Happy Valentine’s Day from the 1930s.
Given by my Grandpa George to my Grandma Alice.
My Grand Aunt recently passed away (she was my maternal Grandma’s sister) and a few items from her home made their way down to me. Included in this collection was this postcard from my Grandma to her. Obviously this came from a family trip to Niagara Falls. That would have been my mother with the cough mentioned on the back. Anyway, I was looking at the postmark to figure out the date but it only partially imprinted. So I looked up the stamp and according to the Smithsonian it was commonly used on postcards from 1952-1958. Sure enough that postmark looks like it came from July 1954, which would have made my Mom 9 years old.
There is something oddly fascinating about reading a postcard from the past.
This (U.S.) nickel sized token is a bit of a mystery. I’ve scoured the internet, and even posted this to a website for collectors of oddities and rarities but to no avail. My initial thoughts were that this could be another Civil War token, but a collector of such items said that he couldn’t find it in his books and he didn’t think it was that old. Looking at the shield I would think it was, but I noticed that the old Civil War tokens were in general .01 to .03 cents. So .11 cents seems a bit out of place. The other option I came up with is maybe it was a souvenir from the 1901 Pan-American Exposition World’s Fair held in Buffalo (the one that President McKinley was assassinated at), but I can’t find any evidence to support this theory. I found a few that had been sold on Ebay and the like, yet absolutely no background info. So at this point I’m stuck. Do you know what this is?
Last week I posted a draft letter (Order to Report for Induction) my Grandfather had received during the Second World War. Continuing with that theme are these “Notice of Classification” sheets that he received upon various visits to the draft board. According to these forms you were to carry these on your person at all times to prove your status. In his case he was deferred because his job was considered essential to the war effort. (He worked for Stewart-Warner in Chicago. They made various instruments, gauges, radios, and other equipment for the military during The War.) What’s interesting is that while this classification was often used on his sheets, either II-A or II-B, sometimes they would randomly select another reason. These ranged from having dependents, which he did, to having already served in the military, which he hadn’t There was even one that screwed up and listed him as I-A which meant ready to go. In short, there wasn’t any real continuity and as long as some reason for deferment was given it was good enough for Government work.
The other point of interest is just how many of these he had issued. He was well into his 30s and had established that his job was considered essential. Yet it appears that he was called up many times over. At first I thought maybe it was a regularly scheduled review of one’s status (to make sure you hadn’t lost your job and thus were now eligible) but according to the dates there is no discernible pattern. So even if you had been deferred the Government would still regularly call you up, just in case.
My Grandpa kept many items in his scrapbook that most would have just tossed away. These items can give a bit of insight into what it was like living back then. In this instance it is a draft induction letter, something that no one from my generation (and others since) have ever seen.
Even before the attack on Pearl Harbor the US was readying itself for what most knew was the inevitable. Hence in September of 1940 the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 was passed, which required all males between the ages of 21 to 35 (later extended from 18 to 45) to register for possible service. So even though my Grandfather was in his 30s, it by no means excused him from being drafted.
One thing I noticed is the date. My Grandfather had already been excused from service because his day job had been considered important to the war effort. This apparently wasn’t the first draft notice he had received, as we shall see in next week’s post.
Burroughs Adding Machine Co, was founded in St. Louis (as the American Arithmometer Co.) with their first calculating machine coming out in 1851. Over time the company changed their name to reflect their founder and in 1904 built a new factory in Detroit. The entire company, and all of its employees, were moved in one day on a train that the company rented for that special occasion.
Over the years the company expanded their factory multiple times and built new plants in Plymouth and elsewhere. This postcard appears to reflect the company after their final expansion in 1916. Looking at the cars I would say that this postcard is from the 1920s. As for the factory, I found a newspaper article dated December 26, 1963 that covers the announcement of the plant closing and production moving overseas. (Merry Christmas Burroughs Employees!) The plant was located at 6071 2nd Ave, which is now a parking lot across the street from the Detroit Children’s Museum. The only remnant of the former plant that I can find is the street that dead-ends at the former location; Burroughs St. (If you look at right lower side of the card you can see Burroughs St. ending at the center of the front of the building. You can also see the fire station that is still there.)
I’m not sure why my Grandma kept this postcard. It wasn’t in the same neighborhood that my Grandma lived in, and as far as I know none of our relations worked there. Most likely she just kept it because it was such a huge plant and a familiar sight.
As for the Burroughs Adding Machine Company, they became the Burroughs Corporation, and were eventually merged with another company in 1986 that became Unisys. Though that’s not the apparent end of Burroughs. In 2010 Unisys sold off their Payment Systems Division, which then incorporated under the new name of Burroughs Payment Systems.
While Burroughs was once a huge company most of my friends are more familiar with the founder’s grandson that inherited both a fortune and the his name, William S. Burroughs.
This is a keychain from the Eastern Steamship Lines, which was founded back in 1901 as Eastern Steamship by a robber baron named Charles Wyman Morse. Morse was known as “The Ice King” in NYC (back when you had to purchase ice that was shipped into the city) and had strong connections with Tammany Hall. Morse found himself in legal trouble for stock manipulation and his involvement in the Panic of 1907. It was those legal troubles that help lead to the sale of Eastern Steamship.
Over the years Eastern went through various hands and names. From what I can decipher it held the name Eastern Steamship Lines Inc. from 1917 – 1954. Over all of those years it maintained routes from New Brunswick to Norfolk, VA with routes in between (Except for a break during WWII where the ships were used in the war effort.) So this keychain came from sometime over that era.
The name Eastern existed in one form or another until 1983 when it was merged with some other lines to form Admiral Cruises. Admiral still exists today and is part of the Royal Caribbean line. As far as how this keychain came into my family is a mystery. I found it in my Grandma Gen’s basement and it was her brother Johnny that was a Merchant Marine and worked on the ore ships on the Great Lakes. So maybe that is how this came about. Or maybe simply my Grandma traveled on one of their ships at some point and picked this up as a souvenir.
Three generations in a row were named George F. Ehemann, which at times makes things a bit difficult to identify which was which. In this case it is a bit easier. My Grandpa George was born in 1907, so most likely he wasn’t registering for the draft at 11. That make this his father’s draft card (his father George was already 80 and well out of service age). He was born in 1872 which meant that he was 45 when filling this out. The Selective Service Act of 1917 initially required registration for all males between the ages of 21 to 30, but that was later changed to 18 to 45, which meant he just fell into the requirement. The war ended 2 months later and he was never called up (as far as I know).
While my Great Grandfather was registering that Monday morning another relation of mine from the other side of my family was already in France serving with the US Army. He was not even half the age of George and was most likely in a cold and miserable trench. By the end of that same week he had been killed in action. Here are his trench lighter and dog tag.
A page of just Christmas trees that upon further examination appear to be from just a few particular years - 1932 & 1944 & 45. I believe that my Grandpa George & Grandma Alice were married in 1932 so this would be from their first Christmas together. Now my Mom was born in September of 1944, so the photos with the January 1945 were for the 1944 Christmas, which would have been her first Christmas. Then at the bottom is 1945 which was really was her first Christmas that she was aware of it taking place. Lastly, there are two shots on the right where the tree is in a different spot. I first noticed this because they had apparently painted the ceiling at some point.
Unlike my ancestor’s Detroit homes this one in Chicago is still standing at 4896 N. Paulina St. (Check out the old carriage stepping stone in the front along the curb.) I’ve never been in it so these little glimpses are most likely the closest I will ever get to seeing the place. I know that after they moved out the place was split up into apartments. I can only hope that beautiful ceiling remains intact.
My Grand Aunt Georgie passed away yesterday (Dec. 4) in Chicago at the grand age of 99. She was the younger sister to my Grandma, and like my Grandma she too worked for the Chicago Public Library. She was my last living relation from that entire generation and I wanted to post something about her. Thing is that just posting family photos isn’t what this site is about. Then my brother posted a photo of this Christmas staple of my family. In my brother’s words:
Safe travels Aunt Georgie.
This little odd piece of history is roughly 4” x 2” and is known as Japanese Invasion Money (which took a bit of research to figure out). What this means is that the Japanese printed these up during WWII to use as fiat currency in the areas that they invaded. What happened was the Japanese would confiscate all of the domestic money and in turn replace it with their own issued currency known as Southern Development Bank Notes. This one in particular was printed in 1942 and used in the Philippines.
During The War the Philippine economy went through hyperinflation. Thus this cash became almost worthless, which earned it the name Mickey Mouse Money. This devaluation was helped along by MacArthur’s plan to advance the collapse by flooding the market with counterfeit bills introduced through guerrilla fighters. Before the end of The War the Japanese destroyed as many of these notes as they could, but since they had printed so many this was an impossible task. U.S. troops found these stashed all over the country or just simply blowing around in the streets.
As for how this one came into my hands, well I know it came from my Grandparents on my maternal side. Thing is no one on that side served in the Pacific Theater So my guess is that one of their friends served over there and gave it to them as a souvenir.
This little diploma was awarded to my Grandfather; the same one that used the tools and great old wood tool box that I’ve already posted. He graduated as a Master Machinist just five months before the Pearl Harbor attacks. Thus his skills were in high demand as the nation’s industry geared up for the war effort.
While I tried to figure out what happened to the Allied School of Mechanical Trades, to no avail, I did stumble upon another interesting story. I came across their address from old ads in Popular Mechanics. One in particular not only gives the address but also shows the school, which is easily recognizable from Street View. The building is located on Michigan Avenue in the South Loop area of Chicago and is a very nice looking example of early 1920s architecture.
While the school is long gone the building is still in the news. Apparently over the years it had become a Cook County Courthouse site that handled domestic violence cases. The courts moved out and the area was scheduled to become part of a massive condo complex known as Azure Tower. This project collapsed sometime during our current financial debacle, thus leaving the building’s future an unknown. This uncertainty elevated the site to be designated as one of Chicago’s seven most endangered worthwhile buildings (which is quite a distinction when you think about how many old buildings there are in Chicago). But all may not be lost. The building is scheduled to be auctioned off on December 15. With some luck a good buyer will be found and hopefully a new use can be found for this gem.
I remember my Grandma telling me that my Mom was one of the first women programmers at IBM, and this photo sure seems to back that up. This class that she graduated from took place in Chicago and was probably sometime between 1966 - 1968. IBM was kind enough to take this photo and stick it in a Lucite frame as a gift to its employees. Though you think it would have dawned on someone to put a date on this thing. As you can see she was only one of two women in this course. (My Mom is wearing the dark dress.)
Sadly my Mom passed away right when I was entering adulthood. Thus it never occurred to me back then to ask her what it was like being a woman in such an obviously male dominated profession especially at such a revolutionary time. I’m sure she had some interesting stories.
In honor of Veterans Day I’m posting three small pins from the Third Liberty Loan, which was a Government bond program to help pay for WWI. This third loan campaign of The Great War started in April of 1918, which makes dating these pins rather easy. I found various articles and speeches given for this loan drive including an article from the Harvard Crimson and a speech given by President Wilson. If you’re a history nerd (and I’m going to assume you are if you’ve gone this far) you might be familiar with the photos of Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. revving up the crowd to buy bonds on Wall Street, or the famous poster of the Boy Scout handing a sword to Liberty to fight for freedom, that was from this drive. I know that one of my ancestors on my Mom’s side worked at selling the bonds because I have this cool token that was handed out to them after the war. Sadly, I’m not exactly sure which one.
While most in the U.S. don’t know the origins of what we call Veteran’s Day, other nations like England and France know quite well. Their Remembrance Day is also known as Armistice Day, which marks the end of WWI. England, for example, holds a moment of silence for 2 minutes at 11:00 a.m. (very striking images here) which was the time when the hostilities ended. It’s rather easy to remember when the guns fell silent: The 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month (or at least you hope it’s easy if you have to take my test). They also wear a red poppy, which is a direct link to one of WWI’s most famous of poems In Flanders Fields. It’s also easy to see why other nations so honor this day. In England, for example, they lost more men during this war than WWII (almost 1 million - a fact that shocks most), and they didn’t even loose as many as the roughly 1.6 million suffered by France. With that in mind you can see why they mark this day in a very somber way.
Happy Halloween from the Roaring Twenties. (Or possibly the Dirty Thirties.) My Grandfather shot this in Chicago and for all I know I have a relation or two in there.