NJ, until sometime before 1940 when she is shown to be living in nearby Montclair. She was most often shown as a boarder, and a woman named Elizabeth Booth (a decade younger than ‘Vean’) seemed to be a friend who appeared alongside her in a number of these records. That surprised me a bit considering Lavinia had so many siblings–I would have thought someone would have taken her in; but perhaps she inherited sufficient funds to stay out on her own or simply preferred to remain independent from the family. In 1900 ‘Vean’ was working as a stenographer; from 1910 onward, her occupation is listed as ‘none’. Her friend Elizabeth continued working until sometime between 1920 and 1930; in the 1930 and 1940 census she also reported no occupation.

‘Aunt Vean’ was listed as 81 in the 1940 census. I don’t have a date of death for her. I may find it in my dad’s memoirs—but he was off fighting in the Pacific for some of the 1940s and may not have made record of it.

The only physical memento we have of ‘Vean’ is a little vase that she gave to her niece (my grandmother), Fanny (Woodruff) Brodhead. Meanwhile, some of Aunt Vean’s letters may exist somewhere out there. The family history paper, One Line of Descendants of James Angus, written by Harriet Stryker-Rodda and published in 1969 (available in the Family Search Library–see my Links page) reported:  Lavinia’s letters, written in her later years, have been preserved in the family because of her interest in the family’s history and the fact that she had a retentive mind even as she got older. Perhaps, those letters will come to light someday. It would be wonderful to know more of the family history from her recollections and to see what her relationships with others were like.

As always, corrections, additions, and comments welcome!!!

All of the below from the Family Search website:

Lavinia P Marthaler Boarder United States Census, 1940
birth: 1859 New Jersey
residence: 1940 Ward 3, Montclair, Montclair Town, Essex, New Jersey, United States
other: Martha E Macbeth, Bessie Wetherby, Signa Hjertstrom, Mabel V Crane, M Elizabeth Booth, Sarah E Vanduyne…
Lavinia Marthaler Boarder United States Census, 1900
birth: September 1864 New Jersey
residence: 1900 District 5 Newark city Ward 2, Essex, New Jersey, United States
other: Joseph O Nichols, Eliza D Nichols, Sayres O Nichols, Julia C Nichols, Mary E Booth, Dora Flithner
Lavenea P Marthaler Boarder United States Census, 1930
birth: 1859 New Jersey
residence: 1930 Newark (Districts 1-250), Essex, New Jersey, United States
other: Elizabeth M Booth
Lavania Marthaler Head United States Census, 1920
birth: 1860 New Jersey
residence: 1920 Newark Ward 8, Essex, New Jersey, United States
other: Elizbeth Baldwin, Emma Mackain, M Elizbeth Booth, Bonnie Lomax
Lavinia Marthalles Head United States Census, 1910
birth: 1860 New Jersey
residence: 1910 Newark Ward 8, Essex, New Jersey, United States
Lavenia Marthaler New Jersey, State Census, 1905
birth: 1860
residence: 1905 , Essex, New Jersey, United States
other: Mary E Booth
Lavinia Morthala Wife United States Census, 1880
birth: 1859 New Jersey, United States
residence: 1880 Brooklyn, Kings, New York, United States
spouse: Phillip Morthala
other: Hulet Valentine
Categories: Angus, Brodhead, Brooklyn, Marthaler, New Jersey 1885, New Jersey 1905, US Federal 1860, US Federal 1880, US Federal 1900, US Federal 1910, US Federal 1920, US Federal 1930, US Federal 1940, Woodruff | 7 Comments

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