This tie-clip (at least that’s what I’m assuming) is about an inch and a half long. I hadn’t noticed until recently that it’s marked as the “C&NW Pioneer.” Now my Great Grandfather McDermott, and also his Father, worked for the Chicago and North Western railroad. Since I’ve already made one assumption about this piece, I’ll make another and guess that this most likely came from my Great Grandfather. (I doubt it’s old enough to date all the way back to my Great Great Grandfather.)
The Pioneer is an actual train that I found plenty of references about on the web. It was the very first locomotive to run in Chicago back in 1848 (built in 1837 and delivered by schooner to the new city). I’m not sure for how long it was in service, but I do know that a new tender and car where built for it to be part of a display at the 1948 Chicago Railroad Fair (that I also have something from). (I also found this site that someone posted old slides they had purchased, one of which is of the Pioneer on its display train for the Fair.) Today the engine sits in a new display area at the Chicago History Museum.
The C&NW was bought by the Union Pacific in 1995. At one point the C&NW operated over 12,000 miles of track, but by the time they were purchased it was down to around 5,000. I’m not a train historian by any means, but to me this is an example of where we have gone wrong with transportation in this country. Maybe someday we will be able to once again not only rival, but beat other countries when it comes to good rail service. At least I sure hope so.
I think this Junior Police badge came down the line to me from my Grandpa Pete. About 1934 he worked as a funds administrator for social welfare and relief programs as part of FDR’s New Deal. His area was Princeton and Spring Valley, Illinois, which is relatively close to Peoria. So that is my guess as to how this came into my possession.
His time in small town Illinois was short lived. Back then (and still to this day) the majority of Illinois doesn’t exactly fall in step with Chicago. So, when the Government assigned a Chicagoan (even though he had only been in Chicago a year) as the administrator of funds, the local populace bristled with indignation. On top of that my Grandfather’s given name was Piotr. So I’m sure the locals seeing that rather ethnic name didn’t help matters. My father has a collection of articles from the local press that refer to him as “King Pete” and overall they are quite the example of early 20th Century Yellow Journalism. Needless to say this hampered his work and it wasn’t long before my Grandparents returned to the big city.
I have no clue as to what this old button is about. It was found among some other old pins that I know came from either my German or Irish side of the family. I did some various Google searches and nothing came up that I can relate to this item. I do know that it is from the early part of the 20th Century, and came from Chicago. Maybe it is related to The Great Depression (soup kitchens and the like). Do any of you happen to know what this little button is about?
The 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair was commemorating the centennial of the founding of Chicago. While this postcard doesn’t show the entire Fair it does give the viewer a bit of perspective on the enormity of this creation. I remember my Grandma Alice telling me stories about the Fair and how it lifted the spirits of so many that needed lifting because of the Great Depression. As a matter of fact, it was so successful that it was extended into 1934. The success of this fair is probably why she kept so many mementos (a few of which I’ve already posted).
The back of the card states “A view looking south over the World’s Fair Grounds showing the General Exhibits Group in the foreground: also showing Time and Fortune Pavilion, Firestone Exhibit, Paris, Thermometer, etc.” (The thermometer is that large tower in the background on the left.) With all of these buildings (most of which were in the now classic Art Deco style) you would think that at least a few of them remain. Sadly, this isn’t the case. You’d be hard pressed to find any remnants from this event, which is not only sad but also weird considering the size and the fact that the number of visitors that attended was over 40 million!
An old pin from my Grandpa George on this May Day, or what was often referred to as the International Workers’ Day. I know he had his own side business repairing radios, along with his day job at Stewart-Warner (in Chicago), so I would imagine this is why he was a member of the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America.
The UE organized in 1936, and while their charter was rejected by the AFL, it was accepted by the CIO. The Union grew to an impressive membership of well over half a million members after WWII, but soon after split from the CIO. (Apparently this split was caused by some institutionalized racial discrimination on the part of the CIO.) This split caused the CIO to create its own union covering the same types of workers. This new union poached many members from the UE.
This was also during the era of McCarthyism, which seriously attacked the UE. Members were fired, blacklisted, jailed, and their leader even faced possible deportation. Through all of that the union managed to remain and is still a strong force today. Remember the Republic Windows and Doors shop that closed in Chicago right before Christmas in 2008? (The manner in which it closed was in violation of Federal law.) This was the one that then President-elect Obama visited to show his support of the workers that had occupied the building in an old fashioned sitdown strike. Well, that was the UE at work.
Today their numbers are much smaller at roughly 35,000 but as shown above they are still quite active. Their ranks include workers from many varying fields ranging from the people that build locomotives to the Ohio Turnpike employees. The UE is also considered one of the most democratically run unions because of the high input that their members have in the direction and policies of the organization.
With the warm weather upon us, and schools about to let out, the summer vacation time is upon us once again.
The summer vacation really became a part of Americana in the 1950s. The old jingle “See the USA in your Chevrolet” was copyrighted in 1950. This came along with a push from any and all organizations that had something to gain from people getting out there and taking a road trip. Included in this list would be the local Chamber of Commerce, as we see here in this pamphlet for Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
This brochure on one side totes all the benefits of visiting Great Smokey Mountains National Park, while the other side is classic boosterism. This propaganda offers some interesting insight into life 60 years ago. For one, we know thing cost more now than back then. Well this brochure reinforces that with the subtlety of a hammer. Some of the new civic works in Gatlinburg, along with their price tag, include:
New city water system: “three quarters of a million dollars”
New highway construction with a new sewer system: “one and a half million dollars”
New golf country club: $250,000
New civic auditorium: $400,000
The brochure also states that Great Smoky Mountains NP is the most visited of the National Parks, a fact that remains true today. Along with this bit of trivia the brochure also informs the potential visitor that “At all times dress for both men and women is carefree, but in good taste.” The American Legion & Elk’s Club are present “to add to your enjoyment” along with a large list of entertaining activities in and out of the Park, including: motoring, quin-pin bowling, roller skating, candy making, trackless train, and television.
I remember playing with these good luck charms when I was a kid. They all have the same front (heads) and it is on the reverse where a small shop would list their business. I don’t know when exactly these were made but we can guess. The latest date given on these pennies is 1957. That would be the rather obvious clue, but there is another one for the taking. The one from Washington D.C. for Executive Pharmacy offers one other hint. The address listed is now occupied by the J. Edgar Hoover FBI building, which broke ground in 1967. So most likely these are from the 1950s or early 1960s.
That was easy.
Did you ever wonder how much a funeral cost in the 1920s? Well, no I hadn’t either, but because of this invoice that was stuck between some other papers we now know. As far as Rose, I could only find the most cursory of information.
Rose Ehemann (nee Christ) was the wife of my Great Grand Uncle Wm. H. Ehemann. This was the same man that was a Chicago Alderman at the beginning of the 20th century, and later held the ridiculously powerful position of County Agent (of which I own both his badge & pistol). So I am related to Rose through her marriage to William. She was born in Wurtzburg, Germany to Killian and Marie (Hellman) in 1879 and came to America in 1890. She married into my family at either 18 or 19 (William was 10 years older) and lived at the Southport address shown on the receipt. Sadly, and for reasons I can’t find, she died at the age of 46. That is really young (even more so as I get older) and I wish I knew what happened to her. Anyway, as far as I was told by my Grandma they never had any children, which is why some of their belongings ended up in my hands. This included her engagement ring which I used when I proposed to my wife. So, even though we technically aren’t related, I do feel an attachment to her.
I just recently posted this old funeral bill from 1926 and afterwards I sent it off to my Father who just so happens to be a funeral director. He had some interesting observations that I thought I’d share. (By the way, the funeral home has changed names since then but still exists on that corner and if you turn the camera around you can see the church.) “The cost of the dress, a charge for candles and chairs. This was normal since many of the wakes took place at home and these items were brought to the the house. Interesting charge for pall bearers gloves. Theses were used one time and placed on top of the casket at burial time. Usually the quality was very good such as fine cotton. If there were six pall bearers then it worked out at 60 cents a pair. The palm decorations were probably to surround the casket. The door spay is an interesting historical item. A black spray was hung on the outside of the front door much like a Christmas wreath to tell passer-byes that his is a house in mourning. Significant charges for motor vehicles. Car ownership was just becoming a “normal” event but not all people/families had one.”
This postcard has to date from either the late 19-teens or early 1920s. I found one website that shows an earlier version of this card from 1913 along with this exact printing. So I can tell you that this card was manufactured after 1913. By 1928 Chrysler had already taken over the plant in the upper frame, and Studebaker had moved its operations to South Bend, IN. So that tells us that this card was made before that move. Along with that the cars on the street have a 1920s look to them. So I think it is a safe bet to peg this as being printed in the early 1920s.
Both sets of buildings are long gone. While I can’t find a date that the lower building came down, I can tell you that it sat at Clark St. and W. Jefferson along the river (which is plainly visible in the image). It appears to have been gone now for quite some time. As for the upper plant, the Piquette facility, it was abandoned in the 1960s and burned to the ground in June of 2005. Though, unlike most former industrial sites of Detroit, the land was used for the better and a Homeless Veterans Shelter was built in its place.
Speaking of the Piquette facility, if you look all the way down on the right you can see a little 3 story brick building with an arched top. That was the original Ford Model T plant. It sat empty for decades, but the Gods of Automotoring smiled and it was rehabbed into a museum called the Model T Automotive Heritage Complex.
I’m going to guess that one of my Grandma Gen’s brothers or a friend worked for Studebacker at some point; otherwise I have no idea why she kept this card. Whatever the reason, everything about this postcard is history.
A fine example of the wide range of just random stuff my family kept for no real reason. This CTA card belonged to my Aunt Catherine. Before the days of magnetic strips and automated token machines a senior citizen was issued an ID card to prove that they were eligible for the reduced rate. I can remember one of my Grandmas using this card as we got on a bus back when I was a little kid in the 1970s. No idea why I have that memory, but I do. Anyway, Catherine turned 65 in 1960, plus the CTA logo, bus, and ‘L’ car in the image are all from the 1960s. I also found this archive that states Michael Cafferty became the Board Chairman in 1971. Hence dating this item wasn’t that difficult.
A bit of election ephemera from one of my Grandparent’s scrapbooks. This came from my Great Grand Uncle’s successful campaign in 1901 to be a Chicago Alderman when he was only 31 years old. I have a good amount of belongings of his ranging from a pistol he carried, to a badge, to other items like this ceremonial Council ribbon. Anyway this card, which is about 50% bigger than a standard business card, appears to have been something you would hand out to remind people to vote much like the flyers we are all receiving en masse today.
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.
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 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.